The Heisman Trophy is college football's most prestigious trophy, so the editors here at Athlon take the voting for the 13.5-inch, 25-pound award very seriously. Each week, the ballots are collected and tallied from inside the walls of Athlon Sports. Each voter may vote for five players (unlike the official three) and a first place vote is worth 5 points, a second is worth 4 points so and so forth down to the fifth place vote earning 1 point.
1. Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State (26 pts, 4 first place votes)
The most physically gifted quarterback on the college gridiron plays his football on the Banks of the Olentagy. In addition to being the leader of the nation's No. 1 team, Pryor has quieted all doubts about his ability to develop as a passer rather quickly. TP2 is rated as 6th most efficient passer nationally (170.47) and has thrown only 3 INTs against 15 TDs this fall. In the BCS ranks, only Brandon Weeden (18), Russell Wilson (17), Taylor Potts (17) and Andrew Luck (16) have more touchdown strikes than Pryor. To top it off, he has added three 100-yard rushing efforts to his slate.
What's Next: Pryor returns to the site of his first fourth quarter comeback when he leads the Bucks against the Wisconsin Badgers in MadTown this weekend. In only his third start as a freshman, TP2 led the Buckeyes down the field capping the game-winning drive with an 11-yard TD run with 1:08 left in the game. He could have the opportunity this weekend for a big Heisman moment.
2. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (21 pts, 0 FPV)
A week ago, this was Shoelace's award to lose, but all it took was a visit from Sparty to halt his progress. You know the bar has been set high when a 301-yard, 2 TD performance is an utter disappointment. The in-state rivals forced 3 INTs (two in the redzone) and Michigan was given its first loss of the year. Robinson has still rushed for more yards than any player in the nation (991) — and its really not even close. But his passing has improved dramatically as well, as D-Rob is now the nation's 12th rated passer (164.11).
What's Next: If Robinson thought Michigan State played tough defense, just wait until the Iowa Hawkeyes show up in Ann Arbor. Against what could be the nation's best defense, Shoelace has a chance to redeem himself.
3. Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn (20 pts, 2 FPV)
Few players have ever led their conference in passing efficiency AND rushing yards, but that is what Newton is doing in the SEC right now. The former Florida Gator has led his team on valiant second half comebacks (Clemson, South Carolina) and a slow, steady, demoralizing, 19-play, game-winning drive (Kentucky).
What's Next: Newton has a great match-up with another Heisman candidate when he goes head-to-head with Arkansas' Ryan Mallett this weekend. Both defenses have struggled, so both passers should be effective, but one has to wonder how many times Auburn can allow teams to take double-digit leads before it costs them.
4. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon (13 pts, 1 FPV)
The numbers don't lie. Sure, the 223-yard, 3 TD show he put on for Washington State was nice. And the 227 yards and 2 TDs he dropped on poor Portland State was okay. But in the biggest moments of this season, James has come up huge. First — in a game that was still very much in doubt at halftime — James delivered a 134-yard performance in Knoxville against Tennessee that included a 72-yard game-changing scamper to begin the second half. But the real reason Ducks' fans are smelling roses was his showing against Pac-10 counterpart Stanford two weeks ago. He put on a sick 257-yard, 3 TD show against what was supposed to be a pretty good defense.
What's Next: The Ducks are on bye this week. The nation's leading rushing (169.6 ypg) should rest up as the path back to Pasadena is treacherous: UCLA, at USC, Washington, at Cal, Arizona, and finally, a Civil War in Corvallis, Ore.
5. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska (9 pts, 0 FPV)
No freshman has ever won the Heisman Trophy. Yet, someone will eventually knock that door down as college football has seen the first two sophomores to win the trophy (Tebow, Bradford) recently. It might as well be Martinez. The dynamic athlete has rambled his way into the top-5 on most ballots. The freshman is leading the running back heavy Big 12 in rushing at nearly 150 ypg. In his first taste of Big 12 action, on national TV nonetheless, Martinez rushed for 241 yards and 4 TDs against Kansas State.
What's Next: Voters will learn a lot about the young quarterback this weekend when Texas comes to town. Certainly, this is not your normal Longhorns defense, but they still have loads of quality athletes to run out there against Big Red. Martinez could have a chance to make a big statement should this one turn out to be closer than the point spread indicates.
Bo Pelini has his team in the hunt for a national title.
Huskers Begin Farewell Tour With A Bang
Nebraska opened its farewell tour of the conference with no trace of sentimentality or fondness for those who have shared the brotherhood of the Big 12.
Never mind, either, that the Cornhuskers’ relationship with Kansas State dates back to the old Big Eight, well before what they perceived as a Texas takeover.
The Huskers, in their final scheduled trip to Manhattan and the opener to their final Big 12 season, ripped the Wildcats 48–13 in what had been an anticipated matchup of unbeatens.
Next up: Texas, which will be welcomed to Lincoln with much disdain, due to contempt Nebraskans feel has been preferential treatment poured upon the Longhorns by the league, as well as that final second — added second — loss to Texas in last year’s Big 12 title game.
“We are a motivated football team,” said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. “We have goals but that (final Big 12 season) is part of it.
“We are going to play all of these teams in the Big 12 for one last time. There’s probably motivation on both sides.”
The Huskers looked plenty motivated against K-State, romping to a big early lead behind quarterback Taylor Martinez and their rugged defense. Nebraska ran for 451 yards, while the Wildcats mustered just 315 in total offense.
Now comes a clash with Texas that has been circled on the schedule since last December, when the Huskers thought they’d upset the Horns for the Big 12 championship, only to see officials put :01 on the clock, just enough time for UT’s Ryan Bailey to boot through the game-winning field goal.
Since then, Nebraska has also made a run for the Big Ten for 2011. And amid the planned departure, ill feelings concerning Texas’ exalted status in the Big 12 have leaked out of Lincoln, although Pelini is mum on all that this week.
“I don’t get caught up in all the personal reasons,” Pelini said Monday. “I have nothing against Texas. I have nothing against their fans. What happened in the offseason, you can only control what you can control. It’s just something that happened.
“What the motivation is, how our fans feel about it… hopefully our fans want to win every football game. This is the next one. I know one thing; they’ve got a heck of a program, a well coached team with a lot of talent.”
Nebraska 48, Kansas State 13
Oklahoma State 54, Louisiana-Lafayette 28
Utah 68, Iowa State 27
Missouri 26, Colorado 0
Arkansas 24, Texas A&M 17
Texas Tech 45, Baylor 38
Red Raiders Regroup
Texas Tech seemed to be reeling, coming off a road loss at Iowa State and standing 0–2 at the bottom of the Big 12 South, with a motivated Baylor bunch waiting next.
But the Red Raiders rediscovered themselves — their old selves — winning a wild one in the Cotton Bowl to shake their slumping ways.
Taylor Potts passed for 462 yards and four touchdowns, helping Tech to a 45–28 lead midway through the third quarter. Then it was hold-on time, as the Bears rallied.
“All week I was telling the guys this was a must win,” said Red Raiders running back Barron Batch, who rushed for 97 yards. “I haven’t lost three straight games since high school.
“When you play in the Big 12 and start losing, other teams smell the blood in the water. This was a defining point in our season.”
Baylor was hoping for a defining point in its Big 12 existence, still seeking its first winning season and bowl bid under the conference banner.
Robert Griffin III threw for 384 yards and two scores and put a pass in the hands of wide receiver Kendall Wright in the end zone, but Wright couldn’t hold on.
“We had a lot of missed opportunities,” Griffin said.
Still, many opportunities were made, as the teams combined for 39 plays of 10 yards or longer.
For the third straight year, Tech beat Baylor by seven points.
Missouri’s defense has rarely led discussions in recent years, with quarterbacks Brad Smith and Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert lighting up scoreboards.
Unless, of course, the Tigers are taking on Colorado.
Then the defense takes over.
Mizzou secured its first shutout since 2008 — yes, against the Buffaloes. And while this one wasn’t as bad as the 58–0 wipeout that year, the Tigers 26–0 shutdown of Colorado Saturday was impressive yet.
That’s because the Tigers leaned on their defense this time, with Gabbert and Co. struggling to get untracked. Mizzou dominated with defense and special teams, winning its fifth straight in the series by a combined count of 203–40.
The Buffs have been outscored 86–3 in the first halves of the past three meetings.
Before bearing down on Big 12 play the rest of the way, Texas A&M and Iowa State strayed outside the conference one last time.
The Aggies lost to Arkansas, while the Cyclones were clobbered by Utah, missing out on potential statement wins for the conference.
Oklahoma State avoided further shame, needing to rally before finally blowing past Louisiana-Lafayette.
Players of the Week
Taylor Martinez, QB, and Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska. A Husker sweep, as Nebraska dominated both sides of the ball in its rout of K-State. Martinez accounted for 369 yards, running for a Husker quarterback rushing record with 241 yards and four touchdowns. David totaled 16 tackles, including 10 unassisted stops, with a sack among two tackles for losses. It was David’s third time to post double-digit tackles and second straight game with 16 or more.
Game of the Week: Texas at Nebraska.
The game loses a bit of its appeal with the Longhorns coming in with back-to-back losses, but the subplots alone are enough to tune in. The Huskers still seek confirmation as a national title contender. And they’ll find out if their new option offense works against a decent defense. Texas seeks new life.
On the Spot: Missouri. The Tigers have quietly gone about their 5–0 start, winning yes, but notching no notable skins. Now’s the time, with a trip to A&M, where the Aggies have lost two straight, but are ever dangerous on offense.
In the Spotlight: Will Muschamp, defensive coordinator, Texas. Muschamp is considered one of the brightest defensive minds in America. And his work at Texas has been superb. Yet this year’s job, with a lot of youngsters on defense and limited help from a scuffling offense, remains a work in progress. And now he’s got to find a way to deal with Nebraska’s Martinez and the option.
Dan Bailey, K, Oklahoma State. First, Bailey kicked the game-winner against A&M as time expired. Then he followed that up with four field goals and 18 total points in OSU’s win at Lafayette, booting a pair of career-best field goals from 52 yards. Bailey is now 11-for-11 on field goals for the season and has scored 65 points.
Jerrod Johnson, QB, Texas A&M. The guy was the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year pick in the preseason. But after a solid start, he’s been shaky of late, throwing nine interceptions in the past three games, two of them losses.
By the Numbers
0 Touchdowns allowed by Missouri in the third quarter this season.
5 Consecutive games with a touchdown reception by OSU’s Justin Blackmon.
1,142 Combined yards of offense in the Texas Tech-Baylor game.
Stephen Garcia led South Carolina's upset of top-ranked Alabama.
The Stephens at South Carolina deserve apologies. Both Stephen Garcia and Stephen Spurrier were told they couldn’t win a big game with the Gamecocks. Garcia’s in his fourth year at the school, Spurrier in his sixth. But they finally managed to make it happen (with some help).
If the Gamecocks had beaten No. 1 Alabama in any way — quirky turnover, fluke touchdown, etc. — it would’ve been incredible. But the way South Carolina manhandled the Tide in the 35–21 win is what you really take away from the weekend. Sure, Bama’s 19-game win streak is over. So it its 29-game regular-season win streak. But the Tide should be more concerned about some specific in-game details.
Things like Marcus Lattimore’s 93 rushing yards, the most against the Tide since Nov. 24, 2007. Things like the 35 points allowed, the most since earlier in that 2007 season. Things like Alabama’s 36 rushing yards, unthinkable considering Mark Ingram (41 yards) and Trent Richardson (23 yards) are in the same backfield.
Give the Stephens credit. Spurrier dialed up a great offensive gameplan, and Garcia executed it. Alshon Jeffery has made, and will continue to make, Garcia look good. But watch those throws again: They were on the mark. Garcia’s only interception was a ball Jeffery caught, bobbled and lost to a Bama defender. Nobody’s being too critical of Jeffery, though. He’s earned some slack.
South Carolina turned a corner with the win. It’s now the favorite in a very weak East.
The question’s still out there, though: Will the Gamecocks close? It hasn’t been their strong suit. Then again, neither has beating top-ranked teams. That had never happened before in the school’s history.
How about its first appearance in the SEC title game? You know Bama would love to see the Gamecocks again.
• Let’s give South Carolina another segment, here. Ellis Johnson’s defense was completely embarrassed at Auburn two weeks ago. Cam Newton was unstoppable most of the night, and the Tigers rolled up 334 rushing yards (492 overall). Johnson got his guys to believe it was a fluke, and they sure played like it against Alabama. Greg McElroy was sacked seven times and, as mentioned earlier, Ingram and Richardson were turned into non-factors. That just doesn’t happen.
• Kentucky lost to Auburn at the final horn, but Joker Phillips must be doing something right up there. After getting drilled at Florida and Ole Miss, the Wildcats could’ve folded down 31–14 in the second quarter to the Tigers. But they kicked a field goal before the break and Randall Cobb willed UK to a 31–31 tie after catching a score and running for another in the third quarter. As long as Kentucky has Cobb, it’ll have a shot.
• Mississippi State put up 47 points and 538 yards on Houston. Yes, it’s Houston, but the Bulldogs could use the confidence. Florida had better look out this week. This is Mississippi State’s Super Bowl, with Dan Mullen returning to Gainesville. The Bulldogs hung with Florida a year ago, and they’re better and the Gators are currently in an offensive crisis (see, below).
• Don’t really know what to make of LSU’s win at Florida. At face value, you have to credit the Tigers for getting a win, by whatever means necessary, in a very tough place to win. But then there’s the man who acknowledges his own nickname, the Mad Hatter. Les Miles’ fake field goal call in the final seconds was so dumb it was genius. The Tigers, with kicker Josh Jasper running, converted the first down and won. When does Miles’ luck run out? Does it?
• Could someone teach Counting 101 to Tennessee’s football team? Another week, another instance of the Volunteers playing something other than 11 on a play (or plays) during a game. After 13 on the game-losing play at LSU, the Vols had 10 in to block a Georgia field goal. (Same thing happened against UAB, earlier in the season.) That field goal didn’t make a difference, obviously, in Georgia’s 41–14 beatdown of Tennessee. But it is indicative of the consistent issues plaguing the team in Derek Dooley’s first season. The Vol Navy is a sinking ship.
• Officially halfway through its season, Florida’s offense is still a mess. The lack of an in-between-the-tackles runner is killing the Gators. John Brantley tried to play through injuries Saturday, too, and he’s yet to really take hold of the position the way many assumed. Then again, he’s still struggling to consistently get the snap from Mike Pouncey. At this rate, the wait for Florida’s offense to break out might last into the off-season. Frankly, the Gators are underachieving. There’s too much talent there for this to be the case, week in and week out. The offensive coaches, Urban Meyer included, aren’t getting the talent in the positions to succeed.
Stud of the Week
Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina WR
As we’ve said before, the guy is just flat-out uncoverable. A.J. Green and Julio Jones are terrific receivers, but Jeffery’s name belongs among them. Because, with 625 yards and four touchdowns in five games, he’s playing better than them right now. Oh, and his Gamecocks have already beaten both of their teams, even if Green didn’t suit up for Georgia.
Dud of the Week
Jim McElwain, Alabama offensive coordinator
You’ve got Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. Use them. You trailed big early, but that didn’t stop you at Arkansas. Ingram and Richardson combined for 17 carries at South Carolina, about half of what they should’ve had. Why would Bama choose to get away from what it does, until it absolutely has to?
Noel Devine and the Mountaineers look like the class of the Big East.
West Virginia paid around $740,000 for UNLV to make a non-return visit to Morgantown this past Saturday. It was apparently money well-spent. The Mountaineers routed the outmanned Rebels of the Mountain West Conference by 49–10 and again gave the Big East a presence in the major Top 25 polls by re-entering both at No. 25.
WVU held a 35–0 lead at halftime and had four scoring plays of at least 28 yards. Sixty-eight Mountaineers saw action. Wide receiver Brad Starks had a career day with four receptions for 100 yards and three touchdowns as West Virginia improved to 4–1. Hampered by injuries all season, Starks had no catches heading into the game.
“He’s pretty much a matchup nightmare for a lot of teams,” said WVU quarterback Geno Smith, who completed 12-of-16 passes for 220 yards and the three scores. “Add in Jock (Sanders) and Noel (Devine) and Tavon (Austin) and everybody else and that’s a good mix to have.”
WVU’s lone loss of the season, 20–14 to LSU in Baton Rouge, also looks a bit better after the now-No. 9 Tigers defeated Florida in Gainesville.
Meanwhile, conference play got under way with a couple of Big East matchups — decided by a combined seven points.
Rutgers scored the league’s first conference win by downing Connecticut 27–24 on Friday night. The visiting Huskies boasted the Big East’s top-rated scoring offense, while the Scarlet Knights set out the league’s tightest defense. The story of the game, however, was the success of RU freshman Chas Dodd, who played because of an injury to Tom Savage. Dodd responded by throwing for 322 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. He also had a 52-yard touchdown strike to Mark Harrison that tied the game at 24 and hit Jeremy Deering for 45 yards to set up San San Te’s game-winning field goal with 13 seconds left.
“Those are the plays we haven’t made in the first four weeks,” said RU coach Greg Schiano.
Syracuse took a step forward by scoring a 13–9 win against South Florida in Tampa. The story there was SU’s defense, which held the Bulls to 219 yards of offense, recorded two interceptions and four sacks and blocked a point after touchdown. The 4–1 start is the Orange’s first since the 1999 season. Safety Max Suter had a game-high eight tackles with three tackles for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble.
In the highest profile game, Pittsburgh, the preseason favorite to win the league, fell 23–17 to Notre Dame. The Panthers did rally from a 20–3 third-quarter deficit to within six when Tino Sunseri had a touchdown run and connected with Jon Baldwin for another score. But the Panthers couldn’t get the go-ahead points on two possessions in the last 3:15.
Louisville and Cincinnati, meanwhile, blew out Memphis and Miami, Ohio, respectively. The U of L turned in its best effort of the season by rolling to a 56–0 win at Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium. The Cardinals, now 3–2, scored 28 points in the second quarter and, like WVU, held a 35–0 halftime lead. Running back Bilal Powell had 204 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Adam Froman completed 12-of-16 passes for 235 yards and four TDs.
Cincinnati scored 45 points in the first half against Miami and held a 45–3 halftime lead in the annual Battle for the Victory Bell. It was the most lopsided result in the 109 meetings between the rivals, who first played in 1888.
Quarterback Zach Collaros was 14-of-17 for 216 yards and three touchdowns, while running back Isaiah Pead ran for 197 yards and a TD — all in the first half — to lift the Bearcats to 2–3 on the year.
Rutgers 27, Connecticut 24
Syracuse 13, South Florida 9
Louisville 56, Memphis 0
Notre Dame 23, Pittsburgh 17
West Virginia 49, UNLV 10
Cincinnati 45, Miami, Ohio 3
The count and the amount
With four Big East teams finished with their non-conference play, the league’s overall record is now 22-15. Against FBS opponents, though, it’s 13–15 and 2–11 against BCS conference teams. Against Top 25 teams, the record remained at 0–5.
Still a rush
The Big East now has three of the nation’s top 10 rushers. Connecticut back Jordan Todman registered his fifth 100-yard game of the year with 123 yards on 24 carries against Rutgers. He’s third nationally, averaging 152 yards a game. Louisville’s Bilal Powell is eighth, averaging 137.8 yards, while Pitt’s Ray Graham is ninth, averaging 134. Graham is first nationally in all-purpose running, averaging 207 yards.
Rutgers may have a quarterback dilemma in the future after true freshman Chas Dodd led the Scarlet Knights to their victory over Connecticut. On Monday, however, coach Greg Schiano said there is no controversy. Dodd will make the start against Army while the hand of Tom Savage, the previous starter, is healing.
Which way did he go?
After seemingly overcoming a case of homesickness early in the season, West Virginia backup quarterback Jeremy Johnson, a freshman, was nowhere to be found during the Mountaineers’ game against UNLV.
“I don’t know how to combat the mileage,” said WVU coach Bill Stewart.
West Virginia cornerback Brandon Hogan spent the second half of the UNLV game in street clothes after injuring his arm. Mountaineer coach Bill Stewart seemed to indicate Hogan would be ready for this Thursday’s game against South Florida.
Connecticut coach Randy Edsall said on Monday that defensive back Blidi Wreh-Wilson had surgery on his hand. Huskies’ representative Mike Enright said Wreh-Wilson is “week-to-week.”
A little trickeration
Louisville pulled out a double reverse pass for a score against Memphis. Running back Bilal Powell took a direct snap and handed the ball to Victor Anderson, who then tossed the ball to quarterback Adam Froman, who lined up at receiver. Froman hit a wide-open Josh Chichester downfield. The play resulted in a 48-yard TD.
Nice game, tough loss
South Florida was stunned when Syracuse visited Raymond James Stadium and walked away with a victory. One, however, can’t point a finger at USF defensive end Craig Marshall. All he did was post a career-high eight tackles and record three sacks. That was the most sacks in a USF game for a player since George Selvie had four in a 2007 game against Elon.
The Beavers suffered a blow with the injury to James Rodgers.
On a night when Stanford remained in the Pac-10 hunt with a last-second win over USC and Washington continued to prove it’s not quite ready for the big time, the news that most shook up the conference race took place on one play in Arizona Stadium.
That’s where Oregon State wide receiver James Rodgers, one of the nation’s most underrated players who sometimes appears to be unguardable, was hauled down awkwardly by Arizona safety Adam Hall as he caught an apparent 56-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. The score was nullified by a penalty, and Rodgers was helped off the field with a serious injury to his left knee.
The actual severity of the injury wasn’t immediately confirmed, but Oregon State coach Mike Riley acknowledged it was serious. Rodgers may have torn his anterior cruciate ligament, which would sideline him for the season.
Although the Beavers are just 3–2 overall, they are off to a 2–0 start in Pac-10 play. With Rodgers and little brother Jacquizz leading the way at tailback, Oregon State is one of the frontrunners to compete with Oregon for the conference crown. Throw in an always-solid defense sparked by talented defensive tackle Stephen Paea, and Oregon State is much better than its record indicates.
The Beavers’ two losses are at Boise State and at TCU, currently ranked third and fourth respectively in the Associated Press top 25. They are in perfect position to contend for the Pac-10 championship. But if James Rodgers is indeed lost for the season, it will significantly alter the shape of the Pac-10 race.
That’s not to say it would put the Beavers out of it. Sophomore Markus Wheaton is emerging at wide receiver. He had seven catches for 113 yards against Arizona and could help ease the potential loss of Rodgers. But clearly a season-ending injury to Rodgers would not make the Beavers as good a team as expected.
California 35, UCLA 7
Oregon 32, Washington State 23
Oregon State 29, Arizona 27
Stanford 37, USC 35
Arizona State 24, Washington 14
Another week, another opposing kicker getting mobbed by his teammates as time expires. For the second straight game, USC could only watch as an opponent made a field goal to secure a win as the clock was extinguished. This time, it was Stanford’s Nate Whitaker easily nailing a 30-yarder for a 37–35 win.
Last week, Washington’s Erik Folk made a 32-yarder as the clock hit 0:00 for a 32–31 victory over USC.
The Trojans really had nobody to blame but themselves for this one. Their offense, especially quarterback Matt Barkley and true freshman receiver Robert Woods, were dynamite all night and helped establish a 35–34 lead with 1:08 remaining after Allen Bradford’s 3-yard touchdown run. Woods caught 12 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns. Barkley threw for 390 yards and the three scores to Woods.
But USC’s defense, continuing its troubling season-long ineffectiveness, was hurt further by an ill-advised late hit penalty on linebacker Chris Galippo. Galippo said he never heard a whistle, but he still put both hands to the face of Baldwin.
That helped Stanford quickly storm into field goal range, where Whitaker coolly nailed the game-winner.
The Trojans started the season 4–0 but are now 1–2 in Pac-10 play. They’ve also lost consecutive games for the first time since 2001, Pete Carroll’s first year at USC.
UP AND DOWN
One week after giving their fans hope, the Washington Huskies once again proved they were probably overvalued in the offseason.
Washington is now 2–3 after a disappointing home loss to Arizona State. A team that some had in the preseason top 25 now looks like it may be up against it in its quest for a bowl berth.
The Huskies eased the sting of earlier losses to BYU and Nebraska a bit by taking out USC on the road the week before. But Washington’s next four games are against arguably the top four teams in the Pac-10 — Oregon State, at Arizona, Stanford and at Oregon. If it hasn’t already, that stretch should say a lot about where the program stands in coach Steve Sarkisian’s second season.
Three weeks after getting obliterated by Nevada’s pistol offense, Cal made all the right adjustments to shut down UCLA.
The Bruins implemented the pistol offense this season, studying Nevada’s scheme to try to emulate the explosive results the Wolf Pack typically get. But UCLA obviously isn’t at the level of Nevada yet, and the Bears obviously learned from their mistakes.
Cal allowed 497 yards of offense in a 52–31 loss at Nevada on Sept. 17. Saturday, UCLA had just 144 total yards. The Bruins rushing attack, which entered the game ranked 10th nationally (262.4 yards per game), was held to just 26 yards.
Strong defensive efforts are becoming the norm at Cal under new coordinator Clancy Pendergast. In four of the Bears’ five games, they’ve allowed one touchdown or less.
There is no finer example of a coach who stressed the importance of an education and the fruits of a hard day’s work than Woody Hayes. But as great a man as Hayes was, he was by no means a good sport. When a reporter asked Hayes why he went for two against Michigan while already possessing a sizable lead, Hayes famously responded, “Because they wouldn’t let me go for three.” Classic stuff.
Bret Bielema, apparently, is not a good sport, either. Just a good coach, and someone who understands that in college football, being a poor sport is encouraged by the men who make the rules.
It’s hard to endorse Bielema’s decision to go for two when leading lowly Minnesota 41–16 with six and a half minutes to go. Regardless of what the card told Bielema to do, that’s just not the way coaches ought to handle such matters. But guess what? Bielema’s crime is petty as compared to what goes on in college football during an average weekend. Take this past Saturday, for example:
• Boise State took possession of the ball midway through the third quarter with a 43–7 lead over Toledo. After gaining a first down on the ground, Kellen Moore threw on first down for an 11-yard gain. Four plays later, Moore threw a 33-yard touchdown pass. It was only after that series that Boise State put a cap on its passing game.
• To open the second half of its win over Wyoming, TCU threw the ball on three of its first five snaps. The 91-yard drive put the Horned Frogs up 38–0. A four-yard touchdown pass on first and goal at the start of the fourth quarter ended the scoring at 45–0.
• Utah was running a balanced offense well after it reached the 50-point mark in its 68–27 win over Iowa State.
We’re hard on Bielema because we separate a conversion from play calling, but is there much of a difference? In each case, the team with the football could lay off the gas — stick to the running game or ignore what the scoring card says — but they’ve been taught differently. They’ve been taught that no lead is ever big enough, and that in college football’s poll system, the bigger the point total and margin of victory, the more votes a school can expect to receive come Sunday.
It’s all a shame, but that’s how college football is played.
The Week That Was
Badger backfield is double trouble for Gophers
John Clay captured co-Big Ten offensive player of the week honors for his 111-yard and three-touchdown performance on Saturday, but that was only half of Minnesota’s trouble with Wisconsin. Freshman James White contributed 118 yards and two scores in the victory. It was the second time in three weeks the two backs have both gained 100 or more yards in the same contest.
Purdue powers past Wildcats
Following a blocked field goal, Purdue took over the ball at its own 32-yard line midway through the fourth quarter trailing Northwestern, 17–13. From there, quarterback Ron Henry launched a 14-play drive that featured a heavy dose of fullback Dan Dierking. His seven-yard scoring run gave the Boilermakers their first conference win of the year. Purdue won the game despite gaining 110 fewer yards and losing the time of possession battle by more than eight minutes.
Illinois 33, Penn State 13
Wisconsin 41, Minnesota 23
Ohio State 38, Indiana 10
Michigan State 34, Michigan 17
Purdue 20, Northwestern 17
Team of the Week: Michigan State
Week after week, Michigan State belongs here. First it was the gutsy call over Notre Dame, then the win after coach Mark Dantonio’s heart attack, then the upset over Wisconsin, and now a win over in-state rival Michigan in Ann Arbor. On Saturday, the Spartans didn’t just beat Michigan; they outscored them 31–7 in the second and third quarters combined.
Disappointment of the Week: Penn State
Penn State is not supposed to lose at home, and certainly not to Illinois. But Saturday’s defeat showed just how far Penn State has fallen this season. The Nittany Lions collected just seven first downs and gained just 65 yards on the ground. Even worse, Joe Pa’s club failed to score a single point in the second half.
Offensive Player of the Week: Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State
Entering Saturday, the Big Ten’s best passer had been Indiana’s Ben Chappell. Pryor may have changed a few minds by throwing for a career-best 334 yards and three touchdowns in the victory over the Hoosiers. The junior quarterback completed 80 percent of his passes without an interception.
Defensive Player of the Week: Joe Holland, LB, Purdue
Holland was part of a defensive effort that limited Northwestern’s running game to just 2.0 yards per carry. Holland led the Boilermakers with 12 tackles, including a sack.
Freshman of the Week: Nathan Scheelhasse, QB, Illinois
Scheelhasse guided the Illini to an upset over Penn State by completing 15-of-19 passes for 151 yards and gaining 61 yards rushing on eight carries. In all, Scheelhasse led Illinois on six scoring drives.
The Week Ahead Upset Alert: Iowa
Michigan fell from the rankings after falling flat against Michigan State. Now, though, the Wolverines are in a position to climb back into the conference race with a win over a still-unproven Hawkeyes club. After Illinois dismantled Penn State, Iowa no longer has a “quality win” to its credit, and will enter a hornet’s nest this weekend in Ann Arbor. Player to Watch: Greg Jones, LB, Michigan State
Facing a two-pronged rushing attack that includes quarterback Nathan Scheelhasse and running back Mikel Leshoure, Jones and his defensive mates must rise to the same level at which they performed last week. Jones has been a running game stuffer all year, and will need another encore this Saturday. Additional Notes
Michigan has a growing star in Cameron Gordon, who has blocked a kick, recorded two interceptions and averages 7.7 tackles per contest. Gordon is the only freshman to rank among the top 40 in the conference in tackles (he’s currently tied for eighth).
Purdue leads the Big Ten in both sacks (17) and sack yards (109). The next closest squad is Illinois, with 12 sacks for 88 yards.
So far, Ohio State’s Devin Barclay leads all kickers in scoring and field goal accuracy. But the Big Ten’s best kicker might be Illinois’ Derek Dimke. Earlier this year Dimke made a 52-yarder against Missouri; last week, he made kicks from 50 and 41 yards. The junior has only missed one of his 11 attempts. Predictions
Indiana 34, Arkansas State 17
Minnesota 20, Purdue 13
Michigan State 31, Illinois 10
Iowa 21, Michigan 20
Ohio State 27, Wisconsin 14
The ACC’s highly anticipated battle of Florida turned out to be no contest. Florida State blew out Miami 45–17 on FSU coach Jimbo Fisher’s 45th birthday, scoring a point for every candle on the cake.
The Seminoles (5–1, 3–0 ACC) looked like the best team in the conference and built some momentum heading into upcoming games against Atlantic Division rivals Boston College and NC State. The Hurricanes (3–2, 1–1), meanwhile, were unimpressive in front of their first home sellout crowd since 2004.
The condition of the two teams was most evident in the body language of their quarterbacks. Florida State’s Christian Ponder remained poised in front of the crowd of 75,115, delivering an unspectacular but solid performance with help from his teammates. Miami’s Jacory Harris spent much of the evening limping around with injuries to his groin and left shoulder as his receivers dropped passes that they should have caught.
Harris’ passing statistics were ugly for the second week in a row — he has completed just 32 of his last 79 throws — and his health appears to be a big question mark moving forward. Miami’s chances of winning the Coastal Division are equally uncertain now that Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and North Carolina have gotten back on track. The Hurricanes have played poorly in both of their games against high-quality competition this season, and each of their three wins came against teams that are under .500. That doesn’t bode well for a team that claims to have ACC championship aspirations.
The outlook is much sunnier at this point for the Seminoles, who rushed for 298 yards and got three touchdowns from tailback Jermaine Thomas against Miami. Florida State has run for at least 200 yards in four consecutive games for the first time since 1995, showcasing the kind of offensive balance that the team has lacked in recent years.
The Seminoles should handle reeling Boston College this week, setting up their showdown at NC State on Oct. 28. The winner of that game will have the inside track toward earning a trip to Charlotte, N.C., for the ACC championship game on Dec. 4.
N.C. State 44, Boston College 17
Virginia Tech 45, Central Michigan 21
Georgia Tech 33, Virginia 21
North Carolina 21, Clemson 16
Navy 28, Wake Forest 27
Florida State 45, Miami 17
Tar Heels gaining strength
North Carolina picked up another key player and then picked up another key victory. The Tar Heels (3–2, 1–1), who welcomed back All-ACC safety Deunta Williams from a four-game suspension, held on to beat Clemson despite generating a season-low 255 total yards.
“As I told the players in the locker room, there are a lot of ways to win football games,” said UNC coach Butch Davis, whose team has put together a three-game winning streak. “Some of them don’t always look like the blueprint you draw up sometimes. But when the kids compete and play hard the whole game, it gives you a chance.”
Investigations into UNC’s program concerning improper benefits and possible academic misconduct have robbed the Tar Heels of many of their best players, especially on defense. But UNC’s chances of making noise in the Coastal Division improve every time one of those players gets reinstated.
Williams, who showed some rust against Clemson by allowing a long touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, and fellow starting safety Da’Norris Searcy have returned in the last two weeks to boost a depleted secondary. All-ACC cornerback Kendric Burney, serving a six-game suspension, is scheduled to join them after this week’s game against Virginia.
In the meantime, senior quarterback T.J. Yates and senior tailback Johnny White continue to play better than they ever have. Neither blinked when starting fullback Devon Ramsay was held out Saturday for the first time this season because of the investigations. Yates registered his fourth interception-free game of the year, and White rushed for 89 yards and two touchdowns in addition to catching six passes for 90 yards.
The Tar Heels still have issues, of course, but they have bounced back from early adversity to contend in a league that doesn’t feature a truly elite team.
“It’s just a weight lifted off our shoulders,” White said. “It just didn’t seem like anything would go our way the first two weeks where we were a drive away from winning both of those games, and now finally things are changing and starting to go our way.”
Allen, Jackets run over Cavaliers
Anthony Allen hadn’t forgotten the location of the end zone. It only seemed that way. Allen, a senior B-back who went Georgia Tech’s first five games this season without a score, admitted that he had not been finishing runs as well as he should have. He finally broke out in a big way against Virginia, rushing for 195 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries.
“I didn't know what to do!” Allen joked about celebrating his first score. “It was good to get that first touchdown, and my second, and my third.”
Allen sparked a Georgia Tech offense that had struggled against NC State and Wake Forest. The Yellow Jackets (4–2, 3–1), who rushed for 456 yards in those two games combined, churned out 477 yards on the ground against the Cavaliers. It was the fifth-highest rushing output in school history and the most rushing yards ever for Georgia Tech in an ACC game.
The storyline entering the game involved Al Groh, the former head coach at Virginia who is in his first season as Georgia Tech’s defensive coordinator. But the Yellow Jackets were so effective on the ground that Groh’s defense was on the field for only 23 minutes against the team he coached last season. The performance was a relief for Georgia Tech’s oft-injured and much-maligned offensive line.
“As poorly as we have played and as blind as we have been, this was the game we needed,” center Sean Bedford said. “Not just from a confidence point of view, but also to get everything in gear and moving downhill.”
Deacs fall short late … again
As was the case the previous week, Wake Forest took the field needing one more defensive stop in front of its home fans to secure a victory. As was the case the previous week, Wake Forest’s opponent was an option-heavy team that had to resort to passing the ball because not much time remained. And as was the case the previous week, Wake Forest failed to get the stop.
Ricky Dobbs threw a 6-yard touchdown pass with 26 seconds remaining to lead Navy past the Demon Deacons, capping a 10-play, 64-yard drive. It was eerily similar to the 9-yard touchdown pass Joshua Nesbitt threw with 15 seconds remaining that led Georgia Tech past the Demon Deacons 24–20 the previous week.
Wake Forest (2–4, 1–2) has dropped four consecutive games after opening the season with wins over Presbyterian and Duke, putting its bowl prospects in serious doubt. The losing streak won’t be easy to end next week on a trip to Virginia Tech, which has won four games in a row after starting the season 0–2.
“I think the deal is for every young football team, there comes a point when they get tired of watching the other team celebrate after the game,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. “And when that point comes, we’ll start winning games. Right now, we haven’t done that. I told the kids after the game that’s what has to happen. You have to get to the point where you get tired of losing.”
Hokies win where it counts
Some statistics from Virginia Tech’s game against Central Michigan:
Total yards: Central Michigan 401, Virginia Tech 394.
Third-down conversions: Central Michigan 7-for-20, Virginia Tech 0-for-8.
Time of possession: Central Michigan 35:47, Virginia Tec 24:13.
Turnovers: Central Michigan 1, Virginia Tech 1.
Those numbers hardly seem reflective of a 24-point victory, but that’s exactly what the Hokies (4–2, 2–0) enjoyed in their final non-conference game of the season.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was the key player for Virginia Tech, moving past Bryan Randall for the most wins (27) by any quarterback in school history. Taylor completed 13 of 23 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown, and he added 127 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in the sixth 100-yard rushing game of his career.
Wolfpack do it all
NC State did more than give Tom O’Brien his first victory against Boston College since he left Chestnut Hill in 2006 after 10 seasons as head coach. The Wolfpack scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams in the same game for the first time since a 49–21 victory over Texas Tech in 2003.
Cornerback C.J. Wilson completed the trifecta, picking off a pass from Dave Shinskie and returning it 28 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. Wilson, who picked off a pass and ran it back 43 yards in his team’s 28–21 victory at Central Florida on Sept. 11, became the first NC State player to score on two interception returns in the same season since Greg Williams in 1966.
• Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich showed yet another example of his toughness over the weekend. Herzlich, who has returned after missing all of last season while recovering from cancer, played against NC State with a broken bone in his left hand. Herzlich wore a huge wrap that rendered his fingers immobile, but he still intercepted one pass and broke up another in addition to making three tackles.
• Clemson coach Dabo Swinney attempted to shield his players from blame in the aftermath of the Tigers’ third consecutive loss, but he gave plenty of ammunition to his critics in the process. “I’m extremely embarrassed,” Swinney said. “This team deserves better, Clemson deserves better, the fans deserve better. This is just not a very well-coached football team right now, and it’s my fault. I’m extremely disappointed in what I saw today. I saw a team that wasn’t very smart, I saw a team that wasn’t very disciplined. I saw a team get a lot of critical penalties, right from the beginning of the game on the first play. I saw a team give up a huge play that led to a score right before the end of the half. I’m embarrassed. I’m extremely disappointed in myself. I’m better than this, I know I’m better than this, and it’s my job to get it fixed. It’s nobody else’s job. This football team didn’t quit, the football team played, they tried as hard as they could, and it’s obvious they’re just not very well-coached.”
• Florida State backup tailback Chris Thompson rushed for a career-high 158 yards on 14 carries against Miami. Thompson gave his stats a huge boost late in the fourth quarter with a 90-yard touchdown run, the third-longest rush in FSU history and the longest run ever allowed by the Hurricanes.
• Georgia Tech posted consecutive victories over Virginia for the first time since 1990-91. The Yellow Jackets have won six consecutive games against their Coastal Division foes.
• Tailback Graig Cooper, Miami’s leading rushing each of the last three seasons, showed some burst in his first playing time since the season opener. Cooper, who had been out with an ankle injury after spending the off-season rehabbing from knee surgery, gained 22 yards on two carries and caught a pass for 11 yards against Florida State.
• North Carolina has played back-to-back games without a turnover for the first time since 1996.
*Virginia tailback Keith Payne, who rushed for 56 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries against Georgia Tech, had some unconventional help on his 1-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Darnell Carter, who tallied the first interception of his career earlier in the game, lined up at fullback to help clear Payne’s path to the end zone.
• Virginia Tech tailbacks Darren Evans and David Wilson filled in admirably once again for injured starter Ryan Williams, who missed his third consecutive game with a hamstring injury. Evans and Wilson each rushed for a touchdown against Central Michigan while combining for 119 yards on 14 carries.
• Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price produced a record-breaking return to action after sitting out last week’s game with a concussion. Price completed 37 of 53 passes for 326 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against Navy, completing more passes and throwing for more yardage than any true freshman in school history.