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Survival of the fittest

My observations during a wild day of college football

Posted: Saturday October 21, 2006 9:25PM; Updated: Wednesday October 25, 2006 11:39AM
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Saturday Observations Part II

Defensive end Bruce Davis and his UCLA teammates could not believe they let Notre Dame score with 27 seconds left.
Defensive end Bruce Davis and his UCLA teammates could not believe they let Notre Dame score with 27 seconds left.
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Dramatic victories -- and, for the losers, excruciating defeats -- seem to be a recurring theme today. The noon ET hour brought us the biggest comeback in Division I-A history (Michigan State-Northwestern) and a game-winning field goal in a crucial Big 12 matchup (Texas-Nebraska) -- and that turned out to be just an appetizer for the rest of the afternoon.

Put yourself in the shoes of a UCLA fan right now. Not only were the Bruins less than a minute away from pulling off its most significant victory in years, but they got to that position with a remarkable defensive performance. UCLA -- less than a year removed from fielding the nation's 113th-ranked defense -- sacked Brady Quinn five times, held Notre Dame to 34 yards rushing and appeared headed to a 17-13 upset in South Bend. All of it rendered moot by one awful defensive breakdown.

Despite having successfully pressured Quinn all day, UCLA went with every fan's favorite, the prevent defense, when the Irish took over at their own 20 with 1:02 remaining. Two uncontested Quinn passes later, ND was at the Bruins' 45. On what would be the fatal play, UCLA nearly got to Quinn with a four-man rush, but he scrambled to his right and hit a streaking Jeff Samardzija, who not only slipped past the coverage but then juked the last possible UCLA tackler out of his shoes en route to a 45-yard touchdown.

Yep. In the blink of an eye, Quinn and Samardzija not only saved the game, they likely saved a BCS berth for the Irish, while Karl Dorrell and the Bruins saw a potential program-defining victory go up in smoke.

Elsewhere:

• The absence of star WR Mario Manningham has been glaring in Michigan's past two games. Just like last week's 17-10 win at Penn State, the Wolverines didn't play badly at all against Iowa on Saturday, and just like last week, the lack of a big plays made for an ugly, closer-than-expected outcome. But once again, Michigan's front seven was phenomenal, holding the Hawkeyes to 41 yards rushing.

• Another year, another ugly, defensive slugfest between rivals Tennessee and Alabama. The Tide defended the Vols better than any team all season, picking off QB Erik Ainge three times and holding the Vols without a touchdown for 57 minutes before Ainge engineered the go-ahead 70-yard drive. Give Alabama credit for another sterling defensive effort. Ainge overcame about as rough a start as imaginable to come out the hero yet again.

• Crazy ending alert: Florida State WR Greg Carr had his hands on QB Drew Weatherford's last-second Hail Mary pass into the back of the end zone, but Larry Anam came down with the interception to seal a 24-19 win for Boston College. The Eagles, in just their second year in the ACC, suddenly control their own destiny in the conference's Atlantic Division. Meanwhile, it's probably appropriate that the 'Noles wore all-black uniforms -- this is as dark a time for FSU football as I can remember. FSU, now 2-3 in the ACC, didn't even bother trying to run the ball. Weatherford handed the ball off eight times while attempting 48 passes.

• Crazy ending alert II: Washington QB Carl Bonnell's 40-yard Hail Mary into the end zone with no time remaining got tipped by two Cal defenders right into the hands of Huskies WR Marlon Wood, sending the game to overtime. An absolutely incredible play. The Bears rebounded in time to win 31-24.

• Crazy ending alert III: Baylor QB Shawn Bell threw three touchdowns over the final 9:22 -- including a 10-yarder to Dominique Ziegler with 1:08 remaining -- to rally the Bears from a 35-17 deficit to a 36-35 win over Kansas. That first-half outburst against Texas last week was no fluke, people. After struggling early in their transition to the Texas Tech passing offense, Bell (who threw for 394 yards Saturday) and Baylor are suddenly 4-4 -- 3-1 in the Big 12.

• Crazy ending alert IV: I-AA North Dakota State, down 10-9 to Minnesota with one second left, kicked a 43-yard field goal that would have given the Bison their first win ever against a Big Ten opponent -- and had it blocked.

Who needs the World Series?

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