College Football Overtime (cont.)
Spreading the field
After toiling on the cusp for four years, Duke quarterback Thad Lewis finally got his moment in the sun Saturday. The four-year starter shredded N.C. State for 459 yards and five touchdowns on 40-of-50 passing for the Blue Devils' first ACC road win since 2003. On Sunday, he was named the Walter Camp Player of the Week.
"I will probably upset a couple of my former quarterbacks," said Duke coach David Cutcliffe, "but I believe that is the finest game that I have had a quarterback have in college."
You do know who his former quarterbacks include, right?
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez raised questions by pulling struggling quarterback Tate Forcier for Denard Robinson in the fourth quarter against Iowa. Perhaps Forcier is hurting more than Rodriguez is letting on, but it seems strange to have Robinson try to lead a game-winning drive at the end when Forcier has done just that three times already. While Forcier watched from the sidelines, Robinson threw a game-sealing pick.
Compounding matters, ABC reported during its broadcast that Forcier had "heated words" with Rodriguez on the sideline, a charge the coach vehemently denied. "Let's not create something that's [not] there, guys," he told reporters. "I put Denard in to get a spark, and we got a spark. And the spark was still lit."
And the Wolverines' summer-long quarterback question makes its ugly return.
Oklahoma's Sam Bradford is usually quite reserved in public, but the reigning Heisman winner seemed positively giddy in his postgame press conference after throwing for 389 yards in a win over Baylor in his return performance. "It's extremely gratifying ... just to be out there with the guys," he said.As I wrote Saturday, he could have had an even bigger day with a little more help from his receivers.
Virginia Tech's offense has really kicked it into gear these past few weeks. On Saturday against Boston College, running back Ryan Williams continued his season-long tear with 159 yards on 18 carries. And ever since that game-winning drive against Nebraska, Taylor has looked like a far more confident passer. He threw touchdowns of 41 and 24 yards in the Hokies' 48-14 rout.
What a strange game in Columbus. Wisconsin held the ball for 42:47 to Ohio State's 17:13. Terrelle Pryor completed just 5-of-13 passes with an interception. Yet the Buckeyes won going away, 31-13, thanks to two pick-sixes (Kurt Coleman for 89 yards and Jermale Hines for 32) and an 86-yard kick return by Ray Small. Give credit to OSU's defense for weathering 89 Wisconsin plays.
If ever a team was guilty of "looking ahead," it was Texas. The 'Horns trailed woeful Colorado 14-10 at halftime Saturday and scored more touchdowns on defense and special teams (three) than on offense (two) in their 38-14 win. Colt McCoy had two turnovers. "When everybody talks about how bad Colorado is all week, it's really hard to go out there and take them serious,'' Texas coach Mack Brown said.
Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt ran for 140 yards and scored four touchdowns against Florida State, but his biggest play Saturday came on defense. Neither team could stop the other all night, so the 'Noles appeared to catch a huge break when Nigel Carr scooped up an errant Nesbitt option pitch in the fourth quarter. That is, until Nesbitt snatched it right back. Tech won 49-44.
Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead is being dubbed this season's biggest disappointment (the preseason Heisman candidate is competing 46.8 percent of his passes with nine interceptions), but to be fair, he's getting no protection. "Their big weakness on their team is their offensive line," Alabama defensive tackle Terrence Cody said. Snead looks panicked seemingly every time the ball is snapped.
Undefeateds Cincinnati and South Florida meet Thursday night in a game many believe will decide the Big East title, but it might not be wise to dismiss Pittsburgh just yet. The 5-1 Panthers, down 21-6 to UConn late in the third quarter, pulled off an impressive rally to win on a last-second field goal. Freshman Dion Lewis (158 yards) now ranks fifth nationally in rushing.
How's this for a stat line: Bowling Green receiver Freddie Barnes had 22 catches (one shy of a record) for 278 yards and three TDs against Kent State. Barnes now has 75 receptions on the year, 28 more than any other player nationally.
The Army "bowl watch" continues. After knocking off Vanderbilt in overtime, the Black Knights are 3-3, the latest they've been at least .500 since their last bowl season in 1996. Next week brings another winnable game at 3-2 Temple.
Smaller story, but I'm sure you're following it...
There are big doings in Moscow these days. (Not that Moscow.) Following a last-minute 29-25 win at San Jose State on Saturday, Idaho is 5-1, no small feat considering it hasn't won five games in a season since 2000.
Since moving from the Sun Belt to the WAC in 2005, the Vandals had been a perennial cellar-dweller. In the four seasons prior to this one, they'd won a combined six conference games. Coaching instability certainly didn't help. First, Nick Holt abruptly departed after just two seasons (2004 and '05) to return to Pete Carroll's USC staff (Holt is now at Washington). The school then rescued former coach Dennis Erickson from coaching exile only to watch him return the favor by bolting for Arizona State after just one season.
Enter Robb Akey, who spent the previous eight years just eight miles away on Washington State staff.
After enduring a nightmarish first two seasons (a combined 3-21 record), Akey has Idaho off to its best start since 1994, when the school was still in Division I-AA. The past three wins have all come against bowl-eligible teams from a year ago (Northern Illinois, Colorado State and San Jose State). It's too early to say how Idaho will ultimately stack up in the WAC (San Jose was the Vandals' second conference opponent), but just reaching a bowl for the first time since 1998 would be accomplishment enough.
What's interesting about Idaho is that, prior to this decade, the Idaho-Boise State rivalry had been fairly even, and in fact the Vandals won three straight lopsided games from 1996-98 when the two schools first moved up to I-A. Obviously, the two programs have gone in opposite directions since then. But is it really all that crazy to think a school that once churned out such coaches as Erickson and John L. Smith has found itself another unsung gem in Akey? We may soon find out.
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