College football overtime (cont.)
As I wrote Saturday, Clemson running back C.J. Spiller delivered a Heisman-esque performance in the Tigers' 40-37 overtime win against Miami, racking up a school-record 310 all-purpose yards. Here's a truly amazing stat about Spiller, who now leads the nation in all-purpose yards (207.9 per game): He's had at least one play of 60-plus yards in all seven of the Tigers' games this season.
Amidst an otherwise miserable season for Florida State, quarterback Christian Ponder has been sensational. The junior, who was 33-of-40 for 395 yards and three TDs in Thursday night's comeback win at North Carolina, has completed 70 percent of his passes for 2,176 yards, 12 TDs and just one pick. Amazingly, it took the 'Noles nine years to find a decent quarterback -- and now that they have, they're 3-4.
Georgia Tech (7-1, 5-1 ACC) is about as close as a team can come this early to locking up a division. Following a 34-9 win at Virginia and Miami's 40-37 loss to Clemson, the Jackets are tied for first in the loss column in the ACC Coastal with two teams (Virginia Tech and Virginia) they've already beaten and another (Duke) they really should beat. Their only other league foe: Wake Forest.
By the way, that wasn't a misprint about Duke (4-3, 2-1 ACC). With a 17-13 win Saturday over 2-6 Maryland, the Blue Devils won consecutive conference games for the first time since 1994. (They previously routed N.C. State). Quarterback Thad Lewis had another huge game, throwing for 371 yards on 30-of-43 passing. Don't get too excited yet, though -- Duke rushed for a combined 66 yards in those wins.
Previously torrid Arizona quarterback Nick Foles cooled off considerably against UCLA, throwing three interceptions (two to national co-leader Rahim Moore) and losing a fumble that the Bruins' Tony Dye returned for a touchdown. Still, the Wildcats (5-2, 3-1 Pac-10) held on to win 27-13 and on Sunday moved into the AP and coaches polls for the first time in nine years.
Ole Miss' offense finally got its groove back in a 30-17 win over Arkansas. Quarterback Jevan Snead threw for a career-high 332 yards (albeit with two interceptions), and the Rebels finally got the most out of all-purpose weapon Dexter McCluster. He notched career-highs in both receiving (137 yards) and rushing (123), and his 29 touches far exceeded his previous season high of 15.
Northwestern (5-3, 2-2 Big Ten) is making a habit of gigantic comebacks. The Wildcats fell behind 28-3 in the second quarter against Indiana before gradually chipping away (and withstanding three Mike Kafka interceptions) to win 29-28 on a last-second field goal. It marked the biggest rally in school history. Three weeks earlier, they similarly turned a 21-3 deficit against Purdue into a 27-21 win.
Idaho (6-2), whose bandwagon had been growing considerably in recent weeks, suffered a humbling 70-45 defeat at Nevada (4-3). Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick accounted for 408 total yards (230 rushing) and six touchdowns.
In a battle of previously winless squads, Ball State (1-7) beat Eastern Michigan (0-7), 29-27, on Cory Sykes' 37-yard touchdown run with 1:47 left. The Eagles may have blown their best shot; they don't get to face 0-8 Miami (Ohio).
Smaller story, but I'm sure you're following it ...
You remember Troy Walters, don't you? The pint-sized Stanford receiver won the 1999 Biletnikoff Award before going on to play eight years with four different NFL teams.
The 32-year-old has a far less glamorous job now: offensive coordinator at Indiana State. On Saturday, though, he helped the Sycamores make history -- or, perhaps more accurately, avoid making history -- with a 17-14 win over Western Illinois that snapped a 33-game losing streak, the longest in the nation.
Indiana State, which had last won on Oct. 21, 2006, was one more loss away from tying Northwestern for the third-longest losing streak in Division I history. But sophomore quarterback Ryan Roberts broke a 91-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and engineered a go-ahead 80-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to upend the 1-6 Leathernecks and avoid further indignity.
"Troy Walters called a great game on offense," Indiana State coach Trent Miles said afterward. " Our coaching staff will be able to relax more tonight and see our name in yellow at the bottom of the TV screen."
Still, I can't get over the fact that Walters -- who had no previous coaching experience -- is the Sycamores' offensive coordinator. Ironically, the connection between Walters and Miles is none other than Tyrone Willingham (Walters played for him at Stanford, Miles coached under him there and at Notre Dame and Washington.) Their shared mentor hasn't won a college game since 2007, when Walters was still playing for the Detroit Lions.
Tim Tebow: No answers
Tim Tebow's 2008 season was defined by "The Speech." Saturday night, after what was unquestionably the worst performance of his Florida career, the Gators star had nothing to say. It marked the first time as a starter (besides the Kentucky concussion game) that Tebow was not available to the media.
I'm not one of those writers who feels an athlete is morally obligated to help fill reporters' notebooks, and it's hard to criticize a guy who's never once complained about his highly public existence. But Tebow's rare bout as a recluse speaks volumes about the level of frustration he's undoubtedly feeling right now.
Saturday night at Mississippi State, the former Heisman winner threw not one, but two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns (both on tipped passes, both by Bulldogs freshman safety Jonathan Banks). The first, just before halftime, came on a third-and-goal at the eight and let Mississippi State back in the game. The second, after Florida had pulled away 29-13, came when Tebow tried to throw out of his own end zone late in the game.
Tebow finished just 12-of-22 for 127 yards on the night, his lone highlight coming on a 26-yard touchdown run.
"He's very frustrated," Gators coach Urban Meyer said Sunday. "He's used to playing at a certain level."
Tebow is hardly the only one to blame for Florida's continued offensive woes. The offensive line has allowed 10 sacks in the past two games. Receiver Riley Cooper and tight end Aaron Hernandez continue to be the only pass-catchers of note. And the Gators have been downright horrendous in the red zone, scoring just two touchdowns in 15 tries over the past three games.
Still, Tebow is the one with the "Superman" label, the guy who television announcers talk about "willing his team to win" at least 10 times per broadcast. So far this season, that image has been shattered. He's thrown eight touchdowns in seven games. He's been held below 200 yards passing in all but one game. He remained on most Heisman Watch lists coming into the week, but after Saturday night's display, I don't see how that could possibly continue.
We came into the year debating whether Tebow might become the best college quarterback in history. Right now, he's not even on the short list of best quarterbacks this season.
Ricky Stanzi: Give him two seconds ...
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Terrence Cody: Give him some low trajectory ...
Mini-previews for three of this week's big games
USC at Oregon, Saturday (8 p.m. ET): The Trojans have lost their last three games in the state of Oregon. On the other hand, freshman quarterback Matt Barkley has been at his best on the road, leading a game-winning drive at Ohio State and throwing for an average 331.5 yards in wins at Cal and Notre Dame.
Texas at Oklahoma State, Saturday (8 p.m. ET): The 'Horns have exhibited a penchant for drama lately whenever they visit Stillwater, rallying from deficits of 28-9 (2005) and 35-14 (2007). The good news: They have a better defense than they did either of those years. The bad news: Oklahoma State has a better team.
Florida vs. Georgia, Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET): During a thus-far disappointing 3-3 season, nothing would bring Dawgs fans more delight than ruining their arch-rival's perfect season. Certainly, the Gators appear vulnerable. Then again, Georgia's 90th-ranked pass defense might be the perfect remedy for Tebow.
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