College Football Overtime (cont.)
Smaller story, but I'm sure you're following it ...
Four years ago Al Golden took over at Temple, college football's most directionless program. Exiled from the Big East, playing a vagabond's schedule that included just four home games and toting a roster decimated by juco washouts and academic casualties, the Owls suffered through a 1-11 campaign in Golden's first season, the program's third 11-loss season in four years. A year later, the Philadelphia school joined the MAC.
Today, Temple (6-2, 4-0 MAC) sits alone atop the MAC's East division, riding its first six-game winning streak since 1974 and bowl eligible for the first time in a quarter-century. The Owls, who have improved their win total every year under Golden (going 4-8 in 2007, 5-7 last year), produced the most significant victory of Golden's tenure on Saturday: a 27-24 win at 6-3 Navy, the same team that's been to six straight bowl games and beat Wake Forest just a week earlier.
"This is the first year since I've been here that we're a Division I football team with a full 85 scholarships," said Golden, the 40-year-old former Penn State linebacker and Virginia defensive coordinator. "It feels good to not only be competitive but continue to win."
Golden takes pride in a senior class that began as part of the youngest team in the nation (in '06 and '07), but the undisputed star of Saturday's show was freshman running back Bernard Pierce, who ran for 267 yards, including a go-ahead 41-yard score with 2:41 left. It marked the second straight 200-yard game for the native of nearby Ardmore, Pa., who now ranks third nationally in rushing (129.1 yards per game, just above Pitt freshman Dion Lewis and Alabama's Mark Ingram).
"I've been around college football 21 years, and to see a back who can utilize the stiff arm, make people miss and run people over -- to do all three things is very rare," said Golden.
Temple is likely just one more win away from assuring its first bowl berth in 30 years, but Golden is adamant about avoiding the subject. The Owls, who opened the season by losing to I-AA Villanova, had admittedly feasted on light competition prior to Navy (their first five victims are a combined 11-31), and their next two games come against 1-8 Miami (Ohio) and 1-7 Akron.
"We have to challenge them to stay away from the poison -- the media and people who want to talk to them about bowl games and their success," said Golden. "We have to deal with handling prosperity. We've certainly rewritten the book on how to handle adversity."
Brandon Spikes: Busted
While the SEC is presumably thrilled to be cashing CBS' and ESPN's checks (worth a combined $3 billion over the next 15 years), the conference is suddenly dealing with an unintended consequence: The networks' cameras catch everything.
By now, you've probably seen a YouTube clip of Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes' boorish attempt to eye-gouge Georgia running back Washaun Ealey. I concur with Andy Staples, who wrote Sunday that the SEC should suspend Spikes for a game. Spikes was apparently retaliating for something that happened to him earlier in the game, but it was still inexcusable.
That said, it's no secret that all sorts of unseemly shenanigans take place at the bottom of the pile. Only a select few offenders get caught on camera like Spikes. (Ohio State linebacker Robert Reynolds' 2003 throat-grab of Wisconsin quarterback Jim Sorgi comes to mind.) Watching the Spikes replay (of which he wasn't even the subject), it occurred to me that in almost any other college football telecast, his transgression probably never would have been seen.
It happened at the end of an otherwise innocuous second-and-goal handoff in a 31-10 game. But this being CBS' national game of the day, the network showed not one, but two replays afterward, including the extreme close-up that allowed astute viewers at home to pause and rewind their DVR, scurry to YouTube and Twitter and turn it into a national story within minutes.
Welcome to the SEC's new unintended headache. Whether it's a questionable celebration flag, a blown replay review or an otherwise hidden eye-gouge, the conference office seems to have a new p.r. fire to put out every week. The league wanted the maximum possible exposure for its games. It got what it wished for.
But here's the greatest irony: The SEC went to great lengths in its new deals (and took a boatload of criticism) to try to control digital rights to its broadcasts. Published polices explicitly prohibit non-rights holders from posting game footage online, and at one point even went so far as to banish spectators from using their cell-phone cameras or posting to social networking sites.
Yeah -- that's not happening.
Golden Tate: The Hail Mary
Notre Dame's star receiver has made a lot of amazing catches this season -- but this one was something else entirely.
Tim Brown: The 81-yard game winner
The look on the Connecticut player's face at the 0:31 mark says it all.
Mini-previews for three of this week's big games.
Boise State at Louisiana Tech, Friday (8 p.m. ET): The biggest mistake the Mountain West ever made was ditching ESPN. The reason at the time was the desire for better time slots, but more fans around the country will see this seemingly mundane Boise game than any game TCU plays all season.
LSU at Alabama, Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET): Not long ago, this seemed like a potential laugher, but the Tigers have looked much better their past two games, while the Tide's offense has struggled. Plus, the game's on CBS, so it's bound to produce some sort of officiating/player misconduct controversy.
Ohio State at Penn State, Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET): Because of an arcane Big Ten rule prohibiting night games after October, this one will not be in prime time, which means the Beaver Stadium White Out won't be magnified. It will still be the most hostile venue Terrelle Pryor has played in so far in his career.
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