College Football Overtime (cont.)
I've been saying it since the spring, but Mack Brown simply wouldn't listen: Case McCoy is his guy. Texas' offense struggled mightily for most of Thursday night's (unnecessary) rivalry sendoff against Texas A&M, but after the Aggies went ahead 25-24 with 1:48 left, McCoy led his team down the field, highlighted by a Colt-esque 25-yard scramble to set up Justin Tucker's game-winning 40-yard field goal. That one will sting in College Station for a long time.
Speaking of which, A&M -- which began the year ranked eighth in the preseason AP poll -- finished the regular season 6-6, brining Mike Sherman's four-year record to 25-25. Best of luck next year against Les Miles and Nick Saban.
With a spot in the Conference USA championship game on the line, Houston's Case Keenum went 33-of-46 for 457 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in a 48-16 win over Tulsa (8-4). That ups his season touchdown-to-interception ratio to a mind-boggling 43-to-3. If the Cougars had faced just one marquee nonconference opponent -- like Kellen Moore has the past two years against Virginia Tech and Georgia -- Keenum might have won the Heisman. A trip to New York is at least in order.
Ron Zook has apparently made history. Illinois is believed to be the first FBS team in history to start 6-0, then finish 0-6. The Illini hit rock bottom Saturday with a 27-7 loss to 2-9 Minnesota in which Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray rushed for 167 yards. "I still think they're a much, much better football team than what we've shown, and that's what falls on me," said Zook, who was finally fired Sunday after managing to stay on for seven seasons despite a 34-51 record thanks to that one 9-4 Rose Bowl team.
Virginia Tech made an emphatic final statement in clinching a spot in Saturday's ACC championship game, thumping previously hot Virginia 38-0. Frank Beamer's team has now won 11 games for the fourth time in seven seasons and will play for its fourth ACC title in five years against Clemson, the team that dealt the Hokies their lone defeat, 23-3 on Oct. 1. "Everybody wants it," said quarterback Logan Thomas. "We know that we didn't play our best ball that day."
Virginia Tech's opponent heads into Saturday's game on a different trajectory. The Tigers, 9-1 two weeks ago, suffered their second straight lopsided defeat, 34-13 to No. 12 South Carolina (10-2). Tajh Boyd, so prolific for much of the season, passed for just 83 yards while the Gamecocks' previously struggling offense racked up 420 yards. "Historically, Clemson has owned this series," said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who's won three straight in the series. "They don't own us now."
Give a tip of the cap to first-year Stanford coach David Shaw. Sure, he had the luxury of a future No. 1 pick at quarterback, but you don't go 11-1 -- the same record predecessor Jim Harbaugh produced in his final regular season -- by simply blowing a whistle at practice. Andrew Luck did his thing in a 28-14 win over Notre Dame (8-4), but linebacker Chase Thomas did his best Honey Badger impersonation with his fifth forced fumble in a dominant defensive performance.
Meanwhile, Irish coach Brian Kelly managed to open up a quarterback controversy in the final week of the season. After starter Tommy Rees committed two turnovers in the first half against Stanford, Kelly went with freshman Andrew Hendrix the entire second half. Hendrix went 11-of-24 for 192 yards, a touchdown and a game-sealing pick in a 28-14 loss. Now Kelly faces a month of questions about his possible starter for the Champs Sports Bowl. "Anything's possible," he said.
Even with Robert Griffin III on the sideline for the second half with a head injury, Baylor (8-3) poured it on Texas Tech (5-7), 66-42, as running back Terrance Ganaway went off for 246 yards on 42 caries. Griffin expects to be back for next week's finale against Texas. Remarkably, the Red Raiders never won another game following their Oct. 22 upset of third-ranked Oklahoma, dropping five straight. "We just haven't been able to stop anybody on defense," said Tech coach Tommy Tuberville.
It's been a season to forget in College Park, Md., and the final chapter was no less painful. Randy Edsall's team (2-10), which never beat an FBS foe after the season-opener against Miami, jumped to an improbable 41-14 third-quarter lead against NC State (7-5) only to see the Wolfpack roll off 42 unanswered points for a 56-41 win. Maryland defensive lineman A.J. Francis on Twitter afterward (censored): "That's the worst s--- I've ever been involved with in my entire f---ing life."
And to think, Maryland could have promoted coach-in-waiting James Franklin, who led Vanderbilt to its second bowl berth since 1982 following a 41-7 rout of Wake Forest (6-6). Remember, this team also suffered last-second losses to Arkansas and Tennessee and was competitive in all but two games (against Alabama and South Carolina). "It just shows how hard they've worked," Franklin said of his players. "Same team, basically, that the last two years won four games total." Give that man a raise.
Can it get any lower for Florida's Big Three? Florida State, Florida and Miami all finished the regular season unranked, with the Seminoles (8-4) the only one to finish above .500. The dispirited 'Canes (removed from bowl consideration days earlier) ended with a 24-17 loss to 4-8 Boston College, while FSU beat Florida, 21-7, in a putrid display of offensive football (neither team cracked 200 yards). At least we're coming up on the one time of year where they still excel: Signing Day.
It didn't garner the same level of indignation as the Texas-Texas A&M swan song, but Missouri's and Kansas' 120-year-old Border War is also on hold following the Tigers' 24-10 win in Kansas City on Saturday. Of course, it's hard to get too mushy over a rivalry game played in front of nearly 30,000 empty seats at Arrowhead Stadium. The Mizzou fans who did attend showed they're already up to speed on at least one tradition in their new conference. They chanted "S-E-C, S-E-C" at the end.
Louisiana Tech (8-4) clinched its first WAC title in a decade with a 44-0 blanking of New Mexico State and accepted an invite to the Poinsettia Bowl. The Bulldogs won their last seven games.
Utah State (6-5), that of the hard-luck 1-4 start (last-second losses to Auburn and BYU and a double overtime defeat to Colorado State), will play in its first bowl since 1997 after winning its fourth straight game, 21-17 over Nevada (6-5).
Retiring FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger avoided the indignity of a winless final season, as the Owls (1-10) beat UAB, 38-35.
How's this for classy: Akron coach Rob Ianello, who went 2-22 in two seasons, found out he was fired while driving to New York for his mother's funeral Saturday.
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