SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
9/01/2006 01:56:00 PM
Opening Night: What We Learned
It’s game-weekend, which means the Blog is getting ready to go into overdrive. My itinerary for this weekend involves a full day and night in front of the tube Saturday before traveling to Miami for Monday night’s Florida State game. This is my first season doing this, so you’ll have to bear with me as I figure out my new game-day routine, but the plan for now is to post several short, quick takes throughout the day Saturday with observations from the key games.
Speaking of which … some observations from opening night (though admittedly, I didn’t actually see most of these):
∙ With the whirlwind of criticism surrounding Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter the past couple weeks, his team opened its season in about the worst way imaginable Thursday night, struggling for three quarters with I-AA Northern Arizona (the game was tied 14-14 going into the fourth) before winning 35-14. QB Rudy Carpenter was unimpressive, the running game non-existent and the defense allowed two long touchdown passes. Most incriminating, however, was this quote afterward from Carpenter:
“NAU has a different style of defense that we never really see," Carpenter said. "… It was really confusing to us. We didn't know who to block, who to throw to." Jeez. You only had eight months to prepare for it.
∙ We almost had the first semi-major upset, as Toledo took Iowa State to three overtimes. The 45-43 loss had to be pretty encouraging for the Rockets -- whose QB, Clint Cochran (39-of-49, 367 yards three TDs, one INT), picked up right where accomplished predecessor Bruce Gradkowski left off -- and somewhat disturbing for the Cyclones, a supposed Big 12 North contender whose defense clearly has some issues.
∙ The running back factory at Minnesota rolled out its latest prodigy Thursday, this one its most unlikely yet. Sophomore Alex Daniels, who moved from linebacker to running back just weeks ago to boost the Gophers’ ultra-thin backfield, ran for 155 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-0 win over Kent State.
∙ Not sure what to make of South Carolina’s 15-0 win over Mississippi State. Apparently Sylvester Croom’s Bulldogs have taken a big step up on defense, which makes sense seeing as they’re extremely experienced. But is the Gamecocks’ defense even better or is MSU’s offense that bad?
∙ Finally, in the Randy Walker Memorial Bowl, Northwestern’s defense looked much improved in head coach Pat Fitzgerald’s debut, a 21-3 win over Walker’s alma mater, Miami (Ohio), but the offense looks like it will be a work in progress behind young, but promising, QB Mike Kafka.
I hope you didn't miss the Boston College at Central Michigan game! CMU was a real threat to tie it up late in the fourth until they ran some boneheaded trick play and threw a pick. I know it was just a season opener, but boy was I impressed with the Chippewas.
Games against I-AA schools are often closer than they should be, probably a combo of taking an opponent too lightly, and an underdog coming in with nothing to lose. Look for some of the I-AA teams to be giant killers this year.
Christopher was right. That was a great game to watch, a heroic comeback, and bam! games over. The announcers were right, CMU will be talking about that play and how they could of won for the rest of the season.
ASU was slow to start, but by the fourth quarter the Devils appeared to be going downhill against the Lumberjacks. If there had been another 15 minutes of gametime, the score might have been 70-14. Coach Koetter just has to get his team to play at that 4th quarter level a little earlier next time.
Kent State has a HORRIBLE team this year. Minn should've beat them way worse. The fact that a recently converted LB ran for over 100 doesn't mean squat against such a weak team. Now if he'd a done that against CMU...