SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
10/21/2006 11:03:00 PM
Saturday Observations Part II
Defensive end Bruce Davis and his UCLA teammates could not believe they let Notre Dame score with 27 seconds left.
Dramatic victories -- and, for the losers, excruciating defeats -- seem to be a recurring theme today. The noon ET hour brought us the biggest comeback in Division I-A history (Michigan State-Northwestern) and a game-winning field goal in a crucial Big 12 matchup (Texas-Nebraska) -- and that turned out to be just an appetizer for the rest of the afternoon.
Put yourself in the shoes of a UCLA fan right now. Not only were the Bruins less than a minute away from pulling off its most significant victory in years, but they got to that position with a remarkable defensive performance. UCLA -- less than a year removed from fielding the nation's 113th-ranked defense -- sacked Brady Quinn five times, held Notre Dame to 34 yards rushing and appeared headed to a 17-13 upset in South Bend. All of it rendered moot by one awful defensive breakdown.
Despite having successfully pressured Quinn all day, UCLA went with every fan's favorite, the prevent defense, when the Irish took over at their own 20 with 1:02 remaining. Two uncontested Quinn passes later, ND was at the Bruins' 45. On what would be the fatal play, UCLA nearly got to Quinn with a four-man rush, but he scrambled to his right and hit a streaking Jeff Samardzija, who not only slipped past the coverage but then juked the last possible UCLA tackler out of his shoes en route to a 45-yard touchdown.
Yep. In the blink of an eye, Quinn and Samardzija not only saved the game, they likely saved a BCS berth for the Irish, while Karl Dorrell and the Bruins saw a potential program-defining victory go up in smoke.
• The absence of star WR Mario Manningham has been glaring in Michigan's past two games. Just like last week's 17-10 win at Penn State, the Wolverines didn't play badly at all against Iowa on Saturday, and just like last week, the lack of a big plays made for an ugly, closer-than-expected outcome. But once again, Michigan's front seven was phenomenal, holding the Hawkeyes to 41 yards rushing.
• Another year, another ugly, defensive slugfest between rivals Tennessee and Alabama. The Tide defended the Vols better than any team all season, picking off QB Erik Ainge three times and holding the Vols without a touchdown for 57 minutes before Ainge engineered the go-ahead 70-yard drive. Give Alabama credit for another sterling defensive effort. Ainge overcame about as rough a start as imaginable to come out the hero yet again.
• Crazy ending alert: Florida State WR Greg Carr had his hands on QB Drew Weatherford's last-second Hail Mary pass into the back of the end zone, but Larry Anam came down with the interception to seal a 24-19 win for Boston College. The Eagles, in just their second year in the ACC, suddenly control their own destiny in the conference's Atlantic Division. Meanwhile, it's probably appropriate that the 'Noles wore all-black uniforms -- this is as dark a time for FSU football as I can remember. FSU, now 2-3 in the ACC, didn't even bother trying to run the ball. Weatherford handed the ball off eight times while attempting 48 passes.
• Crazy ending alert II: Washington QB Carl Bonnell's 40-yard Hail Mary into the end zone with no time remaining got tipped by two Cal defenders right into the hands of Huskies WR Marlon Wood, sending the game to overtime. An absolutely incredible play. The Bears rebounded in time to win 31-24.
• Crazy ending alert III: Baylor QB Shawn Bell threw three touchdowns over the final 9:22 -- including a 10-yarder to Dominique Ziegler with 1:08 remaining -- to rally the Bears from a 35-17 deficit to a 36-35 win over Kansas. That first-half outburst against Texas last week was no fluke, people. After struggling early in their transition to the Texas Tech passing offense, Bell (who threw for 394 yards Saturday) and Baylor are suddenly 4-4 -- 3-1 in the Big 12.
• Crazy ending alert IV: I-AA North Dakota State, down 10-9 to Minnesota with one second left, kicked a 43-yard field goal that would have given the Bison their first win ever against a Big Ten opponent -- and had it blocked.
FIGHTING IRISH...Once again Brady Quinn is showing his poise and leadership, you can knock the guy for not being perfect (as so many tried to say he would be this year) but take away his unreal and lofty preseason expectations and look at him for a college QB which he is, anytime the game is close he just seems to make the big play happen. And dont count the Irish for a national championship game not just a BCS game, its far fetched but not out of reach, they need Texas to lose the Big 12 championship game, they need to beat USC, then I expect TENN, FLOR, and AUR to all lose again in that tough SEC, that leaves LOU and WV which would be a crying shame to see one of them make it with their sechdules this year speically WV. Rematch ND- Mich for the championship (I know its a dream, but stranger things have happened, look at the 2006 Cards) GO CARDS
Prevent defense is often useful and extremely effective. Trading yards, and even points, for time on the clock makes sense with a big lead. However, I just don't understand why you'd ever use it when up by less than 8.
I don't blame the UCLA defense for the loss to the Irish. They played their hearts out. This was supposed to be the "soft" stretch of Notre Damn's schedule, but those echoes were given a wake up call all right. During the bye week Weis was promoting his book and everyone thought UCLA was just another west coast creampuff. We'll see you at the Rose Bowl next year Lucky Charm fans with virtually the same team intact and hopefully a better offense.
What a great weekend to watch college football, especially for USC Trojan fans. Was glad to see Cal ALMOST losing to a Washington team without its nightmarish starting qb. UCLA also exposed the highly overrated Notre Dame as well. Finally, Oregon loses to Washington State, badly. Winning the next three home games just got more possible. Bring em on!
I was at the Baylor game and I have to admit, things were looking pretty grim at halftime, but the defense suddenly started shutting down Kansas and it just steamrolled from there. It was one of the most exciting games i've ever been to in Waco. Texas A&M watch out! You're next. Sic em Bears!
I am so sick of Notre Dame being so lucky. They were blown off the field the only time they played a good team this year, and because of their weak schedule, will still be playing in a BCS bowl game. That is what makes college football so lame sometimes. Everyone talks about "Brady Quinn showed poise, blah blah blah". He has to be the most overrated QB in college football history. The only thing good I can say about him is about his sister. ND, USC are both overrated, and the only game that matters is Mich-Ohio State. This game is for all the marbles, since everyone else in the country is like a JV team. Big ten rules the country!
Unbelievable. This was another example of horrible play calling down the stretch by our coaches at UCLA. With under three minutes to go, instead of aggressively trying for a first down by PASSING the ball like we had all game, the coaches decide to RUN up the middle for three straight plays. Yes, it made ND use their timeouts, but there was plenty of time left for them to comback even without their timeouts. A first down there would have sealed the deal.
THEN the horrible, horrible PREVENT defense. Unbelievable. 4-man rush and our DB's leaving plenty of cushion. This was an example of a team playing not to lose instead of playing to win. Now I know how the Arizona Cardinals feel.
you people need to stop whining about WVU's schedule, look at Ohio States schedule now, besides Texas a mediocre team they haven't played anyone and Notre dame hasn't really played anyone...WVU'S meat schedule is coming up with Lousiville, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, and South Florida...all bowl teams and maybe one of them a 2nd bcs team from the big east, face it people the big east is a good conference this year. Get use to it they are here to stay. One more thing...the SEC lovers out there...well the last few years in bowl games...last year the SEC was 2 - 4 in bowl games and year before 1 - 6..what does that tell me, that the conference is mediocre and they play no one out of conference
The above irish fan is crazy to think that ND has a shot at the national title...Auburn, Tennesee, but most likely Florida will run the rest of the table and be the one loss team in the BCS title game, the irish are overrated, hopefully Cal or Oregon will take down USC, cause ND isnt going to.
Notre Dame and Cal should be disqualified from being mentioned in the same breath as the BCS after being soundly eliminated via 30-40 point losses.
Brady Quinn's a fair quarterback, but sheesh, he's NEVER won a big game, NEVER won a bowl game, and getting excited about last minute come-backs against terrible teams like UCLA, Stanford, and Michigan St. is what Bruins were doing last season. And we all know how their flukey victories in their 9-1 record prepared them for USC. A painful introduction to reality.
Stewart--you have been unimpressed with USC (somewhat justifably so), moving them down every week. With all the close games this week, do all the other teams who were favored but struggled get the same treatment? For instance, do Cal, Tennessee, Texas move down? Just for the record, if USC runs the table, do they get the championship berth against Ohio State/Michigan over undefeated West Virginia or one loss Auburn, Florida? What a great week to watch football.
Notre Dame's offensive line was atrocious today. The defense played one of their better games of the season. The bottom line is that Heisman Trophy candidate Brady Quinn delivered for the Fighting Irish again. Let's face it, ND has 3 service academies and UNC to make some adjustments on both sides of the ball before the greatest intersectional rivalry renews in LA on November 25th.
I'm glad that people think that Notre Dame and USC are overrated. And for the big ten...Ohio State struggled with Penn State until the last 4 minutes of the game when PSU's young and inexperienced QB threw some picks...and Michigan struggled with PSU as well...How did Notre Dame do against Penn State? Oh yeah, that's right...blow out. This is why I love college football, because it's anyone's game. Any team can come out in any game and pull out the win. And whether you haters want to admit it or not, Notre Dame is always the team to beat, whether they are undefeated or have 5 losses...and the opposition know this. And if you haven't figured it out yet, I AM an ND fan, and I was screaming my freakin head off and jump like a maniac today...WHY? BECAUSE THEY WON! That's the bottom line.
Notre Dame and thier QB are higly overrated plus you can mix in a lil bit of good ol' Irish Luck.They will lose again to USC.
I'm also tired of people saying Ohio State has an easy schedule. They may be the first time ever to play the number 2 team in the nation 3 times in one season. (assuming Michigan is ranked #2 and OSU goes to Glenndale). Iowa gave Michigan a handful in Ann Arbor where OSU played them in Iowa and rolled em.
UWV fans telling other teams such as OSU, Michigan etc. they have it easy is actually funny. They may have 3 unbeaten teams in the big 12 but, WVU hasnt played any one w/ a winnign record :D
Notre Dame hasn't played anyone? SEC is weak? What is anybody talking about? Fine, Brady Quinn may not be the all-world quarterback the media has portrayed him to be, but Georgia Tech, Penn State and Michigan are nobodies? The Wolverines beat the Irish sure, but to say that Notre Dame hasn't played anybody? That's just silly.
I don't think the Irish are National Championship worthy just yet (a win against USC may change my mind) and the Big East is tougher than a lot of people think but with the physical defenses in the SEC, I don't see West Virginia or Louisville running the table as easily as Big East fans think. If the conference is as tough as the SEC is, do they really have to play anyone worthy out of conference to warrant "playing anybody?"
I grew up in LA and was raised to love my two favorite teams, Notre Dame and UCLA, (and thoroughly despise USC.) Watching the game today was one of the most surreal experiences I can remember. Seeing the Bruins take the field at Notre Dame stadium just looked wrong. I kept telling myself, "They're not supposed to play each other. They're supposed to go beat the hell out of the Trojans." Since the Irish had more on the line if they lost, I guess I rooted for Notre Dame and it was a great game on both sides. Ultimately, I almost feel like there was no winner simply because my two favorite teams in the world had to take the field against one another. Such a strange sight...
WVU's meat schedule: Louisville, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, and South Florida.
Shows how weak the Big East is - they'd be whipped by any mid pack SEC, B10 or ACC team, year in and year out. The Big East lost any respectability when Miami, et. al bolted (although Miami probably wishes they'd stayed).
my predicition usc will not play in the title game. with their inabillity to show up the past few weeks and having this week off they will slide to number 3. We will see the two teams who deserve to play in that game Ohio State and Auburn.
Blah, blah, blah. All this over a sport that decides its 2 best teams by people and computers. This is why the professional sports are better, no polls, no computers, you play your schedule and if you win, you win. It's not you win and see where you are in the polls and BCS the next couple of days
You are a hypocrite Mandel. The same teams USC struggled with gave some of your Top 10 favorites even worse fits, and yet, you give those Top 10 teams nothing but praise for fighting through tougher than expected games. No one had to replace more talent after last year, or has suffered more key injuries this year, than USC. And yet, USC is in the best position to get to the Title game going against one of the nation's toughest schedules. Ah, the double standard a team faces in the media when they are 54-4 since the start of the 2002 season.
As a Notre Dame graduate who was at the school for Tim Brown's Heisman win and the last National Championship, I need to state that Charlie Weis has not impressed me this season at all. His overstated 'genious' seems to be simply more aggressive/gambling calls. But everyone knows a gambler eventually loses to the house. It happened with Michigan and I foresee it happening at USC. It makes me sad.
How can these Big Ten fans really look at themselves in the mirror and take themselves seriously?! It should be called the Big 2. Ohio State plays one tough non-conference game and now they think they have the toughest schedule in football. I'm sorry, but playing Div. II BG in the middle of the season should disqualify a team for the national championship. As much as everyone hates on Notre Dame, at least the NEVER play a II-A team! Wow, OSU, nice win, over freaking Indiana!
haha...i love it. as soon as ND has a good record and poll spot, all the Irish haters come out of their cave and cry and complain. I really doubt ND's schedule is weaker than WVU's. As soon as ND does poorly for a season, they all go away. GO IRISH...!!!
Hey Mandel - how about giving BC their due? BC went into FSU where they were 55-3 in ACC games at home and as a 6 point underdog and closed out FSU's hopes for a January bowl game all the while maintaing there hold on the ACC Atlantic Division lead with their destiny in their own hands having beat Clemson. How much better does BC look now after wins this season against VT, Clemson and FSU? BC is one hail mary agains NC State from being undefeated. Oh well, I will take 6-1. Give BC their props!
Michigan survived a trap game against Iowa and is now bound for the college football game of the 21st century as they are set to square off against #1 Ohio state on nov. 18th. Following thier big ten domination campaign i pick them as my national championship team
To the anonymous poster from "9:13 AM, October 22, 2006", who's obviously a ND fan (and doesn't try to hide it :-) ...
Texas was a defending Nat.Champ. when OSU played them ... BG is in the MAC, which makes it a div.I team (unlike you're post claims), and they didn't get on the schedule until OSU needed to fill a spot that would've been a bye week ...
Now, as far as ND's strength of schedule: OSU will play all of the "good" teams that ND plays this year other than USC. The only difference is OSU didn't need a last second score to beat struggling MSU (like ND did) ... Also, your "all world" quaterback keeps digging himself into bigger and bigger holes, and then "heroically" getting out of them. If i were you i'd have a cardiologist standing bye, that stuff isn't good for your heart.
And when you tell me that your schedule/team is way superior than the bucks, i'll point you to last years FIESTA bowl, and to the fact that ND is the only team in the country that pads their schedule with all 3 service academies ... i'll take 3 bottom teams in the big 10 over any of those any day of the week
It was a good week for USC as the media hypocrisy becomes more exposed. When USC beats Nebraska by 18 points, the media is unimpressed, blames Callahan, and blasts the USC offense for scoring only 28 points. Now Texas beats Nebraska by only 2 points on a late turnover and last-minute field goal, scores one touchdown less than USC did against Nebraska, but nevertheless it is a gutsy win proving that Texas is a prime national championship contender. Then after USC is ridiculed in the media for beating WSU and UW by only a touchdown despite injuries to their top 3 receivers and top three fullbacks, Oregon is routed by WSU and Cal is taken to overtime by UW without Stanback, who was the Huskies best player against USC. The media response: Oregon and Cal shouldn't be downgraded the way USC was; instead, the Pac-10 must have been a tougher conference than we had thought. I have not heard such BS since the media dismissed USC's 36 point win at Arkansas as not impressive because Arkansas is one of the worst teams in the SEC (the media later defended Auburn's 17 point home loss to Arkansas because, after all, the SEC conference is so tough).
Can anyone seriousily Stop the BUCKEYES!? Sure Michigan beat Notre Dame at Notre Dame, and Sure Notre Dame has that High Powered Offense of Brady Quinn, but can Michigan's Defense compare to Troy Smith, Ted Ginn JR, And Antonio Pittman? The Buckeyes, with Those Three will beat Michigan on Nov. 18 and roll on into the BCS Championship game, and will become the Champs!!
ND Plays all three service accademies and Ohio state has played bowling green, cincinatti (lower pack big east team ohio state struggled with), Northern Illinois, a weak Iowa team and penn state team, Indiana this week and then three 2 - 5 teams in a row, the Sec hasn't played anyone out of conference. Oh and how bad did WVU beat the top SEC team last year in the sugar bowl, get use to it...the big east is legit and good, they just dont have 12 teams in there conference. You fools will see.
Enough of this nonsense how the Bruin defense lost the game at ND. The loss was 100% on the shoulders of Karl "play not to lose" Dorrell. When the D comes up huge and stops the opponent on 4th down, you've got to do better than the same run that hasn't worked all day now against 11 men in the box! One simple play action and the game is over. Why isn't Dorrell getting skewered like Carlos Beltran? You go down swinging - taking your best shot. Absolutely pathetic. Fire him now - UCLA may end up being OK to good under him but they will never be great. And if you're not aiming for greatness, what's the point?
Im a huge ND fan, i was at the game this weekend. And i must say what a finish. ND didnt play its best that game and i dont believe ucla didn't either. But when the game was on the line Quinn made it happen, yes he dug his own hole by missing wide open wide outs early in the game, but got it done when it counts. He wont win any awards this year but im glad to have him at ND. And to any ohio state fans out there, u do have a great team and probably will make it all the way if you get past michigan, but dont dog ND's schdule when the penn st team we blew out keeps it close till the last few minutes. and then you guys pick off two passes to make the game seem like a easy win when it wasnt.
We have been up and down all year. Playing good sometimes and not so good other times. But a win is a win and if we beat USC. Well that will just give ND haters more to talk about wont it. Have fun boys and dont worry ND will give you more to talk about in the years to come.
The problem at Notre dame is the offensive line. Brady Quinn has been great considering he is usally running for his life on every pass play. When a QB is constantly being hit, hurried and sacked its only normal that he might miss a few open receivers. After all he knows he only has 1 second to get off a throw. Watch an OSU game and see how many times Troy Smith is standing flat footed slowly checking out out which reciver he wants to throw to. Usually the only time Smith scrambles is when there is great downfield coverage. Otherwise his line gives him excellent protection. Penn st has been the only team that harassed Troy Smith the whole game, and you saw Smith throw 2 interceptions and barely get 100 yards passing when he was under pressure. Because ND's offensive line ie horrible, Quinn is under great pressure every weak regardless of who the opponent is. If Quinn had the same protection Smith gets he would have 50 TD passes by now
I dont think you can blame UCLA for anything on last Saturday. Their defense had been playing superbly, who could have guessed that Quinnn would finally escape the rush. All game long Quinn only had a few seconds to get off his throws. But on that one play he bought some time by scrambling away, and allowed his receiver to get open. It was just a great play, nothing you can really blame UCLA for. It was just a great play
does anyone ion the top 10 play a schedule as easy as Ohio states?? I mean come on now 3 mid majors, plus pathetic Iowa and Michigan states teams, now comes Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern and Illinois. Thats 9 games that OSU can without wearing a helmet. That has to be the sofest schedule in the top 10
Brady Quinn is still the best QB the country. Unfortunately Brady doesnt play for the best team, or hve the best talent surrounding him. The offensve line for ND has been the biggest disappoinment this season. Quinn'sunder heavy pressureall game long every week -and still is putting up good numbers. By contrast Troy Smith has only had 1 game where he was under pressureall game long-Penn st, and you saw the numbers he put up-barely 100 yards passing and 2 ints. IF Quinn had a better offensive line he would have 50 touchdown passes by now
THE IRISH...I was at the game. ND's offense had a rough day. But the fan's never gave up on them! The place simply rocked from the 4 min. mark on down. No place like it when the IRISH pull one out. GO IRISH!
Don't fire Karl Dorrell. Last year he had an offense that he could rely on, and to be honest he is right for having suspicions about this one. While I probably would have gone for a pass, I understand his thinking. Since the second quarter of the Oregon game UCLA had only given up 16 points in 7 quarters. The problem wasn't the offensive call but the defensive. Having such a young and comparitively weaker secondary, especially at the corner position, renders the UCLA prevent/pass coverage incredibly weak. The safeties (Keys, Horton) are excellent tacklers and run defenders, but they are not that great in coverage. Should have put more pressure on Quinn that last drive and relied on the tackling to handle anything underneath. Better to miss a tackle with help behind you than in front of you.
Brady Quinn is going to have a Montana-like NFL career; just wait and see. As for Stewart Mandel's criticism of ND -- in "THREE AND OUT" in 10/2006 SI that ND "for the second straight year Notre Dame could reach a BCS bowl without beating a ranked opponent." -- is completely and factually untrue!! ND beat ranked teams @ Pitt(#23) @ Mich(#3) and then @ Purdue(#22) in 2005, not to mention a highly ranked Penn State in 2006, and quality GTech and UCLA programs!! It's not where a team finished a season -- it's how you beat them when they are a TOP 25 team -- and make them start their season-ending-slide?? Better wording in your column is truly necessary!!! Props to Quinn and the complete team competitors that are ND & Weis!!!