- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Cooper brought Graham back when Ohio State regained possession with 3:39 left, and Graham quickly guided the Buckeyes into a 7-7 tie on a two-pass, 64-yard touchdown drive. For the day, Graham connected on seven of 11 passes for 130 yards, yet 53 of Ohio State's 69 offensive plays were rushes. "I thought we might throw the ball more," said Graham.
And what about that, coach? "I thought we called the right number of passes," said Cooper, "but we just didn't complete the right number."
Graham indicated he might request a meeting with Cooper and offensive coordinator Elliot Uzelac this week. Herbstreit added that he was "almost fed up" with the quarterback controversy.
In the Illinois locker room, coach John Mackovic was more emotional than anybody had ever seen him, perhaps because it was his fourth consecutive win over Cooper—and never before have the Illini won that many games in a row from the Buckeyes.
Better Than Advertised
The bowl scouts, who last weekend began attending games in search of candidates for the postseason, had better put Greenville, N.C., on their itineraries. That's the home of East Carolina, which just may have the nation's most underrated team. The Pirates are now 5-1 after their 23-20 upset of Syracuse in the Carrier Dome and might be unbeaten were it not for a controversial call in their opening loss to Illinois on Aug. 31 in Champaign.
Trailing Illinois late in the game 38-31—the final score—East Carolina recovered an onside kick, only to be penalized 15 yards for violating the new rule against excessive celebrating. Instead of first-and-10 on their own 46, the Pirates had first-and-25 at the 31. Their bid for the first down fell five yards short.
Against Syracuse, East Carolina's leader, as usual, was senior quarterback Jeff Blake, who went into the game ranked third nationally in passing efficiency and 10th in total offense. Blake riddled the Orange for 324 passing yards, and he also showed some nifty footwork he might have learned from his godfather, Chicago White Sox speedster Tim Raines.
With 12:45 left in the game and the Pirates trailing 20-16, Blake was forced out of the pocket by a heavy pass rush, but he turned the busted play into a 43-yard touchdown run. "I felt somebody at my heels—that's what made me run," he said.
The lead held up, but only after John Biskup, the most accurate placekicker in Syracuse history, missed two field goal attempts, from 27 and 42 yards, in the fourth quarter. "We played our butts off," said Pirates defensive tackle Greg Gardill. "This proved we can play with anybody in the country." Did all you bowl scouts get that?