College Football: Saturday Touchdowns
Well, that one roadblock between Penn State and an undefeated regular season turned their campaign towards a national title into a trainwreck, with Iowa making a field goal with one second left to win 24-23 in Iowa City. Daryll Clark had his worst game of the season under center and the Nittany Lions left points on the board in the first half, something that came back to bite them in the second stanza. Ricky Stanzi didn't make the lethal mistake for the Hawkeyes, and Shonn Greene eclipsed 100 yards on the ground for the tenth time this season. The win makes Iowa bowl eligible and could have the Big Ten one week away from a winner-take-all scenario involving Penn State and Michigan State. But that wasn't the only drama to take place today, so here are the Saturday Touchdowns.
1) Alabama survives Baton Rouge in overtime.
When Andrew Hatch went down early in the first half, down went any shot for the LSU Tigers to win that football game. It had been pretty simple for head coach Les Miles up to today: if Jarrett Lee doesn't have it go to Hatch and vice versa. No such help (at least help that Miles would go to in such a game) was available and Lee had a day to forget, tossing four interceptions in the 27-21 overtime loss. Three fell into the hands of safety Rashad Johnson, whose touchdown near the end of the first half nullified any momentum LSU could take into the locker room. The Tigers outgained Alabama 382-353, but the turnovers came at the worst possible times and they couldn't establish any kind of continuity. The rewards for Alabama: staying undefeated and a trip to the SEC Championship Game, where they'll take on Florida the first Saturday in December.
2) Texas Tech shows that they're the real deal.
After Oklahoma State converted a Graham Harrell fumble into a touchdown in the game's opening minutes, there may have been a feeling among some viewers that the game would be close. Not a chance. The Red Raiders were ruthlessly efficient from that point forward, putting on an offensive display that the Cowboys haven't seen all year. Final score: 56-20. Harrell threw for 456 yards and six touchdowns before being mercifully removed from the game in favor of Taylor Potts (and Potts had a TD pass himself). Texas Tech now stands at 10-0 with a bye week before their trip to Norman, where the Sooners will wait with payback on their minds after last season's loss in Lubbock. But if tonight's win proved anything, it was that selling Mike Leach's team short is a very bad idea.
3) West Virginia had a great comeback, but their overtime loss to Cincinnati opens up things in the Big East.
Down 20-7 with just 28 seconds to go, it would have been easy for the Mountaineers to mail it in and accept their first conference defeat of the season. Hell, many of their fans did, heading for the exits following what they thought was a disappointing loss. But a touchdown and two-point conversion, followed by an outstanding onside kick by Pat McAfee gave WVU a chance to tie the game. Fans streamed back into Milan Puskar Stadium, and once they got back to their seats they were able to take in McAfee's 52-yard kick to send the game into overtime. But give the Bearcats credit for not hanging their heads after the thirteen-point turnaround. They held the Mountaineers to a field goal them a Tony Pike-to-Kazeem Alli pass won the game 26-23 in overtime.
Now you've got WVU, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh all with one conference loss. And don't look now but Rutgers and Connecticut find themselves with an extra breath thanks to this result as well (Rutgers beat Pitt and UConn knocked off Cincinnati earlier in the season). And given the backloaded schedules for the Big East contenders, this race isn't over by a longshot.
4) Regardless of who the head coach is, Tennessee is a flat-out bad football team.
Even with the (forced) resignation of Phillip Fulmer earlier in the week, you had to think that the Volunteers would have little trouble with a Wyoming team that has struggled all year long. And with the resignation, maybe the Volunteers would show some extra fight for their departed head coach. Not a chance, as the Vols scuffled their way to a disappointing 13-7 loss at home. No disrespect for the Cowboys, who pick up a nice win for their program, but the way the Volunteers played this afternoon was a microcosm of their season. 219 yards of total offense and two Jared Stephens interceptions were the main reasons for the defeat, but on the positive side at least they only had two penalties. Oh, Britton Colquitt dropped three punts inside the twenty. But they looked listless on the field, and even though the margin was just six points they didn't look to have much interest in the game today.
5) Has anyone seen the "Wrecking Crew"?
Better yet, does anyone even remember the "Wrecking Crew", because the current defense in College Station does not deserve the honor of such a nickname. Oklahoma was the clear favorite going into the game at Texas A&M today, but what they accomplished at Kyle Field had never been done in the history of that proud program. 66 points, 653 yards of offense...and the Sooners only had the ball for about twenty-nine minutes. But when you allow this and your offense turns the ball over four times, you will get your behind kicked regardless of where the game is played.
Just like Nebraska's defense losing the honor of being called the "Blackshirts" a few years ago, A&M's defense looks nothing like the physical units that made their name under R.C. Slocum during their reign in the latter years of the SWC. Mike Sherman may have been brought in for his offensive savvy, but until they realize that to compete in the Big 12 South the defense must improve, the Aggies are going to fight Baylor to stay out of the cellar.
6) I'm done picking Clemson this year.
In the last decade of college football, is there a program that has managed to do less with more than the Clemson Tigers? Yes, they've had a tough go of it with Tommy Bowden losing his job and a banged-up offensive line. But in regards to their execution and failure to live up to expectations of an ACC title they've made their own bed. And the 41-27 loss at Florida State was a disturbing hint that they feel resigned to lie in it. 2-15 on third downs and just 76 yards rushing when you have James Davis and C.J. Spiller? That's just poor, especially when you take into consideration the fact that Florida State ran for 266 yards (FSU's time of possession: 28:15) with a group of backs that aren't as talented as either Davis or Spiller man for man. Dabo Swinney may be in a good position to get this job full-time due to the amount of money that Clemson has to pay Tommy Bowden, but whoever gets this job is going to spend a lot of time toughening up the Tigers mentally.
7) Arizona and Nebraska are now bowl eligible.
As the Wildcats watched Washington State march down the field on their initial possession to take a 7-0 lead, you had to wonder if it was going to be another case of "here we go again" with the Wildcats. Let's just that say that while they find a way to upset some high-profile opponent just about every year, they also find a way to lose to a team that they have no business losing too. No such luck for the Cougars, who ended up on the wrong end of a 59-28 beating in Pullman. So while the basketball program is in a state of flux, Mike Stoops will be taking the football program on its first postseason trip since 1998. How good that trip is depends on how they finish out the season, but they could work themselves into position for a nice bowl should they win out.
Nebraska also picked up their sixth win, beating Kansas 45-35 in Lincoln to erase some of the sting from last year's 76-point debacle in Lawrence. The Huskers aren't where Bo Pelini wants them to be just yet, but getting to bowl eligibility with games against Kansas State and Colorado left on the schedule could mean an eight-win campaign heading into bowl season. And that would be a solid improvement over last year's campaign under Bill Callahan.
Offensive Performance of the Day: Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell. Harrell was 40-50 for 456 yards and six touchdowns in the Red Raiders' 56-20 beating of #9 Oklahoma State.