Did the Buckeyes get beat like they stole something or what? The "Collision in the Coliseum" was more like "Concussed in the Coliseum" as Ohio State had no answers for USC on either side of the football. Mark Sanchez threw four touchdown passes and Joe McKnight ran for more than 100 yards on the night. The 35-3 loss marks Ohio State's worst regular season loss since 1989, when they lost 42-3 to...USC. But while the headliner for Saturday was a dud, there were plenty of close finishes including two Hail Marys- one that worked and another that fell one yard short. Here are the seven touchdowns for this Saturday.
1. Terrelle Pryor may see more action in the coming weeks for Ohio State.
This was one (and maybe the only) bright spot for the Bucks in their loss at USC. Pryor adds a dimension to the Buckeye offense that was missing with Todd Boeckman under center against the Trojan defense. When Pryor was in the game, USC would take a "read and react" approach more times than not and they had some success. When Boeckman was in as the Trojans began to pull away, they threw caution to the wind and went after him with everything, knowing he wasn't mobile enough to hurt them outside of the pocket. How much more could we see Pryor once they enter Big Ten play? That'll probably depend more on the health of Beanie Wells more than anything else, as Ohio State struggled to make plays down the field tonight. Other than Pryor and Dan Herron, OSU accomplished nothing on the ground in the Coliseum. And the longer their defense stayed on the field, the more the Trojans made them pay.
2. Hail Mary plays end with mixed results.
Neither of these games were headliners, but how about the finishes provided in the Temple/Buffalo and Middle Tennessee/Kentucky games? Drew Willy hit Naaman Roosevelt with the game-winner as time expired, with Roosevelt catching the ball in front of four Temple defenders. The Bulls were hit with an excessive celebration for players streaming onto the field, but head coach Turner Gill did the right thing after some initial confusion and took a knee on the conversion, preserving the 30-28 win. A big win for the Bulls who open MAC play with a win, and it's back-to-back tough losses for the Owls.
As for the Blue Raiders and Wildcats, Kentucky head coach Rich Brooks nearly went down in history with former Baylor head coach Kevin Steele as coaches who lost games because they were trying to tack on points. Nine years ago Steele called a running play on the goal line instead of running out the clock, resulting in a fumble that UNLV returned for the game-winning score as time expired. Coach Brooks meant well in giving Lones Seiber a chance to redeem himself after three missed field goals, but this one was blocked. Luckily Middle Tennessee didn't run it all the way back (there was a holding call on the return as well), but a Hail Mary that looked eerily similar to LSU's "Bluegrass Miracle" of a few years ago was stopped by a shoestring tackle at the 1-yard line. Luckily for Coach Brooks, defensive back Robbie McAtee was alert enough to make the tackle, even though someone should have simply knocked the ball down.
3. Besides USC and Oregon, the Pac-10 didn't have a very good day.
Where do we start here? Kudos to the Ducks for their comeback from a 20-3 first half deficit to win at Purdue, even with the loss of starting QB Justin Roper to a sprained knee. But what on earth happened to Cal? They apparently didn't get the notice that their game at Maryland was scheduled for Noon EST rather than Pacific Standard Time. They made a run to make the game look close, but they had no answer for Chris Turner and the rest of the Terrapin offense. UCLA took an absolute beating for the ages in Provo, losing to BYU 59-0. It was their worst loss since 1929, and you have to wonder if the Bruins are going to be a "Jekyll and Hyde" team all year long.
After two futile challenges at home from Idaho and Toledo, Arizona went on the road and lost for the second consecutive year to New Mexico. And this is a team that some think is a darkhorse in the Pac-10? Five turnovers lead me to believe otherwise, wasting a decent effort by a rebuilding defense. Washington...they had absolutely no chance against Oklahoma in Seattle, and I hope the powers that be take into consideration this ridiculous schedule when evaluating Tyrone Willingham. Whoever allowed this rebuilding program to visit Oregon and then follow it with home games against BYU and Oklahoma should be on the chopping block as well...unless that person was the recently dismissed athletic director. At least Oregon State dispatched of Hawaii with ease, picking up their first win of the year.
Oh, and UNLV just blocked a field goal to upset #15 Arizona State in overtime. So much for next week's Georgia/ASU showdown.
4. Georgia, Auburn and East Carolina survive road trips. And I do mean survive.
Once again the Georgia/South Carolina series had a game decided by seven points or less, with the Bulldogs picking up two key fourth-quarter turnovers to preserve the win. it didn't look pretty, but those hard-fought games are wins you need if you're going to win a national title. As for Auburn, their 3-2 win at Mississippi State may have set football back half a century if not for the display USC put on in Los Angeles. Within a two-minutes stretch, the following happened: an Auburn fumble, followed by an inexplicable decision by Sylvester Croom to go for it on 4th and 15 with two timeouts remaining and a chance to flip field position.
This was followed by another Auburn fumble, seemingly bailing out the Bulldogs. Then Auburn corner Walter McFadden made one of the plays of the day with a juggling one-handed interception on the sideline to get the ball back. Ben Tate converted a key third down to seal the win for the Tigers, who didn't look too good heading into their showdown with LSU next weekend. But despite three more turnovers by their offense, the Auburn defense did its job and then some in holding the Bulldogs to 116 yards of total offense.
East Carolina was able to survive Tulane thanks to a touchdown pass from Patrick Pinkney to Jamar Bryant with 1:41 left in the game to pull out a 28-24 decision. With the emotional high the Pirates were on following their wins over Virginia Tech and West Virginia, a letdown of some sort was expected by many. Not to mention the fact that this is an improved Green Wave program under Bob Toledo.
5. A program-defining win for Mike Sanford at UNLV.
In the words of the late Jack Buck, "I can't believe what I just saw!" The preseason brought about talk of Sanford being on the proverbial hot seat in Las Vegas, due to his six wins in four seasons at UNLV. But thanks to a 23-20 overtime win at #15 Arizona State, there's suddenly light at the end of a seeingly dark tunnel. Down 20-10 at the half, UNLV took control of play in the second half (they outgained ASU by a 2-to-1 margin in the second stanza) behind the arm of Omar Clayton and the legs of Frank "The Tank" Summers. A blocked kick by Malo Taumua in overtime sealed it, and it's a win the Rebel program needed in the worst way. Does this make them a candidate to reach the middle of the Mountain West? I can't say for sure, but this win will do wonders for Coach Sanford's program.
6. I think someone besides Duke will finish last in the ACC Coastal this year.
This statement is a small part Duke's play in their 41-31 win over Navy Saturday afternoon...and a big part how Virginia looked in their 45-10 loss at Connecticut. Yes, Peter Lalich was out due to legal issues, but when will he be back? No one knows right now. And their defense had little success in slowing down the Huskies (506 yards total offense, 382 on the ground). The Cavaliers are the youngest team in the ACC and it has been quite apparent in their last two games (I can't really count the opener against USC...look at what the Trojans did to a veteran Ohio State team).
Duke, now 2-1, has been buoyed by the improvement of QB Thaddeus Lewis and the all-around offensive mastery of new head coach David Cutcliffe and his coaching staff. Lewis threw for 317 yards and three scores with no interceptions, and the Blue Devil defense forced two costly Navy turnovers in the win. Next on the schedule for Duke is Virginia (9/27), and this could be a game in which the Blue Devils are actually favored to win. And it shouldn't be a shock if they do just that.
7. Michigan is in serious trouble this season.
Yes the weather was terrible in South Bend. But Notre Dame didn't turn the ball over six times in the driving rain. This game was supposed to be a toss-up, but a turnover margin of -4 nullified Michigan's highest yardage output of the season and allowed the Fighting Irish to jump on the Wolverines from the start. Learning a new system, especially one that involves the option (and a number of pitches), could mean more days of multiple turnovers. And their next two games: Wisconsin and at Illinois. At least Rich Rodriguez gets a bye week to work out some of the kinks, but I'm afraid he's going to need a lot more than one week to fix this offense.
Offensive Star of the Day: BYU QB Max Hall (27-35, 271 yards, 7 TD and 1 INT)