NCF Nation: Brett Smith
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezKeenan Reynolds ran all over the field for Navy this weekend.
With the help of ESPN’s new college football metrics (see explanations here), ESPN Stats & Information takes a look back at the best performances of Week 13 and ahead to the chances of Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State remaining undefeated.
Best Individual Performances
In the past, this article has used opponent-adjusted QBR to rank the best individual performances of the week. Total QBR is a rate stat that measures efficiency. In Week 13, Kevin Hogan (98.0), Clint Chelf (97.8) and Braxton Miller (97.1) had the top three opponent-adjusted QBRs of Week 13.
Points above average (PAA) is another stat that can be used measure the top individual performances. PAA totals the number of points that a player contributes to his team’s net scoring margin above what an average quarterback would have.
PAA is a counting stat (rather than a rate stat) that accounts for both efficiency and the number of plays. If a quarterback has a high PAA, he was likely efficient and involved in a lot of plays. Week 13 featured four of the top 10 single-game PAAs of the season:
Keenan Reynolds (19.0 PAA) rushed for seven touchdowns in Navy’s 58-52 triple-OT win over San Jose State on Friday night. Reynolds set an FBS record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a game, a mark previously held by Dee Dowis (Air Force, 1989) and Craig Candeto (Navy, 2002).
Brett Smith (18.6 PAA) threw for a single-game school-record seven touchdowns and 498 yards while leading Wyoming to a 59-56 overtime win against Hawaii on Saturday. Smith also ran for 142 yards and a touchdown. Smith’s 640 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns are the most by an FBS player in a game this season.
Marquise Williams (16.4 PAA) tied the school record for passing touchdowns (five) and was third in single-game total offense (469 yards) by halftime in North Carolina’s 80-20 rout of Old Dominion. He helped the Tar Heels rack up a school-record 721 total yards of offense in a game that did not even last 60 minutes.
Derek Carr (15.8 PAA) threw for 522 yards and a school-record seven touchdowns in Fresno State’s 69-28 win against New Mexico. He had the third-most passing yards and tied Brett Smith for the most passing touchdowns in a game this season.
Best Teams Performances
Offense – Fresno State added 48.7 expected points to its net scoring margin on offense in its 69-28 win against New Mexico, the highest offensive EPA in a game this season. The Bulldogs racked up a school and league record 822 yards of total offense and averaged 9.9 yards per play.
Defense– Oklahoma State contributed 17.5 expected points to its net scoring margin on defense in its 49-17 win against Baylor. The Bears were averaging 61.2 points and 684.8 yards per game entering the game, but were held to 17 points and 453 yards by the Cowboys. Oklahoma State is the first team to hold Baylor to a below-average offensive efficiency rating in a game in the last three seasons.
Special Teams – Nebraska added 12.5 expected points on special teams in its 23-20 win against Penn State. The Cornhuskers blocked a punt and returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. They were also the beneficiaries of a missed extra point in the first quarter and missed field goal in overtime.
Looking ahead to rest of the season
After Baylor lost to Oklahoma State on Saturday, there are three remaining undefeated teams from BCS AQ conferences vying for a spot in the BCS National Championship. Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State are all deserving of a spot in the title game, but at least one will be left out.
What are the chances that all three teams will be undefeated entering bowl season? According to projections run by Analytics Specialist Alok Pattani, there is a 29 percent chance that all three teams will be undefeated after their conference championships.
Alabama has the toughest remaining schedule. The Tide have to play on the road at Auburn on Saturday, and if they win, against either Missouri or South Carolina in the SEC Championship. There is a 46 percent chance that the Tide win both of those games.
Florida State has the easiest remaining schedule, and there is an 87 percent chance that it wins its remaining two games.
So, while Ohio State appears to be on the outside looking in, there is a 60 percent chance that either Alabama or Florida State does not win out. Keep these projections in mind as Alabama heads to Auburn, Florida State travels to Florida (Noon ET, ESPN) and Ohio State goes to Michigan (Noon ET, ABC) on Saturday.
The last two drives, which covered 114 yards, took all of five plays and 53 seconds. When time expired as Brett Smith’s heave from the Cowboys’ 31-yard line falling harmlessly in Nebraska territory, a distinct feeling of relief blanketed Memorial Stadium.
Should it have instead been dread of what’s to come? The Nebraska defense is trending in a dangerous direction.
Wyoming’s 35 first downs are the most ever surrendered by the Huskers. The Cowboys’ 28 plays of 10 yards or more (on 74 offensive snaps) matched UCLA -- which visits Lincoln on Sept. 14 -- as the most recorded by an FBS program in the opening week of college football this year.
Defensive coordinator John Papuchis, in the aftermath on Saturday, described the fourth-quarter feeling as a “nightmare.”
“It’s a win,” Papuchis said, “but it’s not good enough.”
Yet Bo Pelini, the Huskers’ sixth-year coach who cut his teeth as a defensive coordinator in the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference, said he watched film into the early hours of Sunday, then went to bed hours after the game with a “pretty good” feeling about his team.
“There were a lot of positives that came out of it that got masked,” Pelini said.
Admittedly, Pelini is not a stats guy.
So perhaps he’s not concerned that in Nebraska’s past 12 quarters against Wyoming, Georgia and Wisconsin, it has allowed more than 1,800 yards of total offense. Each of those games sit among the nine highest total-yardage outputs ever produced by a Nebraska foe.
Including a loss to UCLA last year in which the Bruins gained 653 yards, the second-highest figure all time against Nebraska, that’s four of the top nine in the past 12 months.
Pelini, who’s not known for his tolerance of poor defensive execution, talked on Monday in positive tones about growth. He used a form of the word “learn” four times in his 2-minute, 15-second opening statement.
Of Saturday’s debacle, Pelini said the Nebraska coaches may have oversimplified matters for their young defenders. Most of the mistakes, he said, were mental.
What gives? Why all the patience and understanding?
“I’ll put it this way,” he said. “It’s very fixable. The things that hurt us the other day are very fixable.”
Meanwhile, the natives are growing restless. They’re waiting for Pelini and his staff to actually fix it.
The coach praised Smith, who accounted for 475 yards, including 383 through the air. Smith consistently avoided the Nebraska pass rush, revamped with new contributors Vincent Valentine, Avery Moss and Randy Gregory.
“I think he has a unique feel for not only scrambling,” Pelini said, “but when to step up in the pocket and when to flush himself.”
Smith nearly flushed the Huskers’ NCAA-record streak of season-opening wins.
Don’t look now, but UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley is even better. He showed it against Nevada last week, ranking third nationally in Total Quarterback Rating.
Southern Miss awaits on Saturday. It has lost 13 straight games, including a 49-20 decision in Lincoln a year ago.
It could be a get-well game for the Huskers.
Nebraska needs it after Wyoming.
“Everyone was just over-hyped,” senior cornerback Ciante Evans. “Guys were worried about not making mistakes too much, and they were just over-thinking the game. But that just comes with the season opener.”
Last year, it came with several games. After an offseason to replay in their minds the bludgeonings delivered by Wisconsin and Georgia, the Huskers sought a change of pace to start this year.
They’ll have to wait at least another week.
LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska came back from a pair of first-half deficits and survived a late Wyoming rally to win its NCAA-record 28th straight season opener, 37-34 on Saturday night.
The Cowboys, of the Mountain West Conference, showed surprising resolve, gaining 602 yards before a Nebraska school-record crowd of 91,185 in the 326th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium.
The 18th-ranked Huskers rebounded from a sluggish start to score 21 consecutive points in the second and third quarters.
But Wyoming never went away as quarterback Brett Smith hurt the Huskers with both his arms and feet. Smith threw for 383 yards and rushed for 92. He fired a pair of late touchdown passes to nearly erase a 16-point deficit. His 29-yard strike to Jalen Claiborne with 6:02 to play made it 37-27, and a 47-yard dart to Robert Herron with 1:32 left sliced the lead to three points.
Nebraska cornerback Josh Mitchell sacked Smith on a two-point conversion attempt after the first of Wyoming's fourth-quarter TDs, and the Cowboys failed to recover an onside kick after the second.
Wyoming stopped the Huskers quickly in the final two minutes to regain possession, but its final drive ended short of midfield.
It was over when: Smith scrambled wildly, using all of the final 11 seconds to throw across midfield as time expired at the end of a frantic fourth quarter. A pair of holding calls stymied Wyoming’s last possession, but it converted a fourth-and-11 to its 31-yard on a 14-yard strike to Claiborne before the errant heave fell to the turf, allowing the Huskers and their record crowd to sigh deeply.
Game ball goes to: Senior cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste came up big several times -- none more important than an interception of Smith late in the first quarter. With the Cowboys already up 7-3, the 6-foot-3 Jean-Baptiste outwrestled freshman Tanner Gentry at the goal line, ending Smith’s streak of passes without a pick at 183. On the next Wyoming possession after Nebraska went up 10-7, Jean-Baptiste delivered a big hit on Gentry. Jean-Baptiste then fought through a block to corral receiver Claiborne for no gain on a third-and-2 reception to force the Cowboys’ only three-and-out series of the first half.
Stat of the game: Eight. The number of consecutive running plays Nebraska called on scoring drives midway through the second quarter and early in the third. The eight runs totaled 144 yards and two touchdowns, turning a 14-10 Wyoming lead into a 24-14 Nebraska edge. Against a rush defense that ranked 117th nationally a year ago, the Huskers, before turning to the run, called passes on six of seven plays in the first half, resulting in two incompletions, three receptions for 14 yards, a 3-yard Taylor Martinez scramble and two punts. The turnaround began with Ameer Abdullah’s 62-yard scamper and ended with a bruising 31-yard TD burst by Imani Cross.
Unsung hero: One man cannot replace the excellence in the kicking game provided over the past seven years by Alex Henery and Brett Maher, both of whom handled place-kicking and punting duties. So Nebraska went with three guys, and they all showed well. Sophomore Mauro Bondi consistently blasted kickoffs deep; senior Pat Smith, despite missing an extra point, connected on his lone field goal try from 24 yards; and redshirt freshman Sam Foltz boomed four punts for an average of 49.2 yards.
Best improvisation: It was a bit early to say Wyoming had Nebraska on the ropes, but the Huskers, down 7-0, had already muddled through one unproductive possession when, on the third play of their second series, Martinez fumbled the snap on third-and-5. The senior QB chased it down, bought some time with his legs and threw downfield. His pass sailed long, but tight end Jake Long caught the deflection to extend the drive with a 26-yard gain. The drive ended with Pat Smith’s field goal.
What Nebraska learned: The Huskers aren't ready for UCLA, who will visit Lincoln on Sept. 14 with QB Brett Hundley, a better version of Brett Smith. Wyoming’s third-year starter tormented the Blackshirts for much of Saturday. He ran effectively and used his feet to avoid pressure in the pocket. Hundley will inflict more pain if the front seven can’t dial up additional pressure. When the Huskers got to Smith, defensive end Randy Gregory was called for roughing the passer to negate a sack. Offensively, it went about as expected until the final minutes. Martinez showed nice composure. The backs ran well, and the receivers were sure-handed.
What Wyoming learned: If it can find a way to slow opponents’ running games, the Cowboys ought to improve significantly on their 4-8 finish of a year ago. Wyoming unexpectedly controlled this game for much of the first half and simply ran out of time at the end. It features a nice group on offense, with the multitalented Smith, running back Shaun Wick and several capable receivers.
Bowl season kicked off with Temple capping one of the best seasons in school history in a 37-15 win Saturday over Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, N.M. Here's how it went down:
Turning point: Chris Coyer hit Rod Streater for a 61-yard touchdown pass to give Temple a 28-7 lead with 19 seconds left in the first half. The play came just 18 seconds after Brett Smith and Josh Doctson hooked up for a 21-yard score to get Wyoming on the board and perhaps give the Cowboys some momentum heading into the second half. No dice, as the Owls immediately responded. As a consolation, Wyoming did get possibly the most entertaining extra point of the season, as Daniel Sullivan's kick hit both uprights before falling through for the Cowboys' seventh point of the game.
Stat of the game: Temple rushed for 255 yards and did not turn the ball over. That was key for the Owls, who entered the game with the nation's No. 7 rushing attack. Wyoming, meanwhile, did little to improve its 115th-ranked rush defense, which entered the game giving up more than 230 yards on the ground per game.
Player of the game: In what may have been his final collegiate game, Bernard Pierce rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. The junior carried it 10 times on Temple's first two series, which both finished with him in the end zone. Coyer deserves plenty of credit as well, as he completed 8 of 12 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown while adding 70 rushing yards on just 12 carries.
What it means: The winningest senior class in Temple history notched the program's second-ever bowl win and the Owls' first in 32 years since they won the Garden State Bowl in 1979. Coach Steve Addazio received a Gatorade shower for his team's performance. The Owls finished the season with nine wins, including the last four in a row. Temple is -- at the moment, at least -- the most stable college football program in the state of Pennsylvania, and the Owls have tons of momentum heading into Year 2 of the Addazio era.
1. Establish Bernard Pierce early. The junior keys the nation's No. 7 rushing offense and is facing a weak run defense against the Cowboys.
2. Get to Brett Smith. The strength of the Owls' defense is their pass rush. They lead the MAC in sacks and are 17th nationally. Smith has been impressive for a true freshman quarterback and has a strong offensive line in front of him, presenting a challenge for Temple.
3. Don't be overwhelmed by the moment. This is not a top-tier bowl, but it is a big platform for Temple, which is riding a three-game winning streak and might be the most stable program in Pennsylvania at the moment. In going for their first bowl win since 1979, at the EagleBank Bowl in 2009, the Owls blew a 21-7 lead to UCLA and gained just 41 second-half yards in a 30-21 loss. Temple could generate plenty of momentum with a win Saturday, which would be huge for first-year coach Steve Addazio to build off.
1. Win the turnover battle. Easier said than done against a Temple offense tied for third in the nation in fewest turnovers lost, with 12. But Wyoming's front-seven will simply need to make big plays against Pierce and Co., as the matchup heavily favors Temple on the ground. The Cowboys are fifth in the nation in turnover margin, at plus-15.
2. Contain Evan Rodriguez. The tight end is Temple's leading receiver, with 33 catches and 427 yards on the season. The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder provides a big target for sophomore Chris Coyer, who will likely be making the fourth start of his career.
3. Send Gabe Knapton out strong. Three different positions and 49 career games have led to to 361 career tackles for the current end, who is 10th among active players and sixth in Mountain West Conference history. Knapton and his Abe Lincoln-like beard will take the field for the final time Saturday.
The other award recipients:
- Defensive Player of the Year: TCU linebacker Tank Carder
- Special Teams Player of the Year: TCU kick retrner Greg McCoy
- Freshman of the Year: Wyoming QB Brett Smith
- Coach of the Year: Wyoming coach Dave Christensen
Moore completed 300 of 405 passes for 3,507 yards and 41 touchdowns this season, setting Boise State and Mountain West single-season records in completions and touchdowns. His completion percentage (.741) is also the highest single-season mark in program history.
Carder becomes the fourth player in league history to win back-to-back Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year honors, after making 66 tackles and recording two interceptions.
McCoy gives TCU three straight special teams player of the year honors. He leads the MWC and ranks fourth nationally with a kick return average of 31.6, and has two kick returns for touchdowns this season.
Smith set a new Mountain West freshman single-season record with 3,140 yards of total offense, surpassing former TCU quarterback Andy Dalton (2,691 yards in 2007).
Christensen led Wyoming to an 8-4 regular season, improving on a 3-9 season in 2010. The Cowboys' five conference wins also ties a program record.
Here are the first-team selections:
QB: Kellen Moore, Boise State
WR: Josh Boyce, TCU
WR: Tyler Shoemaker, Boise State
RB: Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State
RB: Doug Martin, Boise State
TE: Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
OL: Kyle Dooley , TCU
OL: Tommie Draheim, San Diego State
OL: Blaize Foltz, TCU
OL: Nate Potter, Boise State
OL: A. J. Wallerstein, Air Force
PK: Parker Herrington, Air Force
PR/KR: Greg McCoy, TCU
DL: Nordly Capi, Colorado State
DL: Tyrone Crawford, Boise State
DL: Stansly Maponga, TCU
DL: Shea McClellin, Boise State
LB: Miles Burris, San Diego State
LB: Tank Carder, TCU
LB: Carmen Messina, New Mexico
DB: Jon Davis, Air Force
DB: George Iloka, Boise State
DB: Leon McFadden, San Diego State
DB: Larry Parker, San Diego State
P: Brian Stahovich, San Diego State
Dec. 17, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Temple take: The Owls are back in a bowl under first-year coach Steve Addazio. They were bowl eligible last year but were not picked as an at-large selection. Running back Bernard Pierce has been incredible yet again. He earned All-MAC first-team honors, rushing for 1,381 yards and 25 touchdowns -- including a stellar 5.6 yards per carry.
They also have an outstanding backup, Matt Brown, who was a third-team conference selection for contributing 867 yards and five scores. Together they have teamed up to lead the nation's No. 7 rushing offense with 256.6 yards on the ground per game. Temple has had some quarterback issues, however, rotating through Chris Coyer, Mike Gerardi and Chester Stewart. Coyer is more of a fit for what Addazio likes to run with the spread, but he got hurt in the finale against Kent State, so Stewart and Gerardi are once again in the mix for the bowl game. Gerardi actually came into the year as the starter, but until the Kent State finale, hadn't played since Week 3.
Linebacker Stephen Johnson paces a stingy Owls' defense with 62 stops on the year. They allow just 13.8 points per game -- third nationally in scoring defense -- while allowing 122.5 rushing yards per game.
Wyoming take: Quite the surprise season from the Cowboys from Laramie. When last year's quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels -- the 2009 conference freshman of the year -- announced he was transferring, many thought Wyoming would sink. But freshman quarterback Brett Smith has been fantastic in his first season, rallying Wyoming to a eight wins -- including signature road wins at San Diego State and at Air Force. Ironically, Smith likely wins the Mountain West's freshman of the year award once held by his predecessor.
Wyoming lost top wide receiver Chris McNeill, who suffered a season-ending arm injury last month against Air Force, but Mazi Ogbonna has filled the void as best he can, catching 39 balls and three touchdowns on the year.
Despite good defensive numbers from Luke Ruff, Brian Hendricks and Gabe Knapton, the Cowboys give up a lot of yards -- 432.25 per game. They rank 115th nationally in rush defense, yielding 230.8 yards per game on the ground.
Turnovers are the name of the game for the Cowboys, who rank fourth nationally in turnover margin with 31 takeaways on the season -- recovering 18 fumbles and 13 interceptions.
Offense: G.J. Kinne, QB, Tulsa. Kinne went 21-of-27 for 300 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for another in a 57-28 win over UTEP.
Defense: Sammy Brown, LB, Houston. Brown had 10 tackles, including 4.5 for loss and three sacks in a 37-7 win over SMU.
Special teams: Chris Boswell, K, Rice. Boswell made a pair of field goals that went over 50 yards in a 19-7 win over Tulane. His first field goal was a career-best 54-yarder, and he added a 51-yarder in the third quarter.
Offense: Jake Heaps, QB, BYU. Heaps returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Sept. 30 and led BYU to a 42-7 home win over New Mexico State, going 21-of-36 for 238 yards and a career high-tying four touchdowns.
Defense: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame. Te'o had a team-high 12 tackles in a 16-14 win over Boston College. He added three quarterback hurries.
Special teams: David Ruffer, K, Notre Dame. Ruffer kicked field goals of 40, 41 and 27 yards against Boston College. He has made eight consecutive field goals dating back to a win over Purdue on Oct. 1, and has made 47 straight extra points.
Offense: Branden Oliver, RB, Buffalo. Oliver set the school FBS record with a career-high 235 yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns in a 51-10 win over Akron. His performance broke the record set by James Starks (231 against Toledo in 2007).
Defense: Stephen Johnson, LB, Temple. Johnson had a career-high 16 tackles, including a career-best eight solo stops, in a 42-14 win over Army.
Special Teams: Matt Weller, K, Ohio. Weller kicked he game-winning field goal from 23 yards, giving Ohio a 29-28 victory over Bowling Green and the MAC East title. The game-winning field goal was his school record fifth in the game.
Offense: Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois. Harnish broke the school record for total offense in a game with 519 total yards in a 31-28 win over Ball State. His 519 yards of total offense is tied for third most by any player in FBS this season.
Defense: Drew Nowak, DL, Western Michigan. Nowak had a career-high 2.5 sacks and as many tackles for loss in a 24-21 win at Miami. Nowak leads the team with 15 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks on the season.
Special Teams: Demarius Reed, KR, Eastern Michigan. Reed returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown at Kent State for the first time in his career. It was the longest return by an Eastern Michigan player since 2002. Additionally, Reed’s return surpassed the entire season punt return yards total for any player during the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 season.
Offense: Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming. Smith accounted for 352 of his team’s 462 yards of total offense in a 31-10 victory over New Mexico. He had a career-high 140 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and threw for 212 yards and a touchdown.
Defense: Tank Carder, LB, TCU. Carder returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown and tied a season-high with nine tackles (one for loss) in a 34-10 win over Colorado State.
Special teams: Ross Evans, K, TCU. Evans accounted for 10 points (four extra points, two field goals) in a 34-10 victory against Colorado State. His two field goals of 21 and 46 yards gave him 55 for his career, moving him past BYU’s Matt Payne (54, 2001-04) into second place on the conference career chart.
Offense: Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey rushed for a season-high 214 yards and a touchdown against North Texas, helping the Hilltoppers become bowl eligible. He also caught four passes for 48 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown reception to finish with 262 all-purpose yards.
Defense: Jonathan Cyprien, S, FIU. Cyprien had nine tackles, five of them unassisted, and one interception return for a touchdown in a 28-17 win over ULM.
Special teams: Luther Ambrose, KR, ULM. Ambrose had a 98-yard kickoff return for touchdown against FIU, moving into second place in Sun Belt history with his third career kickoff return for a touchdown.
Offense: Robert Turbin, RB, Utah State. Turbin ran for a career-high 208 yards and three touchdowns in Utah State’s 49-42 double overtime win at Idaho. Two of his touchdown runs came in the overtime periods and the other was on an 80-yard run in the second quarter.
Defense: Adrien Cole, LB, Louisiana Tech. Recorded a career-high 17 tackles (15 solo) in a 24-20 win at Nevada, ending the Wolf Pack’s 16-game home winning streak.
Special teams: Jens Alvernik, K, San Jose State. Alvernik hit two field goals from 44 and 23 yards to help San Jose State beat Navy, 27-24. He now has 16 field goals on the season, tying the school record.
Conference race update. Here is how the conference races are shaking out.
Conference USA: The winner between Houston and Tulsa on Friday wins the West and clinches a spot in the C-USA title game. Southern Miss lost to UAB 34-31 but can still clinch the East Division with a win over Memphis on Saturday or a Marshall loss.
MAC: Ohio won the East and is in the MAC title game. In the West, Northern Illinois clinches a return trip with a win over Eastern Michigan or a Toledo loss at Ball State.
Mountain West: TCU wins the outright league title with a victory over UNLV on Dec. 3.
Sun Belt: Arkansas State can win the league title outright with a win over Troy on Dec. 3 or a Western Kentucky loss to Troy this Saturday. The Red Wolves have already accepted an invitation to the GoDaddy.com Bowl. ULL also has been invited to the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. FIU and Western Kentucky are also bowl eligible, but the Sun Belt only has two tie-ins. There are backup agreements with the Little Caesars Pizza and BBVA Compass Bowls, but it appears as if there will not be open slots in either of those games.
WAC: If Louisiana Tech and Nevada win out, both would get a share of a conference title.
Game of the week. Louisiana Tech 24, Nevada 20. The Wolf Pack built a comfortable 20-3 lead on the Bulldogs, and appeared set to cruise to a win in their quest to win an outright WAC title. Nevada was the only undefeated team in the league going into the game; Louisiana Tech had one loss. But Colby Cameron engineered an incredible fourth-quarter comeback to lift the Bulldogs to a 24-20 win. Now they have a chance to clinch a share of the WAC title Saturday against New Mexico State. Cameron threw three touchdown passes in the span of nine minutes, hitting Taulib Ikharo with 51 seconds to play to complete the rally. Nevada had two first downs on its final three possessions. Adrien Cole finished with 17 tackles, and Cameron finished 25-of-45 for 355 yards and three touchdowns. The Bulldogs have now won six straight -- the longest winning streak since 1999.
Bowl streak ends. After Navy beat SMU last week, hopes brightened for the Midshipmen to keep its bowl streak alive. Navy had games left with San Jose State and Army -- two teams with losing records. Win out, and go to a bowl game. But the Midshipmen blew several opportunities on offense and could not stop San Jose State running back Brandon Rutley, losing 27-24 to the Spartans. The loss breaks a streak of eight straight bowl appearances. If you were to encapsulate this season for Navy, it would be about an uncharacteristic lack of discipline and missed chances to win. Four of its seven losses have been by three points or less.
"My worst nightmare came true. We were sleepwalking to start the game. We left a ton of points out on the field offensively. We had some uncharacteristic mental lapses that really hurt us," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said after the game. "We didn't deserve to win. We played horribly, and it starts with me. Obviously, I didn't do a good job of getting us ready."
Sammy Brown, LB, Houston. Brown had 10 tackles, included 4.5 for a loss and three sacks, in a 37-7 win over SMU. He was selected Walter Camp Football Foundation National Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois. Harnish broke the school record for total offense with 519 total yards in a 31-28 win over Ball State on Tuesday night. His 519 total yards is tied for third most by any player in FBS this season. Harnish passed for 338 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 181 yards and a touchdown.
Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey rushed for a season-high 214 yards and a touchdown against North Texas, helping the Hilltoppers become bowl eligible. He also caught four passes for 48 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown reception. Rainey needs 82 yards to become the school's all-time leading rusher.
Brandon Rutley, RB, San Jose State. Rutley ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns, and caught a career-high eight passes for 101 yards in a 27-24 win over Navy. Rutley is the first San Jose State player to have 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in the same game. The Spartans now have four wins -- one more than 2009 and 2010 combined.
Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming. Smith accounted for 352 of his team's 462 yards of total offense in a 31-10 victory over New Mexico. In addition to rushing for a career-high 140 yards and two touchdowns, Smith completed 23-of-38 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown. Wyoming is now bowl eligible.
After giving up 40-plus points twice in their first five games, the Horned Frogs have settled down and looked more like their old selves as they head into an important Mountain West game at Wyoming (5-2, 2-0) on Saturday.
TCU (6-2, 3-0) has won three three games since losing to SMU 40-33 in overtime. That includes a shutout against woefully bad New Mexico. In those three games, TCU has 10 takeaways after totaling just six in the opening five games. The Horned Frogs have not committed a turnover in their last two games and were a season-best plus-3 against both New Mexico and BYU.
When asked what was the biggest difference in his team's play on defense the last three weeks, coach Gary Patterson said Tuesday, "It's been our legs," he said. "[Against] New Mexico, watching us run to the football, we looked like the team of old. We were able to run around, be more physical. Fresher teams get more turnovers and tackle better and hopefully that continues for the next four games."
TCU had a bye before the New Mexico game, and Patterson said that was sorely needed for his team to rest, especially after playing up-tempo teams like Baylor and SMU. Those teams gave the pass defense particular fits, and TCU allowed 40 or more points twice in a season for the first time since 2004.
That year, TCU went 5-6 and finished with the No. 99 total defense in the country. The Horned Frogs were ranked No. 103 in total defense after the first three weeks of this season, but have steadily climbed up to a very respectable No. 38 with their play of late. They have had to deal with key injuries -- including losing starting linebacker Tanner Brock for the season -- as well as inexperienced players at several difference positions.
Consider that TCU just started the same 11 players on defense in back-to-back contests for the first time this season.
What also has helped has been an increased pass rush. After getting one sack in the first two games, TCU has 17 in the last six. You can bet the Horned Frogs are going to try and be sure they get plenty of pressure on Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith, a true freshman who has been able to hold his own this season.
While the defense has struggled with consistency, first-year starter Casey Pachall has done a nice job directing the offense. Pachall ranks ninth in the nation in pass efficiency rating (162.4), and is on pace to set TCU single-season records for completions, completion percentage and touchdown passes. He has thrown for 19 scores with just four interceptions. TCU also has gotten backup quarterback Matt Brown involved as a change of pace, as he has scored two touchdowns in each of the last two games.
Meanwhile, receiver Josh Boyce is on pace for TCU single-season marks in both receptions (42) and receiving yards (653), and the running game has averaged more than 200 yards a game.
So TCU is not out of anything just yet -- especially with a huge showdown against No. 5 Boise State looming next week.
Offense: Case Keenum, QB, Houston. Keenum threw for 534 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns, breaking the NCAA mark for career touchdown passes in a 73-34 win over Rice.
Defense: Milton Howell, DB, Tulsa. Howell tied school and conference records with three interceptions for 44 return yards a 38-7 win over SMU.
Special teams: Tyron Carrier, KR, Houston. Carrier tied the NCAA FBS all-time record with his seventh career kickoff return (matching Clemson’s C.J. Spiller). Carrier returned the opening kickoff 100 yards.
Offense: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame. Floyed had six receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown in Notre Dame’s 56-14 home win over Navy. Floyd and his first career rushing touchdown in a win over Navy.
Defense: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame. Te'o had a game-high 13 tackles including 2 1/2 tackles for loss.
Special teams: J.D. Falslev, KR, BYU. With the Cougars trailing 35-13 late in the third quarter, Falslev returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown --BYU’s first punt return for a touchdown since Nov. 9, 2006, a span of 64 games.
Offense: Zac Dysert, QB, Miami. Dysert went 20-for-25 for 313 yards and a record-tying five touchdowns in a 41-13 victory over Buffalo. Dysert now has 7,166 career passing yards, ranking second behind only Ben Roethlisberger (10,829).
Defense: Luke Batton, LB, Kent State. Had 10 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry in a win over Bowling Green.
Special Teams: Freddy Cortez, K, Kent State. Went 2-for-2 on field goal attempts against Bowling Green.
Offense: Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan. White became the school's career receptions leader in a 45-35 win over Ball State with nine catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns. White holds the record with 261 career receptions and is over 1,000 yards for the season.
Defense: Johnnie Simon, Western Michigan. Had 10 tackles, a pass break up, two hurries and his second career interception in a 45-35 win over Ball State.
Special Teams: David Harman, K, Central Michigan. Kicked a career-high three field goals and accounted for nearly half of Central Michigan's points in a 23-22 win at Akron.
Co-offense: Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming. Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State. Smith threw for a career-best 341 yards and scored four total touchdowns in a 30-27 upset over San Diego State. Hillman had 25 times for 224 yards and two touchdowns. His 99-yard touchdown in the third quarter was the longest rush in the nation in 2011 and is also the longest in MW history. Hillman also had a 71-yard touchdown reception, finished with a career-high 305 all-purpose yards.
Co-Defense: James Dunlap, DL, UNLV. Jonathan Anderson, S, TCU. Dunlap had a career-high 4.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks, seven tackles and a forced fumble in a 38-35 win over Colorado State. Anderson finished with a career-high and team-best 17 tackles and recorded his first career interception in a 38-28 win over BYU.
Special teams: Deante' Purvis, KR, UNLV. Had a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and posted 202 total yards on five kick returns in a 38-35 win over Colorado State.
Offense: Alonzo Harris, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette. Harris ran for a career-high 189 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Middle Tennessee, and became the first Cajuns running back to post a 100-yard game since 2009.
Defense: Melvin White, DB, ULL. White had an interception, fumble recovery and seven tackles in the win over Middle Tennessee.
Special Teams: Jack Griffin, K, FIU. Griffin tied a career-best with three field goals in a 23-20 overtime win over Troy. Griffin kicked a 20-yarder that tied the score with 3:31 to go in regulation, then won the game with a 22-yarder in overtime.
Offense: Cody Fajardo, QB, Nevada. Went 19-of-29 passes for 283 yards with no interceptions and rushed 13 times for 60 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-34 win at New Mexico State. Nevada trailed 27-20 at halftime before Fajardo scored two third-quarter touchdowns to give the Wolf Pack the lead for good.
Defense: Aaron Brown, LB, Hawaii. Had a team-high nine tackles (five solo), including 1.5 for a loss, and an interception in a 16-14 win over Idaho.
Special teams: Kenton Chun, K, Hawaii. Kicked a game-winning 35-yard field goal with 32 seconds remaining in a victory at Idaho. Chun also made a 27-yard field goal. Entering the game, he had one career field goal attempt, making a 38-yarder in the season opener against Colorado.
Speaking of firsts ... New Temple coach Steve Addazio picked up his first win, 42-7 over Villanova. Bernard Pierce ran for 147 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. New Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren also picked up his first win when the Huskies beat Army 49-26.
The great escape: UTEP barely escaped Stony Brook, 31-24 in overtime. The Miners trailed 24-10 in the third quarter but Nick Lamaison keyed the comeback -- throwing three late touchdown passes, including the winner in overtime. Lamaison ended with 365 yards in his first career start. ... Wyoming also needed a last-second touchdown to escape Weber State. Brett Smith threw a touchdown pass to Robert Herron with 22 seconds left to give the Cowboys a 35-32 win. Weber State led for most of the fourth quarter before seeing its upset bid slip away.
The heartbreak: Utah State and Middle Tennessee felt all sorts of heartbreak after their down-to-the-wire games came up just short for them on Saturday. The Aggies had the defending national champions down for nearly the entire game. But Auburn scored twice in the final 2:07, thanks in part to an onside kick the Tigers easily recovered. Utah State lost 42-38, but if anything came out of the loss -- the nation got its first glimpse of poised true freshman Chuckie Keeton, who impressed everyone with his play in the game. You can beat Auburn won't soon forget him. Meanwhile, Middle Tennessee had its game-tying 47-yard field goal attempt against Purdue blocked and lost 27-24. The Blue Raiders led 24-17 with 9:26 left in the game, but could not hold on long enough to win. Purdue scored 17 points and gained 192 yards in the fourth quarter. "It kicks you in the gut right now, you're sick to your stomach that you lost the game," Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill said. ... New Mexico hung with Colorado State for the entire game but lost 14-10 because a familiar foe came back. Turnovers. The Lobos had three of them. Last season, New Mexico finished the season with a minus-12 turnover margin. ... Western Kentucky gave it a valiant effort against Kentucky, putting a scare into the Wildcats before losing 14-3. The Hilltoppers had more first downs and more total yardage, but also committed more penalties and turnovers in the loss. ... TCU also saw its win over Baylor evaporate when Aaron Jones kicked a 37-yard field goal with 1:04 left for a 50-48 win. Casey Pachall threw an interception to end the game. Much already has been made of the uncharacteristic defense TCU played. But contrast the end of this game with the Rose Bowl. TCU got a huge defensive play to help win the game when Tank Carder batted down the 2-point conversion attempt late in the game. But the Horned Frogs could not make one stop on Baylor's game-winning drive.
The young guns: In the week leading up to the opener against Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes was asked who reminded him of his 17-year-old starting quarterback, Nick Isham. “Greg Brady,” Dykes said. Isham, a true freshman born in 1993, asked the Bulldogs sports information director, “Who’s Greg Brady?” Isham might be young, but he gained his first game experience against Southern Miss, going 20-of-36 for 176 yards in a narrow 19-17 loss. Keeton, Brett Smith of Wyoming and Rakeem Cato of Marshall were the two other non-AQ true freshmen to make starts and both looked poised behind center despite their teams' losses. Keeton went 21-of-30 for 213 yards, while Cato was 15-of-21 for 115 yards in a rain-shorted day against West Virginia. Smith went 27-of-41 for 294 yards and three touchdowns, but the first pass of his career was intercepted.
Boise State defense. The Broncos absolutely dominated up front in a win against Georgia. The defensive line had six sacks and constantly harassed Aaron Murray. The Bulldogs had just 13 first downs and were never much of a threat.
Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois. The Huskies quarterback threw a career-high five touchdown passes and ran for another in a 49-27 win over Army.
T.Y. Hilton, FIU. Hilton opened a win over North Texas with a 62-yard kickoff return that he almost broke for a touchdown. On the next drive, he scored on a 60-yard reception on the first play. He had 180 all-purpose yards in the first quarter and finished the game with 283 all-purpose yards, 12 shy of his own school record.
Case Keenum, Houston. In his return from an ACL injury, Keenum looked like he was back to his old self, throwing for 310 yards and two touchdown passes in a win over UCLA. He went past the 300-yard mark for the 26th time in 38 career starts.
Bryant Moniz, Hawaii. Moniz threw for 5,000 yards last season but he helped the Warriors beat Colorado with his legs. Moniz ran for 121 yards and three touchdowns -- the most rushing yards by a Hawaii quarterback since Glenn Freitas had 122 yards and four touchdowns against UTEP in 1995.
Kriss Proctor, Navy. Much was made over what Proctor would face this season -- taking over for Ricky Dobbs at quarterback. But he did more than fine against Delaware, running for 176 yards and three touchdowns in a 40-17 win. He also threw his first career touchdown pass.
2. The bad news for Miami is that Stephen Morris, who will start at quarterback Monday in place of the suspended Jacory Harris, had the highest interception percentage (5.9) among quarterbacks in AQ conferences with at least 100 attempts last season, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The equally bad news for the Hurricanes is that Morris won’t be much of a dropoff. Harris finished second (5.6 percent) to Morris last season. If offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, can fix the quarterbacks, Miami’s turnaround will quicken.
3. Morris had the excuse last season of being a true freshman. Yet he was talented enough -- and the Hurricanes depleted enough after Harris got hurt -- that he started the final four games. That provides perspective of the stiff task awaiting the three true freshmen who will start openers this week: Brett Smith of Wyoming against Weber State, Nick Isham of Louisiana Tech against Southern Mississippi, and -- God bless him, Rakeem Cato of Marshall, who debuts Sunday at in-state rival West Virginia.
Three other schools have open positions as well. Let’s take a closer look:
Who’s competing: Nobody is really out as the starter, considering the Lobos played four different quarterbacks this past season for various reasons. All four are back. B.R. Holbrook, the presumptive starter, had knee surgery at the end of the season and his status for the spring is up in the air. Freshman Stump Godfrey started the last five games, and freshman Tarean Austin also played. So did Brad Gruner, who has been a backup his entire career. Godfrey and Austin definitely gained experience last season, so that should help them out, but coach Mike Locksley wants this to be a wide-open competition to see who will step up.
Who’s out: Dalton.
Who’s competing: Sophomore Casey Pachall and redshirt freshman Matt Brown. Pachall served as Dalton’s backup last season and saw extended action in the season finale against New Mexico after Dalton injured his elbow. He appears to be the heir apparent. But just because he has some playing experience doesn’t mean the job will be handed to him. Brown was one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in Texas when he signed with the Horned Frogs in 2010 after initially committing to Arizona. He redshirted this past season. Both have ability, but you know coach Gary Patterson will be looking for that huge intangible Dalton had in spades -- leadership. One other note: Yogi Gallegos, on the roster the past three seasons, has elected to transfer.
Who’s out: Omar Clayton ended his career as one of the best quarterbacks in school history.
Who’s competing: The Rebels only have two returning quarterbacks on the roster: sophomore-to-be Caleb Herring and redshirt freshman Taylor Barnhill. But they did sign a junior college transfer in January who is already enrolled in school (Sean Reilly). He spent last season starting for Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif., going 200-for-330 for 2,323 yards and 20 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Herring was Clayton’s backup last season and saw extended playing time, looking good in spurts. But this one appears to be a three-man race headed into the spring, with Herring and Reilly the top two challengers.
Who’s out: Austyn Carta-Samuels decided to transfer.
Who’s competing: Redshirt freshman Emory Miller and true freshman Brett Smith. Not the ideal situation for the Cowboys, who were banking on Carta-Samuels returning until he changed his mind. Backup Dax Crum was a senior so now you are left with two players who have never taken a snap in a college game. At least Miller has been in the program for one season after redshirting in 2010. Smith graduated from high school early, enrolled in January and will be eligible for spring practice.
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
Final 20 Duke 7 1 Florida State 45 Final 2 Ohio State 24 10 Michigan State 34 Final 5 Missouri 42 3 Auburn 59 Final 17 Oklahoma 33 6 Oklahoma State 24 Final 7 Stanford 38 11 Arizona State 14 Final 25 Texas 10 9 Baylor 30 Final 16 UCF 17 Southern Methodist 13 Final Utah State 17 23 Fresno State 24