NCF Nation: Dominique Davis

Non-AQ Players of the Week

October, 24, 2011
Here are your non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference. The independent players are selected by a national media panel.


Offense: Dominique Davis, QB, East Carolina. Davis set an NCAA single-game record with 26 straight completions to open the game in a 38-34 win at Navy. He finished the game 40-of-45 for 372 yards with two touchdowns. His completion percentage of 88.9 was a school record.

Defense: Marques Wheaton, DB, Southern Miss. Wheaton recorded five tackles (four solos), a pass breakup and two fourth-quarter interceptions in Southern Miss’ 27-3 win over SMU. He returned one of his interceptions 41 yards for a score.

Special teams: Ty Long, K, UAB. Long, a true freshman, made the game-winning 40-yarder with 21 seconds remaining in a 26-24 win over UCF.


Offense: Riley Nelson, QB, BYU. Nelson led six touchdown drives in seven series before leaving the game early in the third quarter in a 56-3 win over Idaho State. Nelson completed 11 of 17 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns, and added 62 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

Co-defense: Geoffrey Bacon, LB, Army. Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU. Bacon returned his first career interception 70 yards for a touchdown in a 44-21 loss at Vanderbilt. Making his first career start, Bacon added a pass break-up, and he matched his season tally with a career-high 13 tackles, including a half tackle for loss. Van Noy had two sacks, three quarterback hurries and a blocked punt.

Special teams: George Atkinson III, KR, Notre Dame. Atkinson had a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in a 31-17 loss to USC. He tallied 178 yards on five kickoff returns.


East Division

Offense: Chazz Anderson, QB, Buffalo. Accounted for 460 yards of total offense and four touchdowns in a 31-30 loss to Northern Illinois. Anderson completed a school record 35 passes on 53 attempts for 406 yards and three touchdowns, including one with just 14 seconds left in regulation that pulled Buffalo to within one before a missed extra point made the difference.

Defense: Chris Jones, DT, Bowling Green. Jones had six tackles, three sacks and one quarterback hurry in a 13-10 win over Temple.

Special teams: Matt Weller, K, Ohio. Went 3-for-3 on his field goal attempts, connecting from 24, 27 and 23 yards in a 37-20 win at Akron.

West Division

Offense: Javonti Greene, RB, Eastern Michigan. Greene caught a 50-yard pass from Alex Gillett in the first quarter and scored on a 50-yard run midway through the fourth quarter for the two Eastern Michigan touchdowns in a 14-10 victory over Western Michigan.

Defense: Desmond Marrow, DB, Toledo. Marrow led Toledo with six tackles and tied his career high with two interceptions in a 49-28 win over Miami.

Special Teams:Jamill Smith, KR, Ball State. Returned the opening kickoff for a career-high 48 yards in the Cardinals' 17-point second half comeback victory, a 31-27 win over Central Michigan. Smith led all returners for both teams with four kickoff returns for a total of 135 yards.

Mountain West

Offense: Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State. Moore completed 23-of-29 passes for 281 yards in a 37-26 win over Air Force. Moore tied former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy for the most career wins (45) in NCAA history.

Defense:Byron Hout, LB, Boise State. Hout had a career-high 18 tackles against Air Force, including eight unassisted stops and a half tackle for loss.

Special teams:Antonio Graves, WR, TCU. Graves scored his first collegiate touchdown when he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone in a 69-0 win over New Mexico. He also forced a fumble on a kickoff return.

Sun Belt

Offense:Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey rushed for 206 yards and a career-high three touchdowns as the Hilltoppers won their first home game since 2008 with a 42-23 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette.

Defense:Eric Russell, DB, Middle Tennessee. Russell had six tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception in a win over FAU.

Special Teams:Luther Ambrose, KR, ULM. Ambrose became ULM's all-time leader in kickoff return yards and he did it in style, returning the opening kickoff 100 yards at North Texas. He finished with 148 yards on three returns.


Offense: Mike Ball, RB, Nevada. Ball rushed for a career-high 198 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries and added two catches for 18 yards and another score in a 45-38 win over Fresno State.

Defense: Adrien Cole, LB, Louisiana Tech. Cole had 14 tackles (9 solo), including two for a loss, and broke up a pass in a 24-17 win at Utah State.

Special teams: Ryan Allen, P, Louisiana Tech. Allen averaged 52.2 yards on eight punts in the win at Utah State. Seven of them were downed inside the 20-yard line.

Weekend rewind: Non-AQs

October, 24, 2011
Time to take a look back at Week 8 for the non-AQs:

Quarterbacks rule. In case you missed it, three quarterbacks had pretty awesome days on Saturday. Dominique Davis of East Carolina completed 26 straight passes. Kellen Moore of Boise State tied the NCAA record for career wins with 45. Case Keenum of Houston became the NCAA career leader for total offense, with the NCAA career passing mark and NCAA career touchdown passing mark in his sights. You can read more about their days here.

[+] EnlargeDominique Davis
AP Photo/Gail BurtonDominique Davis misfired on only five of his 45 pass attempts in East Carolina's win over Navy.
Southern Miss streaking. The Golden Eagles are off to their best start since 2000 after an impressive 27-3 win over SMU. They are ranked No. 25 in the coaches' poll, their first ranking since 2004, and have won five straight. Austin Davis has been impressive but so has the defense, which has made big-time improvements this season and has been a major reason this team is now the favorite to win the East Division in Conference USA. SMU came into the game with its high-powered passing offense, but Southern Miss totally shut down the Mustangs, who had season lows for points and passing yards (173). Southern Miss had two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. After it plays UTEP (4-3) Saturday, Southern Miss does not have a team left on the schedule with a winning record, making it conceivable the Golden Eagles could win out. Who would they face in the C-USA title game? The West is still wide open between Houston (7-0, 3-0), Tulsa (4-3, 3-0) and SMU (5-2, 3-1), but the No. 17 Cougars would have to be the favorite if they keep rolling. They get Rice this Thursday, but close the season with back-to-back games against the Mustangs at home, then at Tulsa on Nov. 26.

Bowl bound: Southern Miss and Houston are two of five non-AQs already bowl eligible (Boise State, ULL, BYU).

Next up on deck, with games this weekend:

Arkansas State (5-2) vs. North Texas
Toledo (5-3) vs. Northern Illinois (Nov. 1)
Ball State (5-3) at Western Michigan
Northern Illinois (5-3) at Toledo (Nov. 1)
Temple (5-3) vs. Ohio (Nov. 2)
Ohio (5-3) vs. Temple (Nov. 2)
TCU (5-2) vs. BYU (Arlington, Friday)
SMU (5-2) at Tulsa
* Eastern Michigan is 5-3 but the Golden Eagles need to get to seven wins because they have two wins over FCS opponents.

Disappointments: This has been a popular question during my weekly chats: Which team(s) have been the biggest disappointment. There are three on my list today: Fresno State, UCF and Colorado State. The Bulldogs had WAC nemesis Boise State out of the way this season, the perfect opportunity to win a league championship before moving on to the Mountain West. Instead, they have sputtered to a 3-5 start and just lost to Nevada. Fresno State needs to win three games to become bowl eligible. It should be able to get there, but nothing is a given with the improved play of Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State and San Jose State. Meanwhile, there were those who thought Colorado State had everything it needed to get back to a bowl game, with a young quarterback in Pete Thomas and 14 starters returning. But injuries have completed decimated this team, and the Rams are 3-4 and are going to need to pull an upset or two to get to six wins with UNLV, San Diego State, TCU, Air Force and Wyoming left.

Perhaps most disappointing of all, though, has been UCF. Here you have a program coming off the first Top 25 season in school history and a win over Georgia in the bowl game. Many thought that would give this program much-needed momentum and a building block for the future. Instead, the Knights dropped to 3-4 and 1-2 in conference last week after a loss to previously winless UAB, losing to a team that played its backup quarterback and backup running back. Starting quarterback Jeff Godfrey was benched in favor of Blake Bortles, who nearly led the Knights to a win. Now UCF might have a quarterback controversy on its hands, as coach George O'Leary has declined to say who would start Saturday against Memphis. The Knights have some tough games left and are going to need help to make it back to the C-USA title game.

The heartbreak: You have got to feel for Navy, one of the most snake-bitten teams in college football. Navy has lost four games this year by a total of eight points. The Midshipmen, Utah State and Indiana are the only three teams in the country to lose four games by eight points or fewer. The heartbreak continued Saturday in a 38-35 loss to East Carolina. The Midshipmen hung tough after losing starting quarterback Kriss Proctor (elbow) and had a chance to win in the closing minute. An apparent touchdown pass from Trey Miller to Matt Aiken was ruled incomplete, and then Navy missed yet another field goal. Aiken appeared to cross the plane after catching the ball at the 2, but the ball came loose as he hit the ground. Replay officials ruled Aiken did not maintain control as the reason for the ruling of an incomplete pass. Navy dropped to 2-5 and is in danger of breaking its eight-year bowl streak.

Helmet stickers

Mike Ball, RB, Nevada. Ball had a career-high 198 yards rushing and a touchdown on 26 carries in a 45-38 win over Fresno State. He had rushes of 35 and 41 yards, the two longest runs by any Nevada player this year.

Byron Hout, LB, Boise State. Had a career-high 18 tackles in a 37-26 win over Air Force. His tackle total is the most by a Broncos player since Korey Hall had 15 against New Mexico State in 2006.

Javonti Greene, RB, Eastern Michigan. Caught a 50-yard pass from Alex Gillett in the first quarter and scored on a 50-yard run midway through the fourth quarter for both touchdowns in a 14-10 victory over Western Michigan.

Bobby McCain, DB, Memphis. McCain had a 79-yard interception for a touchdown in a 33-17 win over Tulane. The interception gave the Tigers the lead for good in their first conference win since beating UTEP 35-20 Oct. 10, 2009.

Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey ran for 206 yards and a career-high three touchdowns as the Hilltoppers won their first home game since 2008 with a 42-23 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette. Rainey moved into fourth place on the WKU career rushing list with his performance -- the second 200-yard rushing game of his career.
The Pac-12 is popularly known as the conference of quarterbacks, mostly because it has better quarterbacks than everyone else, at least in terms of NFL potential.

That is again the case in 2011. The conference boasts Stanford’s Andrew Luck, USC’s Matt Barkley and Arizona’s Nick Foles, who each could become first-round NFL draft picks next spring. Then there’s Oregon’s Darron Thomas, who beat out Barkley and Foles for second-team All-Conference honors in 2010, and talented youngsters such as Washington State’s Jeff Tuel, Oregon State’s Ryan Katz and Utah’s Jordan Wynn.

Oh, but across the country in Conference USA, there’s a crew of quarterbacks that offers something that bests the Pac-12 signal-callers: huge numbers. Four Conference USA passers threw for more than 3,000 yards; just two did in the old Pac-10. Also, three threw 31 or more touchdown passes versus just one in the Pac-10 -- Luck with 32.

[+] EnlargeHouston's Case Keenum
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesCase Keenum is one of only two players in Division I history to have thrown for over 5,000 yards more than once.
And that doesn’t even include the return of Houston’s Case Keenum, who passed for over 5,000 yards in both 2008 and 2009 and 44 touchdowns each season. Keenum was lost for the 2010 season in Game 3 after suffering a knee injury at UCLA.

So while the Pac-12 may think of itself as the conference of quarterbacks, Conference USA might be able to counter as the conference of passers.

Sounds like a blog debate! Bring on Andrea Adelson!

Ted Miller: Andrea, you have me and many of my Pac-12 blog readers at a loss. You know all about the Pac-12 quarterbacks because they are on TV all the time.

While most are familiar with Keenum’s eye-popping numbers for the Cougars, some of these other names draw blanks. Educate our poorly informed West Coast brains, please!

Andrea Adelson: Yes, Ted, there is a reason C-USA has a Wild, Wild West Division. It is there you will find some of the most prolific passers in the nation -- Keenum, G.J. Kinne of Tulsa, and Kyle Padron of SMU.

Keenum was just picked as the C-USA preseason offensive player of the year for obvious reasons. Your Pac-12 brethren only got a small glimpse of what he could do last season against UCLA -- the game in which he tore his ACL and was lost for the season. Keenum got a sixth season and has a slew of NCAA records he is chasing down -- total offense, passing yards, touchdowns, pass attempts and completions. He is in an offensive system that suits his strengths, and he really came onto the scene in 2008 under a certain coach named Dana Holgorsen.

With Keenum out last season, Kinne picked up the torch and was named C-USA Offensive Player of the Year. Kinne actually began his career at Texas before transferring to the Golden Hurricane. Last season he truly blossomed, but he is a different style quarterback than Keenum and Padron. Kinne can run -- he led the team in passing (3,650 yards) and rushing (561). It should come as no surprise that Padron is a gunslinger -- he plays for June Jones after all. And Jones is a master of the run 'n' shoot. But there are quarterbacks in the East who aren't slouches, either. Dominique Davis transferred from Boston College to East Carolina and flourished last season, leading the nation in passing. Austin Davis, one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the nation can run and pass, too. We all know the Big 12 is known for its passers, but C-USA equaled that conference with three players ranked in the top 11 in the nation in yards passing with Davis, Padron and Kinne. The Pac-12 might have the most "quarterback ready" players, but C-USA has guys who know how to put the ball in the air, that is for sure. And who doesn't love offensive fireworks?

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireA number of analysts project Stanford's Andrew Luck will be the No. 1 overal pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
Ted Miller: Andrea, those are impressive -- and sometimes HUGE -- numbers. Keenum got knocked out against UCLA, so the Bruins didn’t really get a full taste of him, which they figure to on Sept. 3 in Houston. But that’s the only time Pac-12 fans will get to see any of these guys. In the Pac-12, I’d rate Luck No. 1, Barkley No. 2, Foles No. 3 and Thomas No. 4 in terms of NFL prospects. Luck and Thomas are both outstanding athletes who are capable running the ball. Most folks don’t realize that Luck rushed for 453 yards last year. Barkley and Foles are prototypical drop-back passers.

So how do you see your guys' NFL prospects stacking up?

Andrea Adelson: None of these guys are first-round prospects, but that does not make them any less impressive as college quarterbacks. All of them are going to carry the "system quarterback" label with them when their careers end. Keenum already gets that when his name comes up in Heisman chatter. Interestingly, he is after the NCAA career passing mark of Timmy Chang -- coached at Hawaii by June Jones. And Jones has a guy in Padron who can sling it, too. Davis is in a system that Ruffin McNeill picked up from his "Air Raid" days at Texas Tech -- a school that has produced prolific passers such as Graham Harrell and Kliff Kingsbury but nobody who tore it up in the NFL. If you want to rank them as college quarterbacks, then Keenum deserves to be in the conversation as one of the best playing today. He is, after all, one of only two players in Division I history to have thrown for over 5,000 yards more than once.

Ted Miller: That’s the rub, I think, Andrea. While the Pac-12 prides itself on producing NFL quarterbacks, I think we can all appreciate guys who produce thrilling performances in the college game, the game by the way we love most, apologies to the NFL.

So as excited as I am to see Luck this year -- and others -- I also am eager to see what a healthy Keenum does in Round 2 with UCLA. And perhaps we on the West Coast need to branch out a bit in our quarterback appreciation and catch a few Conference USA games this season.

We do, you know, like our passing out West.

Non-AQ Players to Watch

May, 11, 2011
I featured three non-AQ players to watch in one of my spring wrap videos: Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, San Diego State running back Ronnie Hillman and BYU quarterback Jake Heaps.

But there are plenty other non-AQ players to watch. Here is a brief list of other players I think could have big seasons in 2011:

Tank Carder, LB, TCU. He should be a first-team All-American this season as one of the top linebackers in the nation.

Tyrone Crawford, DE, Boise State. Crawford had a good season in 2010 as a reserve, but he is poised for a breakout season, leaving many confident he will step right in for the departed Ryan Winterswyk at defensive end.

Dominique Davis, QB, East Carolina. Davis won the Conference USA Newcomer of the Year award in 2010 after setting school single-season records in touchdown passes (36), attempts (552), completions (358) and passing yards (3,699). He loses his top playmaker in Dwayne Harris, but he will be expected to carry the team once again while the defense undergoes a makeover.

Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois. He can run, and he can throw, and chances are he is going to be the preseason pick for MAC Offensive Player of the Year. How he does in Dave Doeren's system will be fun to watch.

Logan Harrell, DT, Fresno State. Harrell had 10.5 sacks last season as the Bulldogs really improved their pass rush. With Chris Carter gone, can Harrell duplicate the same results in 2011?

Tim Jefferson, QB, Air Force. There are some who think Air Force could be a dark horse in the Mountain West because of Jefferson, perhaps the most improved player in the Mountain West last season.

Case Keenum, QB, Houston. Could another 5,000-yard season be in the works for Keenum? The big question is how he looks one season removed from ACL surgery. Some quarterbacks have a harder time with their mobility. It took two seasons for Tom Brady to get back to his former self.

G.J. Kinne, QB, Tulsa. You have read ad nauseum on here that he has his third offensive coordinator in three seasons with the Golden Hurricane. But 2010 was his best season yet, and coach Bill Blankenship was promoted from assistant to head coach and knows what works well for Kinne.

Bobby Rainey, RB, Western Kentucky. Rainey led all rushers in the country with 340 carries and ranked No. 4 among running backs with 1,649 yards. Can he do that agian?

Top non-AQ players, offense

January, 24, 2011
Wanted to give you a quick rundown of the top non-AQ players in the final NCAA statistics for offense. Many of these players will be back for 2011, but many will be gone.

First let us take a look at rushing. Four non-AQ players finished in the Top 10 in yards per game:

No. 3 Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky (137.4)

No. 6 Lance Dunbar, North Texas (129.4)

No. 7 Vai Taua, Nevada (123.85)

No. 10 Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State (117.9)

Taua is the only player who does not return next season. Hillman was a true freshman and many expect him to have an even better season. Rainey and Dunbar will both be seniors and vying once again to be the best running back in the Sun Belt. With Dunbar, it will be interesting to see how he fairs under new coach Dan McCarney, though offensive coordinator Mike Canales remains onboard. Rainey carried the ball a nation-leading 340 times last season. Can he handle another strenuous workload in 2011?

At quarterback, seven of the top 11 players in total passing yards were non-AQ players:

No. 1 Bryant Moniz, Hawaii, 5,040 yards

No. 4. Dominique Davis, East Carolina, 3,967

No. 6 Kellen Moore, Boise State, 3,845

No. 7 Ryan Lindley, San Diego State, 3,830

No. 8 Kyle Padron, SMU, 3,828

t. No. 9 Corey Robinson, Troy, 3,726

No. 11. G.J. Kinne, Tulsa, 3,650

I stretched this list all the way to 11 to show the depth of quality quarterbacks among the non-AQs. Although big-name players like Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick are gone, every player on this list returns to school next season, which means non-AQ quarterbacks will definitely be ones to watch again. But what is interesting is their receiver situation. Everybody but Kinne is losing his leading receiver. In the case of Moore, he loses two in Austin Pettis and Titus Young. Moniz loses Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares, and Lindley loses DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown.

At receiver, seven of the top 100 players in total yards also came from non-AQ schools:

No. 1 Salas, 1,889 yards

No. 5 Jordan White, Western Michigan, 1,378

No. 6 Brown, 1,352

No. 7 Pilares, 1,306

No. 8 Aldrick Robinson, SMU, 1,301

10. Sampson, 1,220

11. Young, 1,215

Ssix of these players are definitely done with their college careers. The one up in the air is White, who is petitioning the NCAA for a medical hardship waiver and sixth season of eligibility. White had serious injuries to both his knees and sat out 2006 and 2008, so it seems likely his waiver will be granted. He set the school record for receiving yards in 2010.

Top 10 non-AQ moments of 2010

January, 18, 2011
What would a season wrap be without a list of the top 10 moments of the non-AQ season? So here it goes.

1. Tank Carder bats down Scott Tolzien’s 2-point conversion attempt. The best moment of the season simply because it preserved TCU’s 21-19 win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, allowing the Horned Frogs to finish No. 2 in the final rankings as the top non-AQ team in the nation.

[+] EnlargeNevada Wolf Pack kicker Anthony Martinez
AP Photo/Cathleen AllisonAnthony Martinez's game-winning kick in overtime shocked Boise State and led Nevada to its best season ever.
2. Anthony Martinez kicks a 34-yard field goal in overtime to beat Boise State. In one of the biggest upsets of the season, Nevada took advantage of two misses from Broncos kicker Kyle Brotzman to pull off the 34-31 win. It was Martinez, a redshirt freshman, who calmly delivered the game-winning kick, triggering a wild celebration and helping the Wolf Pack finish with the best season in school history.

3. Kellen Moore delivers the game-winning touchdown over Virginia Tech. Moore threw the 13-yard touchdown pass to Austin Pettis with 1:09 remaining, lifting the Broncos to a 33-30 win over Virginia Tech. The win may have lost its luster at the end of the season, but at the time, it kept Boise State in the national conversation and proved once again the Broncos had what it took, not only to compete, but to beat the teams from the automatic qualifying conferences.

4. TCU smacks Utah. The stakes were high. College GameDay was in Salt Lake City for the huge clash between No. 3 TCU and No. 5 Utah, two undefeated non-AQs jockeying for BCS positioning. The Horned Frogs dismantled Utah 47-7 as Andy Dalton threw for 355 yards, including a 93-yard touchdown pass to Josh Boyce early in the first quarter that set the tone for the game.

5. Brandon Burton blocks BYU’s game-winning field goal attempt. Not only was this the last game between BYU and Utah as conference rivals, it's also presumably the last time they will end the season against each other. Burton delivered a classic finish, blocking a 42-yard attempt by Mitch Payne to help Utah hold on for a 17-16 victory. Utah had erased a 13-0 deficit to come from behind and win.

6. Austin Boucher throws a 33-yard touchdown pass to Armand Robinson with 33 seconds left to help Miami (Ohio) win the MAC title game. This was supposed to be Northern Illinois’ night. The Huskies finished unbeaten in league play and were the overwhelming favorites to win. But Boucher, a redshirt freshman, converted a fourth-and-20 on the final drive, then hit Robinson for the game-winning touchdown as Miami (Ohio) completed the best turnaround in college football. The RedHawks went 1-11 last season.

7. Navy beats Notre Dame. Alexander Teich had his way against the Irish, running for 210 yards as the Midshipmen won in a 35-17 rout. It was Navy’s third win over Notre Dame in four years, as it racked up 367 yards on the ground – the most ever for Navy against the Irish. Teich also became the first fullback in school history to run for over 200 yards in a game.

8. Dominique Davis’ prayer answered. Trailing 49-45 with seconds remaining in the season opener for both teams, the only option East Carolina had to win was to throw a Hail Mary into the end zone. Davis heaved the football into the end zone, and James Jones came up with the 33-yard touchdown to complete the improbable 51-49 victory. The teams combined for 1,117 yards and swapped the lead 12 times. If Tulsa had won, the Golden Hurricane would have played in the C-USA championship game and East Carolina would not have made a bowl.

9. Air Force knocks off Navy. When the Falcons beat the Midshipmen 14-6 early in the season, they got the upper hand in the race for the Commander-In-Chief Trophy. Air Force beat Navy for the first time since 2002 and also ended the Midshipmen’s 15-game service academy win streak. It was an emotional win for the Falcons, whose win over Army later in the season ended Navy’s seven-year hold on that CIC Trophy.

10. FIU kicks a last second field goal to beat Toledo. In what was one of the best finishes during bowl season, FIU kicker Jack Griffin booted a 34-yard field goal with no time left to give the Panthers a 34-32 win over the Rockets in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. It was a great moment not only because of the heart-stopping ending, but because FIU won its first bowl game in its first bowl appearance and finished with its first ever winning record.
Maryland beat East Carolina 51-20 in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman on Wednesday. Here is a quick instant analysis:

How the game was won: The best part about East Carolina this season has been its offense. The Pirates came into the game averaging 445 yards and 38 points a game, but were completely stymied against Maryland. The Terrapins blitzed and put major pressure on quarterback Dominique Davis, keeping him completely off balance. There were several instances of miscommunication with his receivers, and Davis threw two ugly interceptions. East Carolina had four total turnovers and racked up 15 penalties for 123 yards -- enough to thwart any team's chances at a victory. All-purpose player Dwayne Harris was also a non-factor. The offense was held 100 yards below its average and scored fewer than 21 points for just the second time this season. Meanwhile, the defense was its usual self-destructive self, missing tackles and allowing two long touchdown runs. The Pirates closed the season having given up 40-plus points in six straight games -- five of them losses. In all, they gave up 40-plus points in 10 games this season.

Turning point: Maryland led 16-3 at halftime, but East Carolina has been able to put up some points this season so going down two scores did not seem too insurmountable. But Davis threw an interception to open the third quarter. Maryland took advantage when D.J. Adams scored on a 1-yard touchdown run on the next play to go up 23-3, essentially putting the game out of reach.

Stat of the game: 3. Number of points East Carolina scored in the first half, a season low.

Player of the game: Maryland running back Da'Rel Scott. The senior scored on two long touchdown runs in the second half, one for 61 yards and the other for 91 yards. He finished with with 201 yards rushing.

Second guessing: Was it really necessary for Maryland to keep throwing the ball down field up 44-13 in the fourth quarter? From the East Carolina perspective, the Pirates seemed unprepared and out of sorts, especially for the Maryland blitz. If East Carolina had done a better job on protection, perhaps the game could have been closer.

What it means: East Carolina (6-7) finished the season with a losing record for the first time since 2005. The Pirates lose Harris and several other senior starters for next season, but Davis returns along with Lance Lewis. But the big question has got to be how first-year coach Ruffin McNeill plans to fix his defense, ranked last in the nation. The unit was definitely young, so it should have more experience, but the Pirates cannot afford to have another defensive performance like this one in 2011.

Military Bowl: 3 keys

December, 28, 2010
Here are three keys for the Terps against East Carolina in the Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman:

1. Stay together. Maryland has more talent than East Carolina, but it will lose if it lets the coaching situation become a distraction. This is the most important intangible, and a challenging one for those within the program right now. It’s Ralph Freidgen’s final game as head coach of his alma mater, and both players and coaches have lamented the fact they missed opportunities to play in a higher-tier bowl. The Terps can either let the scenario beat them, or use it as motivation.

2. Disrupt the passing game. The one edge the Pirates have in this game is at quarterback, with former BC transfer Dominique Davis, but Maryland’s secondary is good enough to match up with ECU’s receivers. The key is to smother them and not let them loose for yards after the catch. Dwayne Harris and Lance Lewis have combined for 2,034 yards and 23 touchdowns on 171 receptions.

3. Get the running game going. It’s been stagnant all season, but that should change against East Carolina, which ranks 116th in the nation in rushing defense. If Maryland can establish a ground game and help keep quarterback Danny O’Brien in manageable third-down situations, it will be tough to get the Terps off the field.

East Carolina three keys

December, 28, 2010
You saw the preview and prediction. Now here are three keys for East Carolina going into the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman against Maryland on Wednesday:

1. The Dominique Davis experience. East Carolina has played its fair share of ACC teams recently, including three this season. But this is the first meeting between the schools. There is one player, though, who knows what it is like to play, and beat the Terrapins. Davis made his first career start as a redshirt freshman at Boston College against Maryland on Nov. 29, 2008, and led the Eagles to a 28-21 win that secured an Atlantic Division title. He completed 12 of 24 passes for 134 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

2. Plenty of Dwayne Harris. The senior ranks fifth in all-purpose yards in the NCAA with an average of 171 yards a game and is seventh nationally with 7.8 receptions per game. He also has caught a pass in 43 straight games, the second-longest streak in the NCAA behind Scotty McKnight of Colorado (49). Davis has 929 all-purpose yards in his last five games, and East Carolina is going to need a big game out of him on offense.

3. Make some early defensive stops. If East Carolina can get a few stops early in the game, perhaps the Pirates can build confidence and help the offense out a little bit. The Pirates are not a ball-control team, but they have to be one against the Terrapins to keep Maryland off the field. Three-and-outs and a few turnovers early on would go a long way for a defense that has had some major struggles this season. Dustin Lineback is going to need a monster game.
East Carolina has made five straight bowl appearances but has only one win to show for its previous four. The Pirates face a big challenge against Maryland on Wednesday in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman, especially considering they ended the season with losses in four of their last five games because their defense fell apart. Still, making a bowl game is a good accomplishment for first-year coach Ruffin McNeill, who inherited a team that returned just eight starters.

WHO TO WATCH: East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis. He came in as a junior college transfer after playing his first season at Boston College and is one of the biggest reasons East Carolina is in a bowl game. His Hail Mary touchdown pass with no time left in the season-opener against Tulsa essentially put the Pirates in this game. He already has established new school single-season records for attempts (552), completions (358), passing yardage (3,699) and touchdown passes, 36) and ranks No. 1 in the country in completions per game and points responsible for per game; fourth in passing yards per game and total passing yards (3,699); and sixth in total offense per game. Davis has thrived in the spread option, even though he had to sit out spring practice.

WHAT TO WATCH: East Carolina's defense. OK, there has not been much to watch this season with a defense that has been a sieve, ranking last in the nation in total D. East Carolina has had to outscore people to win all season long, but with extra time to prepare, perhaps the Pirates will be up to the task. This is the same Pirates team that beat NC State this season and held the Wolfpack to 27 points. One of the biggest matchups to watch is Maryland receiver Torrey Smith against Pirates cornerbacks Emanuel Davis and Travis Simmons.

WHY TO WATCH: The chances for an offensive back-and-forth are great, and who doesn’t like a little bit of an offensive showdown every once in a while? The Pirates have had some heart-stopping wins this year – the Hail Mary victory against Tulsa and the overtime win against NC State, and a one-point win against Southern Miss. You can’t accuse the Pirates of being boring to watch.

PREDICTION: Maryland 45, East Carolina 40. The Pirates have given up 54.8 points per game in their past five and are going to have a tough time slowing the Terrapins down. Expect an inspired Maryland team to be playing for coach Ralph Friedgen, in his final game at Maryland.

Lunchtime Links

December, 27, 2010
Air Force plays Georgia Tech later today in an intriguing battle between the two best run teams in the country in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl. I picked Air Force. ACC blogger Heather Dinich picked Georgia Tech. Who do you have?

Now on to some links:

For those who missed it, FIU won a wild Little Caesars Pizza Bowl against Toledo 34-32 on Sunday night for the first bowl win in school history. No more F-I-Who?

Pat Forde takes us inside the mind of TCU coach Gary Patterson.

The loss to Boise State last season put TCU on the path to the Rose Bowl.

Air Force is excited about its opportunity against Georgia Tech.

SMU is making the most of its bowl trip ... at home.

Austin Pettis and Titus Young have set the bar high for other Boise State receivers to follow.

East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis is making the most of his second chance.

For Temple, a cordial parting with Al Golden.

Faith has shaped the career of Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Karl Benson's creativity is being put to the test to reinvent the WAC.

For those who missed it, Houston quarterback Terrance Broadway is transferring to Louisiana.

Nevada recruiting tops non-AQ Mailbag

December, 10, 2010
We got a nice variety in the mailbag Friday: Nevada, Boise State, UCF, East Carolina and Temple. Keep those comments coming!

Martin T. Kandy in Ft. Lauderdale writes: With the fantastic season Nevada has experienced, are there any indications California recruits are paying more attention to the WolfPack? How does there 2011 recruiting class look so far?

Adelson writes: Nevada always does well in California, just take a look at its roster. But so far it is unclear how this season is impacting recruits. Nevada has seven commitments, all from California. None are rated above two stars. There is still plenty of time until signing day, so it will be interesting to see how Nevada closes.

Scott Sweely of Johnson City, Tenn., writes: Why aren't more people questioning the overall bowl selection process for the case of Temple University getting snubbed while they defeated several bowl & BCS teams? It appears that some schools cannot get into a bowl regardless of their record or accomplishments.

Adelson writes: Temple got the short end, no question about it. But the MAC only has three guaranteed tie-ins, and had six bowl eligible teams. As I wrote in a previous post, Temple was hurt because it lost two straight, and all the other 6-6 teams that made it had tie-ins to their respective games. It is an absolute shame that Temple has to sit at home with an 8-4 record and a win over Connecticut. But the system is going to favor 6-6 teams from the bigger conferences from now on for at-large bids thanks to a recent change.

808 AF Warrior of Travis AFB in Calif., writes: How is it that Hawaii receiver Greg Salas did not make it as a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award? 106 catches for 1,675 yards (which leads the nation) and still no love?

Adelson writes: Probably because he plays for Hawaii and many of the accomplishments of those players get discredited because of the "system." Salas had a great year, no question about it.

Danny in Orlando writes: After winning the C-USA Coach of the Year award for the third time, do you think that UCF coach George O'Leary might be a candidate for any head coaching jobs at a higher-profile school? And if he did leave, do you think the program would be all right? I think that the school has proven that it is willing to spend money on athletics. Plus, with (Jeff) Godfrey at quarterback, I think this team has the potential to be good for the next three years.

Adelson writes: O'Leary isn't going anywhere. What happened with his resume at Notre Dame is going to give a high profile school pause. I think he will be UCF's coach until whenever he decides to retire, and I do agree the Knights are in good shape for the future.

Dustin in Meridian, Idaho, writes: Could you see the Big 12 adding Boise State in the near future? I know that they are joining the MWC, but I know BSU would ditch the MWC for the Big 12 any day. BSU would do very well in the Big 12 North.

Adelson writes: Nope, not going to happen.

Matt in Boise, Idaho, writes: Why do you believe that Boise State University President Robert Kustra and Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee are speaking out about college football topics and the presidents are not leaving it to their ADs to discuss with the media?

Adelson writes: Presidents have a lot of say in what happens with the BCS, not just athletic directors and conference commissioners. Gee was asked a question in an interview, and I don't think he realized the firestorm he was about to create. Kustra just fired back. I just think both felt the need to defend their schools. But if you are going to defend your school, you should at least sound educated about athletics.

Michael in Burlington, N.C., writes: I was wondering if you could try 2 things for me? 1. Give some more love to Dominique Davis and Dwayne Harris from ECU. They are amazing and their numbers show it. 2. ECU had a down year, but I believe is on the rise. They need some exposure. Granted they haven't deserved much this season. But we need your help to get some love!

Adelson writes: Maybe you missed my story on Davis earlier this year. I know it was a while ago, but hey it counts for something, right? I try my best to hit as many players/teams as I can so stay tuned.

O'Leary wins C-USA coaching award

December, 8, 2010
UCF coach George O'Leary won Conference USA Coach of the Year honors, while East Carolina senior WR/KR/PR Dwayne Harris won the league's Most Valuable Player Award on Wednesday.

In other awards:

Tulsa QB G.J. Kinne was selected Offensive Player of the Year.

UCF DE Bruce Miller was selected Defensive Player of the Year.

Tulsa KR/PR Damaris Johnson was selected Special Teams Player of the Year.

UCF QB Jeff Godfrey was named Freshman of the Year.

East Carolina QB Dominique Davis was named Newcomer of the Year.

Harris set the school single-season records with 1,055 receiving yards and 93 receptions, and averaged 171 all-purpose yards a game. He also became just the second Pirate to ever record over 1,000 receiving yards in a year.

Kinne ranks first in C-USA for total offense (322 ypg) and second for pass efficiency (141.8) and passing yards per game (275.6 ypg). Kinne led Tulsa to the No. 1 ranking in C-USA in rushing offense, scoring offense and total offense. In all, he threw for 3,307 yards and 28 TDs, and has rushed for 557 yards and 7 TDs.

Miller becomes the first C-USA player to win consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards since Adalius Thomas of Southern Miss in 1998-99. Miller owns the UCF career record for sacks with 34. The three-time All-Conference selection has recorded 55 tackles, seven sacks and a team-high 11.5 tackles for loss this season. He also returned two interceptions for touchdowns.

Johnson leads the nation for the second straight year in all-purpose yards with a 191.8-yard per game average. He became the FBS and C-USA record-holder for career kickoff return yards in only his junior year and currently has 3,308 career KOR yards.

Godfrey is is 9-2 as a starter, completing 68.4 percent of his passes, tops among all FBS quarterbacks. Godfrey is 143-of-209 for 2,042 yards and 13 touchdowns with just six interceptions, and also has rushed for 546 yards and 10 scores.

Davis established East Carolina single-season records in touchdown passes (36), attempts (552), completions (358) and passing yards (3,699) this fall. He leads C-USA in passing yards per game (308.2) and stands second in total offensive yards per game (320.1).

O'Leary won his third Conference USA Coach of the Year award. He also was twice named ACC Coach of the Year, giving him five Conference Coach of the Year awards, a figure that trails only South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier (six) and Arizona State’s Dennis Erickson (six) among active FBS coaches. UCF went 10-3 this season, got its first national ranking and won the league championship game.

The awards were selected by the league's 12 head coaches.

NU secondary ready to see Jones again

December, 1, 2010
Nebraska's secondary won't see the same Landry Jones on Saturday, but Jones won't see the same Nebraska secondary, either.

"Last year when we played him, he was a young quarterback just learning the system and everything," defensive back DeJon Gomes said. "One of the biggest things we took away from that game is he’s a competitor and he’s going to do the best he can to get his team into a situation to win."

And one more thing.

[+] EnlargePrince Amukamara
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesPrince Amukamara and the Nebraska secondary have had success against Oklahoma in the past.
"He also likes throwing the ball. That’s good for our secondary," Gomes said.

No kidding. Jones has racked up 527 pass attempts in 2010, in part because of Oklahoma's hurry-up offense and in part to find more success as a sophomore passer.

No quarterback in the Big 12 has more than 500, and Dominique Davis at Eastern Carolina is the only quarterback in America with more attempts than Oklahoma's Jones.

The Blackshirts picked off Jones five times in Lincoln in 2009 -- including three by departed safety Matt O'Hanlon -- though Huskers coach Bo Pelini tossed a wet blanket on talk of that game having any relevance over a year later.

"It's a different time, different place, different offense, new challenges," Pelini said. "The furthest thing from my mind is what happened in that game last year."

What does matter is what's happened this year. Nebraska has put together the No. 2 pass defense in the country, allowing just 144 yards a game. Jones averages almost 330 a game, good for No. 3 nationally.

"It’s going to be an exciting game, especially with them having one of the top offenses in the country and us priding ourself on defense," Gomes said. "It’ll be a fun one to watch."

If history repeats itself, it'll be a lot more fun for Huskers fans than Oklahoma fans when it comes to passing the ball. On the way to that No. 2 ranking, the Nebraska secondary has ruined the days of a handful of good quarterbacks. A sampling:
Only Iowa State's Austen Arnaud, Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill at Texas A&M managed decent days against the secondary. Part of Weeden's success was in finding receiver Justin Blackmon, one of the nation's best, for 135 of his 283 yards and both touchdowns. Only Tannehill got a victory with his success, however moderate (19-29, 172 yards).

Jones has another of the nation's best receivers, Ryan Broyles, to throw to, but even Broyles could only manage eight catches for 74 yards in 2009, one of his lowest outputs of the season while healthy.

"They have a trigger man who can get the ball to everybody," Pelini said of Jones. "They stretch the field on you. It's a good challenge for us."

It could be an even bigger challenge for Jones.

East Carolina becomes bowl eligible

November, 12, 2010
East Carolina became bowl eligible in a game that has become typical of the Pirates this season -- a good ol' shootout.

Dominique Davis threw for 331 yards and five touchdowns, and East Carolina rallied for the 54-42 win over UAB on Thursday night in front of a very sparse crowd in Birmingham.

The Pirates (6-4) are bowl eligible for the fifth straight season, and you have to give them much credit for making it this far. Facing a huge rebuilding project and playing for a new coach in Ruffin McNeill, the Pirates may not have looked pretty this season, but they have made it into a bowl.

Against UAB, East Carolina was able to overcome the embarrassment of giving up 76 points the week before to Navy and snap a two-game losing streak. As usual, Davis starred for the Pirates. The game turned in the fourth quarter, when the Pirates outscored the Blazers 27-7. Davis gave East Carolina a 48-42 lead with 5:48 to go after throwing an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Williams, and running in the two-point conversion.

This was a big win, a character win,”McNeill said afterward. “We had two tough losses, really four. It's been a very physical year, and defensively we lost three guys to season-ending injuries. With our kids, the next guy picks up the flag.”

Davis, meanwhile, is turning in a season worthy of Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year honors.

Davis now has 31 touchdown passes and 3,077 yards this season, setting the East Carolina single-season record for both. Jeff Blake held both previous marks -- 28 touchdown passes and 3,073 yards in 1991. Davis and Blake are the only two quarterbacks in school history to throw for more than 3,000 yards.

Overall this year, East Carolina has scored 382 points, 21 shy of the school-record 403 set by the 2007 team.

The Pirates are 5-1 in league play and has an outside shot at the East Division. They need to win out and have UCF (7-2, 5-0) lose two of its final three to win the division. UCF hosts Southern Miss on Saturday. Conference USA now has five teams that are bowl eligible.