NCF Nation: FAU

Lunchtime Links

November, 10, 2010
More midweek MAC football coming up. Tonight: Miami (Ohio) at Bowling Green. I will take Miami, 24-20.

Now on to some links:

Boise State's defensive line has been key this season.

Gary Patterson is in demand, and that's good for TCU.

Utah linebacker J.J. Williams finally makes his return from a lingering foot injury.

Nevada wide receiver Rishard Matthews is hitting his stride.

There is a chance Southern Miss wide receiver DeAndre Brown could play against UCF.

Is running the football the best option for UAB against East Carolina?

Houston linebacker Matt Nicholson suffered another knee injury, ending his season and career.

The WAC could add Texas-San Antonio, Texas State and Denver as early as today.

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun deflected talk about the Colorado opening.

FAU is not proud of its poor offensive production.

Injuries have hit Middle Tennessee -- both starting cornerbacks could be out Saturday.

Non-AQ bowl look

November, 9, 2010
You saw my bowl projections from Sunday. Now here is a breakdown of the teams that have a shot at becoming bowl eligible this weekend.

Conference USA

Already eligible: UCF, Tulsa, Southern Miss, UTEP.

Vying for a spot: East Carolina, SMU and Houston each have five wins. The Pirates are hoping to bounce back after an embarrassing 76-45 loss to Navy at UAB. Houston hosts Tulsa in an important West division game, while SMU is off. SMU, Houston and Tulsa each have two league losses. SMU already beat Tulsa but lost to Houston. If there is a three-way tie atop the division when the season ends, the first tiebreaker is overall record to determine who plays in the Conference USA title game.

On the other end of the spectrum: Tulane (3-6), Marshall (3-6) and UAB (3-6) have to win out. Rice (2-7) and Memphis (1-8) have been eliminated.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Six.


Already eligible: Temple, Toledo, Ohio and Northern Illinois.

Vying for a spot: Miami (Ohio) is 5-4 and has a great shot at becoming bowl eligible in the next two weeks with games at Bowling Green (2-7) on Wednesday and at Akron (0-10) on Nov. 17. Kent State (4-5) needs to win two of its final three against Army (5-4), Western Michigan (3-6) and Ohio (7-3).

On the other end of the spectrum: Western Michigan has to win out. Buffalo, Central Michigan, Bowling Green, Akron, Eastern Michigan and Ball State are out.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Three.

Mountain West

Already eligible: TCU, San Diego State, Air Force, Utah.

Vying for a spot: BYU (4-5) plays at Colorado State in a critical must-win before closing against New Mexico and Utah.

On the other end of the spectrum: Colorado State, Wyoming, UNLV and New Mexico have been eliminated.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Five.

Sun Belt

Already eligible: No one.

Vying for a spot: Troy (5-3) is the only team with five wins. A home win against FIU on Saturday gets the Trojans bowl eligible. ULM (4-5) and Arkansas State (4-5) have to win two of three. The Warhawks have LSU, North Texas and Louisiana. Arkansas State has Western Kentucky, Navy and FIU.

On the other end of the spectrum: FIU, Middle Tennessee and FAU are each 3-5. The Blue Raiders may have the easiest road with games against North Texas, Western Kentucky, FAU and FIU remaining. FAU has Troy and Texas on its schedule. FIU also has tough games against Troy, Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee. North Texas, Louisiana and Western Kentucky have been eliminated.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Two.


Already eligible: Boise State, Hawaii, Nevada, Fresno State. Hawaii has accepted an invite to the Hawaii Bowl.

Vying for a spot: Idaho (4-5) has to win three of four against Boise State, Utah State, Fresno State and San Jose State. Since the Vandals have a 13-game schedule, they have to get to seven wins. Louisiana Tech and Utah State are both 3-6 and have to win out. The Bulldogs have New Mexico State, San Jose State and Nevada. Utah State has San Jose State, Idaho and Boise State.

On the other end of the spectrum: New Mexico State and San Jose State (1-8) have been eliminated.

Guaranteed bowl spots: Four.


Navy (6-3) became eligible for the Poinsettia Bowl. Army (5-4) needs one more win with games left against Kent State, Notre Dame and Navy. Army does not have an automatic bowl tie-in this year, but has backup agreements with the Armed Forces Bowl and Military Bowl. Notre Dame (4-5) needs two more wins with games remaining against Utah, Army and USC.

Non-AQ weekend rewind: Week 9

November, 1, 2010
Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 9.

[+] EnlargeTulsa
Matt Cashore/US PresswireTulsa barely edged out Notre Dame in a historic win for the school.
The good: The BCS standings feature three non-AQ teams ranked in the Top 5 for the first time ever -- No. 3 TCU, No. 4 Boise State and No. 5 Utah. TCU or Utah will be out after their game this weekend. But they preserved their big matchup with wins this past weekend. … Tulsa won at Notre Dame 28-27. Though the Irish are struggling and Dayne Crist got hurt, the Golden Hurricane still posted one of the biggest wins in program history. Even coach Todd Graham said he wanted his players to remember the feeling to carry on the rest of the way. They need one more win to become bowl eligible. “This was such a team win, and it's really pulled our team together,” Graham told The Tulsa World. “We needed that.”

Army is also one win away from becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 1996, but what most people talked about afterward -- the camouflaged uniforms they wore.

FAU snapped a five-game losing streak with a 21-9 win over FIU in the “Shula Bowl.” The Owls held the Panthers without a touchdown for the first time all season.

The bad: Plenty of letdowns on Saturday. Western Kentucky went from scoring 54 points in its first win of the season to just six in a loss to North Texas. “It was a total embarrassment out there,” coach Willie Taggart said.

Navy went from a win over Notre Dame to a loss to Duke.

Sun Belt leader Troy had its 13-game Sun Belt winning streak snapped in a 28-14 loss at ULM. It was Troy’s third consecutive loss at Malone Stadium, which accounts for almost half of the Trojans’ eight league losses since the start of the 2005 season. Troy is 3-1 in conference and still atop the standings, but the door has been opened for somebody else to try and break its stranglehold on the league title.

UTEP lost its third in a row, dropping another road game to Marshall. Central Michigan lost its sixth straight, officially eliminating it from bowl contention.

The heartache: San Jose State has had its share of injury problems, losing one starter after another for the season. But the Spartans have not thrown in the towel, and nearly pulled off a come-from-behind win over New Mexico State on Saturday. Though both teams entered the game with one win, this was one of the most entertaining games of the weekend. San Jose State trailed 17-3 but came on strong in the second half. The Spartans took the lead with 3:47 to go when Jordan La Secla threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Jalal Beauchman. But New Mexico State had the last say. Taveon Rogers caught an 8-yard touchdown pass as time expired to win 29-27. Perhaps the difference in the game: New Mexico State kicker Tyler Stampler made three field goals; San Jose State kicker Harrison Waid missed three.

The off balance: Talk about a dramatic turn of events for Navy. Coach Ken Niumatalolo worried about a letdown after a big win over Notre Dame, but he could not have envisioned his defense folding. Duke quarterback Sean Renfree threw for 314 yards and had only two incomplete passes. The Navy defense came into the game tied for 15th in the country in pass defense (174 ypg) and 19th in scoring defense (18 pg). It was the first time all year the Midshipmen gave up more than 27 points. Four of their previous seven opponents had scored fewer than 20 points.

A few more helmet stickers for career marks: Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs became the school’s career scoring leader (266 points) and all-time rushing touchdowns leader (44) in a 34-31 loss to Duke. … With 326 passing yards against Idaho, Bryant Moniz became the fifth quarterback in school history to surpass 3,000 passing yards in a season, joining Colt Brennan, Timmy Chang, Dan Robinson and Nick Rolovich. … Ohio quarterback Boo Jackson set the school record for touchdown passes (32) in a 38-31 win over Louisiana.

A few injury items to note: Toledo quarterback Austin Dantin is out three to four weeks with a shoulder/collarbone injury, leaving the starting quarterback job to Terrance Owens. The backup did a mighty fine job against Eastern Michigan after Dantin got hurt, throwing four touchdown passes in the 42-7 win. But we’ll see how he does against tougher competition next Tuesday, when the Rockets play Northern Illinois in a critical West Division game. Both teams are 5-0 in league play. … San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley sprained his ankle against Wyoming but should be able to play this week. … Nevada running back Vai Taua sat out the game against Utah State with a sprained ankle, but coach Chris Ault said he could have played.

Week 10 look ahead: Do we need to even go here? No. 3 TCU at No. 5 Utah takes center stage not just for the non-AQs but for the entire nation as well. We all wait and see whether this can be the year a team from outside the power conferences can make it into the BCS national title game. No. 4 Boise State has a big home game against surging Hawaii (7-2), the first team in the nation to accept a bowl bid. Air Force (5-4) travels to Army (5-3). A win here would clinch the Commander-In-Chief Trophy. Navy has won the past seven. Another big Conference USA game between division leaders: UCF at Houston.

Non-AQ Tricks and Treats

October, 29, 2010
Halloween time means we get to take a look at some of the tricks and treats the non-AQs have delivered so far this season. Have fun with this, and come up with some of your own in the comments section.

[+] EnlargeB.R. Holbrook
AP Photo/Rick BowmerNew Mexico did little right when it suffered a horrifying 72-0 loss against Oregon this season.
Scary movie: The worst loss of the season has to go to New Mexico, falling 72-0 to Oregon. The Lobos had eight first downs, 108 yards of total offense and trailed 59-0 at halftime. Did we mention that Oregon racked up 720 yards of total offense? The 72-point win for Oregon stands as the largest in school history over an FBS school. Not even FCS Portland State gave up that many points or yards to Oregon this year (though it did come close in the 69-0 loss).

Nightmare in Bronco Stadium: Yes, Boise State never loses at home, but watch out for Hawaii next week as a game that poses a threat to a contender. The Warriors are playing lights out football, and the Broncos have been less than impressive in the secondary this season. This one could impact the race for the national championship. On the other hand, the last time Boise State lost at home was to Washington State 42-20 on Sept. 8, 2001.

Boo (Boo): San Jose State and North Texas have been hit with major injuries, each losing at least 10 significant contributors for the season. But there is no bigger injury than the one Houston has had to overcome. Heisman Trophy candidate Case Keenum tore his ACL in the third game of the season and is out for the year. Backup Cotton Turner went out for the season in the same game. Houston has gone 2-2 without them and still stands atop the West Division of Conference USA. But it has been trying to deal with the huge loss of Keenum, who was poised to break the NCAA career passing record.

Night of the living dead: BYU is so not playing like BYU this season. The Cougars are 3-5 and are on the brink of failing to make a bowl game for the first time since 2004. The offense has looked like the living dead, ranking No. 106 in the nation. Spooky stuff in Provo.

Jigsaw team: San Diego State has put the pieces of the puzzle together in the second season under coach Brady Hoke and is one win away from being bowl eligible for the first time since 1998. The running game is working with Ronnie Hillman, and that has allowed the play-action to work with Ryan Lindley, DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown. The defense has played well, too. The Aztecs (5-2) have matched their best start in the past 14 seasons. To think they are two blown calls from being undefeated. Enough to make you scream, right Aztecs fans?

Halloween costumes: Time to play dress up. What would some of these guys go dressed up as on Halloween?

TCU coach Gary Patterson as Oregon coach Chip Kelly. Because seriously, those guys look so much alike with their visors on, they could have been switched at birth.

Boise State coach Chris Petersen as a scarecrow. You know, because he scares off teams from power conferences.

Utah punt returner Shaky Smithson as Zorro. You have to love the way he slices and dices through punt return units.

Temple coach Al Golden as a zombie. Nothing like bringing a program back from the dead.

FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger as Colonel Sanders. Anybody else see the resemblance?

Eastern Michigan coach Ron English and Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart as conquering heroes. Hey, they both ended long losing streaks this year.

Twilight Zone: You know Bowling Green would love a do-over. A year after going bowling, the Falcons are 1-7. Three of their losses are by three points or less. Quarterback Matt Schilz has been banged up, and the young team has not been able to come together. Of course, Akron (0-8) and New Mexico (0-7) probably wish this nightmare of a season would end. Now.

Lunchtime Links

October, 28, 2010
Anybody else fired up for Florida State vs. N.C. State? Join me and ACC blogger Heather Dinich tonight as we live chat the game.

Now on to some links:

The Boise State secondary is in for some tough challenges in the weeks ahead.

The Utah defensive line is eager to face Air Force.

If you have yet to see the rant from the FAU announcer over a hit in last week's game against Arkansas State, you MUST.

The Army-Navy game won't play into the final BCS standings.

TCU nose tackle Kelly Griffin is out for the rest of the regular season with a broken ankle, testing the Horned Frogs' depth on the defensive line.

Air Force has another option on fourth down thanks to Tim Jefferson's punting abilities.

Houston safety Jacky Candy hits hard.

Back-to-back losses have SMU searching for answers.

Two punters are better than one at Middle Tennessee.

UCF quarterback Jeff Godfrey and East Carolina's Dominique Davis are trying not to put too much pressure on their upcoming game.

Buffalo defensive back Domonic Cook is making a big impact.

Non-AQ Picks: Week 9

October, 28, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

My picks in Week 8 were back to being decent, and I got one of my two upset specials right. Navy beat Notre Dame to help me get to 7-3, but did anyone expect the Midshipmen to win that decisively? Not I said the cat.

With a 50-34 overall record, I am ready for what Week 9 has to bring. I think.

On to the picks!

No. 4 TCU 41, UNLV 3. The Horned Frogs keep on rolling in their first road game since Oct. 2 against Colorado State. Keep in mind they won that game 27-0 after some struggles on offense. Andy Dalton is going to have to play well on the road for TCU to have any shot at staying undefeated. TCU has outscored its Mountain West opponents 141-10.

No. 8 Utah 31, Air Force 13. This game is usually really tight, but not this year. After a good first quarter, Air Force struggled to move the ball against TCU last week and had its lowest rushing output of the season. Utah has one of the more unheralded defenses in the nation, and ranks in the Top 10 in the nation in scoring D, total D and rush D.

No. 24 Nevada 35, Utah State 13. The Wolf Pack return to the field after a week off, hoping to erase the sting of their first loss of the season. Colin Kaepernick had four turnovers in that loss to Hawaii, and is going to have to be mistake-free for Nevada to have a shot at winning the rest of its games. Coach Chris Ault said his team had physical practices leading up to this game, and is eager to see how it responds. Utah State has scored 13 points in its past two games.

UCF 27, East Carolina 24. The Pirates own this series, having won four straight and eight of nine. But UCF gets the edge here because it’s at home and has the best defense in Conference USA. The Knights haven’t faced an offense quite as potent as this one, but the defensive line is playing outstanding and should be able to pressure Dominique Davis into making mistakes.

Hawaii 45, Idaho 17. Hawaii is playing lights out football, and should clinch a bowl berth into the Hawaii Bowl with a win over the hard-to-read Vandals, who have alternated wins and losses this season. They won last week, so a loss must be in the stars. The Warriors have scored 40-plus points in four of their past five games, and present a big challenge to Boise State on Nov. 6.

UPSET SPECIAL Tulsa 33, Notre Dame 30. Yup, two weeks in a row I am going to pick Notre Dame to lose in my upset special. No, Tulsa doesn’t run the triple option, but the Golden Hurricane have an offense capable of racking up yards and points. Notre Dame is going to have to find an answer for the trio of Damaris Johnson, Trae Johnson and Charles Clay.

Central Michigan 33, Bowling Green 17. Talk about disappointment. Both teams made bowl games last season and are now floundering. The Falcons have already been eliminated from bowl contention. Meanwhile, the Chippewas have lost five straight, but get the edge behind Ryan Radcliff, Kito Poblah and Nick Bellore.

Western Kentucky 30, North Texas 28. Can it be true? Two in a row for the Hilltoppers? After breaking their 26-game losing streak last week, Western Kentucky returns home to play a team that just fired its head coach and is on its fourth-string quarterback (though there is hope Riley Dodge can play). They came awfully close to a win earlier this month, so the improvement is there for the Hilltoppers.

FIU 24, FAU 20. One thing you have come to expect from the “Shula Bowl” -- an FAU win. The Owls lead the series between the rivals 7-0, although the lone FIU win in 2005 was vacated due to NCAA sanctions. FIU is flat out better this season. FAU has lost five straight, and its lone win came in the opener on the final play of the game.

Colorado State 44, New Mexico 20. The Rams have shown glimpses of an offense this season behind true freshman quarterback Pete Thomas, although he has been on his back more often than he probably likes. The Rams have given up 29 sacks this season, but should be able to do enough to protect Thomas against one of the worst teams in the country.

Lunchtime Links

October, 20, 2010
Another coach has joined Tim Brewster on the unemployment line. North Texas said good bye to Todd Dodge today. You kinda knew it was only a matter of time.

Now on to some more headlines of the day:

TCU coach Gary Patterson wants a special effort from his defense against Air Force.

The possibility lurks that UCF could play the Gators in the Liberty Bowl.

Utah kicker Joe Phillips is in the middle of a history-making run, overcoming personal tragedy along the way.

Air Force fullback Nathan Walker is ready for his opportunitywith Jared Tew out.

Can Hawaii be a giant killer in three weeks?

San Diego State defensive coordinator Rocky Long is staying mum leading up to the Aztecs' game against his former team, New Mexico.

FAU's inexperienced offensive line has been a problem all season.

Kent State quarterback Spencer Keith has been inconsistent, but coach Doug Martin gave him a vote of confidence this week.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

October, 11, 2010
Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 6.

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
AP Photo/Jeffery WashingtonTCU quarterback Andy Dalton has been outstanding at home this season.
The good: The elite non-AQ teams have done their jobs midway through the season. TCU put together an impressive 45-0 win. Quarterback Andy Dalton, who has been up and down this season, was 14-of-17 for 270 yards with three touchdowns. In three home games this season, Dalton is 50-of-61 (82 percent) for 719 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. … Utah trailed Iowa State 14-10, but then the second quarter started. The Utes outscored the Cyclones 31-0 and have now outscored opponents an eye-popping 101-7 in the second quarter this season. … Bryant Moniz continues his incredible rise. He came to Hawaii as a walk-on last season, and now is leading the country with 2,245 passing yards – the only quarterback with more than 2,000 yards so far this season. Hawaii has the top ranked passing offense in the country. Greg Salas leads the country in receiving yards, and teammate Kealoha Pilares ranks third. … UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe set new school career records for touchdown throws (89), passing yards (11,260) and total offensive yards (11,117).

The bad: Ball State coach Stan Parrish said his team played one of the worst games since he became head coach, in a 45-16 loss to Western Michigan. His team fumbled the opening kickoff, then had an interception returned for a touchdown on the second series. It was downhill from there, with three more turnovers erasing any chance to win. … Utah State had one of its best wins a week ago against BYU, beating its in-state rival 31-16. But the Aggies had their worst game of the season on Saturday in a 24-6 loss to Louisiana Tech. They had just 73 yards passing and 195 total yards of offense, a week after racking up 434 yards of total offense against the Cougars. Coach Gary Andersen said his team is much better at handling adversity than success.

The heartache: FAU fought back from a 12-0 deficit to take a 20-17 lead against ULM. But a fumbled snap gave ULM the ball at its own 45 with 4:51 remaining. Kolton Browning led the team down the field, and Jyruss Edwards ran for a 5-yard touchdown with 2:43 remaining, handing the Owls their fourth straight loss. … New Mexico clung to a 14-13 lead over in-state rival New Mexico State, but Stump Godfrey fumbled late, setting up Tyler Stamper’s 22-yard field goal to win it for the Aggies. New Mexico turned the ball over four times, and leads the nation with 20 turnovers this season. … San Jose State might have lost 35-13 to Nevada, but it was the first game all season where the Spartans didn’t lose a player to a season-ending injury. Those injuries have taken a toll, but so has the brutal start to the season, with games at Alabama, Wisconsin, Utah and Nevada.

A few more helmet stickers: Nevada defensive end Dontay Moch and running back Vai Taua have had excellent back-to-back games. Moch has a combined 18 tackles, eight tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble in the past two games, and Taua has 35 carries for 382 yards and eight total touchdowns (seven rushing, one receiving). … Air Force cornerback Reggie Rembert had a season-high seven tackles, an interception, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery in a 49-27 win against Colorado State. … In his first college game, North Texas kicker Zach Olen was perfect on all five of his kicks against Arkansas State, making 4-0f-4 field goals and his only extra-point attempt.

A few injury items to note: Toledo quarterback Austin Dantin is questionable after being carted off the field in a loss to Boise State last week. Dantin took a hard hit following a run in the fourth quarter and was motionless on the field, but coach Tim Beckman said his quarterback was coherent and he was put on a stretcher as a precautionary measure. Terrance Owens would get the nod if Dantin can’t play. … Temple offensive lineman Steve Caputo (leg) is out for the season. Ohio has lost its two best players -- receiver LaVon Brazill (leg) is out for the season, and linebacker Noah Keller (foot) is doubtful to return this season. North Texas quarterback Riley Dodge (wrist) will have a pin inserted in his broken wrist, and the team is hoping he can return as early as Oct. 30 against Western Kentucky.

Week 7 look ahead: There are some really interesting games in the Mountain West and WAC. Nevada is at Hawaii in a matchup of contrasting offenses. The Wolf Pack love to run, the Warriors love to pass. This is going to be a very big test for Nevada, no question. Air Force plays at San Diego State to start a brutal four-game stretch. Following that game, the Falcons are at TCU, home to Utah then at Army. BYU is at TCU, and there might not be any love lost here. TCU coach Gary Patterson was critical of the Cougars’ move to go independent before the season started.

Lunchtime Links

October, 1, 2010
All hail, October, hail.

The stress of a losing season has taken a toll on Utah State coach Gary Andersen, who blacked out, hit the floor and lost consciousness at his home on Monday. Andersen must wear a neck brace for the next five weeks.

Meanwhile, the season is on the line for BYU going into its game against Utah State on Friday.

Boise State players relish their turn on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

TCU safety Colin Jones puts winning first.

Nevada running back Mike Ball will miss the UNLV game as he sits out a two-game suspension.

Air Force used Navy as motivation to get through grueling offseason workouts, hoping to end a seven-game losing streak to the Midshipmen.

Despite an 0-4 start, Mike Locksley is upbeat about his New Mexico team.

Tulsa freshman defensive back Marco Nelson is off to a fast start.

FAU has suspended four players for the game against USF for conduct "detrimental to the team."

Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish overcomes the doubts.

UAB coming up just short

September, 28, 2010
Three of its games have been decided on the final play. Only one went its way. So how does a team move on from that type of heartbreak?

For UAB coach Neil Callaway, it is all about trying to accentuate the positives. His team has competed hard. It has never given up. The effort has been there. If a few plays had gone differently ... but there are no ifs in college football, of course.

So the Blazers are 1-3 heading into their bye week, before a big game at East Division rival UCF on Oct. 6.

“What we’re going to do is take the high road and try to build off the positive and build off the fact that guys are playing hard,” Callaway said in a phone interview. “There’s some satisfaction in competing and playing hard, but there’s no satisfaction coming up on the short end. If we got into a game where we didn’t compete and we didn’t try, that would be more troublesome.”

[+] EnlargeBryan Ellis
Marvin Gentry/US PresswireBryan Ellis has performed well since taking over the starting quarterback job.
The latest setback happened in Knoxville, a 32-29 double-overtime loss that featured five missed field goals from Josh Zahn. Callaway has opened up his kicking competition this week between Zahn and punter Trey Ragland. The two competed for the field goal job in fall camp, but Zahn won it.

Zahn is 3-of-9 on his field goal attempts this season. That also includes a block on a 28-yard attempt that would have won the season opener against FAU. The Owls were able to get penetration, but the kick never got up high enough.

Callaway said Zahn is doing fine, but disappointed over his misses. He pointed out that Zahn was able to make his two field goals in overtime, showing his mettle as a competitor.

Still, it has to be tough to swallow a loss in which you have a school-record 92 plays and outgain the Vols 544-287. The same could be said of the game against the Owls. UAB outgained them 424-347, had more first downs, and quarterback David Isabelle ran for three touchdowns and 214 yards. UAB led the entire way, until FAU scored on a 38-yard run with 2:20 left in the game.

UAB was able to pull out a 34-33 win over Troy when Bryan Ellis threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Jackie Williams on the final play of the game to win. The 99-yard drive started with 1:09 left and UAB without timeouts.

The only game that was not close on the scoreboard was a 28-7 loss to SMU, but even then UAB had chances. Trailing 14-7 late in second quarter, UAB drove 75 yards to the SMU 1-yard line but failed to score before the half ended.

Then, UAB opened the second half and drove 74 yards. Isabelle hit Frantrell Forrest for an apparent 50-yard touchdown, but Forrest fumbled at the goal line and SMU recovered in the end zone for a touchback.

“It’s obvious we can compete and play with anybody and we’ve made that statement all along,” Callaway said. “For a team like us, there’s not much room for margin of error. We’re not better than anybody hands down, but we’re good enough to compete and win every ballgame we play. If we continue to play hard, we can win a lot of ballgames.”

One of the biggest positives of the first four games has been the play of Ellis, who has now taken the starting job from Isabelle. Ellis came in off the bench against Troy and threw for 360 yards and three touchdowns. He followed that up with another big game against Tennessee, and has thrown for 733 yards in two games -- earning back-to-back Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week honors.

Ellis provides a change of pace to what fans have seen out of UAB in recent years behind Joe Webb, a dual-threat quarterback. Isabelle is more in the mold of Webb, but Ellis is a pocket passer.

His story is even more impressive when you consider he did not play his first two seasons because of a shoulder injury. In his only action last season, Ellis went 1-of-4 for 14 yards but injured his hand and was limited the rest of the year.

Callaway will continue to play Isabelle to change up his offense, and likes the 1-2 punch his quarterback gives his team.

“The diversity we have with it creates problems for defenses,” Callaway said.

Now it is just a matter of putting everything together and winning those close games.

Non-AQ Predictions: Week 4

September, 23, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

My picks in Week 3 were the best yet. 9-3! Maybe I am getting the hang of this. With a 21-13 overall record, I am picking up steam with full-tilt conference play around the corner.

On to the picks!

BYU 31, Nevada 30. My upset special of the week. The Cougars have given us little reason to believe they can win this game, with the anemic offense and the way it has performed in two straight losses. Nevada, meanwhile, is coming off a huge win over California and has super stud Colin Kaepernick. But the Wolf Pack are going on the road for the first time this season, and BYU finally will have one quarterback playing. Jake Heaps is a true freshman, but this team is in desperate need of a leader, and having one quarterback will begin to help the offense get better. BYU has started 1-3 just once under Mendenhall. The Cougars started 1-2 in 2006 and 2007 -- both times they ended up winning 10 straight.

Boise State 34, Oregon State 21. This is the second of three games for Boise State against a team from an automatic qualifying conference and another opportunity to prove it deserves to be in the national championship conversation. The atmosphere should be wild. The Boise State defense has been impressive in its first two games, and should be able to put enough pressure on Ryan Katz and slow down Jacquizz Rodgers.

TCU 38, SMU 17. The Battle for the Iron Skillet resumes in Dallas, where SMU has asked its fans to wear red for a “Red Out” in the nationally televised game Friday night. The Mustangs are vastly improved, but they are no match for TCU, coming off its best game of the season. Watch for SMU to try and attack cornerback Greg McCoy, the way other teams have so far. Even still, the TCU defensive line could have a big game against a team that has already given up 10 sacks this season.

Ole Miss 24, Fresno State 20. The Bulldogs have won six of their last eight games against AQ teams, but they are 0-3 against the SEC. This is their first trip into Mississippi, and it comes at a really inopportune time. Why? Because Ole Miss finds itself 1-2 with losses to Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt. You can bet the Rebels will be extra motivated to win this one. Fresno State has played well defensively this year but faces its biggest challenge against Jeremiah Masoli.

Marshall 33, Ohio 20. Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl redux! The Herd won their matchup in December, and this is as close to a must-win as you can get so early in the season. It’s not a conference game, but Marshall is 0-3 and in desperate need of a shot of confidence going into conference play. Ohio, meanwhile, still is shuffling its quarterback and has gotten little generated in the way of offense, ranking 119th in the country.

Minnesota 20, Northern Illinois 19. The Huskies played better against Illinois last week and almost had a chance to win. But until they can get Chad Spann going, it is going to be tough to win these games against non-AQ teams. The Gophers have looked shaky, and there is talk that coach Tim Brewster is on the hot seat. They cannot afford to lose this game.

San Diego State 27, Utah State 20. The Aztecs could be 3-0 if not for a block in the back that went unnoticed on Missouri’s game-winning touchdown catch last week. They are running the ball this season more effectively thanks to the contributions of freshman Ronnie Hillman. That has made Ryan Lindley better, too. The Aggies have had nothing but close calls in their two losses. This is going to be another one.

FAU 24, North Texas 10. The Owls go into the game off a bye week and face a team reeling because of injuries. The Mean Green must start their third different quarterback after losing their top two for the season with injuries. Riley Dodge returns to start. Eight other starters have been lost for the season as well. A season that started with coach Todd Dodge on the hot season has only gotten tougher.

Air Force 28, Wyoming 13. Air Force put up a valiant effort against Oklahoma, falling just short of the upset. Its offense is humming with the triple option right now, and the defense is playing well, too. The Falcons were able to slow down Landry Jones last week and should have the same success against Austyn Carta-Samuels this week.

Houston 30, Tulane 10. The Cougars survive Week 1 in the post-Case Keenum era, but mainly because they play the overmatched Green Wave. True freshman Terrance Broadway gets the nod, and there is no question he is going to need help from his supporting cast. He handled himself well against UCLA last week when Keenum and backup Cotton Turner went down for the season with injuries. It may be a good thing he gets to start against Tulane. After a bye week, Houston hosts Mississippi State.
Houston quarterback Case Keenum is done for the year, but is he done for his career? There is a possibility the prolific quarterback could appeal to the NCAA for a medical hardship redshirt and a sixth year of eligibility.

Coach Kevin Sumlin said it was too early to consider such a possibility, which would appear to be a long-shot based on recent decisions the NCAA has made with other players. Under NCAA rules, a student-athlete has five years to complete four years of eligibility. Student-athletes can apply for the sixth year of eligibility should they lose more than a season for reasons beyond their control. Since Keenum took the typical redshirt season as a freshman, Houston could have difficulty making the case.

Here is a look at some of the recent waivers the NCAA has granted, and some it has rejected. Keep in mind each appeal is handled on a case by case basis:


FAU senior running back Jeff Blanchard got a sixth year because he suffered season-ending injuries in 2007 (ankle) and 2009 (knee).

Kent State running back Eugene Jarvis was granted a sixth year after a lacerated kidney forced him to miss nearly all of 2009. He was redshirted as a freshman because an error with his high school grades had him declared academically ineligible.

South Carolina LB Rodney Paulk had his waiver granted after missing most of the past two seasons with knee injuries.

USF running back Moise Plancher was granted a sixth year because he did lose two seasons to injury. He redshirted his freshman year because of a shoulder injury in 2005, then the following season he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener.

Arizona State WR Brandon Smith got his sixth year of eligibility. He missed the 2007 and 2009 seasons because of injuries.


Ball State TE Madaris Grant had his appeal denied. Grant tore an ACL in the first quarter of the season opener last season against North Texas. Coach Stan Parrish said that the appeal was rejected because the NCAA requires two severe injuries for a sixth year. Grant redshirted his freshman year without injury.

Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk had his appeal denied. Mauk was redshirted as a freshman, then missed almost all the 2006 season with a shoulder injury. He argued he did have an injury in his redshirt season, but the NCAA still said no.

Oregon State QB Lyle Moevao had his appeal rejected. Moevao injured his right shoulder during the 2008 season, then suffered a foot injury in October 2009. The school said his appeal was denied, “due to him not demonstrating the loss of two seasons beyond his control."

Florida RB Dorian Munroe had his appeal denied despite tearing his ACL last year for the second time in his career. The NCAA turned down the appeal because he played in a game in 2009.
Florida Atlantic had its plans for an on-campus stadium approved Thursday, and the school hopes to begin play there next season.

[+] EnlargeFlorida Atlantic
Florida AtlanticA rendering of the on-campus stadium approved for Florida Atlantic.
The Florida Board of Governors unanimously approved the plans for the 30,000-seat stadium to be built at the Boca Raton, Fla., school. The university still needs to close a loan of $45 million to cover most of the costs of the $70 million stadium. About $20 million came from non-academic university reserves.

The stadium is to feature 20 luxury suites -- with ocean views -- along with 1,000 club seats. Construction is expected to begin in October and is anticipated to be finished next fall, in time for the start of the season.

FAU has played in various places while coach Howard Schnellenberger worked hard to get an on-campus stadium built since the program kicked off its first season 10 years ago. FAU once had a home at Sun Life Stadium, where the Dolphins, Marlins and Hurricanes play. The Owls currently play at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, a former soccer stadium that also hosts high school football games.

The FAU stadium site is part of a larger village on campus that will feature dorms, restaurants and shops.

This is a good step for FAU, but it remains to be seen whether an on-campus stadium can elevate the program. Attendance ranked No. 110 last season, with an average of 15,326 fans. FAU is still primarily a commuter school, but getting an on-campus stadium, along with the other amenities being built, could begin to change that image.

FAU has played in two bowl games in its short football history, winning both.

“The stadium will provide a wonderful opportunity for us to come together as a community, building traditions and enhancing the university experience,” Schnellenberger said. “The FAU Owls' two-time bowl-winning football team will truly be playing their games before a ‘home’ crowd. It’s an amazing time for the university.”
Here are your non-AQ conference players of the week:

Conference USA

Offense: East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis. He threw for a career-high 383 yards and five touchdowns, along with the 33-yard Hail Mary to Justin Jones in the end zone as time ran out to give the Pirates a 51-49 win over Tulsa. Davis also scored once on the ground. The five passing touchdowns were the most by an East Carolina quarterback since Jeff Blake threw five against Southern Miss on Nov. 9, 1991.

Defense: Tulane LB Trent Mackey. The transfer from Duke made his first career start for Tulane and made a career and game-high 13 tackles, including two stops for minus-8 yards and also forced a fumble against Southeastern Louisiana.

Special teams: SMU K/P Matt Szymanski, who made a school-record 61-yard field goal at Texas Tech. The 61-yarder is the second-longest in C-USA history. He also had a 49.3-yard punt average, the second-highest single-game average of his career.

MAC, East Division

Offense: Kent State QB Spencer Keith. He threw a career-high three touchdown passes and went 24-for-35 for 275 yards in a 41-10 win over Murray State.

Defense: Bowling Green DB Keith Morgan. The junior finished second on the team with 11 tackles and added an interception in the Falcons' 30-27 loss at Troy.

Special teams: Temple K Brandon McManus. The sophomore made a career-high four field goals in a 31-24 win over Villanova, including the game-winning 43-yarder with 3 seconds remaining. He also added a career-long 53-yard field goal, the second-longest field goal in school history.

West Division

Offense: Eastern Michigan RB Dwayne Priest. Ran for a career-best 142 yards on 26 rushes and scored two touchdowns.

Defense: Central Michigan LB Nick Bellore. Had a team-high 11 tackles and one tackle for loss in a 33-0 win over Hampton.

Special teams: Western Michigan P Ben Armer. Averaged 40.9 yards a punt at Michigan State, including a career-matching long 62-yard punt. He also had two punts inside the 20, including one that hit at the 1-yard line and was downed at the 2.

Mountain West

Offense: Utah WR DeVonte Christopher. Caught eight passes for 155 yards and a touchdown to lead Utah to a 27-24 overtime victory over No. 15 Pittsburgh. Christopher had never caught a pass at Utah until Thursday’s game.

Defense: Utah SS Brian Blechen. The true freshman's interception of Tino Sunseri on the first play of overtime helped Utah beat Pittsburgh.

Special teams: BYU P/K Riley Stephenson. Three of his punts landed inside the 15-yard line against Washington. Three of his five kickoffs landed inside the 20.

Sun Belt

Offense: FAU WR Lester Jean. Had two touchdown catches, including a one-handed reception over the top of his head that went 77 yards against UAB.

Defense: Arkansas State DB M.D. Jennings. Had a team-high 11 tackles, career-high 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack, while also forcing one fumble and recovering another against Auburn.

Special teams: FAU DL Michael Lockley. Blocked UAB's 28-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game to give FAU a 32-31 win.

Note: The WAC will announce its players of the week Tuesday, following the Boise State-Virginia Tech game on Monday night.

Lunchtime Links

September, 3, 2010
Utah carried the torch for the non-AQs, but did not exactly look overpowering in doing so. On to some recaps ...

The Utes put the "U" in ugly during win, writes Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune.

It appears Sun Belt officials blew a crucial call late in Middle Tennessee's loss to Minnesota.

Still, there was plenty to build on for the Blue Raiders, playing without Dwight Dasher.

Is South Carolina that good, Southern Miss that bad, or a combination of both?

Idaho posted its first shutout since 1997.

Colin Kaepernick said he played just average in Nevada's win.

Ball State easily won its opener.

Dan Enos won his opener at Central Michigan, the school's first opening-game shutout since 1979. Ryan Radcliff went 20-of-34 for 242 yards and a touchdown.

Spencer Keith had his first three-TD game in Kent State's opener against Murray State.

Jerry Davis proved he has a good grasp of Buffalo's new offense in a win against Rhode Island.

FAU rallied from a 16-point deficit to stun UAB in Birmingham. Included in the comeback was a last-second blocked field goal to preserve the victory.

Plenty for Doc Holliday and Marshall to learn after their 45-7 loss to Ohio State.

Many concerns for Northern Illinois after losing to Iowa State.

Southeastern Louisiana gave Tulane all it could handle.

Hawaii came oh-so-close to USC, but its defense could not get the job done.

Meanwhile, TCU coach Gary Patterson said he "screwed up" in the Fiesta Bowl for allowing his team too many distractions. Players are having their cell phones taken away Friday night to prevent any distractions before Oregon State.

And as a reward for making it this far, I give you a must-read Washington Post magazine feature on Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs.

Other conference links:


Big 12

Big East

Big Ten