NCF Nation: LaVon Brazill

Surprise, surprise: Utah State was in a close game. The Aggies, who have been on both sides of tight contests this season, lost on a last-second touchdown Saturday to Ohio, 24-23 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho. Here's a closer look at how it happened:

Turning point: Facing a fourth-and-6 from the Utah State 14 with 45 seconds left, Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton withstood the Aggies' rush and hit LaVon Brazill near the goal line with 37 seconds left to tie the game. Brazill appeared to lose the ball when landing at the 1 but fell on top of it in the end zone. One official signaled "touchdown," the play was reviewed and the head official announced that the play would stand as a touchdown. Then the officials convened again and announced that the ball had come loose, because of the ground, at the 6-inch line, setting up a first-and-goal for Ohio. Tettleton ran it in two plays later on what appeared to be a broken play, tying the game with 13 seconds left. Matt Weller's extra point put Ohio in front 24-23.

Stat of the game: Utah State's Michael Smith had his second consecutive 100-yard performance, tallying 156 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries. His 63-yard touchdown on Utah State's first drive of the second half gave the Aggies a 16-7 lead and looked to put them in control. The Aggies as a team rushed for 342 yards and averaged 6.8 yards per carry.

Player of the game: Playing through a torn meniscus and having not practiced leading up to the bowl game, Brazill caught eight passes for 108 yards, including the 13-yard grab on fourth down with less than a minute left that set up the winning score.

What it means: Ohio overcame a crushing defeat in the MAC title game to notch its first 10-win season since 1968 and its first bowl victory in six tries. Utah State, meanwhile, saw its five-game winning streak snapped and lost in its first bowl appearance in 14 years. It also missed out on its first eight-win season since 1979. Add the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl to the long list of heartbreakers this season for the Aggies, who also dropped last-second contests to Auburn, Colorado State and BYU.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Keys

December, 16, 2011
You've seen the prediction. Now it's time to look at the keys for Ohio and Utah State in Saturday's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho.

Ohio (9-4)

1. Stop the run. Utah State boasts the nation's No. 6 rushing attack. Linebacker Noah Keller has shown a nose for the ball all season long, specifically with a monster performance in the MAC title game (13 tackles, 0.5 sacks, forced fumble, fumble recovery, interception). A repeat performance here would be bad news for the Aggies.

2. Find LaVon Brazill. Running with so many different players out of the backfield helps when you have a 1,000-yard receiver, which Ohio did this season for the first time in school history. Brazill, the school's all-time leading receiver (2,403 yards), lines up everywhere and can create problems for a Utah State defense that will already have its hands full trying to defend the pistol formation.

3. Leave the past behind. Bowl games often come down to which team is more interested in being there. Ohio led 20-0 at halftime of the MAC title game and was 30 minutes from its first conference title in 43 years before falling to Northern Illinois. The Bobcats must put the bitterness of that defeat behind and not get caught off-guard Saturday by the Aggies.

Utah State (7-5)

1. Be gap-disciplined. Ohio runs its offense out of the pistol formation and has multiple rushing threats, particularly quarterback Tyler Tettleton and Donte Harden. The Aggies and their 3-4 front must stick to their assignments or the Bobcats will make them pay on the ground.

2. Watch Travis Carrie. The junior cornerback is a playmaker, accounting for three plays of 34 or more yards this season. He has four interceptions for 81 yards, is tied for 18th in the nation in passes defended (1.23 per game) and has a punt return for a touchdown.

3. Embrace the opportunity. A 2-5 start and three unimaginable losses early gave way to a five-game winning streak to end the regular season, with Utah State winning each game by seven points or less. The Aggies have finally developed a knack for pulling out tight games and are making their first postseason appearance in 14 years, something that can't be overlooked.

Non-AQ What to Watch, Week 13

November, 24, 2010
Come one, come all for your top 10 non-AQ storylines for Week 13:

1. Does Boise State finally pass TCU in the BCS standings? Ever since TCU had its less than impressive 40-35 win over San Diego State, experts and fans have speculated it was only a matter of time before the Broncos passed the Horned Frogs as the top non-AQ team in the BCS standings. This could be the weekend it happens. No. 4 Boise State plays No. 19 Nevada, while No. 3 TCU plays lowly New Mexico (1-10). Their computer average should be about the same, so watch for how the two line up in the human polls.

2. Does a non-AQ still have a national title shot? Tune in to Iron Bowl on Friday afternoon for your answer. No. 2 Auburn plays at rival Alabama, and many are predicting a win for the Tide. If that happens, either Boise State or TCU should move into that No. 2 position, but there are no guarantees. A one-loss SEC team could still be enough for voters to keep the Tigers ahead of both non-AQs. A lot depends on the final score, and then what happens in the SEC title game the following week. But losing late is never beneficial. Oregon hosts Arizona on Friday night, and there is an outside shot the Wildcats pull the upset.

[+] EnlargeGary Patterson
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireGary Patterson says style points won't come into play against New Mexico.
3. Can TCU do anything to help itself? Win in a blowout. But that still may not be enough. Boise State plays Friday night, so the Horned Frogs will have a better idea of where they could stand when the BCS standings are released on Sunday. Boise State has all the momentum this weekend. Meanwhile, TCU coach Gary Patterson says there is no way his team will put up style points on the Lobos.

“Both sides have players and coaches who are human beings,” Patterson said. “Somebody wrote an e-mail: Oregon beat them 72-0. I can promise -- even if I had a chance to do that, that would never happen. Do I want to get an opportunity to play for a national championship? Yes, but not at the expense of teaching my young people a life lesson. I believe in doing things the right way. It’s not about teaching them the wrong message.”

4. Boise State D vs. the Pistol. The Broncos put on a dominating performance last week in a 51-0 win over Fresno State, but they face the trendsetting offense of the year: the Pistol. They are used to playing against this offense, so it will be easier for them to defend against it. Nevada ranks No. 3 in total offense, and Boise State ranks No. 2 in total defense. Colin Kaepernick had a terrific game in a four-overtime thriller his freshman year against Boise State, but since then has not posted a 100-yard rushing game against Boise State. The key here could be the running of Vai Taua, ranked seventh in the country in rushing, and whether Kaepernick is able to pass as efficiently as he has so far this season.

5. End of an era for BYU-Utah. The Holy War will have a different feel to it this season, simply because it’s the final one featuring the two teams as members of the same conference, and the final one scheduled to close out the regular season. The two teams will play in 2011 and 2012 in September, but have no future games scheduled after that. Both schools want to keep the game alive, and they should. This is one of the fiercest rivalries in all of college football.

6. C-USA race. All SMU and UCF have to do is win and they are in the Conference USA title game Dec. 4 in Orlando. The Knights would host the game based on their better record. UCF should be a shoo-in to beat Memphis (1-10). SMU will face a more difficult challenge at East Carolina. The Pirates have lost three of their last four, and gave up an average of 62 points in those losses. But they have only dropped one at home, and have a good offense behind Dominique Davis and Dwayne Harris that can go toe-to-toe with anyone.

7. MAC race. If Ohio beats Kent State on Friday night, the Bobcats punch their ticket to the MAC title game on Dec. 3 in Detroit for the second straight season. Consider the job coach Frank Solich has done this season -- he lost his best defensive player in Noah Keller and his best offensive player in LaVon Brazill for the season, along with Freshman All-America safety Gerald Moore. But the Bobcats have won seven straight and beat the two other East Division teams that are bowl eligible in Temple and Miami (Ohio).

8. Sun Belt race. FIU gets its first Sun Belt title game and first bowl appearance with a win over Arkansas State on Saturday. The Panthers have been one of the biggest surprises this season and have won three straight to take command of the league race. The last time these two teams played in Miami, FIU won 22-21 on a touchdown pass from receiver T.Y. Hilton to fellow receiver Junior Mertile.

9. Bowl eligibility. A few teams have hopes of getting to six wins this weekend: Houston (at Texas Tech), Western Michigan (at Bowling Green), Troy (at Western Kentucky), FIU and ULM (Louisiana). Louisiana Tech (4-6) and Idaho (5-6) have to win out to become eligible. Louisiana Tech has to beat San Jose State and Nevada; while Idaho needs to beat Fresno State and San Jose State.

10. Your waistline. Oh, forget about your waistline! Put on a pair of sweatpants, and enjoy all the turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie you can as you feast on a terrific college football slate this holiday weekend. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

September, 27, 2010
Let's take a look at the good and the bad for the non-AQs in Week 4.

The good: Toledo is off to a 3-1 start after winning three straight road games for the first time since 2002. Its 31-20 win over Purdue Saturday gives the Rockets wins over teams from automatic qualifying in five straight seasons. Quarterback Austin Dantin is putting together a nice season in his sophomore year, and went 24-of-31 passing for 209 yards and two scores. He also ran the ball a game-high 17 times for 64 yards and two touchdowns -- including a career-long 58-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter. … Temple kept it closer against Penn State than it had in a really long time, falling to the Nittany Lions 22-13. That was the closest it came to a win since losing 27-25 team in 1985. …

Five winless teams picked up Victory No. 1 on the season: Colorado State, North Texas, ULM, Marshall and UNLV. The Rams had the longest losing streak among that group, breaking a 12-game skid with their last-second win over Idaho. Marshall beat Ohio after coach Frank Solich elected to go for two points with no time left to try to win the game. But Boo Jackson’s pass went incomplete. Solich said he elected to go for two because he didn’t have faith that his defense could stop the Herd.

[+] EnlargeTarean Austin
AP Photo/Julie JacobsonTarean Austin and the New Mexico Lobos have had an abysmal start to the season.
The bad: New Mexico has lost by an average of 46 points this season, and has shown no competitiveness. The Lobos had to start true freshman Tarean Austin because of an injury to B.R. Holbrook (knee). Austin became the first true freshman to start there since 1988, and went 17-of-40 for 177 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in the 45-10 loss to UNLV. Perhaps most painful about that lopsided score –- UNLV came into the game winless as well. It is unknown how long Holbrook will be out.

Fresno State gave up 55 points to an Ole Miss team that struggled to score this season against FBS opponents, averaging 13.5 points in those games. But the Bulldogs defense seemed to revert to form against the Rebels, giving up 425 yards on the ground and 578 total yards.

The heartache: You have to feel for UAB and coach Neil Callaway. Two of its three losses have come on the final play of the game. In both, UAB outgained its opponent. Start with the season opener against FAU. The Blazers blew a 16-point third-quarter lead but had a chance to win on the last play of the game. Instead, their 28-yard field goal was blocked. Then against Tennessee this past week, UAB outgained the Vols 544-287 in the game and held them to only 147 yards after the first quarter. But four missed field goals spelled doom, and the Blazers lost 32-29 in overtime.

A few more helmet stickers: Colorado State freshman quarterback Pete Thomas went 29-of-37 for 386 yards and three touchdowns, both of which are career highs. … Middle Tennessee defensive end Jamari Lattimore had four sacks to go with a career-high eight tackles, a forced fumble, and two quarterback hurries against Louisiana. The four sacks also tied the Sun Belt Conference single-game record and goes down as the most in the FBS this season. … TCU punt returner Jeremy Kerley had a career-high 234 all-purpose yards against SMU, averaging 34.4 yards per kickoff return. That includes a career-long 83 yarder.

A few injury items to note: BYU junior defensive tackle Romney Fuga is out for the season after tearing his ACL and LCL against Nevada on Sunday. Fuga was apparently hurt by what BYU said was a cheap shot from Nevada offensive linemen John Bender. Coach Bronco Mendenhall called it “not a positive football play.” Fuga has started all four BYU games this season, with 15 tackles and a sack this season. … Kent State anticipates having running back Eugene Jarvis (groin) available this week against Miami (Ohio). …

Ohio linebacker Noah Keller is most likely gone for the season with a partially torn ligament in his toe, wide receiver Riley Dunlop is out two to four weeks, and wide receiver/punt returner LaVon Brazill (leg) is questionable after missing the game against Marshall. … The Bowling Green quarterback situation is up on the air. Matt Schilz (shoulder) sat out against Michigan, and it’s a matter of whether he can throw during practice this week. … Temple running back Bernard Pierce (ankle) is a game-time decision against Army. … Louisiana quarterback Chris Masson (knee, chest) should be available against North Texas on Saturday.

Week 4 look ahead: A few big games this week on the schedule. The biggest: Navy at Air Force. Navy has won seven straight over the Falcons and seven straight Commander-in-Chief trophies. This could be the best shot yet for Air Force to win with the No. 1 rushing offense in the country. Navy has been banged up, including quarterback Ricky Dobbs, but the Midshipmen had a bye week to try and get healthy. … BYU is at Utah State on Friday night in a game that has lost some of its luster. Both teams are 1-3 and looking for some much needed momentum.

What to watch in the MAC this spring

February, 16, 2010
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each team in the MAC heading into the spring:

Akron Zips

Spring practice starts: March 24

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

" New head coach Rob Ianello takes over an Akron squad that hasn’t had a winning season since 2005. The Zips struggled last year averaging 19.25 points per game on offense and gave up 28.75 points per game on defense. This spring's goal will be to find playmakers to bring both sides of the ball on par with the rest of the league.

" The Zips had a running back by committee system last year, but none of their backs had more than 250 yards. Two of the team’s top three rushers are gone and the rest are freshmen and sophomores. Ianello signed five tailbacks in his first class.

" The defense struggled to put pressure on the quarterback as the Zips finished with 11 sacks. Opponents scored touchdowns on 66 percent of opportunities inside the red zone. Shoring up the defensive line and the linebackers will be an emphasis this spring.

Ball State Cardinals

Spring practice starts: March 24

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

" Sophomore quarterback Kelly Page tries to regain the starting role after missing the second half of the season with thumb surgery. The Cardinals were winless with him in the lineup, but he improved as the season progressed. Redshirt freshman Aaron Mershman will vie for the role in the spring before highly-touted recruit Keith Wenning joins the competition in the fall.

" Running back MiQuale Lewis and tight end Madaris Grant are both awaiting word from the NCAA about a possible sixth season. Both are team leaders and are the top players at their respective positions.

" Losing defensive coordinator Doug Graber is a blow to the Cardinals. Although he was only with the team for a season, the defense was one of the team's bright spots and got better as the season progressed. The Cardinals have yet to name a replacement.

Bowling Green Falcons

Spring practice starts: March 19

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:

" Replacing quarterback Tyler Sheehan will be one of the biggest chores since he took 95 percent of the snaps for the past three seasons. Aaron Pankratz was the backup last year and the leader heading into spring. But redshirt Matt Schiltz, walk-on Kellen Pagel and December enrollee Caleb Watkins will all be in the mix.

" Freddie Barnes was the Falcons best offensive weapon and it will be hard to find a replacement. Overall, the Falcons lose three of their top five receivers, and one of those returning is running back Wille Geter.

" Rebuilding the defense will be a priority after losing seven players, including the entire line backers corps and three-fourths of the secondary. There is a lot of young talent waiting, it is just a matter of gelling during spring ball.

Buffalo Bulls

Spring practice starts: March 20

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

" Losing quarterback Zach Maynard, who decided to transfer last month, hurt their offense. He would have been the starter heading into the season, but now sophomore Jerry Davis and redshirt freshman Alex Dennison will duke it out this spring before two freshmen arrive in August.

" The Bulls have to replace top receivers Naaman Roosevelt and Brett Hamlin and have several candidates to do so. Juniors Terrell Jackson, Marcus Rivers and Ed Young, and redshirt freshmen Fred Lee and Alex Neutz will compete for playing time.

" New head coach Jeff Quinn is going to install a more wide-open offensive system at Buffalo, however finding the right guys to play it will be a challenge. There are athletes remaining at Buffalo, but the loss of players such as Maynard and Roosevelt will make the transition slower.

(Read full post)

Sporting News honors 10 non-AQ players

December, 15, 2009
The Sporting News came out with its All-America lists Tuesday and 10 players from the nonautomatic qualifying schools, including two on the first team, made the cut.

TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes, who has made the first team of every All-America team that’s been published this season, and Central Michigan punt returner Antonio Brown were the two players on the first team. This is Brown’s first All-America first-team selection.

Here’s a look at the players who were honored:


Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU

Antonio Brown, PR, Central Michigan


Mike Iupati, OL, Idaho

Daryl Washington, LB, TCU

Matt Dodge, K, East Carolina

LaVon Brazill, PR, Ohio


Freddie Barnes, WR, Bowling Green

Dennis Pitta, TE, BYU

Zane Beadles, OL, Utah

Rafael Priest, CB, TCU

Must admit that Brown and Brazill are a bit of a surprise, but deserving since they were two of the best punt returners in the country. It's also surprising to see Barnes and Pitta fall to the third team. Both were more deserving than the current selections.