NCF Nation: Rice Owls

Instant Analysis: Miss. State 44, Rice 7

December, 31, 2013

Mississippi State's bowl hopes were hanging by a thread in late November, but the Bulldogs closed the regular season with a pair of overtime wins to earn their fourth straight bowl appearance and made good on that postseason trip with a resounding 44-7 victory Tuesday over Conference USA champion Rice in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

Here's a quick recap:

It was over when: After losing a fumble and falling behind 7-0 early, Mississippi State reeled off 44 unanswered points to win going away over a Rice team that was manhandled at the line of scrimmage. The Bulldogs were dominant in every phase and racked up 454 total yards to the Owls' 130 total yards by the end of the third quarter.

Game ball: Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, coming off his clutch performance in the win over Ole Miss, was nothing short of brilliant. Looking healthy and in total command, Prescott passed for 283 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns -- all in just three quarters. He'll head into the 2014 season as one of the SEC's marquee quarterbacks and primed for a huge year.

Turning point: On a third-and-9 play, Prescott connected with Jameon Lewis for 35 yards down to the Rice 2-yard line, setting up Ashton Shumpert's 1-yard touchdown run to put Mississippi State ahead to stay at 14-7 with 9:49 to play in the second quarter.

Unsung hero: Lewis was a nightmare for the Rice secondary. The Bulldogs' speedy receiver hauled in nine catches for a school-record 220 yards. He had six catches for 181 yards in the first half, including a 65-yard catch and run in the final seconds of the half to set up a late touchdown that all but sealed the game, staking Mississippi State to a 27-7 lead.

Stat of the game: Mississippi State held Rice, ranked 16th nationally in rushing offense, to 61 rushing yards. The Owls' leading rusher, Charles Ross, was limited to 28 yards on 10 carries. Ross came into the game with 1,252 rushing yards.

What it means: Mississippi State carved out its fourth straight winning season, the first time that has happened in Starkville since Jackie Sherrill guided the Bulldogs to four straight winning seasons from 1997 to 2000. It was Dan Mullen's third bowl victory at Mississippi State, which is the most in school history.

To watch the trophy presentation, click here.

3-point stance: Wake Forest starts over

December, 3, 2013
1. Jim Grobe is an old-school guy, a nice man who always wanted the attention to go to his players instead of himself. His 13-year career at Wake Forest ended Monday with Grobe tied for the most wins (77) in school history. Wake AD Ron Wellman spoke for a lot of people in extolling Grobe’s tenure. But it has been seven seasons since Wake won the ACC and five since the Demon Deacons had a winning record. In a season when Duke won the ACC Coastal, it’s time for Wake to start anew.

2. You don’t have to search very hard on the Washington Huskies football website to find a page with a photo of Steve Sarkisian and one of his favorite sayings: “a relentless pursuit of a competitive edge.” In the end, that may be why Sark returned to USC. He has seen USC’s built-in advantages of tradition and proximity to talent and the positive attention that can envelop a good Trojans team. Meanwhile, he built a foundation -- and Washington built a new football complex and stadium -- that will give his successor a leg up as well.

3. So Duke and Stanford have 10-2 records and are division champions, and Vandy went 8-4 for the second consecutive year. But don’t forget what David Bailiff has done at Rice, which is 9-3 and won the C-USA West. Rice will host Marshall for the league title on Saturday. The Owls last won an outright league (Southwest Conference, RIP) championship in 1957, about six months before Bailiff was born.
Here are three keys to today's Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl between Rice and Air Force (11:45 a.m. ET, ESPN):

1. Keep that momentum going: Rice enters today's game on a four-game winning streak and having won five of its past six games. Remember, this was a team that started the season 1-5 and was just getting eaten up by opposing rushing attacks. From that low point, the Owls completely transformed when it came to stopping the run, allowing teams to average a measly 116.2 yards over the final six games and giving up just nine total rushing touchdowns. The Owls outscored opponents by 80 points during their final five victories and averaged 432 yards of offense during their four-game winning streak. How well that rushing defense plays will be crucial against Air Force, which ranks second nationally in rushing offense (328.8 yards per game) and has 37 rushing touchdowns on the season. If the Owls can contain that triple-option rushing attack, they'll have a good chance to get a win in their first bowl game since 2008.

2. Hold on to the ball: The Falcons might be able to run the ball down other teams' throats, but they have really struggled in the turnover department of late. During its first eight games of the season, Air Force turned the ball over just 12 times. But during the Falcons' 1-3 finish, they handed the ball to opponents 14 times. With how well Rice is playing right now, and with how efficient the Owls have been on offense, Air Force can't afford to turn the ball over and expect to win. With the way the Falcons can run the ball, and given how much Rice struggled earlier in the season to stop the run, it could be a major advantage for the Falcons if they can just keep feeding running back Cody Getz, who became the first player in school history to register three 200-yard rushing games in a single season, and have quarterback Connor Dietz make plays with his feet to keep that option attack going. Grinding it out will wear Rice down.

3. Act like you've been there before: This is Air Force's sixth consecutive bowl game, while Rice is making its first trip to the postseason since 2008. That year, the Owls throttled Western Michigan 38-14 in the Texas Bowl. For the Owls, it's all about not getting cold feet and letting the nerves take hold. They had to work extremely hard to get six wins after the 1-5 start, so it's not the time to let the bright bowl lights intimidate them. As for Air Force, the Falcons have a ton of bowl experience, but the confidence might be lacking after such a bad end to the season. This team has to realize that it has been here before. It knows how to handle the magnitude of the final game of the season. Rice hasn't been in this situation in a while, so the Falcons will have the advantage when it comes to nerves today.
Rice Owls (6-6) vs. Air Force Falcons (6-6)

Dec. 29, 11:45 a.m. ET, Fort Worth, Texas (ESPN)

Rice take from RecruitingNation's David Helman: It'll be interesting to see how this Rice team handles the time off, given the way the Owls have played this season.

It looked like a doormat-type of season back on Oct. 6, when Memphis downed Rice 14-10 to drop the Owls to 1-5. Since then Rice has reeled off a 5-1 record, with the one loss coming to Conference USA champion Tulsa. And with the exception of a 49-47 nail-biter against Tulane, all of those wins have come by two possessions or more.

Chalk that up to the Owls' rushing attack -- ranked 30th nationally -- which is averaging 201 yards per game this season. Rice racked up 246 yards on the ground in the season-finale win against UTEP to earn bowl eligibility.

The Owls feature three players who have rushed for more than 500 yards, led by junior Charles Ross with 743 yards. Junior quarterback Taylor McHargue has 628 yards on the season and leads the team with 11 rushing touchdowns. Fellow junior Turner Petersen has contributed 510 yards and five touchdowns.

Air Force take by SoonerNation's Brandon Chatmon: It’s been a roller-coaster season for the Falcons, who won three straight games in the middle of their season before losing three of their last four.

In this era of spread-passing offenses, there’s no doubt how the Falcons are going to attack a defense. Air Force has led the Mountain West in rushing for 14 straight seasons and averaged 328.8 rushing yards per game in 2012. Senior running back Cody Getz leads the ground attack for the Falcons with 191 carries for 1,213 yards and nine touchdowns.

That’s a scary proposition for a Rice defense that has allowed 5.1 yards per carry this season.

Air Force is a young squad which saw 25 different players earn the first start of their collegiate careers in 2012, so a bowl win combined with the extra bowl practices would give the Falcons terrific momentum heading into 2013.
One team survived, the other did not.

RICE 25, KANSAS 24: Kansas surrendered a 24-13 lead to the Owls at home on Saturday, after Rice's Chris Boswell kicked a 45-yard field goal as the final horn sounded.

Missed field goals and a critical interception of Dayne Crist doomed KU, which looked to have control of the game entering the fourth quarter. Bryce Callahan intercepted Crist after the Owls had cut the lead to 24-22 with a 7-play, 93-yard drive on their previous possession.

Desperately needing a stop, KU couldn't get one in the final five minutes as Rice drove 26 yards to give Boswell the opportunity to kick the game winner.

As disappointing as the loss was for the Jayhawks, remember the names Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox. Pierson, a sophomore, finished with 19 carries for 120 yards while Cox had 15 carries for 79 yards in the loss. While the pair was going against a Rice defense that allowed 343 rushing yards to UCLA in its season opener, they each sent the message that they plan to be contributors on the Jayhawks offense even when James Sims returns from his three-game suspension against Northern Illinois on Sept. 22.

IOWA STATE 9, IOWA 6: The Baltimore Ravens would have been proud.

The Cyclones' defense stepped up when it mattered after both defenses dominated this in-state rivalry game. Neither team seemed to find a consistent rhythm on offense throughout the game.

Protecting a 3-point lead, ISU forced Iowa punts on back-to-back possessions early in the fourth quarter then -- helped by dropped passes by Hawkeye receivers -- forced a turnover on downs with 3:02 remaining in the game. They sealed the deal when Jake Knott intercepted James Vandenburg's pass with the Hawkeyes driving in the final two minutes.

ISU had some success through the air, recording 241 passing yards, but struggled to capitalize when it mattered, going 2-of-5 in the red zone including a critical interception late in the fourth quarter. The Cyclones’ defensive effort should bring a smile to the face of Paul Rhoads as A.J. Klein and company buckled down in the final quarter despite being put in difficult positions.

The Cyclones dominated the first half, spending the majority of the 30 minutes on the Iowa side of the field. Yet, ISU held a six-point lead at halftime, an early sign that the defense might have to shoulder the load.

Boise State ranks No. 2 in APR

June, 20, 2012
Boise State has the academic chops to go with all its football success.

The Broncos have posted the second-highest multi-year Academic Progress Rate score among all FBS teams, the NCAA announced Wednesday. Boise State tied Duke for the No. 2 spot with a score of 989. Northwestern had the nation’s best score at 995.

That means Boise State is the only school in the nation to finish in the Top 10 in the final football rankings and receive a Public Recognition Award for its APR success. The Broncos were No. 8 in the final AP poll.

The APR tracks the academic progress of each student-athlete on scholarship, accounting for eligibility, retention and graduation to provide a measure of each team’s academic performance. This year’s analysis covers a four-year period from 2007-08 through 2010-11.

FBS schools that received NCAA Public Recognition Awards for finishing in the Top 10 percent in APR scores:

1. Northwestern 995

2. Duke 989

2. Boise State 989

4. Ohio State 988

5. Northern Illinois 987

6. Rice 986

7. Clemson 983

7. Middle Tennessee State 983

9. Rutgers 982

10. Air Force 980

10. Miami 980

12. Vanderbilt 978

3-point stance: A stat to watch

May, 29, 2012
1. One of my favorite preseason statistics, one that I find a reliable predictor for success, is the number of career starts returning on the offensive line. According to the 2012 Phil Steele College Football Review, which arrived over the weekend, Ball State is first in the FBS with 115 career starts, followed by NC State (112), West Virginia and Tennessee (105), LSU (104), FIU (103) and Oklahoma (102). Rice has the fewest career starts (15), followed by Penn State, Virginia Tech and UAB (17).

2. As the first anniversary of Jim Tressel’s resignation from Ohio State passes, think about the changes in the Big Ten. Half of the 12 schools have head coaches in their first or second season on campus. By contrast, four of the 10 coaches in the Big 12 have spent at least 11 years in their job: Bill Snyder of Kansas State (20), Mack Brown of Texas (14), Bob Stoops of Oklahoma (13) and Gary Patterson of TCU (11). That’s one more reason the Big 12 is looking resurgent.

3. I interviewed TCU tailback Ed Wesley in Fort Worth 14 months ago and found an uncommonly mature, level-headed player, exactly what the Horned Frogs needed as they came off a Rose Bowl victory. Wesley spoke of how TCU had to put its success behind it and move on in order to achieve more. Wesley, who has rushed for 1,800 yards in the past two seasons, is leaving TCU for family reasons, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and hopes for the NFL supplemental draft. The guess here is that the setback is temporary.

Entering the Hall: Tommy Kramer

May, 15, 2012
Tommy Kramer played quarterback so well that he set records with one team tied behind his back. In his four seasons (1973-76) at Rice, the Owls went 12-31-1 (.284). But Kramer left the Houston school with eight career and single-season records.

If a passer came of age in Texas in the Wishbone Era and wanted to stay in-state to throw the ball, he didn’t have many choices. Kramer went to Rice to play for Al Conover and, in his first four seasons, threw for a total of 2,880 yards. But before 1976, Kramer’s senior season, Homer Rice replaced Conover. Rice, to this day one of the most respected men in college athletics, recognized the talent he had at quarterback and let Kramer loose. The Owls only went 3-8, but oh, how Kramer threw the ball. His 3,317 passing yards led the nation, and fell short of the NCAA career record at the time by 26 yards. His 501 attempts, an average of 45 passes per game, also led all passers.

In a season when Gifford Nielsen threw 29 touchdowns while leading BYU to a 9-2 record, the All-America teams made Kramer a consensus pick. They recognized the difficulty of his task. The Minnesota Vikings, did, too, ignoring the Owls’ results to take Kramer late in the first round. He went on to enjoy 14 seasons in the NFL.

The low profile of the school may explain why it took the College Football Hall of Fame more than 20 years to honor Kramer. That oversight has been rectified.

MWC, C-USA to form new conference

February, 13, 2012

The Mountain West and Conference USA have announced plans to form a new athletic association for the 2013-14 season, as a way to ensure their future survival due to heavy losses each league has suffered in realignment.

Presidents and chancellors of the 16 schools that will be a part of the group met in Dallas on Sunday to discuss the details. Those schools: Air Force, UAB, Colorado State, East Carolina, Fresno State, Hawaii, Marshall, Nevada, New Mexico, UNLV, Rice, Southern Miss, UTEP, Tulane, Tulsa and Wyoming. With the exception of Hawaii as a football-only member, the participation would involve all sports.

The Mountain West is losing Boise State and San Diego State to the Big East, while Conference USA is losing Houston, Memphis, SMU and UCF to the Big East as well. Most interesting in the announcement made Monday were these two points that will likely be included in the future structure of the new association:
  • Membership of 18 to 24 universities
  • Championship football game format that includes semifinal matchups

Growing from two to eight teams means the new association might have designs on absorbing the WAC, which is struggling to hang on after recent defections to the Mountain West, or possibly going after teams in the Sun Belt. Utah State and San Jose State, currently in the WAC, have been tied to the Mountain West in the past. In fact, Utah State was offered a spot in the Mountain West in 2010 but turned it down.

The championship game format, complete with semifinals, is obviously intriguing simply because that is something most folks have yearned for in college football as a whole. If the league grows to 24 teams, having four teams making it into a "championship round" would seem to increase interest. Especially if the semifinal round is on a home campus.

Now keep in mind regular-season scheduling will be contained to divisions, and those divisions are going to be set based on geography. There is a reason the news release cited this as essential to the new association: "bringing fiscal discipline into athletics and ensuring competitive fairness."

Right now, Conference USA has teams stretching from East Carolina to El Paso. So one would think that it would make more sense to have UTEP in a different division than the Pirates, just like they are now, with road games East contained to one or fewer a year, or perhaps eliminated entirely. If the league gets to 18 teams at a minimum with two nine-team divisions -- think eight regular-season football games contained to that division.

That should help alleviate some of the money that is spent on traveling alone, especially in the nonrevenue sports.

Final: Northwestern 28, Rice 6

November, 12, 2011

One win away.

Northwestern needs one more victory to secure bowl eligibility after a miserable 2-5 start. The Wildcats won their third consecutive game Saturday thanks to a defense that is showing up in force after struggling mightily during the first two months of the season.

Pat Fitzgerald's crew nearly recorded its first shutout since 2007 before a trick play led to Rice's touchdown with 4:16 left in the game. Fitzgerald continue to say his defense was a few plays away from taking steps, and he has to be pleased with his crew in the past two games. Linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo had a nice day with two tackles for loss.

Northwestern's offense received a career performance from senior receiver Jeremy Ebert, who finished with seven catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Dan Persa threw four touchdown passes and two interceptions, completing 25 of 32 attempts for 372 yards. Despite dealing with injuries all season, Persa has been impressive. Northwestern found its run game late and finished with 533 total yards.

The Wildcats remain at home next week against Minnesota and the following week against Michigan State, likely needing just one more win to reach a bowl for the fourth consecutive season.

Halftime: Northwestern 21, Rice 0

November, 12, 2011
Northwestern's defense has shown up for the second consecutive week, and after a while, the offense made an appearance as well.

The Wildcats, who contained Nebraska well last week in Lincoln, held a Rice team that scored 75 points in its previous two games to no points in the opening half. The Owls struggled to get much going on offense and have given punter Kyle Martens quite the workout (5 punts, 215 yards).

Northwestern defensive end Tyler Scott recorded an interception late in the half, setting up a touchdown, and others have contributed for the Wildcats' D, which had held Rice to 116 yards.

The Northwestern offense has relied on the big play so far, and receiver Jeremy Ebert is having a huge day with five receptions for 173 yards and two touchdowns, including a 90-yarder that marked the second-longest play in team history. Demetrius Fields also had a 50-yard reception on third-and-long to set up an Ebert touchdown.

Quarterback Dan Persa returned from his left shoulder injury and has looked good, completing 10 of 14 pass attempts for 223 yards.

Non-AQ Players of the Week

November, 7, 2011
Here are the non-AQ players of the week, as selected by each conference.


Offense: Nick Fanuzzi, QB, Rice. Fanuzzi had career highs with 405 yards passing, 30 completions and 439 yards of total offense, while throwing three touchdowns and leading Rice to a 41-37 win over UTEP. Fanuzzi helped lead the Owls to the third-highest offensive output in school history with 671 yards.

Defense: Curnelius Arnick, LB, Tulsa. Arnick had a career-best 19 tackles, including 12 solos and one tackle for loss, as well as one pass breakup in a 24-17 road victory over UCF.

Special teams: Tracey Lampley, PR, Southern Miss. Lampley returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown in a win at East Carolina. It was his first punt return for a touchdown since his freshman year in 2009.


East Division

Offense: Donte’ Harden, RB, Ohio. Harden had a school-record 322 all-purpose yards (184 rushing, 75 receiving and 63 return yards) and scored a pair of touchdowns in a 35-31 win over Temple.

Defense: Jerrell Wedge, LB, Miami (Ohio). Wedge had nine tackles and a fumble recovery in a 35-3 victory over Akron.

Special teams: Rob Hollomon, KR, Kent State. Hollomon averaged 35.7 yards on three kick returns in a 24-21 win over Central Michigan.

West Division

Offense: Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois. Harnish threw six touchdown passes, the second-most in MAC history, to lead Northern Illinois to a 63-60 shootout victory at Toledo. Harnish also rushed 16 times for 133 yards to account for 398 yards of total offense.

Defense: Dan Molls, LB, Toledo. Molls had 17 tackles and one tackle for loss in a 63-60 loss to Northern Illinois

Special teams: Tommylee Lewis, KR, Northern Illinois. Lewis became only the 13th player in NCAA FBS history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game when he scored on back-to-back kickoff returns for Northern Illinois in a 63-60 win at Toledo. Lewis brought the opening kickoff back 100 yards. After Toledo scored, he returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for the score.

Mountain West

Offense: Waymon James, RB, TCU. Rushed for a career-high 181 yards on 12 carries in a 31-20 win at Wyoming. James, who had a career-long 74-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter, had 117 yards on five carries in the final period.

Defense: Jon Davis, DB, Air Force. Davis tied a career-high with 12 tackles as Air Force captured the Commander-In-Chief Trophy for the second consecutive year with a 24-14 victory over Army.

Special teams: Parker Herrington, PK, Air Force. Kicked a career-high three field goals in a 24-14 win over Army. Herrington improved to 10-of-10 on the season inside 40 yards.

Sun Belt

Offense: Ryan Aplin, QB, Arkansas State. Aplin accounted for five touchdowns in leading Arkansas State to a 39-21 victory at FAU. Aplin rushed for 49 yards and four touchdowns and completed 24 of 37 passes for 244 yards and another score.

Defense: Devon Lewis-Buchanan, LB, ULL. Lewis-Buchanan had a career-high 12 tackles, including 11 solo, in a 36-35 win over Louisiana-Monroe. He also had three tackles for loss and a pass breakup in the win.

Special teams: Brett Baer, K, ULL. Baer perfectly executed an onside kick late in the game against ULM, allowing Ladarius Green to recover the kick at the ULM 39 to set up the game-winning score.


Offense: Colby Cameron, QB, Louisiana Tech. Cameron completed 19 of 33 passes for 376 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in Louisiana Tech’s 41-21 win at Fresno State.

Defense: Travis Johnson, DE, San Jose State. Johnson tied a school record with four sacks in a loss to Idaho. One of his sacks resulted in San Jose State’s first safety in seven years. He had a total of 10 tackles and a fumble recovery.

Special teams: Stanley Morrison, WR, Utah State. Executed two successful fake punts in a 35-31 comeback win at Hawaii. In the second quarter, he rushed for 8 yards on fourth-and 4 and then in the second half, he threw a 23-yard pass on fourth-and-5 to Joe Hill for a first down.

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

November, 7, 2011
Let's take a look back at Week 10 in the non-AQs.

Records fall. As expected, Kellen Moore and Case Keenum set major NCAA records in victories this weekend. Moore helped the Broncos beat UNLV 48-21 for his 46th career win, breaking the record set by Colt McCoy for most career wins. Meanwhile, Keenum threw for 407 yards in a 56-13 win against UAB to become the most prolific passer in NCAA history. Keenum passed the mark held by Timmy Chang and now has 17,212 career passing yards. He is averaging 402.9 yards a game, putting him on pace to potentially get another 2,000 yards this season should the Cougars play in the Conference USA championship game.

[+] EnlargePete Limbo
Michael Hickey/US PresswireCoach Pete Lembo has Ball State eligible for a bowl for the first time since 2008.
Bowl eligibility. Ohio, Northern Illinois, Tulsa, SMU and Ball State all became bowl eligible this weekend. It has been a nice turnaround season for Ball State under first-year coach Pete Lembo, getting the Cardinals to bowl eligibility for the first time since 2008. Teams that have a chance to become bowl eligible this week:

FIU (5-4) vs. FAU

Western Kentucky (5-4) at LSU

Louisiana Tech (5-4) at Ole Miss

Nevada (5-3) vs. Hawaii

Game of the week. Louisiana-Lafayette 36, Louisiana-Monroe 35. The Ragin' Cajuns overcame an 11-point deficit with 3:08 left, scoring two touchdowns in the span of two minutes to complete the incredible comeback. Blaine Gautier threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Darryl Surgent with 2:05 left to close the gap to 35-30. They failed to make the 2-point conversion but did recover the onside kick. Alonzo Harris scored on a run from 3 yards with 1:06 remaining.

Greatest turnarounds. Speaking of the Sun Belt, Louisiana-Lafayette has the best turnaround in the country from last season, winning five more games than 2010. That league has three teams with some of the best turnarounds among the non-AQs.

2010, 2011

ULL 3-9, 8-2

Houston 9-0, 5-7

Ark. St 4-8, 7-2

WKU 2-10, 5-4

E. Mich 2-10, 5-4

Conference race update. Let us check in with all the non-AQ conferences to see who is leading in the race for a championship.

C-USA. Southern Miss is in control of the East Division after a convincing 48-28 win against East Carolina. The Golden Eagles host defending East Division champs Central Florida on Saturday. They have a one-game lead over the Pirates and Marshall, though their only loss this season came to the Thundering Herd. In the West, Houston and Tulsa are undefeated in league play at 5-0, setting up a huge showdown in the season finale Nov. 25 at Tulsa. Houston has Tulane and SMU before then; Tulsa has Marshall and UTEP. Both teams will be favored to be 7-0 in league play headed into their game.

MAC. Ohio dealt a huge blow to Temple's chances of winning the East with a 35-31 win in Week 2. The Bobcats and defending East champ Miami (Ohio) are 3-2 in league play. They end the season against each other Nov. 22 at Ohio. In the West, Northern Illinois and Toledo each are 4-1 but the Huskies have a huge head-to-head win against Toledo, 63-60 in a wild game in Week 10. If they both win out, Northern Illinois goes to get another MAC title game.

Mountain West. As expected, TCU and Boise State are undefeated in league play headed into their huge game Saturday in Boise. The winner will be in the driver's seat to win the conference. Remember, this game was initially set for Forth Worth, but moved to Boise after TCU announced it was leaving the conference.

Sun Belt. Louisiana-Lafayette (8-2, 6-1) has a huge game at Arkansas State (7-2, 5-0). If Louisiana-Lafayette wins, it would create a three-way tie with Western Kentucky (5-4, 5-1) atop the Sun Belt standings. If all three then win out, they would each be considered co-champs. If Arkansas State wins, then the Red Wolves would remain undefeated in the Sun Belt and control their destiny.

WAC. Nevada is the only undefeated team in league play at 3-0 and controls its hopes for a second straight league title. Louisiana Tech at 4-1 is in second place. The teams play in Reno on Nov. 19.

Helmet stickers

Ryan Aplin, QB, Arkansas State. Aplin had five touchdowns in a 39-21 victory at FAU, rushing for 49 yards and four touchdowns and completing 24-of-37 passes for 244 yards and another score. His four rushing touchdowns are the most for any player in the Sun Belt this season, and his five overall touchdowns are tied for the most.

Kama Bailey, RB, Idaho. Bailey ran for a career-high 163 yards on 19 carries and had two scores as Idaho came back to beat San Jose State 32-29.

Jon Davis, DB, Air Force. Davis had a game-high 12 tackles and recorded one interception as Air Force retained the Commander-In-Chief’s trophy with a 24-21 win against Army. Davis also forced and recovered a fumble.

Nick Fanuzzi, QB, Rice. Fanuzzi completed 30-of-43 for 405 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 41-37 win against UTEP. It was his first start of the season, and he is just the third player in school history to pass for more than 400 yards.

Donte Harden, RB, Ohio. Harden finished with a school-record 322 all-purpose yards (184 rushing, 75 receiving and 63 return yards) and scored a pair of touchdowns in a 35-31 win against Temple.

Non-AQ Weekend Rewind

September, 12, 2011
The good: It was a weekend of big wins for non-AQs. FIU picked up the first win against an AQ team in school history when the Panthers upset Louisville 24-17. New Mexico State stunned Minnesota 28-21, picking up its first win against a Big Ten team, and first win against an AQ opponent since defeating Arizona State in 1999. The Aggies have been one of the worst teams in college football -- coach DeWayne Walker has won six games there in three seasons. Taveon Rogers had two touchdowns and 88 yards receiving.

[+] EnlargeGeorge O'Leary
AP Photo/Reinhold MatayCentral Florida and coach George O'Leary dominated Boston College.
Meanwhile, Conference USA pulled out two wins against AQ opponents: UCF handled Boston College 30-3 and Rice beat Purdue 24-22. Both were milestone wins. Though UCF has beaten AQ programs before, the Knights had never done so at home. They are off to their first 2-0 start since 1998, a season removed from making the Top 25 for the first time in program history. Rice had lost 22 consecutive games to AQ opponents. The win was the Owls' first against a Big Ten team since a 40-34 win at Northwestern in 1997.

TCU rebounded in a big way against Air Force, winning 35-19 in a game that was never close. In fact, the Horned Frogs led 35-9 in the fourth quarter, and played much better on defense, even without leading tackler Tanner Brock.

The heartbreak: The MAC easily had the most heartbreaking day. Central Michigan, Toledo and Northern Illinois had leads on their AQ opponents only to come up just short.

Central Michigan led the Wildcats 13-6 at halftime and had outgained them 227 yards to 94. But the turning point came midway through the third quarter, when coach Dan Enos elected to go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 34. Tim Phillips ran for no gain. Kentucky scored on the next play to tie the game at 13, and Central Michigan never scored again in 27-13 loss.

Toledo had Ohio State on the ropes, but the Rockets killed themselves with one mistake after another: 14 penalties for 102 yards; a missed 45-yard field goal and botched hold on a 50-yard attempt; allowing a punt return for a score. A final interception from Terrance Owens on the Ohio State 17 with 48 seconds closed out a 27-22 loss.

Northern Illinois lost to Kansas 45-42 with 9 seconds left when Jayhawks quarterback Jordan Webb threw a 6-yard touchdown pass on fourth down to B.J. Beshears. The Huskies had taken the lead with 5:03 remaining when Jasmin Hopkins scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. Kansas converted two fourth down opportunities on the winning drive. Chandler Harnish finished 27-of-33 for 315 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and added 89 yards and a career-high three touchdowns on the ground. Harnish has 11 total touchdowns in two games this season.

Not to be outdone, Fresno State and BYU each had halftime leads in their games before losing. The Bulldogs gave up a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that turned the tide and lost to No. 10 Nebraska 42-29. ... BYU led Texas 13-3 but the Longhorns changed quarterbacks in the second half and that seemed to spark them to a 16-13 win. The BYU offense has not exactly gotten immediate results from new offensive coordinator Brandon Doman. The Cougars rank No. 108 in the nation in total offense (275.5 ypg), and No. 107 in scoring offense (15 ppg). Despite that, they could very easily be 2-0.

The ugly: The offense clearly was not invited to the Louisiana-Kent State game. The teams combined for 19 first downs, seven turnovers and 15 penalties in one of the ugliest games of the day. Louisiana had 159 total yards; Kent State 186. Louisiana quarterback Chris Masson threw for 18 yards.

Army was one of the best teams in the nation last season in turnover margin, but so far this season, turnovers have been a big problem in an 0-2 start. In a 23-20 loss to San Diego State, the Black Knights fumbled eight times -- losing three. In two games, Army has given the ball away six times and is at minus-4 in turnover ratio.

Record watch:

  • Ohio coach Frank Solich notched his 100th career win Saturday in a 30-3 win against Gardner-Webb.
  • Southern Miss quarterback Austin Davis broke Brett Favre's school passing yards mark of 7,695, in a 26-20 loss to Marshall.
  • Houston quarterback Case Keenum threw for 458 yards and five touchdowns in a 48-23 win against North Texas. He moved into fourth place on the FBS career list for passing yards (14,354) and tied Danny Wuerffel for sixth in career passing touchdowns with 114.
  • Pete Thomas became the first sophomore quarterback in Colorado State history to reach 3,000 yards passing. In a 33-14 win against Northern Colorado, Thomas was 28-for-42 for 259 yards and a touchdown -- but he also threw three interceptions.
Injury update: Colorado State linebacker Mychal Sisson broke his ankle in the second quarter against Northern Colorado and is out indefinitely. Coach Steve Fairchild said the hope is for Sisson to be able to return later this season. ... UTEP starting quarterback Nick Lamaison separated his shoulder in a loss to SMU. ... Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson was pulled from the loss to TCU and got precautionary X-rays after the game for an undisclosed injury. Nose guard Ryan Gardner injured his knee.

Helmet stickers

Eugene Cooper, WR, Bowling Green. Had career-highs in catches (6), yards (134) and touchdowns (4) in the Falcons’ 58-13 win against Morgan State. Cooper’s four receiving touchdowns tied a school record for touchdown catches in a single game.

Jerome Long, DT, San Diego State. Had a career-high 10 tackles in a 23-20 win against Army, and his sack on a critical third-down on Army's last drive of the game took Army out of field goal range.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, FIU. Set a career-high and school record with 201 yards receiving and two touchdowns in a 24-17 upset win against Louisville.

Adrien Cole, LB, Louisiana Tech. Had 9 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and blocked Central Arkansas’ field goal in overtime, his second blocked field goal in as many games.

UCF defense. Held Boston College to three points and 84 yards passing in the 30-3 win. The Knights have yet to allow 100 passing yards in a game this season and have limited their first two opponents to three points and 260 total yards.

Yards to Glory, non-AQs

August, 1, 2011
Today, began a look at the most memorable scoring plays in college football history -- by yardage. Everybody in the college football group came up with their top plays and then we narrowed it down to the best of the best.

Here are the non-AQ plays that are featured today:
  • UNLV scores on a 99-yard fumble recovery with no time left to upset Baylor in 1999.
  • Rice scores on a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in 1954 -- even though Dickie Maegle was knocked out of bounds by Tommy Lewis, who raced onto the field from the sideline without his helmet to take Maegle down.
  • SMU versus Texas Tech improbable ending in 1982.
  • Randy Moss' 90-yard touchdown on a screen pass against Army introduced him to the world in 1997.