NCF Nation: weekend rewind 090312

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 1

September, 3, 2012
Time to look back on the week that was in the Big 12:

Best offensive performance: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. Smith was nearly perfect in his first game as a member of the Big 12. He completed 32 of 36 passes for 323 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also added 65 rushing yards and a touchdown, scored from 28 yards out on a broken running play. He's more than the best player in the Big 12 this week. The Walter Camp Award named him the national player of the week.

Best defensive performance: Isaiah Bruce, LB, West Virginia. Making his first start, the redshirt freshman racked up 16 tackles and scooped up a fumble, returning it 43 yards for a score. Those 16 tackles were the most by a Mountaineers freshman since 1990. Honorable mention: Bradley McDougald, S, Kansas

[+] EnlargeJohn Hubert
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesJohn Hubert's 95-yard touchdown run put Kansas State in control of the game.
Best play: John Hubert, RB, Kansas State. Jammed up against its own goal line, the K-State offensive line paved the way for a 95-yard run from Hubert as part of the Wildcats' 42 consecutive points to close the game. Hubert's run gave the Wildcats a 30-9 lead in the eventual 51-9 win. His run was the second longest in school history, dating back to a 96-yarder in 1948. Honorable mention: Jake Knott's second-quarter forced fumble versus Tulsa, Baylor scores a 66-yard TD on Mike Hicks' fumble return.

Worst play: Oklahoma's punt team. The defense pitched a shutout, but the special teams put this one in doubt. Tress Way didn't have much time to get the kick off, but no fewer than five UTEP defenders might have blocked this punt. One did, and running back Nathan Jeffery (177 rushing yards before suffering an injury) scooped it up and scored from 24 yards out to put UTEP ahead 7-0 early in the Sooners' 24-7 win. Dishonorable mention: Iowa State's safety off a draw play out of the shotgun ... at its own 3-yard line.

Best team performance: Baylor. West Virginia looked like it had this one sewn up until late Sunday night. Baylor rolled over SMU and turned its opener into a rout with a dominant third quarter that featured two big turnovers, one of which the Bears returned 66 yards for a touchdown. Baylor was already in control, but that spurt turned the game into a laugher, racing to a 45-3 lead. Honorable mention: West Virginia.

Stat of the week: Oklahoma State played "at least" 95 players on Saturday night. Late in the game, a No. 47 got into the game, but no one in the media or on Oklahoma State's media relations staff in the press box knew who the player was, according to The Oklahoman. It wasn't me. Who was this mystery man? Show yourself!

Best game: Iowa State 38, Tulsa 23. This one was closer than the final score indicated and featured a huge comeback by the Cyclones, who looked sluggish early after allowing 16 first-quarter points. They answered with 24 of their own to take a 31-16 lead, and Deon Broomfield iced the game with an interception in the final minutes to set up the final touchdown. No classics this week. Bar was pretty low for this award.

Worst game: Oklahoma State 84, Savannah State 0. Who wins in matchups like these? I know realignment forced OSU's hand a little bit, but people are still signing off on these games. Fans have to sit through a snoozer. The opposing team gets embarrassed in a borderline inhumane way. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, probably learns more about itself with an intrasquad scrimmage. Games against FCS teams are one thing. Games against FCS doormats are another. Keep these off the schedule.

Worst team performance: Oklahoma. The Sooners were a lot closer to being upset than the final score indicates. Landry Jones didn't turn the ball over, but if he'd had one or two, this game would have been a true disaster. That's to say nothing of the three missed field goals from UTEP kickers that would have had the Big 12 favorites trailing in the fourth quarter to a mediocre Conference USA squad. I know it's on the road and it's a season opener, but this was awful from Oklahoma.

Worst quarter: Iowa State's first quarter. The Cyclones legitimately looked overmatched and were in serious trouble. You wondered if they might get run out of their own stadium, trailing 16-7. They gave up a safety and couldn't stop the Tulsa offense. However, Cyclones star linebacker Jake Knott forced a fumble on Tulsa's first offensive snap of the second quarter and keyed off 24 consecutive points for Iowa State in the 38-23 win. No Big 12 team trailed by more than Iowa State on Saturday. Paul Rhoads now has 19 wins at Iowa State, despite being favored in just eight games.

Best quarter: Kansas State's fourth quarter. Who knew the Wildcats could score 35 points in a single quarter? K-State scored from 95, 86 and 49 yards away to ice a game that was tied 9-9 midway through the third quarter. The outburst was K-State's biggest in a single quarter since at least 1993.

Best quote: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas, on his secondary. "Honestly, we need to get our heads out of the magazines and start faster and play stronger."

Second-best quote: Geno Smith, when asked to grade West Virginia's offensive performance. "A-plus … plus, plus, plus."

Third-best quote: Charlie Weis, Kansas. QB Dayne Crist hit Kale Pick for a 43-yard gain off a play fake on the first play from scrimmage. Weis' confession: "I was throwing it deep on first play for months."

Hot and Not in the SEC: Week 1

September, 3, 2012
It’s that time again in the world of SEC football when we break out the old thermometer.

It’s an exercise you’ve come to know as “Hot and Not,” and Week 1 is in the books.


Dynamic debuts: Everywhere you looked this first weekend, there were new faces around the league making big plays and turning in outstanding performances. Georgia freshman running back Todd Gurley had three touchdowns, including a 100-yard kickoff return. Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, a heralded junior college newcomer, lived up to the hype with a pair of long touchdowns, including a dazzling 67-yard run on a reverse. Alabama freshman running back T.J. Yeldon became the first player in school history to rush for 100 yards in his first game. Yeldon has great speed, but his balance is even better. Good luck in getting him on the ground. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace, making his first start after coming over from junior college, completed 20-of-24 passes in the Rebels’ season-opening win for 264 yards. Two of his incompletions were drops, and he also rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.


Alabama’s defense: So what if the Crimson Tide lost four of their best defensive players in the top 35 picks of the NFL draft. They’re still a load on defense, and it’s going to be that way as long as Nick Saban is in town. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson never had a chance last Saturday.


Kentucky’s defensive front: Louisville’s 99-yard touchdown drive to start the game was a killer. The Wildcats proceeded to give up two more long touchdown drives and were pushed around most of the day on defense. The really discouraging thing for the Big Blue was that their defense line was supposed to be the strength of the team.


[+] EnlargeTyler Bray
Daniel Shirey/US PresswireTennessee's Tyler Bray had a blistering season debut, throwing for 333 yards and two TDs.
Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray: Patterson’s debut was what had everybody in Big Orange Country buzzing, but Bray was equally impressive. The ball comes out of his hand like a rocket, and he’s especially polished at feeling the pressure, moving his feet and finding open receivers. He lit up North Carolina State for 333 passing yards and two touchdowns and wasn’t intercepted.


New helmet rule: While understanding the rationale for the rule and that it’s geared to player safety, it’s going to cause some major problems this season when a star player has to leave the game for a down when it’s fourth-and-goal with three seconds to play.


Arkansas receiver Brandon Mitchell: He sure didn’t look like a former quarterback playing receiver. Mitchell had four catches for 122 yards in the Hogs’ opener and set up touchdowns with catches of 40, 37 and 34 yards.


Shaky passing games: At first glance, Florida’s passing game didn’t look a lot better than it did a year ago. There will no doubt be plenty of discussion about the quarterback situation and whether the two-quarterback approach was a good idea. But there’s also no getting around the fact that the Gators are still looking for playmakers to emerge at receiver. South Carolina’s passing game was even worse in the opener. The Gamecocks managed just 67 yards through the air in their escape at Vanderbilt, and with quarterback Connor Shaw’s right shoulder still hurting, they better ramp up that passing game in a hurry.


Missouri’s playmakers: Be it on offense, defense or special teams, Missouri showed in the opener that it has a whole cache of players capable of making big plays. The Tigers scored four non-offensive touchdowns, including a pair of punt returns of 70 yards or longer by Marcus Murphy. Running back Kendial Lawrence had a 76-yard touchdown run.


Sheldon Richardson’s impression of Georgia: The Missouri junior defensive tackle sure doesn’t sound like he’s sweating Georgia’s visit this weekend. He was asked by Dave Matter of the Columbia Daily Tribune if he watched Georgia’s 45-23 season-opening win over Buffalo. Richardson said he watched it, but added, “I turned it off, too.” When asked why, Richardson said, “It’s like watching Big Ten football. It’s old man football.” Richardson wasn’t finished. He went on to say, “… If we execute, nobody in this league can touch us. Period.”


Auburn’s tackling: We’ll start with the positive. Auburn did stiffen in the red zone several times and limit Clemson to field goals. But for the most part, it was an Auburn defense that looked a lot like the one last season in terms of getting people on the ground and giving up yards in chunks. Auburn allowed 528 yards of total offense in its 26-19 loss to Clemson, and what was most disappointing for the SEC’s Tigers was that they got mashed for 320 rushing yards. Auburn’s defense was on the field for 87 plays, and that’s a ton. But there’s something to be said for getting off the field defensively when you’ve got the chance. Clemson was 8-of-17 on third down. If Auburn doesn’t improve its tackling in a major way and do a better job of getting off the field, this won’t be the last time the Tigers give up 500 yards of total offense this season.

Big East weekend rewind: Week 1

September, 3, 2012
Here's one last look back at the weekend that was for the Big East.

The good: The Big East went 5-2 in its opening weekend. UConn kicked things off by pitching a shutout Thursday, Temple rolled through its Big East debut Friday, USF's and Rutgers' defenses keyed Saturday wins and Louisville looked like the conference favorite it is Sunday.

[+] EnlargeRyan Nassib
Nate Shron/Getty ImagesRyan Nassib threw for 470 yards in a losing effort against Northwestern.
The bad: Syracuse couldn't help a history-making performance effort from Ryan Nassib, giving up a game-winning touchdown drive to Northwestern in a 42-41 home loss. The Orange struggled in the secondary and on special teams, ruining Nassib's nearly 500-yard day. Things don't get easier for them with this schedule, so Syracuse will need to close whenever it gets the chance.

The ugly: FCS school Youngstown State 31, Pitt 17. At Heinz Field.

The extra helmet sticker: Louisville didn't play until Sunday afternoon, but it may have gotten the best individual performance of any conference player this weekend, as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed 19 of 21 passes for 232 yards in a 32-14 rout of rival Kentucky in which he was only needed for three quarters.

Turning point: In what ended up being a runaway, Louisville made a statement early. Facing third-and-9 from his own 2, Bridgewater connected with Damian Copeland on a beautiful 23-yard toss near the Kentucky sideline. It was the first big play of many on what ended up being a tone-setting 99-yard drive for Bridgewater and the Cardinals, who took care of business in Week 1.

The newcomers: Steve Addazio and his Owls retained the Mayor's Cup and returned to the Big East with a Week 1 win. Kyle Flood's team used a familiar Rutgers blueprint -- strong rushing, strong defense -- to methodically win a grinder at Tulane. And Paul Chryst suspended six Pitt players before his debut against YSU, one that did not exactly go according to plan.

Up next: Cincinnati finally kicks its season off Thursday, hosting a Pitt team needing to rebound fast. UConn, Temple and Syracuse face BCS schools NC State, Maryland and USC, respectively, while USF travels to Nevada, which upset Cal. Louisville hosts Missouri State and Rutgers hosts Howard.

Big Ten weekend rewind: Week 1

September, 3, 2012
The first week is in the books. And that means it's time for our first weekend rewind of the season.

Team of the week: Michigan State. The Spartans' 17-13 win over Boise State wasn't a thing of beauty. They turned the ball over four times, committed way too many penalties and needed a late score to eke out a victory in a game they statistically dominated. But the bottom line is this: Michigan State beat a ranked nonconference team. No other Big Ten team can say that, and outside of possibly the Notre Dame games, no other league team will even get the chance to do so.

Game of the week: In a week when six of the 12 Big Ten games were decided by a touchdown or fewer, Northwestern's 42-41 win over Syracuse still stood out. The wild affair featured lots of big plays -- such as Venric Mark's 82-yard touchdown on a punt return, Chi Chi Ariguzo's 33-yard fumble return for a score and Ryan Nassib's 50-yard touchdown pass to Jeremiah Kobena on the final play of the third quarter. There were also enormous momentum swings, as the Wildcats went from up 35-13 to down 41-35 in a little more than a quarter. And of course, it had the great finish, as Northwestern drove for the winning touchdown with 44 seconds left when Trevor Siemian found Demetrius Fields from 9 yards out.

[+] EnlargeDemetrius Fields
AP Photo/Hans PenninkDemetrius Fields' fourth-quarter touchdown won the game for Northwestern
Best play: Le'Veon Bell's hurdle was jaw-dropping. But Ohio State receiver Devin Smith's one-handed touchdown catch against Miami nudges Bell out for the top. Smith not only jumped high in the air for the grab but never needed his other hand to secure the ball. We're guessing Urban Meyer found that to be competent.

Best call: Trailing Northern Illinois 17-12 late in the fourth quarter, Iowa faced a third-and-9 from the Huskies' 23. All game long, Northern Illinois had blitzed on third downs and flustered quarterback James Vandenberg. This time, the Hawkeyes went with a running play. NIU brought the pressure as expected, and Iowa got seal blocks from Zach Derby, Brandon Scherff and Matt Tobin. Running back Damon Bullock ran untouched into the end zone for the game-winning score.

“I told Coach after, 'That was just a brilliant call,'" Bullock told reporters. "I wasn’t even expecting it. It was third down and I was ready to pass-block."

Big Man on Campus (offense): It's a tie between Michigan State's Bell, who had a superhuman performance against Boise State with 265 total yards on 50 touches, and Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez, who had a career day with 354 passing yards and five touchdowns. Both should be getting some Heisman attention after Week 1.

Big Man on Campus (defense): Minnesota safety Derrick Wells had two interceptions against UNLV, both of which set up field goals in the Gophers' 30-27 triple-overtime victory. Wells' second pick allowed Minnesota to kick the game winner in the third extra period. Honorable mention to Illinois' Michael Buchanan (a sack and an interception against Western Michigan) and Iowa's Joe Gaglione (three TFL's versus Northern Illinois).

Big Man on Campus (special teams): Northwestern's Mark averaged 67 yards on two punt returns and had that key touchdown. Special recognition to Iowa's Greg Castillo, who made a great play to down a punt on the 1-yard line and change field position late, and Purdue's Kawann Short, who blocked a field goal and an extra point against Eastern Kentucky.

Worst hangover: It's tough to choose between Penn State and Michigan. The Nittany Lions lost their opener to Ohio, adding to what has already been an extraordinarily difficult year. They could be looking at a long season with little letup in the schedule. As for the Wolverines, they were major underdogs against Alabama. But they were thoroughly clobbered in every aspect against the Crimson Tide, and Brady Hoke's pained facial expressions in the second half said it all. If injured starters Blake Countess and Taylor Lewan have to miss significant time, the Alabama loss could add to Michigan's hangover in a big way.

Strangest moment: We're not questioning Bill O'Brien's judgment, and he came to Penn State from the New England Patriots, an organization that knows something about moving players into unexpected roles. Still, it was awfully strange seeing All-Big Ten linebacker Gerald Hodges returning kicks and punts against Ohio. The 237-pounder looked awkward doing so and fumbled a punt return at his own 13 to set up a Bobcats field goal. That's not what cost Penn State the game, but it sure was a weird and totally surprising sight that we might not see again this season.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 1

September, 3, 2012
Here’s a look back at Week 1 in the ACC:

The good: Clemson’s offense against Auburn. The Tigers were able to win without suspended superstar Sammy Watkins, as the trio of quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and receiver DeAndre Hopkins all made highlight reel-worthy plays against a decent Auburn defense. More importantly, though, the once-suspect offensive line paved the way for them to do it.

[+] EnlargeAndre Ellington
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireClemson running back Andre Ellington opened up the 2012 season with 231 yards on the ground against Auburn.
The bad: David Amerson’s performance against Tennessee. The All-American record setter got burned twice -- both for touchdowns.

The ugly: Maryland’s 7-6 win against William & Mary. The Terps couldn’t score until the fourth quarter against the FCS program, and finished with four turnovers and 91 rushing yards.

The surprise: Miami true freshman Duke Johnson. Johnson scored his first career touchdown on a 54-yard run in the second quarter and added a 56-yard score in the third quarter. He totaled 135 yards for the game, the most by a UM true freshman since Javarris James racked up 148 yards against Houston (Sept. 30, 2006).

The stat: Andre Ellington ran for 231 yards in Clemson's win against Auburn. According to ESPN’s Stats & Info department, Ellington is only the third ACC player since 2004 with multiple 200-yard rushing games. Seven ACC teams don't even have multiple 200-yard rushing games by an individual in that period.

The record I: UNC set a school and ACC record for single-game punt return yards with 260 on nine returns. The previous UNC mark of 225 yards was set against VMI in 1935. The previous ACC mark was 227 by Clemson against Georgia Tech in 1987.

The record II: Duke receiver Conner Vernon caught 10 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown in the win over FIU, becoming Duke’s all-time leader in pass receptions (208) with a 3-yard catch midway through the fourth quarter. He moved into fourth place on the ACC’s all-time chart for pass receptions (208).

The overmatched: Poor Murray State. The Seminoles totaled 606 yards while holding the Racers to 156 yards. In Charlottesville, Virginia outgained Richmond 523-201 in the first three quarters.

Notre Dame weekend rewind: Week 1

September, 3, 2012
Here's one last look at what was a successful opening weekend for the Irish:

The good: Each line received a game ball for its efforts Saturday, and deservedly so. Yes, there is plenty of talent in the Irish's backfield, but that talent doesn't get the chance to do what it did to Navy without the push up front. Remember, Navy was supposed to have the strong ground game. Notre Dame's 292 rushing yards -- and the Midshipmen's 149 -- were a testament to the strong play from both of Notre Dame's lines.

The bad: It wouldn't be a Notre Dame game without a red zone turnover, right? Everett Golson's first career gaffe came midway through the second quarter, when he was picked off by Parrish Gaines at the Navy 4. Fortunately for Golson, he and his teammates did more than enough to make up for it in a 40-point win.

Biggest surprise: Tackle Ronnie Stanley saw some playing time in the second half, a rarity for a freshman offensive lineman. Of course, Jordan Prestwood's departure and Tate Nichols' injury left the Irish thin there. Brian Kelly said Sunday that the decision was made before the trip that Stanley would play if the opportunity arose.

Best quote: In what is probably the most accurate way to describe 303-pound teammate Stephon Tuitt, who returned a fumble 77 yards for a score, Braxston Cave told reporters: "He's a freak."

Next up: And you thought Notre Dame once had quarterback conundrums? The Irish return to the United States to kick off their home schedule against rival Purdue, which has three capable signal-callers and is coming off a 48-6 rout of Eastern Kentucky.

Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 1

September, 3, 2012
Taking stock of the first week of games in the Pac-12.

Team(s) of the week: USC and Oregon did nothing to dispel the notion they are the class of the conference and are headed toward an epic clash on Nov. 3 in Los Angeles. Both teams pounded lesser foes, while a number of teams trying to challenge them -- Stanford, Washington and California -- didn't look ready for prime time. Further, both looked strong on both sides of the ball.

[+] EnlargeMarqise Lee
Kirby Lee/US PresswireUSC receiver Marqise Lee stole the show against Hawaii on Saturday.
Best game: Arizona gave the conference its lone, true nail-biter of the week. QB Matt Scott threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Miller in overtime to give the Wildcats a 24-17 victory over Toledo in Rich Rodriguez's coaching debut. Scott bailed out kicker John Bonano, who missed a 25-yard field goal as regulation ended after failing on a 24-yard attempt earlier in the game.

Biggest play: We'll give you two from the same guy. USC WR Marqise Lee took the very first play of USC's game with Hawaii 75 yards for a score. He later dashed 100 yards for a touchdown on a kickoff return.

Offensive standout: Scott seems like a good fit for Rodriguez's offense, just as most expected. He completed 30 of 46 passes for 387 yards and two scores and also rushed 14 times for 74 yards in the win against Toledo.

Defensive standout: Stanford CB Usua Amanam, a converted running back, recorded six tackles, two sacks, four tackles for loss and a fumble recovery in the Cardinal's win over San Jose State.

Special-teams standout: Hard to overlook Lee's 100-yard kickoff return. The truth is it wasn't a very good weekend for special teams, with lapses all over the conference.

Smiley face: Well, is there anyone who doubts Oregon's redshirt freshman QB Marcus Mariota now? Yes, it was a home game against an overmatched Arkansas State team, but Mariota looked completely in control during the brief time he played. He completed 18 of 22 passes for 200 yards with three TDs and no interceptions. He also rushed for 24 yards. It was the ninth most efficient performance on the opening weekend.

Frowny face: Cal! Cal, Cal, Cal! DRRRRRRRRR. That 31-24 loss to Nevada was bad period, but losing on the very day you celebrate the opening of your $321 million renovated stadium? Yuck. Nevada has now swept a home-and-home series with the Bears, and the only conclusion is the Wolf Pack is just better. After all, they outgained Cal 450 yards to 365 and converted 11 of 20 third-down plays compared to 3-of-14 for Cal. Oh, and the Bears' piddling run game likely won't get better if OT Matt Summers-Gavin is injured. Recall the Pac-12 blog writing about solid upset hopes for the Bears at Ohio State on Sept. 15? The Pac-12 blog wishes that stricken from the record. Consider this from Jeff Faraudo of the Contra Costa Times: "[Nevada QB Cody] Fajardo torched the Bears for 327 yards rushing and passing. Uh-oh ... in two weeks, Cal faces Ohio State and QB Braxton Miller, who had 368 combined yards vs. Miami-Ohio."

Thought of the week: Arizona State's 30 penalty yards versus Northern Arizona were the fewest it has posted since recording just 27 versus Arizona on Dec. 1, 2007, a span of the past 51 games. New coach Todd Graham talked about discipline and he delivered in the first game. Sure, it's against an FCS team and not a very good one at that, but since his controversial hiring, Graham continues to give off a positive impression. Now let's see what he can do the next two weeks against Illinois on Saturday and at Missouri on Sept. 15. Oh, and did anybody see that Pittsburgh-Youngstown State score? Just wondering how the post-Graham era started for the Panthers.

Questions for the week: The Pac-12 went 8-3 against a weak opening slate, with California, Colorado and Washington State losing and Arizona, Stanford and Washington playing tight games with what should have been overmatched foes. It was not an impressive opening weekend for the most part. Now the competition amps up considerably, with matchups with the SEC (Washington at LSU), Big 12 (Oklahoma State at Arizona), Big Ten (Illinois at Arizona State, Nebraska at UCLA, Wisconsin at Oregon State) and ACC (Duke at Stanford) and Big East (USC vs. Syracuse in East Rutherford, N.J.). The Pac-12 will be underdogs in four of those games. Is anyone capable of pulling an upset? And will the favorites all hold serve?