NCF Nation: Weekend-rewind-092611

Weekend rewind: Pac-12

September, 26, 2011
Taking stock of the fourth week of games in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: Arizona State ended an 11-game losing streak to USC with a 43-22 victory in front of an inspired home crowd. The win pushed the Sun Devils back into the national rankings and bolstered their position in the Pac-12 South Division.

Best game: Washington outlasted California 31-23, with the Huskies' defense getting a fourth-down stop on their 2-yard line to preserve the win.

[+] EnlargeBrock Osweiler
Matt Kartozian/US PresswireBrock Osweiler threw for 223 yards as Arizona State snapped its losing streak to USC.
Biggest play: With USC down six and facing a third-and-5 from the Arizona State 14-yard line, Sun Devils defensive end Greg Smith sacked and forced a fumble from Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley, and defensive tackle Bo Moos recovered. The Sun Devils then drove 82 yards for a touchdown and a 36-22 lead with 6:48 remaining in the game.

Offensive standout: LaMichael James rushed for a school record 288 yards on 23 carries with two touchdowns in the Ducks' 56-31 win at Arizona.

Defensive standout: Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan had 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss to go along with five total tackles in the Ducks' win over the Wildcats.

Special teams standout: Oregon State's Jordan Poyer returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown against UCLA. He also had 56 yards on two kickoff returns. He ended up with 156 return yards in the game.

Smiley face: Washington's maligned defense held California to just three second-half points, including none in the fourth quarter. The Bears had just one TD in five red zone chances.

Frowny face: Arizona gave up 415 yards rushing to Oregon. The Wildcats presently rank 114th in the nation in run defense (233.5 yards per game). They also rank 106th in the nation in scoring defense (35.0 ppg) and 112th in total defense (484 ypg).

Thought of the week: Assuming that Stanford's Andrew Luck will win first-team All-Pac-12 quarterback, who would you pick for second team right now? Eight conference QBs rank among the top 40 in the nation in passing efficiency. While USC's Barkley, Arizona's Nick Foles and Oregon's Darron Thomas entered the season as "name" QBs, through four games the second-best Pac-12 QB would be Washington's Keith Price, followed closely by Arizona State's Brock Osweiler.

Questions for the week: At 0-3, Oregon State is the first team to have a stamp of doom put on its season. Who's next? You might be able to say that the loser of Arizona's visit to USC and Washington State's trip to Colorado will start to see reasons for optimism this season slip away.

Weekend Rewind: Big East

September, 26, 2011
Let us take a look back at Week 4:

[+] EnlargeMohamed Sanu
AP Photo/Mel EvansRutgers receiver Mohamed Sanu, right, had 16 catches for 176 yards against Ohio.
The good: Cincinnati forced three more turnovers in a 44-14 win against NC State last Thursday night. That brings its nation-leading total to 16 takeways. But maybe even better -- the defensive line had its best performance of the season with six sacks and 12 tackles for loss. The defense held NC State to minus-26 yards rushing, the third-lowest rushing total in school history and the fewest since allowing minus-37 yards to Wichita State in 1974. ... You already know what a tremendous performance Rutgers receiver Mohamed Sanu had against Ohio. But a little overlooked was its performance on third down. Rutgers converted 11 of 18 third-down attempts (61.1 percent) against an Ohio defense that had held its previous opponents to 33.3 percent on third down. Greg Schiano might have not liked being in 18 third downs, but when you convert at that clip, you take it. ... Connecticut has held its opponent to three points in each of its two wins. ... USF had three scoring plays of 50 yards or more in the win against UTEP. Last season, the Bulls had three 50-yard scoring plays. Total.

The bad: Big East officiating had a bad weekend, after the league admitted its officials blew a call in the Syracuse-Toledo game that impacted the outcome. An extra point from Ross Krautman appeared to go wide, but it was called good on the field. That call was upheld on review. The point gave Syracuse a 30-27 lead late in the game. Toledo tied it with a field goal to send the contest into overtime. But the league now says the extra point was no good. Had that point come off the board, Syracuse would have led by 2 and not 3, giving Toledo a chance to win rather than tie. ... West Virginia allowed a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against LSU after cutting the deficit to six. That was the start of 21 unanswered points for the Tigers in a 47-21 win. The Mountaineers added four turnovers after committing three in the first three games combined. The 47 points were the most West Virginia has given up since losing 48-22 to Virginia in the Continental Tire Bowl in 2002. ... Pitt was held to just 268 yards of total offense in its 15-12 loss to Notre Dame.

Stat sheet:

  • West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin had 11 receptions for 187 yards, and receiver Stedman Bailey had eight catches for 115
    yards against LSU. It was the second straight game in which West Virginia had multiple 100-yard receivers.
  • Quarterback Geno Smith had school records for completions (38), attempts (65) and passing yards (463) yards against LSU. He finished with 468 total yards of offense, a program single-game record.
  • UConn quarterback Johnny McEntee threw the first two touchdown passes of his career against Buffalo.
  • Pitt has not allowed a point in the first quarter this season.
  • Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib leads the Big East in completion percentage (71.4).
  • Syracuse receiver Van Chew now has 1,012 career receiving yards.
  • Cincinnati receivers Anthony McClung (94) and Kenbrell Thompkins (72) set career highs for yards.
  • Syracuse running back Prince-Tyson Gulley had carrer highs with 10 carries and 66 yards.
  • Sanu set school and Big East records with 16 receptions for 176 yards.
Week 5 schedule
USF at Pitt, Thursday, 8 p.m., ESPN
Rutgers at Syracuse, Saturday, noon, Big East Network
Cincinnati at Miami (Ohio), Saturday, 1 p.m., ESPN3
Western Michigan at UConn, Saturday 3:30 p.m., Big East Network
Marshall at Louisville, Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Big East Network
Bowling Green at West Virginia, Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Big East Network

Weekend rewind: ACC

September, 26, 2011
Here’s your weekly look back at what happened in the ACC and a sneak preview of the top games going forward:

The good: Clemson’s second straight upset of a Top-25 team. In the past 23 years, Clemson has only defeated ranked opponents on back-to-back weekends one other time. The Tigers have knocked off defending national champ Auburn and defending Atlantic Division champ Florida State. Up next: The defending ACC champs, Virginia Tech.

The bad: NC State’s offense. For all of the talk about how injuries have been holding the Wolfpack back, there’s really no explanation for NC State’s three turnovers, minus-26 yards rushing and six allowed sacks against Cincinnati.

[+] EnlargeMontel Harris
Mark L. Baer/US PresswireMontel Harris made his season debut on Saturday.
The ugly: ACC letdowns. No need to rehash it extensively here. NC State’s loss to Cincinnati in a nationally televised Thursday night game, Miami’s loss to Kansas State, Virginia’s loss to Southern Miss, and Maryland’s whiff against Temple all added up to humiliation for the ACC.

The comeback: Welcome back, Montel Harris. Boston College’s record-setting running back finally made his much-anticipated debut this season after sitting out with a knee injury. The ACC’s preseason Player of the Year converted a fourth-and-1 to keep the Eagles’ first scoring drive alive in the red zone. He finished with nine carries for 27 yards.

Top three games of Week 5:

No. 13 Clemson at No. 11 Virginia Tech: Two questions will be answered in this game: 1. Can Clemson not only handle its success, but continue it on the road in one of the ACC’s most challenging venues? And 2. After taking care of business against four weaker nonconference opponents, is Virginia Tech ready and good enough to put together a complete game against ranked competition?

Wake Forest at Boston College: The Eagles are trying to build some momentum after their first win of the season, and Wake Forest is fresh off a bye week and looking for its second Atlantic Division win. It’s a critical game for the bowl hopes of both programs.

North Carolina at East Carolina: Road trips to ECU haven’t been easy for ACC teams, but this is a game the Tar Heels should be expected to win. The Pirates’ scoring defense is allowing 32 points per game, and their rushing offense is 111th in the country with just 83.7 yards per game. UNC can’t afford to let its loss to Georgia Tech beat it twice.

Why isn’t Georgia Tech listed? Because based on what we’ve seen from NC State’s porous defense, so far, the Yellow Jackets’ offense should continue to pad its statistics. The other three games should be closer and more entertaining, and Wake at BC is a divisional game.

Weekend rewind: Notre Dame

September, 26, 2011
It wasn't easy on the eyes, but it's time to look back at the weekend that was for Notre Dame, which improved to .500 with a blue-collar 15-12 win over Pitt at Heinz Field.

The Good: The Fighting Irish had trouble converting short-yardage situations in the fourth quarter two weeks ago at Michigan, but those troubles were washed away with Saturday's performance. Notre Dame was 2-for-2 on fourth downs and 6-for-6 on third downs with three yards or less to go.

The Bad: The Irish committed eight more penalties for 85 yards, including a costly -- and controversial -- roughing the kicker call on Austin Collinsworth early in the second half. That gave Pitt new life, and the Panthers answered with a 19-play touchdown drive. With 7.75 penalties per game, Notre Dame is tied for 107th-least in the nation.

The Ugly: Did you not watch the game? Seventeen combined flags, a missed field goal, a 15-12 final -- in short, it was not a pretty sight. Whether the noon kickoff played a role in any of this is up for debate, but the Irish for now can be happy to escape on the winning end of this schoolyard brawl.

Turning point: Tommy Rees completed all eight of his passes on the Irish's second-to-last drive, hitting Tyler Eifert the final three times, including for the go-ahead score. He hit Eifert for the two-point conversion, too, and rewarded Brian Kelly's faith in him after uninspiring play through three quarters.

Call of the day: How about Kelly sticking defensive end Stephon Tuitt in at the nose guard spot? The pass rush was on in full effect with the freshman there on Pitt's final drive, as the Irish sacked Tino Sunseri twice and set up a desperation fourth-and-26 situation that the Panthers couldn't convert.

Next up: Notre Dame will head to West Lafayette, Ind., for its second of five night games this season. The Irish will face their third and final Big Ten opponent in a Purdue team that has had two weeks to prepare since a 59-0 win over Southeast Missouri State. The Boilermakers rank second in the Big Ten in total offense and rushing offense but, like the Irish, have accumulated plenty of penalties, averaging 7.67 through their 1-2 start.

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

September, 26, 2011
Let's take a look at back at Week 4 for the non-AQs:

The good: How about a hand for Temple and Southern Miss, two non-AQ teams that took down the ACC on Saturday. The Owls dominated Maryland 34-7, and took particular pleasure in the win after hearing some trash talk from the Terps players before the victory. Temple has been impressive since the outset of the season, and nearly upset Penn State last week, too. Coach Steve Addazio has done a terrific job in his first year taking over the program. … Meanwhile, Southern Miss beat Virginia 30-24 -- its first road win over an AQ school on the road in five tries. … San Jose State ended a 13-game losing streak and notched its first conference win since defeating New Mexico State 13-10 on Nov. 28, 2009.

The bad:It was not a great day for the Mountain West. San Diego State was supposed to give Michigan a fight but instead lost 28-7 against former coach Brady Hoke. UNLV, a week removed from beaten Hawaii, lost at home to Southern Utah 41-16. Incredibly, Southern Utah returned three interceptions for touchdowns. New Mexico lost to Sam Houston State in overtime, 48-45. Just before kickoff, a teenager claiming to be a recruit was arrested on DWI charges in Mike Locksley’s car. Finally fed up with Locksley, New Mexico fired him Sunday afternoon. In two-plus seasons, Locksley went 2-26 and the program became a national laughingstock. To Lobos fans, this probably should go into the “good” category because they can now get the fresh start they have so desperately wanted.

UCF has got to fix its special teams. For the second straight week, that unit cost them, this time in a 24-17 loss to BYU. The Knights allowed Cody Hoffman to score on a 93-yard kickoff return, and a muffed punt by J.J. Worton set up another score. Last week against FIU, UCF also had a muffed punt that led to a touchdown and the Knights lost 17-10.

The heartbreak: The WAC had the toughest day of all the conferences in the hurting department. Two teams lost in overtime, and another with 44 seconds left in the game.

We start with Utah State. The Aggies have got to have their collective heart in pieces at this point. The closing minutes against Auburn doomed the Aggies thanks to a special teams error. The same can be said of their loss to Colorado State on Saturday night. Utah State saw its 21-13 lead evaporate after Eric Moats dropped a punt with 2:17 to play. Colorado State recovered and Chris Nwoke scored on a 1-yard run with 42 seconds left. The Rams got the 2-point conversion to send the game into overtime. The teams traded touchdowns in the first two extra periods. But Utah State decided to go for 2 in the second overtime to win the game. Robert Turbin was stopped short and Colorado State won 35-34. "The reason we went for 2 is because I believe in the team," coach Gary Andersen said afterward. "I believe we can score from the 3-yard line at any time and I surely believe we can score from the 1.5 yard line. I would do it again in one second. I’m always going to coach aggressive."

Louisiana Tech must know the feeling. Two weeks in a row the Bulldogs have come close to pulling the upset. Two weeks in a row they fell just short. Last week they blew a huge lead to Houston. This week, they did not have enough to take down Mississippi State. Freshman quarterback Nick Isham threw two critical interceptions -- one late in the game, and one in overtime -- that made a huge difference in the 26-20 loss.

Nevada has not played particularly well this season, but that looked like it was about to change at Texas Tech. The Wolf Pack built a 28-14 third-quarter lead, and Cody Fajardo seemed to provide a nice spark off the bench. But the defense -- which was supposed to be a strength this year -- collapsed and the Red Raiders scored with 44 seconds left when Seth Doege threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Eric Ward for the 35-34 win.

But nothing beats the case Toledo has. The Rockets had a win snatched from them thanks to a mistake by the officials in a 33-30 overtime loss to Syracuse. The school has asked the MAC to contact the Big East and request the win be given to the Rockets.

Injury report: TCU lost starting linebacker Tanner Brock for the season with a foot injury. The Horned Frogs will petition for a medical redshirt. TCU has shifted Tank Carder to the outside. … Air Force suffered injuries to starting linemen Zach Payne (knee) and Cody Miller (leg). … UAB quarterback Bryan Ellis suffered a concussion against East Carolina and was taken off the field on a backboard in a 28-23 loss.

Keenum watch: Case Keenum threw for 415 yards and two touchdowns in just two and a half quarters of play, and Houston recorded its first shutout since 1999 in a 56-0 rout of Georgia State on Saturday. He passed passed former BYU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer for third on the NCAA all-time passing yardage list, and passed former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell for third on the NCAA career total offense list.

Helmet stickers

Brandon Rutley, RB, San Jose State. Rutley had 209 yards rushing on 33 carries -- including a career-long 66 yard scoring run -- in a 34-24 win over New Mexico State. It was the first 100-plus yard rushing game of his career, and he became the first San Jose State player to rush for 200 or more yards since the 2004 season.

Austin Davis, QB, Southern Miss. Davis finished 27 for 41 for 313 yards with no interceptions in a 30-24 win over Virginia. He threw touchdown passes of 32 and 3 yards to Bolden and a 20-yarder to Ryan Balentine.

Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple. Pierce set a school record with five rushing touchdowns in a 38-7 win over Maryland. Pierce had 149 yards on 32 carries.

Deon Long, New Mexico. Long had nine receptions for 209 yards and caught three touchdown passes, and returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown in a loss to Sam Houston State. His 378 all-purpose yards set a school and Mountain West record.

Blaine Gautier, QB, Louisiana. Gautier, making just his fourth career start, led the Cajuns to a stunning 36-31 upset at FIU. Gautier guided the team to a season-high 419 yards of total offense and did not commit a turnover. He totaled 307 yards (221 passing/86 rushing) and tossed three touchdown passes.

Weekend rewind: Big Ten

September, 26, 2011
Wake me when September ends. Oh, wait. September Big Ten football is already over. Let's review the last week of the first month of the season.

Team of the week: Michigan. The Wolverines take home this honor for the second time in three weeks, as their win over a motivated, previously unbeaten San Diego State team was probably the best of the week in the Big Ten. Michigan is 4-0 and will be heavily favored to make it 5-0 against Minnesota this week. Then the fun starts.

Best game: Honestly, Week 4 was mostly a yawner in the Big Ten. Illinois' 23-20 win over Western Michigan had some good moments, though. The Broncos threw the ball just about every down, tied it up in the fourth quarter and got the ball back with about a minute left with a chance to tie or take the lead. That provided the best drama of an off-off-Broadway kind of weekend.

Biggest play: Right after San Diego State failed to convert a fourth down in the fourth quarter, Michigan's Denard Robinson sprinted for a 30-yard gain. That set up Vincent Smith's touchdown to make it 28-7 and get the Wolverines out of harm's way. Robinson struggled again throwing the ball, but there's no one better at ripping off a big play at the right time.

[+] EnlargeMatt McGloin
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarPenn State QB Matthew McGloin has earned praise from coach Bill O'Brien during spring workouts.
Best call: Luke Fickell's mid-week decision to promote freshman Braxton Miller to starting quarterback. Ohio State needed a spark on offense, and while Miller completed only five passes against Colorado, he did throw two touchdowns and run for 83 yards. The Buckeyes probably could have beaten Colorado with Joe Bauserman, but Miller provides them some optimism.

Big Men on Campus (Offense): Denard Robinson and Matt McGloin. The two quarterbacks each had big days in different ways Saturday. Michigan's Robinson completed a standout September by rushing for 200 yards and three touchdowns in a win over San Diego State. He moved into second place on the Big Ten’s career rushing yards list by a quarterback with 2,605, second only to Indiana's Antwaan Randle El (3,895). McGloin didn't start but was terrific for Penn State against Eastern Michigan. He went 14-of-17 for 220 yards and three touchdowns after coming in during the second quarter. During his time at quarterback, the Nittany Lions increased their lead from 3-0 to 31-0.

Big Man on Campus (Defense): Iowa defensive lineman Tom Nardo. The senior had a career-high 12 tackles, including two for loss, as the Hawkeyes beat Louisiana-Monroe 45-17.

Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Illinois kicker Derek Dimke drilled all three of his field goal attempts, from 39, 35 and 21, including the game-winner as the Illini survived against Western Michigan. Dimke is a perfect 6-for-6 on the year.

Worst hangover: (Tie) Minnesota and Indiana. Both teams are 1-3 and have a lot more questions than answers at this point. The Gophers somehow have played their best football against USC and Miami (Ohio) while looking their worst against New Mexico State and North Dakota State. The Hoosiers committed the unforgivable sin of falling behind North Texas 24-0 before losing 24-21. These are two teams not anxiously awaiting Big Ten play, because they're going to have a hard time finding more wins.

Strangest play: With five seconds left in the first half, Minnesota set up a fourth-down heave from midfield. North Dakota State's Colten Heagle picked it off near the 18, was tackled around midfield and just tossed the ball out. Marcus Williams picked it up and raced the rest of the way untouched for a score and a 28-14 Bison lead. Williams, who scored twice on defense, is from the Twin Cities but was not recruited by Minnesota. That's the kind of year it's been for the Gophers.

Big 12 weekend rewind

September, 26, 2011
Time for our look back at the weekend in the Big 12.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireOklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden had a record setting performance against Texas A&M.
Best offensive player: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State. Facing a 17-point deficit, Weeden turned in an all-world second half, breaking his own school records with 47 completions and 438 passing yards and two touchdowns, which might have been three if not for an incident we'll get to later. And for all the talk of Weeden's interception count (six through three games) he didn't turn it over once against the best defense he's faced all year.

Best defensive player: Brodrick Brown, CB, Oklahoma State. Brown helped limit the effectiveness of Texas A&M receiver Jeff Fuller, and made eight tackles with an interception and two pass breakups in the Cowboys' 30-29 win over the Aggies.

Best team performance: Oklahoma State. Just like Oklahoma here. You win a road game in a tough environment against a top 10 team? You get best team performance. That's especially true if you erase a 17-point halftime deficit to do it. Runner up: Kansas State.

Best game: Oklahoma State 30, Texas A&M 29. Twists, turns and turnovers dotted some pretty sharp offensive play by Texas A&M in the first half and Oklahoma State in the second. What resulted was two really good teams playing an intensely entertaining game that came down to the final minutes.

Worst quarter: Texas A&M's third quarter. The Aggies let it all get away right here. Texas A&M's defense gave up three touchdown drives, sandwiched around a fumble on a the back end of a long catch-and-run by Kenric McNeal and a short drive that didn't cross midfield. The Aggies may look back at these 15 minutes as the ones that vastly changed their season for the worse. How quickly the game turned from 20-3 to 24-20.

Worst play: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State. What can be said about Blackmon's fumble into the end zone and out of bounds that hasn't already been said about Jersey Shore. Unnecessary, completely mindless, but you can't look away. How did this become reality?

Best play(s): Kansas State's defense. With the game on the line, the Wildcats stuffed Miami four times on the goal line to preserve a huge 28-24 win.

Best haircut: Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma. Lewis paid homage to his secondary, nicknamed "The Sharks," by shaving a shark into the side of his head. Outstanding, sir. Kenny Stills' mohawk has competition.

Best gesture: Oklahoma State's players. Linebackers coach Glenn Spencer's wife died earlier in the week, and the players made rubber bracelets for the team that read "One Heart, One Team, One Family." Said coach Mike Gundy: "It's one thing when the coaches do it. The kids doing it is another."

Most supportive fans: Oklahoma State. After notching one of the biggest wins in program history, Oklahoma State's charter flight arrived back in Stillwater to a ton of fans at the airport waiting to welcome their team back home. Very nice, Cowboys.

Best proposal: Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma. Broyles proposed to his long-time girlfriend on Sunday. The Sooners QB, Landry Jones, and top receiver are now officially off the market.

Most humorous fans: Oklahoma State. The few thousand OSU fans that made the trip to College Station started chanting "Big 12, Big 12, Big 12!" when the game was out of reach at Kyle Field for the SEC-bound Aggies. It may be the first time it got busted out, but no debut was more fitting, I suppose.

OSU dominated this thing today. Rest of the league has to step it up.