The Fifth Quarter: Week 2 Rewind

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As is always the case every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WINNERS

The United States of America
Exactly 10 years ago today, this great country of ours fell victim to the most devastating terrorist attack in the nation’s history.  There will be many ceremonies, remembrances and vigils honoring the memories of the thousands lost that day, and the thousands lost in the wars and conflicts that followed.  Needless to say, it was significant blow to the country, and its effects are still being felt 3,650 days later.  The thing is, they may have knocked those towers down, they may have staggered us for a bit, but we’re still here.  Why?  Because that’s what we do.  And that’s how we honor those lost in the despicable, cowardly attack, by never, ever giving up and never allowing those that want to bring us down to reach their objective.  So, as you go about your day today, watching the start of the NFL season and/or replaying Week 2 of the college season, take a minute or two to say a little prayer for the lives lost that day and the countless family members affected every day since by their loss.  And never, ever forget that day.

Now THAT is an instant classic
Ben did an excellent job recapping the epic first night game in the history of Michigan Stadium, but we’d be remiss in not at least mentioning the instant classic between Notre Dame and Michigan.  Quite honestly, though, I’m not exactly sure what the hell it was I witnessed.  I know it was historic; three touchdowns in the final 1:12 of the game — including Michigan’s winning score with two seconds left — screams once-in-a-generation finish.  Other than that?  I don’t know.  For the second straight game, Notre Dame put up over 500 yards of offense — and lost.   Of course, five turnovers, the bane of the Irish the first two games, will tend to negate chunks of yardage being gained, regardless of how huge they are.  The Irish entered the fourth quarter with a 24-7 lead — and were promptly outscored 28-7 in the fourth to lose 35-31.  So, should we remember it as an Irish collapse of epic proportions or a comeback for the ages for the Wolverines?  I don’t know about you, but I’ll simply remember it as one helluva college football game.

It’s over, Nicky; it’s over!
We stumped after last week’s opener for Nick Saban to pull the trigger and name A.J. McCarron as his starting quarterback going into the game with No. 23 Penn State and beyond.  That didn’t really happen — McCarron did start, though —  but, headed out of the game with the Nittany Lions, there’s no reason to delay the inevitable — McCarron has earned the right to be No. 3 Alabama’s starter at QB for the foreseeable future. McCarron didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard, but he did complete over 60 percent of his passes for nearly 200 yards, a touchdown and, most importantly, zero interceptions in the 27-11 win.  In fact, McCarron may actually have locked up the starting job without Saban saying a word publicly; backup Phillip Sims, who split series evenly with McCarron against Kent State, did not attempt a single pass, thus signaling that this really is McCarron’s team.  Well, for now, at least.

Well-deserved Bray-se for Vols QB
When Tyler Bray wasn’t even named third-team All-SEC in the preseason, we were one of a handful of people who openly questioned the logic surrounding the voting.  Saturday, Bray made me look like a genius.  Or less of a dolt.  One of the two, anyway, as all Bray did was throw for 405 yards and four touchdowns in Tennessee’s 45-23 win over Cincinnati.  The best part of the performance?  It allowed the Vols to open the season at 2-0, the first time that’s happened since 2006.  It also shows that, despite a rocky start on, um, Rocky Top, Derek Dooley and his coaching staff may finally have the UT football program headed in the right direction.  Especially with the caliber of player under center they’ll have for the next couple of years.

The real (next) McCoy
For a season plus a couple of games, Texas fans have been calling for the head of quarterback Garrett Gilbert on a platter, silver or not.   Longhorn Nation got their wish Saturday.  And a win as well.  After struggling yet again — two interceptions in eight attempts — Gilbert was yanked during the second quarter of UT’s game with BYU and replaced by a combination of Case McCoy, brother of Colt, and David Ash.  The passing duo combined to complete 9-of-11 passes for 92 yards and no picks.  The No. 24 Longhorns scored all of their points in the 17-16 win with McCoy and Ash in control of the offense.  It’s expected McCoy will start next week against UCLA, with Ash once again serving as the change-of-pace option at the position.

Fat Guy Heisman’s in the bag
One of my greatest joys in watching the game of football is a fat guy — an offensive or defensive lineman — scoring a touchdown.  When one of them single-handedly scores two of them in one game, and does it the way Melvin Ingram did in No. 12 South Carolina’s 45-42 win over Georgia?  That’s Christmas in summertime, my friends.  Ingram’s second TD was a rather ho-hum affair, a five-yard fumble return for a score.  His first one, however, was the stuff legends are made of.  On a fourth-and-17 from their own 32, Steve Spurrier called for a fake punt — for Ingram.  All the 280-pound lineman did was rumble 68 yards for a score that gave the Gamecocks a 14-13 lead, showing moves that belied his rather large frame.  We don’t know what’s the most amazing part of that score — the fact that it was a defensive lineman doing the scoring or the fact that Spurrier had the testicular fortitude to call a fake punt from his own 32-yard line.  And call it for a fat guy.

Happy bicentennial, coach!
It likely wasn’t prettier than but a handful of the previous 199, but No. 11 Virginia Tech’s 17-10 win over East Carolina still counts as the 200th in the underappreciated Hokies career of Frank Beamer.  While the Hokies outgained the Pirates by a nearly three-to-one margin in total yards, they committed two turnovers and committed 12 penalties — to just one for ECU — in the sloppy affair.  Still, a win is a win is a win and the 200th for Beamer, who deflected the postgame praise he received. “Like I said all week, I’m a fortunate guy to have had a lot of good people around me,” Beamer said. “And the school hung with me when things weren’t so good.

Loser gets the trophy though, right?
When it came to the Iowa-Iowa State rivalry, all of the talk the last month was about the God-awful trophy that was thankfully replaced on an interim basis by this.  Even more thankfully, there was a helluva football game that pushed trophy discussion even further in the background.  In a three-overtime thriller, the Cyclones were on the winning end of a 44-41 score over the Hawkeyes.  One of the greatest names to ever play the quarterback position, Steele Jantz, led the way for ISU’s improbable victory, throwing for 279 yards and four touchdowns

That’s just a pane in the glass
We touched on this earlier, but if this isn’t a winner I don’t know what is.  Short recap, then the clip: Auburn’s eagle Spirit attempted — and completed — a head butt of a luxury box’s window during its ritual flight into Jordan-Hare Stadium ahead of the game with No. 16 Mississippi State.  And lived to tell about it.  Here’s the visual proof:

AARPers unite!
Last week, a 17-year-old quarterback from Louisiana Tech earned a spot in the winners portion of The Fifth Quarter.  This week, we head to the extreme opposite end of the age spectrum to find another winner .  In NAIA Faulkner’s season opener, 61-year-old Alan Moore became the oldest player in the history of college football to play in a game.  Moore, who has five grandchildren, attempted and made an extra point in the game.  In a fitting coincidence on the 10th anniversary of the attacks on 9/11, Moore is a Vietnam vet whose first collegiate football career was cut short by that war.

LOSERS

Good guy, big trouble
Right or wrong, the 45-42 home loss to South Carolina has ratcheted up the pressure on Georgia’s Mark Richt.  And cranked up the temperature of his hot seat exponentially.  Granted, the Bulldogs opened up the season against No. 5 (Now No. 4) Boise State and No. 12 South Carolina, but that will do little to stop the board members dressed in wolves clothing from howling outside UGA’s doors.  Especially after last year’s 6-7 mark.  And after the first 0-2 start of Richt’s tenure.  The schedule certainly allows for a turnaround — the next two games are against Coastal Carolina and Ole Miss, and their highest-ranked opponent left is No. 16 (for now) Mississippi State — that could very well turn the jeers raining down on the Bulldogs Saturday into cheers by season’s end.  Whether because of an easier schedule or better play or a combination of both, something needs to happen between now and the end of November to ensure a 12th season in Athens.

The wailing and gnashing of lost bets could be heard for miles…
Leading 17-14 with 11 seconds left in the first-ever Pac-12 conference game, USC blocked the potential game-tying field goal and returned it for a the win-sealing touchdown.  The score was initially disallowed as the Trojans were penalized when the team poured onto the field immediately after the block.  No big deal, though, as the Trojans won the game anyway, right?  If you didn’t have money on the game, right.  If you did, it could’ve been very, very wrong.  The spread for the game closed with USC as anywhere between 7.5 and nine point favorites.  At first, those degenerates that took USC and gave up the points were out some cash as the Trojans didn’t cover without the score.  Then, over an hour after the game had ended, the Pac-12 announced that the TD did indeed count and the final score would be 23-14.  So, while some of those that took USC and gave up the points were ecstatic with the reversal and a win or a push, those that took the Utes and the points suddenly found the fresh cash they thought they’d won ripped from their pockets.  Don’t know about you, but I’ll bet they weren’t happy.

Woeful against Wofford
Clemson 35, Wofford 27.  When you’re in a BcS conference and you barely escape against a Div. 1-AA school — at home, no less — by a margin of a touchdown and two-point conversion, you land square in the middle of the “Losers” bracket of The Fifth Quarter.  The Tigers may be 2-0, but the seat on which head coach Dabo Swinney‘s backside resides is quietly getting warm to the touch (we’ve heard)(not that there’s anything wrong with that).   And it doesn’t get any better for Clemson next week; after unimpressive performances against schools from the Sun Belt Conference and 1-AA, the Tigers will welcome a suddenly rejuvenated Auburn Tigers football team into Death Valley Saturday.

Katz gotta hurt
Entering the 2011 season, Ryan Katz was the unquestioned leader of the Oregon State offense.  Two games and two embarrassing losses into the new year, Katz is apparently on the outside of the huddle looking in as the Beavers appear to have given the keys of the offense over to Sean Mannion.  As noted by Ben in the aftermath of the bludgeoning, Katz was used very sparingly in the drubbing at the hands of No. 8 Wisconsin, while Mannion by most accounts acquitted himself well despite the 35-0 loss.  By all appearances, it will be Mannion under center for the foreseeable future as the Beavers attempt to turnaround what’s been a horrendous start to the season.

Michigan State specifically, mankind as a whole
“But the No. 17 Spartans easily downed FAU 44-0,” you say.   Then you learn that The Situation from Jersey Shore infamy, per MSU athletic director Mark Hollis, has decided to be a Spartans fan this season and was on the sidelines for Saturday’s game.  Honestly, there are no winners in this sobering development.

Commonwealth of Kentucky football
Friday night, Louisville was embarrassed by Florida International of the Sun Belt in a loss.  Saturday afternoon, Kentucky was being embarrassed by Central Michigan of the MAC — the Wildcats were outgained 383-344 — before pulling away for the 27-13 win in the second half.  Next weekend, Louisville and Kentucky will play their annual in-state rivalry game.  Why is an image of a couple of first-grade girls pulling each other’s hair on the playground popping into my head when I think of what that clash will look like?

The NCAA
You’re not going to count the individual and team statistics from the weather-shortened Michigan-Western Michigan game opening weekend, but you’re going to count the win for the Wolverines?  Really, NCAA?  The again, this is The Association we’re talking about, so never mind.  Makes perfect sense.  Carry on.

ODDS & ENDS

— Minnesota suffered a scare very late in its 28-21 loss to New Mexico State as head coach Jerry Kill suddenly collapsed on the sideline.  After being tended to by medical personnel and taken to a local hospital, the first-year coach was listed in stable condition after suffering what the school described as a seizure.  Kill is expected to make a complete recovery.

— Starting quarterback Tyler Wilson was knocked out of No. 14 Arkansas’ 52-3 win over New Mexico with concussion-like symptoms.  The injury is not to believed to be serious enough to keep him off the field in the ensuing weeks, but it bears noting and keeping an eye on.

— After carrying the ball twice in the first quarter, Florida running back Jeff Demps left the game with a shoulder injury and did not return.  It’s not like the No. 18 Gators needed his services any further, however, as UF rolled to a 39-0 win over UAB.

— Is Washington State on the rise?  At least offensively they appear to be.  In the first two games of the 2011 season, Wazzu has scored 123 points; in 2010, Wazzu didn’t reach that point total until the third quarter of their sixth game.  Of course, they’ve faced Div. 1-AA Idaho State and should-be-Div. 1-AA UNLV, but still.  Where this program’s been for the past few years, they’ll take any sunshine amid the clouds they can get.

– On ESPN‘s College Gameday show, Kirk Herbstreit picked Cincinnati to go down to Knoxville and beat Tennessee.  Herbstreit, who left his lifelong home in Columbus in part because of the way he was treated by a small portion of Ohio State fans, now lives in Tennessee.

— Penn State burned their third timeout with 9:23 remaining in the first quarter of their loss to Alabama.  We’re certain there’s some kind of Joe-Pa/age joke in there somewhere, but we’ll just let it go and move on.

— The first night game in the history of Michigan Stadium drew 114,804 fans, a new school record.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

— In two games as a Wisconsin Badger, Russell Wilson has completed 79.4 percent of his passes and thrown five touchdown passes versus zero interceptions.  There’s a reason why Wilson’s “free-agent” acquisition this offseason was hailed in many corners as a potential title-winning move.  Those numbers added to that running game and defense are it.

— In Colorado’s 36-33 non-conference loss in overtime over conference foe Cal –don’t ask — quarterback Tyler Hansen threw for a school-record 474 yards, while wide receiver Paul Richardson set another school mark with 282 yards receiving.  All the prolific passing aside, the Buffs are 0-2.  An exciting winless team, but winless nonetheless under first-year head coach Jon Embree.

— Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas tied a school record with six touchdown passes, including five in the first half, in the No. 13 Ducks’ 69-20 rebound rout of Nevada.  Thomas also threw for nearly 300 yards (295) and rushed for 81 yards on just eight carries in the win.

— In Michigan’s 35-31 thriller over Notre Dame, quarterback Denard Robinson passed for 338 yards — on just 11 completions.

— Unbelievably, Notre Dame has committed five turnovers inside the opponent’s five-yard line in two games this season.  Again, five turnovers inside the other team’s five; that rarely happens in one season let alone a pair of games.  All told, the Irish have committed a combined nine turnovers in games 1 & 2.

– Under no significant pressure, and with absolutely perfect weather conditions, Oregon State’s Johnny Hekker punted a fully-inflated football minus-four yards in the first quarter of the Beavers’ loss to Wisconsin.

— Tight end B.J. Cunningham‘s first-quarter catches gave him 149 for his career, setting the all-time Michigan State record.  He finished the game five catches, giving him 153 for his career.

— Washington State quarterback Marshall Lobbestael threw for career highs of 361 yards and five touchdowns in Wazzu’s 59-7 win over UNLV. And, yes, I included this note just so I could type the name “Lobbestael”.

— I know this is non-Div. 1-A, but it’s worth noting: Jim Tressel‘s old stomping grounds, Youngstown State, scored 63 points — in the first half.  The Penguins went on to beat Valparaiso 77-13.

Report: Navy’s football stadium will host NHL outdoor game between Caps and Leafs

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The NHL has enjoyed the success of their growing number of outdoor games. What started out as an attempt to steal the New Years Day spotlight from the college football bowl season has grown to include additional outdoor games around the country in February and March as part of the league’s Stadium Series. With an abundance of outdoor games, finding new venues to host the outdoor games offers new opportunities to showcase a wide range of stadiums. Navy is now set to get in on the NHL outdoor fun.

The Associated Press reports Navy’s Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium will be used for one game in the NHL’s Stadium Series on March 3, 2018. The Washington Capitals will “host” the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 34,000-seat venue in Annapolis, Maryland. A formal announcement is expected to be made on Monday, Memorial Day. It’s also the same day the NHL kicks off the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators and commissioner Gary Bettman gives his annual state of the league address.

The New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres were previously slated to play in the NHL Winter Classic in Citi Field, home of baseball’s New York Mets.

Heinz Field, the home of the Pitt Panthers, was used to host the 2011 Winter Classic between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, becoming the first college football stadium to host an outdoor NHL game. Of course, Heinz Field is also home to the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, so this college stadium host came with an asterisk. Heinz Field hosted a Stadium Series game this past February between the Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

Michigan’s Michigan Stadium hosted the Winter Classic in 2014 between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. TCF Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, hosted a game in the NHL’s Stadium Series in 2016 between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks.

There are still a good handful of stadiums worth considering for future NHL outdoor games, especially in the Big Ten. Penn State’s Beaver Stadium has long been suspected of being a potential target for an outdoor game, but any plans involving Beaver Stadium may have to wait until after the stadium’s facilities are upgraded as part of the school’s upcoming athletics department renovation. Ohio State’s Ohio Stadium could also be an attractive candidate for an outdoor game in the future as well.

A couple other venues for possible Stadium Series game sin the future should include the Los Angeles Coliseum and the Rose Bowl. The NHL has already played an outdoor game in Dodger Stadium, back in 2014, so the league is not afraid to play outside in LA (and Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara hosted a game in 2015). If they return, playing in either historic stadium would seem to make sense, although it is possible the NHL would prefer to wait until the new home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Chargers is completed before making a trip to LA again.

Alabama DB Tony Brown has chance to prove he’s fastest NCAA athlete in nation

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Forget the 40-yard dash. Alabama defensive back Tony Brown is setting his focus on the 100-meter dash.

Brown, a track star in addition to being a fixture on the Alabama defense, qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the 100-meter dash after finishing in the top 10 at the NCAA East Regional at Kentucky. Brown is a two-time All-American on the track.

Let this serve as another example of the caliber of athletes Nick Saban is bringing in to his program. Recruiting analysts have been noting for years the importance of recruiting athletes with skills in more than one sport, and Alabama has that with Brown. Brown was one of the nation’s top hurdlers in high school, and that success on the track has continued in Tuscaloosa.

Brown brings the pain on the football field too, of course. Just ask former Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams what kind of damage Brown can bring.

Helmet sticker to Gridiron Now.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey still not a fan of early signing period

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The SEC will gather in Destin, Florida this week for the annual spring meetings. This will be the first time the conference has come together since the adoption of an early signing period in college football, which is something that has not been well-received by some in the SEC. Among the dissenters in the early signing period conversation has been SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who says he is still no fan of the new recruiting calendar.

I still don’t think that’s best,” Sankey said in an interview with the Associated Press last week.

“I think the early signing date has an impact on high school football,” Sankey said. “I think moving the recruiting calendar has an impact on high school football. I think we all have to be concerned about football and its strength and health at every level. Whether it’s a minority voice or a singular voice, I think those are important issues to consider.”

The stance by some around the SEC against the idea of the early signing period is notably different compared to just a few years ago. At the spring meetings in 2014, the SEC football coaches voted unanimously in favor of an early signing period starting on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Former SEC commissioner Mike Slive, however, expressed his preference to keep the only signing day in February.

As far as the voice coming from the commissioner’s office in the SEC is concerned, the narrative has not changed following the changing of the guard.

College football world will watch as SEC reviews graduate transfer rules at spring meetings

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Among a handful of items on the agenda for this week’s SEC spring meetings will be a review and discussion about the league’s graduate transfer rules. Specifically, the SEC is expected to address the current restrictions on accepting players as graduate transfers if a previous graduate transfer fails to meet that school’s academic requirements.

“This will be the first meaningful conversation that we’ve had since the proliferation of graduate transfers has happened nationally,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said to the Associated Press. ”I expect our membership to have a pretty meaningful conversation about the right perspective on graduate transfers entering the SEC from outside and then the topic of inter-conference transfers.”

Sankey has promised the topic of graduate transfer rules will be reviewed at the SEC spring meetings, and it will be a bit overdue. Better later than never, right?

Like the early signing period, this is a topic the SEC has found themselves standing in the minority crowd. The SEC has had a complicated relationship to graduate transfers since the NCAA opened the door for graduate transfers in 2006. The conference banned all graduate transfers in 2011 after Ole Miss had added former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli as a graduate transfer. The Masoli transfer was one scrutinized by the NCAA and critics before officially being cleared following an appeal. In 2014, the ban was lifted, but with provisions in place to ensure SEC schools were not adding graduate transfers with no intention of pursuing a graduate degree.

One person who may be watching this development this week with great interest is likely former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire. Zaire is suspected to be down to deciding whether to transfer to Florida or Texas, and he has already pushed back his decision seemingly to wait and see if the Gators will be an actual option. For that to happen, the SEC will have to amend its graduate transfer policy or allow Florida an exemption.

Florida is unable to add a graduate transfer like Zaire because two previous graduate transfers (former Georgia Tech linebacker Anthony Harrell and former Fordham offensive lineman Mason Halter) failed to meet the academic requirements after transferring to Florida. That put Florida on a three-year ban from adding any graduate transfers through 2018.

But if the SEC is the one lagging behind the competition when it comes to its graduate transfer policies, why would the college football world be watching? That’s easy. If the sEC amends its graduate transfer policies, then makes the conference that already typically dominates in talent acquisition through recruiting has a chance to become even stronger and more desirable. Graduate transfers who may be blocked from enrolling at an SEC school and have been forced to evaluate other options in the Big 12 or Big Ten and so on, could have a chance to transfer to the SEC. For example, Florida could add Zaire to their roster, which leaves Texas hoping Tom Herman really works his QB magic in Austin.

There is a ripple effect that could potentially play out, even in a conference that is in need of catching up in this particular issue. That’s how important the decisions made in the SEC could be for the entire sport.