Gundy: ‘We’d have thrown 50 times… I just think we could score’

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It was a performance for the ages, and LSU’s microscopic offensive numbers bore out Alabama’s defensive dominance in the BcS title game.

Zero points.  A miserly 1.4 yards per carry, and just 3.1 yards per pass attempt.  Converted just two first downs in 12 third-down attempts.  Four plays ran in Alabama territory, none until the fourth quarter and all coming on one drive.  Five first downs.  92 yards of total offense.  In every fashion imaginable, it was the Tide sawing on a Stradivarius while the Tigers plucked aimlessly on a stringless banjo.

Those numbers weren’t enough, though, to dissuade one coach from playing the what-if game.

Speaking to USA Today shortly after the Tide’s 21-0 thumping of the Tigers, Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy lamented the fact that his Cowboys, which finished third in both the major polls, didn’t get the opportunity to do what LSU couldn’t — put some crooked numbers up on the scoreboard.  And, according to Gundy, they would’ve done it by doing what they do best.

Fling footballs all over the field and see what sticks.

“We’d have thrown it 50 times,” he said. “You like to think Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon could have put together some touchdowns. Get the ball thrown down the field and open some things up. Try to make it exciting, and see what happens.”

“You sure would like to have had a shot at it,” Gundy said.

“It kind of hurts to watch it. I just think we could score. We’d use all 52 yards across (the width of) the field. Get people on the edges. Use the vertical game.”

“For the most part in the last couple of years, we’ve been able to move the ball and score points against about anybody we played. … It’s been talked about all year from coast to coast: Big 12 offenses, SEC defenses, how do we really know if anybody’s really any good? That (a showdown in the BCS title game) would have been the best way to find out.”

“I will say this,” Mike Gundy said as Alabama closed in on Monday night’s 21-0 win against LSU. “I bet you there’ll be a lot of people wish they’d given us a shot to see a different kind of game.”

Granted, there were certainly a lot people who may have preferred a different style of game, as the 14-percent dip in overnight ratings from last year’s Auburn-Oregon title game attests.  There are, however, a couple of teeny tiny flaws in Gundy’s logic.

First, the Cowboys would not have been facing the Tide, they would’ve been facing the Tigers.  LSU was the unquestioned No. 1 while the Tide squeaked into the title game by the narrowest of margins over the Cowboys.  Whether the Cowboys could’ve put scored X number of points by throwing it 50 or 100 points against the Tide simply doesn’t matter.

And secondly, they did have a shot at it…

Given the current system — as inherently flawed and bogus and exclusionary as it is — taking care of business against a team that finished the season 6-7 would not leave the door wide open for the lamenting that’s taking place after the fact.  Gundy has no one to blame but himself, his coaching staff and his players.

And, yes, the system that instead of leaning toward equity runs like hell away from it should shoulder some blame as well.  Alas, that’s another story for another day, a discussion that’s hopefully coming sooner rather than later.

In the interim, at least one member of the 2011 BcS champions would have no problem taking the situation to the playing field and settling whatever issues Oklahoma State may have with how the season ended.

“I could play them right now,” Tide offensive tackle Barrett Jones said after the win Monday night. “You don’t think we hear that talk? Line up, let’s go.”

No. 1 Alabama matches series record with 11th straight win over Tennessee

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Tennessee wasn’t beaten by a cavalcade of big plays, special teams touchdowns and turnovers. Instead it was just a play-after-play-after-play destruction by the No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide, resulting in a 45-7 Alabama win that wasn’t as close as the final score.

The Tide jumped to a 21-0 halftime lead thanks to a pair of 1-yard leaps by Bo Scarborough and an 11-yard dash by Damien Harris, and Jalen Hurts got in on the action with a 14-yard strike to Irv Smith, Jr., swelling the lead to 28-0 to open the second half.

Tennessee got on the board shortly thereafter, when Daniel Bituli stepped in front of a Tua Tagovailoa pass and raced it 97 yards for a touchdown. In typical Tennessee fashion, though, the score was immediately tainted by this:

Tagovailoa atoned for his pick-six with a 23-yard scoring dash at the 12:59 mark of the fourth quarter.

Tennessee (3-4, 0-4 SEC) moved in position to record its first offensive touchdown of the game — scratch that, its first offensive touchdown in a month — with a first-and-goal from the 5-yard line, but a run to the 1-yard line was negated by a false start penalty and Jarrett Guarantano was intercepted by Mack Wilson, who returned the ball to the Alabama 23-yard line. The interception extended Alabama’s streak of consecutive games with at least one takeaway to 35. Tennessee’s last offensive touchdown came with 25 seconds left in the second quarter of the Vols’ 17-13 defeat of Massachusetts on Sept. 23.

Tagovailoa capitalized on the turnover with a 60-yard snatch-and-dash connection to fellow freshman Henry Ruggs III at the 4:49 mark of the fourth quarter.

In a game that amounted to a televised practice for Alabama, the Tide used two quarterbacks, seven ball-carriers and eight pass-catchers. Hurts was 13-of-21 for 198 yards and a touchdown, and Tagovailoa hit 9-of-12 throws for 134 yards with a score and a pick. Harris led all runners with 13 carries for 72 yards, and Calvin Ridley hauled in eight grabs for a game-high 82 yards. Overall, Alabama ran the ball 53 times for 272 yards and four touchdowns, gained 35 first downs and averaged 7.02 yards on its 86 snaps.

Guarantano’s second start was one to forget. Immediately. He completed 9-of-16 passes for 44 yards with an interception and was credited with minus-12 rushing yards on 11 carries. As a team, Tennessee amassed 108 yards of total offense with seven first downs and converted 1-of-12 third down opportunities. The Vols ran only 46 offensive plays and averaged 2.35 yards on those plays.

The result marked Alabama’s 11th straight win in the series — beginning with Nick Saban‘s first season — and matched the record winning streak in a rivalry that dates back to 1901, matching Alabama’s 11 straight victories from 1971-81. Alabama is 32-14-1 against Tennessee since 1971.

Speaking of streaks, the win pushed Alabama to 8-0 on the year and 5-0 in the SEC, giving the Tide 31 straight regular-season wins and 22 consecutive victories against the SEC.

Scott Frost’s stock continues to rise as unbeaten and 20th-ranked UCF knocks off Navy

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Paying attention to your prodigal son, Nebraska?  Where are your eyes at, Tennessee?

Entering Week 8 unbeaten and ranked 20th in the country, Central Florida was facing arguably its stiffest test of the season in the form of 5-1 Navy. After 60 minutes of play in Annapolis, the Knights are leaving town with a 31-21 win over the Midshipmen.

A pivotal moment came in the middle of the third quarter when, trailing just 21-14 and driving, starting quarterback and leading rusher Zach Abey was knocked out of the game.  The junior, who had 126 yards on the ground prior to leaving did not return to the contest because of what looked to be a head injury.

The service academy was able to close the gap to 24-21 early in the fourth quarter, but a turnover gave the ball back to UCF with just over seven minutes remaining.  Seven plays and 54 yards later, the Knights cashed in on the fumble recovery with a 10-yard Otis Anderson touchdown run that effectively put the game away with 3:30 left.

With the win, UCF is now 6-0 on the season, the first time they’ve won the first six games of a season in the program’s history.

As for the stock of Scott Frost, it does nothing but continue to rise.  Taking over a program that was winless the year before he arrived, the Knights went 6-7 in his first season and are now ranked 20th in the country, behind only 16th-ranked South Florida in the group of Five.

Those two AAC contenders are on a collision course for a potentially epic regular-season finale — one that could determine the G5’s lone New Year’s Six bowl bid.  Before then, however, UCF needs to get past an FCS foe, SMU, UConn and Temple, while USF will have to take care of business against Tulane later on tonight as well as Houston, UConn and Tulsa.

No. 9 Oklahoma struggling on the road with Kansas State at halftime

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It didn’t take long — two plays exactly — for No. 9 Oklahoma to realize that they will have their hands full against Kansas State on Saturday afternoon.

The Wildcats struck early and struck often to jump out to a 21-10 lead over their Big 12 rival heading into halftime in yet another head-scratching performance for the Sooners after a big win.

Defensive issues were at the heart of the problem for the ranked side, as KSU quarterback Alex Delton looked borderline unstoppable until a late interception — finishing the half with 60 yards passing and an even more impressive 115 yards and two touchdowns rushing. The speedy dual-threat made his second start in place of Jesse Ertz and may have fully Wally Pipp’d his veteran teammate given what he brought to the offense. Running back Alex Barnes also chipped in with 96 yards, including a 75-yard score on the second snap of the game.

Perhaps the biggest bout of news from the half was surrounding Sooners’ star Baker Mayfield. The signal-caller was 12-of-15 for 148 yards and a touchdown while also leading the team in rushing after two quarters. However he was taken out of the game on the final drive with a potential injury, only to return to the field as a decoy for two wildcat formation plays. It’s still not clear if he’s 100 percent healthy after taking a rather hard hit on a scramble.

Mayfield was also picked off once, thanks to an incredible job by KSU’s Denzel Goolsby to wrestle a ball away from a receiver in the end zone to come up with the ball.

So yes, just another weird day in the Big 12 as not much makes sense and a highly ranked team looks to be in real trouble on the road.

Miami turns Syracuse turnovers into 13-3 halftime lead

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A week after knocking off the ACC favorite and defending national champions, can Syracuse pull off another upset in the ACC? If Syracuse is going to do that against Miami, they have some work to do in the second half. Miami leads Syracuse at halftime, 13-3 while the Orange have had four turnovers.

The momentum of last week’s shocking upset against Clemson did not carry over on the road against Miami for Syracuse. Syracuse’s game-opening drive appeared to end on an interception off a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage, but Miami’s Demetrius Jackson had the ball stripped out of his hands after initially intercepting the ball. In the end, it turned out to be a Syracuse first down and what was effectively a loss of 12 yards on the play.

Turnovers would be the story of the half for Syracuse, however. Miami turned two Eric Dungey interceptions into 10 points in the first half. Malik Rosier completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Christopher Herndon IV to put the Hurricanes up 10-0 eight plays after an interception by the defense. Miami added a field goal after Syracuse was intercepted on the third play of the ensuing possession.

The best drive of the half for Syracuse traveled 71 yards over 17 plays but ended with a 22-yard field goal by Cole Murphy to get the Orange on the board.

The Syracuse defense has done their job. Miami has converted just one of six third-down plays for a first down, and the Hurricanes have not been able to do more damage on the scoreboard despite the abundance of Syracuse turnovers.