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The Fifth Quarter: Week 4 Rewind

Kansas State v Texas Getty Images

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

WINNERS

Mack’s back?
At least for the time being, the Longhorn Nation mob can put away its pitchforks and torches.  After a week that saw even more speculation about his job and the confirmation of rumors that Texas was indeed very interested in Nick Saban, Mack Brown was staring square in the face of Texas’ first 1-3 start since 1954.  Instead, the Longhorn players stepped above the ineptness of the past couple of weeks and moved to 2-2 with a 31-21 win over Kansas State.  Whether it was the increased heat on their coach or just the fact that the Wildcats aren’t that good, the players seemed to play with a spark, an enthusiasm, a sense of urgency that hasn’t been seen at all in 2013  Certainly one win doesn’t change all that’s gone wrong over the past three-plus years, and K-State 2013 is not the K-State of recent years, but it’s definitely a baby step in the right direction.

Hilluva football player
Forget about whether or not Jeremy Hill should even be on a football field; that’s another argument for another day.  When he is on the playing surface, the LSU running back is one helluva football player.  Hill rushed for a career-high 151 yards… and then headed back onto the field for the start of the third quarter.  Hill finished with 183 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers’ 35-21 win over previously unbeaten Auburn.  The Bayou Bengals certainly have a stable full of high-quality runners, but Hill is clearly the class of the backfield and will continue to serve as an important piece of the offensive puzzle as LSU continues its run toward what should be another epic showdown with Alabama.

Johnny be good at football
If someone other than Johnny Manziel is going to win the 2013 Heisman, they’re going to have to rip it from his cold, dead hands.  Or something.  In less than three-and-a-half quarters of playing time against SMU, Manziel passed for 244 yards and a touchdown while rushing for another 102 and two more scores.  Through four games this season, Manziel has accounted for 1,483 yards of total offense (1,228 passing, 255 rushing) and 15 touchdowns; in the first four games of the 2012 season, the numbers were 1,460 (1,094 passing, 466 rushing) and 16 touchdowns.  Whether or not voters, given the Texas A&M’s rocky offseason, give him serious consideration again this December remains to be seen.  Based on his play on the field this year, though, he damn well should be given just that.

Arizona State v StanfordCardinal rules
Stanford got off to a rather ho-hum start to the 2013 season, beating San Jose State by 21 in the opener and then getting by Army by 14 in Week 2.  In its first true test of the year, however, Stanford got back to real Cardinal football in building up a 29-0 halftime lead before pushing it to 39-7 and ultimately cruising, relatively speaking, to a 42-28 win over No. 23 Arizona State.  As is ofttimes the case, the Cardinal did most of their damage on the ground in rushing for a season-high 238 yards, with three of their touchdowns on the day coming on the ground.  Stanford is nothing if not consistent as they’ve rushed for 197, 205 and now 238 yards in their first three games.  We’re still six weeks away from their colossal showdown with Oregon down on The Farm, and yes Stanford allowed ASU to make it closer than what it could’ve/should’ve been, but it appears the trajectory of both the Cardinal and the Ducks is pointing straight toward an instant classic.

Plow on, Badgers
If anyone thought Wisconsin would turn its back on its running ways under Gary Andersen, you couldn’t have been more wrong.  In the Badgers’ 41-10 win over Purdue in their Big Ten opener, UW ran for 388 yards and averaged 8.1 yards per carry.  UW came into the game fifth in the country averaging 337 yards per game, rushing for 393 and 387 yards in the first two games under Andersen; their low-water mark for the season has been 210 in the controversial loss to Arizona State last weekend.  The Badgers are now averaging eight yards per carry, a figure that’s third in the country behind a pair of teams that are in an offensive league of their own: Oregon (9.3) and Baylor (9.2).

Non-offensive fireworks
Iowa put up a season-high 59 points on the board in a romp over Western Michigan, and the offense was responsible for just 31 of them.  B.J. Lowery returned two interceptions for a touchdown, becoming the first player in Hawkeye history to perform that feat.  Not to be outdone, Kevonte Martin-Manley became the first Iowa player ever to return two punts for a touchdown in a single game.  Martin-Manley is just the third player in the long history of the Big Ten to do that.  Iowa is now 3-1 on the year, the fifth time in the last six seasons it has started a season at 3-1 or better.

Spunky punter
We here at CFT don’t normally refer to punters as “real” football players.  San Jose State’s Harrison Waid, though, might consider such a label fightin’ words… literally.  Waid took exception to being blocked by a Minnesota player following one of his punts and, in very non-punter-like fashion, went after the Gopher that laid him out.  While the SJSU coaching staff likely appreciated the fire shown by Waid, they probably didn’t like the fact that he was ejected from the game as a result of what was closer to a cat fight than actual fisticuffs.

BCS buster still alive
Thanks to losses through the first three weeks of the 2013 season by, among others, Boise State and Utah State, Fresno State was looking like the lone non-AQ school left that could crash the BCS’ postseason party.  The hopes of BCS busters across the country were looking even more dire Friday night as the Bulldogs sat at their own 13-yard line with just over seven minutes left and trailing the Broncos by six.  Five minutes and 87 yards later, Fresno State put a game-winning touchdown on the board that kept their perfect record — and BCS hopes — intact.  While there are still potential stumbling blocks along the way, such as back-to-back games against San Diego State and Nevada in a month as well as a possible conference championship game appearance — rematch with Boise? — Fresno State is looking like as good a bet as any of the non-AQ schools to finish the season unbeaten and put themselves in a position for a BCS bowl bid.

LOSERS

The Devin’s in the detailsMichigan v Connecticut
Devin Gardner has been in a very giving mood of late for Michigan.  Off the field, that’s a positive; on it, it’s a decidedly negative trait.  Through four games this season, the Wolverines’ starting quarterback has thrown eight interceptions in 92 attempts, including two more against UConn.  Last season, in his first year as a starter, Gardner tossed five picks in 126 attempts.  Gardner also coughed up a fumble early in the third quarter, one that was returned for a touchdown in the too-close-for-comfort win over the winless Huskies.  A bye week could be coming at the perfect time for UM in general and Gardner specifically.  As a team, the Wolverines must clean-up whatever has gone wrong in two very unimpressive and uninspiring wins the past two weeks.  As a player, Gardner needs to some how, some way extract his cranium from his rectum and start playing smart football, especially with the start of Big Ten play on the horizon.

This could leave a mark
Miami had little problem in dispatching heavy underdog Savannah State, but the cupcake win could have come at a steep cost.  In the middle of the first quarter, starting quarterback Stephen Morris suffered what was initially described as a lower-leg injury.  Morris did not return to the game, and it was later revealed that the initial diagnosis is a sprained ankle.  It’ unclear if that would be the dreaded high-ankle type of sprain, although head coach Al Golden sounded decidedly optimistic in his postgame talk.  What’s also unclear is whether Morris will be available for the USF game next week or, more importantly, the ACC opener against Georgia Tech the week after.  The only good news for the ‘Canes if Morris were to miss any playing time is that they have an experienced backup in Ryan Williams.

DOH!gorsen
What in the name of Red Bull shooters is going on in Morgantown?  While the Mountaineers started 2013 2-1, their two wins came against FCS programs, while they scored just seven points in a loss to Oklahoma.  That downward offensive trend spiraled further out of control after WVU was shutout in an embarrassing 37-point road loss to Maryland.  It was the first time a Mountaineers team had been shutout since 2001, Rich Rodriguez‘s first season at WVU.  The Mountaineers recorded the same number of turnovers (six) as first downs, and they completed a grand total of one pass to a wide receiver.  Yes, replacing a quarterback like Geno Smith and a playmaker like Tavon Austin is a tall task, but there’s no excuse for a Dana Holgorsen-coached team to get shut out.  It may not be on the national radar quite yet, but the howls from the locals around me here in the middle of WV calling for Holgorsen’s head are growing in frequency and intensity.  Holgorsen’s built his reputation on offense; his players had better start playing up to that résumé.

Marshall, Marshall, Marshall
Staying in God’s Country, what could have been for Doc Holliday‘s football program.  A pass that could’ve went the other way for a pick-six instead slipped through the hands of a Marshall defender and into the arms of a Virginia Tech receiver, tying the game at 21-all with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter.  After Tech missed a pair of field goal attempts in the first two overtimes — and after the Herd had one of its FGs blocked in the second overtime — the Herd was in position to tie the game in the third overtime — the Hokies had scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion on their third possession of extra time — only to watch a blatant pass interference in the end zone go uncalled.  Add it all up and it was a heartbreaking 29-21, triple-overtime loss for the 2-2 Herd… and a huge escape for a very average Hokies football team.

Florida International v LouisvilleFIUBAR
In December of this year, FIU stunned most college football observers by firing head coach Mario Cristobal.  At the time, athletic director Pete Garcia defended the indefensible by claiming the program had “gone backwards over the last year and a half.”  So, how have the Panthers fared in their first season under new head coach Ron Turner?  FIU has lost their first four games by a combined score of 187-23, including the 72-0 whipping Saturday at the hands of Louisville.  Even more embarrassing for the Panthers is the fact that the officiating crew ordered a running clock in the second half in an effort to speed up the embarrassment.  Excellent work, Mr. Garcia.  You’ve turned around this FBS football program in much the same way you and Butch Davis turned around my Cleveland Browns early last decade.  You should be proud.

$avannah $tate
Over the past two seasons, Savannah State has been 60-point-plus underdogs to three FBS teams: Miami (Sept. 21, 2013), Oklahoma State (Sept. 1, 2012) and Florida State (Sept. 8, 2012).  The FCS program lost those three games by a combined score of 216-7… and that was with the FSU game featuring a running clock in the second half and weather ending the game in the third quarter as well as the Miami game Saturday having the fourth quarter shortened to 12 minutes.  For that trio of eviscerations, Savannah State added $1.235 million to its athletic department’s coffers; in 2010-11, the department’s total athletic budget across all sports was $5.1 million.  Sometimes when you lose, get a beatdown even, you win and win big.

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

– No. 3 Clemson 26, North Carolina State: Thanks to some very questionable officiating, the Tigers were able to get out of Raleigh with its fourth consecutive win to start the 2013 season.

– No. 9 Georgia 45, North Texas 21: The Bulldogs may have won going away thanks to ripping off 24 unanswered points, but they were actually tied with the Conference USA program at 21-all midway through the third quarter.

– No. 15 Michigan 24, UConn 21 — For the second straight week, the Wolverines not only allowed an inferior opponent hang with them, they were actually outplay for the better part of 60 minutes.  UM may be unbeaten at 4-0, but it’s as wobbly a 4-0 that you’ll ever see.

– No. 19 Northwestern 35, Maine 21: You beat an FCS team, even a previously unbeaten one like the Black Bears, by a mere two touchdowns when you’re ranked inside the Top 25, you deserve a mention for escaping.

– No. 22 Notre Dame 17, Michigan State 13: Were it not for an inexplicable trick play late in the third quarter by the Spartans, the Irish could’ve very easily been on the receiving end of its second loss of the season.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Monday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.Colorado State v Alabama

1. Alabama — Call it a letdown coming off a huge win last week or having some pity on a former coordinator, but the Tide looked rather meh-ish in the 25-point win over Colorado State in their home opener.  Expect a much different Tide team as it faces a ranked SEC foe. (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: vs. No. 21 Ole Miss

2. Oregon — Despite a bye week, I believe the Ducks still somehow managed to put up 56 points with just 15 minutes of time of possession. (Last week: No. 2)
Next up:  vs. Cal

3. Clemson — You could feel and almost see the Clemsoning hanging in the Raleigh air Thursday night, but it never transpired.  Is this year different for the Tigers?  It’s certainly looking that way and holy hell I just jinxed it. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: vs. Wake Forest

4. Ohio State — After four wins over creampuffs by an average score of 52-15, the Buckeyes have seen the preseason officially come to an end and will face its first real test of the regular season by opening up Big Ten play at home next Saturday. (Last week: No. 4)
Next up: vs. No. 24 Wisconsin

5. Stanford — I was very tempted to put LSU here following their win over previously-unbeaten Auburn, but the Cardinal’s win over an unbeaten and ranked Arizona State was enough to trump that in my mind. (Last week: unranked)
Next up: at Washington State

(Dropped out: No. 5 Louisville)

HE SAID IT
“I can talk about our crowd today for probably an hour in terms of the energy that they brought to the game, getting in there at an earlier time I think than we usually do; staying even when the game seemed very hard at times, and as disruptive a crowd as we’ve had here probably since the 2006 Louisville game. It was deafening loud.” — Kyle Flood, following Rutgers’ come-from-behind win over Arkansas.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“Obviously, I appreciate our fans. I’ve said it and I’ll say it again. We have great fans. I think everybody involved knows that what came out is not indicative of how I felt or how I feel about them. I think our fans understand that. They’re great fans. They’ve been around me for five years. I think they know who I am as a person.” — Bo Pelini, following a rather rough week for him and his Nebraska football program.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“That was a bizarre game.” — David Cutcliffe, after watching his Duke team lose a 58-55 first-round ACC hoops tourney game to Pittsburgh.

HE SAID IT, BONUS EDITION
“We exposed them at times.” — Earnest Wilson III, after watching his Savannah State team get shellacked 77-7 by Miami.

HE SAID IT, LES MILES EDITION
“If not, a stiff dew was out there.” — The LSU head coach’s response to someone who asked him if it rained in Tiger Stadium.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK
As a loyal follower of everything and anything Duck Dynasty, I’m fascinated by how far the reach of that family-centric show has grown over the past year.  The latest example?  In the run-up to their game against Louisiana-Monroe — Duck Dynasty‘s Robertson clan hails from West Monroe La., with the elder statesman Phil a former starting quarterback at Louisiana Tech — Baylor posted the following photo on their Twitter account earlier this week:

Baylor Duck Dynasty

RGIII and Art Briles — looking eerily and creepily similar to Uncle Si sans eyeglasses, incidentally — sporting a flowing and glorious redneck face mullet?  Outstanding work, Baylor.  Outstanding.

SAY WHAT?
College football teams one-upping each other when it comes to helmet designs has officially jumped the shark.  Here’s a photo (via the Roanoke TimesAndy Bitter) of a future Virginia Tech helmet that’s currently in the design stage:

Virginia Tech Helmet Design

There’s no word yet on if the Flintstones and/or the Rubbles will serve as the honorary captains when/if those things debut.

TRUE STORY
Ohio State’s 76 points in the Week 4 scrimmage against FAMU were the most for the Buckeyes since an 83-21 win over Iowa in 1950.  The 76-point margin of victory was the largest for an OSU since downing Drake, 85-7, in 1935.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– Through four weeks, there are 29 teams at the FBS level with perfect records, with six of them coming from the Pac-12 and four each from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and SEC.  Missouri, incidentally, is the lone SEC East team with no losses.  On the opposite end, 14 teams have yet to win a game.  Three of those hail from the American Athletic Conference: Temple, UConn and USF.  Iowa State is the only team from the so-called Big Five conferences that’s yet to win a game.

Pittsburgh v DukeTom Savage‘s six touchdown passes in Pittsburgh’s wild 58-55 win over Duke was the most for a Panthers’ quarterback since Tyler Palko tossed five way back in 2004 and tied an ACC record.  It was also the most since Pete Gonzalez set a school record with seven in 1997.  The 113 points scored by both teams was the highest total ever in a game involving Pitt.

– The 98-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Murray to Reggie Davis in the win over North Texas was not only the 100th of Murray’s career, but it was also the longest pass play in Georgia history.  It’s also tied for the third-longest passing touchdown in SEC history.  Murray’s 445 yards of offense — 408 passing, 37 rushing — moved the senior to No. 3 on the all-time SEC list for total offense with 11,352 yards.

Kenny Guiton set a single-game Ohio State record with six touchdown passes, and the senior did that in just the first two quarters.  It was the first time an OSU quarterback had thrown at least five scoring passes in a single game since Bobby Hoying in 1995.  Guiton has now tossed 10 touchdown passes the past two weeks; he had five career touchdown passes prior to his first career start against Cal last Saturday.

Derek Carr‘s 460 yards passing in Fresno State’s 41-40 win over Boise State Friday night was the fifth 400-yard-plus performance of his career, setting both the school and Mountain West records in the process.

– Nebraska’s Stanley-Jean Baptiste has intercepted a pass in four straight games, becoming the first Cornhusker player since Josh Bullocks in 2003 to accomplish that feat.  Baptiste’s 140 return yards on his picks are 47 shy of NU’s single-season record.

– In a losing effort to Minnesota, San Jose State’s David Fales threw for 439 yards and three TDs.  He had 296 in the first half alone.

–BYU quarterback Taysom Hill is completing just 35.1 percent (40-114) of his passes this season.   An 18-of-48 performance in the loss to Utah actually upped his completion percentage by nearly two percent.

– This is just weird: Alabama did not convert its first third-down try until there were three minutes left in the fourth quarter of their 31-6 win over Colorado State.  Up to that point, the Tide had been 0-8 on third down.

– Baylor is the first FBS team since Ohio State in 1996 to score 70-plus points in back-to-back games.  Baylor has scored 209 points through three games, the most to start a season at this level in the past 10 years.  They are also the first FBS/Div. 1-A team to score at least 60 points the first three games of the season since LSU in 1930.

– Unbelievably, Texas’ win over Kansas State was its first over the Wildcats since Oct. 3 of 2003.De'Onte Arnett

– Maryland has started a season 4-0 for the first time since 2001.  The Terps had won a total of six games in Randy Edsall‘s first two seasons at the school.

– Including the 17-14 loss to USC Saturday, Utah State’s last five losses have been by a combined total of 13 points.

– UCLA’s 692 yards of total offense in the 59-13 win over New Mexico State was a new school record.

– Kansas’ 13-10 home win over Louisiana Tech on a field goal as time expired was the Jayhawks’ first over an FBS team since Sept. 10, 2011, a streak of 21 straight games.  KU has not beaten a member of an AQ conference since dropping Colorado in November of 2010.  That was also the Jayhawks’ last Big 12 win; they haven’t beaten a current member of the Big 12, however, since defeating Iowa State in October of 2009.

– In its 35-point win over Tulane, Syracuse’s special teams blocked three kicks — two punts and a field goal attempt — and recovered a fumbled punt.

– In the first half of their pasting of Florida A&M, Ohio State ran 47 plays and scored 55 points; FAMU had fewer yards of total offense (54) than the Buckeyes had points, and was able to manage just a single first down in the first two quarters.  OSU was leading the FCS Rattlers 48-0 before FAMU was able to muster its initial first down.

– Minnesota totaled 14 rushing touchdowns in 12 games last season; after six in the 43-17 win over San Jose State, the Gophers have 16 rushing touchdowns in four games this season.

– Prior to their loss to Clemson Thursday night, North Carolina State had beaten the last three teams ranked inside the Top 20 that had ventured into Carter-Finley Stadium: No. 3 Florida State (17-16 on Oct. 6, 2012), No. 7 Clemson (37-13 on Nov. 19, 2011) and No. 16 FSU (28-24 on Oct. 28, 2010).

– The game against Rutgers in Piscataway Saturday was Arkansas’ first in the Northeast since 1940, a 27-7 loss to Fordham.

– Cincinnati and Miami (OH) were scoreless through more than 55 minutes of clock time before the Bearcats scored two touchdowns in the last 4:55 to claim the non-conference win.

Lee Corso BisonIN CLOSING…
Yes, it spoke volumes about the level of games across the country, but kudos to not only ESPN for taking their College GameDay show on the road to Fargo, but to the thousands of Fargoites in attendance who created such a tremendous atmosphere for a national television audience.  It was a great scene and great exposure for an FCS program like North Dakota State, which remains unbeaten and is coming off back-to-back national championships.  Well done by everyone involved.  Hopefully it won’t take another five years to get back to a lower-level campus.

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Maryland loses DE Quinton Jefferson for the season

Wake Forest v Maryland

As good as Saturday was for the Maryland Fighting Edsalls, defeating ever-so-brief ACC rival Syracuse, 34-20, it’s been an equally bad Sunday for the program.

The Terps already suffered the loss of tight end Andrew Isaacs for the year, and now they’ve lost Quinton Jefferson. The junior will undergo season-ending surgery after injuring his knee in last week’s loss to West Virginia, head coach Randy Edsall confirmed on Sunday.

Jefferson recorded eight tackles and a sack this season, and posted 47 tackles, 7.5 TFLs and three sacks as a sophomore in 2013.

Senior Keith Bowers started in Jefferson’s place during Maryland’s defeat of Syracuse and registered three tackles.

Maryland (3-1) begins life in the Big Ten Saturday at Indiana.

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UCLA QB Brett Hundley is practicing, but Jim Mora won’t commit for Thursday

Brett Hundley

We already know No. 15 Arizona State will be without starting quarterback Taylor Kelly for Thursday night’s massive Pac-12 South showdown, but what of UCLA’s own starting quarterback.

Brett Hundley has returned to practice after leaving the Bruins’ 20-17 win over Texas with a left elbow injury, wearing a brace on his left arm. Though observers believe Hundley is on track to play, head coach Jim Mora wasn’t offering the media -and the Arizona State coaching staff – any information.

“All of our players who are out, what we try to do is make the best decisions for them based upon the knowledge we have,” Mora told the Los Angeles Times. “We depend on our doctors to get us good information, and we got the best doctors in the nation in my opinion. If they clear him, and they say he can play, just like everyone else, then we’ll play him.”

In the event Hundley is not ready to go, UCLA appears to be in good hands with backup Jerry Neuheisel. In the sophomore’s first significant action as a collegian, Neuheisel completed 23-of-30 passes for 178 yards with two touchdowns, including the 33-yard game-winner with three minutes remaining in UCLA’s come-from-behind win over Texas on Sept. 13.

Hundley has completed 57-of-81 passes for 686 yards with three touchdowns and one interception this season.

 

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Deshaun Watson will start at QB for Clemson Saturday vs. UNC

Deshaun Watson

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney finally admitted Sunday what the rest of us have known for the past four weeks: the Tigers are a better team when Deshaun Watson plays at quarterback over Cole StoudtSwinney announced Sunday that Watson would garner his first career start Saturday versus North Carolina.

Stoudt started the game and produced 64 combined run/pass yards on nine attempts, but did not produce points on any of his first drives and, thus, did not see the field again. Watson played the remainder of Clemson’s 23-17 overtime loss to No. 1 Florida State, completing 19-of-28 passes for 266 yards and rushing 12 times for 30 yards and a touchdown.

For the year, Watson notched a 201.1 passer rating with 29 completions in 41 attempts for 479 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions while adding 47 rushing yards and the aforementioned touchdown. For his part, Stoudt has not been bad, throwing for 486 yards with a touchdown and an interception and rushing for 20 more yards, but the offense just clicks better with Watson standing in the shotgun.

Watson was clearly the future of Clemson’s offense and, with the Tigers at 1-2 and all but eliminated from the ACC championship race, Swinney felt now was the time for the future to melt with the present.

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Old Dominion, North Texas made Conference USA history on Saturday

It was a record-breaking day for a pair of Conference USA teams on Saturday. In Houston, Old Dominion defeated Rice 45-42, thereby giving the Monarchs their first win in Conference USA play.

Taylor Heinicke led the way for Old Dominion, connecting on 27-of-43 throws for 430 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The Monarchs built a 28-14 lead at the half and extended it to 35-14, but saw Rice fight back to tie the game at 42-42 on a seven-yard Darik Dillard touchdown run with 1:05 to play. Heinicke responded by marching Old Dominion 67 yards in six plays, setting Ricky Segers up for a 25-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.

Considering this was also their first Conference USA game, Old Dominion now has a C-USA record 1.000 winning percentage. The program restarted football in 2009 after shuttling football in 1941, and has gone 49-15 under head coach Bobby Wilder in its six-year rise from the FCS independent ranks to Conference USA.

Old Dominion has a chance to keep its 1.000 winning percentage alive Friday night at home versus Middle Tennessee (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1).

As for real, official records, North Texas tied a C-USA record by notching 77 points in its 77-3 annihilation of FCS Nicholls State on Saturday. The 74-point margin of victory was North Texas’ biggest since 1948, and its 10 sacks of Colonels passers tied a school record.

Freshman Dajon Williams made his first start at quarterback and could not have had an easier debut, completing 11-of-14 passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns and rushing four times for 68 yards and two touchdowns. The Mean Green averaged 11.9 yards per pass attempt and 8.5 yards per rush, and also notched two pick sixes and one punt return for a touchdown.

Ironically, the Conference USA single-game points record North Texas tied was set against… North Texas. Rice set the record back in 2008 by demolishing then-Sun Belt member North Texas 77-20.

North Texas is off this week before visiting SEC killer Indiana on Oct. 4.

 

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Rutgers loses star RB Paul James for the year

Paul James

Rutgers is off to a strong 3-1 start to its first Big Ten season, and that’s in part because running back Paul James was off to such a strong start to his junior season. The Scarlet Knights, however, will have to play the final two-thirds of their season without him as head coach Kyle Flood confirmed Sunday James has been lost for the season to a torn ACL.

James had carried seven times for 96 yards and a touchdown until the helmet of a Navy defender collided with James’ right knee at the end of a 13-yard run during the second quarter on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights won, 31-24, but James was not seen again throughout the day. As it turns out, that will unfortunately be the last anyone sees of James in a Rutgers uniform this season.

James entered the day as the Big Ten’s fifth-leading rusher, and finishes his season with 63 carries for 363 yards (5.76 yards per pop) with five touchdowns. He started the year with a 173-yard, three-touchdown performance, leading the Scarlet Knights to a 41-38 win at Washington State. James rushed for 881 yards and nine touchdowns a year ago while playing on a broken fibula.

Rutgers will now turn to Desmon Peoples (46 rushes, 205 yards) and Justin Goodwin (26 carries, 104 yards, one touchdown) to carry its ground game for the duration of the season.

Rutgers hosts Tulane on Saturday (12 p.m. ET, ESPNews).

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Upset loss, press conference ripping makes Mizzou-South Carolina an awkward GameDay host

Indiana v Missouri

For the first time since 2006, ESPN’s College GameDay has waited until Week 5 to cover its first game involving an SEC team. It’s about time, really, considering more than half the conference is ranked, and nearly the entire SEC West is placed among the top 17. So it’s only fitting that the SEC’s 2014 GameDay debut is…. unranked Missouri at No. 13 South Carolina?

What?

The announcement was made Sunday morning, sending college football’s premier hype machine to Columbia, S.C., for the seventh time. The Gamecocks are 3-3 in GameDay‘s six previous visits, knocking off No. 1 Alabama 35-21 and No. 6 Georgia 35-7 in its last two turns as host.

Missouri fell from No. 18 to outside the rankings this week after losing 31-27 to Indiana at home on Saturday. South Carolina moved up a spot from No. 14 to No. 13 after beating Vanderbilt 48-34, but head coach Steve Spurrier called it one of the worst wins he’s been a part of as a coach. “We’re not a very good team but we’re 3-1 somehow, and we’ve got all the voters fooled thinking we’re pretty good, I guess because we beat Georgia,” Spurrier said after the game.

Comin’ to your cit-ay, anyone?

In all fairness, there aren’t many other options. Tigers-Gamecocks represents the only ranked-on-ranked matchup on Saturday. No. 12 UCLA at No. 15 Arizona State is the best game of the week, but it’s on Thursday. Unless you want to talk yourself into No. 16 Stanford at undefeated-yet-underwhelming Washington, this was ESPN’s only choice.

The good news, though, is that the schedule ramps up from here.

Assuming No. 10 Ole Miss can beat Memphis at home on Saturday – no easy task considering how Justin Fuente’s Tigers are playing – then GameDay is all but guaranteed to make its maiden voyage to The Grove in Week 6 as the Rebels host No. 3 Alabama. Should Ole Miss lose, No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 14 Mississippi State, No. 17 LSU at No. 5 Auburn, No. 16 Stanford at No. 8 Notre Dame, No. 21 Nebraska at No. 9 Michigan State, or No. 15 Arizona State at No. 18 USC all represent attractive back-up options.

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Alabama, Oklahoma gain ground on No. 1 FSU and No. 2 Oregon in latest AP Top 25

Dak Prescott

Just as they did in Sunday’s Coaches Poll, No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 Oklahoma inched closer to No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Oregon in the latest edition of the AP Top 25.

Florida State saw its totals dip from 1,466 to 1,439 after its 23-17 win over then-No. 22 Clemson, and Oregon slid from 1,424 to 1,400 after squeaking past Washington State 38-31. No. 3 Alabama and No. 4 Oklahoma gained ground, moving to 1,377 and 1,343, respectively. The Tide and Sooners also saw their first-place votes increase to six and four, respectively. Florida State led the way with 34 – down from 37 – and Oregon followed with 12 – down from 17. No. 6 Texas A&M also garnered four first-place votes after ripping SMU 58-6.

LSU dropped from eighth to 17th in the AP poll, which means the Tigers also dropped from fourth to sixth in their own division. Mississippi State moved from outside the polls to No. 14 after defeating LSU 34-29 in Death Valley. Missouri (No. 18) and Clemson (No. 22) moved out of the polls, and were replaced by the 14th-ranked Bulldogs and ACC killer East Carolina at No. 23.

The full poll:

1. Florida State – 1,439 points (34 first-place votes)
2. Oregon – 1,400 (12)
3. Alabama – 1,377 (6)
4. Oklahoma – 1,343 (4)
5. Auburn – 1,268
6. Texas A&M – 1,232 (4)
7. Baylor – 1,143
8. Notre Dame – 967
9. Michigan State – 905
10. Ole Miss – 889
11. UCLA – 806
12. Georgia – 789
13. South Carolina – 764
14. Mississippi State – 706
15. Arizona State – 702
16. Stanford – 564
17. LSU – 541
18. USC – 459
19. Wisconsin – 451
20. BYU – 376
21. Nebraska – 296
22. Ohio State – 196
23. East Carolina – 180
24. Oklahoma State – 132
25. Kansas State – 131

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Melvin Gordon’s epic day places him atop NCAA record books

Melvin Gordon

And to think it all started with a fumble.

Melvin Gordon led an all out obliteration of Bowling Green’s rushing defense in the 19th-ranked Badgers’ 68-17 rout that registered on all sorts of record books from school, to conference, to country. Let’s start with Gordon, because that’s where it all starts for Wisconsin. The junior toted the rock 13 times for a career-high 253 yards and five touchdowns. He did not touch Ron Dayne’s single-game rushing record of 339 yards, but he did set the school record for yards per carry for all Badgers with at least 10 carries in a single game, and also became the sixth Wisconsin runner to notch five touchdowns in a single game. He also pulled into a tie for the NCAA all-time record for career yards per carry with some pretty notable company.

Gordon didn’t even touch the ball until Wisconsin’s fourth offensive play – its first drive found pay dirt in just two plays – and went for no gain after he lost a fumble. His remaining 12 carries went for a scant 21.1 yards per rush.

Impressive as that is, Gordon’s 253 yards accounted for only 39 percent of Wisconsin’s rushing totals. The Badgers rumbled for a total of 644 yards, a school record and the most in the modern era (since 1946) of Big Ten football. Tanner McEvoy completed 9-of-16 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, and set a school record for single-game rushing yards by a quarterback in rushing 11 times for 158 yards and a touchdown. Corey Clement also topped the 100-yard barrier with 111 yards on 16 carries, and Dare Ogunbowale added 14 rushes for 94 yards. You know you’re having a great day when 94 yards only gets you to fourth place on your own team.

Wisconsin’s 756 yards of total offense are also a single-game school record.

The explosive day gives Wisconsin two players among the nation’s top dozen in yards per carry. McEvoy ranks eighth at 9.73 per carry (26 carries for 253 yards), and Gordon checks in at No. 12 with 9.37 yards per carry (46 for 431 yards). As a team, the Badgers now rank second nationally in rushing (359.67 yards per game) and first in yards per carry (7.82). Bowling Green dropped from 71st to 123rd nationally in rush defense.

Next up for Wisconsin: South Florida and the nation’s No. 62-ranked rush defense. Buckle up, Bulls.

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Bama’s Blake Sims, ECU’s Zeek Bigger claim Week 4 Camp honors

East Carolina v North Carolina

One player from a Power Five school and another from a Non-Power Five program have laid claim to a top weekly national honor.

As it does every Sunday, the fine folks at the Walter Camp Foundation announce its national Players of the Week.  This week, those honors go to Alabama’s Blake Sims and East Carolina’s Zeek Bigger.

Sims completed 23-of-33 passes for 445 yards and four touchdowns as the Crimson Tide defeated Florida, 42-21. Sims’ 445 passing yards were the second-highest single-game total in school history. Two of his touchdown passes went for 87 and 79 yards as the Tide improved to 4-0 to start a season for the seventh consecutive year.

Sims also became the first UA quarterback to win Camp weekly honors.

On the defensive side, Bigger posted a career-high 17 tackles — seven of which were solos — and returned an interception 46 yards for a touchdown as pasted in-state rival North Carolina by the score 70-41. Bigger had 11 of his tackles in the first half.

Bigger is the first-ever ECU player, either offensively or defensively, honored by the Camp Foundation as its Player of the Week.

ECU, incidentally, has now beaten ACC teams in back-to-back weekends for the first time in school history, and have won four straight against that conference dating back to last season.  UNC has been a victim twice in that span, while North Carolina State and Virginia Tech were victims once.

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FSU’s stranglehold on coaches’ poll slips as Tide, Sooners close gap

Clemson v Florida State

Much to the delight of Alabama and Oklahoma, close calls for both Florida State and Oregon cost those two squads in the latest release of the coaches’ poll.

FSU, as it has all season, remains No. 1 even as its support slipped in the wake of the overtime win over Clemson in Tallahassee.  The Seminoles received just 36 first-place votes after receiving 50 in the Week 3 poll.

Oregon, meanwhile, saw its first-place support slip from six to three and its standing in the Top 25 slide from No. 3 to No. 4.  The No. 2 Tide collected 11 first-place votes while the No. 3 Sooners, up from No. 4 last week, grabbed 12; last week, those first-place votes were one and four, respectively.

Those were the only teams receiving first-place votes.

Auburn (No. 5), Baylor (No. 6) and Texas A&M (No. 7) remain unchanged from a week ago.  LSU’s upset loss to Mississippi State caused the Tigers to drop from No. 8 to No. 18.  MSU, meanwhile, rocketed up from unranked and second in the “others receiving votes” category to No. 16.  Notre Dame moved up to No. 8 (from No. 9) to replace LSU while Michigan State climbed back into the Top 10 at No. 9 (from No. 11)

The Top 10 is rounded out by UCLA, which at No. 10 is in the same spot it was last week.

A whopping eight SEC teams are a part of this week’s poll, including six of the seven teams from the West.  The only team from that division not in the coaches’ poll is Arkansas, which is 3-1.

Week 4 Coaches' Poll

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Maryland loses starting TE for rest of season with dislocated knee

Maryland v Syracuse

One of the more gruesome sounding and looking injuries in any sport is a dislocated knee cap.  Unfortunately for a starting member of Maryland’s offense, that very injury has befallen him.

In the win over Syracuse Saturday, Andrew Isaacs had his left leg rolled up on by his starting quarterback, C.J. Brown.  The collision triggered an injury that will cost the tight end the remainder of the 2014 season.

“It’s really difficult,” Brown said. “I made a cut inside. I heard him yell. I got up and I saw his knee and I just started waving for the training staff to come over. Dislocated knee, that’s bad.”

The Terps are hopeful that Isaacs didn’t suffer any type of nerve damage.

“My hats off to him,” head coach Randy Edsall said, “because that’s a tough injury. Just to see how he was responding out there. He was just more worried about how he was going to get back and how he was going to come back stronger, and more worried about his teammates than worried really about himself.”

Isaacs is the Terps’ starting tight end, but has just one catch on the season. The sophomore will likely be eligible for a medical redshirt season as the injury occurred in the fourth game of the year, meaning he’ll fall within the 20-percent threshold — the NCAA rounds up — of games played that triggers waiver eligibility.

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‘A little bruised’ and ‘sore,’ Blake Sims says shoulder’s ‘very fine’

Florida Atlantc v Alabama

It appears Alabama’s first bye week is coming at a most opportune time.

At the end of a third-quarter scramble in the Tide’s win over Florida, Blake Sims landed awkwardly and injured his right (throwing) shoulder.  The starting quarterback was taken to the locker room for further examination but subsequently returned to both the sidelines and the game.

Following the win, Sims attempted to downplay the severity of the injury.

“It’s very fine,” Sims said. “Just a little bruised. I’m going to get with the training staff and try to get better and let the team know I’m good. I’m going to come out against Ole Miss (Oct. 4) and try to win the game. …

“I’ll be all right. I’m going to get with the training staff and ice it, ice it, ice it.”

Sims’ head coach, though, said the off weekend will prove to be beneficial for Sims as it appears the player will be somewhat limited this week in practice.

“It will probably be something that’s sore for him for a while,” said Nick Saban. “Hopefully that second week he’ll be able to get back to normal in practice.”

Sims, incidentally, suffered the injury in the midst of one of the greatest passing performances in school history.

His 445 yards were the second-most in school history, behind only Scott Hunter’s 484 in a 1969 loss over Auburn.  It was also just the second 400-yard game ever for a Tide quarterback.

A whopping 272 yards of that total came in the first quarter alone, while 202 for the game — and three of his four passing touchdowns to boot — went to stud wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Speaking of Cooper, and while we’re here, Cooper had 45 receptions for 736 yards and four touchdowns last season in 12 games played.  This season, and through four games, Cooper has 43 catches for 655 yards and five touchdowns.

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Jimbo ‘hopes and believes Jameis will learn from this’

Jameis Winston

For the first time, Jameis Winston‘s off-field actions very nearly cost his football team on it as Florida State escaped with an overtime win over Clemson.

With the one-game suspension for the reigning Heisman winner in the books, and with the Seminoles’ nation’s best 19-game winning streak still intact, Winston’s head coach is hoping the young quarterback has — finally — learned his lesson.  And that this is the last issue for the duration of however much longer Winston stays in Tallahassee.

“At the end of the day we felt like the one game made the most sense, and I chose to keep that process internal,” Jimbo Fisher said according to USA Today‘s Dan Wolken. “Now he’s served that punishment and he’s ready to move forward.

“You never know the pace kids learn or why they make mistakes, but I hope and believe Jameis will learn from this and use better judgment and his language and decision-making and respect for everything will continue to grow.”

Based on the most recent evidence available, though, Fisher’s getting ahead of himself as his player’s still behind the learning curve.

During pregame warm-ups ahead of the game with the Tigers, the suspended Winston showed up in full football gear. Fisher was not impressed, or pleased, with that development as the perturbed head coach promptly punted the player’s arse back into the locker room and out of uniform.

Plain and simple, Winston just doesn’t get it. At least not yet and even with a suspension that could very well have extinguished the hopes FSU entertained in becoming back-to-back champs.

Hopefully at one point the light switch will come, but right now Winston’s completely in the dark from the neck up.

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No. 1 Florida State’s OT escape highlights a crazy Saturday

Deshaun Watson,Eddie Goldman

Week 4 of the 2014 college football season offered 55 games, and exactly one of them featured a ranked team taking on a fellow ranked team. If you thought that guaranteed a dull day, well, you don’t know college football.

NO. 1 FLORIDA STATE SURVIVES CLEMSON IN OT

Florida State looked every bit like a team playing without the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, as Sean Maguire was sacked five times and threw two interceptions. The Clemson defensive line dominated, limiting the Seminoles to minus-12 rushing yards in regulation (key phrase: in regulation), as the Tigers’ own backup Deshaun Watson (296 total yards, one touchdown, no turnovers) guided the Tigers to a 17-10 fourth-quarter lead. Florida State tied it when Rashad Greene caught a 74-yard catch-and-stroll touchdown after a Clemson defender fell down, but Clemson appeared headed toward the upset after Maguire’s interception gave the Tigers the ball at the FSU 24. But Clemson fumbled on its second play, opened overtime by getting stuffed on a 4th-and-1 (did we mention kicker Ammon Lakip missed 2-of-3 field goals) and closed the night by letting Karlos Williams move the required 25 yards in two plays to give Florida State the season-saving 23-17 win.

Have fun sleeping tonight, Clemson.

BUT NO. 2 WASN’T MUCH BETTER

Marcus Mariota completed 21-of-25 passes for 329 yards and five touchdowns and added 58 rushing yards to lead No. 2 Oregon to a 38-31 win at Washington State. The rest of the Ducks’ offense? Fifteen touches for 15 yards. (All numbers approximate.) Oregon averaged an un-Duck-like 4.1 yards per carry, and allowed the Cougars to throw for 436 yards and rush for 63 more. And to top it off, it took the officials ruling this 3rd-and-13 pass  in Oregon territory on Washington State’s would-be tying drive as nothing but good, clean defense to clinch the win.

MISSISSIPPI STATE TAKES DOWN NO. 8 LSU

It’s not often you see a 34-29 decision described as a blowout, but that’s what this felt like. Mississippi State built a 34-10 lead over No. 8 LSU and outgained the Tigers by 140 yards – their 570 yards were the most LSU allowed an opponent since the pre-Nick Saban era – and generally whipped their hosts up front. But then LSU backup signal caller Brandon Harris caught fire, hitting 6-of-8 throws for 140 yards and two touchdowns, and all of a sudden a 24-point game saw LSU throwing into the end zone for a chance to win the game. It was intercepted, and Dan Mullen moved to 3-21 against ranked teams, snapping a 15-game losing streak, and Mississippi State became the first non-No. 1 ranked team to win a night game in Death Valley during the Les Miles era.

NO. 4 OKLAHOMA BEATS WEST VIRGINIA, FINDS A RUNNING BACK

America, meet freshman running back Samaje Perine. Playing for an injured Keith Ford, Perine carried 32 times for 242 yards and four touchdowns to power No. 4 Oklahoma past West Virginia, 45-33. His touchdowns pulled OU into a 17-17 tie, gave the Sooners a 31-24 lead, and then a 38-27 lead, and then put the game away at 45-27.

NO. 2 ALABAMA BLASTS FLORIDA, 42-21

You get the feeling that if Alabama didn’t turn the ball over four times, this would have had a 40-point final margin. Florida took a 14-7 lead in the middle of the first quarter thanks to two early turnovers by the Tide, but Alabama erupted from there, ending the game on a 35-7 run and absolutely blowing the Gators off the stat sheet. Blake Sims threw for 445 yards and four touchdowns, Amari Cooper caught 10 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns, and Derrick Henry added 111 rushing yards and a score, as Alabama outgained Florida 645-200. Yep, Cooper outgained the Fighting Muschamps by himself, and nearly outscored them, too.

MISSOURI LOSES TO INDIANA, UNDOES SEVEN YEARS OF SEC DOMINANCE

Missouri left the Big 12 North, and then promptly turned the SEC East into the Big 12 North. The 18th-ranked Tigers lost to Indiana at home on Saturday, 31-27, after blowing a 27-24 lead on a D’Angelo Roberts touchdown run with 22 seconds remaining. It’s never a good thing for your SEC championship chances when you allow Indiana to throw for 252 yards while also outrushing you by 69 yards, right?

SPURRIER RIPS NO. 14 SOUTH CAROLINA’S 48-34 WIN OVER VANDY

Vanderbilt – 37-7 losers to Temple earlier this year – held a 14-0 lead over No. 14 South Carolina in the first quarter, and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Steve Spurrier was quite pleased.

THINGS GET TESTY IN LINCOLN AS NO. 24 NEBRASKA WINS REUNION WITH MIAMI You have to really piss off the locals to get booed off the field in Lincoln. Or, be the Miami Hurricanes. Ameer Abdullah rushed 35 times for 229 yards and two touchdowns as the Cornhuskers rallied from a 14-7 first half deficit and never trailed in the second half, but nine Miami penalties and a general touchy-feely nature led to the ‘Canes getting booed out of the most welcoming house in college football as Nebraska won, 41-31.

OFFENDED BY MICHIGAN’S OFFENSE, MOTHER NATURE FLOODS THE BIG HOUSE It’s clear by now that Brady Hoke has no idea how to construct an offense without Denard Robinson, and it’s also abundantly clear by now that Mother Nature is tired of sitting around and waiting for the Wolverines to get it together. Michigan accumulated 4.4 yards per pass, 3.3 yards per rush and a grand total of three points in a 26-10 loss to Utah. And then this happened during the fourth quarter:

HOW’S THIS FOR A NIGHTCAP? ARIZONA BEATS CAL ON HAIL MARY California led Arizona 31-13 entering the fourth quarter. It wasn’t enough. The Wildcats launched a mad rally, but the Golden Bears’ lead appeared safe at 45-30 with five minutes remaining. The Wildcats notched two more touchdowns to pull within 45-43 after the Cal offense sputtered, but all they had to do to earn the first Pac-12 win of the Sonny Dykes era was stop a simple Hail Mary. Surely they could do that, right?

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Marcus Mariota near perfect in Oregon’s underwhelming defeat of Wazzu

Marcus Mariota

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota looked every bit the Heisman front-runner he is purported to be on Saturday night, and he had to be as No. 2 Oregon squeaked past Washingon State 38-31 in Pullman.

Mariota completed 21-of-25 passes, including every one of his last 14 throws, for 329 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions, while sprinkling in 13 rushes for 58 yards. It’s a good thing for the Ducks that their quarterback was as good as he was, because they would have lost otherwise. Mariota was sacked six times, and the Ducks ran for an un-Oregon-like 4.2 yards per carry on 42 tries. This was against a Washington State team that ranks 84th nationally in rushing defense.

Connor Halliday completed 43-of-63 passes for 436 yards and four touchdowns, and the Cougars pounded out 17 rushes for 63 yards. The Four Horsemen would be proud.

Washington State scored first and led 14-7 after one quarter, but the Fighting Mariotas took a 21-14 lead before Holliday notched an equalizer to tie it at 21 at the half. Oregon took a 28-21 lead into the fourth quarter, and then broke serve by forcing a Washington State field goal to open the fourth quarter.

Washington State forced a 31-31 tie after Halliday hit River Cracraft from five yards out with 8:57 remaining, but Oregon pulled ahead again with Mariota’s fifth passing touchdown of the night, this one a six-yarder to Keanon Lowe. The Cougars were driving for a potential tie when facing a 3rd-and-13 at the Oregon 38 when this play you see below was ruled incomplete with no flag drawn. You be  the judge.

Halliday was sacked on the next play, and that would be that. Washington State never touched the ball again, and Oregon held on for the 38-31 win.

The Ducks take next week off before hosting a fellow 4-0 club in Arizona on Thurs., Oct. 2, while Washington State (1-3) is back in action at Utah on Saturday.

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