Getty Images

Miami overcomes week of heartache, turmoil to stun Duke

27 Comments

To say it’s been a rough week for the Miami football program on and off the field would be a sizable understatement.

Exactly a week ago, the Hurricanes sustained the worst loss in the history of the Hurricanes, leading to the firing of head coach Al Golden the following day. Starting quarterback Brad Kaaya sustained a concussion in the loss and was ruled out of today’s game against No. 22 Duke, while defensive tackle Michael Wyche was charged in a domestic violence incident. Most tragically, the much-beloved mother of defensive back Artie Burns suffered a heart attack Monday and passed away the next day.

With all of that tumult and heartbreak thundering around them, The U proved once again what kind of sanctuary a football field can be as they went into Durham and stunned the Blue Devils 30-27 on one of the most wild endings in the history of any sport.  Duke had scored a touchdown with just six seconds left on the clock to take a 27-24 lead.  The Blue Devils squibbed the ensuing kickoff and, eight laterals, 46 seconds of real time, 75 yards of statistical movement, a couple of hundred yards of actual motion and a seemingly eternal officiating review, Miami-Duke told Stanford-Cal to go have a seat, son.

We’ll now await word from the ACC as to if or, even worse, why the block in the back that was initially called on that play was reversed under review when such a penalty is not reviewable.  Or how the knee of a Miami player that was seemingly down during the course of one of the laterals wasn’t picked up during the nearly 10-minute review.  Or how Miami players had begun to stream on the field before the touchdown was scored.  That said…

The Hurricanes played like an inspired bunch the entire night, and it’s not hard to understand why as Burns, showing the depth of character that the coaching staff loves about him, not only made the trip with his teammates but played four days after his mom’s death.  The stunning finish culminated a game that was dedicated to the courageous young man, and one that had taken on the look of a romp at least partway through.

Following a scoreless first quarter, Miami jumped out to a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter and took a 14-3 lead into halftime.  A rejuvenated Blue Devils squad scored a touchdown in the first three minutes of the third quarter when, combined with a safety late in the same period, cut the lead to 14-12.  10 points in the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter stretched Miami’s lead out to 12 at 24-12 with 5:54 remaining.

A Thomas Sirk touchdown pass to Johnell Barnes from 13 yards out sliced the lead to 24-19 with 2:40 left in the game.  An ensuing onsides kick was recovered by the ‘Canes; the Blue Devils got the ball one last time with just under two minutes remaining, setting the stage for the crazy ending.

Playing for an injured Kaaya and making his first career start, Malik Rosier was, for the most part, superb. While he did have an interception, he nonetheless managed the game extremely well as he completed 19-of-28 passes for 265 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

One final statistical note: Miami was flagged a whopping 23 times for 194 yards, Duke five times for 41 yards.  Say what you want about reversing the penalty on the final play or the possibility a Miami player’s knee was down on the same play, I’ll just label it an officiating market correction — anyone see Duke’s final drive and the three somewhat questionable flags on the ‘Canes? — and move on from a shoddily officiated game on both sides.

The loss for Duke when it comes to the ACC Coastal race is a potentially significant one, but also one from which they can bounce back quickly. At 3-1 in ACC play, Duke finds themselves one game behind 4-0 North Carolina; next Saturday, the Blue Devils will travel to Chapel Hill for a critical matchup with the Tar Heels. Pittsburgh, which was dealt its first ACC loss by UNC Thursday night, is 4-1 and idle in conference play until a Nov. 14 date with Duke.

Depending on the outcome of the Duke-UNC game next weekend, that Pitt-Duke game the following week could end up being a play-in game to the ACC championship game.

No. 7 Washington wins Pac-12 title game rematch with Colorado thanks to stifling second half defense

Getty Images
Leave a comment

For a half, Colorado had No. 7 Washington just where they wanted in a Pac-12 Championship Game rematch from a year ago. Just like in that matchup in Santa Clara 10 months ago, the Buffs trailed by just a score going into halftime and looked surprisingly sharp against their highly ranked opponents from Seattle.

Just like it did last December though, the third quarter rolled around and Huskies reminded everybody why they reign supreme in the Pac-12 until further notice, capping off a dominant second half to capture a key road win in Boulder 37-10 over the Buffs.

While Jake Browning still didn’t seem to figure out Mike MacIntyre‘s defense the second time around (11/21, 160 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), it’s not like the UW signal-caller needed to with the effort his run game and defense were able to provide on a rainy night under the Flatirons. Tailback Myles Gaskin had no problem shouldering more of the load with his backup out, rushing for 202 yards and two scores while breaking off big run after big run to slowly crush the home crowd’s spirits. If there was anything that did really go wrong for the offense in the second half, it was the fact that wide receiver Chico McClatcher was carted off after a gruesome ankle injury that figures to sideline him for some time to come.

Still, the impressive performance on the scoreboard was really the result of the Huskies’ stifling defense coming to play after some adjustments in the locker room. Linebacker Azeem Victor hit the double-digit mark for tackles and corner Myles Bryant pulled down a pick-six — one of three interceptions on the night. As a result, what was a close game for about two and a half quarters, ended up turning into a runaway win for the defending Pac-12 North champs.

While it was a tough night on the scoreboard with nothing going in the second half, there were some positives for the Buffs early on. Quarterback Steven Montez did look sharp working the middle of the field until the pressure was turned up and running back Phillip Lindsay managed 68 yards and a touchdown against one of the stiffer run defenses in the country. Given some of USC’s early struggles, it’s pretty clear that Colorado will remain a factor in the Pac-12 South battle if nothing else.

In the end though, it was the same ol’ same ol’ out West as Washington remained unbeaten and looking again like a College Football Playoff contender once again.

Jim Harbaugh advises President Trump to ‘check the Constitution’

Getty Images
13 Comments

The latest controversy surrounding President Donald Trump has reached college football.  And, of course, it’s Jim Harbaugh doing the reacting.

At a campaign rally in Alabama earlier this past week, the POTUS let loose on those NFL players who have decided to use the National Anthem as a vehicle for protesting social injustice.  In essence, Trump called for those who participate in the demonstrations to be summarily dismissed.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!'” Trump was quoted as saying. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.'”

Suffice to say, that hasn’t even remotely happened as condemnation of the fiery rhetoric has been far and wide from the NFL community and beyond.  It was also condemned by a former member of the NFL community as Harbaugh, whose former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, played a significant role in a story that’s enveloped professional football over the past year, had some choice words on this latest kerfuffle.

“No, I don’t agree with the president,” Harbaugh said following Michigan’s win over Purdue. “Listen, that’s ridiculous. Check the Constitution.”

Harbaugh, who was already at odds with Trump over the slashing of one particular program, also stated initially that he didn’t respect Kaepernick sitting out the anthem before apologizing for misspeaking shortly thereafter.  In the spring, Harbaugh referred to the still-unsigned quarterback as a hero.

Notre Dame has no trouble with mistake-prone Michigan State

Getty Images
1 Comment

Notre Dame probably would’ve beaten Michigan State on Saturday night if the Spartans pitched a perfect game. But instead the Spartans hit three batters, tossed a handful of wild pitches, aiding the Irish in a 38-18 blowout in Spartan Stadium.

The 20-point margin represents Notre Dame’s largest victory over Michigan State since a 36-14 whipping on Sept. 18, 1993 and the largest win by either team since a 45-23 Spartans win on Sept. 12, 1998. The Irish have now won four of the last five in a series that dates back to 1897.

The Irish (3-1) opened the game with a 7-play, 78-yard touchdown drive punctuated by a 16-yard Brandon Wimbush run, then immediately capitalized on a Michigan State (2-1) mistake as Julian Love returned a Brian Lewerke interception 59 yards for a touchdown.

Michigan State rebounded with its best drive of the night, knifing 75 yards in seven snaps for a touchdown. But another Lewerke turnover, this time a fumble in his own territory, set up Notre Dame with a short field, which Wimbush turned into an 8-yard touchdown pass to Dexter Williams. The Spartans threatened to pull within 21-14 until their third and costliest turnover of the first half, an L.J. Scott fumble at the goal line that took six points off the board and handed Notre Dame the ball at the 20-yard line. Notre Dame needed only five plays to push its lead to 28-7, where it would remain until halftime.

In addition to the three turnovers, Michigan State also committed nine penalties, dropped a handful of passes and lost a possession to a turnover on downs.

Michigan State opened the second half with a Matt Coghlin field goal, but Notre Dame answered that field goal and then some with a 9-yard Deon McIntosh touchdown run. Justin Yoon pushed the lead to 28 with a 46-yard field goal with 4:51 to play.

Michigan State completed the scoring with a cosmetic touchdown — a 25-yard toss from Lewerke to Gerald Holmes — and 2-point conversion with 3:09 remaining.

Wimbush was the star for Notre Dame, hitting 14-of-20 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown with eight carries for 52 yards and a touchdown. Lewerke carried the load for Michigan State, connecting on 31-of-51 passes for 340 yards — many of them junk — with a touchdown and an interception with nine carries for 56 yards and a fumble.

Michigan State will remain in East Lansing next week to host hard luck loser Iowa, while Notre Dame returns home to face Miami (Ohio).

Disaster averted as walk-off TD pushes No. 4 Penn State past Iowa

Associated Press
2 Comments

Entering Week 4, the last three teams ranked in the Top Five entering Kinnick Stadium had exited with a loss.  In dramatic fashion, No. 4 Penn State flipped that script.

Trailing 15-13, Iowa scored on a 35-yard touchdown run by Akrum Wadley that put Iowa up, after a failed two-point conversion, 19-15 with 1:42 left in the game.  Penn State then proceeded to go 65 yards in 12 plays and 1:42 of game time, with Trace McSorley connecting with Juwan Johnson on a seven-yard touchdown pass with zero ticks left on the clock to secure a wild 21-19 win.

That fourth quarter also featured Penn State blocking a field goal… only to see Iowa return the favor 10 minutes later to set up what would’ve been the game-winning touchdown by Wadley.

If you simply looked at the box score, however, you would’ve thought this was a blowout that swung heavily toward the visitor.

The Nittany Lions outgained the Hawkeyes 579-273.  In fact, Penn State had more yards rushing (295) than Iowa had total offense. First downs?  PSU 29, Iowa 11.  The Nittany Lions held the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game for good measure.

In the end, however, it was Penn State that came out on top on both the scoreboard as well as the stat sheet as the Nittany Lions kept their perfect season afloat as, after games against Indiana and Northwestern the next two weeks, they get set for season-defining games against No. 8 Michigan (Oct. 21) and No. 10 Ohio State (Oct. 28).  And Saquon Barkley, who set a single-game school record for all-purpose yards — 211 rushing, 94 receiving, 53 returns — will get to continue to state his case as the best football player in the country and one of a handful of Heisman Trophy front-runners.