Week 3 Wrap

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San Diego State tops No. 19 Stanford despite stadium lights going out

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Head coaches always love to say they played lights out after a tough Saturday of college football. In the case of No. 19 Stanford and San Diego State they mean it quite literally.

With just under four minutes left in the fourth quarter, the banks of lighting at decrepit old Qualcomm Stadium simply went out in a close, tense four point game. The inexplicable timeout was reminiscent of Super Bowl XLVII’s outage — only with slightly less on the line for either side. That brief moment of darkness turned out to be a moment of clarity for the Aztecs however, and allowed them to game plan an 11 play, 75 yard go-ahead scoring drive that sealed a 20-17 victory and made the team an immediate Group of Five bid contender.

The outage overshadowed the much anticipated duel between star tailbacks Bryce Love and Rashaad Pennywho both lived up to the hype as they carried their respective teams offensively deep into the night. Given the conservative nature of both head coaches, there was little issue with running the ball often and playing stout defense between two good teams but it certainly made for a rather unexciting contest when all was said and done.

Cardinal quarterback Keller Chryst was largely ineffective and had his worst outing as a starter, finishing with just eight completions for an unremarkable 56 yards and the game-sealing interception with 48 seconds left. If not for Love running behind that bruising offensive line (184 yards and two scores), things could have been even worse for the one-time title dark horse.

As good as Love was though, his counterpart for the Aztecs was just as good in a second consecutive Pac-12 win. Penny wound up with 206 all-purpose yards and one touchdown, the bulk coming on 175 ground-churning rushing yards. Quarterback Christian Chapman was efficient to bring balance to the offense — 187 yards and the game-winning touchdown toss — and put SDSU firmly in the mix for the Group of Five bid at the end of the year with a pair of major victories.

No. 4 USC exacts Rose Bowl revenge in overtime against Texas

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Ask any college football fan what the best game they’ve seen in the past two decades or so and the vast majority will instantly recall Texas’ 2006 BCS Championship Game victory over USC as the gold standard. After all, who could forget Heisman winner Reggie Bush’s inexplicable lateral or Vince Young’s game-winning romp to the end zone? Memories of that contest have returned to the sport ad nauseam this week as the Trojans took on the Longhorns once again and many were hoping for a similar bit of magic to the last time they met a few miles up the 110 North over a decade ago.

For three and a half quarters that was not the case, as fans were treated to sloppy play from both sides and dozens of mental mistakes. But it turns out there was a little bit of that Rose Bowl pixie dust left after all in the final few minutes. True freshman Sam Ehlinger saved his best for last and channeled old number No. 10 in burnt orange to lead a remarkable go-ahead drive and give Texas a glimmer of hope to pull off another remarkable upset of a top four team.

The problem was… USC’s Sam Darnold still had time to keep writing his own remarkable legend in cardinal and gold. As a result, No. 4 USC got their long awaited revenge and held on for a surprisingly narrow 27-24 win in double overtime over Texas in front of the biggest crowd for a football game Los Angeles will likely see until January.

The one-time Heisman Trophy front-runner didn’t have his sharpest outing as a starter but still finished with 397 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions to dazzle deep into the night once again. Darnold got the ball down three with just 45 seconds left in the fourth and marched USC right down for a game-tying field goal attempt that send the game into over time and then needed just one play into the extra frame to find the end zone once again.

After the Trojans’ defense finally got an elusive stop against Ehlinger by forcing a fumble, walk-on kicker Chase McGrath secured the victory with a 43-yarder that send sighs of relief up from the packed house at the venerable old L.A. Coliseum.

Vandy upsets No. 18 K-State, wins first over ranked non-conference team in 70 years

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There were a lot of people who didn’t see this one coming, although I can guarantee you that the rest of the SEC East is sitting up and taking notice.

Coming into their Week 3 game against 18th-ranked Kansas State, Vanderbilt was somewhere between a 4-6-point underdog at home.  After 60 minutes Saturday night, Vandy proclaimed they could be a force to be reckoned with in conference play as a stifling defense played a huge role in dropping the Wildcats by the score of 14-7.

The Commodores took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter, with the Wildcats tying it up very early in the second.  That 7-7 score would stay static for the next 36 minutes or so of game time until quarterback Kyle Shurmur‘s two-yard touchdown run (of course) proved to be the difference in the game.

K-State had a chance to tie the game late, but quarterback Jesse Ertz was stopped a yard short on a fourth-and-8 that originated from the Vandy 19-yard line.

Neither team did much offensively, with the Wildcats accounting for 277 yards of offense to the Commodores’ 270.  Vandy averaged 4.9 yards per play, K-State 4.4.

With the win, Vandy is 3-0 to start the season for the first time since 2011, James Franklin‘s first of three with the program.  This also marks the first time since 1946, a 7-0 win over No. 20 North Carolina State, that Vandy has beaten a ranked non-conference opponent.

With the struggles of Florida and Tennessee, Vandy is slowly becoming the trendy pick to challenge Georgia for SEC East supremacy.  Buyer beware on that front, though, as they will face No. 1 Alabama (home), No. 24 Florida (road), No. 13 Georgia (home) and undefeated Ole Miss (road) the next four weeks.

For now, though, the Commodores will bask in the glow of the biggest win, outside of last year’s upending of No.24 Tennessee, of Derek Mason‘s time in Nashville.

No. 3 Clemson plays like a No. 1 in dominating Lamar Jackson, No. 14 Louisville

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Clemson may not be ranked No. 1 in the country tomorrow, but they should be. The defending national champions looked very much like a team interested in defending that title, as the No. 3-ranked Tigers smacked reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and No. 14 Louisville, 47-21 before a blacked out Cardinal Stadium crowd in Louisville.

The Tigers (3-0, 1-0 ACC) asserted their dominance from the start, forcing a three-and-out to open the game and then moving 79 yards in 10 crisply executed plays, culminating in an 8-yard Kelly Bryant keeper. Louisville (2-1, 1-1 ACC) tied the game with a 95-yard drive, the only flash of Jackson’s 2016 brilliance. He accounted for all 95 yards on the drive — with the help of a 15-yard late hit flag — with runs of 15 and 30 yards and an 11-yard touchdown pass to Charles Standberry.

Clemson reclaimed the lead for good on a 31-yard Greg Huegel field goal with 6:57 left before the half, then added some distance when Bryant found a wide open Ray Ray McCloud for a 79-yard catch-and-run score. After adding another field goal before the break, Clemson’s defense slam-dunked an exclamation point score when Dorian O’Daniel baited Jackson into an interception, then returned it 44 yards for a touchdown to hand Clemson a 26-7 lead with 8:57 left in the third quarter.

Bryant would add another rushing touchdown to close the third quarter, and would finish the night as the game’s true Heisman contender. Making his first ever road start, Bryant hit 22-of-32 passes for 316 yards with a touchdown and an interception while rushing for another 26 yards and two scores. Clemson would add two more touchdown runs, a 39-yarder by Adam Choice and an 81-yard bust by Travis Etienne. As a team, Clemson rushed 46 times for 291 yards and four touchdowns.

If Bryant is Clemson’s Heisman candidate, it’s only because the Tigers’ defense isn’t eligible. Fresh off posting 11 sacks against Auburn, Clemson sacked Jackson four times, harassing him into a pedestrian (for him) night of 21-of-41 passing for 317 yards with three touchdowns and a pick-six and 17 carries for 64 yards. The Cardinals as a team rushed 25 times for 117 yards.

Washington’s Dante Pettis returns punt for TD in third straight game, ties two NCAA records in the process

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Why you would ever, ever punt to Dante Pettis is beyond me.  Yet, here we are.  Again.

In the first two weeks of the 2017 season, the Washington returner extraordinaire had taken two punts to the house, giving him seven such touchdowns for his career.  In the first quarter of its Week 3 game, Fresno State opted to punt to him and, well, Pettis did what Pettis does.

Yep.

In one fell swoop, Pettis tied a pair of NCAA records.

The record for career punt returns for touchdowns is now shared by Pettis with Texas Tech’s Wes Welker (2000-03) and Oklahoma’s Antonio Perkins (2001-04).  Kansas State’s David Allen (1998) and North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer (2013) are the only other players to return one for a score in back-to-back-to-back games.