Penn State QB makes history in Croke Park Classic

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Not even Kerry Collins, Todd Blackledge or Michael Robinson did what Penn State’s sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg accomplished Saturday in the Croke Park Classic against the UCF Knights.

Hackenberg is the first quarterback in Penn State history to throw for 400 yards or more in a single game as he lead the Nittany Lions to a thrilling 26-24 victory over the Knights in Dublin, Ireland.

The sophomore finished 32-of-47 passing for 454 yards. The performance was highlighted by a game-winning drive. Hackenberg was 4-of-6 passing for 47 yards during the final 1:13 of the contest to set up the winning field goal by senior kicker Sam Ficken.

During the performance, pundits were drooling over the potential which Hackenberg represents. Hackenberg forced a couple of throws which resulted in interceptions, but those poor throws didn’t take away from the fact he was the best player on the field. This was simply a great performance to build upon a resume that may result in Hackenberg becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 or 2017 NFL draft.

And Penn State capitalized on the talent it has behind center.

Once the team couldn’t establish the run early in the game, the onus fell on Hackenberg to carry the team. He was clearly able to do so. The young signal caller was able to evade pressure in the pocket, make throws on the move and manipulate UCF’s secondary to complete a beautiful 79-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Geno Lewis to give the Nittany Lions a 20-10 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Lewis finished with 173 receiving yards. Redshirt freshman DaeSean Hamilton was nearly as good with 11 receptions for 165 yards.

For UCF, head coach George O’Leary waited far too long to make a crucial change at quarterback.

Redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo started the game and struggled mightly. DiNovo was a paltry 3-of-8 passing for 18 yards in the first half. O’Leary then inserted Justin Holman into the lineup during the third quarter, and the sophomore brought instant energy to the lineup. Holman led the Knights to 21 points in the second half with 204 passing yards. He added a pair of touchdowns, one passing and one running. Holman had his team in a position to win with 1:13 remaining, but the Knights’ defense simply couldn’t hold.

Despite the outcome, the two teams learned something equally important about their quarterbacks.

Penn State quickly came to the realization it must rely heavily on Hackenberg this season as the offensive line continues to gel and the running game struggles. UCF, meanwhile, will almost certainly move forward with Holman behind center, and the Knights will be a better team for it.

Three new teams join coaches’ top 25

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Nearly a third of the coaches’ top 25 tasted defeat on Saturday, five of them to unranked teams. But the coaches’ poll voters are typically slow to react to the events unfolding in front of them, and so four of them remain in Sunday’s top 25.

Texas A&M, Boston College and TCU dropped from the rankings, while Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, Oklahoma State and Oregon remained in the poll. Texas A&M and TCU have two losses so they have to go, even though A&M lost to No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Clemson, and TCU lost to No. 4 Ohio State and newly-ranked Texas.

Virginia Tech remains ranked thanks to a now-worthless Labor Day win at Florida State, and despite a loss to previously winless Old Dominion. Mississippi State has yet to beat anyone with a pulse. Oklahoma State does own an impressive win over Boise State, but the Cowboys followed that up with a 24-point home loss to Texas Tech. Oregon fell back just one spot as punishment for its collapse to No. 7 Stanford.

Kentucky joined the poll for the first time this season, vaulting all the way to No. 17. Texas re-joined the rankings at No. 22, one spot ahead of undefeated Duke.

The full poll:

1. Alabama — 1,597 total points (61 first-place votes)
2. Clemson — 1,497 (2)
3. Georgia — 1,473
4. Ohio State — 1,431 (1)
5. Oklahoma — 1,300
6. LSU — 1,234
7. Stanford — 1,206
8. Notre Dame — 1,136
9. Penn State — 1,108
10. Auburn — 997
11. Washington — 959
12. West Virginia — 946
13. Wisconsin — 776
14. UCF — 705
15. Michigan — 603
16. Miami — 554
17. Kentucky — 531
18. Michigan State — 376
19. Mississippi State — 311
20. Oregon — 281
21. Oklahoma State — 199
22. Texas — 171
23. Duke — 170
24. Virginia Tech — 160
25. Boise State — 145

Gene Smith addresses report saying Ohio State considering making Ryan Day head coach-in-waiting

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It was another wild Saturday in college football, but perhaps the biggest development came from off the field.

After Urban Meyer returned to the sideline for the first time this season, Ari Wasserman of The Athletic reported Ohio State is considering naming offensive coordinator Ryan Day its head coach-in-waiting.

Day, of course, served as the No. 4 Buckeyes’ acting head coach through training camp and the first three games of this season, leading the club to three wins. And Ohio State was impressed with him well before August, too. After his first season in Columbus, Ohio State promoted him to offensive coordinator, handed him a 3-year contract and made him the school’s first $1 million coordinator.

But Saturday’s report indicated Ohio State is considering tying Day to the program for the long-term on a more formal basis.

On Sunday, Ohio State AD Gene Smith addressed the report, largely by talking around it.

“We obviously are appreciative of Coach Day’s great work, and hope he continues to be one of our offensive coordinators for a long time, but we are more than confident Coach Meyer will be our head coach for quite some time,” Smith tweeted.

Wasserman’s report said the plan is still in the discussion phase and that Ohio State is in no hurry to push Meyer out of his job, and this statement doesn’t contradict or refute that.

Smith could have ended all speculation by saying something to the effect of, “There are no discussions of naming Coach Day or any other assistant as our head coach-in-waiting. Coach Meyer is our head coach and will remain so as long as he likes.”

But he didn’t, and so the speculation lives.

 

No. 10 Washington rides defense to win over slumping Arizona State

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Take one of the Pac-12’s best rushing attacks, mix in the league’s best receiver on the other sideline and stir after dark to get some wild, offensive-laden craziness in Seattle, right? Uh, not even close.

No. 10 Washington rode their incredible defense and used a handful of big plays from their offensive veterans to secure a bruising 27-20 win on Saturday night and drop the fighting Herm Edwards’ of Arizona State to a slumping .500 on the season.

Huskies QB Jake Browning crossed the 10,000 yard passing plateau for his college career and continued closing in on several school records with an efficient 202 yard game. That included three excellent throws into the end zone for touchdowns, one to Aaron Fulleranother to Ty Jones and the best of the bunch in the fourth quarter to help salt the game away to a tip-toeing Cade Otton.

The signal-caller’s play balanced out another solid (if not quite the usual spectacular) effort from Washington’s one-two punch in the backfield as Myles Gaskin recorded 86 yards on the ground and Salvon Ahmed chipped in with 71 more on limited carries. The team punted just three times all game and probably could have gotten off to a better start had their signature Chris Petersen trick play on the first play of the game — in this case, a double-pass — not been picked off.

The real star of the show might have been the defense though. Linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven looks like a budding All-American and finished with 20 tackles and two forced fumbles while the entire front seven was a load for the Sun Devils to handle. Eno Benjamin had just one long run on his way to 104 yards plus a TD and otherwise had to fight for running room on every carry.

He was still a bright spot for ASU all things considered… namely how rough of an outing it was for QB Manny Wilkins (104 yards passing) and star receiver N'Keal Harry (five catches, 20 yards). The entire group seemingly continued their struggles from last week’s loss against San Diego State and will now need to find some way to regroup with the heart of their Pac-12 slate coming up next month. After grabbing the nation’s attention with a victory over Michigan State, now will really be the time we’ll find out what Edwards can do as a college coach as he tries to rebound from a losing streak for the first time.

The Huskies, meanwhile, can rest easy knowing they didn’t get swept up in the wild nature of the day in college football with so many ranked teams falling to unranked squads. It was by no means a crisp outing for Petersen’s group but it is a precious win nevertheless and does set up a very intriguing game next Saturday night against a ranked BYU squad. At this point late into the night on Saturday, surviving and advancing is nothing to overlook and, thanks mostly to their defense, Washington did just that against Arizona State.

No. 15 Oklahoma State one of five ranked teams to lose to unranked teams in Week 4

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Especially when it comes to the middle of the rankings, it was a brutal Week 4 for ranked teams.  The most recent example: No. 15 Oklahoma State.

Coming off a huge Week 3 win over then-No. 17 Boise State, OSU was expected to handle business against Texas Tech in Stillwater — oddsmakers had installed them as essentially a 14-point favorite.  Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the game is played on the field and not on a betting slip as the Red Raiders stunned the previously-unbeaten OSU in a 41-17 win at Boone Pickens Stadium.

Alan Bowman, the true freshman who passed for 60-plus yards a week ago, was “held” to 397 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the win that pushed the Red Raiders’ record to 3-1.  Tech also took advantage of its hosts in the running game as they gouged the Cowboys, who came into the game seventh nationally in run defense at 74 yards per game, for 224 yards and three of its touchdowns; OSU had allowed just one rushing touchdowns in its first three games combined.

Including OSU, five ranked teams lost to unranked teams in Week 4*.  In fact, just one of the teams ranked between Nos. 13-17 came out of the week unscathed — No. 16 UCF.  The others?  Not nearly as fortunate.

  • No. 13 Virginia Tech — lost 49-35 to Old Dominion.
  • No. 14 Mississippi State — lost 28-7 to Kentucky.
  • No. 15 Oklahoma State — well, ya know.
  • No. 17 TCU — lost 31-16 to Texas.

Throw in a 30-13 loss by No. 23 Boston College to Purdue, and there’s certain to be quite a bit of movement when the Associated Press Top 25 is released Sunday afternoon.

(*No. 10 Washington is currently playing Arizona State and, as of this posting, holds a slim 17-10 lead at halftime.)