Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

No. 2 Ohio State clips No. 3 Michigan in overtime classic; waiting for Big Ten East continues

34 Comments

No. 2 Ohio State (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) battled its way back from a double-digit lead in a game that saw Urban Meyer outcoached by Jim Harbaugh for much of the afternoon, and came away with a wild victory in double overtime that will be remembered for years to come. Ohio State’s double-overtime victory over No. 3 Michigan (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten) moved Ohio State one step closer to an appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game next weekend, but the Buckeyes no longer control the fate of the division. Instead, the hopes of a Big Ten East Division crown rest in Happy Valley, where Penn State is taking on Michigan State.

Curtis Samuel ripped off a 15-yard walk-off touchdown run after Ohio State managed to survive by the slimmest of distances on a fourth down play. JT Barrett took the ball and ran for a hard-fought first down on a fourth and one play, down 27-23. Forward progress would come into play to help the Buckeyes stay alive, giving Samuel a chance to celebrate a wild win. And wild it most certainly was.

Barrett took the ball up the middle for a touchdown run on Ohio State’s first possession of overtime, but it was Michigan that would pull out the fourth down dramatics with the game on the line at the end of the first overtime. On fourth and goal, Wilton Speight connected with Amara Darboh in the back of the end zone to keep things going, with a successful PAT to tie the game and force a second overtime. The Wolverines struck first in the second overtime with a 37-yard field goal by Kenny Allen, which set up the situation for all the marbles and bragging rights for a year for the Buckeyes.

Special teams was a disaster for the Buckeyes all afternoon. Tyler Durbin missed two field goals, including a supposed chip shot in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game at 17-17. It missed wide left, just as a field goal try in the first half sailed on the opening offensive series for Ohio State. Punter Cameron Johnston was stopped well shy of a first down on a bizarre fourth-and-seven fake punt attempt from the Ohio state 19-yard line. Michigan’s offense took advantage of the short field position with a Khalid Hill touchdown pass from Wilton Speight five plays later, building a 10-point advantage (17-7) early in the third quarter.

Barrett ended the day with 124 passing yards and a game-high 125 rushing yards. Michigan was limited to 91 rushing yards as a team. Ohio State had just 81 yards of offense in the first half but ended the game with 330-310 advantage in total offense. For Michigan, turnovers were the difference, with three turnovers leading to 14 points, including a first half pick-six.

Special teams also cost Ohio State at the end of the first half. After Malik Hooker picked off a pass by Speight and returned it a short distance for Ohio State’s first score of the game, Jabrill Peppers returned the ensuing kick to the Michigan 45-yard line, giving the Wolverines great starting field position late in the first half to answer. They did just that with a well-run touchdown drive to turn a 7-3 deficit into a 10-7 halftime lead.

With the win, Ohio State now must wait to see how Penn State does against Michigan State this afternoon. If Penn State beats the Spartans, then the Nittany Lions will play for the Big Ten Championship thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker with Ohio State. That will conclude Ohio State’s regular season at 11-1, but the Buckeyes may still be in an excellent position to secure a College Football Playoff berth after entering this weekend ranked second behind Alabama. It is unlikely Ohio State will fall in the rankings and should feel good about their odds of being chosen for the playoffs even as a non-division champion. It would be the first time a non-division (and non-conference) champion would reach the College Football Playoff in its third year of operation.

Michigan should still be an attractive option in the New Years Six bowl line-up, perhaps for the Rose Bowl, but that may also depend on what happens with Penn State. Whatever happens, the Wolverines will be a very formidable foe for whomever they face in the bowl season. And who knows, maybe crazy things happen and Michigan sneaks right back into the playoff picture?

Arizona outruns Texas Tech as QB Khalil Tate shows a few flashes of old self

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Every so often, college football is capable of throwing a curveball. Or, perhaps to borrow an analogy from the sport itself, a duck of a throw when you expect a perfect spiral.

Such was the case out in the desert late on Saturday night as Arizona showed enough on both sides of the ball to secure a badly needed 28-14 win over Texas Tech in the most surprising defensive struggle of the 2019 season so far.

While each side entered the contest ranking in the top 10 in FBS total offense, only the Wildcats could find the end zone with any sort of consistency. Quarterback Khalil Tate showed a few flashes of his old self by topping the century mark rushing (129 yards, 1 TD) and passing (185 yards, 1 TD), including an 84-yard scamper in the second quarter that was far more of the 2017 version of the signal-caller than his injury-plagued 2018 self.

Of course, with some of that good also came some bad on a night where yards were generally hard-fought and hard to come by. That included a pair of interceptions and an early fumble to hold back the Wildcats on a night that otherwise was a highlight for the program. J.J. Taylor added 39 yards rushing while teammate Gary Brightwell looked like the fresher option in the backfield with 85 yards and two scores.

Red Raiders quarterback Alan Bowman wound up with decent numbers himself (311 yards, one touchdown, two picks) but never could keep the chains moving enough against a defense that threw a lot of looks at the youngster making his first road start with the new coaching staff. T.J. Vasher came on late to record 96 yards receiving while Utah transfer Armand Shyne couldn’t get much going (68 yards on 13 carries) against an old Pac-12 South foe.

Perhaps worst of all for Matt Wells and company was the way the defense wilted after three quarters despite playing well early on. That included giving up the nail in the coffin late in the fourth quarter: a 13 play, 99 yard drive that all came on the ground.

Things don’t get any easier after a bye for Tech either as they face Oklahoma in two weeks, a top five team that has their own dual-threat quarterback that can make you pay. Arizona’s path is a little easier with UCLA coming to Tucson after an off date as the Wildcats can take plenty of confidence into the breather next week following a victory in a game that didn’t go quite as expected — in a good way.

No. 25 Virginia holds off Florida State; FSU now 1-2 (or worse) in back-to-back-to-back seasons for first time since 1974-76

Getty Images
5 Comments

While it’s not solely on him, Willie Taggart‘s Florida State football program has hit yet another new low.

In Week 3, Florida State traveled to Charlottesville to take on No. 25 Virginia, the first time ever that a ranked Cavaliers team faced an unranked Seminoles squad.  After six lead changes over four quarters of play, Virginia gave its fans a reason to storm the field — which they wholeheartedly did — as the Cavs scored the last 14 points to secure a 31-24 win.

The Seminoles led 14-10 at halftime, then stretched that lead to 17-10 at the end of the third quarter.  After eventually taking a 24-17 lead early in the fourth quarter, the ‘Noles watched as the Cavs scored a touchdown with 6:02 left in the game to pull to within one at 24-23 (missed conversion) and then go ahead 31-24 with 2:34 remaining thanks to a touchdown and a two-point conversion.

FSU had one last chance to at least tie the game, taking over at its own 25-yard line.  Thanks in very large part to penalties (four 15-yarders on UVa. on that drive), FSU drove inside the Cavs’ five-yard line; with time running out, Cam Akers was stopped for no gain at the four-yard line.

Virginia picked up its fourth win all-time in 19 games against Florida State, and have now won three of the last six meetings. None of the three previous wins (2011, 2005, 1995) had been by more than five points (one, five, five).

For an FSU team that went 5-7 in the first season under Willie Taggart in 2018, missing out on a bowl game for the first time in 36 years, Week 3 continued a downward arc that shows no signs of abating.  It also continues a distressing trend: Florida State is now 1-2 (or worse) for the third straight season, the first time that’s happened since 1974-76.

So, for those wondering: Taggart’s buyout is in the neighborhood of $17 million if he’s fired without cause before February 1, 2020.

Godspeed, FSU fans.  And make sure you hydrate properly.

Defense in the desert? Arizona out front of Texas Tech in low-scoring first half

Getty Images
1 Comment

The Texas Tech-Arizona tilt in Tucson was expected to be one of the highest scoring games of Week 3. Proving that college football continues to surprise on a wild Saturday, the Big 12-Pac-12 clash was actually one highlighted more by the defensive efforts from two programs that aren’t quite accustomed to making a splash on that side of the ball as the Wildcats managed to eek out a 13-7 lead going into halftime.

Red Raiders quarterback Alan Bowman was far from efficient in his first road start since late October of last season, throwing for 146 yards on 15-of-29 passing with two interceptions. The normally productive offense converted just three 3rd downs and didn’t get much going in the run game either, with Armand Shyne posting just 45 yards on the ground as the Utah transfer faces off against a familiar foe.

There were good and bad moments for Arizona as well, with QB Khalil Tate showing flashes of his old self (see highlight of an 84-yard TD run below) and also of the version where you didn’t quite to make of the one-time Heisman candidate (two interceptions to hold back his 124 yards and a score passing).

Now all that being said, we could still have a wild one as both programs had a few moments where they came close to nailing a big play or two to break things open. This is obviously a new coaching staff for Texas Tech making their first big road trip but also an Arizona side that badly needs to grab a non-conference win for a league lacking in them.

That leaves both sides pretty hungry to get a win in what could be a second half that helps return the game to the high scoring affair we all kind of expected.

No. 1 Clemson peels Orange

Associated Press
1 Comment

After beating Clemson in the Carrier Dome two years ago and nearly doing the same in Death Valley East last year, tonight’s Clemson-Syracuse game was billed preseason as a meeting of the ACC’s two best teams, a de facto ACC semifinal even. Pretty much all of that hype evaporated when Syracuse was crushed 63-20 by No. 21 Maryland last week, but, still. If this is truly the ACC’s second-best team… woof.

Trevor Lawrence tossed two interceptions and generally put in a workmanlike effort, and still the defending champions won with ease: No. 1 Clemson 41, Syracuse 6.

Lawrence completed 22-of-39 passes for a career-high 395 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing four times for 42 yards and an additional score. Most of his success through the air came on jump balls and screens to his massive, speedy wide receivers. Tee Higgins caught seven passes for 150 yards, Amari Rodgers snared four for 121 yards and two scores, and Justyn Ross snared five passes for 64 yards.

The heroes of the night were the Tigers’ defenders. Clemson (3-0, 2-0 ACC) limited Syracuse (1-2, 0-1 ACC) to 184 yards of total offense. Orange quarterback Tommy DeVito was 15-of-27 for just 172 yards with an interception and while absorbing six sacks.

If there was one moment of drama on the night, it came early in the third quarter when, trailing 17-6, Syracuse linebacker Christopher Frederick intercepted Lawrence and returned the ball to the Clemson 9, but DeVito gave the ball right back by throwing it to Clemson’s Mario Goodrich.

Lawrence hit Rodgers for an 87-yard touchdown two plays after that and the game was all but over.