McMurphy's Law: The Going for That Extra Extra Point Edition
In Lane Kiffin's first game as USC's coach against Hawaii on Sept. 2, Kiffin had the audacity, nerve or gumption -- depending on your viewpoint -- to attempt a two-point conversion after each of the Trojans' first three touchdowns.
Whatever you thought, it was downright bizarre. I even joked on my Twitter account that maybe there was a secret NCAA sanction against USC that wasn't announced prohibiting USC from kicking extra points after touchdowns.
Now, five weeks later, Kiffin is still getting his kicks by not kicking extra points.
In USC's five games, the Trojans have attempted eight two-point conversions. That already equals the most two-point conversions attempted by a team in a season since 2005, according to cfbstats.com's Marty Couvillon.
Since 2005, the leaders in each season in two-point conversion attempts, according to cfbstats.com, were Boise State (5-for-8 in 2009), Houston (2-for-7 in 2008), Memphis and Nevada (5-for-7 in 2007), Texas A&M (4-for-8 in 2006) and Cincinnati (3-for-8 in 2005).
This season, USC is 3-for-8 on its two-point conversions. In fact, only Temple, with five two-point attempts this year, has more two-point conversions on the season than USC attempted in the opening 18 minutes of that first game at Hawaii.
In 1958, college football added the two-point conversion. That season, Rutgers attempted 31 two-point conversions, converting 20. Both totals remain NCAA records.
On Sept. 20, two days after the Trojans were unsuccessful on all three two-point conversions at Minnesota, Kiffin explained his strategy to the Los Angeles Daily News.
"If you make it, you're ahead of things and in a two-score game right away," Kiffin said.
So far this season, USC has scored 25 touchdowns, meaning the Trojans have gone for two after nearly one-third of their touchdowns. All of them came when USC was leading – and not trailing when teams usually go for two.
Ironically, the Trojans didn't attempt any two-point conversions during Saturday's 32-31 loss to Washington. If they had – and were successful – the Trojans might have gone to overtime instead of losing on Erik Folk's 32-yard last-second field goal.
Last month, Kiffin said he didn't believe the Trojans lose any momentum if they fail on two-point conversions.
"You have a big play and it doesn't work, but if you have a big play and it works, it's even better (than a regular touchdown)," Kiffin told the Daily News. "We'll continue to look at things. We're showing a lot of stuff (to opponents), which is good. We'll make other people practice it."
What's funny is Kiffin isn't exactly practicing what he preaches. While Kiffin told the Daily News about all of the benefits of attempting two-point conversions, Kiffin must have just discovered this unusual strategy.
That's because last year when Kiffin was Tennessee's coach, the Volunteers scored 49 touchdowns. And after every touchdown, Kiffin's Volunteers did the same thing every time. They kicked the extra point.
Joe Pa Knows Losing
Joe Paterno, college football's winningest coach, also has lost his share of games – 130 to be exact. Paterno's 130th loss came Saturday at Iowa where they sold T-shirts "JoePa Knows Losing" (thanks to TheWizofOdds.com).
Last month, I listed the five schools Paterno has recorded his most victories against: Temple (27), West Virginia (25), Maryland (24), Pittsburgh (23) and Syracuse (23).
So, here's the breakdown of the schools that have handed Paterno the most losses. Paterno has lost to 39 schools in all:
Ohio State (13), Iowa (11), Michigan (10), Alabama (9), Wisconsin (7), Pittsburgh (7), Notre Dame (6), Miami (5), Michigan State (5), Minnesota (4), Nebraska (4), Syracuse (4) and USC (4).
While LSU is the clear cut luckiest team this season, North Texas has easily been the nation's unluckiest team.
Entering last week's game with Louisiana-Lafayette, the Mean Green had lost a mind-boggling 12 players to season-ending injuries, including 11 starters.
And then Thursday, it somehow got worse. Tragedy struck the program.
Freshman walk-on wide receiver Josh Rake was involved in a single-car accident Thursday evening and died Friday.
If that weren't bad enough, that same afternoon, starting wide receiver Tyler Stradford was nearly killed in a freak accident at his apartment complex. Stradford was running from a pit bull, jumped over a fence and landed on a stick that impaled his chest. It missed his heart by inches.
On the field, North Texas hasn't got many breaks either. On Saturday, the Mean Green, playing with "JR" stickers on their helmets to honor Rake, trailed Louisiana-Lafayette 28-14 with nine minutes remaining. However, UNT put together touchdown drives of 75 and 91 yards to pull within 28-27 with 31 seconds remaining. Then – you guessed it – UNT's tying extra point kick was blocked, resulting in a 28-27 loss. It was North Texas' second one-point loss this season.
After the game, UNT discovered that quarterback Riley Dodge – the Mean Green's third starting QB after Nathan Tune and his replacement Derek Thompson suffered season-ending injuries against Rice and Army – had suffered a fractured wrist on his non-throwing arm during the game. If Dodge can't play Saturday against Arkansas State, sophomore Chase Bain would become UNT's fourth starting quarterback this season.
Of the 11 starters lost to season-ending injuries, nine were on offense.
"On top of the loss of Josh Rake and all that adversity, our kids never wavered in their pursuit of victory," North Texas first-year offensive coordinator Mike Canales said. "We're proud of our kids. The score didn't show it, but we won in a lot of different ways.
"We won as men together. It has brought our team closer together. They are winners, God doesn't create losers."
Despite the rash of injuries, Canales' offense has outgained the opposition in three of UNT's four losses against Clemson, Rice and Louisiana-Lafayette.
Against Clemson, North Texas rolled up 462 yards – or 96 yards more than Miami gained against Clemson last week. Against Rice, North Texas had 420 yards – or 51 yards more than Texas gained against Rice.
However, the Mean Green hasn't been able to overcome the plethora of injuries and misfortune, which includes an 0-8 record in games decided by seven points or less since 2009.
Body By Duck
Forget those late-night infomercials on how to lose weight, I've got an easier solution: use the Oregon Duck's mascot workout regimen. Just do one push up for each point Oregon totals after each Oregon score like the Duck. And that's not easy since Oregon leads the nation in scoring, averaging 56 points a game.
Through five games, Oregon's Duck mascot has done 1,487 push ups, an average of 297 a game. By the end of the season, I might need a Jerry Lewis telethon-type tote board to keep track of the Duck's push ups. Here's a game-by-game breakdown of the Duck's push ups:
•In 72-0 win over New Mexico: 506 push ups
•In 48-13 win over Tennessee: 192 push ups
•In 69-0 win over Portland State: 422 push ups
•In 42-31 win over Arizona State: 147 push ups
•In 52-31 win over Stanford: 220 push ups
The Duck better get some rest before Saturday when Oregon visits Washington State. The Cougars have the nation's fifth-worst scoring defense, allowing 42 points per game.
Also on Monday, the Pac-10 reprimanded Oregon coach Chip Kelly for comments he made about the officials at halftime of the Stanford game. If the Pac-10 really wanted to punish him, they should have Kelly do a push up with the Duck's mascot for every point Oregon scores at Washington State Saturday.
Free Herbie – Or At Least His Prediction!
Each Saturday, ESPN's wonderful College GameDay show concludes with Lee Corso putting some sort of fuzzy animal head over his own noggin. Seconds before, though, host Chris Fowler reminds the audience that Kirk Herbstreit is not allowed to make his prediction for that contest because he is calling the game.
Apparently ESPN, or Herbstreit, believes college football fans are not able to comprehend that if Herbstreit picks Oregon to beat Stanford that it's because it's (a) the team he thinks will win and (b) not the team he wants to win. Also, I'm sure fans would love to know which team one of ESPN's top college football personalities thinks will win after spending a week dissecting and researching the game.
And, as far as the "can't make a prediction for a game he's calling" excuse? Apparently that's not a company-wide policy. Before working the Texas A&M-Oklahoma State game, ESPN's Craig James was asked by ESPN for his prediction.
James complied and predicted Texas A&M would win. Sure he was wrong, but at least fans got to hear his prediction. Too bad, Herbstreit can't – or won't – do the same.
Let's Make A Deal
At midfield after Stanford's 55-21 victory at USC last year, USC coach Pete Carroll asked Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh "What's your deal? What's your deal?" Carroll was upset Harbaugh had gone for two with a 27-point lead. Harbaugh responded to Carroll: "What's your deal?"
Over the spring, Stanford even used a "What's your deal?" ticket package, which included tickets to Saturday's game against USC.
The teams meet Saturday at Stanford. In this week's USC media notes, the Trojans continued the deal trend, writing "What's the deal with Stanford this year? Head coach Jim Harbaugh's Cardinal, which started off 4-0 and ranked in the AP Top 10 before falling big at Oregon last weekend, has a high-scoring offense coupled with a stingy defense."
What Caught My Eye
• On Saturday, at least two of the nation's six winless teams are guaranteed to earn their first victories when New Mexico (0-4) visits New Mexico State (0-5) and Western Kentucky (0-4) visits Florida International (0-4). The battle for New Mexico should be a doozy. Either the Lobos or Aggies rank among the nation's worst five teams in 10 of the NCAA's 17 major team statistical categories: total offense, scoring offense, rushing defense, total defense, scoring defense, punting, passing efficiency, turnover margin, sacks and tackles for loss. Instead of Las Cruces, the game should be moved 185 miles east to Area 51 in Roswell, N.M. That way, the loser can deny it ever happened. ... The nation's other two winless teams – Akron (0-5) and Eastern Michigan (0-5) – are in the Mid-American Conference, but unfortunately don't play each other this season.
• Alabama was the nation's ninth No. 1 team to play consecutive games against Associated Press Top 10 ranked opponents. The Crimson Tide were the fifth No. 1 team to sweep both games, according to ESPN research. Of the eight previous teams that faced consecutive top 10 opponents, four went on to capture the AP national title – Minnesota (1936), Notre Dame (1943), Army (1945) and Notre Dame (1966).
• Since 2004, there have been five games where a quarterback has attempted at least 20 passes and completed 20 percent or less. I have had the, uh, privilege of covering two of those contests in person. In 2004, I was in Louisville when South Florida's Pat Julmiste went 3-for-20 (15 percent) for 67 yards against the Cardinals. Then last month in Seattle, I saw Washington's Jake Locker and his 4-for-20 (20 percent) for 71 yards performance against Nebraska. I'll be at Michigan State-Michigan on Saturday, so please warn Kirk Cousins and Denard Robinson.
• When Tennessee was penalized for having 13 men on the field against LSU on Saturday, CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish tweeted: "Worst example of players being where they're not supposed to be at Tennessee since Bruce Pearl had three juniors at his house in 2008." ... On ESPN's College GameDay's picks segment last week, Lee Corso went 6-3, Kirk Herbstreit 5-2 and guest picker Desmond Howard 6-3. Season totals: Corso 33-12 (73.3 percent), Herbstreit 27-13 (67.5 percent) and ESPN's guest pickers 33-12 (73.3 percent).
Observations From the Road
It had been several years since I last attended the Red River Rivalry in Dallas between Oklahoma and Texas. Some things remained the same: the incredible atmosphere and the perfect split of red and orange-clad fans down the 50-yard line. There were some notable changes, though, at the Texas State Fair, which runs right outside the Cotton Bowl. Among the items sold at the fair were the following: deep fried beer, deep fried club salad, deep fried lemonade, deep fried chocolate, deep fried frozen Margaritas, deep fried Texas caviar, deep fried Fritos and deep fried s'mores Pop Tarts. Don't ask me how you deep fry beer, but I tried it. It looks like a small flour ravioli square filled with beer. To sum up the taste of fried beer in one word: awful. The OU-Texas rivalry, though? I think it's the best in college football and would be even better if it was played the final week of the regular season.
Finally, Here's Steve Hill's View of the College Football World
Brett McMurphy is a national college football writer for FanHouse. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or please follow on Twitter.com/BrettmcmurphY