Blanket Coverage: Hitting the Wall
In marathon parlance, it's known as "hitting the wall." All that matters when that moment arrives is that you don't drop out of the race. The second Saturday in November, for college football's unbeatens, is often the equivalent of Mile 20 in a marathon. To wit:
Before Saturday, Oregon led the nation in scoring. The Ducks still do, even though they only put up 15 points at Cal in their narrowest win of the season, 15-13. Oregon (10-0) had not scored fewer than 42 points in any game before Saturday (at least the push-up primed mascot was appreciative). The Ducks, who were averaging 54.7 points per game before their Berkeley visit, saw their average dip to 50.7.
Likewise, before Saturday, TCU led the nation in scoring defense. The Horned Frogs still do, even though they allowed 35 points again San Diego State in their narrowest win of the season, 40-35. TCU (11-0) had not allowed more than 24 points in any game before Saturday. The Horned Frogs, who were allowing 8.5 points per game before the Aztecs visited, saw their average edge upward to 10.91.
Kudos to the top-ranked Ducks and the No. 4 Horned Frogs simply for staying unbeaten. It isn't as easy as it looks, even if Boise State makes it appear that way. These unbeatens hit the wall this weekend. Their pace may have slowed, but at least they're still in the race.
Even the Losers...
Yes, Minnesota and Washington State won on Saturday. The GoGos and Cougs not only won, they each beat a conference opponent on the road. Minnesota won 38-34 at Illinois and Wazzu shocked Oregon State, 31-14, in Corvallis. The last time that happened was Sept. 27, 2003: Minnesota beat Penn State 20-14 in State College and Washington State demolished Oregon in Eugene, 55-16. Both teams finished 10-3 that season.
Kellen and Colin
Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore threw for 216 yards and three touchdowns in little more than a half versus in-state rival Idaho in a 52-14 win. After what should be the two teams' final meeting for quite some time, Moore expressed compassion. "I've got to be a little bit sympathetic," said Moore, whose hometown of Prosser, Wash., is a three-hour drive from the Vandals' campus. "They were my only other (recruiting) offer."
Give Idaho credit for at least attempting to land Moore, currently the nation's leader in passing efficiency. Fresno State never even recruited Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose hometown of Turlock, Calif., is just 83 miles northwest of Fresno.
On Saturday, Kaepernick led the Wolf Pack to their third straight win over the rival from his home state, the first time that has happened since the 1940s. Kaepernick has started all three of those games. In Saturday's 35-34 win at Fresno, which kept Nevada (9-1) among the ranked, the senior scored his school-record 54th rushing touchdown.
Kaepernick is 53 rushing yards away from his third consecutive season of passing for at least 2,000 yards and rushing for at least 1,000 yards. Only seven other players, including Auburn's Cam Newton on Saturday, have ever crossed those boundaries, but no one has ever done it three times.
Kellen and Colin meet in two weeks, when Nevada hosts Boise State.
So Unexpected That, Well, You Had to Expect It
Iowa State wins at Texas one week and comes within a failed overtime fake PAT of upsetting Nebraska the next. Colorado, meanwhile, loses 42-10 at Oklahoma then blows a 45-17 fourth-quarter lead at Kansas the next, losing 52-45 and firing coach Dan Hawkins just a few days later.
Of course, the Cyclones visit Boulder and get waxed, 34-14. Senioer quarterback Cody Hawkins threw three touchdowns as his dad, wearing shades, watched from a suite located in the north end zone.
Turnover, Not Turnovers
Barring a wacky upset, at least five of last year's six automatic-qualifying conference champions will not repeat this season. Say goodbye to Georgia Tech (ACC), Cincinnati (Big East), Texas (Big 12), Alabama (SEC) in a BCS bowl. Ohio State (9-1) may garner an invite, though the Buckeyes will probably do so as an at-large team unless Wisconsin loses. Only No. 1 Oregon, which won the Pac-10 in 2009, looks to repeat.
Of course, Boise State and TCU, which met in the Fiesta Bowl last season, are more than good enough to earn BCS bowl invites again this year.
Gene Chizik, in his two seasons at Iowa State: 5-19. Gene Chizik, in his first two seasons at Auburn thus far: 19-5.
Northwestern Students Already Knew the Meaning of 'Pyrrhic Victory'
Northwestern beat Iowa for the fourth time in five years Saturday, but lost quarterback Dan Persa to a season-ending non-contact injury moments after the game-winning play. The first-year starter, who leads the nation in completion percentage, tossed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Fields with 1:22 to play to put the Wildcats up 21-17. Alas, Persa ruptured an Achilles tendon as he started running to celebrate with his teammates.
Iowa and Northwestern are now 7-3, while the Hawkeyes are 0-2 against teams named Wildcats. Beware of Kansas State in a bowl, Kirk Ferentz.
Is Arizona State the best 4-6 team in the nation? The Sun Devils have lost to No. 20 USC and No. 7 Stanford the last two weeks, both times blowing fourth-quarter leads. Earlier this season, ASU lost by one point at No. 6 Wisconsin after a blocked PAT and led No. 1 Oregon by 10 in the second quarter before losing. It also lost by just a field goal at Oregon State.
One for the Zebra Report
Against which Cal player did the referee throw a flag for a false start, nullifying a go-ahead field goal early in the fourth quarter against No. 1 Oregon? The answer: Golden Bears kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, who took a stutter-step before kicking a 24-yard field goal that would have put Cal up 16-15. After the Bears were moved back five yards, Tavecchio missed the 29-yarder.
"Oooo-weee! What's Up With Stats? What's Up With Stats?!?"
• 9:25: Time of Oregon's final drive, an 18-play, 65-yard drive on which the Ducks converted four third downs and scored no points. They simply ran out the clock in Berkeley. For Oregon's near point-per-minute offense, with a breathless plays-per-game pace that is revolutionary, this was one incredible webbed feat.
• 14: Years since Army last went to a bowl. The Cadets (6-4) are bowl eligible after Saturday's 45-28 defeat of Kent State. It has also been 14 years since all three service academies finished the season with .500 or better records, which is already assured this season. Air Force is 7-4 and Navy is 7-3.
• 32: Quarters Boise State has played since the last quarter in which it found itself trailing at any point (fourth quarter of season-opener against Virginia Tech, a game in which it won).
• 83: Points scored by Wisconsin, the most in the FBS this season, in its 83-20 rout of Indiana. Bucky Badger, by the way, did 573 push-ups. Bret Bielema kicked the PAT when the Badgers went up 82-20 with 1:57 to play because, after all, the card says you kick when up 62. The Badgers put up the highest total in a Big Ten game in 60 years (Ohio State, 1950, against Iowa) without their top rusher, John Clay. Leave it to offensive tackle Gabe Carimi, a top-five pick in next April's NFL draft, to explain why: "We still have the same linemen in there."
Next week Wisconsin visits Michigan, which is last in the Big Ten in total defense.
• 503: Yards that Fresno State sophomore Robbie Rouse has rushed for in his last two games. The Bulldogs may miss Ryan Williams, but not as much as they thought they would.