Well, another week is in the books, and some interesting things took place on Saturday. First off, June Jones held Colt Brennan out of Hawaii's game against Charleston Southern for precautionary reasons. The 66-10 win would have been a good opportunity for the Heisman candidate to pad his stats, but it's probably wise to make sure he's healthy for the balance of WAC play. Tyler Graunke (22-26 for 285 yards and 3 scores) performed well in his absence, and C.J Hawthorne had two touchdown receptions. The last game of the day was an expected beating, but the same couldn't be said for the afternoon. Here are ten observations from this past Saturday. Feel free to chime in with a comment or email whenever you wish. Thanks for reading.
1. Louisville still can't tackle worth a lick.
All year the Cardinals have had issues on the defensive side of the football, be it tackling or missing assignments. But unlike their first two games, both runaway wins, the unsolved problems led to the Cards' second straight loss, this one 38-35 at home to previously winless Syracuse. The first play from scrimmage for the Orange, a 79-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Robinson to Taj Smith, was a harbinger of things to come as it looked like Smith was plopped down in the middle of the field like an electric football piece. Seriously, for those of you who caught this game, did you see Smith running the entire time, or like me did he just "show up" on the screen at the end of Robinson's throw? Brian Brohm threw for 555 yards, and Harry Douglas had another big game (but he was lost in the final minute to an undisclosed injury), but when you turn the ball over four times in addition to eleven penalties and the aforementioned defensive issues, you're going to have a tough time winning. Even if it is 0-3 Syracuse.
2. Two other teams with porous defenses: Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.
So, which is worse: you lose a game thanks to 610 yards allowed, even though your quarterback threw for 646; or you win a game despite allowing 718 yards of total offense? Apparently, winning the game cures some of the ills, especially if you're Oklahoma State. Brandon Pettigrew's catch and run into the end zone (note to Brandon: try not to land directly on your hip the next time you dive into the end zone without a defender within five yards of you) capped a 49-45 offensive festival that wasn't decided until what would have been Michael Crabtree's fifteenth catch of the day carrom off of his hands in the end zone with eleven seconds left on the clock. The fallout: tirades from both coaches (OSU's Mike Gundy on an article focused on the demotion of QB Bobby Reid in an Oklahoma City paper; Tech's Mike Leach on his teams play), and Tech defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich deciding that he'd had enough (or possibly someone deciding for him that he'd had enough). Setencich will take a new role within the athletic department, and assistant head coach Ruffin McNeill will be the interim defensive coordinator. What puzzles me about this game is that both teams had (and still may have) designs on challenging Texas and Oklahoma at the top of the Big 12 South. No. Scoring isn't a problem, but when you can't stop anyone, you don't need to worry about a conference title.
3. After Saturday, I don't know when (or if) Penn State will beat Michigan again.
Even with 1-2 Michigan struggling on defense, this was seen as a defining game for Penn State QB Anthony Morelli. He's played well in games the Lions should win, but the big games for the most part have been an issue for the senior. You can add the 14-9 loss in Ann Arbor to that list. He threw no interceptions, but 15-31 for 169 and no touchdowns won't get the job done. Michigan did a good job slowing down Penn State's running game, holding the Lions to 101 yards on the ground. Without a strong ground game, it became evident that Morelli was unable to exploit the Michigan secondary. And I don't care how many games Michigan may end up losing, but at this rate Mike Hart MUST be in New York for the Heisman proceedings. 44 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown, Hart has carried the Wolverines all year long. The win is Michigan's ninth straight over Penn State, and with games coming up against Northwestern (spread offense, but besides RB Tyrell Sutton the Wildcats don't have the athletes to punish Michigan) and Eastern Michigan, UM should be 4-2 when Purdue comes calling on October 13th.
4. UCLA bounces back on the legs of Chris Markey and survives a wild fourth quarter.
Markey lit up Washington for 193 yards rushing, including a 72-yard touchdown run, in the Bruins' 44-31 win at the Rose Bowl. Why's this a good sign for the Bruins? In previous seasons, a loss like the 44-6 whipping at Utah last week would be the beginning of a freefall that would usually result in a record somewhere around .500. But UCLA, whose next two are at Oregon State (the Beavers, to be frank, look nothing like the darkhorse that many expected them to be in the Pac-10 this year), and home against Notre Dame, could be in good shape heading into their bye week ahead of the October 20th game against Cal. Whenever Ben Olson comes back, or if Patrick Cowan remains the starter, strong efforts from Markey and Khalil Bell will be key if the Bruins hope to hover near the top of the Pac-10. As for the Huskies, for the second straight week the defense didn't execute well in the second half. This could be a product of their opposition (Ohio State and UCLA) being too talented or adjusting to their scheme at halftime, or the Dawgs simply not having the needed depth right now. But that will come in time.
5. A serious case of brain lock cost Utah State dearly against San Jose State.
As if giving up the lead on a touchdown with just under one minute left was bad enough, the Aggies failed to field the subsequent kickoff, and the Spartans were able to run out the clock for the 23-20 win. After David Richmond's 31-yard touchdown reception, three Aggies descended upon the short kickoff near midfield...only to have no one recover the ball. It's bad luck like this that usually happens to a select few, and USU happens to be one of those programs.
6. Speaking of bad luck following around certain programs, how about Duke.
The Blue Devils, who managed to put up more than 500 yards of offense on Saturday at Navy (including 428 passing and four touchdown for QB Thaddeus Lewis), had a 43-32 lead heading into the fourth quarter. A two-game win streak for the Devils seemed to be well within reach...until the Midshipmen went on a run, closing it out with a Joey Bullen field goal as time expired to win 46-43. Backups at kicker (Bullen) and quarterback (Jarod Bryant) did in the Devils in the fourth quarter but look at this as a positive for Duke. The Devils can put some yards (and points) in the board, which could spell doom for someone overlooking them later this year. But they are competitive, which was hard to say for most of 2006.
7. When Duke and Notre Dame play on November 17th, Duke could be favored even though they're on the road.
OK, probably not, but that may not be as farfetched as it seemed before the season started. Despite signs of a pulse from an offense that put up two touchdowns against Michigan State, Notre Dame still only managed 203 yards of offense in the 31-14 defeat, the school's first-ever 0-4 start. For the Spartans, even though he only threw for 135 yards, Brian Hoyer did have four touchdown passes, a far cry from his play against Pitt the previous week. Back to Notre Dame, they head to West Lafayette to face one of the nation's most prolific offenses in Purdue. Luckily for ND, MSU running back Javon Ringer won't be there. But QB Curtis Painter and WR Dorien Bryant will be in attendance, making 0-5 a distinct possibility.
8. Don't read too much into Florida struggling at Ole Miss.
Yes, many (including myself) expected the Gators to go into Oxford and blow away the Rebels. But the trip to Oxford can be a tricky one for SEC foes. "We may lose the game, but we won't lose the party" is a popular saying at Ole Miss, and this could result in visitors sometimes relaxing a little too much. Ed Orgeron's bunch did compete throughout, but don't look at the 30-24 result as a reason to take the Gators out of the national title race. Tim Tebow once again got the job done on the ground and through the air, helping the Gators put up more than 500 yards of offense. But the Rebels can take some things out of this one as well, especially the play of QB Seth Adams (18-31, 302 yards and two scores). Lee Corso may be right: there are no bad teams in the SEC.
9. Even after their bad loss at Wyoming, Virginia is 3-0 in the ACC.
Add the Cavaliers to the list of teams looking to give two quarterbacks playing time. Incumbent Jameel Sewell was mediocre (at best) in Laramie, allowing freshman Peter Lalich to see some time under center. Well, looks like Al Groh and his staff are onto something, and thanks to a 28-23 win over Georgia Tech lead the Coastal Division at 3-0. Of course, their other two wins are over Duke and North Carolina, but those were must-wins for the 'Hoos with games against Wake Forest, Miami and Virginia Tech to end the season. RB Cedric Peerman leads the ACC in rushing yards so far, but if they want to keep this roll going the turnovers need to be limited (three on Saturday). Next up is struggling Pitt at home, and to frank this is the kind of game that conference title hopefuls must win.
10. If the Heisman is only going to go to a player on a championship-caliber team, then they need to change the description of the award.
Believe me, I know the history of the award, how Notre Dame's Paul Hornung is the only winner to have played on a losing team. The definition of the Heisman Trophy is that it is given to the "most outstanding college football player". Nowhere in that statement does it say "must be in the running for a BCS bowl or conference title". I have no problem with using a team's success as one of the measuring sticks for who gets the trophy; I just have a problem with people ruling out certain guys already just because their team has lost a couple of games. If guys such as Michigan's Mike Hart and Louisville's Brian Brohm continue on their current pace and are worthy of consideration, then they should get it. Plain and simple. Handing someone a trophy just because they played on a championship team when there's a more worthy candidate numbers-wise make little sense to me. If this is how the voting will go, change the description of the award to show this. Then again, it's only September, far too early to start up this Heisman talk. Good night.