September 19, 2010

Winners and losers: Spartan surprise

The biggest gamble of the season produced a jackpot for Michigan State on Saturday night.

The Spartans trailed Notre Dame by three points in overtime and faced fourth-and-13 from the Irish's 28. MSU had to go for the game-tying field goal, right?

Nope.

Instead the Spartans lined up in field-goal formation, but holder Aaron Bates took the snap and threw to a wide-open Charlie Gantt for a touchdown pass and a stunning 34-31 victory over the Fighting Irish.

The gutsy call made Spartans coach Mark Dantonio the biggest winner of the week - and promptly ended whatever remained of Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly's honeymoon. Kelly, who didn't lose once at Cincinnati last season, has dropped two of his first three games with the Irish.

After losing their last four games of the 2009 season by a combined margin of 17 points, the Irish already have dropped two nail-biters this season. They lost 28-24 to Michigan last week when they couldn't stop Denard Robinson in the final minutes. And they suffered an equally heartbreaking defeat when they fell for the fake. Now Kelly must figure out a way for to slow down red-hot Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck next week.

Michigan State's victory over Notre Dame wasn't the night's only overtime thriller. In perhaps the most physical game of the season thus far, Auburn rallied from a 17-0 first-half deficit to edge Clemson 27-24 in OT when Chandler Cantanzaro missed a 32-yard field goal.

Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton went from awful to awesome as the night wore on to help his Tigers withstand an admirable performance from Clemson's Kyle Parker, who threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns despite playing hurt in the second half.

"Cam started talking at halftime and said we've got another half to play," Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley told reporters. "And nobody had long faces."

Here's a look at the other winners and losers from the third week of the season.

WINNERS

Arkansas WR Greg Childs: Georgia's A.J. Green, Alabama's Julio Jones and LSU's Terrance Toliver may get more attention, but no receiver in the SEC is more prolific than Childs. While it's up for debate whether Childs is the SEC's best receiver, he delivered the biggest play of the conference season so far when he turned a 15-yard catch into a 40-yard game-winning touchdown at Georgia. Over the past two weeks, Childs has caught 15 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns.

Alabama RB Mark Ingram: Let's not hand the Heisman to Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson just yet. In his debut performance of the season, Ingram showed he's in no hurry to end his reign as college football's most outstanding player. After missing the first two games to recover from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, Ingram looked in peak form as the Crimson Tide rolled to a 62-13 blowout of Duke. Ingram ran for 48 yards on his first carry. By his third carry, he already had reached the 100-yard mark. He finished the game with 151 yards and two touchdowns on nine attempts.

LSU CB Patrick Peterson: He picked off two passes in a couple of highlight-worthy plays as LSU knocked off Mississippi State 29-7. His ball-hawking skills were contagious, as the Tigers intercepted five Mississippi State passes.

Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez: In his first career road start, Martinez - a redshirt freshman - significantly outplayed Jake Locker while leading Nebraska to a 56-21 rout of Washington. Martinez ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns, and he also threw for 150 yards and a fourth score. Nebraska matched the highest point total ever allowed by Washington at home. "They were asking me [about nervousness] before the game," Martinez told reporters. "I don't get nervous before games, so they should probably stop asking me."

Kansas State RB Daniel Thomas: There hasn't been a better running back this season. Thomas, a senior, ran for 181 yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 34 carries in a 27-20 victory over Iowa State. That increases his season totals to 552 yards and six touchdowns on 83 carries.

Temple coach Al Golden: A program that once was woeful enough to get booted from the Big East just beat one of the better teams from the Big East. Temple's 30-16 victory over Connecticut marked the first time since 2004 that the Owls had beaten a team from one of the six major conferences. It also solidified Golden's status as one of the nation's hottest coaching prospects.

Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor: The junior quarterback completed a school-record 16 consecutive passes in a 43-7 rout of Ohio.

Virginia Tech RB David Wilson: After a hamstring injury knocked star running back Ryan Williams out of the game with Virginia Tech trailing in the second quarter, Wilson helped pick up the slack. He rushed for 89 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries as Virginia Tech rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat East Carolina 49-27 and avoid its first 0-3 start since 1987.

Wisconsin S Jay Valai: Arizona State had just driven for an apparent game-tying touchdown with 4:09 remaining until Valai blocked the extra-point attempt to preserve Wisconsin's 20-19 victory. Arizona State's Omar Bolden scored on a 97-yard kickoff return, and Kyle Middlebrooks returned a kickoff to Wisconsin's 1 on the final play of the first half.

Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray: Murray rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a 17-yard pass for a third score as Oklahoma edged Air Force 27-24 for its 33rd consecutive home victory.

Stanford QB Andrew Luck: This likely NFL first-round pick lived up to the hype and put himself into the thick of Heisman contention with a virtuoso performance in a blowout of Wake Forest. Luck threw four touchdown passes and ran for a fifth score before taking a seat midway through the third quarter.

Arizona's moxie: After blowing a 20-point lead and allowing Iowa to tie the game at 27, Arizona came up big when it mattered most. Nick Foles engineered a 72-yard touchdown drive that put the Wildcats ahead for good with 3:57 remaining, then the Wildcats sacked Iowa's Ricky Stanzi four consecutive times to clinch the 34-27 victory.

LOSERS

Washington QB Jake Locker's stock: Locker's Heisman candidacy should have disappeared when the Huskies opened the season by losing to a BYU team that hasn't won since. Any shot he had at moving back into the race vanished when Locker wasn't the best quarterback on the field in the blowout loss to Nebraska. Locker went 4-of-20 passing for 71 yards and a touchdown. He ran for 59 yards and a score. He also threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a Nebraska touchdown.

Michigan's special teams: Sooner or later, Michigan's woeful kicking game will cost the Wolverines a victory. One week after Michigan's Brendan Gibbons missed each of his two field-goal attempts in a 28-24 win at Notre Dame, special teams hindered Michigan again in a 42-37 escape of FCS program Massachusetts. Seth Broekhuizen missed a 38-yard field goal and the Wolverines had a punt blocked to set up the Minutemen's last touchdown.

Ole Miss' gamble on QB Jeremiah Masoli: After a couple of scrapes with the law resulted in Masoli's departure from Oregon, Mississippi took a chance on the talented quarterback. Two weeks after the Rebels began the season by falling to FCS program Jacksonville State, Masoli threw two interceptions - one of which was returned for a touchdown - as Ole Miss lost 28-14 to visiting Vanderbilt in their SEC opener.

Georgia: This represents the first time in coach Mark Richt's 10-season tenure that the Bulldogs have started 0-2 in SEC competition. Georgia's defense couldn't tackle in a loss to South Carolina last week, and it couldn't cover anyone running a deep pattern against Arkansas. In addition, a veteran offensive line that was supposed to rank among the nation's best allowed Arkansas to sack redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray six times.

North Carolina's defense: Georgia Tech rushed for 372 yards and punted just once in a 30-24 victory over North Carolina that dropped the Tar Heels' record to 0-2. Tar Heels fans can only wonder how North Carolina might have handled the Yellow Jackets' option attack if the school's agent and academic scandals hadn't decimated what once was a star-studded defense.

Anyone trying to upset a Big 12 team: The Big 12 was breathing a collective sigh of relief after Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Missouri squeaked out victories in non-conference games against teams from outside the six major conferences. Oklahoma never actually trailed in its 27-24 win over Air Force, but Missouri and Texas A&M looked dead before pulling off remarkable comebacks. Texas A&M trailed Florida International 20-6 in the fourth quarter before rallying for a 27-20 triumph. Missouri beat San Diego State 27-24 after T.J. Moe turned a short completion into a 68-yard touchdown with 51 seconds left.

Texas Tech's offense: This isn't Mike Leach's offense anymore. Texas Tech committed three turnovers and scored just one offensive touchdown in a 24-14 loss to Texas. Although Texas made enough first-half mistakes to allow Texas Tech to stay in the game, the Red Raiders couldn't move the ball nearly well enough to pull the upset.

Houston: Billed as a potential BCS-buster before the season, Houston watched its dreams of an unbeaten season vanish with a 31-13 loss at UCLA. Houston may have lost more than a game, as star quarterback Case Keenum was hurt while trying to tackle Akeem Ayers after throwing a second-quarter interception. He was carted into the locker room with a leg injury and didn't re-enter the game. If Keenum misses a substantial length of time, the preseason Conference USA favorites are in deep trouble.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.




 

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