October 23, 2010

Winners and losers: Texas turmoil continues

Texas has played in three of the season's biggest upsets, and the Longhorns were on the wrong end of two of them.

The Longhorns were ranked seventh in the nation last month when they lost 34-12 at home to a UCLA team that had lost two of its first three games. They went on the road last week and won 20-13 over Nebraska, which was ranked fifth in the nation at the time. And they followed up that remarkable performance Saturday by committing four turnovers in a 28-21 home loss to Iowa State.

"If you watch a game like this, it shows what happens when you do not play excited and you do not play hard," Texas defensive end Sam Acho told reporters afterward. "It is just something you have to do week in and week out. That is the only way to win."

How stunning was this result?

Consider that Iowa State was ranked 112th nationally in total defense and had surrendered 120 points in their past two games. They were 0-7 all-time against Texas and hadn't knocked off a ranked opponent on the road in 20 years.

"You can blame whoever you want," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "It doesn't matter. It's everybody's fault. It's called a 'team' for a reason. It's called a 'family' for the same reason. It's everybody's fault."

Right now, Texas (4-3 overall, 2-2 in the Big 12) is a mediocre team. Or a dysfunctional family. Although the Longhorns were 19th in the initial BCS standings, they will fall out of the top 25 this week.

The rushing attack that showed signs of life at Nebraska was dormant again Saturday, as the Longhorns gained just 96 yards on 29 carries. Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert threw for 344 yards, but he needed 57 passes to reach that total. Gilbert also threw three interceptions.

Iowa State (4-4, 2-2) - which gave up 52 points to Oklahoma last week after giving up 68 to Utah on Oct. 9 - built a commanding 28-6 lead before Texas scored two touchdowns in the final 11 minutes.

"I am very humbled to be sitting here coaching this program on a day of a historic game for Iowa State," Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads said afterward.

This wasn't the first historic moment Rhoads has produced at Iowa State. The Cyclones won at Nebraska last season for the first time since 1977 and went on to win the Insight Bowl, its first bowl victory since 2004. This win boosts the Cyclones' chances of earning a second consecutive bowl bid.

"He had his team ready to play," Brown said. "Ours was sitting around and thinking about how well we played at Nebraska, and sat around and got beat. I thought they were better-coached than we were. I thought they tried harder than we did. They definitely made more plays than we did."

Here's a recap of the other winners and losers from the eighth week of the season.

WINNERS

Auburn DT Nick Fairley: We already knew Auburn has the nation's best offensive player in QB Cameron Newton, who boosted his Heisman credentials Saturday by rushing for 217 yards in a 24-17 victory over LSU. It turns out the Tigers also might have the nation's best defensive performer. Fairley continued his spectacular season by collecting six tackles - 3.5 for loss - and 2.5 sacks against LSU. That gives him 17 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks this season.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio's gamble: Dantonio returned to the sideline for the first time since his heart attack last month and made a critical call that helped Michigan State rally from a 17-0 deficit to remain unbeaten with a 35-27 victory at Northwestern. Michigan State trailed 24-14 and faced fourth-and-11 from Northwestern's 36 when P Aaron Bates threw a 21-yard completion to Bennie Fowler on a fake punt. The Spartans scored a touchdown on the next play and controlled the rest of the game. This wasn't Dantonio's first successful gamble: Michigan State scored the winning touchdown on a fake field-goal attempt in overtime against Notre Dame last month, a few hours before he had his heart attack.

Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez: The redshirt freshman rebounded from his disappointing performance against Texas by throwing for 323 yards and a career-high five touchdowns in a 51-41 road victory over previously unbeaten Oklahoma State. He also rushed for 112 yards on 19 attempts.

Navy FB Alexander Teich and QB Ricky Dobbs: Teich rushed for 210 yards in a 35-17 victory over Notre Dame to become the first fullback in school history to run for 200 yards in a game. He also made a one-handed catch of a short pass and turned it into a 31-yard touchdown. Dobbs rushed for three touchdowns to give him 43 for his career, tying Chris McCoy's school record. Navy has won two in a row over Notre Dame for the first time since 1960-61.

Pittsburgh's sign of respect: Pittsburgh's 41-21 victory over Rutgers was highlighted by the support both schools showed for Rutgers DT Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed from the neck down after making a tackle against Army last week. Pittsburgh players and students signed a banner with the message "Pitt is pulling for Eric LeGrand." Fans wore stickers with Rutgers' logo and the message "Pitt is pulling for Eric." Rutgers players had the word "Believe" on their helmets.

Syracuse LB Doug Hogue: He picked off two passes and recorded a huge sack in the final minute as the Orange pulled off a huge upset by winning 19-14 at West Virginia. Syracuse (5-2) already has its highest win total since 2004, the last season it earned a bowl bid.

Maryland's fourth-down defense: Maryland beat Navy in its season opener by stopping the Middies' Dobbs on a fourth-and-goal play with 34 seconds left. The Terps did it again Saturday. Maryland clinched a 24-21 victory over Boston College by tackling RB Montel Harris short of the first-down marker on a fourth-and-1 play from the Eagles' 44. Special credit also should go to Maryland SS Antwine Perez, who picked off two passes and recovered a fumble.

Wisconsin's guts: The Badgers converted two fourth-down plays - including a successful fake punt from their 26-yard line - on their winning 80-yard touchdown drive in a 31-30 victory at Iowa. Wisconsin needed that kind of poise down the stretch to withstand injuries that knocked TE Lance Kendricks and RB James White out of the game in the first half.

Louisville coach Charlie Strong: The former Florida defensive coordinator already has given Louisville a new attitude. Louisville held Connecticut star Jordan Todman to a season-low 80 rushing yards in a 26-0 victory over the Huskies, giving the Cardinals two shutouts in their past three games. If Louisville continues its rapid rate of improvement, who's to say the Cardinals can't compete for a title in the wide-open Big East?

Western Kentucky: The longest losing streak in the FBS ranks ended at 26 games when Western Kentucky won 54-21 at Louisiana-Lafayette. Western Kentucky did a nice job of bouncing back one week after blowing a 24-7 lead in the fourth quarter of a 35-30 loss to Louisiana-Monroe.

Missouri: Who would have guessed at the start of the season that the Tigers would be the last unbeaten team in the Big 12? QB Blaine Gabbert came of age in a 36-27 victory over Oklahoma, the top-ranked team in the BCS standings. We already figured next week's showdown at Nebraska likely would decide the Big 12 North title. For Missouri, the stakes now are even higher.

Boise State, TCU and Utah: Ohio State lost last week, and Oklahoma followed suit this week. Each time an unbeaten from one of the six major conferences falls, it increases the possibility one of these "upstarts" could sneak into the BCS championship game. TCU boosted its credentials by trouncing Air Force 38-7 and Utah remained unbeaten with a 59-6 blowout of Colorado State. Boise State plays host to Louisiana Tech on Tuesday.

Georgia: Three weeks ago, the Bulldogs were 1-4 and Mark Richt was on the hot seat. Now they've won three in a row and have emerged as a legitimate contender to win the SEC East. Washaun Ealey rushed for 157 yards and a school-record five touchdowns as Georgia rolled to a convincing 44-31 victory at Kentucky.

Alabama WR Julio Jones: He caught 12 passes for a school-record 221 yards in Alabama's 41-10 rout of host Tennessee. Jones was one catch short of DJ Hall's school record for catches in a game.

Baylor QB Robert Griffin and RB Jay Finley: Griffin and Finley helped Baylor gain a school-record 683 yards in a 47-42 victory over Kansas State that made the Bears (6-2) eligible for their first bowl appearance since 1994. Griffin threw for a career-high 404 yards as well as four touchdowns, while Finley rushed for a school-record 250 yards. At least for the moment, the Bears lead the Big 12 South with their 3-1 conference record.

LOSERS

Big East: Syracuse's upset of West Virginia means that every team in the Big East has at least two losses and increases the likelihood that the league champion will head into its BCS game unranked. Syracuse and West Virginia are each 5-2. Every other team in the conference has lost at least three times.

Notre Dame: A loss to Navy last season kicked off a four-game losing streak that ended Notre Dame's 2009 season and resulted in the firing of Charlie Weis. The Irish didn't look any better Saturday while falling to Navy for the third time in four years. With Utah and USC ahead on the schedule, the Irish are staring at the realistic possibility of closing the regular season without a winning record for the fourth consecutive season (the 2008 team finished 7-6 only after beating Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl).

Boston College's misfortune: A bad season got worse for Boston College when the Eagles lost three defensive starters to injury in a loss to Maryland. FS Wes Davis was sent to the hospital with a neck injury, though school officials reported that he had full movement. DE Alex Albright left with an ankle injury and CB DeLeon Gause suffered a knee injury.

Iowa's time management: After running for a first down in the closing seconds, Iowa needlessly called its last timeout when its offense was in position to spike the ball with 12 seconds left. Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi then threw an ill-advised short pass to RB Adam Robinson, who couldn't get out of bounds as time ran out on the Hawkeyes.

The effects of expansion: Iowa and Wisconsin will be part of opposite divisions when the Big Ten expands next year, so these rivals from neighboring states won't play each other for at least the next two seasons, unless they meet in the conference championship game. A rivalry this good should be renewed every season.

Georgia Tech's offense: While it seems strange to pick on a team for gaining 242 rushing yards, that total was nearly 100 yards below Tech's average. Georgia Tech's inability to run the ball - along with its inability to stop Clemson TB Andre Ellington - caused the Yellow Jackets to lose 27-13 to Clemson. Georgia Tech recorded its third-lowest point total of Paul Johnson's three-year coaching tenure.

LSU's run defense: The much-anticipated matchup between Auburn QB Cameron Newton and LSU's sixth-ranked run defense turned into a mismatch. Outstanding punt coverage and some timely offense kept LSU competitive, but Auburn ultimately won the game by rushing for 442 yards and gaining 8.5 yards per carry. RB Onterio McCalebb's 70-yard breakaway broke a 17-17 tie with 5:05 remaining.

Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin' Cajuns lost by 33 points - at home - to a team that had lost 26 games in a row. Not much more needs to be said.

Mother Nature: Arkansas' 38-24 home win over Ole Miss featured lightning delays that totaled 89 minutes and caused most of the fans to leave before they could celebrate the victory. Kansas State's game at Baylor and Houston's at SMU also featured weather delays of about two hours.

No. 1 teams: Oregon's victory over UCLA may have assured that we wouldn't have three consecutive losses by the top-ranked team in the AP poll, but a No. 1 team went down anyway when Missouri made sure Oklahoma would fall from its perch atop the BCS standings.

Oklahoma's fourth-quarter execution: Oklahoma lost to Missouri after carrying a 21-20 lead into the final period, continuing the Sooners' puzzling season-long struggles in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma has been outscored 67-30 in the fourth quarter this season.

Kansas State defense: Kansas State has given up 24 points or less in five of its seven games. But when this defense has been bad, it's been downright awful. The Wildcats allowed 451 rushing yards in a 48-13 loss to Nebraska two weeks ago and gave up 683 total yards Saturday in its loss to Baylor.

North Carolina coach Butch Davis' hex on his former team: North Carolina had beaten Miami each of the three seasons since Davis arrived at Chapel Hill, but the former Hurricanes coach couldn't come close to making it four in a row as Miami rolled 33-10.

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




 

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