November 27, 2010

Winners and losers: Simply Bedlam

The pregame buzz surrounding Saturday's Big 12 South showdown between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State focused on Biletnikoff Award finalists Justin Blackmon and Ryan Broyles. Naturally, two lesser-known pass-catching targets ended up winning the game - and likely the Big 12 South title - for Oklahoma.

Senior wide receiver Cameron Kenney and junior tight end James Hanna each caught long touchdown passes just 29 seconds apart in the final 3 1/2 minutes of Oklahoma's wild 47-41 victory over Oklahoma State. The big plays by Kenney and Hanna highlighted a fourth quarter in which the teams combined for 41 points.

"Cameron Kenney had an excellent day," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops told reporters. "And let's face it, James has had a really good year. He catches the ball, and you saw what great speed he has to get behind everybody."

Oklahoma's victory moved the Sooners (10-2 overall, 6-2 in the Big 12) into a three-way tie with Oklahoma State (10-2, 6-2) and Texas A&M (9-3, 6-2) for first place in the Big 12 South. The highest-ranked team in Sunday's BCS standings will face Nebraska in next Saturday's Big 12 championship game in Arlington, Texas. Oklahoma State was ninth, Oklahoma 13th and Texas A&M 17th in last week's BCS standings, but Oklahoma's victory Saturday should move the Sooners in front of the Cowboys.

The Sooners passed their way to a championship. Sophomore quarterback Landry Jones tied a school record with 468 yards and was at his best when it mattered most. Oklahoma led 33-31 and faced third-and-12 from its 14 line with less than four minutes left when Jones threw deep across the middle to Kenney. He caught the pass at his 32, raced toward the left sideline and outran the entire Oklahoma State defense into the end zone for an 86-yard touchdown.

The Cowboys answered with an 89-yard kickoff return by Justin Gilbert that cut Oklahoma's lead to 40-38, but Jones wasn't finished. On a second-and-6 play, Jones connected with Hanna for a 76-yard touchdown that again seemed to put the game out of reach.

Oklahoma State again answered, this time with a 34-yard Dan Bailey filed goal that made it 47-41. When Oklahoma recovered the ensuing onside kick, the Sooners finally could breathe a sigh of relief.

"I thought [offensive coordinator] Kevin [Wilson] did a great job," Stoops said. "They were expecting us to run and try to eat up clock, and we were in our power formation. Instead of blocking down and running it, those guys pop out and James has great speed to get past people. Cameron did an excellent job of just crossing the middle and outrunning everybody. And Landry put the ball right on him. Otherwise, that's not a touchdown. Good execution on the players' part."

Kenney finished the night with six catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns, while Hanna had four receptions for 130 yards and one score. They nearly doubled their combined season totals in receiving yardage; Kenney entered the game with only 14 catches for 184 yards and Hanna had 10 receptions for 121 yards.

Although Kenney and Hanna stole the spotlight, Broyles and Blackmon also delivered outstanding performances. Broyles caught nine passes for 82 yards and a touchdown, and he also sealed Oklahoma's victory by recovering the last-minute onside kick. Blackmon had eight receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown while playing at less than full strength.

The fourth-quarter fireworks shouldn't have caught anyone by surprise. Oklahoma State entered the game ranked first in the nation in total offense and third in scoring, while Oklahoma was 13th in total offense and 16th in scoring. Both teams also have mediocre defenses.

Oklahoma managed to win a shootout Saturday, but the Sooners likely won't have quite as much success throwing the ball next week against Nebraska's outstanding secondary. Oklahoma won't earn a trip to the Fiesta Bowl unless it plays better defense next week.

Here's a recap of some of the other winners and losers from Saturday's action.

WINNERS

Florida State: The Seminoles hit the daily-double. They trounced Florida 31-7 to end their six-game losing streak in the rivalry, and they also won the ACC Atlantic Division title when Maryland knocked off North Carolina State 38-31. Florida State's 31-7 triumph was its most one-sided victory over Florida since 1988. "We're becoming a factor again in this league and a factor again in this state," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said afterward. "That makes us relevant." Florida State faces Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game next Saturday in Charlotte, N.C.

TCU: The Horned Frogs remain firmly in the national championship hunt. TCU lost QB Andy Dalton to an injury in the second quarter and committed two turnovers that resulted in New Mexico touchdowns, yet the Horned Frogs still breezed to a 66-17 rout. TCU (12-0) should be ranked third in the next BCS standings and likely would play for the national title if either Oregon or Auburn loses next week. Even if Oregon and Auburn win to keep TCU out of the title game, the Rose Bowl would be a rather nice consolation prize.

Wisconsin's offense: The nation's hottest offense was in peak form Saturday in a 70-23 victory over Northwestern that helped the Badgers clinch a share of the Big Ten title; it was the Badgers' third 70-point outing of the season. Wisconsin has scored at least 31 points in seven consecutive games and has averaged 67 points in its past three contests. Wisconsin will find itself in the Rose Bowl if it remains ahead of Ohio State and Michigan State when the BCS standings are released Sunday.

Ohio State's defense: Ohio State entered the weekend ranked third in total defense, while Michigan was fifth in total offense. Even matchup, right? Not exactly. Ohio State allowed just one touchdown all day while beating Michigan 37-7 for its seventh consecutive victory in the rivalry. The Buckeyes admittedly benefited from a hand injury that sidelined Michigan QB Denard Robinson for much of the game, but they played quality defense even when Robinson was on the field. Wisconsin likely will end up in the Rose Bowl ahead of Ohio State, but the Buckeyes' 11-1 record should be good enough to earn them some kind of BCS invitation.

Michigan State: The Spartans probably won't get to the Rose Bowl; they likely won't get any BCS bid at all. But they still have plenty of reason to celebrate. Michigan State wrapped up an 11-1 season and clinched a share of the Big Ten title for the first time since 1990 with a 28-22 victory at Penn State. "We're Big Ten champions," Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins told reporters afterward. "No one can ever take it away from us. It's going on the wall at Spartan Stadium." This also marked the first time Michigan State had won in Happy Valley since 1965, the year before Joe Paterno began his head-coaching tenure.

Connecticut RB Jordan Todman: Even though he missed much of the first half with an injured right arm, Todman still rushed for 175 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-17 victory over Cincinnati that put Connecticut one win away from a BCS bid. Connecticut can clinch its first BCS appearance by winning at USF next week.

Maryland QB Danny O'Brien and WR Torrey Smith: O'Brien and Smith connected on four touchdown passes in Maryland's victory over North Carolina State. O'Brien threw for 417 yards, the most by a Maryland quarterback since 1993. Smith had 14 receptions for 224 yards and became the first Maryland player to catch four touchdown passes in a game.

Kansas State RB Daniel Thomas and North Texas RB Lance Dunbar: These players combined for an astounding 539 rushing yards in Kansas State's 49-41 victory. Thomas, a senior, rushed for a career-high 269 yards and two touchdowns, while Dunbar ran for 270 yards and three touchdowns.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies trounced Virginia 37-7 for their 10th consecutive victory, making them the only FBS team with at least 10 wins in each of the past seven seasons. Texas had won at least 10 games every year from 2001-09, but the Longhorns' streak ended this season.

Boston College RB Andre Williams: Boston College's rushing attack figured to struggle against Syracuse because the Eagles were without star RB Montel Harris, who had arthroscopic knee surgery Monday. But Williams delivered an outstanding Harris impression Saturday by rushing for 185 yards on a school-record 42 carries as the Eagles beat Syracuse 16-7 for their fifth consecutive victory.

Indiana K Mitch Ewald: He made two clutch kicks to help Indiana end its 12-game Big Ten losing streak with a 34-31 overtime victory over Purdue. Ewald connected on 26-yard field goal with nine seconds left in regulation, then added a 31-yarder in overtime to give Indiana its first win at Purdue since 1996. Yes, both field goals were short. But anyone who watched Friday night's Nevada - Boise State game knows that short kicks come with no guarantees.

Utah CB Brandon Burton: He blocked Mitch Payne's 43-yard field-goal attempt as time expired to preserve Utah's 17-16 victory over BYU, the last "Holy War" with the teams as conference rivals.

Tennessee's resolve: After a four-game losing streak dropped its record to 2-6, Tennessee responded with four consecutive victories to become bowl-eligible. The Vols continued their streak with a 24-14 victory over Kentucky as Tyler Bray threw for 354 yards and two touchdowns. It was the Vols' 26th consecutive victory over the Wildcats.

Washington's gamble: Washington trailed 13-10 and faced fourth-and-goal from California's 1 in the closing seconds. Rather than settling for a chip-shot field goal to force overtime, the Huskies decided to win or lose in regulation. The gamble paid off when Chris Polk ran into the end zone to give the Huskies a 16-13 win that preserved their bowl hopes. Washington (5-6) can become bowl-eligible by winning at Washington State next week.

USF QB Bobby Eveld: Eveld, a true freshman walk-on, replaced an injured B.J. Daniels in the second half and rallied the Bulls to a 23-20 overtime victory at Miami. Eveld didn't have remarkable statistics - he went 8-of-15 for 120 yards and no touchdown passes - but he avoided mistakes and scored the tying touchdown on a 1-yard run with two minutes left in regulation.

Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett: He threw for 320 yards and three touchdowns and broke the school record for career touchdown passes in a 31-23 victory over LSU that moved Arkansas closer to a BCS bid. Mallett has thrown 60 touchdown passes, breaking the record of 57 formerly held by Clint Stoerner, who played at Arkansas from 1996-99. Arkansas likely will earn a Sugar Bowl invitation if Auburn beats South Carolina in next week's SEC championship game.

South Carolina: Can this season get any better for the SEC East champions? South Carolina's 29-7 victory at Clemson gave the Gamecocks consecutive wins over their in-state rival for the first time since 1969-70.

Stanford QB Andrew Luck: His four-touchdown performance in a 38-0 shutout of Oregon State allowed Luck to set the school single-season record for touchdown passes. Luck has thrown 28, breaking the record of 27 formerly held by John Elway and Steve Stenstrom.

Hawaii RB Alex Green: He rushed for 327 yards in a 59-24 rout of New Mexico State to break his school's 60-year-old single-game rushing record. Green also scored three touchdowns.

Notre Dame RB Robert Hughes: Hughes, a senior, has endured an up-and-down career, but he made his final regular-season game one to remember. Hughes' 5-yard touchdown run with 2:23 remaining gave Notre Dame a 20-16 victory over USC, which ended the Irish's eight-game losing streak in this rivalry. Notre Dame needed a physical rushing attack to take the pressure off freshman QB Tommy Rees, who committed four turnovers while playing in a driving rain. Hughes delivered by running four times for 36 yards on the winning touchdown drive.

LOSERS

The job security of Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez: Yes, Michigan finally became bowl-eligible in the third season of his tenure, but Rodriguez hasn't gotten the Wolverines to play solid defense and hasn't made them competitive against Ohio State. If Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh has any interest in returning to his alma mater, expect the Wolverines to make a change.

Miami coach Randy Shannon's job status: Shannon has cleaned up the program off the field, but that might not be enough for him to keep his job. Miami lost to both Florida State and USF at home this season. Fans are staying away in droves. Miami's 7-5 finish includes a 3-3 mark at home, the Hurricanes' worst home record since 1997. Shannon also isn't getting much help from his players. Miami had driven into position for a game-winning field goal before Jacory Harris threw an interception with five seconds left in regulation against USF. Miami has committed nine turnovers the past two weeks.

California: The Golden Bears' last-second loss to Washington dropped their record to 5-7 and ended their streak of seven consecutive bowl bids. Cal ended the season on a three-game losing streak.

Iowa: Another week, another close loss for the Hawkeyes. Iowa's 27-24 setback at Minnesota marked the third consecutive game in which the Hawkeyes lost by four or fewer points. Iowa's five losses have been decided by a total of 18 points.

North Carolina State's lack of a killer instinct: All that stood between North Carolina State and the ACC Atlantic Division title was a Maryland team that had no apparent incentive, since the Terps already had been knocked out of title contention. When the Wolfpack scored the game's first 14 points, their spot in the ACC championship game seemed inevitable. But instead of extending their lead, the Wolfpack gave up 24 consecutive points and never quite recovered.

Florida's fake punt: Florida State led Florida 10-7 early in the second quarter when Meyer called for a fake punt on fourth-and-5 from his 36. Florida P Chas Henry was brought down a yard short of the first-down marker. Ponder threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Smith on the next play, and the Gators never seriously threatened again. Florida had been 8-of-8 on fake punts in Meyer's tenure.

Kansas' offense: The Jayhawks capped a 3-9 season with a 35-7 loss to Missouri, continuing their season-long inability to put points on the board. Kansas exceeded the 16-point mark just once in its final eight games and was held to seven or fewer points in four of those contests. The lone exception during that eight-game stretch was a 52-45 victory over Colorado, a shootout that seems more improbable with each passing week.

Cincinnati: The two-time defending Big East champions won't go bowling at all this season. At least the Bearcats have company. Texas' 5-7 finish assures that two BCS teams from last season won't earn bowl bids.

Northwestern's defense: Northwestern figured to struggle after a season-ending injury to QB Dan Persa, but it's the defense that has killed the Wildcats since Persa went down. Northwestern has given up a total of 118 points during its two-game skid.

Vanderbilt: Maybe the Commodores were emotionally spent following Robbie Caldwell's Saturday morning announcement that he was stepping down as coach. Whatever the reason, Vanderbilt certainly didn't send Caldwell out on a positive note. The Commodores closed the season by falling 34-13 to Wake Forest, which had lost nine in a row by an average margin of 24.9 points.

Clemson's offense: This offense simply hasn't been the same since QB Kyle Parker bruised his ribs in a 27-24 overtime loss to Auburn in mid-September. Clemson's 29-7 loss to South Carolina marked the fourth time in the past five games that the Tigers have failed to exceed 14 points. Clemson went 2-3 during the stretch and finished the regular season with a disappointing 6-6 record.

The hands of USC's receivers: USC's Brandon Carswell and Ronald Johnson each dropped passes in the Trojans' final possession of the loss to Notre Dame. Johnson almost assuredly would have scored a go-ahead touchdown if he had hung on to the ball. USC still drove inside Notre Dame's 25 before Harrison Smith made a game-clinching interception at the 1.

Kickers in the clutch: Boise State's Kyle Brotzman received plenty of criticism after missing two short field goals that cost the Broncos on Friday in an overtime loss to Nevada, but he wasn't the only kicker to struggle this week. BYU's Mitch Payne had a potential game-winning field goal blocked in the final play of a 17-16 loss to Utah, and Georgia Tech's Scott Blair missed an extra point that would have tied the score with less than five minutes remaining in its 42-34 setback at Georgia.

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



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