Friday, December 13, 2002
Big plays, big wins and the wild Pac-10
By Terry Bowden
Special to ABC Sports Online
I have never seen a game like Colorado's 35-31 win over Kansas State, one with so many big plays back and forth all day. In the pregame segment of our ABC telecast I said the difference between K-State this year and last is the ability to make big plays, but CU must have heard that because the Buffaloes made those plays, too. There were five scoring plays of at least 71 yards in the game.
This game was a tale of two quarterbacks and what they brought to their teams. I knew Ell Roberson had the running ability to make big plays, and he ended the day with 178 yards rushing. But I had no idea Robert Hodge would throw for 289 yards, including a school-record 94-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Bloom, and three TDs. Now that Hodge is comfortable as the starter I think the Buffs will be even better than when Craig Ochs was in there.
When he was called on to be the starter against Southern Cal, Hodge was not ready. He doubted himself and a 40-3 loss to USC was not a good way to start his college career. But now that he is comfortable his athletic ability takes over and his talents are a lot different than those of Ochs. In junior college his coach called him the Michael Vick of the JC ranks. Not only can he run the ball but he can throw it as well, and that gives Colorado a multi-dimensional offense.
Colorado is also giving us a chance to see the same kind of team it had last year. Like last season they got off to a slow start early, but as of today the Buffaloes and Iowa State are the leading contenders for the Big 12 North title. It will be interesting to see how many games they can win this year.
Kansas State led the nation in offense coming into this game and Roberson gives the Wildcats an even more explosive attack than they had last year. But when it comes to big games against teams like Colorado the defense has to play well, and I was a little bit shocked that they were not able to slow Colorado down more, allowing 483 yards of total offense.
'Horns got what they wanted
|Jeremy Bloom scored a school-record 94-yard TD on this pass from Robert Hodge.|
Texas' 17-15 win over Oklahoma State was nothing more than a W on the schedule that the Longhorns had to have. I would lend no weight to the final score or the difficulty UT had in this game. It had every reason to be thinking about Oklahoma and to get out of this game with a win is all the Longhorns should care about. Remember, this is the same OSU team that knocked off Oklahoma last year and cost the Sooners a chance to play for the national championship. Texas is undefeated going into the Red River Shootout and that is all that matters to the coaches there.
The UT defense is among the top-rated units in the country, allowing just 225.6 total yards per game, and I'm shocked any time a team gains 139 rushing yards against it like the Cowboys did. But again, there was every reason for Texas to be a little lax against the Oklahoma State. I do not question that this is a great defense which will be as good as or better than everyone they play.
This will also be a very balanced offense and Chris Simms will be able to get the job done. The biggest thing for Simms to understand is that this is a team of balance and not a team built around a quarterback, that teams like Oklahoma win because they can run and throw and play offense and defense. He merely has to play mistake-free football and not try to win the game himself.
Lions roar back
The 34-31 win over Wisconsin last weekend and shows how much Penn State has changed in comparison to the last two years. Those Nittany Lions teams might have had a hard time picking themselves up after the tough overtime loss to Iowa, but PSU came in wide-open against the Badgers, played great offense and defense and got right back to its winning ways. To beat Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium is always difficult, and I am sure Joe Paterno is pleased with the outcome of this game.
Wisconsin certainly misses Lee Evans because he is such a great player. But this team does not win because of Lee Evans, it wins because of Anthony Davis and the running game. Even when the Badgers line up with five wide receivers and spread the defense out they do it mainly to create lanes for the rushing attack. If Davis doesn't have a big game the passing attack never seems to take off, and if a team comes in like Penn State did and slows down the running game players like Evans or Jonathan Orr will not make a difference.
Even though Barry Alvarez wants to believe that the philosophy of his team is to pass first and run second it is really the other way around, and Wisconsin is a team that needs to start with a solid running punch before it can counter-punch with the passing attack. That requires players like both Davis and Evans.
It's getting wild out west
Anytime a team plays a soft early schedule like Oregon State did this season it creates doubt about a 4-0 start like the one the Beavers had. We saw against USC that weak non-conference teams did not prepare Oregon State for a strong defense like that of the Trojans have, and now the Beavers have been further exposed in a 43-35 loss to UCLA.
Oregon State's defense ate up some teams that were not very good, but when QB Cory Paus is on his game this is a good UCLA offense. He's a senior who knows what he's doing and when he is hot he is hard to stop. But the showing the Bruins had today is more a credit to them than a knock on the OSU defense.This was an exciting game that the Beavers had a chance to win, but to be a contender in the Pac-10 they would have had to win this game after the loss to USC. Now they have to try to be the spoiler in the conference and end up with a winning record and a bowl bid.
The fact that Oregon State came on and scored so many points late just shows that the UCLA defense is like so many others around the country, just not dominant enough to hang on for four quarters. That doesn't mean the Bruins are doing a poor job, it means they are like a lot of other teams that don't have suffocating defenses that can close teams out.
California's 34-27 win at Washington was a real shocker. I knew Cal had a chance to have a decent year after going 1-10 last season and I saw the Bears as a spoiler in the conference, but I never thought they would spoil things for Washington, especially in Seattle. Cal had not beaten the Huskies in 19 previous tries and UW brought a 17-game home winning streak into the game. No one saw this coming.
How in the world the Cal defense was able to contain down red-hot Washington quarterback Cody Pickett, who came into the game with a string of four straight 300-yard games and two straight 400-yard games, is a mystery to me because Jason Gesser and Washington State exposed a very weak Bears secondary the week before.
To Cal's credit, quarterback Kyle Boller is a different man under the guidance of new head coach Jeff Tedford, and when Boller is hot he can put up points on anybody. This is a huge win for Cal and gives the players confidence that this season might really be a turnaround for them, but the loss in its Pac-10 opener is a huge disappointment for Washington.
ABC Sports college football analyst Terry Bowden is a regular contributor to ABC Sports Online.