Saturday lives up to the hype
In a sport that lures us with competition, tradition and tension, there is nothing so delicious as a Saturday that lives up to its hype. The games didn't solve any BCS dilemmas and avoided a big one (one-loss, top-three LSU, anyone?). All they did was validate why we circled Nov. 3 on our college football calendar so many months ago.
A viewer with a quick thumb could have seen Everett Golson score No. 3 Notre Dame's winning touchdown in the third overtime against Pitt, followed by Kenjon Barner's 27-yard touchdown run to put No. 4 Oregon ahead of No. 17 USC 21-3, and then (after a commercial and a kickoff) Marqise Lee's 75-yard touchdown reception from Matt Barkley to keep the Trojans in the game.
Three plays, three touchdowns.
And that was all a few minutes before the Crimson Tide and the Tigers ran onto the field at Death Valley.
No. 1 Alabama's last-minute comeback at No. 5 LSU capped off a week in which the four unbeaten teams atop the BCS stayed that way, each in a manner characteristic of what signed them to their current lease atop the sport.
No. 2 Kansas State won with MBA efficiency, standing aside while No. 24 Oklahoma State committed five turnovers in a 44-30 decision. No. 3 Notre Dame peeled another layer of epidermis off its molars Saturday, overcoming a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter to edge Pittsburgh in the third overtime, 29-26.
No. 4 Oregon came out of the locker room throwing knockout punches. It is a credit to No. 17 USC that the Trojans forced the Ducks to continue throwing on them in the fourth quarter. But the Ducks set nearly as many offensive records as they scored touchdowns, which is saying something in a 62-51 victory.
And Alabama won with a champion's guts. The Tide's 21-17 comeback, fueled by a five-play, 72-yard, no-timeout drive that ended in the Tigers' end zone with 51 seconds to play, will be remembered as long as there is shrimp in gumbo.
Alabama fans will recall the resolve their team showed after a second half filled with mistakes. LSU fans will stew over the missed opportunities -- two missed field goals and an ill-advised fake. Tigers coach Les Miles, as ever straddling the line separating genius and meathead, must live with the fact that the Tigers outplayed the Tide everywhere but the scoreboard.
Alabama remains No. 1, the Southeastern Conference remains in position for its seventh consecutive BCS title, and Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon continue to battle for No. 2. Who knew that changing nothing could be so exhilarating?
Growing pains continue for Pitt in loss to Irish
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame fans can look back on Saturday's 29-26 triple-overtime win over Pittsburgh as an improbable victory amid an improbable season.
On the other side, it was an opportunity lost.
Pitt led 20-6 in the fourth quarter. The Panthers picked off Everett Golson in the end zone with less than four minutes remaining, an eight-point lead and a historic upset seemingly in hand.
Pitt coach Paul Chryst said he didn't want to do what his team did, which is go three-and-out, leaving the Irish with enough time to score and convert a two-point conversion, forcing overtime.
Overtime came, and then another one followed, this one looking like it would turn on Cierre Wood's goal-line fumble, Pitt's third takeaway of the day.
Instead, Kevin Harper missed a 33-yard field goal attempt after a high snap, and Notre Dame handed Pitt loss No. 5 in the third overtime period.
These are the growing pains of a program under a first-year coach, pains Pitt players know all too well after a three-year coaching carousel.
They can look across the field, to a program finally breaking through in Year 3 of a new era, and maybe learn a little bit about what it takes to close the gap and finish.
"When our players go back and play it on the plane ride home in their mind, when they see the film, they'll see some things," Chryst said. "I think it doesn't matter whether you won or lost, what you learn and take forward and what you internalize, then you've got a chance for it to be a negative or a positive. It's what you take with that information.
"So I felt good about it. I thought those guys in our locker room played for each other and put themselves out there. So I think every game you can learn something from and help you go forward."
Former LB Petty leads Terps at QB
This would certainly be a lesson in history.
The Terps' fifth-string quarterback -- a former scout team linebacker who practiced at quarterback just seven times this season -- was leading the pack as they sprinted across the field and toward the student section.
True freshman Shawn Petty, just one year removed from nearby Eleanor Roosevelt High School, became the third different quarterback to start a game this year after season-ending injuries to C.J. Brown, Perry Hills, Devin Burns, and most recently, Caleb Rowe. It was the first time since 1973 that Maryland had used three different starting quarterbacks in a season.
"I've never had it happen before," coach Randy Edsall said, "and I hope I never have it happen again."
Not surprisingly, Maryland lost, 33-13.
Surprisingly, it was because of the defense.
Petty, who did a respectable job managing the offense, running the zone-read plays and simply avoiding disaster in his first college game at any position, completed 9 of 18 passes for 115 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
To read the rest of Heather Dinich's story, click here.
Potential worries for contenders
I'm still trying to figure out how Alabama (21-17 over LSU) and Notre Dame (29-26 in triple overtime over Pittsburgh) each won to stay undefeated.
It made me think of Tennessee and its national championship season in 1998, a year littered with land mines. The Vols needed a field goal to beat Donovan McNabb and Syracuse in the opener; they needed Arkansas quarterback Clint Stoerner to lay the ball on the turf in the final minutes; and they needed a lot of help during conference championship weekend to even make the title game.
Every championship team needs some sort of magic to survive scares; it's part of the recipe when long and physical seasons are taken into account. The Tide and Irish each had a fright on Saturday, without question, and both found ways to win and remain among the four teams with the best shots to win a title.
But were the hiccups one-game aberrations? Or were they evidence of future danger?
In Notre Dame's case, the answer is obvious. It's a week-to-week adventure with those guys. Who knows which team will emerge? A week ago, I wrote about Everett Golson's coming of age at Oklahoma; Saturday, he played half the game and looked shaky against an average Big East opponent. The defense we'd lauded all year was shredded pretty thoroughly by Ray Graham, though Graham has looked healthier in recent weeks in his return from knee surgery.
The good news is the Irish now enter the ACC portion of their schedule. Boston College and Wake Forest make Pitt look like the '85 Bears. Then there's that all-important game against USC at the Coliseum.
To read the rest of Travis Haney's story, click here .
Turnovers help Wildcats turn back Cowboys
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- There would be no Optimus Klein to save Kansas State if the defense faltered this time.
With Heisman front-runner Collin Klein in the lineup, Kansas State racked up 38 points in just more than 35 minutes in its 44-30 win over Oklahoma State on Saturday night.
With Klein on the sideline and his helmet nowhere in sight after suffering an apparent head injury, the K-State offense managed just six points over the game's final 25 minutes.
Oklahoma State threatened to turn a 21-point game into a seven-point game in the final minutes, as Cowboys backup QB Clint Chelf (starter Wes Lunt was dealing with an apparent head injury of his own) looked to the back of the end zone.
But K-State cornerback Allen Chapman wouldn't let it happen. The 50,781 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium breathed a sigh of relief after Chapman picked off Chelf to seal the Wildcats' ninth win in nine games in 2012.
"Collin's a great asset for our team. We just knew we had to continue to control the game on our side of the ball to maintain the victory," linebacker Arthur Brown said.
Kansas State did just that. The defense had coach Bill Snyder a little grumpy after giving up more than 400 yards passing, a 41-yard kick return that could have gone for a score and another 80-yard return on a pooch kick that did.
His frank assessment of the game?
"Not very good," he said.
The Wildcats were outgained in total yards 504-481, but that defense -- and Chapman, especially -- were the reason Saturday's win was a win. Klein's absence is a lot easier to stomach when you win the turnover battle 5-0, as K-State did on Saturday, highlighted by Chapman's three interceptions.
The final one sealed the win and he returned his first 29 yards for a touchdown late in the first half to give K-State a 31-17 lead at the break.
"He made some tremendous plays. I was proud of the way he played," Snyder said. "The turnovers were major in the ballgame. It was quite obvious, and they came at appropriate times."
That's the way it's been all season for Kansas State, which has forced 24 turnovers and turned the ball over just four times.
To read the rest of David Ubben's story, click here .
Three weekend observations
1. When Kirk Ferentz took over at Iowa, it took him 10 tries to win a Big Ten game. In 2000, late in his second season, the Hawkeyes announced their arrival with a 26-23 overtime victory over Penn State. Fast forward to present day. It took Indiana coach Kevin Wilson 11 tries to win a Big Ten game. Time will tell whether the Hoosiers announced their arrival on Saturday. But late in Wilson's second season, Indiana upset Iowa 24-21. Wilson's Hoosiers are 4-5, 2-3 in the Big Ten. So are Ferentz's Hawkeyes.
2. Army not only won at home against Air Force for the first time since 1996, the Black Knights dominated the Falcons 41-21. Army forced five turnovers and committed none. It held Air Force to 103 rushing yards, 263 below its average. Most important, Army broke a combined 13-game losing streak to Air Force and Navy. When service academies finish a game, the teams gather before each student body to sing alma maters. Losers go first, and for the first time, the current Black Knights got to sing second.
3. So what does USC head coach Lane Kiffin do with his dad Monte, the defensive coordinator? Oregon gained 730 yards of total offense. Tailback Kenjon Barner rushed for 321 yards and five touchdowns. Last week, Arizona gained 588 yards. USC has scored 87 points in two games and gone 0-2. Why? Because it's allowed 101. No. 1 Alabama has given up 82 points -- this season. The Kiffins will figure it out. Monte has been in the game longer than his son has been alive. But if it were anywhere else, would there be a doubt about the head coach making a change?
Highlights: Pitt-Notre Dame
GameDay crew final thoughts
You want to accentuate the positive, and certainly that includes the top four teams winning the way they won and answering challenges in November when the pressure starts to get to you. It's an overused cliché, but when you don't have the proper mental conditioning and the proper mental toughness going into situations like Notre Dame and Alabama faced on Saturday, you're not going to get championship-level wins. Both of those teams got that. Certainly, Pittsburgh is not a great team, but it's improving quickly and it's dangerous, and Notre Dame found a way to pull that one out.
Alabama hurt itself and didn't necessarily play its best game. LSU was tremendous, but Alabama found a way to win. The Tide were prepared when the plan went wrong, and they came back to win the game, and I think that's the mark of a champion. Another mark is being relentless, and that's what Oregon and Kenjon Barner were.
On the flip side, I think the problems are just starting for USC. Not only this season, but long-term, because the Trojans' depth is going to take a hit. You also have to worry about their motivation now for the rest of the year. They can still play for the Pac-12, but they've been kicked in the gut a lot recently. But I think the next couple of years will be difficult for USC.
The other theme for Saturday was great wins on the road. Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M got a tremendous road win. Taylor Martinez and Nebraska got a great road win. Champions win on the road, and that was one of the things that stuck out to me.
Helmet stickers go to:
• QB Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
160 passing yards, two passing TDs, 205 rushing yards, two rushing TDs in win at Michigan State
• RB Adam Muema, San Diego State
127 rushing yards, one TD in win at Boise State
Big wins for Alabama, Oregon, Notre Dame and Kansas State. We now know who the true contenders for the national championship are. We could end up with more than two undefeated teams, and there's going to be a big hassle, sort of like with Auburn in 2004.
Great performance by LSU. You outgain a team by more than 100 yards, allow them to convert on third down one time, they have two turnovers and you don't have any, and you lose? Wow! I'm still trying to figure out how that happened. But it was a great game.
You have to be lucky to win a championship, and I think Notre Dame certainly was Saturday. I think the Irish are a team of destiny. Upsets always happen toward the end of the year. Last year, it was Oklahoma State getting beaten by Iowa State, so it'll happen again. I just don't think Notre Dame could lose its next two games.
The top four undefeated teams were all tested, but went to the well and found different ways to win. Notre Dame got a couple of breaks, but it made its own breaks and found a way to win the game. That's the sign of a very good football team. The Irish find a way to win close football games.
That was such a gritty drive by Alabama at the end. AJ McCarron was having a horrendous second half, going 1-for-7. But in the two-minute drill, he has to execute to win the game with everything on the line -- the season and the national championship. And he and the entire offense played like a unit, stepped up and got it done. LSU played one heck of a ballgame and kudos to Zach Mettenberger. He had to play his best game for them to have a chance, and he did.
What more can you say about Oregon's offense? The Ducks are just unstoppable. Who's going to outscore them? It doesn't matter if their defense gets challenged, their offense is going to figure out a way to score, and no one has yet to even slow them down. They scored more than 30 points again. They're averaging more than 36 points in the first half of games, and they had 34 on USC in the first half on the road. That was supposed to be their biggest challenge this season.
Collin Klein is such a warrior and such a big-time quarterback, and for him not to come back into a game makes me really concerned about his injury. I just hope it's not a major one because he's had one heck of a season.
Helmet stickers go to:
•RB Kenjon Barner, Oregon
321 rushing yards (school record), five TDs in win at USC
• QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
311 passing yards, 129 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs in win at Mississippi State
Highlights: Oklahoma State-K-State
Blog Network: What we learned
Miami is leading the Coastal Division, and Virginia Tech has become irrelevant.
It'll probably take a miracle (or lingering issues from Collin Klein's head) for anybody but K-State to win the Big 12.
Brendon Kay may be the future at Cincinnati. Fans have been complaining about Munchie Legaux for the entire season, but the criticism has reached a fever pitch.
Wisconsin comes to Bloomington next week, and it figures to be the biggest Big Ten game at Indiana since
well, we can't really remember when.
Stanford and Oregon State are nationally ranked teams with odd QB situations.
Mississippi State isn't who we thought it was: The Bulldogs started 7-0, but it's clear that the soft early schedule helped mask some worries.
Everett Golson withstands another test: The young quarterback passed a different kind of test Saturday.
Highlights: TCU-West Virginia
Weekly Leaders: Week 10
Blog Network: Helmet stickers
Every week our bloggers will hand out helmet stickers to the week's top players, coaches, teams or anything else worth this honor.
• ACC: Michael Campanaro; Duke Johnson, Virginia's defense
More ACC stickers
• Big 12: Gary Patterson; Allen Chapman; Brennan Clay
More Big 12 stickers
• Big East: Teddy Bridgewater; Ray Graham; George Winn
More Big East stickers
• Big Ten: Devin Gardner; Taylor Martinez; Gerald Hodges
More Big Ten stickers
• Pac-12: Austin Seferian-Jenkins; Kenjon Barner; Reggie Dunn
More Pac-12 stickers
• SEC: Cobi Hamilton; Johnny Manziel; Tre Mason
More SEC stickers
• Notre Dame: Everett Golson; DaVaris Daniels; Stephon Tuitt
More ND stickers