No one saw this coming. Heck, no one COULD see this one coming. Pitt knocking off formerly #13 ranked Virginia Tech by 18, after losing to a D1AA team in week one and getting smashed on national television in week two?? C'mon, man, no freaking way.
But, I thought about it and there's a part of it that makes a lot of sense. If you're a senior at Pitt, you've seen head coaches come and go and new head coach Paul Chryst is the fourth head coach that has stood up in front of you, spouted off philosophies of what Pitt football is going to be all about and questioned whether you were going to be "all in" or not. So, as a senior, how much trust do you have in a coach and a program that has gone through what Pitt has gone through?
As such, when things go poorly over the first two weeks, what do you do? You do your own thing, the old thing. Self-preservation. And where does it get you? Nowhere. As such, Paul Chryst says to you after the Cincinnati loss "you can do this your way and lose or see that your way doesn't get it done and do it our way and compete". Chryst challenges you all to do things the way THIS staff is coaching you to do it and to trust it one final time. You do and it pays off.
Did it happen exactly that way? Hard to say, but if I were to guess, I'd imagine that after the loss to Cincinnati on Thursday Pitt's players and coaches had a come to Jesus meeting to figure out how this thing was going to happen going forward. I'm sure Chryst reminded them, in his own way, of course, that playing time would be based on doing things the "right way", come hook or by crook.
Of course, the "right way" was his way and his message played beautifully as his team responded with an old school Pitt performance hammering Virginia Tech at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. That was decidedly not the team that lost the first two games of the season and I'd imagine that it can only improve from here on out. Kudos to all for bouncing back with a statement victory only made more important with a win next Saturday against Gardner Webb and then at Syracuse on Thursday night in October.
If you're wondering what I mean, here's the deal. Every game that Alabama has played this year, the game was over, dead and gone, by halftime. So, I've flipped it over to other games on that time. I was able to see Florida start the game with Tennessee. I was also able to see, what, oh, my buddy Bill O'Brien (more on him later) get his first ever Gatorade bath.
So, thanks to Alabama for dominating in such a way that it could free up my DVR space and allow me to watch something else during the second half of its games. Am I being facetious? Nope. Alabama has put Michigan, Western Kentucky and Arkansas to sleep with such ease, you'd think it was a Varsity team facing three JV teams. It wasn't and it's not -- and that's what's scary. Alabama made Arkansas tap out and quit.
Don't ask me, just ask Tyler Wilson who had a ringside seat for all 60 minutes. I only watched for 30; it's all I needed.
I missed this one last week and I'm sorry. But, I'm more angry about it because I should know. I remember back in 1993 when Florida State and Notre Dame were 1-2 in the country. I called home to talk to my dad about my game at Dartmouth and we got to talking about FSU v. ND. I was in the nuovo riche category, thinking that Florida State was just too fast for a Midwestern team to handle. My dad, a Midwestern as I was, kept telling me that Notre Dame would run the ball right down FSU's throat, negating FSU's speed.
He was right and I never forgot that lesson…and I went against it last week and knew better. That's the "Stanford's Way"; Jim Harbaugh installed it and current head coach David Shaw continues to cultivate it. Stanford hits you in the mouth. Pure and simple. If you can't handle it, the Cardinal will beat you.
QB Josh Nunes made plays when necessary, but the star on the night was RB Stepfan Taylor, who ran for 159 yards and one brilliant 59 yard run for a touchdown in the first half. On defense, there were too many stars to name at all levels of the defense. Stanford will get beat at some point this year because a team will stop the run game for a full 60 minutes; however, it's going to take a "balls out" effort to beat it. It's just the way it's supposed to be…Stanford's Way.
Could this be the year that ND is for real? The defense is legit and it can fly (and as I noted in a text to Sean Pendergast on Sunday, can you imagine what it would be with Aaron Lynch? Dayum!). DE Prince Shembo was damn near unblockable. LB Manti Te'o lost both his grandmother and his girlfriend this week, played the game with a massively heavy heart, arrived in East Lansing with something to prove and a pair of loved ones to play for and flew all over the field. Irish QB Everett Golson created two plays -- one with his cannon arm (huge throw to John Goodman for a throwback TD) and one with his legs -- that resulted in Notre Dame's only two touchdowns. This isn't the best team in the nation…right now and it probably won't be this year. But, it's evident that Brian Kelly has found his RKG…Right Kind of Guys.
Sure, it was Navy, but a 34-7 win for all those that have been through the hell that they had nothing do to with is a dadgum nice way to spend a Saturday. Look, no one takes a win for granted, but I know my man Bill O'Brien understands that more than anyone else.
His senior year/my junior year at Brown we went 0-10 and in his second year at Duke as offensive coordinator in 2006, the Blue Devils went 0-12. Yes, he won a ton as a member of the Patriots and coached in a Super Bowl, but no coach has been "blessed" with a more difficult situation than "O'B".
But, give credit to those that stayed also. Senior RB Michael Zordich is a fullback, but was pressed into duty in the Nittany Lions one-back offense. The legacy finished with 50 yards on 11 carries. QB Matt McGloin threw four touchdown passes and WR Allen Robinson caught three of those from McGloin.
All in all, you may not root for Penn State because of what it USED to stand for. But with what's there now, you can be proud of the effort and competitive nature of those that are there NOW.
Let's put Thompson's effort in perspective: It was against Wake Forest in 2011 in which Thompson broke his back. Yes, you read that right. He broke his back and missed the rest of the season. I suppose he made his point against the Demon Deacons on Saturday.
He carried it nine times for 197 yards and two touchdowns (74 yards and 80 yards) in a 52-0 pasting of Wake Forest. Thompson's "arrival" was a huge boost for an offense that needed to be in prime shape before next Saturday's matchup with Clemson in Tallahassee. I've been saying for two whole years that FSU needed weapons or even just A weapon on offense.
Suffice to say, Thompson answered the call…one year after laying in a hospital bed wondering if he would ever walk normally, much less run for 197 yards in a key ACC game.
I don't think Miller can win the Heisman, but I wonder if he continues on this path whether voters will put his name on the ballot given Ohio State's current probation. I don't care, I'd write it down - he's been that good. Ohio State has, at a minimum, one loss, maybe two without #5 under center.
He threw for 249 yards and four touchdowns and ran 55 yards for the other touchdown, as he accounted for all five Ohio State touchdowns in a 35-28 squeaker over Cal. I know that Urban Meyer would like to limit his runs, but right now, the Bucks need the ball in his hands. It'll help having Jordan Hall back (17 carries for 87 yards), but Miller is, without question, the straw stirring the drink in Columbus.
...for the second straight week. I watched it with my own eyes, standing on the sidelines in College Station the week before, and I should've read something into that second half effort. I didn't, expecting Tennessee to use its explosiveness to overtake a beaten-up Florida defense.
But, Will Muschamp's Gators are into this second half thing. How about the fact that the Gators have outscored two SEC teams on the road with a rookie at QB 37-6? QB Jeff Driskel continues to improve, while Trey Burton is the ultimate Swiss Army knife, rushing for 91 yards and two touchdowns along with two receptions for 38 yards.
The secondary stepped up in the second half with some help from DE Lerentee McCray who continues to create havoc off the edge. This is not your older brother's Spurrier Florida teams, but it's finding ways to dominate the second half as those Spurrier teams used to do.
TCU's first win in the Big 12 (pretty, though, it was not)... WSU QB Connor Halliday's four touchdowns in a win over UNLV... WVU WR Stedman Bailey's 13 receptions, 13 yards and 3 TDs... Cal RB Brendan Bigelow's four carries for 160 yards in a loss at Ohio State... ULM taking Auburn to overtime (a win would've put them in front in the SEC West race)... Northwestern's three wins over BCS conference foes (Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College).
BYU's kicker missed a 37 yarder to tie the Holy War and send it to overtime. Utah State's kicker missed a field goal to win the game at Wisconsin, which would have resulted in the Aggies second straight win over a BCS team. Sorry, I don't have much more to say about kickers who miss field goals. Ever. Yes, I'm a hater.
I shouldn't beat a dead horse, but I will. I 100% agree with QB Tyler Wilson who said the following:
"Do I feel like we at times gave up out there? Yeah. Absolutely. And as a leader, it sucks to see people not do their jobs and things go wrong. There have been a lot of things that have gone that way. And there's been a lot of people jump off the bandwagon, and it's my responsibility as a leader to keep everybody in this organization, in this team, in that locker room, together, and I'm going to make sure of it going forward."
He was dead on and I didn't need to see the second half to see that team "quit". Yes, Alabama is that good, but Arkansas should've showed up to compete, not roll over and die.
Tell me what teams Arkansas is better than the rest of the season. Texas A&M? I'd say no, especially not in College Station. Auburn? Questionable. LSU? Uh, heck no. Mississippi State? I like the way Mississippi State is playing right now, so I'll say no. From national championship dreams to potentially a season without a bowl? Nah, that's crazy talk, but find five more definite wins on Arkansas' schedule.
Get angry if you choose, Hogs fans, but don't shoot the messenger. It's your team, we just have to watch it go down the drain or suck it back up and compete…something it didn't do on Saturday.
One moment will stay with me on this one more than anything else. Prior to the fourth quarter, USC S T.J. McDonald pulled his team up around him and gave a rousing pep talk to get his Trojans to play the final 15 minutes as hard as they could. I can only imagine that he challenged each and everyone of his teammates to make a play to help USC win.
So, on one of the biggest plays of the game, which All-American safety missed a key tackle on a 3rd and ten scramble by Stanford QB Josh Nunes who ran for 13 yards two play prior to hitting TE Zach Ertz for the game winning touchdown? If you're still wondering, yes, that was McDonald.
I understand completely that McDonald (et al) came back to USC to do something special as seniors and one play shouldn't define his outstanding career at USC. However, if you stand up in front of your teammates, making a point as such, the onus is on you to make THE play at the KEY time. McDonald didn't.
But, he wasn't the only one. The USC offensive line was a disaster. The two tackles, Aundrey Walker and Kevin Graf, were chasing, and missing, Stanford pass rushers all night long. Center Cyrus Hobbi struggled with Stanford's nose tackles and defensive tackles all night long. USC QB Matt Barkley had a horrible night, but it's easy to see why. Barkley's Heisman hopes are about dead at this point. USC's defense ran out of gas as Stanford's offense ran roughshod in the fourth quarter, as the offensive line drilled the Trojans one play after the other.
In the end, Stanford whipped USC and that's going to be difficult for USC supporters to digest this week.
With the opportunity to make the ultimate statement, the Vols showed up in the first half and then, POOF, disappeared in the second half. The proverbial front running performance, that's what this was. When things are going well, Tennessee is going to be all about it, but when the going got tough, well, giving up 27 points in the second half and just under 400 yards total offense happens. Derek Dooley had cooled his seat, but the complete meltdown of his team was a sad return of the past two years.
This team has talent all over the field, but, mentally, it looked as weak as any team I watched last weekend.
So let's see if I can put this in perspective: One of the ACC's best teams lost to a Big East middle of the rung teams. Okay, good, got it. Not only did Virginia Tech lose the game, Pitt physically hammered it at the line of scrimmage.
All anyone is going to remember is the horrid game QB Logan Thomas had for Virginia Tech. Not only did he throw three picks, he was so scattershot with his throws that it's hard to imagine that type of throwing acumen drawing the attention of the NFL, much less the CFL.
Thomas didn't have a ton of time to throw, but when he did, he made bad decisions and threw into coverage throughout the afternoon. Mark my words, though, he'll bounce back next week as he did against Miami last year after a horrid game against Clemson. He'd better or Virginia Tech won't win seven games this year.
Really? First the Buffs lost to CSU after blowing a first half lead. Then, CU lost last week to Sacramento State, a D1AA team. But, apparently all that was just the tip of the iceberg... as they caught a 69-14 beatdown at Fresno State. That's right, 69-14.
Jon Embree's Buffaloes gave up 55 points in the first half to a non-BCS team. Read that again: Fifty-five first half points to a Fresno State team with a new coach, just learning a new system. Uh…right. I don't know what Embree's buyout is, but someone is going to have to calculate it sometime soon after realizing this program is regressing right before our eyes. Unfortunately.
USF's kickoff return team (hey, guys CATCH THE DADGUM BALL!!)... Michigan State's wide receivers (hey, guys CATCH THE DADGUM BALL!!) and offense... Utah-BYU's end game debacle with fans running on the field three separate times.
1. "Free agency" was great for the Wisconsin Badgers last year (Russell Wilson), but this year (Danny O'Brien), it's bitten them right square in the, well, you know.
2. In a losing effort, USC DE Morgan Breslin was a monster.
3. West Virginia QB Geno Smith is piling up huge numbers, but it won't matter until he does it against a Big 12 opponent. Same goes for Texas Tech. Play somebody of consequence and I'll pay attention. Until then, it's an XBox game.
4. Texas QB David Ash might be alright after all.
5. Clemson WR Sammy Watkins made it back just in time and with the Seminoles finding some speed on offense, too, this one on Saturday night could be a blast.
6. Glad to see Pitt RB Ray Graham have a such a great game against the Hokies on Saturday.
7. Okay, this will be more than a one-liner, but stay with me on this one. Louisville withstood a furious North Carolina comeback, forcing an incompletion on fourth down with under two minutes left in 39-34 game. The main thing with the stop was that UNC had taken its last time out just prior to the fourth down incompletion. Take three knees and it's over, right? Do the math. Three times 40 seconds is 120 seconds or two minutes. Ball game. Inexplicably, Louisville decides to run the ball. On second down, LG John Miller got caught up in the pile and slammed back and forth, injuring his leg. During the stoppage to assist Miller, Louisville head coach Charlie Strong asked the referee how many time outs North Carolina had, instead of knowing it before the drive started. Louisville then took a knee on third down as the clock ran out. Unfortunately, bad end game management may have cost Louisville its left guard going forward. That's totally inexcusable.
8. Mississippi Valley State scored all of six points in a 6-0 win over Southern. Dadgum, where is the Willie Totten-to-Jerry Rice Satellite Express offense that obliterated scoreboards throughout the south back in the day?
9. If I see Auburn miss another tackle, I'm going to hurl. I can only imagine what its fans want to do.
10. Here's hoping Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini emerges from the hospital well.
11. Quarterback throwback for a two point conversion in overtime to beat Kentucky, Coach Taggart? Stones, brother. Huge ones.
12. I like what Michigan did for this weekend's game against UMass. A five-year old from Oklahoma City was forced to turn his Michigan "Big House" shirt inside out at school earlier this year, which, of course, raised the ire of most of us throughout the nation. Now, in defense of the Oklahoma City school districts, the premise is consistent with keeping team shirts out of schools that could have gang connotations. That said, the kid is a five-year old "toe-head", not a hardened gang member. Anyhow, Michigan AD Dave Brandon called the family and invited them up to the game on Saturday, giving them access to the sideline and a grand old time.
13. New coaches in the Pac-12 are 3-0 (Mora - UCLA), 3-0 (Rodriguez - Arizona), 2-1 (Graham - Arizona State) and 2-1 (Leach - WSU). Not a bad start, but it's time to see if those programs are for real, stepping into Pac-12 play soon.
14. Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel, in his second start, mind you, threw for a school record 294 yards (damn, Texas Tech QBs laugh at that number, but I digress) and four touchdowns. The possibilities are endless with Manziel driving the train for this Kliff Kingsbury-led offense and I can't wait to see it function against more SEC defenses in the near future.