Wild Weekends: Full Speed Ahead
by Phil Clark on September 22, 2009

The unpredictability that encompasses the beginning of every football season has given way to the unpredictability of what will happen next week.

During the first year of this column, I commented that nobody can be counted on in college football; that year LSU won the national title with two losses to their record as there were no unbeatens and plenty of one and two loss teams. As of this past weekend, I’m going to say that there’s nobody to count on in all of football. The beginning of the year has provided a plethora of big games, big hits, big injuries, big upsets, and big stories. Each week there has been a big upset shaking things up, a BCS buster remaining unbeaten or exposed and eliminated from the sweepstakes. Each week there’s some team proving they are not who they were last year, if only for one week. And while next week will likely bring new challenges to my brain and senses, this past weekend was another in a line of interesting ones.

Huskies shock #3 USC in Seattle 16-13

What was supposed to be USC’s chance to show they still have an endless supply of talent turned into this year’s big upset at the Trojans’ expense. Matt Barkely’s injury sidelined him for the loss, but people believed the injury was well timed believing that the team the Trojans beat 56-0 last year would suffer a similar fate this year no matter what. Big mistake.

The Trojans looked to be still on top of their game as their first two drives produced scores with Joe McKnight running in a touchdown from seven yards and a 42-yard field goal by Jordon Congdon. The next time the Trojans would score any points they would be trailing.

Erik Folk’s 46-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter put the Huskies up 13-10, his 28-yard kick late in the first half tied the game at 10, and his 22-yard kick with seconds to go lifted the Huskies to victory.

The Trojans could pin the loss on several things, the most important being that USC went 0/10 on third downs. Add two lost fumbles and an interception, and only 110 passing yards, and it was going to be a long day for USC regardless. Despite outrushing the Huskies 250-56 as a team—Joe McKnight picking up 100 of those yards—the Trojans were unable to break through the normally susceptible Husky defense who played the game of their lives when given the opportunity to help create a monumental upset. Mission accomplished in Seattle, and it even got them into the Top 25 for the first time in forever.

Kiffin eats his words, but not as badly as expected

When Lane Kiffin predicted a Tennessee victory in Florida, people took it as the first shot in the inevitable verbal war between him and Florida coach Urban Meyer. Meyer was fairly reserved in his verbal comments before the game choosing to let his top-ranked Gators do the real talking. And they did to the tune of a 23-13 victory that while satisfying to the Gators and their fans, was not quite the win people expected going in as the inevitable onslaught never occurred.

In truth, Tennessee did not play that bad of a game keeping the Gator offense at bay for the entire first half as a Tim Tebow one-yard run early in the second quarter was Florida’s only first half touchdown.

However, the defense could withstand forever and the Volunteer offense never kicked into high gear and the inevitable finally happened when Florida finally got into their groove in the third quarter netting ten points on two long drives.

The only thing that kept the game from actually becoming a route was Tebow fumbling the ball away inside the Volunteer 10 in the fourth quarter. Tennessee went down the field and scored on Montario Hardesty’s 17-yard touchdown run.

Tebow was still productive if less spectacular than usual going 14/19 through the air for 115 yards with an interception and rushing for 76 yards and a score on 24 carries.

Last second field-goal spoils Opening Night in Dallas

The $1 billion stadium courtesy of Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys had its first regular season game on Sunday and it was one fitting of the stadium in which it was played. A Lawrence Tynes 37-yard field goal as time expired gave the New York Giants a 33-31 win over the Cowboys in a roller coaster of a prime time football game.

Marion Barber and Felix Jones picked up the slack for Dallas as Tony Romo had an off night resulting in Barber’s 18 carry 124 yard one touchdown performance as well as Jones’ seven carry 96 yard performance that included the go-ahead score for Dallas with 3:40 to go.

The Cowboys rushed for 251 yards as a team.

Romo went 13/29 for 127 yards one touchdown and three interceptions.

Eli Manning didn’t need any help on this night going 25/38 for 330 yards and two touchdowns. Steve Smith and Mario Manningham both caught ten passes and a touchdown, Smith gained 134 yards and Manningham gained 150.

The game featured eight lead changes and at least one touchdown in each quarter.

Jets defense gets job done against Brady, Patriots

The New York Jets may have shed a bit of their stereotype in the NFC East this past Sunday with their 16-9 win over the New England Patriots.

In holding the Pats scoreless for the second half, the Jets handed Patriot quarterback Tom Brady his first regular season loss in 22 games and may have begun to remove Brady’s red cape when you combine Brady’s trouble getting started last week with his inability to make the comeback this past weekend.

Brady finished 23/47 for 216 yards with an interception while Jets rookie Mark Sanchez went 14/22 for 163 yards and a touchdown.

The game was one of field goals through the first half with all points being scored on kicks, three from Patriot Stephen Gotskowski and one from Jet Jay Feely. Feely would add two more in the second half giving him three for the day as well.

The lone touchdown of the game, and difference maker was a Dustin Keller nine-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.

Lewis’ 4th down stop of Sproles saves win for Ravens

Ray Lewis proved that he is still the big playmaker for the Baltimore Ravens as his tackle for a loss to Darren Sproles in the final minute Sunday preserved a 31-26 Ravens victory in San Diego.

The tackle was Lewis’ twelfth of the game and third for a loss.

While defense made the final, offense was the name of this game. The teams combined for 785 yards of offense—most of that through the air—while being nearly equal in first downs and time of possession.

Phillip Rivers lit up the Ravens for 436 yards on 25/45 with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Willis McGahee scored twice in the first half for Baltimore with Kelley Washington’s 27-yard touchdown catch providing the other Baltimore score in the first half. Nate Keading’s three first half field goals combined with Darren Sproles’ early 81-yard touchdown grab kept San Diego in the game at 21-16.

McGahee rushed for 79 yards on fifteen carries to go with the two scores.

Sproles only ran for 26 yards, but caught seven passes for 124 yards including his early score.

The second half saw the teams trade scores with Todd Heap and Vincent Jackson catching touchdowns for their respective teams in the third quarter and the two trade field goals in the fourth leading to the game’s thrilling conclusion.

Late TD lifts Hokies over Nebraska

The Nebraska Cornhuskers played a tough, defensive, run-based game against Virginia Tech for fifty-five minutes. Those last five minutes involved Tech going down the field and scoring the game-winner with 21 seconds to go.

The score was Dyrell Roberts hauling in an 11-yard pass from a scrambling Tyrod Taylor. Taylor finished 12/27 for 192 yards and a touchdown passing for the game.

Taking away the first and last five minutes of the game, the Cornhuskers were simply the stronger, tougher, and better team as both of the Hokies’ touchdowns came in the aforementioned spans of time. The Hokies’ first touchdown came from a Ryan Williams one-yard run just under four minutes into the game.

In between those touchdowns, the Hokies were basically powerless on offense while the Cornhuskers were only powerless on offense when they got inside the Tech 30 yard-line. Nebraska kicker Alex Henery scored all of Nebraska’s points on field goals from 40, 27, 19, 39, and 38 yards.

Nebraska running back Roy Helu Jr. was the game’s leading rusher and the backbone of the Cornhusker offense in this game running for 169 yards on 28 carries. Hulu also caught four passes for 33 yards.

Miami avenges last season defeat to Yellow Jackets with similar beating

Last season, Miami’s ACC title hopes went up in smoke after Georgia Tech’s running attack had its way with them. This year, the tables were thoroughly turned.

Holding the Yellow Jackets to 228 yards as a team and keeping them out of the end-zone for 2 ½ quarters, the Canes had no trouble avenging last year’s defeat to the tune of 33-17 last Thursday night.

The Yellow Jacket running game that ran for around 400 yards on Miami last year only amassed 95 yards on the ground while the Canes rushed for 184 yards as a team.

Miami quarterback Jarod Harris continues to impress with another big outing in a big game—the kind of game the Canes opening four can be considered—this time throwing for 270 yards and three touchdowns.

The Yellow Jackets struck first with an early field goal, but wouldn’t score again until the middle of the third quarter after Miami had run up 24 straight points and would put the game out of reach by adding nine more points following the Yellow Jackets’ third quarter touchdown.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Kurt Warner and Brett Favre completed passes like people ten years younger than them wished they could. The Bears won a game because of someone else’s late-game mistakes. The SEC is putting up unheard of offensive numbers, especially Georgia. The Jets defense won them a game against the Pats. Houston remains unbeaten. Florida St. continues to be topsy-turvy slaughtering a top-10 opponent a week after escaping Jacksonville St. The Texans win a close game in their division. It may not be Bizarro World, but it’s pretty close. Last Friday’s explosion of offense between Boise St. and Fresno St. at least showed that some things stay the same, ditto for Dallas losing an important game. While there have been some major upsets and plenty of shakeups at an earlier point in the season than we may be accustomed, what it has provided is incredible T.V. and a sense that you can’t keep up with all the action. Week to week seems to be the way to look at things and while that may be a smart strategy for any fan or viewer, how often do you find yourselves saying that in week three? It doesn’t usually happen that this many teams have found their kryptonite or had change punch them in the face with a defeat in the first month of the season; that stuff is generally reserved for November. And while it is still a month and a half away, can you imagine what’s going to take place in November when all the rivals begin to converge and face-off? Considering what’s already happened, it’s either going to go according to plan for one of the few times in this decade or it’s going to be complete and uncontrollable chaos.



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