Wild Weekends: Action Packed

A mix of the boring and the exciting highlighted this past weekend.

The boring mostly came in the form of top teams being fed opponents far below them with the predictable results following. Over this past weekend USC, Texas, Oregon, Boise St., Oklahoma St., Cinicinnati, the Colts, and the Pats all played teams on the lower end of their leagues or conferences with all but USC winning by at least twenty points with a couple of the games getting out of hand while others were par the course. However there was some excitement involving top teams with the Alabama game being focused on more below, but what I’m referring to right here is Iowa’s miracle win in East Lansing over Michigan St. The Spartans channeled Boise St. in the ’07 Fiesta Bowl with the same lateral play during their final drive of the game; the play helped the Spartans gain the lead, but unlike Boise, MSU left time on the clock. Iowa was then able to get down the field quickly and a replay of the Michigan/Penn St. game in 2005 would take place: A fourth down on the game’s final play saw Iowa win a quick touchdown strike on a slant route—the same as the Michigan/Penn St. game I referenced, but from a slightly shorter distance.

Favre out of miracles as late turnovers lift Steelers over Vikings

Brett Favre finally met his match in a Viking uniform. After close wins over San Francisco and Baltimore thanks to his magic, Favre couldn’t overcome two late turnovers at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense as Pittsburgh eliminated Minnesota from the ranks of the unbeatens with a 27-17 win.

Only two offensive touchdowns were scored in the game. Those scores were an Adrian Petersen two-yard touchdown run and a Mike Wallace 40-yard touchdown catch before halftime. Both scores were in the second quarter.

The two late turnovers that sunk Minnesota came in the final six and a half minutes of the game. The first was LaMarr Woodley’s 77-yard fumble return touchdown after the ball was stripped out of Favre’s hands on third and goal for the Vikings. The second would come with a minute to play and was a Keyaron Fox 82-yard interception return off a tipped ball by Chester Taylor.

Percy Harvin kept Minnesota in the game with an 88-yard kickoff return touchdown following Woodley’s return score.

Favre ended the day 34/51 for 334 yards to go with his two late turnovers. Sidney Rice was Favre’s favorite receiver on this day catching 11 passes for 136 yards.

Ben Roethlisberger didn’t fare much better going 14/26 for 175 yards and one touchdown.

TCU stomps BYU for second straight year

For the second year in a row, TCU dashed BYU’s Mountain West title hopes in humiliating fashion, this year to the tune of 38-7. Where last year it was BYU turnovers that doomed the Cougars, this year it was simply that TCU was better.

Andy Dalton lead the way for the eighth-ranked Horned Frogs with a 13/24, 241 yard, three touchdown performance.

The most telling play on this day was the back breaker that came in the form of a Antoine Hicks 75-yard touchdown catch that saw Hicks beat his coverage, make the catch, and run untouched to the end-zone. The play made it 31-7 TCU with still over a quarter to play.

Harvey Unga was the lone bright spot for the Cougars rushing for 123 yards on 21 carries and scored BYU’s only touchdown with a three-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter.

Crimson Tide sweats out win over Vols

They weren’t all going to be easy this year for Alabama, but this one was supposed to be one of the easier ones.

In his first meeting with Alabama, Lane Kiffin coached his Tennessee Volunteers to a near-upset losing to the second-ranked Crimson Tide on a blocked field-goal on the game’s final play. Kiffin would be fined for comments following the game when he criticized the referees for not penalizing Bama on that final play because the ball was still technically in play after the block, something that was lost amongst the celebration.

The Volunteers’ field goal woes weren’t isolated to just the final play of the game as that was the second blocked field goal of the day for Bama and third missed kick for Volunteer kicker Daniel Lincoln. The first came on the last play of the first half when a 47-yard attempt sailed just under the crossbar. The second came with 10:41 to go and was a 43-yard attempt that was blocked.

After Gerald Jones’ 11-yard TD catch put the Volunteers within two, the Volunteers recovered the ensuing onside kick that set up the last second dramatics.

Tide running back Mark Ingram lost his first career fumble (322 touches) with 3:36 left, setting up Jones’ touchdown.

Volunteer quarterback Jonathan Crompton went 21/36 for 265 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the loss.

UConn turnovers cost them first game after Howard tragedy

It couldn’t have been tougher for Uconn’s football team to step onto the field this past Saturday. But they did, and the fact that they came up short, 28-24, in their first game without slain cornerback Jasper Howard only made the day tougher.

The effects of the tragedy were visible in the second half as the Huskies committed four turnovers (three of them interceptions) and missed two field goals in the final thirty minutes. The final turnover—an interception—came in the final minute as the Huskies were in West Virginia territory attempting to pull out a miracle.

Tavon Austin returned the game’s opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown for West Virginia.

The game itself was as close as a game can be with six lead changes as just about every score resulted in a lead change.

Noel Devine ended the day with 178 yards (165 in the second half) on 23 carries with his last being a 56-yard scamper for the game-winning touchdown on a play that saw Devine almost on his tiptoes to stay in bounds all the while maintaining his speed on way to the end-zone.

Brees, Saints offense comes through in fourth quarter to defeat Dolphins

The Saints had to earn their sixth win of this season, and earn it they did.

Down 24-3 halfway through the second quarter, the Saints’ offense kicked into high gear for the final 38 minutes on route to a 46-34 win that was equal parts offensive and defensive.

The Saints outscored Miami 22-0 in the final quarter.

The two defensive scores for New Orleans came on interception returns from Darren Sharper and Tracy Porter. Sharper’s came in the third quarter and was a nice grab by Sharper on his way to the 42-yard touchdown that puts him one behind Rod Woodson for the NFL’s all-time record. Porter’s was from 54 yards and came with 1:53 to go; that score sealed the win for New Orleans.

Ricky Williams helped build Miami’s big lead with two first quarter touchdowns, from four and sixty-eight yards respectively. The 68-yard run was Williams’ career high. Williams added another score from four yards late in the third quarter to give Miami a 34-24 lead. It would be Miami’s final score of the day. Williams ended the game with 80 yards on nine carries and three touchdowns.

Jason Taylor was part of the reason Miami’s defense was able to pound on Drew Brees during the first half. Taylor would finish the game with two sacks and two forced fumbles.

The second half, however, was all about the Saints’ offense. After chipping away at the Miami lead, Brees and company kicked things into overdrive in the fourth quarter with Reggie Bush scoring from ten yards on a reverse along with a Superman-like flight into the end-zone. Brees scored on a two-yard QB keeper that put New Orleans up for good.

Brees ended the day 22/38 for 298 yards passing with a touchdown, three interceptions, and a lost fumble. He would also add two rushing touchdowns.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Since I didn’t put out an article last week, I’m going to take this time to give my thoughts on the Jasper Howard tragedy at the University of Connecticut. I’m not going to go into the details because it’s already public knowledge, but the fact that they have someone in custody for the murder is of course a good sign coming just over a week after the incident. Probably the saddest thing about this story is that it is the same old story: a poor kid from a terrible neighborhood shows incredible promise in life, goes to a place where that promise may and should turn into something, and then he ends up dead. It’s happened many times in life and will continue to happen because for some unimaginable and unfair reason, this is the way of the world. It just seems that only tragedy can follow somebody who’s attempting to better themself and get out of a place where death and poverty are two of the only things that are for sure. I will admit that I hadn’t heard of Jasper Howard until his death, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel for his family, for his friends, and for his team. And for that team, it is just another speed bump in an otherwise glorious ride that saw Uconn go from division I-AA to division I-A to the Big East to Big East contender all within a decade. Sadly, this incident will forever be a part of that journey. Thankfully the school took the proper dedication measures keeping Howard’s helmet and uniform with them this year and keeping his locker intact until the time when he was to graduate. A proper send off for a guy who obviously had an impact on those around him and, like many who have that kind of impact, was taken much too soon.

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