Wild Weekends: Rivalry Week

A week that was made up of familiar matchups, fantastic finishes, and some of the usual business.

While rivalry games and games that are becoming rivalry games ruled the weekend, there were some diversions that provided some stories and some thrilling action throughout the weekend. The Lions and Browns had one of the game’s of the year on Sunday with both young quarterbacks putting up scorching numbers while their respective teams stayed back and forth until the end; a mistimed time-out by Mangini inadvertently cost the Browns on the final play, but it was Matthew Stafford’s guts and determination that people walked away remembering, the QB getting his shoulder popped out of place on a hail-mary throw, Stafford was able to throw the game-tying touchdown after the Mangini timeout and a pass interference penalty on the hail-mary set the scene. The Steelers felt the injury bug a bit more this past weekend with backup Charlie Batch going down for around six weeks and starter Ben Roethlisberger took quite a blow to the head calling his status for this coming week into question somewhat. Those injuries also helped conceive the weekend’s big pro football upset with the Chiefs shocking Pittsburgh in overtime, gaining their first home win of the season in the process. The Colts remained unbeaten by edging Baltimore 17-15 thanks to some more late missed field goal’s by Baltimore. And of course Alabama and Florida won their Thanksgiving weekend tuneups via slaughter. And with all of this, there was still plenty happening this past weekend.

Michigan hangs on for a little while, but fall to Buckeyes

It was same story, different year for those in The Big House this past Saturday. What they witnessed was Ohio St. once again getting the better of the Wolverines with the only silver lining being that this year the score was a much tamer 21-10.

The Buckeyes took this installment of the famous rivalry in a fashion befitting the rivalry: by letting their running game do the work. The Buckeyes outgained Michigan 251-80 on the ground.

Ohio St. had three runners—Terrelle Pryor, Brandon Saine, and Daniel Herron—that ran at least fifteen times and gained at least 70 yards. Pryor finished with 74 yards on 19 carries, Saine gained 84 on 12 carries, and Herron lead the team with 96 yards on 19 carries.

While Michigan was able to outgain the Buckeyes through the air to the tune of 229-67, it didn’t get Michigan any closer to breaking the losing streak against OSU.

Freshman Wolverine quarterback Tate Forcier was welcomed to the rivalry with open arms by the Buckeye defense that intercepted Forcier four times in the game and cost his team when he fumbled in the end-zone on the team’s opening drive, a fumble that the Buckeyes recovered for a score.

Confusion costs LSU in final seconds against Ole Miss

To say that LSU and Ole Miss have not lived up to their expectations this year would be an accurate statement. However, Ole Miss took a measure to regain their status by edging LSU this past Saturday when confusion on the field lead to confusion off of it for Les Miles and the Tigers.

It has been Ole Miss running back Dexter McCluster and not QB Jevan Snead that has taken on the leadership role since the Rebels’ fall from the top 15 last month with several big rushing performances, including this weekend, but this time there was a twist.

McCluster and not Snead’s 27-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter put the Rebels up for good at 22-17; they would add a field-goal later in the quarter.

McCluster ended the day with 148 yards rushing on 24 carries, and caught three passes for 18 yards.

LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson supplied the Tigers’ offense going 19/37 passing for 250 yards and two scores (to go with one interception), but he was also the perpetrator of the play that cost LSU the game.

After completing a big fourth down completion deep in Ole Miss territory with one second to play, LSU coach Les Miles was signaling to referees that an Ole Miss defender did not intercept the ball nor that the pass was incomplete; Jefferson must have seen this and interpreted it as a call to spike the ball because the clock would begin running once the chains were set again. Jefferson spiked the ball not knowing that one second goes off the clock for a spike and thus the game’s final second ticked off giving Ole Miss the victory amidst a sea of confusion amongst LSU and its fans.

Cal kills Stanford’s Pac-10 title hopes in The Big Game

Stanford seemed to be the hottest team in the country with consecutive wins against top ten teams coming into their rivalry game of the week. But as rivalry games seem to do, it only served as the scene for Stanford’s Rose Bowl hopes to be dashed via a 34-28 Cal win.

Toby Gehart seemed to be having a normal day when he ran in touchdowns of 61 and two yards in the first quarter to give Stanford a 14-0 lead early. Gehart wouldn’t score again until the second half. Gehart would run in a touchdown from one-yard in the third quarter and then one from five in the fourth quarter.

Gehart’s final score put Stanford within three at 31-28, the Cardinal’s first quarter lead long gone.

Gehart finished with four touchdowns and 136 yards rushing on 20 attempts. He also had a 29-yard pass reception.

Cal running back Shane Vereen took over for Jahvid Best all too well in this game. Providing the running spark that Best took with him to the injured list, Vereen rose to the occasion, scoring three touchdowns within a twelve minute span to turn a 14-3 Stanford lead into 24-14 Cal lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

Vereen ended the game with three touchdowns and 193 yards on 42 carries.

Oregon takes overtime thriller against Arizona to maintain Pac-10 lead

It was the Jeremiah Masoli show that kept the Oregon Ducks in control of their own destiny as far as winning the Pac-10 were concerned.

The Ducks won themselves a meeting with in-state rival Oregon St. (The Civil War) in what is a defacto Pac-10 championship game with both teams winning the conference and a New Year’s Day meeting with Ohio St. by coming out on top.

Masoli was responsible for all six Oregon touchdowns in the 44-41 overtime win, throwing for three and running for three. Masoli finished the game with 284 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception on 26/47 passing while also rushing for three touchdowns and 61 yards on 16 carries.

Masoli’s one-yard plunge in double overtime provided the winning score for Oregon after an eight-yard touchdown pass by Masoli with six seconds to go in regulation sent the game into overtime.

Arizona quarterback Nick Foles made this game a shootout by matching Masoli’s output, just keeping it all within the passing category. Foles passed 314 yards and four touchdowns (with an interception) to help put the Wildcats in position for the win in regulation.

Masoli and Noles matched each other with touchdown passes in the first overtime.

Chargers whip Broncos in AFC West showdown

In what has become the only relevant rivalry within the AFC West, the San Diego Chargers continue to not only be a thorn in the Denver Bronco’s side, but also become the source of much heartbreak for Bronco fans and players alike.

This past Sunday’s 32-3 beat down was another such example as it not only gave the Chargers outright lead of the AFC West, but it was a continuation of the Bronco’s free fall into oblivion.

Despite the score, things could’ve been much worse for Denver, evidenced by the fact that three of Nate Kaeding’s four field goals in the game were from under 30 yards.

Phillip Rivers had a workman-like performance going 17/22 for 145 yards passing with a touchdown.

LaDanian Tomlinson contributed 73 yards rushing on 20 carries along with a one-yard touchdown run that put San Diego up 20-3 in the third quarter.

Kyle Orton continued his recent struggles by going only 15/29 for 171 yards with an interception.

FINAL THOUGHTS
While this weekend was all about the rivalries and all about any other excitement or shocks that came along the way, I’d like to focus on the Connecticut/Notre Dame game right now. It was senior day in South Bend and that fact alone seemed to move Charlie Weis to tears as those men came through that tunnel for the final time. The emotion was equaled on the other side of the ball when Uconn won their first game since Jasper Howard’s death by a score of 33-30 in two overtimes. I understand Charlie Weis’ emotion before the game: senior day is emotional no matter what school is having it and Weis himself knows by now that this is the final senior day he’ll coach at Notre Dame so those two things coming together would bring some tears for a coach. For all the negativity pointed at Weis (and deservedly so), I will mention this about him: at least he’s aware of his standing within the school and isn’t delusional about his future. On the flip side, this is a win Connecticut needed badly. Losing their first two games after Howard’s death by the same score and under similar circumstances was bad enough, but then to engage in a full-fledged shootout with top five ranked Cincinnati and come up two points short was enough to make a team still hurting wonder what was the point. So for this team to come into another close game that they nearly lose because of mistakes, and then come out of it all with a climactic win—on the road nonetheless—is something that everyone at that university should celebrate. And for Huskie coach Randy Esall to call the win the “best win” in the university’s history only shows how the Howard tragedy effected the team and how the win was more than just an uplifting experience.

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