Saturday September 6th, 2014

Virginia Tech 35, No. 8 Ohio State 21

After letting Ohio State back into the game with 14 unanswered second-half points, Virginia Tech rallied late for a 35-21 upset of the eighth-ranked Buckeyes in Columbus. The win snapped the Hokies' 0-34 road record against top eight teams and capped off a very dark day in Big Ten history. 

To start, Urban Meyer outsmarted himself.

Meyer said before the game that the Buckeyes were looking forward to Virginia Tech’s aggressive defensive style. Bud Foster’s group is not afraid to send extra bodies after the quarterback, which Meyer hoped would lead to big plays for the Buckeyes. That could work … if your quarterback is Braxton Miller and your offensive line can block anyone. If not, well, Meyer found out what happens in that case.

Though redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett has a cannon for an arm, he didn't give his receivers opportunities to make plays in single coverage throughout the night. Miller finished 9-for-29 for the night, and Meyer called for his inexperienced quarterback to throw deep on several plays. It occasionally paid off, most notably on Barrett’s 53-yard touchdown completion to Michael Thomas, but Barrett’s 31-percent completion rate stalled too many drives. Nine Buckeyes possessions ended in punts or interceptions.

For a complete recap and analysis of Virginia Tech's victory over Ohio State, read Colin Becht's three thoughts on the win.

No. 16 Notre Dame 31, Michigan 0

You might have heard this was the final meeting between Michigan and Notre Dame for the foreseeable future, and it ended in a very foreseeable fashion: One fan base will likely never forget it, and one will look into group discounts on mind-wipes next week.

It was the Fighting Irish with the final word on Saturday, and that word was “bludgeoning.”

There might not be a college quarterback playing better than Everett Golson right now, and at worst Notre Dame’s signal-caller is on a short list with three or five others. Through two games Golson has completed 37-of-56 passes for 521 yards, a total that includes a handful of drops from his receivers. That’s laser-guided accuracy and impeccable command. He has accounted for eight total touchdowns.

Golson has been a revelation in even the smallest ways this year: On a play in the final drive of the first half, the pocket began to collapse around him. He took a step forward and bounced off one of his own linemen. Then he rolled to his left and needled a throw to tight end Ben Koyack along the sideline.

It went for a very modest five yards. But that’s a drive-killing sack for Notre Dame’s offense last season. This year it was forward progress. That adds up in the end, and one play later Golson lofted a pinpoint pass to Will Fuller for a 24-yard score.

Yes, Notre Dame called a timeout due to poor communication before it took its first snap. Yes, it burned a second timeout for the same reason on the same series. But while Golson looked a little like he did in 2012 on that possession -- out of sorts, almost nervous -- he looked like a Heisman candidate for the rest of the night. -- Brian Hamilton

For a complete recap and analysis of Notre Dame's victory over Michigan, read Brian Hamilton's three thoughts on the win.

No. 21 So. Carolina 33, E. Carolina 23

Welcome back, Mike Davis. After battling a nagging rib injury in South Carolina’s 52-28 loss to Texas A&M to open the season (he finished with six carries for 15 yards), the talented junior running back anchored the Gamecocks’ 33-23 win against East Carolina in Columbia. Davis finished the game with 101 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns, and his job was simplified by the bruising play of his offensive line in the second half.

While some of its fellow conference foes feasted on the likes of Lamar, Nicholls State and Sam Houston State, South Carolina faced a legitimate threat of falling to 0-2. A 10-win team in 2013 with a 4,000-yard passer (Shane Carden), an all-purpose playmaker (Justin Hardy) and a frightening team bus, the Pirates are a favorite of many college football pundits. 

ECU should have led the game 14-0 after its first two drives, but the Pirates only managed a 6-0 lead that would come to cost them. Carden expertly navigated the Pirates 89 yards on their first drive, but the offense stalled in the red zone and settled for a 26-yard field goal. After starting their next drive on the Gamecocks’ 43, the Pirates’ hurry-up attack again sputtered inside the 20-yard line, resulting in another field goal. Instead of pressing South Carolina early, it allowed the Gamecocks back into the game with one possession.

Hardy looked like the potential first-round pick he is (he finished with 133 yards receiving on 11 catches), but East Carolina eventually succumbed after the Gamecocks compiled an exhausting 18-play, 86-drive that consumed almost the entire fourth quarter (10:33). Questions will continue to nag South Carolina’s inconsistent defense (the Pirates finished with 453 yards total offense), but the Gamecocks still have Davis, who provided both highlights (a 36-yard touchdown run) and dependability in a crucial win. -- Gabriel Baumgaertner

BYU 41, Texas 7

BYU rushed for 550 yards in a 40-21 win over Texas last September, a result that prompted defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s ouster in Austin and started the drumbeat for Mack Brown to step down. New season, similar result. The Cougars ran for 248 yards on Saturday night to whip the Longhorns 41-7.

The Texas program has been the subject of intense national fascination ever since Charlie Strong accepted the head coaching job in January. That only intensified after Strong dismissed several key players, most recently redshirt freshman linebacker Deoundrei Davis. And that’s not to mention the four players -- offensive tackles Desmond Harrison and Kennedy Estelle, receiver Daje Johnson and safety Josh Turner -- who were suspended for Saturday’s contest.

As it turns out, those dismissals made a difference. The Longhorns’ offense looked lost. It recorded just 258 yards of total offense and averaged a paltry 2.3 yards per rushing attempt. Meanwhile, the Longhorns failed to contain Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill for the second straight year. He went 18-of-27 for 181 passing yards and ran for 99 yards with three touchdowns, including this leaping third-quarter scamper that will land on highlight reels across the nation.

Make no mistake: BYU is a very good football team, and it could make some noise behind players like Hill and tailback Jamaal Williams, who finished with 19 carries for 89 yards. One could even make the argument that the Cougars have an outside chance to make a run at an unbeaten season. But Strong pledged to change the culture at Texas. That type of thing doesn’t happen overnight. -- Ben Glicksman

No. 3 Oregon 46, No. 7 Mich. State 27

It was the game that everyone had circled all offseason, and it certainly lived up to the hype. Michigan State dealt Oregon a body blow, but the Ducks struck back to score 28 unanswered points and beat the Spartans 46-27 in Autzen Stadium.

There’s a scene in The Avengers in which the superheroes aren’t getting along. They scuffle a bit, and Thor hits Captain America’s shield with his hammer. The result is staggering. That’s what this game felt like. Sure, Oregon pulled away. But that was one heck of a fight.

While Michigan State’s Connor Cook was the passer dazzling in the first half, Mariota came through when the Ducks needed him most. Oregon’s redshirt junior seemed tentative at times early, but he took the training wheels off midway through the third quarter and started to play like a Heisman Trophy favorite. He finished 17-of-28 for 318 passing yards with three touchdowns. He added nine carries for 42 yards on the ground.

With Mariota scrambling and making throws, the Michigan State defense was left reeling. Oregon took full advantage. That seemed to get the Ducks’ defense going, too, with All-America-caliber corner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu leading the charge. His leaping fourth-quarter interception squashed any chance of a Spartans’ comeback. -- Martin Rickman

​For a complete recap and analysis of Oregon's victory over Michigan State, read Martin Rickman's three thoughts on the win.

No. 14 USC 13, No. 13 Stanford 10

Coming out of USC’s victory over Stanford, the truth of the matter is that neither team looked particularly sharp. USC cashed in on a buffet of Stanford mistakes, penalties and missed red zone opportunities to pull off an improbable win. Senior Andre Heidari -- the hero in the Trojans’ 20-17 upset of the Cardinal last November -- kicked the game-winning 53-yard field goal with 2:30 remaining.

However, USC didn’t clinch the victory until linebacker J.R. Tavai stripped Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan with 19 seconds left. The Cardinal were driving to set up a potential game-tying field goal, but self-destructed on the cusp of scoring as they had done so many times throughout the game.

The result gives the Trojans a bizarre but defining victory early in coach Steve Sarkisian’s tenure. USC had no business winning; it was outgained 413-291, committed 10 penalties and lost linebacker Hayes Pullard to a targeting ejection.

But after Stanford punted from its 32-yard line, Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler calmly led the offense down the field to set up Heidari’s game-winner. The big play was a 29-yard completion to Nelson Agholor, who had nine catches for 91 yards. -- Pete Thamel

​For a complete recap and analysis of USC's victory over Stanford, read Pete Thamel's three thoughts on the win.

No. 15 Ole Miss 41, Vanderbilt 3

It’s time to start taking the Ole Miss defense a bit more seriously. After forcing four turnovers and allowing just 13 points in a Week 1 ​win over Boise State, the defense pitched a shutout through three-plus quarters in a 41-3 win at Vanderbilt on Saturday.

The Rebels allowed just 167 total yards and held the Commodores to 4-of-13 on third down. Vanderbilt didn’t cross the 50-yard line until there were just under two minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Commodores scored their first offensive points of the season -- a field goal -- with 10:23 to play after getting stuffed at the one on fourth down, recovering a fumble inside the five and coming up short on their next three plays.

The ‘Dores have fallen quickly since James Franklin took the Penn State job, and Derek Mason has his work cut out for him. Vanderbilt lost 37-7 to Temple in its first game of the season, scoring its only points on a fumbled snap recovered in the end zone. The team lacks an offensive identity and hasn't shown the ability to stop anybody so far. Things are only going to get tougher from here. 

For Ole Miss this was about as clean a sheet as you can get. The team got a decent performance out of Bo Wallace (320 yards, one touchdown, no turnovers), averaged 9.7 yards per passing attempt and generally breezed through this one. If Hugh Freeze’s super recruits start playing at a consistent level, they could really mess up the balance of power in the SEC. -- MR

Washington 59, E. Washington 52

This was probably the wildest game of the weekend, and the greatest individual performer of the week (thus far) couldn’t quite get the win. Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. obliterated the Washington defense, passing for 475 yards and seven touchdowns -- both school records -- despite throwing under duress for most of the game. Adams was incredible, completing 31 of his 46 passes with no interceptions. He even attempted an onside kick. The Eagles failed to recover, but the kick was good enough to give them a chance.

Despite Adams' incredible exploits, Eastern Washington’s defense couldn't keep pace with Washington throughout the afternoon. The teams combined for just three punts, but two Eagles fumbles were too much to overcome. Cyler Miles, making his college debut after serving a suspension in Week 1, established himself as an effective dual-threat quarterback for the Huskies, completing 14-of-24 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 58 yards and three more scores. Lavon Coleman also helped power the ground game, racking up 118 yards on 17 carries with one touchdown.

This wild offensive affair, which wasn't decided until Eastern Washington was (unsurprisingly) unable to force a stop with 3:14 remaining, was full of ridiculous stats. Here are a few more:

Ÿ• Ÿ​Ÿ​The teams combined for 1,109 yards and 111 points.

Ÿ•​ Despite attempting a combined 70 passes, neither quarterback threw an interception. They averaged 9.4 yards per attempt.

Ÿ•​ Eight Washington players recorded a rushing attempt. They combined for 356 yards (6.2 per attempt) and seven touchdowns.

Ÿ•​ Nine different Eagles players recorded a reception. Four different players caught touchdowns, and two (Cooper Kupp and Kendrick Bourne) topped 100 yards receiving. -- Colin Becht

Justin Hayworth/AP

No. 20 Kansas State 32, Iowa State 28

There are good wins. There are great wins. And then there are wins that happen even when they’re probably not supposed to, and those are the ones that can make or break a season.

Kansas State wasn’t supposed to beat Iowa State on Saturday. The Wildcats trailed for more than 28 minutes of the second half. Cyclones all-purpose dynamo Jarvis West accounted for three total touchdowns (one passing, one receiving, one return), and the Wildcats failed to convert a key two-point conversion when Kamari Cotton-Moya put a crushing hit on quarterback Jake Waters in the fourth quarter.

Still, when it mattered most, Waters led Kansas State on a six-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to take the lead. Now, however improbably, the Wildcats are 2-0.

Give credit to Iowa State. Head coach Paul Rhoads’ team played with emotion, and offensive coordinator Mark Mangino showed what earned him a reputation as a play-calling wizard during his tenure at Kansas. But Waters stepped up when needed, and wide receiver Tyler Lockett stepped up when needed, and a team that was expected to contend for the Big 12 title weathered a furious upset bid to keep those hopes alive.

Kansas State hosts Auburn on Sept. 18. It will have to play far better to stand a chance against Nick Marshall and Gus Malzahn. But wins come in all shapes and sizes. They all count the same. -- BG

No. 19 Nebraska 31, McNeese St. 24

Breathe easy, Nebraska fans. For as disastrous as Saturday’s matchup with McNeese State could have been, it went down as a win for the Cornhuskers.

The Huskers led 24-14 at the end of the third quarter, but watched as the Cowboys stormed back to the tie the game heading into the waning moments. Then senior Ameer Abdullah broke (approximately) 157 tackles in scampering for an incredible 58-yard touchdown reception to bail Nebraska out. It was Abdullah’s Heisman Moment (against McNeese State).

This one certainly wasn’t enjoyable for the Huskers faithful. McNeese State even appeared to jump ahead momentarily late in the fourth quarter before an illegal formation penalty negated what would have been an eight-yard score by running back Derrick Milton. For a glimpse into Nebraska’s mindset, let’s turn it over to college football’s best parody account:

In the end Nebraska survived. Coach Bo Pelini won’t be happy, but he won. The 2-0 Huskers will play at Fresno State next Saturday. -- BG

Penn State 21, Akron 3

The Nittany Lions couldn’t have looked more different in Week 2 than in Week 1. Seven days after beating UCF 26-24 behind a record-setting performance from quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Penn State slowly pulled away from Akron thanks to a staunch defensive effort that gave the Zips little room to operate.

Penn State’s offense looked sloppy, and Hackenberg tossed two interceptions inside of Akron’s 10-yard line. The Nittany Lions turned the ball over a third time when miscommunication resulted in a snap bouncing off wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton while he was in motion.

Those miscues proved harmless, though, as they resulted in just three Zips points. Akron accumulated only 277 total yards, including 69 on the ground. Quarterback Kyle Pohl was never able to get into a rhythm and went 24-of-46 for 208 yards.

Despite his two interceptions, Hackenberg managed to move the ball well in stints, racking up 319 yards. He also had three touchdown passes, headlined by a 44-yard strike to Jesse James to put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter.

While the outcome wasn’t in serious doubt, Penn State looked shaky and will need to clean up its errors to make headway in the Big Ten East Division. However, the Nittany Lions remain unbeaten despite not playing their best. -- CB

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

No. 2 Alabama 41, Florida Atlantic 0

Alabama's quarterback competition played out in real time during a 41-0 win over Florida Atlantic that was called early due to lightning. Blake Sims got the start and took advantage, going 11-of-13 for 214 yards with three total touchdowns. Sure, it was only the Owls, but Sims looked confident. Jacob Coker entered the game with Bama up 21-0 and very little pressure.

Coker went 15-of-24 for 202 yards with one touchdown, though his timing with receivers could use some work. (Not that it necessarily matters who throws the ball to wideout Amari Cooper; he made 13 catches for 189 yards and a score.) Still, Coker made some positive plays, including during a three-play stretch that featured a 15-yard scramble, a 15-yard completion to Chris Black and three-yard touchdown pass to Jalston Fowler. Coker made Nick Saban angry toward the end of the half when he used up the remainder of the clock trying to make a play rather than getting rid of the ball to set up a field goal. “It’s just a learning experience,” Saban told the SEC Network in a halftime interview.

Sims was certainly more impressive than Coker, but this remains a fluid situation. Both quarterbacks are settling into coordinator Lane Kiffin’s offense, and this isn’t the run-first attack that Alabama has run in the past. -- MR

No. 24 Missouri 49, Toledo 24

With former Toledo coach Gary Pinkel and Missouri visiting the Glass Bowl, the formula for an upset was there for the taking. Students were given vuvuzelas for the occasion. The Rockets were only four-point underdogs. But a couple of critical early mistakes prevented Toledo from hanging with the Tigers in a 49-24 loss.

Late in the first quarter Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk (325 passing yards, six total touchdowns, two interceptions) threw a pick in his own red zone, but Tigers receiver Bud Sasser assumed the role of defensive back and stripped the Rockets’ Jordan Haden, giving the ball back to Mizzou with a 14-7 lead. Then, early in the second quarter, defensive end Markus Golden jumped the snap count and forced a quick throw from Toledo quarterback Phillip Ely. Aarion Penton made an interception, and the Tigers scored two plays later to go up 21-7.

It’s difficult for teams like the Rockets to upset favorites like Missouri if they squander key chances. Kudos to Mizzou for taking advantage of Toledo’s missteps.

Toledo has a chance to make some noise in the MAC. Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson is likely out for the season with a hip injury, so the conference is wide open. The Rockets have the talent to improve on last year’s 7-5 finish, and Matt Campbell is one of the best up-and-coming coaches in college football. On Saturday, however, his team couldn’t get the job done.

For Missouri, this win provided experience to a team trying to fill the shoes of many veteran leaders. The Tigers have players who can shoulder the load, but they’re a work in progress, especially in the secondary. -- MR

No. 4 Oklahoma 52, Tulsa 7

The meat of its schedule remains, but Oklahoma has done everything possible to validate its status as a College Football Playoff contender through two weeks.

The Sooners' defense bombarded a potent Tulsa attack -- one that passed for 438 yards in a 38-31 double-overtime win over Tulane in Week 1 -- by limiting the Golden Hurricane to 328 total yards and forcing four turnovers. The Oklahoma defense matched Tulsa's scoring output with linebacker Geneo Grissom’s 38-yard pick-six in the third quarter. It would have outscored the Golden Hurricane had defensive tackle Jordan Phillips’ fumble return for a score not been called back because of a personal foul penalty.

On offense, quarterback Trevor Knight avoided any hiccups while racking up 299 passing yards with two scores. He led the Sooners to points on five of their first six drives, and Oklahoma led 31-0 by halftime. The Sooners also gashed the Golden Hurricane on the ground, rushing for 261 yards (and averaging 8.4 yards per carry) as Knight, Keith Ford and Alex Ross all found the end zone.

The easiest portion of Oklahoma’s schedule is behind it, as the Sooners wrap up their nonconference slate against Tennessee on Sept. 13 before beginning Big 12 play. So far, however, there’s no reason to doubt that Oklahoma’s defense -- especially its front seven -- is the real deal. -- CB

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