Evening Snaps: A challenger faceplants
No. 13 Clemson 23, No. 11 Virginia Tech 3. Feels like the score should be reversed, doesn't it? Stop me if you've heard this before, only you haven't, so you won't: Clemson's defense was sort of terrifying tonight, and its NONE SHALL PASS act delivered a classic Beamerball score that left Beamer and his brood on the losing end. Logan Thomas was sacked four times and intercepted once; the Hokies had another lost fumble and two more loose balls they managed to recover themselves, and even without those helpful boosts, the Tigers might have eked out the win.
Of phenom receiver Sammy Watkins there was almost no sign; the duly-hyped freshman recorded 38 receiving yards on three catches. Tajh Boyd was unspectacular. But, on nights like tonight, and in postseason play to come, it's nice to find out there's this whole other half of a team waiting to shoulder the stat sheet.
So how strewn with orange rinds is the Tigers' path to the ACC championship game? Georgia Tech is the greatest remaining conference hurdle, but there's a virtual bye waiting next week in the form of a Boston College visit, an actual bye after the GT game on October 29, and Wake Forest after that before the season-capping, seemingly survivable gauntlet of N.C. State and South Carolina. Tell me you don't want to see Dabo Swinney hollering on the sidelines in a BCS bowl, even if it's just for the spectacle, and I'll call you a liar.
No. 3 Alabama 38, No. 12 Florida 10. You might not be blamed for doing the math yourselves and figuring just how fast he could get to Gainesville from Columbia, but ball-hogging South Carolina defender Melvin Ingram didn't suit up for the Crimson Tide tonight. Linebacker Courtney Upshaw played the Melvin Ingram role for Alabama, intercepting John Brantley for a coveted Fat Guy Touchdown. Brantley would see Upshaw again, and in the process of being sacked by him, would find his own leg pinned beneath his body. Brantley was carted off the field and taken straight to the locker room, and replaced by freshman Jeff Driskel. As of the wee hours of Sunday morning, there had been no further word on Brantley's condition. For more on tonight's marquee SEC tilt, peruse Andy Staples' column from Gainesville.
No. 7 Wisconsin 48, No. 8 Nebraska 17. Whatever sort of baked goods wee Husker fans set out each night in the hopes the storied Blackshirts might visit with gifts of shutout ball, perhaps best to wait until next year. Nebraska has given up 129 points in four games, and couldn't score fast enough to keep up with Russell Wilson and Montee Ball, particularly not with Taylor Martinez tossing interceptions out like parade candy. For more tales of tonight's Camp Randall showdown, check out Stewart Mandel's dispatch from Madison.
No. 2 Oklahoma 62, Ball State 6. What is it these past couple weeks with storied programs taking their sweet time spinning up the war machines against vastly overmatched competition? Was the 10-3 first quarter a cry for help? The 28-point second quarter and 21-point third were much more the Sooners' speed.
No. 17 Texas 37, Iowa State 14. The quarterback tandem of David Ash and Case McCoy accounted for 14 completions on 24 attempts, 255 passing yards, two scores from Ash and no interceptions. Manny Diaz's defense did yeoman's work opposite the ball, sacking mighty Steele Jantz four times and recovering three turnovers. Might have to stop griping about Texas being ranked, and might have to keep them there for the time being. Tonight marked the Longhorns' first complete win over a quality opponent in 2011, avenged another nasty 2010 upset, and displayed a team peaking just in time: No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 5 Oklahoma state await in back-to-back games in Weeks 6 and 7.
Washington 31, Utah 14. The two more crucial Pac-12 games (those featuring No. 25 Arizona State and No. 6 Stanford) are still in play as of this writing, but I thought I'd throw this in there just to chart the progress of the Huskies, who were nearly upset by Eastern Washington in Week 1, by Hawaii in Week 2, and were throttled by Nebraska in Week 3. Still no earthly clue where to slot this team, and next week's game against Colorado probably won't help.
Notre Dame 38, Purdue 10. Zero turnovers! Zero turnovers for Notre Dame! Fighting Irish trying new things! Very big deal! Hawaii 44, Louisiana Tech 26. More on this in Wednesday's column, but is there any way I can call Louisiana Tech the best 1-4 team in the country and not have it sound galling? I'm completely sincere. Tonight marked the Bulldogs' first loss by more than six points all season, and at the hands of a Hawaii team playing competent ball on the mainland, no less. I think Sonny Dykes might have some sneaky good games coming. I really do.