Saturday Snaps: Breaking down the best of Week 3 in college football
Boston College 37, No. 9 USC 31
Compare the caliber of the athletes, the tradition of the programs and the recruiting rankings of the players. On paper, Boston College and USC lined up as a mismatch for the ages. But in college football, perhaps more than in any other sport, the power of emotion can negate even the most glaring discrepancies in strength, speed and athleticism.
As Boston College ran away -- quite literally -- with a 37-31 win over No. 9 USC on Saturday night, it offered a compelling reminder why college football can be so beautifully volatile.
The emotion lathered up for the Eagles all night. It began with the school’s red bandana theme in honor of former lacrosse player Welles Crowther, who passed away on Sept. 11, 2001. It continued with a halftime message from the family of former baseball star Pete Frates, who thanked the Boston College community for helping to make the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge a national sensation. And it ended with a field storming and a historic victory, as the Eagles knocked off a top-10 opponent for the first time since ‘02.
The Trojans blew out the Eagles 35-7 last September, and oddsmakers had USC listed as nearly a three-touchdown favorite. But Boston College rode the emotion of the home crowd, the inspiration of a fallen hero and a relentless rushing game to victory. It authored a defining win for second-year coach Steve Addazio, whose young team grew up before his eyes.
The lasting image of the game came with 3:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, when Eagles quarterback Tyler Murphy glided through USC’s defense for a 66-yard score. Murphy kept the ball on a zone read and bolted untouched down the left sideline. That play neatly summarized a night of rushing dominance for Boston College and ball-fake wizardry for Murphy.
The Eagles finished the game with 452 rushing yards, gashing the Trojans for an average of 8.4 yards per carry. Murphy carried 13 times for 191 yards, sophomore Myles Willis carried nine times for 89 and true freshman Jon Hilliman had 19 rushing attempts for 89 yards with two touchdowns. -- Pete Thamel
For a complete recap and analysis of Boston College's victory over USC, read Pete Thamel's three thoughts on the win.
Florida 36, Kentucky 30 (3OT)
It was hardly convincing, but Florida -- and embattled head coach Will Muschamp -- survived in triple overtime to beat Kentucky 36-30 on Saturday night. The result extends the Gators’ winning streak over the Wildcats to 28 consecutive games.
Muschamp’s razor-thin job security is well-known at this point, and a loss to Kentucky would have all but guaranteed his ouster. The win won’t buy him much, but at least it spares Muschamp from a Lane Kiffin-esque fate at 3 a.m. The calls for Muschamp’s head were resounding following last year’s 4-8 campaign, and Florida’s first loss to Kentucky since 1986 could have been too much for athletic director Jeremy Foley to ignore. However, Matt Jones’ one-yard touchdown run in triple overtime spurred the Gators to victory. So, how long will Muschamp’s second life last? He’ll need to survive a trip to Alabama next week. -- Colin Becht
For a complete recap and analysis of Florida's triple-overtime win over Kentucky, read Colin Becht's three thoughts on the win.
No. 12 UCLA 20, Texas 17
UCLA had to improvise against Texas on Saturday night, and Jerry Neuheisel was up for the challenge. The Bruins’ backup quarterback stepped in for an injured Brett Hundley and found Jordan Payton for a go-ahead, 33-yard touchdown with three minutes left to give UCLAthe win over Texas.
The Bruins had to do without Hundley after he reportedly injured his left non-throwing shoulder in the first quarter. Hundley would not return to action after visiting the locker room, and Neuheisel entered the game tasked with keeping UCLA alive.
Texas made the task difficult for the redshirt sophomore at first. The Longhorns went into halftime with a 10-3 lead after Tyrone Swoopes hit M.J. McFarland for a two-yard score just before the break. But Neuheisel got into a groove in the third period. The quarterback drove the Bruins 75 yards, capping the drive with a touchdown pass to Nate Iese to tie the game at 10-10.
After Swoopes connected with John Harris to take a 17-13 lead with five minutes left, Neuheisel needed only one play on UCLA’s ensuing possession. The quarterback’s 33-yard bomb on the first play from scrimmage gave the Bruins the lead, and their defense stepped up on the Longhorns’ final possession. Swoopes’s pass on fourth down fell short to seal the win.
UCLA came into this neutral-site matchup facing plenty of questions. In the Bruins’ opening game against Virginia, their offensive line gave Hundley very little help in the passing game. UCLA’s next matchup against Memphis exposed issues with coach Jim Mora’s defense in key situations. Now the program might have a major question mark at quarterback if Hundley, a Heisman Trophy candidate, misses time.
Mora told reporters after the game that Hundley and his status will be evaluated once the team returns to Los Angeles. Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman reports Hundley suffered a slight hyperextension of his elbow but will recover by the end of the week. UCLA’s bye next week comes at an ideal time before a major Pac-12 South Division-showdown with Arizona State in Week 5.
For the moment, these Bruins are 3-0 and remain a contender for a playoff spot. But we’ll learn a lot more about this program once Pac-12 play begins. -- Zac Ellis
No. 4 Oklahoma 34, Tennessee 10
Butch Jones and Tennessee just aren’t there yet. Oklahoma, meanwhile, looks like a playoff contender.
The Sooners topped the Volunteers in Norman with a dominant defensive effort. Tennessee, which is breaking in an entirely new offensive line, struggled to protect quarterback Justin Worley. Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight finished 20-of-33 for 308 yards and two total touchdowns in a game that was never really in doubt.
Oklahoma shot out to a 13-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Vols jumped back on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Worley to Josh Smith to make it 13-7. But the Sooners’ defense started to clamp down after that. Oklahoma tacked on two more touchdown runs and forced Worley into two second-half interceptions, one of which the Sooners’ Julian Wilson returned 100 yards for a touchdown.
Tennessee’s young offensive line simply couldn’t hang with the Sooners’ front seven. Linebacker Eric Striker and defensive end Charles Tapper took the Vols to task by shutting down the run game and forcing Worley into drive-killing decisions. A few of Tennessee’s young players did show flashes of potential, such as true freshman running back Jalen Hurd, who recorded 97 yards on 14 carries. But the Volunteers managed just 4.1 yards per play on offense.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has to feel good after grabbing a key nonconference win over an SEC program. Stoops’ well-documented criticism of the SEC’s depth has garnered plenty of attention, but these wins are exactly what playoff-bound teams needs. The Sooners’ performance Saturday, especially on defense, is a good building block for a team hoping to win the Big 12. -- ZE
No. 24 S. Carolina 38, No. 6 Georgia 35
With his back against the wall, Steve Spurrier did what Steve Spurrier does best. After spending most of the week talking up Georgia (while maintaining that a lot could change in a relatively short span), he came out and led his No. 24 Gamecocks past the No. 6 Bulldogs 38-35. South Carolina improves to 1-1 in SEC play and stays in the thick of the SEC East conversation.
The result came with plenty of ups and downs. Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan missed a pair of crucial field goals. South Carolina’s Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds delivered some clutch running. And there was the controversial ball spot following Dylan Thompson’s fourth-and-one keeper with 1:17 remaining.
All this game proved was that the SEC East is wide open, and that we should never ever ever count out Spurrier.
Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo catches his share of criticism at times, some of it fair and some not. A few of his decisions in this game, however, were head-scratchers. Bulldogs quarterback Hutson Mason hasn’t shown any evidence to date that he is capable of carrying the attack with his arm, and Georgia has a deeper stable of running backs than any other program in the nation.
Still, star tailback Todd Gurley had just eight carries for 44 yards in the first half. The Bulldogs had just 14 for 71. Mason went 9-of-12 for 132 passing yards, but that left the Bulldogs in a 24-13 hole at the break.
Gurley finished with 131 yards and a touchdown, a two-yard scamper with 9:23 to play in the third quarter that cut South Carolina’s lead to 24-20. Yet on the next possession, after the Gamecocks had extended their advantage to 11, Bobo went away from the ground game. He called for an empty-backfield set on a key third-and-two. Mason’s pass fell incomplete, and the Dawgs were forced to punt.
Even more questionable was Bobo’s decision-making in the final few minutes. Georgia had the ball on South Carolina’s four-yard line following Damian Swann’s late interception with a chance to take the lead. Mason was flagged for intentional grounding on first down, and the series ended with a Morgan missed field goal.
The lesson here is simple: When a team has the best running back in college football, it should use him. -- Martin Rickman
For a complete recap and analysis of South Carolina's victory over Georgia, read Martin Rickman's three thoughts on the win.
Iowa State 20, Iowa 17
Cole Netten missed the game-winning field goal. But the officials’ whistles chirped as the Iowa State’s kicker attempt sailed just wide left, muffling a boisterous home crowd's celebration. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz called timeout to try and ice Netten. Instead of scaring him, Ferentz gave him a practice kick.
Netten drilled the second attempt to give the Cyclones the lead with two seconds left in the game, and he ended the game by recovering an Iowa fumble on the ensuing kickoff. The upset was a much-needed win for coach Paul Rhoads’ squad -- which lost a heartbreaker against Kansas State last week -- and another staggering loss for the Big Ten, which has won only one game against another Power 5 opponent this season.
Quarterback Sam B. Richardson turned in a solid, if unspectacular performance for the Cyclones, completing 25 of 37 passes for 255 yards with two touchdowns. The Hawkeyes limited Iowa State playmaker Jarvis West and star freshman receiver Allen Lazard but surrendered two late first downs that led to Netten’s game-winning kick.
Iowa’s bigger problem was moving the ball. Quarterback Jake Rudock finished with a meager 146 passing yards, and the Hawkeyes struggled to establish their option attack with running back Mark Weisman.
Iowa State’s victory over its in-state rival was the third time it has claimed the Cy-Hawk Trophy in the last four years. It was a clutch win for a Cyclones team that has struggled to close games. For Iowa, it was a bad loss that further hurts a dreadful conference profile. -- Gabriel Baumgaertner
No. 14 Ole Miss 56, UL-Lafayette 15
Behind a dominant outing from the Ole Miss offense, the Rebels routed Louisiana-Lafayette. Bo Wallace was nearly perfect, completing 23 of 28 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns.
“Dr. Bo” wrecked the Ragin’ Cajuns early, passing for 178 yards in the first quarter alone and completing his first 14 passes of the game.
The Ole Miss ground game was equally prodigious, averaging 6.1 yards per carry for 214 yards. Big scoring plays like Jaylen Walton’s 71-yard run and I’Tavius Mathers’ 56-yarder highlighted an explosive performance. Even the defense got in on points production with a pick-six from senior cornerback Senquez Golson.
Although the Rebels were the clear favorites Saturday, Louisiana Lafayette is the class of the Sun Belt, so Ole Miss can draw some confidence from its performance. After a shaky, yet victorious season debut against Boise State, the Rebels have produced two blowout wins over Vanderbilt and Louisiana Lafayette.
Of course, none of those opponents presented a true test of whether Ole Miss is capable of competing in the SEC West. That won’t come for three more weeks, when the Rebels host Alabama. But Hugh Freeze’s often inconsistent team has demonstrated how productive it can be when it’s clicking, and that level of production makes the Rebels a definite threat. -- CB
Arkansas 49, Texas Tech 28
Bret Bielema elected to keep things simple against Texas Tech. His Razorbacks ran the ball, and good things happened.
Jonathan Williams, Alex Collins and Arkansas’ run game carried the ball 68 times for 438 yards (a remarkable average of 6.4 yards per carry) in a 49-28 rout of the Red Raiders. Collins (211 yards, two touchdowns) and Williams (146 yards, four touchdowns) shouldered the majority of the load as the Hogs ran the ball on 85 percent of their offensive plays.
Still, the final score didn’t tell the entire story. This matchup might have been even more one-sided if it were not for a couple of costly Arkansas mistakes. Sophomore Jared Collins fumbled a punt return in the first quarter that set up a 15-yard touchdown to put Texas Tech up 7-0. With the score tied at 21 in the second, Collins dropped a botched lateral, ruining a Razorbacks’ red-zone chance.
Things changed in the second half. Arkansas recorded 286 of its 438 rushing yards after the break, including quarterback Brandon Allen’s five-yard touchdown scramble early in the third quarter. Allen attempted only 12 passes, but Texas Tech’s defense couldn’t handle the Hogs’ one-dimensional attack.
It might be too soon to wonder what lies ahead for Arkansas. The Razorbacks will face typically stiff competition in the SEC West, but their schedule is somewhat favorable. The Hogs get Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Ole Miss at home. Can Bielema’s crew ride a run-heavy offense to conference success? -- ZE
E. Carolina 28, No. 17 Virginia Tech 21
Pirates quarterback Shane Carden wasted no time picking apart Virginia Tech’s defense. He tossed all three of his touchdown passes in the first quarter, as East Carolina raced to a 21-0 lead. While the Hokies’ attack struggled, Carden threw for 294 yards in the first half.
The Pirates went into the break with a 21-7 lead, and it could have been even more lopsided. East Carolina squandered two second-quarter red-zone opportunities, a turnover on downs and a missed 37-yard field goal.
Carden saved his best for last, though. After the Hokies rallied to tie the game at 21 with 1:20 to play, Carden completed passes of 31 and 28 yards on the Pirates’ final drive. He then ran for a one-yard score to seal the upset victory.
Carden finished 23-of-47 for 427 yards with four total touchdowns. He shined down the stretch against a tough Hokies’ defense. Now, he’ll look to repeat his success against North Carolina next weekend. -- ZE
For a complete recap and analysis of East Carolina's victory over Virginia Tech, read Zac Ellis' three thoughts on the win.
Virginia 23, No. 21 Louisville 21
An ugly first half set the stage for a wild finish, as kicker Ian Frye booted a game-winning 42-yard field goal to give Virginia an upset over Louisville.
After a 10-7 first half that saw both teams combine for six turnovers, Virginia appeared primed to pull away behind two scores in the third quarter. After 11 consecutive failed drives, though, the Cardinals scored on back-to-back possessions to take one-point advantage late in the fourth.
That margin might have stood up, but miscommunication on a Cavaliers' punt resulted in a fumble to give the ball back to Virginia. Frye ensured Louisville’s final turnover was a killer, drilling his second 40-plus-yard field goal of the game.
This is a monumental victory for embattled coach Mike London. Virginia matched its win total from last season and claimed its first ACC victory since a 41-40 win over Miami on Nov. 10, 2012. This was the Cavaliers' first win over a ranked opponent since beating No. 23 Florida State in November '11.
Virginia’s win may help College Football Playoff hopeful UCLA, which limped to a 28-20 victory over the Cavaliers in their season opener. If Virginia establishes that it is not simply an ACC doormat, that could cast a new light on the Bruins’ tight win. -- CB
West Virginia 40, Maryland 37
Last season made it easy to forget just how explosive West Virginia’s offense can be. Through three weeks in 2014, however, the stats speak for themselves. Coach Dana Holgorsen’s attack is averaging 564 total yards per game, and it put up 694 in a 40-37 win over Maryland on Saturday.
It all started with quarterback Clint Trickett. The redshirt senior went 37-of-49 for 511 yards with four touchdowns, including scoring tosses of 43, 44 and 36 yards. After an inconsistent debut season in Morgantown he has looked markedly sharper this fall. His 17-yard completion to Daikiel Shorts helped set up kicker Josh Lambert game-winning 47-yard field goal as time expired.
While its offense was unstoppable, West Virginia’s defense and special teams were shaky. The Terrapins stormed back into the game after the Mountaineers raced to a 28-6 advantage, and quarterback C.J. Brown accounted for 402 total yards (241 passing, 161 rushing) with two scores. There were plenty of odd twists in this one, too. Maryland appeared to luck into a touchdown off a fumbled punt return just before halftime, but it was called back because Will Likely signaled for a fair catch. Mountaineers return man Jordan Thompson also muffed a punt at his eight-yard line early in the fourth quarter, but the Terps were only able to convert the turnover into three points.
West Virginia (2-1) has plenty of question marks, and it made more than a few costly mistakes at Maryland. But it also has reason to be excited. If the offense can continue to score in bunches, the Mountaineers could make some noise in Big 12 matchups with Oklahoma (Sept. 20), Texas Tech (Oct. 11), Baylor (Oct. 18) and Oklahoma State (Oct. 25). -- Ben Glicksman
No. 20 Missouri 38, UCF 10
Maty Mauk is making trips to the end zone look routine. Missouri’s quarterback tossed four touchdowns in a 38-10 win over UCF in Columbia. Mauk now has 12 scoring passes this season for the unbeaten Tigers.
Coming off a bye week, Knights quarterback Justin Holman looked like an early threat against Mizzou. He hit William Stanbeck for a two-yard touchdown to take a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter.
But Missouri’s defense, led by ends Markus Golden and Shane Ray, kept UCF’s offense from getting into a rhythm. The Knights couldn’t muster any sort of rushing attack (2.1 yards per carry) for the second straight game. Holman was efficient (22-of-36 for 209 yards with one touchdown), but he also threw two interceptions. The Tigers were consistently in the UCF backfield, tallying eight tackles for loss.
With the exception of Jacoby Glenn’s first-quarter interception of Maty Mauk, the Knights’ defense couldn’t get off the field. The Tigers went 10-of-14 on third-down conversions and wore UCF down with three scoring drives of nine plays or more.
Often overlooked in the SEC East, Missouri has looked strong on both sides of the ball. The Tigers travel to South Carolina in two weeks before welcoming Georgia on Oct 11. -- ZE
No. 22 Ohio State 66, Kent State 0
It won’t make up for last week’s 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech, but, for one game at least, the Buckeyes looked like the dominant team they were expected to be.
Ohio State racked up 45 points in the first half and cruised to an easy 66-0 victory, thoroughly dominating Kent State in all facets of the game. While piling up points on 10 of their first 11 possessions, the Buckeyes held the Golden Flashes to just 126 yards of total offense. Kent State barely sniffed Ohio State's side of the field, advancing the ball no farther than the Buckeyes' 48-yard line.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett picked apart the Kent State secondary, racking up 312 passing yards with six touchdowns. The Buckeyes also rushed for 284 yards, led by a 100-yard, two-score performance from Curtis Samuel. -- CB