Saturday Snaps: Breaking down the best of Week 7 in college football
USC 28, No. 10 Arizona 26
No. 10 Arizona’s comeback was nearly complete in front of a rowdy home crowd on Saturday. All the Wildcats needed was one field goal to finish an improbable comeback win, but Casey Skowron’s 36-yard kick sailed wide right with 12 seconds to play, and the Wildcats fell to USC 28-26 in Tucson. Here are three thoughts from the Trojans’ upset:
Long before Skowron missed his fourth-quarter kick, Arizona could’ve made this a game if not for early issues in the red zone. The Wildcats faced a 14-6 deficit at halftime largely due to problems with execution inside the 20-yard line in the first half.
Arizona netted a measly six points after four trips to the red zone in the first two quarters. The Wildcats knocked in two field goals, fumbled on the USC seven-yard line and missed a field goal in that span. This wasn’t a new problem for the offense: Rodriguez’s crew had scored 12 touchdowns in 23 trips to the red zone before Friday, tied for second-fewest in the conference.
Missed field goals will hurt any team that can’t reach the end zone. It especially hurts when a missed kick determines the outcome of a game. But Arizona’s problems didn’t begin with Skowron’s miss in the final moments. -- Zac Ellis
No. 3 Ole Miss 35, No. 13 Texas A&M 20
There’s no rest for the weary in the SEC West. No. 3 Ole Miss, coming off an emotional win over Alabama last Saturday, had to match that level of intensity on the road against No. 13 Texas A&M. The Aggies, meanwhile, were searching for answers after getting beat up by Mississippi State in Starkville.
Texas A&M's search continues while the state of Mississippi keeps rolling, squashing the SI cover jinx (at least for a week). Ole Miss thrashed the Aggies, 35-20.
"That thing's the most annoying thing I've ever heard," Wallace said. "I also feel like I'm the only quarterback in the nation that throws interceptions. Hopefully I can be 'Good Bo' the rest of the year."
This week’s performance went a little bit further towards putting the Bad Doctor away for good. Wallace completed 13-of-19 passes for 178 yards, adding 50 yards on the ground with two rushing scores. He was calm in the pocket and decisive on designed runs, and he made the most when he took a shot downfield, hitting Quincy Adeboyejo for a 33-yard score with 13 seconds left in the third quarter.
With the elite talent around him, Wallace just needs to stay under control and make throws when the Rebels need him. He’s done that the past two weeks, and Ole Miss has two big wins to show for it. -- Martin Rickman
LSU 30, Florida 27
With 3:40 remaining in the fourth quarter, LSU faced a 3rd-and-20 and a 24-20 deficit. Quarterback Anthony Jennings had thrown for 58 total yards through the game’s first 56 minutes. Then the Tigers were flagged for an illegal substitution penalty to make it 3rd-and-25. “It’s third down and forever,” SEC Network commentator Brent Musberger said. “And now forever and a day.”
If Florida could make that stop, the Gators would likely win and bring some security coach Will Muschamp’s job.
Jennings would nearly double his passing total on two plays -- a 41-yard completion to wide receiver Trevin Dural to get a first down followed by an 11-yard touchdown pass to Dural -- triggering a wild series of events that turned an otherwise ugly game between two reeling SEC squads into a thrilling finish that LSU ultimately claimed, 30-27.
Much-maligned Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel found receiver Demarcus Robinson on a 73-yard pass just two plays after LSU took the lead on Dural's touchdown grab, but Robinson couldn’t get into the end zone, forcing Florida into a first-and-goal that only led to a game-tying field goal (thanks largely to Tevin Westbrook’s dropped touchdown pass on third-and-goal).
Florida forced a three-and-out on LSU’s ensuing position, setting up a potential game-winning drive. And then Driskel happened.
The senior quarterback forced an ill-advised throw that LSU’s Rickey Jefferson intercepted and returned to the Florida 36 yard-line. Two plays later, Tigers kicker Colby Delahoussaye drilled a game-winning 50-yard field goal to more than make up for his missed extra point earlier in the contest.
LSU rebounded from an ugly loss to Auburn last week and received an outstanding performance from hyped freshman Leonard Fournette, who carried the ball 27 times for a career-high 140 yards and two touchdowns.
The Tigers return to Death Valley to take on Kentucky next week while the Gators host Missouri. -- Gabriel Baumgaertner
Michigan 18, Penn State 13
Looking at the standings, this was not a must-win game for Michigan. With four losses in six games, the Wolverines are out of contention for everything but bowl eligibility. This was a must-win for a different reason. And Brady Hoke’s team delivered, holding off Penn State for a sorely needed 18-13 victory.
A loss to the Nittany Lions would have meant another two weeks of questions about what had gone wrong in Ann Arbor and whether Michigan could ever return to its former glory. A loss might have also meant the end for coach Brady Hoke, as Michigan’s bye next week would been the best possible time to commit to an in-season coaching transition.
Saturday’s win doesn’t fix anything. Michigan’s offense is still anemic, and its coach is likely a lame duck. But for the first time this season, the Wolverines earned a victory over a Power Five team, and they snapped a three-game losing streak. That will earn them a brief respite from the dismay.
After the Nittany Lions drove for points on each of their first three drives, the Michigan defense ramped up the pressure on quarterback Christian Hackenberg and shut out Penn State for the final 41:48 of the game. Hackenberg finished with 160 yards passing, a touchdown and an interception while the Nittany Lions gained just 54 yards on 35 carries.
Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner toughed out the victory despite limping through most of the second half and completed 16-of-24 passes for 192 yards with one touchdown and one interception. With the Wolverines’ defense smothering the Nittany Lions, Gardner’s touchdown toss to Devin Funchess, two field goals from Matt Wile and a safety were enough to change the tone in Ann Arbor, at least for a night. -- Colin Becht
No. 7 Alabama 14, Arkansas 13
Landon Collins might have saved Alabama’s season.
Arkansas only needed a field goal to get past Collins’ Alabama squad Saturday night. The Razorbacks were staring at a 14-13 deficit with two minutes to play, and quarterback Brandon Allen needed to convert a third down with 10 yards to go. Allen took the snap, scrambled to the left and hurled a throw across the field.
But Collins stepped up and picked off the pass with 1:59 remaining to end Arkansas’ upset hopes. No. 7 Alabama survived 14-13 on a night when the Crimson Tide’s offense and special teams simply weren’t up to par.
Alabama managed just 227 yards of offense against the Hogs. That production is the fewest yards in an SEC contest under coach Nick Saban since the 2007 Iron Bowl, according to USA Today’s Paul Myerberg. The Tide lost two fumbles -- both on punt returns in the first quarter -- and kept Arkansas in the game despite the Hogs’ failure to rush for more than 89 yards, or 2.3 yards per carry.
Quarterback Blake Sims (11-of-21 for 161 yards and two touchdowns) couldn’t keep the Alabama offense from sputtering. The Tide converted just 5-of-15 third downs as the running game stalled with 2.1 yards per carry and no touchdowns. Allen, meanwhile, passed for 245 yards and one score but couldn’t engineer the game-winning drive in the waning moments.
Saban’s crew could easily be staring at a two-game losing streak heading into next week’s home game against Texas A&M. The Tide gave up a fourth-quarter comeback at Ole Miss last week and nearly did the same Saturday in Fayetteville. As good as offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s offense looked in his first few games with Alabama, the Tide struggled to execute against the Razorbacks. That problem could rear its ugly head going forward, and Alabama’s defense might not be able to bail the offense out.
Luckily for Alabama fans, the win means the program remains in the hunt for a spot in the SEC title game. But it won’t get much farther with as many mental errors as it exhibited this week. -- ZE
No. 5 Baylor 61, No. 9 TCU 58
It was a wild night in Waco as No. 5 Baylor welcomed No. 9 TCU to the Bears’ shiny new McLane Stadium. Baylor needed a double-digit comeback in the fourth quarter but emerged from the shootout with a huge 61-58 win.
TCU linebacker Marcus Mallet picked off Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty with 11:38 remaining Saturday and ran it in for a touchdown. The score gave the Horned Frogs a seemingly insurmountable 58-37 lead over the Bears.
But from that point on, it was all Baylor.
The Bears scored 24 unanswered points in the final 10:39, a run capped by Chris Callahan’s 28-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. Callahan had made only four of his nine field goal attempts on the season until that point. Baylor engineered each of its final four scoring drives in 1:23 or less, and the Bears’ defense helped keep TCU out of scoring position while Baylor’s offense took control.
Suddenly the Bears sit 6-0 and squarely in the driver’s seat for the Big 12 title. Prior to Saturday, we didn’t know much about Baylor’s potential due to its cupcake nonconference schedule. But the Bears survived their first major test of the season against TCU. Now the biggest remaining obstacles for Baylor are Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in consecutive games in November. There’s plenty of football to play until then, but Art Briles’s team looked like a playoff contender this weekend. -- ZE
No. 3 Mississippi State 38, No. 2 Auburn 23
A week after pounding Texas A&M 48-31, the Bulldogs beat the defending SEC champs. Both teams committed several critical turnovers, but Mississippi State’s offense did a much better job of turning those miscues into points. The Bulldogs are now unblemished halfway through their schedule and halfway through their SEC West slate. There is a strong chance they’ll ascend to No. 1 in the polls and on most playoff projections. However, since the Bulldogs still have three SEC West games to go, that doesn’t mean much.
In two weeks Mississippi State gets the luxury of playing an East Division team. It’s a much-tougher-than-anticipated Kentucky on the road, but it’s still a bit of a break compared to the gauntlet of the past two weeks. That’s exactly what makes it such a dangerous game, though.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen and his players will have to guard against complacency. They also might want to avoid fake punts deep in their own territory while up three touchdowns. They tried that on Saturday. Mullen joked on Sept. 20, after leaving his backups in too long and almost allowing LSU to come back in an eventual 34-29 Bulldogs victory, that he’s still new at this dominating thing. Maybe that was this week’s lesson. But given the way Mississippi State has played so far, the Bulldogs seem to be learning quickly that they have what it takes to compete for the SEC West title. And the team that wins the SEC West will also probably compete for the national title. -- Andy Staples
No. 6 Notre Dame 50, North Carolina 43
Notre Dame survived a rain-soaked battle last week against Stanford, a team with a ferocious defense and a clunky, plodding offense. The weather cooperated on Saturday, but the Irish faced the opposite kind of opponent -- one with a versatile rushing attack and one of the worst defenses in college football. Initially, the Irish looked ill prepared for the change of pace. By the end of the game, however, Notre Dame became the third team to hang 50 points on the Tar Heels this season.
Despite three turnovers from quarterback Everett Golson, including two in the first six minutes of the game, the Irish survived a 50-43 challenge from the Tar Heels, who had considerable preseason hype but whose defensive struggles have left them at 2-4. Golson threw an early pick-six and lost a costly third-quarter fumble that allowed North Carolina to take a 36-35 lead, but finished the game with 300 passing yards and three touchdowns. Notre Dame’s defense, stout in its first season under coordinator Brian VanGorder, appeared lost against Marquise Williams. The dual-threat signal-caller finished with 435 total yards (303 passing, 132 rushing) and three scores.
With a game against Jameis Winston and Florida State looming next week, coach Brian Kelly’s squad didn’t deliver the most encouraging victory. Still, the Irish remain unbeaten and in position for a College Football Playoff berth. It was ugly, but getting a win was all Notre Dame needed. -- GB
Clemson 23, Louisville 17
It wasn’t pretty, but Clemson held on to secure a win over Louisville that should earn the Tigers a second-place finish in the ACC Atlantic Division. Playing without freshman sensation Deshaun Watson, who left in the first quarter with a broken finger, Clemson struggled to move the ball. But its defense continually stuffed Louisville and contributed a touchdown to preserve the 23-17 victory.
The Cardinals, unable to move the ball for nearly the entire game, almost eked out a win when quarterback Will Gardner hit James Quick for a 73-yard gain that set them up with first-and-goal at the eight-yard line with 1:08 remaining. Backed against the wall, Clemson responded. After Louisville moved within a yard of the goal line, the Tigers held the Cardinals at bay to seal the win.
The Tigers’ offense never reached the end zone, yet the Tigers still struck for six twice in the first half, first on Adam Humphries' 72-yard punt return and again when Garry Peters hit Louisville quarterback Reggie Bonnafon and Grady Jarrett recovered the fumble in the end zone. Both teams combined for just 493 yards of offense and three third-down conversions. Watson started slowly before exiting with his injury, and Cole Stoudt, though accurate, failed to keep drives alive. Stoudt finished 20-of-33 for 162 yards with an interception. It wasn’t a great effort, but it was enough for Clemson to escape. -- CB
No. 12 Oregon 42, No. 18 UCLA 30
Coming off ugly losses last week, both Oregon and UCLA needed a win in the worst way. Arizona and Utah exposed big flaws in the Ducks and the Bruins, respectively, and both teams looked to stop the bleeding and prove they still had what it takes to win the Pac-12. Oregon made that statement in the Rose Bowl, while UCLA and quarterback Brett Hundley are left to wonder what might have been of a season that now almost surely will not end in a playoff berth.
After Marcus Mariota took five sacks and two fumbles in last week’s loss to Arizona, it would’ve been easy to write off Oregon’s star quarterback in the Heisman Trophy conversation. He rebounded in a big way against the Bruins, racking up 210 passing yards, 75 rushing yards and four scores, including this mesmerizing “dribble” of a 23-yard touchdown run with 9:06 left in the third quarter in which he fumbled, got the ball back and went into the end zone.
If Oregon’s offensive line can get healthy -- the return of left tackle Jake Fisher was a huge boost Saturday -- and give Mariota some extra protection to feel more comfortable, he’ll keep dazzling. If he’s consistently looking over his shoulder or feeling pressure from opposing defenses, we’re more likely to see another effort like last Thursday’s game against the Wildcats. For Oregon’s sake and for the sake of college football fans who enjoy watching good players do fun things, let’s hope it’s the former. -- MR
Duke 31, No. 22 Georgia Tech 25
A lightning delay forced the rest of the ACC to wait longer than it probably wanted, but Duke came away with its first win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta since 1994. The Blue Devils' 31-25 victory makes the Coastal Division race even murkier.
Duke's defense held on a number of drives inside its territory. The Yellow Jackets moved the ball effectively but repeatedly stalled, resulting in field goal attempts instead of touchdowns. Pair that with some inopportune breakdowns on defense, and it wasn’t a banner day for Georgia Tech all around.
Justin Thomas rushed for 44 yards on Tech's final drive before the half, and the Yellow Jackets narrowed the deficit to 14-12. But the Blue Devils came out firing after the break, going up 21-12 on Josh Snead's four-yard score. They forced a 52-yard field goal on Georgia Tech's next possession that sailed wide right, and they intercepted Thomas twice in the second half.
Georgia Tech's Tim Byerly came off the bench and led a pair of touchdown drives to make for an interesting finish, but Duke closed it out. -- MR
No. 11 Oklahoma 31, Texas 26
Texas dominated time of possession battle, 37:44 to 22:02. It outgained Oklahoma, 456 to 232. Yet despite outplaying the Sooners for large portions of the Red River Rivalry, Texas suffered its third loss of the season on Saturday in the Cotton Bowl.
Give some credit to Oklahoma. Alex Ross scored on a 91-yard kickoff return in the first quarter. The defense made a series of game-changing plays, including Zack Sanchez’s 43-yard pick-six in the second. The offense sprung to life late, highlighted by receiver Sterling Shepard’s 24-yard touchdown catch in the third and tailback Samaje Perine’s 13-yard scoring scamper in the fourth.
But the Longhorns failed to capitalize after having the Sooners -- who were fresh off their first loss of the year, a 37-33 defeat last week at TCU -- on the ropes early. They committed 11 penalties for 80 yards, including one costly holding call that negated a 73-yard run by quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. The ‘Horns made a late charge and sliced the deficit to five points after a 12-yard touchdown carry by Swoopes with just under five minutes remaining. But the 5-foot-11, 243-pound Perine helped the Sooners grind out the clock.
Texas showed glimpses of potential, but coach Charlie Strong’s team clearly has plenty of work to do. As for Oklahoma, its goals remain in play. The Sooners improve to 5-1 heading into a matchup with Kansas State. -- Ben Glicksman
No. 13 Georgia 34, No. 23 Missouri 0
Georgia didn’t need Todd Gurley to escape an SEC East test at Missouri. With its star running back sidelined amid an NCAA investigation, it took advantage of the Tigers’ miscues en route to a 34-0 blowout win. The shutout was Mizzou's first since a 38-0 loss against Kansas State on Nov. 23, 2002.
Gurley wasn't the only missing face for the Bulldogs. With fellow backs Keith Marshall and Sony Michel out with injuries, Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason -- who hadn’t needed to carry the team yet this season -- stepped up. He thrived in the face of defensive ends Markus Golden and Shane Ray, going 22-of-28 (a season-high 79 percent completion percentage) and helping the offense convert 12-of-21 third downs. Mason got a boost from freshman running back Nick Chubb, who carried 38 times for 143 yards with a touchdown.
The timeline for Gurley’s suspension remains up the in air, and some reports suggest he could miss the remainder of the 2014 season. Coach Mark Richt might have to rely on Mason more in the future. He looked like he could handle that increased role on Saturday. -- ZE
West Virginia 37, Texas Tech 34
A few weeks ago, Mountaineers kicker Josh Lambert made a 47-yard field goal as time expired in a 40-37 win over Maryland. As it turns out, Lambert has a knack for coming through in the clutch. The Garland, Texas, native drilled a 55-yard try as the clock hit zero to lift West Virginia to a 37-34 victory at Texas Tech.
Coach Dana Holgorsen’s squad trailed 34-20 midway through the fourth quarter before quarterback Clint Trickett sparked a comeback. Trickett went 28-of-44 for 301 yards with two touchdowns, while wide receiver Kevin White made 13 catches for 123 yards with one score. -- BG