For a few minutes on Saturday evening, it looked as if Tennessee might not make it to the SEC title game. They blew a 17-point lead over Kentucky late in the game and had to block a field goal just keep their hopes alive. But under the leadership of quarterback Erik Ainge, the Dean's List Player of the Week, the Volunteers beat Kentucky 52-50 in four long overtimes. Ainge matched Heisman hopeful Andre Woodson every step of the way, throwing for 397 yards and seven touchdowns en route to Tennessee's 23rd consecutive victory over the Wildcats.
The Arkansas fans are going to be disappointed but the Dean's List Team of the Week goes to Chadron State. The Eagles erased a 29-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Abilene Christian 76-73 in the second round of the D-II playoffs. Over the course of this 4-hour and 8-minute game, the two teams combined for 1,369 yards, the most in D-II playoff history. Eagles running back Danny Woodhead, the NCAA career rushing leader, rushed for 188 yards and three touchdowns and quarterback Joe McLain passed for 443 yards and six scores.
The Dean's List is so happy college basketball season has finally arrived that we're introducing a new feature, the Upset of the Week. And to kick it all off, we're honoring Patty Mills and Saint Mary's for knocking off 12th-ranked Oregon 99-87. Mills, a freshman guard from Australia, ruined Oregon coach Ernie Kent's return to his former school by scoring 37 points and notching five assists, two steals and one turnover against the Ducks. It was the Gaels' first win over a ranked opponent in nearly three years. Hey, it's a questionable call to name your son Patty, but any freshman that can put up those kinds of numbers in only his fourth college game deserves a pint of Fosters and a nice dinner at Outback.
How's this for a sweet deal? You get hired to coach a college football team. In your first year you struggle, going 4-8 and barely beating your in-state rival, which is nationally renowned for being one of the worst teams in D-I. At the end of this disappointing season, your school suddenly announces that you will receive a $291,000 raise. So goes the life of North Carolina football coach Butch Davis. In defense of Davis' pay raise, UNC athletic director Dick Baddour pointed out that Davis had strengthened the program with strong recruiting and on-field improvements. Honestly, if you need overtime to beat Duke in football, you should give your entire paycheck to charity, preferably one that recruits well and has good on-field improvement.
Some guys just can't catch a break. Selwyn Lymon is one of them. The Purdue wide receiver was kicked off the football team last week after being charged with drinking and driving for the second time this year. Once is bad. But twice? Come on. Oh, but it gets worse: As the cops arrested Lymon, he apparently urinated all over himself. Needless to say, this young man might have a slight drinking problem. His first drunken driving charges stemmed from a fight outside a nightclub last March during which he was stabbed in the chest. Two DUI's, a puncture wound to the upper chest, and the stench of urine emanating from your pants -- it ain't easy being Selwyn Lymon.
Is Geno Hayes a genius? Probably not, but he does have a big mouth. Before Florida State's game against Florida last weekend, the FSU linebacker predicted "Tim Tebow's going down." He also said, "The bigger they are the harder they fall." Well, that prophecy didn't really come true. Tebow ran for two touchdowns and threw for three in a 45-12 stomping of the Seminoles. But Hayes did get one thing kind of right when he said, "Hopefully we can go out there and shatter his [Tebow's] dream." Well, the Seminoles didn't really shatter Tebow's dreams but they did break his right hand. Fortunately for the Gators, Tebow's left-handed.
If you're looking for an indicator of the current state of college basketball, look no further than the news conference held last week by the two newest recruits to the University of Southern California. At a posh hotel near Beverly Hills, hip-hop artist Lil' Romeo and local basketball star DeMar DeRozan signed national letters of intent to attend USC. What are two high school kids doing holding press conferences in exclusive hotels? That's right, one of them is already famous. Lil' Romeo, son of Master P, not only averaged 13.9 points and 5.6 assists last season for Beverly Hills High, but he's also the artist behind such influential songs as My Baby and The Girlies. I have no idea how coach Tim Floyd is going to balance two players like Lil' Romeo and O.J. Mayo, both with massively inflated egos, but hey, I do know Master P just became a big USC basketball fan.
In football, there's a fine line between making an incredible play and doing something so stupid that you not only hurt your team, but you make the national headlines as well. Case in point, Weber State linebacker J.D. Folsom. In late October, the Salt Lake Tribune wrote a profile on Folsom that praised his athletic ability and the impact he'd made on the Wildcats' defense, while pointing out that mentally there's still room for Folsom to improve. Three weeks later and this room for improvement is all the more obvious. In Weber State's 38-16 loss to Eastern Washington, Folsom made two tackles before he was ejected for kicking an Eagles player. Due to NCAA rules, Folsom will also be suspended for the first half of next season's opening game. That's what the Dean's List calls kicking a kid when he's down.
It's been a tough fall in South Bend. Seems like every sportswriter in the country has written a front-page article on the demise of the Fighting Irish football team. But now it's a lesser-known Notre Dame sport that's grabbing the media's attention. Notre Dame's 11th-ranked women's soccer team knocked off fourth-ranked North Carolina with a 3-2 victory this weekend to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. The Fighting Irish scored back-to-back goals 14-seconds apart to hand UNC only its seventh tournament loss in history. To put that in perspective, the Tar Heels are now 94-7-1 in NCAA play and Notre Dame can take credit for one of those losses.
Here's a question for all the fathers and college basketball fans out there: Who's still letting their son play for Bobby Knight? He might be a coaching guru, but he's also crazy. I mean, the guy berates and hits, albeit lightly, his own players. And somehow dads keep sending their children to play for this lunatic. Fathers, take heed of what happened to former Texas Tech sophomore forward Decensae White, son of David White. After a Red Raiders' loss to Sam Houston State, Decensae was unhappy with his playing time so his dad, who was at the game, told him to go in and talk to coach Knight. Bad idea. By Friday, White was off the Texas Tech team. Now his father has learned his lesson. "I forced my son to go to Texas Tech because I thought it would be good for him," David White said. "There was God and then there was Coach Knight as far as I was concerned. I don't have that same opinion at all for him any more. I'm devastated." God, Mr. White, would never kick his own son.
It's safe to say that Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach has the support of his school's alumni. A group of Red Raider alumni set up a fund last week to help pay the $10,000 fine levied against coach Leach by the Big 12 for denouncing the officiating in the Red Raiders' 59-43 loss to Texas. They're calling it the "I Like Mike" campaign and so far public response has been positive, with the fund having already accumulated hundreds of dollars just a day after its creation. It's funny how college football works. You lose a game and blame the officials and the alumni will help pay your fine. You lose a game and blame yourself and it's time to start looking for a new job.
In one of his last acts as football coach at Ole Miss, Ed Orgeron placed 20 of his football players on probation for twice stealing pillows and clock radios from team hotels. The items were worth between $15 and $40, with the total theft adding up to $780. Restitution was paid by the guilty players so there are no NCAA violations, but this does up the total number of Ole Miss players that have been punished by the coaching staff this year to almost a quarter of the team. Oh, and in case you couldn't see it coming, Orgeron was canned as the Rebels coach. I don't know, but it could have had something to do with an inability to control his players or it might've just been because he couldn't win games. The Rebels finished 0-8 in the SEC for the first time since 1982.
Coaching basketball isn't easy. My friend Doug tried to do it on the junior varsity level and got booed out of his old high school gym. Now imagine coaching basketball while pregnant. I'm no expert, but I've got to assume that's even harder. Maryland women's basketball coach Brenda Frese is up to the challenge, though. She's set to give birth to twins in March, sometime between the ACC and NCAA tournaments, and no one seems phased. In fact, all her players are really excited for the arrival of two new Maryland fans. As for what happens if coach gives birth during tournament time? Frese is confident that her staff will be able to manage. My friend Doug never would've been able to handle that.
And that's it folks, hope everyone had a happy turkey day. We're alive, and that's what is important.