Tick, Tock, Too Many?
The Untimed Down?
I've got it: Les Miles' Signature Win.
Nothing sums up the Mad Hatter's LSU tenure better than a moment in which his trademark clock-management bungling actually wound up winning the game for the Tigers (RECAP | BOX). Truly, he is the luckiest coach in America.
For those who missed it, the Tigers trailed by four and faced second-and-goal from the Tennessee two-yard line. Naturally, they had no timeouts. After quarterback Jordan Jefferson got stuffed at the one, Miles decided he needed a new personnel group for the next play. Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
As LSU shuffled players, Tennessee players and coaches looked stunned. Were the Tigers really dumb enough to try to shuffle personnel with the clock about to strike zero? Apparently, they were. So Tennessee began shuffling its personnel, too.
Jefferson called for the snap with three seconds remaining, but he wasn't ready for it. It skidded through his hands and past him. By the time he fell on it, the clock had struck zero. Tennessee's sideline exploded. Derek Dooley's mess of a team had just knocked off the No. 12 team in the nation on the road.
But wait, officials had to review the last play. When they called up the video, they realized that the Vols had been so shocked by the personnel shift that they hadn't completed their own shift. When LSU snapped the ball, Tennessee had 13 players on the field. Because of the penalty, LSU got one untimed down from the half-yard line, and Stevan Ridley punched in the game-winner.
Now, first-year Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is about to get his first taste of an SEC fan base's anger over a late-game blunder that cost his team a win.
Even in victory, Miles will get the same treatment. A fan base already leery of his ability to count down to zero can't be encouraged by Saturday's final moments. The curious decision to shuffle personnel should have gone down with the spike he called at Ole Miss last year. (As coincidence would have it, Miles could have easily shuffled personnel had he told Jefferson to spike the ball Saturday. Then LSU would have had fourth-and-goal from the one.)
Of course, there remains the possibility that Miles just thinks on an entirely different level than everyone else. Maybe he shuffled players knowing it would confuse Tennessee and force the Volunteers to leave too many men on the field. On Twitter, reader Nick Haselwandersummed up this line of thinking perfectly.
"Just how The Hat drew it up," Haselwander wrote.
As one of the Associated Press poll voters who overrated Wisconsin, I apologize. I thought the Badgers' experienced line and stable of backs would allow them to dominate time of possession and win lowish-scoring slugfests.
That certainly wasn't the case Saturday. In Michigan State's 34-24 win Saturday against Wisconsin (RECAP | BOX), the Badgers had the ball for only 23:36. It was the Spartans who hogged the ball.
Michigan State, playing without hospitalized coach Mark Dantonio, also limited Wisconsin's John Clay to 80 rushing yards, snapping Clay's streak of 10 consecutive games rushing for more than 100 yards. Dantonio, who suffered a heart attack on Sept. 19 and underwent surgery, had planned to coach the game from the press box, but he was hospitalized after doctors discovered a blood clot in his leg during a routine postsurgical exam on Thursday.
As Get Well greetings go, a win against the No. 11 team in the nation will do just fine.
If Denard Robinson posts another career game against Michigan State next week, we can probably stop wondering if he can do this every week.
In a 42-35 win at Indiana on Saturday, Robinson threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 217 yards and two touchdowns (RECAP | BOX). To this point, Robinson has feasted on teams with suspect defenses. If he can pull off a similar feat against the Spartans, we may have to start figuring out where Robinson will rank among the most dominant players in the game's history.
Of course, even if Robinson does explode against Michigan State, there is no guarantee he can keep Michigan undefeated. The Wolverines defense allowed 568 yards to the Hoosiers on Saturday, and Michigan has yet to prove it can stop anyone.
The Red River Rivalry had the makings of a classic Message Board Meltdown game, and it didn't disappoint. As Texas floundered before a moment of hope in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 28-20 loss (RECAP | BOX), the inevitable threads popped up from frustrated Longhorns fans.
After Oklahoma scored to take an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter, the titles of two of the first five threads on the free Longhorn Sports board at Orangebloods.com were:
Fire Greg Davis!!!
The guy who posted the thread calling for the ouster of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp was kidding. The fans who wanted offensive coordinator Davis gone were completely serious.
While nobody deserves to lose his job, both coordinators have their work cut out for them during the open week. The Longhorns go to Lincoln to face Nebraska on Oct. 16, and Texas is staring at the possibility of its first three-game losing streak since 1999.
Saturday began with two long Oklahoma touchdown drives sandwiching a Texas three-and-out. In fact, Texas went three-and-out on three of its first four possessions, which did little to help the defense stay fresh.
Still, Texas did show some signs of life on offense. D.J. Monroe scored on a 60-yard run, and the Longhorns averaged a respectable 4.9 yards a carry. If Aaron Williams hadn't muffed a punt late in the fourth, the Longhorns would have had a chance to tie the score.
Still, this team should be better. The offense should be more consistent, and the defense is going to have to play lights-out to make up for the shortcomings of the offense.
After a lackluster Big Ten opener against Illinois, Ohio State could slip a bit in the polls depending on what happens later tonight.
Unlike 2007, when a shocking loss to the Illini briefly threatened Ohio State's chances of playing in the BCS title game, the Buckeyes survived this one. But the 24-13 win (RECAP | BOX) revealed several vulnerabilities, most notably the difference between Ohio State with quarterback Terrelle Pryor and without him.
Pryor left the game briefly in the third quarter after his foot caught in the turf. In came backup Joe Bauserman, who immediately went three-and-out. With Pryor still out following a Jermale Hines interception, Bauserman threw the ball right back to the Illini.
Pryor returned to a rousing ovation, and he shepherded the Buckeyes through the rest of the game, but his brief absence likely gave the Buckeyes pause. Ohio State has an excellent defense, but without Pryor, the Buckeyes may not have the offense to compete for a national title. Therein lies the quandary for Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. If he reins in Pryor to keep him safe, he forfeits the very electricity that makes the offense so dynamic when Pryor is unleashed.
If Oregon puts the hammer down against Stanford or Florida upsets Alabama, don't be surprised if the Buckeyes slip a bit in the polls. (A flip-flop with Boise State also remains a possibility, but that seems less likely.) Even the thought of Ohio State without Pryor may be enough to scare voters into downgrading the Buckeyes.
Maybe Clemson coach Dabo Swinney couldn't bear a fourth consecutive overtime game between the Tigers and Miami. Down six about midway through the fourth quarter of Saturday's 30-21 loss (RECAP | BOX), Swinney decided to go for it on fourth-and-one from the Miami 20-yard line.
The Tigers ran Andre Ellington wide to the left, which wasn't a bad idea considering Ellington had gashed the Hurricanes for a 71-yard touchdown run earlier. Ellington seemed to have all the space he needed, but Miami cornerback Brandon Harris made a flawless open-field tackle to bring down Ellington. Had the Tigers kicked a field goal to move within three, it would have changed their offensive philosophy on their ensuing possessions. Instead, all Miami had to do was kick a field goal to put away the game.
Swinney may get criticized for the call, but he doesn't deserve to. The play should have worked; only a stellar effort by Harris scuttled it.
Miami, meanwhile, went 2-1 during a stretch of three consecutive road games, losing only to Ohio State. But just because the Hurricanes return home next week doesn't mean things will get easier. Miami faces Florida State, which seems to have recovered nicely from its embarrassment at Oklahoma on Sept. 11. The Seminoles rolled to a 34-14 win against Virginia, setting up what might be the most meaningful FSU-Miami game in years.