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You've no doubt read the headlines this morning after another disappointing U.S. Ryder Cup loss:
"Mickelson Unloads on Watson"
"Phil Mickelson, Tom Watson Feud"
"Phil Mickelson Was Wrong to Rip Tom Watson"
How about this: "Phil Asked a Probing Question, Gives Honest Answer"? Because that's what happened.
In an era when whitebread golfers give politically correct, pablum-flavored non-answers, Mickelson's candor concerning what constitutes effective Ryder Cup leadership was refreshing. If the U.S. is ever going to win back the Cup, Watson's failed captaincy needs to be dissected and important lessons extracted.
Mickelson was on the last U.S. team to win the Cup — the underdog 2008 team that posted a stunning win under Paul Azinger at Valhalla — and in yesterday's presser, he was asked what worked that year. What followed has been framed as a scathing condemnation of Watson; in actuality, it was a reasoned assessment of what has worked and what hasn't, from a guy who should know.
Here's the transcript of the offending remarks:
Q. Anyone that was on the team at Valhalla, can you put your finger on what worked in 2008 and what hasn't worked since?
Mickelson: There were two things that allow us to play our best I think that Paul Azinger did, and one was he got everybody invested in the process. He got everybody invested in who they were going to play with, who the picks were going to be, who was going to be in their pod, who -- when they would play, and they had a great leader for each pod. In my case, we had Ray Floyd, and we hung out together and we were all invested in each other's play. We were invested in picking Hunter that week; Anthony Kim and myself and Justin were in a pod, and we were involved on having Hunter be our guy to fill our pod. So we were invested in the process. And the other thing that Paul did really well was he had a great game plan for us, you know, how we were going to go about doing this. How we were going to go about playing together; golf ball, format, what we were going to do, if so-and-so is playing well, if so-and-so is not playing well, we had a real game plan. Those two things helped us bring out our best golf. And I think that, you know, we all do the best that we can and we're all trying our hardest, and I'm just looking back at what gave us the most success. Because we use that same process in The Presidents Cup and we do really well. Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best.
Q. That felt like a pretty brutal destruction of the leadership that's gone on this week.
Mickelson: Oh, I'm sorry you're taking it that way. I'm just talking about what Paul Azinger did to help us play our best. It's certainly -- I don't understand why you would take it that way. You asked me what I thought we should do going toward to bring our best golf out and I go back to when we played our best golf and try to replicate that formula.
Q. That didn't happen this week?
Mickelson: Uh (pausing) no. No, nobody here was in any decision. So, no.
Pardon me for not thinking of that as some sick burn of Watson, whose decision-making and demeanor were clearly questionable even to the most casual observer.
With momentum in hand on Friday, Watson benched the red-hot duo of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed for afternoon foursomes. On Saturday, the captain kept Mickelson and partner Keegan Bradley sidelined all day, despite Lefty's text pleadings that Watson later leaked to the press.
Watson was also quick to deride the players for their failures, and while it's true that the captain doesn't hit a shot, an effective leader deflects blame from players and absorbs the arrows himself.
Mickelson, who went 2-1 at this Ryder Cup and won his singles match against local hero Stephen Gallacher, could be forgiven for a little frustration. And while it was indelicate of him to criticize Watson while sharing the dais with him, that doesn't negate the accuracy of his statements.
Mickelson has earned his stature in the game. He has 42 PGA Tour wins — four more than Watson — and his five majors have come during an era when Tiger Woods has gobbled up major wins like Lefty gobbles In-N-Out burgers. Watson, on the other hand, had his major ascendancy during Jack Nicklaus' twilight years. Mickelson has earned his way onto every Ryder Cup team since 1995 on merits, without a captain's pick in the bunch. Granted, he hasn't always played well, but he's certainly not alone in that fact. Mickelson's all-time Ryder Cup match record of 16-19-6 looks mediocre on its face, but it outshines Woods' record of 13-17-3 and is merely symptomatic of American futility in the event. For comparison's sake, Jim Furyk, whose Cup experience coincides with much of Phil's, has a 10-20-4 ledger.
I'm as big a Watson fan as anyone — his run at the 2009 British Open was one of the most thrilling performances in the game's history — but his captaincy was clearly a disaster. The forum might have made Mickelson's observations a little awkward and hard to digest, but he wasn't wrong.
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for September 29:
• This is interesting: The most popular female athletes according to Google. No. 1 is Maria Sharapova.
• Jerry Jones doesn't look like a man who still regrets missing out on Johnny Football. He looks like a creepy Bond villain.
• One failed captain sticks up for another: Nick Faldo says Phil Mickelson threw Tom Watson under the bus in the Ryder Cup presser.
• All you need to know: Simmons vs. the Worldwide Leader.
• Something to look forward to: This could be the best football Saturday in SEC history.
• Watch Sue Paterno dance to Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off." If you dare.
• Watch Hunter Pence rally Giants fans with a postgame speech.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
New England will try to extend its winning streak to three in a row by defeating Kansas City at home tonight on ESPN. The Patriots (2-1) have turned things around after dropping their season opener in Miami, but Bill Belichick’s team is still trying to figure out things offensively. The Chiefs (1-2) are coming off of an impressive win over those same Dolphins and hope to have their best offensive player back.
Even though he is off to a slow start statistically speaking, Tom Brady has enjoyed quite a bit of success on Monday night. Brady is13-5 in his career on this stage with a 42:15 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a passer rating of 101.5. Kansas City last played on “Monday Night Football” back in 2012 when the Chiefs lost to Pittsburgh on the road in overtime, 16-13.
New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: New England -3.5
Three Things to Watch
|New England 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ MIA||L 20 - 33||Recap|
|9/14||@ MIN||W 30 - 7||Recap|
|9/21||vs OAK||W 16 - 9||Recap|
|9/29||@ KC||L 14 - 41||Recap|
1. Kansas City’s Suddenly Crowded Backfield?
After missing last week’s game with a high ankle sprain sustained early in the Week 2 loss in Denver, Jamaal Charles is expected to return to the starting lineup. Charles actually practiced some just a few days after suffering the injury, but the team decided to err on the side of caution and held him out against Miami. Knile Davis has been much more than a mere fill-in during Charles’ absence, rushing for 79 yards and two scores against the Broncos and following that up with 132 on the ground and another score in the 34-15 win over the Dolphins last week. Still, Charles is an All-Pro running back who totaled 1,980 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns last season. As productive as Davis has been, Charles’ return makes the Chiefs’ running game that much more dangerous, which is important considering the passing attack isn’t that explosive (197.7 ypg, 26th in the NFL). And Davis still figures to have some sort of role, considering Charles is coming back from the type of injury that has been known to linger or resurface. Besides, two backs may be better than one since New England has done a good job about the run (104 ypg, 12th) thus far.
|Kansas City 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs TEN||L 10 - 26||Recap|
|9/14||@ DEN||L 17 - 24||Recap|
|9/21||@ MIA||W 34 - 15||Recap|
|9/29||vs NE||W 41 - 14||Recap|
2. The Other 10 Guys on New England’s Offense
When asked earlier about the Patriots’ offensive struggles, Tom Brady was pretty succinct saying there’s been “one guy” playing well. And he wasn’t referring to himself. Instead he was talking about wide receiver Julian Edelman, who is top 10 in the NFL in both receptions (22) and yards (260) entering Week 4. As a team, New England is 26th in the league in total offense (301.3 ypg), which puts them right behind Kansas City (322.3 ypg) in that category. And while the Chiefs’ passing offense (197.7 ypg, 4 TDs) may have a reputation for being pedestrian, it has been more productive than the Patriots’ (196.3, 3). Brady’s slow start (24th in passing yards, 30th in yards per attempt) can be attributed to both a lack of reliable options and a lack of time to throw to them. Outside of Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski (11-116-2), Brady has completed a total of 19 passes to his other wide receivers and tight ends. Gronkowski’s snap counts have been held down as he’s coming back from a serious knee injury and no one outside of Edelman has stepped up to pick up the slack. However, a bigger issue could be an offensive line that’s struggling to open up holes for the running backs (3.5 ypc) and give Brady enough time to look down field for an open target (7 sacks). The running game has had its moments, such as Stevan Ridley’s 101 yards in the Week 2 win at Minnesota, but it too has been characterized by inconsistency (165 yards rushing total in the other two games) and a lack of big plays (longest run by a RB so far is 16 yards). It seems the preseason trade of longtime, reliable left guard Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay has impacted this unit more than anyone with the team (looking at you Belichick) is willing to admit. Perhaps that’s why Brady was not happy with the move to begin with? Regardless, that’s in the past and what matters now is how the “new” line performs from here out. The same can be said for any other offensive player not named Edelman or Gronkowski.
3. The Defense Rests?
With offenses ranked in the bottom fourth of the NFL, it takes a solid defense to keep your team competitive. And that has certainly been the case for New England and Kansas City. The Patriots enter tonight’s game third in total defense (272.7 ypg) and fourth in scoring (16.3 ppg). Since allowing Miami to run for 191 yards in the season opener, this unit has allowed a total of 121 yards on the ground and has twice as many takeaways (8) as touchdowns allowed (4). The Chiefs meanwhile have held their own despite suffering a rash of injuries that have cost them their All-Pro linebacker (Derrick Johnson), a starting defensive end (Mike DeVito) and impacted several other key players, such as All-Pro safety Eric Berry (ankle). After struggling mightily against Tennessee in Week 1, Kansas City limited Denver at home to just 24 points and 324 total yards in a seven-point loss and held Miami to only 191 yards passing and one touchdown in its 34-15 road win last week. Neither offense has been that productive or explosive to this point, so both defenses will need to keep up their good work or run the risk of putting their team in a hole it may not be able to climb out of.
New England’s offense is struggling, but the defense has picked up the slack and then some. Kansas City usually plays well at home and will get a huge boost with the return of Jamaal Charles, but until the Chiefs develop more consistency and more explosiveness in their passing game, this offense will struggle against good defenses. Tom Brady’s production may be down to start the season, but his track record speaks for itself. The Patriots stick with the script that has worked them for so well these past two weeks, relying on their defense to bottle up Kansas City’s running game just enough to leave Arrowhead Stadium with a hard-fought road victory.
Prediction: New England 23, Kansas City 20
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of college football. Every Sunday, reading updated box scores and stats is like Christmas for fans and media members. Some stats like total offense and total defense are overrated but each help paint a picture for a team or particular game.
Whether the stats are historic, advanced or just an observation from a box score, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of college football action:
10 Amazing CFB Stats from Week 5
8.0: Michigan’s Average Points Per Game Against Power 5 Opponents
Doug Nussmeier was hired to provide a quick fix for Michigan’s offense, but the Wolverines are still stuck in neutral after five weeks. The Wolverines are averaging just eight points a game against Power 5 opponents (Minnesota, Notre Dame and Utah), and the offense recorded just 171 yards on 53 plays against the Golden Gophers. If you take into account all five games, Michigan ranks last in the Big Ten by averaging just 22 points a game. Barring a major turnaround by the offense, Nussmeier and coach Brady Hoke will both be looking for new jobs at the end of 2014.
1.9: Purdue’s Yards Per Play on Final 10 Drives
Purdue’s upset hopes against Iowa got off to a good start in Week 5, as the Boilermakers jumped out to a 10-0 lead. But it was all downhill from there. Purdue’s offense managed just 70 yards on its final 37 plays and no drive in the second half lasted more than seven plays. During the final 10 drives, the Boilermakers averaged just 1.9 yards per play.
14: Passing TDs in California-Colorado’s 59-56 Shootout
If you like offense, Saturday’s California-Colorado matchup was the game to watch. The two teams combined for 64 first downs, 1,215 yards and 115 points. The passing game for both teams thrived, as Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau completed 46 of 67 attempts for 455 yards and seven touchdowns. California’s Jared Goff matched Liufau, completing 24 of his 42 passes for seven scores and 458 yards. How impressive are the 14 passing touchdowns in a game? Only six teams in the nation have more than 14 all season.
119: Yardage by Missouri on Final Two Drives
Let’s throw out the two-play drive Missouri used to run out the clock and focus on the Tigers’ final two possessions to score a huge win at South Carolina. Missouri’s first two possessions of the game went for 102 yards on 18 plays, but the Tigers managed just 69 yards until the last two drives of the game. Missouri went 68 yards on three plays to cut the Gamecocks’ deficit to 20-14 and went 51 yards on nine plays to take a 21-20 lead. The Tigers didn’t have a particularly prolific day on offense, but the offense delivered in the clutch with the game on the line.
7: TD Drives Led by LSU Freshman QB Brandon Harris Against NMSU
The quarterback controversy in Baton Rouge should be over. If coach Les Miles starts Anthony Jennings in Week 6, he’s making the wrong decision. Sure, New Mexico State's defense was the toughest opposition on Saturday, but the Tigers’ offense has operated better in 2014 with Harris at the controls. Against the Aggies on Saturday night, Harris guided the offense to seven touchdowns on seven drives. The true freshman completed 11 of 14 throws for 178 yards and three scores and rushed for 36 yards and two touchdowns on five attempts. In five games, Harris has completed 22 of 30 passes for 394 yards and six scores. It’s pretty clear who is the better quarterback at LSU right now.
1: Touchdown Scored by SMU Through Four Games
SMU’s offense has been dreadful in 2014. The Mustangs have scored only 12 points through four games, with the only touchdown coming on the final play against North Texas on a 33-yard Hail Mary pass. SMU’s offense has been plagued by struggling options at quarterback, a ground attack that is averaging just 1.4 yards per rush, and an offensive line that has allowed 29 sacks through four games. Coach June Jones resigned after the loss to the Mean Green, and the road for SMU isn’t going to get any easier with Cincinnati, East Carolina and Memphis up next. To put in perspective how bad SMU's offense has struggled so far, UCLA's Ishmael Adams scored more touchdowns in one game (Arizona State) than the Mustangs have all year.
42.3: OSU QB Daxx Garman’s Average Pass TD Length Against TTU
With J.W. Walsh sidelined indefinitely, it’s Daxx Garman’s show at Oklahoma State. And Garman isn’t shy about attempting deep passes. In Thursday night’s win over Texas Tech, Garman averaged 42.3 yards on his four touchdown passes. Garman connected on a 33-yard score in the first quarter, a 39-yard touchdown toss in the second quarter and scoring plays of 47 and 50 in the third quarter. Garman completed only 17 passes and averaged 21.8 yards per completion on Thursday night.
2: Touchdowns Allowed by Stanford’s Defense in Pac-12 Games
Four new starters and a coordinator haven’t slowed Stanford’s defense through its first four games of the season. The Cardinal has allowed only two touchdowns in two Pac-12 games and limited Washington to just 179 total yards in Saturday’s 20-13 win. Stanford has also pitched two shutouts (UC Davis and Army) and has recorded 11 sacks this year. So far, the 2014 version of the Cardinal defense is shaping up to be as dominant as the one that allowed just 4.8 yards per play last season.
3: 200-Yard Games by Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah in 2014
Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah continued his hot start to the season by gashing Illinois for 208 yards and three scores on 22 attempts. And if the Cornhuskers weren’t leading by a huge margin at halftime, Abdullah would have recorded a monster stat-line with a full game of opportunities. The senior has three 200-yard efforts in five games in 2014, rushing for 232 against FAU and 229 against Miami. Abdullah’s toughest test of 2014 takes place next Saturday against Michigan State.
2.7: Arkansas Yards Per Play on Final Six Drives
The Razorbacks are clearly improved in coach Bret Bielema’s second year. However, there’s no doubt Arkansas let a win slip away on Saturday against Texas A&M. But the Razorbacks had a little help, as the Aggies stepped up on defense after falling behind 28-14 in the third quarter. Over Arkansas final six drives, Texas A&M allowed just 92 yards on 34 plays (2.7 yards per play). The Aggies forced four punts over the Razorbacks final six drives, with the only other possessions resulting in a missed field goal and a turnover on downs to end the game. Texas A&M’s defense has been heavily criticized over the last two years, but the Aggies made plays at the right time on Saturday.
Other Stats to Know
* Georgia running back Todd Gurley set a career high by rushing for 208 yards in Saturday’s win over Tennessee.
* Ohio State’s pass defense continues to be a problem in 2014. The Buckeyes allowed four passing scores, averaging 60 yards per touchdown toss in the 50-28 win over the Cincinnati.
* Ole Miss has allowed just two touchdowns through four games.
* Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson completed 25 consecutive passes in Saturday night’s win over Syracuse.
* Georgia Southern running back Matt Breida ranks fourth nationally with eight rushing scores through five games. Breida has four touchdown runs of at least 56 yards and averages 33.5 yards per rushing score in 2014.
* NC State averaged 6.9 yards per play in the first half against Florida State. But the Seminoles tightened up on defense in the second half, allowing just 4.4 yards per play over the final two quarters.
* Temple has scored a defensive touchdown in all four games this year.
* UCLA averaged 10 yards per play in Thursday night’s win over Arizona State.
* Quarterback Brett Hundley recorded 427 total yards against Arizona State. The 427 total yards rank second in Hundley’s career for most total yards in a single game.
* Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason is averaging just 9.8 yards per completion in 2014.
* Wake Forest has recorded negative rushing yards in three out of its five games.
* Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for six touchdowns against North Carolina on Saturday. Watson is the first quarterback in Clemson history to throw for six touchdowns in a game.
* Ohio State recorded 710 yards and 45 first downs in Saturday’s 50-28 win over Cincinnati.
* North Carolina’s defense has allowed at least 500 yards in three out of its four games in 2014.
* Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon has rushed for 434 yards over his last two games.
* Vanderbilt recorded only eight first downs and averaged just 3.0 yards per play in a 17-7 loss to Kentucky on Saturday.
* Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel has tossed at least four touchdowns in each of the Bearcats’ three games this year.
* UMass recorded 638 yards in Saturday’s 47-42 loss to Bowling Green. The 638 yards are the most by the Minutemen since they moved to the FBS level.
* USC is the only team in the nation to not allow a passing touchdown through Week 5.
* TCU quarterbacks Trevone Boykin and Matt Joeckel have thrown 10 touchdown passes through three games this year. The Horned Frogs had just 14 passing scores in 2013.
* Texas Tech committed 16 penalties in Thursday night’s loss to Oklahoma State. The Red Raiders have committed at least 10 penalties in three out of their four games in 2014. Additionally, Texas Tech is one game of 10 penalties away from matching last year’s total (four) of games with double-digit penalties.
* Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova now owns the school record for most passing touchdowns in a career with 61. Nova threw four scores in Saturday’s 31-6 win over Tulane. That’s the second game for Nova with four passing touchdowns in 2014.
* The 24 points allowed by Florida State in the first quarter were the most allowed by the Seminoles in an opening quarter in school history.
* After throwing for 2,523 yards and 21 scores as Indiana’s part-time quarterback last year, Nate Sudfeld is off to a slow start in 2014. Sudfeld has two games of throwing for less than 130 yards and has just two scores through four contests.
* Boston College freshman running back Jon Hilliman has scored two rushing scores in three consecutive games.
* Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer has tossed at least two picks in four consecutive contests.
* On five drives in the first quarter, Iowa ran 13 plays and registered just 10 yards.
* Louisville’s Brandon Radcliff rushed for 129 yards on 17 attempts against Wake Forest. Radcliff had just 91 yards on 17 carries last season.
* Kansas State averaged 8.1 yards per play in Saturday’s win over UTEP. That’s the highest mark for the Wildcats since a 9.3 mark on Oct. 16, 2012 against Kansas.
* Army averaged 8.1 yards per play and won the turnover battle (2 to 0) over Yale, but the Black Knights lost 49-43 in overtime.
* Kentucky defeated Vanderbilt 17-7 despite recording just 100 yards in the second half.
* Penn State freshman receiver DaeSean Hamilton has at least four receptions in every game and has three 100-yard efforts through five games.
* Bowling Green and UMass combined for 1,306 yards, 89 points and 59 first downs in Saturday’s 47-42 shootout. The Falcons also had three receivers eclipse the 100-yard mark.
* Indiana running back Tevin Coleman has scored in 13 consecutive games.
* Georgia converted only one third-down attempt in Saturday’s 35-32 win over Tennessee.
* By defeating Kent State 45-13 on Saturday, Virginia has already surpassed its win total (3) from last season (2).
* UAB committed six turnovers and gave up two defensive scores in Saturday’s loss to FIU on Saturday.
* Louisville true freshman quarterback Reggie Bonnafon completed 16 of 32 passes for 206 yards and added 46 yards in his first career start on Saturday.
* Colorado ran 110 plays in Saturday’s loss to California.
* Wyoming has played two of college football’s top 10 teams in 2014, but the Cowboys averaged 5.9 yards per play against Oregon and 5.6 against Michigan State. That’s a good sign for coach Craig Bohl’s team as it moves deep into Mountain West play.
* Boise State lost seven turnovers in Saturday’s 28-14 loss to Air Force. That’s the most turnovers the Broncos have lost in a game since 1992.
* Ohio State recorded 710 yards against Cincinnati in Saturday’s 50-28 victory. That’s the first performance for the Buckeyes over 700 yards of offense since Aug. 27, 1986.
* Seven of LSU’s nine touchdowns scored against New Mexico State were scored by true freshmen (Brandon Harris and Leonard Fournette).
* Nevada was outgained 446 to 256, lost the turnover battle (3 to 0) and went 0-9 on third-down attempts against San Jose State. However, the Wolf Pack won 21-10.
* Wake Forest defensive end Tylor Harris set a FBS record by recovering three fumbles in Saturday’s loss to Louisville.
Numbers and statistics are a huge part of measuring performance and marking milestones in the NFL. With that in mind, Athlon Sports rounded up the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 4 of the season.
There have now only been two NFL regular season games without any punts after Green Bay and Chicago combined to keep their punters off the field in Week 4. The other came Sept. 13, 1992 when Buffalo and San Francisco did not punt in a game that featured 1,118 yards of total offense combined. An AFC Divisional matchup between Kansas City and Indianapolis (2004) is the only playoff game with zero punts.
J.J. Watt's 80-yard interception return for a score against Buffalo made him the first player in NFL history with 35-plus sacks, a receiving touchdown (Week 2 this year) and an interception touchdown return in his first four seasons.
Indianapolis' quarterback Andrew Luck completed 70.7 percent of his passes (29 of 41) for 393 yards with four touchdowns and one interception for a 123.3 passer rating in the Colts’ Week 4 win over Tennessee. Luck, who last week completed 79.5 percent of his passes for 370 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 140.4 rating, is the first player in NFL history to post consecutive games with at least 370 passing yards, four or more touchdown passes, a completion percentage above 70 percent and one or no interceptions.
With a punt return for a touchdown (Darren Sproles), a blocked punt return for a touchdown (Brad Smith) and an interception return for a touchdown (Malcolm Jenkins) against San Francisco Sunday, Philadelphia became just the second team in NFL history to pull off such a trifecta. In NFL history, teams that had three returns for TDs in a game were 71-1-1; the Eagles lost 26-21.
New Orleans was shutout in the first half for just the third time (2007, 2011) under head coach Sean Payton when Dallas took a 24-0 lead into halftime Sunday night. The Cowboys won 38-17.
Dallas' DeMarco Murray became the fourth running back in NFL history with 100+ rushing yards and 1+ rushing touchdown in each of the team's first four games, and the first since Dallas' Emmitt Smith did so in 1995. Jim Brown (1958) and O.J. Simpson (1975) are the other two. Brown stretched the streak to six games, while Simpson pushed it to five.
Rookie quarterbacks Blake Bortles (Jacksonville) and Teddy Bridgewater (Minnesota) made their first NFL start in Week 4. Along with Derek Carr (Oakland), three rookies have started at quarterback this season. It marks the fourth consecutive season (2011-14) in which at least three rookies started at quarterback in a September game. That is the longest such streak in the Super Bowl era.
With their 41-17 victory against Tennessee in Week 4, the Indianapolis Colts have won eight consecutive games within the AFC South. It is the longest active streak in the NFL.
Over Philadelphia's first nine possessions of its Week 4 game against San Francisco, the Eagles collected just five first downs on 37 plays. They picked up six first downs on 15 plays on their second-to-last drive of the day, which was halted on a fourth-and-goal pass play from the 2 for a potential game-winning TD pass. Philly finished with 213 total yards of offense, which is the second lowest under Chip Kelly, and 22 rushing yards, which is the lowest by any team this season entering Monday night's game.
Entering Week 4, Philadelphia was the best second-half team in the league with a +50-point differential while San Francisco was the worst at -49, including zero points in the fourth quarter. The 49ers outscored the Eagles 13-0 in the second half, including three points in the fourth quarter.
Since opening up with a 17-0 halftime lead in Week 1 against Philadelphia, Jacksonville has been outscored 152-41. The 0-4 Jaguars have scored 21 of those points in the first half.
With Green Bay's 38-17 win against Chicago in Week 4, the Packers posted the franchise's 700th regular-season win. They joined the Bears as the only two franchises to achieve 700 wins. Chicago has 732.
Aaron Rodgers needed the fewest attempts in NFL history to reach 25,000 passing yards when he accomplished the feat in Week 4. He hit the mark in 3,065 attempts, besting Kurt Warner's 3,076.
Baltimore's Steve Smith had seven catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns against Carolina, his old team, in Week 4. The 429 yards he has this season are the most ever by a 35+ year-old player through the first four games of the season. In addition, Smith is the Panthers' all-time leading receiver (12,197) and became the second player in NFL history to have 100+ receiving yards in his first game against a franchise for which he had 10,000+ yards. He joined Torry Holt.
No. 15 Iowa State has rebuilt itself into a national contender, and that shouldn’t be any different despite the departures of DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim. With a healthy Georges Niang and another influx of transfers, Iowa State will be a team to watch again.
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Iowa State’s run to the Sweet 16 in 2013-14 did more than stamp the Cyclones as a perennial contender in the Big 12. After knocking off North Carolina without an injured Georges Niang in the Round of 32, Iowa State made a name for itself nationally, and with that, Fred Hoiberg has acquired the reputation of being one of the top coaches in the game.
On the back of a trio featuring Niang, Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane, Iowa State rattled off wins over Kansas State, Kansas and Baylor to win its first Big 12 Tournament championship since 2000. If it weren’t for a broken foot that Niang suffered in a second-round NCAA Tournament win over North Carolina Central, the red-hot Cyclones could have contended for an appearance in the Final Four.
With the departures of Melvin Ejim, the Big 12’s Player of the Year, and DeAndre Kane, a dynamic guard who averaged 17.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, it is natural to think that Hoiberg’s program could be due for a rebuilding season. However, with another round of transfers set to infiltrate the lineup, it appears that 2014-15 will be anything but that.
No. 15 Iowa State Facts & Figures
Last season: 28-8, 11-7 Big 12
Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16
Consecutive NCAAs: 3
Coach: Fred Hoiberg (90-47 overall, 37-33 Big 12)
Big 12 Projection: Third
Postseason Projection: NCAA Sweet 16
Chemistry and versatility are Hoiberg’s keys to a successful basketball team. Niang possesses both of those characteristics. Niang, who averaged 16.7 points per game as a sophomore, rebounded from the broken foot quite well in the offseason by losing 15 pounds.
“He has always been very tough for bigger players to guard,” Hoiberg says. “The way that he got his body as finely tuned as it is will allow him to be a more versatile basketball player and play more positions.”
What doesn’t show up in the box score is Niang’s natural leadership ability. “Georges is as good as I have ever been around as far as pulling a group together,” Hoiberg says. “I think he knows that this is his team next year.”
Iowa State’s frontcourt will be far from a one-man show. Transfers Jameel McKay (Marquette) and Abdel Nader (Northern Illinois) will make their presence felt in a hurry.
“Jameel will have an immediate impact just because of his motor and his ability to run the floor and protect the rim,” Hoiberg says. “Plus, I think he can give us something on the offensive end.”
McKay, an athletic 6-9 shot-blocker, likely won’t be eligible until December but is the type of player Hoiberg has never had at Iowa State. Nader’s ability to play multiple positions is a strength.
Then, there is Dustin Hogue, an active 6-6 senior who exploded onto the national scene via a 34-point outburst in a Sweet 16 loss to UConn. Between Hogue, who averaged 8.4 rebounds per game last season, and McKay, there is a decent chance that a Cyclone could lead the Big 12 in rebounding this season.
A promising sophomore and a fifth-year graduate transfer are expected to lead the way for the Cyclones on the perimeter. Expect Monte Morris, who did a tremendous job taking care of the ball as a true freshman, to run the show at point guard. He committed only 28 turnovers in 1,013 minutes last season.
Former USC Trojan and UNLV Runnin’ Rebel Bryce Dejean-Jones could ultimately lead Iowa State in scoring. Jones started 26 games for UNLV last season and averaged 13.6 points along the way. He will have the ball in his hands a lot in Hoiberg’s fast-paced system.
Iowa State has depth, too. Junior Naz Long made 46.2 percent of his shots from 3-point range over the last 10 games of last season. Long is one of the program’s emotional leaders in addition to being one of the top sixth-men in the Big 12.
Sophomore Matt Thomas made the second most 3-pointers for freshman in Iowa State history. He averaged 21.2 minutes but did not play more than 20 in any of the final eight games. True freshman Clayton Custer should serve as a quality backup to Morris up at the point.
Once again, Hoiberg has replenished his roster with quality transfers who meld well with veterans like Niang, Long, Morris and Thomas. The talent is on hand for Iowa State to make a legitimate run at a Big 12 championship.
Transfers Bryce Dejean-Jones (UNLV), Abdel Nader (Northern Illinois) and Jameel McKay (Marquette) will all make an immediate impact in Ames. Dejean-Jones is a natural scorer. At 6-6, Nader can hit an outside shot while being a force on the glass as well. McKay could be one of the top rebounders in the Big 12. Freshman Clayton Custer should be the backup point guard. Greek big man Georgios Tsalmpouris is a project.
Georges Niang is hardly a household name among casual fans, but he has earned respect the hard way: by winning. Niang played in the shadow of Nerlens Noel and Wayne Selden in prep school but was part of an Iowa State trio a year ago — along with Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane — that wound up winning the league tourney.
Now it’s Niang’s team, and the 6-7 Massachusetts native has completely transformed his body. Niang discusses his trash-talking methods, why he stuck with Iowa State and where he got his first name from.
This interview and more appears in the 2014-15 Athlon Sports college basketball annual, available on newsstands and in our online store now.
OK, so why the “S” at the end of your first name?
I was named after one of my dad’s best friends, who was originally from Africa. It’s actually supposed to be pronounced with a French accent since he was French, but I don’t want anyone to do that. But the “S” is silent. I’ve heard people pronounce it so many different ways that I don’t even bother to correct them. I just go with it.
You played against Nerlens Noel and Wayne Selden every day for two years at the Tilton School in New Hampshire. What did you learn from those guys?
I learned how to slow down playing against Nerlens, how to put the defender on the hot seat and make them guess on what move is coming. I learned how to compete against Wayne. Those guys made me a lot better, but the guy I really watched and learned from when I arrived at Tilton was Alex Oriakhi. I was a freshman and he was a junior at the time, and I really tried to model myself after Alex. He’s a great kid who worked so hard.
You committed to Iowa State as an unknown, but then started to get attention after a strong showing at the Peach Jam. Why did you remain loyal to the Cyclones despite high-profile schools trying to get you to re-open your recruitment?
I remember the first time Coach (Fred) Hoiberg saw me. I was playing St. Mark’s — which had Nik Stauskas, Kaleb Tarczewski and Alex Murphy — and I didn’t miss a shot. I was 11-for-11, and he said afterwards that he wanted me to be a part of Plan A at Iowa State. They were the first school that believed in me. I trusted them and committed on May 15 before my junior season. I’m not going to call out specific schools, but there were schools who called me and told me not to go to Iowa State — that there’s nothing in Iowa and to come play with us. But I knew Iowa State was where I wanted to be. I never even thought about going anywhere else.
You’ve had two pretty good seasons in Ames, and I saw that one ESPN writer even had you on his Preseason first-team All-America team. However, there are plenty of fans who have no idea who you are. Why is that?
I agree. I think there are plenty of fans who think I’m just a bum who should be down at the YMCA, but I think I get respect from the guys that really know basketball. I work so hard, and I don’t think people understand how hard I work to improve. A lot of players in the league are gifted with athleticism. I wasn’t really gifted with any.
You broke your foot in Iowa State’s opening-round NCAA win against NC Central and weren’t able to do anything until May, yet you look to be in the best shape of your career when you showed up at the LeBron James Skills Academy in July. How were you able to manage the transformation?
The first week of May, I was still in a boot. I went back to Massachusetts with my trainer, and he sat me down. I weighed 255 and had 16 percent body fat. He said we can do it the hard way or you can walk away. I went with the hard way. I did yoga every day, lifted and did conditioning every day for four weeks and went twice every day on the court. They were long days, but were worth it. Now everyone who first sees me reacts the same way: “Holy @#$%.” It feels good because I’m a lot healthier than I was before. I feel better when I wake up. I eat better. It’s just a lifestyle change. Now I’m at 227 to 230 and am trying to get that vertical up!
What do you remember about the game against NC Central in which you broke your foot?
I felt a snap and fell to the ground. I’d broken my left foot before. I came out of the game and Coach Hoiberg told me to sit down. After a little while, he told me to check back in. It didn’t hurt when I got up, but then it was bad when I took the first couple of steps. I went in, scored five points — on a 3 and a floater — and then told him to take me out of the game. They did x-rays and told me I broke it. I was upset, but more because I felt bad for my team.
DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim are both gone now. How does that alter your role?
I think I’ll have to do more of what they did well — be a better rebounder since Melvin was such a great rebounder and be a better playmaker since that’s what DeAndre did so well. I was a leader last year, but I’ll have to step up in that area as well. I think the biggest thing for me is just to make plays.
Fred Hoiberg seems so mellow on the sidelines and even off the court. What’s an example when he actually showed some real emotion?
It came after we lost three games in a row — to Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. Usually, he walks into the film room and is really quiet. He rolls in, says “What’s up, fellas” and sits down. Well, that day he walked in and says, “Show some emotion, guys.” He goes up to one of our guys and chest-bumps him — he’s yelling and screaming. I thought Tom Izzo had walked in. But he wanted to let us know that we played with no life.
You are admittedly one of the better trash-talkers around. Who else do you respect for their trash-talking ability and what is your reasoning for talking to opponents?
DeAndre Kane knows how to get under guys’ skin. He’d make guys take tough shots. (Former Oklahoma State guard) Markel Brown can talk with the best of them. He’s a silent assassin and talks when no one is expecting it. I usually do it when someone is killing us and you want them to get off their game. You want to draw a rift between the other team. For instance, when (Oklahoma State’s) Marcus Smart is killing us, I’d start telling him he should have left last year — and then tell his teammates that he doesn’t trust them.
You guys will add a couple more transfers this year in Bryce Dejean-Jones (UNLV) and Abdel Nader (Northern Illinois) in addition to junior college transfer Jameel McKay. How different will this team be?
We’ll buckle down better defensively, but with Fred, you’ll always expect a team that will compete every night. I think we’ll have more overall talent this year than in my first two years, but the key is putting it all together. We don’t have the chemistry yet — and that can make or break a season.
What’s your favorite place to play other than your gym?
Phog Allen (Fieldhouse, at Kansas). There’s so much energy in that building. I love going in there. The fans are as crazy as our fans and it’s just wild.
What’s your least favorite place to play?
I don’t want to upset Buddy (Hield), but probably Oklahoma or TCU. We always play in Oklahoma in the morning and it’s so dull. There’s also nothing exciting about Norman. TCU is always dead, although they should be better this year.
Other than Coach Hoiberg, who would be a coach you’d want to play for?
This might get me into trouble, but (Kansas) Coach (Bill) Self. I really have a lot of respect for him, because I like the way he runs a tight ship — and even though he does it differently than Coach Hoiberg, he demands a lot from his guys.
Who is the toughest player you’ve had to guard?
It was Romero Osby from Oklahoma a couple years ago. I held him to seven points the first time we played, but then he dialed me up for 27 and did it with every type of move.
Where would you be if you weren’t at Iowa State?
If Boston College had offered me a scholarship, that’s where I’d probably be. I grew up down the road and always wanted to stay close to home.
Welcome to the Week of Doom.
The College Football Playoff selection committee will meet for the first time in less than a month, and this week almost certainly will shape the conversations for that group.
Every league will have powerhouse matchups between favorites and ranked teams, so much that our usual preview of the top five games of the week has been expanded to 10. And we still feel like we left out some important matchups.
The gauntlet starts Thursday with Oregon and Arizona and lasts through Nebraska and Michigan State in primetime on Saturday.
Title hopes will be crushed. Teams will have setbacks in conference races. And perhaps the postseason and Heisman pictures will start to take shape.
Get ready. This week will shape the rest of the year.
The Week Ahead: Week 6
All times Eastern, all games Saturday, unless noted
Arizona at Oregon
When and where: Thursday, 10:30 p.m., ESPN
We’re watching because... games between Arizona and Oregon get weird. The Wildcats defeated Arizona 42-16 last season, effectively eliminating the Ducks from the Pac-12 and national title chase, and in 2007, they ended Oregon’s bid for a title. The Ducks are in contention again — with another Heisman favorite in Marcus Mariota — but their offensive line is in trouble. Behind redshirt quarterback Anu Solomon, Arizona has enough of an offense to put pressure on Mariota to perform on every possession.
Vegas says: Oregon by 22 1/2
Texas A&M at Mississippi State
When and where: Noon, ESPN
We’re watching because... the Aggies and Bulldogs keep proving their SEC West credentials. Texas A&M were able to take advantage of Arkansas’ fourth quarter miscues to stay alive, but the Aggies’ defense remains a liability. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott is an emerging Heisman contender coming off his career game against LSU. Prescott has rushed for more than 100 yards in three consecutive games while improving as a passer. Could be trouble for the Aggies.
Vegas says: Mississippi State by 1
Ohio State at Maryland
When and where: Noon, ABC
We’re watching because... Ohio State may or may not be starting to putting its season together. J.T. Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott combined for 591 yards of total offense against Cincinnati, but Maryland’s defense has held its own despite mounting injuries. The Buckeyes pass defense remains vulnerable to long pass plays. Terrapins receiver Stefon Diggs, once a top recruiting target of Ohio State, can exploit that weakness.
Vegas says: Ohio State by 8
Alabama at Ole Miss
When and where: 3:30 p.m., CBS
We’re watching because... Ole Miss is playing its biggest home game in decades. The Rebels are 4-0 for the first time since Archie Manning was a senior, and they’re hosing ESPN College GameDay for the first time. Alabama is a week removed from 672 yards against Florida while Ole Miss has risen — surprisingly — to fourth in the country in fewest yards allowed per game (248) and yards per play (3.74). Ole Miss can’t afford another two-interception game from quarterback Bo Wallace.
Vegas says: Alabama by 5
Stanford at Notre Dame
When and where: 3:30 p.m., NBC
We’re watching because... Oct. 4 seems a little early for a Stanford-Notre Dame game, but the timing is right to sort out which team is for real. Stanford’s defense is masking the Cardinal’s inept offense inside the 40-yard line. The Cardinal is allowing 108.5 yards per game fewer than any other team in the Pac-12. Meanwhile, Notre Dame’s offense might not be as good as Everett Golson’s 25 consecutive completions against Syracuse indicate. Otherwise, Golson was responsible for two fumbles and two interceptions, one for a pick six.
Vegas says: Stanford by 1
Oklahoma at TCU
When and where: 3:30 p.m., Fox
We’re watching because... Oklahoma can further show why it’s the most complete team in the country. The Sooners have handled every opponent they’ve faced, including Tennessee and West Virginia, the latter on the road. TCU may be the toughest test. The Horned Frogs are stout defensively as usual with a Big 12-best 218.7 yards per game and 3.04 yards per play. But with Air Raid and spread concepts brought in by Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meachem, TCU is fourth in the Big 12 in yards per play.
Vegas says: Oklahoma by 4 1/2
Baylor at Texas
When and where: 3:30 p.m., ABC
We’re watching because... Baylor’s eventually going to start playing tougher games, right? Texas might not be that much better than Iowa State, but the Bears will try to improve their stock with a third consecutive lopsided win on the road.
Vegas says: Baylor by 14 1/2
LSU at Auburn
When and where: 7 p.m., ESPN
We’re watching because... this SEC West rivalry may be LSU’s last chance to prove it belongs among league contenders. Auburn’s defense may be the real deal after allowing only 4.56 yards per play after giving up nearly six per play in each of the last four seasons. Facing New Mexico State may have masked some of LSU’s offensive issues, but freshman Brandon Harris established himself as Les Miles’ quarterback (11-of-14, 178 yards, three touchdowns).
Vegas says: Auburn by 8 1/2
Miami at Georgia Tech
When and where: 7:30 p.m., ESPN2
We’re watching because... neither team can be written off in the ACC Coastal race. The division separated by a razor-thin margin, and Miami and Georgia Tech each have a leg up for the time being. Georgia Tech defeated Virginia Tech two weeks ago, and Miami is coming off a 22-10 win over Duke. Hurricanes freshman Brad Kaaya gets better every week, but he’s 0-2 on the road. That needs to change if UM is a realistic ACC contender.
Vegas says: Pick 'em
Nebraska at Michigan State
When and where: 8 p.m., ABC
We’re watching because... it’s safe to resume paying attention to the Big Ten now. The top two teams in the league rolled last week by a combined score of 101-28. Michigan State can regain ground lost by the loss to Oregon in Week 2 while Nebraska can establish itself as a Playoff contender. Ameer Abdullah enters a game against a stout Michigan State defense with momentum after rushing for of 437 yards in the last two games.
Vegas says: Michigan State by 9 1/2
Oregon State may not be a Pac-12 title contender but that didn't keep people like me from picking the Beavers to upset the Trojans this weekend. At the very least, most were taking Mike Riley's bunch to cover the 9.5-point spread.
The response from the Men of Troy after an extremely trying last two weeks was resounding. USC used stifling defense and a big play offense to cut through a solid Oregon State team with surprising ease.
The Beavers mustered only 181 yards of total offense on a putrid 3.2 yards per play, converted just 1-of-10 on third down chances, turned the ball over twice and allowed a Hail Mary touchdown on the final play of the first half.
This from a USC defense that allowed 452 yards rushing to Boston College — a team that lost at home to Colorado State this weekend.
Again, Oregon State isn't a team on par with league championship contenders but Sean Mannion is the all-time leading passer in OSU history and this team had yet to lose. USC totally slammed the door.
Listen to the Week 5 recap podcast:
Despite the horrendous showing in Chestnutt Hill and longterm questions about depth hanging over the entire roster, this defense proved that it has the talent and ability to be dominant on any given night. The Trojans lead the Pac-12 in interceptions (seven) and are seventh nationally in turnover margin (plus-1.75 per game), good for second in the league behind Washington (plus-2.20). It's also getting off the field on the most critical down, leading the league in third-down defense (25.5 percent).
The defense even got the scoring started this weekend as Su'a Cravens' 31-yard interception return for a touchdown posted the Trojans to an early first quarter lead.
The offense took advantage. Steve Sarkisian and Cody Kessler rolled up 461 yards of offense — rushing and passing for over 200 yards — and scored on plays of 48, 21, 17 and 16 yards. Kessler was brilliant once again, throwing for 261 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-32 passing while protecting the football.
In fact, Kessler has been this perfect all season, but he often gets overlooked in a league with huge numbers and high-profile dual-threat players. The USC quarterback is 16th in the nation in pass efficiency (167.41) but is sixth in the Pac-12 in the same category. He's fifth in the nation in completion percentage by connecting on a crisp 72 percent of his passes — third in the Pac-12. He's throw 10 touchdowns and not one interception while averaging nearly 300 yards per game but is sixth in the league in both yards (1,107) and touchdowns.
The quarterback position cannot be executed much better than Kessler is playing it right now and, statistically, he's not even a top five player at his position in the league. It's a testament to the depth, talent and coaching that's under center in the Pac-12.
With Arizona State and Utah losing critical games in painful fashion, Sarkisian might have been the biggest winner in the Pac-12 South in Week 5. UCLA and Brett Hundley looked outstanding but have long been considered the favorite. And Arizona should figure heavily in the mix as well. But it feels like this will be a Los Angeles-centered battle for the right to represent the division in the Pac-12 title game.
The country has seen how ugly it can get when things start to go haywire for USC, but when the Trojans get balance on offense and are healthy on defense, this team is capable of beating anyone in the nation.
Coach Sark just needs to hope that anyone is the Bruins.
The Pac-12 South race got a little clearer in Week 5.
UCLA took a two-game lead on Arizona State. USC fixed its defensive issues and sits atop the South at 2-0. Utah missed a huge opportunity to enter the fray by choking away a big lead at home against Washington State.
UCLA's impressive victory over Arizona State on the road cannot be overstated. Brett Hundley returned to the field and destroyed the defending division champs totally reworked defense. He looked as good as he has looked at any point during this season.
Listen to the Week 5 recap podcast:
The win gives Jim Mora the first big leg up on the race to Levi's Stadium. Arizona State, without Taylor Kelly, is essentially two games behind UCLA and doesn't look like a team that will be capable of jumping back into first place. The Sun Devils next three games are road trips to USC and Washington sandwiched around a home game with Stanford.
Frankly, the only hope ASU had of repeating was a win over UCLA at home and it wasn't even competitive. Todd Graham's bunch could be out of Pac-12 contention by the first week of October if it can't beat the Trojans this weekend.
Speaking of the Men of Troy, USC was extremely impressive on both sides of the ball against a team it should defeat if it wants to contend with the Bruins. Against Oregon State, the Trojans defense was suffocating, and Cody Kessler was masterful. When this team is healthy on defense and balanced on offense, it's capable of beating anyone in the nation.
Meanwhile, Kyle Whittingham missed a major opportunity to get his team into the conversation. Utah hasn't been to the postseason in either of its first two Pac-12 campaigns and a bowl game would quiet a lot of Whittingham doubters in Salt Lake City. With a 21-0 lead after one quarter, a 24-7 halftime lead and a 13-point fourth quarter advantage at home, the Utes should have entered Week 6 with a perfect record. However, Utah's bowl hopes may have disappeared as Connor Halliday threw two touchdowns in the final nine minutes to complete the shocking comeback.
Arizona, which was off this weekend, should figure into the mix as it has yet to play a divisional game yet. Rich Rodriguez won't have to wait long to find out if his young team can contender in the South, however. The Wildcats will face Oregon, USC, Washington State and UCLA in the next four weeks with all but the Cougars coming on the road. Odds are Arizona will pull an upset somewhere along the line but likely won't be capable of contending week in and week out in the South just yet.
No, after five weeks of play, all signs point to USC and UCLA duking it out for the Pac-12 South championship over the next eight weeks. The two will meet on Nov. 22 in Pasadena. UCLA has a heavy depth advantage and gets the key late season game at home but the Trojans have a significant schedule advantage. UCLA still has to face Oregon, Stanford, USC, Washington and Arizona.
After hosting the Kelly-less Sun Devils this weekend, USC faces just one ranked opponent in league play the rest of the season and that's the Bruins.
After Ohio State arguably lost ground during a bye week, the Buckeyes gained some of it back against Cincinnati.
Where that leaves Ohio State for the Big Ten season, which starts Saturday at Maryland, remains in question.
While Ohio State had last week off, the Buckeyes' lone loss of the season started look more and more embarrassing as Virginia Tech lost to Georgia Tech, its second consecutive loss since the win in Columbus.
As for the Buckeyes, they defeated Cincinnati 50-28 on Saturday, answering some questions about the offense’s ability to win in the Big Ten, but the defense may remain a liability.
First the good:
For a team that couldn’t move the ball consistently against Virginia Tech, the 50 points is a welcome sight.
Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett was magnificent, completing 26-of-36 passes for 330 yards with four touchdowns and no turnovers to go with 79 rushing yards.
That said, the biggest development may have been running back Ezekiel Elliott, who rushed for 182 yards and a touchdown in 28 carries. Before that breakout by the sophomore, none of Ohio State’s tailbacks had rushed for more than 171 yards total this season.
Ohio State's 710 total yards also approached a school record.
Listen to the Week 5 recap podcast:
Now the bad: Aided by a leaky secondary, Ohio State needed nearly all of that production.
Ohio State jumped to a 23-7 lead early in the second quarter, but that devolved into a five-point lead in the third.
The pass defense that prevented Ohio State from playing for a national title a year ago made this game more interesting than it needed to be. The Buckeyes allowed touchdown passes or 60, 83 and 78 yards, the last two in the second half.
How many Big Ten teams will be able to challenge Ohio State like Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel did? Perhaps a few.
Maryland passed for 361 yards and three touchdowns against Indiana and has averaged better than 10 yards per attempt in each of the last two games.
To boot, the Terrapins gave up a mere 126 yards through the air against a high-powered Indiana offense.
With that kind of matchup arriving Saturday, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer talked of a “hard conversation” with defensive coaches coming this week.
“You don't give up 200 yards passing and be able to look you in the eye say that's a championship level football team out there,” Meyer told the media. “I see certain units playing at a very, very high level, not nine."
After a month of the season and a few close calls, Penn State learned a little bit about its ceiling.
The Nittany Lions can’t survive an off game by quarterback Christian Hackenberg, and the offensive line continues to be the team’s Achilles' heel.
Starting with a disastrous first quarter, Penn State lost 29-6 at home to Northwestern. On paper, this may be a shocking result with one of the Big Ten’s two undefeated teams losing in a rout to a team that entered the game on a 2-9 skid.
In reality, though, this moment was coming. Penn State had been playing with fire all season, and the flaws brought about in part by injuries and scholarship limitations are finally starting to impact the record.
Maybe this was a market correction.
Penn State lucked out in the opener when UCF didn’t start the better of its two quarterbacks that day as a field goal from Sam Ficken helped Penn State win 26-24 in Dublin. The Nittany Lions started slow against Akron but won convincingly by a 21-3 margin. And two weeks ago, Penn State got help from five Rutgers interceptions to score 13 unanswered points in the second half of a 13-10 win.
All the while, Penn State’s offensive line couldn’t open holes for the running backs, and Hackenberg was forced into mistakes.
Northwestern was the first team to take advantage when the floodgates opened.
“I actually think you look how we've played all year long and we've started some games slow and we've been able to come back and rally late in games,” Penn State coach James Franklin told the media. “You can only do that so many times. You can only do that so many times before it comes back to haunt you.”
That moment happened Saturday.
Penn State punted on its first five possessions, four of which ending without a first down. That was better than the alternative, which included a blocked field goal, a Hackenberg fumble and the first pick six of Hackenberg’s career.
By the end of the second quarter, Penn State abandoned the run altogether. Hackenberg finished with 45 pass attempts. Tailbacks Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak carried 12 times.
The frustration was palpable.
Hackenberg and Belton put the moment behind them in the postgame interviews and on Twitter, but but the struggles of the offense won’t solve themselves as easily.
Penn State is averaging 3.1 yards per carry this season. Throw out a 226-yard outburst against UMass, and the Nittany Lions are averaging 2.1 yards per rush.
There are no easy solutions here. Penn State entered the season with a top-flight quarterback and established that its defensive front seven will be among the best in the country.
The offensive line, though, returned only one starter. The unit, especially after the spring injury to Miles Dieffenbach, was panned during the preseason.
That Penn State made it to Week 5 without a loss is probably something of a miracle and a sign the Nittany Lions are getting the most they possibly can out of a shorthanded group.
Saturday, though, showed how far resilience alone can go.
A finished product Stanford is not, but David Shaw in the fourth quarter watched a defense that re-established the Cardinal’s Pac-12 credentials.
As the offense sputtered at times, the Stanford defense picked up two critical stops in the fourth quarter to pick up a 20-13 road win to keep alive the Cardinal’s opportunity to repeat as conference champs.
A loss to Washington would have eliminated Stanford from the College Football Playoff and would have made winning the North or the Pac-12 unlikely. Avoiding 0-2 was a must for Shaw's bunch to remain relevant in the national conversation.
The nation's top defense wasn't brilliant only in the final few minutes, though. Stanford held Washington to 179 total yards of offense and six offensive points — all in the second quarter. The Huskies offense averaged just 2.1 yards per carry and passed for merely 98 yards. Four of Washington's seven second-half possessions ended in punts while the other three ended on failed fourth down conversions. This came against a team that had scored at least 44 points in three consecutive games. It's why the Cardinal were able to overcome three costly turnovers.
In four games this season, Stanford's defense has allowed 19 total offensive points.
However, if Stanford is going to repeat as Pac-12 champs, quarterback Kevin Hogan needs to take the next step in his development process. While Stanford's dismal red zone statistics indicate that maybe hasn't happened fully, Hogan led the game-winning drive in the final minutes of play.
Listen to the Week 5 recap podcast:
With the help of a facemask penalty, the veteran quarterback marched his offense 47 yards on six plays to take the lead with 5:14 left in the game. Hogan ran the ball four times for 21 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown. He got the job done when Shaw needed him most and the offensive line was adequate (one sack allowed) against a defensive line that entered Saturday leading the nation in sacks.
For what it's worth, Hogan is on pace to blow past his 2013 numbers. As a passer, he's increased his production (220.8 ypg vs. 188.2) and efficiency — improving on both his completion percentage (71 percent vs. 61 percent) and efficiency rating (167.57 vs. 151.64). Those are significant improvements since he's already faced two of the better Pac-12 defenses.
While Hogan is clearly taking the right steps forward, finishing drives is still a big problem for the Cardinal. Hogan was solid against Washington, getting points on four of his five trips into scoring territory. But even after that strong showing, Shaw's offense ranks dead last in the Pac-12 with a 63.2 percent red zone scoring percentage (12-of-19). This must improve as the schedule continues to get tougher.
While this Cardinal team is still searching for itself on offense to some extent, the gaping holes left by departures to the NFL and a defensive coordinator leaving for the SEC appear to have been filled. This team leads the nation in total defense (198.0 ypg), passing defense (74.0 ypg), scoring defense (6.5 ppg) and has allowed an opponent to drive into its red zone only three times all season — which, of course, leads the nation.
As long as this defense continues to thrive, there will always be time for the offense to play catch up in September. However, October is here and the final two months bring road games against Notre Dame, Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA. There is no more time for catch up.
Things don't get any easier for Washington, either. The Huskies will face road games in three of their next four, including a trip to Oregon. Home tilts with Arizona State and UCLA loom over the next few weeks as well. After 179 yards, six points and not one trip into the Stanford red zone, Chris Petersen must acknowledge his program may not be ready to compete in the North yet.
Stanford is back in control of its own destiny in the North after a huge road win in Seattle. Its defense looks as good as ever and its quarterback appears to be coming into his own as the leader of the offense.
Mark Helfrich and his woefully thin offensive line have been warned.
Defense hasn’t necessarily been a strength for Miami under Al Golden, but the Hurricanes delivered with a clutch performance in Saturday night’s 22-10 win over Duke.
Miami held the Blue Devils to its lowest output of the 2014 season, allowed just 3.5 yards per play and forced three turnovers. The 3.5 mark is the fewest yards per play allowed in an ACC game by the Hurricanes since 2011 (Georgia Tech).
Improving the defense was a priority for Golden after an embarrassing effort in 2013. Miami allowed 26.8 points per game (10th in the ACC) and 5.7 yards per play (12th in ACC).
The early returns were positive, as the Hurricanes held their first three opponents to 4.7 yards or fewer per play.
However, in last week’s 41-31 loss to Nebraska, Miami was dominated at the line of scrimmage, allowing the Cornhuskers to rush for 343 yards and score 41 points.
Shades of last year’s defense against Nebraska prompted criticism once again for Miami coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, and the matchup against Duke was critical to establish the direction of this unit in the heart of ACC play.
In addition to holding the Blue Devils to just 10 points and 3.5 yards per play, Miami forced punts on seven of Duke’s first eight possessions and held David Cutcliffe’s offense to just two third-down conversions on 16 attempts. Only two drives for the Blue Devils lasted longer than 50 yards, and the rushing attack was limited to 3.4 yards per carry.
Perhaps Duke isn’t as good on offense as it showcased through the first four games, and the Hurricanes still have to play Georgia Tech, Cincinnati, North Carolina and Florida State, so the defense doesn’t have an easy path the rest of the year.
D’Onofrio entered 2014 on the hot seat, and if this coaching staff is going to succeed in Coral Gables, the defense has to take a step forward. So far, so good. But the upcoming schedule is certainly going to test the defense, especially against Florida State and Cincinnati.
Listen to the Week 5 recap podcast:
Week 5 wrapped up the first month of the college football season, but Saturday night’s
game against Duke was a critical one for Miami. The Hurricanes already lost to Louisville and an 0-2 hole in the Coastal Division is tough to rebound from.
There’s very little margin for error among the Coastal Division teams, and Miami’s improving defense is a good sign for its hopes of finally winning the division and playing for the conference title in December.
After Saturday’s win in Raleigh against NC State, it’s clear Florida State is not as dominant of a squad as coach Jimbo Fisher’s national championship winning team from 2013. However, in a season that’s lacking a clear No. 1 team, the Seminoles are still very much in the mix to factor into college football’s new four-team playoff.
And this is a team poised to improve as the season progresses, especially on defense where Florida State needed the most help on Saturday against NC State.
After a slow start against the Wolfpack, the Seminoles’ defense stepped up when it mattered.
After allowing 24 points in the first quarter, Florida State held NC State scoreless in the second quarter and limited the Wolfpack to just three points in the final period.
First-year coordinator Charles Kelly dialed up the right adjustments after the first quarter, holding the Wolfpack to three consecutive punts before the end of the first half. After NC State converted 5 of 9 third-down attempts in the first two quarters, the Wolfpack went just 2 of 7 over the final two periods.
NC State averaged 6.9 yards per play during the first half, but Florida State held Jacoby Brissett and the red-hot Wolfpack offense to just 4.4 yards per touch in the second half.
In addition to tightening the defensive scheme, the Seminoles forced three second-half turnovers, resulting in 14 points for the offense.
The defense certainly didn’t play its best game for Florida State, but in a matchup that was decided by a 15-point margin of victory, the Seminoles got two key turnovers that resulted in 14 points. Not bad.
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Some of Florida State’s defensive struggles have to be shared by the offense, as the Seminoles committed four turnovers and gave NC State a short field on drives that resulted in 13 points.
While winning a national championship has raised the expectation level for Fisher and this team in 2014, it’s important to consider this defense did not have a senior starter in Saturday’s win. And standout defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. did not play due to a concussion.
Sure, depth at defensive tackle and tackling are concerns, but Florida State picked up key performance from freshman defensive lineman Lorenzo Featherston (1.5 TFL, 1 FF), freshman linebacker Jacob Pugh (three tackles, 1 FR) and sophomore safety Jalen Ramsey (two forced fumbles).
Clearly, the youth and depth in certain positions are two issues to watch as the season progresses, but the talent is there to improve over the course of 2014. And with an explosive offense, Florida State’s defense doesn’t necessarily have to be a shutdown unit – at least right now.
Fisher’s team has delivered in the clutch in its three games against Power 5 opponents, starting with a defensive stand against Oklahoma State, a win without Jameis Winston versus Clemson and rallying from a 24-7 deficit against NC State.
The final numbers on defense won’t be pretty, but the second half performance against the Wolfpack is something Fisher and Kelly can build on over the next few weeks.
The goal is to win the game, which Arkansas failed to do Saturday afternoon against Texas A&M. But the Razorbacks, even in defeat, proved to the nation that they are once again relevant in college football.
We saw some signs in Week 1, when Arkansas battled Auburn, the defending SEC champs, to a 21–21 tie in the first two quarters before wilting in the second half. Then, two weeks later, the Hogs bludgeoned Texas Tech with 438 rushing yards in a 49–28 win in Lubbock. That win, though extremely impressive, came against a Red Raider team that had defeated Central Arkansas and UTEP by an average of 6.5 points.
On Saturday, the Hogs missed an opportunity to record a program-changing win against a top-10 (for now) opponent. They held a lead for the majority of the game and had a two-touchdown edge heading into the fourth quarter. But some self-inflicted wounds — including a bad snap which led to a missed field goal that likely would have clinched the game — prevented the Hogs from snapping their SEC losing streak, which now stands at 14. But again, we can’t lose sight of just how much progress this program has made in a short period of time.
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A year ago, Arkansas was outgained by an average of 138.3 yards per game en route to an 0–8 record in the SEC. This year, the Hogs have yet to record a league win, but they have found an offensive identity. They rank first in the SEC in rushing offense (316.6 ypg) and are averaging 6.1 yards per offensive in their two league games. It’s becoming evident that Bret Beliema’s preferred method of offensive football — a power-running game — can be successful at an SEC school not named Alabama or LSU.
Close losses and impressive stats, however, won’t make Arkansas a contender in the brutal SEC West. This team needs to find a way to break through and prove it can beat a good team. On Saturday, they came painfully close.
“Our guys did several things throughout the course of the game to get excited about,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said. “But obviously, not enough to close (out the game).”
The SEC West has emerged as the best collection of teams — in a division or league — that we have seen in college football in quite a long time. The SEC East? Not so much. But that doesn’t mean the race to represent the division in the league’s title game won’t be interesting.
As we head into October, you can make a case that six of the seven teams have a legitimate opportunity to win the division. Vanderbilt, at 0–3, is clearly out of the race. After that, it’s wide open.
Georgia is the most talented team in the division, but the Bulldogs, 1–1, have not played like a championship-caliber team in either league game — a three-point loss at South Carolina and a three-point win vs. Tennessee at home. Mark Richt’s team got a big break on Saturday night when South Carolina lost at home to Missouri.
Speaking of Missouri, the Tigers are the only team in the division without a league loss, and they have a key win at South Carolina. Still, Mizzou hasn’t exactly looked great in recent weeks. The Tigers lost at home to Indiana and were inept offensively until the final two drives Saturday night.
South Carolina is in a tough spot. The Gamecocks are already two games behind Missouri in the loss column and would lose a head-to-head tie-breaker with the Tigers.
Florida has issues on both sides of the ball — as we saw against Alabama two weeks ago. Still, the Gators, 1–1, have possibly the most favorable remaining schedule. They only have two more true road games — at Tennessee and at Vanderbilt — and they play LSU, Missouri and South Carolina in Gainesville. There is a difficult neutral site game against Georgia, but if Florida wins its home games and splits its two road games, that would give it at least five wins — which might be enough to tie for the division title.
Tennessee is much-improved, but the Vols aren’t good enough on the offensive line and have perhaps the most difficult schedule — including trips to Ole Miss and South Carolina sandwiched around a home date with Alabama — to be considered a serious threat. Still, I wouldn’t rule them out just yet.
And finally, Kentucky, which is a questionable non-call in Gainesville away from being 2–0 in the league with a win at Florida on its résumé. The Wildcats, at 3–1 overall, are halfway to bowl eligibility and still have home games against ULM (non-conference), South Carolina, Mississippi State and Georgia.
The West will continue to grab the national headlines — and deservedly so — but for pure drama, the East might be more interesting to watch. Stay tuned.
After a disastrous 6-22 record in three seasons, Charlie Weis was fired as Kansas’ head coach on Sunday. Weis went 1-18 in three years during Big 12 play in Lawrence, and the Jayhawks finished last in the conference in back-to-back years. Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen will serve as the interim coach for the final eight games of the year.
Kansas is not an easy job, and the last two coaches only got less than three years to show on-field progress.
And looking at the candidates, there’s not a natural fit for arguably the No. 10 job in the Big 12.
12 Coaching Candidates to Replace Fired Charlie Weis at Kansas
David Beaty, wide receivers coach, Texas A&M
Beaty has never worked as a head coach on the collegiate level, but he’s regarded as an excellent recruiter and worked as an assistant at Kansas from 2008-09 and in the 2011 season. Beaty’s ties to the Texas area would be huge for recruiting purposes, but he would need a strong staff to offset his lack of head coaching experience.
Willie Fritz, head coach, Georgia Southern
Fritz was a home-run hire by Georgia Southern. The Eagles are just 3-2 in 2014, but both losses came at the hands of ACC opponents (NC State and Georgia Tech), and Fritz’s team lost by a combined five points. Prior to taking over at Georgia Southern, Fritz went 40-14 at Sam Houston State and 97-47 at Central Missouri. Fritz was born in Kansas and has experience in the area from his time at Coffeyville College. Is Fritz willing to jump after one year at Georgia Southern? With his ties to the area and being a proven winner at different levels, Fritz would be an excellent fit in Lawrence.
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Scott Frost, offensive coordinator, Oregon
Kansas fans are certainly familiar with Frost from his days as a Nebraska quarterback, but the Nebraska native is a rising star in the coaching ranks. After working as a graduate assistant at Nebraska and Kansas State, Frost landed a job at Northern Iowa for two years (2007-08) and left for Oregon in 2009 to coach receivers. After Chip Kelly left for the NFL, Frost was promoted to offensive coordinator. The Ducks averaged 45.5 points per game last year and lead the Pac-12 with a 48.5 average in 2014. Frost does not have any prior head coaching experience.
Justin Fuente, head coach, Memphis
Don’t be fooled by Fuente’s 9-19 overall record at Memphis. The third-year coach clearly has the Tigers moving in the right direction and would be an excellent fit in Lawrence. The Oklahoma native spent five years in the Big 12 as an assistant at TCU and landed at Memphis to clean up a disaster left by previous coach Larry Porter. In three years, the Tigers have made significant progress. Memphis went 4-8 in 2012 and finished 3-9 in a tougher conference in 2013 (American Athletic Conference). And the Tigers are off to a 2-2 start with losses over Ole Miss and UCLA. Fuente’s experience in rebuilding a program at Memphis could be valuable in Lawrence. Does he want to aim higher than Kansas?
Tom Herman, offensive coordinator, Ohio State
Herman has worked as a play-caller on the collegiate level for 10 years and is a member of Mensa. The Ohio native is a young coach (39) with a lot of energy and is ready to take on the challenge of being a head coach at a Power 5 program. Herman does not have any experience as a head coach, but he’s worked under good coaches in Paul Rhoads and Urban Meyer.
Mark Hudspeth, head coach, ULL
Hudspeth is off to a slow start in his fourth season at ULL, as the Ragin’ Cajuns record stands at 1-3 after four games. But from 2011-13, Hudspeth went 28-15 and and guided ULL to three consecutive bowl games. Hudspeth’s success isn’t just limited to the Ragin’ Cajuns, as he recorded a 66-21 mark at North Alabama from 2002-08. The Mississippi native also has experience as an assistant at Mississippi State and Navy. Kansas seems like an odd fit for Hudspeth, but he’s ready for the opportunity to lead a bigger program.
Pete Lembo, head coach, Ball State
Lembo deserves a mention in this space, but he seems more apt to take a job in the Big Ten or in the ACC. In four years at Ball State, Lembo has guided the Cardinals to a 26-16 record. And prior to taking over in Muncie, Lembo went 35-22 with a playoff appearance at Elon. Lembo also went 44-14 from 2001-05 at Lehigh with two playoff trips. It’s only a matter of time before Lembo jumps at an opportunity to coach at a Power 5 conference. Is it Kansas? Or will a five-year contract extension signed in the spring keep him in Muncie another season?
Jim McElwain, head coach, Colorado State
McElwain’s stock continues to rise after Colorado State’s upset win at Boston College in Week 5. The Rams are 15-15 under his watch, with an 11-7 mark after the 2012 season. Prior to taking over in Fort Collins, McElwain worked as the offensive coordinator at Alabama and Fresno State and served as a quarterbacks’ coach with the Raiders in 2006. Whether it means anything or not, McElwain inked a contract extension (with a hefty buyout) with Colorado State prior to the season.
Ruffin McNeill, head coach, East Carolina
McNeill is a graduate of East Carolina, so leaving his alma mater won’t be easy. McNeill paid his dues for over 20 years as an assistant before landing the head coach job at East Carolina. During his time as an assistant, McNeill worked at Clemson, North Alabama, Appalachian State, UNLV, Fresno State and Texas Tech. In five years at East Carolina, McNeill is 32-23 and guided the Pirates to a 10-3 mark in 2013. Could McNeill and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley be a package deal for Kansas? Unlikely, but worth a shot for the Jayhawks.
Chad Morris, offensive coordinator, Clemson
It’s only a matter of time before Morris takes a job as a head coach. However, Morris can be patient and choose the right opening, as he’s one of the highest paid assistants in college football. Morris would seem to be the perfect fit for a program like Kansas, as he would provide a much-needed spark on the offensive side and knows how to recruit the Texas area. Morris is a Texas native and worked as a head coach on the high school level from 1994-2009. Under Morris’ direction, Clemson has averaged (including 2014) at least 40 points per game in each of the last three years.
Mike Norvell, offensive coordinator, Arizona State
Norvell is another young assistant primed to take a head-coaching job in the near future. But Norvell isn’t in any hurry to jump from his current position at Arizona State, as he’s compensated well and can have his pick of jobs in the future. Under Novell’s watch, the Sun Devils ranked in the top three of scoring in the Pac-12 in each of the last three years. Norvell has worked for Arizona State coach Todd Graham at three consecutive jobs (Tulsa, Pittsburgh and Arizona State) and spent one year as a graduate assistant at Central Arkansas.
Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Clemson
Venables has ties to the Kansas area and is one of the highest-paid coordinators in the nation. The Kansas native played at Kansas State for two seasons (1991-92) and worked in Manhattan from 1993-98. Venables also has prior Big 12 experience from a stop at Oklahoma (1993-2011) before landing the defensive coordinator job at Clemson. Under Venables’ direction, the Tigers have finished No. 3 in the ACC in scoring defense in back-to-back years.
Tim Beck, offensive coordinator, Nebraska
Beck is a former Kansas assistant and has served under Bo Pelini as Nebraska’s offensive coordinator since 2011. The Ohio native has the Cornhuskers averaging 45.4 points per game through the first five games of 2014. Beck does not have any head coach experience on the collegiate level.
Craig Bohl, head coach, Wyoming
Bohl is the best head coach in the Mountain West, but he’s in Year One at Wyoming. Don’t expect Bohl to leave after 2014, but he’s a name to watch for BCS jobs in the future.
Matt Campbell, head coach, Toledo
Rising star in the coaching ranks is 20-11 entering his third full season with the Rockets. Campbell is one of the youngest head coaches in the nation (34) and is a name to file away for BCS jobs 2015 or 2016.
Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator, Alabama
You never know…
Jim Leavitt, 49ers assistant
Leavitt’s tenure at USF’s head coach did not end on a good note, as there were allegations of player abuse that resulted in his termination at the end of the 2009 season. From 1997-2009, Leavitt recorded a 95-57 mark as the Bulls’ head coach, including five consecutive bowl appearances once the program joined the Big East. Leavitt has ties to the Texas and Kansas areas.
Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinator, Michigan State
Narduzzi passed on the opportunity to be UConn’s head coach last year. It’s likely he will do the same to Kansas, as he can land a higher-profile job in the future.
Ed Orgeron, former USC interim coach
Orgeron’s name popped up on Sunday in the early rumor mill for the vacancy. Orgeron struggled in his previous stint as a head coach at Ole Miss but rebounded in an interim role at USC last year. Unlikely fit.
Lincoln Riley, offensive coordinator, East Carolina
Riley is young (31) and one of the bright offensive minds in the nation. Is it too soon to make a jump to a Power 5 program?
Ed Warinner, Co-OC/OL coach, Ohio State
Warinner is a former Kansas assistant, working from 2003-04 and 2007-09 under Mark Mangino’s staff in Lawrence. The Ohio native has never been a head coach but has 20 years of experience as an assistant. Warinner is regarded as an outstanding recruiter.
Brady Hoke has more serious problems than an inept offense on gameday.
Before Hoke coaches another game at Michigan, he’ll need to provide better answers than ignorance for allowing his potentially concussed player to take two more snaps, including one after he had returned to the sideline to be replaced by a backup.
In the fourth quarter of a 30-14 loss to Minnesota, quarterback Shane Morris — already hobbled with a leg injury — took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Minnesota defensive end Thieren Cockran.
Morris limped to the sideline to get the next play, but he dropped his head and had to be held up by offensive tackle Ben Braden. Morris, making his first start of the season, waved his arm to stay in the game.
Cockran was called for a roughing the passer penalty, though he could have been ejected for targeting. ESPN analyst Ed Cunningham called the officials’ oversight “appalling.”
That level of ignorance pales compared to what transpired later from Hoke. Morris continued for one more snap, an incomplete pass. Only then, did Morris take himself out of the game, wobbling to the sideline.
Do we know with certainty that Morris suffered a concussion? No. But Michigan and the broadcast team saw enough to warrant having Morris on the bench to determine for sure.
Morris didn’t stay on the bench long. Three plays later, replacement quarterback Devin Gardner lost his helmet on a run toward the sideline. By rule, he had to sit out a play.
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While third-string quarterback Russell Bellomy scrambled for a helmet, Morris ended up back in the game for a handoff before returning to the sideline. Cunningham called the player management “atrocious.” Even before the Cockran hit, Cunningham was critical of Hoke’s handling of an obviously injured Morris, who continued to throw passes from the pocket on an injured left leg.
The entire sequence was textbook negligence for the safety of a player, but Hoke’s explanation was so much worse, it's embarrassing.
“Well, I don't know if he might have had a concussion or not,” Hoke told reporters after the game. “I don't know that. Shane's a pretty competitive tough kid. Shane wanted to be the quarterback. So believe me, if he didn't want to be, he would have come to the sideline or stayed down.”
That statement is unacceptable.
I don’t know if he had a concussion or not.
Did Hoke not see what the ESPN cameras picked up? Did he not see a dazed Morris being held up by a lineman? That’s possible, even if Minnesota was flagged for roughing the passer. Did a member of the staff catch it? Also possible, but Hoke is not wearing a headset, so it's plausible that someone in the booth was unable to effectively communicate with the head coach.
But the lack of certainty is enough to pull Morris. And not only did Morris stay in the game for one play after the hit, he returned. Take a timeout. Take a delay of game. Have a running back take a knee It doesn’t matter. Anything that stops Morris from returning to the game.
Shane wanted to be the quarterback. So believe me, if he didn't want to be, he would have come to the sideline or stayed down.
Hoke is deflecting the responsibility onto his 20-year-old quarterback who may or may not have sustained a head injury, not the man in paid in excess of $4 million to make quick decisions that in part concern the safety of his players.
Blame players for poor execution or poor preparation, that’s fine. But deciding which players should and should not be on the field is part of the job, and Hoke was incompetent for a stretch of four minutes in this regard.
Whether Morris sustained a concussion or not, Hoke whiffed, and he may need to answer for it with his job.
Watch the entire sequence:
UPDATE: Michigan coach Brady Hoke released a statement Sunday evening through the school:
“The safety of our student-athletes is always our top priority. We generally never discuss the specifics of a student-athlete's medical care, but Shane Morris was removed from yesterday's game against Minnesota after further aggravating an injury to his leg that he sustained earlier in the contest. He was evaluated by our experienced athletic trainers and team physicians, and we're confident proper medical decisions were made. The University of Michigan has a distinguished group of Certified Athletic Trainers and team physicians who are responsible for determining whether or not a player is physically able to play. Our coaches have no influence or authority to make determinations if or when an injured player returns to competition. The health and welfare of our student-athletes is and will continue to be a top priority.”
Kansas fired coach Charlie Weis after Saturday’s 23-0 loss to Texas. Weis was just 6-22 in three seasons as the Jayhawks’ head coach and had only one win in Big 12 play.
Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen will serve as the interim head coach. Through four games, Kansas is 2-2 with wins over Central Michigan and SEMO.
Weis was an odd hire for athletic director Sheahon Zenger and was a questionable move for a program that has struggled to show consistent on-field progress in the Big 12.
And in Weis’ three seasons, it was hard to find progress, as Kansas continued to rank as the worst team in the Big 12.
Weis took over at Kansas after serving as Florida’s offensive coordinator for one season (2011), which came on the heels of a one-year stop with the Chiefs.
Prior to the 2011 season in the NFL, Weis went 35-27 as Notre Dame’s head coach, which included two losing seasons over his final three years.
Dallas will aim to extend its winning streak to three games and erase one of the most painful memories of its 2013 season when it hosts New Orleans tonight on NBC. If recent history between these two teams matters, it favors the Saints in this one. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is 0–3 all time against New Orleans, while Saints coach Sean Payton has a 3–1 ledger against Dallas.
And the teams' most recent meeting was a low point for the Garrett regime. Last season in Week 10, the Saints destroyed the Cowboys 49-17 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, as Drew Brees completed 34 of 41 passes for 392 yards and four TDs (passer rating of 139.0), and running back Mark Ingram rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown. In the teams' last meeting in Dallas, in 2012, the game was much closer but still produced a Saints offensive explosion, as Brees threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns and Marques Colston caught 10 passes for 153 yards.
New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: New Orleans -3
Three Things to Watch
|New Orleans 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||@ ATL||L 34 - 37||Recap|
|9/14||@ CLE||L 24 - 26||Recap|
|9/21||vs MIN||W 20 - 9||Recap|
|9/28||@ DAL||L 17 - 38||Recap|
1. Romo vs. Saints secondary
We've established that Saints quarterback Drew Brees has a stellar history against the Cowboys, but we must also acknowledge that Dallas quarterback Tony Romo has a certain comfort level against the Saints. In his last home start against New Orleans in 2012, Romo passed for 416 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 123.8 QB rating. Wide receiver Dez Bryant had a career game in that matchup, catching nine passes for 224 yards and two 58-yard touchdowns. They'll be facing a Saints defense that has shown an alarming inability to produce big plays. This unit has forced just one turnover and has collected only four sacks in three games while allowing 369 yards per contest. The Saints have been particularly vulnerable on third-and-long. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will need to construct a creative game plan to thwart his former employer on its home field.
|Dallas 2014 Schedule|
|9/7||vs SF||L 17 - 28||Recap|
|9/14||@ TEN||W 26 - 10||Recap|
|9/21||@ STL||W 34 - 31||Recap|
|9/28||vs NO||W 38 - 17||Recap|
2. Dissension in Big D?
Dallas cornerback Morris Claiborne made headlines earlier in the week when he skipped a walk-through and stormed out of the Cowboys' Valley Ranch headquarters after learning of his demotion. "I think he understood that he made a mistake," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said of Claiborne, who was called out on the radio by owner Jerry Jones. "Guys are competitors. When they hear news that doesn't go their way, different guys react different ways. He obviously knew that he didn't react the right way, and he had a chance to kind of collect himself. He came by last night and we addressed it, and we addressed it head on. He's back in here this morning and ready to go to work." The drama in Big D seemingly never ends, and although the Cowboys’ miraculous comeback in a Week 3 win over the Rams bought them a little time, they're one ill-timed loss from returning to full-on meltdown mode.
3. The Saints' Search for Consistency
New Orleans has only been consistent in its inconsistency so far this season. The offense has looked unstoppable on occasion but has sputtered at some inopportune times. On paper, the Saints possess one of the NFL's better offenses: fourth in both total yards and red zone touchdown percentage, and first in third-down conversions — but only seventh in scoring. Until the defense finds its footing, the offense has to convert every opportunity presented to it.
The Saints are one of the bigger disappointments in this young NFL season. Even in their first win of the season, a fairly comfortable 20-9 victory over the Vikings, there were errors and breakdowns on defense, and once again, the Saints failed to force a turnover, although they didn't turn it over on offense, either. After an offseason focused on takeaways, New Orleans is riding an 11-quarter streak without one and is still searching for a defensive spark. If they can't find one against the turnover-prone Cowboys, it could be a long season.
Prediction: Dallas 35, New Orleans 27
Week 5 of college football’s 2014 season is officially in the books. And as expected with every Saturday, there was plenty of excitement, big plays and last-minute wins among the FBS action.
In case you missed any action, we tried to capture the big moments of Saturday in one article. The viral wrap-up features key plays, interesting quotes/comments in tweets, uniform unveilings and any major injuries.
College Football's Most Viral Moments from Week 5
The Sheriff and the Brick Mason. pic.twitter.com/mk7F4Vscic— Football Time in TN (@FootballTimeMag) September 27, 2014
That's a fox running through the stands of Ford Stadium at SMU. pic.twitter.com/xSeqYj4BuE— Greg Tepper (@Tepper) September 27, 2014
Sparse really doesn't capture the, uh, crowd for TCU at SMU this morning. pic.twitter.com/Wdi6fxjJHS— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) September 27, 2014
Florida fans! You are no longer alone! pic.twitter.com/3QL80nCcSK— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) September 27, 2014
Todd Gurley hurdle. https://t.co/2B129Ht12u— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) September 27, 2014
Jacoby Brissett's wild TD vs. Florida State if you missed it. That's a strong dude. VIDEO: https://t.co/QFLiy3ui4P— Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis) September 27, 2014
Bill Snyder says he switched wind-breakers today because the Big 12 asked him to stop advertising the now defunct BWW Bowl. Not kidding.— Kellis Robinett (@KellisRobinett) September 27, 2014
Another Orange-out in Miami pic.twitter.com/eBjHbUX54m— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) September 27, 2014
… Meanwhile at FAU, Jeff Driskel is tailgating. pic.twitter.com/7cETwCEccO— Andrew Ivins (@andrewrivins) September 27, 2014
Announcer during UMASS game: "The video board just fell." pic.twitter.com/OA0LSc2lnM— Chris Hassel (@hasselESPN) September 27, 2014
The look Steve Spurrier gives Maty Mauk after this: "Son, I'll whoop your ass." https://t.co/0z4rQM57Wf— Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis) September 28, 2014
Bryce Petty wow https://t.co/LFPXfx1Z8p— PlannedSickDays (@PlannedSickDays) September 28, 2014
Look at this photo and tell me he is not concussed, TELL ME. (Photo Credit: Leon Halip, USA TODAY) pic.twitter.com/FNR75YG2Sv— Joshua Henschke (@JoshuaHenschke) September 28, 2014
After his team lost by 3 to Georgia, Tennessee coach Butch Jones likened defending Georgia’s run game to defending the wishbone.
Don't give Georgia any ideas. It's scary what Todd Gurley might do if he played in that kind of offense. Playing in the Bulldogs pro-style is scary enough.
The Georgia tailback rushed for a career-high 208 yards on 28 carries with two touchdowns in a 35-32 win over Tennessee to earn Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.
The Bulldogs needed every bit of Gurley’s production, and despite playing the deepest backfield in the country, Gurley may be the nation's most indispensable player.
Gurley rushed for a 51-yard touchdown to boost a fourth-quarter lead, hurdled over a Tennessee defender and picked up a fourth-and-3 conversion with a gutty four-yard gain.
"Earlier in the year, I said he is at least one of the best players in the country,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Now, I'm saying he's the best player in America. I can't imagine anyone being more talented, a guy who loves his team more, and a guy who means more to his team than he does to us.”
National Defensive Player of the Week: Ishmael Adams, UCLA
Arizona State may have racked up 626 yards against UCLA but couldn’t stop the Bruins in the big-play department in any phase of the game. Defensive back Ishmael Adams helped changed the momentum twice. First, he recorded a 95-yard pick six as Arizona State was driving for a score to close the first half. Adams then returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown after the Sun Devils cut the lead to two touchdowns in the third quarter.
National Freshman of the Week: Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Deshaun Watson flashed his potential in extended work against Florida State. He delivered against defense-challenged North Carolina in his first career start. Watson completed 27-of-36 passes for 435 yards with six touchdowns and an interception in a 50-35 win over North Carolina.
National Coordinator of the Week: Brian Stewart, Maryland
Injuries have been mounting for the Maryland defense, and Indiana is fresh off a win at Missouri. All signs would point to a shootout for a Terrapins team that two weeks ago gave up 40 points to West Virginia. The Terrapins, though, keyed the program’s first Big Ten victory, a 37-15 win over Indiana. The high-powered Hoosiers were limited to a season-low 332 total yards. Indiana was 14-of-37 passing with 126 yards and an interception.
Conference players of the week:
ACC: Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya completed 21-of-25 passes for 226 yards with two touchdowns in a 22-10 win over Duke.
Big 12: Oklahoma State quarterback Daxx Garman completed 17-of-31 passes for 370 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions in a 45-35 win over Texas Tech on Thursday.
Big Ten: Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries in a 45-14 win over Illinois.
Pac-12: UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley was 18-of-23 for 355 yards with four touchdowns in a 62-27 win over Arizona State on Thursday. He also rushed for 72 yards on eight carries.
American: Temple quarterback P.J. Walker completed 20-of-29 passes for 231 yards with a touchdown in a 36-10 win over Connecticut. Walker also rushed for a touchdown.
Conference USA: Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky completed 38-of-54 passes for 387 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 36-27 win over Navy. Doughty also rushed for a touchdown.
MAC: Akron linebacker Jatavis Brown had 11 tackles and a sack in a 21-10 win over Pittsburgh. The Zips are the first team to hold James Conner to fewer than 100 yards this season.
Mountain West: Air Force safety Weston Steelhammer had three interceptions, two tackles for a loss a sack and four tackles in a 28-14 win over Boise State.
Sun Belt: Georgia Southern quarterback Kevin Ellison rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries in a 34-14 win over Appalachian State. He also completed 6-of-10 passes for 73 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Independents: Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson completed 31-of-39 passes for 362 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions in a 31-15 win over Syracuse. Golson completed 25 consecutive passes at one point.
If Week 5 reinforced anything, it was the role of clutch play for any Heisman contender.
The big play at the right time covers up a ton of miscues or stretches of ineffective play.
That is the theme for this week’s contenders. Kenny Hill and Everett Golson didn’t have the best games of their careers, but they were in charge when the game mattered most.
Brett Hundley, after missing almost an entire game two weeks ago, showed why he is so valuable during a lopsided stretch for UCLA against Arizona State.
And Gurley remained one of the biggest gamebreakers of the week as the Georgia offense went from very good to great any time he was on the field.
Here is our look at the last week and who moved up or down in the Heisman race.
Gurley may be the best hope to end Heisman dominance by quarterbacks. The Bulldogs junior set a career high with 208 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries in a 35-32 win over Tennessee. Georgia coach Mark Richt revised his statement that Gurley is one of the best in the country to making Gurley the best player in the country.
The Aggies quarterback didn’t have the best game of his young career. He threw an interception, completed 21-of-41 passes and received help from Arkansas’ defensive breakdowns. But 386 passing yards and four touchdowns — two in the final 2:08 of regulation and overtime — keeps him in the Heisman race and A&M in the hunt in the SEC.
Hackenberg couldn’t rescue Penn State in this one. Behind a leaky offensive line, Hackenberg had his worst game of the season, completing 22-of-45 passes for 216 yards with the first pick six of his career in a 29-6 home loss to Northwestern. Hackenberg as four TDs and six INTs this season.
Golson had his official statline corrected, so he didn’t catch the FBS record of 26 consecutive completions as we once believed. And Golson also had three turnovers (two interceptions, fumble). Still, Golson’s 25 consecutive completions is impressive against anyone, anytime. Golson finished 32-of-39 for 362 yards with four touchdowns in a 31-15 win over Syracuse.
This guy was supposed to be hurt, right? Hundley came back from his injury against Texas two weeks ago with his best game of the season, leading a 62-27 rout of Arizona State on Thursday. Hundley completed 18-of-23 passes fro 355 yards with four touchdowns. He also rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
Gordon has picked up the first two fumbles of his career the last two weeks, but the turnovers only seem to make him stronger. Gordon rushed for 131 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries in the second half against USF a week after rushing for 253 yards and five touchdowns on 12 carries after his fumble against Bowling Green.
Abdullah made sure Gurley and Gordon didn’t remain the only running backs in Heisman contention. Starting with 127 yards in the first quarter alone, Abdullah rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries in a 45-14 win over Illinois. Abdullah rushed for 437 yards in the last two weeks.
Iowa stymied Conner in the second half last week. Akron was able to do it through the course of a whole game. Akron held Conner to season lows in yards (92), touchdowns (none, the first time he failed to reach the end zone) and yards per carry (3.7) in a 21-10 win.
Thompson returned a fumble 32 yards for a touchdown and added seven tackles and a tackle for a loss. The linebacker Thompson has scored four touchdowns this season (two fumbles, an interception, one rushing) but Washington needs to win a marquee game to keep him in the running. Washington lost 20-13 to Stanford.
One All-Pro running back looks ready to return for his Week 4 Monday night matchup, while a couple of struggling starting quarterbacks could end up sitting this one out. Here are some key running back and quarterback injuries you need to pay attention to.
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Pittsburgh Steelers
Probable – Knee
As was expected, Martin did not play against Atlanta on Thursday night last week due to a knee injury he sustained in the season opener. However, he was back at practice this week and is listed as Probable to start against the Steelers. Bobby Rainey, who started the two games Martin missed, will slide back into his backup role and should be viewed as no more than a flex option this week. Martin meanwhile has been a disappointment dating back to last season when a torn labrum ended his season after just six games. A legitimate RB1 as a rookie, Martin looks more the part of a RB2/flex right now, especially given the Buccaneers’ own offensive struggles.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots (Mon.)
Probable – Ankle
Even though he was limited in practice it sure sounds like Charles will be back on the field just two weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain. He’s listed as Probable for the Monday night game and all indications are that he will play. The Monday night game complicates matters a little, but unless something changes between now and prior to kickoff of today’s early games, I think you need to plan on starting Charles. One thing to keep in mind though is considering how effective Knile Davis was during Charles’ absence, there’s a chance the coaching staff may try and limit the All-Pro’s touches in his first game back from injury. That said, as long as Charles doesn’t re-aggravate the ankle injury, I think he’s a safe bet for at least 20 touches against the Patriots.
Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts
Questionable – Wrist
The Titans took their lumps last week against the Bengals and apparently that included their quarterback. Locker injured his wrist at some point in the 33-7 loss and it was sore enough that it prevented him from doing much of anything in practice. Locker is Questionable, but if I had to put odds on him playing, I would place them well below the 50-50 associated with that designation. The other side of the coin is that since a solid Week 1 showing, Locker hasn’t played very well, providing one touchdown compared to four turnovers in the past two games combined. If Locker can’t go Charlie Whitehurst would get the call. Either way, unless you’re desperate or have no other options, I would consider the Titans’ QBs as being on bye this week too.
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints
Probable – Back
Back tightness continues to be an issue for Romo, who did not practice on Wednesday. But just like last week, he was a full go on both Thursday and Friday and is Probable for tonight’s home date with New Orleans. The Cowboys have depended on the running game early on this season, but the possibility of a high-scoring affair exists with the Saints on tap. Regardless, you are starting Romo, especially this week with six teams on bye.
Josh McCown, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Pittsburgh Steelers
Doubtful - Thumb
McCown got pummeled last week by the Falcons, leaving the game early after suffering a thumb injury. He’s listed as Doubtful for today with the expectation that Mike Glennon will start. The truth is you would have to be pretty desperate to use McCown right now since he’s looked pretty bad thus far. As far as Glennon goes, he was more than respectable (19 TDs, 9 INTs) as the primary starter last season when he was a rookie, so he has a fair amount of experience. The Buccaneers have struggled early on, but with six other teams on bye, I can support someone who wants to take a flyer on Glennon, especially as a QB2.
RBs Already Ruled Out:
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints – Ingram broke his hand in Week 2 against Cleveland and underwent surgery. He’s expected to miss at least a month. Pierre Thomas will continue to serve as the primary receiving back, while Khiry Robinson will get the bulk of the carries, especially around the goal line.
Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers – Mathews is expected to miss at least a month after spraining his MCL in Week 2 while Woodhead was placed on injured reserve after breaking his leg last week against Buffalo. Donald Brown will carry the load for the time being with undrafted rookie Branden Oliver listed next on the depth chart.
Knowshon Moreno, Miami Dolphins – Moreno is out at least a few weeks after dislocating his elbow in Week 2. He is hoping to return following the team’s Week 5 bye. Lamar Miller will continue to get the starter’s reps while Moreno is out.