Notre Dame's Brian Kelly picked up his signature victory this week
The day in college football Saturday began with an upset no one saw coming when Pittsburgh, a team that looked like a mess against Youngstown State and Cincinnati, was dominant on both sides of the ball against Virginia Tech.
The night ended with Utah fans prematurely rushing the field twice against BYU -- first when officials ruled one second remained in the game and again before a blocked kick was called back on a 15-yard penalty. When the 36-yard attempt missed, Utah rushed the field, appropriately this time, for the 24-21 win.
In the middle, Stanford bruised USC’s national championship and Heisman hopes with yet another win over the Trojans, its fourth in a row. Alabama again flexed its muscles with a dismantling of Arkansas. Florida State and Notre Dame hinted Saturday this year might be different from previous seasons.
THREE AND OUT: WEEK 3 RECAP
MOVING THE CHAINS
Notre Dame. Pick the reason Brian Kelly picked up his signature win of his tenure at Notre Dame: A 3-0 start. A win over a ranked team. Holding a top-10 team to a field goal on the road. The end of a six-game losing streak to ranked teams. In any event, it was a key win for Kelly, whose team was more physical than Michigan State, recording four sacks. Everett Golson was a lackluster 14-of-32, but he passed for a touchdown and rushed for a score in the second half.
Florida State. Against Wake Forest, the Seminoles conquered the thorn in their side in definitive fashion. The Demon Deacons had won four of the last six against the Seminoles before Florida State drilled Wake Forest 52-0. After facing Murray State and Savannah State, it was the first real test of the season, which Florida State answered with 385 rushing yards. The biggest story of the day, however, was Chris Thompson. He suffered a career-threatening broken back against Wake a year ago but returned to rush for 197 yards on nine carries. Thompson ran for touchdowns of 74 and 80 yards.
Jeff Driskel, Florida. Few players have enjoyed a rise in stature since the opener as much as the Gators’ quarterback. He left Gainesville as a questionable starter following a close win over Bowling Green and returns with wins in College Station and Knoxville. Driskel was 27 of 36 for 381 yards in wins over Texas A&M and Tennessee the last two weeks and added 82 rushing yards in the 37-20 win over the Volunteers. Along the way, Florida has outscored opponents 50-13 in the second half this season.
USC. Stanford exposed the cracks in USC’s national championship bid, taking advantage of the Trojans’ lack of depth in a 21-14 win. With Athlon second-team preseason All-American center Khaled Holmes out, USC’s offensive line was a mess. The Trojans gave up five sacks, including two on USC’s final drive. Combined with USC’s struggles against Syracuse last week, the Trojans road to a Pac-12 title, never mind a BCS championship, looks much tougher.
Virginia Tech. On a day full of shocking final scores and surprising upsets, the Hokies made an early bid for the most inexplicable outcome of the day. Virginia Tech lost 35-17 to Pittsburgh, a team that lost by two touchdowns to Youngstown State and by 24 to Cincinnati. It’s tough to pick the most strange aspect of the game: Pitt rushed for 254 yards against a normally stout Hokies’ defense, and Virginia Tech ran for only 59 yards. Cincinnati ran for nearly as much (58 yards) on its first play from scrimmage against Pitt last week.
SEC hot seat coaches. Arkansas’ John L. Smith made a bid to fail to complete his one-year contract when Arkansas followed up a loss to Louisiana-Monroe with a 52-0 rout against Alabama. In a potential referendum on his tenure at Tennessee, Derek Dooley’s Volunteers blew a 20-13 lead to give up 24 unanswered points in the second half against Florida. The defining moment may have been an errant pass from Tyler Bray, which Dooley caught on the sideline. Dooley caught it with one hand and nonchalantly spiked it to the ground. Meanwhile, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips went 0-for-2 against the state with an overtime loss at home to Western Kentucky.
Matt Barkley, USC. Barkley played most of the 21-14 loss to Stanford under pressure, finishing the game with five sacks and two interceptions. The preseason Heisman favorite completed 20 of 41 passes, the first time he completed fewer than half his passes since going 7-of-22 against Arizona State during his freshman year.
Braxton Miller, Ohio State. The Buckeyes’ sophomore quarterback keeps rolling through the Buckeyes’ non-conference schedule. Miller started his game against with a 55-yard run for a a touchdown in the first quarter and then capitalized on broken coverage for the game-winning 72-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith. Miller failed to crack 100 rushing yards for the first time this season but attempted a career-high 30 passes in the 35-28 win over Cal.
Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech. Thomas entered the season with as much fanfare as any Hokies quarterback since Tyrod Taylor, if not Michael Vick. Perhaps it’s time to slow down on the lofty comparisons. Thomas had the worst game of his career against Pittsburgh, throwing three interceptions and completing only 14 of 31 passes in a stunning 35-17 loss.
WEEK 3 BIG EAST WINS OVER THE ACC
• Louisville 39, North Carolina 34
• Connecticut 24, Maryland 21
• Pittsburgh 35, Virginia Tech 17
WEEK 3 SCORES THAT MAKE YOU GO ‘HUH?’
• Pittsburgh 35, Virginia Tech 17
• Fresno State 69, Colorado 14
• Western Kentucky 32, Kentucky 31 (OT)
THREE MAJOR CONFERENCE TEAMS TO LOSE TO NORTHWESTERN
• Boston College, 22-13
• Vanderbilt, 23-13
• Syracuse, 42-41
9. West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith completed 34 of 39 passes for 411 yards with five touchdown passes against James Madison. For the second week in a row, Smith has accounted for as many touchdown passes as incompletions, giving him nine of each this season. Throw in the rushing TD against Marshall, and Smith has more touchdowns (10) than incomplete passes (nine) this season.
2. Sun Belt teams had never won two games in a single season against the SEC, but the league did it in back-to-back weeks in overtime. A week after ULM upset Arkansas, Western Kentucky defeated Kentucky 32-31 in overtime when Hilltoppers coach Willie Taggart called for lateral and a pass back to the hands of quarterback Kawaun Jakes on a two-point conversion. Meanwhile, ULM took Auburn to overtime before a 31-28 loss. Meanwhile, Troy played within a touchdown in a 30-24 loss to Mississippi State, and North Texas put a scare into Kansas State in a 35-21 loss.
4. Duke Johnson touchdowns. Where would Miami be without it star freshman? Johnson accounted for four touchdowns against Bethune-Cookman on a 95-yard kickoff return, a 1-yard run, a 50-yard reception and a 38-yard run. Ole Miss’ Jaylen Walton, Northwestern’s Venric Mark, Cal’s Keenan Allen and North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard are the only players with a touchdown run, catch and return this season. Only Bernard and Johnson did them all in the same game.
Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska. In his second game subbing for Rex Burkhead, Abdullah rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries in a 42-13 win over Arkansas State. Defensive coordinator John Papuchis also stepped in for an ailing starter when coach Bo Pelini was taken to the hospital during the game for “precautionary tests.”
Max Shortell, Minnesota. The Gophers backup quarterback stepped in for MarQuies Gray to complete 10 of 17 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-23 win over Western Michigan. Gray was carted off the field with a high ankle sprain.
Corbin Berkstresser, Missouri. Redshirt freshman quarterback Corbin Berkstresser wasn’t perfect, but the Tigers built a 17-0 lead against Arizona State in his first career start. Berkstresser completed 21 of 41 passes for 198 yards with an interception and a rushing touchdowns in Mizzou’s 24-20 win over the Sun Devils.
BURIED ON THE DEPTH CHART
Vanderbilt. A week before facing Georgia, Vanderbilt switched quarterbacks. The Commodores started Wyoming transfer Austyn-Carta Samuels against Presbyterian instead of Jordan Rodgers, who had started nine games in a row. Carta-Samuels completed 13 of 20 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. Commodores coach James Franklin did not announce Carta-Samuels as the starter for the Georgia game.
Ball State. The Cardinals defeated Indiana for the third straight time with a 41-39 win in Bloomington on a 42-yard field goal in the final six seconds. Ball State led by 14 going into the fourth quarter before an Indiana comeback bid.
Northern Illinois. The defending MAC champions survived a scare with a 41-40 win over Army. The Black Knights’ option can give defenses trouble, but Army produced three running backs who topped 100 yards and scored at least one touchdown.
DANG, THEY’RE GOOD
DANG, THEY’RE BAD
BEST GAMES NEXT WEEK
• Michigan at Notre Dame
• Kansas State at Oklahoma
• Clemson at Florida State
THREE CRAZY THINGS TO HAPPEN IN LESS THAN FOUR MINUTES
In 3:59, Florida ran a failed fake punt to safety Matt Elam. Then, Tennessee failed to capitalize on field position with a three-and-out. On Florida’s next play, Trey Burton took a direct snap for an 80-yard touchdown. The Vols’ ensuing drive ended on a Tyler Bray interception to Elam. Florida took advantage with a quick 70-drive ending on a Jeff Driskel touchdown pass to Jordan Reed. A 20-13 Tennessee lead evaporated to 27-20 Gator lead, and Tennessee never recovered.
In 3:03, Stanford and USC traded interceptions. Josh Nunes, then Matt Barkley and Nunes again threw picks on three consecutive plays late in the second quarter. Nunes wrapped up the interception-fest five plays later.
In 2:30, Fresno State scored two touchdowns of 90 yards or more against Colorado. The first was a 97-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr to Isaiah Burse. After a quick Colorado possession and punt, Robbie Rouse rushed for 3 yards on first down and 94-yards on second down to open a 35-0 lead after the first quarter.
THREE OUT-OF-THE-ORDINARY THINGS FROM ALABAMA 52, ARKANSAS 0
Arkansas was shutout at home for the first time since a 7-0 loss to Baylor in 1966. The difference between that Razorbacks’ team and this one: The 1966 Arkansas team finished 8-2 and shut out five opponents that season.
Despite not playing, injured quarterback Tyler Wilson asked to speak to the media after the loss to call out his team. “Do I feel that we, at times, gave up out there? Yeah, absolutely,” he said.
Arkansas coach John L. Smith, who has a track record of speaking off the cuff in halftime interviews, continued to do so during the Alabama game. Arkansas trailed 24-0 at the time:
By David Fox