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Defense was in short supply throughout the country in Week 5
What was supposed to be a ho-hum week of college football turned out to be an explosion of offense. The day began with a relatively low-scoring first quarter from Baylor and West Virginia with “only” 28 points and ended with a 133-point binge.
Quarterbacks Geno Smith and Nick Florence combined for 1,237 passing yards in the highest-scoring game in regulation in five seasons.
West Virginia and Baylor weren’t alone. Five teams crossed the 700-yard mark Saturday, as many as had reached that milestone in the first four weeks of the season. Even the defense-first SEC got into the act in Georgia’s 51-44 win over Tennessee.
WEEK 5 RECAP: THREE AND OUT
MOVING THE CHAINS
Georgia’s freshman running backs. The “Gurshall” backfield (rhymes with “Herschel”) may end up being best best backfield duo since USC’s Reggie Bush and LenDale White. Todd Gurley and Keith Marhsall had their best game of the season with 294 combined rushing yards and five touchdowns in the 51-44 win over Tennessee. Marshall broke off touchdown runs of 75 and 72 yards for 164 total yards on the day. Gurley was the workhorse with 130 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries (with a 51-yard TD run of his own). Together Gurley and Marshall are averaging nine yards per carry with 11 rushing touchdowns in three SEC games. The Bulldogs have scored at least 40 points in every game this season.
Texas quarterback David Ash. The highlight catch was Mike Davis’ leaping reception over Oklahoma State quarterback Justin Gilbert to the Cowboys’ 5-yard line, but Ash’s most clutch throw was two plays earlier on fourth and 6 to D.J. Grant to move Texas from inside its own 30 to Oklahoma State territory. Both plays set up the game-winning touchdown in a 41-36 win on the road. Texas’ run game struggled for most of the day before waking up in the the fourth quarter, and the stout Longhorn defense surrendered 576 yards to a Cowboys’ team starting a redshirt freshman second-string quarterback. Ash, though, remained steady the whole day, completing 30-of-37 passes for 304 yards with three touchdowns and his first pick of the season. His first three games, it seems, were not a fluke.
Nebraska. Early in the second half against Wisconsin, the Cornhuskers appeared to be heading for another disappointing home loss. Nebraska had two turnovers in the first half against the Badgers and a third early in the third quarter, not to mention a roughing the punter penalty that led to a Wisconsin touchdown. After falling behind by 17, Nebraska scored 20 unanswered points to win 30-27. After a fumble early in the third quarter, quarterback Taylor Martinez recovered to lead four consecutive scoring drives for the win. After his fumble, Martinez was 7 of 14 for 106 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 71 yards on six carries.
Virginia Tech. The Hokies started the season ranked No. 16 in the preseason AP poll and No. 20 in the coaches’ poll, but they’ve dropped both their games against the Big East. Where the loss to Pittsburgh was a rout from beginning to end, the defeat to Cincinnati was more of a heartbreaker. The Hokies took a 24-20 lead on a masterful 56-yard touchdown pass from Logan Thomas to Corey Fuller, but Cincinnati quarterback Munchie Legaux came up with the last laugh with receiver Damon Julien rolling into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown catch with 13 seconds remaining. Thomas, meanwhile, has had five picks in two games against Big East teams.
Jeff Tedford, Cal. The Bears’ hopes for a rebound season are looking slim. At 1-4 with the only win over Southern Utah, Cal is off to its worst start under Jeff Tedford. After two difficult road games against Ohio State and USC, a game against Arizona State in Berkeley presented Cal a chance to regroup. That never happened. The Bears amassed only 285 yards of offense as Zach Maynard as 9-of-28 passing, and playmaker Brendan Bigelow never touched the ball on offense. Cal is 13-17 overall and 7-13 in the Pac-12 since the start of the 2012 season.
Southern Miss’ field. There are poor weather conditions, and then there are the conditions in which Louisville and Southern Miss played. Heavy rain fell through the entire game in Hattiesburg, Miss., and never seemed to drain from the artificial turf. Puddles and standing water consumed the field as Louisville erased an 11-point deficit to win 21-17. Southern Miss adjusted to the conditions by all but abandoning the pass, failing to complete a pass until late in the fourth quarter.
Geno Smith, West Virginia. Smith solidified his spot as the Heisman frontrunner by breaking a handful of records against Baylor. He completed 45 of 51 passes for 656 yards (a school record) with eight touchdown passes (tying a Big 12 record). He shattered the single-game record for pass efficiency for a quarterback with at least 50 attempts with a rating of 248.05. The previous record was 199.2 held by Louisville quarterback Chris Redman in 1998. By the NFL’s efficiency formula, Smith would have had a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3.
De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon. The Ducks’ all-purpose threat has slowed in conference play. Though he rushed for a touchdown in the 51-26 win over Washington State, Thomas didn’t break the big play against the Cougars. His 54 yards from scrimmage were a season low, which followed only 65 yards from scrimmage against Arizona. Thomas averaged 15.3 yards per touch in three non-conference game compared to 6.7 yards per touch against Pac-12 foes Arizona and Washington State.
Braxton Miller, Ohio State. Miller had has miscues, including three turnovers (two fumbles, one interception) in Michigan State territory, but he was the best player on the field in a 17-16 Ohio State win. Miller was 16-of-23 passing with 179 yards with a touchdown. Meanwhile, he out-dueled Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell in the ground game. Miller rushed for 136 yards on 23 carries compared to 45 yards on 17 carries for Bell. For better or worse, Miller is a one-man show for Ohio State.
BURIED ON THE DEPTH CHART
Boise State. The Broncos have gone from a perennial BCS contender to a team fighting to escape with a win against New Mexico. The Broncos opened a 25-0 lead in the first half, but the Lobos scored the rare second-half comeback against Boise State, narrowing the lead to a field goal in the 32-29 loss.
Texas Tech's defense. The Red Raiders' improved defense under first-year coordinator Art Kaufman may be legitimate after all. Texas Tech entered the week leading the nation in total defense and pass efficiency defense only a year after finishing in the bottom 10 nationally in those categories. Texas Tech remained in the national lead in both categories after holding Iowa State to 189 total yards. Cyclones quarterbacks were 10-of-20 for 73 yards with three interceptions. Kaufman, Tech’s fourth defensive coordinator in four seasons, may have staying power.
Duke. With a 34-27 win over Wake Forest, Duke (4-1) is off to its best start since starting 7-0 in 1994. But the news isn’t all good: Quarterback Sean Renfree left the game with an injury to his throwing elbow. And the road to bowl eligibility will be awfully tough. Only two of Duke’s remaining opponents have losing records -- Virginia and Georgia Tech.
300. How rare is a 300-yard receiving game? Before this season only 15 players topped 300 receiving yards in a game in major college football/FBS history. There had never been more than two 300-yard receivers in any season. In a span of two weeks in 2012, three receivers have topped 300 yards, including two in one game. Arkansas’ Cobi Hamilton (303 yards) did it last week against Rutgers. Baylor’s Terrance Williams (314) and West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey (303) both hit the milestone in the shootout in Morgantown.
1. Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, the top prospect for a handful of recruiting services in the 2012 signing class, recorded his first career touchdown on an 80-yard catch against UCF. Although it was his only catch of the game, it’s the biggest impact he’s had all season. In each of the previous three games, Green-Beckham had only one catch for fewer than 10 yards each.
0. Oregon State is undefeated at the start of October for the first time since 2000, the year the Beavers reached the Fiesta Bowl under former coach Dennis Erickson. Oregon State needed a touchdown pass from Sean Mannion in the final 1:09 to defeat Arizona 38-35 in Tucson, but don’t forget first-quarter success for Oregon State: The Beavers haven’t allowed a first quarter point all season in wins over Wisconsin, UCLA and Arizona.
THREE QUESTIONS FOR WEST VIRGINIA
QBS OTHER THAN GENO SMITH WHO SET SCHOOL PASSING RECORDS
• Nick Florence, Baylor (581 yards vs. West Virginia)
• Stephen Morris, Miami (566 yards vs. NC State)
• Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (453 yards vs. Arkansas)
SCORES THAT MAKE YOU GO “HUH?”
• LSU 38, Towson 22
• MTSU 49, Georgia Tech 28
• Stony Brook 23, Army 3
Can Geno Smith challenge the single-season touchdown record? With eight touchdown passes against Baylor, Smith has 20 TD passes this season. That pace will give him a chance to break the single-season record of 58 set by Hawaii’s Colt Brennan in 2006. Brennan had 14 touchdowns in his first four games that season and 21 in his most prolific four-game stretch. With five touchdown passes per game, Smith is ahead of the per game mark set by Houston’s David Klingler (4.9) in 1990.
Can West Virginia locate a title-capable defense? The Mountaineers needed every bit of their 807 total yards and Smith’s 656 passing yards. Their defense wasn’t as bad as Baylor’s, but it wasn’t good enough to win a Big 12 title, either. West Virginia gave up 700 total yards, 581 passing yards and 63 points. The Mountaineers were putrid in the big play department: West Virginia had one sack and one takeaway while allowing Baylor to convert 11 of 16 third downs.
Is West Virginia’s elite receiving duo now a trio? Stedman Bailey had 303 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Tavon Austin added 215 yards and two touchdowns. Yet the best catch of the day came from third receiver J.D. Woods in the fourth quarter with a one-handed diving grab. After catching 14 passes in the first three games, Woods broke out 13 catches for 114 yards, making him the fifth-most productive receiver in the game. But at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, he gives West Virginia a big target to complement the sub-6-foot Bailey and Austin.
THREE FEEL-GOOD STORIES IN THE BIG TEN
Kain Colter, Northwestern. The Wildcats returned starting quarterback Colter to the all-purpose role he enjoyed last season. That may be where he stays with Trevor Siemian at quarterback. In a 44-29 win over Indiana, Colter topped 100 yards both rushing (161) and receiving (131) and ran for four touchdowns.
Matt McGloin, Penn State. The most glaring weakness of the Nittany Lions offense is now its greatest strength thanks to coach Bill O’Brien’s work with Matt McGloin. The one-time walk-on was 18 of 30 for 211 yards with a touchdown in the 35-7 win at Illinois. He also rushed for two scores. In five games in 2012, McGloin already has matched Penn State’s passing touchdowns (10) and 200-yard passing games (four) from all of last season.
Mark Weisman, Iowa. After facing an FCS team (Northern Iowa) and having his effort spoiled by a loss (Central Michigan), Weisman can bask in the experience of a key win for the Hawkeyes. The former fullback who transferred from Air Force rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries against Minnesota (4-1). Weisman has rushed for 507 yards and seven touchdowns in the last three games.
DANG, THEY’RE GOOD
• Oregon State
DANG, THEY’RE BAD
BEST GAMES NEXT WEEK
• Georgia at South Carolina
• West Virginia at Texas
• Nebraska at Ohio State
THREE SEC TEAMS CAUGHT NAPPING
LSU. The Tigers trailed Towson 9-7 before the final 2:52 of the first half. The Tigers pulled away to a 38-22 win, but LSU’s offense didn’t look ready to challenge Alabama in the SEC West. LSU rushed for 158 yards with nearly half of that coming from a 78-yard Russell Shepard touchdown run in the first quarter. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger was 15 of 26 for 238 yards with two touchdowns while taking four sacks.
South Carolina. A week before facing SEC East foe Georgia, the Gamecocks sleepwalked through the first half against Kentucky, trailing 17-7 at halftime. South Carolina clamped down on both sides of the ball with four touchdowns, a field goal and two interceptions of Kentucky in the second half to win 38-17.
Alabama. The Crimson Tide didn’t get caught napping like LSU and South Carolina did, but Alabama did trail in regulation for the first time since the 9-6 loss to LSU on Oct. 22 when Ole Miss took a 7-6 lead with 13:40 to go in the first second quarter. Alabama’s deficit was short-lived as Christion Jones took the ensuing kickoff back 99 yards for a touchdown on the way to a 33-14 win.
THREE UNDEFEATED NON-BIG SIX TEAMS
Ohio. The day began with only three undefeated teams outside of the six major conferences and ended that way. But none came closer to their first loss than Ohio. The Bobcats faced their biggest scare of the season against perhaps the worst team on their schedule. UMass, in its first season as an FBS program, led by a touchdown going into the fourth quarter, and Ohio had to sweat out a final Minutemen drive in its own territory to win 37-34.
Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs fell behind 24-10 in the second quarter against Virginia, but the Bulldogs answered with 34 unanswered points for a 44-38 win. Louisiana Tech’s offense was held to under 400 yards for the first time this season, capitalizing on three Virginia interceptions instead. Louisiana Tech has two road wins over major conference competition (Illinois, Virginia) with a game against Texas A&M looming on Oct. 13.
UTSA. Not a bad start for Texas-San Antonio in its first season in the FBS as the Roadrunners defeated New Mexico State 35-14. Former Miami coach Larry Coker has led the Roadrunners to a 5-0 start. Before securing its first conference win against New Mexico State, UTSA had defeated a fellow first-year FBS program (South Alabama), an FCS team (Georgia State) and two Division II teams (Texas A&M-Commerce and Northwestern Oklahoma).
By David Fox