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04 Oct 2010

One Foot Inbounds: More Miles Missteps

by Robert Weintraub

The helmet went sailing through the Bayou night, tossed in frustration by the junior center with the euphonically perfect name for an LSU Tiger -- T-Bob Hebert, the son of Bobby Hebert. T-Bob had sent his lid flying in a spiral approximating the best of the old man when it seemed his errant shotgun snap had ended LSU's unbeaten season.

Moments later, incredibly, T-Bob's helmet was off again, this time being sent skyward in jubilation. In one of the craziest endings in recent memory, at least since last season's advanced seminar in clock management by Les Miles,Tennessee let the Tigers slip off the hook.

Just before T-Bob hurled his helmet, LSU, sans timeouts, had let 25 seconds slip off the clock, indecisive about what play to run from the Volunteers' 1-yard line. Jordan Jefferson was the quarterback, although he had been so putrid he had earlier been yanked for backup Jarrett Lee. Jefferson is shiftier, so he was in for a potential run. It seemed like Miles and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton couldn't decide what personnel to have in the game, so they ran in a couple of different packages as the seconds bled away and the Death Valley fans screamed in terror.

As it happens, that was crafty strategery, because Tennessee's defense got confused about what personnel they needed to have on the field. Ironically, though the Vols are very young overall, it was senior defensive end Ben Martin who appeared to err, running halfway off the field, then turning around and coming back. He wasn't alone. As the snap sailed past Jefferson, appearing to end the game and perhaps Miles' career in Baton Rouge, the Vols had 13, count 'em, 13 defenders on the field.

In the ensuing chaos, the referees got the call right and awarded LSU an untimed down. Miles had to make the final play call. Stevan Ridley took a pitch and plowed over defensive end Corey Miller at the goal line, and LSU was somehow saved, 16-14.

But the natives aren't happy. My friend and LSU fan Josh texted afterward, "someone needs to get fired." It's safe to say the good will Miles built up after the BCS crown in 2007 is officially frittered. With Michigan's return to decency, Miles can't even count on scooting up to Ann Arbor anytime soon. And it's hard to take LSU seriously as a Top 10 team when the quarterback play is so awful. In Seventh Day Adventure, I compared Jefferson's popularity in Louisiana to BP. His 83-yard scamper on the game's first play was like the oil giant's initial claim that the plume of crude was no biggie. After that: 3-for-10 for 30 yards and two picks. Lee wasn't much better, but he did zip a dart to convert a fourth-and-14 on the eventual winning drive that was forgotten in the nutty finish.

Even if LSU had Bert Jones back under center, they would be underdogs in the SEC West to the dominant Alabama Crimson Tide, who toyed with Florida, winning 31-6. Most ominous for the rest of the country was the fact that the Gators actually had a good plan to move the ball through the air (and plays are there to be made against the Tide secondary). After a strong opening drive, Florida went for it on fourth-and-goal at the 1. Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart could be seen yelling to watch out for the jump pass, even though Tim Tebow is no longer in orange and blue. Sure enough, Trey Burton tried the old Staubach play, but Nico Johnson was there to intercept for Alabama. It was a huge momentum shift -- imagine if Burton hadn't come up inches short of the end zone on second down.

After that, the Tide's ground game chewed up Florida's five-man "heavy" front like a pack of hyenas, gashing the Gators for 170 rushing yards, while Alabama's linebackers controlled the action. Courtney Upshaw might be the least talented of Alabama's linebackers, but he was everywhere from the "Jack" position, with four tackles for loss, a fumble recovery, two pass breakups, and several big sticks. Not bad for a guy who was behind Ed Stinson on the depth chart a couple of weeks ago.

Alabama is clearly better than the rest of the nation at the moment, even if they should get tripped up along the way. The win was Nick Saban's 19th in a row, and his 29th-straight regular season victory. If they were to lose before the BCS game, one possibility is against Auburn in the Iron Bowl. The Tigers are the third unbeaten team in the SEC West, and they had a walkover against Louisiana-Monroe, 52-3. Quarterback/piledriver Cam Newton took the opportunity to practice throwing, and had three touchdown passes, including a 94-yarder. Auburn needs to prove it can pass against higher-caliber opposition before I'll believe in its upset chances.

The other monster game of the game of the evening was also a rout, although Oregon spotted Stanford a 21-3 lead before bearing down -- the Ducks outscored the lads from Palo Alto 49-10 after that. The spread attack led by quarterback Darron Thomas is absolutely relentless. Stanford's defenders were tripping over their own tongues by the third quarter. But the play of the game was made by Oregon's defense with the game tied at 31. Safety Javes Lewis blasted wide receiver Chris Owusu after a completion, knocking the ball and Owusu's senses free. The fumble was run back inside the 5-yard line, and the Ducks took the lead on the next play on a run by LaMichael James. That was a shawty, but James also had a 76-yarder for a score -- he has 29 runs of 20-plus yards since last season.

Oregon's reward for the bog win was jumping Boise State in the AP Top 25 (but not in my poll -- see below). All the Broncos did was destroy New Mexico State 59-0. As my mother would say: Life isn't fair -- now go bang your head against the wall.

Toedrags

  • Another botched snap had a happy ending. This one was rescued by Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin on the play of the day. Griffin ran the errant snap down about 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage, raced around, and found Terrence Williams for one of Griffin's three touchdown passes, including a 94-yarder of his own. Baylor crushed Kansas 55-7.
  • A tale of two Robinsons -- Denard Robinson is still great, and any worry over his gimpy knee dissipated on a 72-yard touchdown run early on against Indiana. But Wolverines defensive coordinator Greg Robinson still stinks. The Michigan defense made Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell look like -- well, Indiana hasn't had many great passers to use in this analogy. Trent Green, perhaps? Chappell had 480 yards in the air, but Robinson countered with 494 total yards. He has now topped 200 yards passing and running in the same game twice this season, the first guy to ever do that. Evah.
  • A.J. Green is back, and he made an amazing one-handed grab to mark his return. But Georgia somehow lost to an awful Colorado team anyway. The Bulldogs are now 1-4, their only win against Louisiana-Lafayette. Mark Richt's keister is officially on the seat that is toasty.
  • Fifty people were arrested before Oklahoma survived Texas in the Red River Shootout. If you have read Mike Shropshire's hilariously brilliant history of the rivalry, "Runnin' With The Big Dogs," you'll know that it was a quiet weekend for Oklahoma-Texas. For the second straight week, the Sooners iced the game when their opponent muffed a punt late in the game. Quarterback Landry Jones made the key play of the contest, getting enough of his own fumble deep in his turf to knock it out of bounds on the play before the punt.
  • I hesitate to commit the sacrilege of comparing any Miami receiver to Andre Johnson, but Leonard Hankerson has the same drool-inducing blend of physicality, speed, and ball skills. He torched Clemson for three touchdown receptions in a big road win for The U.
  • Good win for Virginia Tech, who survived an early N.C. State buzz saw and bounced from 17-0 down to win in Raleigh 41-30. Despite the early negativity, the Hokies still look likely to compete for a BCS bid.
  • By the way -- James Madison lost to Delaware 13-10.
  • Shoutouts to: Northwestern, still unbeaten after rallying late to edge Minnesota 29-28; Ole Miss, who have found an identity now that Jeremiah Masoli is firmly ensconced at quarterback (he scored four times in a win over Kentucky); and Temple, who lost top running back Bernard Pierce but rode his replacement Matt Brown for 226 yards and four scores in a 42-35 win at Army.
  • And congrats to Utah State, who finally beat BYU on Friday after 10 straight losses to the Cougars. Amazingly, the clerk at the record store where I bought my daughter a lullaby CD here in Georgia was wearing a Utah State football shirt the next day. Aggie Nation is bigger than I thought!

The OFI Top 25

1. Alabama
2. Ohio State
3. Boise State
4. Oregon
5. TCU
6. Nebraska
7. Oklahoma
8. Iowa
9. Auburn
10. Michigan
11. Utah
12. Florida
13. Miami
14. Arkansas
15. LSU
16. South Carolina
17. Wisconsin
18. Stanford
19. Arizona
20. Nevada
21. Michigan State
22. Florida State
23. Oklahoma State
24. Air Force
25. Northwestern

Lowsman Watch

1. Courtney Upshaw, linebacker, Alabama. See above.

2. Jordan Holmes, center, Oregon. The Ducks O-line gets lost in the snazzy spread attack, but the front five blasted open holes for the skill guys all night. Holmes, as the senior center and Rimington Trophy short-lister, runs the show from the middle, calling the assignments and sight reads that make the offense work so effectively.

3. Kelechi Osemele, left tackle, Iowa State. The Cyclones had a pair of 100-yard rushers in swamping 52-38, and Osemele was dominant in both run blocking and pass protection.

4. Jayron Hosley, cornerback, Virginia Tech. Hosley had three interceptions of N.C. State's Russell Wilson, who previously had only tossed one interception in 2010, as the Hokies staged a big-time comeback win.

5. Adrian Clayborn, defensive end, Iowa. You were wondering when Clayborn, a preseason All-American, would crack this list, right? He does this week after terrorizing Penn State, to the tune of 10 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and a sack.

Posted by: Robert Weintraub on 04 Oct 2010

14 comments, Last at 06 Oct 2010, 6:57pm by bryduck

Comments

1
by Sjt (not verified) :: Mon, 10/04/2010 - 2:11pm

Never a dull moment with Les around.

2
by Still5and0 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/04/2010 - 2:44pm

Naming his kid "T-Bob" goes back to an old Cajun tradition. It means little Bob.

3
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 10/04/2010 - 5:01pm

I assumed he was named after the scooter from M.A.S.K.

4
by verifiable (not verified) :: Mon, 10/04/2010 - 6:20pm

As a Michigan fan I am shocked to see them at number 10. Their defense is absymal, terrible incompetent, awful and every other synonym from Roget's. The offense is good and Robinson looks great (playing against bad defenses). Next week I expect MSU to score on every possession, but being MSU they won't.

12
by Flounder :: Tue, 10/05/2010 - 8:51am

Ha ha. As an MSU fan, I'm expecting Michigan to score every possession. It's just a bad, bad matchup for MSU, especially with the game being in ann arbor.

5
by PHn (not verified) :: Mon, 10/04/2010 - 7:25pm

Arkansas took Alabama to the wire, running up quite a few points in the process, and you've got it two slots below the Gators, who got absolutely mauled by the same Tide?

An undefeated Arizona team is eleven spots behind the Iowa team it beat? Neither team has a great resume so far -- Iowa has beaten a merely decent Iowa St. team and an offensively hopeless Penn State, while Arizona struggled in its win over Cal -- but still...

Kudos, however, for giving Air Force its due. I'll be interested to see how well the Cadets do in their back-to-back games against TCU and Utah.

6
by Kal :: Mon, 10/04/2010 - 8:03pm

In general I don't get how Stanford can play the #4 team in the country at their home and by most accounts play very well but get beat by a superior team. Do people really think that Iowa is better than Stanford? Oklahoma? Auburn? Michigan?

8
by Brian Fremeau :: Mon, 10/04/2010 - 9:30pm

Kal, you're going to LOVE the new FEI ratings on Wednesday ...

10
by Kal :: Tue, 10/05/2010 - 1:03am

Guess it depends a lot on whether or not you considered LMJ's 76 yard TD in 'garbage time' or not, but I could totally see FEI looking at what Oregon did and shooting them fairly high up - and putting Stanford up there as well.

It's one of the weakest parts of rankings; that automatically, if you lose, you drop a ranking or 8. That's the real reason people are discouraged from playing good teams. If #1 plays #2 and #1 wins, why should #2 drop?

9
by Fourth :: Mon, 10/04/2010 - 10:01pm

Surely Iowa at 8 was a mistake. A horrible, horrible mistake...

7
by Rocco :: Mon, 10/04/2010 - 8:49pm

Les Miles just wins.

11
by theosu :: Tue, 10/05/2010 - 8:18am

Channelling my inner Easterbrook for a moment, but the Oregon safety didn't 'blast' the Stanford wide receiver, the safety used his helmet as a weapon against the wide receiver, hitting him in the head and knocking him unconscious before he hit the ground. It was an illegal play, and if the NCAA and the NFL are going to be serious about concussion awareness and prevention, that's the sort of tackle that needs to be flagged every time, and the player should be suspended for as long as the injured player is out.

From the moment of the 'tackle' to the end of the game Oregon outscored Stanford 21-0. They were rewarded with possession of the ball on Stanford's 3 yard line and all of the momentum for a play that was illegal, unnecessary and very, very dangerous. Instead of being criticized, he's being lauded here and elsewhere for his great play. That might be the most sickening part.

14
by bryduck (not verified) :: Wed, 10/06/2010 - 6:57pm

To my eyes it looked "clean" (full disclosure: I am a UO alumnus and Ducks fan); I saw Harris hit Owusu with his shoulder, not his helmet. Now, I don't mind agreeing that shoulder-helmet collisions are just as bad as helmet-helmet, but as of now, it is within the bounds of legal play.

13
by Will :: Tue, 10/05/2010 - 10:40pm

The thing that bugged me about the LSU/Tennessee game is that the Vols should have been allowed time to switch personnel. Of course, by doing so, the clock would have expired and they referees would still be damned.

Will