Short-yardage passing had a good year, except at the end of the Super Bowl. We look at the return of quarterback runs, the rise in pass-happy strategy, and 2014 success rates for offense and defense.
22 Nov 2010
by Robert Weintraub
The other day I watched my 15-month-old son as he spent five full minutes (an eternity in toddler terms) trying to snap together two halves of a ball. Finally, he got the dang thing together, held it aloft triumphantly as I laughed and clapped -- then tossed it down the stairs, smashing it apart once more.
The point is, the boy stuck at it, overcame frustration and adversity, and made the thing happen when he had to. Similar stick-to-itness was seen across the college football landscape on Saturday.
Terrelle Pryor had reason to give up and move on to the Weebles Playcenter. With Ohio State trailing Iowa late in the game, 17-13, Pryor had just found a wide-open DeVier Posey with a bomb. Snag is, Posey dropped it, sending the receiver to his knees in shame, clutching his helmet. That brought up fourth-and-10. Pryor could be forgiven for checking out right there.
But instead, he galloped for 14 yards and a crucial first down. Moments later, the Buckeyes were in the end zone. After a Cameron Heyward sack, they had the 20-17 win, and are in BCS position again at 10-1 with Michigan next week. Iowa is now a disappointing 7-4, though they are the anti-LSU, losing all four in the final minutes. Get Kirk Ferentz a lucky hat!
In contrast, Michigan State continues to pull out games. Saturday they trailed Purdue 28-13, and quarterback Kirk Cousins was struggling. He'd been helped off the field twice, battling painful shoulder and ankle injuries, threw an interception, and later said he was close to pulling himself out of the game. But he stayed in there, and led Sparty back to a dramatic 35-31 victory with 22 fourth-quarter points, scoring the game-winning touchdown himself on a short scramble.
The turning point, however, wasn't a play by Cousins, but a terrible interception thrown from his own end zone by Purdue quarterback Rob Henry with the Boilers up 28-13. He had no business throwing the pass, and it had horrific consequences. So too did terrible blocking on a punt by Purdue's Austen Moret, who ignored Denicos Allen until it was too late. The blocked punt set up Cousins for his winning run.
Few outside Baton Rouge have been as tough on LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson as I have, and with good reason -- he's stunk this season. But since the bye week, Jefferson has been a changed man. JJ was sharp in LSU's wild 43-36 win over Ole Miss, going 13-17 for a career high 254 yards and a touchdown (he also ran for a score and a two-pointer). The Tigers didn't do much to stop another beleaguered quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli, who had the Rebs on the verge of the upset. He hit Markeith Summers with a long touchdown pass to put Ole Miss ahead with just fewer than five minutes left.
But Summers was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty for somersaulting into the end zone. Now, we all agree it's an asinine rule, but every week someone gets flagged for doing it, so there's no excuse for Summers doing it in this critical situation. Sure enough, the great Patrick Peterson returned the kickoff from the 15-yard line back into Rebs' terrain, and LSU punched in the winner with less than a minute remaining.
And in a game that Pittsburgh needed to stay atop the Big Least, cornerback Antwuan Reed struggled mightily. He committed four pass interference penalties on the day, each one more blatant than the next. The infractions allowed South Florida to stay in the game. But Reed got a little redemption on the game's final play, intercepting B.J. Daniels to put away a 17-10 win. The Panthers were helped by some tragicomic clock management near the end by the Bulls.
Next up -- I challenge Antwuan Reed to snap together my son's ball.
4. Boise State
6. Ohio State
10. Michigan State
12. Virginia Tech
13. Oklahoma State
15. South Carolina
17. Texas A&M
20. Northern Illinois
21. Florida State
22. North Carolina State
24. Central Florida
1. J.J. Watt, defensive end, Wisconsin. The offensive line gets plenty of love around here, but give the defensive line some props. Watt had six tackles and two pass deflections, one of which he intercepted himself to squash any hopes Michigan had of a comeback.
2. Nick Moody, safety, Florida State. The 13 tackles were nice, but it was Moody's 96-yard interception return in the final minute that iced a big win at Maryland. Moody's coaches and teammates were yelling at Moody to go down, but the safety ignored them and sprinted to pay dirt.
3. Jordan Delegal, linebacker, Northern Illinois. Delegal blocked two punts in a rout of Ball State that wrapped up the MAC West for the Huskies. One punt was returned for a touchdown, and the other set up a score. UNI blocked a third punt on the afternoon -- tell David Letterman to spring for a special teams coach for his alma mater!
4. Stephen Paea, defensive tackle, Oregon State. The senior run stuffer was unblockable as the Beavers whacked USC, with nine tackles and a forced fumble. Paea said afterward he was offended that the Trojans went for it on fourth down six times. They were 2-6.
5. Patrick Peterson, corner, LSU. The great P-squared played what was likely his last game in Tiger Stadium. In addition to his big kick return, he intercepted the game's final pass to seal the win. Off to the NFL with ye, Patrick!
5 comments, Last at 22 Nov 2010, 2:39pm by David Gardner