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24 Oct 2010

One Foot Inbounds: Yes He Cam

by Robert Weintraub

A couple of unbeaten dynamos got it done this weekend with incredible offensive displays. A couple of Big Ten title hopefuls got it done by faking punts.

Hey, whatever it takes.

We'll start with the continuing brilliance of the Battering Cam. The big fella demolished a stout LSU defense, carrying 28 times for 217 yards and two touchdowns as the Tigers beat the Tigers 24-17. The second score, a 49-yarder around and through the Bayou Bengals, was enough to make John Heisman himself pop up from the grave and yell "War Eagle!" In what the PR-types like to call "optics," the sight of the enormous quarterback accelerating past my other Heisman (and Lowsman) front-runner, LSU defensive back Patrick Peterson, was extremely compelling.

It might seem sacrilegious to have a player approach Saint Timmy of Gainesville territory, but Newton is having the best season since Tebow shattered every touchdown record over his knee in 2007. Newton has 27 touchdowns in eight games, 14 on the ground. Tebow had a ridiculous 55 touchdowns (23 rushing, 32 passing) in 13 games in '07, so his place in the books seems secure. But Newton's numbers are astounding. For the third-straight game, he ran for 10 or more first downs, a critical stat given the tightness of each contest. He's already broken the single-season SEC record for quarterback rushing yards. He has 1,077 now and five or six games left. He's gone 96 attempts without a pick and is deadly accurate when throwing the short-to-medium ball.

There was more to the win than Newton. Auburn piled up an absurd 440 yards on the ground, perhaps the most amazing number of the season, considering the opponent. LSU had been allowing 83 yards per game on the ground. Forget this season -- it was the most ever gained on an LSU defense. The biggest run came not from Newton, though that 49-yarder was Mozart. Onterio McCalebb followed several perfect blocks by his wide receivers to scoot 70 untouched yards for the winning score with 5:05 remaining. It was a nice reminder of the help downfield that Newton & Co. have been "receiving" all year.

But the player of the game might not have been Newton or McCalebb, but Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley. We've talked him up here at OFI before, but he outdid himself Saturday, with 3.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, a knockout sack of Jarrett Lee, and the whipping of continuous double-teams all day.

Meanwhile, the Ducks, always potent on Thursday nights at Autzen Stadium, manhandled UCLA, rolling up 60 points and 582 yards. This baby was over before the Bruins even got off the team bus. The sensational LaMichael James had a ho-hum 123 yards and a pair of scores. When James got dinged early, backup Remene Alston had three more.

Should Oregon play Auburn in Glendale, insert pinball metaphor here.

Of course, we have a ways to go before that happens. Michigan State remains undefeated, surviving its first trip outside the state of Michigan. The mean streets of Evanston, Illinois, were almost a minefield for Sparty. They fell behind Northwestern 17-0 before realizing they weren't in Kansas anymore, so to speak. But MSU is made of steel, in the fashion of coach Mark Dantonio. They got within 10, then tossed a pass on a fake punt (with the help of a blown coverage by the Wildcats) to keep a fourth-quarter drive alive. Dantonio gamed Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, accepting a delay of game penalty in the old "get a little more room for the coffin corner punt" move, then faked the kick. On the very next play, Kirk Cousins threw a touchdown pass. He tossed another later in the quarter to give his team the lead, converting a fourth down on the way. MSU got a cover-the-spread score late and stayed alive for all the postseason trimmings.

Wisconsin seemed to be in the letdown zone after the emotionally cathartic takeout of Ohio State last week. The Badgers engaged in a back-and-forth affair at Iowa and seemed to be about to come up shy, facing a fourth-and-15 late in the game. But Brad Nortman ran a fake punt right up the back of a retreating Iowa return team for 17 yards, and Wisconsin was alive. Like Michigan State, the Badgers converted a key fourth down before punching in the go-ahead score, capping a 15-play drive.

Iowa had a shot at a winning field goal, but coach Kirk Ferentz pulled a Lester, refusing to spike the ball and calling a timeout -- the Hawkeyes' last -- with 12 ticks left when confusion reigned on the sideline. Sure enough, the next play ended with a tackle in-bounds, and the game was over.

Toedrags

  • In the storyline section of last week's Seventh Day Adventure, I wrote that Oklahoma needed to defraud themselves with a win at Mizzou. Oklahoma's place in the polls felt like a deliberate slap at Boise State, actually. So it wasn't much of a shock to see the Sooners lashed in the rain, 36-27. Turns out the game was actually about Mizzou's legitimacy as an unbeaten -- Blaine Gabbert torched the OU back seven between the hash marks all night.
  • Next week, the Missouri Tigers go to Nebraska to settle the Big 12 North. The Huskers bounced back nicely Saturday, roughing up previously unbeaten Oklahoma State State 51-41 -- as though uncannily aware I picked against them this week. I've yet to catch the Nebraska roller coaster this season, and if you think I'm going to get the game right next Saturday, well then you just are an incurable optimist.
  • Missouri's win almost -- almost -- undoes the damage done by Don Draper (played by Missouri grad John Hamm) impulsively planning to marry to his secretary.
  • Utah 59, Colorado State 6. TCU 38, Air Force 7. The two Mountain West powers tangle in two weeks in Salt Lake. There will be blood.
  • I know I have fun with my Syracuse Orange in this column, but after Saturday's gutty 19-14 win at West Virginia, the old alma mater may get some national love. The explosive Mountaineers were held to fewer than 300 yards on 72 plays and shut out for the last three quarters by an undersized but smart and well-coached SU defense. It was the first road win over a ranked team for the 'Cuse since 2004. I am officially a Marronista now.
  • You won't see a more athletic play than the one Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead made in a losing effort Friday night. On a key third-and-18 late in the game, the Bearcats down by eight, Pead caught a dumpoff pass, was sawed in half by a South Florida tackler, and somehow maintained balance by putting his hand down and essentially doing a cartwheel. He then spurted ahead to move the sticks. Unfortunately for Cincy, starter Zach Collaros had been knocked out, and backup Chazz Anderson couldn't quite punch in the tying score.
  • Washaun Ealey of Georgia has been a bad actor this season, but he's figuring it out on the field. He ran for five touchdowns against Kentucky, something no one at Georgia has done, not even Herschel Walker.
  • Three wins in four years for Navy over Notre Dame. Only 40 more to go ...
  • Bowl eligible -- Baylor and Mississippi State. Well done, lads. Baylor leads the Big 12 South, by the way. The winner of that division should play the winner of the SEC East in the postseason.

The OFI Top 25

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

Lowsman Watch

1. Nick Fairley, defensive tackle, Auburn. See above.

2. Allen Bailey, defensive end, Miami. He destroyed North Carolina's blocking, even when double-teamed, to the tune of 3.5 sacks in the Hurricanes romp.

3. Aaron Bates, punter, Michigan State. He's thrown two pretty big passes this season, this one bailing out the undefeated dream at Northwestern.

4. Doug Hogue, linebacker, Syracuse. Didn't think I wasn't going to give Hogey some love, did ya? Two picks, half a sack, 10 tackles, and sideline-to-sideline hustle to corral West Virginia's speedsters in the Cuse upset.

5. Ben Lamaak, center, Iowa State. The Cyclones rolled up 199 rushing yards in their stunning win over Texas after getting blasted by Utah and Oklahoma in successive weeks. Lamaak was exceptional all day, at least until the final drive, when his injury prevented Iowa State from running out the clock. But Iowa State's defensive line, which could have made this list this week as well, stuffed the Longhorns desperation drive. The Cyclones beat Texas for the first time ever. Go check out coach Paul Rhoads postgame speech (around 1:12 on the video) -- it's awesome.

Posted by: Robert Weintraub on 24 Oct 2010

25 comments, Last at 28 Oct 2010, 11:48am by Flounder

Comments

1
by Poopzilla (not verified) :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 1:26am

Hey Rob- Thanks for the Mad Men spoiler. It's now the only thing I'll remember from your column.

4
by TreeRol (not verified) :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 9:31am

I'm pissed that he spoiled last Saturday's football games. How could he have expected us all to watch them by now?

10
by Portmanteur :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 1:42pm

And I can't believe he spoiled the poll picks, too!

2
by jbramley (not verified) :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 8:47am

I'm a fan of Virginia Tech, too, but I think having them in the top 25 twice is a bit much. (19 and 23).

3
by Nathan :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 9:23am

Fucking Mad Men spoilers? Really?

6
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 11:39am

Yeah, and Rosebud was a sled too.

It's the season finale of an incredibly popular show, and it was a week ago. What's the statute of limitations before anyone is allowed to talk about it?

(It took a lot of restraint not to post the other big spoiler of the episode out of spite.)

7
by Nathan :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 12:39pm

Oh good point! It makes so much sense to compare an episodic TV show that aired a week ago with a movie made more than 50 years ago!

11
by Portmanteur :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 1:44pm

Honestly, if you're not following Mad Men, you just don't care. I really like that show, but I haven't caught an episode since the second season. Plus that doesn't really sound like a spoiler anyway.

"So wait, he's planning on marrying his secretary? Does that even matter? Isn't he just going to sleep with whomever he pleases?"

12
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 2:22pm

OK, so 50 years is long enough, but one week isn't. We're starting to narrow it down now. How about 30 years? Am I allowed to say that Vader is Luke's father?

13
by Nathan :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 2:27pm

Depends... am I allowed to say that you're a twatty little fuckwad and I want to smash your teeth in?

16
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 2:34pm

Sure. I'm not sure what FO's rules are about that, but it's fine with me.

5
by whitty (not verified) :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 10:08am

Randy Edsall is the head coach at UConn, not Northwestern. Northwestern's head coach is Pat Fitzgerald.

18
by zlionsfan :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 8:54pm

it's three wins in four years for Navy. Notre Dame won in 2008.

I have no idea how someone can confuse Edsall and Fitzgerald, especially given the circumstances under which Fitzgerald was hired.

8
by QCIC (not verified) :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 12:42pm

Seriously the spoilers are not appreciated. A significant portion of the audience these days waits for the DVD release.

14
by Kurt :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 2:27pm

And one potential consequence of waiting for DVD releases while participating in society is, other people might mention the shows.

15
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 2:32pm

Good for them, but it's unreasonable to expect the entire internet not to talk about AN ENTIRE SEASON of a mainstream TV show after it has aired.

20
by ASmitty (not verified) :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 11:56pm

I saw someone complaining about Lost spoilers LAST WEEK. That ended MONTHS AGO.

If you hate commercials so much that you wait months and months for the DVD release, you run the risk of spoilers. The only way to avoid spoilers is to watch the damn thing when it airs.

9
by Jeff Fogle :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 1:32pm

"Oklahoma's place in the polls felt like a deliberate slap at Boise State, actually."

Oklahoma ranked behind Boise State in the AP and Coaches' polls, and in the Harris Interactive poll. It was the computers that pushed OU to the top of the BCS composite at the time. Were computers making a deliberate slap at Boise?

"So it wasn't much of a shock to see the Sooners lashed in the rain."

It had to be somewhat of a surprise since you picked OU -3. I went to bed at halftime because of jet lag. Was it raining? Game highlights don't seem to show any. Game recaps don't mention the rain. Was there a rainstorm in the second half? Or, just kind of a light drizzle all night that the TV camera's weren't picking up very well? Can somebody who attended the game shed some light?

17
by Joseph :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 6:32pm

I watched portions of the game. Yes it was mentioned by the announcers, and at times it was visible. I don't think it overly affected the game, though.

19
by Jeff Fogle :: Mon, 10/25/2010 - 9:56pm

Thanks Joseph

21
by Flounder :: Tue, 10/26/2010 - 10:39am

So does the author just not care about the two pretty egregious errors?

22
by Jeff Fogle :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 12:22pm

I put a note over in the NFL DVOA article hoping to generate a response.

Edit: Aaron did respond and it's greatly appreciated...so I'll edit down the original snarkiness about my Oregon-UCLA addition to the list just to say I don't think "always potent on Thursday Night's in Autzen" corresponds to evidence of the past 20 years...or was particularly relevant. I take Aaron's comment to mean they'll soon be fixing the errors in the article that were helpfully pointed out by readers. That's good because Coach Edsall has a big game Friday vs. West Virginia and he shouldn't have spent the first part of the week toiling in that horrible Chicago storm...

23
by David Gardner :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 7:10pm

Hey Jeff, FO asst. editor Dave Gardner here. I went back in and corrected the errors. I usually cruise around the comments of these articles and try to correct any mistakes (I appreciate when you point them out), but I just plum forgot about it this week. Thanks again. Let me know if I miss anything.

25
by Flounder :: Thu, 10/28/2010 - 11:48am

VA Tech is still listed twice in the top 25.

24
by cfn_ms :: Wed, 10/27/2010 - 7:36pm

with the Cuse at 25 I see.