Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.
19 Sep 2011
by Robert Weintraub
What happens when you circle a game all summer long, mark it as a program measuring stick, fill your stadium to the bursting point, leave absolutely everything on the field physically and emotionally, play the visiting powerhouse mostly even -- and lose? Can you bounce back, or does it take a few weeks?
That, to me, will be a truer test of Jimbo Fisher and the regrowth of the Florida State program. The 23-13 loss to Oklahoma Saturday night in priiiiime tiiiiime was a defensive slugfest for much of the night, but OU was clearly the better team in the end, especially once starting Noles quarterback E.J. Manuel was injured. Given that the Sooners won by 30 points last year in Norman, a 66 percent improvement isn't anything to sneeze at. FSU battled hard, and its defense put the team in a position to steal an upset, but Landry Jones put together a big drive with the game tied and the record crowd at full howl. His throw, and Kenny Stiles’ awesome grab over Greg Reid for the winning points, was a thing to put on the wall of the Whitney or Tate Modern. Considering how Jones had been beaten up and frustrated after a sharp opening drive, it was even more astonishing. More importantly, it was a play that could easily usher the Sooners into the BCS title game, given that the schedule ain’t exactly LSU-strong from here on out.
Florida State’s remaining slate isn’t a crusher, either, but it’s toughest test until the finale at Florida is probably this Saturday, when the garnet and gold travel to Clemson. FSU is a little better, but while Clemson is coming off a pummeling of Auburn, the Noles need to put the pieces back together in a hurry. Keeping the focus forward, not back, will be a tough task for Fisher. If he can get it done, there’s no reason his team won’t be in the conference title game, and perhaps beyond.
Said conference, the ACC, had a good weekend elsewhere, gaining the respect it sought in Tallahassee. The aforementioned Tigers finally jammed Auburn’s lucky horseshoe where the sun don’t shine, ending their 17-game win streak 38-24. It was a reversal of last year’s game, when Auburn came from way down to win in OT. This time, Clemson spotted the Other Tigers a two-touchdown lead, then roared right past them. The Tahj Boyd-Sammy Watkins combo was electrifying. Watkins, a true freshman who dropped some jaws by picking Clemson over basically every school with a football team, showed why he got those five stars from the recruiting folks. He had 199 total yards and two touchdowns. He ran away and ran over defenders with equal aplomb. He’ll be a test for Reid and company in Death Valley.
Down on Probation Beach, Miami took care of an Ohio State team that is outmatched at quarterback at the moment, 24-6. Joe Bauserman and backup Braxton Miller combined for all of 13 passing yards until a couple of garbage time throws got the number all the way up to 35. If it weren’t for the standard pair of picks from Miami hurler Jacory Harris, it would have been a bigger rout. Coach Luke Fickel surrendered at the end, letting the clock run out with the game still technically in reach before the U iced it.
I hate to admit this, but I was a bit torn about the result. Why, given I’m a Hurricanes fan since the olden timey days, and I loathe the Buckeyes? Well, the interim head coach, Luke Fickell, and I have something in common -- we both are often said to resemble one Adam Sandler.
Judge for yourself:
Here’s me, coach Fickell, and the Great Sandu.
Sandler is an alum of noted football power NYU, who might be asked to fill out the suddenly headed-for-extinction Big East. It’s apparently official -- after several years of railing at the turncoats in Chestnut Hill among others, my Syracuse Orange are following in their footsteps, heading from the Big East to the ACC along with Pitt. John Swofford couldn’t have been too impressed with his new adoptees, as the ‘Cuse were whipped out in LA by USC (who scheduled this one?!) 38-17, and Pitt blew a big lead out in Iowa, falling 31-27 after the Hawkeyes scored four times in the final quarter and change. But with late word that the Pac-12 is going big with Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech, it seems like the dam is burst and it’s go big or go home. The Big 12 and Big East appear to be, uh, not so big after all.
All this on the day that Dave Gavitt, the founder of the Big East conference, passed away.
2. Boise State
5. Oklahoma State
7. Texas A&M
10. Florida State
11. South Carolina
15. Virginia Tech
16. West Virginia
17. South Florida
25. Georgia Tech
Oklahoma and Boise are 2-3 after stellar road wins (LSU’s was impressive, too) while Alabama stayed home to rout overmatched North Texas. Auburn, Tennessee, Michigan State and Arizona State drop out.
1. Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State. The Berlin Wall didn’t have a huge statistical performance, but a national TV audience saw the German lineman demolish Oklahoma’s Maginot line, especially RT Lane Johnson. The Seminoles defense kept slugging it out with OU until the end, and Werner was the motor that kept FSU punching.
2. Javon Harris, LB, Oklahoma. Two big interceptions in the showdown game of the weekend, including a diving stab that ended FSU’s hopes late.
3. Antonio Allen, LB, South Carolina. Just another week for Allen -- a game sealing pick, plus ten tackles and a forced fumble against Navy. Allen is pushing Kentucky tackle machine Danny Trevathan for the title of best LB in the SEC.
4. Jonathan Brown, LB, Illinois. Brown led a fearsome pass rush that blunted Arizona State’s offense. Brown finished with seven tackles (3.5 TFL), 1.5 sacks, and an interception.
5. Robert Blanton, CB, Notre Dame. Had the 82-yard goal line pick and return to ice the first win for the Irish, plus 3.5 tackles for loss (six overall) and three passes defensed. Who says the Irish secondary can’t play?
9 comments, Last at 20 Sep 2011, 10:25pm by navin