The coming weekend's schedule isn't very compelling, but week 3 included some very good games.
Wisconsin 20, Arizona State 19
Arizona State gave the Badgers all they wanted, but Wisconsin won the game by blocking an extra point in the fourth quarter. Bucky's Fifth Quarter was there:
With 4:09 left in the game Arizona State was all set to tie the game at 20 after a two-yard touchdown run by Cameron Marshall. But UW safety Jay Valai, who had been on the field while the Sun Devils’ marched off their nine-play, 77-yard scoring drive in only 3:39, was not about to let that happen. While most of the 81,332 fans in the stadium assumed the game was about to be tied on the extra point, Valai flew from the outside and blocked Thomas Weber’s kick. The play preserved UW’s 20-19 lead and the offense never allowed the Sun Devils to get the ball back. "That doesn’t just happen," head coach Bret Bielema said about Valai’s block. "That’s from 365 days of mental and physical conditioning that our guys pride themselves on."
Meanwhile, House of Sparky sees improvement in the ASU program:
In 2009, ASU was plagued with slow, safe players and moribund running schemes. The quarterback was unable to make accurate throws, and the team showed no confidence in itself. Traveling to Madison, the Sun Devils weren't supposed to have a chance. But this team has swagger, speed, and a chip on their shoulders. We are looking at a team that ran wild on special teams, and showed the nation that they can hang with anyone.
Notre Dame and Michigan State simply don't play run-of-the-mill games against each other, and 2010 was stranger than most. The Spartans won on a 4th and 15 fake field goal in overtime, and MSU coach Mark Dantonio had a heart attack hours later. He will miss at least one game but apparently should have a good recovery. The Only Colors breaks it down:
Any recap has to start, of course, with The Fake. By now, everyone's read about the inspirational (if somewhat sappy) nature of the play's name: "Little Giants." With a first-year starting placekicker facing the prospect of attempting his first field goal of the game in what would have been about as pressure-packed a situation as you could draw up--a 46-yard attempt from the hashmarks to keep the prospect of a win in a storied rivalry series alive--Mark Dantonio opted to instead put the fate of the game on a senior captain, and on the state of his own repute. And it worked (with the help of some merely-mortal officials). The primary receiver on the play, Le'Veon Bell, got tangled up with the two Notre Dame players in position to cover the secondary option, Charlie Gantt, leaving Gantt open with nothing but green grass between him and the end zone (with the two Irish players in the backfield on the wrong side of the field and caught flatfooted). Aaron Bates held the ball the extra split second necessary as he moved to his right and put the ball right on the money.
Rakes of Mallow laments ND's 1-2 start:
I feel the same thing about winning and losing, because the line between the two is so incredibly thin sometimes, such as the last two weeks for the Irish. How many times were there Saturday night when Notre Dame could have put the Spartans away with one or two big plays? An extra yard here and a half-second on the playclock there and everything is different. By the same token, Michigan State had two possessions at the end of the fourth quarter where one broken tackle or first down would have probably meant doom for the Irish. In the end, Mark Dantonio made a ballsy call, the Irish had it covered but two teammates tripped over one another and now the team is 1-2.
Arizona 34, Iowa 27
The Hawkeyes traveled to Tucson, and mounted a nice comeback after falling way behind, but the Wildcats finally put them away at the end. BHGP says that the o-line, running game, and special teams failures that plagued Iowa were foreseeable:
Iowa's very inexperienced offensive line struggles under late-game pressure? Well, yeah. That's going to happen. Four sacks on consecutive snaps is a little out of the ordinary, but with the game in the balance, Mike Stoops wanted to put the heat on Iowa's line, and it worked. Did it ever. Also, Iowa's running game struggling? We couldn't have seen Jewel Hampton's knee injury coming, of course, but we knew this team was going to need Brandon Wegher at some point, and Adam Robinson just isn't dynamic enough to make a real defense pay all by himself--especially since he's easily the weakest link of the three when it comes to blocking. Think Ricky Stanzi could have used Wegher or Hampton in to help block at some point during the 4th quarter? Same goes with special teams. You can't expect Iowa to have a punt blocked AND a kick returned for a touchdown AND a missed extra point (though the missed PAT doesn't seem to have factored much into the game) all in the same game, but anyone paying attention since last year should have known these problems had a distinct possibility of cropping up again. Lo and behold.
Arizona Desert Swarm discusses the roller coaster:
The Arizona defense dominated the Iowa offense for the first half of the game. Allowing only one touchdown, and shutting down the vaunted Iowa rushing attack. The Arizona offense took a commanding lead to head into halftime. While the running game never looked dominant for Arizona, it did just enough. Getting the hard, short yards when needed. It seemed that the Wildcats were on the way to a blowout victory. And then the second half started. Through some tough play by Iowa, some questionable calls by the Pac-10 officiating crew, and some cringe-inducing mistakes, Arizona allowed Broderick Binns to tie the game via a pick 6 and threaten to take the lead in the fourth quarter. With the entire crowd in disbelief, wondering how they were suddenly facing an extra point kick that would give Iowa the lead, Arizona found some magic. S Joseph Perkins blocked the extra point kick. Suddenly, the crowd was energized. Arizona would be receiving the ball, and Nick ‘Sunshine’ Foles was going to have a chance to put the Cats up by a touchdown.
USC 32, Minnesota 21
The Gophers, a week after losing to South Dakota, surprised everyone by taking a third quarter lead against the visiting Trojans, but USC took control shortly thereafter. The Daily Gopher says that Minnesota coach Tim Brewster was content with keeping it close:
Yes Tim, great work. That really was a magical 8 seconds. I'm glad that you feel good about that, but I would bet your players don't. This is a USC team that is not the USC we've seen in the past. They are undisciplined and susceptible on defense, especially in the secondary. They are highly talented on offense, but they don't quite have an identity. And yet, our coaching staff did nothing to take advantage of the most beatable USC team in a decade. All signs point to Tim Brewster being satisfied with keeping it close instead of trying to take advantage of USC's weaknesses, mixing it up a bit on offense and trying to catch USC off guard... until the 4th quarter, when it was already too late and they completely abandoned the game plan that they had refused to get away from for 3 solid quarters.
While it wasn't pretty, Conquest Chronicles says that it's the happiest USC fans have been in some time:
For once during this 2010 USC football season, I'm smiling. No, not the type of widening grin you'd expect to see following a national championship, Rose Bowl victory, or seasonal win over UCLA. But the type of smirk that conveys a feeling of contentment. Because, for once this year, I'm satisfied with a win. The offense wasn't putrid like it was during the home opener against Virginia. Allen Bradford finally appeared healthy, rushing for 131 yards on 12 carries in replacement for the starting Marc Tyler. Matt Barkley, despite two interceptions in which one of them can be attributed to a communication lapse, still managed to throw two touchdowns while completing 65% of his passes.
Ball State 24, Purdue 13
Ball State stayed closer to Purdue than most expected, but Hammer and Rails was pleased with the progress:
Today was far from perfect, but it was enough. Purdue looked better. That is a big step forward after the past two weeks. The offense looked very solid under Robert Marve before he got hurt. We had trouble with the deep ball, but we were willing to throw it. Most importantly, the defense looked very solid. I won't fault them for the 13 points. They were forced to defend a short field both times, once because of a turnover and the other time because of a long kickoff return. Was this enough to expect a great season? No. If we continue to stagnate on offense we're going to get eaten alive by better teams. It was better than last week though. The defense showed it can hold a lead, something Purdue defenses of the past have been unable to do. The key is to get better, and we did that in the past week. We now need to get better next week against a team we have scored 104 points against in the past three seasons.
Penn State 24, Kent State 0
A week after being shut down by Alabama, the Nittany Lions shut out Kent State. Black Shoe Diaries and other PSU fans continue to measure the progress of their freshman quarterback:
The maturation of Rob Bolden continues before our eyes. With the good (55 yard bomb to Derek Moye, 48 yard TD to Devon Smith, and 33 rushing yards) also came the bad (two INTs and one lost fumble). Bolden's starts continue to be a roller coaster ride. Luckily for Bolden (and Penn State), Kent State isn't that great of a team and did not make Penn State pay for their mistakes. Bolden finished the day 17-27 for 217 yards 1 TD and 2 INTS (had a TD pass called back due to the hold of De'Ontae Pannell). We also got to see a little bit of Rob the runner, finishing with 33 yards on four carries and 1 TD. Penn State baseball coach, Robbie Wine, needs to come to practice this week to give Bolden some sliding lessons.
Ohio State 43, Ohio 7
As is par for September, the Buckeyes made quick work of an intrastate MAC opponent. If there's any concern, says, Along the Oletangy, it's not on offense or defense:
Yet again, special teams acts as the ugly scar on the supermodel. The Bobcats blocked a punt on Ohio State's first drive of the 3rd quarter, but luckily the Silver Bullets prevented the torpid Bobcat offense from doing anything with it. The block itself was a result of an overload punt blitz on the part of the Bobcat special teams, and very slow kick execution by Ben Buchanon. It has been painfully clear that Buchanon is struggling with the finer points of punting; as a redshirt sophomore who previously split duties between placekicking and punting, let's hope this is nothing more than a result of inexperience, and not inability.
Michigan 42, Massachusetts 37
After two solid wins to begin the season, the Wolverines flirted with distaster against UMass, which led by 10 in the first half and would have had the chance to win if they had recovered a late onside kick. Anyone want to guess what the over-under will be for the IU-Michigan game? Maize n Brew says that the Wolverines are on par with preseason expectations:
The bottom line is Michigan fans need to scale back their expectations for this year. As much as we like to say last season chastened us, everyone got caught up in the Denardification of the offense. We all started talking about the potential for an even better season than we first predicted. Nine wins were a legitimate possibility. After Saturday's performance, I'm sticking with my original predictions. This is a seven or eight win team. Maybe this was a defensive fluke. Maybe the team will improve. But to borrow from Denny Green, "They are who we thought they were." This is an exciting, dynamic offense led by the most electrifying Michigan quarterback any of us have ever seen. It's also a undermanned, inconsistent defense with all the depth of a kiddie pool.
Illinois 28, Northern Illinois 22
Another week, another directional Illini win. Hail to the Orange is pleased with the Illinois defense:
I hope that this is more suggestive of desperation on the Huskies part, that trick plays and misdirection were necessary to keep offensive drives going, because for the most part, the Illini defense would have over matched them. And it is worth nothing that on traditional formations and plays, the Illini defense was once again sound. the tackling is still solid, the D line is penetrating and the linebackers are plugging their holes. NIU QB Chad Harnish ran for over a hundred yards, (47 of which were on one broken play though) but all other carriers for the Huskies totaled out to less than 50, that is a good sign for most games. (With the obvious exception of Denard Robinson, who now looks like he will routinely double and triple the rushing yards of his RB's.)
Northwestern 30, Rice 13
Northwestern has quietly put together a solid preconference record, with two road wins. Sippin' on Purple didn't care for the lack of TV coverage. no one can say that the Big Ten Network hasn't raised expectations:
Don't get me wrong: I suppose in some freaky hypothetical world where I had to choose between being able to watch my team lose a football game or never being able to watch my team but knowing that they won every game, I'd probably take the latter. But "would you rather" situations are generally meant for way more interesting situations, and should never be manifested in a real-life situation where a crowded sports bar has to watch 80 HD tv's buffering simultaneously. We're a Big Ten school. I know this game was probably worked out years ago, and that they weren't thinking everything through at the time, but for a school with its heart set on having a profitable, popular football team, this should be the last time that a Big Ten team's game goes untelevised. Hell, the Big Ten Network even picked up Indiana-Western Kentucky. I know all this is more complicated and expensive than "oh, hey, we should air this game", but, well, even I couldn't have predicted the hilarious awkwardness of watching Rice's scoreboard Noise-O-Meter broadcast to an entire Buffalo Wild Wings.
The Red Wolves won for the first time this season. They led 21-0 and held on for the win.
I'll have more on Akron as the week continues, but the Zips are bad, bad, bad. They managed only 172 yards of offense in Lexington.
A week after their first win, the Tigers were obliterated by the Wildcats, the defending FCS national champ and currently top-ranked team in their subdivision.