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Dr. Saturday

Mid-Major Monday: Temple makes its biggest mark in bid to transcend the MAC

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

Weekly notes from the undercard.

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After a four-point loss to Penn State last week, Temple finally got the win against a "Big Six" conference team it deserved. The Owls jumped on Maryland early and defeated them 38-7 in College Park, ending a six-game losing streak to the Terps in dominant fashion.

While Temple should be thrilled about this win, big wins at the beginning of the season are starting to become the norm for the Owls. They defeated UConn last year in what was considered a program-defining win, but failed to finish the season strong in their own conference. One of the things coach Steve Addazio questioned during the preseason was whether his team had the mental fortitude to finish a season, because while a win against Maryland is great, a MAC title and a bowl berth would be a lot better.

"If you can't finish a season, then you're not very mentally tough," Addazio said in an earlier interview. "And that's where we need to improve. We need to be a good football team in November. That's the mark of a tough football team and that's the mark of a well-conditioned football team."

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THE CRIB SHEET. Elsewhere in mid-majordom…

Toledo has asked that Syracuse's win over the Rockets on Saturday be vacated because of an admitted bad call by officials, but the game will remain a 'Cuse win. With about two minutes remaining and a 29-27 lead following a touchdown, the Orange clearly missed an extra point to go ahead by three. Somehow, even with the benefit of replay, officials ruled the kick good. Toledo responded with a drive to tie the game at 30 with a field goal at the end of regulation, before losing in overtime. Had the officials gotten the call right, Toledo likely  would have won the game by a point.

The Big East acknowledged the mistake in a statement late Saturday and has been in contact with the Mid-American Conference, but there's nothing either party can do to change the outcome of the game.

"Since the conclusion of the Toledo-Syracuse game, I have been in communication with Big East Commissioner, John Marinatto, along with Rogers Redding, Secretary-Rules Editor of the NCAA Football Rules Committee," MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said in a statement. "By rule once the game is declared over the score is final and there is no recourse to reverse an outcome. (Rule 1, Section 1, Article 3, Paragraph b of the 2011 NCAA Football Rules and Interpretations.) I share the frustration and regret with our Toledo coaches, student-athletes, administration and supporters of the Rockets football program."{YSP:MORE}

And then there were two… The non-AQ conferences went into the weekend with six undefeated teams and, predictably, came out with two: Boise Sate and Houston remain unblemished after San Diego State, Wyoming, Ohio and Florida International all lost over the weekend. San Diego State, Wyoming and Ohio all played "Big Six" schools this week, while FIU lost to conference foe, Louisiana-Lafayette.

• Speaking of which: What about ULL? For the past couple weeks, MMM has been fawning over Florida International when really, Lafayette has proven to be the power of the Sun Belt Conference. The Ragin' Cajuns upset FIU 36-31 to move to 3-1 on the season. Their only loss came in the season opener to Oklahoma State, but they still managed to score 34 points on the Cowboys.

San Jose State snapped a 13-game losing streak by beating New Mexico State, 34-24, earning well-deserved golf claps. Interestingly enough, the last team San Jose State beat was … New Mexico State.

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RUSH THE FIELD. Wins worthy of a bleacher-clearing celebration.
A hearty congrats to North Texas, which defeated Indiana, 24-21, to earn the Mean Green's first win over a "Big Six" opponent since 2003. North Texas actually led the game 24-0 before Indiana fought its way back in the final six minutes. But North Texas recovered an onside kick with about a minute remaining to secure the victory.

The win was also coach Dan McCarney's first since coaching at Iowa State in 2006.

GAME OF THE WEEK: Mississippi State 26, Louisiana Tech 20 (Overtime)
Yes, yes it is possible that for the second straight week, Louisiana Tech snatched defeat from the hands of victory. Last Saturday it was a come-from behind victory by Houston; this time, Mississippi State stopped a La. Tech upset bid with two interceptions at the end of regulation and in overtime.

Nick Isham, Tech's 17-year-old freshman quarterback, moved the Bulldogs within field goal range with less than four minutes remaining but threw an interception to stall the drive. In overtime, Isham threw an interception on the second play of the extra period to all but seal it for Mississippi State. The maroon Bulldogs scored on their second play of overtime.

What was head-shaking last week is just sad this week. Louisiana Tech is nine points away from being 4-0 this season but can't finish a game. Is it fair to say the Bulldogs are the best 1-3 team in the country?

YOUTUBE DEDICATION OF THE WEEK:

This week's YouTube musical dedication goes out to San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley, who struggled mightily in his best chance to show off his NFL-worthy arm at Michigan. He fumbled once and consistently missed open receivers in the 28-7 loss. I'm calling it an aberration: Lindley and the Aztecs can right the ship against TCU this weekend. So, Ryan Lindley and the Aztecs, I dedicate Bob Seger's "Turn The Page" to you as performed by Metallica. Enjoy.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Bernard Pierce, Temple.
Pierce appears back to his freshman form after scoring a school-record five touchdowns in the win over Maryland. Pierce had 32 rushes for 149 yards. He now has 12 touchdowns on the year and leads the nation in scoring. He currently ranks 10th in the country in rushing with 496 yards and, with conference play starting, appears to be well on his way to his second 1,000-yard campaign in the past three seasons.

"It's nice to know that I'm back on top of my game where I should be at," Pierce said after the game. "There's always room for development and I keep pushing for it."

Honorable mention: Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz set a Hawaii record and tied an NCAA record with seven touchdown passes in the first half against UC-Davis. He also threw for 424 yards in the half. … North Texas running back Lance Dunbar had 279 yards of total offense, including 152 passing yards, in the 24-21 win over Indiana.

A SOMEWHAT ARBITRARY MID-MAJOR TOP 10
1. Boise State (3-0) The Broncos stayed perfect with a 41-21 win over Tulsa and should remain perfect this week against struggling Nevada.
2. Houston (4-0) The Cougars are the only other undefeated non-AQ team and should remain that way against UTEP.
3. Temple (3-1) The win over Maryland should give the Owls a lot of confidence heading into a tough conference slate.
4. Navy (2-1) The much-anticipated Commander-in-Chief game against Air Force is this week. The Mids have won seven of the last eight CIC trophies.
5. TCU (3-1) TCU continues its final Mountain West season Saturday against a San Diego State team that nearly upset the Frogs a year ago.
6. Louisiana-Lafayette (3-1) Making a surprise appearance in the poll this week, the Ragin' Cajuns' win over FIU put them atop the Sun Belt standings and in the driver's seat for their first Sun Betl crown.
7. Florida International (3-1) The loss to Lafayette was a setback, but one the Panthers should be able to overcome. They get Duke this week for a chance at another non-conference confidence boost.
8. Bowling Green (3-1) The Falcons got right back into the win column this week after a tough loss to Wyoming. The MAC is shaping up to be a tough conference, but Bowling Green could be right in the hunt for a title.
9. Southern Miss (3-1) The Golden Eagles defeated Virginia to give them their first road win against a "Big Six" team since 2005.
10. SMU (3-1) The Mustangs have been flying under the radar a bit since an opening-night thumping at the hands of Texas A&M, but are still the favorites to win C-USA West.
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Honorable Mention: Colorado State (3-1), Ohio (3-1), San Diego State (3-1), Hawaii (2-2) Utah State (1-2)

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AT THE OTHER END OF THE BARREL…
New Mexico missed its best opportunity to get a win this season by losing to Sam Houston State in overtime, but some would still consider the Lobos winners because they finally fired head coach Mike Locksley. Who knows? Maybe that's the change the program needs to get it back in the win column.

STAY TUNED FOR…
BYU tries to get revenge on Utah State, which kicked the Cougars while they were down last year. BYU has already suffered one embarrassing loss to an in-state rival. Can it handle two? … The Commander-In-Chief game between Air Force and Navy is always fun to watch even if it doesn't have the pageantry of Army-Navy. … And Boise State could put up a big number against Nevada this week as the Broncos look to remain perfect and make amends for last year's epic loss to the Wolf Pack.

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Graham Watson is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow her @Yahoo_Graham.

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