Dr. Saturday

Week 7 Winners and Losers: West Virginia’s poor defense finally catches up with it

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

So, it's solved. Defense really does win championships - or just plain ol' Big 12 Conference games.

That's what West Virginia found out Saturday afternoon when it ran into a Texas Tech team with a similar offense and a much better defense, and was throttled 49-14 in Lubbock. It was the No. 5 Mountaineers first loss of the season.

"We just didn't execute on offense. It's a team loss," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "They outplayed us, they outcoached us and on all three sides of the ball did better than we did.

"We just gave (the defense) no hope on offense."

Texas Tech exposed a West Virginia defense that had been mediocre - at best - through the first half of the season, but had been bailed out by its high-powered offense. However, Texas Tech locked down the Mountaineers' offense, limited Heisman hopeful quarterback Geno Smith to a 52 percent completion rate, 295 yards and one touchdown, his worst overall outing of the season.

[Related: LSU finds inspiration from unusual source in win over South Carolina]

That left a poor defense with the impossible task of trying to keep West Virginia in a game that was lost in the first quarter. While it was a stunning performance, it's hard to say no one saw this coming. West Virginia's season has been built on outracing its opponent to the finish line and it finally caught up with the Mountaineers.

Here are the other winners and losers from Week 7:

Winners

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(AP)

Tulane: Congratulations to Tulane, which snapped a nation-long 15-game losing streak with a 27-26 win over SMU. Quarterback Ryan Griffin hit Robert Kelley for a 16-yard touchdown with 35 seconds remaining to give the Green Wave the upset win. Tulane led the game 20-6 at halftime, but gave it all back to the Mustangs prior to Griffin's heroics.

"I was holding my breath, just praying with them only needing a field goal," Griffin told nola.com. "So when the clock hit zero, I was really just like 'yes, thank you.'"

Tulane's last win was a 49-10 triumph over UAB on Sept. 17, 2011.

Boise State's defense: For years, Boise State was known for a great offense marching up and down the field, sprinkling in a few trick plays when necessary. The offense isn't as great this year without quarterback Kellen Moore, but the Broncos have morphed into a defensive team. Fresno State was averaging 39.5 points and almost 500 yards per game before going to Boise, but the Bulldogs were stopped cold by the Broncos. Boise State won 20-10, holding Fresno State to a field goal until very late, and now has given up just 88 points in six games.

Michigan: Yes, Saturday's win isn't so impressive when you consider it came against Tim Beckman and his hapless Illini, but the Wolverines all of a sudden look like a very good team. Last week Michigan beat Purdue 44-13 and this week it beat the Illini 45-0. All jokes aside about the step down in competition once Big Ten play started, Michigan has gotten quarterback Denard Robinson going again, linebacker Jake Ryan has established himself as perhaps the best defensive player in the conference and UM looks like the best bet to represent the Legends Division in Indianapolis, especially if it can beat Iowa at home on Nov. 17.

Kansas State: The Wildcats might be really good this season. Kansas State's 27-21 win at Iowa State wasn't pretty, but it is a good road win against a solid Cyclones team. And, the upset win at Oklahoma earlier this year looks like a premium victory after what the Sooners did to Texas on Saturday.

Time after time against Iowa State, Collin Klein made clutch plays even though Iowa State knew he was calling his own number, running for 105 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries.

"He's a great player, an All-American in my book," Iowa State Paul Rhoads said to GoPowercat.com. "He doesn't get the attention because he isn't flashy and doesn't put up the gaudy numbers that some other college football players do, but he has a 6-0 football team that is ranked in the top five.

"They can play with anybody in the country with arguably less talent on the field than everybody in the Top 10."

Losers

Joker Phillips: The Joker Phillips job watch probably begins in earnest now. Kentucky's season already was going downhill fast, but being down 42-0 at halftime at Arkansas — and we all know about the Razorbacks' problems this season — is a really bad look (the game ended 49-7, when it was stopped with 5:08 left in the third quarter because of weather - a lucky break for Kentucky). Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson completed 19-of-25 passes for 331 yards and four touchdowns. Oh, and that was just in the first half. The Razorbacks outgained Kentucky 444-88 in the first half. When something like that happens, a team isn't playing very hard for its coach anymore. Remember, the players didn't exactly give him a ringing endorsement a few weeks ago. Midseason changes aren't fun, but at this point, playing out the rest of the season with Phillips at the helm might be even worse.

Auburn: Satan continues to do his handy work on the Plains as Mississippi hammered the listless Tigers 40-21 to earn its first SEC win since beating Kentucky in October 2010.

Auburn has lost six consecutive conference games and has started the season 1-5 for the first time since 1998. It's amazing how quickly that national championship has been forgotten and coach Gene Chizik has become public enemy No. 1 among Auburn fans.

Duke: The Blue Devils were up 20-0 at Virginia Tech, looking like they might get their sixth win and become bowl eligible for the first time in 18 years. Then it started to all fall apart. Turnovers, dropped passes and poor defense allowed Virginia Tech to score 41 unanswered points. Duke turned back into Duke at the worst possible time. And if you're a pessimistic Duke football fan (tough to imagine there's many optimistic ones out there), there is a fear that sixth win never comes. The remaining schedule: North Carolina, at Florida State, Clemson, at Georgia Tech, Miami (Fla.). Duke hasn't done well against any of those teams in recent years. The sixth win will probably come on one of those Saturdays, but it would have been better for the Blue Devils to lock it up when they had that huge lead.

Michigan State: College football has its fair share of disappointments this season, but while we wonder about how long Gene Chizik has left at Auburn and who Arkansas' new coach will be, let's not forget Michigan State. The Spartans were supposed to be a contender for the Big Ten title, but that's not going to happen. The Spartans are 1-2 in conference play at 4-3 overall after dropping a 19-16 game to Iowa at home. Michigan State led 10-0 early on but the offense did almost nothing after that. Iowa, on the other hand, deserves some credit for bouncing back from tough non-conference losses to Iowa State and Central Michigan to win its first two Big Ten games.

Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh fans now have another reason to hate former coach Todd Graham because it seems he left the program in shambles and current coach Paul Chryst is having a tough time putting it back together. Saturday's 45-35 loss to Louisville dropped the Panthers to 0-3 in Big East play for the first time 2001 and wondering where the momentum from the 35-17 win over Virginia Tech back in mid-September went.

At 2-4, it's going to be tough for the Panthers to cobble together four more wins on their schedule unless something dramatically changes.

Frank Schwab contributed to this report

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