September 16, 2008
Obsessing over the statistical anomalies and minutiae of close and closer-than-they-looked games that could have gone the other way. Be careful before you judge these games by the final score alone . . .
Notre Dame 35, Michigan 17. The Irish pulled the full "margins" trifecta: multiple, unforced opponent turnovers leading to both multiple short field touchdowns for the Irish and the suicide of long drives drives on the other end, with a defensive touchdown for ND to boot. This is how you can double someone up on the scoreboard without coming close to handling them on a down-by-down basis.
The Wolverines gift-wrapped this thing right out of the gate, with unforced fumbles on their first offensive possession and a kickoff, leading to easy Irish touchdowns (if there is such a thing) and setting Michigan up in comeback mode for the rest of the game. From there, the Wolverines had to settle for a field goal inside the Irish 10, fumbled inside the Irish 10 and threw and interception inside the Irish 20 -- at least 10 and as many as 18 points left on the board. The late fumble return for touchdown adds to Notre Dame's "swing point" haul, but didn't affect the outcome by that point in the game.
Still, loss or not, Michigan should come away feeling better about its prospects for the season than it did after either of its first two games. Notre Dame's offense didn't do much when not handed a readymade scoring opportunity, and Michigan's offense, when not dropping the ball on the ground, looked like a functional unit for the first time, with a viable quarterback in Steven Threet and a potential star in Sam McGuffie. And there's no way they lose four fumbles again in a single afternoon.
Air Force 31, Houston 28. First a word of admiration for Air Force: the Falcons outgunned a fairly high-powered UH offense despite completing zero passes in seven attempts, an unheard of statistic for a winning team as far as I'm aware in the annals of the modern game. Their one-dimensional success is a testament to the commitment, execution and perseverance of our future defenders and purveyors of death from the sky, as well as to the utterly hopeless future of the Houston defense, fresh off allowing 699 yards to Oklahoma State a week earlier.
As usual for a team running at will, Air Force was in control of this game virtually throughout, leading 31-14 heading into the fourth quarter. But Houston's offense isn't all garbage time stat-padding -- both offenses moved the ball by equal measures for most of the game. The difference was AFA sophomore Reggie Rembert, who returned a punt 53 yards to set up a short-field Falcon touchdown in the second quarter, and ended a red zone threat by Houston with an interception in the fourth. For its part, Houston fumbled away obe drive and lost another on downs in Falcon territory in the first half, missed a field goal early in the fourth quarter and couldn't get Air Force off the field after cutting the lead to three.
It's a good thing for the Falcons, too, because if they'd lost, what kind of offense can't complete a damn pass?! There's no anesthesia like winning.
Virginia Tech 20, Georgia Tech 17. There are no "Swing Points" by the specific definition, despite the Jackets' three turnovers. None of them put the Hokies in immediate scoring position. But Va Tech did turn Yellow Jacket mistakes directly into points, capitalizing on a fumble to spark a 43-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter and a midfield interception to drive inside the G-Tech 10 for a field goal early in the fourth.
Most impressive for the Hokies, though, is probably this: when Georgia Tech responded to that kick with its best drive of the day, a nine-play, 76-yard, four-and-a-half-minute touchdown march to tie, Virginia Tech immediately responded in kind with a 76-yard, five-minute drive that drained the clock and ended with the winning field goal. So where the Jackets were more consistent, they struggled to finish drives; and where the Hokies struggled to get moving on offense, as usual, they still don't come any more opportunistic than Virginia Tech.
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Photo of Donovan Warren (6) and David Bruton (27) via US Presswire.