November 08, 2010
Notes from the undercard.
Air Force not only unleashed some truly hideous uniforms for Saturday's 42-22 win over Army: The Falcons also captured the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy for the best head-to-head record among the three service academies, the first time it leaves its de facto home at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., since 2002.
That's the last time Navy had lost to Air Force or Army before last month, when the Falcons held the formidable Navy option out of the end zone and picked off quarterback Ricky Dobbs twice in a 14-6 upset that halted an amazing 15-game Midshipmen win streak in Commander-in-Chief play. By contrast, the win over Army was a routine beating, as it should be: Air Force has now taken 13 of the last 14 from the Black Knights, who have also dropped eight straight in the celebrated rivalry with Navy. Army remains one victory away from snapping a 12-year bowl drought, likely to come Saturday at Kent State. But the program won't be "back" in West Point until it finally gets back on the right side against its future comrades in arms.
In the meantime: It's time to take that thing on a few F-16 barrel rolls.
The Crib Sheet. Elsewhere in mid-majordom…
• It was ugly. But at least we know it was ugly. East Carolina did not keep Navy out of the end zone. In fact, athletic director Terry Holland was so mortified by a 76-35 loss to the Midshipmen – in which ECU yielded 521 yards rushing and was outscored 48-14 in the second half – that he issued a formal apology to Pirate fans for "one of those disappointing losses that is forever a part of ECU's football history." As Holland points out, though, at least they weren't Texas or Utah fans on Saturday, amiright? Is, uh, is this thing on?
• Say, what's the gauge on that 'Pistol,' anyway? It's a good thing ECU doesn't play Nevada, or Holland might be compelled to commit seppuku at the next alumni meeting. The Wolf Pack's 844-yard explosion in a 63-17 win at Idaho was the first 800-yard game by a single offense since 2007, and the most by any offense in a single game since Nov. 10, 2001, when San Jose State rang up 849 yards in a 64-45 win over … Nevada.
• Kid's coming along. Hyped freshman quarterback Jake Heaps delivered the first non-cringeworthy effort of his young career in BYU's 55-7 rout over UNLV, striking for 294 yards and two touchdowns against one of the nation's worst secondaries. In most seasons, that would be a ho-hum afternoon for a Cougar passer; in this one, when Heaps' development has loomed as a weekly nightmare even in victory, the first sign of the old Mountain West dominance is the best news the faithful have gotten all year.
• Game of the Week: New Mexico 34, Wyoming 31.
Wyoming went into Albuquerque with the nation's 116th-ranked rushing offense – dead last in the Mountain West – and left with a 392-yard performance on the ground that produced three different 100-yard rushers: Alvester Alexander (151 yards with three touchdowns, including a 94-yard sprint in the second quarter), Robert Herron (122 yards with a long of 68) and quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels (119 with a long of 56). Altogether, the Cowboys racked up 536 yards in total offense, their best single-game total in two years.
They also turned the ball over four times and lost, snapping New Mexico's eight-game losing streak and lifting the Lobos from the barren wasteland of the winless. True freshman quarterback Stump Godfrey turned in a killer performance in his first career start, completing 16 of 20 for 211 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and adding another touchdown to go with 69 yards as a runner (94 before sacks). In the fourth quarter alone, Señor Stump drove the Lobos' sad-sack attack 70 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 24, converted a short field into another TD for a 31-24 lead and finally answered the Cowboys' subsequent drive to tie with a methodical, 11-play, 47-yard march that drained the final 5:33 from the clock for James Aho's 38-yard field goal to win on the final play. For one week, anyway, the burden of the Saddest Team In America has been lifted.
• Player of the Week: Andy Dalton, QB, TCU.
No doubt: The Frogs' ginger ninja hit 21 of 26 passes for 355 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers in a 47-7 carpet-bombing of Salt Lake City, leaving the previously unimpeached Utah secondary a smoking crater and Dalton's pass efficiency rating (233.5) pushing some of the most extreme altitudes known to man. It was the best game of Dalton's career and ought to keep him high in the Heisman hunt as his team's profile begins to reach critical mass.
Honorable Mention: Speaking of pass efficiency, Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore kept up his record-setting pace with a 507-yard, three-touchdown barrage in the Broncos' 42-7 blowout over Hawaii, although he was also intercepted twice. … And Fresno State running back Robbie Rouse churned out 286 yards on 43 carries in the Bulldogs' 40-34 win at Louisiana Tech, including a 60-yard gain to set up a touchdown in the third quarter and a 51-yard sprint for the icing TD late in the fourth.
• Upset of the Week: UTEP 28, SMU 14.
The only place in America Saturday where the offenses where the offenses were't wielding flame-throwers as the stormed from end zone to end zone: El Paso, host to surprisingly muted efforts by the Miners (319 yards) and especially the Mustangs (359), whose frenetic passing attack fell asleep with a chance to move into sole possession of first place in C-USA's West Division.
A Somewhat Arbitrary Mid-Major Top 10.
1a. TCU (10-0). All things considered, a 40-point rout in Salt Lake City is as impressive a win as anyone has notched in college football this year.
1b. Boise State (8-0). A 35-point rout over Hawaii probably ranks in the top 50, and that ain't bad.
3. Utah (8-1). So you're not getting a BCS bid. Hey, Las Vegas is … nice around Christmas?
4. Nevada (8-1). Now easily exceeding the absurd production of last year's attack, and within 11 yards per game of replacing Oregon as the nation's No. 1 total offense.
5. Central Florida (7-2). Newly-ranked Knights are still the only team in Conference USA that plays any defense, but they've also scored at least 35 in every game of a five-game winning streak.
6. San Diego State (7-2). Underrated Aztecs are the last, best hope to derail the TCU train before it comes into the station at 12-0.
7. Northern Illinois (7-2). Saturday's visit from Toledo will decide the MAC West, and should be the Huskies' last significant hurdle to a perfect regular season in conference play.
8. Hawaii (7-3). Looked horrible at Boise, but see: every other team that plays at Boise.
9. Temple (7-2). Saturday's visit from Ohio U. could decide the MAC East for the second year in a row, though Miami (Ohio) continues to lurk with just one conference loss.
10. Fresno State (6-2). Bulldogs finally climb back into the top 10, now get Nevada and Boise State the next two weeks. Have fun, kids.
At the Other End of the Barrel…
• New Mexico's stunning victory leaves winless Akron as the new Saddest Team In America, though only by the slimmest of margins: The Zips took struggling Ball State to double overtime before finally falling in the second frame, 37-30. Their most heartbreaking defeat to date drops the Zips to 0-10 and leaves them dead-last nationally, 120th out of 120, in total offense.
• Rock-bottom mainstay Western Kentucky ended its own string of futility last month, but once again finds itself alone in the Sun Belt cellar this week after a 17-16 loss to Florida Atlantic. The Hilltopper defense hung in there to the end, but the offense either went three-and-out or failed to gain more than a single first down on 10 of 14 possessions.
• Wyoming's loss to New Mexico at least temporarily transfers the Mountain West's mark of shame from the Lobos to the Cowboys, who now sit 0-6 in MWC play with just two wins, one of them over Southern Utah in the season opener. The good news: Dates with equally inept UNLV and Colorado State offer Wyoming two plausible chances to escape the conference cellar down the stretch.
- - -
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.