Outsmarting the Rest

Southern Cal and LSU played it smart over the weekend by not playing. Ohio State, the only other division 1-A team with a single loss, won its game and thereby remained in the battle of teams fighting for the right to have its head caved in by Oklahoma next January in the Sugar Bowl.

AFAFalcon Staff Writer; Chris Field
Chris Field

Staff Writer

  JUST PLAIN UGLY. Perhaps some of the elation from the Oklahoma Sooners' victory was tempered by the competitive carnage they had wrought against Texas A & M. Nah. That's a pipe dream. Bob Stoops' team delivered the message loud and clear: play us at your own risk because we intend to try and bury you.

       QB Jason White hit his first fifteen passes to set OU on its way to amassing 636 yards and 77 points as Oklahoma handed the Aggies their worst loss in the program's 108 year history.

       How thorough and humiliating Stoops greets Francione after 77-0 win over Tx A&M (AP) was A & M's defeat? Have a look at some of the numbers. OU scored on ten of its first 11 possessions. A & M punted 12 times, but managed only three first downs. The Aggies had 54 yards of total offense, but 63 yards in penalties. The mismatch became so farcical that Stoops essentially had his running backs purposely run into the backs of their own blockers to avoid scoring another TD at one point in the game. It's hard to believe that A & M beat OU by a, 30-26, score last year.

       The next team placing its head on the chopping block against Oklahoma is Baylor. And the game is being played in Norman. Good luck fellas.

       STAY OF EXECUTION?Clemson coach Tommy Bowden (AP) In perhaps the biggest upset of the weekend the Clemson Tigers defeated Florida State, 26-10, and momentarily delayed the inevitable firing of coach Tommy Bowden, as his team upended papa Bobby's Seminoles.
       Frankly the biggest surprise was not that Clemson won the game, but rather that the final score wasn't more lopsided. The 'Noles ran for just 11 yards, were penalized 10 times for 105 yards, committed three turnovers and held the ball for less than twenty-four minutes. The Tigers never trailed and built a, 26-3, lead in the fourth quarter.

       STILL STANDING. The Pitt Panthers remained the only unbeaten team in Big East play by downing Virginia Tech, 31-28. Operating behind solid protection from his offensive line, QB Rod Rutherford Pitt's Rod Rutherford (AP) completed 24 of 31 passes for 303 yards and a pair of TDs. He added a third on the ground.

       The Hokies wasted a school record rushing effort by Kevin Jones, who splintered the Pitt defense for 241 yards and 4 TDs. A week after beating the Miami Hurricanes, Frank Beamer's squad coughed up the ball four times and had no answer for containing the productive Pitt attack V.Tech's Kevin Jones (AP) which totaled 446 yards.

       NOT WHAT IT SEEMS. At first glance Tennessee's victory over Miami may be perceived as a Vols' win against a team still in mourning after losing to Virginia Tech in its last game. Yes, Tennessee ended the 'Canes nation-leading twenty-six game home winning streak in posting a, 10-6, win. What may have gone unnoticed is that the victory raised the Volunteers' record in the month of November to 70-4(.945) since 1985. It simply doesn't matter where Tennessee plays in November, it wins.

       It was an ugly win Tenn's Casey Clausen (AP) in that the Vols could hardly move the ball throughout the game, but the team's defense was immense when the need arose. In forcing two fumbles and delivering two interceptions the Vols' defenders kept the 'Canes at bay. QB Casey Clausen improved his record as a starter on the road to 13-1. Next up for Tennessee is hapless Mississippi State.

       WHO'D THEY RILE? Someone in Stillwater must have irked the Big 12 schedule maker. One week after facing instate rival Oklahoma, OSU had to turn around and play Texas. The Sooners blitzed the Cowboys, 52-9, and this time it was the Longhorns who overcame a, 16-7, deficit and scored the game's final 48 points en route to a, 55-16, win.

       In four of their past five games OSU has surrendered point totals of 34, 49, 52 and 55. Help may be on the way in the form of games with Kansas and Baylor. The Cowboys' big play offense has been muzzled the past two weeks. Texas ran wild in piling up over 500 yards on offense without committing a turnover.

       THIS HAS GOT TO STOP! Washington State lost to USC, 43-16, last week and looked bad in doing so as the Cougars were held to minus twenty-five yards rushing and were flagged for 115 yards in penalties.

       WSU beat UCLA, 31-13, in a PAC 10 game which may have set a record for sloppy ball handling. The squads combined for six interceptions, ten fumbles and fourteen turnovers with each side giving the ball away seven times. In the midst of it all the Cougars managed to score 28 first half points and assume an 18 point lead by halftime. The Cougars remain atop the conference with a 5-1 record, but USC has played one less game and holds the tiebreaker over WSU.

       ONE IN A ROWDuke's Chris Douglas (AP) .No, this was not a basketball game. Duke actually won an Atlantic Coast Conference football game for the first time this millennium. The Blue Devils, powered by 218 yards rushing by Chris Douglas, beat Georgia Tech, 41-17, for the team's first conference victory since downing Wake Forest, 48-35, on November 13, 1999.

       A BIG DISAPPOINTMENT. There are surprises each year in division 1-A. With the slips Penn State has taken in recent years perhaps it's really not surprising that the Nittany Lions have faltered this season.

       That is decidedly not the case for the Colorado State Rams. Universally picked to win their fourth conference title in five years in 2003, the Rams have already been fleeced five times this year. What's the problem? Inexplicably poor defensive play.

       Sonny Lubick's team is a mediocre 5-5 on the year. The Rams lost longtime defensive coordinator Larry Kerr to UCLA at the end of the 2002 season and quite simply haven't replaced him. The Rams have been torched for  42 points by Colorado; 41 by Miami of Ohio; 28 by Utah; 35 by Wyoming and 37 by New Mexico in last Friday night's loss in Albuquerque. There will be no Mountain West Conference title in 2003. The Rams are now consigned to playing out the string versus San Diego State and UNLV and hoping for a miraculous bowl bid that is not likely to be forthcoming. It will be an even longer and colder winter than usual in Fort Collins.

       RED CARPET NUMBERS. Already a prime time player in the aerial circus that is Texas Tech football, Wes Welker continued to show what a gifted punt-return specialist he is. A twenty-two yard return in the Red Raiders', 62-14, win against Baylor raised Welker's career mark to 1,746 yards breaking the NCAA record established 54 years ago by Vanderbilt's Lee Nalley. Welker also holds the NCAA career record for TDs via punt returns with eight.Scott Rislov of San Jose St.  (AP)

       San Jose's Scott Rislov threw for 543 yards and seven TDs in his team's, 69-41, win over UTEP. The teams combined for 1,294 yards of offense.

       Kansas State's Darren Sproles had the most productive day of his career while running for 201 yards against Iowa State as the Wildcats shut out the Iowa State Cyclones, 45-0. 

       Oklahoma continued its "take no prisoners" approach to winning games over the weekend. The Sooners' demolition of Texas A & M by a, 77-0, score means that OU has won its three games against Big 12 South Division opponents (Texas, Ok. St. and Tex. A & M) by an aggregate score of 194-22.

       Minnesota beat Wisconsin, 37-34, to secure a nine win season for the Golden Gophers for the first time since 1905. Of course, way back then a pair of Minnesota's wins were registered against high school teams.

       John Gagliardi of St. John's (Minn.) became college football's all-time winningest coach over the weekend when the Johnnies beat Bethel, 29-26. Gagliardi's 409th victory stands him one better than Grambling's Eddie Robinson.

       MOTIVATED. Jackie Sherrill announced that he will retire from his head coaching position at Mississippi State at the end of the current season. Since divulging his plans the Bulldogs have played and lost three games by a combined score of 125-30. Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi now await their turns to slap Sherrill into retirement on the heels of a six game losing streak.
       STREAKING. Place-kicker D. J. Fitzpatrick booted a 40 yard field goal as time expired in regulation to lift Notre Dame to a 27-24 victory against Navy. It was the fortieth consecutive win for the Fighting Irish over the Midshipmen--an NCAA record for domination of one team by another.

       If Navy should happen to beat the Irish any time soon, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are waiting in the wings. Frank Solich's team downed Kansas by a, 24-3, score over the weekend for NU's thirty-fifth straight win over the Jayhawks. Hey, there's always basketball season for the boys in Lawrence.

       CATCHING SOME ZZZZZZs. As a public service to shopping malls across the land, please remember, it is never too early to begin your holiday shopping. There are turkeys to buy, defrost and stuff; chestnuts to roast on an open fire; Christmas cards to send and holiday invitations of all stripes for which plausible regrets must be concocted.

       In Bloomington, Indiana you can just feel the excitement. There's an audible buzz in the air, cuz Lord knows there's no other kind of audible in the air. The interminable football season is about to end. After this weekend only the annual drubbing administered by Purdue stands between Hoosiers and their beloved basketball season.

       In State College,Coach Joe Paterno "Wheaties"(AP) Pennsylvania--in the currently inappropriately named Happy Valley--there are two vexing problems. One is the state of affairs surrounding the steady decline of the legend which continues to be Joe Paterno. The other is what exactly there is to do in Happy Valley even after a lousy football season ends.

       In a game which will decide absolutely nothing and whose televised action would be spurned even by folks living with Gilligan and the Skipper, the 2-8, Penn State Nittany Lions will host the equally maladroit Indiana Hosers, er Hoosiers. No wait a minute...I was right the first time.

       It's hard to fathom that in a conference such as the Big 10, which seems to have an inexhaustible supply of talent, a game matching a pair of inexpert, ham-handed teams like these would be possible. If you are desperate enough to make plans to watch this event on your state of the art, plasma screen jumbotron, you should know that sound medical advice is available to help cure you. This late fall festival of football faux-pas will have you in the Land of Nod before halftime and for that you should give proper thanks.

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