Noting Autumnal Briliance on the Gridiron

Even in the realm of college football time continues its inexorable forward march.  As September prepares to morph into October, here's a look at the last full weekend of play amongst major colleges, before its combatants engage in the autumnal exercise of football fratricide: conference play.

BUSH WHACKED. Reggie Bush executed a dazzling punt return in the fourth quarter to give top ranked USC solid field position which led to the Trojans' final TD of the day and allowed them to overcome Stanford's 11 point halftime lead. Bush totaled 220 all-purpose yards on the day and saved USC from a major embarrassment. He entered the game averaging 10.4 yards every time he touched the ball for USC and didn't hurt that figure a bit.
Southern Cal stretched its winning streak to 13 games, its all time record against Stanford to 56-24-3 and posted its eighth consecutive, Pac 10 conference, road win by downing the Cardinal, 31-28.
RUNNING AT WILL. The Rice Owls entered their game with Texas leading the nation in run defense having allowed an unconscionably low five yards per contest. Texas came into the game with the nation's top rushing attack at 386 yards a contest. The Longhorns managed to run for 339 yards on a mere 44 carries in posting their, 35-13, win over the Owls. Big tiem Tx Back
Cedric Benson led the way with 189 yards and 1 TD for the Texas offense which  posted a robust 525 yards on the night. Texas, coming off an open week in its schedule, didn't miss a beat in raising its record under Mack Brown following an off week to 10-2.  Texas is now a sizzling 34-3 at home with Brown as head coach and has won 25 of its past 26 games at Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Next up are the Baylor Bears.
MOUNTAINEERING. Mountain QBIf you're looking for a team which may quietly work its way into the upper reaches of the polls around college football, consider West Virginia. Rich Rodriguez's team downed James Madison, 45-10, and raised its record to 4-0. With a schedule which has no teams on it currently ranked in the top twenty-five for the remainder of the regular season,  the mornings in Morgantown are looking bright these days. The win raised West Virginia's all time record in the month of September to 100-25-4. A twenty-one point second quarter and a 17 for 22, 2 TD passing performance from Rasheed Marshall were more than enough to subdue the Dukes.
STRONG STARTS. A week after sneaking past LSU by a single point, the Auburn Tigers barely broke a sweat in dismantling The Citadel by a, 33-3, count.  Touchdowns from Jason Campbell and Carnell Williams in the second quarter helped stake the team to a 23-0 halftime lead. Six hundred ninety three yards of offense, sustained by 33 first downs, gave Auburn control of the contest from start to finish.
Auburn began the game having surrendered just 7.7 points per outing and had no trouble limiting the Bulldogs to 3 points on a fourth quarter field goal.
Cav RBA CAVALIER ATTITUDE. Virginia used a balanced attack featuring 225 yards on the ground and 202 through the air to squeeze the Syracuse Orange, 31-10. QB Marques Hagans ran for 2 TDs and completed 11 of 12 passes in leading the Cavs' attack.
Virginia's offense didn't spend much time on the field as it initiated just 51 plays, but each one netted nearly 8.4 yards. RB Wali Lundy scored his 10th TD of the season matching his total from all of 2003.
DAWG FIGHT? Not hardly. The LSU Tigers showed nary a sign of hangover from their one point loss to Auburn last week in turning their full attention to the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Nick Saban's crew buried the Bulldogs under 51 points and 599LSU QB yards of offense in coasting to a, 51-0, victory.  If the Bayou Bengals hadn't lost four of their five fumbles there's no telling how bad MSU's beating would have been.  
After a mediocre 12 for 28 passing day last weekend, QBs JaMarcus Russell and Marcus Randall hit on 18 of 23 pass attempts and LSU ran for 272 yards as the team held the ball for nearly 39 full minutes. LSU lifted its all time record against Mississippi to 62-33-3 and avenged last year's, 17-16, loss in Starkville.
URABNE URBAN. UtahUte RB scores used its dual fronted attack to cage the Air Force Falcons, 49-35, in Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Utes had been averaging over 200 yards a game both passing and rushing and easily surpassed those totals as the Falcons surrendered more than 500 yards for the second time this month. QB Alex Smith led a furious assault which saw Utah score 5 touchdowns in a ten minute two second stretch during the second and third quarters to take control of the game.
RB Marty Johnson contributed a school record tying 4 TDs as the Utes raised their record to 4-0 and waited to learn whether or not that would be enough to crack this week's top ten after beginning the game as the nation's 14th ranked team. Smith, a junior who already holds a Master's degree in business, raised his record to 13-1 as the team's starter. Utah improved to 4-0 for the first time since 1994 and continued to give every indication that it will repeat its Mountain West Conference championship from last fall.
THERE'S NO THWARTIN' ORTON. PB QBAn unexpectedly stubborn Illinois team gave Purdue a much more difficult time of it than anticipated. In the end, the Boilermakers rode the arm of QB Kyle Orton, (35 of 50, 366 yards, 4 TDs and another one running) to a, 38-30, win over their Big 10 opponent.  Purdue had allowed just 7 points in its first two games and led the nation in fewest points allowed per game entering the contest with the Fightin' Illini.
Even though Purdue struggled, it kept intact its ability to beat unranked opponents under head coach Joe Tiller by raising its record against such teams to a gaudy 46-10. Next comes an instate battle with a Notre Dame squad enjoying a strong 3-1 start after dropping its season opener to BYU.
GATOR AID. The Florida Gators spotted the Kentucky Wildcats a 3-0 lead in the first quarter and then shut down the 'Cats for the final 51 minutes of the game to post a, 20-3, SEC win on Saturday. Florida has won18 straight against Kentucky, including last year's 24-21 victory in which the Gators rallied from an 18 point deficit. In shutting out Kentucky in the second half ,Florida maintained its record of having allowed no third quarter points this season.
QB Chris Leak suffered three interceptions, but Florida showed balance on offense with 262 rushing yards and only one less via the pass.
A-MAIZE-ING BLUE. Lloyd Carr's Michigan Wolverines escaped with a victory at home last week against San Diego State, but didn't need to struggle nearly as much against Iowa. The maize and blue downed the Hawkeyes, 30-17, and posted a conference opening win for the 23 consecutive year and the 36th time in 37 seasons.  The victory was Michigan's 12th straight at home since a, 34-9, defeat to Iowa in 2002.
WR Braylon Edwards pulled Mich. Wideoutin 6 passes for 150 yards and surpassed Amani Toomer on the school's career receiving yardage list. Only Anthony Carter remains ahead of Edwards, who needs 365 yards to become the top man on the charts. The Wolverines intercepted two more passes to run their nation's leading total to eleven for the season.  Iowa, which had not lost a fumble entering the game, committed five such errors and lost three of them to an opportune Michigan defense which has swiped the ball nineteen times from its opponents thus far in 2004.
WILL MINNESOTA GOPHER BROKE? RBs Laurence Moroney and Marion Barber III ran for 231 of Minnesota's 251 yards and Bryan Cupito tossed 2 TD passes in the team's, 43-17, laugher against the Northwestern Wildcats. Minn
The win provided Minnesota with its third straight, 4-0, start to a season. The Golden Gophers may be flying below the radar in the Big Ten this fall as their schedule omits games against Purdue and Ohio State.  An October 9th date with Michigan in the Big House in Ann Arbor may give coach Glen Mason's team its sternest test of the conference slate. The Mildcats' defense, already yielding 435 yards a game, allowed 454 to the Gophers.
KEEPAWAY. It's tough Terp Coachto score when you don't have the ball. Just ask Duke. The Blue Devils allowed Maryland to hold the ball for over 41 minutes as the Terps rolled to a one-sided, 55-21, victory in ACC play on Saturday. While the game was a relatively close, 27-21, at the half, Maryland rolled to 14 points in each of the two second half quarters and iced the game. Maryland has now crowned Duke 27 of the past 31 times the teams have met.
Ralph Friedgen's team raised its record to a perfect 30-0 in his tenure when leading at halftime.
ODDS, ENDS AND LEFTOVERS. Air Force's loss to conference foe Utah, dropped the MWC's record to 0-8 against ranked teams this season. MWC RBs had a tough week. First, San Diego State announced Lynell Hamilton--last year's Freshman of the Year in the conference--would be red-shirted due to complications from a broken leg he suffered last year. Then on Saturday night, New Mexico lost DonTrell Moore for an undetermined period of time to a knee ligament injury.
Navy QB Aaron Polanco threw Middie QBfor a career high 176 yards in the Middies' 29-26 win over Vanderbilt . Paul Johnson's squad is 4-0 on the season.
Mississippi scored 32 points on 567 yards of total offense, but allowed Wyoming's Josh Barge to score on an 87 yard punt return and a 69 yard pass reception in the Cowboys', 37-32, win in Laramie moving Joe Glenn's team to 2-1 on the year..
The aerial circus which is Texas Tech football continued apace with QB Sonny Cumbie's 356 yard 2 TD performance. The Red Raiders' defense held Kansas scoreless in the second half of Tech's, 31-30, win in Lawrence.
Florida State won the Bowden Bowl, as the Seminoles forced five turnovers against Clemson and limited the Tigers to a meager 173 yards of production in a, 44-21, win.
AFA punter Donny Heaton hoisted a 90 yard blast in Salt Lake against Utah in his team's 49-35 loss to the Utes.
Tennessee stormed through an outmanned Louisiana Tech defense for 595 yards for the gameBadger Barry and 42 points in the first three quarters en route to a, 42-17, victory which moved Phil Fulmer's Vols to 3-0 this campaign.
The Wisconsin Badgers don't have much offense this fall, but they haven't needed it.  In raising their record to 4-0 with a 16-3 win over Penn State, the Cheeseheads have allowed just 19 points this season, a figure that is the best in the nation.

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