The Weekend That Was: CFB Week 5

By John Harris
October 3, 2011

Wisconsin wins, A&M sins. Alabama triumphs while Navy loses its cool.

 

Certain truths in college football became evident after all games had been played on Saturday night.  It’s clear that there are two truly great teams, one bumping its head on the ceiling, one that has a chance with a dynamic quarterback - and that A&M doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to win a game in which it has a three score lead.  We’ll try to hit on all of that in The Wekend That Was: Week 5 version.

Winners

1.  State of Wisconsin - Okay, so the Brewers and the Packers victories over the weekend don’t technically count for the purpose of this winner, but I’m lumping it right into one of the biggest statement wins of the weekend - the Badgers' big win over Nebraska.  With the Brewers winning two over the Diamondbacks and the Packers pounding the Broncos, the Badgers had the most stern test and answered the call, intercepting Taylor Martinez on three consecutive drives in the late 2nd and early 3rd quarters to put that game on ice.

Wisconsin’s offense is for real and it’ll be interesting to see whether there exists a defense that can truly stop it, and the defense is making strides.  I do believe that the defense is vulnerable when it faces a team with a solid offensive attack.  It won’t face one any time soon, so expect this to be a fall to remember for the state of Wisconsin and its new favorite “adopted” son – Russell Wilson.

2.  Arkansas - with nearly (seemingly) half its team on the shelf, the Razorbacks trailed #14 Texas A&M by 17 at half, but fought back and won the last 30 minutes and then some.  Hog QB Tyler Wilson threw for 510 yards, riddling the Aggie secondary throughout the game, leading Arkansas to an emotional 42-38 win in Arlington.  WR Jarius Wright had a Man’s day, finishing with 281 yards on 13 receptions and two touchdowns.

3.  Alabama - The defense knocked out Gator QB John Brantley.  The offense wore out the Gators’ talented defensive line.  It was a butt-kicking and delayed the “arrival” of the Will Muschamp-led Gators back into the nation’s conscience. That’ll happen, but just not this season, not with this group.

Back to Alabama… The offense leans heavily on its running game and RB Trent Richardson, but what’s scary for Alabama’s future opponents is the fact that the offensive line is getting better and better.  AJ McCarron has his moments, but the OL is tremendous and actually improving.  The defense gave up a long ball to Andre Debose on the first play of the game, but it shut out Florida over the last 3 quarters of the game.

It’s clear that the two best teams in the nation are Alabama and LSU; Oklahoma is third and still in the conversation.

4.  LSU DB Tyrann Mathieu - The sophomore forced his eighth fumble in his career to set an LSU record (and he took this one back for a touchdown).  It’s becoming clear that Mathieu is the best playmaker on the defensive side of the ball for, arguably, the best defense in the nation.

5.  West Virginia RB Dustin Garrison - Last year when Garrison was a senior at Pearland HS, just outside of Houston, TX, he was overlooked by bigger names in a running back class that was superb.  But, after a tremendous playoff run leading Pearland to a storybook state championship, Garrison got the attention of former University of Houston offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen.

When Holgorsen took over as HCIW at West Virginia, he offered Garrison a scholarship and that decision is paying major dividends for both Garrison and the Mountaineers.  He ran for 291 yards on 32 carries and two touchdowns in a decisive 55-10 win over Bowling Green.  Perhaps the Mountaineers loss to LSU was actually a win because it was in that game that Garrison got the opportunity to get on the field.  He’s going to be tough to get off the field after that performance.

6.  Clemson DE Andre Branch - FINALLY!  Branch took his game to a different level on Saturday in Blacksburg.  He finished with 11 tackles on the day, four tackles for a loss and two sacks.  He has the talent to be a superstar and this is the film that all of us draft experts will point to in April when he makes a bid to be one of the top draft picks in the 2012 NFL Draft.

7.  South Carolina DL Melvin Ingram - Even in a losing effort, you’ve got to recognize greatness, right?  Ingram has been great throughout this entire season and it didn’t stop against Auburn, even in a loss.  He had 11 tackles, four for a loss, three sacks and he nearly saved the game with a sack on Auburn QB Barrett Trotter on Trotter’s game winning TD throw.  That time, Ingram was a step late.  The Gamecocks lost to Auburn, but not due to the play of Ingram.

His quarterback on the other hand… different story. See below.

8.  SMU - The Mustangs beat the hated TCU Horned Frogs for the first time since, well… since, dadgum, I was in middle school.  That was a long time ago.  You’ve got to give credit to June Jones for bouncing back from an early loss at Texas A&M as this team is getting more offensive with Kyle Padron's replacement JJ McDermott at quarterback.

9.  Notre Dame’s offense - The Irish are seemingly turning the corner and yes, I’m aware that the Irish beat hapless Purdue.  That all being said, this offense is starting to crank it up.  RB Cierre Wood ran for 191 yards and a touchdown. WR Michael Floyd had 12 receptions.

And, most importantly, the offense had NO turnovers.  See what happens when the ‘O’ hangs onto the football?  Crazy, huh?  

Keep an eye on this offense the rest of the year because it’s going to make a lot of people eat their words from a few weeks ago.

10.  Air Force - A win over Navy should mean another Commander in Chief trophy will be heading to Colorado Springs after a hard fought 35-34 OT win over Navy in Annapolis.

Losers

1.  Texas A&M – I don’t like to beat a team/staff/players when it’s down, but A&M has lost two halftime leads.  One of 17 points.  One of 18 points.  It happens, I suppose.  But, as a ranked team… two weeks in a row, seven days apart?

When you talked all week about it not happening?  When you swore that everyone’s mind was right and back on point?

This is a TEAM effort.  The coaching was bad in the second half.  The players didn’t - and can’t - execute.  No one has stepped up to be the leader of this team.  You know why I know?  Not one guy, not one guy has the stones to take a time out in the second half to rip some, well, you know.  In two straight games, the Aggies have had three time outs at the end of the game when it needed to take one to get…you know what, it probably didn’t matter.  This one was headed down the drain before it got to 35-20.

I got into a twitter “discussion” with someone who thought this defense had no talent.  That’s not true at all. Scouts have told us that A&M has a ton of talent, but what it doesn’t have is a bona fide leader that won’t let it lose.  Scoff at a guy like Tim Tebow, but this team needs one right now.  Who can it be?  Who will step out of his shell to be someone he doesn’t like being for the good of the team?

I suppose if THIS is going to stop, it’s on Mike Sherman and a senior leader to ensure it doesn’t happen again.  Now, even with this gut punch feeling if A&M wins out as OU and Texas beat OSU, it wins the Big 12.  That was plausible when the Ags were up 20-3 on OSU, but maybe not that much anymore.  But, then again, the Aggies did close well last year.  However, that was last year.

2.  Nebraska – I wanted to narrow this one down to the secondary, but then again, I’d have left out the linebackers not named Lavonte David and also Taylor Martinez.  So, I’m just throwing Nebraska into this category.  Two plays stand out:

The first was the throw to Nick Toon down the seam.  The Huskers were in man under zone coverage, which means there was absolutely no way that Russell Wilson should’ve found Toon so wide open near the end of the 1st half.  Yet, that’s exactly what happened.

The other play was the naked bootleg that Wilson took in for a touchdown where DB PJ Smith got sucked in…PLAYING THE RUN ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FORMATION.  Why?  Those two plays aren’t easy to stop, especially when Wilson is at quarterback, but if you’re disciplined, neither one of them would’ve taken place.  The whole night disintegrated in the wake of three Martinez picks, but this destruction was a team effort.

3.  Navy QB Kriss Proctor – Now, first of all, I’m all for refs taking action at certain points EARLY in a game and making each team understand that jawing/taunting will get your butt a 15-yard penalty, but not at the end of the game in overtime.

That said, Proctor had to keep his mouth shut and stay out of the face of an Air Force defender that cost his team 15 yards on a potential game tying extra point.  Football is an emotional game, no question, but there are moments when you MUST keep it together.  MUST.  Overtime down a point after a potential game tying touchdown??  Yep, that’s one of those times. He didn’t.

The Midshipmen attempted the extra point from 15 yards further back and got it blocked.  From 15 yards closer, it might have eked over the crossbar, but from that distance, it fluttered a few yards short in a 35-34 loss to the Flyboys from Air Force.

4.  South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia – It seems like we go through this each and every season, but this is the one season the Gamecocks couldn’t afford for Garcia to be Garcia.  Unfortunately he’s been the Wrong Garcia for much of this season.  He leads the nation with nine interceptions and he’s thrown eight of those in three conference games.  He threw two last weekend against an Auburn defense that had given up an average of 31 points per game going into the matchup in Columbia.  Finishing nine of 23 with two key interceptions?  Things need to change.  Soon.

5.   Houston’s defense – A win is a win is a win so I’m not going to harp, but this team can’t tackle.  But, watching this unit, in a WIN on Thursday, it was evident that it couldn’t even get in position to make the tackle, much less make the tackle.  For example, UTEP RB Joe Banyard had a 68-yard run for a touchdown, right up the middle of the field… AND HE DIDN’T GET TOUCHED!  Not one guy.  It’s not as if he swept around one end or the other; he ran between the guard and tackle and didn’t get touched.  No LB.  No safety.  No CB.  Not one guy.  The whole night was like that and if it doesn’t improve a lesser team will beat the Cougars and end the dream of an undefeated season.

6.  Florida’s John Brantley – it wasn’t his fault that he was wearing the target for the Alabama defense.  Now, he’s hurt and unsure when he can return.  He’s an unfortunate loser in this group.

7.  Virginia Tech offense – Logan Thomas is NOT a poor man’s Cam Newton.  He’s not even a poor man’s Jared Lorenzen.  He’ll be the answer, but he’s not right now.  That said, RB David Wilson is a beast, but he’s on his own.  Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin form a solid pair with no one to throw them the ball.  Scoring three points at home on a defense that had been giving up 25 points per game wasn’t what Frank Beamer imagined when he named Mike O’Cain the offense’s new play caller for 2011.  Back to the drawing board, fellas.

One-Liners

1.  Clemson is legit, deal with it, haterz.  Yep, you see that correctly.

2.  I really want to know the story of WHY Russell Wilson left NC State.  The truth. 

3.  Robert Griffin III update…in case you missed it.  He had eight incompletions and five touchdowns against Kansas State.  So at this point, through four games for the Bears, he has 20 incompletions and 18 touchdowns.  Slacker (Uh, you get that I’m kidding, right?)

4.  If Georgia beats Florida in Jacksonville, a two loss start to the season will be nothing but a memory.

5.  Say it with me now… go-to goal line threat Phillip Lutzenkirchen.  L-U-T-zenkirchen

6.  When was the last time the state of Washington could brag about a 7-2 combined record at any point in the season? Uh, that’s right, you can’t remember either.  Washington is 4-1 and Washington State is 3-1.  The Apple Cup may not be the Rotten Apple Cup in 2011.

7.  Taking all things into account, is Penn State the most boring team you’ve ever seen?  I answer that with a definitive YES!  11 points against Alabama, 14 points against Temple and 16 points against Indiana??  Oklahoma calls that a half.

8.  Luke Fickell will probably not be the full-time head coach at Ohio State and that’s a shame, in some sense, because it’s not of his doing.  The last thing any of us want is to be given an opportunity and then have it ripped from under us for things completely out of our control.  Welcome to Luke Fickell’s world.

What's Ahead

1.  Texas v. Oklahoma (Dallas) – This is the way this one is supposed to be.  #11 Texas.  #1 Oklahoma.  Texas back after a one year hiatus, it appears, while Oklahoma has laid waste to the teams it needed to prior to this one…which hasn’t always been the case for either team.  But, this week the undefeated Big 12 foes meet for another installment in the greatest rivalry in the Southwest.

2.  Florida at LSU – Two weeks ago, I was pretty pumped up about this one, but after seeing LSU hammer West Virginia and Alabama do the same to Florida, I’d say I’m a little tepid about the Gators trip to Baton Rouge.  Did I say Florida will, presumably, be without its QB John Brantley?  Uh…I’m not sure what more to say.

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