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Phil Steele: News and Notes (Week 14)

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NEWS AND NOTES

 

After an impressive near-upset of USC two weeks ago, Fresno St was awarded a Liberty Bowl berth but the Bulldogs then surprisingly lost their final two games of the season. They failed to even win a share of the WAC Championship after falling to 6-2 in the standings. Against Louisiana Tech, they were done in by five turnovers at home. It was just 6-3 with 5:04 left in the 1H when they would turn it over 3 times and LT amazingly got 3 TDs in the final 4:09 to lead 26-3 which also helped the game go over...

 

Middle Tennessee HC Andy McCollum was fired with two games to go and the team rallied for 2 wins in his final two contests. They jumped out to a 14-0 lead vs. Florida Intl but it was a wild game. FIU scored 3 straight TDs to lead 21-14. MTSt retook the lead with a 2Q FG and a 3Q TD and FIU took it back late 3Q, 28-24. MTSt led in the 4Q but FIU got a TD with 1:19 left. MT drove to the FIU 19 where they were SOD.

 

GAME TURNING PLAY

 

Its too bad the San Diego St/Hawaii game was not on TV last week as it was highly entertaining. It looked like SDSt would be on their way to a route, however, as they led 21-14 and were looking to pad their lead late in the 1H. They were intd near the goal line of UH and it was retd all the way to midfield. UH went on to score a TD and added 2 more TDs scoring 3 in the final 2:50 of the 1H to stunningly take a 28-21 lead. UH RB Nate Ilaoa became the first Warrior to top 100 yds rushing this season with 151 and RB Mauia (351 lb) had 56 yds rushing in a 49-38 win. The Aztecs were trying to save Coach Tom Crafts job and their AD said that he will make his decision shortly as to whether or not he will be retained.

 

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MAC CHAMPIONSHIP

 

It was a thrilling MAC Championship Game and also a record setting one. Early in the game Akron K Jason Swiger nailed a MAC Championship record 47 yd FG and UA led 10-0 after the 1Q. N Illinois would score the games next 24 pts and in fact, led 24-10 after 3Qs. NI RB Garrett Wolfe set an overall conf championship record with 270 yds rushing and NI K Chris Nendick also set an overall conf championship record with a 52 yd FG. Akron pulled within 27-24 when NI settled for a 46 yd FG with 3:28 left. The Zips got to the NI 33 but were intd at the 22 with 2:10 left. NI forced Akron to use all 3 time-outs but came up a yd short of a FD and punted with 1:49 left. The Zips, who had been without their star WR Hixon for almost the entire 2H due to injury, had him come off the bench on the 9th play of their drive and haul in a 36 yd TD pass with :10 left. It was a Winner Take All Bowl for Akron as they got a berth to the Motor City Bowl while N Illinois will be home for the holidays.

 

CUSA TITLE GAME

 

It was a wild 1H as Tulsa jumped out to a 21-7 lead early 2Q but UCF rallied back and with a 68 yd PR for a TD and led 24-21 with 7:02 left in the 2Q. Tulsa would get a 29 yd FG and then went 65 yds for a TD with 2:06 left in the half, 31-24. UCF got a 40 yd FG on the halfs final play, 31-27 and the teams combined for 512 yds offense. Tulsas D shut down UCF in the 2H holding them to 57 total yards. Tulsa led 41-27 after 3Qs. Tulsa missed a wide open TD pass and UCFs final threat ended when RB Wilcox tripped over his own two feet with a clear path to the EZ from the 10. They were stopped on 4th & 16 with 9:54 left and Tulsa went on a 7:30 drive for a clinching 26 yd FG with 2:24 left and ended the game at the Tulsa 18.

 

A BCS DREAM WEEKEND

 

Probably the most maligned system in the country is the NCAA BCS System, but this year it has simply produced, perhaps, the Game of the Century with two very deserving undefeated teams playing for the National Title game and without the BCS, this would not happen. Prior to the BCS, USC would have been facing Penn St in the Rose Bowl while Texas would be in the Fiesta Bowl. Making it even sweeter for the BCS, both teams were off blowout wins in the season finale leaving absolutely no doubt as to the two teams that belong in the Title Game.

 

Colorado actually opened the Big 12 Championship game with a 42 yd, 9 play drive and a TD might have made it a different game but they fumbled. CU also suffered a 31 yd blocked punt and settled for a 25 yd FG and trailed 14‑3 with 14:48 left in the 2Q. They had given their best shot and yet trailed by 11 points and they were toast. Texas ran off 4 straight TD drives to end the 1H, 42-3 and led 70-3 with 7:36 left in the 3Q before bringing on the backups in their blowout win. It was UTs first Big 12 Title since 1996 and gives them a shot for their first undisputed National Title since 1969. Colorado also laid an egg in last years Big 12 Title Game, losing to Oklahoma 42-3...

 

USC simply thrashed in-city rival UCLA, 66-19. Totals players loved the end of the game as the Total was 73 and with just 6:00 to go, it was just 59-6. UCLA would drive and get a TD with 3:33 left. Still a few points short of the Total at 59-13, USC returned the onside kick to the UCLA 2 and got a TD on the next play to put it Over with 3:23 left. UCLA went on a pure garbage 67 yd, 7 play drive for a TD vs. a disinterested USC defense with :11 left. USC rushed for 430 yards, their most since 1989 and LenDale White broke Charlie Whites school record with his 54th rushing TD with 11:28 left. Reggie Bush clinched the Heisman Trophy with 260 yards rushing and UCLAs Drew Olson was held to 14 of 32 for 146 yds.

 

SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

 

Georgia looks like they rolled up a lot of offense in the 34-14 win but only had 250 total yards. The Bulldogs had a blocked punt set up a 15 yd drive for a TD and then when LSU starting QB Russell separated his shoulder, backup QB Flynn fired an int on his 2nd pass of the next drive which was retd 15 yards for a TD. UGAs longest drives of the game were 9 and 11 plays which resulted in 22 and 51 yd FGs. The crowd was largely red and black as UGA is located just 75 miles away from Atlanta. In 2003 when these two met in the Title Game, true frosh Justin Vincent rushed for 201 yards and was the focus for the Bulldogs this year carrying it 8 times for just 15 yards. UGA clinched a return trip to the Georgia Dome for the Sugar Bowl.

 

POINTS LEFT OFF THE BOARD

 

S Florida had a 23-16 FD edge vs. W Virginia but failures in the redzone cost them the game and also forced the Total to go under. WV had two big plays on 65 & 76 yd TD runs by QB Pat White but USF drove to the WV 34 where they punted into the EZ for a TB. They had a 1st & goal at the 2 at the end of a 14 play drive but settled for a 22 yd FG. A punt snap that hit the upman was recovered by W Virginia setting up the Mountaineers for a 33 yard TD drive. USF went on a 10 play, 53 yd drive but on 3rd & goal from the 2 their pass fell incomplete and they settled for a 19 yd FG. On their next poss, USF was intd in the EZ. USF then went on an amazing 73 yd, 17 play drive but was stopped a yd short of a FD at the WV 20. USF went on a 64 yd, 12 play drive but after a FD at the 13 was intd at the 3 and those blown opportunities cost USF a game they could have easily won SU...

 

In the Louisville/Connecticut game, it was points taken off the board that cost the Cardinals the cover. UL led Conn 30-14 after 3Qs and were at the Conn 20 yd line early 4Q. A pass to the EZ was bobbled by Jones but the ball never hit the ground and he was nowhere near the sidelines. It was a clear TD and was ruled so. They came out for the xp but the replay booth wanted to take a look at it. Amazingly, they ruled it was an incomplete pass. For what reason, it will remain unknown. The points would have put UL up 37-14 and clinched the cover. Instead, on the next play they were intd in the EZ. While watching the game, we regretted not using UL as a Late Phone Play when with 5:00 to go in the game they were driving for yet another clinching score, this time getting to the Conn 15 yd line but they fumbled at the end of a long run. Conn, on 3rd & 3, would get a 57 yd TD pass with 4:21 left and the points taken off the board, plus the ones left off the board, cost UL ATS as they only won by 10 laying 15 points.

 

ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

 

Nobody was giving Florida St a chance vs. Virg Tech as they came in with a 3 game losing streak, their first since 1983 and the last time they had a 4 game losing streak was Bowdens first year in 1975. Marcus Vick was skd six times in a penalty riddled game with VT being called for 17 (143 yds) and FSU 12 (114 yds). The game was amazingly 3-3 at the half but FSU got an 83 yd PR for a TD and then after TOs, got 56 and 31 yd drives for TDs and also had a 41 yd FG and led 27-3 after 3Qs. VT went on a pair of long drives to pull within 27-15 missing the 2 point conversion each time and took over with 5:14 left at their own 7. They went 93 yds in 13 plays for a garbage TD with 1:45 left which put the game Over. VT recd the onside kick but it did not go 10 yds and after a pair of personal fouls on VT, FSU took a knee from the VT 16.

 

BOWL NOTES

 

Looking at this years Orange Bowl matchup between Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno, the two coaches with the #1 and #2 wins of any coaches, reminds us of the 1980 Sugar Bowl when Woody Hayes of Ohio St in his 2nd to last season as head coach, took on Paul Bear Bryant of Alabama in a battle of coaching legends. Hopefully this years game will fare better than that Sugar Bowl did as it was not competitive with Bama rolling to a 35-6 win.

 

A KEY 2Q DECISION DECIDES THE ARMY/NAVY GAME

 

Army trailed Navy just 14-10 in a fairly even game when they came up inches short of a FD at their own 40 with 1:15 left in the half. Army HC Ross brought the offense out like they were going for it but they simply tried to draw Navy offsides and took a delay penalty. Their punt only went 26 yds and Navy would drive 66 yards in 8 plays getting a TD with :07 left in the half to take control of the game. Army struggled to stop the run the rest of the game and allowed 490 yds rushing and allowed 75 and 45 yd drives for TDs on Navys first 2 poss of the 3Q turning a close game into a blowout. Navy has won their fourth straight meeting vs. Army for the first time in series history and has won those 4 meetings by an average of 44-14.

  
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