College Football Weekend Recap
by Mike Mitchell
A long Labor Day weekend of college football saw Auburn's 15-game winning streak come to an end, Oklahoma lose in August or September for the first time since 1998 and Florida State defeat Miami for the first time in the 21st century.
Miami missed two field goals and botched the snap on another attempt that would have tied the game with just over two minutes remaining. The 'Canes, who had to blow all their second-half timeouts in the third quarter due to miscommunication, could not stop the clock and FSU preserved a 10-7 win. The victory snapped a 6-game losing streak to Miami.
Florida State also missed an easy field goal earlier in the game. That particular 'Noles possession started just two yards from the Miami goal line following a blocked punt and wound up producing negative yardage and zero points. FSU had time-out troubles of its own, wasting them all by the 13:31 mark of the fourth quarter.
The game was one of four played on opening weekend that count in their respective conference standings.
The first took place Sunday afternoon in Syracuse where West Virginia, despite coughing up the ball five times, pocketed a 15-7 win. The Orange offense, under first-year coach Greg Robinson, was unable to score a single point off of the Mountaineer errors. While the Syracuse defense largely lived up to its billing, the longest offensive drive gained just 26 yards. Equal to the task, the West Virginia defense saved the day, directly producing 9 of its teams' 15 points on an interception return for a TD in the 2nd quarter and a safety in the fourth.
The Mountaineers, projected by the computer to go winless in conference play much to the disdain of its fans, instead went home with a 1-0 Big East record after a win that even left head coach Rich Rodriguez baffled. He said to reporters afterward, "I don't ever remember having five turnovers and still winning the game."
Sunday night's contest between ACC rivals Virginia Tech and North Carolina State in Raleigh capped off the day in grand fashion. Marcus Vick's coming out party, which was slow to take off, produced 10 unanswered points during a pivotal stretch of the second half to turn a 13-10 deficit into an eventual 20-16 win.
The Hokies' running game, stymied for much of the night, ate up valuable clock on a late fourth quarter drive. The Wolfpack, however, were able to prevent Tech from salting the game away and had one last chance to rally with under 50 seconds left to play. Starting from their own 20, they drove to the Virginia Tech 32-yard line aided by a scintillating double hook-and-lateral play. But seconds later, Aaron Rouse picked off Jay Davis' pass at the 6-yard line to seal the revenge victory on the game's final play. N.C. State defeated Virginia Tech at Blacksburg last season in handing the Hokies their only conference loss.
On Monday afternoon, New Mexico ended a UNLV 4th-quarter rally by intercepting a pass in the waning moments. The Lobos scored 17 points on their first three possessions to take a 17-0 lead and led 24-9 in the 4th quarter. By the time it was over, the Mountain West Conference victory was slimmed down to a margin of 24-22. UNLV gave themselves a chance for the win by recovering an onside kick after scoring with 1:31 left to play.
In other action from the weekend:
Memphis blew two chances to rally past Ole Miss in the fourth quarter on Monday. The first effort was halted by a fumble at the Rebels' 30 with under three minutes left to play. The Tigers got the ball back at the 50 after an Ole Miss punt and drove inside the 10-yard line. But that drive was thwarted when Ole Miss picked off a pass at the goal line to preserve a 10-6 victory in Ed Orgeron's head coaching debut.
Sunday afternoon saw Louisville stake out a 28-7 halftime lead before Kentucky rallied in grand fashion and missed by just a yard of either winning the game in regulation or sending it into overtime. Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson fumbled at the 1-yard line and the Cardinals escaped with a 31-24 victory in the Bluegrass State rivalry.
Saturday night, the nation's third-longest winning streak came to an end when Georgia Tech won 23-14 at Auburn. The Tigers had won 15 straight since falling to Georgia back on November 15, 2003. It was their first loss to a non-conference opponent since September 6, 2003 when Georgia Tech beat Auburn 17-3 in Atlanta.
The first major surprise of the 2005 college football season took place Saturday afternoon in Norman where TCU pulled off a monumental 17-10 upset of Oklahoma. It was their first loss at home since a November 24, 2001 defeat to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma's first loss in August or September since Bob Stoops became the head coach in 1999. It ended a string of 20 consecutive regular season wins dating back to November 30, 2002 when Oklahoma State beat the Sooners in Stillwater.
Georgia rudely ended Boise State's string of 21 regular season wins with a 48-13 bashing in Athens. Bronco QB Jared Zabranski was intercepted on their first two possessions to begin a miserable day in which he threw 4 INTs, mishandled a shotgun snap for another turnover and fumbled once. D.J. Shockley threw 5 TD passes and ran for another score for Georgia.
The weekend saw the debut of 20 new head coaches and one marquee game that featured two of them going head-to-head. Charlie Weis' Notre Dame squad outdueled Dave Wannstedt's Pittsburgh team 42-21 for the road win. Weis is the former offensive coordinator for the NFL's New England Patriots and Wannstedt had most-recently served time as the head coach of the NFL's Miami Dolphins. The lop-sided margin was surprising given the fact that the Panthers return every major offensive weapon from a year ago.
Weis replaced Ty Willingham who was fired from Notre Dame but quickly landed the Washington job. His opening game on Saturday was going well as the Huskies held a 17-6 lead in the fourth quarter. But Air Force rallied for a 20-17 win, scoring the deciding TD with just 34 seconds remaining.
Ron Zook won his debut with Illinois the hard way. His Illini trailed 27-7 to Rutgers in the third quarter, but the Scarlet Knights stared prosperity in the face and promptly shot it. Illinois snatched the 33-30 win in overtime for the coach who was fired from Florida after a home loss to Mississippi State on October 25th. He was allowed to finish out the regular season and went 3-1. Zook was not permitted on the sidelines for Florida's Peach Bowl loss to Miami so Zook has not lost a game since his Gators fell to Georgia the weekend after his dismissal.
Urban Meyer, Zook's high-profile replacement at Florida, also had a successful debut. The Gators subdued Wyoming in a sometimes lackluster 32-14 performance.
You'll find a complete list of how all the new coaches fared at the end of this article.
Nebraska's second season under Bill Callahan got off to a rough start. The Cornhuskers only led 1-AA Maine 15-7 before a 26-yard interception return provided some breathing room with 9:58 left to play in the game. They later added a field goal for the final 25-7 score. The 'Huskers were limited to 323 net yards, lost three fumbles and had two passes intercepted.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin rallied from a 13-0 first quarter deficit to outscore Bowling Green 56-42. Brian Calhoun rushed for 258 yards and 5 TD's for the victorious Badgers to offset Falcon QB Omar Jacobs' 458-yard, 4TD passing performance.
That was one of seven games over the weekend that matched MAC schools against Big 10 schools. Suffice it to say that the MAC was not mighty. The Big Ten teams won all seven games and, aside from Indiana's 20-13 win at Central Michigan, all of the victories were by at least 14 points. Over-all, the MAC was outscored 286-114 for an average score of 16-40.
Thursday and Friday night's games largely played out to expectations.
Utah opened the 2005 season at home against Arizona, a team the Utes had beaten on the road 23-6 last year. With star QB Alex Smith now in the NFL and coach Urban Meyer taking up residence in Gainesville, Fla., Utah held on for a 27-24 home win over the Wildcats.
The Utes opened a 27-10 lead in the third quarter but Arizona rallied and had a couple of chances to win it late in the fourth quarter. Nonetheless, Utah stretched its winning streak to 17-games and Kyle Whittingham won his debut as the new head coach. The Utes have won 26 of their last 28 games.
South Carolina put two quick touchdowns on the board, then struggled to keep UCF at bay in a 24-15 win on Thursday. It was Steve Spurrier's debut as head coach of the Gamecocks. Central Florida has now lost 16 straight games.
In other Thursday night action, hapless UL-Monroe lost for the sixth straight time to a 1-AA opponent dating back to 2000. This time the Indians squandered a 23-0 halftime lead and lost to nearby rival NW State 27-23.
Vanderbilt upset Wake Forest on the road, 24-20, snapping an 18-game road losing streak for the Commodores. Vanderbilt had not won an away game since it beat Duke 42-28 on October 27, 2001. They haven't won a conference road game since November, 2000.
Colorado State coughed up a 21-10 lead after three quarters as Colorado outscored the Rams 21-7 in the final period for a 31-28 victory in their annual Rocky Mountain rivalry. The Buffaloes have now won two straight in the series after losing four-in-a-row from 1999-2003. The last five contests have all been decided by 7 points or less.
Upon Further Review: Looking back at the weekend, we couldn't help but notice four interesting conference developments.
Except for Purdue, which did not play, every team in the Big Ten ended the weekend with a 1-0 record.
Three other conferences saw just one team each escape the weekend with a 1-0 record.
In the MAC, only Toledo survived. The Rockets beat 1-AA Western Illinois to take that honor by attrition.
In the Sun Belt, Troy turned back 1-AA Cal-Poly. North Texas was the only conference member that did not see action.
In the WAC, San Jose State is the only 1-0 team after beating 1-AA Eastern Washington 35-24. However, four WAC teams did not play.
Hurricane Katrina: Hurricane Katrina's massive destruction in the southern parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama caused two games to be postponed and another to be canceled altogether. Nicholls State, a 1-AA program located 60 miles west-southwest of New Orleans in Thibodaux scrapped its game at Utah State scheduled for Thursday night. Saturday's North Texas-LSU game will be rescheduled. Sunday's Tulane-Southern Miss affair was pushed back to November 26. (see Football Teams Evacuate, Schools Cancel Classes.
Welcome to 1-A: Major college football's two newest teams were inaugurated into 1-A football on Saturday. Florida Atlantic (Boca Raton) and Florida International (Miami) both journeyed to the state of Kansas for their openers. First, FIU lost a hard-fought match at Kansas State, 35-21, in a game that was much closer than the score indicates. The Wildcats led just 13-7 at halftime but scored two touchdowns in the first 1:25 of the second half. The Golden Panthers, coached by former NFL quarterback Don Strock, fired right back with two scores to pull within 28-21 but could not get any closer.
FAU, led by former Miami Hurricane and Louisville coach Howard Schnellenberger, lost 31-19 at Kansas. The Owls led 13-12 for two-and-a-half minutes in the third quarter but the Jayhawks scored 18 unanswered points to open up a 30-13 lead with 7:07 left in the game.
Streaks: USC extended the nation's longest winning streak to 23 with a 63-17 romp at Hawaii. They have won 34 of their last 35 games. The Trojans also have streaks of 21 straight home wins and 15 consecutive PAC-10 victories.
Boise State's string of 21 regular season wins came to a screeching halt at Georgia with a 48-13 loss to the Bulldogs. Still, the Broncos have won 35 of their last 38 games and they still own the nation's-best streaks of 25 straight home wins and 26 straight conference victories.
Utah has now won 17 straight games after defeating Arizona 27-24 on Friday night. The Utes have won 11 straight MWC games.
Auburn's string of 15 consecutive over-all wins came to an end at home on Saturday night when Georgia Tech beat the Tigers 23-14.
Iowa has now won 19 straight home games after beating Ball State 56-0 on Saturday.
North Texas has won 25 straight over Sun Belt conference opponents. UNT has also won four consecutive Sun Belt titles as they have topped the conference in every year of its existence. Their opener at LSU was postponed due to Hurricane Katrina's devastation.
Central Florida began the year by suffering its 16th straight defeat, 24-15, at South Carolina on Thursday night. It is the longest losing streak in the nation among division 1-A teams.
New Coaches: The 2005 season begins with 23 coaching changes . Eleven won, nine lost and three have yet to play. Three of the victories came against 1-AA teams and another game (Notre Dame-Pittsburgh) featured two new coaches going head-to-head.
East Carolina (Skip Holtz) beat Duke 24-21
Florida (Urban Meyer) beat Wyoming 32-14
Illinois (Ron Zook) beat Rutgers 33-30 in OT
Indiana (Terry Hoeppner) won at Central Michigan 20-13
Marshall (Mark Snyder) beat 1-AA Wm. & Mary 36-24
Mississippi (Ed Orgeron) won at Memphis 10-6
Notre Dame (Charlie Weis) won at Pittsburgh 42-21
Okla. St. (Mike Gundy) beat 1-AA Montana 15-10
San Jose St. (Dick Tomey) beat 1-AA E. Wash. 35-24
South Carolina (Steve Spurrier) beat UCF, 24-15
Utah (Kyle Whittingham) beat Arizona, 27-24
BYU (Bronco Mendenhall) lost to Boston College 20-3
Miami, O. (Shane Montgomery) lost at Ohio State 34-14
UNLV (Mike Sanford) lost at New Mexico 24-22
New Mexico St. (Hal Mumme) lost to UTEP 34-17
Ohio (Frank Solich) lost at Northwestern 38-14
Pittsburgh (Dave Wannstedt) lost to Notre Dame 42-21
Syracuse (Greg Robinson) lost to West Virginia 15-7
Washington (Ty Willingham) lost to Air Force 20-17 at Seattle
Western Michigan (Bill Cubit) lost at Virginia 31-19
Stanford (Walt Harris), opens 9/10 at Navy
LSU (Les Miles) vs. North Texas was postponed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's devastation in the gulf coast region.
Utah State (Brent Guy) vs. 1-AA Nicholls St. was completely canceled due to Hurricane Katrina. Nicholls State is located 60 miles west-southwest of New Orleans in Thibodaux.