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Upset Theme Continues, but LSU Makes An Amazing Escape

by Mike Mitchell
October 21, 2007

The college football motto for 2007 should be "Expect the Unexpected". The weekend lived up to that motto with plenty of upsets, and one of the most daring escapes in college football history.

LSU squashed the upset bid from Auburn when Matt Flynn threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Byrd with 1 second left in the game for a 30-24 comeback victory. Call the play gutsy - or simply crazy - but it was definitely daring, if not unnecessary. Trailing by just a point, 24-23, LSU was in position for a game-winning field goal attempt of roughly 39 yards. Had Flynn been sacked on the play, LSU loses. Had the pass fallen incomplete and taken one second longer, LSU loses. Had the ball been batted away, that final second disappears and LSU loses. Had the play failed by any scenario, LSU could have kissed any hope of a national title goodbye. Not to mention, an SEC title or even a BCS bowl bid. The fact that the play succeeded makes it, for now, a multi-million dollar play. It was a gamble that will live forever in Bayou Bengal football lore.

That dramatic finish put an appropriate exclamation point on another unpredictable day of college football.

After South Florida went down to defeat at Rutgers on Thursday night, South Carolina was added to the list of unexpected losers on Saturday when the Gamecocks fell 17-6 at home to Vanderbilt. The Commodores scored all of their points in the first quarter with the aid of two South Carolina turnovers, and all of South Carolina's points came in the 2nd quarter. More turnovers by the Gamecocks choked off any hope they entertained of rallying for the win.

Vanderbilt broke a 7-game losing skid to South Carolina, and defeated a Steve Spurrier-coached team for the first time ever. The Commodores were 0-2 against "the ol' ball coach" when he was at Duke, 0-10 versus Spurrier's Gators, and 0-2 against his Gamecock teams.

UCLA upset California 30-21, even with Nate Longshore back at quarterback for the Golden Bears. The home team has now won the last eight games in the series. Cal's fate was sealed when the Bruins scored on a 76-yard interception return with 1:33 left in the game. Longshore was intercepted again on the next series and UCLA ran out the clock.

Cincinnati lost its second straight Big East game as the Bearcats were upset 24-17 at Pittsburgh. It was the first conference win for the Panthers this season.

Miami scored two touchdowns - one by the offense, and one by the defense, late in the game to rally for the 37-29 upset win at Florida State. The Hurricanes took a 30-29 lead on a 13-yard touchdown pass with 1:15 left, then forced a fumble by quarterback Xavier Lee and returned it 28 yards for another score on the next play. The Seminoles were favored by almost a touchdown.

N.C. State got its first win over a FBS opponent this season with a 34-20 upset at East Carolina. Tom O'Brien improved to 2-5 in his first season with the Wolfpack. The Pirates were favored by 6.

Stanford scored a 21-20 upset at Arizona as the Cardinal improved to 2-0 in PAC-10 road games. Stanford is 0-3 in conference clashes at home. The Wildcats were favored by two touchdowns.

In CUSA, Tulane upset SMU 41-34 in overtime. The Mustangs were one-touchdown favorites.

FCS member North Dakota State ran its season record to 2-0 against bowl subdivision schools with a 27-21 upset at Minnesota. The Bison rolled 44-14 over Central Michigan on September 22. North Dakota State (7-0) entered the weekend ranked 2nd in the FCS Poll.

To further prove the insanity of the 2007 season, Temple won its third straight game with a 24-17 upset of Miami (Ohio) to hand the RedHawks (4-4, 3-1) their first conference loss. The Owls last three-game winning streak ended on September 5, 2002 after they had won the final two games of the 2001 season and the 2002 opener. However, the third win of that streak was against 1-AA Richmond. Every victory in this streak has come against a MAC school and they had not won three straight against FBS schools since the final three games of the 1990 season.

Elsewhere:

Alabama's 41-17 rout of Tennessee was shocking for the margin of victory, especially after the Tide had suspended five players prior to the game, including two starting linemen and the team's second-leading rusher, Glen Coffee. The suspensions stemmed from the Thursday discovery by school officials that the players had received an "extra benefi " in the form of textbooks.  Good Lord, what are football players doing with textbooks at school?

Missouri's 41-10 romp over Texas Tech was nothing like the shootout that was anticipated between two of the nation's top-ranked offenses. The Tigers intercepted Graham Harrell four times after he had thrown just 3 picks all season. Missouri  QB Chase Daniel only threw one TD pass on just 19 attempts, but the Tigers' balanced attack produced 211 rushing yards and 214 passing yards to outgain Texas Tech 425-392. The Red Raiders had minus-5 yards rushing.

Texas A&M rolled 36-14 over a Nebraska team that looks more hapless each week. The Aggies had not beaten Nebraska since 1998, and had not won in Lincoln since 1955. Texas A&M entered Saturday's game with an all-time record of 2-10 all-time against the Cornhuskers. The "Head Coach Jeopardy Bowl" featured two coaches who are on the hot seat - A&M's Dennis Franchione and Nebraska's Bill Callahan. It is widely expected that Callahan will be fired at the end of the season, if not sooner. Texas A&M officials have already said they will wait until the end of the campaign to evaluate Franchione's situation.

The Aggies are tied with Oklahoma State atop the Big 12 South standings with 3-1 conference records.

The Cowboys beat Kansas State 41-39 in Stillwater on a 26-yard field with 2 seconds left. The Wildcats had just taken the lead on an 11-yard TD run with 1:10 remaining. A successful two-point conversion gave Kansas State a 39-38 lead at the time.

Virginia had a game-winning 90-yard drive that took 7:26, culminating in a 1-yard touchdown run with 16 seconds left in the game for an 18-17 win at Maryland. The Cavaliers have won five games this season by five points or less. They defeated UConn and Maryland by a point, North Carolina and Middle Tennessee by two points, and Georgia Tech by five points. Virginia's largest conference victory is an 11-point triumph at home over Duke. The Cavaliers (7-1, 4-0) lead the Coastal Division of the ACC by a half-game over Virginia Tech.

Ohio and Toledo combined to score 42 of their 83 points in the fourth quarter. The Rockets won 43-40 on a 40-yard field goal as time expired. The Bobcats had tied the game at 40 on a touchdown and 2-point conversion with just over a minute left. Ohio led 21-20 when the final period began.

Boise State and Louisiana Tech were tied at 24-all in the third quarter. But the Broncos, without the services of injured running back Ian Johnson, scored three unanswered touchdowns to put the Bulldogs away for a 45-31 win.

Michigan is 4-0 in the Big 10, tied with Ohio State, after a 27-17 win at Illinois. An 11-yard touchdown pass off a reverse from WR Adrian Arrington to Mario Manningham broke a 17-17 tie with 8:12 left in the game. Jason Reda's 38-yard field goal had tied it for Illinois with 3:47 left in the third quarter, but the Fighting Illini were crippled with bad field position for the rest of the game and never found their way back into Wolverine territory after that.

The only undefeated teams seeing action on Saturday were Ohio State and Kansas. Both managed victories.

Top-ranked Ohio State took a 24-0 lead on Michigan State, then held on for a 24-17 win to remain undefeated. The Spartans closed the gap on back-to-back Buckeye turnovers in the third quarter as they returned an interception 54 yards, and a fumble 25 yards, for scores. Michigan State only managed to score a field goal against the nation's top defense and had just 185 yards of total offense.

Kansas kept its perfect season alive with the help of an unsung defense in a 19-14 win at Colorado. The Jayhawks stopped the Buffaloes on downs twice in the fourth quarter. Last year, Kansas broke a five-game losing streak to Colorado with a 20-15 home win, but this was their first victory in Boulder since 1995.

Among highly-ranked teams, Florida righted its sinking ship by ending a two-game losing streak. West Virginia and USC dispatched their foes with ease, and Oregon pulled away late to stave off Washington.

Florida surrendered an early 7-0 lead, but prevailed 45-37 at Kentucky. After falling behind 28-10 early in the third quarter, Kentucky twice rallied back to within a touchdown. Tim Tebow's 2-yard scoring run with 1:33 left put the contest out of reach, and the Wildcats improved the appearance of the final result when they tallied a touchdown on the final play of the game. Kentucky marched for a score on its first possession for the Wildcats' only lead of the game at 7-0. All five Kentucky touchdowns came on Andre Woodson passes of 33, 28, 50, 6, and 5 yards. Tebow added four touchdown passes to his game-winning run.

West Virginia got a 65-yard touchdown run from quarterback Patrick White on the game's very first play en route to a 38-13 destruction of Mississippi State. The Mountaineers led 28-0 in the first 14 minutes.

Despite a rough plane ride to South Bend on Friday, and the absence of starting QB John David Booty due to a  broken finger, USC produced a smothering 38-0 win at Notre Dame. Backup quarterback Mark Sanchez threw four touchdown passes for the Trojans who picked up their sixth straight win over the Irish, the longest streak ever managed by USC in the 79-year-old rivalry. Only one victory in that stretch was by fewer than 20 points as the Trojans have outscored Notre Dame by a cumulative 246-92. The Fighting Irish dropped to 1-7 while experiencing their worst home loss since Oklahoma's 40-0 whipping in 1956.

Oregon scored 24 of the game's last 27 points to beat Washington 55-34 and improve to 3-1 in the PAC-10. The game was knotted at 31 until the Ducks scored a touchdown with 12:54 left in the game.

The upsets began with early-week action that saw South Florida, Louisville and TCU all lose games in which they were favored.

On Friday night, Connecticut intercepted a Brian Brohm pass at its 20-yard line with 15 seconds left in the game to secure a 21-17 home upset of Louisville. The Huskies took the lead on a 5-yard run with 1:32 remaining in the contest. The win keeps UConn atop the Big East standings as the only team that hasn't lost a conference game. The Cardinals fell to 2-2 in the Big East, and just 4-4 over-all.

In eight games under first-year head coach Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville has equaled the number of losses it suffered in Bobby Petrino's last 30 games. Petrino left at the end of last season to accept the head coaching job with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. Kragthorpe is just 5-8 in his last 13 games as a head coach, including a 1-4 finish at Tulsa last season.

On Thursday night, Rutgers snapped South Florida's 8-game winning streak with a 30-27 upset in Pascataway, New Jersey. For 14 games, no one could rush for 100 yards against USF's run defense. The last player to do it was Rutgers' Ray Rice when the Scarlet Knights won 22-20 last year in Tampa. Rice did it again on Thursday as Rutgers ended the Bulls' undefeated season and knocked them out of their 2nd-place spot in the inaugural BCS Standings. Rice ran for 202 yards and 2 TD's on 35 carries in last year's victory. He carried 39 times for 181 yards and scored 2 more touchdowns in this victory.

A touchdown pass off a fake field goal early in the fourth quarter gave Rutgers a 30-20 lead. Earlier in the game, the Scarlet Knights used a fake punt to keep a drive alive that led to a field goal.

Matt Grothe threw for 247 yards and a TD for USF. He also added 58 yards on the ground, but was sacked seven times while facing relentless pressure from the Scarlet Knights.

In Thursday night's other game, Utah was a 27-20 upset winner at TCU. The Horned Frogs, picked by every major preseason prognosticator to win the Mountain West (including CollegeFootballPoll.com), fell to 1-3 in the conference and just 4-4 over-all. Utah improved to 2-2 in the MWC, 5-3 over-all.  BYU is the only team that has yet to lose a Mountain West conference game.

Also on Friday, Northwestern got by Eastern Michigan 26-14 in front of a sparse crowd at Ford Field in Detroit. The win improved the Wildcats to 5-3 over-all, just one win away from bowl eligibility. Northwestern still has away dates with Purdue and Illinois, sandwiched around a pair of home games against Iowa and Indiana.

The week wrapped up on Sunday night when Southern Miss won 33-24 at Marshall. The Golden Eagles put the game away with a nearly six-minute, 91-yard, 13-play drive that resulted in a 2-yard touchdown plunge with 1:21 remaining in the game. The victory moved Southern Miss (4-3, 3-1) into a first-place tie with East Carolina (4-4, 3-1) in the East division of CUSA.

UNBEATEN TEAMS
USF's loss reduced the number of undefeated teams to 5. They are (in alphabetical order): Arizona State, Boston College, Hawaii, Kansas, and Ohio State.

WINLESS TEAMS
There are now just 3 schools in search of their first victory: FIU, Marshall and Utah State.  A 48-23 win at UNLV was Colorado State's first victory of the season and snapped the Rams' 13-game losing streak.

Idaho has yet to beat a team from the bowl subdivision. N.C. State finally did so on Saturday when it scored a 34-20 upset at East Carolina.

1-A vs. 1-AA
The divisions were re-named late last year. 1-A was given the new moniker of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) while 1-AA was labeled the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

Two teams play FCS schools this week. North Dakota State beat Minnesota 27-21. The Bison are 2-0 against FBS schools this season. Brigham Young beat Eastern Washington 42-7 in the other such contest.

Bowl Subdivision teams are now 63-9 against FCS teams this year.

The nine losses are:
Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32 (Week 1)
Nicholls State 16, Rice 14 (Week 1)
Northern Iowa 24, Iowa State 13 (Week 2)
Southern Illinois 34, Northern Illinois 31 (Week 2)
New Hampshire 48, Marshall 35 (Week 3)
McNeese State 38, Louisiana-Lafayette 17 (Week 3)
North Dakota State 44, Central Michigan 14 (Week 4)
Western Kentucky 20, Middle Tennessee 17 (Week 4)
North Dakota State 27, Minnesota 21 (Week 8)

Western Kentucky is currently in transition to become the ninth Sun Belt Conference football playing institution and the 120th Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) member. The Hilltoppers will play six SBC teams in 2008 and will be eligible for the conference title and a bowl berth in 2009.

Bowl subdivision teams were 71-7 in 2006 against FCS schools. Including this week's loss by Minnesota, FBS teams are 283-34 (.893) in such games since 2003.

This season, 78 bowl subdivision teams face schools from the championship subdivision. WAC members New Mexico State and Hawaii double-dipped.

STREAKS
South Florida had its 8-game winning streak snapped at Rutgers in a 30-27 loss on Thursday night.

Boston College, Hawaii and Ohio State now share the nation's longest current winning streak at 8 games. B.C. and Hawaii were idle this The Buckeyes beat Michigan State 24-17. Ohio State has won 26 straight regular season games.

Kansas has won seven straight games. The Jayhawks beat Colorado 19-14.

Boise State has won 41 consecutive regular season home games. The Broncos also have a perfect home record against their fellow WAC conference members (26-0). Boise State on 45-31 at Louisiana Tech.

FIU owns the nation's longest current losing streak at 19 games. The Golden Panthers lost 28-14 at Louisiana-Monroe.

Utah State has lost 13 straight. The Aggies lost to Nevada 31-28.

Colorado State ended its 13-game losing skid. The Rams won 48-23 at UNLV.

N.C. State ended its 12-game losing streak to FBS teams. The Wolfpack won 34-20 at East Carolina.

NEW COACHES
The 2006 season featured 11 new head coaches. Five led their team to a bowl game.

This year, there are 24 coaching changes for the highest number since 2001 when there were 25. We'll track their progress throughout the season.

This week, there were no games where new coaches face each other.

FIU is the only team that has yet to snag a win with its new head coach. Idaho has yet to defeat an FBS team. N.C. State notched its first win over a FBS team with a 34-20 upset at East Carolina.

Here is how each of the new coaches are faring, in order, by won-loss record.

Arizona State, 7-0 under Dennis Erickson, was idle.
Boston College, 7-0 under Jeff Jagodzinski, was idle.
Air Force, 6-2 under Troy Calhoun, won 20-12 at home over Wyoming.
Alabama, 6-2 under Nick Saban, won 41-17 at home over Tennessee.
Cincinnati, 6-2 under Brian Kelly, lost 24-17 at Pitt.
Indiana, 5-3 under Bill Lynch, lost 36-31 at home to Penn State.
Miami (Fla.), 5-3 under Randy Shannon, won 37-29 at Florida State.
Michigan State, 5-3 under Mark Dantonio, lost 24-17 at Ohio State.
Tulsa, 4-3 under Todd Graham, lost 44-23 at Central Florida.
Central Michigan, 4-4 under Butch Jones, lost 70-14 at Clemson.
Louisville, 4-4 under Steve Kragthorpe, lost 21-17 at UConn on Friday.
Army, 3-5 under Stan Brock, lost 34-10 at Georgia Tech.
Stanford, 3-4 under Jim Harbaugh, won 21-20 at Arizona.
UAB, 2-5 under Neil Callaway, lost 49-10 at home to Houston.
Louisiana Tech, 2-5 under Derek Dooley, lost 45-31 at home to Boise State.
North Carolina, 2-5 under Butch Davis, was idle.
N.C. State, 2-5 under Tom O'Brien, won 34-20 at East Carolina.
Tulane, 2-5 under Bob Toledo, won 41-34 in OT at SMU.
Idaho, 1-7 under Robb Akey, lost 45-31 at New Mexico State.
North Texas, 1-6 under Todd Dodge, lost 45-7 at Troy.
Rice, 1-6 under David Bailiff, lost 38-35 at home to Memphis.
Iowa State, 1-7 under Gene Chizik, lost 17-7 at home to Oklahoma.
Minnesota, 1-7 under Tim Brewster, lost 27-21 at home to FCS member North Dakota State.
FIU, 0-7 under Mario Cristobal, lost 28-14 at Louisiana-Monroe.