Defending WAC champ Louisiana Tech has gotten all the hype - and the top 25 ranking - this season thanks to their 9-1 record, with the only loss coming to Texas A&M. Meanwhile, the team I suspected might be better - Utah State - has been under the radar all season. The Aggies, 8-2, very easily could have been undefeated coming into this week, having barely lost on the road to Wisconsin and BYU. But they knew they wouldn't be able to steal any of LA Tech's thunder because they wouldn't be meeting the Bulldogs until Week 12. Finally getting their shot, USU jumped to a 17-3 halftime lead.
And when I saw that score, I was like, "I knew it!" When the Aggies proceeded to up the lead to 27-3 in the 3rd quarter, the rout was on. Right?
Not so fast. The teams traded touchdowns to make the score 41-17 in the 3rd before LT caught fire, finishing the game on a 24-0 run to send it into overtime. But USU regrouped, scoring first in OT to regain the lead and then stopping Tech on their possession to wrap up a very satisfying 48-41 road victory. The Aggies ended up with a slight edge in total yards 646-629. None of the 11 TD scored were by players with dreads, although it was a good day for ex-dreads: WR D.J. Banks had a 98-yard kickoff return for LT, while RB Kerwynn Williams scored 3 TD for USU, including the game winner on a 4-yard run.
From the WAC we go to the MAC, where the story is all about something old and something new. The something new would be Kent State, now 10-1 overall and East Division champions for the first time ever after winning their showdown with Bowling Green 31-24 on the road last Saturday. KSU didn't get their usual big contribution from sophomore RB Trayion Durham, who was not at 100% due to injury and was held to 20 yards rushing on 10 carries. But they did not need him. The Golden Flashes racked up 425 total yards against the stingy Bowling Green defense, including TD runs of 79 and 74 yards by small but sensational RB Dri Archer. Archer's got his hair growing, more than enough needed to convert to dreads; but he hasn't switched yet, so he might be planning something else.
While Durham was quiet, KSU's other #34 with dreads (that's right, two players with dreads wearing the same uniform number) was not. Junior DT Richard Gray picked off a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage for his 1st career INT at the BG 20-yard line early in the 4th quarter. 4 plays later KSU scored the winning TD. Gray also contributed a sack after Bowling Green's next possession reached the KSU 25-yard line. That drive ended 3 plays later with an incomplete pass on 4th and 2. Senior CB Sidney Saulter had 4 tackles (3-1) and 1 PBU but unfortunately also showed up on the Bowling Green highlight reel when his attempt to shove WR Chris Gallon out of bounds near midfield was turned away by a stiff-arm by Gallon (photo below), who ended up going all the way for an 81-yard TD that tied the game at 24 early in the 4th. Junior S Josh Pettus had 6 tackles (4-2) for the Falcons and had a FF and FR on the same play to set up a FG in the 2nd quarter. Sophomore LB D.J. Lynch had 7 tackles (4-3), including 1 TFL ..... Kent State, now ranked #23, will finish the season with their first bowl game in 40 years. But before that is a trip to Detroit for the MAC championship game, where their opponent will be .....
NIU let the Rockets lead 14-7 at the half then came out of the locker room and racked up an astonishing 347 total yards in the 3rd quarter (only 49 less than Toledo had for the whole game), turning their deficit into a 28-14 lead. The Huskies cruised from there, holding on for a 31-24 home victory. NIU had TD drives of 73, 99, and 97 yards in that 3rd quarter, along with a 68-yard drive that ended with an INT. The UT offense only added to NIU's momentum, turning the ball over twice and failing to convert on 4th and 2 during the decisive 21-0 run. The last of the 3 TD in that run was on a 6-yard run by senior RB Akeem Daniels, who finished the night with 52 total yards. Sick junior DT Ken Bishop had 1 PBU and a half sack for the Huskies. For Toledo sick sophomore RB Cassius McDowell rushed for 16 yards and 1 TD, while sick junior WR James Green had just 1 reception for 13 yards.
When Clemson met North Carolina State last year at Raleigh the Tigers took a 3-0 lead into the 2nd quarter. The Wolfpack then proceeded to bury the Tigers with a 27-0 run in the 2nd quarter and went on to win 37-13. So you can understand if Clemson fans might have been a bit nervous last Saturday when the Tigers jumped to a 13-0 lead this time, only to watch N.C. State wipe it out with a 24-0 run in less than 8 minutes. But the Tigers quickly put their fans' fears to rest with a 28-0 run of their own to build a 41-24 halftime lead and went on to win 62-48. The Tigers' final tally of 754 total yards was just 2 yards short of the school record; and not surprisingly the Tigers' trio of stars with dreads had a lot of them.
IN THE FCS
In the final week before the start of the playoffs, some of the best in the FCS took on some of the best in the SEC. #3 ranked Sam Houston State got blown out early at Texas A&M, and #6 Georgia Southern got blown out late at Georgia. But there was no blowout at South Carolina, where #9 Wofford gave the Gamecocks all they could handle. The final score of 24-7 in favor of South Carolina isn't a true indicator of how close the game really was.
The score was 7-7 when Wofford began their first possession of the 2nd half at their own 5-yard line after a punt. 14 plays (all runs) and 5 first downs later the Terriers were at the SC 27-yard line. The Gamecock defense was very getting frustrated and very tired dealing with the Wofford option offense. It seemed like the Terriers were only a couple more plays away from finishing the drive with a TD that definitely would put the Gamecocks on the ropes. But then senior S D.J. Swearinger stepped up and said, "enough is enough!" A crushing hit by Swearinger on the 15th play of the drive forced a fumble, and the Gamecocks recovered, ending the drive with 3:33 remaining in the 3rd. Talk about momentum changing on one play. From then on Wofford did almost nothing right the rest of the game. The Gamecocks offense finally woke up, with a 15-play drive of their own that ended with a FG with 11:57 to play. Then after a 4-and-out by Wofford, the Gamecocks got some breathing room with a 34-yard drive that ended with an 8-yard TD reception by junior WR Ace Sanders (his 6th TD catch of the season) to make it 17-7. Two plays later the Gamecocks tacked on another TD on a scoop and score off of a Wofford fumble.
ODU's 2011 season ended with a road loss in the quarterfinals of the playoffs. To assure a chance to be at home in the quarterfinals this year the #4 ranked Monarchs needed to win at #13 JMU. It would not be an easy assignment because JMU (7-3) desperately needed a win just to get into the playoffs. The Dukes led 14-3 when junior RB Colby Goodwyn scored on a 5-yard run for ODU's only TD in the 1st half to make it 14-10. JMU struck back to make it 21-10 at halftime, but it was all ODU from then on.
The Monarchs scored 4 TD in the 2nd half, the first and last of which were a pair of 9-yard TD catches by sick senior WR Nick Mayers. The first brought ODU to within 21-17 in the 3rd. Then after JMU scored their final TD, Mayers' second 9-yard TD (photo below) completed the scoring with 12:26 remaining in the 4th as the Monarchs finished on a 21-0 run to win 38-28. Mayers finished the night with 3 catches for 21 yards. And junior S Paul Morant contributed with 11 tackles (3-8). Senior S Ryan Smith had 6 tackles (1-5) and a 27-yard kickoff return in his final game for JMU (that's right, the Dukes missed the playoffs).
Jackson State wrapped up the East Division title last Saturday with a 37-11 road win over Alcorn State. Senior WR Rico Richardson (who I hope to see in the NFL next season) scored the Tigers' 1st TD on a 37-yard reception midway through the 1st quarter. Then a punt blocked by freshman LB Ryan Griffin early in 3rd was recovered by Richardson in the end zone to up JSU's lead to 13-3. Richardson finished with 4 catches for 54 yards, and Griffin had 4 tackles (1-3) and 2 PBU ....... The Tigers will next face West Division winner Arkansas-Pine Bluff for the title. UAPB already had the West wrapped up but added one more win to their record, finishing 8-1 in league play with a thrilling 42-41 home win over Prairie View A&M. Senior S Jarvis Webb had 10 tackles (5-5), the biggest of which forced a fumble on 2nd and goal from the 2-yard line with 1:52 remaining in the game, foiling PVAMU's upset bid and clinching the victory for the Golden Lions.
On senior day at Murray State, senior S Darius Buck had 11 tackles (9-2) and 1 PBU, and sick senior WR Ja-Vonta Trotter had 2 TD catches for the Racers in a 42-35 victory over Southeast Missouri State ..... On senior day at Morgan State, sick senior DT Bakari Smith recorded a career high 12 tackles (6-6), 1 TFL, and 1 FF, but the Bears lost to Hampton 27-17 ..... On senior day at Bucknell, senior CB Joseph Francis had 5 tackles (2-3), 2 PBU, and got his 2nd INT of the season in the 4th quarter to set up the winning TD in a 24-21 victory over Bryant ..... On senior night at McNeese State, senior LB Joe Narcisse had 9 tackles (5-4), 2 sacks, and 2 FF (both for turnovers) in a 35-0 shutout of Lamar ..... And on senior day at Southern Illinois, senior WR David Lewis got his 2nd TD catch of the season, and senior RB Steve Strother came close to the dread stars list with a season high 90 yards rushing in a 35-0 shutout of Western Illinois ..... Also almost making the dread stars list were Georgia Southern sophomore RB Dominique Swope (92 yards rushing on 17 carries in a 45-14 loss at Georgia) and Southeastern Louisiana freshman RB Xavier Roberson (89 yards rushing and an 88-yard kickoff return to the house in a 35-16 win at Nicholls State .....
..... Junior CB Marcus Williams took a kickoff return 98 yards to the house, starting #1 North Dakota State's comeback from a 10-0 deficit and sending them on their way to a 38-20 road win over Illinois State, clinching the MVFC title outright; ISU (8-3) is going to the playoffs too ..... Freshman CB Je Ryan Butler had a team high 8 tackles (7-1), 2 TFL, 1 PBU, and his 2nd INT of the season as South Dakota State won 31-8 over South Dakota to make it three teams from the MVFC in the playoffs ..... Sick senior S Serge Kona had 7 tackles (2-5) in his final game in a Duquesne uniform in a 23-17 road loss to Wagner; Wagner clinches their first-ever NEC championship ..... And junior WR Lamar Scruggs (the transfer from South Carolina) had a 12-yard reception for his 1st TD in a North Carolina Central uniform (at last), tying the game at 16 early in the 4th quarter, but NCCU went on to lose at home to North Carolina A&T 22-16 in OT.
Shula Bowl 11 - the 11th edition of the annual battle between FIU and FAU - had only 1 TD scored by a player with dreads; and unless you were watching, you'd never guess who it was that scored it. The scoring summary in the game box score - Rupert Bryan 5-yard run - doesn't do the play justice. Bryan, a 6-2, 280-pound senior OT, threw a quick block on 1st and goal then retreated into the backfield, made a nice catch of a low backwards pass, did a nice job keeping his balance, and then turned on the speed (?), barely making it into the corner of the end zone before being knocked out of bounds. It was the 1st TD ever by an O-lineman in FIU history; and it was so impressive I could almost forgive Rupert for being on the field with reduced dreads. The TD gave FIU a 14-7 lead in the 2nd quarter. The Panthers also got contributions from senior WR Jacob Younger (4 catches for a career high 94 yards) and senior S Johnathan Cyprien (8 tackles, 1 FF, 1 PBU, and his 4th INT of the season) in their 34-24 road win in what hopefully will not be the last Shula Bowl. But with FIU leaving the Sun Belt and joining CUSA next season, the rivalry might come to an end.
- Kenny Miles - South Carolina - 27 carries for career high 127 yards rushing and 1 TD, and 4 catches for 27 yards in 24-7 senior day W over Wofford
- Devonta Freeman - Florida State - 148 yards and 2 TD rushing on 16 carries as FSU clinches ACC Atlantic Division title with 41-14 road W over Maryland
- J.D.McKissic - Arkansas State - 12 catches for 138 yards, including 31-yard TD, in 41-34 road W at Troy
- Clive Walford - Miami (F) - 3 catches for career high 135 yards, including 65-yard TD, in 40-9 home W over South Florida
- Andre Ellington - Clemson - 22 carries for 124 yards rushing, and 3 catches for 47 yards in 62-48 home win over North Carolina State
- Sammy Watkins - Clemson - 11 receptions for 110 yards, including 27-yard TD, as Tigers improve to 10-1
- Rolandan Finch - Boston College - 26 carries for 138 yards rushing in 30-23 home L in OT to Virginia Tech
- Joe Williams - Baylor - named Big 12 defensive player of the week - 11 tackles (9-2) and got 2nd and 3rd INT of season in 52-24 whipping of #2 Kansas State
- Tre Mason - Auburn - career high 181 yards and 2 TD rushing on 12 carries, including 86-yard TD, in easy 51-7 home W over Alabama A&M
- Eddie Lacy - Alabama - 10 carries for 99 yards rushing and 3 TD in easy 49-0 home W over Western Carolina
- Justin Collins - Western Michigan - 9 catches for 101 yards and 1 TD in 29-23 home L to Eastern Michigan
- William Dukes - FAU - 6 catches for 116 yards in 34-24 home L to FIU
- Gus Johnson - Stephen F. Austin - 211 yards and 1 TD rushing on 33 carries, and 3 catches for 20 yards in 34-17 home W over Northwestern State
- Tromaine Dennis - Northern Colorado - 28 carries for career high 222 yards rushing and 2 TD in 28-27 home W over North Dakota
- Joe Ferguson - San Diego - named Pioneer League offensive player of the week - 28 carries for 170 yards rushing and 2 TD, including 13-yard run for game-winning TD with 4:02 remaining, in 17-10 road W over Davidson
- Deonte Williams - Cal Poly - 139 yards rushing on 25 carries big 42-34 road W over Northern Arizona to clinch tie for Big Sky championship and at large playoff bid
- Ronnie Akins - Villanova - named CAA defensive player of the week - 4 tackles (4-0), 1 TFL, 1 PBU, and 2 big INT in 4th quarter, the second of which he took 45 yards to the house in 41-10 road W over Delaware to clinch tie for CAA title and playoff spot
- Kevin Eugene - Mississippi Valley State - SWAC didn't name players of the week this week, but he had great chance to be defensive player of week - 5 tackles (1-4), got 3rd and 4th INT of season, one of which he took 31 yards to the house, and also took fumble return 100 yards to the house in 34-3 road W over Texas Southern
- Sam Ojuri - North Dakota State - 118 yards and 1 TD rushing on 12 carries in 38-20 road W over Illinois State to clinch outright MVFC championship
- Jonah Fay - Brown - 6 catches for career high 101 yards, including 29-yard TD on senior day in 22-6 W over Columbia
- Rickey Stevens - Maine - 110 yards and 1 TD rushing on 15 carries in 55-6 road W over Rhode Island
- Jaamal Berry - Murray State - 8 carries for 87 yards rushing, and 4 catches for 69 yards in 42-35 home W over Southeast Missouri State
- Trabis Ward - Tennessee State - 24 carries for 106 yards rushing, and 5 catches for 42 yards in 35-26 road L to Tennessee-Martin
- Travis James - Tennessee State - 9 receptions for 139 yards as Tigers finish 8-3 after 7-0 start
- Ladarius Vanlier - Tennessee Tech - 9 carries for 84 yards rushing, and 5 catches for 77 yards in 38-31 L at Austin Peay
- Jerodis Williams - Furman - 103 yards rushing and 29 yards receiving in 42-20 senior day L to The Citadel
- Jordan Harris - Bryant - 8 catches for 179 yards and 2 TD in 24-21 road L to Bucknell
- Donte Sawyer - Morehead State - a one-man house of dread! (see below)
HOUSE OF DREAD
Of all the fine performances by seniors on senior day, the best was turned in by Morehead State WR Donte Sawyer - and if he had done it against anyone other than Valparaiso (arguably the worst team in Division 1) I might have named him player of the week as well. A lot of games this week had 3 TD by players with dreads; but the only one with 4 was in the end zone at Jayne Stadium in Morehead, KY, where the MSU Eagles annihilated Valparaiso 76-24. Sawyer began the scoring with a 33-yard TD reception in the 1st quarter then had a 1-yard TD catch early in the 2nd that made the score 27-0. After VU finally scored a TD midway through the 2nd, Sawyer took a handoff on the kickoff return and raced 85 yards to the house to make it 41-7. And on the Eagles' first possession of the 2nd half, Sawyer had a 64-yard reception for his 4th TD of the game. Donte finished with 6 catches for 186 yards to set a new MSU record for yards receiving in one season with 1,024. He wraps up his career with 199 catches for 2,555 yards, and 24 TD catches - all of which are MSU all-time records. It is not easy to find photos of Morehead State football games. But I was able to find one, thanks to Facebook, of Sawyer with his mom (?) before (or after?) playing his last game.
If not Donte Sawyer, then who? He did not have the greatest stats, but he played a key role in a big win, so I'm naming Rutgers senior LB Khaseem Greene the head dread for Week 12. Greene was named Big East player of the week for the 2nd straight week for his contributions to the Scarlet Knights' huge 10-3 win at Cincinnati (you can't blame Munchie Legaux for this one - he's been benched), keeping them undefeated in Big East play. Greene finished with 11 tackles (8-3), including 2 sacks and a career high 3.5 TFL, the biggest of which came when he stopped RB George Winn for a 1-yard loss on 4th and 1 early in the 3rd quarter, preserving a 7-0 lead. Said Khaseem of the play, "We take it real personal when they go for it on 4th down." Memo to future Rutgers' opponents: kick the FG. Greene also said, "I was very disappointed about losing the shutout," after UC scored their only points of the game with 11 seconds to play. If you like, please click on the link below for more on Greene (including many glowing reader comments) in an article from the Newark Star Ledger.
Khaseem Greene takes on his brother (RB Ray Graham) one last time as Rutgers faces Pittsburgh. And the FCS playoffs begin (not on TV- only on ESPN3). But the only game I want to see for Week 13 is South Carolina at Clemson.