But then Alabama got serious, the lead changed hands three times in the 4th quarter, and in the end the Tide pulled out a 32-28 victory in a thriller at the Georgia Dome.
The momentum began changing immediately after UGA took that 21-10 lead when, on the kickoff return following the TD, junior LB T.J. Stripling picked up an idiotic personal foul penalty after the play was already over, giving Alabama 15 yards for free. At that point the Tide decided they would run the ball, and keep on running it until Georgia stopped them. The Bulldogs never did, and the result was back-to-back TD drives of 77 and 73 yards, with junior RB Eddie Lacy's 2nd TD run of the game putting the Tide ahead 25-21. The two drives combined consisted of 11 running plays, with the only pass attempt resulting in an interference penalty against Georgia. The Bulldogs answered those two scores decisively, striking back with a 75-yard drive in 5 plays, capped by freshman RB Todd Gurley's 2nd TD of the game (photo below). But Alabama regained the lead again with 3:15 to go, setting the stage for a frantic finish.
There were a couple of sideline shots during the game that included injured Tide freshman RB Dee Hart. Apparently even if you're not in uniform, you still have to reduce your dreads if you want to be on Coach Saban's team. But Hart didn't braid his long dreads to reduce them. Instead he had not one, not two, or three or four, but five rubberbands around them. That'll definitely keep your dreads from moving, no doubt. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Thankfully, in the end, Lacy was not going to celebrate this victory with his dreads reduced. He had his dreads completely unbraided and back to normal almost immediately after the game was over (photo below). And Eddie had a lot to celebrate too as he was named the game's MVP.
Otherwise Kemal had a nice game, finishing with 14 tackles (8-6) and 1 FF. Sophomore S Clayton Geathers also racked up 14 tackles (6-8). And freshman WR Breshad Perriman had 3 catches for 65 yards, including an 8-yard TD early in the 2nd quarter that tied the game at 7. Freshman S Michael Mudoh, one of the very few Tulsa players with dreads, had a FF and FR on his only tackle of the day, which came on the opening kickoff of the game.
Not to be outdone by CUSA, the MAC championship game went to 2 overtimes, with Northern Illinois edging Kent State 44-37 to improve to 12-1 and clinch a most unlikely bid to the Orange Bowl. Sick junior DT Ken Bishop got the start on both defense and offense as he lined up at FB on the Huskies' first snap (and on a handful of other plays as well). He finished with 8 tackles (4-4) (one of them in photo below), including 3 TFL and 1 sack. But he had no stats on offense as a pass intended for him on 3rd and 3 from the KSU 12-yard line was off target. I might have cracked up if Bishop, who is listed at 308 pounds, had caught that and taken it to the house.
Last week I mentioned that Dri Archer, Kent State's star RB, had not switched his growing hair to dreads yet. But I noticed that he was wearing a skull cap (for the first time) during this game. That sent me to Google to look for any recent videos of him, and there were a couple. The verdict: whatever he switched his hair to , it doesn't look like beginner dreads. I'm not really sure because it doesn't look like normal braids either. But I've seen a lot of photos of beginner dreads, and none of them looked like Archer does now. Dri is only a junior, so let's wait and see what he looks like at the start of next season. I'd love to welcome him to the house (he has scored 22 TD so far this season!) but not yet. KSU's other star RB, sophomore Trayion Durham, who most definitely has short dreads under his skull cap, was held to 72 yards on 20 carries.
I was hoping for the first ACC championship game between rivals Florida State and Miami, and it looked like we would have it, as both the Seminoles and Hurricanes (after winning tiebreakers) finished on top of their respective divisions. But Miami, still under investigation by the NCAA, decided (wisely) to forgo postseason play for the 2nd straight year, leaving us with Georgia Tech to take on FSU. The ACC was spared the embarrassment of having the Yellow Jackets represent the league in the Orange Bowl with a 7-6 record, but not by much. Florida State jumped out to a 21-6 halftime lead but struggled in the 2nd half and had to hang on for a 21-15 victory to clinch their first ACC crown since 2005.
You'd think that the Nebraska defense had never seen a jet sweep before. I mean, the Badgers got a lot of mileage out of that play, including a 56-yard TD run by freshman RB Melvin Gordon on the 4th play of their opening drive. UW also scored on Nebraska's first play from scrimmage, a pick 6 that made the score 14-0 just 2:07 after the opening kickoff. The Cornhuskers got back into it at 14-10, but it was all Wisconsin from there.
There is no conference championship game in the Big East, but thanks to wise (lucky?) scheduling, the league's top 2 teams met in the final game of the season, as Louisville traveled to Rutgers for what in effect was the championship game. It looked like it was going to be a glorious senior night for RU senior LB Khaseem Greene, as the Scarlet Knights scored an 85-yard TD on their first offensive snap and took a 14-3 lead deep into the 3rd quarter. But then the momentum, and the game, changed in a hurry.
The schedule maker in the Sun Belt Conference also came out looking like a genius after matching top teams Arkansas State and MTSU in a final-week showdown for the title. Defending champ Arkansas State you could understand. But MTSU??? - the Blue Raiders went 2-10 last year. Unfortunately for MTSU fans, their team played more like that 2-10 team than the one that went 8-3 this year before going to Jonesboro last Saturday. ASU scored on all five of their possessions in the 1st half, building a 35-0 lead, and went on to rout MTSU 45-0 and successfully defend their SBC crown.
I was kind of angry that this game was not on TV, as both teams have WRs with sick dreads. Arkansas State, in fact, has three. Senior WR Josh Jarboe had only 2 catches for 15 yards on senior day, but one of them was a 6-yard TD that capped an 85-yard drive and made the score 21-0. Then after stopping MTSU for no gain on 4th and 1 on the ensuing drive, on the next play junior WR Julian Jones took a reception 59 yards to the house to make it 28-0. It was Jones' team-leading 7th TD catch of the season, a remarkable total considering he has only 13 receptions all season.
Things got even worse for MTSU in the days after the game. In a decision that (despite what the SBC commissioner says) has everything to do with the fact that MTSU is leaving the conference and joining CUSA next year), the Blue Raiders were denied a bid to a bowl game despite finishing 8-4. Western Kentucky, 7-5 including a home loss to MTSU, was picked for a bowl game instead of MTSU (ouch).
The attendance was sparse (31,622), and so were the dreads as Stanford picked up a 27-24 home victory over UCLA in the Pac 12 championship game; the only significant contribution by anyone with dreads was by UCLA junior DE Owa Odighizuwa, who had a career high 7 tackles (2-5), including a half sack ..... Junior Jonathan Wallace, one of three RBs with dreads to carry the ball for FAU, almost made the dread stars list, rushing for 86 yards and 1 TD and catching 3 passes for 18 yards in a 35-21 home loss to Louisiana-Lafayette; senior day at FAU had no seniors with dreads, meaning all 15 players with dreads on the roster are due to return next season, when the Owls (like MTSU) bolt the SBC and join CUSA ..... And thanks to a game re-scheduled from Week 1, it was senior day at Oregon State, and senior WR Markus Wheaton (photo below) caught 12 passes - all in the 1st half - to break the school record for career receptions as the Beavers slaughtered Nicholls State 77-3; Wheaton's 224 career catches are 2 more than James Rodgers had when he left OSU after last season; Wheaton pays respect to Rodgers in his interview after the game (link below).
IN THE FCS
What a difference a week makes ...... South Dakota State RB Zach Zenner, the leading rusher in the FCS, had his way with Eastern Illinois in last week's playoff opener. But things were a wee bit more difficult on the road in round 2 against North Dakota State's #1 ranked rushing defense. The defending champs put the clamps on Zenner (46 yards on 15 carries) and dominated South Dakota State 28-3 to advance to the quarterfinals. The Jackrabbits were held to 217 total yards and went 2 for 13 on 3rd down, with their only two conversions not coming until a meaningless drive in the final minute of the game. Junior RB Sam Ojuri gained 77 total yards for the Bison; star junior CB Marcus Williams had 3 tackles (1-2) and got his 5th INT of the season; and senior CB Andre Martin contributed 4 tackles (2-2) and 1 PBU.
Southland co-champ Central Arkansas gave SOCON co-champ Georgia Southern a run for their money, but GSU, after leading 24-6 in the 2nd quarter, held on for a 24-16 home win to advance to the quarterfinals. Senior RB Darreion Robinson rushed for 21 yards and had a 32-yard TD catch (photo above) that gave the Eagles a 14-3 lead in the 1st quarter. Sophomore RB Dominique Swope (photo below) had 64 yards rushing on 17 carries. But the Eagles, almost unbelievably, went scoreless on their final 7 possessions. UCA failed to capitalize, however. After scoring 10 consecutive points to get within 24-16 midway through the 3rd quarter, the Bears failed to penetrate any further than the GSU 41-yard line on any of their final 4 drives. Senior WR Dominique Croom had 2 catches for 70 yards in his final game for UCA, including a 42-yarder in the 1st half that set up a FG. And junior DT Matthew Hornbuckle had 5 tackles (2-3) and 1 TFL. Senior LB Dion Dubose had 4 tackles (2-2) and 2 TFL (including 1 sack) for the Eagles, who improve to 9-3 and will next face .....
Cal Poly went on the road and dominated Sam Houston State in total yards 387-241, but a 3-0 deficit in turnovers did them in as SHSU won 18-16. Needing 121 yards to set the Cal Poly single season rushing record, senior RB Deonte Williams had only 48 yards on 13 carries, finishing an outstanding season with 1,506 yards rushing (but falling 72 short of the record). Sophomore DE Wesley Flowers (the transfer from UCLA) had 6 tackles (4-2) and 1 TFL. Senior S Darnell Taylor had a big game for SHSU with a game high 12 tackles (9-3), and on one of them he got a FF and FR at the SHSU 19 to stop a Cal Poly threat in the 1st quarter. Darnell's twin brother, LB Darius Taylor, was slowed by an injury and had only 1 tackle (0-1).
Junior RB Demetrius Bronson rushed for 76 yards and 2 TD, and sophomore RB Quincy Forte had 1 TD run as Eastern Washington survived a -3 margin in turnovers in a 29-19 home win over NEC champ Wagner ...... Also advancing to round 3 were Wofford (23-7 home win over New Hampshire) and Montana State (16-10 home win over Stony Brook) ..... And in a game postponed by Superstorm Sandy, junior RB Joe Ferguson nearly made the dread stars list, finishing with 91 yards rushing, 2 catches for 34 yards, and 1 TD as San Diego won 34-10 at Marist to clinch a tie (with Butler and Drake) for the Pioneer League crown.
With coaches coming and going so fast at this time of year that you can hardly keep up with all the changes, it's nice to be able to mention someone who figured out that the greener pastures were right where he was. With all the success that Coach Moore has had at Appalachian State in recent years, surely he must have gotten at least a couple job offers from FBS schools. But Moore was content to stay at ASU and last Saturday wrapped up his 24th - and last - season at the helm of the Mountaineers, finishing with a 215-87 record after a heartbreaking 38-37 home loss (the only home loss in the eight 2nd round games) in overtime to Illinois State. Moore exits with a resume that includes playoff appearances the last 8 years in a row along with that fantastic run of 3 straight FCS championships from 2005-07.
As Moore steps aside, ASU freshman WR Sean Price is just getting started. In a losing cause against ISU, Price set new FCS freshman single season records in both receptions and receiving yards, finishing with 81 catches for 1,196 yards (breaking Randy Moss's old mark of 1,073).
- Akeem Daniels - Northern Illinois - 128 yards and 1 TD rushing on 17 carries, and 4 catches for 67 yards in 44-37 W in 2 OT over Kent State in MAC championship game
- Markus Wheaton - Oregon State - 12 catches for 123 yards and 1 TD, and had 17 yards and 1 TD rushing as OSU completes turnaround from 3-9 last year to 9-3 with easy 77-3 home W over Nicholls State
- Eddie Lacy - Alabama - named MVP of SEC championship game - 20 carries for career high 181 yards rushing and 2 TD as Crimson Tide clinch spot in BCS title game with thrilling 32-28 W over Georgia
- Tevin Reese - Baylor - 5 catches for 108 yards, including 75-yard TD, in 41-34 home W over Oklahoma State
- William Dukes - FAU - 9 catches for career high and school record 204 yards, including TDs of 75 and 42 yards, in 35-21 home L to Louisiana-Lafayette
- Todd Gurley - Georgia - 23 carries for 122 yards and 2 TD in tough 32-28 L to Alabama in SEC title game
- Nick Mayers - ODU - 6 catches for 103 yards and 1 TD in 63-35 FCS 2nd round playoff home W over Coastal Carolina
- Tyrone Walker - Illinois State - 10 catches for season high 176 yards and 2 TD in thrilling 38-37 road W in OT over Appalachian State in 2nd round of FCS playoffs
- Sean Price - Appalachian State - 13 catches for 167 yards in 38-37 playoff home L to Illinois State as Mountaineers' season ends when ISU blocks an extra point attempt in OT
HOUSE OF DREAD
The end zone at the Georgia Dome had the most TD by players with dreads in Week 14 - a total of 4 in Alabama's 32-28 victory over Georgia. Junior RB Eddie Lacy for Alabama had TD runs of 41 yards (photo below) and 1 yard, while UGA freshman RB Todd Gurley scored on runs of 3 and 10 yards.
"...... And I'm sure the coaches are extremely excited for the future, because this player, he's going to be very, very good." The quote is from Wisconsin RB Montee Ball, and his praise was for teammate and fellow RB Melvin Gordon after watching Gordon's breakout performance in the Badgers' 70-31 demolition of Nebraska in the Big 10 title game. And it's an opinion worth noting too because Ball is a pretty decent player himself, having finished 4th in the voting for the Heisman Trophy last season and having just been named winner of the Doak Walker award for this season.
You know, I was extremely excited back on signing day a couple of years ago when Gordon, who originally had verbally committed to Iowa, changed his mind and instead signed with Wisconsin. And that was before he even started growing his dreads; now I'm even more excited. You see, there is a serious lack of skill position players from Wisconsin playing for FBS teams. And to have potentially one of the best ever - Gordon, who went to HS in Kenosha - sign up with the hated Hawkeyes would have been very, very difficult to swallow. Gordon, mostly in mop-up duty, has flashed some of his considerable potential in his freshman year in 2011 and his redshirt freshman year this season. The UW coaching staff finally decided to put him on the field for meaningful action last Saturday, and the results were spectacular.
The first time he touched the ball, Gordon, a 6-1, 206-pound speedster, scored a 56-yard TD on the 4th play from scrimmage. The next 5 times he carried the ball, he gained 24, 12, 60, 46, and 11 yards - all for 1st downs. The 60-yarder, which will be included on his highlight reel, was particularly painful for Nebraska, because it came with just 20 seconds remaining until halftime and the Badgers content to run out the clock. Instead Gordon took it all the way to the 3-yard line, and the Badgers scored two plays later to make it 42-10 at the half.
Now I know Eddie Lacy had a great game, but after a performance like his, I had to name Gordon the head dread for this week. Nebraska finally stopped Gordon on a garbage-time drive in the 4th quarter, holding him to a total of 7 yards on his final 3 carries. But all that did was lower his yards per carry average for the game from a ridiculous 34.8 to a still-ridiculous 24.0. Melvin finished with 216 yards rushing and the 1 TD on 9 carries. The first link below is to a story about Gordon's performance from the Wisconsin State Journal website. And the one below that is an interview Melvin did with ESPN.com after the game.
Hopefully this will be the first of many great performances to come for Gordon; and I;m wishing all the best for him in the years ahead.