College Football Breakdown: Thursday Night Theory
The only mild surprise was Kent State defeating Iowa State on the road—but if you followed the Golden Flashes at all last season, you knew they had a sound defense and a very slippery signal-caller...which made the upset more than realistic.
Let's get down to it, shall we?
(2) Louisiana State 45 Mississippi State 0
Initial thoughts—I have to give a lot of credit to Mississippi State quarterback Michael Henig, despite his six interceptions.
Henig was bruised and battered for the entire game, and was limping to the sideline on nearly every play—but he took his punishment like a true warrior. I got a lot of respect for him, even though he did cost his team the game.
Nobody else was getting anything going for the Mississippi State offense, so Henig had no other option but to air it out. LSU did an excellent job of turning the interceptions into points, and that in the end is what really cost the Bulldogs.
They also couldn't find an answer for Early Doucet—no surprises there, as Matt Flynn spent extra time working with Doucet in the offseason, and it's pretty clear he's his favorite target out there!
Doucet ended up hauling in 9 passes for 78 yards and 1 touchdown. We should see a huge year from Doucet, first because the chemistry between him and Flynn is nearly flawless and second because Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis are off to the NFL, leaving Early as the primary receiver.
That hit! Oh me oh my. That had to have been one of the hardest hits I've ever seen in my life, where Brandon LaFell leveled Zach Smith of Mississippi State. That one is going to end up on YouTube pretty soon. What a devastating block. Bone-rattling to say the least.
I was very impressed with LSU's defense, and it definitely lived up to its hype. Those defensive lineman are big, fast, strong, and are ferocious hitters. They pack quite a punch. They limited the Bulldog rushing attack to just 13 yards on 25 attempts, a stat that undoubtedly will have defensive coordinator Bo Pelini smiling.
I was also impressed with LSU's secondary. Safety Craig Steltz had a huge day, picking off three passes. With a stat sheet like that, he's already got a big head start on a few first team All-America lists. Jonathan Zenon only got beat on that one deep ball. It was an amazing pitch-and-catch, delivered by Henig as he was getting laid out. Definitely the best ball he threw all game, although that isn't saying much.
LSU backup QB Ryan Perriloux also looked very strong and poised out there as well. He's going to be a great one. He's not quite as fast as Flynn, but is a physical runner who's not afraid to take a hit. He threw some pretty balls in his three attempts—not to mention the scramble on which he tried to bulldoze the Mississippi State defender. He's very physical in the open field.
One positive for MSU: the play of stud linebacker Titus Brown. He was a "heat-seeking missile" out there, and was constantly in the Tigers' backfield. It wasn't enough, but look for big things from Titus this season.
Check out the highlights on ESPN.com here:
Kent State 23, Iowa State 14
A lot of people are going to hype this one as a huge upset. It's not.
Kent State has one of the most talented signal-callers in the MAC in Julian Edelman—the guy rushed for over 600 yards last season, and had over 200 all-purpose yards against Iowa State.
Bret Meyer is a talented signal-caller for the Cyclones, but he still has interception problems. He had two in this game, and they were both pretty costly.
Ohio-Kent State is going to be a great, great game here in a few weeks. Running back Eugene Jarvis is another name to remember from the Golden Flashes.
Oregon State 24, Utah 7
It's a shame Oregon State doesn't have Sammie Stroughter out there. Even if he was on the field, though, I'm not sure if Canfield could get him the rock—especially not after a 8/19, 87-yards, 1-TD, 1-INT performance.
If anything is clear for the Beavers, it's that running back Yvenson Bernard is going to get an unreal amount of touches this year—like Pac-10 Player of the Year amount of touches.
I'm not sure his team will help him out enough to get respect from voters, but the fact remains that Bernard is one of the best backs in the country, and had 188 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in his first game. Very impressive.
With Stroughter out and a young QB out there, I look for Bernard to carry the Beavers. He's going to be the horse this year. Look for huge numbers.
Boise State 56, Weber State 7
No surprises here, folks.
Ian Johnson had a big day (128 rushing yards), and they probably pulled him early. Senior quarterback Taylor Tharp was sharp (14/19)...but then again it was against Weber State.
The funny thing is Boise State scored 49 of their 56 points in the first half. That's pretty ridiculous. They had a backup running back (Avery) average 10 yards per touch while racking up 100+ yards and two touchdowns.
Boise State's November 23rd matchup with the Hawaii Warriors looms down the road as BCS make-or-break for both teams.
Rutgers 38, Buffalo 3
These highlights weren't pretty.
Time and time again, Rutgers offensive players (mainly Ray Rice and receiver Tiquan Underwood) ran through the Buffalo defense like a hot knife through butter. Turner Gil still has plenty of work to do there in Buffalo.
The Bulls' secondary looked lost, leaving gaping holes for Underwood to exploit. Mike Teel is a solid field general, but certainly not an "elite" signal-caller. This game was the first 300-yard game of his career. He should be sure to send a thank you note to the Buffalo D.
Worse, Buffalo's defensive line just plain doesn't know how to make open field tackles. Recruiting is pretty much an uphill battle for Gil, because who the hell would want to come to Buffalo to play football?
The Buffalo job is a death-trap, and I bet Gil is regretting taking it. The team looks just like Duke—they make terrible fundamental mistakes that can't happen if you want to win football games. I witnessed it firsthand when they played in Peden last year—their kick returners would hold on to the ball for five seconds, then decide to come out, then kneel at the one.
Ridiculous. Football basics: know where you are on the field.
That said, I'd like to see Gil turn it around up there, but I'm just not sure if he can land the talent. Schiano is probably wrapping up all the upstate New York players...and like I said, Buffalo is just an undesirable place to play football.
Miami (OH) 14, Ball State 13
This score was a little surprising for me, because I figured Nate Davis would be able to put up enough points to carry the Cardinals.
That's not a knock against Miami, but I think that predictions putting the Redhawks ahead of the Bobcats in he MAC-East are downright outlandish.
Miami had an awful team last year and returns quarterback Mike Kokal, who's nothing special. He threw two interceptions in this one.
Davis didn't have a very good performance ,and Miami notched a late rushing touchdown to seal it. This kid Brandon Murphy of Miami looks pretty solid; he rushed for over 100 yards on 19 carries. I'll have to keep an eye out for him.
(10) Louisville 73, Murray State 10
Louisville had an explosion in this one, and the highlights were very similar to Buffalo-Rutgers highlights
I told you to sound the air raid alarm before this one. I'd say a 63-point victory is pretty nice for a head coach's first outing, don't you?
Kragthorpe already had the pieces in place, so he really can't take very much of the credit, in my opinion. Brohm and Harry Douglas had field days. Brohm went 16/21 for 375 yards and 4 touchdowns—pretty amazing numbers! Douglas finished with 5 catches for 151 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The Louisville offense operated at stunning efficiency, averaging a touchdown every four plays in the first half. Louisville also got a solid day from running back George Stripling, who rushed for 92 yards. 655 yards of total offense is mind-boggling, and I'd expect nothing less from this explosive Louisville aerial attack.
The funny thing is the Cardinals have one of the best backup quarterbacks in the country in Hunter Cantwell. If Brohm happens to get injured, look for him to step in and carry the load.
Receiver Mario Urrutia had a quiet night, but I'd look for Brohm to sling the rock his way against tough teams like Kentucky and Cincinnati. He'll have to throw the fade pass to Urrutia more, because he's such a mismatch in the end zone. Brohm is a brilliant quarterback, and I look for him to make the adjustments down the stretch when his team needs it most.
The Louisville defense still hasn't been tested, and is the biggest question mark in my mind.
New Mexico State 35, Southeastern Louisiana 14
I was disappointed because my boy Chase Holbrook had three interceptions, but I think he was just shaking off some of the rust.
Holbrook is one of the nation's elite signal callers, and you don't pass for over 4,500 yards as a sophomore without knowing how to sling the rock. He was 23/33 for 280 yards, 4 touchdowns, and the 3 interceptions in this one. A solid day, but he needs to protect the ball. Good thing he was playing Southeastern Louisiana.
Tulsa 35, Louisiana-Monroe 17
Paul Smith is one of the nation's best signal-callers that I haven't heard about.
Over the past two seasons, Smith has thrown for over 2,700 yards and completed 62 percent of his passes. Very impressive. I'm going to have to watch some games with this kid.
Smith torched the ULM defense, completing 22 of his 31 passes for 307 yards, 3 TDs, and 1 interception. Last year he was sacked less and his numbers improved—surprise, surprise. I look for the same this year.
Tulsa's running back Tarrion Adams (from Japan) rushed for 130 yards and a TD on 28 carries. He also had a receiving touchdown and had 28 receiving yards.
UNLV 23, Utah State 16
This score wasn't too surprising to me, but I'm still trying to figure out what happened to quarterback Rocky Hinds. Clearly, UNLV is not the same team without him.
I know the UNLV coach wants a dual-threat quarterback to fit his style of offense (à la Travis Dixon), but I can't see him giving the team as good of a chance to win as Hinds.
Dixon had a pretty stellar first game, racking up over 270 all-purpose yards, including more than 120 on the ground. The Mesa, Arizona native can flat out scoot, and is certainly one to watch in the Mountain West Conference.
Cincinnati 59, Southeast Missouri State 3
I can't say that I'm too surprised here.
With QB Ben Mauk at the helm, Cincinnati is a team on the rise. Their defense is very, very talented ,and they now have an explosive aerial attack to go with it.
Mauk passed for over 17,000 yards in his career at Kenton High School, where he led his team to back-to-back state titles. He had a big day in his debut, even if it was against one of the least-feared defenses in college football—he completed 18 of his 27 passes for 244 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
I'd expect the Bearcats to have a big season—look for them to slay one of the giants (WVU, Louisville, Rutgers) and spoil somebody's year. Cincinnati knows they can do it, because they flat out dominated Rutgers last season; the only question is whether it can happen again.
The Bearcats will definitely be bowling at the end of the season...and I definitely wouldn't want to face them. Coach Kelly runs to love that no-huddle offense with a lot of five-receiver sets—and Mauk is good enough to take the Bearcats offense to a place it hasn't been since the days of former Bearcat legend Gino Guidugli.
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