While high-profile battles between undefeated teams (Texas/Oklahoma and Oklahoma State/Missouri) focused the nation’s attention on the Big 12 this weekend, Diamond in the Rough digs deeper to spotlight a different conference matchup.
And, as DITR readers are accustomed to by now, it took overtime in Lubbock to decide a winner between traditional powerhouse Nebraska and offensive juggernaut Texas Tech.
1. DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH: TEXAS TECH 37, NEBRASKA 31 (OT)
In 2007, Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree was the Biletnikoff Award winner, the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, and a unanimous All-American to boot.
Did I mention he was only a freshman at the time?
Crabtree has continued to put up stellar numbers in his second season for the Red Raiders, and as a sportswriter that hasn’t gotten to see many TTU games, I must admit I’ve been a bit curious about the Texas Tech offense, and Crabtree in particular. Are they really that good? Is Tech a national title contender?
Yes. And maybe.
In a home matchup with one of the great all-time programs in college football, Crabtree’s Raiders put up the points they needed on Saturday (as they usually do) to escape 37-31. The star wideout finished with five catches for 89 yards and a pair of scores in the overtime contest, becoming the Red Raiders’ all-time touchdown leader in the process.
Crabtree’s name was on a lot of preseason Heisman watch lists, and some of his main competition for the award may come from his teammate that throws all those passes his way, a senior by the name of Graham Harrell.
Harrell came into the game with 18 touchdowns against only three interceptions, and while he certainly helped his cause with a 20-25 showing, he wasn’t the only quarterback hitting at an 80 percent clip in the game.
Nebraska signalcaller Joe Ganz also had a solid day, finishing 36-44 through the air for 349 yards and two TDs.
In the end, though, it was Ganz’s one really bad throw of the afternoon that he’ll remember—a Jamar Wall interception in overtime that sealed the Huskers’ fate. The turnover spoiled a valiant effort by the twenty-point underdogs from Lincoln, who, despite never leading in the game, rallied to tie the score on three different occasions.
The fact that Nebraska hung in the game for sixty-plus minutes wasn’t luck… it was actually due in part to the balanced offensive production of Lucky… Marlon Lucky, that is.
The senior running back caught seven passes and carried the ball sixteen times, combining for almost 150 all-purpose yards.
The Cornhuskers finished a respectable 7-12 on third down and dominated the time of possession as a result (40:12-19:48 in regulation); any team hoping to knock off Texas Tech this year should take note of this recipe.
In fact, I was stunned to learn that going into the contest, the Raiders actually led the nation in third-down conversion defense. And I thought TTU’s success only came on the offensive side of the ball!
When the dust had cleared, Tech (and its unbeaten record) had survived for another week in a conference that looks like the class of the nation so far. No easy task.
Here’s my random thoughts on this week’s “Diamond in the Rough”:
-The two scariest-looking men on the field (and it’s not even a contest): Texas Tech offensive lineman Brandon Carter and Nebraska guard Matt Slauson. Carter boasts a two-color mohawk (if you can call it that) on a mostly bald head, while Slauson has the “eye black all over” look. I wouldn’t want to meet either guy in a dark alley!
-The fans in Lubbock had so many cowbells I thought I was watching a game from Tropicana Field. Or as I wrote in my notes, “Man, those bells are annoying.”
-Go Rays! End baseball tangent.
- Texas Tech and Nebraska are the two most penalized teams in the league; play-by-play guy Joel Meyers predicted that the least penalized team would come out on top. Meyers was correct; Nebraska was flagged eight times, while the victorious Raiders restrained themselves to two.
- The thing that makes Raider quarterback Graham Harrell so dangerous is his patience. Time and time again, Harrell stands in the pocket long enough for his receivers to get open downfield…and then he picks the opposing secondary apart. Looks way too easy, if you ask me.
-Kicker Donnie Carona almost cost Texas Tech a hard-fought victory. Carona barely banked an extra point in off the upright (and I still don’t know how) in regulation, and then actually missed a PAT in overtime. I’m guessing Carona was celebrating the most after Wall’s interception preserved the six-point triumph.
-Gutsy call of the game? How about this one? With the game tied at 24 and less than five minutes left, Texas Tech went for (and converted) a fourth-and-four inside their own 40-yard line.
Of course, throwing the ball up to Crabtree, I’d be pretty confident too…but confident enough to go for a fourth down that could decide the game in my own half of the field? Needing not inches, but four yards?
Kudos to successful TTU coach Mike Leach, because if his team didn’t convert, this decision would have been turning up in “Maybe Coaching Is Easier Than I Thought”.
-Nebraska senior wideout Todd Peterson led the Huskers with eight catches on the afternoon, including three (and a touchdown) on the game-tying drive in the final minutes.
-Tech ran a direct snap to Crabtree in the second quarter, who handed the ball off. Later, the Raiders faked the same play and Harrell got the snap instead, completing a 31-yard pass to Detron Lewis. The Wildcat/Ronnie Brown formation is the trendiest thing in football lately…
-Dailey Fuller and Jenna Jones were named Texas Tech’s homecoming king and queen, respectively. In case you care.
Think I should cover your team in “Diamond in the Rough”? Is your favorite school’s big game flying beneath the media radar? I can be convinced...e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to see an in-depth profile of your team’s game in a future edition of Carrying On About College Football.
2. MAYBE BROADCASTING IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
Here are this week’s wacky and weird announcer quotes:
“McGuffie was wobbling. He looked like one of the alumni returning last weekend for Homecoming.” – Thom Brennaman
Don’t worry, Thom—you’ll get old someday too. Be nice!
“I don’t think there’s any question Aaron Opelt has plenty of arm…
..is there?” – Charles Davis
If there isn’t any question, why ask?
“At the fair, you can get a fried banana split. Let me tell ya, that will ignite your senses”. – Brent Musberger
“Among other things.” – Kirk Herbstreit
I don’t even want to know what else Herbie’s referring to.
Referring to heralded Longhorn quarterbacks…
“What’s impressive is that if you compare what Colt McCoy’s done with what Vince Young did the same year he won the Heisman…Colt McCoy’s ahead in every statistic.” – Lou Holtz
Sorry to be picky…
And I know how Lou Holtz hates to use what we in the media world refer to as…
But didn’t…um…Reggie Bush…win the Heisman? Just checking…)
Don’t forget to watch games with your notepad handy! If you hear an announcer quote worthy of “Maybe Broadcasting Is Easier Than I Thought”, send it to email@example.com: you could make it into next week’s column!
3. THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT
The ridiculous stat lines and improbable scores that make you think the sports ticker has malfunctioned...
Toledo WR Nick Moore caught 20 passes to help the Rockets upset Michigan, 13-10, in the Big House. Yes, that does say 20…Moore had 20 grabs for 162 yards as the Wolverines lost to a MAC team for the first time ever.
Army beat Eastern Michigan 17-13 without completing a pass. Last week’s column profiled service academy football, and we made a big deal about Navy winning while completing only one pass. The Black Knights topped that by amassing 341 yards on the ground, zero through the air.
Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford threw for five touchdowns in one of the biggest games of his life…and his team lost by ten. C’mon Sooners…what else do you need from the guy? Does Bradford have to play defense too?
Will the real Virginia Cavaliers please stand up?
Virginia started the year 1-3, losing by lopsided scores of 45 points to USC, 35 to Connecticut, and 28 to Duke. I’m sorry, but Virginia losing to Duke by 28 shouldn’t happen until December in Cameron.
Anyway, if you look up the definition of ugly, you’d see the first third of the Cavalier season.
So how exactly did UVA SHUT OUT Maryland 31-0 last week? And then on Saturday, the Cavs followed up that statement win with another one, knocking off early-season darling East Carolina 35-20.
All of a sudden (and completely out of nowhere), Al Groh has things looking up in Charlottesville.
4. THANK GOODNESS FOR MY DVR
Plays that were worth rewinding for:
Sean Smith, UTAH…one-handed interception in the end zone against Wyoming.
Jacoby Ford, CLEMSON…bobbling TD catch for the Tigers @ Wake Forest.
Quan Cosby, TEXAS…diving and laying out for a highlight-reel grab in Dallas.
Rob Housler, FLORIDA ATLANTIC…this one’s not a positive highlight, but the up-back on a kickoff return saw the ball bounce off his helmet in the air…and the Troy Trojans recovered. I can honestly say I’ve never seen that happen before.
And of course, the play of the week, which will be repeated on ESPN every five minutes all month…
Oklahoma’s Jermaine Gresham tips the pass…and Sooner teammate Ryan Broyles grabs it just before it hits the ground for an OU touchdown. Yes, Stoops probably drew it up that way.
5. SINCE I DO LIVE IN OHIO... (news from around the Big Ten)
Congratulations to former Illini tight end and current Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster, whose homecoming to Champaign Saturday was an extremely happy one.
After winning only one game in 2007, Brewster’s Golden Gophers became bowl-eligible with a 27-20 road victory. At 6-1 and with his team picked to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten in most preseason publications, Brewster has to be considered an early front-runner for Coach of the Year.
I’ve always believed that good coaches need to be willing to try something unpredictable occasionally to jump-start their team, and Brewster certainly falls into that category.
Try “fake punt at my own 25-yard line” unpredictable.
In other Big Ten notes, Illini WR Arrelious Benn set a school record with over 100 receiving yards in his third straight game…and Indiana seems to be looking forward to hoops season after getting pasted 45-9 by the Hawkeyes…
Wait…news flash…this just in…Indiana doesn’t have any returning basketball players…they’re being picked last in the Big Ten this winter…maybe you shouldn’t concede football season quite yet, IU.
6. MAYBE OFFICIATING IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
Memphis got absolutely HOSED on Friday night.
In case you missed it, they were trailing Louisville 35-28 at home in the final five minutes of the game. The Cardinals were trying to run out the clock, and got a first down (courtesy of a bad spot) to keep the drive alive.
Thank goodness for replay…the booth stopped the game, reviewed the spot, determined the Cards came up short, and Louisville ended up punting the ball back to Memphis on fourth and inches.
So far, so good.
Guess what? Louisville ended up getting the ball back, still clinging to a seven-point lead. 2:30 to play now…still trying to run out the time.
Third and short...and they “convert” for a first down. The only problem is, the spot was awful AGAIN and there’s no way the ballcarrier ever got NEAR the line to gain. I understand the yellow line is not omniscient, but they have these little white hash-marks a yard apart on the field.
Kinda cool old-fashioned concept…I just don’t understand how the runner can only get to one specific white line…and then the official can spot the ball at a white line a yard farther down the field.
Of course, the replay booth snoozed right through that one, with ESPN reporting the official explanation as “they didn’t have a proper camera angle to see the ball’s correct spot.”
Yeah right. The ball got to THIS white line…you spotted it at THAT one. The first-down marker is somewhere BETWEEN…every single camera angle proves it.
I don’t know if Memphis would have scored to tie the game in the final two minutes after Louisville punted the ball back, but I’m convinced the Tigers deserved the opportunity to try.
Wait…I’m not done! One more example of awful officiating:
Did you see the two unnecessary roughness personal fouls called on Oklahoma defenders for hits out-of-bounds against Texas quarterback Colt McCoy?
Give me a break.
On both calls, McCoy had barely stepped over the sideline…lost his balance on his own…and the Oklahoma defender appeared to actually be trying to hold him up, not hurt him or hit him late.
I understand protecting the quarterback and all, but 15 yards is a huge penalty…let’s make sure it’s deserved if you’re going to throw the flag, alright?
Especially when facing a mobile quarterback like McCoy, the defender is often stuck in a Catch-22…if he pulls off at the last second, the quarterback might change his mind and duck right on down the sideline, staying inbounds for another dozen yards or so.
In what I’m sure is a COMPLETELY unrelated note, both penalties were called on the Longhorn sideline. As Brent Musberger so aptly summarized it, “The best officials are Texas assistant coaches.”
Maybe officiating is easier than I thought.
7. EVEN THOUGH SEVENTEEN IS A RANDOM NUMBER
Here’s the Top 17 ballot I submitted earlier today:
1. Alabama (I had them No. 4 last week and the top three teams lost…enough said)
2. Texas (Big-time win over quality opponent; loved the never-say-die attitude)
3. Penn St. (41-point win AT Madison…who predicted that? Liars!)
4. Texas Tech (One of three undefeated teams remaining..in their division!)
5. BYU (Cougars win, other teams lose…Cougars move up. Pretty simple.)
6. Oklahoma (Too bad somebody had to come up on the short end of that game.)
7. Florida (Enormous statement win…memo to SEC…don’t threaten Tebow.)
8. Oklahoma St. (Came to play in Saturday night spotlight game…on the road, no less.)
9. USC (Defense, anyone? Trojans shut out a decent conference team in ASU)
10. Utah (33-point win at Wyoming moves undefeated Utes into Top 10)
11. Boise St. (Avoided trap game @ Southern Miss with 17-point victory)
12. Ohio St. (I only moved them down one spot for ugly win, could have been more!)
13. Missouri (Chase Daniel wishes he had that last drive…and throw…back.)
14. Georgia (Dawgs back on track after two long weeks to ponder ‘Bama debacle.)
15. LSU (I kept thinking the Tigers would make a run at Florida. Um, nope.)
16. Ball St. (Undefeated record makes them worthy of their first Top 17 spot.)
17. Michigan St. (Took care of business against undefeated Northwestern in Evanston)
Remember, you can have an impact on the Top 17 – but you have to take the time to write! Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and make the case for your favorite team!
8. COMING ATTRACTIONS
I don’t know why anyone would need a reason to be excited about the upcoming college football weekend. But if you do, here’s three:
a. “Worth buying a ticket for” a matchup that deserves the hype. It’s Texas spotlighted again this week as the Missouri Tigers invade Austin…will the Longhorns’ top ranking in both polls last through the weekend?
b. “Heat check”: this team’s playing great, but faces a serious test. Michigan State puts their six-game winning streak on the line Saturday afternoon when the Buckeyes pay a visit to East Lansing. The winner controls their own destiny in the Big Ten title race.
c. “Diamond in the rough”: an in-depth profile of a game that deserves a closer look. EXCITING NEWS! Next week’s column will be on location from the press box in Louisville, Kentucky, and Diamond in the Rough will bring you a complete recap from the Cardinals’ non-conference showdown with Middle Tennessee State. Will yet another Blue Raiders game come down to the final play? Check back next week for the answer…
I didn’t know where else to put this story, but I thought it was neat and worth pointing out:
When I flipped on the Missouri game Saturday night, Chase Daniel was wearing a No. 25 jersey. Now, I admit I haven’t seen the Tigers as often as I would like this year, but I was pretty sure that just didn’t look right.
In fact, as I later discovered, Daniel normally sports the No. 10 for the black and gold, but he and the rest of his senior teammates are taking turns wearing 25 this season in honor of former teammate Aaron O’Neal, who passed away during a voluntary workout in July 2005.
Passing around the No. 25 jersey he used to wear (with no name on the back) is a great way to remember O’Neal; the Tigers’ losing a tough one on Saturday night doesn’t diminish that at all.
Tim Cary (yes, Cary…as in “Carrying on”) is a resident of Springfield, Ohio and a die-hard college football fan (especially when it comes to the Purdue Boilermakers). To submit thoughts, ideas, questions, arguments, or anything else for “Carrying On About College Football”, e-mail: email@example.com. Send in your ideas throughout the week...and check out the latest installment of COACF, a complete weekend wrapup of everything college football, each Sunday night on BleacherReport.com.