There’s nothing like being on location, and this week, Carrying On About College Football comes to you from inside the press box at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Ky.
And as always, we start our weekend wrapup of everything college football with an in-depth game profile…coming up next, the on-location analysis you’ve been waiting for: it’s Diamond in the Rough!
1. DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH: LOUISVILLE 42, MIDDLE TENNESSEE ST. 23
They say it’s not how you start, but how you finish, that counts.
Good thing for Louisville.
And their quarterback, Hunter Cantwell, for that matter.
Thanks to a pair of Cantwell interceptions in the first nine minutes, the Cardinals spotted Homecoming guest and double-digit underdog Middle Tennessee State a quick 14-0 lead on Saturday afternoon, but then proceeded to score 42 of the next 45 points to squash the Blue Raiders’ upset hopes.
After the early aerial inaccuracies, Coach Steve Kragthorpe ordered a heavy dose of the running game to turn the tide, and his newfound philosophy paid off handsomely.
Freshman running back Victor Anderson piled up 161 yards, including a momentum-swinging 88-yard touchdown for the Cards’ first points, and Brock Bolen added three rushing touchdowns for Louisville, which won its second straight game to improve to 4-2.
Of course, offensive fireworks are expected when the Raiders and Cardinals hook up; last year’s meeting merely produced a HUNDRED points and a mind-boggling 1284 yards of total offense.
However, new UL defensive coordinator Ron English should be commended; despite falling into an early hole this weekend, his unit really controlled the line of scrimmage most of the afternoon.
After performing admirably against the earlier BCS-conference teams on its schedule (defeating Maryland at home and coming up one yard short of upsetting Kentucky), Middle Tennessee State has to be disappointed with the way the final half played out in Louisville Saturday.
MTSU took a 17-14 lead into the locker room at intermission, but it was all downhill from there.
Speaking of the Raiders, an old football cliché says that “when you have two quarterbacks, you really don’t have any.”
Meet Joe Craddock and Dwight Dasher. Dasher sparked the Raiders off the bench a week ago with his run-first approach, and Middle Tennessee couldn’t resist the temptation to stick him in against the Cardinals.
Sorry folks, but it’s Boeckman/Pryor all over again. Do you really think it’s a great idea to simply toss your momentum and rhythm out the window, dump the whole playbook, and put Mr. Spread Option Runner in?
Editor’s note: This is not a rhetorical question. The answer is no. End editor’s note.
In addition to helping the Raiders jump out to an early lead, Craddock also has experience shredding the Louisville defense. He threw for almost 300 yards against the Cardinals a year ago, but that must not have been enough for MTSU coach Rick Stockstill.
Pulling him on and off the field Saturday was stupid…and the Blue Raiders suffered; in fact they didn’t score a point with Dasher at the helm.
After the game, I asked Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe if he was surprised at how much playing time Dasher got, and if his team prepared differently for the two MTSU signalcallers.
His reply: “We weren’t [surprised], they had done it quite a bit last week. They both do an excellent job of running with the football; we knew they were going to play both guys in the game, and both could not only throw it, but run it.
Kragthorpe also told me that one of the keys to his team’s success was that they “did a much better job in the second half of containing the quarterback on the run”.
Agreed, Coach…I’d say pretty much everything was better for Louisville in the second half.
Here’s my random thoughts on this week’s “Diamond in the Rough”:
-Middle Tennessee State works faster on offense than any team I have ever seen. As I wrote in my notes, “these guys flat out don’t believe in huddling.” It’s like watching a hurry-up offense while holding the fast forward button.
-I think I could write a whole section about special teams…starting with the fact that Cardinal kicker Ryan Payne attempts extra points and field goals barefooted.
Barefooted? Ouch! That’s some serious “payne” right there.
-While we’re on the kicking game, Middle Tennessee State’s punter, David DeFatta, has to win the “Flattest Kicks in America” award. If there is such a thing.
If there isn’t, I recommend we inaugurate one. DeFatta punted seven times and probably only got one of them more than five feet off the ground.
In a funny way, though, it almost serves as an advantage, because the punt returner is used to the ball coming…oh, I don’t know…DOWN to him. However, as the afternoon went on, I was just waiting for one of these ugly-duckling kicks to get blocked…and sure enough…
-Johnny Patrick scored a fourth-quarter touchdown for Louisville when he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone. Quickly becoming a special teams standout, Patrick also blocked a field goal last week for the Cardinals in a victory over Memphis.
-I confess to being interested and amused by people's names. For example, Louisville fullback Joe Tronzo. Doesn't Tronzo just sound like a fullback name? Or how about MTSU QB Dwight Dasher? "Dasher" strikes me as a perfect name for a running quarterback...
...or a reindeer, I guess. I must admit I kept looking for Comet and Blitzen...
-At one point in the first quarter, Louisville QB Hunter Cantwell had completed all four of his passes; two to Cardinals, and two to Blue Raiders. His official stat line at that point: 2-4, 9 yards, 2 INTs. Not good.
-The view from the press box is definitely unique. It’s almost surreal to watch the game through the glass windows, because you can hear so little. Kinda like watching a full-wall television on mute. Outside of a Cardinal touchdown or occasional huge hit, I heard nothing of the almost 40,000 fans that were cheering wildly below.
-While we’re talking about the view, looking over the top of the stadium and seeing all the Six Flags roller coasters in the background is pretty neat. What can I say? I like being random!
-I loved that Kragthorpe referred to tailback Brock Bolen in the press conference as “deceptively slow.” Bolen appears to be the master of the one-yard touchdown…at one point, he had 11 carries for only 13 yards, but that included three touchdowns!
-Ivon Hickmon played well for MTSU’s defense in a losing cause. In addition to some highlight-reel hits, Hickmon had an early interception to set up the Raiders’ second touchdown.
-After Hickmon’s pick, the Raiders only needed one play to stretch their first-quarter lead to 14-0. They ran a wide receiver pass, swinging the ball backwards to Patrick Honeycutt. Great execution, too.
When Honeycutt caught the ball, he did a fabulous job of starting to move and juke like he wanted to run, buying time for Phillip Tanner to get open downfield on the other side.
When Honeycutt was finally ready to throw across the field, Tanner was more than open. He could have run for at least 200 yards before a defender got near him.
That’s it from Louisville…do you want your team’s upcoming game profiled? 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 your team featured in “Diamond in the Rough”.
2. MAYBE BROADCASTING IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
Here are this week’s wacky and weird announcer quotes:
Referring to 2-4 Purdue’s bowl chances:
“They need to win three of their next four to be bowl-eligible.” Pam Ward
Which would make them…5-5 with two games to play. C’mon Pam…do the math.
“Hatch is back in at quarterback. So is Trindon Holliday.” Mike Patrick
I guess LSU isn’t one of those boring teams that only plays one quarterback at a time.
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...
Tulsa 28, UTEP 28…with almost three minutes left in the first quarter. (The final was 77-35.)
Boise State’s Brandon Thompson had 3 INTs against Hawaii Friday.
And a reader submission from Joe…
What’s going on with all the passing offense?
The game between Central Michigan and Western Michigan featured 819 total passing yards, and 1,044 yards of total offense. That was eclipsed by the 1,165 total yards put up by Oklahoma and Kansas, which includes 825 passing yards.
Then of course, you have the matchup between Southern Miss and Rice, which featured two 400-yard passers, resulting in 905 passing yards and 1,159 total yards.
How do you spell schizophrenic? M-A-R-Y-L-A-N-D
I mean, really…can anybody explain the Maryland Terrapins to me? Anyone? Scott Van Pelt? Anyone?
The Dr. Hyde version of the Terps barely beat Delaware, lost to Middle Tennessee State, and got shut out by a struggling Virginia team.
The Jekyllites from Maryland have wins over ranked foes California, Clemson, and most lately, a baffling 26-0 whitewashing of Wake Forest.
In other words, if I ever think I have college football figured out…please do me a favor and remind me that it’s impossible.
4. THANK GOODNESS FOR MY DVR
Here’s what was worth rewinding for this week:
This may not make anybody else’s highlight list, but I thought the NC State fans were worth rewinding for on Thursday night. During the game against Florida State, they held up cards on one whole side of the stadium to create a Wolfpack logo, then turned the cards over and made a different logo.
That’s some great coordination and crowd participation, At Purdue, we can’t even get fans to wear the right color most of the time, let alone hold up cards on cue!
Corny, I know…but I thought it was pretty cool.
We also have a reader submission: it's Brian Hartline's 56-yard reception for Ohio State while being sandwiched between two defenders.
He makes the catch in traffic, takes a pretty good hit, but somehow manages to stay upright and bring the ball all the way to the one.
While we’re talking about the Buckeyes, Terrelle Pryor should probably have his own separate category. The man has serious moves when he’s running the football..I think he might have a Playstation juke button hardwired to his uniform.
Here's a late addition...I usually don't add anything to the column after I publish it, but a reader from Oregon sent this link, and I literally laughed out loud: someone tell the referee he's not supposed to make tackles.
5. SINCE I DO LIVE IN OHIO... (news from around the Big Ten)
A few weeks ago, I was boldly explaining why Wisconsin was the best team in the Big Ten.
And now, they’re 0-4 in the league, thus proving a point that you should know by now: don’t pay any attention to what I say!
The Badgers dropped a 38-16 decision in Iowa City on Saturday to remain winless in the conference…oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Give credit to Ferentz and company for a big win, and special kudos to Shonn Greene, who racked up an eye-popping 217 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Also in Big Ten news, former Ohio State defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio met up with his mentor and former boss, Jim Tressel in East Lansing this weekend…and we all know what happens when teacher meets pupil.
Final tally: Buckeyes 45, Spartans 7. Score one for the mentor.
6. MAYBE COACHING IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
For this week’s coaching error example, we return to Louisville and discuss strategy with Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Stockstill.
Here’s the situation: the Blue Raiders are down 42-17 in the final minute of the game, playing against Louisville reserves, and score a touchdown. So tell me…why on earth do you go for two when you’re down 42-23? Give me one good reason!
The game is basically over…it’s the final minute. Even if you are in the “well, we could still get an onside kick and score and get another onside kick and score again” camp, getting the two points here doesn’t change anything.
You’re down 19…kicking puts you down 18…going for two could put you down 17…and you need to be within 16 to cut the lead to two possessions.
Most teams don’t have a lot of two-point conversion plays anyway…what, you want to show one of them off in a game that’s out of reach?
Maybe coaching is easier than I thought.
7. EVEN THOUGH SEVENTEEN IS A RANDOM NUMBER
Here’s the Top 17 ballot I submitted earlier today:
1. Texas (I did NOT expect them to be up 35-3 at halftime. No way.)
2. Alabama (Texas was much more impressive, so I drop the Tide to No. 2)
3. Penn St. (Took the Lions a while to warm up, but they disposed of U-M eventually)
4. Texas Tech (Check out the next four weeks: Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma St., Oklahoma)
5. Oklahoma (Congrats to Sam Bradford for a team-record 468 passing yards)
6. Florida (Must be nice to have an extra week to enjoy demolishing LSU)
7. Oklahoma St. (Ready or not, it’s Texas next. Is this league tough or what?)
8. USC (Trojans had three 100-yard rushers in 69-0 laugher)
9. Utah (Utes are thrilled to be 8-0, but TCU & BYU still await)
10. Ohio St. (Buckeyes’ backfield improving by the week, statement win on the road)
11. Boise St. (Is it just me, or does watching the Smurf Turf mess with your eyes?)
12. Georgia (Solid win over ranked Vanderbilt team; now it’ s on to Death Valley
13. LSU (Defense came to play after horrible showing in Gainesville a week ago)
14. Ball St. (7-0 Cardinals enjoyed a well-deserved week off)
15. Tulsa (77 points? Tulsa hoops team scored less than that 20 times last year!)
16. South Florida (Matt Grothe and Bulls back in Top 17 after sixth win of the season)
17. TCU (Who expected the Horned Frogs to beat BYU by 25? Yeah, right.)
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. I’m sticking with my hometown conference for the Big Ten showdown between Penn State and OSU in Columbus. The Buckeyes and Lions are the only two undefeated teams left in the conference, and the winner is in the driver’s seat for a BCS berth the rest of the way.
b. “Heat check”: this team’s playing great, but faces a serious test. Alabama heads into Knoxville trying to keep its dream unbeaten season alive. While the Vols may not instill quite as much fear as they would in previous seasons, this road test will tell us more about the Crimson Tide, who have played to (well, just above) the level of their competition so far this fall.
c. “Diamond in the rough”: an in-depth profile of a game that deserves a closer look. “Carrying On” will be on location for the second straight weekend: this Saturday’s Big Ten clash in West Lafayette, Indiana pits a surprising Minnesota team against a disappointing Purdue squad. The Gophers look to extend their record to 7-1, while Purdue tries to put the brakes on a nasty skid and get their offense untracked. Check back next weekend for another edition of “Carrying On About College Football” direct from the press box; I’m excited to take all of you readers and friends inside Big Ten Country.
This week’s mailbag question comes from Joe: “Will any team make it through the season undefeated? If so, will they play for the BCS title?”
This is an interesting one; I’m going to go out on a limb and say none of the BCS-conference undefeateds (Penn State, Alabama, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State) will survive the season unscathed.
I think there’s a good chance at least one of the mid-majors could (Tulsa, Ball State, Utah, Boise State), but Utah is the only one of those that might have a realistic chance at the BCS title game.
The first set of BCS rankings came out tonight, and none of the mid-majors cracked the top ten, which means there’s at least five one-loss teams that the computer thinks have a better shot at the title game. We’ll see how it plays out…each week seems to get crazier in college football!
Thanks for “carrying on” with me, See you next week!
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 each Sunday night on BleacherReport.com.