Carrying On About College Football (Oct. 26)
“This is football. The beat goes on…Suck it up.” — Purdue coach Joe Tiller after a fifth straight defeat.
It’s hard to imagine Tiller’s “victory lap” as Purdue head coach going much worse. At least, that’s what I thought before this weekend. Then, starting quarterback Curtis Painter got knocked out of Saturday’s game against Minnesota with a shoulder injury. The result was yet another disappointing Boilermaker offensive performance, as Purdue finished on the short end of this week’s “Diamond in the Rough” game.
COACF was live in the West Lafayette press box to bring you all the details…
1. DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH: No. 24 MINNESOTA 17, PURDUE 6
Minnesota coach Tim Brewster has come a long way since the last time he coached in West Lafayette twenty years ago. For that matter, Brewster and his program have come a long way since 2007.
Winless in the Big Ten a season ago, the surprising Golden Gophers improved to 7-1 by spoiling Purdue’s homecoming on Saturday with a hard-fought 17-6 win.
It wasn’t just Purdue’s homecoming, however. Brewster was celebrating a return to the scene of his first coaching job; he was a Boilermaker graduate assistant in 1986, and coached high school football in Lafayette the next two years before moving on to bigger things.
His team may not have a lot of talent—in fact, I think Minnesota may be the worst top-25 team I’ve ever seen. But what the Gophers lack in talent, they make up in heart, and in the end, that was enough for Minnesota to escape with what their coach termed a “gutsy, hard-fought victory.”
With the win, Minnesota continues its journey from 2007 bottom-feeder to 2008 bowl-contender. Heading the opposite direction: Joe Tiller’s Purdue Boilermakers.
Already the winningest coach in Purdue history with 10 bowl trips in 11 seasons, Tiller’s team dropped its fifth straight decision to fall to 2-6 and make an 11th bowl trip a near impossibility as the veteran mentor prepares to retire.
The biggest story in the game was Curtis Painter’s first-quarter shoulder injury. He was replaced by redshirt freshman Justin Siller (think a poor man’s Terrelle Pryor), a dual-threat quarterback who had been moved to running back in preseason practice.
After backup QB Joey Elliott suffered a season-ending separated shoulder last week, Siller was informed that he was now a quarterback again.
As anyone who is familiar with Murphy’s Law would expect, it only took a few minutes into Siller’s first weekend as a clipboard-holding quarterback before he was pressed into duty.
Painter briefly returned and tried to gut it out in the second quarter, but he was not able to go at all in the second half. Siller and star running back Kory Sheets each had a couple nifty runs in the contest, but Purdue lives and dies with its spread passing attack, and 109 total yards through the air falls into the “dying” category.
No one knew it at the time, but this game was actually over less than two minutes after it began. On the opening drive, Gopher quarterback Adam Weber hooked up with Brandon Green for a 71-yard completion to set up the game’s first touchdown, and the seven points was more than Purdue could muster in an entire afternoon.
Although it may have been a happy homecoming for Tim Brewster…
…it was anything but for the Old Gold and Black.
Here’s my random thoughts on this week’s “Diamond in the Rough”:
-Memo to future Minnesota opponents: shutting down the Golden Gophers is easy. Triple-team Eric Decker. The junior wide receiver has a team-high 66 catches so far in 2008; no other player on the Gopher roster has more than 20! If I wasn’t pretending to be a “neutral observer” in the press box Saturday, I would have been screaming at the Purdue defense to locate Decker…it seemed like on every key third down, he was the guy that made a play to move the chains.
I don’t know about putting three guys on him…but couldn’t you spare at least two? Weber barely looked at anybody else when he needed a big completion, and the Boilers never did figure it out.
-After starting on pace for his third 100-yard game of the season, Purdue running back Kory Sheets was held to only 17 yards on 10 second-half carries. Credit Minnesota’s defense for making the necessary adjustments, as well as for completely shutting out Purdue over the final 47+ minutes.
-The biggest key to Minnesota’s success is their ball security. The Gophers came into Saturday’s contest leading the nation in turnover margin, and they finished +3 in that category against Purdue. It’s hard to explain, but as the game unfolded, when a Purdue player took a big hit, I expected the ball to come loose. When a Minnesota player absorbed the same type of blow, he managed to hold on. I don’t know how Tim Brewster goes about teaching the importance of protecting the football, but he’s gotten his point across to his squad.
-In September, I wrote about Purdue that “in the back of your mind, you’re just waiting to see what will go wrong”. That was before the current five-game skid, and just from a fan’s point of view. Now, it seems that even the players can feel it. In linebacker Anthony Heygood’s words after the game, “Yeah, if you believe in that type of thing, you kinda could say we’re cursed.”
-Siller is a great runner…but he is still a below-average passer. The freshman missed a wide-open Brandon Whittington for a sure touchdown in the third quarter (the pass wasn’t even close), and never showed the accuracy Purdue’s spread system requires. The most telling example was in the fourth quarter: when Purdue went to hurry-up mode, they actually ran a WR pass, where high school quarterback Desmond Tardy took a handoff, pulled up, and heaved a throw downfield.
When you’re dependent on your wide receiver to make plays throwing the ball, you know you’re struggling behind center.
In fact, “struggling” can sum up the Boilermakers’ entire afternoon. And their season, so far.
Diamond in the Rough is an in-depth profile of a game outside the national media spotlight. If you want to see your team in an upcoming edition, send an e-mail to email@example.com and tell me why!
2. MAYBE BROADCASTING IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
All in favor of renaming this section the “Lou Holtz Specials”, signify by commenting below.
Without further ado, here are this week’s wacky and weird announcer quotes:
“Every replay we’ve had tonight, the refs have been right on the money. Whenever they agree with me, they’re on the money.” – Rod Gilmore
As Lou Holtz shows off his racing knowledge during second-quarter NASCAR promo:
“How do you do that, Coach?” – Mark May
“I marvel at myself.” – Lou Holtz
As Lou Holtz shows off his racing knowledge during fourth-quarter NASCAR promo:
“How do you do that, Coach? – Mark May
“I marvel at myself.” – Lou Holtz
“Honesty compels me to say that sounded strangely similar to the earlier time we did the promo. Almost as if you guys were reading off a card.” – Rece Davis
While discussing Utah’s great start…
“Coach Mendenhall’s got ‘em playing real well in Salt Lake.” – Unknown announcer
Um, last I checked, Mendenhall was at BYU, not Utah.
“I don’t know how to work the Internet, which is why I can’t be president.” – Lou Holtz
This isn’t college football, but I can honestly say I’ve never heard it over the airwaves while watching a sporting event on TV, so I had to mention it here. From the Lakers/Bobcats preseason game:
“We’re being told they’re going across the street to get a new net at Wal-Mart.” – Kevin Harlan
“If there’s a cheesesteak ten yards away, how quickly can you get to it?” – Todd Harris
Explaining the first-down line to Lou Holtz:
“Coach, they can’t see the yellow stripe”. – Mark May
Don’t forget to write down the wacky stuff you hear! If you come up with an announcer quote worthy of “Maybe Broadcasting Is Easier Than I Thought”, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org: 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...
Going into Saturday’s game at No. 17 Pitt, Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel had thrown for a grand total of three touchdowns in seven games this season.
On Saturday, Teel threw for five TDs in the first half (and six overall) to help the Scarlet Knights post a 54-34 win.
Georgia linebacker Darryl Gamble had 2 interception returns for touchdowns @ LSU. For an offensive player, two touchdowns is a great day. For a defensive player, two touchdowns is a career!
Here’s a reader submission from Daniel:
Score with 6:30 to go in the first half:
Oklahoma 28, Kansas State 28
Score at halftime:
Oklahoma 55, Kansas State 28
Tim’s note: I feel bad for the fans who left late in the second quarter to go get nachos…can you imagine the confusion when you’re gone six minutes and your team has added 27 points to its total?
One last thing in the amazing stat section:
Congratulations to “Mr. Statue of Liberty” Ian Johnson on his school-record 51st rushing touchdown for Boise State. The Broncos remained unbeaten with a 33-16 win at San Jose State.
4. THANK GOODNESS FOR MY DVR
Here’s the jaw-dropping highlights that were worth rewinding for this week:
If you get a chance, make sure you check out Kansas State wide receiver Deon Murphy’s impeccable footwork in the corner of the end zone. Murphy’s touchdown grab came on a halfback option pass from Logan Dold, and I think it has to be humanly impossible for a shoe to come any closer to an out-of-bounds line without touching it.
Staying in the Big 12…a couple of Chases teamed up on one of the weekend’s prettiest plays.
Missouri TE Chase Coffman (Missouri) made an amazing one-handed catch of a Tebow-esque jump pass from QB Chase Daniel in the end zone to help the Tigers obliterate Colorado.
5. SINCE I DO LIVE IN OHIO... (news from around the Big Ten)
It’s the week of the road warriors: the storylines in the Big Ten this week were all about visiting teams breaking through in difficult venues. Michigan State went into the Big House and emerged victorious for the first time since 1990, Minnesota got its first W at Purdue since 1990, and in a prime-time clash, Penn State got its first-ever Big Ten win at the Horseshoe, 13-6.
The Lions hadn’t won in Columbus since back in 1978 (before they joined the conference), when Joe Paterno was celebrating his 80th birthday and 75th year on the sideline.
6. MAYBE COACHING IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
This week’s coaching section highlights humorous quotes instead of atrocious mistakes. We start with Kentucky coach Rich Brooks, whose Wildcats saw their first two punts of the game blocked and recovered inside the UK five-yard line.
Or, as “Master of the Blatantly Obvious” Brooks summed up his team’s performance at the Swamp: “Our kicking game was a disaster.”
Wow. Good thing the reporter went to that press conference to get the coach’s analysis; I don’t know how a writer could have come up with that just from watching the game…and seeing not one, but two straight blocked punts that turned into touchdowns for the opposition.
Thanks for the expert analysis, Coach Brooks.
Our other coach’s quote of the week is a reader submission from Lisa:
Buckeyes boss Jim Tressel, on freshman QB Terrelle Pryor, right after the first half against Penn State ended: "He's hanging in there.... in a tough atmosphere."
Location of this game (and the tough atmosphere)? Columbus, Ohio.
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 (Horns survive a scare from Oklahoma State in Austin)
2. Alabama (Convincing win in Knoxville for the Tide, who keep “rolling” along)
3. Penn St. (I’ll admit it: I didn’t think the Lions could get it done in Columbus.)
4. Texas Tech (Red Raiders get a chance to prove they’re legit against Texas this week)
5. Oklahoma (There’s potent offenses…then on a different level, there’s Oklahoma)
6. Florida (Fake mailbag submission: It should be illegal to win conference games by 58. Signed, Kentucky Wildcats. Don’t worry, Wildcats. I’ve gotten that same letter from Washington State University five different times this year, I think.)
7. USC (Trojans survived upset alert in the desert at Arizona)
8. Utah (Utes got the weekend off)
9. Oklahoma St. (Hard to drop the Cowboys much; they were one play away from knocking off the country’s No. 1 team on the road)
10. Boise St. (Broncos stay undefeated and crack my Top Ten)
11. Georgia (Another game I had pegged wrong; congrats to Bulldogs for handily winning in a difficult environment)
12. Ball St. (Will the Cardinals be this year’s undefeated BCS buster?)
13. Tulsa (Or maybe it’s Tulsa, who’s playing on TV as I type?)
14. TCU (Horned Frogs control their own destiny in Mountain West)
15. Missouri (58-0? The Tigers’ slump appears to be a thing of the past.)
16. BYU (I wanted to put 7-1 Minnesota here, but they just don’t look that good.)
17. Florida St. (FSU has a chance for nine or 10 wins in an awful conference)
Remember, you can have an impact on the Top 17—but you have to take the time to write! Send an e-mail to email@example.com 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:
“Worth buying a ticket for”
I can’t wait to watch the Texas Tech/Texas showdown Saturday. I’ve thought all year that the Red Raiders had the ingredients for a special run in 2008; this weekend will show if they’re truly a national title contender.
Ever since the entire Georgia team rushed the field to celebrate a touchdown in last year’s meeting, you know the Florida Gators have had this year’s rematch circled on their calendar. Fresh off blowouts of LSU and Kentucky, the Gators get their shot at revenge in Jacksonville.
“Diamond in the Rough”
Check back next week to find out which game gets the “Carrying On” spotlight treatment! Better yet, drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell me why it should be your team’s game!
Many of you may have heard this story already, but just in case…
Matt Williams was a perfect 9-9 kicking extra points for Texas Tech this weekend in Lawrence, Kansas. Williams, a walk-on who was seeing his first college football action, was spotted earlier this year by the Red Raider coaching staff when he came out of the stands to win a contest between quarters of the Texas Tech/Massachusetts game.
Williams won free rent in the promotion by calmly burying a 30-yard field goal with room to spare (in front of 55,000 fans), and for a team that has missed a half dozen extra points this season, the prospect of a potential upgrade was too good to pass on.
I love this story…and the fact that Williams made all his kicks in his first game is awesome…but really, how does a guy kicking in his first game get NINE extra point attempts?
Talk about your Hollywood ending.
Tim Cary (yes, Cary…as in “Carrying on”) is a resident of Springfield, Ohio and a die-hard college football fan. 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.
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