The week in lesser FBS luminaries:
Slip-sliding out of contention: Lose once and you’re out; lose twice and you’ll never get back; stay winning and that still not might be enough. Fair or not, it’s the law of non-AQ teams trying to scramble into BCS bowl games. With weaker schedules, there can be no missteps. Undefeated Houston is not ranked in the Associated Press poll, receiving less than half the votes of last-team-out Michigan State (4-1). The Cougars would need more than 60 votes to pass 2-2 Texas A&M for the No. 25 spot in the Coaches’ Poll. From Week 4 to Week 5, Boise State slid from No. 4 and No. 5 in the AP and Coaches’ Polls, respectively, to No. 5 and No. 6, leapfrogged by Wisconsin in both cases. TCU has rightly disappeared from both major polls after being ranked No. 20 in both heading into Saturday’s disastrous outing with SMU.
How the three would-be busters found themselves here:
• No. 4 Boise State 30, Nevada 10: From Saturday: “It’s not quite a resounding rout to make up for the Pack snapping the Broncos’ national title run in 2010, but No. 4 Boise State remains undefeated and will likely retain its top five ranking. All of Nevada’s points were scored in the fourth quarter, with the game very much in hand.” That assessment did not take into account the stomping Wisconsin would put on Nebraska at Camp Randall late Saturday night. Given the margins of victory and quality of opponent, it’s hard to argue with Boise being passed over by another undefeated team playing at the top of its game.
• SMU 40, No. 20 TCU 33 (OT): From Saturday: ”If they were not torpedoed by Baylor already, TCU’s BCS-bustin’ chances are now well and truly skewered. Even if the Horned Frogs had managed to pull out the win, having to rally back from a 33-17 deficit against a Conference USA opponent might have been enough to lead snooty pollsters to ding TCU’s ranking in and of itself. That TCU managed to rally, then fell short in overtime, is going to be unforgivable.” Ding! TCU’s time is up. Apart from that early November date with Boise State, the Horned Frogs might not even get back on national television this regular season, let alone sneak back into the rankings. Even an upset of the Broncos (and the way they’re both playing, it would be an upset) wouldn’t count for much with the Frogs’ next best-regarded opponents being BYU and San Diego State.
• Houston 49, UTEP 42: A night game in El Paso, as covered in exhaustive detail previously in this space, comes fraught with all manner of strange happenings, and UTEP nearly knocking off a team hoping to play in January certainly qualifies. It’s a crying shame the Mustangs and Cougars must reside in the same division; their Nov. 19 date in Houston could, with a little gerrymandering, make for a highly entertaining conference title game. It just feels naggy at this point to even hint that the Cougars might want to look into establishing some sort of defense; plenty of time for that when Case Keenum finally graduates.
• Don’t call it a cupcake: Two non-AQ teams recorded wins over Big Six teams Saturday, with Marshall edging out Louisville (no great feat, that) 17-13 and Western Michigan beating UConn on the road, 38-31. Thundering Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato hit C.J. Crawford for a short-yardage touchdown pass with less than three minutes remaining in the game, and a Teddy Bridgewater interception on the Cardinals’ second ensuing play from scrimmage sealed the loss. The Broncos depended entirely on the talents of quarterback Alex Carder, who set a school record with his 479-yard, five-touchdown passing performance against the Huskies. If you missed the final quarter of this game, you missed a barn-burner: The game was tied, 17-17, at the end of the third, and the two teams combined to score 35 points between there and 00:00. With neither squad particularly interested in playing defense that late, a sack on Johnny McEntee on the Huskies’ second possession to force a punt and a fumble by Ryan Griffin on what would turn out to be UConn’s final possession made the difference.
Profiles in ownage
• Toledo, which administered a firm beating to newly-swaggering Temple, 36-13. From Saturday: “It’s a shame nobody showed up to see this one, especially after the Owls’ ACC upset adventures in Week 4. But don’t take too much away from Temple for this loss: This is the Toledo team, remember, that played Ohio State to within five points. The Rockets are good in fits, and today was quite a fit. Owl everyback Bernard Pierce was bottled up for 75 yards, just his second game rushing total below 147 yards this season. ” Glad to see the Rockets have their space legs back after what must have been two exhausting back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Boise State.
• All directional Michigans: Apart from the above-mentioned Western victory, Michigans Eastern and Central also emerged victorious from Week 5 play, with the Chippewas outgunning Northern Illinois 48-41 and the Eagles besting Akron 31-23.
• Louisiana: I am told by a trusty embedded Ragin’ Cajuns correspondent that last week was the first time in history that Louisiana, LSU and the Saints all won in two consecutive weekends, and with a 37-34 victory over FAU that ended on a field goal with three seconds remaining on the clock, Week 5 extended the streak. This gives a much-needed excuse to name Cajuns receiver Harry Peoples the player of the week (more on him in a minute), and for me to print exuberant emails like this one:
[Peoples'] 25 yard catch at the end of the game was most impressive. FAU tied the game with 1:48 left, and the Cajuns started at their own 26. The Cajuns didn’t play it safe to get to overtime, instead running a 2 minute offense that would have Houston Nutt confused for weeks. The offense dinked and dunked on short routes and then set up a long one across the middle, with Peoples reaching out and tapping it with one hand before pulling in the sweet one-handed grab that got us in FG range.
Besides Mr. Peoples, the whole offense was impressive: Gautier was 26-33 for 329 yds and 2 TDs, and ran for 31 yards. Our two true freshmen RBs ran for 105 yards combined. These two kids are beasts. Qyendarius “Q” Griffen is listed at 5’11″ 225 lbs. Alonzo Harris is listed at 6’01″ 205 lbs. The offense has taken a while to get on step, but with Peoples emerging as a solid WR threat, Ladarius Green getting healthy and more involved, and our RBs improving every week…things are looking good.
Even Howard Schnellenberger called Saturday’s outing “one of the most entertaining games I’ve stood on the sidelines at,” and you know that guy knows whereof he speaks.
• San Jose State, which beat a floundering Colorado State outfit on the road Saturday to record the Spartans’ first back-to-back wins in three years and draw a little national love. SJSU would even have a winning record but for a three-point loss to Nevada the week before the onset of the streak.
• Wesley Carroll and Chuckie Keeton: Pat Forde’s Last Interception Pool is re-opened for the 2011 season, and two of the last five FBS quarterbacks without a pick to their name hail from non-AQ teams.
• And this is more of a “profile in moxie,” but I cannot let the week pass without reminding that Navy converted on fourth-and-10 on a fake punt … from its own 17-yard line. Outstanding.
Exposed to the world’s derision
• WAC officials: Welcome to Ruston, home of the 22-minute instant replay! From Commissioner Karl Benson:
“The instant replay official failed terribly in managing the review process as we have policies in place that state if a particular call can’t be overturned in 2 minutes, the play in question must then stand,” he said.
“Failed terribly” is harsh terminology, and entirely accurate.
• Air Force-Navy officials: Stewart Mandel, with context:
After Navy quarterback Kriss Proctor scored a go-ahead touchdown in overtime to put the Midshipmen up 34-28 (this on the heels of an 18-point fourth quarter comeback), officials flagged Proctor for unsportsmanlike conduct after he appeared to say something unkind to a Falcons defender in close proximity. “Some guy got in my way and I just told him to move explicitly,” said Proctor.
Much like in the infamous Jake Locker-BYU game three years ago, Jon Teague’s extra-point attempt was moved back 15 yards, and Air Force’s Alex Means blocked it. Tim Jefferson then scored the winning touchdown for the Falcons, who took a huge step toward retaining the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.
• Southern Miss can afford four turnovers when playing Rice; Navy may present a considerably greater danger this weekend. Louisiana Tech might have made a game out of Hawaii’s visit, but for two interceptions and a fumble. And Ball State, bless its heart, had three consecutive possessions ended by Oklahoma defensive backs, but the Cardinals were playing Oklahoma and are thus afforded a pass.
• Bowling Green’s rushing defense and paperwork: The Falcons were allowing an average of 95 rushing yards per game before being torched by West Virginia freshman Dustin Garrison for 291 ground yards in Morgantown, and two players (one a starter) are currently ineligible thanks to academic compliance paperwork mishaps.
• Nicholls State will be keeping the “Battle for the Paddle” rivalry trophy at home forever and ever, because Texas State is going to the WAC and that makes it super unfair:
“Those types of games are based on conference rivalries,” Bernardi explained. “Texas State is no longer in the league and is committed to the (Western Athletic Conference), so I think that rivalry has ended. We don’t have them on the schedule from this point forward. Us keeping the paddle is clearly reasonable. It began as two conference opponents playing each other, and it’s going to end that way. Unfortunately for them, it’s going to stay here at Barker Hall.”
May that paddle be a great comfort to you following Saturday’s 38-12 loss, sir.
Not sure if serious
Finishing school, anyone? Three non-AQ teams with chances to upset more highly-regarded programs blew their shots in the fourth quarter in Week 5. The worst of the lot has to be Utah State, which had the misfortune of playing BYU in the only nationally televised game Friday night. To see a game against a hated in-state rival end like this — that’s just a cosmic kick in the teeth. But the Cougars were allowed to mount a 96-yard touchdown drive to get there, and that’s no good. It’s also an eerily similar scenario to the late on-field misfortune which befell the Aggies in Week 1 against Auburn, and in Week 3 against Colorado State. In lower-profile but equally sad news, my dear Idaho Yarbnalls took Virginia to overtime and failed on Robb Akey’s most famous favored play, the late-game two-point conversion, while FIU allowed Duke to rally back from a 17-27 deficit to win 31-27. (In happier news, our flavor of 2011 player T.Y. Hilton appears to be back at full strength after two 30-yard games brought on by injury. Hilton was back to his old tricks against Duke, gaining 102 yards on five receptions, including a 63-yard touchdown catch.)
Well, well, lookit Terry Bowden’s boys down in North Alabama!
Case Keenum Pinballin’ Hi-Score of the week
Our perpetual show pony recorded 471 yards of aerial offense against the Miners, surpassing his previous season high of 458 against North Texas. His streak of throwing at least two touchdown passes per game in 2011 continues unbroken, although the Cougars continue to reap ample gains from their running backs, who accounted for three scores Saturday.
Thing UTEP Did This Week
Gained 538 yards and scored 42 points against undefeated Houston. Again, remember that this is a team that was taken to overtime by Stony Brook in Week 1.
Profiterole Player of the Week
Harry Peoples! The junior Louisiana receiver, who had a previous season high of 33 yards, busted out for 176 and a touchdown against FAU, and did all this while carrying the majestic moniker “Harry Peoples.” Runner-up all-name contender: Temple fullback Blaze Caponegro.
Violently Subjective Non-AQ Top 10
1. Boise State (4-0)
2. Houston (5-0)
3. SMU (4-1)
[BIG MESS BELOW HERE DANGER DANGER]
4. Air Force (3-1)
5. Louisiana (4-1)
6. Southern Miss (4-1)
7. Navy (2-2)
8. TCU (3-2)
9. Western Michigan (3-2)
10. San Diego State (3-1)
All thrown together in a very large puddle somewhere just below No. 10, reminding me this is why I don’t ever do serious polls, and deserving of mention: Toledo, Temple, Ohio, San Diego State, FIU, BYU, UCF.
DJ Khaled Prize For Undefeated Excellence
Our winsome twosome, Boise State and Houston, continue on to Week 6 with unblemished records.
Walking Dead Watch
UAB and Western Kentucky both coughed up late leads to remain winless; FAU lost to Louisiana on a last-second field goal; Miami (Ohio) was shut out by Cincinnati, and Middle Tennessee State comes off the board thanks to a 21-point fourth quarter against Memphis. New Mexico still didn’t win, but you might have guessed as much.
After five weeks of play, non-AQ outfits are 16-79 against Big Six teams. Marshall and Western Michigan notched the lone AQ upsets in Week 5.
Thursday-night action in Week 6 will feature the thoroughly depressing Western Kentucky-Middle Tennessee State tilt, which I cannot advise watching under any possible circumstance. Boise State and Fresno State headline Friday night. Saturday, in descending order from “actual interest in the football to be played here” to “tune in out of morbid curiosity,” don’t miss: Air Force-Notre Dame, TCU-San Diego State, Southern Miss-Navy, Eastern Michigan-Toledo, FIU-Akron, Central Michigan-NC State, Troy-Louisiana, East Carolina-Houston, Bowling Green-Western Michigan, San Jose State-BYU and Syracuse-Tulane.