Early Snap Judgments: Where have all the Cowboys gone? Into the end zone!
• No. 6 Oklahoma State 45, Mizzou 24: The knock on the ‘Pokes all year has been their one-sided play and devil-may-care attitude toward letting the other team score. Aggies or Longhorns playing a little too close? State has gotten the last laugh on the scoreboard for six weeks running now.
So what happens when the nation’s second-ranked passing offense loses two of its three best receivers in a single game? Oklahoma State’s unheralded but talented leading rusher and — wonder of wonders — its defense take up the mantle. Justin Blackmon, the Pokes’ best chance for a run at the Heisman in 2011, sustained an awkward blow to the head in the second quarter and was held out for the remainder of the game, according to updates during the FX broadcast, for precautionary reasons. Running back Joseph Randle, a high-scoring threat in September who had grown quieter in recent weeks, picked up the scoreboard slack with three second-half rushing touchdowns, including one scramble of 59 yards.
And that defense! Mizzou’s first drive of the second half ended on a sack that forced a fumble recovered by the Tigers, followed by an interception of James Franklin on the very next play. Franklin would throw two more interceptions in the second half; the Tigers committed a second fumble, and also suffered the indignity of a failed fourth-down conversion. [RECAP | BOX]
• No. 8 Clemson 59, North Carolina 38: No Tigers would be shamed on the day of celebration reserved to remember Clemson’s 1981 national championship squad, but those on hand to reminisce were treated to a few early palpitations. For about a half, in fact, this game looked quite interesting. A 35-point third quarter put paid to notions of a top 10 upset in the early slate, however, with Tajh Boyd throwing three touchdown passes and rushing for another within about nine minutes of clock time. Boyd tied a school scoring record with that last touchdown, but for sheer entertainment value, the play of the game has to be awarded to Kournei Brown for this batty interception and touchdown return, one of two turnover scores Brown recorded on the day. [RECAP | BOX]
• Purdue 21, No. 23 Illinois 14: Doesn’t this really feel like a kind of course correction? Not the “losing to Purdue” part; the “get Illinois out of the rankings, stat” part. The Boilermakers’ 2011 wins have come against such FBS luminaries as Middle Tennessee State, Southeast Missouri State and Minnesota, and one of their losses came to Rice. That the Illini would collapse, someday, was widely assumed, but the implosion came a mite early.
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, tabbed often to run throughout the season, was held to his lowest output of the year, managing a measly 19 yards on 13 carries. Purdue’s Caleb TerBush, inserted as the starter after a series of unfortunate preseason events, crossed the 1,000-yard passing mark with a 16-for-25, 176-yard, two-score performance. If you’re looking for a highlight hit of the afternoon, this is a nice candidate. [RECAP | BOX | HIGHLIGHTS]
• No. 12 Kansas State 59, Kansas 21: How bad is Kansas? That’d make a fine opener for a vaudeville sketch. “Just how bad is Kansas? The Jayhawks are so bad they allowed the run-first quarterback, operator of the nation’s 114th-ranked passing offense, to set a personal best mark for aerial yards while also running for four touchdowns.” How amazing are the fruits of the turnaround Bill Snyder has orchestrated in Manhattan? The Associated Press is reduced to Star Wars metaphors attempting to describe his reign. Abetting quarterback Collin Klein: The diminutive John Hubert, recording an additional 92 yards and a touchdown, and four Jayhawks fumbles, two lost to the ‘Cats. [RECAP | BOX | HIGHLIGHTS]
• No. 10 Arkansas 29, Ole Miss 24: This Rebels team is playing so poorly, it’s entirely possible it could finish the season as one of the ultra-rare Houston Nutt squads without a single bizarro upset to its name. Holding a 17-0 lead halfway through the first quarter, it seemed like today might be the day. What happened next were six consecutive Arkansas scoring plays over the course of about one and two-thirds of a quarter. Dennis Johnson broke the game open for the Razorbacks, with a 52-yard touchdown run about two minutes after the Rebs put up that 17-0 lead, and freshman Eric Bennett sealed it, with a 46-yard interception return of a Randall Mackey pass in the final minute of the game. [RECAP | BOX | HIGHLIGHTS]