• Catching Up With the Weekend: A few things we missed Saturday:
One of the first things I thought Saturday - the reason I wrote and sincerely meant "I am so, so sorry for Michigan" - is the inevitable rival reaction on a day Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and even Michigan State gave its weak sisters vicious carpet burn in the process of dragging them out of the big boy's room. Michigan is a storied, consistent program whose accomplishments stack up to anyone's. But a loss to a I-AA school? Every school has its bad seasons, upset losses, coach-eviscerating epiphanies and short-term humiliations, for which it can always atone. Appalachian State? At home? You can't live that down. No matter how bad it gets anywhere else in the top half of the Big Ten, or among the perennial top 20 at large, well, at least we didn't lose to a I-AA school. Minnesota allowed well over 400 yards in defeat against Bowling Green Saturday. But at least it didn't lose to a I-AA school. Notre Dame was utterly humiliated at home by Georgia Tech. But at least it didn't lose to a I-AA school. Et cetera.
This is the pure gem rivals covet, that can be cashed in for a solid decade of one-sided mockery and grief. And don't think they didn't know it:
New York Times reporter, quasi-celebrity Freakonomics author and un-closeted Appalachian State alum Stephen Dubner has some pronunciation tips for his new comrades: it's app-uh-LATCH-un, not app-uh-LAYCH-un. Get it right.
• USC played late and played easy against Idaho, and so little attention was given to the Trojans' win outside of the "missing man" moment in honor of fallen kicker Mario Danelo and that one catch by Vidal Hazelton. The most pressing question for SC's offense was how it would distribute carries among the riches in its backfield, and with returning leader Chauncey Washington out, top duties Saturday were split among second-year guys Stafon Johnson (12 carries, 64 yards), C.J. Gable (8 carries, 68 yards, 33 on one carry) and Allen Bradford (8 carries for a disappointing 15 yards). Desmond Reed got in a solid five carries for 36 yards. Washington, zombie back Herschel Dennis and acclaimed freshman Broderick Green didn't play, but, late game-week projections of his sprained knee be damned, Joe McKnight did, breaking off a 21-yarder on one of his six carries and catching one pass:
In other freshman news, cornerback recruit Ronald Johnson made his debut as a wide receiver, but only touched the ball on a reverse that netted four yards.
• I mentioned this in the Sunday Quarterback post and on EDSBS Live! Sunday night, but just to be clear: Virginia delivered what must be one of the single worst offensive efforts of the modern era Saturday. This is the Cavaliers' drive chart at Wyoming, a team picked to finish seventh in the Mountain West and starting four new defensive linemen:
Eight three-and-outs or worse, including two of the three lengthiest possessions of the game; the only points were the result of field position after an interception. Without that last drive, UVA would have finished below 100 total yards.
Looking at the play-by-play, UVA was still in this game late because of its defense, trailing 13-3 with a 3rd-and-2 at its own 39 less than a minute into the fourth quarter. Jameel Sewell completed a one-yard pass to Jonathan Stupar, setting up a 4th-and-1at the UVA 40. Near midfield, with no momentum, desperately needing some kind of spark, what's the decision here? The Cavaliers punted, got the ball back at their own four, went three-and-out (what else?) and gave up the icing touchdown run on the next possession, a run from almost exactly the point where they had punted away one of the game's few salvagable situations minutes before.
Jameel Sewell's hold on the starting position, Virginia's hopes of rebounding, Al Groh's job security: And awaaaay she goes...
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• A Bad, Bad Problem to Have: The great offseason question at Notre Dame - who's the starting quarterback - remains, well, in the air, to put it politely, and not in the they-all-understand-the-offense sort of way. It's more the Darius Jones-had-more-lost-fumbles-than-completed-passes sort of way:
That evaluation process, as painful as it might be, won't take a lot of scrutiny.
"Oh, I don't think it will be that difficult," Weis said. "I think it will be pretty easy to see when you're sitting there watching."
What the 80,795 in attendance saw Saturday was Jones attempt three passes, and he actually lost more fumbles (2) than he had completions (1).
They saw Sharpley, forced to throw after entering with a big deficit, complete 10 of 13 and engineer ND's only scoring drive. But they also saw him continually get hit -- Irish quarterbacks were sacked nine times -- by Tech's fast and active defense.
And then they saw Clausen, much to their delight, go an efficient 4-of-6 in a game long decided. Clausen's offseason elbow surgery slowed his progress, and it was Jones and Sharpley getting most of the practice reps in preparation for the Georgia Tech game.
Is Penn State Jimmy's time to shine? Given Sharpley finally had the most attempts and the highest rating and was the only remotely positive element of a one-dimensional offense with the outcome still technically in question, the job would seem to be his, as most "insiderz" assumed it would be most of the offseason. If not for the Sharpley-led, 58-yard field goal drive to open the second half, in fact, Notre Dame's drive chart Saturday would have looked like a more time-consuming version of Virginia's:
|2:44||7||17||End of Half|
Looks like Sharpley's job to lose. But then, I'm not the genius watching the film. Thank God.
• MGoWatch, Day Two: I'm deeply concerned about our friend, patron and Blog Poll maestro Brian, who's reacted to the unfathomable not with anger, not with calls for termination of those responsible for Michigan's defeat, not in anguished submission, but rather in the bizarre fashion of a schizophrenic person who suddenly thinks he's Jean Teasdale. Trauma will do that to you.
Since I only had scrolling ticker updates of the game and the occasional highlight, I followed the growing despair of Michigan partisans via MGoBlog's open thread, which neared 1,000 tortured comments before Brian pulled the plug and went kitten-crazy, temporarily eliminating that frenzied chronicle from the record. Hopefully it'll be back up soon, with some patented, stoic analysis, or at least this week's ballots. Although I have to say:
OMG so much cuter than charts and polls. But not nearly as edifying.