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Sunday Morning Quarterback

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While wishing SMQ's gastrointestinal forecast Saturday had been as successful as his predictions...

Football Nirvana, indeed, but Kicking Hell. From only games SMQ watched, the grisly ledger:

 ¡ñ Boston College missed two extra points, then had an easy winning field goal blocked in overtime - not fatal only because BYU had just shanked its own overtime kick. The Cougars had previously missed a first half try and two tries to go ahead or win in the final two minutes.
 ¡ñ Iowa State missed a first half field goal.
 ¡ñ Michigan's second extra point was blocked.
 ¡ñ Miami missed two first half field goals, either of which would have resulted in a tie with Louisville at the half.
 ¡ñ Auburn doinked another one off the upright against LSU.
 ¡ñ Oregon missed an early field goal, which it got back by blocking Oklahoma¡¯s last-second attempt to secure justice and a win. After going up 33-20 with five minutes left, the Sooners also gave UO's comeback effort a break by booting a kickoff out of bounds.
 ¡ñ Florida pulled two first half field goals wide.
 ¡ñ Clemson was prevented from blowing Florida State right out of its own stadium only by eerie extra point and field goal breakdowns and subsequent blocks/returns for nine FSU points, and missed another first half field goal in the process.

Eight games, a full 20 screwed up kicks. Tommy Bowden spoke sensibly when he gave it up altogether at the half: "We're not gonna do any more kickin'." Except, of course, for Seminole ass in the name of primal Oedipal impulses; see below.


One can only take so much of this

Is there an explanatory trend to be offered for such incompetence? Or was the normal SNAFU level just disproportionately concentrated in games SMQ watched for a change?

SMQ WATCHED:

Boston College 30, BYU 23 (Double Overtime deja vu)
It should be noted here that, kings of double overtime that they are, BC still has some issue to work out on defense. Seriously: the Cougars threw for 438 yards, just a week after Will Proctor incinerated the Eagles for well over 393. BC is currently dead last in passing yards allowed.

The Eagles have overcome that number by being opportunistic (four turnovers caused Saturday) and pretty good at throwing the ball themselves. It¡¯s a mystery, though, why they ran Andre Callender and L.V. Whitworth just 19 times, when the pair was averaging right at six yards per carry.

¡ñ It was inevitable, but BYU has produced its contender for the Sutherland-Dwight Trophy for White Guys with "Deceptive Speed": safety Quinn Gooch, who Saturday had an interception, five tackles, an impressive pass breakup, a forced fumble and one hellacious (and somewhat gratuitous, though legal) hit on receiver Tony Gonzalez.

Michigan 47, Notre Dame 21
SMQ thought time of possession would be key here, because Notre Dame had masked its defensive troubles (6.15 per carry allowed on first down runs, more than 4.5 per carry overall), by playing keep away; the marathon drives the offense had amassed in the first two game a combined time of possession advantage of more than 17 minutes.

Against a team bringing the heat and committing to the run - these are heavily correlated, of course, in that the heat cause the advantageous situation of being in the lead that allowed Michigan to continue running - the Irish suddenly found themselves with a drive chart looking like this:

 START     QTR      POSS.     YRDL      PLAYS     YARDS     RESULT
 15:00     1     00:41     ND 20     2     5     Interception
 13:48     1     01:03     ND 11     3     2     Punt
 11:16     1     01:00     MICH 4     2     4     Passing Touchdown
 07:44     1     01:36     ND 40     3     4     Punt
 01:02     1     01:55     ND 7     3     8     Punt
 11:17     2     01:22     ND 28     5     11     Punt
  08:25     2     01:07     ND 26     3     6     Punt
 02:27     2     02:07     ND 27     8     73     Passing Touchdown
 12:18     3     01:03     ND 33     3     6     Punt
 08:46     3     01:44     ND 26     3     4     Interception
 05:11     3     01:11     ND 30     3     1     Punt
 14:53     4     02:12     ND 20     8     80     Passing Touchdown
 09:19     4     00:00     ND 16     0     43     Interception
 06:19     4     02:56     ND 24     10     30     Fumble
 03:12     4     02:22     ND 24     4     5     Turnover on Downs

Note especially the field position on all but the first touchdown, and that none of the nine and ten-play, five-minute slogs exhibited in Weeks One and Two, when the Irish had ten drives of four minutes or longer; Saturday, in fact, they had none of even three minutes, or longer than eight plays. Though it ran fewer plays in the span (one tends to slow down when up several touchdowns), Michigan led in time of possession by a hair under eight minutes.

Such drives are difficult to mount when certain star quarterbacks are being harassed into Heisman-crushing, three-interception performances, which itself is a result of a running game that - outside of sacks - managed to produce 13 carries for 25 yards; it now ranks 102nd nationally.

Michigan should celebrate its well-schemed dominance and affirmation of mythical title aspirations also with the recognition that Notre Dame handed the game away in many ways early on: the mostly un-pressured, high throw-butterfingers combo on the first interception was a pitch-and-catch gift of a touchdown to Prescott Burgess, and Mario Manningham didn't do anything particularly spectacular to leave Shawn Wooden with his pants around the ankles on the first touchdown pass, perhaps the easiest in ND-Michigan history due to utter, unbelievable defensive back incompetence. Wooden basically just let him run. The Irish also fumbled away a kickoff and subsequently interfered on an end zone pass to set up an easy Hart score.

Henne, on the road - horrendous first pick aside - was the cooler, far more laser-precise passer, in large part because Quinn was hurried six time in addition to the sacks, whereas Henne after the first quarter could have been a delicate Chinese porcelain doll in the pocket with no ill effects. And future Wolverine opponents: if Michigan's between about the 35 and 15-yard-lines, don't leave one guy to cover Mario Manningham, or he'll be crashing into your trombone player in the back of the end zone, and the pain will be transferred to you.

Auburn 7, LSU 3
Okay, first of all, it's revealed (to SMQ at least) that Dwayne Bowe has played up until this season while legally blind, apparently with no correction. He only discovered the problem and had LASIK surgery to correct it in the offseason.

Now Bowe has been a pretty good player there. So, not to seem insensitive, but SMQ has to question the severity of legal blindness. As a visually-challenged person who could not play football or do much of anything else without some pretty strong correction (not that he could play anyway, but you know what he's saying), SMQ wonders if he himself is legally blind sans glasses or contacts. Because there's no way Dwayne Bowe or anybody could start and play at a high level at LSU, especially as a receiver, for god's sake, if his uncorrected vision is worse than SMQ's. This is not possible.

Also esoterically, CBS offered both the best promo (an Amazing Race spot with two conventionally attractive females suggestively admitting "You could put us in a cardboard box and we'd find a way to have fun," which is one of the most effective reality advertisements of all time) and the best fan cutaway of the season to date: in the fourth quarter, after an Auburn first down was negated by a late penalty flag, one AU fan was caught yelling "Whooooo! Whooooo! Whooooo!" repeatedly into a camera as obnoxiously as possible, then suddenly yelling "What?!" as he realized the play was coming back. In general, a good day for cutaways, as Bob Stoops and others provided a litany of clearly mouthed "bullshit!" directed at officials, and one Clemson fan (Will Proctor¡¯s dad, possibly?) was caught hollering "How could you drop that, goddammit!" after Chansi Stuckey let a sure touchdown through his hands in the second quarter.

As for the actual game, the SEC, apparently, isn't going to be any more forgiving to its offensive stars this season. Kenny Irons was held under three yards per carry by LSU's relentless defensive line, which seems a pretty good bet to meet or exceed last year's high standards. Auburn won this game with 182 total yards, while giving up more than 300, and forcing no real turnovers - only two crucial turnovers on downs. Four Auburn drives ended in negative yardage; LSU's final three drives averaged more than 54 yards on seven plays, and resulted in zero points.

The focus in that regard is clearly on the pass interference play, which SMQ doesn¡¯t have as much of a beef with as most LSU fans will because the ball was not going to be caught. It was an extremely close, either-way kind of call, but an acceptable reversal and no-call because the ball was going to be tipped away regardless of the timing of the hold on the receiver.

Oregon 34, Oklahoma 33
Saw only the final few minutes after a merciful cutaway from Louisville-Miami, and almost much less once Oklahoma basically iced it with two minutes left. From there, indeed, Oregon made the plays, scored the touchdowns, blocked the field goal, et cetera. The Ducks took advantage of their fortune, and Oklahoma let a good win go bad very quickly. SMQ will be ranking Oregon ahead in his Blog Poll ballot this week.

But wow, did the Sooners get hosed on that onside kick call. This is a big deal, because it's kneel-down, Adrian-is-god, who-needs-Bomar? city from that point if the correct call is made there.

Replay very, very clearly showed an Oklahoma receiver step up to the Oregon 40 ¨C the all-important 10-yard barrier - to catch the onside hop. Before the ball gets to him, it's obviously batted away by an Oregon player. This oversight is forgivable in real time because of the speed and angles in split-second decisions; this is why replay exists. There is no excuse for looking at that replay for two minutes, staring down the slow-motion truth that the ball was obviously illegally swatted before the ten-yard mark by the kicking team, and then concluding otherwise. Forget the fact that Oklahoma players protested and ABC¡¯s crew suggested - with no replay or follow-up whatsoever - that Oklahoma actually recovered the kick, or at least came out of a pile with the ball off-camera after it had been awarded to Oregon, or that any other piece of video conclusively confirmed an Oregon recovery; this, along with the less important but still wrong pass interference call a few plays later, was an egregious affront to basic rules.


Never touched by No. 4

Not, however, as egregious as the Oklahoma coverage in the final two drives, and especially the mockery of an effort on the go-ahead touchdown. This was not a prevent/prevent-you-from-winning situation - it was man-to-man, and extreme indecisiveness and lack of technique at the most critical point in the game to let a simple out-and-up run free into the end zone. All the above injustice granted, it's academic if the OU defense takes care of its business.

¡ñ It only took about two plays of watching Adrian Peterson for the first time this season for SMQ to realize the guy¡¯s going to rise on this week's Maxwell Pundit offering. From the time Oregon tied the game early in the fourth quarter, which is about the time ABC made the switch, Peterson ran for 148 yards, and had runs of 16, 17, 10, 20, 9, 11, 11, 9 and 37 yards. The only problem: once Oklahoma had gone ahead 30-20 and gotten its second straight Nic Harris interception at about the five-minute mark, Peterson proceeded to run out-of-bounds at the end of three fine runs on the ensuing possession, and Oregon used only one timeout, when staying in-bounds would have forced them to use all three. With a ten-point lead, Adrian, SMQ loves ya, baby, but don't run out of bounds!

¡ñ On a similar note, because the team's situation precluded handoffs, SMQ wasn't able to get his first look at Oregon's massive rumbler, Jonathan Stewart, who had averaged 6.3 yards en route to 144 yards over basically three quarters. Combined with Dennis Dixon's 341-yard performance, in which he was sacked only once, Oklahoma's vaunted defense can be officially be tagged an early season bust. OU ranks 97th in total defense, allowing just shy of 400 a game.

Glimpses
What's the scoring percentage for teams given a fresh set of downs after a roughing the passer penalty? Miami got its only touchdown on the opening drive Satruday after such a call, reinforcing SMQ's unscientific assumption that it's a very high ratio...Remaining on special teams, if you're stuck as an underdog having to run a fake punt to get something going in the first quarter, as Nebraska was at USC, you're in for a long night. Especially when the punt serves only to enhance punting position¡­Tim Tebow=Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draw without fail, but otherwise Florida¡¯s offense, as previously noted, is a whole different animal than last season. Chris Leak even looked good running the option!
SMQ HOMERISM
Southern Miss 37, NC State 17

And it wasn't as close as the score!

For time constraints (Saints on in minutes) and because his attempts to pick up the game on radio and over the Web failed, making it a box score-only review, SMQ will save it for Mid-Major Monday. But he just wanted to get it out there. Roommate of SMQ, in attendance, confirmed this was as impressive a win as USM's delivered in a while.

CONCEIT...
SMQ was right about:
Take your pick - Friday¡¯s random guessing was Sunday¡¯s wise prescience in case after case, among them:

Michigan is in excellent position to exploit what Georgia Tech could not - by leveling possession time via a consistently effective power running game, and not forgetting the big play ability at receiver - and what Penn State could not, by blitzing regularly (though as unpredictably as possible) and forcing the Irish to make plays under heat...Hart and Woodley are the right players in the right positions to undermine the machine."

Hart's 31-carry, 133-yard performance was the key cog in Michigan's "leveling," and exceeding, the time of possession threshold dominated by the Irish the first two weeks, with ample assistance from ¨C if not Woodley, exactly - an aggressive approach that sacked Quinn three times, hurried him six more and forced the decisive turnovers. And the big play ability at receiver? Unlike Georgia Tech, UM provided the Irish with plenty of reminders.


Woodley sears Michigan into Irish nightmares

Louisville is better than Miami on offense, even without Michael Bush - man to man, collectively and, by far, in scheme - and will proceed to put up points on the Cane defense in a way Florida State's one-dimensional, shell-shocked unit could not¡­For its part, the UM offense has not shown the firepower or consistency, regardless the alleged mediocrity of a potentially decent UL defense, to keep up with its counterparts.

U of Hell was better, perhaps, even without Brian Brohm, as Hunter Cantwell averaged almost 29 yards on three completions in four attempts, with one score. Final yardage numbers are fairly even, but don't tell the tale (Miami ran 63 plays, to UL's 49, averaging more than three yards per snap less) of the 'Canes' more or less official concession to second-rate status. In sacking a helpless Kyle Wright four times and holding Miami to but one touchdown, Louisville¡¯s defense surpassed "potentially decent."

¡­even a one-handed walk-on could put up more points right now than Virginia.

And the Cavs didn't even match SMQ's predicted 13 points against Western Michigan, scoring just 10 - though SMQ did nail WMU's 17-point total, and also missed by only a field goal by picking Iowa 27, Iowa State 14. He was also in the very near vicinity of margins for USC-Nebraska (29-16 prediction, 28-10 actual), Boston College-BYU (30-17 prediction, 30-23 actual) and Michigan State-Pitt (31-23 prediction, 38-23 actual), and called foul on the wack line that made snuggably soft Stanford a one-point favorite over Navy: the Midshipmen predictably ran for 368 in a 37-9 road win, cementing the Cardinal as the worst major conference team and, at 1,017 yards allowed on more than 6.5 per carry to date, among the worst run-stopping teams of all time.

...AND CONTRITION
SMQ was wrong about:
In pondering Saturday's "bounce back" teams, SMQ wondered

Fresno State: Washington was once considered a very tough place to play? Is this still the case? Why?

Apparently, because the Huskies are resuming a competent disposition there: 21-20 Washington, following - again! - a failed FSU extra point to tie with 4:30 to go, was one of the week's most stunning scores.

Mississippi State Score Watch
Success! MSU fell to 0-3 Saturday against Tulane, but found an offensive spark in Omarr Connor, circuitously moved back to quarterback from wide receiver, who led the Bulldogs to their first points of the season late in the second quarter, and then on improbable touchdown drives of 87 and 92 yards to close the game; alas, the 367-yard offensive explosion fell short of overcoming the defensive shortcomings at the hands of  the even more bombastic Green Wave in a 32-29 loss.

The watch resumes next week against UAB before getting back into SEC form with LSU and then, symbolically, West Virginia, in a lopsided interleague game SMQ is dubbing the "Poverty Bowl."

WHAT? WHAT?!
Upsetting
TCU over Texas Tech is not much of an upset, but three points? What? It was the first time a Mike Leach team had been held to single digits since 2001, at Texas, and apparently the first touchdown-less game for his offense, maybe ever.

More I-AA victory chain linker madness: Southern Illinois 35, Indiana 28, the second consecutive week a Championship Subdivision team has knocked the legs out from under a Big Ten squad. Anarchy!

BROUGHT TO YOU BAH...­WHITE OUT..
Time to Re-think:
The entire concept of the program formerly known as "Miami"? This may be premature, as Florida State and Louisville are, you know, good, but the 'Canes are clearly sporting their worst offensive line and lowest octane outfit since the dark days of probation and Ryan Costa, and have showed no reason to be feared by anyone in the ACC, save perhaps Duke. The U: middle of the pack? Discuss.

A FINE WHINE
SMQ Complaint of the Week
More over-protective, kid gloves stuff on the quarterbacks, for the third straight week, like this was the infuriating NFL or something. This time, it negated a Tennessee touchdown (moments after a questionable illegal block call negated a Florida return touchdown by the uncatchable little demon the Gators are sporting at punt returner) because of a perfectly routine pop on Chris Leak by Xavier Mitchell, who had a fine game otherwise.