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MID-MAJOR MONDAY IS ALL ABOUT THE O

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I didn't watch Boise State's potentially epic, four-overtime shootout Sunday night with Nevada, eventually won by the Broncos by the very hoop-esque score of 69-67, but I do know it wasn't the seismic offensive event in the mid-major landscape this week it might seem:


You know what? Just go ahead and keep those hands up, ref. It's more efficient.
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Boise State 69 Nevada 67 (4 OT)
Points: 136 - Yards: 1,267
First Downs: 58 - Yds./Play: 7.8
Length of TD Drives (regulation only): 64, 68, 65, 62, 74, 66, 80, 71, 63, 64
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After Nevada converted a late BSU fumble into a field goal for a 44-41 lead, the Broncos rallied for overtime, somehow stretching an eight play, 34-yard drive over three and a half minutes, just enough to run the clock all the way to zero (you can never be too sure) as the tying field goal sailed true. In extra time, the offenses turned in four touchdowns in five plays - two passes for Boise, two runs for Nevada - before settling for field goals in the third frame. Both teams also scored touchdowns in the fourth OT, but the ultimate difference in the highest-scoring game in 70 years? Two points: Boise connected on its mandated conversion, and Nevada threw incomplete. The ultimate argument for stopping the stat sheet at the regulation: did any team before overtime was instituted in 1996 have a chance to score this many points? They did not. Both defenses have an extra game's worth of points tacked on to their season total.

Hawaii 42 San Jose State 35 (OT)
Points: 77 - Yards: 945
First Downs: 52 - Yds./Play: 5.5
Length of TD Drives (regulation only): 35, 86, 65, 87, 67, 65, 97, 45
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Hawaii becomes the first team I'm aware of - I don't know if this is a record, only that I've never seen it - to get off 100 snaps in a single game, even in overtime, and achieved this despite slightly losing time of possession, 30:26 to 29:34. The Warriors threw an incredible 75 passes, yet still had enough time for 26 runs (although 15 of these were by Colt Brennan, meaning June Jones called somewhere in the vicinity of 90 pass plays, give or take a sneak). The result is the most inflated 600 yards of total offense you'll ever see: 601 yards in 101 snaps = 5.95 per play. This is roughly average.  

The most surprising fact here, given the final, is that the game was only 14-7 at the half, and San Jose State's lone score was a punt return at the end of the second quarter. Things didn't pick up until the third, when SJSU ran back the second of Brennan's four interceptions (more on this later) for a touchdown, and later scored touchdowns on three straight long drives, covering a total of 217 yards in just 17 plays - going back to the punt return just before the half, the Spartans scored 35 points in a little under 19 minutes of game time. Down two touchdowins in the fourth, Hawaii responded with a 97-yard TD drive and, following a critical San Jose fumble at midfield, a 45-yard drive capped by the tying touchdown with 31 seconds to play. A Brennan touchdown pass in the first overtime was followed by a clinching interception by Myron Newberry.

A win is a win, but make no mistake...you know what, on second thought, Hawaii deserves its own post. I'm going to wait on this.

Ohio U. of Ohio 48 Eastern Michigan 42
Points: 70 - Yards: 935
First Downs: 47 - Yds./Play: 6.4
Length of TD Drives: 51, 35, 60, 61, 60, 38, 56, 80, 75, 20, 78
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This game was not as close as the score makes it appear: Ohio scored touchdowns on its first four possessions, only the last one matched by EMU, and led throughout the game. The Eagles did have the benefit of an 80-yard fumble return for touchdown in the second quarter but still trailed 31-14 at the half and only pulled within a score with a little over a minute to play in the game. Shocking aspect of this game: Ohio's offense, in general, which beat its season average in total offense by almost 200 yards. Of course, it was Eastern Michigan, which last month gave up 434 yards to Howard. So maybe not such a surprise.

Buffalo 43 Toledo 33
Points: 76 - Yards: 953
First Downs: 47 - Yds./Play: 6.0
Length of TD Drives: 49, 9, 80, 67, 57, 54, 73, 74, 48, 39
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Break up dem Bulls! Buffalo wins two straight! For only the second time in its I-A life, BU is on an actual winning streak (the Bulls beat Ohio and Army back-to-back in 2001, its most successful season prior to this one), thanks in large part to a school record 244-yard rushing effort by James Starks.

I take back my line about Hawaii's play count: Toledo matched it, in regulation, no less, by getting off 101 snaps here, to even less effect - the Rockets averaged just 5.1 yards per play to Buffalo's whopping 7.4 on 42 fewer snaps, so the final yardage numbers (518 for Toledo to 435 for Buffalo) are meaningless. This game featured 30 possessions, and the Rocket defense got rolled on most of them.


I assume he broke this tackle.
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Houston 56 Rice 48
Points: 104 - Yards: 1,189
First Downs: 51 - Yds./Play: 7.5
Length of TD Drives: 77, 69, 65, 80, 67, 17, 78, 5, 14, 64, 65, 81, 80, 74,
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I'd like to be very clear about this: Rice is a horrible football team. I have to point this out because, by apperances, Rice is a competitive team within the context of C-USA. Last week, the Owls embarrassed Southern Miss, defending C-USA East champion, in Hattiesburg winning 31-29 after leading 31-7. Here, they challenge defending league champion Houston on the road by scoring 48 points in three quarters. This looks close.

But Rice is so obviously bad, it's painful even to describe. Against USM two weeks ago, the Owls had scoring "drives" of 10, 12, 26 and 7 yards - their one "extended" drive, 69 yards, was entirely the result of a single 56-yard run - and when the Eagles woke up in a 24-point hole in the fourth quarter, they stormed back on 80, 95 and 57-yard touchdown drives in a span of less than eight minutes and were a two-point conversion from a tie that against any other I-A team I would describe as "improbable." Against Rice, it was exactly what should have been happening all night. Facing the crosstown Cougars Saturday, the Owls picked up 24 points on possessions covering 17, 5, 14 and 30 yards and led entering the fourth quarter 48-35. All Houston did from there is what it was doing all night, and what Southern had done in incomplete form: march down Rice's inept throat for three touchdowns. And, in this case, the win. UH had scored touchdowns on its first four possessions in the first quarter, drives of 77, 69, 65 and 67 yards on just 14 total plays,  and beginning in the middle of the third scored on four its last five non-clock-killing drives, of 78, 81, 80 and 74 yards. Rice moved the ball well this time, racking up 441 yards and 23 first downs, but Houston finished with 748 yards total offense, just shy of 500 in the first and fourth quarters alone.

Tulsa 38 Marshall 31
Points: 69 - Yards: 1,022
First Downs: 51 - Yds./Play: 6.6
Length of TD Drives: 71, 81, 80, 73, 80, 56, 63, 61, 68, 63
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Tulsa's offense is becoming legend on Mid-major Monday, and if any team had the chance to crack the hundred-play barrier - especially given the offensive coordinator's philosophy on such matters - I would have guessed it would have been the anachronistically named Hurricane. Obviously, nothing came cheap here: every touchdown drive by both teams, all ten of `em, went at least 56 yards and averaged about 70 yards. There was only one turnover, a late fumble by the Hurricane that led to Marshall's final touchdown, the only score of the fourth quarter by either team. TU just outgunned `em. Also: Marshall, undefeated king of the MAC a decade ago, is 0-6 with a loss to a I-AA team.

East Carolina 45 UTEP 42 (OT)
Points: 87 - Yards: 1,096
First Downs: 55 - Yds./Play: 6.9
Length of TD Drives: 80, 80, 71, 78, 61, 70, 42
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Too many field goals here for such little defense, seven altogether, plus a fumble return for a touchdown in the first half by the Pirates. So it's good to see ECU say "to hell with the kickin', we're ending this in the end zone" in overtime, answering a UTEP three-and-out/field goal on the first possession with an efficient, four-play romp to the win. The key: rather than play it safe on 3rd-and-1 from the Miner 16, ECU's Rob Kass dropped back and hit Davon Drew for 15 yards to set up an easy sneak for the touchdown. Daring greatly, etc.

Kass threw three picks to Trevor Vittatoe's three touchdowns on the other side, in addition to a 13-minute deficit in time of possession in UTEP's favor, but the fumble return was the great equalizer in the end.

Mid-Major Game of the Week
While you were reserving André Woodson for your 2008 fantasy team...
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Compared to its MAC colleagues, Temple was the '85 Bears Saturday against post-wild finish Akron, holding the Zips to a mere 235 yards (!) through the first three quarters. Yet still the Owls trailed 20-3 via two interceptions and a pair of missed field goals when they got the ball back with two minutes remaining in the third quarter, seemingly doomed to follow their first win of the season with another offensively inept walkover; to that point, Temple had only put together 165 yards worth of offense, and the one field goal on the board.

Something at that point - a fire, a yearning, a spirit...let's call it the "Ever-Striving Grasp of Humanity" - entered Temple QB Adam DiMichele, who, armed with the Ever-Striving Grasp of Humanity in the face of a 17-point deficit, on a team that went 19 straight games from the end of 2004 through late 2006 without scoring more than 17 points in any single contest, put his struggling team on his shoulders for a gallant charge at victory. DiMichele put the Owls in scoring position on a clearly possessed, 34-yard scramble, finishing the drive early in the first quarter with a short touchdown pass to cut the Zip lead to 20-10. After trading punts, DiMichele accounted for all 51 non-penalty-aided yards on another Temple scoring drive, invoking the long-suffered but ever poignant Spirit of Mankind to complete consecutive passes of 22 yards to the superbly-named Marquise Liverpool and 19 yards for a touchdown to Bruce Francis. Trailing by just three after bestowing the Breath of Life unto the Owl defense for a crucial 3rd-and-2 stop at midfield, DiMichele embarked from his own 19 ith 2:06 remaining on the piece d'resistance of his ode to the human will. Moved by the laughter of children, he scrambled 14 yards for a first down, then ten yards for another. Buoyed by the gentle, awkward poetry of lovers stumbling to a picnic through the tall grasses of summer, the quarterback converted a 3rd-and-7 fo 12 yards, a 17-yarder on first down inside the Akron 20. Welling with the triumphant strains of Stolzel and Vivaldi, DiMichele reached deep within him with half a minute remaining, firing man's ceaseless optimism of peace and progress into the hands of Dy'Onne Crudup for the winning touchdown with 27 seconds to play. A subsequent interception of Akron's last gasp heave with no time on the clock symbolized humanity's status as the ultimate pinnacle of nature's design.


Adam DiMichele aims to validate the elusive spark of consciousness, Temple's second win.
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For his inspirational embodiment of all that drives the Spirit of Humanity to achieve, DiMichele was named the MAC East Division's co-Offensive Player of the Week.

Many of you answered last week when I asked when Buffalo and Temple had last won on the same day, coming up with two occasions in the annals of futility that those separate, equally unlikely events had somehow corresponded. Now answer this, research hounds: when is the last time Temple and Buffalo have each won two weeks in a row?

Obligatory Brennan Stat Watch
While desperately attempting to retain grains of skepticism.
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Brennan set anew career high for attempts, obliterating the 61 he slung in Hawaii's overtime win at Louisiana Tech earlier this year, and for completions, hitting 44 of 75 passes for 544 yards (second to last year's bowl game against Arizona State), 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions (second only to the five he threw at Idaho two weeks ago) in the Warriors' overtime win at San Jose State.
Pace for the Season: Brennan has missed one game entirely and was pulled for the second half of another; he's played roughly 20 quarters in six games. Assuming he plays the entirety of each of Hawaii's remaining five games, he would double his current numbers, finishing 382 of 564 (67.7 percent) for 4,790 yards with 40 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. This is nowhere near his pace of 2006, which was: 405 of 559 (72.5 percent), 5,549 yards, 58 touchdowns and 12 interceptions against an unquestionably tougher schedule that included Alabama, Oregon State, Purdue, Arizona State and three WAC bowl teams.

An Arbitrary Mid-Major Top 10
This is more of a power poll.
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1. Boise State (5-1) - I'm not sure it makes sense to elevate one team after a wild overtime win while demoting another, but I'm disgusted enough with Hawaii to overlook internal consistency here. At least BSU played a team (Washington) reasonably worth losing to.
2. Hawaii (7-0) - Disgusted.
3. BYU (5-2) - Whipped Utah-felling UNLV (game does not appear as close as the 24-14 score, from the numbers) to remain the only undefeated team in MWC play.
4. Troy (4-2) - Week off, but stock rises anyway with Oklahoma State's rare road win in Lincoln, less than a month after the Cowboys fell on their face in the harsh confines of Movie Gallery Stadium. Should have huuuuuge stats Saturday against North Texas.
5. Air Force (5-2) - Falcons are 4-1 in the MWC after beating winless Colorado State by 24. In unrelated news, Sonny Lubick is considering retirment.
6. New Mexico (4-2) - Each half of Wyoming's running back tandem broke 100 yards against TCU's vaunted D last week, but were held to 38 yards between them Saturday in the Lobos' 20-3 road upset. Now with wins over Arizona and Wyoming!
7. Wyoming (4-2) - The Mountain West is kind of a lot better than any other non-BCS league, I think.
8. Fresno State (4-2) - Although the WAC may be close, if it weren't for Utah State and Idaho languishing at the bottom. Fresno takes care of the Vandals to move to 3-0 in-conference and an overtime loss at Texas A&M from 5-1.
9. Tulsa (4-2) - Score! Score, baby! Hell yeah!
10. Navy (4-2) - The Midshipmen haven't any problems scoring their own selves with more primitive tools: they're averaging 35 per game and put up 48 on Pitt, though it coincides with the nation's lowest-rated pass efficiency D. Still a sucker for the flexbone, currently racking up 345 yards on average.

Steppin' Up


The Record vs. BCS Conferences
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Last week: 2-1
Avg. Score: 30-43
This year: 17-95
Avg. Score: 19-39
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Click here to view all of the season's inter-division upsets.


Hail to the Conquering Heroes
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Stanford followed its groundbreaking upset of the year in which it forced a one-time candidate for the Trophy Which Must Not Be Named into four interceptions in one half by allowing 344 yards and a fourth quarter comeback to a disappointing redshirt freshman who had been averaging 170 yards through his first six games. And didn't pick him off once. Andy Dalton led TCU to 494 yards and a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to knock off the Cardinal 38-36 in Palo Alto.

Elsewhere, Pittsburgh was even more generous to Navy in a game that rapidly devolved into a frothing, saliva-drenched carnival of senile Holth fun. Any chance to see the past come alive in the form of the flexbone is a good one, and Dave Wannstedt's decade of playoff-level NFL gameplanning couldn't get his bigger, faster team in position to stop the Middies' high school option scheme: 331 yards on 70 carries, and the typical big gains on the rare passes (18.4 per catch). Say what you will about the nation's 102nd-ranked defense, but when it counts, it held to win on fourth down inside the five-yard line against a true freshman quarterback coached by Wannstedt, so...you know, shut up.


Viva la NFL gameplanning experience!
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...and What Never Had a Prayer
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Technically, this was the first winning week of the season for mid-majors, but the third class-hopping game was enough of a (wholly predictable) bloodbath to negate the minor gains by Navy and TCU to the underdog in general. Ohio State's 48-3 waxing of Kent State was every bit the ceremonial intra-Ohio beatdown the score suggests, with the Buckeyes scoring on their first possession and then six of their next eight, with a punt return and an interception return for touchdowns mixed in for good measure. Kent got on the board with a little under three minutes to play, the second straight week OSU has let a shutout slip away in the lazy throes of a blowout. They're really slipping there.

Coming Up
Optimism in the week ahead.
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Best Game: Neither Wyoming, of its loss to New Mexico, nor Air Force is a Mountain West frontrunner, but the winner stays in the race with one conference loss. For Wyoming, this means keeping up with BYU and Utah still to come; fr Air Force it means advancing to 5-1 with BYU, Utah, TCU and Wyoming in the rearview.
Most Realistic Upset: I say with the utmost confidence that Navy will have more success offensively against Wake Forest net Saturday than Florida State did against the Deacons Thursday night. Whether that will be enough to offset the atrocious Academy defense is another question. Staying on the East coast, I don't think East Carolina over N.C. State would be an upset at all: the Pirates beat the Wolfpack to send Chuck Amato packing at the end of the last regular season, as well as North Carolina earlier this season, and NCSU has losses in the last two years alone to ECU, Akron, Southern Miss and Central Florida.
Most Unrealistic Upset: Central Michigan ought to be excited about QB Dan LeFevour, who's accounted for three touchdowns in a single quarter two weeks in a row, but whatever success CMU's offense is able to eke out at Clemson, its defense will be yielding in much bigger chunks to the Tigers. C.J. Spiller and James have been quiet over the last three-four weeks - a MAC softie might be just what the statsheet doctor ordered.
Most Inevitably Gruesome Blowout: I know Georgia Tech is not the type of offense that tends to blow lesser teams out of the water, and Army is undeniably better at 3-4, but the Cadets have allowed more than 400 combined yards on the ground and six rushing touchdowns the last two weeks against Tulane and the aforementioned Chippewas of CMU. Good luck with Tashard Choice.