Football Fodder - Editor's Insights
  By Dave Hershorin Managing Editor


September 8, 2003

We had a bunch of good ones this past Week Two, but the viewing challenges presented by last Saturday night's prime-time lineup put many of us in a cross-eyed peril. It was fortunate that the FSU-Maryland game was decided before the second half so we could get down to the Alabama-Oklahoma/Miami-Florida nitty-grittySouthern Miss defensively throttled UAB, holding them to 12 first downs as well as creating and recovering four fumbles to control all 60 minutes of their Thursday night contest - nothing new here. But what are new are UAB's defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt and his impact. The first year assistant coach came in from defensively sound Troy State, where in just two seasons at the I-A level he made Troy State into the nation's fourth best unit of stoppers. The results at UAB have already surfaced, especially this week - they held the Golden Eagles to 117 rushing yards on 48 tries in allowing only 17 points. Bolt's personal character has been definitively stamped on this squadwe all know how good Oregon State's Steven Jackson is. On Friday night he showed how bad he is, too - he ran over Fresno State's #29 Raymond Washington twice in the latter part of the fourth, causing Washington to leave the game due to blows absorbed from Jackson. It was crunchingly awingJackson and the Beavers will go nowhere as long as junior QB Derek Anderson is in-charge. Jackson will get yards, regardless, but five INTs won't equal many OSU wins. Anderson's confidence evidently left Bulldog Stadium Friday night after the second pickgive the Beaver defense much credit for keeping State in the game while the offense struggled sofirst-year Beaver head coach Mike Riley learned a hard lesson: Take points on the road when you can. When a Beaver FGA was blocked, but the play itself negated by a Fresno State penalty, the replayed down became an attempt to get a first, not another FGA. The result? They failed to get the first, and the field goal attempt from five yards closer is now, with hindsight, the golden opportunity that might have won the 16-14 resultstill reeling is Auburn, who's offense is a no-show so far. They are 7-for-32 on third-down conversions with no offensive TDsWashington's running game finally did show. Seven yards on 24 tries (last week versus Ohio State) turned into 52 tries for 195 yards. Next two opponents Idaho and Stanford should acquiesce ground yards easily, but UCLA won'tOklahoma struggled to beat an ostensibly motivated Alabama team, who's defensive consistency was Saturday night's second biggest surprisea fake punt from their own 31 gave OU the night's biggest surprise. The 47-yard TD throw that followed on the very next play was the momentum-changing differencethe interview of recently-dismissed Mike Price during the OU-'Bama game unfortunately went a distasteful route as he was asked time and time again a coulda-woulda-shoulda-type questioning line meant to force Mike to rehash his failed stay with the Crimson Tidethis tilt in Tuscaloosa was the week two's hardest hittingfrom the not-that-surprising department: FSU's QB Chris Rix was exposed by announcers for not wanting to hit the weight room very often. He wishes he had a bit more size, though, when watching the replay of D'Qwell Jackson's INT return for a TDstill rolling, but looking a bit less intimidating than last week, is Southern CalSouth Carolina spanked then-#15 Virginia 31-7 Saturday afternoon. A statistical story was told - the Gamecocks allowed just 58 plays for 170 total yards (116 rushing, 54 passing! for 2.9 yards-per play), seven first downs and 26-plus minutes in which to do itEli Manning seems to have his brother Peyton's pension for struggling in big games. His failed attempt to beat Memphis doesn't reflect statistically on him - Manning went 26-48 for 292 yards - but does raise eyebrows. The defense did allow 506 yards, but Manning's team leadership and subsequent motivational skills seem to be missing as 23 fourth quarter points went unanswered by the Rebels. Fact: on-field generals that lead their teams to victory win Heisman's, not the gaudy-numbered, stat-sheet-oriented overly endowedSaturday's hardest lesson was a tie - learned in Miami by Florida's sophomore coach Ron Zook: never count the Canes out until all 60 minutes are gone. Didn't anyone at this school just two hours down the road from Tallahassee figure this one might happen?we saw why National Bluechips gave UF's DeShawn Wynn its top speed running back ranking as he entered the NCAA - his 65-yard touchdown run to start the Gator's third quarter hit full-throttle around mid-field, where chasing Canes were amazingly left dusted by the 20-yard lineTiger fans better not let their 28-17 win over Furman convince them of anything yet - Clemson had marginal troubles in putting the I-AA opponent awaythe "You Must Live Under a Rock" award does to you if you didn't see Wazzu senior WR Sammy Moore's game-tying catch against Notre DameJunior QB Carlyle Holiday's take-away of his own fumble from Wazzu's senior D.D. Acholonu with 11 minutes left in the fourth wins my "Biggest Play of the Day" award. The next play was the TD that made it 19-16 and marked the beginning of the end for the Cougarsspeaking of big, did anyone see which Colorado kicker booted it 15 yards PAST THE ENDZONE on a first-half kickoff?Ohio State seems to be back in the national title hunt with their close escape versus San Diego State. Last year's close tussles against seemingly lesser teams ultimately led them to the top, and 104,443 at Saturday's 16-13 squeaker saw the beginning of the same. Going 1-for-14 on third-down conversions made Buckeye fans realize this year's quest has officially begunwhen starting UCLA QB Matt Moore was sidelined, the evidently-unscouted Drew Olsen stepped in for two TDs and a near-victory. The Bruins should fare well if fresh leadership blood is needed againSaturday's hardest lesson was also learned by Wazzu's first year coach Bill Doba: never count the Irish out until all 60 minutes are gonegive it to Wake Forest and head coach Jim Grobe for their huge 38-24 home-win over the then-#14 N.C. State Wolfpack. The Demon Deacons rushed for 202, balanced by 173 more coming on 9-of-11 passing, as they allowed just 78 ground yards on 25 tries to take control earlyLee Corso predicts Wake over Purdue this weekendLSU should play at a PAC-Ten venue sooner than another 19-year wait - the scheduling anomaly gave Arizona its worst home-loss in 45 yearsFSU was in control most of their tilt with Maryland, but caution signs have already surfaced from the Noles first real challenge. With marginal coaching compared to many of the past glory years, an FSU first-and-goal at the 18 elicited first a run, then a failed pass, then another run on third that ultimately equaled a blocked FGA. It is this kind of thinking that cost the Noles over the past two struggling campaigns. The other warning signal came as we saw QB Chris Rix scramble to find an open receiver - he had to fully stop and plant before he could throw, not a good trait when speedy-and-strong opponents dot the remaining schedulethe comment of the day described the accident-prone Washington State-Notre Dame fight - "It went from an ugly game to an interesting game" - simple but truethis Clarett business is still not summed up? Both the NCAA and OSU AD Andy Geiger have balked at making the sophomore's - and entire OSU squad's - life/lives easier through an efficient decision, instead elongating their deer-in-the-headlights approach. Give Maurice and the entire country some closure within this circus act they are calling justicecan N.C. State recover their mental faculties in time to give the Buckeyes a real fight?always remember - when considering rankings, if your team fails in an early-season toughie, it is better now than at year's end. In other words, follow that bouncing ball all the way to the last game for maximum satisfaction, and enjoy it all regardless

…and we digress.