HIGHS AND LOWS from November 19th weekend
By Dave Hershorin
NationalChamps.net Managing Editor
 
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November 22, 2005

Wow…from 1pm to 2:30am, many lucky fans witnessed a classic Saturday of college football. And for those of us who stayed up and/or recorded (Tivo-ed?) the late west coast matchup between USC and Fresno, this once-in-a-lifetime viewing occurrence was afforded. What Reggie Bush did in amassing 513 all-purpose yards wasn’t achieved alone. But the way Bush singularly put his team on his back after they trailed throughout the first half was a defining moment in his career. You just knew no one could stop Reggie once you saw the determined way he first carried the rock. At other times when we have seen backs have career efforts, it is in a blowout win or a semi-passionless contest that goes from being about two teams to that one person’s plight. Saturday night (into Sunday morning), Fresno kept getting up off the mat at the count of eight, so Bush’s hand was forced to salvage his teams superlatives. Bush shattered both Anthony Davis’ school record (of 368 yards vs. Notre Dame in a 45-23 win 12/2/72) and Maurice Drew’s conference mark (384 vs. Washington, won 37-31 9/18/04) for total yards, securing the cornerstone of his Heisman campaign. Bush had a 65-yard run in the opening quarter to give him four plays of 65 yards or more this season. The Trojans’ 33-game win streak ranks eighth all-time for I-A, and they have scored at least 20 in their past 50 games. But other (defensive) signs point to a vulnerable SC team that wins by outscoring its foes, not by shutting them down. During the win streak, USC has been behind only eight times at the half, but by being down 21-13 to FSU, Pete Carroll’s boys trailed for the fourth time in this campaign. The Bulldog’s 42 points are the most allowed by USC since 1996, and the most during their current run (34 allowed to Notre Dame had been the [year’s] most). USC ranked 6th (in 2004) and 30th (’03) for total defense during these past two championship years, so this season’s 43rd placement has plenty of odds-makers regretting USC’s weekly over/under. Take nothing for granted in this week’s la-la land showdown. And if you note how Texas ranks 6th for total D, most can read the writing on the Rose Bowl wall.

Ohio State won their annual matchup with Michigan on a last-minute 88-yard drive led by Troy Smith, the Buckeye QB who gives Lloyd Carr annual fits. It was the longest OSU drive this season. Coach Tressel has won in two of three excursions into Ann Arbor, and becomes the second Ohio State coach to win four of his first five against this classic foe. OSU held the Wolverine runners to 32 yards to secure the nation’s top spot as ground gobblers. Ohio State now sits in prime position to grab one of the two BCS wildcard slots since Penn State won its first Big Ten title in 11 years and garners the conference’s automatic bid. What a close it would be if the Buckeye seniors wind up in their third BCS bowl in their four years (if so, irony says they go to the Fiesta, again). Whereas Ohio State brings back eight on offense (all major talent positions are secure), it is the D that look to be gutted with the loss of the entire LB corps. Sure, Tressel and his posse have the talent in their recruiting coffers to bounce back, but how long will it take for the three new guys to even get close to where Hawk, Schlegel, and Carpenter are now? This unit will be the Buckeye’s measuring stick for 2006 – as far as the corps rises, the team rises, too. The secondary will boast three returning starters to give the D (and foes) some grounding. This could signal a new dawn in Columbus, a time when OSU outscores foes instead of stopping them cold. A little defense will go a long way with Smith, Ginn, Holmes, Pittman and friends hitting on all cylinders.

Last week it was Barry Alvarez who tipped his cap in our appreciation of his career. This week, we bid farewell to the “Manhattan Magician”, Bill Snyder. In late 1988, Snyder took over a Kansas State program that was arguably the nation’s worst (only major I-A team with 500 losses at the time). Many know the story of how this man turned around the Wildcat program that had had a .243 winning percentage (137-445-18) since the Big Six KSU championship team of 1934. But what many don’t know pertains to Snyder’s time before KSU. Snyder broke into I-A ball as an assistant coach at North Texas, helping to lead the Mean Green to a 26-7 turnaround in his three seasons there. In ’79, Hayden Frye grabbed the rising star to lead his offense at Iowa, a place where there hadn’t been a winning season in 18 prior tries. By 1988, the Hawkeyes had been to eight consecutive bowls. Snyder’s inaugural year as State’s head coach (1989) didn’t do much to convince all of those fans in Manhattan that they had chosen correctly – he won but one game after the Wildcats had just suffered through two winless campaigns. By 1991, fans had their third winning season in 36 years, and by 1993, winning would not go out of style until last year’s 4-7 mark. During his eleven year run (a bowl birth in each), Snyder’s boys have won more Big XII road games than any other team. With 11 wins in 2003 (when KSU shocked undefeated OU 35-7 in the conference final), State became the lone I-A program with 11 wins in six of the past seven tries. National Coach of the Year in 1991, ’93, ’98, and Big XII Coach of the Year 1998 and 2002 (Big Eight ’90, ’91, 93), only Snyder’s 2003 appointment on the Board of Trustees for the AFCA possibly trumps those accolades. “To me, the best football coach in the country is Bill Snyder,” said Kansas City Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil. “I don’t care if it’s pro football or college football. This guy can coach.” But it is Snyder’s respect for life and this program that, at 4-6 this year for its second consecutive losing effort, shows what a classy guy he truly is. See, Bill is under his latest six-year contract extension that runs through 2008, so stepping aside is a lot about helping the program reach its potential. Being disappointed by leaving millions of dollars on the table would reflect the attitude of many today, but not the attitude of Bill Snyder. Snyder realizes not only that he probably isn’t the person to take KSU to the kinds/levels of success fans deserve, but that there is more to life than football. "I've not been the kind of father that I should have been, and the kind of husband," said Snyder, who has five children and eight grandchildren. Few within the inner circles of influence at KSU feel someone else should be at the helm for any future turnaround, but Snyder has known what is best for Wildcat football for close to two decades, so few have tried to alter his decision. Snyder will remain as a special consultant to the program to make sure any hand-offs are done right. He wants to make sure that the next coach inherits a better situation than he did in 1989. Class like this is rewarded as KSU Stadium is renamed the Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Former coach Barry Switzer said it best, stating “Bill Snyder isn’t the coach of the year, and he isn’t the coach of the decade. He’s the coach of the century.”


What had been reported to be Temple’s last season of football will instead only be Bobby Wallace’s last as Owl head coach. After a task force concluded that dropping their I-A football squad wouldn’t be in the school’s best interest, things actually look up for this program that went winless (0-11) for the first time since 1959. Sure, Wallace, who won three Division II title at North Alabama, bowed out after stating how coaching wasn’t as fun but was more of a job there on North Broad. "I don't enjoy it that much. It's work to me," Wallace said. "Saturday's are [now] hard." But in May, the MAC accepted the university’s bid to join their league, a move that will have the Owls fully fledged as an East division member by 2007. The Owl’s last win came against Syracuse, a 34-24 beat-down (11/13/04) that has sent the Orangemen into their own downward spiral (2-11 since). Temple’s new MAC affiliation will buoy the downward spiral that almost ended in the school dismantling its own program after being booted from the Big East this past season. With the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field as home, it will only be a matter of time until Temple is again competitive. A new coach for 2006 can only further any surge of good favor. And if you think turning a program around that has fallen as far as Temple has is impossible, read the story above this one.

Lagniappe
Hurricane warning ignored – after harping on the possible impact of playing late-season make-ups, Miami fell victim to the rescheduling, falling 14-10 to Georgia Tech in a game they coulda-shoulda-woulda won if played in October. The Canes have lost at home now only three times this millenniumAfter winning its first three, Indiana lost six out of its last seven to miss a bowl trip for the eleventh straight season. Losing 41-14 to Purdue to end the campaign means IU hasn’t finished ahead of the Boilermakers since 1994, when 6-5 wasn’t enough to land any post-season births, eitherUTEP’s 35-23 home loss to UAB makes this week’s closer at SMU a must-win if the Miners are to go to the(ir) first-ever C-USA championship game in Orlando (12/3/05 – championship weekend)Bobby Ross continued his turnaround of Army. After losing their first six, the Cadets have reeled off four straight wins and enter the showdown against Navy with a four-game win-streak for the first time since 1967At 9-2, Texas Tech finishes their best regular season since 1976, when they went 10-1 only to lose to Nebraska in that year’s Bluebonnet Bowl. Until this season, Tech has never beaten Oklahoma and Nebraska in the same campaign...With the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field as home, it will only be a matter of time until Temple is again competitive...Vanderbilt’s 28-24 road win in Knoxville marks just the third time in 30 years that the Commodores have beaten their inner-state and conference-mate. This is the first time since 1982 that Vandy will finish better than TennesseeNevada (quick, without any research, what is their team name and which conference do they play in?) is the only school with two payers in the top 10 for passes defended – senior Kevin Stanley (14) and junior Joe Garcia (13)USF controls its own destiny with its 31-16 win over Cincinnati. The Bulls, also hurricane-altered in their slate, have taken the extra time allotted and surged in their initial year of Big East play. At UConn looks winnable, but the home closer with West Virginia appears to still be that league’s by-default title contestNotre Dame, Alabama or Penn State for Comeback Team of the Year?...Iowa State is 20 points (combined difference of scores in their three losses) from being this year’s Auburn…Stat of the Week (pertaining to the imminent Texas-USC Rose Bowl clash: Southern Cal has the nation’s top TO-ratio, gaining 34 while losing 13. Texas ho-hums a ranking just out of the top third, taking 18 while giving 15. And who says the Trojan D isn’t ready for ultimate combat? (funny, I do)Six teams have allowed their opponents less than ten yards per pass completion: Miami allows 9.81 yards per completion, Virginia Tech 9.96, Texas 9.73, Army 9.80, Fresno State 9.87, and Boston College with 9.84. For (pass) efficiency defense, they rank 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 26th, 33rd, and 48th, respectivelyWhen Reggie Bush returned a single punt for 15 yards against Fresno, it was only the seventh punt (out of only 29 total punts) that has been returned against the Bulldogs. His 15 yards may seem modest to us for what we know Bush can achieve, but for FSU, that was nearly 40% of the total yards (40) that they have now given up on punt returns. Only Louisville (22) has had to punt less, and only LSU (12 returns, 60 yards allowed), Florida (15, 57), Michigan (14, 53), Iowa (13, 54), Fresno State (7, 40), Bowling Green (16, 45), and UTEP (10, 46) have allowed foes to total under 60 yards on all PRsFresno also leads in the return category with four run-backs for scores. They rank second in yardage (24.24 per return) behind UCLA (25.28), which has three PRs for TDs. Wisconsin and Kansas State are the only other schools with three punt returns for scoresUCLA senior Drew Olsen and Louisville sophomore Brian Brohm lead I-A QBs for least INTs thrown (3). Olsen and Texas Tech senior Cody Hodges lead the nation in TDs thrown with 30 each. Still, playing for a team with just one loss, Olsen is nowhere on most Heisman maps…Having played in only eight games so far, Louisville RB Michael Bush easily sits atop the scoring leaders with 15.75 points per game. The Redbirds still have two left, while Bush missed one with ankle troublesIowa is the lone school that ranks two players in the top 10 for solo tackles – senior LBs Chad Greenway (89) and Abdul Hodge (82)And finally, six Big Ten teams rank in the top 20 for least penalties per game – Michigan ranks first and is the only school to average under four per game (3.82), Iowa (2nd, 4.00), Penn State (5th, 4.45), Minnesota and Ohio State (T-14th, 5.27), and Wisconsin (16th, 5.36). For undefeated or one-loss teams (there are now nine left), only Penn State and Virginia Tech (T-8th, 4.80) rank in the top 50 in this categoryThe answer to this week’s trivia – Nevada is known as the Wolfpack and they play in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC).