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This is why we love college football.
Despite the noon-game snore-fests and some expected blowouts, Saturday gave us plenty of drama—including a major upset.
No. 6 Wisconsin fell to BYU at home, as it missed a last-minute field goal at Camp Randall. A few minutes later, LSU rode a gutsy performance from quarterback Joe Burrow, a strong defense and a last-second field goal to upset No. 7 Auburn 22-21 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
No. 5 Oklahoma had a difficult time in a road win over Iowa State, and No. 8 Notre Dame barely survived Vanderbilt in South Bend, Indiana.
Other upsets dotted the day—looking at you, Troy. And fans everywhere tuned in as big names sweated it out. It was college football at its finest.
It made up for easy wins by Clemson, Georgia, Penn State and Stanford. Oklahoma State ended the early-season buzz about Boise State, too.
But whether you love defensive heavyweight battles or high-octane offenses, Week 3 had your elixir of choice. Let’s take a look at some of the slate’s biggest winners and losers.
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It’s time for everybody to recognize that you don’t want to invite the Troy Trojans to your stadium.
They don’t make fun houseguests.
Coach Neal Brown’s team went to Nebraska—a giant in name only, early in the Scott Frost era—and handed the Cornhuskers a shocking 24-19 setback to drop them to 0-2. Of course, star freshman Huskers quarterback Adrian Martinez (knee) didn’t play, but that doesn’t change the nature of the loss.
For Brown, it’s a continuation of what he’s building at the Sun Belt school.
“We have grit,” Brown said in the postgame interview on the Big Ten Network. “Our kids played super-hard. They believe in each other and believed in what we were doing today.”
It’s the second season in a row that Brown’s Trojans closed the deal on a big-name program. Last year, they upended LSU in Death Valley, 24-21.
Troy picked off Nebraska backup Andrew Bunch twice, and though it was a grind with just 12 first downs and 253 total yards, none of that mattered thanks to the final results. Cedarius Rookard’s 58-yard punt return for a touchdown was huge, too.
Not only does this look great in the national headlines for Troy, but it also feels nice in the wallet. The Trojans get $ 1.15 million for the trip to Lincoln. Last year, they upset LSU and took home $ 985,000.
Everybody is talking about Group of Five teams Central Florida and Boise State, but Troy keeps winning. Before long, Brown’s name will be tossed around for some Power Five jobs.
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The beginning of the Willie Taggart era has been ugly for Florida State.
The Seminoles took that struggle bus on the road to the Carrier Dome on Saturday morning. They headed home with a little warmer seat for their coach after a lifeless 30-7 loss to the Orange.
The ‘Noles barely got by Dino Babers’ team a year ago, but it was never close this time. A big reason is quarterback Deondre Francois’ continued ineffectiveness.
After suffering a season-ending knee injury in the opener against Alabama a year ago, he’s failed to fulfill his promise. He had another awful outing Saturday, going 18-of-36 for 178 yards and an interception. FSU was 1-of-14 on third downs and had just 240 total yards.
It’s not all his fault, though.
Francois was sacked four times and hit countless others.
Florida State used three different left tackles as its offensive line suffered all day. The Orange lived in Francois’ face, and when the redshirt sophomore didn’t get hit, he looked afraid we would be. It’s clearly affected his pocket presence.
The Seminoles have deep-rooted issues. The team hasn’t bought into Taggart’s tough-love mentality. Star running back Cam Akers looked pedestrian. The defense has too much talent to allow 30 points to anybody.
But Taggart may need to consider changing quarterbacks just to light a spark. If he doesn’t, it will be a long season. Francois has to get things squared away mentally, and he needs much more help from the men up front.
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Don’t look now, but Boston College’s offense is legit.
There’s also much more to it than superstar running back AJ Dillon, who burst onto the scene a year ago and is doing nothing to dampen that buzz.
If teams key on him, they’ll be rudely greeted by dual-threat signal-caller Anthony Brown. The full balance of the Eagles offense was on display Thursday afternoon in a 41-34 win over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
The Eagles traveled to Winston-Salem for a game that started early to beat Hurricane Florence, which was bearing down on the area. Though BC’s defense struggled, the offense did not.
Brown completed 16-of-25 passes for 304 yards and five touchdowns. Couple that with Dillon’s 33 carries for 185 yards, and the Demon Deacons had no answers. The Eagles finished with 524 yards after gaining 305 against Wake Forest a season ago in a 24-point loss.
The offensive resurgence is huge for coach Steve Addazio’s team. Last year, the Eagles had just 16 touchdown passes in 13 games. They already have 13 in three this season. Holy Cross, UMass and Wake Forest isn’t a murderers’ row, but it’s still impressive for BC.
It’s the first time since 2007 the team has been 3-0. Now, the 600-yard single-game goal the Eagles set doesn’t seem far away.
“We want to hit that 600-yard mark, and to do that we’ve got to be able to throw it and run it, and I think in the last two weeks we’ve shown that that’s going to happen now,” Addazio told the Boston Globe‘s Julian Benbow.
This will be an interesting team to watch in the ACC.
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In what may have been the battle of the two worst Power Five teams, Kansas walloped Rutgers 55-14 to send the Scarlet Knights back to New Jersey with a ton of questions.
A week ago, they lost 52-3 to Ohio State, which played backups for much of the second half. Meanwhile, Kansas snapped a nine-year road losing streak by winning at Central Michigan.
The momentum continued for the Jayhawks on Saturday as they shook off the opening-weekend loss to FCS Nicholls State with consecutive victories. But Kansas didn’t just win, it dominated.
Rutgers allowed three KU rushers to score touchdowns and gain more than 60 yards. Pooka Williams Jr. led them and finished with 158 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown.
The Knights also turned the ball over six times. That’s the second straight week the Jayhawks forced that many turnovers after doing it to the Chippewas.
NJ.com’s Steve Politi wrote earlier this week that the Kansas game was the biggest of coach Chris Ash’s career. He followed that with a postgame piece that said the defeat “might be the most demoralizing, humiliating, unacceptable loss in the modern history of Rutgers football.”
Ash just signed a five-year, $ 9.8 million contract, but this is the kind of game that gets coaches fired. Unfortunately for Rutgers, it has to turn things around quickly, because the program appears married to Ash for a while.
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Chances are, even if you got caught up in the high-flying Memphis attack a year ago, you still glossed over Tigers running back Darrell Henderson.
It may have been hard to notice his production when you were watching all those bombs from quarterback Riley Ferguson and grabs from electrifying receiver (and current Chicago Bear) Anthony Miller.
This year, the 5’9″, 200-pound junior from powerhouse South Panola High School in Mississippi is impossible to miss. The Tigers offense flows through him, and Henderson is loading up stat sheets. He did it again Friday night in a 59-22 win over Georgia State.
He finished with 14 carries for 233 yards (16.6 average) and two touchdowns. If those numbers seem gaudy, they should. But it’s also just another night’s work for Henderson, who’s averaged 8.5 yards a carry in his career. He’s already eclipsed 2,000 rushing yards in his two-plus years, too.
The last player match that average and have more than 2,000 career rushing yards was Navy’s Shun White from 2005 to 2008.
He’s not just a home run hitter, though. According to Pro Football Focus, he led the nation’s returning running backs in yards after contact per attempt with 5.6. Friday night, he became just the second Memphis runner to post back-to-back 200-plus yard rushing games. The other was DeAngelo Williams.
He’s also a big-time receiving threat who can beat teams in every facet. Oh, by the way, in his last eight games, he’s averaging 11.9 yards per carry.
This kid is legit. Add him to the Heisman Trophy watch list.
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A year ago, one blemish in the Big Ten Championship Game kept Wisconsin out of the College Football Playoffs. Now, the Badgers have to try to reach their ultimate goal by rallying past Saturday’s shocking 24-21 loss to BYU at home.
With the Cougars up by three and under a minute to go, BYU coach Kalani Sitake iced veteran Badgers kicker Rafael Gaglianone twice. Gaglianone missed the 42-yard, would-be game-tying field goal. No. 6 Wisconsin walked off the field stunned as BYU snapped the Badgers’ 41-game home winning streak against nonconference opponents.
The last nonconference loss at Camp Randall Stadium came on September 13, 2003, to UNLV.
Wisconsin didn’t look like a title contender at all. BYU running back Squally Canada outperformed Badgers back Jonathan Taylor, gaining 118 yards on 11 carries and scoring twice. Meanwhile, Taylor’s Heisman hopes took a hit. He did have 117 yards, but he didn’t score and averaged just 4.5 yards per carry.
BYU, on the other hand, averaged 6.8 yards per carry as a team and played well on both sides of the ball. Sitake’s team has now upset Wisconsin and Arizona, sandwiched around a close loss to California.
This is a major setback that hurts the Badgers’ championship hopes, which are further impeded by playing in the middling Big Ten West. And though Purdue and Nebraska were supposed to be much improved this year, both teams are off to awful starts.
Minnesota and Iowa could help Wisconsin’s schedule, but that’s a stretch right now. The Badgers must hope to win their side of the field and have convincing victories over Michigan and Penn State to get back in the national media’s good graces.
Even if they do that, this home loss to BYU doesn’t look great on the resume at all.
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Every year, there are a few college football plays that you just know will be on every highlight reel for the rest of the season.
North Texas added its submission in Saturday’s stunning 44-17 upset of Arkansas.
With the Mean Green already up 7-0 on the Razorbacks, the Hogs punted it away to Keegan Brewer, who fielded the football at his own 10-yard line. He stood still for a couple of seconds before casually walking away.
Thing is, he never called for a fair catch.
Once he realized all of the Razorbacks were just standing around thinking the play was over, he took off, racing down the left sideline for a 90-yard punt return touchdown that was one of the most awesome fake-outs you’ll ever see.
Brewer’s teammates mobbed him in the end zone, and the disbelieving Arkansas players had no answer. Several fans on social media cried foul, but there are no rules against returning a punt where you didn’t call a fair catch. This was an Oscar-worthy acting job by Brewer.
It was like baseball’s hidden-ball trick, except on a college football field. Words simply can’t do it justice.
It’d be hyperbolic to call it the greatest college football play of all time. But it was a whole lot of awesome in a sea of early blowouts and uninspired football.
Even cooler is that North Texas completed the upset, leading to Arkansas’ second cringeworthy defeat in a row after last weekend’s setback to Colorado State. The Mean Green are legit, and now they’ve got their first season-defining play.
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If you like crooked numbers and stacked stat sheets, there was a game in Lubbock, Texas, with your name written all over it. For those who like defense…
Kliff Kingsbury’s air assault was too much for Houston to handle as the Red Raiders snuffed out the Cougars’ early-season success by burying them in yards and points. Texas Tech ultimately won a shootout, 63-49.
Houston head coach Major Applewhite and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles simply ran out of ammunition. Texas Tech’s offense was designed in a way that it took the Cougars’ star defensive tackle, Ed Oliver, out of the game as much as possible.
That was bad news for the Cougars. They couldn’t hang.
The teams combined for 112 points, 64 first downs and 1,339 total yards.
The two starting quarterbacks (Houston’s D’Eriq King and TTU freshman Alan Bowman) combined for 1,036 passing yards and 10 touchdowns through the air. Texas Tech’s Antoine Wesley finished with 261 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
The offensive clinic was a defensive debacle, with just one turnover forced the entire game.
In case you were wondering, Houston’s defensive coordinator is Mark D’Onofrio, and TTU’s is David Gibbs. Really, they never had a chance.
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Joe Burrow’s stats weren’t pretty entering Saturday’s road showdown with Auburn, and his final numbers were far from pretty too.
But a quick glance at the box score would tell you nothing about Burrow’s heroic performance to lead his Tigers to a 22-21 come-from-behind win at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The signal-caller got a little help from a pass interference call on his final drive, but he calmly led the Bayou Bengals inside Auburn territory to allow Cole Tracy a 42-yard game-winning field goal as time expired to stun Auburn and its fans. In the process, LSU also ended Auburn’s 13-game home winning streak.
Burrow, who transferred from Ohio State before the season, is getting another opportunity to lead a major college football program. He showed he’s up to the task on Saturday by leading LSU to a major win.
He completed just 15 of 34 passes but finished with 249 yards and dropped a 71-yard dime between four Auburn defenders to receiver Derrick Dillon, who sprinted for the score to pull LSU within 21-19. Despite missing the two-point conversion, Burrow calmly led his team back.
“That one felt amazing,” he told the CBS crew in the postgame interview. “We struggled in the first half a little bit; that was all on me. I got it going in the second half. O-line kept me clean all game. I was able to sit back there, find my guys, and we gutted this one out.”
The junior has a long way to go to become an elite quarterback. He has to improve his accuracy, and there’s reason for concern looking at LSU’s offense as a whole. But he posted a gutsy performance Saturday in a massive early-season SEC West showdown.
With teams like Alabama, Mississippi State and Texas A&M still on the schedule, Burrow will have plenty more opportunities to prove his improvement. At least one set of Tigers is glad he’s on the Bayou.
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Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
So far in his career coaching his alma mater, Bryan Harsin hasn’t taken advantage of key national spotlight moments the way predecessor Chris Petersen did.
He had another opportunity in a perfect situation Saturday when he and the No. 17 Boise State Broncos went on the road to take on No. 24 Oklahoma State.
Even though these are the post-Mason Rudolph Cowboys, and they don’t have nearly as many weapons as they did in 2017, a win in Stillwater would have gone a long way with poll voters and national decision-makers.
But Oklahoma State had enough to cruise past Boise on Saturday. Senior quarterback Taylor Cornelius and running back Justice Hill, helping head coach Mike Gundy’s team remain unbeaten with a 44-21 win. All told, Cornelius accounted for three touchdowns: one through the air and two on the ground.
But Boise lost this game on its defense and special teams. Quarterback Brett Rypien had a brilliant effort but was sacked seven times. More disappointing for the Broncos was their inability to open rushing lanes, which led to more pressure on Rypien.
Perhaps the biggest momentum-turners came on special teams, though; Boise let Amen Ogbongbemiga through for a punt block in the first quarter, which led to a one-yard Cornelius touchdown run to put OSU up 14-7.
Then in the third quarter, Jarrick Bernard blocked a punt, and Za’Carrius Green returned it for another touchdown to put the Cowboys up 34-14.
That pretty much ended the early-season excitement for Boise, which won’t play another ranked team until bowl season. The Broncos must take care of business before then and look good doing it.
Saturday was a blown chance.