NCAA College Football – Week 14 Recap
LSU is in the national championship game, and Oklahoma State certainly made a strong case that they should be there as well. Now its up to the poll voters and the BCS computers to decide whether the Cowboys will get a shot at former coach Les Miles, or if the Tigers will indeed have a rematch with Alabama.
Elsewhere, Montee Ball and Robert Griffin III continued their late-season pushes for the Heisman. And the crazy season of upsets continued with Houston’s undefeated season coming to a halt and Clemson putting an emphatic end to Virginia Tech’s long-shot national title hopes. Here are all the highlights from this final week of the regular season in the AP Top 25.
#1 Louisiana State 42, #12 Georgia 10
Georgia had their chances early to pull off the upset, jumping out to a 10-0 lead and holding the Tigers to just seven total yards and no first downs in the first half (a first for LSU since 2004). However, Tyrann Mathieu returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown late in the first half and LSU never looked back, adding 35 unanswered points in the second half to secure the SEC Championship and a spot in the BCS national title game. After some early struggles, LSU’s defense returned to its dominant form as the game went on, forcing three turnovers and holding the Bulldogs to just 78 yards on the ground. They needed every defensive stop they could get, as the Tigers’ offense went three-and-out on all eight of its first half possessions and quarterback Jordan Jefferson finished just 5/13 for 30 yards and a touchdown. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, who has already set the Bulldogs’ single-season passing touchdown record, finished 16/40 for 163 yards and a touchdown, but was plagued by dropped passes by his receivers, including two sure touchdowns in the first quarter.
#3 Oklahoma State 44, #13 Oklahoma 10
Oklahoma State won its first outright conference championship in commanding fashion, dominating the archrival Sooners with a pounding running game and one takeaway after another. Cowboys running back Joseph Randle finished with 151 rushing yards and two touchdowns against an OU defense that gave up a season-high 278 yards on the ground. Oklahoma State came into the game leading the nation in forced turnovers and further padded that stat with five takeaways that led to 17 Cowboy points. The defense harassed Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones all night, holding him to just 250 passing yards (he averaged over 368 yards per game coming in) and forced him into two interceptions and two fumbles. Oklahoma State’s 44 points was the most they have scored against the Sooners since 1945. The win snapped an eight-game losing streak to Oklahoma. The Cowboys must now wait for the BCS poll to be announced. There is a thin chance Oklahoma State could leapfrog Alabama into the national title game. If not, they will be headed to the Fiesta Bowl.
#21 Clemson 38, #5 Virginia Tech 10
Virginia Tech had hoped to make their case for a national title shot by avenging their only loss of the season. But Clemson had other ideas, winning the ACC title by beating the Hokies for the second time this season behind four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) from quarterback Tajh Boyd. The game was tied at 10 at halftime before the Tigers took over, rolling off 21 unanswered points in the third quarter. The big surprise was the Tigers’ defense, which had struggled in losing three of their last four and had given up over 40 points per game in the last six weeks. Clemson held Hokies running back David Wilson, the nation’s third-leading rusher coming into the game, to just 32 yards and forced three turnovers after not getting a takeaway the previous four weeks. Clemson will now be headed to the Orange Bowl.
#24 Southern Miss 49, #7 Houston 28
Houston’s dreams of an undefeated season and a BCS bowl game came to a screeching halt in the Conference USA title game as Southern Miss handed the Cougars their only loss of the season. Golden Eagles quarterback Austin Davis threw for 279 yards and four touchdowns and Southern Miss added two defensive touchdowns in the upset victory. Southern Miss’ defense was the story of the game, holding Houston’s top-ranked offense to season lows in points, total offense and plays of 20+ yards. Heisman candidate Case Keenum did throw for 373 yards and two touchdowns for the Cougars, but also threw two interceptions (he’d only thrown three all season before this week). This was Southern Miss’ first Conference USA title game win, and their fifth league championship overall. By knocking Houston out of the BCS, Southern Miss’ win will cost every Conference USA school approximately $500,000 in bowl money from the BCS bowl payout the Cougars would have shared with the conference.
#8 Oregon 49, UCLA 31
Oregon won its third straight Pac-12 championship behind a dominating performance from running back LaMichael James. The nation’s leading rusher coming into the game, James carried the ball 25 times for 219 yards and three touchdowns as the Ducks rolled to victory in the first Pac-12 title game. Quarterback Darron Thomas added 60 yards and a touchdown on the ground to go along with three passing touchdowns. Oregon finished with more rushing yards (352) than UCLA had total yards (337). This was the final game on the UCLA sideline for head coach Rick Neuheisel, who was fired early last week but was allowed to coach in this Pac-12 Championship game. The Bruins (6-7) have been granted an NCAA waiver that will allow them to possibly play in a bowl game, despite having a sub-.500 record. Oregon will now prepare to play Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
#9 Boise State 45, New Mexico 0
With just one win on the season, no one really expected New Mexico to pull off an upset against Boise State. And Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore, the NCAA’s all-time leader in wins (49), made sure that wouldn’t happen in his final game on the blue turf. Moore finished his final home game 28/33 for 313 yards and three touchdowns as Boise State rolled over the outmatched Lobos. Running back Doug Martin notched his eighth 100+ yard game of the season and his sixth multiple-touchdown game, rushing for 110 yards and two scores in the win. New Mexico managed just 197 total yards and only crossed midfield twice. The Lobos have now lost 22 straight road games, the nation’s longest such streak.
#15 Wisconsin 42, #11 Michigan State 39
Badgers running back Montee Ball continued his Heisman push, rushing for 137 yards and scoring four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving) as Wisconsin won the first-ever Big Ten Championship game and secured a game against Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Michigan State won the first meeting between these two on a Hail Mary, and this one also came down to the end, with the Badgers needing a late defensive stand and some help from a roughing the kicker penalty with under two minutes to play to seal the victory. The Spartans actually outgained Wisconsin 471-345 and led most of the game. But the Badgers offense was able to get it done when it counted, launching an eight-play, 64-yard drive that led to the go-ahead touchdown with less than four minutes to play. Spartans wide receiver B.J. Cunningham caught five passes for 115 yards and three touchdowns in the loss, his fourth consecutive game with multiple touchdowns. Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 37 straight games, the longest such streak in NCAA history. Ball now has 38 touchdowns on the season, one short of Barry Sanders’ NCAA single-season record.
#16 Kansas State 30, Iowa State 23
Kansas State kept its BCS at-large bid hopes alive, putting together a five-play, 66-yard drive to score the winning touchdown with under four minutes to play. Wildcat quarterback Collin Klein rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown in the win. He is one touchdown behind former Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs’ record for single-season rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (27). The two teams matched up fairly evenly statistically (368 total yards for the Cyclones, 359 for Iowa State). But two second half turnovers by Iowa State—including a fumble in Wildcat territory with 1:02 left in the game—ended the Cyclone’s chances of upsetting another Top 25 team.
#18 Texas Christian 56, UNLV 9
In its final year in the league, TCU secured its third consecutive outright Mountain West Conference title and kept its BCS hopes alive with a dominating win over an outmanned UNLV squad that has now lost 16 straight road games. The game was effectively over when the Horned Frogs notched 28 points in the second quarter en route to a 35-6 halftime lead. TCU’s defense, which came into the game ranked 10th nationally in scoring, continued its late-season surge, scoring on an interception return and holding the Rebels to just 48 passing yards and six first downs in the game. UNLV was 0-for-15 on third-down conversions.
#19 Baylor 48, Texas 24
Texas got a field goal on its first drive of the second half to tie the game at 24. After that, it was all Baylor. The Bears scored 24 unanswered points in a 20-minute span of the third and fourth quarters to blow the game open and help quarterback Robert Griffin III make his case for the Heisman Trophy. Griffin accounted for 352 total yards and four touchdowns (two rushing, two passing) in his first full game after leaving last week’s win over Texas Tech with a concussion. The fourth-year junior is one of only three players in FBS history with 10,000 yards passing and 2,000 rushing in a career. He has scored three or more touchdowns in 10 of Baylor’s 12 games this year. On the other side, Texas quarterback Case McCoy threw for 356 yards and four touchdowns, but threw four interceptions that led to 17 Baylor points. Texas’ offense rolled up big numbers and actually outgained Baylor 557-511. But the Longhorns continually shot themselves in the foot, with six turnovers and 12 penalties for 105 yards. The loss gives Texas its first back-to-back losing conference record since 1937-38.
#22 West Virginia 30, South Florida 27
West Virginia kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired to clinch a share of the Big East title and a likely BCS bowl bid. The Mountaineers’ offense never clicked to its full potential and was outgained by the Bulls, 397-364. But West Virginia found other ways to get the job done, scoring on a 52-yard interception return and a 90-yard kickoff return. South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels, who missed last week’s loss to Louisville with a bruised shoulder, started for the Bulls but showed some lingering effects of his injury, going 21/44 for 226 yards, one touchdown and one interception. After a 4-0 start, South Florida lost seven of its last eight to end the season. West Virginia finishes the season in a three-way tie with Louisville and Cincinnati for the Big East crown. However, the tiebreaker—and the conference’s automatic BCS bid—goes to the team with the highest ranking in the BCS poll, which figures to be the Mountaineers.