By Dave Hershorin
NationalChamps.net Managing Editor
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September 27, 2004

HIGHS AND LOWS FROM SATURDAY

BYU gave Boise State its biggest home scare since 2001 when Washington State beat them 40-21. But the most lasting memory for many, especially BSU safety Chris Carr, came courtesy of the Cougar's (NC.net third-team all American) P/PK Matt Payne. Though his game-winning FG try with :23 seconds remaining was wide left to end his consecutive streak of made field goals at 28, it was his punt coverage that left indelible marks (literally) on Carr. Payne first planted Carr at the midfield stripe with a vicious hit after a decent return early in the second quarter. But then, in what seemed like a replay at exactly the same spot on the blue turf, Carr again failed to keep track of where Payne was and got another shellacking by the 234lb. former all-state soccer star. It's one thing to have a punter make a shoestring tackle to save a TD. But it's a whole other thing when one is consistently making his team's hardest hits. Just ask Carr, who would likely take twenty such colon-clearing hits if it again meant a win in the end.

What was Houston thinking when they put only four guys in front of sophomore punter Justin Laird to stop Miami's blocking efforts? The Cougar's punt formation spread three out wide to each side, but that meant there was a basic four-on-four in the middle - the Canes were chomping at the bit with this kind of match up. Miami frosh Anthony Reddick just had to line up a few yards further over to his right to create an angle in which he couldn't be effectively blocked. Reddick's resultant block and Tavares Gooden's subsequent return TD initiated a flow in which Houston would never challenge. Without it, Houston would likely have been within one score much of the way and the game's complexion changes.

How can Pittsburgh look decent in holding Nebraska to 24 points one week, but then they allow I-AA Furman to steal 38 points the very next? OK, so Ingle Martin, a starting QB at one point for Florida, was their captain. That said, the same defensive 'kinks' that kept Fitzgerald and Rutherford from getting their due are again orchestrated by even Pittsburgh's most mundane foes. The Panthers still have a long way before being well-respected men about town, especially if still playing it so conservatively against inferior-leagued squads like the Purple Paladins.

Welcome to the ACC I - The six-game win streak Boston College brought into Winston-Salem was met by a staunch Demon Deacon defense that often bent but rarely broke. Wake stepped up when it counted, decisively stopping the Golden Eagles in their last drive. You can call it an orientation of sorts…Boston College becomes the conference freshman next season in the newly aligned ACC. They may enroll barely over 4,000, but this mighty school made sure they let BC know just what they can look forward to for many years to come.

Welcome to the ACC II - The Virginia Tech Hokies had best realize just how many of this year's conference foes have an asterisk next to their date(s) with VT, similarly looking to let these newbies know just how things are done on the coast. Tech's 28-game September win streak came to a halt when newly-deemed conference foe (but perennial rival) North Carolina State visited Blacksburg Saturday. Ten sacks of Tech's Mike Vick-wannabe QB Marcus Randall exemplify just how smothering the Wolfpack's top-ranked (total) defense was in this 17-16 struggle. Well, that fact or the mere 192 offensive yards they allowed the Hokies. Does entry into the ACC mark a new era in Beamer-ball, an ironic one as Tech's savvy head coach is ultimately defeated through (a) special teams' play? #6 West Virginia is next up, followed by pesky Wake Forest to haze the Hokie pledges. Isn't initiation a pain of sorts?

No team exemplifies the theme of this column more than Notre Dame. Riding a wave of emotion, the Irish have again reached the highest of highs just a year after those lowest of lows that we all remember well. It appears that Brady Quinn finally realizes how to poignantly apply his talents. He didn't have to produce more than a 15-of-23 completion rate for 196 yards and four TDs to get his team past Washington. Quinn's solid 46th-ranked pass efficiency rating (of 128.5) is the most significant difference between last season's results and 2004's sudden turnaround.

Wyoming snuffed the rebounding Ole Miss Rebels. The Cowboys got 13 points off of five TOs (four INTs and a fumble) as they beat this former SEC power 37-32. Navy also gets a big nod from NationalChamps.net for their 29-26 win over BCS-aligned Vanderbilt. Ok, it's perennial SEC bottom-feeder Vandy, but a quality football program in its own right. With such high expectations, though, is this really an upset for the Midshipmen? An away assault at Air Force answers all.

Mark Mangino's Kansas squad may not be a mid-major, but they do fit the label of 'up-and-coming'. Holding Texas Tech's QB Sonny Cumbie (another strong-armed, drop-back type who piles yards up just as quickly and furiously as little-missed B.J. Symon's could) to a human 356 yards, two TDs and grabbing four INTs shows what we here at NC.net already know - that the Jayhawks (45th in total defense) can seriously challenge any strong offense on a consistent basis any given week. Look out, Nebraska (vs. KU10/2 in Lincoln), it should not be as easy as it has the last four years (when they outscored KU 176-34).

Is the glass half empty or half full? This proverbial question helps draw a jagged line that analyzes why USC had such trouble with inner-conference foe Stanford. Were the Cardinals that good, or did the Trojans fail to find Palo Alto on the map? Like most 'either-or' type answers, it's actually a little bit of both. Like Cal in 2003, Stanford had been planning for September 25th, 2004 since the very first day of spring ball. Give it to Stanford's third-year head coach Buddy Teevens for having his kids consistently ready with the right call(s) for whatever the nation's number one would try.

Louisville will have something to say come October 14th when they meet Miami. Though not in the same league, holding North Carolina's Darian Durant to 80 yards and the entire Tar Heel offensive effort to 222 yards means they will not be a doormat like many mid-majors become once playing the Hurricanes.

Rice entered their annual scrimmage with Texas ranked first nationally in rushing defense. They ended up allowing 339 ground yards, which sent them reeling back to 49th. Hey, Rice almost beat them in 1999, ultimately losing 18-13. Do we have to remind you that Rice (Houston) and Texas (Austin) are only in the same state, not in the same league?

Harkening back to last week's column, the Big Ten was recently put up against the other conferences to see what you all think. Fox Sports is running an online poll asking visitors to rate the toughest conference. So far, the unofficial results have you placing the SEC as the toughest, with 30% confirming this opinion. Second is the Big XII at 22%, with the Big Ten a distant third amongst these acknowledged Big Three. This week did little to convince anyone around here that the Big Ten is playing an improved quality of football by any stretch of the ten-yard markers.

And finally…WOW!!! Tim "Pops" Frisby, a 20-year Army vet who walked-on to become a South Carolina WR, played the last token three plays in a 17-7 win over feisty Troy. After leading his team (as one of five players to do so) in pre-game calisthenics, he received huge cheers from the 79,000-plus Gamecock faithful. They ran it three times. Nonetheless, Frisby allows many of us (that are) aging to feel that much better about what coulda/woulda/shoulda been in our lives. Hmm, the last thing I heard about Pop's frisbee was that it was stuck up on the roof….