By Dave Hershorin Managing Editor
October 25, 2004


We told you weeks ago about Kansas. Well, Mark Mangino & Co. took Oklahoma into the halftime locker room 14-10. But like all great teams, the Sooners stepped it up - 14 quickly became 41 while 10 stayed 10. Most noteworthy was how White catapulted himself right back into the thick of the Heisman chase. Did QB Jason White throw the ball 44 times, as reported by the NCAA, or 45 times, the number ESPN gave on its scroll?

And just to cramp our shoulder a bit more (through patting ourselves on the back), we joined many in the press ranks in arm-chair coaching Ohio State to insert sophomore QB Troy Smith as the starter. Well, Smith's 12-for-24, 161-yard, two TD starting performance was the quick-footed variable the Buckeyes' (then 111th-, now 99th-ranked) offense needed. His ability to initially make defenses hesitate allows the other Buckeyes (touching the ball) that extra split-second they've needed. Smith needs to be afforded the same room to develop as was allotted to now-bench-riding QB Justin Zwick. A rotation could eventually be employed. But for now, head coach Jim Tressel should stick and stay with what is working…Smith.

Iowa found out the hard way just how good Penn State's defense is. Hobbled by losing three first-string tailbacks, the Hawkeyes went before 108,000-plus hostile Nittany Lion faithful there in Happy Valley. Two safeties and nearly four quarters later, Iowa found themselves up only 6-4 with fewer than three minutes left. An unlucky fumble on the first ensuing PSU play led to their 12th conference loss in 13 tries. Well, that and getting a Paterno's career-low (as a coach) of just six Penn State first downs. PSU gave up only 168 yards, about half of what the Hawkeyes were averaging, with the defense even scoring the team's only points. It was the Nittany Lion's 11th consecutive loss to a ranked foe. Paterno's bunch has to win out to avoid the team's fourth losing season in five campaigns. The anomaly here is how poor Penn State is at QB even though they sit in recruiting-rich western Pennsylvania.

Notre Dame again lost to Boston College. There in South Bend, Golden Eagle QB Paul Peterson's 383 passing yards led to two TDs, the last with 0:54 seconds left, for BC's 24-23 G-d Bowl win. Impressive was BC's halftime adjustments - they won the second 30-minutes 17-3 while out-gaining the Irish 319-122. It was the Golden Eagles' fifth win in six years against their religious brethren. Even more impressive was how the entire team went and rallied in the endzone afterwards as several thousand of their fans, many who had made the 13-hour trek from Bean Town, were cheering loudly from an obscured upper section well past the final gun. This was college football at its finest.

Just as impressive as Oklahoma QB Jason White's resurgence is how unimpressive Purdue's QB Kyle Orton has seemed over the last two weeks. The guy who had 17 TDs and 0 INTs after four games now has three TDs and four INTs in the last three. Orton's pedestrian numbers are offset by the Boilermaker's lack of a running game. When 95 run tries only yield 207 yards (in those last three games), opponents' defenses pretty much know what Purdue is relying on most. Purdue's toughest opponent had been Notre Dame before two of the Big Ten's finest smacked them in the mouth. Both games were right there in West Lafayette, too. It isn't that Orton looks so bad. He's really playing hard-nosed football. But he obviously cannot do it all each week without more support. Now 5-2, 2-2 in the Big Ten, Purdue and Orton are quickly out of any races they were just in two weeks ago.

The Sooner's freshman RB sensation Adrian Peterson has instantly been put on a not-yet-earned pedestal by the media. Ok, he does join the company of Marshall Faulk and Emmitt Smith as the fastest freshmen to 1,000 rushing yards. Hazah!!! But the trendy nature of lauding whoever is hot surely does, in this case, undercut another Big XII back we here at think is much more worthy of superlatives and bragging (see Heisman write-up for week of 10/16). Texas RB Cedric Benson, the nation's leading rusher going into their game versus Texas Tech, had 168 yards Saturday, but seemed to garner little media attention. Compared directly to Peterson, Benson has more yards per carry, more yards per game, more total yards in the same amount of games - seven, more TDs, and more catches along with more receiving yards. And now, Benson joins Tony Dorsett, Ron Dayne, and three others as the only backs with four consecutive 1,000 yard seasons. Duration versus flash-in-the-pan…a career versus half of a season…respectable versus call me in 35 games when it might comparably matter. Look twice at anyone claiming to know college football if they think Peterson should get an invitation to New York and Benson shouldn't.

Talking about durable backs not getting due media coverage, another true frosh, Michael Hart, has Ann Arbor buzzing. His 73 carries for 443 yards over the last two weeks, to go with six catches for 45, all in two Big Ten wins, mean he too outpaces Peterson over that short span. You can do the math, but we reiterate what we just posed, about how (now two) backs, obviously better statistically than Peterson, just cannot get anywhere near the "dap" they deserve from the trendy American press.

Those who thought Navy was getting flogged when it came to national respect are left "eating Rice"… the men of Troy get a big nod for their 24-20 loss in "Death Valley". Troy held LSU to 57 ground yards on 36 tries as they grabbed three INTs. With only 150 yards of their own offense, the Trojan's defense kept them alive until there was only 2:18 left…Miami's offense seems to be on track after their 416 yard, 45-31 win over N.C. State's No.2 pass and total defense…Penn State last had two safeties in a game when they beat Rutgers 45-10 on 9/15/79. They last played in a 6-4 contest 11/2/29 in beating Syracuse. Ironically enough, during that historical week, the prime rate was lowered from 6% to 4% due to the events on Wall Street…Utah now has five consecutive conference road wins in the toughening Mountain West. But watch this week - San Diego State's 17th-ranked total defense might sneak up on them, just like they did on unsuspecting Michigan…Kansas State snapped a 29-game losing streak to Nebraska back in '98, and have now won three in a row and four of the last five if you include their 45-21 drubbing of the Cornhuskers Saturday…USC held Washington to only six first downs and 113 yards, but more importantly held them scoreless for the first time since 1981 (31-0 on 11/7 vs. UCLA). That was the longest I-A streak alive…speaking of streaks, Illinois lost its 13th consecutive conference game, a dismal 45-0 pounding by Minnesota…ok, streaks - Buffalo has lost all 24 conference road games since joining the MAC in 1999 after Marshall beat them 48-14…and in case you haven't gotten enough about durable backs, Kings Point (Division III) TB Jason Hardwick ran the ball 55 times for 300 yards in their 37-20 loss to RPI. He fell just three tries shy of matching the division record of 58 attempts set by Bill Kaiser of Wabash in 1985…

Nod of the Week goes to Mississippi State rookie head coach Sylvester Croom for getting his first SEC win. By defeating then-No.19 Florida, Croom sets a legacy in motion that can hopefully forge more opportunities for the huge pool of overqualified black coaches which unfairly/unfortunately grows year by year. The 38-31 home win also puts the names of sophomore QB Omarr Conner and junior RB Jerious Norwood into the national vocabulary. Each contributed at vital times in a game in which the Bulldogs never trailed. folded a bit early, eh?

And since we called the Terrapins out last week for their continued lacking offense, we must give them some recovery credit - Maryland earned 194 total yards against Clemson after being held to under 100 two weeks in a row. Though Clemson prevailed 10-7 in this snoozer, Maryland did hold Tommy Bowden's bunch (ranked an anemic 107th for total offense) to 2.9 yards per play. This week, UM versus Florida State's No.8 total (and No.2 rushing) defense ominously signals a tough remaining ACC slate that could send Maryland fans into (hiding in) their respective shells for the rest of the '04 campaign. And the whistle is screaming…