College football: There’s always something new to see

Gordon P Smith Roar Guru

By , Gordon P Smith is a Roar Guru

1 Have your say

    University of Hawaii run-blocking (Photo: Jack Prichard)

    There’s an old adage about a different sport that applies more accurately to college football: no matter how many games you’ve seen in your life, you see something new every time you go to the ballpark.

    Saturday was a great example of that, and here are some of the more interesting ones.

    Two minutes to go in the game, and all the Michigan State Spartans have to do is convert a third down against the vaunted Michigan Wolverine defence, and their 14-10 upset of their in-state rivals would be complete.

    Quarterback Brian Lewerke fumbled the snap, and the play was busted. Fortunately, the American football (less rounded than the Australian version, not intended to be bounced and caught) took two hops and bounced up to him like a baseball shortstop.

    Lewerke took off, his center Brian Allen blocking for him. Michigan’s linebacker Noah Furbush was right on his tail, and caught him two full yards short of the first down line to gain.

    Almost miraculously, the QB and his tackler came down on top of the blocker Allen, and then Furbush rolled over them both, landing so that Lewerke rolled on top of HIM as well, and by the time the ball carrier actually hit the ground, he was on the midfield stripe, a full yard past the first down marker.

    It took three yards of rolling atop other players, but MSU’s Brian Lewerke managed to take a fumbled snap and turned it into a game-winning run, upsetting the 18-point favourites.

    That was hardly the biggest upset of the day, however. Recently, I wrote a piece here about point spreads, and the near-certainty of winning games when the point spread stretched past three touchdowns or so in American football.

    A counter-example reared its head Saturday.

    Iowa State entered the Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman as 31-point underdogs. Here are some of the reasons why.

    OU was ranked #3 in the nation behind only co-favourites and champions from ‘15 and ‘16, Alabama and Clemson. They were 5-0 and on a 14-game winning streak, the longest in the FBS. They had been the favourites for both the Big 12 title and a spot in the College Football Playoffs.

    Iowa State, au contraire, was 2-2 but winless in its two Power Five games. The Cyclones’ two victories came against an FCS school and the MAC bottom-feeder Akron Zips. They’d been picked second to last in the Big 12, and hadn’t produced any significant reason to question that forecast.

    ISU had won in Norman, Oklahoma, exactly once since 1961. (They play there every other year.)

    On top of all that, ISU didn’t have its starting QB, Jacob Park, and started a “walk-on”, Kyle Kemp, who’d attempted a career total of two passes before Saturday. He was backed up and spelled by a linebacker, Joel Lanning, who’d played QB earlier in his career and played on both sides of the ball Saturday.

    So, of course, Kempt threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns, including a game-winning precision pass from 25 yards to Allen Lazard to take their final lead with two minutes to go.
    How rare was this win?

    OU had not lost at all to ISU in 18 years (they play every year). They’d lost 20 straight against Top 25 teams, and had never beaten a top five team on the road. Oklahoma had gone 89-5 against unranked teams over the last 20 years.

    And on top of all that, with the Sooners taking multiple 14-point leads in the first half, they garnered the unenviable distinction of becoming the first top three team in 208 opportunities to lose at home after holding such a lead.

    Florida scored what should have been the tying touchdown against SEC rival LSU with two minutes to go in the third quarter, on Lamical Perine’s second short touchdownrun of the period. But as the supposedly ‘routine’ conversion attempt began, long snapper Ryan Farr hiked off target to the right; holder Johnny Townsend caught it but then tried to spin the laces and felt the ball slip out of his fingers as kicker Eddy Piniero swung and almost missed the falling ball completely, belting a duck hook woefully left to leave the score 17-16 in LSU’s favour.

    That solitary point was the difference between the teams for the remaining 17 minutes, and it was the margin of defeat for the Gators in the end. The conversion trio had not missed an extra point together in two years, but they never got the chance to redeem themselves against the Tigers on Saturday.

    Alabama-Birmingham bagged the biggest pelt so far of their comeback season Saturday because of Louisiana Tech’s kicking woes.

    Rather than leading 24-23, LaTech trailed by one because of TWO failed conversions in the fourth quarter. Their tying touchdown did not become a leading touchdown because an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Kam McKnight (who’d score the TD) pushed the conversion attempt back fifteen yards; the miss left the game at 16 all.

    Sydney Cup college football NFL

    (Photo: Jack Prichard)

    After a UAB major with six minutes to go made it 23-16, LaTech drove seven plays in 2.5 minutes and scored on a J’Mar Smith to DeJuawn Oliver 42-yard pass play. But that extra point failed too, after a false start pushed this attempt back as well.

    Finally, with their final drive down to Alabama-Birmingham’s 12-yard line, the Bulldogs played for a game winning field goal. Smith ran one of those “Center the ball between the hash marks” runs and fell to the ground, giving his kicker Jonathan Barnes the best possible chance to make the relatively standard 30-yard field goal (the length of an NFL extra point).

    This time, there was no false start penalty.

    There was no unsportsmanlike behaviour.

    The snap and the hold were impeccable.

    No, there was simply a hand up in the middle of the defensive line that batted the kick right back at Barnes, who was promptly tackled with the ball in hand. So the loss fell as the ball did: into the hands of their kicking game.

    Bowling Green won its first game of the season on Saturday, reducing the number of winless FBS teams to five: Baylor, U-Mass, Charlotte, Georgia Southern, and Texas-El Paso (which lost by just one in its first game for its new/old/returning placeholder coach, Mike Price). But the Falcons won in a very strange way.

    With 98 seconds remaining and down one point, Miami-Ohio was driving and was on the BG one yard line following consecutive 27-yard completions, ready to pound the ball into the end zone rugby scrum style, through brute force, and take the lead late.

    The announcers had already given up hope for the Falcons defence, suggesting that BG let the RedHawks score in hopes of having time left to score themselves afterwards and take the lead back before time ran out.

    Instead, Miami bobbled the snap, fumbled the ball, and a cadre of of Falcon defenders scooped the ball up and convoy it more than 90 yards the other direction for the game-clinching score. Bowling Green won 37-29.

    Unlike most of the games described so far, the seven-point favourite Western Michigan won their game over the Buffalo Bulls Saturday, as expected.

    Well, not entirely as expected.

    The final score was fairly high: 71-68. One hundred and thirty nine points. Had this been an AFL game, that wouldn’t have been a weird score; for American football, though, it’s outrageous. If you saw an over/under line of 51 and bet the ‘over’, congratulations.

    After the game was tied at 31 at the end of regulation, the teams went into overtime.

    Overtimes, actually. Plural.

    Seven of them, to be precise. Tied the NCAA record.

    They were tied at 38 after the first and 45 after the second. Neither team scored in the third. It was tied at 53 after OT number four (teams are required to attempt two-point conversions after the first two OTs; both were successful), 59 after the fifth (both teams failed on their conversions), and 65 after the sixth (same).

    Finally, after the Bulls settled for a field goal from the 8-yard line in the seventh overtime, WMU scored its tenth touchdown of the game, a 12-yard run by Jarvion Franklin, to end it.

    For an added piece of oddness, the sister of the Western Michigan tight end who scored their first OT touchdown apparently thought that touchdown ended the game and ran out onto the field to hug her brother.

    She was escorted off the field by security and tossed out of the stadium for disrupting the game. As the woman was being led towards the tunnel, a man who appeared to be her father came down to the edge of the stands and tossed her car keys. Perhaps she simply had to have an excuse to leave a seven-OT game early.

    Never saw that before.

    This crunching tackle is the most viewed Club Roar video of all time! It's in the running to win a share of $10,000.
    Watch the full video here