On a day of great games and glorious finishes, Ohio State needed one of those newfangled freshman quarterbacks. Instead, they had a sophomore who played more like a freshman than did the freshmen.
As a result, the Buckeyes lost yet another one of those monster opportunities for a statement that they have been trying to make for a long time. Really, they’re an outstanding team — just not one of the elites of college football these days.
The great teams have great quarterbacks, and USC showed that it has one of those, even though the kid taking snaps for them has only been in college for a few months.
Even worse for OSU is that Michigan has one of those can-do kids, too — a youngster who led a dramatic, corner-turning victory over Notre Dame, and who is going to give the Wolverines a real chance to lead a statement victory over the Buckeyes 10 weeks from now.
In the meantime, the Buckeyes’ superfrosh of a year ago, Terrelle Pryor, is still looking like a potentially excellent quarterback who is just good enough to lose big games.
Freshmen are supposed to be like that. For as wonderful as having a sensational freshman quarterback might be, it’s never as good as seeing that freshman mature into a sophomore, junior, and in some cases, senior quarterback. But as a sophomore, Pryor is being counted upon to be much more than their “quarterback of the future.” He was being touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate, a leader who had improved his passing, and whose decision-making was ready to show significant progress.
Not so fast. Not so much.
Give Pryor credit for his post-game leadership (“It comes down to me; I take the whole blame”), but he looked no different during his night of 11-for-25 passing (no TDs, an interception that led to a USC touchdown) than he looked through his potential-rich freshman season: Dangerous runner, inconsistent-at-best passer.
He was supposed to become sort of a new-but-better Troy Smith. He was being groomed to show a resemblance to Tim Tebow by now. But guys like Washington’s Jake Locker, Baylor’s Robert Griffin, Central Michigan’s Dan Lefevour, and Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Tayler (to name a few) are all more accomplished double-threat guys than Pryor.
His two-for-seven passing in the fourth quarter, along with a delay-of-game penalty and an intentional-grounding penalty on the last drive, show that Pryor still has lots of work to do. USC’s Matt Barkley and Michigan’s Tate Forcier also have lots of work to do, but they have the luxury of being 2-0 and possessing learning curves that seem to be pointing straight up.
How else to explain the dramatic touchdown drives that Barkley and Forcier put together when their teams needed them most?
Birth of a legend
Barkley was saddled with terrible field position and was foiled for much of the game by Ohio State’s defense. But when there wasn’t time for him to think about anything but getting the job done, he did exactly that.
In the final minute of the first half, Barkley led a 77-yard drive to a tying field goal by completing three of four passes for 42 yards, and running for six yards.
And, of course, during the remarkable 6 minutes, 10 seconds of the Trojans’ “must score a touchdown” 86-yard drive late in the fourth quarter, he completed three of five passes for 55 yards, including three third-down completions, two sneaks for first downs and the two-point conversion pass.
That’s 7-for-10 for an even 100 yards and two points in USC’s two most important possessions of the 18-15 triumph.
As Trojan linebacker Chris Galippo offered, “He played sooo not like a freshman.”
If the Buckeyes could only have said that about their sophomore star, they’d have been the ones celebrating.
Force to be reckoned with
Michigan’s Forcier was downright ridiculous at times in his 310-yard performance (240 passing 70 rushing) against Notre Dame, never more so than in the fourth quarter. He bolted 31 yards for a key touchdown, threw a devastating interception that led to a deficit, and then directed the most significant drive for Michigan in years.
Taking over at the UM 42, Forcier completed five consecutive passes for 51 yards to get the Wolverines close, and then finished it off by hitting Greg Matthews for the game-winning touchdown with 11 seconds remaining.
The 38-34 triumph and 2-0 start infuses a measure of gratification to go with optimism that has been so lacking in Ann Arbor in recent years.
Best of the backs
As USC was surviving in Columbus, Ohio, California was continuing to build toward its Oct. 3 showdown with the Trojans by putting a 59-7 rout on Eastern Washington to go with last week’s 52-13 rout of Maryland. Granted, EWU is not an imposing opponent, but the Bears did exactly what they wanted to do.
Through two games, Jahvid Best is averaging 10.4 yards per carry (281 yards on 27 carries). He now has a six-game streak of 100-yard games, in which he’s amassed 1,095 yards and 12 touchdowns — a gaudy average of 10.95 yards for his 100 carries in those games.
Taking care of business
Just as all the national attention goes to Michigan, and Ohio State’s near-miss against USC will garner the Buckeyes some respect for a valiant effort, let’s not ignore the fact that Penn State appears to be rounding into form nicely with 31-7 and 28-7 victories over Akron and Syracuse.
Despite losing outstanding receivers to the NFL, Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark is even sharper than he was last year. He’s completed 69 percent of his passing and is averaging 297 yards a game, and he’ll add to those numbers this week against Temple before opening the Big Ten schedule against Iowa.
New name, same stats
Texas Tech heads into Austin on Saturday for an opportunity game against Texas, with Taylor Potts the latest stat-stupendous quarterback under Mike Leach. Through two games, Potts leads the nation with 861 yards on 67 percent passing, nine touchdowns, and three interceptions.
Same name, same stats
As for efficient passers, Florida’s Tim Tebow is tops nationally through two games, largely owing to his five TDs and no interceptions. That means he has pushed his career totals to 72 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions. Now he steps into SEC play, leading the highest-scoring offense in the country (59 points per game) taking on a salty Tennessee defense.
Pick six … almost
UCLA sophomore Rahim Moore already has intercepted five passes, with a sixth overturned by an offside penalty in the final minute of Saturday’s game with Tennessee. UCLA’s defense is such that it’s going to keep the Bruins in every game. The 19-15 victory at Tennessee was accomplished with all sorts of un-UCLA mental and physical toughness. That and, of course, a freshman quarterback. But, unlike Michigan’s Forcier and USC’s Barkley, at least the Bruins’ Kevin Prince is a redshirt freshman who has been in college for a year.
Oklahoma’s last undefeated team
We would not have expected to see the only undefeated team in the state of Oklahoma head into Norman’s Memorial Stadium this week as the visiting team. Yes, Tulsa is 2-0, which is lightyears better than the 1-1 mark that both OU and Oklahoma State are saddled with. Golden Hurricane receiver/return star Damaris Johnson leads the nation in all-purpose yardage (240 per game).
Here’s a tip for you
Houston can credit a large part of its victory over fifth-ranked Oklahoma State to the Cougars’ concentration on tipped balls. First it was OSU linebacker Donald Booker deflecting a pass into the end zone, where unintended receiver Bryce Beall snared it for the Cougars’ go-ahead score. And then when OSU receiver Dez Bryant tipped a pass, UH Jamal Robinson tipped it to himself and raced 26 yards for the clinching score.
Let’s go streaking
Now that Washington ridded itself of its league-record tying 15-game losing streak, that means Western Kentucky and Tulane (10 apiece) have the longest current losing streak. Among BCS teams, Virginia’s six-game streak is longest — and it includes an embarrassing loss to William & Mary.
Utah’s 16-game winning streak is four more than anyone else, and dates all the way back to the 2007 season. USC and Florida are riding the high, wide, wave of 12 in a row.
A glance ahead
Thursday, Sept. 17
Georgia Tech at Miami (FL): ACC is offering up lots of key conference games early.
Friday, Sept. 20
Boise State at Fresno State: WAC game of the year? Fresno had Wisconsin dead to rights Saturday.
Saturday, Sept. 19
California at Minnesota: Another Big Ten/Pac-10 clash (Arizona-Iowa, too).
Tennessee at Florida: Where will Vols find an offense to compete with
USC at Washington: Trojans visit former offensive coordinator Steve
Nebraska at Virginia Tech: Improving Cornhuskers look for victory worthy
of national respect.
Utah at Oregon: Utes put nation’s longest winning streak on the line (16).
Michigan State at Notre Dame: ND looks to take out frustrations on the Spartans, who have frustrations of lost their own after losing to CMU.
Florida State at Brigham Young: If BYU wins, it could gain inside track to BCS Championship Game.
Cincinnati at Oregon State: Bearcats humiliated Beavers in last meeting (’07), 34-3.
West Virginia at Auburn: Another chance for Big East to make a bit of a splash.
Texas Tech at Texas: Game of the Year in ’08, but can Red Raiders hang with ‘Horns again?