Week 3 wrap: Arizona is for real

BY foxsports • September 19, 2010

The last time we really noticed Arizona, Mike Stoops and his program were left dumbfounded by a 33-0 Holiday Bowl thrashing by Nebraska in December.

But Saturday night, after most of the rest of the country was asleep, Arizona showed that it might have learned a few things about itself in the offseason (perhaps thanks to that embarrassment at the hands of Nebraska?). Even after dominating Iowa for much of the game, they let all of their 20-point halftime lead get away from them.

Just as suddenly as the pick six that Nick Foles threw with 8:12 remaining, though, the Wildcats partially blocked Iowa's extra-point to leave the score tied at 27. Foles immediately led the Wildcats for the winning touchdown, and the defense rose up with the help of a deafening crowd, almost inexplicably sacking Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi on four consecutive snaps with the game on the line.

And so Arizona beat ninth-ranked Iowa, 34-27, on the Pac-10's day of six games against teams from BCS conferences. The Pacific Rimmers won four of those matchups, highlighted by Arizona's triumph and Stanford's 68-24 annihilation of Wake Forest, which didn't even kick off until 11:20 p.m. in the East. Those late-night starts serve to give the Pac-10 its own national TV time slot, but at a time when few people east of the Rockies have their eyes open.

But just in case you couldn't stay up late, here's an eye-opening stat for you. Through three weeks of head-to-head meetings between teams from automatic qualifier conferences:

Pac-10 8-4
Big Ten 7-5
Big 12 6-2
SEC 5-2
Notre Dame 1-2
Big East 1-5
ACC 1-9

Still, let's not get too carried away: This is Arizona's fourth win over a Top 10 team in the past six years, and the Wildcats overall are 29-31 in other games in that time.

Much of college football settles into conference activity this coming week, so Arizona can really zero in on its first-ever Rose Bowl berth. Yes, they have shared conference championships, but that's not quite the same thing as capturing a Pac-10 title. Arizona is just one of four Pac-10 teams with 3-0 records: High-flying Oregon and Stanford, and good-enough-to-keep-winning USC. Of course, then there is dangerous Oregon State (which lost a close game at TCU), and Arizona State (which lost a 1-point game at Wisconsin).

WELCOME BACK MARK: Just when we thought that Archie Griffin's exclusive club would continue to have only one member, Alabama's Mark Ingram reminded us why he won the Heisman Trophy last year and that he cannot be ignored this year, either, despite missing two games following arthroscopic knee surgery. Playing just over a quarter and carrying only nine times in his first game action Saturday, Ingram amassed 151 yards and two TDs against Duke.

Trent Richardson, who performed so well in Ingram's absence, averaged 8.7 yards on his seven carries Saturday (61 yards and a TD), but that was just half Ingram's 17-yard average.

This week, we'll get to see a terrific head-to-head Heisman matchup with Ingram vs. Arkansas with QB Ryan Mallett. That it's in Fayetteville, Ark., makes it especially compelling; it's a place that can help the home team immensely, which seems to be the only way Alabama might lose a game this season.

Mallet showed a nice sense of drama (as well as a great arm and 380-yard passing day) when he delivered the game-winning touchdown pass to Greg Childs with 15 seconds remaining Saturday for the 31-24 victory over Georgia.


MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH: For good reason, much is being made of Jay Valai's block of Arizona State's extra point with about four minutes to go Saturday preserving Wisconsin's 20-19 victory. But perhaps even more important was the 95-yard kickoff return for Arizona State just before halftime. It might turn out to be the biggest play in Wisconsin's season.

It's a play that every coach of every football team in the country can use: Put it in the video package as part of your game preparation this week. Every team needs to watch it. Heck, any coach of any sport at any level, any where can get some mileage out of this play.

When Kyle Middlebrooks caught the kickoff with 10 seconds remaining in the first half and raced 95 yards, Arizona State appeared to be heading into the locker room with a 17-13 lead (instead of a 13-10 deficit) and every ounce of the game's momentum. The only problem? Middlebrooks caught the ball at his own 4-yard line, which meant he needed 96 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

That's where Dezman Southward came in, running about 130 yards in all (down the field and back), and as the clock reached 0:00, he tracked down Middlebrooks at the 25-yard line. It was a great hustle play, but Southward couldn't quite pull down the streaking ASU ball carrier. That's where where Shelton Johnson came in; Middlebrooks had been knocked off-stride, and Johnson caught and pulled him down at the 1-yard line. And the half was over.

You want to talk about "just keep playing?" Even when you have run roughly 150 yards and are worn out and it looks like it's a touchdown. Keep playing. Just keep playing. Southward and Johnson did, and so Wisconsin is still unbeaten, winning by 1 point. With that kind of effort and doggedness, the Badgers will be in every game, and they might even be able to win each one.

TIDBITS

- As gutsy and imaginative as Mark Dantonio's decision to fake the field goal in overtime was, we'd have been describing him and his decision quite differently had the pass fallen incomplete. But it worked for a 29-yard touchdown pass, so they beat Notre Dame, 34-31. What we have to like about the decision, though, was that the field goal was from 46 yards out. Nobody would have blamed Dantonio for trying the kick (it's the "percentage play" … or is it?), but it was not exactly a chip shot.

- After the way Nevada beat California, 52-31, it should be noted that Boise State has another substantial hurdle in its quest for a perfect season: Nov. 26 in Reno. First up, though, is this week's visit from the Oregon State Beavers.

- Oregon leads the nation by scoring 63 points a game, which is the equivalent of a point every 57 seconds ... whether the Ducks have the ball or not. It is also the equivalent of nine touchdowns and extra points every game.

- With Joe Paterno racking up his 500th win as an assistant and head coach at Penn State, we can't help but notice that is the equivalent of a guy getting his first job at, say, age 28, then being involved in FIFTY 10-win seasons, and retiring at age 78. Mind-boggling.

- And so what does Arizona's rise say about Nebraska? Well, the Cornhuskers moved to 3-0 by beating up on Washington in always-tough Husky Stadium, 56-21. Freshman Taylor Martinez is something special as an option runner, and their defense is such that they must be considered national championship contenders, particularly because they get to host Texas on Oct. 17.

- We're still not entirely convinced about Michigan, but we're convinced about quarterback Dennard Robinson. He passed for 241 yards and ran for 104 more to lead the Wolverines past Massachusetts. However, the team's defensive shortcomings will not allow UM to get through the Big Ten schedule intact for a true showdown with Ohio State in November. And even if they are able to make that game mean a lot, Terrelle Pryor's maturation as a passer and quarterback (he completed a school-record 16 consecutive throws Saturday) gives the Buckeyes offense the consistency it has lacked in recent years.

- Give Virginia Tech the "bounce back" award for the week, following the embarrassing 0-2 start that included a high-profile loss to Boise State, and then the shocking loss to James Madison five days later. Saturday, the Hokies fell behind East Carolina 10-0 before bouncing back to win, 49-27.

A GLANCE AHEAD

Thursday, Sept. 23
Miami at Pittsburgh --
Hurricanes hit the road again; Panthers will have to finally get Dion Lewis rolling.

Friday, Sept. 24
TCU at SMU --
TCU is riding high, and cannot afford a letdown against old rival.

Saturday, Sept. 25
Alabama at Arkansas --
Tide takes 17-game winning streak to Fayetteville, where Ryan Mallett lies in wait.
Oregon State at Boise State -- Broncos' second of only 2 chances to impress against "automatic qualifier" opponent.
Oregon at Arizona State -- Ducks have won 5 in a row in series, averaging 42 points a game.
UCLA at Texas -- It's been a while (1997), but Bruins' last trip to Austin was a 66-3 win (aka, Rout 66).
Oklahoma at Cincinnati -- Sooners hit the road for first time, 1-2 Bearcats are dangerous and desperate.
Kentucky at Florida -- No kidding: Wildcats carry 3-0 record under Joker Phillips into their SEC opener.
South Carolina at Auburn -- After Alabama, these might be the best two teams in the SEC, but only one will be 4-0.
West Virginia at LSU -- Here's a chance for Big East to say, "We play major college football, too!"
Stanford at Notre Dame -- Cardinal is 3-0 and averaging 52 points a game; but 0-7 in South Bend since 1994.
California at Arizona -- Wildcats flying high after beating Iowa, but better not hibernate against the Bears.
N.C. State at Georgia Tech -- Yellow Jackets edged short-handed Carolina, and Wolfpack should be tougher.
Fresno State at Mississippi -- First meeting between these teams; will Ole Miss know to take this WAC team seriously?


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