Boss and Charlie should be two characters in a Howard Hawks movie. Instead, the two boys, ages four and three, sit quietly at the bar with their dads. Reasonably quietly anyway; there is only so much quiet a Sonic kid’s meal can guarantee. Boss goes by "Boss" because his full title is entirely too complicated (he is a fifth; I’m guessing his parents don’t favor "Quint" as a nickname). Charlie is simply a Charlie. I know this because I have a Charlie. This cotton-topped version gives himself away by crawling undetected under my stool, three seats away from his dad. The two dads to my right and the childhood friend to my left have watched a lot of college football together over the years at various venues. This one boasts Guinness on tap and formidable pizza, not bad. We used to watch these games among friends. Now, more often than not, we watch them among children. There’s not really much difference.
And you never know what will happen next.
East Carolina 24, West Virginia 3
What the…? Let’s get one thing straight; I am not surprised East Carolina won. But 24-3? Before Saturday, I always accepted the proposition that Pat White could score at least two touchdowns in his pajamas. Either East Carolina plays at a much higher level than I suspected, even after last week, or Bill Stewart is completely in over his head at WVU. Probably a little of both.
Ohio State should no longer surprise any of us by playing down to the level of a bad MAC opponent and then apologizing to their fan base afterward. This week’s contestant was Ohio, landing spot for the comedic stylings of Frank Solich, who was, of course, let go in favor of Bill Callahan, who, of course, proceeded to dismantle the proud tradition of Nebraska football in a manner that would make John Mackovic, Mike DuBose and Bob Davie invite him over to their table for a celebratory drink. In any case, the Solich-led Bobcats (not a good football team by any stretch of even Steven Speilberg’s imagination) thoroughly outplayed the Bucknuts through three quarters before our heroes finally prevailed in a "shaky" 26-14 win.
Can we retire the word "shaky?" Because my guess is that on the first day of journalism school aspiring sports writers are required to write multiple paragraphs describing the shaky performance of a favorite in a let-down game. It’s always shaky. Never wobbly, flimsy, unstable, precarious…OK, putting the thesaurus down. How about these: squeamish, timid, nervous, apoplectic, jim-jammy, queasy, seamy, befuddling, carking, blippy, mashugana and fallacious.
Alabama went all mashugana in an ugly 20-6 win over Tulane.
Utah survived a squeamish first half, but took out UNLV 42-21.
Wisconsin survived a carking start, but then overwhelmed Marshall, 51-14.
Texas Tech befuddled past Nevada 35-19.
This has potential. Next week we will work on eradicating "survived."
Washington, God love ‘em, got completely torqued by the officials, who made one of the most asinine decisions I’ve ever seen by assessing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Husky QB Jake Locker after a potential game-tying touchdown against favored BYU. The ensuing PAT, from 35 yards instead of 20, was blocked to preserve Brigham Young’s 28-27 win. What did Ty Willingham do in a past life to deserve this stretch of awfulness in his career (I mean other than fail to recruit any decent players at Notre Dame—I was speaking metaphysically)?
In the day’s best game, Central Florida staged a highly improbable comeback against South Florida. USF quarterback Matt Grothe delivered down the stretch to rescue a 31-24 overtime win for the Bulls after Delbert Alvarado missed a field goal that would have won it in regulation. I was left wondering why a family named Alvarado called a child Delbert. Somewhere deep in the woods of Appalachia, there must be a misnamed Ignacio Hatfield wondering who screwed up his birth certificate.
In the other Florida battle, which was a much less entertaining game with about a hundred times the hype, Florida beat Miami 26-3 in a game notable for the lack of Gator players who could block my late aunt Norma and for a curious Gator field goal at the end that had, it is my understanding, some impact on the betting line. In any case, Miami played swarming and, at times, overwhelming defense. Tim Tebow and the boys made the plays when they had to and Florida’s own defense shut down a ‘Cane offense that was, for most of the night, truly offensive.
USC didn’t play, but Georgia did their best Trojan impersonation by blasting a decent Central Michigan squad 56-17. Knowshon Moreno was not half bad.
Oklahoma had a few jim-jammy moments, but eventually doubled up Cincinnati, 52-26.
Ditto Auburn, who let Southern Miss off the mat a bit, but won comfortably 27-13 and Texas, who failed to play the third quarter, but did re-appear in the early fourth to put away UTEP 42-13.
Missouri bombed Southeast Missouri back to the stone age 52-3 and their Kansas neighbors shut out Louisiana Tech 29-0.
Speaking of Kansas, the Jayhawks travel to South Florida next week in what may well be a far better game than USC/Ohio State.
Penn State crushed Oregon State 45-14 at Happy Valley. Sports Illustrated tabbed Oregon State as the 18th best squad in the nation in their preview issue. That’s puzzling beyond belief and makes me think that even I could write for Sports Illustrated some day.
Then I think that I’m the same guy who thought Tennessee and Rutgers would win the Monday night games this week. Uh, no. Tennessee’s performance was particularly noxious, proving in the process that the Vols can give away a game just about any way possible and that Norm Chow and Rick Neuheisel still know a fair amount about coaching quarterbacks.
Oregon splattered Utah State 66-24, which is expected. Cal scored the same 66 on Wazzu, a team that must be a special kind of bad. Arizona State shook off some rust in a queasy first-half and pulled away from Stanford, 41-17.
Wake Forest beat Ole Miss 30-28 on a last-second Sam Swank field goal, the 65th of his career.
Paul Johnson has decided to run the triple-option with real athletes, the likes of whom don’t attend the US Naval Academy. So far, so good. Georgia Tech 19, Boston College 16.
Notre Dame escaped by the skin of Charlie Weis’s neck, well, actually it was far thinner than that, with a 21-13 home win over San Diego State.
The Thursday night special really was. Underappreciated Vanderbilt quarterback Chris Nickson led the Commodores to a second-half comeback upset, 24-17 over South Carolina. The Gamecocks had referred to Vandy as the "sorriest team in the SEC" after last year’s upset loss, but didn’t have any answers this year either. Actually, Vanderbilt hasn’t been the sorriest team in the SEC for quite some time. Mrs. Jones Top Ten will tell you that.
Impressive Showing of the Week: East Carolina
The rankings are minus West Virginia, naturally; but, past that demotion, I have jumbled them up even further than logic dictates. I am not ready for USC to be number one because Virginia may be atrocious. Let’s not kid ourselves about Ohio State anymore and I am serious about Florida: the next Miami defensive end they block will be the first. Oklahoma’s back seven looks like a potential horror movie and no one else is ready for prime time, although I am warming to Missouri. That leaves us going to the Dawgs…
6. Ohio State with Beanie Wells on the field
9. East Carolina
South Florida can take Kansas’s spot away from them if they are good enough on Saturday. I need to see LSU play somebody worth watching after they postponed this week’s game with Troy. Alabama needs to not read their press clippings from the Clemson game anymore and both Penn State and Oregon look very good to this untrained eye.
You know what? Even in a week with a schedule as lousy as this one, this sport of ours is not a bad way to spend a Saturday.
Rose Bowl Dreams: A Memoir of Faith Family and Football is the new book by Adam Jones.