Bama is still Bama! — but not a lot of thrilling games. Mirroring the average fan's own physical state, however, the sport got tipsy as Saturday evening rolled in. And things got weird in a hurry. Let's review the top 10 games of what ended up a wild ...
For a while, Week 4 was your standard affair. Actually, it was something less than that. We got a lot of interesting answers — USC still has hope! Nebraska does not! A QB change looked good on Notre Dame! Bama is still Bama! — but not a lot of thrilling games.
Mirroring the average fan’s own physical state, however, the sport got tipsy as Saturday evening rolled in. And things got weird in a hurry.
Let’s review the top 10 games of what ended up a wild Week 4.
The last FBS-versus-FBS game of the weekend reinforced that EMU is a rock solid team that could very much threaten in the MAC, and that San Diego State is still very much San Diego State, powered by a run game and timely stops. Chase Jasmin and Juwan Washington combined for 28 carries and 155 yards, and the home team eked one out in OT.
Added bonus: the kickers! EMU’s Chad Ryland bombed in a 51-yard field goal in the first quarter, then SDSU’s John Baron sent the game to overtime with a 50-yarder. EMU had stormed back from a 17-3 deficit to take a late lead, but in OT, SDSU’s Darren Hall picked off Mike Glass, and then Baron knocked in a 38-yarder to seal the win.
Wow, did Larry Fedora need this one — his Tar Heels were 0-2 and coming off of a humiliating loss to ECU and a weather cancellation. But with a few members of the Jordan 13 back and perhaps a little bit extra to play for, they persevered in a back-and-forth affair. UNC led 7-0, 14-7, and 21-14 before Pitt tied each time, then the Panthers took a 28-21 lead into halftime.
A 1-2 punch sealed the deal for the Heels. Quarterback Nathan Elliott connected with freshman Dyami Brown for a 19-yard touchdown to give UNC a 35-28 lead, then Pitt’s Maurice Ffrench fumbled the ensuing kick return, setting up a 37-yard field goal.
Ffrench scored with 3:12 remaining, but UNC moved the chains twice and kneeled out a win.
ULM is not a team you want to play coming off of a big win. Troy took down Nebraska in Lincoln last Saturday, but the pass-happy Warhawks were ready to pull an upset of their own.
At least, they were until a 28-point Troy second quarter. The Trojans gained 237 of their 469 yards in the second period, then watched a 35-7 halftime lead fritter away. It was 35-14 at the end of the third quarter, 35-21 when Sloan Spiller scored early in the fourth, and 35-27 when Caleb Evans and Josh Pederson connected for a 23-yard score with 6:18 left.
Troy’s Tyler Sumpter missed a 46-yard field goal with 2:24 left, giving ULM one last chance. They moved all the way to the Troy 11, but Marcus Jones picked off an Evans pass in the end zone.
A 21-point win among the week’s best games? Hear me out: this one was about atmosphere. The UK fan base has never been known for its football passion, but you couldn’t tell on Saturday night. On a rainy night with a sloppy track, a crowd of 60,037 was raucous from start to finish.
Mississippi State had looked great through three weeks, but there were obvious questions about the Bulldogs’ ability to throw. UK impolitely reinforced those notions. The box score says MSU’s Nick Fitzgerald was only sacked three times, but it felt like 10. He was constantly under duress, the run game never got going, and UK’s physical run game took over.
Benny Snell Jr. had a decent 74 yards in 15 carries in the first three quarters, but he rushed 10 times for 91 yards in the fourth, and his 36- and 23-yard scores — his third and fourth touchdowns of the evening — put the game away.
And for good measure, Snell made it even more fun after the game.
This was everything you hoped a Wisconsin-Iowa game would be. Tight ends! Fullbacks! Lots of defense! It was overshadowed because it was on at the same time as Stanford-Oregon, but it still featured maybe the second-wackiest final minute of the day.
Alex Hornibrook hits A.J. Taylor for a 17-yard score to give Wisconsin a 21-17 lead with 57 seconds left.
T.J. Edwards picks off a deflected Nate Stanley pass with 38 seconds left.
After Iowa has used its remaining timeouts, Alec Ingold bursts away from the pack for a 33-yard score with 22 seconds left to make the game seem like an easy Wisconsin cover when it was anything but.
This kickoff. THIS KICKOFF.
The play meant nothing, as Iowa needed to score twice anyway. But I’ve watched it about 17 times all the same.
Cincinnati was favored by about eight points and won by four. Not all that unusual, right? But the Bearcats took one crazy path to a standard-looking win.
Step 1: Fall behind 21-0. Ohio played by far its best football of the season, forcing three punts and a turnover on Cincinnati’s first four possession and scoring three times in a row.
Step 2: Take your sweet time coming back. A bomb from Desmond Ridder to Rashad Medaris made it 24-14 early in the second half, and a seven-yard Ridder run made it 27-21 late in the third. But Ohio still held a 30-21 lead early in the fourth.
Step 3: Make your move. A Ridder-to-Jayshon Jackson score made it 30-28, and after an Ohio punt, Michael Warren capped a five-minute, 92-yard drive with a three-yard score with 3:18 left to give the Bearcats their first lead.
Step 4: Nearly give it all away. It took Ohio only three plays to move from its 25 to the Cincinnati 13 with two minutes left. With 1:30 left, the Bobcats were to the 1. But Jarell White stuffed A.J. Ouellette for a three-yard loss, then James Wiggins picked off Nathan Rourke with 52 seconds left. Whew.
ODU was showing promise not too long ago, but the Monarchs fell to 5-7 in 2017, then began 2018 in nightmarish fashion, getting their doors blown off by Liberty, losing to FIU at home, and damningly losing at Charlotte.
And then they beat a ranked Virginia Tech, scoring 28 fourth-quarter points. This is one strange sport.
The post-game celebration was both wild and cathartic.
By the way, good luck to Virginia Tech’s Josh Jackson, who suffered one nasty-looking injury in the second half.
Until the drunk evening session, this was the best game of the weekend.
SMU, in desperate need of a spark in Sonny Dykes’ first season, went for it on fourth down five times, converting three.
SMU took the lead via special teams, going up 17-14 on a 98-yard kick return late in the third. Then the Mustangs gave Navy a path via special teams — Navy blocked a PAT and returned it 98 yards for two points. Down only a touchdown, Navy sent the game to OT with a 52-yard CJ Williams run.
Then Dykes got even weirder. First, he installed deposed starting quarterback Ben Hicks despite replacement William Brown going a decent 21-for-29 (albeit for just 150 yards) in regulation. Then Hicks threw a touchdown (after a final fourth-down conversion). Then Dykes dialed up a two-point conversion winner he’d found on Google.
In the year 2018, Army nearly knocked a top-five team out of the College Football Playoff race. A season in need of some nuttiness almost willed this to happen.
In front of one of the largest crowds in Owen Field history, Army limited OU to 40 snaps, scored on drives of 9:31, 8:54, and 10:47, made a fourth-quarter goal line stand, and nearly completed another 10-minute drive to win in regulation. This was the most Army of upset efforts, and it was made crazier by the fact that, despite this being 2018, the game was televised only on pay-per-view, leading to more than 30,000 people watching on a weird dude’s Twitch stream.
OU survived. But holy moly.
Army’s Andy DavidsonMark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Okay, let me lodge a defense of Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal, with an obvious disclaimer of “Yeah, Oregon would’ve probably benefited from just kneeling and punting”:
The Ducks got the ball back, up 31-28, with 3:10 remaining. A 17-point lead had frittered away with a 21-7 Stanford run that included a controversial, overturned Oregon TD and an 80-yard Stanford fumble return. But Stanford had only one timeout remaining when Justin Herbert converted a third-and-3 to give Oregon a fresh set of downs while the clock ticked under two minutes. Worst-case scenario by playing things conservatively: you kneel three times and punt with mere seconds remaining.
Teams often don’t do that, though. Coaches are understandably wary of opponents sending the house on a punt block attempt without regard for roughing the punter. And when CJ Verdell ran for eight yards on first down, it meant Oregon was within reach of gaining two more yards and running out the clock.
Getting that close to a fresh set of downs is what screwed the Ducks. If Verdell weren’t within inches of a first down on second down, he wouldn’t have tried to lunge forward and put the ball at risk, and Noah Williams wouldn’t have gotten a clean hack at it, leading to Sean Barton’s recovery.
So yes. Cristobal made the wrong call. Oregon probably gets the punt off in a “kneel it out” scenario and probably stops a Hail Mary.
But in the long history of bone-headed coaching decisions, I do not place this in the 99th percentile, as most did on Saturday night. So uh, Cristobal has that going for him, at least.
Oof. I’m so sorry, Oregon fans. This was one of the ultimate stomach-punch games. The Ducks out-gained the Cardinal by 126 yards and used most of the evening as a coming (back) out party — after falling into mediocrity following their 2014 run to the national title game, they showed a physical, fast, and mostly badass brand to the world.
Then the touchdown got called back. And Stanford scored on the fumble return. And Oregon’s defense lost its edge. And Verdell lost the ball. And Jet Toner sent the game to OT. And Colby Parkinson scored a tip-drill touchdown in OT. And Herbert threw more incompletions in OT than in regulation.
And Stanford somehow, some way, escaped Eugene with a win. What a game.
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