College Football: Week 12 Recap
By: Morgan Flood
Pitt traveled to Chapel Hill for a must-win game against North Carolina. The contest was also a must-win for the Tar Heels, as both teams came into the matchup needing to win 2 of their last three in order to become bowl eligible. The Pitt offense had a field day against UNC’s defense, gaining 523 total yards. QB Chad Voytik continued to show improvement from earlier in the season, making 11 completions on 16 attempts for 218 yards and a TD and rushing 10 times for 41 more yards. Still, it was RB James Conner who really shone – carrying 30 times for 220 yards and 4 TDs. Star WR Tyler Boyd (5 catches, 160 yards, TD) also had a great day, making several spectacular catches. Thanks to this performance, Pitt carried a 21-13 lead into halftime. The Tar Heels began to come back in the second half, however, led by dual-threat QB Marquise Williams (23/40, 276 yards, TD and 19 carries, 122 yards, 3TDs), who refused to be contained – Pitt’s defense got into the backfield several times but was frequently unable to complete the sack. UNC led by 5 with 50 seconds left thanks to a T.J. Logan (18 carries, 92 yards, TD) touchdown run, and though Pitt attempted to make a comeback, Voytik fumbled with 15 seconds left on a QB keeper after being flipped from a hard hit to allow the Tar Heels to hang on and win, 40-35.
#19 Clemson visited #22 Georgia Tech in an ACC showdown. Both the Yellow Jackets’ offense and defense ran circles around the Tigers, especially after QB Deshaun Watson (5/7, 27 yards), newly returning from a hand injury, was forced to exit the game after a knee injury in the first quarter. His replacement, Cole Stoudt (3/11, 19 yards, 3 INT), had two of the three interceptions he threw returned for touchdowns. The Tigers were also unable to stop the GT triple-option offense, which gained a total of 353 yards, 251 of which were accounted for on the ground. Tech QB Justin Thomas also had a good day through the air, completing 8/11 for 102 yards and a TD. Georgia Tech flattened Clemson, 28-6, though victory did not come without a cost; RB Broderick Snoddy (2 carries, 51 yards) was carted off the field just a few plays after a career long rush of 46 yards with an apparent broken leg.
#21 Duke hosted Virginia Tech, and despite sacking Hokie QB Michael Brewer (12/23, 138 yards, 2 TDs, INT) six times, holding VT to a woeful 2/15 on third down conversions, and holding a 10-0 lead eight minutes into the first quarter, the Blue Devils found a way to keep the Hokies in the game…turnovers. Duke QB Anthony Boone completed only 18/40 for 181 yards and 2 crucial INTs. Two of Virginia Tech’s three scoring drives came off of those picks, and the third was thanks to DeVon Edwards fumbling a kickoff. The Hokies defense also managed to hold Duke to field goals where it counted, and thanks to Blue Devil kicker Ross Martin missing 3 of his 5 attempts on the day including a critical late fourth quarter attempt. VT held on to get another road upset this season, 17-16.
#8 Ohio State faced #25 Minnesota in frigid, snowy Minneapolis. The Buckeye offense, and especially QB J.T. Barrett, put on a show, with Barrett completing 15/20 for 200 yards, 3 TDs, and an INT as well as rushing 17 times for 189 yards and another TD, an Ohio State record for quarterbacks. Despite receiving the ball three times from Buckeye turnovers, the Golden Gophers under QB Mitch Leidner (7/19, 85 yards, 2 INT and 12 carries, 56 yards) were unable to really capitalize, though RB David Cobb had a solid performance, carrying 27 times for 145 yards and 3 touchdowns. He could not carry the entire team to victory, however, and Minnesota lost their 37th of 39 games against Ohio State since 1966, 24-13.
#4 TCU took on Kansas in a Big 12 game that most expected to be an easy victory for the Horned Frogs, but the Jayhawks were unwilling to allow it to be that simple. Though TCU scored first, and quickly, Kansas, led by QB Michael Cummings (19/37, 332 yards, 2 TDs, INT) and WR Jimmay Mundine (7 catches, 137 yards, TD) kicked it into high gear. After benefiting from a TCU penalty for roughing the punter to keep a drive alive, the Jayhawks attempted a field goal, and on a bad snap holder and backup QB T.J. Millweard was able to keep his composure and throw the ball for a first down. The luck kept flowing Kansas’ way when a Horned Frog player swatted at a pass and Jayhawk Nick Harwell (4 catches, 28 yards) was able to miraculously catch it. Kansas would go on to score on that drive, and would score again in the second quarter to take their first lead going into the half over an AP ranked team since 2008, 13-10. After the break, the Jayhawks kept the upset bid going, and with 8 minutes left in the third quarter held a 27-17 lead after an amazing 78 yard TD catch by WR Nigel King (5 catches, 128 yards, TD). However, Treyvone Boykin (26/36, 330 yards, TD, INT) and the Horned Frogs were not about to give up, and managed to score two touchdowns in the space of 70 seconds – one on a 24 yard rush by RB Aaron Green (19 carries, 128 yards, 2 TDs) and one on a punt return to take a 4 point lead. Though the Jayhawks attempted to make a comeback with three minutes left, Cummings threw his only pick of the game on that drive, and TCU survived, 34-30.
In a battle for SEC West supremacy, #5 Alabama hosted #1 Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa. Defensive play was key in this one, with the Crimson Tide defense holding the Bulldogs to a woeful 5/16 on third down conversions, as well as opening the scoring with a safety. The Tide also pressured Heisman hopeful QB Dak Prescott into his worst game of the season – he went 27/48 for 290 yards and 2 TDs and 3 INTs and carried 22 times for 82 yards. Meanwhile, Alabama QB Blake Sims (19/31, 211 yards, TD), RBs T.J. Yeldon (16 carries, 72 yards, TD) and Derrick Henry (11 carries, 36 yards) and star WR Amari Cooper (8 catches, 88 yards, TD) led the way for the Tide in their upset of the previously undefeated Bulldogs, 25-20.
#14 Arizona and Washington played a classic PAC-12 thriller in Tuscon in which the Huskies kept it much closer than nearly anyone expected and in some ways dominated, outgaining the Wildcats 504 yards to 375 in thanks largely to QB Cyler Miles (20/29, 223 yards) and RB Dwayne Washington (19 carries, 148 yards, 2 TDs). However, turnovers were a problem for Washington, as was a botched snap that caused a missed extra point that would come back to haunt them. The Huskies fumbled the ball away three times, with the last of those coming on a slightly baffling decision to run the ball with 1:23 to go despite holding a 2 point lead instead of taking a knee to run out the clock. Arizona, led by QB Anu Solomon (17/39, 242 yards, 2 INTs) and RB Nick Wilson (30 carries, 104 yards, 2 TDs) then made a short drive into field goal range and their kicker, Casey Skowron made a 47-yarder as time expired to save the Wildcats from the upset, 27-26.
#20 Wisconsin welcomed #16 Nebraska to Camp Randall for a key B1G matchup and a showdown between two of the best runningbacks in the nation – Badger Melvin Gordon and Cornhusker Ameer Abdullah. Nebraska’s defense found itself unable to stop the Wisconsin rushing attack; the Badgers racked up 627 total yards, 581 of which came on the ground. Melvin Gordon accounted for 408 of those rushing yards and 4 TDs on 30 carries to break LaDainian Tomlinson’s FBS single game rushing yard record and to lead Wisconsin to a backbreaking victory over Nebraska, 59-24.
Northwestern played #18 Notre Dame in a shootout in South Bend. Northwestern, which last week had -9 rushing yards in a loss against Michigan, somehow found its legs and ran for 263 yards, 143 of which were accounted for on 23 carries by RB Justin Jackson, who also had a TD. Wildcat QB Trevor Siemian backed up this effort by completing 30/48 for 284 yards, a TD, and 2 INTs and rushing 10 times for 32 yards and another TD. The Fighting Irish offense was led by QB Everett Golson (21/40, 287 yards, 3 TDs, INT and 10 carries, 78 yards, TD) and RB Tarean Folston (20 carries, 106 yards, TD). In the end of this back-and-forth barnburner, however, it came down to kicking. Wildcat kicker Jack Mitchell did not let a mid-fourth quarter block on a 43-yard attempt get into his head and swiftly made a 45-yarder with 19 seconds left to tie and go into overtime. He followed that with the game winning 41-yarder following the Irish’s kicker Kyle Brindza’s 42-yard miss to push the Wildcats to a shocking upset, 43-40.
#23 Utah and Stanford faced off in a characteristically back-and-forth, defensive struggle of a game. At the end of regulation and after an entirely scoreless second half, the game stood knotted at 7, so into overtime went the Utes and the Cardinal. In overtime the Utes struck first, on a long pass play from QB Travis Wilson (21/28, 177 yards, 2 TDs) to WR Kaelin Clay (2 catches, 31 yards, TD), but the Cardinal were able to answer right back with a reception by TE Austin Hooper (2 catches, 22 yards, TD) from QB Kevin Hogan (17/27, 104 yards, 2 TDs) to push the game into a second overtime. In the ensuing overtime, Utah drove Stanford back to force Cardinal kicker Jordan Williamson to attempt a 51-yard field goal, which he made. The Utes then scored a TD on a short pass from Wilson to WR Kenneth Scott (4 catches, 71 yards, TD) to lift them over the Cardinal, 20-17.
The 2014 edition of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry marked the return of #15 Georgia’s star RB, Todd Gurley, following a 4-game suspension for impermissible benefits as the Bulldogs hosted #9 Auburn in Athens. Though the Tigers scored first, on a 26-yard run by star RB Cameron Artis-Payne (20 carries, 86 yards, TD) that would be their only score of the game. The Georgia defense held Auburn to only 292 yards and was aided by Auburn turning the ball over three times, one of which was a pick thrown by Nick Marshall (11/23, 112 yards, INT), who had a less than stellar day. On offense the Bulldogs were led by freshman RB Nick Chubb (19 carries, 144 yards, 2 TDs) and the aforementioned Todd Gurley (29 carries, 138 yards, TD), who tragically went out with a torn ACL with five minutes left in the game, and backed up by a serviceable performance (10/19, 123 yards, TD) from QB Hutson Mason. Thanks to all that, Georgia avenged their shocking loss at Auburn from last year in commanding fashion, 34-7.
In the ACC’s marquee matchup of the week, Miami hosted #3 Florida State. As has seemingly been standard operating procedure for the Seminoles this season, they trailed by a large margin in the first half – 16-0 early in the second quarter and 23-10 at the half – before coming back after the break. With 7 minutes left, the Hurricanes, led by QB Brad Kaaya (16/34, 316 yards, 2 TDs, INT) and feature RB Duke Johnson (27 carries, 130 yards, TD) clung on to a slim 26-23 lead, but FSU QB Jameis Winston (25/42, 304 yards, TD, INT) was able to engineer a scoring drive where RB Dalvin Cook (7 carries, 92 yards, 2 TDs) punched it in for a TD with 3 minutes left to take the lead. Upon receiving the ball back, Miami attempted to score and complete their upset bid on the undefeated Seminoles, but Kaaya was picked off on a long fourth-down pass attempt to kill the ‘Canes’ dreams of victory. The ‘Noles survived the thriller to remain unbeaten, 30-26.
#17 LSU faced unranked Arkansas, and despite the Razorbacks’ 17-game SEC losing streak, they dominated this one from top to bottom. LSU was entirely unable to get anything going on offense, only gaining 123 total yards, with QB Anthony Jennings completing 12/22 for a pitiful 87 yards. Arkansas, however, had a better time, with QB Brandon Allen completing 16/27 for 169 yards and RBs Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins rushing for a TD apiece. Razorback fans stormed the field to celebrate winning the Battle of the Boot as well as finally snapping their SEC losing streak in commanding fashion, 17-0.
Oregon State hosted #6 Arizona State in Corvallis for the week’s nightcap. The Beavers are notorious for playing spoiler to teams with PAC-12 championship hopes, and this tendency has rarely been more evident than on Saturday night. Oregon State QB Sean Mannion (19/33, 251 yards, 2 TDs, INT) and RBs Terron Ward (19 carries, 148 yards, TD) and Storm Woods (11 caries, 125 yards, TD), led the charge and were able to keep it close with Taylor Kelly (22/44, 264 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs), D.J. Foster (14 carries, 51 yards, and 8 catches, 65 yards, TD) and the Sun Devils. Down 6 with about 11 minutes left in the game, Oregon State star Jordan Villamin (4 catches, 127 yards, TD) made a long catch to allow the Beavers to take a 1-point lead. Later in the fourth quarter, Oregon State LB Michael Doctor picked off Taylor Kelly to score again, and on their very last drive the Sun Devils were unable to convert on 4th-and-2 thanks to a ferocious sack by D.J. Alexander. Despite temperatures in the 20s, Beaver fans rushed the field to celebrate their huge upset win, 27-15.
Other Scores: Buffalo 55, Akron 24; Northern Illinois 27, Toledo 24; Massachusetts 24, Ball State 10; Bowling Green 30, Kent State 20; Cincinnati 54, East Carolina 46; UTSA 12, Southern Miss 10; USC 38, Cal 30; UCF 31, Tulsa 7; Penn State 30, Temple 13, Western Kentucky 52, Army 24; Iowa 30, Illinois 14; South Carolina 23, Florida 20 (OT); Central Michigan 34, Miami (OH) 27; Air Force 45, Nevada 38 (OT); Western Michigan 51, Eastern Michigan 7; Marshall 41, Rice 14; NC State 42, Wake Forest 13; Appalachian State 37, Arkansas State 32; Navy 52, Georgia Southern 19; Memphis 38, Tulane 7; Florida International 38, Middle Tennessee 28; Oklahoma 42, Texas Tech 30; Rutgers 45, Indiana 23; Utah State 28, New Mexico 21; Tennessee 50, Kentucky 16; Hawaii 13, San Jose State 0; Troy 34, Idaho 17; Louisiana-Lafayette 34, Louisiana Monroe 27; BYU 42, UNLV 23; Missouri 34, #24 Texas A&M 27; South Alabama 24, Texas State 20; Texas 28, Oklahoma State 7; #12 Michigan State 37, Maryland 15;South Florida 14, SMU 13; UTEP 35, North Texas 17; Boise State 38, SDSU 29
Note: all rankings are from the College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday, November 11.