Sizing up the winners and losers from the Saturday that was in college football . ..
Oregon can be forgiven if it wonders just what happened to it Saturday night.
On the precipice of blowing out Stanford, the Ducks instead had a touchdown taken off the board thanks to replay — and allowed the Cardinal back into the game almost immediately.
Rather than staking out a spot as the most credible challenge to Washington in the Pac-12 North, Oregon was left with a 38-31 loss while Stanford left Eugene with a useful victory heading into its annual date with Notre Dame.
The Ducks led 24-7 and appeared to have a touchdown in the third quarter when Jaylon Redd scampered into the end zone from the 17. But he touched the pylon (which is technically viewed as both the goal line and out of bounds) before he carried the ball over the goal line and replay officials deemed him out of bounds.
Three plays later, Joey Alfieri returned a fumble 80 yards for a touchdown. Less than three minutes later, Bryce Love’s 22-yard touchdown run brought Stanford within a field goal.
Yet to the Ducks’ credit, they traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter and were on the verge of escaping with a 31-28 triumph. But rather than taking a knee — which would have ultimately left Stanford with less than 15 seconds to do anything — they played for a first down. Then Oregon running back C.J. Verdell fumbled, Stanford recovered with 51 seconds left and zipped downfield to set up Jet Toner’s game-tying 32-yard field goal.
The Cardinal (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) got a score and then a stop in overtime to leave town with a victory. If David Shaw’s team eventually lands in the playoff, it will look at the twists of the final 20 minutes of regulation as a vital sequence.
It could have been the time when Oregon polished off a thorough drubbing of one of the Pac-12’s steadiest programs. Instead, the Ducks (3-1, 0-1) permitted a winnable game — and an opportunity to emphatically announce their return to relevance in the Pac-12 — to slip away in one of the wildest games of the season so far.
Kentucky. Thanks to Benny Snell’s four rushing touchdowns and a sweltering defense that flummoxed Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, the Wildcats rolled to a 28-7 victory and improved to 4-0. They’re also 2-0 in the SEC for the first time since 1977.
Every week, it seems like the baton is passed from one team to another as to who has the best chance to wrest the SEC East away from Georgia. First it was South Carolina, then Missouri. While the correct answer very well might be “no one,” it’s Kentucky’s turn to take on that role.
Kenneth Murray. The Oklahoma middle linebacker set a school record with 28 tackles in the Sooners’ 28-21 overtime defeat of Army. The Sooners ran 40 plays to Army’s 87, so Murray had the benefit of some opportunities. It was still a stellar showing for a defender who, along with his defensive teammates, spent almost 45 minutes of regulation on the field.
Texas Tech. Went to Stillwater and hammered Oklahoma State, 41-17. It was the first victory for the Red Raiders (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) against Mike Gundy’s program since 2008.
Ian Book. The junior quarterback injected some life into Notre Dame’s offense, throwing for 325 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for three more scores in the Fighting Irish’s 56-27 pummeling of Wake Forest.
Coach Brian Kelly changed quarterbacks after Notre Dame slogged its way through one-possession defeats of Michigan, Vanderbilt and Ball State. The decision paid off spectacularly as the Irish had little trouble with a game that looked as if it might be tricky.
Instead, Notre Dame is a third of a way to an undefeated regular season as it heads back to South Bend to meet Stanford next weekend.
Sonny Dykes. The SMU coach played for the win against Navy in overtime and was rewarded for his gumption. After the Midshipmen scored first in the extra session and made the conventional choice to kick the extra point for a 30-23 lead, the Mustangs responded with a touchdown of their own. Rather than prolong the game and risk a fourth loss in a row, Dykes ordered his offense to go for two. Quarterback Ben Hicks found tight end Hunter Thedford on the winning play as SMU (1-3, 1-0 American Athletic Conference) beat Navy at home for the first time since 1966.
West Virginia. Manhandled Kansas State, 35-6, behind Will Grier’s five touchdown passes, three to David Sills V. There’s an increasingly reasonable case to be made that the Mountaineers (3-0, 1-0) are the biggest threat to Oklahoma in the Big 12.
Texas. Ended a four-game losing streak to TCU, defeating the Horned Frogs, 31-16. The Longhorns (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) have won three in a row since their miscue-filled loss to Maryland to begin the season.
Tennessee: A run through the stats suggests the Volunteers had no business losing by 26 points to Florida. The numbers were largely even, and on the surface it seems like a game Tennessee should have been in.
Then the turnover total pops up. The Vols had six of them, leading to 24 points in the Gators’ 47-21 triumph. Outings like this are why Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC) probably has some more bumpy days ahead this season.
Louisville. You’d think offense wouldn’t be a problem for Bobby Petrino’s Cardinals, especially now that he’s into the fifth year of his tenure.
Then again, he’s never actually gotten to the fifth year of his tenure in any of his previous head-coaching stops (his ill-fated motorcycle ride took place in the offseason after his fourth year at Arkansas). And this extended stay isn’t working out so well.
The Cardinals (2-2, 0-1 ACC) managed only 214 total yards in a 27-3 loss at Virginia. Losing Lamar Jackson figured to hurt Louisville, but now the question is just how much the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner propped up Petrino’s offense the last couple years.
* Virginia Tech. It was a double whammy for the Hokies, who were utterly lethargic on defense in a 49-35 defeat at Old Dominion and lost quarterback Josh Jackson to injury in the second half.
Virginia Tech (2-1), coming off an unscheduled open date after its game against East Carolina was canceled by Hurricane Florence, wasn’t expected to have much trouble with a Monarchs team that had dropped games to Liberty, Florida International and Charlotte. Instead, backup quarterback Blake LaRussa threw for 495 yards and four touchdowns as Old Dominion knocked off the Hokies for most likely its best victory since reviving its program in 2009.
Nebraska. Gave up 20 points in the first quarter and 39 in the first half at Michigan. Things didn’t remain at that pace, but the Cornhuskers were still shellacked, 56-10. Early in the fourth quarter, they had gained fewer yards (61) than they had lost through penalties (66). They finished with 132 total yards.
Nebraska is 0-3 for the first time since 1945 and has dropped seven in a row dating from last season.