Thursday, October 25, 2007

College Football Season Recap, Part II

Picking up where I left off last night, with the top 5 college football games I have seen so far this season.

5) Oklahoma vs. Texas at the Texas State Fair in Dallas – A great college football rivalry, and a great game not in the least diminished by each team suffering a loss in the previous week. An exciting and even first half, highlighted by the passing combinations of Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and his duo of spectacular receivers Malcolm Kelly and Juaquin Iglesias and Texas’ Colt McCoy and his athletic tight end Jermichael Finley, winds up tied at 14 at the break. Texas took the opening half kickoff and marched downfield impressively, seemingly on their way for a tiebreaking TD until RB Jamaal Charles was stripped by Oklahoma’s Curtis Lofton just as he was going into the end zone and. A couple drives later, Sooner RB Demarco Murray made one of the most spectacularly athletic runs of the season, hurdling a Texas defender at the line of scrimmage and then sprinting 65 yards for the go-ahead TD. After Texas tied the game back up at 21 on their next possession, the Sooners took over and mounted what is quite possibly the drive of their season, taking the ball from their own 6 after a misplayed kickoff and marching 96 yards on 12 plays, highlighted by several clutch completions to Iglesias and capped off by a 35 yard TD to Kelly. The remainder of the game saw Texas fighting valiantly to tie the game back up, but on their last best chance, McCoy had a pass go off of the hands of Charles and get picked by Sooner playmaking defensive back Reggie Smith.

4) California at Oregon – Cal’s second appearance in my top ten games of the season, and one much more fondly remembered than their appearance in my 10th spot. This game was certainly expected to be an offensive shootout, but both defenses were in control of the first half, playing solid defense for much of the first half. Even the lone TD of the first half was definitely well-earned by the Ducks after a 15 play, 80 yard drive gave them a 10-3 halftime lead. The second half again opened with both defenses seemingly a step ahead of the offenses, but Cal’s second drive of the half which resulted in a 25 yard TD to Desean Jackson on a post-corner route seemed to open the floodgates a bit. Oregon responded with a quick strike of their own on a 42 yard TD strike to Cameron Colvin, and then Cal came right back to tie the game at 17 at the start of the 4th quarter, and then added another TD on a great move by Jackson after a little dump off in the flats that turned into a 32 yard TD to give the Golden Bears their first lead of the game. But again Oregon responded, taking a drive based on the short passing game all the way down the field to tie the game back up on a sneak by Duck QB Dennis Dixon. But on Oregon’s next drive, with the Ducks pinned inside their own 10, Dixon was picked off by Bear linebacker Anthony Felder and Cal RB Justin Forsett took three plays to go 21 yards and give Cal a 7 point lead with 3:11 remaining. But Oregon was not done and they marched downfield quickly, threatening the Bears until Dixon had a pass deflected at the line of scrimmage and intercepted inside the Cal 20. However, the Duck defense remained stout and gave the Oregon offense one more chance from their own 23 with under 2 minutes. They got big plays from RB Jonathan Stewart (26 yards on a great run after a little dump off from Dixon), Colvin (about 20 yards on a nice catch) and WR Jason Williams (another nice catch down inside the 5), but on the next play Colvin fumbled the ball while trying to reach the ball out over the pylon in the corner of the end zone to score the tying TD, and the play is ruled a touchback, sealing the game for the Golden Bears.

3) Auburn at LSU – LSU’s first appearance in my top 10 list, but I doubt this is the last time you will see them. LSU was coming off of two emotional games on back-to-back weekends, but didn’t have a chance to let down as they invited the Auburn Tigers into Baton Rouge. LSU may have been a little down in the first half as they turned in possibly their sloppiest half of the season and trailed 17-7 at the break. Things looked up a bit at the start of the second as the Bayou Tigers did add a FG to pull within a TD, but on the next drive, QB Matt Flynn hit a wide open WR Brandon LaFell down near the Auburn 20, but LaFell had trouble grabbing the ball and bobbled the ball up in the air where it was picked off by Auburn defensive back Patrick Lee. Then, on the ensuing Auburn offensive series, LSU All-American defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey is the recipient of a brutal (and illegal, although a penalty was not called on this play) chop block and limped off the field, not to return again. A couple drives later, after LSU had added another FG to pull within 4, they got a big 30 yard gain on a play over the middle to TE Richard Dickson and then another 20+ yards on a reverse to Trindon Holliday and finally a 5-yard completion to RB Jacob Hester for the go-ahead TD. After LSU added another FG to extended their lead, Auburn responded with a drive of their own, resulting in a 4-yard fade pass to WR Rodrigues Smith for a TD to cap an 83 yard drive and give Auburn a 1 point lead with just over 3 minutes remaining. LSU mounts a drive of their own against the clock and the tough Auburn defense, and, despite perhaps being aided by the officials on two different calls, got down to around the Auburn 25 as the clock was ticking down. On a 3rd down, as everyone in the stadium expected LSU to run a little QB sneak to set the ball in the middle of the field for their kicker, Matt Flynn instead dropped back and heaved a ball into the end zone where it settled down perfectly into the hands of WR Demetrius Byrd for the game winning TD with only one solitary tick remaining on the clock.

2) Florida at LSU – As good as that Auburn/LSU game was, it was not even their best game of the season in my opinion (and Auburn’s, I would guess). This Florida/LSU matchup lost a tiny bit of its luster when Florida lost the previous week to (hmmm, symmetry?) Auburn, but it was still one of the most highly anticipated games of the season, and it lived up to the hype and then some. The first half of this game was highlighted by Jesus Christ in Cleats, aka Tim Tebow, leading his Florida offense against the vaunted Tiger defense, and doing it well: ripping off runs up the middle and completing some nice passes to get Florida out to a 17-7 lead at the end of the first half. But LSU was going nowhere and they showed it immediately as Hester ripped off a 20 yard run on the 1st play of the half. Later in the drive, on a 4th and 5, LSU lined up for a FG but instead ran a beautiful fake with Flynn picking up the 1st down on a run (although this was only LSU’s 2nd prettiest fake FG of the year) to keep the drive alive. The drive would eventually end in a 7-yard Kielan Williams TD run to bring LSU back within a FG. However, Florida was not done, and as the LSU crowd roared and laughed over the news that USC had lost to Stanford, the Gators marched right down the field and shut up the Tiger faithful with a 30-yard TD pass to TE Cornelius Ingram. However, a couple drives later, JCinC had a pass deflected at the line and intercepted by the LSU defense deep in Gator territory and a couple of plays later, LSU was back within a FG. After stopping the Gator offense again, LSU had the ball back with time running down and the eye of the tiger. They picked up 20 on a 4th and 1 run by Hester, down to the Florida 15. Then, on the next series of downs on 4th and 1 at the Florida 6, they convert their fifth 4th down conversion of the night (on five tries) instead of kicking the game tying FG on another run by Hester, and then a couple of plays later Hester takes it the rest of the way in to put the Tigers up 28-24 with just over a minute left to effectively seal the win for LSU.

1) LSU at Kentucky – And as good as that Florida/LSU game was, that was still not the best LSU game of the season (although, again, you might get a bit of a disagreement from LSU fans here). One week after the huge victory over defending national champion Florida in the Swamp and one week before a huge battle with rival Auburn, LSU had to slip into Lexington for a battle with the upstart Wildcats and their phenomenal QB Andre Woodson. It was clear from the start that Kentucky had a little mojo going as their first drive ended in a TD after they had a poor throw by Woodson tipped by an LSU defender and deflected into the hands of 2nd string TE TC Drake for his first catch, and first TD, of the year. However, things began to look bleak for the Wildcats as the Tigers ripped off the next 17 points in a row, until Kentucky got a big 50-yard hit to WR Steve Johnson and then a 12-yard scramble by Woodson for the TD just before the half. However, LSU started out the second half strong too, ripping off the first 10 points to extend their lead to 27-14. But Kentucky showed a little moxie on their next drive, getting some good gains from junior RB Tony Dixon and from freshman RB Derrick Locke, and finally a 10-yard TD pass to TE Jacob Tamme. From there, the Kentucky defense clawed their way to a couple consecutive stops of the LSU offense, while adding two FGs of their own to knot the score at 27, where it remained until the end of regulation. After trading touchdowns in the first overtime, and then field goals in the second overtime, Kentucky got the ball to start the third overtime and picked up a couple key 3rd downs, one on a completion to Dickie Lyons Jr down to the 6 yard line, and then another a few plays later when LSU was called for defensive holding on Tamme. However, Kentucky had no success running the ball from the 3 against the tough LSU defense, and after getting called for a delay of game penalty (which may in fact have been a blessing in disguise to give them a bit more room for the passing game), Woodson found Johnson in the end zone for an 8-yard TD, delivering a beautiful strike under pressure and taking advantage of a fallen LSU defender, grabbing a 6-point lead after the failed mandatory 2-point conversion. After Hester picked up 6 yards on the 1st play of the next LSU possession, and then another 2 on 2nd down, Hester limped off the field with a bit of a leg injury, leaving LSU with 3rd and 2 from the 17. However, that was about as far as the Tigers would get, after the Kentucky defense stopped two straight runs up the middle by RB Charles Scott, sealing an improbable and perhaps program-defining win for head coach Rich Brooks and his Wildcats.

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