Defense! Defense! Defense!
It’s a word not often associated with this “modern” game of college football, but on Saturday it was on full and glorious display in Clemson, South Carolina, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, as the Tigers and the Tide took major leaps toward a playoff invite.
There is an old adage in boxing; “If you want to be the champ, you’ve got to beat the champ.”
And after taking a Joe Frazer-like left hook to the jaw, when on the game’s second play, FSU’s All-America tailback Dalvin Cook broke off a 75-yard touchdown run rattling the orange clad home zealots and leaving the entire Death Valley Stadium in an eerie a church-like silence.
Thoughts of; “Here we go again,” echoed throughout the minds of most.
But this is not your father’s Clemson, as Dabo’s Boys, anchored by its swarming D, and a QB magician in Deshaun Watson refused to crumble ultimately dethroning the champs: 23-13.
But was the performance of the Tiger’s D, led end by Shaq Lawson, and backer Ben Boulware that separates this bunch from ghosts of Clemson past.
If this was typical Clemson football, the Noles starry tailback, who finished with an impressive 194-yards, but only 37 of those came in the decisive second half, would have come close to doubling that total with the game on the line.
Instead the Tigers D rose up and stuffing Cook on a crucial fourth-and-one with 6 minutes left in the game. WOW!!
The Tigers now find themselves 9-0 for the first time since the Reagan Administration of 1981, which is the year it won the national championship. Good for them!!
“We won the Kentucky Derby today, but we want to win the Triple Crown,” said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney.
In the other rock-em, sock-em head knocker, Groucho’s favorite team, “Elephant hunting the tusks were so firmly embedded we were unable to remove them, of course in Alabama, the tusk-a-loosa,” Captain Spaulding from “Animal Crackers,” the Crimson Tide of Alabama put on a defensive show not seen since the ‘85 Bears; knocking off the Tigers of LSU: 30-16.
Alabama’s front seven led by backer Reggie Ragland smothered LSU’s Heisman candidate tailback Leonard Fournette, holding the nation’s leading rusher to a jaw-dropping 31 yards on 19 carries.
To put that in perspective, the All-World tailback previous low was 154 yards against Western Kentucky. YIKES!!!
The game’s “show pony” was “the other guy” Bama’s All-America tailback Derrick Henry, whose talents were on full display, as he crashed through punishing the LSU D for 210 yards on 38 carries while scoring 3-touchdonws.
It was a performance for the ages, or better still, classic “old school” Alabama football.
And once again Saban’s Crew is sitting with a penthouse view, and as long as its holds serve, no easy task in the SEC, a second consecutive playoff invite will be in the mail addressed to Groucho’s favorite team.
Maybe the day’s biggest splash occurred in Stillwater, as the Cowboys of Boone Pickens University, otherwise known as Oklahoma State, won its 11th in a row toying with the playoff contending Horned Frogs of TCU spanking the visitors; 49-29. OUCH!!
The days of dismissing Mike Gundy’s crew are over, as the Pokes have played itself into a legitimate playoff contender.
Another missed call, another dramatic change in the fortunes of an undefeated, this time the victim was the Spartans of Michigan State, who fell to Nebraska in Lincoln; 39-38.
The Cornhuskers “scored” on a controversial 30-yard touchdown pass to wideout Brandon Reilly who clearly stepped out of bounds around the ten yard line and reentered the field of play catching the winning pass.
The referee standing right at the spot dropped his hat signifying that the player in question stepped out of bounds, but after review (how often have we heard that refrain this season) it was determined that Reilly was nudged out of bounds by corner Jermaine Edmondson.
But as the replay clearly shows to everyone but the replay official, Edmondson never touched the opposing receiver.
The Spartans shaken, but not done, marched to within range of a long field goal, but MSU’s QB Connor Cook was harassed and took too long to throw it out of bounds and the clock expired. Amazing!!
“We were surprised that the touchdown stood,” said Huskers coach Mike Riley. “We were getting ready for another play from the 30-yard line.” Double Ouch for the Spartans!!
On the local front the “Green Bay Packers of the Charles” otherwise known as Harvard Crimson football won its 22-in-a-row knocking off a feisty bunch of Columbia Lions; 24-16.
It keeps the Crimson on the march for its fourth consecutive Ivy League title (outright or shared.) WOW!!
On a personal note our pal, the newly minted Columbia Coach Al-Bagnoli, who established his reputation as the title (9) winning coach of UPenn has got the once moribund Lions on the cusp of roaring. Good for Al!!
Mark Whipple’s “Belles of Amherst” aka the Minutemen of Amherst (1-8) fell again, this time to the Zips of Akron: 17-13. YIKES!!
The game was played in front of 50,000 empty aluminum seats at Gillette Stadium as the announced crowd was; 6,228. Not even the seagulls were interested in the mess that is UMass football.
One wonders how much direr the situation becomes when the Amherst follies changes into independent status next season. OUCH!!
On Chestnut Hill all the foolish talk of finishing 6-6 and being invited to a bowl despite a pair of 1AA victories vanished in Saturday’s early afternoon darkness as the Eagles (3-7) lost its 6th consecutive game, this time to the Wolfpack of NC State;24-8. Ouch.
Back on the national scene: the Hawkeyes of Iowa remain unbeaten climbing to 9-0 for only the second time in school history defeating Indiana 35-27. Good for good guy coach Kirk Ferentz.
In South Bend the Irish continue to quietly move along after convincingly beating a quality Pitt football team; 42-30.
The Irish (8-1) with a looming season ending clash against Stanford in Palo Alto, remain, with some assistance, a live candidate for a playoff invite.
Another sleeper in the ACC is the suddenly scalding Tar Heels of North Carolina, winners of 8 straight, and a dangerous opponent against Clemson if it makes it to the ACC Championship game.
And kudos to the “smart kids” as Northwestern (7-2) down 21-7, stormed all the way back and beat the Nittany Lions of Penn State; 23-21 on a last second field goal.
While the Middies (7-1) of Annapolis crashed the party of previously undefeated Memphis knocking off the Tigers 45-20, while rushing for 374 yards in a game that wasn’t as “close” as the score. Good for Navy.
And as always, we close with the spirit of the gasbags of gasbags; our “Star-Kist” friend Charlie Weis, whose Kansas Jayhawks (0-9), the last college team he “fixed” fell to the Horns of Texas; 59-20. OUCH!! KU is arguably the worst team in college football. Sorry Charlie!!
That’s it from cyber-space. We’ll be up and running with our analysis of week eleven Wednesday evening. Until then, Peace, and listen to the music. PK