Feature Articles

Illini Stun Buckeyes in Columbus

#30 ranked Illinois knocked off #1 Ohio State and most likely ended any Buckeye BCS title game hopes with a shocking 28-21 victory over the 15-point favorites at Ohio Stadium in Columbus today.

Illini sophomore quarterback Juice Williams tossed four scoring strikes in the win to move Illinois to 8-3 overall (5-2 in Big Ten). His counterpart, Todd Boeckman, was 13 of 23 for 155 yards, with two costly interceptions. The win was the Fighting Illini’s third in their last four visits to Columbus since 1999, but the first time in school history that they had ever defeated a top-ranked team.

Commentary: Ron Zook is the real deal and has turned around the Illinois program in just three seasons at the helm. He was 4-19 in his first two seasons (2-9 in 2005 and 2-10 in 2006) but has the Illini on track for one of the Big Ten’s plum bowl game slots with Northwestern coming to Champaign-Urbana on November 17. Stocked with lots of young talent, Illinois will have to be considered one of the favorites to win the Big Ten title in 2008.

Sun Devils Hold Off UCLA, 24-20

The Arizona State Sun Devils have made a habit of starting out slowly in nearly every game they’ve played this year. Today’s game against the UCLA Bruins wasn’t any different.

The Bruins jumped off to a 10-0 lead after the first quarter of play, holding ASU to 31 total yards and forcing punts on all three Sun Devil possessions. UCLA’s offense was nearly as sluggish as ASU, registering just 61 total yards; their lone touchdown of the quarter was set up by Terrence Austin’s 68-yard punt return at the 5:42 mark.

The Sun Devils finally hit the scoreboard with a Rudy Carpenter to Kyle Williams 3-yard toss midway thru the second quarter. UCLA’s Kai Forbath banged in a 42-yard field goal–his second of the game–with just over two minutes remaining in the half. ASU responded with a 53-yard field goal with no time on the clock, made possible by a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on the Bruins.

The momentum of the game was noticeably shifting, even though the scoreboard read 13-10 in UCLA’s favor at the half.

Aside from their loss to Oregon last week, Arizona State has owned the third quarter in each of their games this season. The Bruins learned that today as Arizona State scored twice in the first eight minutes of the third quarter to take the lead for good, 24-10. ASU’s first score came on a Dmitri Nance 11-yard zig-zag touchdown run, and then Keegan Herring ripped off a 71-yard score on their very next possession.

UCLA counterpunched on the ensuing kickoff when Matthew Slater went 89 yards for the score. It was Slater’s third kickoff return for a touchdown this season, which set a new UCLA team record and tied USC’s Anthony Davis for the Pac-10 record. It was also the final points scored in the game.

The fourth quarter was scoreless with the Bruins and Sun Devils swapping failed drives. With 41 seconds remaining, K/P Thomas Weber buried UCLA at their own 3-yard line with a perfectly executed, coffin-corner punt.

Bruin QB Osaar Rashaan moved his team out to their 31-yard line with seven seconds remaining. UCLA’s last gasp attempt to win the game came as Rashaan scrambled for a 23-yard gain before passing the ball across the field as a lateral to offensive lineman Shannon Tevaga. Tevaga rambled for another 14 yards before tossing the ball up for grabs in an illegal forward pass that ended the play, the game, and quite possibly, Karl Dorrell’s career at UCLA.

Standout performances for the Sun Devils were turned in by Keegan Herring, who rushed for 115 yards on 22 carries, including the 71-yard touchdown run, and Chris McGaha, who hauled in 9 passes good for 123 yards. UCLA was led by kicker Kai Forbath, who was perfect on two field goal and two PAT attempts, and Matthew Slater with his 89-yard TD kickoff return. The Bruins sacked Rudy Carpenter five times and backup QB Danny Sullivan once, with safety Chris Horton logging three of the sacks.

Both starting quarterbacks turned in marginal performances: Carpenter was 16 of 32, 201 yards, 1 TD, and zero INTs. Rashaan was 14 of 28, 178 yards, and his one interception killed the last serious fourth quarter drive by the Bruins with 4:20 left in the game.

Quacks Quash Arizona’s BCS Hopes

Dennis Dixon ripped off a 39-yard touchdown run two minutes into Oregon’s game against Arizona in Tucson, but six minutes later he left the gridiron with a knee injury and the Ducks were never the same. Without Dixon at the helm, the Wildcats mounted a 31-14 halftime lead.

Oregon fought valiantly throughout the second half to get back in the game, pulling as close as seven points (24-31) with 8:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. However, Arizona responded with a 41-yard drive capped by a 46-yard field goal off the foot of Jason Bondzio on their next possession to certify the final score 34-24.

Brady Leaf went 22 of 46 for 162 yards and 2 interceptions in a back-up effort after Dixon went down with his knee injury. Jonathan Stewart carried the ball 28 times and picked up 132 yards on the ground for the Ducks in the losing effort.

Arizona cornerback Antoine Cason led the Wildcats with two huge second quarter touchdowns that broke the game open. The first TD came on a 42-yard interception return, and the second on a 56-yard punt return.

Commentary: Dixon’s worth to the Ducks was proven in his absence from the game. Count him as a valid Heisman candidate if he manages to make it back for Oregon’s final two games of the regular season. Ironically, Arizona’s win over Oregon puts their arch-rival Arizona State in the driver’s seat to play in the Rose Bowl Game on January 1. That will happen if ASU can prevail over USC and Arizona in their final two games.

Bruins Whitewash Oregon

UCLA took advantage of the absence of Dennis Dixon and shut out the Oregon Ducks 16-0 in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Stadium today.

The shutout was the first time Oregon (8-3, 5-3) had been blanked since 1985.

UCLA’s swarming defense knocked backup QB Brady Leaf out of the game and the Duck offense was lame in every facet of the game, ending up with 148 total yards. Both teams will play their arch rivals next week to close out the season.

Commentary: Remarkably, the Bruins still have a shot at winning the Pac-10 championship and playing in the Rose Bowl Game with a victory over the USC Trojans next weekend. If UCLA upsets USC and Arizona can knock off their rival Arizona State on Dec 1, the Bruins (6-5, 5-3) would secure the Rose Bowl invitation.

Doak Walker Award Preview

The three finalists for the 2007 Doak Walker Award are Darren McFadden of Arkansas, Mike Hart of Michigan, and Ray Rice of Rutgers.

About the Award

The Doak Walker Award honors college football’s premier running back. In addition to game time performance, candidates for the Doak Walker Award must demonstrate leadership and exhibit the characteristics of sportsmanship and fair play associated with Doak Walker.

The award is named after three-time Southern Methodist University Mustangs All-American running back and 1948 Heisman Trophy winner Doak Walker, who is a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.

The winner of the 2007 Doak Walker Award will be announced on December 8, 2007.

Award Finalists

Darren McFadden, Arkansas Razorbacks

A junior from Little Rock, Arkansas, McFadden rushed for 1,725 yards on 304 rushing attempts (5.7 yards per carry) and accounted for 20 touchdowns this season. He is the SEC leader in total rushing yards and yards per game (143.8 ypg) and has scored touchdowns rushing, receiving and passing in 2007. McFadden is the only running back in SEC history other than Herschel Walker to rush for 1,000 yards as a freshman, sophomore and junior. McFadden was the recipient of the Doak Walker Award in 2006.

Mike Hart, Michigan Wolverines

A senior from Syracuse, New York, Hart rushed for 1,232 yards and 12 touchdowns in only nine games this season, and ranks sixth nationally in rushing yards per game (136.9). He is Michigan’s all-time leading rusher, and was a finalist for the Award in 2006.

Ray Rice, Rutgers Scarlet Knights

A junior from New Rochelle, New York, Rice has rushed for 1,732 yards and scored 20 touchdowns in 2007. He is the Big East’s leading rusher and ranks third nationally in total rushing yards and rushing yards per game (144.3). In three career games against teams ranked in the AP top ten, Rice averaged over 150 yards on the ground. Rice was a semifinalist for the award in 2006.

Who should win?

McFadden. There simply isn’t a better running back in college football this season, and that’s saying a lot because there are several great ones who will advance to the NFL along with the Razorbacks’ #5.

Davey O’Brien Award Preview

The finalists for the 2007 Davey O’Brien Award are Tim Tebow of Florida, Chase Daniel of Missouri, and Dennis Dixon of Oregon.

About the Award

The Davey O’Brien Award honors the nation’s top collegiate quarterback. O’Brien, a Texas native, is a legendary sports hero at the high school, college and professional levels. O’Brien led the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs to their first undefeated season, including a 15-7 victory over Carnegie Tech in the Sugar Bowl, and the national championship. O’Brien was named to 13 All-America teams and became the only college football player to win the Heisman, Maxwell and Walter Camp trophies in the same year.

After graduating from TCU, O’Brien signed a contract with the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL. In his rookie season, he passed for 1,324 yards in 11 games, breaking fellow TCU alum, Sammy Baugh’s, NFL record and was named first-team quarterback on the National Football Leagues’ All-Star Team. He retired after the 1940 season to join the FBI. His success on the gridiron was transformed into a life of service and success in the public sector. The Davey O’Brien Foundation honors his memory and continues to inspire athletes to live up to their greatest potential through this Award, as well as other awards and scholarships at the high school level.

Award Finalists

Tim Tebow, Florida Gators

Tebow is the first quarterback in college football history to both pass and rush for 20 touchdowns in a season. He passed for 3,132 yards and 29 TDs (217 for 317, 68.5 percent completion rate) against only six interceptions during 2007. He rushed for 838 yards and 22 TDs on 194 carries during the season, making him one of the most dangerous dual threat quarterbacks in the college game.

Chase Daniel, Missouri Tigers

Daniel helped lead the Tigers to the Big 12 Northern Division title and a temporary #1 ranking in 2007. He passed for 4,170 yards and 33 touchdowns against 10 interceptions (372 – 534, 69.7 percent completion rate). He averaged 320.8 yards per game passing, and 7.8 yards per pass attempt.

Dennis Dixon, Oregon Ducks

Dixon’s season was cut short by a knee injury three weeks before the end of the season. Prior to his injury, Dixon had led Oregon to a #2 national ranking and the Ducks were in sole possession of the Pac-10 title race, having defeated top challengers Arizona State and USC. In 10 games, he threw for 2,136 yards and 20 TDs against only 4 interceptions (172 – 254, 67.7 percent completion rate). Dixon also carried the ball 105 times, good for 583 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Who should win?

Tebow. The feat of passing for 29 TDs and rushing for another 22 in the same season is extraordinary, and Florida would not have been able to compete for the SEC title without Tebow at the helm. It should be noted that Dixon would have won this award had he remained healthy and Oregon remained atop the Pac-10.