The Numerical, Week 6: Backup QBs, Blown Chances And Boise State's Brick Wall

BOISE, ID - OCTOBER 01: Jarrell Root #96 of the Boise State Broncos psyches up his team before the game against the Nevada Wolf Pack at Bronco Stadium on October 1, 2011 in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images)

Let us once again look at the numbers that mattered last weekend in college football, from Boise State's points allowed, to Arizona State's unanswered scores, to UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring's yards per pass attempt.

0: Points scored by the Fresno State offense versus the Boise State defense on Friday night. The Broncos allowed just 270 yards (126 on two drives, 144 on all others) to a team that averaged 366 yards and 26 points versus three BCS conference opponents. At some point, we have to accept that Boise State has a truly elite defense. We can move the goalposts all we want -- "Yeah, but they can't do that versus BCS conference opponents. Oh, they can? Well, they can't do it versus multiple BCS opponents. Oh? Well ... they can't do it against an SEC team. Oh. Well ... multiple SEC teams, then." -- and they're just going to keep proving us wrong. Even with schedule adjustments, Boise's numbers are ridiculous, and they will continue to be ridiculous.

2.8: Average yards gained by San Diego State running back Ronnie Hillman's 20 rushes versus TCU. The Horned Frogs' defense suddenly looked ferocious again in their 27-14 win. Hillman had no room to run, and SDSU quarterback Ryan Lindley was picked three times and averaged just 4.6 yards per pass attempt (including sacks).

3.2: Average yards gained by Texas A&M in the second half of their 45-40 win over Texas Tech. The Aggies tried as hard as they could to blow a third consecutive second-half lead, but Terrance Frederick scored on a blocked field goal return, and a nice Kenric McNeal punt return gave A&M a short field for the 35-yard touchdown drive that put the game away.

4: Oklahoma State touchdown drives that extended fewer than 35 yards in their 70-28 win over Kansas. The Jayhawks showed no sign of even pretending to stop the Cowboys, who racked up 600 yards (7.9 per play) for the game, but the offense did KU no favors by committing four first-half turnovers and handing OSU short field after short field. Pittsburgh did the same thing to themselves versus Rutgers: the Scarlet Knights scored on drives of 18, 14 and zero yards in their 34-10 win.

Tackles for loss made by Illinois defensive lineman Whitney Mercilus in the Illini's 41-20 win over Indiana. He made five tackles, all solo efforts, sacked Indiana quarterbacks three times, and forced two fumbles. Illinois' front four has been the key to their surge to respectability, and Mercilus is perhaps the scariest player in the unit. He has the scariest name, anyway.

5: Sacks made by Oklahoma ends Frank Alexander (three) and Ronnell Lewis (two) in the Sooners' 55-17 win over Texas. Oklahoma made a ridiculous 17 tackles for loss in all, and Texas' ultra-young offense just had no chance. Throw in five Texas turnovers (three returned for touchdowns) worth 35.8 equivalent points (as defined here), and one wonders how the scoring margin wasn't closer to 76 points than 38.

Consecutive wins posted by UL-Lafayette after their 31-17 win over Troy. The Ragin' Cajuns now lead the Sun Belt with a 3-0 record and have just their second five-game winning streak since 1995. Keep it up, and they could reach their first ever bowl game.

6: Yards gained by Syracuse in the five drives (and 16 plays) that took place after they scored to take a 31-14 lead over Tulane. The Orange went into a shell, and it almost cost them dearly. Tulane came all the way back to tie the game at 34-34, but 'Cuse avoided their fourth overtime game of the year by gathering themselves and kicking the game-winning field goal as time expired in a trying 37-34 win.

10: Receivers who caught an Andrew Luck pass in Stanford's 48-7 win over Colorado. Luck completed 26 of 33 passes for 370 yards, three touchdowns and a pick. It's almost like he gets bored back there. "Nah, I've already passed to that guy. Let's try this one..."

10.9: Average yards per play generated by West Virginia over a six-drive span in which they seized control of their 43-16 win over Connecticut. As is quickly becoming their custom, the Mountaineers struggled for a little while, scoring just 10 points and averaging 4.8 yards per play over their first seven drives of the game. But when they got rolling, the points added up quickly. Receivers Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin and Ivan McCartney combined to catch 20 of 29 passes thrown their way for 383 yards and three touchdowns, and UConn's hit-or-miss offense just couldn't keep up.

14: Tackles for loss recorded by Marshall in a 16-6 loss to Central Florida. UCF scored two quick touchdowns in near-monsoon conditions versus the Thundering Herd, then leaned on their defense. UCF gained just 188 yards after their first three drives and committed three turnovers worth 15.8 Equivalent Points, but it didn't matter because Marshall couldn't move the ball: for the game, Marshall gained just 130 yards (2.6 per play).

15: Points California scored in eight trips inside Oregon's 30-yard line in Thursday night's 43-15 loss. Oregon also made eight trips in scoring 43 points. Granted, a couple of Cal's trips came late in the game and resulted in turnovers on downs (when, if the game were close, they would have resulted in field goal attempts). Still, as Washington State learned against UCLA, you win with touchdowns. Wazzu settled for four field goals (three in the first half) and lost, 28-25, to the Bruins because UCLA was able to put the ball into the end zone. No matter how much you like numbers, sometimes the most important equation is this: 7 > 3.

(Meanwhile, Missouri had to settle for field goals versus Kansas State and missed them. All-American kicker Grant Ressel has now missed twice as many kicks in 2011 as he did in 2009-10 combined. It has been a particularly bad time for a slump, as he missed the game-winning field goal attempt versus Arizona State, two field goals that would have put the Tigers quite close against Oklahoma, and two field goals versus K-State that would have at least allowed them to go for two points to tie after a late touchdown that cut the Wildcats' lead to 24-17.)

24.1: Value, in equivalent points, of the five turnovers Florida State committed in their 35-30 loss to Wake Forest. The Seminoles lost their third consecutive game, thanks mostly to their own mistakes and their inability to generate any momentum through the air when they fell behind. FSU quarterbacks E.J. Manuel and Clint Trickett combined to complete 25 of 46 passes for 315 yards, but they threw four interceptions and got sacked twice in the process. (Major credit goes to Wake cornerback Merrill Noel. The redshirt freshman made 7.5 tackles, picked off a pass, and broke up three other passes.) Wake did manage 391 yards of offense, but they would not have scored the requisite points without FSU's own random bouts with ineptitude. Central Michigan, meanwhile, hurt themselves even more: their five turnovers versus N.C. State cost them 24.4 points in a 38-24 loss.

25: Unanswered points Arizona State scored in a 10-minute span during their 35-14 win over Utah. With 20 minutes remaining in the game, Utah led, 14-10, and it looked like they might be pulling themselves back into the Pac-12 South race. And then the Utes went Fumble-Interception-Fumble-Downs. With an average starting field position near midfield, the Sun Devils scored on four consecutive possessions and put the game away. Now, just three games into conference play, Arizona State has a 2.5-game lead on all title-eligible division rivals other than UCLA. Of course, ASU had nothing on Utah State: the Aggies led Wyoming just 21-19 early in the second quarter, then unleashed a 42-0 run to win in a landslide.

46: Length, in yards, of the pass that basically signified the end of the LSU-Florida game three minutes and five seconds into the contest. Jarrett Lee found Rueben Randle on a lovely bomb. (Randle was great all day: LSU threw only 14 passes, but Randle still managed to end up with 127 receiving yards.) To win with a freshman quarterback taking his first collegiate snaps, Florida had to hope for a serious defensive struggle. LSU made sure that wouldn't happen; the Bayou Bengals won, 41-11.

73.3: Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III's completion percentage in the Bears' 49-26 win over Iowa State. This is notable because it lowered his season completion rate to 'only' 80.3 percent. However, Griffin made up for such an awful (ahem) passing day with his legs: 21 carries, 130 yards and a touchdown.

90: Completion rate of the 30 passes thrown by Toledo quarterbacks Austin Dantin and Terrance Owens in the Rockets' 54-16 win over Eastern Michigan. They threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns in 27 completions; naturally, Eric Page was the face of this high-efficiency attack. Passes thrown to Page went 11-for-11 for 109 yards. Toledo and Western Michigan appear to be the class of the MAC this year; they meet November 8 in Toledo.

Of course, Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas one-upped the pair of Rockets. He completed 23 of 25 passes (92 percent) for 310 yards in the Hokies' 38-35 blow-a-big-lead-then-win-anyway win over Miami, and he threw in the game-winning touchdown run to boot.

173: Yardage margin of the third quarter of Georgia's 20-12 win over Tennessee. Tennessee controlled much of the other three quarters, outscoring the Bulldogs by a 12-6 margin and outgaining them, 259 to 182; but Georgia surged after halftime, gaining 184 yards in 16 plays (Tennessee: 11 yards in 11 plays) and scoring two insurmountable touchdowns.

201: Yardage margin of the Nebraska-Ohio State game after OSU quarterback Braxton Miller was lost to an injured ankle in the third quarter. Ohio State led, 27-13, when Miller went down, having outgained Nebraska, 305-171. Then, Joe Bauserman replaced Miller and completed just one of 10 passes for 13 yards and an interception. After Miller left, Nebraska outgained OSU, 252-51, and ferociously stormed back to win, 34-27. Quite a few backup quarterbacks saw playing time on Saturday, and with very mixed results. On one hand, Oklahoma State's Clint Chelf completed 14 of 21 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns as Brandon Weeden sat the entire second half of the Cowboys' blowout win over Kansas. Notre Dame backup Andrew Hendrix completed all four of his passes in mop-up time and ran for 111 yards in just six carries as well. Meanwhile, Mississippi State's Tyler Russell subbed in with the Bulldogs trailing 3-0 in the second half; he completed 11 of 13 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns as MSU avoided an upset. And Michigan's Devin Gardner spelled a dinged-up Denard Robinson for a few key plays in the Wolverines' comeback win over Northwestern; he completed two passes for 25 yards and rushed for a short touchdown.

Others struggled, however. East Carolina backup Rio Johnson completed 13 of 21 passes versus Houston, but he was picked once and sacked six times. Maryland's C.J. Brown completed just four of 17 passes for 36 yards and a pick versus Georgia Tech. And against Minnesota's backups, Purdue's Robert Marve was able to generate just 15 yards in six passes and was sacked once.

Of course, some teams probably only wished they had a capable backup option. Auburn's Barrett Trotter completed just six of 19 passes for 81 yards, a pick and a sack in the Tigers' loss to Arkansas; he at least had an excuse: seemingly every member of the Auburn receiving corps was out. Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg's 39 pass attempts averaged just 3.3 yards including sacks. Kentucky's Morgan Newton completed just four of his 21 passes for 17 yards and an interception. His backups were even worse: 0-for-5, three picks. Kent quarterback Cedric McCloud went six-for-22 for 63 yards and was sacked seven times ... for 63 yards. That's a per-attempt average of 0.0, and that's actually better than what poor UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring produced. He completed one of 14 passes for eight yards and an interception and was sacked five times for 32 yards. His per-attempt average: minus-1.3 yards.

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