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The Numerical, Week 3: Big hearts and big runs

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Week 3 of the 2013 college football season was one for obscene passing numbers, huge runs, creatively bad officiating, and Eric LeGrand.

Eric Francis

2006. "Psssh, call us when you recover an onside kick, and Pac-12 refs give your opponent the ball anyway." -- Oklahoma

Every conference has bad officials, and every official has bad games. We know this. But the Pac-12 has figured out ways to get creative with its occasional officiating awfulness, hasn't it?

There were 12 seconds remaining when Arizona State players piled onto the ball following Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave's awkward kneeldown. Yes, it was awkward, and yes, Wisconsin was potentially getting too cute in attempting to pull off the kneel-and-spike combination. But the ref blew the whistle in acceptance of Stave's kneel, and Wisconsin was immediately in position to snap and spike the ball. I understand that there was confusion, and I don't actually think ASU's defense should have been penalized for delay of game ... but I have absolutely, positively no idea how the refs didn't confer and put eight or nine seconds back on the clock. Refs confer about everything, and they didn't confer for that.

In general, it wasn't the best week for officials. Wisconsin-Arizona State was the most creative, but among others, you also had TCU suffering from a series of strange calls in a Thursday night loss to Texas Tech (the kick catch interference penalty was insanely bad). You also had Akron losing precious seconds to some odd time-keeping in the closing moments of its upset bid to Michigan, though that one didn't matter since the Zips failed on fourth down on the final play anyway.

Some weeks, the refs stay mostly hidden. Well, fans of losing teams will always say they were screwed, but some weeks they are mostly wrong in thinking so. And some weeks are like this past one.

If Wisconsin is lucky, the Badgers will look back on the Arizona State clock issues like Oklahoma fans still look back at that Oregon loss. The Sooners would lose only once more in 2006 -- to Texas two games later -- and would go on to finish 11-2 and win the Big 12 title. (They would then suffer an even more memorable loss to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.) The Oregon loss cost them probably three to five spots in the polls, and the AP had them seventh at the end of the regular season. Granted, their lackluster computer rankings would have probably prevented them from catching other one-loss teams like Florida or Michigan in the final BCS standings, and granted, the in-transition Sooners weren't nearly as good as Florida or Michigan in 2006 (or even four-loss Tennessee), but this was still a particularly damaging loss. And if Wisconsin finishes 11-2 with a conference title, I'm pretty sure they'd take that. But this loss was tough to swallow regardless.

1954. The last time Fordham had beaten a current member of FBS before its 30-29 win over Temple. The Rams beat Rutgers, 13-7, on October 2, 1954 -- the No. 1 song in the country: Rosemary Clooney's "Hey There" -- then dropped football at the end of the season. They picked football back up as a club sport in 1964 and have once again risen (relatively speaking) in the FCS ranks. And when Michael Nebrich completed a scrambling, 29-yard heave to Sam Ajala with four seconds left, they had their biggest win in quite a long time. Hey there, Temple. You've got some work to do.

458. Length, in seconds, of the drive that salted away Iowa's 27-21 rivalry win over Iowa State. Quarterback Jake Rudock capped a 15-play, 73-yard, 7:38 drive with a one-yard plunge that put the Hawkeyes up, 27-7. Iowa averaged just 4.6 yards per play, and Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock averaged just 4.1 yards in 48 carries, but in a vacuum, that felt like good, old-fashioned Iowa football. Meanwhile, Notre Dame ate up the final 7:22 of clock in a 13-play, 61-yard drive that featured four third-down conversions.

236. Yards gained by UCLA in the third quarter of an emotional 41-21 win at Nebraska. Down 21-3 at one point, the Bruins went on a 38-0 run to pull away.

The Bruins' run was perhaps the most visible of the week, but Week 3 was one of dramatic runs in general. Florida State and Oregon each went on 59-0 runs after giving up early touchdowns to Nevada and Tennessee, respectively. Kansas State went on a 37-0 run against UMass after an early deficit. Alabama, of course, went on a 35-0 run on Texas A&M after spotting the Aggies two early touchdowns. Ole Miss went on a 30-0 run on Texas. UNLV went on a 31-0 run against Central Michigan. Notre Dame (against Purdue), North Texas (Ball State), and Northern Illinois (Idaho) each went on 31-7 runs. Northwestern fell behind Western Michigan, 10-7, then scored 24 straight; and after falling behind Western Illinois late in the third quarter, Minnesota scored 22 straight.

104. Plays run by ULM in 39 minutes of possession during a 21-19 win over Wake Forest. The Warhawks didn't really get anywhere, averaging a paltry 4.1 yards per snap. But they were nine-for-12 on third downs with four or fewer yards to go, and they were 15-for-28 (28!) on third downs overall, and they successfully played keep-away from a Wake Forest offense that averaged 5.2 per play.

You can't lose if you never give up the ball. At least, it's really hard to. Just ask UTEP, which attempted 84 plays to New Mexico State's 45 in a 42-21 win.

93.1. Joe Southwick's completion percentage in Boise State's 42-20 win over Air Force. The senior from Danville, Cal., completed 27 of 29 passes for 287 yards, a touchdown and an interception (one pass actually hit the ground) and pitched in 53 yards on six carries. Boise State had to wait a while to pull away thanks to some early miscues -- 20 penalty yards on Air Force's opening touchdown drive, a lost fumble at the Air Force 8, and an interception from the Air Force 30 -- but eventually did just that.

While Southwick's percentage was the highest, it was a good week to be a quarterback, or to simply be a fan of offense.

  • USC's Cody Kessler (15-for-17) and Max Wittek (2-for-2) completed 89.4 percent of their passes in an easy win over Boston College. The key for opening up the offense? Apparently it was throwing to players other than the well-covered Marqise Lee; Lee caught two of four passes for 90 yards, but led by Nelson Agholor, the rest of the USC receiving corps caught 15 of 15 for 174.
  • Florida State's Jameis Winston (remember him?) completed 15 of 18 passes (83 percent) for 214 yards, two scores, and an interception in a blowout of Nevada. He got help from a both a ridiculous running game and Kenny Shaw (six-for-six, 94 yards), but two games into his career, Winston has completed 89 percent of his passes with a passer rating well over 200.0.
  • Washington's Keith Price completed 28 of 35 passes (80 percent) for 342 yards and two scores in a 34-24 win over Illinois.
  • Washington State's Connor Halliday completed 32 of 41 passes (78 percent) for 383 yards, five touchdowns, and a pick versus Southern Utah.
  • Pitt's Tom Savage completed 13 of 17 passes (77 percent) for 236 yards, two scores, and two (more) interceptions. Freshman Tyler Boyd caught six of six for 134 yards.
  • Utah State's Chuckie Keeton completed 19 of 25 passes (76 percent) for 249 yards and five touchdowns versus Weber State.
  • Penn State's Christian Hackenberg completed 21 of 28 passes (75 percent) for 262 yards and a score versus UCF in a losing cause; and in a winning cause, UCF's Blake Bortles completed 20 of 27 (74 percent) for 288.
  • Old Dominion's Taylor Heinicke also completed 20 of 27 for 406 yards and four scores in a 76-19 romp over Howard. (First 76-19 final score ever? I'm not even going to look it up; I'm just going to proclaim it so.)
  • Oklahoma's Blake Bell completed 27 of 37 passes (73 percent) for 413 yards and four touchdowns versus Tulsa; he completed eight of nine for 123 to Sterling Shepard and four of six for 109 to Jaz Reynolds.
  • Oregon's Marcus Mariota completed 23 of 33 (70 percent) for, gulp, 456 yards and four scores versus Tennessee. Josh Huff caught six of eight for 125, and freshman Johnny Mundt caught five of five for 121.
  • And in the "couldn't keep it going" department, Eastern Washington's Vernon "Oregon State conqueror" Adams completed 11 of his first 12 versus Toledo for 164 yards but finished 10-for-29 in a loss.

55. Points scored by Michigan State's offense on Saturday. In a single, 60-minute game! Yes, the opponent was Youngstown State, but considering the Spartans' offense had been outscored by their defense thus far in 2013, that they topped 31 points just once last year, and that they'd topped 50 points just once since the middle of the 2007 season, this is still a feat. Connor Cook, 12-for-27 for 74 yards in his first two games, completed 15 of 22 for 202 yards and four touchdowns, and State averaged 6.8 yards per play with only one turnover and no sacks.

Baby steps. That defense doesn't need much help from its offense, but it needs more help than it was getting in the first two weeks. We'll see if this was an aberration or a sign of growth when the Spartans visit Notre Dame on Saturday.

52. This guy's number.

What's that? Oh, I've just got something in my eye. Give me a second.

40. I said USF could be a top-40 team this year. Instead, the Bulls might be bottom-10. I could point out that their 28-10 loss to FAU was a bit unlucky -- FAU recovered four of four fumbles, returned two turnovers for touchdowns, and was outgained by 32 yards -- but all the bad luck in the world shouldn't lead to you losing by 18 points to FAU. For the season, USF is averaging 3.6 yards per pass attempt, and ... yeah.

13. Projected over 13 games, Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown is currently on pace for 4,723 total yards -- 3,600+ through the air and 1,100+ on the ground. No, he's probably not going to keep that pace up once the competition gets more difficult than FIU, Old Dominion, and UConn, but his Terps are 3-0 for the first time since 2001. They could be well-positioned to reach the postseason and play a 13th game for just the second time in five years. Whether they pull that off or not could actually come down to the defense. Last year, Maryland couldn't keep a quarterback healthy; this year, the Terps can't keep a cornerback healthy.

Maryland proved in 2010 that it isn't a fan of good timing. Fearing the overall trajectory of the program wasn't where it should be, UM fired head coach Ralph Friedgen after a 9-4 season and needed 27 games to win another nine. Last season, a salty defense was done in by an offense forced to start a junior varsity quarterback. This year, the offense has figured things out dramatically, and the defense might be getting ready to drag it down.

4. Consecutive presidential elections in which Kentucky has voted Republican. The Commonwealth State has gone red in seven of the last nine elections and eight of the last 12. And with Louisville's 27-13 win over Kentucky, it remained red.

The Hokies are turning every offense into USF's, basically.

3.2. Average yards per pass attempt allowed by Virginia Tech this season. Hokie opponents have completed 33 of 69 passes for 319 yards, two touchdowns, and seven interceptions and have been sacked 12 times for a loss of 61 yards. East Carolina's Shane Carden matched the season average in Saturday's 15-10 loss to Tech, completing 19 of 31 passes for 158 yards, a score, three picks, and seven sacks for 36 yards. His passes went nowhere, and he was taken down on one of every five passes. Ends J.R. Collins and James Gayle each had two sacks, and linebacker Tariq Edwards logged 1.5.

Yes, ECU and Western Carolina are ECU and Western Carolina. Yes, Alabama had a big lead and was not particularly interested in taking any chances when the Tide and Hokies played in Week 1. I get it. But 3.2 yards per attempt is ridiculously low and would be impressive and potentially telling if Tech had just played three FCS opponents. The Hokies are turning every offense into USF's, basically.

3. Points scored by Southern Miss in five trips inside Arkansas' 40. Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen got hurt, backup A.J. Derby was called into action, and the Razorbacks only managed five trips inside the 40 as well. This could have spelled doom if they were playing someone other than Southern Miss. Alas, the Golden Eagles punted twice, missed a field goal, and turned the ball over on downs in scoring opportunities, and while Arkansas also turned the ball over in scoring position, the 24 points it did score was more than enough.

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