Against a top-40 opponent, Miami moved to 3-0 by taking down Nebraska, 36-33, in overtime. The Hurricanes out gained the Cornhuskers by 49 yards, powered by strong rushing (Joe Yearby: 17 carries, 125 yards) and another lovely passing effort from sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya (25 for 42, 379 yards, two TDs, one INT). The defense sacked Tommy Armstrong Jr. twice and picked him off three times, including in the first possession of overtime.
It was a solid win for beleaguered head coach Al Golden, who is moving further off the hot seat with an explosive offense and timely defense.
Ha ha, well, that's one version of the story.
You might want to fire Al Golden before overtime starts— Dan Le Batard Show (@LeBatardShow) September 19, 2015
I’m no fan of Miami, but I hope they fire Al Golden, because I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy— Brandon Larrabee (@TeamSpeedKills) September 19, 2015
Is Al Golden going to be allowed out of the stadium? Or does he just get the Lane Kiffin treatment where they fire him before he goes home?— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) September 19, 2015
This is quite literally the worst choke I've ever seen. Even if we win, AL golden has to go.— Shiv (Chives) (@_shivalry) September 19, 2015
Al Golden gonna get fired with a 3-0 record.— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) September 19, 2015
Al Golden lost his job with a win. That takes a special breed of incompetence.— Dieter Kurtenbach (@dkurtenbach) September 19, 2015
Life on the hot seat is never ending. When you lose, we all say you're done. When you win, you're still almost done. When your team looks good, we just quiet down for a bit until the next time it looks less good. And when you win after blowing a 33-10 lead with nine minutes remaining, you're really almost done.
When Michael Badgley kicked his fourth field goal of the day to put Miami up 23, there was already frustration brewing. Miami had scored seven times to Nebraska's two but had kept coming up short of the end zone. Those frustrations turned into rage when early failures turned into a late comeback. After completing just 10 of 26 passes for 125 yards in the game's first 49 minutes, Armstrong went 11 for 18 for 184 yards and three scores in the next 11, and short-yardage failures prevented Miami from running out the clock.
Armstrong hit freshman Stanley Morgan Jr. on an 8-yard score with 33 seconds left to tie the game. Miami kneeled out the clock to a chorus of boos.
(Side note: holy smokes, has kneeling with more than 30 seconds left in a tie game been an epidemic. And yes, I know about last week's Kansas City-Denver game. I also know about Jacksonville State-Auburn and Tennessee-Oklahoma.)
And then Miami went out and won. Corn Elder picked off Armstrong's first overtime pass, Badgley kicked a fifth field goal, and Miami had secured an encouraging win in the most discouraging possible way.
In my preseason preview, I said Golden had done a perfectly decent job in his Miami tenure. And he's done a decent job this year, too. But fans get tired of decent, especially at a program with title banners. This could be Miami's third straight year of on-field progress, and with "happy" results like this one, it might not be enough.
Whoa! Pregame banners already flying re Al Golden at Nebraska vs Miami 3:30et abc/espn2. pic.twitter.com/KkGGD4V2af— RodGilmore@espn (@RodGilmore) September 19, 2015
Within about five minutes on Saturday night, these three things happened.
Week 1 was fun. Week 2 was more fun. Week 3 was the most fun.
Against Texas Tech, Arkansas' Alex Collins rushed 28 times for 170 yards. Brandon Allen completed 16 of 21 passes for 196 yards. The Razorbacks turned the ball over twice but took the ball from the Red Raiders twice as well, and the two teams were dead even in the field position battle.
So how did Tech win by double digits, 35-24? By finishing. The Red Raiders created six scoring opportunities (first downs inside Arkansas' 40) and scored five touchdowns. The only time they didn't score was when they missed a field goal after eating more than six minutes of clock in the fourth quarter. That's still an average of 5.83 points per scoring opportunity.
Arkansas wasn't bad -- five opportunities, three touchdowns, a field goal, and a missed field goal -- but the Hogs had to be perfect to keep up.
When you've got a quarterback like Pat Mahomes (26 for 30 for 243 yards, 10 rushes for 58 yards) and you're executing near the goal line, you're going to score a lot. You're also going to have revenge opportunities. Arkansas was first up on Revenge Tour 2015; this week, TCU and its depleted defense come to town.
By the way, you know who else was close to perfect near the end zone Saturday? Stanford! The Cardinal, who lost two to three games last year because of blown opportunities and were addled by the same in a season-opening loss to Northwestern, actually converted chances into points in a 41-31 win over USC. They created seven scoring opportunities in nine possessions and turned those chances into five touchdowns and two field goals.
The emerging narrative was the Trojans BLOWING ANOTHER ONE!!, but the Cardinal went out and took this game. With more of this over the last 12 months, this might have simply been one top-10 team knocking off another.
Of this week's power-conference battles, there was a two-way battle for most dominant win of the week. In both, the losing team was lucky to keep the margin under 35.
Candidate No. 1. Against South Carolina, Georgia averaged 9.1 yards per play and held the Gamecocks to 4.2. The Bulldogs created nine scoring opportunities and allowed just three. Success rate: UGA 68 percent, SC 39 percent. Nick Chubb rushed 21 times for 159 yards and wasn't even the most successful player on his team. (That would be Greyson Lambert, who completed an NCAA record 24 of 25 passes for 330 yards.)
South Carolina recovered three of the game's four fumbles and kept the score at a manageable 17-10 late in the first half. Then the dam broke. It was 38-13 barely two minutes into the second half, and Georgia eased up on the way to a 52-20 win.
Candidate No. 2. Virginia Tech held Purdue to 3.6 yards per play and created 12 scoring opportunities to the Boilermakers' three. (On average, this should result in about a 54-14 win.) Success rate: VT 42 percent, Purdue 17 percent. Average starting field position: VT 45, Purdue 26.
Purdue was able to keep the game tied at 17-17 late, in part because of a 90-yard fumble return score. But the Hokies laid the hammer down, going on a 27-0 run over 18 minutes, blocking a punt, and cruising to a 51-24 win.
I'm leaning toward Georgia myself. Tech was spectacular on defense but only mediocre on offense, turning 12 scoring chances into just seven scores (plus two return touchdowns). Georgia was awesome on defense and beyond awesome on offense. Plus, South Carolina's better than Purdue ... I think.
This is the version of Georgia I expected. The Dawgs were sloppy in a win over Vanderbilt, but I'm beginning to think Vandy's defense is going to make everybody look sloppy. The version of Georgia we saw on Saturday would beat just about anybody and took out a lot of frustration on an old foil, Steve Spurrier.
The worst part: Pitt has had four different head coaches in this span. You can't even fall back on "Coach A just can't finish the job." Under Dave Wannstedt, Todd Graham, Paul Chryst, and Pat Narduzzi, Pitt has lost 13 exceedingly winnable games in the fourth quarter.
But hey, Pitt fans, just think about all the good karma you're saving up. If the sports god is just (and we know he/she is not), you won't lose a close game for three straight seasons at some point.
Florida has now won 29 straight games over Kentucky after Saturday's 14-9 win in Lexington. This ... this was a missed opportunity, UK.
Yes, it's early, and yes, it includes blowouts of FCS opponents. But the AAC has five teams averaging at least 38 points per game (Memphis 54, Navy 46.5, Houston 43, Tulsa 41.7, Cincinnati 38.3). And that does not include SMU, which just scored 37 points against TCU, or ECU, which averaged 36 points per game last year.
Yeah, this conference is going to be competitive and fun as hell.
College kickers are making 96.7 percent of PAT attempts, an average similar to that of every season. So there was basically a one-in-30 chance that Texas wouldn't make the extra point following Jerrod Heard's thrilling late touchdown. Alas, Cal won, 45-44.
Congrats to Navy, the nation’s only FBS conference team that has never lost a conference game in school history— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) September 20, 2015
Following the Midshipmen's 45-21 beating of a solid East Carolina, they are now 1-0 all-time in conference play.
Indiana is 3-0! The accomplishment isn't that impressive; the Hoosiers have beaten Southern Illinois, FIU, and WKU by a combined 18 points. But they outscored a solid WKU and are undefeated after three games for the first time since 2010.
Of course, they finished 5-7 in 2010. And after a 3-0 start in 2009, they finished 4-8. So IU fans probably shouldn't start budgeting for bowl tickets just yet.
This week's trip to Winston-Salem offers quite an opportunity. With a win over 2-1 Wake Forest, IU would move to 4-0 for the first time since 1990. Twenty-five years ago! That year, they tied Ohio State and finished 6-5-1 but battled Auburn in the Peach Bowl. One assumes Hoosier fans would be okay with a return to Atlanta.
Other noteworthy starts:
- With wins over Rhode Island, Wake Forest, and CMU, Syracuse is 3-0 for the first time since 1991! That year, Paul Pasqualoni's Orange(men) spent the entire season ranked, took down No. 5 Florida and No. 20 Pitt, and beat Ohio State, 17-10, in the Hall of Fame Bowl.
- Southern Miss is 2-1 for the first time since 2011, a.k.a. the year before the dark ages. The Golden Eagles went 12-2 and won Conference USA that year ... then 4-32 over the next three seasons. Todd Monken's 2015 squad was competitive against Mississippi State in the opener and, in Week 3, survived a 56-50 shootout at Texas State
- A different kind of noteworthy: following losses to FIU, Stanford, and Furman, UCF is 0-3 for the first time since 2004. The Knights, uh, went 0-11 that year.
- Nebraska is 1-2 for the first time since 1981. That time, the Huskers responded by winning 32 of their next 34 games. So congrats in advance!