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Sunday, September 17, 2006
Updated: September 18, 3:39 PM ET
Separation Saturday: Upsets, statements, controversy

By ESPN.com
ESPN.com

UNDER REVIEW

On the day after Separation Saturday, the fans of Oklahoma and LSU are convinced that the officiating crews of their respective losses have been separated from their senses, eyesight and morals.

Sooner fans are apoplectic over the onside kick call that officials awarded to Oregon with Oklahoma leading, 33-27, and 1:09 to play. Video replay shows an Oregon player touched the ball before it traveled 10 yards. It also shows that Allen Patrick of Oklahoma recovered the kick, although an official on the field blew the play dead before Patrick fell on the ball.

The Ducks, awarded possession, drove for the winning touchdown to beat the Sooners 34-33. The Pac-10 has informed Oklahoma that it will have the results of its review on Tuesday. Pac-10 supervisor of officials Verle Sorgen did not return a phone call from ESPN.com.

In most interconference games, the visiting team brings officials from its league with them. The Pac-10, however, never adopted this policy. Pac-10 officials call games at Pac-10 schools. The policy did not make the league look good on Saturday.

Eric Brock
AP Photo/Rob Carr
Eric Brock's deflection appeared to come after Zach Gilbert's hit.

LSU fans are outraged over a fourth-and-8 pass interference call against Auburn, near the Auburn goal line. Auburn defensive back Zach Gilbert overran LSU receiver Early Doucet and was called for pass interference. However, officials waved off the call after determining that Auburn safety Eric Brock tipped the ball. Instead of LSU getting a fresh set of downs at the Auburn 16, Auburn took over at the 31, and eventually hung on to win 7-3.

SEC supervisor of officials Rogers Redding said Monday afternoon that the call was correct because Brock's tip made the pass not catchable. Video seems to indicate that Gilbert hit Doucet before Brock tipped it, which could be pass interference. However, that hinges on whether the officials determine the ball was catchable.

"Here's what we had," Redding said. "The back judge correctly saw pass interference contact. He threw his flag. The other defensive player came flying across and, just about concurrent and maybe a tiny bit after the contact, he knocks the ball away. It became an uncatchable forward pass.

"What the back judge saw was correct. The field judge came in and said the ball was knocked away. They determined this was an uncatchable forward pass.

"The timing of the tip didn't come into play. If there is [contact] before the ball arrives, it could be pass interference. It depends on whether the touching of the ball made the ball catchable. This was not a tip. This was a deflection, which is what made it an uncatchable forward pass."

Two things come to mind: One, both Oklahoma and LSU still had opportunities to win the game and did not. Two, fans and coaches pinned their hopes on instant replay to solve these kinds of problems. But all it has done is increase the amount of frustration on the part of coaches and fans who see their team being shafted over and over again.

No matter how much technology there is available, in the end, a human being has to make a decision. Sometimes, they make the wrong one.

CONFERENCE CALL

Late Saturday evening, many of our ESPN college football analysts were asked to give their takes on Separation Saturday.

Who was the biggest winner? Who was the biggest loser?

Everyone stayed team-specific with their answers, although they could have applied them to conferences just as easily. So, let's go where nobody else went and look at Separation Saturday from a league perspective.

Hunter Cantwell
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Hunter Cantwell threw for 113 yards and a TD against Miami.

Biggest winner: Big East
Not to diminish the impressive display of the Pac-10, going 4-0 against major-conference competition in addition to Washington's win over Fresno State, but the Big East had more to gain on Saturday and did so with just one win.

When Miami players stomped on Louisville's logo before the game, and Louisville responded by stomping Miami 31-7 during the game (with back-up running backs for the entire game and back-up QB Hunter Cantwell for most of the second half), it should have erased any lingering questions about whether the champion of the Big East truly deserves a seat at the BCS table. Louisville's win combined with West Virginia's Sugar Bowl triumph over Georgia should serve notice that the Cardinals, Mountaineers or any other team that might win the conference this season is not only BCS-worthy but, if undefeated, should also get strong consideration for one of the spots in the championship game.

Biggest loser: Big 12
Thanks mostly to an 0-4 record against the Pac-10 on Saturday, the Big 12 was 0-5 against the major conferences, and that didn't include Texas Tech's loss to TCU. And it almost got worse. Texas A&M had to stop Army from the 2-yard-line on the final three plays of the game to hold on for a 28-24 win over the Black Knights ... and the game wasn't played at West Point. It was in San Antonio! The weekend was so bad that Kansas taking Toledo to double overtime as a road underdog could actually be viewed as a highlight. At least the Big 12 really took it to Conference USA. Texas' win over Rice and Kansas State's win over Marshall were by a combined score of 75-14.

CARDINALS SIN?

MIAMI -- A day after getting routed by Louisville, Miami coach Larry Coker said he's not worried about remaining the Hurricanes' coach.

Larry Coker
Brian Tietz/US PRESSWIRE
Larry Coker watched the Canes fall to 1-2 on Saturday.

Saturday's 31-7 defeat was Miami's fourth in six games and eighth in its last 21. On Sunday, Miami dropped out of The Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time since November 1997.

"No, I'm not really concerned about job security," Coker said Sunday. "I'm really not. I'm concerned about getting our football team back to where it needs to be and winning football games. If we do that, job security will take care of itself."

Coker is in the second year of a five-year contract that averages just south of $2 million.

Saturday's defeat marked the fourth consecutive loss in which Miami was unable to score in the second half. The Hurricanes trailed 10-7 at halftime, but were thoroughly outplayed in the second half by Louisville despite the absence of Cardinals quarterback Brian Brohm.

A punchless offense continues to be the biggest culprit in the Hurricanes' recent slide. Miami has failed to score more than 10 points in its last six losses dating back to 2004.

Coker indicated there would be personnel changes before the Hurricanes play Houston in the Orange Bowl on Sept. 30.

"We're not going to start from scratch," Coker said. "Let's not go that far. But every job is going to be up for grabs …"

BEND IN THE ROAD

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- His tone, predictably, was matter-of-fact, but Charlie Weis didn't stiff-arm the fact of the matter Saturday when addressing a browbeaten Notre Dame locker room.

Aric Goodman
Matt Cashore/US PRESSWIRE
Charlie Weis and Brady Quinn had a frustrating Saturday against the Wolverines.

Notre Dame's disastrous 47-21 loss against Michigan was a setback on multiple levels: the national championship run, Brady Quinn's Heisman race, the program's puffed-up image. But Weis was only concerned about the present.

"I let them know in no uncertain terms that it's not OK to perform like that," Weis said. "I don't believe in that we'll-get-them-next-time mentality."

Saturday's shocking margin and the bruising nature of Michigan's win left Irish wideout Jeff Samardzija speechless. Asked about Michigan's suddenly elastic passing game, linebacker Travis Thomas replied, "I really don't know what made them successful."

"You can't really knock the score," safety Chinedum Ndukwe added.

The ramifications of the loss are undeniable, and Notre Dame needs a spotless résumé from here on to merely earn championship-game consideration. Weis pointed to Saturday's game against Michigan State as a boon for regeneration, particularly because of Notre Dame's struggles in the series and the Spartans' flag planting last year at Notre Dame Stadium.

"It gets their attention right off the bat," Weis said. "Unfortunately, we don't get do-overs. Saturday is gone.

TROJANS' HORSE

LOS ANGELES -- Maybe next time Nebraska's Andre Jones decides to talk about using USC as a stepping-stone game, he should check the Trojans' injury report. Or at least wait until Dwayne Jarrett moves on to the NFL.

Read the rest of Feldman's take: Feldman blog Insider

FROG POND

FORT WORTH, Texas -- TCU coach Gary Patterson gets tired of having his program compared to the Big 12 schools in his state.

That's what made the Horned Frogs' 12-3 victory over Texas Tech so sweet. It marked the Horned Frogs' fourth straight victory over a Big 12 team in the last two seasons after beating Oklahoma and Iowa State last year and Baylor in their season opener.

"People have been underselling our kids for years. All they ever want to do is talk about the Big 12," Patterson said. "The biggest thing is that our kids deserve better."

After it was over, the Horned Frogs celebrated the exorcism of a bad memory after yielding 70 points to the Red Raiders in a 2004 loss at Lubbock. It led them to wear bracelets inscribed with "Make it Personal" on their wrists for the last two years.

"I get tired of getting treated like a stepchild in this state and in this town," Patterson said. "My kids did, too. We gave up 70 points two years ago. We were waiting for this one for a long time."

FIRING BLANKS

If you look close enough, you might see the signs that teams might have discovered how to stop Mike Leach's high-powered Texas Tech offense. On Saturday, TCU became the first opponent in 72 games to hold Tech without a touchdown, but that's simply the most obvious in a series of clues. Going back to last season, the Red Raiders have been held under 400 yards by each of their last four Big 12 or Top 25 opponents, and the offense has generated a total of five touchdowns in those four games. It's a far cry from the 50-plus point, 500-plus yard efforts that you could expect from Texas Tech on most weekends over the last three or four seasons.

CONTROVERSY: OKLAHOMA-OREGON
A series of questionable calls has the Oklahoma-Oregon game still in the news.
FIVE SATURDAY OBSERVATIONS
IVAN MAISEL
ACC 1. If commissioners were baseball general managers, then ACC boss John Swofford would have to answer for his free-agent signing of Miami. The Hurricanes, 1-2 and reeling, are looking like the collegiate version of Yankees pitcher Carl Pavano. If misery loves company, then the next ACC coaches teleconference should be pretty miserable. Larry Coker, Chuck Amato, John Bunting, Al Groh.

Boston College 2. On the other hand, driving back to Atlanta from Auburn late Saturday night, listening to the Florida State broadcast on XM, I could have sworn I heard Florida State coach Bobby Bowden say, "Boston College is in command" of the ACC Atlantic. Miami may be a bust, but Boston College and Virginia Tech are working pretty well.

Glenn Dorsey
Dorsey
3. Three-quarters of the season is left, but if LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and Auburn punter Kody Bliss continue to perform the way they did Saturday, then you can write their names in ink on your All-American team. Dorsey, who led the Tigers with eight tackles, three behind the line, against Auburn, has six tackles for loss and two sacks in three games. Bliss averaged 48.2 yards per punt, with a net average of 45.0. Because of his leg, LSU's average starting field position in the second half was its 17-yard line.

Charlie Weis
Weis
4. Charlie Weis is 11-4 in his first 15 games at Notre Dame after a big loss to Michigan. Tyrone Willingham was 11-4 in his first 15 games at Notre Dame after a big loss to Michigan. Cool note, yeah, yeah. Somehow, this feels different, and hopefully that is said without benefit of hindsight. Notre Dame seems to be on firmer ground now, especially in recruiting, and that comes from someone who remains convinced that university officials showed their collective behinds in the manner in which they fired Willingham.

Dwayne Jarrett
Jarrett
5. The typical Heisman recipe -- ball-handling star on a big winning team -- may have to be re-evaluated this season. Auburn is winning with defense, and USC's biggest offensive star is a wide receiver. Dwayne Jarrett made a huge difference against a huge defense Saturday night. But Jarrett (11-136, two touchdowns against Nebraska) doesn't return kicks, and a wide receiver who just catches passes has never won the Heisman.
FINAL THOUGHTS FROM THE FINAL CREW
RECE DAVIS
Texas In the same way that West Virginia needed Louisville's win almost as much as the Cardinals did, you could say that Texas was hurt by Oklahoma's loss almost as much as the Sooners were. It seems unlikely that the Longhorns will get another opportunity to beat a top-10 opponent -- and that could really hurt if they need to distinguish themselves in a pack of one-loss teams at the end of the year.

Helmet Stickers Go To:
Hunter Cantwell, QB, Louisville
3-4, 113 yards TD in relief of inured Brian Brohm
Mike Klinkenborg, LB, Iowa
8 tackles vs. ISU just six days after his dad died
LOU HOLTZ
Miami Miami has a bye week and better use it to come up with a plan. The first step is to acknowledge they have a problem. They aren't getting any big plays out of their offense and are lacking leadership from their seniors. There's no question that they aren't playing up to their potential, and they better find a way to fix it in a hurry.

Helmet Stickers Go To:
Eric Brock, SS, Auburn
5 tackles, 1 pass break-up vs. LSU
James Davis, RB, Clemson
87 rushing yards, 2 TDs vs. FSU
MARK MAY
Oklahoma The problem with Oklahoma right now is that the defense isn't playing as well as everyone expected. And the problem with the defense is something they'll have a hard time fixing this season. They don't have a stud tackle like a Tommie Harris who can wreak havoc in the backfield. That keeps them from getting enough pressure on the QB without blitzing, and they aren't able to stop the run like they need to.

Helmet Stickers Go To:
Dennis Dixon, QB, Oregon
375 total yards, 3 TDs vs. OU
Mario Manningham, WR, Michigan
4 rec., 137 yards, 3 TDs vs. Notre Dame
SATURDAY RECAP
Dave Revsine and Gerry DiNardo break down Saturday's action.
LOOKING BACK: SEPARATION SATURDAY
PLAINS DEALERS
Auburn and LSU played in a different kind of Separation Saturday -- the kind that separates the men from the boys, writes Ivan Maisel. Story
MAN OF THE HOUSE
Mario Manningham and No. 11 Michigan wanted to prove things were OK in Ann Arbor. After Saturday's 47-21 romp over No. 2 Notre Dame, few would argue, writes Wayne Drehs. Story
ROAD RULES
Florida might have forged a new identity while claiming its first signature road victory under Urban Meyer, writes Mark Schlabach. Story
SOMETHING TO SHOUT ABOUT
• Rutgers has started its season 3-0 for the first time since 1981, as has Wake Forest for the first time since 1987.

• Houston is 3-0 for the first time since David Klingler's first year as the starting QB (1990).

• South Florida has won its opening three games for the first time as a Division I-A team.

• Kentucky ended the nation's longest streak of losing conference openers by beating Ole Miss on Saturday. The Wildcats are now 1-0 in SEC play for the first time since 1987.
HIGHLIGHTS: NEBRASKA-USC
Dwayne Jarrett and the Trojans cruised past the Huskers on Saturday night.
HIGHLIGHTS: MIAMI-LOUISVILLE
Miami barked early, but Louisville bit back.