Updated: October 2, 2006 8:44:32 AM PDT

Gonzalez, Wolfe, Rutgers stay in the spotlight


SHOOTING STAR

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Ohio State junior Ted Ginn Jr. began the season as a Heisman candidate. He has done nothing to suggest that he is not the receiver and kick returner that everyone expected to wear No. 7 for the Scarlet and Gray.

But there's one issue with his Heisman candidacy. He may not be the best receiver on his team. Redshirt junior Anthony Gonzalez is narrowly ahead of Ginn in catches (24-23) and yards per catch (15.5-14.7). The 6-foot, 195-pound Gonzalez has blossomed from role player to star this season. He caught only 28 passes last season, when he made eight starts.

Anthony Gonzalez
Byron Hetzler/US PRESSWIRE
Anthony Gonzalez and Troy Smith hooked up for two touchdowns against Iowa.

Gonzalez's emergence puts even more pressure on defenses concerned with Ginn and his speed. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said last week that he would not stray from his philosophy of using linebackers extensively in pass coverage.

That came back to bite the Hawkeyes in their 38-17 loss to the Buckeyes, especially in the case of Gonzalez, who lines up frequently in the slot.

The most shining example came on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Troy Smith to Gonzalez in the third quarter that put Ohio State ahead, 28-10. From the right slot, Gonzalez slanted into the middle of the field and caught the pass. As he approached the left hash, Gonzalez said, "I saw the two safeties coming at me. I just tried to bounce it outside."

Gonzalez circled back to his right, well back of the 20-yard-line, found a seam, got a crushing block from receiver Brian Hartline near the right sideline, and sped into the end zone. Four different Hawkeyes got a hand of Gonzalez, but none of them came close to bringing him down.

"You're going to give me a weird look when I say this," Gonzalez said. "That was a total team effort. Hartline comes out and gets a huge block at the end. Ted said he knocked down two guys. I can't wait to watch it on film to see all the blocks that took place. That's how you play as a team."

Gonzalez praised Iowa's defense, while at the same time acknowledging that Ohio State could exploit it because they knew what was coming (It helps that the Buckeyes are faster and quicker than the Hawkeyes). But he said his eyes don't light up at the sign of a linebacker covering him.

"I try to play as emotionless -- not emotionless, but I try not to get all caught up in [that]," Gonzalez said. "It's more or less, 'This is the play call, this is what they're in, my job on this play is to do x, y or z,' and just do it, no matter what the situation."

Gonzalez has an analytical mind, as you would expect of someone who aspires to be a Rhodes Scholar. Perhaps he understands that without Ginn on the outside, he would get more attention from the opposing defense. The surprise is that Gonzalez may begin attracting that sort of defensive attention in his own right.

TROPICAL DEPRESSION?

MIAMI -- A one-point victory against a 16-point underdog may not be very impressive, but the Miami Hurricanes (2-2, 0-1 ACC) will take it.

Miami's slumbering offense woke up long enough to put together a game-winning 8-play, 84-yard drive in the third quarter during a 14-13 win over previously undefeated Houston in the Orange Bowl.

The win was the Hurricanes' first this season against a Divison I-A opponent.

The victory may slightly mute the wave of criticism directed at Miami coach Larry Coker this season. Before Saturday's game, several airplanes hauling anti-Coker signs flew over the Orange Bowl.

"People are going to have opinions," Coker said Sunday. "My old college coach said there are five percent of the people in the world that hate motherhood. You're going to have a lot of 'againsters' in the world. If you can't handle that, go do something else. I respect people's opinions. I just chose not to be a part of it."

Besides winning, the biggest positive coming out of Saturday's game was the performance of Javarris James, who gained a school freshman record of 148 rushing yards in his first career start.

With Saturday night's win, the Hurricanes can pick up momentum before their Oct. 28 showdown in Atlanta against Georgia Tech in a game that could decide the Coastal Division champion.

Miami faces North Carolina (1-3) on Saturday followed by Florida International (0-5) and Duke (0-4).

"This was a very good win for us, one we needed for our program and, more importantly, ... for our players," Coker said.

REVERSAL OF FORTUNE

Last week began with 19 undefeated teams in Division I-A football, and Saturday ended with just 13 still standing. Georgia Tech was one of the parties responsible for the number being trimmed.

The Yellow Jackets went up to Blacksburg, Va., and achieved the always-difficult task of knocking off an unbeaten Virginia Tech team on its home turf, 38-27. The Hokies don't lose at home very often -- and they give up 38 points in a home game even less often. The last visiting team to score so much at Lane Stadium was Virginia in November 1994 (a 42-23 win over Va. Tech).

But perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. Georgia Tech lost 51-7 on that same field last season, and the Jackets have recently made a habit of exacting revenge for embarrassing losses. Last year's 44-point defeat was the sixth time in the previous three seasons that Georgia Tech was beaten by 21 points or more. Saturday marked the fifth time in as many tries that the Yellow Jackets followed up one of those big losses with a win over that same opponent the following season.

Georgia Tech's Revenge Tour
Year Lost to Margin Next season
2005 Utah 28 --
2005 Virginia Tech 44 GT won by 11
2004 Miami 24 GT won by 4
2004 North Carolina 21 GT won by 6
2003 Duke 24 GT won by 17
2003 Clemson 36 GT won by 4

The only bad loss Georgia Tech has not yet had the chance to avenge was the 38-10 humiliation against Utah in last year's Emerald Bowl. Right now, the Jackets have their sights set on a BCS game, but if they end up in another bowl this season, the Utes might be wise to avoid being their opponent.

NO SATISFACTION

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Steve Spurrier couldn't imagine anything worse than not having the football for an entire quarter. He gets more satisfaction out of running his ball plays than anything else, but his Gamecocks didn't get to run a play for the entire third quarter in Thursday night's 24-17 loss to No. 2 Auburn at Williams-Brice Stadium.

The NCAA doesn't keep records for time of possession in a single quarter, but the Tigers at least tied the record. Auburn's offense controlled the football for all 900 seconds of the period.

Steve Spurrier
Richard Shiro-US PRESSWIRE
Auburn didn't allow Steve Spurrier and Syvelle Newton to be factors in the third quarter.

After leading 14-10 at halftime, the Tigers took the opening kickoff of the second half and put together a 17-play drive that took 8 minutes, 38 seconds off the clock. Auburn kicked a field goal to go ahead 17-10, then recovered a nicely executed onside kick to keep the football.

A 12-play drive ran off the remaining 6:22 of the third quarter, and tailback Kenny Irons scored on a 1-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter to put Auburn ahead 24-10.

"I loved it, but I was ready to get on the field," Tigers cornerback David Irons said. "We took the whole quarter off."

Auburn's defense stayed on the field for nearly the entire fourth quarter, as the Tigers offense ran only three plays after Kenny Irons' touchdown run. South Carolina had the football for 11:15 in the fourth, and nearly tied the game in the closing minutes.

But Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier wasn't looking for consolation prizes.

"I don't want our fans to boo, but please don't clap when we come close," Spurrier told reporters on Friday. "I think it sends the wrong message. Our guys thought we'd done something pretty good, when in essence we didn't do anything but let a game get away that we were in a position to win."

"I don't know if any coach has ever told our fans, 'Please don't clap after we get beat. Even after the Clemson game (a 13-9 loss in 2005), they were clapping like, 'Well, we thought we were going to get clobbered and we didn't get clobbered. So that's OK.' It's not OK. We had a game we had a chance to win ... and we didn't do it."

WOLFE TRACKS

While most college football fans were watching Ohio State, Michigan, Georgia or USC roll up another victory on Saturday evening, Northern Illinois running back Garrett Wolfe was busy putting on a show for the 10,128 folks gathered at Scheumann Stadium in Muncie, Ind. Despite being interrupted by a 55-minute weather delay during the first quarter, Wolfe rushed for 353 yards -- the 13th-highest total in Division I-A history -- in NIU's 40-28 win over Ball State. And that after his first two carries of the game both lost yardage.

You can't say he caught the Cardinals by surprise. Not only was Wolfe already the nation's rushing leader entering the game, but he had also run for 280 yards on that same field two years earlier. Ball State was simply overmatched by the diminutive Wolfe -- just like every other opponent has been for the last three seasons. In early September, he gained 285 yards from scrimmage against Ohio State. Last year, he gained 179 against Michigan and 261 more against Northwestern. Pity the fools who think he just beats up on the MAC.

All of a sudden, Wolfe is within range of a record many college football fans thought would never fall. Barry Sanders averaged an astounding 238.9 rushing yards per game in 1988, and no player has even reached 200 ypg in a season since then. After five games in 2006, Wolfe is averaging 236.2 yards on the ground. Sure, it hardly seems conceivable to keep up this pace, but if he stays anywhere close to his current clip of 9.3 yards per carry, anything's possible.

And if he gets there, he will have earned it. In addition to the remainder of the conference schedule and a possible bowl game, Wolfe and his teammates make a trip to Kinnick Stadium on Oct. 28 to face the Iowa Hawkeyes.

SUNSHINE STATE

TAMPA, Fla. -- It wasn't exactly a victory that would solidify Rutgers' place among the top 25 programs in the country, but Friday night's 22-20 win at South Florida was significant for the No. 23 Scarlet Knights on several fronts.

Ray Rice
Jason Parkhurst/US PRESSWIRE
Ray Rice rushed for 202 yards against the Bulls on Friday.

They won their first game as a ranked team in nearly 30 years -- the Scarlet Knights hadn't played a game as a nationally ranked team since they were ranked No. 19 and beat Colgate 17-9 on Nov. 18, 1976.

"This is huge for the program," tailback Brian Leonard said. "Coming down to Florida, playing in front of a hostile crowd and finding a way to win the game is huge."

Just as importantly, Rutgers won a game in the state of Florida after failing to do so in their previous eight tries. Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, a former defensive coordinator at Miami, has invested heavily in recruiting the Sunshine State. The Scarlet Knights have 21 players from Florida and seven of those players were starters at some point this season.

During the past two years, Rutgers has leased billboards to advertise its football program in the Miami/Dade County and Tampa/St. Petersburg areas. The investments have paid off again this year with three players from the state already committing to sign with Rutgers in February 2007.

The exposure could be big for Schiano, too. If Miami decides to fire coach Larry Coker after this season, Schiano might be among the front-runners to replace him. Schiano already is a recognizable face in Florida high schools, and his assistants spend a lot of time recruiting the state.

But the Scarlet Knights' presence in Florida also has created a budding rivalry with South Florida, even though the Big East schools are separated by more than 1,100 miles.

After South Florida failed to covert a two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the score at 22 with 12 seconds to go, the clock ran out. Schiano and South Florida coach Jim Leavitt made their way to midfield. They shook hands and neither coach spoke a word.

FIVE SATURDAY OBSERVATIONS
IVAN MAISEL
John L. Smith
Smith
1. It's not merely the 23-20 home loss to Illinois that's so disconcerting about Michigan State. It's the obvious self-doubt in a team that has proven over the last two weeks that it doesn't know how to close a sale. The Spartans showed the same symptoms over the second half of last season. That's not good for the future of coach John L. Smith.

Garrett Wolfe
Wolfe
2. Fans and media who don't give Garrett Wolfe his props say more about themselves than they do about him. The Northern Illinois senior rushed for 353 yards and three touchdowns Saturday against Ball State. So what if it was Ball State and Wolfe is in the MAC? If it didn't take an extraordinary back to do that, why is Wolfe's total the 13th best in the history of the game?

Ohio State 3. Ohio State senior Troy Smith is the best quarterback in the game this season. But as for the Heisman, how do you judge Smith as an individual player? He's got two of the best receivers in the nation in Ted Ginn Jr., and Anthony Gonzalez, one of the best tailbacks in Antonio Pittman and a good offensive line. Is he the engine that makes the Buckeyes go? Or just the most visible component in a well-oiled machine?

Delone Carter
Carter
4. With Pittman and Chris Wells, the Buckeyes aren't hurting at tailback. But the last two Mr. Ohios, Tyrell Sutton (2004) and Delone Carter (2005), have become stars out of state. Sutton has rushed for 1,860 yards in a season-and-a-half at Northwestern. Carter rushed for 129 yards and four touchdowns in Syracuse's 40-34, double-overtime victory over Wyoming. Carter got his first 100-yard game because he accounted for all 50 yards and the two touchdowns in overtime. Don't look now, but Syracuse is 3-2. Getting the six wins for a bowl bid looks like a long way off with the Orange schedule.

Miami 5. You know you have a problem when you win a game and the victory fails to pacify your critics. Miami showed admirable grit in its 14-13 victory over Houston. The defense limited Cougar quarterback Kevin Kolb to 196 passing yards and no touchdown passes, and the offense converted a fourth-and-1 at its own 38-yard-line that allowed the Hurricanes to run out the clock. I don't know how much solace the disgruntled Hurricane fans will take from a one-point victory over an unheralded Conference USA team. I'd say Larry Coker's seat remains toasty.

COLLEGE GAMEDAY: SPEED DRILLS
Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit run through Saturday's action.
FINAL THOUGHTS FROM THE FINAL CREW
RECE DAVIS
Rice While we focus our attention on championship races and hot seats, we often overlook the human side of sports. The Rice University football family endured an agonizing week after the death of defensive back Dale Lloyd, but the team played on in his honor, going on the road to get its first win of the season. And while it won't make up for the loss of a teammate, the inspirational performance against Army shouldn't go unnoticed.

Helmet Stickers Go To:
Chase Clement, QB, Rice
299 pass yds, 5 TDs vs. Army
Dexter Manley II, DE, Oregon
3 sacks vs. Arizona State
LOU HOLTZ
Michigan There are two teams in this country I would not want to play. One is Ohio State. The other is Michigan. They block, they tackle, they play together and they don't turn the ball over. Sure, they have big-time talent, but they are tough to beat because they do the little things well. I'd rank Michigan No. 2 on my ballot if I had one.

Helmet Stickers Go To:
Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech
115 receiving yds, 2 TDs vs. Virginia Tech
Reggie Nelson, S, Florida
5 tackles, 70-yd INT return for TD vs. Alabama
MARK MAY
Northern Illinois Garrett Wolfe is No. 1 on my Heisman ballot, because he has been the best player in America so far this year. Some people will choose to ignore him because of the conference he plays in, but that doesn't hold water when a guy has already gained 285 yards against Ohio State. If he keeps this up, he deserves consideration for the Trophy, not just for a trip to New York.

Helmet Stickers Go To:
Garrett Wolfe, RB, Northern Illinois
353 rush yds, 3 TDs vs. Ball State
Brian Hampton, QB, Navy
323 total yds, 4 TD vs. Connecticut
LOOKING BACK: OHIO STATE-IOWA
ONE OF A KIND
No. 1 Ohio State dominated No. 13 Iowa on Saturday, but QB Troy Smith thinks the Buckeyes can get even better. That's not good news for the rest of college football, writes Ivan Maisel. Story
HIGHLIGHTS: BUCKEYES-HAWKEYES
The top-ranked Buckeyes bounced the Hawkeyes on Saturday.
LOOKING BACK: TEXAS TECH-TEXAS A&M
UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM
In a profession that collectively goes by the book, Texas Tech's Mike Leach goes for broke. His unconventional style worked again against Texas A&M, writes Pat Forde. Story
HIGHLIGHTS: RED RAIDERS-AGGIES
Texas Tech's last-second touchdown grounded the Aggies on Saturday.
LOOKING BACK: ALABAMA-FLORIDA
Joe Schad
Chris Leak showed three things against Bama that Gator fans were hoping to see: athleticism, emotion and leadership. Schad blog Insider
HIGHLIGHTS: ILLINOIS-MICHIGAN STATE
Juice Williams and the Illini surprised the Spartans on Saturday.
PRESEASON HYPE VS. ON-FIELD PERFORMANCE
Todd McShay
With the first month of the season in the books, Todd McShay identifies the players who deserved the hype, the ones who didn't, some emerging talents and more. Story Insider
HIGHLIGHTS: HOUSTON-MIAMI
The Hurricanes edged the Cougars on Saturday.


 

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