Clemson Still Can’t Catch a Break and Other Things We Learned in Week 4 in College Football
After three weeks of creampuff scheduling, we got our first real tastes of conference action and really exciting games. Here are some of the highlights from this week in college football.
Clemson Being Clemson
When your school’s name is synonymous in the Urban Dictionary with epic collapses, people almost come to expect it of you in big games.
1. The act of delivering an inexplicably disappointing performance, usually within the context of a college football season.
2. The act of failing miserably on a grand athletic stage, or when the stakes are high.
Still, few people expected Clemson to go full Clemson in their loss to No. 1 Florida State. The Tigers had the Seminoles right where they wanted them, up by seven with less than seven minutes to go and Jameis Winston on the sidelines. Even after FSU tied the game on a 74-yard touchdown bomb with 6:04 to play, it looked like Clemson might pull the upset when an interception gave the Tigers the ball at the Florida State 26 and just 2:14 to go. But that’s when it began—two plays later, the Tigers fumbled the ball back to the Seminoles, sending the game into overtime. On the first possession in OT, facing fourth-and-one at the Seminoles’ 16, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney opted to go for the first down instead of a 33-yard field goal attempt. While his decision to go for it might be understandable given that kicker Ammon Lakip had already missed two field goals, this just had the feel of another Clemson moment. Sure enough, running back Adam Choice was stuffed for no gain and, two plays later, Florida State running back Karlos Williams ducked inside the left pylon for the game-winning touchdown.
You can’t help but wonder—if Clemson couldn’t get the job done on a night like this when they seemingly had everything going their way, will they ever catch a break?
If It Weren’t for Bad Luck, Kansas State Would Have No Luck at All
In a rare non-conference Top 20 matchup in Manhattan, KS, Auburn had its worst performance in some time but still managed to emerge with a win courtesy of the Wildcats’ even-worse game. Kansas State’s defense held the No. 5 Tigers to just 128 rushing yards, their lowest total in over a year. But Kansas State turned the ball over three times and missed three field goals to hand Auburn the ugliest of wins. If any play typified Kansas State’s night, it was this one: late in the first quarter, Wildcat quarterback Jake Waters hit Tyler Lockett right in the numbers for what should have been an easy touchdown, only to see the ball pop out and be intercepted.
Auburn didn’t so much win this game as K-State lost it. But the Tigers escaped with a road win over a Top 20 team that should still look good on their playoff resume at the end of the season.
The Big Ten Might Not Be Terrible (At Least This Week)
I’ve been understandably hard on the Big Ten this season, but I have to give credit where credit is due. After a couple of really disappointing weeks, the conference responded by going 12-1 on Saturday (leave it to Michigan to spoil the perfect record), with several impressive performances. Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Penn State all did what they needed to do in 20+ point wins over lesser opponents. Nebraska survived Miami’s best shot (along with several cheap ones) in a 41-31 win while Indiana went on the road and upset No. 18 Missouri.
But perhaps the best performances came from two running backs who are now squarely in the middle of the Heisman race. Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah continued his stellar start by rushing for 229 yards and two touchdowns (plus one more receiving) against the nation’s No. 2 rush defense. In the process, he passed Heisman winner Johnny Rodgers to become the Cornhuskers’ all-time all-purpose yardage leader. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon stated his case as the Big Ten’s best back, rushing for a career-high 253 yards (on just 13 carries) and tied a school record with five touchdowns.
While one week doesn’t completely redeem the Big Ten’s woeful start, it’s nice that the once-proud conference can have at least a few bright spots.
Oklahoma’s Offense is For Real
With the Sooners’ top two running backs either suspended or injured, I predicted that quarterback Trevor Knight would have to carry Oklahoma’s offense on its back the next few weeks. Shows you what I know. In Saturday’s win over West Virginia, true freshman Samaje Perine introduced himself to the Big 12 with 242 yards and four touchdowns. Only two freshmen have ever rushed for more yards in a game for the Sooners—Marcus Dupree and Adrian Peterson. And those guys seemed to work out pretty well.
Arizona is a Surprise in the Wild, Wild West
While this one might not go down in Cal history like The Play from 1982, the ending of this week’s Cal/Arizona game was one of the wildest you’ll ever see. With Cal leading 31-13 going into the fourth quarter, the two teams combined for 47 points over the next 15 minutes, including 19 unanswered by the Wildcats in the game’s final 3:30. And the game came down to a desperation Hail Mary, which was caught by Arizona receiver Austin Hill to give the Wildcats the most unlikely of wins and their first 4-0 start in five years.