1. Mark Walton will be the best player on the field Saturday, and it won’t be close
I think back to Saturday’s game, and there was a lot to like. I mean, there are things to be worried about – i.e., Brad Kaaya’s alarmingly-poor accuracy. But the run blocking of the offensive line currently isn’t one of them. As Cam Underwood wrote in his piece earlier today, the Canes are averaging a whopping 326 yards per game on the ground (6th in NCAA) and 8.69 yards per carry (2nd). Word.
While the big fellas up front have done their job, Mark Walton has emerged as one of the most dynamic running backs in college football. Through the first two weeks, he’s averaged 8.47 yards per carry, going for 271 yards on 32 carries.
And it’s what he’s doing when he gets the football, especially what it looks like he’s seeing. He reacts quickly and either hits the hole or breaks it outside without slowing down. His cuts have been sharp, and when he’s kicked it wide, he’s shown his elite speed to get around the edge and upfield.
As we saw with the FAU game last year when he ran through 4 defenders to get into the end zone, he did it again this year….albeit through 3 this time. Up 7-3, Kaaya handed off to Walton, who took the ball right near the rear end of OT Trevor Darling, who had been bull-rushed backwards into the running lane. Walton kicked it outside, turned upfield, and plowed through 3 would-be tacklers to break into the end zone and give the Canes a 14-3 halftime lead. Walton finished with 155 yards on 17 carries with 4 touchdowns, finishing off the Owls with touchdown runs of 16 and 30 yards.
Let’s give credit where it’s due; Joe Yearby has been terrific this year as well. Both he and Walton have gone for over 100 yards in each of the first two games. Richt is obviously getting comfortable with using both and keeping them fresh, as he did with his stable of talented backs in Athens. Yearby carried the ball 20 times to Walton’s 17 on Saturday.
But Walton has been this team’s shining star so far in 2016, and he’ll get a chance to show it on national television in Boone, NC on Saturday. App State might have faced a talented back in UT’s Jalen Hurd and done well, but Walton/Yearby will currently provide another level of difficulty for the Mountaineers. If Walton continues to flash the speed, vision, agility, and power he’s shown so far this year (as he did last year), the Canes should be just fine on Saturday.
2. Okie State gets a worse shaft that Duke….and where are the critics?
To the talking heads who just crucified the Canes last year for coming away with a controversial win last year over Duke (with some even ridiculously calling for the Canes to forfeit)………..where are you now? Shouldn’t the Chippewas have placed that win – out of the interests of fairness – at the feet of Mike Gundy on the way out of town? Right? Anyone? Bueller??? Any talking head, please???!!!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know what happened in Stillwater. Rather than running around like a character in the Benny Hill show and killing off the last 4 seconds, Gundy had his quarterback take the snap and just lob it down the field. Granted, that technically should have ended the game, so I can’t fault him completely for that. But….he KNOWS running backwards and into the end zone to take a safety is an automatic game-winner, because that’s what he did at Texas A&M in 2011 to close out a win over the Aggies.
Now, granted, what happened next was not reasonably foreseeable in the least. The CMU quarterback lobbed it downfield, and a Chippewa WR caught the ball among a host of Cowboy defenders. He lateraled the ball, and his teammate inched it over the goal line to give us what will certainly be the craziest end to a college football game this year.
But this one was worse than at Duke last year. The officials in Durham – both on-field and replay – reviewed the laterals and the decision to pick up a penalty flag. They swung and missed on Walton’s knee being down. But…that was a judgment call that they missed.
The Stillwater buffoonery was a product of not properly knowing the rules. The officials did not apply a rule properly…..and as a result, a play occurred that should not have. That’s something that, in theory, is even more fixable post-game than what happened in Durham. However, the rules still say that when the game ends, it’s final. That was not changed in the offseason (as the rules committee could, theoretically, have looked at doing), so the Cowboys, under the rules, must eat it as Duke had to.
Still, this has not dragged on into the following week, or the next, or the next, like it did with the Canes. I wonder why that is. I’m sure it has nothing to do with a deep-rooted vitriol towards Miami brand, as all the media types have repeatedly denied before. (Sure, we believe you guys. J)
3. 156,000+ Hokie and Vol fans do it right with 545,000 beers
When 156,000+ people jam into one place together, you have to be ready, especially when said venue is a Nascar track in East Tennessee. As such, the Bristol Motor Speedway was ready, ordering in roughly 545,000 beers for the event. Overalls, ice cold coldbeer, sun dresses, tailgate tents, smokers, RVs, and stacks of beer cans – some of which were taped together, I saw – dominated the landscape.
Appropriately enough, the Hokies at least played the part of a 19-year old frat guy who took three shots of Fireball after funneling 5 beers in the previous hour, then fell out of his chair and was marked up by his buddies. After storming out to a 14-0 lead, the Hokies started seeing three hazy footballs, unable to grab the one in the middle and hold onto it. An unforced fumble put the Vols at the 6-yard line to cut the lead to 14-7. A 90-yard drive in 4 plays drew the Vols even. They were awake, and Tech was on their way to find a nice comfy chair to sleep in. After a 45-10 run, the Vols celebrated a Battle of Bristol win in an, um, overly enthusiastic manner, let’s just say.
(And I don’t want to hear it any more, Michigan. There were over 156,000 people in the stadium. It’s the largest audience for a college football game. YOU all STILL have the record for a home stadium, but this counts all the same. Chill.)
4. Nick Saban’s reaction to anything less than perfection = my tired 4-year old not getting a toy at Cracker Barrel
I wonder if a grade-school-aged Nick Saban took his tests to his teacher that read “97” and went ballistic until she changed it to a 100.
Seriously, the over-the-top act is ridiculous and embarrassing, even if it happened to someone with bad karma due his way, such as Lane Kiffin. With under 2 minutes left and enjoying a 38-3 lead, Kiffin apparently did not kneel out the clock, but instead ran a play that resulted in a Western Kentucky fumble recovery. The Hilltoppers punched in the first TD of the year against Bama’s defense shortly thereafter.
Ok, if Saban wanted him to run the clock out, I can get why he’s bent….but the piss-and-vinegar, get-off-my-lawn is a bit much. After the game, Saban called his team’s performance embarassing and said he couldn’t remember being more disappointed after a win.
Shouldn’t have taken Bama -28.5, coach. The hook always gets ya.
5. Bad basketball schools = bad football picks
I took Duke -5 over Wake. After all, the Wake-led “Clawfense” looked like it was engaged in a one-legged ass kicking contest with Tulane last week, while Duke looked more than capable of putting up points.
And, of course, one week after rushing for over 300 yards, they tally 37 on 30 carries against the Deacons. Wake’s Cade Carney surpassed that total on one carry, a 55-yard TD run. Sigh.
Also, Kansas – possibly the worst power 5 team – lost by 16 at home to Ohio University. Kentucky, who blew a 35-10 home lead to Southern Miss, took one on the chin against at Florida 45-7. For those keeping score, since the Cats last beat Florida, Michael Jackson’s “Bad” was released, with 5 singles topping the charts.
Hoops is only a couple of months away, KU/UK and Duke fans.
6. Pick of the Week
Ohio State at Oklahoma. The Sooners opened as a 1-point favorite. Yeah, that just seems wrong, given how well the Buckeyes have started the season, off an impressive 48-3 manhandling of a Tulsa team that didn’t seem to be nearly 45 points worse. This is a big boy game, but the Buckeye defense is a step up from Houston and will knock the Sooners out of playoff contention in Week 3. Ohio State (-2) 27, Oklahoma 17.