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NCAA College Football – Week 11 Recap

Penn State interim head coach Tom Bradley meets with Nebraska coach Bo Pelini after the Cornhuskers 17-14 win.
Justin K. Aller, Getty Images

After all the disgusting headlines out of Penn State dominating the sports world this past week, it was good to return to the field with some actual football. And the Top 25 gave us plenty of excitement to discuss.

Seven ranked teams, including two in the Top Five, went down to defeat. Boise State saw its BCS hopes die on a missed field goal as time expired (again). Oregon downed Stanford in a wild Pac-12 shootout. Oklahoma State looked every bit the part of a title contender. And Penn State hit the field without Joe Paterno at the helm for the first time in 46 years. Here are all the highlights from this week in the AP Top 25.

#1 Louisiana State 42, Western Kentucky 9

LSU’s defense was dominant once again, holding the Hilltoppers’ offense scoreless over the last three quarters of play. The Tigers’ offense took a little longer to get into rhythm (only leading 14-7 at halftime), but exploded for 28 second half points while giving up just two (a safety on an LSU intentional grounding penalty in the end zone). In his first start since a preseason suspension, quarterback Jordan Jefferson threw for 168 yards and a touchdown in the win. Western Kentucky had been giving up an average of just 99 rushing yards per game in its previous five outings, but the Tigers were able to gash them for 291 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

#2 Oklahoma State 66, Texas Tech 6

Brandon Weeden threw for 423 yards and five touchdowns in three quarters as the Cowboys advanced to their first 10-0 start in school history. But the story of the game might be the OSU defense. Much maligned this season for giving up big yardage totals, the Cowboys held Texas Tech to just 270 total yards and held them scoreless (the Red Raiders’ points came on a 37-yard fumble return touchdown). OSU also forced three turnovers, increasing its nation’s-best total to 34 on the season. Texas Tech rolled up 41 points and 572 yards in its upset of then-#1 Oklahoma last month. But in the three games since (all losses) combined, the Red Raiders have managed just 971 yards and been outscored 159-33. This is the second year in a row the Cowboys have swept the state of Texas in Big 12 play (UT, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor).

#6 Oregon 53, #3 Stanford 30

Stanford held a four point lead at the half, and from that point on it was all Oregon. The Ducks scored on four of their first five possessions in the second half while Stanford gave up four of its five turnovers in the game after halftime. Oregon’s quick-strike offense was on full display, as five of the Ducks’ seven scoring drives needed six plays or less. Oregon running back LaMichael James, who leads the nation in yards per game, showed that he should be in the Heisman mix once again with 146 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Darron Thomas was efficient in leading the Ducks’ offense, going 11/17 for 155 yards and three touchdowns. Stanford’s Andrew Luck, the Heisman frontrunner coming into the game, threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns, but turned the ball over three times (two interceptions, one fumble). The loss snapped Stanford’s nation’s best 17-game winning streak.

#4 Alabama 24, Mississippi State 7

Alabama may not have come out on top in their last game against #1 LSU, but the Crimson Tide defense showed why they’re still the best in the land, holding the Bulldogs to just 12 rushing yards and 131 total yards. This is the 11th straight time Alabama’s opponents have been held to 14 points or fewer. However, the kicking woes that plagued the Crimson Tide last week (four missed field goals in the loss) continued, with two more misses in the first quarter this week. Running back Trent Richardson, the SEC’s leading rusher, finished with 127 yards and a touchdown in the win. Three different quarterbacks played for Mississippi State — including third-stringer Dylan Favre, the nephew of NFL great Brett Favre — but none were effective against the Crimson Tide defenders. The Bulldogs averaged just 2.2 yards per play.

Texas Christian 36, #5 Boise State 35

For the second straight year, a missed field goal at the end of the game cost Boise State a spot in the BCS. TCU scored a touchdown to pull within one with 1:05 to play. But playing in a hostile road environment, Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson elected to go for the win in regulation and got a successful two-point conversion to take the lead. However, the ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, giving Boise State good field position and enough time to drive for a shot at the winning field goal. But a 39-yard field goal attempt by Broncos freshman kicker Dan Goodale sailed wide right as the time expired. TCU only had 33 rushing yards, but quarterback Casey Paschall threw for a career-high 473 yards and five touchdowns in the win. This is the first home loss for Boise State coach Chris Petersen and ends a 35-game home winning streak. It is the Broncos’ first home conference loss since 1998, when they were members of the Big West.

#7 Oklahoma BYE

The Sooners had the week off and will return to action next week at Baylor.

#8 Arkansas 49, Tennessee 7

Razorbacks wide receiver Jarius Wright caught five passes for 94 yards and a touchdown, giving him a school-record 154 career receptions. Fellow receiver Joe Adams added two touchdowns (one receiving, one on a punt return) as the Razorbacks offense continued to roll and kept the Hogs’ hopes of an SEC championship alive. Tennessee has lost five of its last six and been outscored 158-59 in that stretch. The win was Arkansas’ seventh straight against SEC East opponents.

#9 Clemson 31, Wake Forest 28

Clemson wrapped up a spot in the ACC championship game in dramatic fashion, kicking a 43-yard field goal as time expired to secure the win over the Demon Deacons. Despite turning the ball over three times, Clemson’s offense turned things on when it mattered, overcoming a 14-point deficit late in the third quarter with 17 unanswered points. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd threw two interceptions (his second multiple interception game in a row after throwing just three picks in the Tigers first eight games), but rallied with 343 passing yards and two touchdowns. Wake Forest’s leading rusher, running back Josh Harris, missed the game with a hamstring injury but backup Brandon Pendergrass tallied 134 yards and two touchdowns in the losing effort.

#10 Virginia Tech 37, #20 Georgia Tech 26

The Hokies put themselves in the driver’s seat for the ACC championship with a strong late-game performance, pulling out a come-from behind win and ending the Yellow Jackets’ six-game home winning streak. Georgia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas seemed to get better as the game went on, leading the Hokies to 16 unanswered points on their three final drives (not counting two kneeldowns at the end of the game). Thomas finished with 209 passing yards and three touchdowns to go along with 70 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Virginia Tech running back David Wilson, the nation’s second-leading rusher coming into game, added a career-high 175 yards rushing, his seventh straight 100-yard game. Virginia Tech’s defense held the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option offense, which came in averaging 328 rushing yards per game (second in the nation), to 243 yards on the ground and just 97 passing. After punting the first two times they had the ball, the Hokies scored on six of their next seven possessions. Virginia Tech has now won an ACC-record 12 straight road games.

#11 Houston 73, Tulane 17

Despite being held scoreless in the first quarter (ending a streak of 19 straight quarters with a score), Houston had no trouble dispatching an overmatched Tulane squad, putting up 73 points in three quarters and 735 yards of total offense. Cougars quarterback Case Keenum had, by his standards, a ho-hum game with 325 yards and three touchdowns. But Houston’s running game showed that it could do plenty of damage of its own, with running back Charles Sims rushing for 207 yards and two touchdowns. The Cougars are averaging an NCAA-record 54.7 points per game this season, and have put up at least 56 points in six of their last seven games.

#19 Nebraska 17, #12 Penn State 14

Penn State rallied late to make the game close, but Nebraska’s defense held on two fourth-down conversions late in the fourth quarter to add a loss to the already-nightmarish week that Penn State has been through. In the first Nittany Lions game in 46 years without Joe Paterno as the head coach, Penn State’s defense was unable to stop Cornhuskers running back Rex Burkhead, who finished with 121 yards and a touchdown. Penn State’s offensive struggles continued against the Blackshirts, as every PSU possession in the first half ended on either a punt or a missed field goal. The Nittany Lions did not find the end zone until the Huskers had already gone up 17-0. While PSU scored again to pull within three with under four minutes to go, they were unable to capitalize on two additional drives, turning the ball over on downs both times. This was the highest ranked team the Cornhuskers have beaten on the road since knocking off #2 Washington in 1997.

#13 Michigan State 37, Iowa 21

Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 260 yards and three touchdowns as the Spartans won in Iowa City for the first time since 1989. More importantly, the Spartans control their own destiny and can secure a spot in the first Big Ten championship game with wins the next two weeks over Indiana and Northwestern. Iowa running back Marcus Coker, who had rushed for 100+ in six of the Hawkeyes’ nine games and scored two touchdowns in each of the previous four games, was held to just 57 rushing yards and a touchdown in the loss.

#14 Georgia 45, #24 Auburn 7

Georgia running backs Isaiah Crowell and Carlton Thomas both rushed for over 125 yards and quarterback Aaron Murray threw four touchdown passes as the Bulldogs had no problems putting away the defending national champs. The Bulldogs’ defense was equally dominant, forcing three turnovers, recording five sacks, held the Tigers to 3-of-11 on 3rd down conversions and allowed just 195 total yards (51 on the ground). With his performance today, Murray moved past former Bulldogs quarterback Matthew Stafford for the school record for most touchdown passes in a season. Auburn has not won in Athens since 2005.

#15 South Carolina 17, Florida 12

Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw only threw for 81 yards and an interception, but got the job done on the ground, rushing for 88 yards and two touchdowns in the win. South Carolina’s defense continued to be dominant, holding the Gators to just 261 total yards and forcing two turnovers. Six of the Gamecocks’ last seven opponents have been held to 16 points or fewer. With the win, South Carolina completes its first-ever sweep of SEC East opponents and has won six conference games for the first time since joining the SEC in 1992.

#16 Wisconsin 42, Minnesota 13

The Badgers got their first true road win of the season in a big fashion, rolling up 461 yards of offense while holding Minnesota to just 156 (51 passing). Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, who leads the nation in touchdowns, rushed for 166 yards and two scores, setting a new Big Ten record for touchdowns in a season (27). Badgers quarterback Russell Wilson threw four touchdowns (two to WR Nick Toon) in the win. Wisconsin has won eight in a row against Minnesota, the longest such streak in this rivalry that dates back to 1890.

#17 Kansas State 53, Texas A&M 50 (4OT)

Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein threw for a career-high 281 yards and a touchdown and added 103 yards and five touchdowns on the ground in the Wildcats quadruple-overtime win over Texas A&M. Twice in regulation, the Aggies held double-digit leads, only to see Kansas State rally to tie it back up. Running back Cyrus Gray carried the load for Texas A&M in the loss, rushing for 218 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. Kansas State nearly blew its chance to win when Collin Klein fumbled just short of the goal line in the first overtime, but receiver Tramaine Thompson was able to recover the ball in the end zone for the Wildcats first score in the extra period.

#18 Southern Cal 40, Washington 17

USC running back Curtis McNeal had a career-high 148 rushing yards and a touchdown, and the Trojans ground game was more than enough to sink the Huskies. USC’s defense continued to be dominant, holding the Huskies to 46 rushing yards, limiting them to just 2-of-13 on 3rd down conversions and scoring a safety. The Trojans sacked UW quarterback Keith Price four times while holding him to just 125 yards, his lowest total of the season, and scoreless for the first time this year. USC special teams also came up big, returning the second half opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown.

Missouri 17, #21 Texas 5

Missouri put an end to Texas’ three game winning streak in Columbia, but victory came at a price as running back Henry Josey, the Big 12’s leading rusher and the Tigers’ top offensive threat, went down with a serious knee injury in the third quarter. Playing in relief, backup running back Kendial Lawrence rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown in the Mizzou victory. After rushing for 400+ yards in back-to-back games for the first time since 1997, the injury-riddled Longhorns running game was held to just 76 yards on the ground. Other than the injury to Josey, the big story was Missouri’s defense, which was torched for almost 700 yards a week ago at Baylor, rebounding to keep Texas out of the end zone for the first time since 2004.

#22 Michigan 31, Illinois 14

After starting the season 6-0, the Illinois offense has been going in reverse during their current four-game losing streak. At halftime Saturday, the Illini had no points and just 30 total yards (minus-12 rushing). Illinois didn’t cross midfield until there were less than two minutes left in the third quarter. However, a defense that forced three first-half turnovers and knocked Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson (wrist) out of the game kept this contest closer than the numbers would indicate.  Wolverines running back Fitzgerald Toussaint carried the load for UM, rushing for 192 yards (121 in the first quarter) and a touchdown in the victory. Michigan’s defense continued its strong 2011 campaign, holding the Illini to just 37 rushing yards and forcing three turnovers and four sacks. This is the sixth opponent this year the Wolverines have held to 14 points or less.

West Virginia 24, #23 Cincinnati 21

West Virginia blocked a Bearcats attempted field goal as time expired to secure the victory and keep the Mountaineers Big East title hopes alive. WVU quarterback Geno Smith continued his hot play, passing for 372 yards and a touchdown while leading a go-ahead fourth quarter drive. While Cincinnati still controls its own destiny in the Big East, that task may have gotten much tougher as senior quarterback Zach Collaros left the game in the second quarter with a leg injury. He was unable to put any weight on his right ankle and spent the rest of the game watching from the sideline on crutches.

#25 Southern Miss 30, Central Florida 29

Central Florida got a touchdown with no time left on the clock to pull within one, and the Knights elected to go for the win rather than play for overtime. However, their upset bid came up short when a two-point conversion pass was tipped. Southern Miss was unable to capitalize on several red zone trips, but kicker Danny Hrapmann proved to be a weapon, going five-for-five on field goal attempts. Central Florida was held to just 48 rushing yards and turned the ball over three times. The two teams combined for 24 penalties for 187 yards. The Knights have now lost five straight road games for the first time since 2004. This win moves the Golden Eagles to 9-1 for the first time since 1996. This is their first eight-game winning streak since 1958.

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