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Tag:Kirk Cousins
Posted on: October 30, 2010 4:32 pm
 

Paper tigers? MSU, Mizzou getting housed

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Michigan State and Missouri might have entered this weekend undefeated and ranked in the top 6, but you couldn't say they were getting a whole lot of respect; according to Vegas both were decisive road underdogs, against Iowa and Nebraska respectively, and both stayed ranked behind known non-AQ quantities Boise State and TCU. The near-universal consensus seemed to be that the Spartans and Tigers had enjoyed a nice run, but that it was over.

That consensus has thus far been proven even more correct than even the most skeptical skeptics could have imagined. Missouri has given up two long Roy Helu Jr. touchdown runs, seen Blaine Gabbert start 3-of-11 with an interception, and trail 24-0 at the end of the first quarter. Michigan State has been a little more respectable, but only just: Iowa opened the game with a dominating 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, and increased their lead to 17-0 when Tyler Sash picked off a wayward Kirk Cousins pass and lateraled to Micah Hyde for the defensive touchdown.

So, as of this moment, it's Homestanding Agents of BCS Chaos a collective 41, Undefeated Conference Front-runners 0. Sometimes, unfortunately, the haters have a point.
Posted on: October 25, 2010 6:57 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2010 6:11 pm
 

Davey O'Brien semifinalists announced; no Persa?

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The Davey O'Brien Award, given annually to the nation's top quarterback, announced its 16 semifinalists for the award today. The list is as follows, in alphabetical order:

 

  • Matt Barkley (Soph.), USC
  • Kirk Cousins (Jr.), Michigan State
  • Andy Dalton (Sr.), TCU
  • Blaine Gabbert (Jr.), Missouri
  • Robert Griffin III (Soph.), Baylor
  • Landry Jones (Soph.), Oklahoma
  • Colin Kaepernick (Sr.), Nevada
  • Andrew Luck (Jr.), Stanford
  • Ryan Mallett (Jr.), Arkansas
  • Taylor Martinez (Fr.), Nebraska
  • Kellen Moore (Jr.), Boise State
  • Cam Newton (Jr.), Auburn
  • Terrelle Pryor (Jr.), Ohio State
  • Denard Robinson (Soph.), Michigan
  • Ricky Stanzi (Sr.), Iowa
  • Darron Thomas (Soph.), Oregon

 

All in all, this is a pretty thorough list of the quarterbacks who might end up being the top quarterback in the nation once December rolls around, but it certainly does seem as if there was one glaring omission: Northwestern sophomore Dan Persa . Persa currently leads the nation in completion percentage, is eighth in passing efficiency  and is fifth in total offense . Oh, and Persa also leads his team in rushing yards (341) and rushing touchdowns (six) -- each by pretty substantial margins over the nearest teammate.

Of course, it certainly merits mention that Northwestern is currently on a two-game losing streak, and that the Wildcats hadn't really beaten anyone of merit before the streak either. But in the Wildcats' losses to Michigan State and Purdue -- neither of whom have lost a Big Ten game yet, for what it's worth -- Persa was hardly "at fault" for the losses; he averaged 281 yards of total offense in the two games and scored four touchdowns to just one turnover.

It's hard to say who should be bumped for Persa's sake, though; every one of the top 16 semifinalists has a legitimate claim to deserving some sort of accolade. It's also worth pointing out, however, that until Missouri and Oklahoma faced each other this past weekend, Dalton, Gabbert, and Jones were all quarterbacking undefeated teams, and that's probably the only reason they're on the list; Jones and Gabbert, in particular, aren't even close to the top 16 of passing efficiency in the nation (34th and 39th, respectively). None of the three are terribly gifted runners, either, while Persa's been forced to anchor the woeful Northwestern ground game.

Of course, the O'Brien Award probably wants to avoid the embarrassment of not being able to even nominate a title contender's quarterback as a finalist, and with two conference losses, it's extremely unlikely that Northwestern will represent the Big Ten in Pasadena, much less make a run at a spot in the Top 10. Persa and his Wildcats aren't high-profile, and that's enough to leave him off this list. Inclusion's academic either way, since this is clearly Cam Newton's to lose, but it'd be nice to see a quarterback like Persa rewarded for putting together one hell of a season so far even when he doesn't have the supporting cast to win 11 games in a season.


Posted on: October 23, 2010 9:33 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2010 10:43 pm
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 23)

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

1. You're going to have to knock Sparty out. The Michigan State Spartans, even sitting at 7-0 entering this week's trip to Northwestern , weren't exactly strangers to adversity. They trailed Notre Dame in the fourth quarter. They gave away all kinds of points in turnovers against Wisconsin . Their offense sputtered for a half against both Michigan and Illinois . Their head coach had missed time with multiple ailments including a freaking postgame heart attack.

But in football terms, none of that quite matched trailing the Wildcats 17-0 on the road midway through the second quarter this afternoon. The Spartans were lucky it wasn't worse, as Northwestern had fumbled a certain touchdown at the 1 and had both run the ball and stopped the MSU run with impunity. No matter: the Spartans turned to quarterback Kirk Cousins and their excellent receiving corps, and responded with an immediate touchdown. Just a few minutes into the second half, it was 17-14. A fake punt helped keep them within 24-21. And two touchdowns in the game's dying minutes gave them a 35-27 win . They just never stopped coming.

The lesson -- as the lesson has been all season with the Spartans -- is that you'd best put your boot on Sparty's throat when you get the chance. If you let them stay upright, their offense is too balanced and their confidence too high for them not to overtake you eventually. Just ask the Wildcats.

2. Iowa's fourth-quarter mojo is missing. A year ago, Ricky Stanzi was unstoppable in the final period , and the Hawkeyes rode his arm to a perfect 10-0 record in games he started and finished. Four of those wins came by a teeth-skinning total of eight points, with several others blown open by the Hawkeyes in the fourth after three evenly-played quarters. In short: no team in America was more clutch.

In its five wins so far this year, Iowa hasn't needed any of those heroics, winning by an average of 23 points. But twice in 2010 the Hawkeyes have found themselves in fourth-quarter struggles, and in neither case have they come up with the plays that made 2009 so special. Against Arizona , it was a collapse on the offensive line that led to a series of game-ending sacks. Against Wisconsin today , it was the Iowa special teams and defense that allowed the Badgers to drive 80 yards in 7:29 with the game on the line, eventually giving up the winning touchdown to Badger backup Montee Ball . The Badgers converted a pair of fourth downs on the drive, one on a fake punt deep in their own territory.

And this time, with barely more than a minute to work with, Stanzi wasn't able to pull off the miracle drive for the win. As they say: what a difference a year makes .

3. Move along: there's nothing to see in Minneapolis. Playing at home after the embarrassment of having its coach fired midseason, Minnesota allowed the previously moribund Penn State offense -- and "moribund" is being kind -- to rack up 145 rushing yards and 33 points in a comfortable 12-point win , all without injured starting quarterback Robert Bolden . We knew that the next Gopher head coach was by far the biggest question surrounding the program; after a performance like Saturday's, it's fair to call it the only question.

4. The Big Ten is one game away from total chaos. Or total boredom. Wisconsin looked utterly lost in East Lansing in Week 5, but after massive wins against Ohio State at home and now Iowa on the road, it's fair to say the Badgers have their usual ground-pounding attack operating at maximum efficiency. The Buckeyes made clear Saturday they're not going anywhere, obliterating Purdue 49-0 . And as painful as their come-from-ahead loss Saturday may have been, Iowa has just the one conference loss and is all the more dangerous for having been stung by its setbacks to date.

Meaning that if Michigan State falls in Iowa City this coming Saturday, no less than four of the Big Ten's powers could be tied at the top of the conference standings with a single loss, with only one game -- Iowa against Ohio State -- still to play between the four of them. The mind reels at the tiebreakers.

The flip side is that if Michigan State wins in Iowa City, to sit at least a game up on the rest of the field ... with head-to-head tiebreakers over the Hawkeyes and Badgers in hand ...  no game scheduled against Ohio State ... and only dates against Minnesota, Purdue and Penn State remaining ... you might as well go ahead and pencil the Spartans in for Pasadena, or something even greater.

So, Michigan State at Iowa: the game of the Big Ten's season? Yes, Michigan State at Iowa, the game of the Big Ten's season.
Posted on: October 23, 2010 3:27 pm
 

Nevermind: Cousins leads comeback for Sparty W

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

When we last off with Michigan State vs. Northwestern , the homestanding Wildcats were manhandling the favored Spartans on the ground and had opened up a commanding 17-0 second quarter lead. They never really stopped manhandling them, either; until a late, essentially meaningless Edwin Baker touchdown run, Northwestern was outgaining the Spartans 2-to-1 in the rushing game.

Which is why Michigan State went to the air in the second half, changed the game, and won 35-27 . Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins enjoyed a monster second half, finishing with 335 yards on 32-of-45 passing, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. MSU wideouts B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell each finished with over 100 yards receiving. They were all at their best on the Spartans' critical 11-play, 89-yard fourth-quarter drive to take the lead, as Cousins went 8-of-9 for 96 yards (the Spartans turned 2nd-and-20 and 3rd-and-15 situations into first downs after sacks) and Cunningham added a brilliant touchdown reception after an end-zone deflection.

Sparty also got a boost from another Mark Dantonio fake punt that led to a touchdown and two critical Northwestern turnovers, one on the Spartan 1-yard line in the first half and a Dan Persa interception that helped lead to MSU's first score of the second half. But Cousins was the difference-maker, hitting his routes on perfect timing again and again. Ohio State annihilated Purdue as comprehensively as it's possible to annihilate a Big Ten opponent, but it's not going to matter as long as Cousins and his receivers continue executing at this level and Dantonio's squad continues to show the kind of resilience they did today.
Posted on: October 2, 2010 5:33 pm
Edited on: October 2, 2010 5:34 pm
 

Spartans overcome turnovers, lead 20-10 at half

Posted by Chip Patterson

Michigan State was trying pretty hard to give away the first half of the game against No. 11 Wisconsin in East Lansing.  A Keith Nichol fumble and two Kirk Cousins interceptions set up 10 first half points for the Badgers.  Michigan State was hanging on thanks to a pair of field goals and a Keshawn Martin punt return touchdown barely leading 13-10 until the last minutes of the second quarter.  Cousins orchestrated a nine play, 69 yard drive that ended in a Mark Dell touchdown reception with just 23 seconds remaining on the clock.  

While Wisconsin was able to capitilize off the Sparatans' mistakes, the momentum swung on a 4th and 1 in the final scoring drive.  The Badger defense bit on a fake dive halfback pitch that Le'Veon Bell took for 23 yards.  The fourth-down conversion took the wind out of the Wisconsin defense, and set the tone for the rest of the drive.

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Posted on: September 27, 2010 8:00 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2010 11:53 pm
 

For the Big Ten, the fight begins this weekend

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Big Ten Conference play begins this weekend*, and the race for the conference title is either already over (Ohio State) or wide open (the six other teams seemingly capable of winning the conference). We'll quickly find out whether many of the presumptive challengers to the Buckeyes' supremacy have what it takes to put together a great season. Considering the questions surrounding so many of them, the answer seems to be "maybe, but it's unlikely." In no particular order ...

Michigan (4-0): On one hand, Denard Robinson is a near-lock for Heisman candidacy this December; his stat lines are other-worldly, and there are few defenses in the conference that seem capable of containing this Michigan offense. But that defense. Ye gods, the defense. Michigan allowed 37 points to FCS stalwart UMass, and has given up more points thus far than every Big Ten team except Minnesota. Can Robinson and his teammates outscore enough conference opponents to justify the team's No. 19 ranking? They'll find out soon enough against Indiana this weekend; the Hoosiers have scored more than 40 points a game this season and have talent everywhere on offense.

Iowa (3-1): The good news: the Iowa Hawkeyes look materially better than last season, as wins that were close last year are blowouts now. Ricky Stanzi is far more efficient as a passer, and the only interception he's thrown all season came on a deflection. The bad news: the Hawkeyes have three kickers, which is to say they have none, and their cornerbacks are still rather suspect. And good heavens, that Arizona game. Iowa committed mistake after mistake in the first half, found themselves down 20 points at the break, then imploded on the offensive line with the game on the line. So what's there to make of the Arizona game? Was it an aberration, or is Iowa merely a bully of plainly inferior competition? Penn State comes to town this weekend, and intends to find out exactly how good the Hawkeyes actually are.

Wisconsin (4-0): No undefeated Big Ten team is more of an enigma than Wisconsin, who looks like it should be a Rose Bowl contender on paper -- and may very well be so -- but has underwhelmed against FBS competition. The Badgers needed a blocked extra point and a miraculous tackle at the 1-yard line at the end of the first half to help preserve a 20-19 win against Arizona State, and only beat an unimpressive San Jose State team 27-14. Yes, they won 70-3 over Austin Peay. Whatever. Wisconsin has the hogs up front and the stable of running backs (led by All-American candidate John Clay) to run over just about anybody in the conference, and Scott Tolzein is having another impressive and efficient season. Their defense isn't a weakness, and they get Ohio State (whom they've usually given fits) in Madison. But lo and behold, they face Michigan State in East Lansing this week, and it's basically a toss-up. Which Wisconsin will show up this Saturday -- and this season? 

Penn State (3-1): Joe Paterno made waves when he installed true freshman Rob Bolden at quarterback to begin the season, and for the most part, the decision has worked out; Bolden hasn't looked great, but he's playing with a maturity beyond his years, and he's certainly not a weak link in the offense. That weak link, however, would be the offensive line; Penn State hasn't blown anyone off the ball with any regularity yet this season, and that includes the likes of Youngstown State and Temple. That Penn State is still ranked after its somewhat underwhelming non-conference schedule demonstrates the deep level of trust voters have in JoePa to field a competitive team, and that's a trust that's rarely betrayed. Still, the Nittany Lions had better start playing like a quality team very soon, or they could find themselves in line for something like the Texas Bowl.

Northwestern (4-0): The Cardiac 'Cats have the inside track to a 6-0 record right now; they're two-thirds of the way there at 4-0, and their next two opponents are absolute doormats Minnesota and Purdue. Quarterback Dan Persa is one of the highest rated passers in the NCAA, and he's also Northwestern's leading rusher. That's sort of a bad thing. In fact, Persa and his stable of running backs all average less than 4 yards per carry, and they haven't even faced great rush defenses: of their three FBS opponents, only Central Michigan is in the top half of the nation's rush defenses. Let's face it: if you can't run on Vanderbilt (143 yards on 46 carries most certainly does not qualify), you can't run on most of the Big Ten. Can Persa keep up his efficient passing in the conference season, or is that 6-0 start going to turn into 8-4 and a mediocre December bowl bid?

Michigan State (4-0): Here's what's scary: The relatively underhyped, unheralded Michigan State squad could end up being better than all the teams mentioned above. Kirk Cousins is 17th in passing efficiency in the FBS. True freshman Le'Veon Bell is a dynamo in the Spartans' backfield (and pancaked two defenders at once on MSU's game-winning fake field goal). Also, unlike Michigan, MSU doesn't have a giant honking RED ALERT attached to its defense. Oh, and the Spartans miss Ohio State on this year's schedule. Ten wins or more for Sparty? It's happened all of once (1999) since the NCAA went to 11-game regular seasons, but it could easily happen this year. Or MSU could revert to its usual self and drop four or five games in the conference. We'll start finding out when the Spartans and Badgers lock horns -- if, y'know, ancient Greek warriors and badgers had horns -- this Saturday.

So who's legit and who's not? To be honest, right now, nobody really knows. That's why this weekend's going to be vitally important for all the teams mentioned above. No more excuses, no hiding behind cupcake schedules; it's Big Ten season now.

*It's worth pointing out that the Big Ten is still something of a dinosaur in this respect; it's the only conference with an eight-game schedule that has yet to begin conference play. Sure, thanks to bye weeks, Indiana and Illinois each still have a non-con to squeeze in during the conference slate, but that's it; for the rest, it's the tried and true formula of out-of-conference, in-conference, bowl. A bit stale, to be sure, but it's somewhat nice to not have your conference title hopes completely ruined before it's even October; Georgia, after all, has already gone 0-3 in the SEC. Hopeless in September. That's no way for a fan to be, is it?

Posted on: September 24, 2010 5:22 pm
 

Insane Predictions: Week 4

Posted by the College Football Blog staff

Every season, every month, every week, there are several outcomes and achievements that, frankly, nobody operating within reason would ever predict. Who could have predicted Nebraska would beat Florida for the title by 38 points, or that Boise State would pull off three late trick plays to knock off Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, or that Mike Pouncey would screw up a baker's dozen worth of snaps in one game? Nobody... until now. We're going to try capture that lightning in a bottle by making similarly absurd predictions every week. Are they at all likely to come true? No. Do we even believe the words we're writing? No. But if we make even one correct call on these, we will never stop gloating. Ever.

Highly Unlikely

The Michigan State Spartans lose Kirk Cousins to an injury during the first quarter of their game against Northern Colorado.  His replacement, freshman Andrew Maxwell is dealt the same fate early in the second quarter and the Spartans go into the half trailing 21-10.  After quarterback-turned-WR-turned-back-i
nto-QB-because-of-emergency-in-this
-scenario Keith Nichol succumbs to a horrible stomach virus in the locker room, interim head coach Don Treadwill calls on punter Aaron Bates to lead the team in the second half.  Bates comes out and throws for 300 yards three touchdowns and kicks another three field goals as the Spartans roll to a 40-21 victory. -- Tom Fornelli

Temple upsets Penn State in Happy Valley. There's really no excuse for this happening; even with Temple starting out 3-0 and PSU looking average with true freshman Robert Bolden at QB, Penn State is still highly favored in this contest. But the Temple front seven (led by returning MAC Defensive Player of the Year DE Adrian Robinson) gives the Nittany Lions' enough fits that Temple goes into halftime leading by 10, Bolden gets benched, Kevin Newsome performs worse in relief, and the Owls shock Happy Valley, 27-20. -- Adam Jacobi

Marcus Lattimore is held to less than 70 yards rushing by the Auburn defense. Lattimore only ran for 57 yards against Southern Miss, but when the Gamecocks have really needed yards this season, they turn to number 21.  He will likely get at least 18 carries, and the Tigers did give up 140 yards to Clemson's Andre Ellington, but look for the defensive line to step up and shut down Lattimore at home in primetime. -- Chip Patterson

Severely Unlikely

Mike Leach makes it through the entire broadcast of the Houston - Tulane game without some reference to "symptoms of concussion" followed by awkward silence that lasts as long as an equipment shed is wide. -- Chip Patterson

With his team trailing 24-21 late in the fourth quarter against Arkansas, Nick Saban calls a timeout as his team is marching down the field looking for the go-ahead touchdown.  "I've had an epiphany, gentleman.  I'm not here to win football games, I'm here to make you all better men and better human beings.  Sometimes being the bigger man means letting the other man have his moment in the spotlight."  Saban then forces Greg McElroy to kneel four straight times to end the game. -- Tom Fornelli

Boise State sets the post-WW2 single-game record for most team yardage (pre-WW2 may be a touch out of reach) in their victory over Oregon State, 94-0. Kellen Moore and the rest of the Broncos' starters play every snap, even after Oregon State puts in their second stringers in the 4th quarter. Following the game, Chris Peterson then throws his headset at the press box and yells, "Are you not entertained?!" Boise does not budge in the polls. --Adam Jacobi

Completely Insane

During the third quarter of a listless win at Washington State, USC head coach Lane Kiffin will disappear from the sideline for several minutes, and television cameras will catch him talking on his cell phone. He will claim to have been speaking with old college friends since the game was "boring," but anonymous sources with knowledge of Kiffin's cell phone records will later tell reporters that Kiffin was trying to negotiate a deal to rejoin Pete Carroll in Seattle as an assistant with the Seattle Seahawks. The deal falls through when Kiffin asks for $17.5 million a year. -- Adam Jacobi

Oregon State takes Boise State to overtime on the legendary Smurf Turf.  In overtime, Chris Peterson calls a trick play that finishes with Kellen Moore crossing into the end zone to win the game.  Upon crossing the goal line, Moore rushes over to the cheerleaders and drops to one knee... where he proposes to Buster Bronco.  The horse says "neigh." -- Chip Patterson

With the USC Trojans up 14-0 on Washington State in the first quarter, Matt Barkley finds Ronald Johnson for a 67-yard touchdown to make the score 20-0.  Lane Kiffin then decides to just kick the extra point. -- Tom Fornelli

Posted on: September 18, 2010 9:59 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2010 11:05 pm
 

Irish and Spartans locked in 7-7 tie

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Through the first 30 minutes in East Lansing there's been quite a bit of offense, but not much in the way of points.  Notre Dame has 205 total yards of offense in the first half but their lone touchdown came in the first quarter when Dayne Crist hit Michael Floyd on a 7-yard fade route in the end zone.  Michigan State, meanwhile, has managed 214 yards of their own, but like the Irish, only 7 points.

Their score came on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to KeShawn Martin.

So why the lack of points?  Well, as is often the case, turnovers.  Turnovers which are even more deadly when they happen inside the red zone.

This game could look a lot different right now if both teams were doing a better job holding onto the ball.  In the second quarter the Spartans put together a 16-play 72-yard drive only to see it end when Cousins was picked off in the end zone by Zeke Mowatt.   The Irish's misfortunes have come courtesy of a Michael Floyd fumble at the Spartans 11-yard line and a Dayne Crist interception at the Michigan State 6-yard line.

So, theoretically, this game should be somewhere in the 21-14 range.  Realistically it's tied 7-7 with two very unhappy coaches laying into their teams in the locker room.

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