Week Ten Awards

It takes a great reporter to search long and hard for a great story to writer about. It takes a much worse writer when the storylines are right in your face.

Thank goodness for me, the tenth week of college football was full of intrigue.

The Blown Opportunity award- Oklahoma Sooners

Season-ending injuries notwithstanding, Oklahoma has been a very good football team. One-point losses to Miami and BYU, coupled with three-point defeat at the hands of Texas left the Sooners out of any conversations about championships.

A loss is a loss, but there probably is not another team in America that could play without its two best offensive skill players and come as close to undefeated as Oklahoma had.

Enter the “blackshirt defense” at Nebraska. Bo Pelini’s team was reeling, coming off back-to-back embarrassing losses. However, that defense of Pelini’s came up with five interceptions of Landry Jones and kept the Sooners without even a sniff of the end zone much of the night.

The 10-3 loss from Oklahoma is solely responsible for its lack of credibility. The previous losses were acceptable, given the circumstances. Failing to score a touchdown for the first time in 12 years is not.

Bob Stoops is nowhere near the hot seat, but if the Sooners continue to slide down the stretch, many an eyebrow will begin to rise in Norman.

The Red Alert award- Notre Dame’s program

There is one telling sign about the Irish’s loss to Navy that stands above everything else, even the game itself. After Navy held off an improbable Notre Dame comeback attempt, the players walked across the field to shake hands with the Irish.

Walked. Not ran, not jumped, skipped, hopped, flipped, dove, or any other form of jubilant celebration a team usually shows when it knocks off a rival for the second time in more then 40 years.

Navy expected to beat Notre Dame. That’s an awful sign for the Irish program. Sure, the Midshipmen were 6-3, and are definitely no slouch of a team, but they were still prohibitive underdogs on the road in South Bend.

Two years ago on the same field, Navy ended a 43-game skid against the biggest rival that is not a military institution. Jubilation ensued, and the talks of Weis’ surely impending termination heated up.

Weis stuck around, however, but after last week’s loss, he might not be so lucky. This year’s Navy loss was much more of an upset. Notre Dame was on track for a potential BCS bowl. In 2007 the Irish were meddling through a 3-9 season.

The Irish can now hope for the Gator Bowl at best, and who knows where the program will head from there. Jimmy Clausen will almost surely jump to the NFL, as well as Golden Tate. Clausen is the Hope Diamond of this team, however, and his departure would deflate the entire program.

Incumbent quarterback Dayne Crist tore his ACL in last week’s game against Washington State, and probably will not be recovered in time for spring practice. There are no other quarterbacks on the roster under scholarship with eligibility past this season.

The failure to win 10 games this season is looking more and more like the proverbial final straw on coach Weis’ tenure at the golden dome.

 The “Why So Cocky”? award, brought to you by USC, Miami, Houston and Oklahoma State – The Oregon Ducks

What do all these kind sponsors have in common with the award’s recipient? Each and every one of them followed up a huge win with a crushing upset loss. Oregon was basking in the glory of the moniker “best one-loss team in America” –which about 8 different teams have been dubbed at some point this season – and forgot that Stanford had not lost at home this year.

The Cardinal’s star backfield of Andrew Luck and Toby Gerhart dominated the Ducks, who only one week before had slammed the door on USC’s seven-year reign atop the Pac-10.  All of a sudden, the Trojans are knocking once more, as another Oregon loss would put Pete Carroll’s squad right back in the Rose Bowl.

Jeremiah Masoli, who had a Heisman-worthy performance in Eugene, did his best to keep the Ducks alive against the Cardinal, but the defense let him down.

Oregon had no answer for Luck and Gerhart. The Cardinal running back trampled the Ducks for 223 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Luck threw for 251 yards and two scores as well.

Not only was it a huge win for Jim Harbaugh’s program, but it also went a long way in solidifying Luck’s case for Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, an award he has been in stark competition with Matt Barkley of USC for all season.

Regardless of whoever wins the award, the Pac-10 can lay claim to undoubtedly the two best freshman quarterbacks in America. As Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy depart from the college ranks, Luck and Barkley will fill the void of in-conference superstars just biding their time before millions of dollars fly their way in the NFL.

Game of the Week – Houston 46, Tulsa 45

Nobody gives them any credit, but the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes are on the cusp of some serious notoriety. They were a weakly thrown pass from taking Boise State to overtime, and on Saturday were the victims of 10 Houston points in the final 21 seconds to fall to the 15th-ranked Cougars.

Case Keenum was his typical self, throwing for 522 yards and three scores. It was never as easy as usual for Keenum, however. Every time the Cougars offense would find the end zone, Tulsa would respond quickly.

Houston led 24-21 at halftime, but Tulsa would score less than three minutes into the third quarter and never trailed again until the final play of the game.

Leading 45-37 with under a minute to play, Tulsa allowed Keenum to make his bid for the Heisman a lot stronger. Keenum found James Cleveland for a one-yard touchdown pass bringing the Cougars within two points of tying the game. On the two-point conversion attempt, Keenum was sacked however.

Tulsa rejoiced. The band was playing, the stadium was rocking, as the fans that had only two weeks before been heartbroken by the loss to Boise State now had their upset win. Instead, the Cougars recovered an onside kick, and Keenum completed two quick passes to set up a game-winning 51-yard field goal try.

Matt Hogan, who was perfect on three attempts earlier in the game, and was six-for-six on the season, was lining up for the biggest kick of his young career. Despite his success in 2009, he is only a freshman, and was carrying the dreams of an unforgettable season on his right leg.

Hogan was as pure as the Oklahoma night sky, drilling the long field goal with no time to spare. Keenum’s name was solidified as one of the best quarterbacks in America, and Hogan is a cult hero of sorts in Houston. But everyone who knows football knows this: that fame Hogan is enjoying now would vanish with a miss or two. Savor the moment while you can, Matt.



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