NCAA Football

Oregon's Many Flaws Turn Fatal Once Again Against Arizona

We knew the Oregon Ducks had flaws; however, those flaws turned fatal on Thursday night against the Arizona Wildcats. Again. 

Oregon’s flaws were not only exposed tonight, they were as vivid and bright as their neon pink uniforms.

For the second year in a row, the Wildcats defeated the Ducks, this time by the score of 31-24. While the Ducks held a 7-3 lead at halftime—one they were gifted as Arizona fumbled right before half inside the Ducks 10-yard line—Arizona was in control for most of the game.

It was obvious that this version of the Ducks had seriously flaws that were likely bound to cost them a game at some point this season. The young and inexperienced offensive line had faltered significantly against Washington State. Oregon’s defense was ranked No. 119 against the pass and No. 95 in total defense. The Ducks almost ranked No. 88 in penalties committed, averaging 7.7 per game this season.

But against Arizona? Again? It happened. The Ducks flaws finally caught up to them and now leave them with a 4-1 record and may have potentially cost them a shot at the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Let’s begin with Oregon’s offensive line, which had come under serious fire after a disastrous performance against Washington State 12 days ago in Pullman. While the Ducks offensive line “improved” by only allowing five sacks of Mariota Thursday, as opposed to seven against the Cougars, the group was still downright putrid. There’s no way around it.

Oregon’s offense really couldn’t get anything going until their backs were against the wall late in the third quarter. The reason was because the offensive line simply couldn’t stop Arizona’s pass rush from getting in the backfield and disrupting Mariota and the running backs.

The Ducks offensive line, while young, is talented. However, they’ve yet to live up to their potential—especially tonight. While Mariota still managed to pass for 276 yards and two touchdowns, he was never really comfortable in the pocket, and the Ducks were unable to establish a rhythm at any point during the game.

Oregon’s running game also suffered due to the subpar play of the offensive line. On the night, the Ducks rushed the ball 41 times for 144 yards, an average of 3.5 yards per carry.

Without a rhythm and running game, the Ducks offense was handed to Mariota, who was essentially forced to try to win the game by himself. It wasn’t enough.

With the Ducks down by seven and less than two minutes to play, Mariota attempted a comeback that, if successful, would have vaulted him once again to the top of the Heisman race. However, Oregon’s offensive line let him down again.

After completing two consecutive passes to wide receiver Dwayne Stanford, Mariota stepped up in the pocket trying to find a man downfield; however, this time he was sacked and stripped by Arizona’s Scooby Wright.

Wright recovered in Ducks territory, and the game was over. While Mariota is partially to blame for being somewhat careless with the ball in that situation, Oregon’s offensive line broke down again and didn’t give Mariota the requisite time to dazzle us again.

The offensive line deserves part of the blame, but Oregon’s defense and penalties also significantly contributed to the Ducks' latest collapse.

Oregon’s defense, which has struggled mightily against the pass this season, faltered against the run tonight. That’s not to say that Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon didn’t play well; he did. But it was really Arizona’s running game that led the charge.

Arizona ran for 208 yards and three touchdowns en route to the victory. Freshman running back Nick Wilson scored three touchdowns, two of which came on the ground, and gained 126 total yards. However, he wasn’t Arizona’s best running back. Senior Terris Jones-Grigsby gained 210 total yards against the Ducks—115 rushing, 95 receiving—and scored a touchdown.

Jones-Grigsby played well, but it was really Oregon’s defense that beat themselves. The Ducks continually gave Arizona chances to score after putting the Arizona offense in difficult situations. The best example of this came late in the fourth quarter, with the score tied at 24, after Ducks linebacker Rodney Hardrick sacked Solomon for a 10-yard loss, forcing the Wildcats to gain 20 yards in order to convert the third down.

Instead of throwing the ball, Arizona’s offense ran a delayed handoff to Jones-Grigsby. There wasn’t a single Duck in sight. Jones-Grigsby went 24 yards untouched up the middle of the field to score a first down. The Wildcats would go on to score the game-winning touchdown four plays later. However, they were only granted that opportunity because of Oregon’s final fatal flaw: penalties.

On the night, the Ducks committed 10 penalties for 78 yards. Moreover, the Ducks committed mindless penalties over and over again at the worst possible moment. Oregon’s offensive line drew its fair share of penalties and is, again, partially to blame. But Oregon’s biggest penalties came defensively on back-to-back plays on Arizona’s game-winning drive.

After Jones-Grigsby’s 24-yard run to set up 1st-and-goal, the Ducks defense stepped up and seemed to have forced Arizona into kicking a field goal after a third-down sack by linebacker Tony Washington. It was not to be.

Following the play, Washington was headed to the sideline and decided to break out a celebration—a bow towards the Oregon sideline. Washington subsequently drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which resulted in a penalty that gave Arizona an automatic first down from their own 4-yard line. On the very next play, cornerback Troy Hill drew a flag for pass interference on Arizona wide receiver Cayleb Jones.

Two plays later, Jones-Grigsby lunged into the end zone. Arizona would never relinquish the lead again.

The Ducks, quite obviously, were the more talented team on the field on Thursday night in Eugene. However, their fatal flaws finally caught up to them, and they may have cost the Ducks a shot at a national title.

Tonight’s loss could have been avoided. The Ducks simply shot themselves in the foot one too many times and couldn’t recover.

The real question is, did we see the end of an era in Oregon? It may be too soon to tell, but there are serious questions about the mental toughness of the Ducks football team and the aptitude of their coaching staff.

It’s getting hot in Eugene right now for all of the wrong reasons.


Jason Gold is Bleacher Report’s lead Oregon writer. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheSportsGuy33..

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Oregon's Many Flaws Turn Fatal Once Again Against Arizona

We knew the Oregon Ducks had flaws; however, those flaws turned fatal on Thursday night against the Arizona Wildcats. Again. Oregon’s flaws were not only exposed tonight, they were as vivid and bright as their neon pink uniforms...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Mark Blaudschun's Blitz: Is Stanford the New Notre Dame?

For years, we've heard the mantra coming from South Bend and the Subway Alumni: schools strive to be like Notre Dame.

It used to make sense. All those wins, all those national championships, all those All Americans, all those Heisman Trophy winners. And a 93 percent graduation rate to boot. Who wouldn’t cast an envious eye towards South Bend?

But as Stanford comes to town on Saturday, might Notre Dame be staring across the field at a challenger that’s become the better version of what it aspires to be?

Yes, Stanford, the suddenly flourishing program that has beaten the Irish in four of the last five years, a span in which Notre Dame’s golden dome has been tarnished with incidents that are most un-Irish-like.

As recently as 2009, there was talk about the Cardinal de-emphasizing football on the heels of the ill-fated Buddy Teevens and Walt Harris eras (16-40 combined record, no winning seasons and no bowl games).

"There was a movement in that direction,'' Rod Gilmore, an ESPN college football analyst who played defensive back for the Cardinal in the 1980s, told Bleacher Report. “The feeling was that Stanford shouldn't get caught up in the arms race with new football facilities. Then Jim Harbaugh came in and changed the culture. Stanford started recruiting in the Southeast, which it had never done before. It started going after the same players that Notre Dame was going after.''

And it worked. Harbaugh set the tone and David Shaw has picked up the baton. In the past four years, Stanford has passed Notre Dame on the football field. Four straight top 10 finishes in the BCS rankings, compared to the Irish's one. Four consecutive BCS bowl games, to one for Notre Dame. And it hasn’t come at the expense of lofty academic standards, as the Cardinal mirror the Irish’s graduation rate.

During Stanford’s rapid rise to national prominence, Notre Dame has experienced its ups and downs. While the Irish played in the national title game two years ago, it has finished in the AP Top 25 just twice in the last four years. Meanwhile, a string of off the field incidents, including an ongoing academic fraud issue, have led to questions about the character of student-athletes the Irish have pursued.

So has Stanford has become the gold standard for not only Notre Dame, but all of college football when the total package is examined?

Pac-12 Network broadcaster Ted Robinson, a Notre Dame alum who spent 13 years as Stanford’s radio voice, isn’t so sure.

"There is no question that the past five years have been the best sustained period in Stanford history,'' Robinson told B/R. "And Notre Dame has not done as well. But Notre Dame is still my school and I think that while they truly have a common bond with Stanford, they have their own set of standards, which has nothing to do with competing with what Stanford has done.

“And there is also a difference. Football is part of the Notre Dame campus culture. At Stanford, I think football is just another sport.''

The state of the rivalry following Saturday’s game will be telling. For two programs with College Football Playoff aspirations, the showdown in South Bend has high stakes.

Recess is over for No. 9 Notre Dame, whose 4-0 start doesn’t include a win over a program with a winning record. With road games against Florida State and USC looming, a big Irish win to kick off the crunch part of their schedule would offer plenty of validation.

And Stanford, after an early 13-10 loss to USC, can ill afford another defeat. But the 14th-ranked Cardinal are surely bolstered by their recent successes against Notre Dame.

An Irish win would effectively eliminate Stanford from playoff contention and tilt the rivalry back East.

But if the Cardinal win? It’s time we give credit where credit is due.

Stanford would officially be the new Notre Dame.



This Week’s Grades

A—Arizona: With a 31-24 win over No. 2 Oregon on Thursday night, the Wildcats went from spoiler to predator. Rich Rodriguez' team can basically eliminate USC from title consideration next week in Tucson, and an Arizona win could set up a Pac-12 South showdown at UCLA on Nov. 1. In two-plus years, RichRod has steadily built a Wildcats contender which could be looking beyond a Pac-12 title sooner rather than later. Hmm. Why can't Michigan get coaches like that?

B—Baylor: The Bears have been impressive, averaging more than 50 points per game while racing to the No. 8 AP ranking. But could Baylor go 12-0 and be shut out of the College Football Playoff? The Bears don't have a quality win in their weak non-conference schedule (SMU, Northwestern State, Buffalo). And the lack of a Big 12 championship game could hurt them when their brethren in the Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC are facing tough opponents in their title games. First things first—the Bears need a double-digit win over Texas on Saturday to maintain their status. The guess here is that they get it.

C—Northwestern: The Pat Fitzgerald-led Wildcats had dropped out of sight for the past year, losing seven of their last eight Big Ten games last season and starting this year with losses to Cal and Northern Illinois. But last week, they got a satisfying boost with a 29-6 win at Penn State. Take the grade and run, guys. Big Ten bad boy Wisconsin is coming to Evanston this weekend.

D—Southern Methodist: SMU is 0-4 this season and has been outscored 202-12. Unbelievably, the Mustangs have not attempted one extra point this season. Even when they scored their only touchdown (in a 43-6 loss to North Texas), there was no respect. The TD came on the final play of the game and the officials waved the extra point as it did not affect the outcome. Ouch.

F—Brady Hoke and Dave Brandon: Come on, it's one thing for once proud Michigan to be inept on the football field. But how does letting quarterback Shane Morris back on the field with a concussion last weekend against Minnesota slip through the cracks? In his best Cool Hand Luke imitation, athletic director Brandon called it a "serious lack of communication.'' The people running the Big House need to clean house.



Picking the Playoff Teams

My Final Four ...

1. Oklahoma—OU has the easiest path to the final four; no championship game and all tough games at home.

2. Alabama—The SEC civil war starts this week with Ole Miss hungry for the Tide’s visit to Oxford.

3. UCLA—The Brett Hundley-led Bruins are looking Rose Bowl ready.

4. Florida State—The Seminoles flirted with disaster last two weeks and have lots of defensive holes.


On the Outside Looking in ...

5. Michigan State—Invincible other than one half vs. Oregon, but will be hurt by Ducks' loss to Arizona.

6. Auburn—LSU visits in the Battle of the Tigers, with winner moving on, loser dropping out.

7. Baylor—Great debate: who's the best team in Texas—the Bears or A&M?'

8. Oregon—Stunning loss to Wildcats may cost Ducks a playoff spot and Marcus Mariota the Heisman.



People of Interest

Mack Brown: Capable of rebuilding the reputation of the Maize and Blue if Brady Hoke is shown the door.

Charlie Weis: Please, no more head coaching gigs after his Kansas ouster.

Lane Kiffiin: Hot coach in waiting if Tide offense takes off and Alabama rolls into the playoffs.

Jeff Driskel: In desperate need of a big game against Tennessee to right the Gators and keep his job.

Brad Bate and Warde Manuel: Boston College and UConn ADs could soon get a call from their alma mater Michigan.



Weekend Predictions

1. Alabama’s Amari Cooper becomes a Heisman front-runner with a 200-yard game in a one-sided affair against Ole Miss.

2. Greg Schiano joins the next Michigan coach rumor mill after former program Rutgers beats the Wolverines. But maybe he’s eying the NFL and the Raiders?

3. Michigan State thumps Nebraska to snuff out the Huskers as a playoff team and put Sparty back in prime position, especially with the SEC powers starting to beat each other up.

4. Baylor emerges as sheriff in the Lone Star state by putting up 50 points in beating Texas, while A&M is upset by Mississippi State.

5. Tennessee wins by three 3 TDs over Florida, sealing Driskel’s fate and increasing the heat on coach Will Muschamp.


Mark Blaudschun covers college football as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has more than three decades of experience covering sports at a variety of newspapers in New Jersey, The Dallas Morning News and The Boston Globe. Follow him on Twitter @blauds.


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Marcus Mariota vs. Arizona: Stats, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

A potential shootout against Arizona Thursday night was expected to help Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota increase the gap between himself and every other Heisman hopeful.

Instead, the perceived leader's candidacy took a significant hit in a 31-24 upset loss.

Mariota's final numbers weren't quite on par with his gaudy 2014 pace, but they weren't exactly pedestrian, either: 276 yards on 20-of-32 throwing, two passing touchdowns, nine rushing yards and a 26-yard touchdown reception.

However, there's one more important stat: two lost fumbles, including one in the final two minutes that sealed the win for the Wildcats.

As CBS Sports' Dane Brugler noted after Mariota coughed it up the first time, that has been a persistent problem for him:

For most of the opening three quarters, not much was going right for the junior quarterback. In a game in which the oddsmakers set the over/under in the 80s, Mariota and the Ducks had put just 14 points on the board through the first 45 minutes.

Among other things, he wasn't connecting on the downfield throws, per ESPN Stats & Info:

But it would be completely unjustified and lazy to place the blame entirely on Mariota. His offensive line, which has been an evident problem for much of the season, had him under pressure all night.'s Ivan Maisel and the National Football Post's Dave Miller put it simply:

USA Today's Paul Myerberg added an apt comparison:

With the Ducks down by 10 points, Mariota finally began to take things into his own hands and move the ball, orchestrating two consecutive drives that went 138 total yards in less than six minutes. The first ended in a field goal, while the second resulted in a nine-yard touchdown throw to Keanon Lowe.'s Daniel Jeremiah praised the Honolulu native:

The comeback wasn't meant to be, though. Arizona responded with a touchdown drive, and as Mariota was driving back down the field for a potential "Heisman moment," a sack, strip and recovery from Scooby Wright ended the game.

Ultimately, while the loss shouldn't be placed anywhere near Mariota's shoulders, it's going to hurt his Heisman chances regardless. That's just the way it goes. Two turnovers in a home upset won't look good in the eyes of the voters, especially two months from now when details of the game aren't fresh on the mind.

That said, he's still firmly in the Heisman race. It's not impossible to win the prestigious award with a loss on his resume, especially if he continues to produce at the same level and the Ducks win the rest of their games.

With the way Mariota's offensive line is failing to provide adequate protection, though, there's reason for concern as Oregon moves through the Pac-12 schedule.

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Arizona vs. Oregon: Score and Twitter Reaction

The No. 2 Oregon Ducks could well have cost themselves a shot at the playoff after a 31-24 upset at the hands of Arizona Wildcats at home in Eugene on Thursday night. As a result, quarterback Marcus Mariota's Heisman Trophy chances are fading fast.

This result shouldn't come as a huge surprise, considering Arizona's recent record against the Ducks, per ESPN Stats and Info:

Oregon had a chance to at the very least tie the game in in the dying minutes of the fourth quarter. After surrendering the go-ahead touchdown, the Ducks had two minutes and 54 seconds to go 91 yards. Considering the nature of the Oregon offense, nearly three minutes was more than enough time to travel the length of the field.

What the Ducks didn't plan on was a turnover by Mariota. The Heisman contender fumbled the ball on the Oregon 35-yard line, and Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III recovered with 2:11 to go.

Zack Rosenblatt of the Arizona Daily Star had Rich Rodriguez's thoughts after the game:

Mariota's fumble was a fitting way for Oregon to pick up its first loss of 2014. The Ducks have leaned on their starting quarterback quite a bit this year, asking him to almost single-handedly lift the team through close games.

Sooner or later, that was bound to backfire.

The offensive line has been one of the team's biggest problems, and the Arizona defense was constantly swarming Mariota in the pocket, per Sports IllustratedCollege Football:'s Ivan Maisel wondered how much the Ducks O-line affected Mariota's shot at the Heisman:

Mariota finished 20-of-32 with 276 yards and two touchdowns through the air. The lasting image of the game, however, will be his fumble in the fourth quarter.

Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon outshone the heavily hyped Mariota, throwing for 287 yards on 20-of-31 passing. Running backs Nick Wilson and Terris Jones-Grigsby combined to rush for 207 yards and three touchdowns.

Coming into the game, Arizona ranked 77th in points allowed (27.3) and 89th in total defense (430.5 YPG), while Oregon was fourth in scoring (48.5) and 10th in total offense (555.3 YPG). All signs pointed to an electric first half of football.

However, the first two quarters were anything but, with Oregon clinging to a 7-3 lead going into halftime. The Ducks' lone touchdown came via a gadget play and wasn't without controversy.

Running back Royce Freeman hit Mariota for a 26-yard halfback pass. Near the goal line, Mariota fumbled the ball, and Arizona recovered. The officials initially ruled the play a touchdown and upheld the call after a video review. None of the camera angles shown offered conclusive evidence that the ball didn't cross the plane before Mariota fumbled.'s Bryan Fischer believes that the time has come for college football to adopt some sort of goal-line technology similar to that in other sports:

Although Arizona likely felt aggrieved by that call, the Wildcats had plenty of reason to be encouraged by their first-half performance. They held one of the most explosive offenses in the country to 210 yards of offense at home, per ESPN College Football:

The Arizona secondary, which has been one of the worst in the country, did a great job of eliminating Mariota's options down the field:

As if the general offensive sluggishness wasn't enough of a concern for Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich, recent history wasn't in the Ducks' favor when they failed to eclipse double digits in scoring before halftime:

The Wildcats started off the second half strong, with Wilson punching it in from three yards out and giving Arizona its second lead of the game, 10-7. According to Chantel Jennings of, that was the first TD the Ducks had surrendered in the third quarter this season:

Between Wilson, Jones-Grigsby and Solomon, 'Zona did a great job of eating up yards on the ground. Matt Moreno of tracked how much the Wildcats improved on the ground since their last trip to Eugene:

Stanford, Auburn and LSU have shown in the past that a steady running game is the best way to slow down Oregon's high-powered attack and throw the Ducks off their game.

Oregon offered a quick reply, however. Mariota found wide receiver Devon Allen for a six-yard touchdown reception, putting the Ducks on top once again, 14-10, with 9:58 to play in the third quarter. Although Oregon was helped by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty during the drive, the quick TD illustrated that the Ducks offense doesn't need much time to get going.

The only problem was that the Ducks defense had no answer for Solomon or the Wildcats' rushing attack. Wilson recorded his second touchdown of the game, which put Arizona back in the lead, 17-14, and Solomon followed up with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Wilson two drives later, increasing the cushion to 10 points, 24-14.

The TD grab was a proper microcosm of how the game unfolded up until that point, with Wilson bowling over Oregon safety Ifo Ekpre Olomu, a first-team All-American in 2013, en route to the end zone:

On the Ducks' next drive, they got down to the Arizona 2-yard line for a 1st-and-goal after a 34-yard reception for wideout Dwayne Stanford. A touchdown would've cut the deficit to three points, but Oregon had to settle for a 21-yard field goal from Matt Wogan after failing to move the ball.

The defense held strong for the Ducks on Arizona's next possession, giving the offense a chance to tie the game. Mariota attempted seven passes on the nine-play drive, completing five. None was bigger than his nine-yard touchdown toss to wideout Keanon Lowe, bringing Oregon level, 24-24, with 8:21 to go in the game.

Suddenly, the Ducks were building momentum and bringing the Autzen Stadium crowd back into the contest. This looked like the moment that the No. 2 team in the country would awaken from its slumber.

On the contrary, Arizona embarked on a time-consuming 5:27 drive that went 71 yards and resulted in a one-yard touchdown run by Jones-Grigsby.

The Wildcats were helped out by a controversial unsportsmanlike penalty call on Oregon linebacker Tony Washington Jr., who celebrated after sacking Solomon on a 3rd-and-goal at the Oregon 8-yard line. That call gave Arizona an automatic first down and four more downs to score.'s Tom Fornelli was less than complimentary about the officiating throughout the game:

Some might argue that Oregon got what it deserved after it had the Arizona offense dead to rights on a 3rd-and-20. The seas parted and Jones-Grigsby scampered 24 yards for the first down. As's Jared Shanker tweeted out, the Ducks never even considered the threat of a run:

Oregon also had a chance to tie the game at the end. So as much as the unsportsmanlike penalty hurt, it was far from the sole reason the Ducks lost.

With the defeat, Oregon's playoff chances are hanging by a thread. It must run the table just to have a shot, and looking at the schedule ahead, that will be extremely tough to do. Dates with Stanford and UCLA loom on the horizon.

Arizona remains unbeaten and has now positioned itself as one of the top teams in the Pac-12. The Wildcats still have USC and UCLA ahead. Their matchup with the Trojans next Saturday will serve as a barometer for how far this team can go.

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Texas Football: What the Longhorns Must Do on Offense vs. Baylor Bears

Beating Baylor requires an offensive attack that can put up a lot of points while eating enough clock to keep Art Briles' offense on the sideline.

In other words, to upset the No. 7 team in the country, Charlie Strong's Longhorns will have to do two things they haven't done all season—break into the 30s and sustain drives. 

Through four games, Texas is averaging 21.2 points, 120.5 rushing yards and 195 passing yards per game, all of which are second-to-last in the Big 12. The Longhorns also rank last in yards per play and convert just 31.1 percent of their third downs, which is also dead-last in the conference.

Conversely, the Bears rank near the top in every single one of those categories, wearing out their opponents with a relentless all-around attack that's running almost 90 plays per game this season.

It takes a collective effort to beat that, which defensive coordinator Vance Bedford discussed with the media on Wednesday:

It takes a team to beat Baylor. You talk about Central Florida's Blake Bortles, first-round pick, offensively, they outscored them, their defense was physical for three quarters and the special teams were out-of-sight. You know at Oklahoma State, you take a 99-yard drive in five minutes, so you keep the offense on the sideline. So in order to have success against that team, it's going to take a team to beat them.

Bedford's unit figures to hold its own. But that Baylor offense, which has been held under 30 points just five times in the last three-plus seasons, will get its points, and Texas will have to answer.

Of course, that will be easier said than done behind Texas' patchwork offensive line, the primary cause of its woes on that side of the ball. This group is blocking for just 3.4 yards per carry, which is killing the offense's chances of sustaining the long drives needed to keep Baylor off the field.

If these problems persist, the Bears will run away with this game before halftime. No part of this Longhorn team is built to win 56-49, much less stage a multiple-touchdown comeback.

So how does Texas create room for running backs Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray to move the chains and shorten this game?

The simple answer is throw the ball downfield to pull defenders out of the box, but that also requires this struggling line to hold a pocket for quarterback Tyrone Swoopes. Not only will the incompletions stop the clock, but the Baylor defense ranks second in the nation with an average of 4.5 sacks per game.

What the Horns need is to get the ball to the players who can make defenders miss in the open field, namely Armanti Foreman, Jacorey Warrick and, if his suspension is lifted, Daje Johnson.

A true freshman, Foreman got his first real action of the season against Kansas, turning his two touches into 37 yards. On those plays, a 30-yard end-around and short reception for a first down, he showed off his impressive lateral quickness as well as some deceptive power.

Warrick and Johnson are cut from the same cloth, capable of taking the short passes Swoopes has consistently put on target, then putting on a move and getting upfield. 

It would seem like Johnson's absence would open the door for the other two, but Foreman and Warrick have combined for just five offensive touches this season. Thankfully, the staff is starting to acknowledge their value:

Utilizing these players as almost an extension of the running game will pull spread out the back seven while also allowing Swoopes to get the ball out before the pressure gets to him. That should open up at least some room for Brown and Gray, of which they've had none this season.

Swoopes will still have to hit his deep throws when they're open, but moving the ball efficiently to create a manageable down and distance has to be the priority. Giving touches to players like Foreman, Warrick and Johnson gives this offense a means of doing that with some bonus big-play potential included.

Unless the offensive line has suddenly jelled in the past week, their involvement gives Texas its best chance to hang around long enough for something crazy to happen.

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Houston's Anemic Offense Is Sinking Cougars' 2014 Hopes

Coach Tony Levine has taken what used to be one of the nation’s most prolific passing attacks and turned it into one of the most boring, uninspired and dysfunctional offensive units in the country.

Or maybe it’s his offensive coordinator, Travis Bush.

Whatever the case, Houston’s offense doesn’t work, is only consistent in its inconsistency and has Cougar fans longing for days of yore, days that were only three years ago before Levine took over for the departing Kevin Sumlin.

Heck, some folks, such as John Royal of the Houston Press, believe fans would be stoked if they could only get last year’s coordinator, Doug Meacham, back in the fold:

Alas, Meacham remains at TCU, and Houston’s struggle to find its offensive identity continued on Thursday night at TDECU Stadium against UCF. Houston fell to 2-3 on the season and 0-1 in American Athletic Conference play after suffering a heartbreaking 17-12 loss.

It didn’t have to be this way.

Houston headed into the locker room at the half versus Central Florida down 7-6. It wasn’t that they didn’t have their chances to score. They did. Houston’s offense racked up 143 yards, and the ball-hawking Cougar defense gobbled up three turnovers.

But Houston didn’t score touchdowns when it had opportunities, and things didn’t change much in the second half, either.

Part of the problem seems to be Houston’s unwillingness to decide what it wants to be.

Is Houston a running team? It sure seems like they want to be sometimes. The Cougars rushed the ball 33 of their 76 total offensive plays. But Houston only managed 117 yards rushing, averaging a paltry 3.5 yards per carry.

Are the Coogs a passing team? That’s what they used to be, and most fans probably think that’s what they should be now. It wasn’t long ago that Case Keenum and the Coogs broke just about all passing records known to mankind, at least at the NCAA level.

But Keenum is long gone now, and the way Houston’s receivers drop the ball, one has to wonder if it’d even make a difference if he weren't.

Besides, the offense Keenum ran left with him. Oh sure, Levine’s offense lines up like the Air Raid, but it’s more of a “Field Goal Assault” than the prolific offensive scheme Sumlin took with him to Texas A&M.

And what about the most important position on the field? Is John O’Korn the quarterback? Should he be?

The sophomore’s second-year slump continued against UCF. O’Korn finished the game 12-of-26 passing for only 98 yards. He threw two interceptions and was replaced by sophomore Greg Ward in the middle of the third quarter.

If there was any silver lining to Houston’s effort on offense against UCF, it was Ward.

The former high school standout from Tyler, Texas came into the game and breathed new life into the offense. He doesn’t have the arm strength O’Korn possesses, but he has fast feet and he kept UCF’s defensive backs’ eyes on him a split second longer than they had to when O’Korn was in the game, freeing up receivers in the secondary.

Ward almost engineered the comeback. After a brilliant run to the end zone as time dwindled down to its final seconds, Ward had the ball knocked out of his hands just inches from the goal line as he dove forward for the win.

Tough luck, kid. Maybe things would have been different if you’d been in the game the whole time.

Ward finished 10-of-17 passing for 116 yards. He threw no interceptions and kept UH in the game with his scrambling ability.

But Ward couldn’t do it alone, and he won’t be able to do it alone if he gets the nod for the rest of the season, either. And it’s pretty clear he should.

Untimely drops, penalties and misguided play calls were too much for anyone to overcome against UCF. No matter how good the offense could be, it was nothing short of terrible against the Golden Knights. Ward replacing O’Korn might solve one problem, but how about the rest of them?

Levine has his work cut out.

It has to be frustrating for Cougar fans. There are glimpses here and there. At times, they look like a revved-up Lamborghini. They’re sharp, speedy and look like they can drive as fast as they want down the field of play whenever they so desire.

But inevitably, they turn into that lime green Pinto your grandma still totes herself around in for some reason. She has the money to do something different, but just doesn’t want to part with the thing.

That’s a shame.

Houston has talent on offense. It’s all over the field. The quarterback has a strong arm. His backup has fast feet and is accurate. The receivers are big and fast. They have both kinds of running backs: the strong and the shifty. The offensive line is huge.

But it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do: score points. And that’s too bad, because as solid a defense as Houston has, one of the best in the AAC in fact, the anemic offense is sinking Houston’s 2014 hopes anyway.  

And things don’t look like they’ll get better anytime soon.


Follow @KelseyMcCarson on Twitter. 

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The Florida State Seminoles Have More NFL-Ready Talent Than Just Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston is one of the biggest names in the upcoming NFL draft, but the Florida State Seminoles have tons of talent ready for the next level on both side of the ball.

Defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. has the skills to play anywhere on the line at the NFL level. In which round should FSU fans expect to see him drafted?

Watch CFB Analyst Michael Felder and NFL Draft Expert Matt Miller break down the Seminoles' top NFL prospects. 

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Will Everett Golson Play Himself into a Heisman Front-Runner vs. Stanford?

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are taking on the Stanford Cardinal in South Bend, Indiana. With Everett Golson's Heisman hopes on the line, Bleacher Report College Football Analysts Barrett Sallee and Adam Kramer discuss how he will fare vs. the Stanford defense.

How do you think this Heisman contender will do?

Watch the video, and let us know!

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Oregon's Royce Freeman Trucks Arizona's Jarvis McCall Jr.

The Oregon Ducks are trying to stay undefeated Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals, and plays like this one will get them fired up.

Freshman running back Royce Freeman ran like a grown man on this play, trucking Arizona cornerback Jarvis McCall Jr. in the first half.


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Ohio State Football: Defense Finally Turning a Corner?

The Ohio State football team has been plagued by poor defensive play in recent years, but with a new co-defensive coordinator and a fresh, aggressive scheme, could the Buckeyes be on the verge of fielding a dominant defense?

That's the hope for head coach Urban Meyer, who has consistently lamented the team's defensive woes throughout his tenure in Columbus.

The tipping point came last year in the Big Ten title game, when the Buckeyes were one victory away from playing for the BCS National Championship against Florida State. Instead, Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook dissected a beleaguered secondary, throwing for 304 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Spartans in a 34-24 victory.

That was midway through a three-game stretch when the Buckeyes allowed an average of 38.3 points and 539 total yards to end the 2013 season. It forced Meyer to hit the reset button and start over. 

“We completely have blown up and started from scratch,” Meyer said at Big Ten media days, according to John Kampf of The News-Herald. “(That is) an area that we were not very strong in, pass defense.”

Hiring Chris Ash to join the defensive staff was the first step in Meyer's overhaul.

Previously the defensive coordinator for Bret Bielema at Wisconsin and Arkansas, Ash is known for his aggressive 4-3 scheme. His defense requires the cornerbacks to play press coverage close to the line of scrimmage—a big difference from last year's defensive philosophy, which largely had the defensive backs in zone coverage.

Early returns from that drastic change are positive as the Buckeyes currently rank No. 13 in the country in pass defense, allowing just 162.5 passing yards per game. That's down from last year, when Ohio State ranked 110th in the country while allowing 268 passing yards per game.

However, the improved numbers this year come with a caveat. Run-heavy Navy attempted just four passes against the Buckeyes for 20 yards in the season opener. Two weeks later, Kent State was overmatched entirely in a laughable 66-0 rout.

The Buckeyes' first true test came last week against quarterback Gunner Kiel and the pass-happy Cincinnati Bearcats. A simple glance at the box score would indicate that Ohio State failed that test.

Kiel completed 21 of his 32 passes for 352 yards and four touchdowns (against no interceptions). While those numbers aren't a great reflection of the Buckeyes defense, Meyer was able to draw some positives from the performance.

"Those plays" were a reference to the three touchdown catches Cincinnati's Chris Moore hauled in against the Buckeyes. The three plays—one in each of the first three quarters—went for 221 yards, which accounted for 62.8 percent of Kiel's passing yards.

On the first catch, safety Vonn Bell was in position to make the play, but the young sophomore never turned to find the ball. As a result, Moore hauled in a tough pass for the 60-yard score.

On the second play, a missed assignment from one of the safeties put cornerback Eli Apple in a bad position, which resulted in an 83-yard touchdown catch.

The third and final big play was just the result of exceptional misdirection from Kiel, who pump faked the safety out of position to give Moore an open lane for the 78-yard scamper.

All three were the result of missed plays or assignments from freshmen or sophomore defensive backs. The Buckeyes adjusted midway through the third quarter—making sure their safeties were deep enough to support the corners playing press coverage. That produced the desired results for Meyer as Ohio State surrendered just two first downs and 27 total yards on Cincinnati's final four drives.

Once the young players grow more comfortable with Ash's aggressive defensive scheme, the mental lapses and occasional big plays will start to fade, and Ohio State's defense will be primed to regain its dominant status.


Unless otherwise noted, all stats via Ohio State's official website

David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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Arik Armstead Injury: Updates on Oregon Star's Ankle and Return

The Oregon defense lost a major piece of its front seven on Thursday with defensive lineman Arik Armstead going down with an ankle injury against Arizona, per's Rob Moseley:

ESPN's Chantel Jennings had more details:

Armstead started a few games last year before being supplanted by DeForest Buckner. The then-sophomore finished 2013 with 15 total tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack, according to

With a couple of key losses on the Ducks' defensive line, the opportunity was there for Armstead to break out.

In August, Gary Horowitz of the Statesman Journal wrote that dropping basketball in favor of focusing on football was paying big dividends for Armstead:

Last winter Armstead opted to end his pursuit of playing two sports – he redshirted on the basketball team as a freshman – and that decision has helped him on the football field. ...

"Since he returned in the winter, he's been a different guy," defensive coordinator Don Pellum said. "He's been very consistent since then and throughout (fall) camp, and it's not only leading vocally, but it's playing really good. So now you've got a guy who's emerged vocally as a leader, and also is playing at a very high level."

Armstead entered Eugene with major expectations. Because of his versatility, he was listed on 247Sports as an offensive tackle, strong-side defensive end and defensive tackle. The site's composite rankings had him pegged as the No. 1 athlete and No. 14 overall player in the 2012 recruiting class.

This looked to be the year when Armstead would put it all together and follow through on the potential he showed coming out of high school and in his first two years on the field at Oregon.

Getting hurt will obviously impede the progress he's made in 2014.

Losing Armstead won't make Oregon much worse, but the Ducks do lose some depth on their defensive line.

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Arik Armstead Injury: Updates on Oregon Star's Ankle and Return

The Oregon defense lost a major piece of its front seven on Thursday with defensive lineman Arik Armstead going down with an ankle injury against Arizona, per GoDucks ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Miami Football: Hurricanes Must Show Improvement Against Georgia Tech

A victory over division foe Duke was an encouraging step forward, but the Miami Hurricanes still must show significant improvement when they face another Coastal Division opponent in Georgia Tech.

The 'Canes are still lacking production in four notable areas, and cleaning up those struggles would help the team separate itself from upcoming competition—excluding Florida State, of course.

Miami enters the prime-time battle on Saturday, Oct. 4, striving to earn an important conference victory as the bulk of their ACC schedule looms.

But if the Hurricanes remain hampered by these issues, the Yellow Jackets and all future opponents are talented enough to overpower Miami.


Wide Receiver Blocking

For better or worse, wide receiver screens are a staple of play-caller James Coley's offense. However, they haven't been very successful.

Miami has tallied more than 10 yards just once in at least 20 screen attempts, and its inability to move forward is largely a product of porous blocking by wideouts. Stacy Coley, Malcolm Lewis and Braxton Berrios are typically the targets, but they haven't had much room to operate.

Against Duke, safety Jeremy Cash completely ignored a D'Mauri Jones block and tackled Coley at the line of scrimmage. Brad Kaaya's pass is barely halfway to Coley by the time Cash is closing on the shifty receiver.

The Hurricanes' best screen of the year came at Nebraska, and to no surprise, blocking was the key.

Lewis cut his man, freeing his teammate for a one-on-one with five yards of separation, and Coley slashed upfield, shook a pair of tacklers and gained 17 yards.

An intended target cannot take his eyes off the ball and look for defenders; his main responsibility is to receive the pass. The difference when Coley actually had time to catch a ball and look upfield is certainly obvious.

Coach Coley has deservedly taken some heat for his post-scripted play selection, but the Miami receivers need to do their jobs better too, because the screen isn't leaving the offense's repertoire.



The two easiest ways to lose a game are turnovers and penalties. While the Hurricanes haven't been stellar in either category, the latter is much easier to correct.

Miami's 7.8 penalties per contest cost itself 70.8 yards each outing, two discouraging numbers that rank 95th and 102nd, respectively, at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Offensively, the 'Canes have committed seven false starts, six holding penalties and three delay of games, all of which are drive killers. Surprisingly, Ereck Flowers and Clive Walford have been the biggest offenders, so Miami needs a couple key players to focus more.

On the other side of the ball, opposing offenses have been handed 10 free first downs due to pass interference and personal fouls. Saturday's matchup is largely focused on being disciplined, so Miami cannot afford to move the chains for Georgia Tech's run-focused offense.


Third-Down Success

All season long, Miami has struggled on what Al Golden calls the "money down," as noted by Christy Cabrera Chirinos of South Florida Sun Sentinel. A 2-of-13 mark against Duke didn't cost the Hurricanes a win, but it allowed the Blue Devils to hang around until late in the fourth quarter.

Additionally, Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post notes Kaaya's efficiency is nearly cut in half between the opening and closing downs.

"On the first two downs, the true freshman is completing 67.3 percent of his passes," Porter said. "That number drops to 34.1 percent on third and fourth downs. He is averaging 9.7 yards per attempt on first and second, and 5.2 on third and fourth."

Overall, Miami is just 14-of-58 on third down, posting a 24.1 percent conversion rate that ranks third-worst in the country.

According to B/R research, the 'Canes have needed a combined 450 yards over those 58 third downs, an average of 7.8 yards.

Miami must start moving forward more consistently on the opening snaps and limit the long-yardage situations it encounters.


Kick Returns

Last season, the 'Canes amassed the nation's seventh-best mark at 25.1 yards per kick return. Comparatively, however, Miami's current 18.6 clip would have finished the 2013 campaign at No. 118 of 125 schools.

"Guys have just got to win their one-on-one battles," Phillip Dorsett said, per Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald. "We have a dynamic returner back there in Stacy. We give him a crease, and he'll take it the distance. Obviously, we pride ourselves in breaking long runs because we're an explosive team, but in looking at the film ... we've got to help our returners out."

Considering Georgia Tech has only defended a handful of kickoffs all year, the Hurricanes may not receive many chances to run it out. Harrison Butker has consistently blasted the ball, forcing 18 touchbacks out of 24 kicks.

However, the Jackets have ceded 26.2 yards when opponents test the coverage. Coley is still looking for a breakout chance, and there's a decent possibility he finds that opportunity if a Butker kick is indeed returnable.


Unless otherwise noted, stats and rankings courtesy of

Follow Bleacher Report college football writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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Oregon's Reggie Daniels Tips Ball, Taps Toe to Stay in Bounds for Interception

Oregon Ducks cornerback Reggie Daniels got his first career interception on Thursday night against the Arizona Wildcats, and he made sure to make it a good one.

In the first quarter, Daniels made a bobbling interception while tiptoeing on the sideline to stay in bounds. You can see another angle of the interception below.

[Snappy TV, Vine]

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Oregon's Reggie Daniels Tips Ball, Taps Toe to Stay in Bounds for Interception

Oregon Ducks cornerback Reggie Daniels got his first career interception on Thursday night against the Arizona Wildcats, and he made sure to make it a good one...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

UCF Defeats Houston on Game-Sealing Touchback on Fumble into End Zone

This is not the way you ever want to lose a game.

The Houston Cougars were down 17-12 against the UCF Knights on Thursday night but had a chance to pull ahead late in the fourth quarter.

With 24 seconds remaining, Houston backup quarterback Greg Ward Jr. dove for the touchdown, but he fumbled the ball into the end zone, where it went out of bounds for a touchback. That allowed the Knights to run out the clock for the win.

[SB Nation]

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Nebraska Football: What the Cornhuskers Need to Do to Upset Michigan State

Nebraska football fans are gearing up for the biggest game of the 2014 season, a trip to East Lansing to face the defending Big Ten champion Michigan State Spartans. Last year, Michigan State beat Nebraska 41-28 in an ugly contest that saw NU lose the turnover battle by five (!) against the Spartans.

Most pundits think the Spartans will win on Saturday. But at least one smart and particularly handsome analyst thinks Nebraska will defy the odds and stay undefeated in 2014. Here’s what Nebraska must do to make that happen.


Take the Ball Away

This is me giving up on a thread I have been pulling for the last two years. If Nebraska stops turning the ball over, it can be so much more successful. And while that is true because, duh, all the evidence before us suggests that such a phase change simply isn’t going to happen.

But things are better this year, right? Nebraska’s turnover margin isn’t nearly as bad as it was last year, right?

Well, yes and no. Right now, Nebraska is plus-one in turnover margin, which is certainly far better than the minus-11 NU ended with in 2013.

Where was Nebraska at this stage last year, though? Plus-five. So Nebraska is actually four behind its turnover margin pace from last year—the year that ended at a disastrous minus-11.

In 2014, Nebraska has had six total turnovers. In 2013 at this stage in the season, Nebraska had—you guessed it—six turnovers. And the sad thing is that 2013 marked an improvement for the first five games of the season from 2012 (13) and 2011 (9).

So, I give up. Until proven otherwise, it’s just not reasonable to expect Nebraska to stop turning the ball over. But having a turnover margin so cartoonishly underwater in and of itself will prevent Nebraska from winning games like this and competing for conference titles. If Nebraska gets more turnovers than it gives up (or at least keeps the numbers close), then Nebraska's profligacy with the ball on offense will be neutralized.

This is my Doctor Strangelove moment, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Turnover.


Stop Jeremy Langford

The conventional wisdom is that the growth of Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook has been the key to the Spartans’ improved offensive attack. And there’s no doubt that Cook’s performance has sparked a revival that vaulted Michigan State to a conference title and national prominence.

But let’s take a look at this season. Michigan State is 3-1, with three wins over hopelessly outmatched opponents. The one loss was on the road, to Oregon.

Against the Ducks, Cook was 29-of-47 for 343 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He ended the game with a 128.53 quarterback rating, which is apparently very good according to those who have the foggiest notion of what a quarterback rating means.

So it looks like Cook played well in the Spartans’ loss. Sure, the defense had a lot to do with it, with the whole “giving up 47 points” thing. But how did the other part of Michigan State’s offense look?

Jeremy Langford had 86 yards and a touchdown against Oregon, his second-highest performance of the season. But he got those 86 yards on 24 carries, easily his biggest workload of the season. More importantly, Langford’s yards-per-carry average against Oregon was 3.58, almost two full yards less than his season average.

In other words, Oregon was able to beat Michigan State fairly convincingly by allowing Cook to play well but (in addition to scoring a lot of points) holding Langford’s yards per carry down. That’s the number to focus on. If the Blackshirts can corral Langford, keeping him under four yards per carry, Nebraska can make Michigan State’s offense one-dimensional and allow NU’s pass rush to work on Cook.


Be More Balanced on Offense

Nebraska fans of a more traditional bent have been thrilled to death with how NU’s offense has looked in the last two games. Against Miami, Nebraska ran the ball 80.5 percent of the time, and against Illinois, its run percentage “dropped” to 76.9 percent. Proponents of things like “identity” and “mindset” loved Nebraska’s devotion to the run game, particularly as quarterback Tommy Armstrong has looked less than convincing.

And it does seem that offensive coordinator Tim Beck has undergone a bit of evolution, making sure to give the ball to his best player rather than attempt to achieve balance for its own sake. But just as “balance” on offense on its own is not a laudable goal, neither is having an over-reliance on the running game.

Michigan State is sixth in the nation in rushing defense, allowing opponents an average of 80.75 yards per game. While Nebraska’s run game is its strength (right now sitting third in the nation with an average of 354.8 yards per game), it’s a fair assumption that Michigan State will at least be able to slow down Abdullah and company.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Nebraska should sling the ball 50 times on Saturday (particularly given the dreadful weather forecast). Nebraska’s offense will need a healthy dose of Ameer Abdullah to be successful, sticking with him even if it is not successful early.

But there’s “sticking with him,” and there’s “80-20 run-pass balance.” Michigan State is simply too good defensively for Nebraska to be that one-dimensional. To win this game, Armstrong simply must make some plays with his arm, either in the short game to get the ball to playmakers in space or taking the lid off the defense with the deep ball.


Stats from

For a different look at Nebraska football, check out The Double Extra Point.

Or you can use the Twitter machine to follow @DblExtraPoint.

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Arizona vs. Oregon: Live Score and Highlights

Oregon 7, Arizona 3 ; HALFTIME

Two explosive offenses will collide Thursday, as the Arizona Wildcats take on the No. 2 Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. 

The game will begin at 10:30 p.m. ET. It can be seen on ESPN. 

Odds Shark has Oregon as a 21-point favorite. A full box score courtesy of can be found here


Bleacher Report appreciates you sticking with us tonight. Stay here for score updates, instant analysis, social media and much more!

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Arizona vs. Oregon: Live Score and Highlights

Oregon 7, Arizona 3 ; HALFTIME Two explosive offenses will collide Thursday, as the Arizona Wildcats take on the No. 2 Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. The game will begin at 10:30 p...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...