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UCLA Football: Bruins Put Together Best Performance in Time for Pac-12 Play

The 20-17 final score of No. 12 UCLA's win at Texas may not show it, but the Bruins had their best all-around performance thus far into the 2014 season—and they did so just in time for the start of the Pac-12 Conference season.

Playing in place of star quarterback Brett Hundley, who injured his elbow in the first quarter, back-up Jerry Neuheisel stepped up to deliver a 33-yard strike to wide receiver Jordan Payton to cap UCLA's most complete of a sometimes inconsistent opening stretch of games.

A stingy effort from the defense and a reliable running attack buoyed the Bruins with their Heisman Trophy candidate sidelined. The combination is a big step forward before embarking on the conference slate.

UCLA had promising play on sides of the ball prior to Saturday's win...just not in the same game. There was plenty, however, for head coach Jim Mora and his staff to build on from the efforts of both the UCLA offense and defense against Texas.

Certainly Saturday's win was not the prettiest. Texas came into Saturday's contest in Arlington, Texas, one week removed from a 41-7 thrashing by Brigham Young—the Longhorns' worst home defeat since UCLA crushed them 66-3 in 1997.

However, Texas took the fight to the Hundley-less Bruins for all 60 minutes, even taking the lead with a little more than five minutes remaining when quarterback Tyrone Swoopes found wide receiver John Harris in the end zone.

UCLA responded with the necessary resolve, overcoming adversity to beat a desperate opponent.

Mora talked of the importance of the win in his postgame press conference, via UCLABruins.com:

We just felt like this was an opportunity for us to put all the work that we've done over the course of the last year or three years on display and really prove it to ourselves, beyond anyone else, what this team was made of.  And I think that we went out and did that.

Neuheisel's touchdown pass was the difference-maker, but Texas having to contend with the Bruins on the ground helped make it happen.

Running back Paul Perkins continued his development into a viable, No. 1 option with a career-high 126 yards. Meanwhile, Jordon James had his best outing since injuring his ankle in early October 2013, going for 69 yards on eight carries.

Helping pave the way for the Bruins' ball-carriers was an offensive line, which ESPN.com's Ted Miller tweeted, was oft-criticized in UCLA's first two outings.

The appearance of the consistent and multifaceted run game Mora said he wanted earlier this week is a major development for the UCLA offense heading into Pac-12 play. The Bruins were inconsistent with their rushing attack a season ago, but the UCLA offense is quickly finding the necessary balance to give Hundley breathing room in the passing attack when he returns to full strength.

When that might be, time will tell. Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily Newstweeted that the quarterback will have an MRI on his elbow tomorrow.

UCLA gets 12 days for Hundley to recover. The Bruins are headed into a bye week before traveling to Arizona State for a crucial Pac-12 showdown Sept. 25.

In the meantime, Neuheisel provided the kind of calming influence a team playing its reserve quarterback needs. Though he was limited primarily to swing routes, bubble screens and assorted other short-yardage pass plays, he avoided catastrophe.

Most importantly, he delivered the big play when it was most needed.

The Bruins coming together to carry Neuheisel off the field after the final whistle could be remembered as a pivotal moment in their season. The team rallied amid adversity and delivered in two areas that were decided question marks in their first two games, and finished the nonconference slate undefeated.

Hundley was the missing element from UCLA putting together a truly complete game. Should he come back in time for the start of Pac-12 competition, the Bruins appear to be hitting their stride at just the right time.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics compiled via UCLABruins.com.

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UCLA Football: Bruins Put Together Best Performance in Time for Pac-12 Play

The 20-17 final score of No. 12 UCLA's win at Texas may not show it, but the Bruins had their best all-around performance thus far into the 2014 season—and they did so just in time for the start of the Pac -12 Conference season...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Heisman Watch 2014: Top 5 Rankings for Week 3

The top players in college football are making a case for why they should be in the Heisman Trophy discussion.

Bleacher Report college football analyst Michael Felder makes his predictions on who he thinks deserves to be in the hunt after Week 3.

Who do you think will win the Heisman? Watch the video, and let us know.

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The Poetic Justice of Rick Neuheisel's Son Saving UCLA's Season

It’s natural to suspect that the relationship between UCLA coach Jim Mora and Bruins backup quarterback Jerry Neuheisel was not warm and fuzzy from the start.

Mora is the man who was hired in 2012 to replace Neuheisel’s father Rick as the Bruins coach.

And every time the new Bruins coach blew his whistle or drew up a play there was no escaping the fact Jerry was missing out on what could have been an incredible series of father-son moments. 

But if there was any strain or tension between them, it no doubt vaporized Saturday night when Neuheisel led the No. 12 Bruins to an improbable 20-17 comeback victory against Texas.

“It was really hard,” Neuheisel told the Daily Bruin last April. “You get angry all the time and you hate how things change. It’s hard ’cause it’s your family, and you wish it happened to you, but it happened to him.”

But the saving grace, Neuheisel told the Daily Bruin, was that Mora “said he’d always have my back and he’d always give me a chance. As a quarterback, that’s all you can ask for.”

Mora proved he was a man of his word on Saturday, but he really had no choice. Starting quarterback Brett Hundley, a Heisman Trophy hopeful who already is under the NFL microscope, was lost for the night after suffering a first-quarter injury to his left, non-throwing elbow. UCLA needed a new man under center, and Neuheisel was next up on the depth chart.

So here they were, two guys who could have had an adversarial relationship, suddenly needing each other in the worst way.

When Neuheisel admitted to his coach he was nervous, Mora said he responded with a firm vote of confidence.

“And Jerry told me, he said, I was nervous,” Mora explained at his press conference. “And I said, you know what? I wasn't. Because I've watched you every day. And I've watched you prepare. And I know how smart you are. And I know your lineage. And I know how your dad taught you. And I think it all paid off for him tonight.”

Neuheisel told Fox Sports in his post-game interview that the Bruins coaches “just kept me calm.”

Calm enough to throw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Payton with 3:00 left to rally the 3-0 Bruins who had fallen behind 17-13 with 5:13 remaining.

And for once the “Jerry’s World” nickname of AT&T Stadium belonged to someone other than Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Mora said one thing that links him and Neuheisel, which helped make the transition easier, is that both he and his backup quarterback are coaches’ sons. Mora’s father, Jim Mora Sr., had notable runs as a head coach with the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts, even though he now is perhaps best known for the beer commercial in which he shouts “Playoffs?” in a squeaky voice.

Mora discussed that common ground in his postgame interview with reporters, saying: 

He's a coach's kid. He grew up in this game. You know? We're the same, man. We're the same people. You know? And that's what we talked about the first week I took this job, when -- you know, this was going to be a hard transition for a guy like Jerry. His dad, who's a legend here, had been released. You know? And that's the game of football. That's the sport that we're in. It's tough. It happens. But Jerry has never, ever, ever, ever, ever let that get in the way of being an amazing young man, an amazing teammate, team member. And I just have confidence in him.

For the redshirt sophomore, it was a fitting coming-out party that in some ways echoed his father’s story as a UCLA quarterback.

Rick Neuheisel didn’t take a single practice rep his first two years after coming to Westwood as a walk-on. When he did finally get in games it was as a holder on kicks, the same minimal role Jerry had largely been limited to until Saturday.

“(My dad) says it sucks,” Jerry said in his Daily Bruin interview. “Quarterback’s one of those positions where only one guy gets to play and it’s hard. You know with one guy getting to play, you sit a lot and you see plays where you’re like, ‘Oh I could make that.’ And that’s just the competitor in you.”

The competitor in Jerry showed up quite nicely against Texas, and kept the undefeated Bruins in the hunt for a playoff spot. He finished the night 23-for-30 for 178 yards, with two touchdown passes and no interceptions. Those are all career highs for Neuheisel, who last season was limited to 11-of-13 coming off the bench.

Patience no doubt is in his DNA.

His father bided his time at UCLA and eventually was the winning quarterback and MVP of the 1984 Rose Bowl. But he took a bumpy road to that accomplishment. During the 1983 season he was benched at one point in favor of Steve Bono but managed to regain his starting role.

Jerry also likely will be headed back to the bench soon, unless Hundley’s injury is a serious one.

But for one night it was all on Neuheisel, and Mora said the potential for a fairytale ending crossed his mind when he sent in his backup quarterback.

“My first thought was excitement for Jerry Neuheisel,” Mora said at his press conference. “I mean, this kid is everything that's right about college football and about UCLA. I mean, he bleeds Bruin blue. And I just thought, wow, you couldn't write a better script than this right here. You know?”

We do now.

 

Tom Weir covered college football as a columnist for USA Today.

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Kentucky vs. Florida: Game Grades, Analysis for Wildcats and Gators

In what will likely be one of the most exciting college football matchups this season, the Florida Gators were able to get the 36-30 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday night.

It wasn’t pretty for Florida throughout the entire game, but the victory is all that matters. What appeared to be a defensive battle early in the game turned into a shootout in the second half.

Kentucky played much better than most folks expected and got solid play from the quarterback position. Patrick Towles, in his third career start, threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Despite three interceptions, Towles made plays and put the Wildcats in a position to win.

Florida will need to shore up the defensive issues we saw Saturday night, because next week the Gators will travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Final stats from the game can be found here at NCAA.com.   

Kentucky Wildcats Game Grades

Passing Offense: Towles played well throughout the game, and his good plays made up for his bad ones. He threw three interceptions, but one of them only happened after his receiver dropped the pass.

Towles took advantage of a questionable performance from Florida's secondary and surprised many people with his final stats.

Rushing Offense: The Wildcats were able to get a decent effort in the run game from Braylon Heard and Jojo Kemp, but overall it wasn't a big performance on the ground. The Wildcats finished with 81 total rushing yards on 33 carries, so the majority of the offense came from the passing game.

Pass Defense: The Wildcats played well in the first half and even came up with a big interception. In the second half, the Gators were able to do big things though the air, so this unit doesn't grade out as well in the end.

Run Defense: The Gators were able to get yards on the ground pretty much all night. While there weren't a ton of big gains, the Wildcats were eventually wore down by the tough runs.

Special Teams: We saw some good things in the kicking/punting game from the Wildcats, but the final kick is the one Kentucky fans will remember. Austin MacGinnis finished the night 3-of-4 on his field goals.

Coaching: It was a great effort from head coach Mark Stoops and company Saturday night, as the Wildcats almost pulled off the upset victory. Stoops has clearly changed the mindset of this team, which now plays physically and aggressively on both sides of the ball.

I thought Stoops managed the game well, and his assistants did a solid job too.

Florida Gators Game Grades

Passing Offense: It wasn't pretty in the first half, but the overall performance from Jeff Driskel Saturday night wasn't bad. He looked out of rhythm in the first two quarters, but he was able to make some big plays down the stretch for the Gators.

Rushing Offense: The Gators were also able to get good contributions from the rushing attack. Matt Jones led all rushers with 156 yards, and Florida was able to total 237 total rushing yards.

The Gators were able to pound out yardage when they needed it, and Jones was very physical in this game.

Pass Defense: The secondary is one of the issues that Florida will need to address before they take on Alabama next Saturday. Even though the unit came up with three interceptions, it allowed too many big plays through the air.

Run Defense: The run defense was pretty effective for the Gators. The front seven, led by Dante Fowler Jr., was able to get good penetration and kept Kentucky's rushing totals low.

Special Teams: Florida played well in this area. One of the big plays was the kick return from Andre Debose that set the Gators up with good field position, but punter Kyle Christy was effective also. He averaged 48.7 yards per punt in the game, including a 61-yard punt.

Coaching: People still have Will Muschamp on the hot seat, but all that matters is he got the victory. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper made some good adjustments at halftime, which helped Florida break away offensively in the second half.

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Tennessee vs. Oklahoma: Game Grades, Analysis for Vols and Sooners

Trevor Knight and the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners secured a statement victory on Saturday night, defeating the Tennessee Volunteers 34-10 in Memorial Stadium.

The Sooners' explosive offense turned in another solid performance, piling up 453 yards against an improved Volunteers defense. Tennessee struggled to move the ball against Oklahoma, managing just 311 total yards in the 24-point loss.

How did the Volunteers and Sooners grade out?

 

Tennessee Volunteers Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: Justin Worley had an impressive first half, completing 12-of-19 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown. Things unraveled in the second half, though, as he missed on 16 of his 24 pass attempts and threw two costly interceptions. To Worley’s credit, he was under constant pressure all night from Oklahoma’s stout defensive line.

 

Run Offense: Tennessee’s rush offense was overwhelmed by Oklahoma’s front seven Saturday night. Jalen Hurd had a pair of nice runs in the second half, but those were the only notable plays from a forgettable performance. Hurd finished with 99 yards on 14 carries, but the offensive line failed to open any consistent lanes up front. 

 

Pass Defense: Tennessee had trouble containing Oklahoma's dynamic passing attack, especially early. The Sooners threw for 229 yards in the first half, but managed just 79 yards in the second half. The second half dip had more to do with Oklahoma trying to grind the game out on the ground, though, as the Sooners were protecting a big lead.

 

Run Defense: Linebacker A.J. Johnson was all over the field, leading an inspired effort as he notched 11 total tackles and two tackles for loss for the Volunteers, according to Oklahoma's official website. He made things hard for Oklahoma, which failed to get a ball-carrier over the 75-yard mark. Tennessee held the Sooners to just 64 rushing yards in the first half and 82 in the second.

 

Special Teams: It was an unspectacular day for the Volunteers' special teams. Dervin Young averaged 20 yards on three kickoff returns and Cameron Sutton took his only punt return three yards. In the third quarter, Aaron Medley connected on his only field-goal attempt, drilling a 31-yard kick.

 

Coaching: It looked like the team was executing Butch Jones' game plan in the first half as Tennessee trailed Oklahoma 13-7 late in the second quarter. But the wheels came off after the Volunteers gave up a touchdown right before the break. The offense failed to make any adjustments in the second half as Oklahoma just overwhelmed the Tennessee offense all game.

 

Oklahoma Sooners Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: Knight turned in another great performance, completing 60.6 percent of his passes for 308 yards and a touchdown against one interception. Sterling Shepard solidified himself as Knight's top target, but Durron Neal continues to prove himself as a competent complement and Blake Bell is a formidable tight end.

 

Run Offense: Oklahoma came into the game averaging 222 rushing yards per game, but Tennessee was its stiffest test of the year. The Sooners failed to break a huge run and averaged just 4.3 yards per carry, and star running back Keith Ford gained just 56 yards on 15 carries.

 

Pass Defense: Tennessee’s young offensive line had no chance of blocking Oklahoma’s defensive front. The Sooners notched five sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery against Worley. They also picked off two passes, one of which was returned 100 yards for a touchdown.

 

Run Defense: The Sooners bull-rushed an inexperienced offensive front. The Volunteers rushed for -10 yards in the first half, but Oklahoma gave up a couple of big runs to Hurd in the second. It was still a very impressive performance from the Sooners, who gave up just 112 rushing yards on 33 carries.

 

Special Teams: Outside of a slightly subpar outing from the run offense, Oklahoma's only big letdown came from its special teams. The kick returners turned in an ordinary performance. Jed Barnett averaged just 38 yards per punt. And worst of all, field-goal kicker Michael Hunnicutt had one of his three field-goal attempts blocked.

 

Coaching: With this kind of talent and experience differential, one of Oklahoma's top priorities was to simplify the scheme and execute. That's exactly what Bob Stoops and the Sooners did in the 24-point victory. There was no need to do anything crazy defensively because the Volunteers couldn't block Oklahoma's defensive front. Offensively, Knight guided the Sooners to an efficient and near mistake-free performance. That helped Oklahoma coast to its third victory of the season.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats via NCAA.com.

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Rice vs. Texas A&M: Game Grades, Analysis for the Aggies

The Rice Owls may have exposed more issues than the Texas A&M Aggies would've liked them to, particularly a suspect run defense. But ultimately, Kenny Hill and Co. took care of the Owls without too much trouble with a solid 38-10 win to move to 3-0 on the season. 

A boxscore of the game can be found at NCAA.com

With that, let's check out the game grades for Texas A&M's positional units. 

 

Texas A&M Game Grade Analysis

Pass Offense: Kenny Hill was up to what is now his usual tricks against Rice, passing for exactly 300 yards and four touchdowns on 20-of-31 passing. Hill also became the first player in school history to pass for over 1,000 yards over the first three games of the season. Kyle Allen threw the pick at the end of the game, but it's unfair to judge the Aggies' passing attack based on anything Allen does since it'll be Hill under center when push comes to shove. 

 

Rush Offense: One-hundred and sixty-eight yards on the ground for a team that is pass first, pass second then run is quite respectable. The Aggies were able to break off a few big plays on the ground, including a near-touchdown run by Hill in the third quarter. Tra Carson and Brandon Williams both showed flashes as well, and it looks like the Aggies will be able, at least to some degree, to rely on the run to take pressure off of Hill. 

 

Pass Defense: Believe it or not, the Aggies were going up against a very capable quarterback in Driphus Jackson. But the Aggies limited him to 212 yards and one touchdown on a blown coverage on 32 passing attempts. There's no doubt that the secondary for the Aggies is the pride of its defense. 

 

Rush Defense: No doubt this unit's performance was hindered by the injury to Alonzo Williams on the game's first drive. But Rice actually controlled the pace of this game for much of the first half because of its rushing attack. The Owls out gained the Aggies on the ground 240-168. When Texas A&M goes up against SEC competition that can actually finish drives, this rush defense could be a huge weakness. 

 

Special Teams: Josh Lambo blasted a 47-yard field goal down the middle of the uprights and punter Drew Kaser averaged 43 yards on four punts. Not much to say really about this unit, because everything went right. 

 

Coaching: There wasn't any noticeable coaching mistakes besides maybe at the end of the first half when the "hold them back" coach didn't hold back the Aggies on the sideline after a blocked field goal, which resulted in a touchdown being taken off the board. Even that's hard to peg on the coaching staff. Rice wasn't a hard team to beat, but the Aggies left no doubt in the end. 

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Can UCLA QB Jerry Neuheisel Lead Offense After Brett Hundley Injury?

UCLA backup QB Jerry Neuheisel stepped in to lead the Bruins to a 20-17 victory over the Texas Longhorns after Brett Hundley left with an apparent elbow injury.

Bleacher Report College Football analyst Adam Kramer grades Neuheisel's performance against the Longhorns.

Can he continue his success in the future?

Watch the video and let us know.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Can UCLA QB Jerry Neuheisel Lead Offense After Brett Hundley Injury?

UCLA backup QB Jerry Neuheisel stepped in to lead the Bruins to a 20-17 victory over the Texas Longhorns after Brett Hundley left with an apparent elbow injury ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Taylor Kelly Injury: Updates on ASU QB's Foot and Return

Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly left Saturday's Pac-12 South clash with Colorado due to a right foot injury.

Doug Haller of AZCentral.com reported on the unfortunate development for Arizona State's senior signal-caller:

FOX Sports' Tyler Lockman has more:

Haller added more from Todd Graham:

Comcast SportsNet's John Middlekauff replied with his input on what Kelly's loss could mean for the Sun Devils:

ESPNU highlighted the star power the Sun Devils have on offense before the game began:

UCLA coach Jim Mora has praised Kelly for his grit, suggesting that Saturday's injury that caused him to leave the field may be an ominous sign.

"Tough as nails," said Mora, via AZCentral.com's Haller. "I have a great amount of respect for him. He's one of my favorite players in the conference."

Kelly is no doubt a vital part of the team amid his third year starting under center. Before leaving Saturday's contest, he'd thrown for three touchdowns and even scampered for a 50-yard score to fortify Arizona State's big lead.

Redshirt junior Mike Bercovici figures to be the next man up to fill in for Kelly (h/t Ourlads.com). Bercovici has thrown just 20 career passes, though, so his inexperience makes what was a solidified QB position a wild-card area of alarm for ASU should Kelly's foot ailment be of the severe variety.

As long as the Sun Devils can lean on standout running back D.J. Foster and get the ball to star receiver Jaelen Strong, they may be able to weather Kelly's absence in the short term.

However, once Arizona State gets into the thick of the Pac-12 schedule, it would obviously be ideal for Kelly to lead the charge.

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Tennessee's Showing vs. Oklahoma Should Give Vols Fans Faith

Despite the lopsided final deficit, two crushing interceptions in the end zone and an offensive line performance that left quarterback Justin Worley a walking bruise, Tennessee's direction was evident against Oklahoma.

The Volunteers are getting better in a hurry.

Head coach Butch Jones' youthful team isn't anywhere near where it wants to be yet, but the Vols battled all night at Memorial Stadium before succumbing 34-10 against the fourth-ranked Sooners.

As a matter of fact, there were several ulcer-inducing moments for Oklahoma well into the fourth quarter. 

Despite getting blitzed on the scoreboard early and blitzed by the Sooners' sterling defense throughout the game, the Vols kept clawing. That resilient mentality evident in such an inexperienced team was not lost on anybody who watched the game, including a skeptical national media.

The Vols created several huge opportunities for themselves. Like many young teams, though, they just couldn't capitalize.

Even so, the game wasn't completely in hand for the Sooners until there was about 10 minutes remaining.

Trailing 27-10, Tennessee moved the ball deep into Sooners territory. The Vols faced a 3rd-and-2 from Oklahoma's 4-yard line when Worley tried to make something happen, forcing the ball into double coverage.

A hundred yards later, Julian Wilson had a game-clinching pick-six that ended what slim hopes UT may have had for pulling off an upset.

That play may have squelched the night's hope, but not the season's—or the program's.

If anything, the Vols have to be encouraged by a young team that battled adversity and kept forcing chances.

The Sooners turned UT away with two end-zone picks, but that shouldn't undermine Worley's gutsy performance. Despite being battered and beaten by OU's relentless pursuit, the senior quarterback hung in tough and kept getting up off the ground.

Once, he even looked like he could have been concussed when his head bounced against the turf, but he was right back in the huddle the next series and finished 21-of-44 for 201 yards and a score.

Anybody with questions about Worley as UT's quarterback should have had them answered Saturday.

Also, Tennessee's young defense may have had its share of busted coverages and big plays allowed, but it also kept the Vols close for much of the game by forcing turnovers and bending more often than breaking when the Vols' stagnant offense kept giving it a short field.

Though it looked like the Vols would be blown out early, they weathered a 13-0 Oklahoma flurry to start the game and cut the lead to six late in the second quarter when a questionable call really changed momentum.

OU freshman running back Samaje Perine appeared to lose possession of the ball on the UT 26-yard line, pinning it against his side. Vols cornerback Cameron Sutton recovered the would-be fumble, but after the review, officials deemed Perine was down.

Three plays later, OU scored another touchdown to take a 20-7 halftime lead.

It was that kind of night for the Vols, who did enough to keep the game respectable but were simply outclassed and unlucky. UT didn't do itself any favors, either.

Worley was sacked five times by the Sooners and hurried or hit on several other dropbacks. The offensive line had no answer for Eric Striker and an Oklahoma front seven that was breathing down Worley's neck within a couple of seconds after the snap.

Freshman right tackle Coleman Thomas made his first career start and struggled. So did freshman tight end Daniel Helm, who also had his issues in protection. They weren't alone as Oklahoma applied pressure on Worley from every direction.

Tennessee's biggest weakness entering the game was exposed by the Sooners defense.

The Vols had minus-14 total rushing yards until Jalen Hurd broke free for a 43-yard run in the third quarter. Until that burst, the offensive line simply failed to open any holes for Tennessee running backs.

Like the prevailing theme of the night, however, Tennessee got better.

The Vols finished with a paltry 112 rushing yards, led by Hurd's 97 yards on 14 carries, but that's not awful considering where they were so late in the game. For an offense that struggled for much of three quarters, to begin to find some positive things in the run game was important.

Many times it looked like Oklahoma would demoralize the Vols, but a team that has already played 22 freshmen this year never got embarrassed. 

A 24-point setback (three more than the Oddsshark.com closing line) was not what the Vols wanted, and there have been so many losses lately that moral victories cease to exist. But there were building blocks between the bumps and bruises.

This team is going to take its lumps, but in an SEC East that appears wide open, a talented group of youngsters with as much fight as Tennessee showed Saturday night can make some noise. 

Junior offensive tackle Kyler Kerbyson was impressed with his youthful teammates.

The Vols may not play a better team all season than they did on Saturday against the deep, talented, disruptive Sooners. They traveled to Norman with two offensive weapons in Von Pearson and Ethan Wolf never leaving the sideline, weathered some serious storms and got in some punches.

It wasn't nearly enough, but nobody really expected it would be.

Bob Stoops has built an impressive program at OU over the course of his career, and Jones is just starting to construct his at Tennessee.

For extended periods of time on Saturday, the Vols showed they're on the right track.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics gathered from UTSports.com and observations obtained firsthand. All recruiting information from 247Sports.

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter here:

@Brad_Shepard

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Arkansas' Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams Win CFB's Top Performers for Week 3

The Arkansas running backs absolutely dominated Week 3, giving them the honors of our College Football top performers. Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down their monstrous day. Can they keep it up?

Watch the video and let us know.

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USC Football: Is a Pac-12 Title Still Within Reach After Boston College Loss?

If No. 9 USC is to contend for a Pac-12 title in 2014, it has plenty of questions to address coming off Saturday’s 37-31 upset loss at Boston College.

Going into the Week 3 contest, Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian said on his weekly conference call that USC had plenty of areas for improvement. An emotionally charged Boston College team exposed those problem areas, giving USC’s Pac-12 opponents a blueprint for taking down the Trojans.

In particular, the Eagles’ use of the zone read kept the USC defense back on its heel for most of the night. Stopping the run was a decided strength of the Trojans in their Week 2 win at Stanford; against Boston College, they gave up a staggering 508 yards, 453 of which were on the ground.

The Eagles gained nearly as many rushing yards in one half as the Trojans’ first two opponents combined.

Dual-threat quarterback Tyler Murphy’s mobility proved especially problematic for the off-balance Trojans. His career-high 190 rushing yards are cause for concern for coordinator Justin Wilcox’s defense as USC heads into the meat of its Pac-12 season.

The Trojans will see numerous, similarly skilled quarterbacks in conference play—two of whom, Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly and UCLA’s Brett Hundley, gave USC fits a season ago.

Obviously, USC is well acquainted with the abilities of Kelly and Hundley. But the Trojans also knew about Murphy heading into Saturday's contest.

Freshman quarterback Jalen Greene, a dual-threat playmaker in high school, operated as the USC scout team's version of him in practice during the week. Wilcox must find a way for the undermanned defense to contend with the Pac-12's zone-read quarterbacks if USC is to have any hope of winning the league.

On the other side of the ball, the young offensive line that was a positive in the Trojans’ two wins was a liability.

Sarkisian said last week that despite the line's overall solid play at Stanford, the unit remained a work-in-progress. Saturday night was a reminder that this unit starts two true freshmen on the interior, three first-time starters, and that one of the returners, Max Tuerk, was moved to center out of necessity.

Eagles defensive coordinator Don Brown brought a variety of blitz packages, and the resulting pressure on quarterback Cody Kessler rendered him ineffective on passing downs.

That USC routinely faced 3rd-and-long contributed to its woes—and that was the result of an ineffective run game.

Boston College's ability to clog running back Javorius "Buck" Allen's lanes was a difference-maker during the Eagles' decisive 24-0 run, which spanned most of the second and third quarters.

USC is a run-first offensive team, setting up the big-yardage pass plays through play action once the rush is established. The Trojans running backs can only be as effective as the offensive line allows. Without major improvement after Saturday's effort, USC's Pac-12 title outlook is murky.

The good news for Sarkisian and Co. is that they are headed into a bye week. USC gets 14 days to remedy its issues from Saturday's in loss, in preparation for a Sept. 27 matchup with Oregon State.

While the defense has little positive to take from Saturday's loss, Kessler's connection with tight ends Bryce Dixon and Randall Telfer is one potential building block for the offense going forward. A pass-catching tight end has long been a cornerstone of Sarkisian's offense, and USC's duo combined for 60 yards.

And while Allen was limited in the run game, he caught nine passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. Allen will be a handful for opposing defenses when both facets of his game are clicking.

The Pac-12 title remains an attainable goal for USC, but don't expect the Trojans to look too far ahead after Saturday's upset, as safety Su'a Cravens told Michael Lev of the Orange County Register:

USC's attention for the next two weeks will be on taking just one step in the remaining Pac-12 chase.

 

Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. Statistics compiled via Yahoo Sports.  

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USC Football: Is a Pac-12 Title Still Within Reach After Boston College Loss?

If No. 9 USC is to contend for a Pac-12 title in 2014, it has plenty of questions to address coming off Saturday’s 37-31 upset loss at Boston College...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Florida Proves It Is Nowhere Close to Being Ready for Alabama

When fans examined Florida’s SEC schedule before the season, one game stood out: a Sept. 20 trip to Alabama.

The Gators’ second league game would be a litmus test of the revamped offense under Kurt Roper, of Jeff Driskel’s fitness as a first-tier SEC quarterback.

Well, we got those answers, only a week early.

Saturday’s 36-30 triple-overtime win over Kentucky showed the new Gators are much like the old Gators, and they aren’t ready for prime time.

One of the SEC’s worst teams pushed Florida hard at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Kentucky hasn’t won an SEC game since 2012, but the Wildcats were a 4th-and-9 in overtime away from pulling off a stunning upset before Driskel found receiver Demarcus Robinson in the left corner of the end zone for a game-tying score that sent the game to a second overtime.

Tailback Matt Jones finally finished off the Wildcats with a one-yard touchdown run in the third overtime.

Kentucky’s defense was one of the SEC’s worst a year ago, allowing 31.2 points and 427.2 yards per game. But Florida managed only 20 points in regulation, didn’t score a touchdown until late in the third quarter and went 5-of-17 on third-down conversions.

Robinson was a revelation, catching 15 passes for 216 yards and two scores. Driskel threw for 295 yards and three scores with an interception, but an offense that rolled up 65 points against Eastern Michigan didn’t look efficient.

Florida coach Will Muschamp didn’t seem pleased afterward, criticizing the big plays his defense gave up to SEC Network’s Maria Taylor.

Our kids fought through a lot of adversity in the game. We put up over 600 yards of offense, we’ve got to convert in the red zone, got to convert on third down early in the game to create some separation and we didn’t.

And now, these Gators must go to Tuscaloosa for a meeting with No. 3 Alabama and Kirby Smart’s defense. If they have trouble scoring on Kentucky, it’s not difficult to imagine what the Crimson Tide will do to them.

Following a 4-8 season, Muschamp faces intense pressure this fall to win big and keep his job. If efforts like Saturday are what Florida has in store, it’s difficult to project the Gators even reaching a bowl game.

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Kenny Hill vs. Rice: Stats, Highlights, Twitter Reaction

Texas A&M football is clearly in good hands with quarterback Kenny Hill, who continued his assault on collegiate secondaries in Week 3 against Rice University.

Aggie football fans won't soon forget about Johnny Manziel, but they won't have to look to the past for a scintillating, successful offense. Hill made a number of great plays with his arm against Rice. 

ESPN College Football highlighted his 48-yard touchdown pass to Josh Reynolds in the second quarter:

Hill isn't just tearing up opposing defensive coordinator's game plans. He's also rewriting the Aggies' record book, as Suzanne Halliburton of the Austin American Statesman pointed out:

By the end of the third quarter, Hill had completed 19 of 29 passes for 297 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions.

As if throwing the ball downfield with precision and pace wasn't enough, Hill threw in a stellar 39-yard run during the evening for good measure. This fan noted Hill couldn't help but pay homage to Manziel and do the money sign after his long run:

Hill eventually finished the game with exactly 300 yards passing after taking a well-deserved break for the majority of the fourth quarter. He has yet to throw an interception on the season, proving that he is a fine fit for head coach Kevin Sumlin's sumptuous offensive system. Aggie Sports gave an updated on his total stats through just three games, and they are indeed worthy of just about any superlative one can throw his way:

If Hill strings together a few more immaculate performances in an always-tough SEC, he could very well be hoisting the Heisman Trophy at season's end.

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Purdue vs. Notre Dame: Game Grades, Analysis for the Fighting Irish

It was not an easy game by any means, but No. 11 Notre Dame was able to defeat Purdue 30-14 in the Shamrock Series, which was played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The final box score can be found on NCAA.com.  

Purdue gave everything it had in the first half, but the Fighting Irish picked up the tempo in the second half and the Boilermakers could not keep up. Head coach Brian Kelly will be the first person to tell you that they did not play a perfect game, but at the end of the day, the Irish won and have a chance to crack the Top 10 in the polls. Here’s a report card of their performance against Purdue.

 

Pass Offense: Everett Golson was efficient in the first half, and he stayed that way in the second half. He finished the day 25-of-40 with 259 yards and two touchdowns. Golson started the game 6-of-6 and never looked back. He did get sacked four times, but because he can stand tall in the pocket and throw on the run, Golson kept his eyes downfield and was able to come up with some big pass plays to Corey Robinson and William Fuller throughout the entire game.

 

Run Offense: The Irish racked up 139 yards on the ground, which was more than enough to take down Purdue. Golson led the way with 56 yards while Cam McDaniel had 32 yards with nine carries. The Irish did not run over the Boilermakers, and part of the reason for that was the offensive line. However, because they were able to move the ball with the air, they needed to run the ball to keep the Boilermakers modest on defense.

 

Pass Defense: It was a tale of two halves for the Irish defense. After surrendering two touchdown passes to Danny Etling in the first half, the Irish put more pressure on him in the second half, which led to him throwing zero touchdowns and two picks. Brian VanGorder did a great job making adjustments in the second half to get his players in the right position to make plays. However, they can’t start off slow with the remaining games on the schedule if the Irish want to be in the college football playoff.

 

Run Defense: The Boilermakers could never get anything going in the ground game because the front seven got after it. Akeem Hunt did have 32 yards on five carries, but he did fumble near the end zone in the second quarter. Led by Romeo Okwara and Jaylen Smith, the Irish front seven dominated the offensive line for Purdue and the running game was a non-factor—especially in the second half.

 

Special Teams: Kyle Brindza was almost perfect in the kicking game, making three of his four field goals and racking up 12 of the Irish’s 30 points. Amir Carlisle had a 47-yard kick return to start the game and the coverage teams never let Purdue gain any momentum. It won’t be talked about a lot, but the special teams played a huge part in Notre Dame’s win. They made plays when they needed to, and they did not make any costly mistakes.

 

Coaching: Head coach Brian Kelly knew that his team was going to be in a battle because Purdue always plays tough against Notre Dame. He did a good job keeping his players calm while staying aggressive, even when Purdue took the lead late in the first half. Kelly and his staff made the right adjustments in the second half and the Boilermakers had no response. The head man has a good group of players, and he has gotten the most out of them so far this season.

 

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Tennessee vs. Oklahoma: Score and Twitter Reaction

The Tennessee Volunteers made a game of it early, but just couldn't keep up with the Oklahoma Sooners. Looking every bit like the nation's No. 4 team, the Sooners featured a mix of a dominating defensive line and a balanced offensive attack, running away with the game in the end and emerging victorious by a score of 34-10.

It was all Oklahoma in the first quarter. Trevor Knight led the Sooners to the red zone in three consecutive drives, resulting in two field goals and one touchdown. While Oklahoma couldn't find much of a ground game early on, Knight made use of running back Keith Ford in a different way, connecting with him in the flat on busted coverage for the game's first touchdown.

Here's a look at the 23-yard catch and run, via ESPN College Football:

Things began to look bleak for the Volunteers, as they entered the second quarter down 13-0 against the No. 4 team in the nation. However, quarterback Justin Worley had a different idea. Under constant pressure from Oklahoma's dominant defensive line, Worley remained calm, moving the sticks on a 3rd-and-11 and 3rd-and-12 en route to a 40-yard touchdown strike to Josh Smith.

Take a glance at the quarterback stepping away from pressure and delivering a perfect pass to get behind the secondary, via College GameDay:

Finding themselves up 13-7, the Sooners struck again before the half. Knight kicked off the drive with a big 32-yard gain to the shifty Sterling Shepard. Once the team found itself inside the 20-yard line, Ford finally found some running room. After a nine-yard scamper, he capped off the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run.

Eye on College Football kept up with the game's action:

Oklahoma attempted another scoring drive before the half, and just as it was creeping into field-goal range, Knight was picked off after his pass was deflected, and the Sooners went into the break up 20-7.

The big difference in the game at halftime was Oklahoma's dominance in the trenches. Its defensive line was taking advantage of Tennessee's young offensive line, pressuring Worley early and often while holding the Volunteers' ground game to negative-11 yards on 15 carries.

Jake Trotter of ESPN.com gave his take on the Sooners' pass rush:

Oklahoma received the kick to begin the second half—the team didn't take long to increase its lead. Knight flashed his versatile skill set early in the third quarter, completing three passes for 63 yards and capping off the 75-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown run of his own.

Fox 4 Sports tweeted its take on the game following the score:

The game was quickly getting out of hand with Oklahoma now owning a 20-point lead.

Oklahoma Football summed up how Worley's third quarter went with this tweet:

One of the biggest factors in the Sooners' devastating pass rush was Eric Striker. Quick off the edge, he used his speed to find his way into the backfield on many occasions. Not only did he make plays, but he set up his teammates as well. 

Oklahoma assistant athletics director Pete Moris tweeted a throwback comment regarding Striker's performance:

Thanks to an error on special teams by the Sooners, Tennessee was able to get into great field position which resulted in a field goal, decreasing Oklahoma's lead to 17 entering the final quarter.

Things only worsened for Worley and the Tennesee offense in the fourth. The quarterback's second interception of the game was returned 100 yards for a touchdown by Julian Wilson for the game's final score.

Here's a look at the touchdown, courtesy of College GameDay:

Knight completed 20 of his 33 attempts for 308 yards, one touchdown and one interception for the Sooners, while the offense remained balanced, totaling 34 carries for 146 yards and two scores. 

Oklahoma's pass rush took its toll on Worley, as he finished the game completing 21 of his 44 attempts for 201 yards, one touchdown and two picks. Tennessee's running game found a bit of a groove in the second half, ending the game with 33 carries for 112 yards.

The Volunteers have a well-timed bye in Week 4. The team will have two weeks to regroup before attempting to right the ship against Georgia. While that will be a difficult task, it certainly isn't out of the question, as the Bulldogs proved they are beatable on Sunday, losing to South Carolina by a score of 38-35.

Oklahoma's bid to earn a trip to the first-ever College Football Playoff is alive and well. In the new system, the nation's top-four teams are elected by voters, and the Sooners certainly look the part. The team will move on to face West Virginia in Week 4.

The Mountaineers survived a shootout with Maryland on Saturday and moved to 2-1 on the season, with their lone loss coming in Week 1 against Alabama. Should the Sooners keep up the pace they set against Tennessee in Week 3, West Virginia will be hard pressed to earn its third win against Bob Stoops and Co.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC vs. Boston College: How Trojans' Loss Will Shake Up Week 4 Rankings

It was a Week 3 of upsets across the college football slate, with a handful of Top 25 teams who recently impressed going down throughout Saturday afternoon. USC apparently didn't get the memo.

The ninth-ranked Trojans, with a target fixed on their backs after upsetting Stanford last weekend, traveled to face Boston College on Saturday and fell in a 37-31 affair. Quarterback Tyler Murphy scampered for 191 rushing yards, including a 66-yard score that put the game out of reach late. 

It was just about as strong of a start as Steve Sarkisian could ask for, with the Trojans taking a 10-0 lead through one quarter and a 17-6 advantage early in the second.

From then on, USC just flat out got outplayed.

Jon Hilliman capped off a 75-yard drive with his three-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to four, and soon after the wheels fell off for USC. The Eagles got the ball just before the half, and Sherman Alston broke free for a 54-yard touchdown.

With the Eagles' emergence came an offensive slump for the Trojans, who went scoreless from the first minutes of the second quarter until 4:32 was left in the final frame. 

In that span, Boston College upped its lead to 10 midway through the third on another Hilliman touchdown run. A field goal made it a 30-17 lead in the fourth quarter.

Cody Kessler—who posted a strong stat line of 317 yards and four touchdowns with no picks—led the Trojans on two different touchdown drives late to cut the deficit to six both times, but Kessler would never get the ball with a chance to take the lead.

That was thanks to Boston College's Murphy, who scampered for his first touchdown on a 66-yard run to put the game out of reach. His rushing dominance helped set the tone for a huge advantage on the ground, as ESPN's Ivan Maisel noted the massive rushing gap:

Needless to say, it's far from the result USC wanted coming off one of the program's biggest victories over the past few years.

The Trojans' early-season upset on the road over Stanford last weekend set the stage for them to be top-flight contenders in the Pac-12. While this isn't a conference loss and won't impact their standings, it all but squashes the chance for a College Football Playoff spot barring a slew of unlikely events.

It was just the continuance of an odd Saturday, with No. 6 Georgia, No. 17 Virginia Tech and No. 21 Louisville also falling, per Fox Sports' Clay Travis:

The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre wondered how many teams can still make a title run with USC biting the dust Saturday:

247Sports' JC Shurburtt turned the focus on the impressive Eagles:

USC got some respect in the Top 25 early on this season, and it got much, much more after proving itself against the Cardinal. But now, the Trojans have a significant mark on their resume after a poor nonconference loss to a team without a single Top 25 vote.

The loss won't be enough to completely squash USC's hopes in the Top 25, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Sarkisian's squad fall somewhere in the No. 15 or 16 range after failing to keep up their momentum from the Stanford victory.

As for Boston College, it's hard to imagine this victory—as impressive as it was—getting the school into the Top 25. It's just nearly impossible to go from no votes to a spot, but there's no doubt the Eagles will be getting plenty of votes and start to position themselves to be ranked if they keep it up in ACC play.

 

Follow Steven Cook on Twitter for more breaking news and analysis on college football and all sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC vs. Boston College: How Trojans' Loss Will Shake Up Week 4 Rankings

It was a Week 3 of upsets across the college football slate, with a handful of Top 25 teams who recently impressed going down throughout Saturday afternoon. USC apparently didn't get the memo...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

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