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Weekend Superlatives: The Weird and Wonderful From College Football Week 11

Kirk Ferentz and Co. punt their way to victory, Louisville can’t stop dancing, Hawaii (literally) has no bench, and more

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz (AP Images)
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz (AP Images)

You probably saw the big stuff from Week 11 in college football: Clemson losing to Pitt, Michigan losing to Iowa, and Washington losing to USC. It was a wild week that shook up the College Football Playoff rankings, even if it didn’t actually shake up the playoff picture that much.

But as always, there are way too many teams and games to keep track of. So, that’s what we’re here for! While you were gawking at those big upsets, here’s all the happiness, sadness, and Rutgers-ness you might’ve missed.

Biggest Upset

No, I’m not picking one of the ones we talked about already. I’m supposed to get excited that USC beat Washington? USC always beats Washington. Iowa had won four of the past five against Michigan. And Pitt had literally beaten Clemson the only other time the two teams had ever played, in the 1977 Gator Bowl.

The biggest upset of Saturday was the Division III John Carroll Blue Streaks taking down top-ranked Mount Union Purple Raiders. The Purple Raiders were one of the most dominant dynasties in any level of college sports, entering Saturday’s game with 24 consecutive Ohio Athletic Conference championships. The last time they didn’t win was the first year of the Big East football conference, and Mount Union’s championship streak outlasted that league by three years.

The Purple Raiders had a 112-game regular-season win streak dating back to 2005. And before that loss in 2005, they hadn’t lost since 1994. They had played 239 regular-season games since the release of the movie Jurassic Park, and they’d won 238 of them, along with 12 national championships.

The Blue Streaks hadn’t beaten Mount Union since 1989. But with a touchdown in the final minute, they won 31–28 to finish conference play undefeated and become the first team besides Mount Union to win the league since the first George Bush was president.

Division III has a 32-team playoff bracket, which Mount Union is in, so it still has a chance to win a championship and pretend this never happened. But it did, and John Carroll’s players will remember it forever. Now the other teams in the Ohio Athletic Conference need to stop slacking. I’m looking at you … [reads Ohio Athletic Conference Wikipedia page] … Heidelberg?

Best Play

You’ve gotta watch this one really closely to see what happens:

This is from an NAIA game. Tyler Kavan, a running back for Morningside, had a pretty nice run, but toward the end, gets the ball wrestled away from him by Northwestern’s Donavan Weldon. (Not this Northwestern, this Northwestern.) Weldon runs away with the ball, and Kavan stands, seemingly stunned, on the sideline.

As he runs back the ball, Weldon comes down with a serious case of buyer’s remorse. He flips the ball backward while stumbling, and it flies right to Kavan, who had recently decided to rejoin the play. Kavan accepts returns and exchanges for up to 30 days, so he takes the ball and runs into the end zone with it.

All in all, Kavan had 39 yards rushing, a fumble, and then a 59-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. This play ended up being pretty important, too: Morningside won, 14–13, taking the league title and earning an automatic spot in the NAIA playoffs.

Most Rutgers Play

Lots of options, but I’m gonna go with this one:

With Rutgers, the problem is pretty simple: The school is not good at any major sports and has to play in one of the nation’s most competitive conferences. But the tremendous failure is still incredible to watch. After losing 58–0 to Ohio State and 78–0 to Michigan, the Scarlet Knights had a chance to win Saturday against the only other winless team in the Big Ten, Michigan State. They lost, 49–0, meaning they’re just about half a hundred points worse than the second-worst team in the league.

On this play, the problem was pretty simple. QB Giovanni Rescigno fakes a handoff to the running back and quickly throws a screen pass, but his foot got tangled with running back Justin Goodwin. The tremendous failure is still incredible to watch: Rescigno is too far into throwing to stop himself, and he lets loose a wobbling, sideways ball that makes it halfway to an unguarded receiver while QWOPing downward. It was an awkward calamity, much like Rutgers itself.

Most Impressive Performance

This Iowa fan. Or possibly Iowa State fan?

Emphasis mine. Ames is two hours from Iowa City, and Arizona hasn’t played a game there since 1968. I’ve had fun being drunk at football games. But I aspire to be so drunk at a football game that it transports me to a different city in a different decade. Your team can’t lose a game if it’s part of a magical journey of the imagination that only you, your brain, and the 1/500th of your blood stream that is actually just straight-up alcohol have decided to embark on together.

Best Special Teams Play

Ron Coluzzi is a very nice boy. When not on the field, he’s capable of doing all sorts of things, like jogging, playing catch, and doing his homework. But as Iowa’s punter, much like Garo Yepremian, Coluzzi is unable to do anything besides punting and kicking when on a football field.

Saturday night, all he needed to do was run. It did not work.

He had space! He might have even beaten linebacker Devin Bush Jr. to the first-down marker.

But Bush dove into Coluzzi, perhaps out of sheer confusion from seeing a college football player look like a baby giraffe with a whiskey IV. Somehow, the referee interprets this as targeting. You could hypothetically see this as an accurate interpretation of the rule — Bush crouches and launches his body at Coluzzi, who is on the ground and therefore defenseless by rule — but when so many obvious helmet-to-helmet hits go uncalled, I’m not sure how a dude trying to get near a stumbling and possibly fumbling punter qualifies.

I’m not joking when I say Iowa-Michigan, one of the most memorable and important games of the season, was decided by punting. A Coluzzi 54-yarder pinned the Wolverines at the 2-yard line, a play later they lost yardage and gave up a safety, and Michigan lost by one.

But more specifically, it was decided by penalties on punts. Iowa did something I’ve never seen before, turning a fourth-and-10 into a first down after Coluzzi baited back-to-back running-into-the-kicker penalties on the Wolverines. Michigan got a critical go-ahead field goal after a rare roughing-the-snapper penalty kept a fourth-quarter drive alive. But Iowa got its game-winning field goal just a few plays after Michigan was called for a questionable face mask on a punt return with under two minutes to go, pushing the Hawkeyes 15 yards closer to Keith Duncan’s field goal range.

We make fun of Kirk Ferentz. He’s painfully risk-averse, a man who has invested his life savings in oatmeal futures. Even though a recent contract extension has given him the most airtight job security in college football, he still clings to conservative play-calling and oodles of punts.

Saturday night was his masterpiece, a game of punt-related intrigue. Everything bounced in his favor; the flags flew when Iowa needed them to. Even though his one gamble featured a grown man taking a toddler’s tumble, it still somehow worked out. The penalty didn’t give Iowa a first down since it was a dead-ball foul, but it pushed Michigan 15 yards downfield and got one of its linebackers ejected.

Don’t get into a punt battle with Ferentz. You won’t live to see the dawn.

Worst Special Teams Play

Just look at Nebraska’s punter crumpling when he looks at the hand fate has dealt him.

That should’ve been a bad punt, as it went up above the stadium, waved at the Goodyear Blimp, and came down roughly 15 yards past the line of scrimmage. But if it bounced the right way, it could’ve somewhat helped Nebraska in the field position battle.

Instead, it rolled allllllllllllllll the way backward. Minnesota would kick a field goal with the beneficial field position.

Silliest Special Teams Play

Kansas isn’t going to win any more football games, maybe ever. So it might as well have fun! Saturday the team played hide-and-seek during a kickoff.

It didn’t result in a touchdown, but this is Kansas football. Nothing does.

We’ve seen this play before — Riley Cooper did it for the Eagles — but the Jayhawks innovated by actually having the uniform color match the end zone color to completely prevent the opposition from noticing a person lying down in the end zone.

Best Celebration

Louisville’s Jaire Alexander is one of the best defensive backs in college football. I haven’t seen his name in many NFL draft discussions, but that’s OK, because I hear he’s got a job lined up at the Ministry of Silly Walks when he graduates:

Alexander’s prance-dance was probably worth a flag, since he was taunting the hell out of the Wake Forest receiver whose reception he just broke up, but luckily he didn’t get one. I’m not sure what he’s doing — it looks sorta like that thing drum majors in marching bands do where they bend all the way back and kick their legs really high — but apparently his teammates know what it is since they instantly put their hands on their lower backs in solidarity.

Saddest Loss

Wake Forest has had a really good season! The Demon Deacons are 6–4 and headed to a bowl game for the first time under Dave Clawson. And they had Louisville on the ropes, leading the fifth-ranked team in the country 12–10 entering the fourth quarter.

Wake Forest lost 44–12, allowing five touchdowns in the final quarter. This game was a serious upset bid, and yet the Demon Deacons still lost by 30-plus. Didn’t even cover the spread.

Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals don’t roast opponents; they microwave them, putting up points more quickly than anybody else in football. They tend to do it early and relax later: They’ve had halftime leads of 56–0 against Charlotte, 35–10 against Florida State, 35–7 against Marshall, 44–0 against NC State, and 38–0 against Boston College. If we flip the halves, Saturday’s game seems normal: Louisville outscored Wake 41–0 in the one half, and was outscored 12–3 in the other. It would’ve been nice of the Cardinals to get their work done early to avoid getting the Demon Deacons’ hopes up.

Worst Coaching Move

We’re not going to look at an X’s and O’s thing this week. We’re going to look at Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich, who decided to get rid of the sideline benches as the team trailed 42–3 to Boise State:

Rolovich saw his players were “sitting on benches in the shade” and felt it indicated they lacked the fire to win. No, dude: It indicated they were playing one of the most physically demanding sports on the planet in a place where it’s 80 and sunny 365 days a year.

Hawaii football fascinates me. The Rainbow Warriors are a football team on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. They have to support a program in spite of the ridiculously high cost of living on the island. They have to persuade players from the mainland to play thousands of miles from home, and persuade their own bountiful crop of talented recruits (Marcus Mariota and Manti Te’o, among others) not to play for schools with bigger budgets and better pathways to the NFL. There’s one rule explicitly meant to benefit them — the Rainbow Warriors and teams who fly to Hawaii to play them are allowed to schedule a 13th game every year to recoup travel costs. That enables Hawaii to take one more trip to the mainland to get whooped for a paycheck: The Rainbow Warriors flew 25,000 miles by the end of September in the name of extra money.

The Rainbow Warriors need a coach who understands the intricacies of the job, and Rolovich would seem to be the guy. He played QB at Hawaii under June Jones during the program’s only consistent period of success, and then spent time there as an assistant coach. He seems to be doing a good job. The Bows are 4–7, which won’t be enough to get them bowl eligible, but Rolovich’s predecessor, Norm Chow, won four games in a season only once.

I’m sure he knows the reason they lost by nearly 40 is because Boise State is better in every conceivable way, not because his team lacks competitive desire. Maybe he thinks over-the-top moves like this will spark his team. But there’s also a chance his players will think he’s a jerk who insults their spirit and punishes them for failing to accomplish the impossible.