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Week 6 College Football Awards: Iowa State Topples Oklahoma

Plus: a seven-overtime game and (sort of) the return of Miami

Collage of college football plays from Week 6 USA Today/Ringer illustration

Game of the Week

Everything about college football’s overtime format is better than everything about the NFL’s overtime format, but the college version does have one problem: It has no time limit. The NFL’s overtime is going to be over in 10 minutes, no matter what. (Except in the playoffs, when teams play additional overtime periods if the first ends in a tie.) In college, the two teams keep trading possessions until one has a higher score than another at the end of a two-possession cycle. It’s like baseball: Hypothetically, if no team outscores the other in a frame, the game could last forever.

Western Michigan and Buffalo experimented with Forever Football on Saturday, and the result was the highest scoring game in FBS history, a 71–68 WMU win after seven overtimes. How many overtimes, Buffalo defensive end Kennedy Emesibe?

When WMU tight end Donnie Ernsberger caught a touchdown in the first overtime, his sister ran onto the field to celebrate. (We know it was his sister because she was wearing a shirt with his number that said “SISTER”) in big letters.

Perhaps she thought the game was over. (In reality, her brother’s touchdown had only tied the game.) For her, the game was over, as the police quickly escorted her out of the stadium. But for everybody else, the game was just beginning. Here is how the first six overtime periods went:

  • Touchdown, extra point
  • Touchdown, extra point
  • Touchdown, extra point
  • Touchdown, extra point
  • Fumble
  • Missed field goal
  • Touchdown, two-point conversion
  • Touchdown, two-point conversion
  • Touchdown, failed two-point conversion
  • Touchdown, failed two-point conversion
  • Touchdown, failed two-point conversion
  • Touchdown, failed two-point conversion

The Broncos and Bulls couldn’t stop matching each other. Western Michigan ran a wide receiver pass that resulted in a touchdown reception for the team’s quarterback in the second OT; Buffalo hit a wide receiver pass to its quarterback to complete the two-point conversion to force a fifth OT. WMU coach Tim Lester admitted his team ran out of two-point conversion plays; he suspected Buffalo did too.

A tightly contested game is thrilling; a perfectly matched game can be terrifying. There was more ennui in the stadium than joy. The announcers, who had prepped for three hours of talking and were forced into five, dwindled in excitement and coherence as the game unfolded, like a top spinning to a stop. I am not joking when I say the play-by-play man spent much of the fifth overtime discussing the women’s draw at the recent U.S. Open tennis tournament.

In the seventh overtime, Buffalo coach Lance Leipold had his team kick a field goal on fourth-and-7 from the Western Michigan 8-yard line. Surely, he knew this was the end of the war. His defense hadn’t gotten an honest stop in hours — the only time WMU failed to score was when it settled for a game-winning chip shot field goal that missed.

But sometimes, you have to know when to stop. Leipold was 27 when Buffalo-WMU began; he turned 61 at the start of the seventh overtime. His kids had grown up on the sidelines and raised kids of their own. He could see the kids of WMU coach Tim Lester, born in the midway period of the third overtime, frolicking on the other sideline. They had known only war. When Leipold’s starting quarterback died from old age during the sixth overtime, he had promised he would keep fighting. But as he saw these two sets of kids playing, never having met, he wondered: was winning worth it?

It took just four plays for Western Michigan to win. With the game over, the coaches and players from the two teams hugged at midfield. Only one team had won, but that didn’t matter. The important thing was that their never-ending present had finally become the past.

Most Vicious Curse Put on a College Football Program by a Haggard Old Witch

Remember five years ago, when Maryland had so many injured quarterbacks that it had to play a linebacker at quarterback? We’re not quite there yet, but Maryland’s coaching staff might want to check if any of their defensive tackles or free safeties know how to throw a football.

Maryland started the season with a stunning win over Texas led by quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third as Maryland hung 51 on the Longhorns in Texas’s stadium.

But Pigrome tore his ACL in that game. Against UCF, Pigrome’s backup, true freshman Kasim Hill, also tore his ACL. That brought in third-stringer Max Bortenschlager … who left Saturday’s game against Ohio State with an apparent undisclosed head injury. The Terps finished the game against the Buckeyes with Caleb Henderson, a North Carolina transfer, at QB.

It’s unclear how hurt Bortenschlager is, and, while Henderson had a foot injury to start the season, he’s available now. Luckily the Terps have two more quarterbacks on the roster, walk-ons Ryan Brand and Legend Brumbaugh, whose father is the team’s defensive coordinator. Lock them all in bubble wrap, Maryland, because there’s no way a football team can win a game with a linebacker playing quarterback.

Weekly Heisman Winner

Iowa State pulled off the upset of the year Saturday by beating no. 3 Oklahoma with a linebacker playing quarterback.

Joel Lanning played quarterback for the Cyclones as a sophomore and junior. He wasn’t a great passer, but he didn’t throw picks and could run with the ball; he had 171 yards rushing and five touchdowns in a whooping of Texas Tech last season. But as a senior, he’d been usurped by Jacob Park at QB, so Lanning decided to play linebacker.

Park left the team for “personal health issues” last week, which left the Cyclones to choose between Lanning and Kyle Kempt, a senior walk-on who previously lost quarterback competitions at Oregon State and Hutchinson Community College. (Yes, he lost the starting job at a juco.)

Both played quarterback Saturday, and both performed incredibly. Kempt had 343 yards and three touchdowns, proving Oklahoma would get run off the damn field by Hutchinson Community College. And Lanning played both ways, completing two passes, running for 35 yards, recording eight tackles, sacking Baker Mayfield, and scooping up a pivotal fumble. The Cyclones would not have pulled off that magnificent win without every ounce of effort from both quarterbacks. (Err, one quarterback and one linebacker.)

Both players showed remarkable perseverance along the course of their college journeys: Some chide the modern tendency of quarterbacks to transfer as a mark of millennial softness, but don’t tell me Kempt didn’t show determination by continuing to try to play quarterback after getting beaten out for job after job after job.

I could give the weekly Heisman to both guys, but I’ll opt for Lanning; Heisman voters don’t like defensive players, but they do like defensive players who randomly play on offense sometimes.

Worst Hype Video

Northwestern released a video of its team Swag Surfin’ before its game against Penn State. ‘Swag Surfin” is a perfect hype song: It has a prolonged buildup to a great beat drop. Northwestern successfully executed a swaying motion during the buildup, but when the beat dropped and things were supposed to pop off, they just … slowly walked away.

Are you guys going to a football game or a dentist’s appointment? I’d also like to note the tragedy of no. 50, who had nobody to Swag Surf with.

Northwestern continued its dancing abilities on the sideline midgame.

I am a sad alumnus. (Northwestern lost by a lot, by the way.)

Best Hype Video

Florida Atlantic combined the majesty of Ludacris with the majesty of owls:

Honestly, I’ve never understood how “Saturday (Ooh! Ooooh!)” doesn’t have more of a foothold in the college football world. Anyway, Lane Kiffin’s squad is tied for first place in the C-USA.

Weekly National Champion

Miami played Florida State on Saturday, in three senses. (1) The schools played a football game. (2) Miami’s Kendrick Norton played the leg of FSU quarterback James Blackman like a guitar:

(3) The Canes gut-punched the Noles, letting FSU take a 20–17 lead with just over a minute to go before scoring a game-winning touchdown.

Miami deserved that after losing to its biggest rival seven years in a row. The U isn’t quite back yet — the Canes don’t have more defensive touchdowns than touchdowns allowed, there are fewer than 47 first-round draft picks on their roster, and there are no massive allegations of seedy wrongdoings — but 4–0, a win over FSU, and a gold chain are a good start.

Somehow, Miami has never been to the ACC title game. It’s got a clear path this year: The ACC’s Atlantic division is the good one, with FSU, Clemson, Louisville, and NC State. But Miami doesn’t play in the Atlantic division, and FSU was the only one of the aforementioned quartet the Canes had to face this year. If the Hurricanes do make the championship game, they’ll have to play Clemson, which will take them out of title contention, but for now, they can be Weekly National Champions.

Most Unfortunate Play

Florida’s Eddy Piñeiro may be the best kicker in college football. He’s got an incredibly strong leg — he filmed himself hitting an 81-yarder! 81 yards! I’m told it’s not CGI! — and he’s incredibly accurate: He’d hit all 45 extra points he’d attempted before Saturday’s game against LSU.

But, during Saturday’s game against LSU, Piniero missed a PAT, and the Gators lost by one, 17–16.

The miss wasn’t Pinero’s fault; holder Johnny Townsend lost control of the football, which slipped to the left as Pineiro kicked, ensuring a shank:

Of course, it’s not Townsend’s or Pinero’s fault that supposed Florida coach Jim McElwain is a supposed offensive expert whose team mustered 108 yards of passing offense Saturday, which is a much bigger reason why Florida lost.

Best Performance by a Backup Quarterback

A truly great week for backup quarterbacks, folks.

Arizona starting quarterback Brandon Dawkins suffered an injury in the first quarter against Colorado, so Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez brought in backup Kahlil Tate. Tate played one of the most dynamic games ever in a 45–42 Wildcats win.

Tate set an FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 327 on just 14 carries, and also went 11-of-12 passing for 154 yards. (Congrats to the Buffaloes for forcing that one incompletion!) Tate had a 75-yard touchdown, a 58-yard touchdown, a 47-yard touchdown, and a 28-yard touchdown. The only Colorado-related entity that could stop Tate was the word COLORADO painted in the end zone. I bet he could outrun Ralphie.

Tate was the star of Arizona’s 2016 recruiting class, a four-star prospect who picked the Wildcats over USC. Rodriguez had a decent reason for not playing Tate — he had a shoulder injury at the beginning of the year. But I think he deserves the starting job now, at least until Dawkins proves he can set an FBS record off the bench.

Worst Coaching Decision

Pitt’s starting QB, Max Browne, got hurt in the Panthers’ game against Syracuse on Saturday. The team’s backup, Ben DiNucci, lost his helmet on the game’s penultimate play, forcing him to come out of the game. With just one down left, trailing 27–24 and 85 yards from the end zone, true freshman Kenny Pickett came into the game, making the first appearance of his career.

Pickett’s throw on the ensuing play didn’t even pick up a first down. The Panthers were too far from the end zone for a Hail Mary and apparently didn’t even have a hook-and-14-laterals type play set up. A receiver ran a basic route 13 yards downfield, Pickett threw him the ball, the receiver caught it and was tackled, and the game was over. It was the second-most-doomed last-ditch attack led by a man named Pickett in American history.

But more importantly, playing Pickett means he’s no longer eligible to redshirt this season. The Panthers had another quarterback, Tom MacVittie, who is not redshirting and could have easily run that play. But Pitt played Pickett, who will lose a year of eligibility for playing one meaningless down.

Sure, Pickett might contribute later in the season — coach Pat Narduzzi says he’ll be DiNucci’s backup — and he could redshirt another year. But it seems shortsighted to lose a year of eligibility for a talented player so he could play this doomed down and a few games as a backup. Pickett’s presence Saturday didn’t help the Panthers win, and it might hurt the team in 2021.

Play of the Week

Oregon’s Troy Dye deserves a lot of credit for forcing a fumble while on his back:

Get this man in a chaise, hire somebody to hand-feed him grapes, and plop him on the 50. I wanna see how comfortable he can be while ruining opposing offenses.

Best Moment of the Week

I don’t know what was better: Florida paying tribute to the late Gainesville native Tom Petty by singing “I Won’t Back Down”:

Or the two Florida fans who went out of their way to ensure LSU’s band wouldn’t play during the Petty tribute.

Petty, indeed.

Most Disrespectful Moment of the Week

My second-favorite game of Saturday was the hideous rain-fest in Ann Arbor, which was capped by a Michigan State player alerting Michigan wide receiver Eddie McDoom that he should have caught a pass:

Rivalries are built on being neighbors with somebody you resent deeply. These are the moments that make them live.