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November 28, 2011
Here's a quickie look at the weekend's action in a conference-by-conference manner.
Think of it as one final chance to look back at the weekend that was. We will have this conference call every Monday.
BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Boston College. The Eagles capped their late-season surge Friday by winning 24-17 at Miami. Butkus Award finalist Luke Kuechly scored on a 45-yard interception return and became Boston College's leading career tackler as a junior, but the Eagles also got big performances from unlikely sources. Chase Rettig threw for 196 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in one of his best games of the season. TE Chris Pantale, who had scored just once all season, reached the end zone twice against Miami. Although BC's string of 12 consecutive bowl bids will end, the Eagles (4-8) closed the season with two wins in their last three games. The lone loss in that stretch was a narrow 16-14 setback at Notre Dame.
BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: West Virginia's pass rush. The Mountaineers' defense has not been up to the standards coordinator Jeff Casteel has set, particularly in sacking the quarterback. After recording only 16 sacks all season, West Virginia came up with 10 in the 21-20 victory over Pittsburgh. Four of those sacks occurred on Pitt's final possession. Julian Miller, who had 21.5 career sacks entering the season, had only two sacks this season before coming up with four against Pitt. Bruce Irvin had two sacks, giving him five in the past three games.
BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Nebraska's turn-back-the-clock effort. Injuries and the transition to a new conference may have contributed to some rocky moments for Nebraska this season, but in the final game of the regular season, the Huskers turned in the kind of game expected of them for most of the season. Nebraska's defense was stifling: Iowa TB Marcus Coker rushed for only 87 yards, James Vandenberg was only 16-of-35 with an interception and star WR Marvin McNutt caught only four passes for 29 yards while being covered by Alfonzo Dennard. Nebraska shut out Iowa until the final 3:26 in a 20-7 win. On the other side of the ball, Huskers TB Rex Burkhead looked healthy for the first time in three games, rushing for 160 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries.
BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Baylor. OK, so it's not really that surprising that Baylor defeated Texas Tech, but they did so with star QB Robert Griffin III missing half the game. The Bears defeated the Red Raiders for the first time since 1995. They also set a school record with 66 points in a conference game and posted their eighth victory, which is their highest win total in 20 years.
BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Boise State's pass defense. After allowing TCU's Casey Pachall to throw for 473 yards and five touchdowns and San Diego State's Ryan Lindley to pass for 350 yards in the past two weeks, Boise State's injury-riddled secondary came up big in a 36-14 victory over Wyoming. The Broncos allowed just 78 passing yards and one offensive touchdown all day. Wyoming's first touchdown came on a 29-yard interception return by Luke Anderson. The Cowboys' offense didn't score until 5:26 remained in the game.
BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Colorado. The Buffaloes ended a 23-game road losing streak with a 17-14 stunner over Utah. QB Tyler Hansen scored on a 1-yard run and tossed a 1-yard TD pass to help the Buffaloes take a 17-7 lead in the third quarter. They held on to post just their third win of the season and knock the Utes out of Pac-12 South title contention.
BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: LSU's rushing offense. The Tigers ran for 286 yards and three TDs in their rout of Arkansas, their second-highest performance in an SEC game. (Considering their best came against Ole Miss, does that even count?) It was Arkansas' second-worst performance against the run in SEC play.
BIGGEST SURPRISE, TEAM: Florida Atlantic's offense. FAU had scored more than 17 points just twice all season and had scored 35 total in its previous three games. But the Owls broke through for 38 Saturday in a three-point win over UAB, FAU's first victory of the season. FAU had 416 yards; its previous season-high was 334 against North Texas, and the Owls had gained more than 300 once in the previous five games.
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