Week 10’s Plays That Shaped the College Football Landscape

    Week 10 of the college football season saw Georgia and Alabama clinch the SEC East and West, respectively, Notre Dame and Oklahoma avoid potential upsets

    November 4, 2018

    Week 10 of the college football season saw Georgia and Alabama clinch the SEC East and West, respectively, Notre Dame and Oklahoma avoid potential upsets on the road, and Michigan play like a College Football Playoff contender.

    Here are some of the plays from the weekend that shaped the college football landscape.

    West Virginia’s game-winning drive, decision to go for two

    The undercard for Saturday night’s Alabama-LSU game was No. 13 West Virginia winning a thriller 42-41 at No. 17 Texas. The win kept the Mountaineers’ College Football Playoff hopes alive as they’re tied atop the Big 12 standings with a 5-1 conference record.

    After Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger led a seven-play, 65-yard scoring drive to put the Longhorns up 41-34 with 2:43 to play, West Virginia quarterback Will Grier answered with his own scoring drive. The Mountaineers never faced third down as they moved the ball with ease on their nine-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by Grier’s 33-yard touchdown pass that hit Gary Jennings Jr. in stride in the back of the end zone.

    With his team trailing 41-40 prior to the extra-point attempt, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen decided the Mountaineers’ best chance to win was by going for two and playing for the win, rather than overtime. First West Virginia took a timeout, then Texas did the same.

    Fittingly, it was Grier who kept the ball and ran to the left pylon for the two-point conversion, leaving Texas with just 16 seconds and almost the entire month of November to wonder what happened to its 6-1 start to the season.

    It was an incredible ending to an instant classic in the Big 12 with nine lead changes, 1,098 yards of offense and 10 combined touchdowns.

    D’Andre Swift’s 83-yard touchdown run

    The SEC East runs through Athens, Georgia, and the Bulldogs made that very clear in their 34-17 win at No. 9 Kentucky on Saturday. Georgia took a commanding 28-3 lead in the middle of the third quarter after running back D’Andre Swift broke through the line of scrimmage for an 83-yard touchdown run.

    He had a career day of 16 carries for 156 yards and two touchdowns as Georgia rushed for 331 yards on the afternoon. While the Bulldogs are unlikely (and shouldn’t expect) to repeat that kind of performance against Alabama in the SEC Championship, the ability to run against the Crimson Tide is critical. LSU rushed for just 12 yards in its loss to Alabama.

    From both an offensive balance perspective and a clock management perspective – to give Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as few possessions as possible – Georgia will look to Swift and Elijah Holyfield to be productive against the Crimson Tide. The Bulldogs’ College Football Playoff hopes depend on it.

    Oklahoma returns interception for two-point conversion

    One week after Texas lost at unranked Oklahoma State, Oklahoma avoided a similar fate in Lubbock against unranked Texas Tech, 51-46. In a game that the Red Raiders led 31-28 at halftime, the scoring nearly came to a halt with just one touchdown in the third quarter as Oklahoma took the lead on Kyler Murray’s touchdown pass to Lee Morris.

    Things got weird in a way that only seems possible in the Big 12 when Texas Tech backup quarterback Jett Duffey, who replaced starter Alan Bowman at halftime after Bowman was reportedly hit by an errant football in warmups, cut Oklahoma’s lead to 42-40 with a touchdown pass to Zach Austin.

    The Red Raiders tried to tie the game with a two-point conversion but the pass thrown by wide receiver Seth Collins on a gadget play was picked off by Oklahoma’s Robert Barnes in the end zone and returned for two points for Oklahoma. It was a wild four-point swing in what ended up being a five-point game and the play gave the Sooners a four-point lead when the game could’ve been tied on the play.

    Oklahoma running back Trey Sermon ran for a 30-yard touchdown on the next possession and it proved to be the dagger that allowed the Sooners to escape Lubbock.

    It’s also fair to wonder how the game ends if Bowman, who was 21-for-26 for 227 passing yards and two touchdowns in the first half, played the whole game.

    Tua Tagovailoa’s long touchdown run

    If there was any hope of an LSU comeback against No. 1 Alabama when the Tigers trailed 16-0 entering the second half, Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa likely ended it with his 44-yard touchdown run that gave his team a three-score lead in the third quarter.

    A few big-picture takeaways from the play:

    • Tagovailoa isn’t the runner that backup Jalen Hurts is at quarterback but he still has the speed and agility to hurt opposing defenses on the ground if he sees a seam, which almost seems unfair given his throwing ability.
    • He appeared to come up lame on the play, reaching towards his right leg after the play was over. Hurts is dealing with his own ankle injury, wide receiver Henry Ruggs III left the game with an injury and running back Najee Harris also suffered an ankle injury against LSU. Alabama is supremely talented and deep at its skill positions but multiple significant injuries to starters could be the biggest roadblock between the Tide and another national title.
    • The extra-point attempt was blocked after Tagovailoa’s touchdown run and Alabama’s first PAT attempt was mishandled. The Crimson Tide has been plagued by kicking issues, especially in some big moments, under Nick Saban and it makes you wonder, yet again, if it could come back to bite Alabama in a close game.

    Washington State stays alive against Cal

    One week after Cal won an ugly game 12-10 against Washington, the Bears flirted with another low-scoring, upset win against a school from the The Evergreen State. After Washington State missed what would have been the go-ahead field goal on its previous drive, quarterback Gardner Minshew led the Cougars on a six-play, 69-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 10-yard connection to Easop Winston with 32 seconds left.

    The win keeps Washington State (and the Pac-12’s) playoff hopes alive.

    Ian Book’s touchdown pass to Miles Boykin

    Who would have guessed in the preseason that one of the Week 10 games with the biggest potential impact on the College Football Playoff would take place in Evanston, Illinois?

    Northwestern, which led Michigan for more than 45 minutes at home in a loss in September, kept pace with No. 4 Notre Dame in the first half. The game was tied 7-7 until Fighting Irish quarterback Ian Book broke the game open in the third quarter with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Miles Boykin on 3rd & 5 from Northwestern’s 20-yard line.

    Book placed the ball where only a leaping Boykin could catch it, despite two defenders in coverage.

    The Fighting Irish never trailed again in their 31-21 win as Book put together an impressive second half, completing 15 of 19 passes for 236 yards and three total touchdowns, showing again why he replaced Brandon Wimbush as the team’s starting quarterback.

    Purdue’s game-winning field goal

    For the third time in its last six games, Purdue beat a ranked opponent. This time it was a 38-36 win over No. 16 Iowa thanks to Spencer Evans’ 25-yard field goal with eight seconds left.

    If it weren’t for a 31-27 loss to Northwestern on Thursday, August 30, the Boilermakers would be alone in first place in the Big Ten West and in control of their own destiny to reach the Big Ten Championship.

    An 0-3 start to the season (by a combined eight points) kept Purdue out of the national conversation but now it’s playing like one of the best teams in the conference. Purdue coach Jeff Brohm will be one of the hottest names to watch during coaching searches in the offseason and if he stays in West Lafayette, the Boilermakers’ trajectory as a program should be fascinating to watch.

    Nebraska’s decision to punt on 4th & 1

    Admittedly it’s tough to second-guess Nebraska coach Scott Frost for electing to punt on 4th & 1 at his team’s own 13-yard line late in the third quarter while trailing the No. 10 team in the country by two points.

    So we’re not going to do that. But it’s fair to wonder aloud if that’s the type of gutsy decision it takes to beat a ranked team on the road. Granted the field position was different but Oklahoma State scored two touchdowns on 4th & 1 in its upset win over Texas last week. West Virginia’s aforementioned decision to play for the win, rather than overtime, against Texas this weekend gave the Mountaineers a season-changing win.

    Instead, Nebraska punted and Ohio State’s K.J. Hill called for a fair catch at Nebraska’s 47-yard line. The Buckeyes scored a touchdown three plays later.

    The Huskers punted on their first five possessions of the second half, including three three-and-outs, before scoring on their final two drives of the game but it was too little, too late.

    Who knows what kind of momentum a first down could have developed for Nebraska’s offense. If Ohio State got the fourth-down stop, the Buckeyes likely would’ve scored a touchdown with great field position, which was the same result as what happened after Nebraska’s punt.

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