The Metropolitan Athletic Club of Dallas , Texas
The 2007 National Return Specialist Award
WEEK 4: RETURN MAN AWARD REPORT, THE WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 22, 2007:
Week 4 continues with three dominant teams- #1USC, #2LSU and #4 OU- crushing the opposition while #3Florida struggled on the road at Ole Miss.#5West Virginia and #6Cal cruised and #7Texas, finally at full strength, looked like the monster sportswriters predicted. The Curse of the Big Ten Network rears its ugly head again- #8Ohio State destroys Northwestern, but #9Wisconsin struggles again and #10Penn State flopped to Michigan. Coupled with the fact that every other team was playing on OTHER television network obligations, the league network was stuck with Indiana-Illinois as the premier game. #22Georgia nipped #16Alabama, #11Oregon rolled and #20Texas A&M was thumped on Thursday night by Miami, turning up the heat on Aggies Head Coach Dennis Franchione.
For some reason, this week saw a lack of defense and it haunted all the teams for the most part-- #18Louisville fell 3 points short of previously winless Syracuse; Texas Tech and Oklahoma State combined for nearly 3/4 of a mile of offense in the Cowboys win. #24Nebraska gave up 600 yards to Ball State, yet still escaped with a 1 point win over the Cardinals (but lost its spot in the Top 25 for next week). Iowa State is still struggling after losing to its second MAC team of the year in Toledo but both Kansas and Mizzou have tallied 4-0 starts under the radar.
This week sees a few warm ups: the Big East and Pac 10 have some early conference challenges, while the SEC sees which team bounces back- Auburn from its early season disappointment or Florida from its scare in Oxford. A neutral site non-conference showdown hits in Jacksonville, where Alabama and Florida State collide.
Our weekly trip through history gives us the following random notes:
� Notre Dame is 0-4 for the first time in 119 years. In 1887, Notre Dame fielded a team after learning the new game from some students at the University of Michigan . Also in that year the US Naval received permission from the Senate to lease a base at Pearl Harbor in what was then the Kingdom of Hawaii . The monarchy would fall in 1893 and fall under US authority shortly thereafter.
� Notre Dame unveiled a statue of Irish coaching great Ara Parseghian last week at Notre Dame Stadium. To contrast the "Era of Ara", the 10 year period in which Parseghian roamed the sidelines with the current decade: Parseghian's teams won 3 out of 4 bowl games and never lost more than 3 games in a single season and one lost back to back one (losses to close the season at Southern Cal and the Orange Bowl against Nebraska in 1972. The last ten years of Notre Dame football have seen 5 losing seasons (not including the current 0-4 record) and at least 13 sets of back to back losses.
� Keeping with the Irish theme: they lost to Michigan State for the 6th straight time at home, meaning that the Sparties became the first team to hold that over the Irish's heads and that they haven't tasted defeat at Notre Dame Stadium since 1993-when the first late night talk show battles started. That year, The Late Show with David Letterman was first broadcast on CBS opposite The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on NBC and NBC introduced Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
� In defeating Northwestern in Columbia , The Ohio State Buckeyes played their 500th game in Ohio Stadium, fondly known as 'The Horseshoe'. The stadium opened in 1922 at a cost of $1.49Million. The Buckeyes� record in the stadium on the banks of the Olentangy River is 376-104-20. 1922 also marks the beginning of construction on Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and the first radio in the White House.
Highlights from this week's action:
* Out in the islands after everyone was sleeping, Hawaii dismantled Charleston Southern, 66-10. The Warriors reeled off 45 points in the second half. Leading the way was JR DB Ryan Mouton who had a 90 yard kickoff return.
* Ohio lost by a point to Wyoming , but it wasn't for the Bobcats' SOPH WR Chris Garrett returning the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. It tied Jerry France vs. BGSU in 1964 for second longest return in Ohio history.
* Second quarter of Idaho-Northern Illinois had a blocked punt in the end zone for a score, a fumbled recovered in the end zone for another score and a 100 yard kickoff return by Idaho's SOPH S Shiloh Keo. The first two events were NIU's gains, but Keo set a new Idaho school record.
* Toledo's SR HB Jalen Parmele had an 82 yard kickoff return in the Rockets' upset of Iowa State. Parmele returned a kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, marking the first time the Rockets have returned a kickoff for a score since Richard Davis raced 94 yards against Western Illinois on Sept. 1, 2005.
* In the Sooners' pistol-whipping of Tulsa on Friday night, OU FR HB Demarco Murray had an 81 yard kickoff return vs Tulsa
* Syracuse's FR DB Max Sutter had a 93 yard kickoff return in the Orange's 35-38 upset of Louisville . It was Syracuse's first KO returned for a score since Kevin Johnson returned one 100 yards vs Miami (FL) in 1998.
* UCLA SR DB Matt Slater had an 85 yard kickoff return in the Bruin's44-31 win over Washington . This was the first kickoff return score for the Bruins since Brandon Breazell had two against Northwestern in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 30, 2005. It was the first kickoff returned for a touchdown by a Washington opponent since Ben Kelly of Colorado returned one for 98 yards on Sept. 25, 1999.
* Arkansas's JR RB Felix Jones 82 yard free kick return in the Razorbacks� loss to Kentucky . This makes the 4th kick return score of his career (and 2nd of this season), tying Willie Gault of Tennessee,in the 42-29 loss to the Cats.
* Northwestern's FR TB Stephen Simmons had a 99 yard punt return vs. Ohio State in the Wildcats�58-7 loss in Columbus . It marked the first occurrence since Jeff Backes returned a 97 yard kickoff in 2004 and tied Curtis Duncan's effort vs Indiana in 1984 and is just behind Jason Wright�s 100 yard school record vs TCU in 2002.
* Purdue's SR WR Desmond Tardy jumpstarted things with a 95 yard kickoff to score in the Boilermakers' 45-31 win over Minnesota . Tardy's scoring kickoff return is the second for the Boilermakers this season, marking the first time a Purdue team returned two kickoffs for touchdowns since 1972. The season record for a Purdue team is three in 1970.
* Mizzou's FR WR Jeremy Maclin marked a second return score on a 64 yard punt against Illinois State . With the return Maclin becomes the first Tiger to return two punts in a season since Leo Lewis did in 1975. He is also the fourth Tiger to have two punt return touchdowns is his career. The others are Lewis, John Mosely in 1973 and Don Smith in 1960.
* NC State's SR WR Darrell Blackman had a 99 yard KO return in the first quarter of Clemson�s comeback over NC State. Senior return specialist/wide receiver Darrell Blackman, the ACC's all-time leader in kickoff return average, scored two touchdowns, the first on a school-record 99-yard kickoff return in the first quarter.
� Virginia Tech's SR WR Eddie Royal posted a 44 yard punt returns score vs. William & Mary Tech wasted little time getting back at it in the second quarter. The Hokies forced a W&M punt on the third snap of the period, and Eddie Royal - after making two sharp cuts in the first five yards - turned on the jets and returned it 60 yards for his second-career punt return touchdown.
Moving Up: Kevin Robinson, Utah State- The SR WR looks like he's trying to put an exclamation point on his return career. After notching 3 punt returns and 2 kickoff returns for touchdowns over his career, Robinson had a slow start as the Aggies played UNLV, at Wyoming and at OU. However, a solid evening against San Jose State bumped Robinson to #8 nationally in punt returns. He put up 78 yards on 3 punt returns, increasing his average by nearly 25% to 19.50 yards/return.
Moving Down: Captain Munnerlyn, South Carolina- Alas, Captain, My Captain, the SOPH DB is ranked next to last in the SEC�s kickoff returns, despite having 2x as many return opportunities as the next guy. He ranks 95th out of 99 nationally with his 21.50 yards/kickoff return- a full 0.50 yards ahead of #99.
Game of the Week for Week 5
#5West Virginia @ #18 South Florida
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Florida
Last season, South Florida upset then #7West Virginia for only their second loss in Morgantown over the past 2 years. Now, it's the Bulls who claim the big home field advantage:11-2 at home since they joined the Big East from Conference USA in 2005 and the Mountaineers have revenge on their minds.
WVU Headman Rich Rodriguez flirted with the Alabama head coaching position last winter, only to gaze upon what he had in place and realized that the grass wasn't greener on the other side. How does one say that when looking at the support, talent and history of the Crimson Tide? It's simple:Rodriguez took a look at an offense headed up by hiccup-quick JR QB Pat White and JR HB Steve Slaton and threw in Youtube Superstar FR HB Noel Devine. Backing up the spread option attack is a defense that ranks 15th in the nation, lead by the linebacking trio of JR LB Mortty Ivy, SR Marc Magro and JR LB Reed Williams.
South Florida's head coach, Jim Leavett, has been equally as popular lately- with Kansas State asking for permission a few years back when legendary Wildcat coach Bill Snyder retired. After building the program up from scratch and coaching every game in the Bulls' history, the Bulls are living up to their potential behind SOPH QB Matt Grothe and his ground game: a two headed monster of JR HB Ben Williams and Crimson Tide refugee FR HB Mike Ford. An opportunistic defense has helped lead the way to upsets vs. North Carolina and at Auburn. SE DE George Selvie has tallied 8.5 sacks through the first 3 games and SOPH FS Nate Allen is tied for 9th in the NCAA with 2 interceptions for the year.