College Football, Week 4: Ring the Bells That Can Still Ring

Sporting America knew what it was getting into with Week 4. We can say that, at least. But with dozens of games on the slate, there’s always going to be room for surprises. You might have dreaded the prospect of watching Michigan vs. UConn, or Arkansas State vs. Memphis, for reasons of your own. But you probably didn’t expect the 15th-ranked Wolverines to need a fourth-quarter rally to surge past a team that lost to Towson, or Memphis to blow by any opponent using its football team. We warned potential viewers that the Tennessee-Florida game might be toxic, and before that mutual atrocity was half-done, we had been reduced to watching a community news slideshow set to jaunty banjo music on a local access channel in our hotel room rather than take in another second of the squalor in Gainesville. We were logically prepared going in, and yet not spiritually ready to stick it out, when it came down to it.

Bad football was thick and rotten on the ground in Week 4, in so many forms. Crimes were committed from coast to coast on Saturday, and in every case, the victim’s name was The Game Of Football. And they were senseless crimes, for the most part, judging by the level of impact. Wherever you chose to hunker down, whatever ill-advised games you might have consumed, hopefully this communiqué finds you safe and emotionally resilient. Our prearranged coping strategy was a simple one: get as far away from it all as we possibly could, and then go a little farther. (It worked.)

We Went There, Day 1

Fresno State 41, Boise State 40. “So that’s what that looks like, huh?” said Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter on Friday night, reflecting on the Bulldogs’ first win over the Broncos since 2005. Don’t be fooled by his composure; in the immediate moments after his Bulldogs stopped what would have been a game-winning last-minute comeback drive by Boise State, DeRuyter was visibly choked up on camera.

“You go through the grind of a season,” DeRuyter said later, “and the season isn’t just from August when the guys report; the season is from January. And ever since I have been [here] you hear about Boise, and you gotta beat Boise, and Boise, Boise, Boise. To see our guys work so hard and finally get to the top of that hill and knocking that down is just huge.”

From an entertainment standpoint, Week 4′s lone Friday-night contest had absolutely everything to offer short of a physical altercation between plush mascots. League rivalry matchup between two of the conference’s premier programs? Check. Goofy rivalry trophy at stake? You betcha. Records broken? Plenty by Derek Carr alone, whose 460-yard, four-touchdown outing set school and conference records for career 400-yard games, and whose active streak of touchdown passes in consecutive games now extends to 23.

Spectacular mishaps? On both sides, highlighted by Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick losing the ball on a run in a moment that looked like nothing so much as bad stagecraft. (You probably got a better look on television than we did from the top of the stadium: It looked as though the ball was whisked away from his possession by a black-clad parent volunteer just offstage holding a dowel rod with a fishing line tied on.) Heart-stopping scores! Trick plays! A sellout crowd! Three converted fourth downs! Dramatic second-half comebacks! Valor! Compassion! Mustaches! WACtion lived Friday night in the San Joaquin Valley, and lived well.

As a one-loss team from a non-AQ conference, Boise State was already out of the BCS Busters’ Ball for 2013. Fresno State’s prospects for postseason play, on the other hand, get very interesting from here. Readily winnable games with Hawaii, Idaho, UNLV, and Nevada lay an easy path for an undefeated run into November, which is about the time Fresno State’s defense is going to have to shore the hell up. If you’re into pinball scores, don’t miss the Bulldogs’ November trips to Wyoming and San Jose State, and keep one pointsplosion-loving eye on the possibility of a date with Utah State in the Mountain West championship game.

We Went There, Day 2

Washington State 42, Idaho 0. Taking in the Battle of the Palouse is a lot like going home for a night of high school football. This isn’t a dig at the size or quality of either program. But there’s a whole bunch of nothing up there, for a good long while around, just wheat and trees and wind and BLAMMO, two FBS football programs eight miles apart, separated by a state border and less than a 10-minute drive. This has the effect, rare in college football, of making everything feel hyper-local. There are no visitors, not really. Which is not to say there aren’t enemies, or that the rivalry lacks animosity. Close quarters hemmed in on all sides by vast stretches of emptiness can breed a mighty contempt.

On the field, Saturday night’s rivalry contest was somewhat less than compelling; 42-0 blowouts are like that. When the winning team can commit four turnovers and the losing team capitalizes on precisely none of them, it’s a mighty mismatch. But in a part of the country where it already feels like deep autumn, under close-lying clouds, with a loud, jubilantly rude student section, seeing a homecoming win isn’t a bad way to wrap a Saturday. Not too bad at all.

Forget Your Perfect Offering

No. 5 Stanford 42, no. 23 Arizona State 28. Remember how this game was supposed to give us a first indication of an answer to the question, “Is anyone other than UCLA prepared to challenge the Pac-12 North’s supremacy?” Well, we have one early response: “Not Arizona State.” The Cardinal jumped on the Sun Devils to the tune of a 29-0 halftime lead and drove that margin to 39-7 before ASU tacked on a trio of touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

The final margin of 42-28 makes the game look closer than it actually was, as the already run-heavy Stanford offense had shifted almost entirely to the ground game in the final frame; by the time the clock hit 0:00, Stanford had paved the Sun Devils for 240 rushing yards at 4.9 yards per carry. Grantland’s inaugural college football That Guy, Tyler Gaffney, finished with his lowest rushing output of the season with a not-mere 95 yards and two scores on 19 carries. But Anthony Wilkerson’s 68 additional yards on 18 carries, plus big ground plays from Kelsey Young and quarterback Kevin Hogan, bolstered the Cardinal’s rushing total for the day.

No. 6 LSU 35, Auburn 21. The Battle of the Cast-off Georgia Quarterbacks went to LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, who led his Tigers to a 21-0 halftime lead and finished with a 14-for-22, 229-yard, one-TD, one-INT performance. But Saturday’s real star of the deluged show in Death Valley was LSU running back Jeremy Hill, who had Auburn’s defenders exasperatedly flailing away at thin air on his way to 183 yards and three scores. There was a point in the third quarter when Auburn pulled within 28-14 and briefly looked like it might actually make a game of this thing, and to Gus Malzahn’s credit, stacking up 437 yards against an LSU defense — in Baton Rouge, and in a driving rain, no less — bodes well for the heights to which he will eventually lead the Auburn program.

USC 17, Utah State 14. While it is still a chilling sign of the times that a game between Utah State and USC in the Coliseum was expected to be close, let us praise the Trojans’ defense, which held the prolific Chuckie Keeton to 179 yards passing and minus-15 yards rushing, and sacked him four times. The Aggies’ defense, excellent and underappreciated in 2012, may be the most intriguing component of this year’s MWC championship race.

In Which the Case Keenum Memorial Pinballin’ Award Gets a Feast Day

Saturday night, with Wazzu up five or so touchdowns, we started idly wondering, prompted by an intrepid reader, whether all of the day’s 70-point games constituted some kind of record. Here’s what ESPN’s merry band of stats wizards dug up: Not only were Saturday’s four games with 70-plus points scored by one team the most on any one day over the past decade, but the first day of the past decade on which even three teams scored at least 70 points came … last week. And while Ohio State (76 against FAMU) and Miami (77 against Savannah State) both put up garish numbers versus their paid profiteroles, let’s also sing the praises of Louisville (72 over FIU) and Baylor (70 over ULM), who lived up to their Most Grisly Potential Grudge Match billings, with interest.

Grape Job!

We’re sure you tried your best. BUT:
Grape-Job

Michigan State, this is not a good look.

Michigan, neither is a near-miss with a transitive loss to Towson before Big Ten play even starts.

FIU, having it be put about that this was a “clock issue” only serves to further highlight the “lost 72-0” issue at hand.

Georgia, Odell Beckham can do this, and right now you seem perfectly willing to let him try next week.

Texas A&M, missing three consecutive extra points, despite your final margin of victory, suggests you have pissed off some sort of local witch or warlock. Might want to look into that.

Texas Tech, do not defy the will of #RallyFox.

Northwestern, the headline “Two defensive TDs lead Northwestern over Maine” is now your albatross for the rest of the year.

West Virginia, finishing a game with as many first downs (6) as turnovers (6) is … you know what, we had a joke here, but WVU gets Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Texas Tech next, and it’s just too depressing to even complete that thought.

Utah, another rollicking Holy War win just isn’t the same without your student section rushing the field at multiple incorrect times.

Tennessee and Florida, GO TO YOUR ROOMS. BOTH OF YOU. GO THERE AND SIT AND THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU’VE DONE.

Laff Riot

The story of Week 4, as told through the thumbs of a nation.

Filed Under: College Football

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Holly Anderson is a staff writer at Grantland.

Archive @ HollyAnderson