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Posts Tagged ‘Theo Riddick’

Rival Rewind still won’t admit Irish are the best

Monday, November 26th, 2012


Michigan has the unique position of having three big rivals. Most teams only have one rival to get up for, but year-in and year-out, Michigan has three. While we, as fans, hate each of these teams, we carry some respect for them. Michigan State and Ohio State carry conference affiliation ties while Notre Dame, well, we all just put up with them. All season long, it’s fun to keep track of how each of them is doing, but there’s only so much time on Saturday to watch games. More often than not, they play at the same time Michigan does so you don’t get a chance to do your “advanced scouting.” Well, don’t fret because we’ve got you covered. This weekly feature will give you an overview of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State’s games the previous weekend and a look ahead to the upcoming one.

#1 Notre Dame 22 – USC 13
Record: 12-0
This Week: Regular season over

Notre Dame took the final step towards the BCS title game by downing USC in its season finale. Despite the Trojans missing their record setting quarterback, Matt Barkley, and replacing him with a freshman, I may be ready to change my tune on the Irish. All season long I have been reluctant, to say the least, to give Notre Dame full credit for being a top team. The rankings may say they are the No. 1 team in the land, but my football knowledge says they are far from the top team in the land. They struggled against Purdue, BYU and Pitt – none of whom are good teams. They barely beat Michigan despite being given the ball six times on turnovers. On Saturday night they beat a USC team with two future NFL receivers on offense (possibly the best receiver tandem in college football no less); but they did it against a freshman quarterback making his first start.

Theo Riddick celebrates the undefeated season (Danny Moloshok, AP)

However, Notre Dame has beaten all comers and I will not take anything away from their defense. They’ve held strong when they needed to and when it matters the most, like in the red zone. They have finally found their coach in Brian Kelly and he is poised to become yet another Irish head coach to win a national title in his third season.

Charlie Weiss may have recruited these seniors but Brian Kelly has turned them into winners. This Notre Dame team is good and given what they’ve done they deserve to play in the BCS title game. I will not concede they are the best team in all the land, yet. Nor will I proclaim they are back; I need to see consistency, not just one magical season. Regardless, they will be a worthy opponent for the SEC in the BCS title game, unlike Ohio State has proven to be against them in title games.

And now on to the game. The Irish took their opening drive and went straight into the heart of Trojan territory. However, they were held off inside the 10-yard line and held to just three points. USC and its redshirt freshman took the field and ran the ball four straight times with Curtis McNeill. With the “pressure” off their young QB, Lane Kiffin let the kid air it out. He missed on three straight attempts and USC was forced to punt. Notre Dame used a heavy dose of Theo Riddick through the air and on the ground as they made way for a Cierre Wood 2-yard touchdown run.

Up 10-0 ten minutes into the game and it looked like the Irish might run away with it. But as Lee Corso likes to say, not so fast my friend. Max Wittek regained his composure and went 5-of-5 for 48 yards and a touchdown to Robert Woods to get the Trojans back within three points. Notre Dame mounted another long drive but managed only a field goal. USC added another field goal their next time out, and then forced the Irish into a three-and-out to get the ball back with just over a minute and a half remaining and a chance to take the lead before halftime. The Irish defense had other ideas as they picked off Wittek’s first pass attempt; ultimately setting up Kyle Brindza for a career long 52-yard field goal, which he nailed. The Irish led 16-10 at the half, but it was far from over.

Max Wittek’s first pass of the second half was also picked off, but this time the Irish could not capitalize. It went back and forth until about the six minute mark in the third when Brindza hit his fourth field goal of the day to give Notre Dame a two possession lead at 19-10. USC added a field goal on their next drive to cut the lead back to six but that would be as close as they got.

Aided by a 60-yard kick return by George Atkinson III, the Irish were set up in great field position and used it to their advantage. They quickly marched inside the Trojan 10-yard line but were held out of the end zone. It didn’t matter because Kyle Brindza’s fifth field goal of the night proved to be the nail in USC’s coffin.

Next:

At 12-0 and the No. 1 team in the BCS rankings, Notre Dame is set up for the BCS title game against the winner of this weekend’s SEC Championship game, Georgia or Alabama. Both teams sport stout defenses and good quarterbacks. I’d give Georgia the edge in the passing attack (which could cause ND fits if they cannot get pressure) and Alabama the edge in the rushing attack. Regardless of which team emerges out of Atlanta we should have a great title game on our hands.

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Michigan State 26 – Minnesota 10

Dan Conroy's four FGs clinched a bowl bid for MSU (Paul Battaglia, AP)

Record: 6-6, 3-5 Big Ten
This Week: Regular season over

Michigan State was looking to get bowl eligible against a Minnesota team that just cannot catch a break. Le’Veon Bell made sure the Spartan offense did its part, rushing for 266 yards and a touchdown, while Dan Conroy made four field goals.

On defense, they looked like the Sparty of last year, holding the Golden Gophers to a mere 96 yards of total offense, 92 of which came through the air.

The Gophers took the lead 7-3 in the first on the heels of a pick six by Aaron Hill but that would be the only time they found the end zone. Conroy added a field goal, then Andrew Maxwell found Bennie Fowler for a 41-yard touchdown pass less than three minutes later to go up 13-7. Sparty picked off four passes and made the most of them as they held off a Gopher team without its head coach in the second half.

Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill suffered yet another seizure during halftime and did not return. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family.

Next:

With the win Michigan State became bowl eligible. It wasn’t quite what they expected but they should be thankful to be going bowling at all. At this point we don’t know for sure who they’ll play but it won’t be a New Year’s day bowl, we know that much. We will find out the matchup on Sunday evening.

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Ohio State 26 – Michigan 21
Record: 12-0
This Week: Season over

We won’t rehash the tragedy that struck on Saturday, but Ohio State’s season ends before December due to NCAA sanctions. In true Buckeye fashion, they honored the man who put them on probation during the first quarter of Saturday’s game, giving him a standing ovation and lifting him onto their shoulders. That’s all you need to know about our rivals to the south.

A thousand words (Jay LaPrete, AP)

Rival Rewind is glad Braxton is ok, Paul is home, and ND will lose

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012


Michigan has the unique position of having three big rivals. Most teams only have one rival to get up for, but year-in and year-out, Michigan has three. While we, as fans, hate each of these teams, we carry some respect for them. Michigan State and Ohio State carry conference affiliation ties while Notre Dame, well, we all just put up with them. All season long, it’s fun to keep track of how each of them is doing, but there’s only so much time on Saturday to watch games. More often than not, they play at the same time Michigan does so you don’t get a chance to do your “advanced scouting.” Well, don’t fret because we’ve got you covered. This weekly feature will give you an overview of Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State’s games the previous weekend and a look ahead to the upcoming one.

#7 Ohio State 29 – Purdue 22 OT
Record: 8-0 (4-0)
This Week: at Penn State (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten) – 5:30pm – ESPN

They say a win is a win, but if I were an Ohio State fan (though I’d rather not consider what that is like) I wouldn’t be so cocky these days. Consider their games against Cal, UAB and Indiana; they almost lost all three, and a loss to Indiana is almost as bad as a loss to an FCS school. They have “resolve,” some Buckeye fans will say, “they never quit and always pull it out.” A close call is to be expected as the season wears on, but four close calls against four subpar teams is not resolve, it’s just plain awful.

That’s what happened again to THE luckiest team in college football this season. After almost losing to bottom feeder Indiana, OSU looked to right the ship and send Purdue back to West Lafayette with yet another conference loss. Record aside, Purdue is a good team and OSU made them look even better. After giving up a rushing touchdown to Braxton Miller to go down 7-6, Purdue took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for the touchdown. It went back and forth in the third and Purdue answered back every time OSU scored.

Despite our hatred, we're glad it wasn't as bad as it looked (photo by Jay LaPrete, AP)

Braxton Miller suffered a scary moment for Buckeye fans near the end of the third quarter as he was dragged down hard by Josh Johnson. Miller was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and has since been cleared to go home and practice in preparation for this week’s game. The tackle was as about as close to a horse collar as you can get without being flagged. Head injuries are no joke and all hatred to our rivals to the south aside, I’m glad the kid is apparently okay.

With no Braxton Miller to work his magic it looked to be over with 10:11 in the fourth when OSU was flagged for an illegal block in the end zone, giving Purdue a 22-14 lead. After a Purdue punt, OSU converted a 4th-and-short and looked to be on the move until back up quarterback Kenny Guiton threw a pick and Purdue took over on its own 18 with 2:40 left in the game. All the Boilers had to do was run the clock out and victory was all but assured.

Sadly for Boilermaker fans, a false start dug them in a hole they could not get out of, and they punted the ball back to the Buckeyes with 47 seconds remaining. If Miller was in the game their improbable march down the field wouldn’t have been so surprising, but the fact that it was Guiton who led them down the field for six is quite impressive. Of course, if you take into account this should never have come down to the wire it is not impressive at all.

Oh, I forgot to mention that OSU was “aided” by a pass interference call on 3rd-and-10, giving them 1st-and-goal at the two instead of 4th-and-10 at the 11-yard line. For a game’s outcome to essentially hinge on an iffy call late in the game is nuts – pun intended, as this has benefitted OSU before. Remember the 2002 BCS title game? Regardless, OSU earned the right to force overtime and set the tone with a touchdown on its first possession. Purdue proceeded to throw four straight incomplete passes and once again OSU walked away with another close win.

This Week:

It has yet to be determined if Braxton Miller will be available for next week’s game against Penn State in State College, but as long as he’s cleared I’m sure Urban Meyer will roll with Miller. Speaking of next week, it should be a great game as these two teams mired in seasons of meaninglessness. Penn State’s punishment had nothing to do with its players while OSU’s, well, we all know about that already.

After dropping their first two games, the Nittany Lions have rattled off five straight and look to be a pretty good team. These aren’t JoePa’s Lions but they’re a tough team that has come together both on and off the field. I think this will be the week the Buckeyes’ luck finally runs out. Just look at their defense, depleted or not, it’s just not very good. OSU is giving up an astounding 396 yards per game, with most of those (272) given up in the passing game.

Contrast that to the Michigan defense: No. 10 overall giving up just 286 total yards per game and No. 4 against the pass giving up 143 yards per game. And the media wants to give love to OSU and hate on Michigan, go figure.

Penn State is a fairly balanced team, putting up 257 yards per game in the air and 149 per game on the ground, while hanging 28 points on the board and giving up just 15.7. If OSU allows the Nittany Lions those types of numbers it’s going to be tough for them to head back to Columbus sitting at 9-0. Happy Valley is a tough place to play and for two teams with nothing to play for this one should be a battle.

I expect Penn St. to pull off the upset in the “Ineligi-Bowl” and give Nittany Lion fans some hope for next season.

Prediction: Penn State 31 – Ohio State 24

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# 5 Notre Dame 17 – BYU 14
Record: 7-0
This Week: at #8 Oklahoma (5-1, 3-1 Big 12) – 8pm – ABC

Notre Dame faced a classic letdown/look-ahead game against a tough defensive BYU team in South Bend on Saturday. Justin was there in body if not in spirit to witness the Irish improve to 7-0, setting up a monumental showdown at Oklahoma this weekend.

Coming off an overtime win over Stanford that featured a goal line stand on fourth down – which Stanford actually scored – Notre Dame had to keep itself from looking ahead to the Sooners. The Irish got off to a good start, scoring first with a minute and a half left in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead. But BYU answered with two straight touchdowns, a six-yard pass from Reilly Nelson to Cody Hoffman and a two-yard pass from Nelson to Kaneakua Friel. ND hadn’t allowed an offensive touchdown in 17 quarters before surrendering the two in the span of less than three minutes.

Trailing 14-7 to begin the second half, Notre Dame continued to run the football and inch closer. With 2:25 remaining in the third, Kyle Brindza hit a 24-yard field goal to bring the Irish within four. It didn’t take long for ND to score again as George Atkinson III ran it in from two yards out just two minutes into the fourth quarter to put the Irish ahead 17-14.

BYU couldn't stop Theo Riddick (photo by Robin Alam, IconSMI)

BYU wasn’t done, however. The Cougars put together a 13-play drive to the Irish 31, but a nine-yard sack took them out of field goal position. The sack wouldn’t have happened had Nelson been able to connect with a wide open Hoffman for a sure touchdown just three plays earlier. It was a moment that nearly gave ND fans a heart attack, but Nelson’s pass was nowhere close. BYU had to punt on 4th-and-13 from the Irish 34 and never got the ball back.

Notre Dame rushed for 270 yards, led by Theo Riddick’s 143 on just 15 carries and Cierre Wood’s 114. Tommy Rees, starting in favor of an injured Everett Golson, completed 7-of-16 passes for 117 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.

It was by no means a dominant performance, but once again, the Irish found a way to get it done.

This Week:

Notre Dame travels to Norman, Oklahoma for a primetime face-off with the eighth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners. College GameDay will be there and the Sooners will be eager to improve their 1-8 all-time record against the Irish. Oklahoma would be ranked among the top five if not for a 24-19 loss to current No. 3 Kansas State. In the five victories, the Sooners have outscored their opponents 249 to 68. They have the nation’s fifth best scoring offense and ND has the second best scoring defense. What sets the two apart, however, is Oklahoma’s defense isn’t too shabby either, ranking 12th nationally, while ND’s offense is just 77th.

It will surely be a defensive battle, but Oklahoma’s offensive firepower is better than anything the Irish have faced to date and they have a defense to back it up. Sorry Irish fans, but this is finally the week your luck falls short.

Prediction: Oklahoma 23 – Notre Dame 13

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Michigan State 10 – #23 Michigan 12
Record: 4-4 (1-3 Big Ten)
This Week: at #25 Wisconsin (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) – 3:30pm – ABC

We all know what happened in the Big House on Saturday as Michigan ended its four year futility at the hands of the Spartans and brought home Paul Bunyan. While it wasn’t pretty and Michigan was held without a touchdown for the second time this year, the Wolverines defense shut down Le’Veon Bell and limited big plays, holding the Spartans to just 10 points – their second lowest total of the season. Bell gained just 68 yards on 26 carries (an average of just 2.6 yards per carry) and Andrew Maxwell completed 21-of-34 passes for 192 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Most importantly, Michigan won.

Welcome home

This Week:

Michigan State now has to travel to Madison to face an improving Wisconsin squad that has been perhaps the Spartans’ toughest rival the past couple of years. To make matters worse, a loss would drop Michigan State below .500 overall and put Mark Dantonio’s squad in danger of missing a bowl game. State would have to win two of its final three against Nebraska, Northwestern, and Minnesota to even get to six wins. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

MSU and Wisconsin are pretty evenly matched. Despite four losses, Spartans’ defense is still one of the best in the country and Wisconsin’s offense hasn’t exactly been lights out. Both teams feature solid running games with top-flight running backs in Le’Veon Bell and Montee Ball. Ohio State and Michigan both showed the blueprint for stopping Bell and Wisconsin will do the same.

Prediction: Wisconsin 20 – Michigan State 16