Monthly Archives: September 2010

No. 16 USC holds off Virginia in Lane Kiffin’s Coliseum return

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — When Lane Kiffin looked around the Southern California locker room after his first head coaching victory at the Coliseum, he saw nothing he liked — except the result.

Matt Barkley threw first-half touchdown passes to Jordan Cameron and Brandon Carswell, and No. 16 USC hung on for a 17-14 victory over Virginia on Saturday night.

Barkley passed for 202 yards for the Trojans (2-0), who struggled offensively for long stretches in their first game at the Coliseum since the program was hit with serious NCAA sanctions. USC also committed 13 penalties for 140 yards, giving them 24 penalties in Kiffin's first two games.

The Trojans finished it off by recovering an onside kick after Virginia's Kris Burd caught a touchdown pass with 4 seconds left. But not even the subdued Coliseum crowd got much joy from what could have been a cathartic evening for a program that has taken a tremendous public beating.

"[That's] probably the most miserable 2-0 locker room I've ever been in," Kiffin said. "Which is good. Our players understand we have to play much better. … but we're extremely disappointed with our performance."

Kiffin said it was "kind of a flip-flop from our last game," in which USC scored 49 points against Hawaii but gave up 588 yards on defense. A week later, USC didn't move the ball effectively against Virginia except for the final few minutes of the first half, but won by mostly smothering the Cavaliers (1-1) on defense.

"Our defense was more itself," linebacker Devon Kennard said. "We got to really go out there and show what we're about. We bounced back. We held strong."

Keith Payne ran for Virginia's first score in the Cavaliers' first game in California. The late-starting, slow-paced game ended at nearly 2 a.m. Charlottesville time. Virginia missed two field goals and committed nine penalties of its own for 101 yards.

Verica went 17 for 36 and threw a first-quarter interception in the USC end zone, but Virginia's offense blamed itself for missing an opportunity to score a major upset under first-year coach Mike London.

"I knew it was a stupid play," Verica said. "But we sent a message tonight that this is a new team. This is definitely not who we used to be. We can play with anybody left on our schedule. This one hurts a lot, but it proves we're going to be a good team."

USC has won 13 straight home openers and 18 consecutive nonconference games, but the current Trojans don't look much like the USC teams that won seven straight Pac-10 titles and two national championships — at least not yet. Kiffin is still seeking discipline and consistency at the school where he served as an assistant for much of that successful run.

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"I'm excited to watch this tape to learn what we're doing wrong, and there's a lot to go on from this," said Barkley, who went 20 for 35.

The Trojans are moving on from the Pete Carroll era in several other ways: The oversize replica of Reggie Bush's No. 5 jersey is no longer among USC's collection of Heisman Trophy winners on the steps of the peristyle, the columned porch holding the Olympic cauldron on the historic stadium's east end.

Both teams made costly mistakes in the first half. After Verica's end-zone pass was intercepted by T.J. McDonald, USC's Ronald Johnson caught a 47-yard scoring pass early in the second quarter — but it was erased by a holding penalty.

"I feel terrible about it," right guard Khaled Holmes said. "We had a bunch of those, but it's something we can get better at."

Star Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling warmed up and was in uniform, but sat out his second straight game with a hamstring injury. After 26 scoreless minutes, the Trojans finally went after Dowling's replacements, with freshman Robert Woods catching two passes before Cameron's 4-yard scoring grab in the back of the end zone 3:43 before halftime.

"We've just got to do better playing those types of things, but it's part of the game," London said. "You can't look back and say those things could have been better."

Virginia immediately answered with a 69-yard scoring drive capped by Payne's dive into the end zone 2 1/2 minutes later. But USC kept throwing, and Barkley found Carswell among three defenders for another score with 1 second left before halftime. Carswell nearly transferred from USC after the NCAA sanctions but Kiffin begged him to stay.

After a scoreless third quarter, USC went up by 10 points on Joe Houston's 34-yard field goal with 5:52 left. Virginia finally got moving with the help of more USC penalties, but couldn't score until Burd's late TD catch.

"This is something we can build on," said Virginia defensive tackle Matt Conrath, who played in the Cavaliers' 52-7 home loss to USC two years ago. "Both teams, USC and us, are very different from two years ago. We came in here to show people that we can play with the better teams in the country."

Kansas rebounds from humiliating loss, knocks off Ga. Tech

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas followed one of the worst losses in school history with a big upset over No. 15 Georgia Tech.

A week getting stung by North Dakota State in Turner Gill's coaching debut for the Jayhawks, Kansas put Jordan Webb in at quarterback and promptly turned it around.

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Webb threw three touchdown passes, Kansas beat the Yellow Jackets 28-25 and all the sudden that season-opening stinker is a memory.

"There was a big sense of urgency," said wide receiver Daymond Patterson, who caught a short pass and turned it into a tackle-breaking 32-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. "This week, every little thing we needed to fix, we fixed it. We kept going over it and over it."

"There was never any doubt that we could beat them," he said. "Not too long ago, we won the Orange Bowl. We were ranked."

Indeed, the win was the Jayhawks' biggest since their victory over Virginia Tech in the 2008 Orange Bowl.

"You take every football season one game at a time," said Webb, a redshirt freshman who replaced Kale Pick. "But it's definitely a huge win."

The defending ACC champion Yellow Jackets (1-1) were favored by two touchdowns over the team that lost to a mediocre Missouri Valley bunch 6-3. But they dropped several passes and aided Kansas scoring drives with a 13-yard punt, a roughing-the-passer penalty and a kickoff that went out of bounds and let the Jayhawks start on the 40.

"They came out mad," said Yellow Jacket quarterback Joshua Nesbitt. "You could tell that they came out mad from losing their last game and they came out hungry."

Nesbitt scored on runs of 9 and 4 yards, giving him five rushing touchdowns in two games. The Yellow Jackets' potent ground game amassed 291 yards and Nesbitt, who completed just one pass in a lopsided victory the week before over South Carolina State, threw for 116 yards and a TD.

"It was a matter of us beating ourselves today," said Georgia Tech running back Anthony Allen. "We were doing the little things wrong. I feel like we came out flat. We weren't as hyped and we weren't as ready as we were supposed to be."

Capping a tumultuous eight days which included the abrupt retirement of controversial athletic director Lew Perkins, the Jayhawks (1-1) rolled up 407 yards of total offense and broke an eight-game losing streak which stretched back to last year and now-departed head coach Mark Mangino.

Freshman running back James Sims, who didn't even play against North Dakota State, carried 17 times for 101 yards and a touchdown.

"It's just one ball game," Gill said. "We're here to be successful over a long period of time, many years. One game doesn't define our program."

After Nesbitt connected with Stephen Hill on a 40-yard touchdown pass and again on the 2-point conversion, the Yellow Jackets closed to within 3 points with 7:48 to go.

In the final minutes, Georgia Tech faced a fourth-and-3 from its own 35. But a false start penalty pushed them back 5 yards and Nesbitt missed on a fourth-down pass.

Webb's TD passes covered 15 yards to Bradley McDougald, 2 to Tim Biere and 32 to Patterson, who took the ball in the flat, broke free from a pack of tacklers, then broke another tackle in the secondary and dived into the end zone for a 28-17 lead.

Webb finished 18 of 29 for 179 yards.

"It's great for our staff, great for our players, great for our alumni and great for our student body," said Gill. "We'll enjoy this one for about 24 hours and then we have to get ready for the next one."

The Yellow Jackets are probably in for the same kind of week Kansas just put in.

"You know, to be honest, we didn't really look like we were ready to play," said Georgia Tech linebacker Kyle Jackson. "We came out kind of dull. We had a big stop that first drive on defense, and then I think we got a little lax."
 
 

Russell Wilson throws 4 TDs as NC State blisters W. Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. — Russell Wilson passed for 306 yards and four touchdowns to help North Carolina State defeat Western Carolina 48-7 on Saturday night.

N.C. State, which scored three points in its previous two season openers combined, enjoyed its highest scoring output in a first game since a 59-20 win over Western Carolina in 2003.

T.J. Graham posted career highs with six receptions for 96 yards and two touchdowns — all in the first half — for the Wolfpack. Freshman tailbacks Dean Haynes and Mustafa Greene each added a third-quarter rushing touchdown for N.C. State.

Western Carolina dropped to 0-26 all-time against current members of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Catamounts went 87 yards on 10 plays to score a touchdown on the game's first possession, but amassed just 102 yards on 39 plays the rest of the game.

A mistake by Western Carolina on special teams ignited N.C. State's attack. After their opening score, the Catamounts forced N.C. State to punt after three plays.

But Deja Alexander muffed the catch on the short kick, and Taylor Gentry recovered for N.C. State on the Western Carolina 26 yard line. Wilson found Graham streaking down the seam uncovered on the next play for a touchdown, the first of four scoring strikes in as many possessions for Wilson.

Graham, who had one touchdown catch in his first two seasons, put the Wolfpack ahead 14-7 with his second scoring grab of the opening quarter. He pulled in a quick slant from Wilson on third and 5, weaving his way right to left through the defense on his way to a 25-yard touchdown.

N.C. State's defense kept the Catamounts from climbing back into the game. The Wolfpack, who surrendered at least 30 points in a school-record eight consecutive games last season, never allowed Western Carolina to enter the red zone.

The Wolfpack won without three members of their two-deep depth chart. Starting offensive tackle Jake Vermiglio and backup defensive tackles Marcus Kuhn and J.R. Sweezy didn't dress out for the game. All three had faced drug charges, which eventually were dropped, during the offseason.

Sean Renfree completes 10 straight passes in debut as Duke downs Elon

DURHAM, N.C. — Sean Renfree threw for 350 yards and two touchdowns in his first college start, and Duke opened its season by beating Elon 41-27 on Saturday night.

Renfree completed 13 of his first 14 passes, including 10 in a row, with touchdown throws of 8 and 7 yards on consecutive drives for the Blue Devils. He finished 31 of 39 while his favorite target, Conner Vernon, caught 10 passes for a career-high 129 yards.

Desmond Scott rushed 34 yards for a touchdown and freshman Josh Snead added a short scoring run late for Duke, which rolled up 542 total yards.

Scott Riddle was 22 of 42 for 281 yards and a touchdown and an 11-yard TD run. Brandon Newsome had a 5-yard scoring run for Elon, which is 0-3 all-time against Bowl Subdivision teams.

The pass-happy Phoenix threatened to be a vexing opponent for a Duke team that had lost twice to Championship Subdivision teams since 2006 and entered with questions about its defense. But the Blue Devils scored on five of their first six possessions, then made enough plays down the stretch to win their first opener since 2008.

Riddle's scrambling touchdown run through the left side pulled Elon to 27-20 with 12:35 to play. Renfree countered that by leading an 11-play drive, ending with Snead powering in from 3 yards out to make it a two-score game again with just under 8 minutes left. Jay Hollingsworth added a 1-yard touchdown run with 2:10 remaining, making it 41-20.

For much of the night, Renfree certainly didn't look much like a first-time starter.

All eyes were on the redshirt sophomore for two reasons — he's the successor to record-setter Thaddeus Lewis, and he played for the first time since injuring his right knee during last year's loss to Georgia Tech.

He wore a brace on the knee, but it didn't seem to otherwise affect him. Rather, for a while, he looked like he was in midseason form.

Renfree had back-to-back completions of at least 20 yards early in a drive that ended with his 8-yard scoring pass to Donovan Varner. He cut across the middle and Renfree hit him in stride to make it 14-3.

Then on the next possession, he threw a 47-yard pass to Vernon two plays before his 7-yard flip to Brandon King.

And after Newsome's touchdown with 1:07 left in the half, Renfree ran the two-minute drill to near perfection. He threw four quick completions and took advantage of a pass interference penalty on Elon to set up Will Snyderwine's 20-yard field goal at the buzzer that made it 27-13.

Snyderwine also converted from 22 yards out for the Blue Devils, Varner finished with 123 yards receiving and Scott put Duke up 7-3 with the longest rush of his brief career. During the opening drive, the Blue Devils had 52 yards rushing — or, more than they had in seven games last season as the nation's worst rushing team.

Adam Schreiner kicked field goals of 28 and a career-best 47 yards for Elon.

Ted Stachitas has 160 total yards in first college start as Wake Forest wins

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Ted Stachitas had 160 total yards in his first college start and Wake Forest had six rushing touchdowns in a 53-13 rout of Presbyterian in the season opener for both teams Thursday night.

Stachitas was 7 of 13 for 84 yards passing in two quarters of work and rushed for 76 more, including a 34-yard touchdown run that started the Demon Deacons' highest-scoring opener since 1941.

Backup tailback Josh Harris scored twice, Alex Frye returned an interception 44 yards for an early score and receiver Devon Brown took an end-around 85 yards for a fourth-quarter TD — the fourth-longest rush in school history.

Wake Forest gained 509 total yards, rushed for 415 and led 21-0 before allowing the outmanned Blue Hose a first down.

Each of Wake Forest's three tailbacks on the depth chart found the end zone at least once. Josh Adams scored early from 14 yards out, Brandon Pendergrass had a 16-yarder and Harris added a 3-yard TD to give the Demon Deacons a 35-7 halftime lead. Harris added a 46-yard touchdown run with 1:25 remaining.

By then, though, their new quarterback's night had long been over. All eyes were on that position this summer to figure out who coach Jim Grobe would anoint to replace Riley Skinner, the holder of just about every meaningful record in the media guide.

Stachitas, who took a few snaps in one game last season but did not attempt a pass, was No. 3 on the depth chart at the end of spring practice but won the job with his consistent play during preseason camp.

Once he finally got into a game — albeit, one against subpar competition — he showed some indications that he might be up to the task.

Then again, replacing supposedly irreplaceable players is nothing new for Stachitas, who succeeded Tim Tebow at their high school in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Right away, he showed he might have picked up some of his old prep teammate's moves.

On the third snap of the game, Stachitas looked left and found nobody open. So he tucked it under and ran to the right, juking past defensive lineman Keyadd Miller and dashing down the sideline for his first career touchdown, giving Wake Forest a 7-0 lead less than 90 seconds into the season.

Adams scored Wake Forest's second touchdown one possession later, and Frye made it 21-0 later in the first quarter.

He jumped in front of Anderico Bailey, picked off Miley's pass and raced untouched into the end zone for the safety's second touchdown of his career. His TD off an interception in last year's finale at Duke was the Demon Deacons' lone defensive score of a disappointing 2009.

They added two more defensive points in the third quarter. After Miley's 18-yard touchdown pass to Bailey, Kyle Wilber blocked the ensuing extra point and Kenny Okoro returned it for the first defensive two-point conversion in school history, making it 37-13.

Receiver Derrick Overholt threw a 68-yard touchdown pass to Michael Ruff for Presbyterian, and Miley was 18 of 34 for 165 yards for Presbyterian, which is in the fourth year of its move to Division I. The Blue Hose were playing their first game against a team from one of the six power conferences.

It doesn't get any easier for them next week. Next up: Clemson.