- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Barker Davis takes a look back at the week that was in college football.

Beware the Boilermakers

It’s difficult to draw too many conclusions from an opening weekend that saw ranked teams finish 21-0, but No.25 Purdue receives the Back Judge’s rave for the most impressive debut with its punishing 51-0 victory over Syracuse.

Coach Joe Tiller’s offense was typically sharp. Heisman dark-horse Kyle Orton connected on 16 of 30 passes for 287 yards with no picks and four touchdowns, two of which were hauled in by senior standout Taylor Stubblefield (five catches, 121 yards).

But the stunner in West Lafayette, Ind., was the Boilermakers’ defense, which smothered Syracuse all-conference tailback Walter Reyes. Despite breaking in eight new starters on the Butkus side of the ball, Purdue limited Reyes to 31 yards on 12 carries, answering the run-defense question that prompted most analysts to rank the Boilermakers behind Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa and Minnesota in the Big Ten.

Behind Orton, Stubblefield and running back Jerod Void, Purdue figured to have the league’s top offense. But a surprisingly stout defense should make the Boilermakers Michigan’s primary challenger for the conference crown. After all, Purdue plays host to Wisconsin (Oct.16), Michigan (Oct.23) and Ohio State (Nov.13) this season and does not face Minnesota.

Extra pain

Alexis Serna, the goat masquerading as Oregon State’s kicker Saturday night, should have been forced to crawl back to Corvallis after his performance in Baton Rouge, La. That 21-0 mark for ranked teams would have been 20-1 if Serna could make an extra point, a task easily mastered by your average blindfolded baboon.

The redshirt freshman missed three extra points in Oregon State’s 22-21 overtime loss to defending national co-champion LSU. His final miss, a complete shove that never threatened the right upright, allowed the Tigers to steal a win in a game in which they were completely outplayed.

The Back Judge has no patience with kickers, the dwarfish, no-contact extras who spend practices lolling about on an adjacent field while the rest of the team is knee-deep in dirt and fatigue. Kickers, like referees, are to be tolerated at best. At worst, a la three-shank Serna, they deserve a merciless dose of derision. And don’t tell the Back Judge that Serna feels worse than anyone; he can’t possibly feel worse than senior quarterback Derek Anderson, who was battered all night by LSU’s brutish front only to watch his efforts sabotaged by some sloppy soccer refugee.

On a related front, the Tigers didn’t escape unscathed; their ranking, and their reputation, took a hit. Neither Marcus Randall nor JaMarcus Russell quarterbacked the team with any semblance of efficiency, and three losses look likely for a squad that travels to Auburn (Sept.18), Georgia (Oct.2), Florida (Oct.9) and Arkansas (Nov.27).

Ascending

cUtah, which destroyed Texas A&M; 41-21 on Thursday and jumped to No.17 in the latest rankings. If the Utes slip by Arizona in Tucson this weekend, they should be double-digit favorites in the rest of their games and stand a good chance of finishing undefeated. Junior quarterback Alex Smith might be the top NFL prospect in the nation at his position. And coach Urban Meyer is clearly the game’s young sideline guru du jour.

cMississippi State’s Sylvester Croom, who became the first black man to coach a football game in the SEC on Saturday (a 28-7 victory over Tulane) and then received football-first bonus points by telling reporters “maroon is the only color I’m concerned about.”

• West Virginia’s Kay-Jay Harris, who set a Big East record with 337 rushing yards in the Mountaineers’ 56-23 victory over East Carolina.

• Tennessee’s freshman quarterbacking tandem of Brent Schaeffer and Erik Ainge. Schaeffer became the first true freshman quarterback to start the first game of the season in SEC history on Sunday night. Schaeffer and Ainge (Danny’s nephew) combined to finish 17-for-27 for 241 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the Vols’ 42-17 rout of UNLV.

“I think those two kids are about 24 years old,” UNLV’s John Robinson said. “Nobody knows, but they went on two different missions the last few years — one to the Cowboys and one to the Dolphins.”

Descending

• Hawaii’s Timmy Chang, whose Heisman bid is practically over before it started thanks to the Warriors’ season-opening loss to awful Florida Atlantic.

• Notre Dame’s Tyrone Willingham, whose Irish were dropped 20-17 at BYU on Saturday night. ND is clearly not headed in the right direction; the program is 7-11 since Willingham’s 8-0 start in 2002.

• Michigan State, which started its second season under John L. Smith with a loss to perennial laugher Rutgers (19-14). It could be a long autumn in East Lansing.


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