- The Washington Times - Monday, September 8, 2008

Skip Holtz is now a made man. In consecutive weeks, Holtz has steered his East Carolina crew to upsets of exponentially more talented squads from Virginia Tech and West Virginia, making Little Lou the hottest young coach in the business.

In stark contrast, West Virginia’s Bill Stewart is a coaching corpse - old, cold and on the verge of being buried by criticism. Stewart had no major coaching credentials when he was elevated to head hillbilly after Rich Rodriguez’s departure for Michigan.

Impressively, it took Stewart just three games to squander his entire cache of goodwill in Morgantown with Saturday’s wanton display of incompetence. After watching the unheralded Pirates thoroughly dominate his No. 8 Mountaineers 24-3, Stewart stated: “To the naysayers out there that want to ruin a guy’s season after the first or second game, I’m not going to get all down in the dumps.”

Memo to Stewart: Naysayers don’t kill seasons; losses to East Carolina do.

Holtz, on the other hand, should have his choice of attractive jobs at season’s end, among them Syracuse, Washington, Pittsburgh and possibly even Notre Dame.

If Saturday’s effort against lowly San Diego State is any indication, the Fighting Charlies of Notre Dame are in for another wincer of a season. The good news is that the Domers’ schedule is exceedingly easy aside from a season-ending visit to top-ranked Southern California. The bad news is that the Irish needed a minor miracle Saturday to survive an upset bid from the worst team on that slate.

After last week’s loss to Cal Poly, the Aztecs were ranked last among the 120 bowl subdivision teams by ESPN. Yet San Diego State outgained the Irish (345 to 342 yards) and was about five inches from taking a 20-7 lead in the fourth quarter before running back Brandon Sullivan fumbled at the Irish goal line. Translation: Notre Dame’s 21-13 victory was worth considerably less than even the score indicates.

If you’re an Irish fan, the truly scary thing is that Charlie Weis no longer has any excuses. He has several top-five recruiting classes represented on his roster and now has former Georgia Tech guru Jon Tenuta helping run his defense. Given the current circumstances (talent and schedule), Gerry Faust could win eight games in his sleep in South Bend.

Game balls and gassers

Obviously, this week’s top performance in the team category goes to East Carolina, Conference USA’s purple juggernaut. Going back to last season’s Hawaii Bowl, when East Carolina knocked off Boise State, the Pirates have defeated three straight ranked teams.

Other impressive performances from Week 2 belonged to Penn State, Vanderbilt and Miami.

Proving they weren’t distracted by off-field issues, the Nittany Lions (2-0) demolished Oregon State 45-14. And the long-maligned Commodores (2-0) lead the loaded SEC East after Thursday night’s 24-17 upset of No. 24 South Carolina. Though the young Hurricanes (1-1) fell 26-3 at No. 5 Florida, Bill Young’s defense was outstanding, limiting the high-powered Gators to just 233 yards of total offense and nine points through three quarters. Miami now has to be the favorite to win the ACC’s Coastal Division.

Individually, leather goes to the pair of players who likely will spend all season swapping Heisman Trophy salvos: Missouri’s Chase Daniel and Florida’s Tim Tebow. Daniel was 16-for-17 passing for 245 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers’ 52-3 romp over Southeast Missouri. And Tebow was the sole difference in Florida’s victory over Miami, throwing for 256 yards and two scores and rushing for 55 more in the Gators’ victory.

All of this week’s gassers are of the team variety, and unusually, three go to Saturday winners. West Virginia’s players and staff should have to run back to Morgantown after losing by three touchdowns to heavy underdog East Carolina. But Notre Dame, Ohio State and Alabama also were remarkably unimpressive. In a comeback 26-14 victory over Ohio University, the Buckeyes (2-0) proved they have zero offensive punch without Beanie Wells.

As for the Crimson Tide (2-0), Nick Saban’s bunch was as dreadful against Tulane as it was dominant against Clemson. Tulane controlled Alabama on both sides of the football (posting a 318-172 edge in total yardage) but fell 20-6 after giving up two special teams touchdowns.

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