In football, running the ball covers a multitude of sins. TCU beat Oregon State despite allowing the Beavers to convert via a fake punt, and two interceptions, all of which led to points. Ted Miller-- one of the biggest BCS homers at ESPN (not an easy feat, mind you)-- said it best: "TCU was able to run the ball. Oregon State couldn't. That was the difference."
Indeed, despite two interceptions (one in the red zone) the Horned Frogs put away the Beavers by keeping it away, and keeping it on the ground. TCU held the ball almost twenty minutes longer than the Beavers, and by the second half of the third quarter, the Beavers' rush defense was soft indeed. Dalton was exceptional running the option and the Slice, punishing the Beavers for 64 yards on the ground himself, and two rushing touchdowns. His two interceptions killed what Heisman buzz there was for him-- but his fake handoffs, good option running, and gutty rushes in the Slice were lethal.
It does not appear that OSU has much offense aside from the Rodgers brothers; quarterback Ryan Katz is pretty good at getting them the ball. He has a terrific arm. The only weakness in the Frogs' defense appears to be Greg McCoy's coverage. Oregon State attacked him from the getgo, and too often beat him. However, late in the game, McCoy broke up a deep would-be touchdown with picture perfect coverage.
In sum, the game had the feel of a BCS bowl. Frogs fans were more-than-usually jubilant all evening. The stadium entertainment was loud and constant; the Oregon State fans were dressed in orange and proud-- but almost never loud enough to be heard over the P.A. system. The Frogs wore those gaudy Nike uniforms, and made mistakes which indicate to me that they felt pressured. And, like in bowls, TCU was happy to get the W, style notwithstanding.
Skye Dawson and Josh Boyce made notable new appearances-- Dawson was new as a wide receiver; Boyce logged his first college catch. Perhaps more notable, however, were the absences: Waymon James, Aundre Dean, and Casey Pachall did not play, even in garbage minutes. Antoine Hicks and Jimmy Young were used primarily as blockers. I don't believe Kevin White or Travaras Battle played.
Oregon State is a stout opponent. Given the murderer's row they (especially Katz) face in the runup to conference play, it seems likely OSU will be well armed for the Pac-12, when it finally comes calling.
Mountain West Miscellany: Providing the counterexample today was New Mexico, which turned the ball over five times, but ran for only 25 yards, or less than one yard per carry. Yes, Oregon is a top-10 team, and the Lobos were a bottom-10 team in 2009. But the 72-0 beat-down in Eugene was simply embarrassing.
In the questionable calls department, Steve Fairchild twice went for it on a fourth downs near midfield in the first half, and each time his offense failed to convert. Both of CU's first half TDs came from drives that begin with CSU's fourth down turnovers. CSU's rush defense-- which Colorado didn't test until the second quarter-- is awful.
BYU may have maintained its defensive mojo across the off-season. The conference-killers held Jake Locker and his seasoned wideouts to only a 51.3 completion percentage, and 5 of 18 conversions of third or fourth downs. The inexperienced Cougar quarterbacks put up almost identical numbers, but threw for one more touchdown-- the difference in the game.
Air Force and Tim Jefferson dusted off a neat play on the second drive of their tilt with Northwestern State: the forward pass-- perhaps you've heard of it? Jefferson connected with Kevin Fogler and Jonathan Warzeka for completions of 30 and 38 yards and one touchdown, in the first quarter. The Falcons finished the day with seven completions for a whopping 179 yards-- 25.6 each, on average. If this kind of aerial counterpoint to the Falcons' frightful ground game keeps up, even The Wimple may have underrated the Falcons.
And what's this from San Diego? 218 rushing yards (6.4 per carry), multiple successful rushers and rushing touchdowns... The test (Nicholls State) wasn't a stiff one, but it is one the Aztecs have failed repeatedly in recent years. Call it progress. Oh, and the Lindley-Sampson connection is as hot as ever.
UNLV didn't appear to want even to try its running game against Wisconsin in the first half. The Rebels' top three runningbacks got one carry each before halftime against the Badgers. Call it no accident that UNLV was outgained 279-12 before halftime.
Wyoming's rush defense looks weak, allowing almost 200 ground yards to a 2A team; Southern Utah used its ground game to hold on the ball ten minutes longer than the Wyoming. With a roadtrip to Austin looming, expect some punishing tackling drills this week in Laramie.