Editor’s note: College football is nothing without its fans, and its fans are nothing without their passion. In an attempt to capture that unique intensity and overreactability, we’ve asked sports editor and The South enthusiast Bremen Keasey to give us a weekly breakdown of college football happenings around the country like only a true fan could.
Sometimes a week of football sneaks up to you and surprises you with good games. While we knew this week was loaded in the evening, I was hoping the day slate would sneak up and be exciting. And it kinda was! Let’s look at the stories from this week.
Clemson still has two quarterbacks
The saying in football is “if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have any.”
We were reminded of this time and again because ‘Bama, Georgia and Clemson all had two quarterbacks going into the season. While it’s clearly Tua Time in Tuscaloosa and Jake Fromm has held onto his starting job at Georgia, Clemson had quite the competition.
Eventually, the luscious locks of freshman Trevor Lawrence were too much for Kelly Bryant to hold onto his starting job. Bryant, understandably, wanted to transfer and bring his very useful talents to another school with Lawrence now the face of the Tigers’ offense. Nothing could go wrong!
And then, while losing at home to Syracuse on a sweltering late September day, Lawrence was hit hard and brought to the sidelines for the concussion protocol.
Panic struck the entire town of Clemson, South Carolina. I texted my friend — she would bleed tiger orange — at halftime to ask her what was going wrong. Her response was “Hell if I know gosh. This is horrible.”
But luckily, good ol’ Dabo Swinney had a trick up his sleeve: Another quarterback!
Yes friends, former-fifth string quarterback Chase Brice did enough to help steer the Tigers to a season-saving 27-23 win over Syracuse, avoiding an embarassing second-straight loss to the Orange.
Sure, Brice did not have Lawrence’s flowing golden hair or a good stat line — his 33.9 QBR was actually quite bad — but he had moxie! He also had running back Travis Etienne go off for 203 yards and three touchdowns, and the best defensive line in the country on the other side of the ball.
All in all, I’m sure Tigers fans aren’t worried about whether letting Kelly Bryant leave on a transfer was bad or anything. Because as we know, college football fans never overreact to anything.
Our Lord and Savior Hot Rod
Staying in the South, UGA strolled through a 38-12 win against the Tennessee Volunteers that was routine and weird at the same time. I’m not sure if UGA fans were actually worried about the result but it was a very stop and start game with lots of penalties.
But that’s not the main point. Because ladies and gentlmen, if you don’t know who Rodrigo Blankenship is, let me introduce you to An American Hero™.
Probably the greatest living Georgian other than former president Jimmy Carter, “Hot Rod” is the Dawgs kicker who wears rec specs and released a rap song named “ATD” on soundcloud under the name BLANKO (it kinda slaps).
He was a former-walk on at UGA who makes basically every kick asked of him including two 50-plus yarders in the College Football Playoff where Georgia almost won the whole thing.
On Saturday, Hot Rod lined up for a seemingly routine extra point, and then he created magic.
After the holder bobbled the spot, Blankenship was able to halt his run up, take a step back, and still sink the extra point. The laces weren’t even out on the hold. Even with the kick rush collapsing into his space, Mr. “Rod” showed the cool to just barely dink it over and past the uprights.
The bespectacled redshirt junior, who has a soccer background, made it look like a panenka penalty, which is the most disrespectful way to score a penalty in soccer. It’s so disrespectful, that when it’s completed successfully in a penalty kick shootout, it changes the careers of the taker and the goalkeeper. I don’t know if Hot Rod’s stutter-step extra point will permanently change the trajectories of Tennessee and Georgia, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
I could write more words on Rodrigo Blankenship, but one words sums him up: perfect.
I can’t wait for him to be an NFL kicker. NFL fans don’t know what’s coming (just like the punter Jordan Henderson. College football fans stanned him since before you knew he existed).
Penn State Forgets They Have Trace McSorley
Imagine you’re sitting on your couch playing NCAA Football. There’s a minute left in the game, you have a fourth-and-five on your opponent’s 40-yard line, down by one, your kicker sucks because you forgot to recruit one, your starting halfback has gained 45 yards in the whole game, and your quarterback is averaging seven yards per carry. What’s your play call? (Mine is probably quick slants or a good trips pass).
Penn State’s head coach James Franklin was faced with that exact situation — except it was a real game. His Nittany Lions were down 27-26 to the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes with the ball on the 43-yard line facing a fourth-and-five to keep the game alive. He had to come up with a play call, so he called timeout.
Then he did it again.
Then, to make matters worse, he called a really, truly baffling play: A handoff to running back Miles Sanders. He of the aforementioned 45 yards. Generally that’s not a terrible decision, but when Ohio State’s defenders shut him down all night and quarterback Trace McSorley played like he wanted to win the Heisman, it’s a questionable decision.
It seemed to be building up to a heartbreaking ending for Penn State fans. They built a 26-14 lead over OSU after shutting out the Buckeyes’ previously potent offense in the first quarter. It seemed like the Nittany Lions had way more chances to build their lead when they were doing well, and they didn’t.
To make matters worse, when the Nittany Lions scored off a 93-yard touchdown pass to speedster KJ Hamler to go up 12-0, they forgot to go for a two-point conversion to make it an assured two-score lead. Instead, they kicked a PAT to go up 13-0.
Seems like such a small change, but imagine if Penn State got the two-pointer (no guarantee with OSU’s defense). They would’ve been up 14-0. If you count all the other scores as the same, then the game would’ve been tied 27-27.
Yes, that’s some wild speculative fiction, but it’s easy enough math for someone who almost failed calculus in high school. In Georgia.
I think James Franklin will want to forget this game. Maybe he should talk to Urban Meyer about forgetting things.
But I Don’t Want to Talk about the Irish
Notre Dame beat Stanford 38-17.
As someone who watched that game, that scoreline is still too close for the drubbing that the team from South Bend put on the Cardinal.
Notre Dame outmuscled Stanford, and quarterback Ian Book looks like the real deal.
Let’s face it: in a time when the whole country is divided, everybody from the south to the midwest, from the ACC to the PAC-12 — even your friend who disagrees with you just to be annoying — can agree on one thing: Notre Dame sucks.
They act smug. They don’t want to join a conference and they’re stuck in the past from when football was played with an actual pigskin and a bottle of Coke cost just a nickel. I’m pretty sure they would vote to make the forward pass illegal again if they got the chance.
But unfortunately, they’re undefeated, have two wins over AP Top-25 teams, and their potentially daunting schedule (Florida State, USC and Virginia Tech) looks a lot less daunting. They have a legit playoff claim right now.
Honestly, if they do make it, they might unite the country over something unbelievable: they might make the whole country root for Alabama.
At least we don’t live in South Bend, Indiana.