Week 9’s Plays That Shaped the College Football Landscape

More than a third of the college football teams ranked in the AP Top 25 lost in Week 9. Now, we await the College Football Playoff selection committee’s first rankings of the 2018 season, which will be unveiled Tuesday night.

In the meantime, here are seven moments from Week 9 that will stick with us because of their impact on the college football landscape.

Oklahoma State’s gutsy 4th-down play calls

Oklahoma State scored twice on 4th & 1 in its 38-35 upset of No. 6 Texas. The first was a 16-yard pass from Taylor Cornelius to Jelani Woods that gave the Cowboys two touchdowns in their first two drives of the game. The second was a 36-yard touchdown reception by Tylan Wallace just before halftime that put Oklahoma State up by 17 heading into the locker room.

It takes bold play calls to upset a top-10 team. We saw it last week with Purdue. We saw it this week with Oklahoma State. Give credit to Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, Cornelius and the rest of the team’s offense for their guts and execution.

Kentucky’s walk-off win

The No. 12 Kentucky Wildcats kept pace with Georgia in the SEC East standings thanks to Terry Wilson’s touchdown pass to C.J. Conrad with :00 left on the game clock, completing a furious comeback.

Missouri led Kentucky 14-3 entering the fourth quarter, after Wilson was briefly replaced by backup Gunnar Hoak in the third quarter, and star running back Benny Snell was held in check all game.

Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden Jr. then returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown with just over five minutes left in the game. Despite Wilson throwing an interception on the Wildcats’ next drive, he led an eight-play, 81-yard scoring drive to win the game. The final, game-winning play on an untimed down was only made possible after a defensive pass interference was called against Missouri on what was originally supposed to be the final play of the game.

Kyric McGowan’s juggling touchdown catch

Northwestern is the team to beat in the Big Ten West after the Wildcats handed No. 20 Wisconsin its third loss of the season, while Iowa and Purdue also suffered losses in Big Ten play on Saturday.

Wildcats wide receiver Kyric McGowan provided what proved to be the game-winning, 24-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Clayton Thorson in the third quarter when McGowan beat the Badgers’ defense over the top, leapt in the back of the end zone and juggled the ball once before corralling it WHILE getting his right foot inbounds.

Some other takeaways from Northwestern’s win:

  • Wisconsin went from a College Football Playoff contender as the No. 4 team in the preseason AP Top 25 Poll (where it even received a first-place vote!) to potentially unranked in the span of nine weeks.
  • The Badgers’ loss also potentially hurts the winner of the Big Ten East – likely Michigan (5-0 Big Ten) or Ohio State (4-1) – because the winner of the Big Ten West will have at least two losses and may not be ranked. While the SEC and Big 12 Championships could reasonably feature a pair of top-10 teams, a potential Big Ten Championship win for the Wolverines or Buckeyes may not have the same impact on their resume because of the way the West has gone this season.

 

Jake Fromm’s touchdown pass to Jeremiah Holloman on 3rd & 2

Georgia scored on its first two possessions against Florida before its offense stalled with three consecutive three-and-outs. The Gators took advantage, scoring on their first possession of the second half to take a 14-13 lead.

That’s when the Bulldogs responded with a seven-play, 72-yard scoring drive that put them in front for good in their 36-17 win. On 3rd & 2 from Florida’s 12-yard line, Fromm found wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman for a touchdown, his second of the game (Georgia scored all four of its touchdowns on third down).

After playing his worst game of the season against LSU, Fromm completed 17-of-24 pass attempts for 240 yards and three touchdowns against Florida’s top-10 pass defense. It was a performance that should quiet the skeptics – at least for now – who have been calling for true freshman quarterback Justin Fields to replace Fromm.

Jake Haener throws a pick-six after replacing Jake Browning

Since we’re talking about quarterbacks and depth charts, there’s been lots of talk about quarterback competitions and backups replacing starters this season, especially among top programs. Just look at Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame – the top three teams in the AP poll – where a backup replaced the former starter at each school.

However, change isn’t always better. Washington coach Chris Petersen and the Huskies learned that the hard way on Saturday in a 12-10 upset at the hands of Cal.

Senior Jake Browning, who led Washington to the College Football Playoff as a sophomore, was replaced by redshirt freshman Jake Haener late in the third quarter with the Huskies leading 7-6.

On Haener’s fifth play of the game, he threw a pick-six as Cal took a 12-7 lead. Petersen sent Haener back out for the next series before switching back to Browning for good.

It’s hard to blame coaches across the country for wanting to change things up, especially when the offense is stagnant under the incumbent quarterback. If there’s a highly regarded backup waiting in the wings, it’s understandable, but sometimes the backup is the backup for a reason.

Nate Stanley’s interception on the goal line

Prior to this weekend, a case could have been made that the Hawkeyes, ranked No. 18 in the AP Top 25 with a 6-1 record entering Week 9, were technically on the periphery of the College Football Playoff chase if they won out.

But after a heartbreaking 30-24 loss at Penn State, Iowa no longer controls its own destiny for reaching the Big Ten Championship.

Trailing by 10 in the fourth quarter, Iowa cut Penn State’s lead to three with a pick-six. The Nittany Lions then went up six with a field goal. The Hawkeyes briefly regained momentum on a 12-play, 72-yard drive that culminated in 1st & Goal at Penn State’s 3-yard line.

It immediately went downhill when quarterback Nate Stanley threw an interception after calling an audible. The Hawkeyes’ offense was visibly not on the same page during the play – especially the intended receiver, tight end Noah Fant.

Now, Iowa is in a three-way tie for second place in its division.

Florida’s goal-line stand against Georgia

Unfortunately for the Gators, this sequence will be a footnote in Georgia’s 36-17 win in Jacksonville.

But given the stakes in a top-10 matchup with the SEC East title potentially on the line, this was one of the most impressive goal-line stands in recent memory.

Here’s what happened:

  • 1st & Goal: Elijah Holyfield runs for no gain
  • 2nd & Goal: D’Andre Swift runs for a loss of one yard
  • 3rd & Goal: pass interference against Florida, 1st down Georgia
  • 1st & Goal: Jake Fromm runs for no gain
  • 2nd & Goal: Jake Fromm runs for no gain
  • 3rd & Goal: Elijah Holyfield runs for no gain
  • 4th & Goal: Rodrigo Blankenship’s 18-yard field goal is good

 

It’s crazy to think that Georgia’s offensive line couldn’t pave the way with that many attempts, but here we are.