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You have to see this Washington high school's hook-and-ladder to the center

Thanks to Scott Enyeart, who alerted us to one of the most creative play calls we've seen to date. Washington's Mercer Island High School held a 29-22 lead over Interlake when Mercer Island called for a hook-and-ladder to the center. Yes, the center. 

Credit to center Alex Emanuels, a Cornell commit, for making a man miss after catching the pitch at the 50 and then racing through the defense before he's finally chased down inside the 10-yard line.

 

Hear from Northwestern's strength staff

Northwestern has made some major strides as a program over the past 12 months.

At this point last season, the Wildcats were sitting at 2-5 and had to battle to earn bowl eligibility. This season, they're sitting at 6-2 (2-2 in conference), and are looking at their fifth straight bowl appearance, and hoping to tally their first win in those four trips.

From everything that we've heard out of Evanston, the strength and conditioning staff took made sure that they took their offseason training to the next level following 6-7 season of 2011.

Featured in this video are two strength and conditioning assistants who used to line up against each other in the very competitive College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin. The CCIW is regarded by many to be one of the top three Division III football conferences in the country. The third member of the staff that is featured in the video is Troy Sutton, who serves as the assistant director of strength and conditioning.

Jose Jose Palma (who played defensive line at North Park) and Derek Sulo (an All American running back at North Central) have come together in Evanston as two pieces of a staff built on ensuring that the Wildcats put in the year round work that is required to win a Big Ten title under head coach Pat Fitzgerald.

Palma recently became a full time member of the strength staff, while Sulo is currently working as a graduate assistant. Hear from each of them, as well as coach Sutton, in the clip below about their journey, as well as some of the philosophies within the Wildcat strength and performance program, and what makes the Northwestern environment special.

Some really good content in here from some quality people on what it takes to do what they do, and what it means to them to have the unique opportunity of working under coach Fitz in a Big Ten environment.

 

A few notes on tonight's games

Cincinnati at Louisville (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Though these teams have played only three league games between them, Cincinnati and Louisville will battle for a share of first place in the Big East tonight. Cincinnati (5-1, 1-0 Big East) comes in smarting after a 29-23 loss at Toledo while Louisville (7-0, 2-0 Big East) is one of 10 undefeated teams left in FBS and ranked No. 16 in the BCS Standings.

Charlie Strong's team has masterfully executed a season-long tightrope walk to remain unscathed with four of their last five wins still in doubt until the final horn sounded. The Cardinals have struggled to play above their competition all season, allowing North Carolina to fight back from a 39-14 fourth quarter deficit before a 39-34 decision, holding off 1-7 Florida International in a 28-21 win, needing a 15 unanswered points to defeat winless Southern Miss 21-17 and requiring late touchdown pass and a red zone interception to last-place South Florida, 27-25. Louisville should give its best effort tonight but it's only a matter of time before a coinflip game doesn't bounce their way. 

Cincinnati has won with defense this season, ranking in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense at 16.8 points allowed per game. Butch Jones' team has played its best defense in the red zone, where they rank 12th in the country and have allowed only six touchdowns in 17 trips. On the year the Bearcats, led by co-coordinators Steve Stripling and John Jancek, have played effective bend-but-don't-break defense by holding opponents to as many field goals (10) as touchdowns. Compare that to Louisville, which has given up 21 touchdowns and two field goals this season. 

The success, or lack thereof, of Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Cincinnati signal caller Munchie Legaux will likely decide the game. Bridgewater leads the Big East in passing efficiency (165.21) while averaging 9.01 yards per attempt to go with 11 touchdowns against three picks. Legaux matched his season high with two interceptions in last week's loss. The first was returned 75 yards for a touchdown, and the second ended any hopes Cincinnati had of a last-gasp comeback. 

Nevada at Air Force (8 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

With the way these teams run the ball, this game may be over in time for those in attendance to catch a late dinner and movie. Going strictly by each team's season averages, the Falcons and Wolf Pack will combine for 112 rushes for just under 625 total yards. Neither team is particularly adept at stopping the run; Nevada (4.37 yards per rush allowed) is slightly better at stopping the run than Air Force's 5.36 yards per rush allowed. 

Nevada's biggest advantage comes from its offensive balance. Chris Ault's team throws the ball for nearly 270 yards per game with 16 touchdowns against just four picks while picking up 8.25 yards per attempt. Troy Calhoun's team makes almost no effort to throw the ball, but often find success when they do. With just 74 passes this season (only two more than Army for the fewest in FBS), the Falcons are one of three teams averaging a first down with every pass, trailing just NCAA-leading Baylor and fellow triple option devotee Georgia Tech at 10.49 yards per pass. Air Force has also thrown for six scores, five of which have come from 35 yards or further. 

One key mistake could decide this game as both teams will struggle to get the opposing offense off the field. Air Force leads the country by converting nearly 57 percent of its third downs, while Nevada ranks ninth at nearly 53 percent. Conversely, both squads rank in the bottom 20 nationally in third down defense. 

Like its counterpart, this game also has implications on the conference title chase. Each squad stands at 3-1 in Mountain West in a group of four teams chasing first-place Boise State. 

Motivational video from Utah State

Gary Andersen and his staff have Utah State off to a solid 6-2 start, which includes a big win over in state rival Utah (27-20 in OT) and narrow losses to both Wisconsin and BYU by a combined five points.

The defense has been performing among the best in the country at keeping teams out of the end zone (#7 scoring defense - 14 ppg), and pressuring the quarterback (#4 nationally in sacks - 4 per game). The Aggie offense has also been impressive, going over the 30 point mark in five of their six wins.

Up top is a video that Utah State put together to show the team, with the voiceover done by Michael Jordan. The clip wraps up with the following line

"I have something more important than courage. I have patience. I will become, what I know I am."

.Pretty powerful stuff.

Mike Riley: "I've learned that if you're happy - stay happy"

Oregon State head coach Mike Riley appeared on the Wetzel to Forde radio show last night, and Dan Wetzel asked Riley about coaching at a school where the head coach is given time to build a program and national championship teams aren't expected to be built in a fortnight.

Riley answered explained his gratitude to Oregon State's loyalty to him, and in return, his loyalty to Oregon State.

"I'm very appreciative of all of that because when you're in this long enough you understand the business and you have to win games," Riley said. "I'm very thankful for the people at Oregon State. First of all, when we came back here and were given the opportunity to come back in 2003, my wife and I hoped we could make this our last stop so we scratched and clawed to try to keep it like that.

"I've understood how important consistency and longevity are in a program," he continued. "And then understanding you're going to have some valleys and you've got to fight hard to make those valleys not too deep. You've got to be consistent and continue to build. It's really a unique thing in our business. I've learned some hard lessons and to be able to build (a program), it's hard to come by. I'm thankful for all that and appreciative for the time."

Riley served as the head coach at Oregon State in 1997 and 1998, going 8-14 before becoming the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. He stayed in San Diego until 2001 and, after a one-year stop with the New Orleans Saints, returned as the Beavers' head coach in 2003. 

Riley led Oregon State to bowl games in six of his first seven seasons before a two-year downturn in 2010 and 2011 in which the Beavers won just eight games. Riley's team was picked to finish last in the Pac-12 North in 2012 only to start the year 6-0 and rise to No. 7 in the BCS Standings.

No matter where Oregon State finishes this season, Riley plans to coach the Beavers again in 2013.

"I've learned the lesson that if you're happy - stay happy," Riley said. "You don't have to go search for it somewhere else."

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