It was Championship Week in college football, so which coaches delivered championship efforts on Saturday? Find out here in our FootballScoop Coaches of the Week.
Head Coach of the Week - Nick Saban, Alabama: Saban's team survived a rip roaring, record-breaking SEC Championship with a 32-28 win over Georgia and now sits on the precipice of history. The Crimson Tide were far from perfect on Saturday (see: special teams) but in the end they were five yards better than Georgia. Alabama came out on top of a game that set an SEC Championship record with six lead changes but after falling behind 21-10 in the third quarter, it was Alabama that scored 22 of the game's final 29 points. Saban's decision to go for two after T.J. Yeldon's 10-yard touchdown run loomed extremely large as it forced Georgia to need a touchdown on the game's final drive rather than a field goal. That one extra point is what caused the Bulldogs to run out of time at the doorstep of the goal line.
Offensive Staff of the Week - Wisconsin: Doug Nussmeier called a great game for Alabama, but Wisconsin's night in the Big Ten Championship can not be ignored. Matt Canada's offense compiled 63 points and 640 yards in a 70-31 thrashing of Nebraska. The Badgers ran 50 times for a mind-boggling 539 yards and eight touchdowns. Melvin Gordon ran nine times for 216 yards (24 yards per carry!) and a touchdown, Montee Ball pounded out 21 rushes for 202 yards and two scores, and James White rushed 15 times for 109 yards and four touchdowns. When they needed to throw, three Wisconsin passers combined to complete 8-of-10 attempts for 101 yards and a touchdown. In all, Wisconsin snapped the ball 60 times and averaged 10.7 yards per play and scored a touchdown on nearly 15 percent of their plays.
Defensive Staff of the Week - Florida State: In his final outing as Florida State's defensive coordinator, Mark Stoops orchestrated a masterpiece. The Seminoles held Georgia Tech to 183 yards on 52 carries (3.52 yards per carry), their second-worst output of the season, and 5-of-16 passing for 118 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Karlos Williams' interception with with one minute to go ended Georgia Tech's last gasp drive and sealed the ACC championship for Florida State. Stoops' unit also played solid red zone defense, holding the Yellow Jackets to two field goals and one touchdown in three trips. Stoops will now move on to assume the head coaching position at Kentucky, but his closing act sent Florida State to its first Orange Bowl since the 2005 season.
Special Teams Unit of the Week - Georgia: A hat tip must be given to Tulsa for returning a punt for a touchdown and blocking a field goal and extra point in their 33-27 overtime win over Central Florida, but Georgia was clearly the best special teams unit of the week. Georgia opened the second quarter with a fake punt pass from punter Arthur Lynch to cornerback Sanders Commings for 16 yards on 4th and 10. The play got Georgia inside the Alabama red zone, and two snaps later the Bulldogs had a 7-0 lead. Then, with Georgia leading 14-10 with just over 6:30 to go in the third quarter, Alec Ogletree returned a blocked field goal 55 yards for a touchdown to put Mark Richt's team up by 11 points.
Call of the Week - Nick Saban, Alabama: It was mentioned above, but deserves further explanation here. After T.J. Yeldon rumbled in from 10 yards out at the 4:19 mark of the third quarter, Saban chose to go for two trailing 21-16. The Crimson Tide was in the midst of a second half feeding frenzy after Yeldon had rushed four times for 47 yards on the drive. Saban gambled that his offensive line could get him two-and-a-half more yards, and he was correct. That extra point was crucial after Georgia drove all the way to the Alabama eight-yard line with 15 seconds left. With no timeouts, the Bulldogs couldn't just spike the ball, send in their field goal unit and play for overtime. Aaron Murray had to throw, and linebacker C.J. Moseley's tipped pass landed in the arms of Georgia receiver Chris Conley in bounds at the five-yard line, essentially ending the game and sending the Tide to Miami.
After wrapping up the SEC East crown on Saturday, Georgia will take a challenging two-game detour outside of conference play before playing for the league championship on December 1.
The Bulldogs will play back-to-back home games against triple option mavens Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech beginning this Saturday. At a hair over 400 yards per game (and 6.68 yards per carry), Georgia Southern runs for more yards per game than any team in college football across all levels. No other college football team averages more than 385 yards.
Paul Johnson's isn't too far behind their in-state counterparts, ranking fourth in FBS at 324.4 yards per game and 5.86 yards per carry.
While Mark Richt's team will be heavily favored to win both games, Todd Grantham's defense has it work cut out for it, so Georgia decided to cut out its normal practice week routine. The Bulldogs practiced in full pads on Monday and allowed the scout team offense to use cut blocks against the starting defense.
“It’s very, very, very difficult to simulate in practice,” Richt told the Athens Banner-Herald. “You can’t do it. … As you’re trying to adjust to not only what they’re doing schematically, you’re also adjusting to how well they do it. Their execution, their speed, their quick decision-making and all that type of thing that can become very, very frustrating.”
Georgia Southern has the ability to frustrate even the best defenses in college football. Recall the Eagles' trip last season to Tuscaloosa, when the eventual national champions (who led FBS by allowing just 72.1 rushing yards and 8.1 points per game) allowed a season-worst 301 rushing yards and 21 points.
Grantham was non-committal when asked of the benefits to playing two triple offenses in a row.
“I guess in some ways,” Grantham said. “I mean, I don’t know. Whatever. I didn't set the schedule, so I’ll do whatever they say.”
Grantham has faced Georgia Tech's triple option twice in his tenure at Georgia. The 2010 meeting saw the Yellow Jackets compile 512 yards of offense in a 42-34 Bulldogs win. Last season, Georgia limited Georgia Tech to 355 yards in a 31-17 victory.
Coaches commonly tell their players to play hurt and fight through pain to help their team. Georgia head coach Mark Richt is leading his team by example as he fights through a hip injury that he has battled for two decades.
Richt reluctantly told reporters how he injured his hip: in a swing set demonstration gone wrong. Here, in his own words, is how it happened.
“I was trying to show (my wife) what a good swinger I was,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I was swinging really high on a big heavy swing set with those big heavy chains. Sometimes if you go super high, on the way back you get a little bit of that lag. You've got those big S-hooks on top, and you’re swinging, and I swung enough to where the one on the left came out. So it comes out, but I didn't know. I’m still on the swing. So when I come back down, the chain on [on the right] stayed taut and the other one just goes. I turned sideways and the first thing that hits the ground is my left hip. Just smashed it.
“It was traumatic. I mean, when I hit I was like, ‘I think I broke it.’ I couldn't hardly breathe. Sometimes with an injury like that you get a full-body sweat and a little nauseous. But the pain kind of went away and I went about my business, until about a year and a half ago.”
Richt re-injured the hip doing p90x. He fought through the pain until finally consulting his doctors, who told him he could have the hip replaced when the pain became too much.
The coach kept the injury quiet until athletics director Greg McGarity was told recently when he tried to schedule off-season meetings with Richt.
With the Bulldogs on the verge of winning their second straight SEC East title, expect Richt to coach through the pain for a little bit longer.
Plenty mof great performances were turned in throughout the country yesterday, but these coaches' work stood above the rest to win our Coaches of the Week.
Head Coach of the Week - Mark Richt, Georgia: Considering the way his team entered Saturday's game, and the way Georgia's 17-9 win over Florida was played (nine turnovers, 24 penalties), Mark Richt must feel like Andy Dufresne after he crawled through Shawshank's sewer system and came out clean on the other side. Georgia entered Saturday on a three-game stretch in which, sandwiched around a 28-point loss to South Carolina, the Bulldogs had beaten Tennessee and Kentucky (combined SEC wins: zero) by a total of 12 points. None of that mattered, however, as Richt's team managed to win a game in which it threw three first half interceptions, committed 14 penalties, missed a field goal and nullified a successful onside kick with an offsides flag. The Bulldogs won by forcing six turnovers of their own, erasing Florida's power running game (two yards per carry on 41 attempts) and bookending the scoring with opportunitstic touchdown drives.
Georgia now stands in a position where wins over Ole Miss and Auburn (combined SEC wins: two) will send the Bulldogs to Atlanta in early December for the second year in a row.
Offensive Staff of the Week - Kent State: The Golden Flashes not only got their first win over an AP Top 25 opponent in school history on Saturday, they did it going away by smashing Rutgers, 35-23. Rutgers came into Saturday surrendering just 11.3 points per game, a mark which Darrell Hazell's team bested by the 13:21 mark of the second quarter. Offensive coordinator Brian Rock and offensive line coach Chris Bache's game plan was simple - just do what you do. For the fourth time this season the Golden Flashes topped 200 rushing yards, carrying 50 times for 224 yards and achieving 14 first downs by rush. Mixed with seven turnovers forced by the Kent State defense, Hazell's team was able to occupy the ball for more than 37 minutes on Saturday.
"We came on the road against a very tough opponent," Hazell said. "We knew they were going to be tough, and they did a great job prior to playing us. I thought our kids prepared like crazy this week." The win gives Kent State its first six-game winning streak in 72 years and moves Hazell's squad one step closer to its first bowl appearance since 1972.
Defensive Staff of the Week - Notre Dame: This isn't the first time Bob Diaco and co. have won the Defensive Staff of the Week in FootballScoop's short history of weekly coaching awards, and if the Fighting Irish continue to play like they did Saturday night it certainly won't be the last. Once again Notre Dame forced an opponent into its worst offensive outing of the season by way of sure tackling, stifling red zone defense and timely turnovers. All three ingredients were prevalent in Notre Dame's 30-13 win over Oklahoma. The Irish secondary surrendered the short stuff to the Oklahoma passing game but never let anything get behind them and limited yards after the catch. "We were going to give up yards to keep the points down," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "We could not let the points get out of reach for us. This was the first time we showed we could … put some points on the board. But we could not have won this football game if the points got up in the numbers that were probably out of reach for our offense."
As a result, Oklahoma threw for 356 yards but needed 51 attempts to get there. Notre Dame shut down the OU running game, holding the Sooners to 15 yards on 24 carries, in limiting them to season lows in points, rushing yards and total yards. Notre Dame forced field goals in two of Oklahoma's three red zone trips and, protecting a 20-13 lead late in the fourth quarter, produced a timely interception when linebacker Manti Te'o snagged a deflected ball at the Oklahoma 45-yard line. Six plays later Notre Dame put the game out of reach with a 46-yard field goal.
Special Teams Staff of the Week - North Carolina: It's unclear why N.C. State punted to Giovani Bernard, the nation's leading punt returner, with the game tied 35-35 in the waning seconds before overtime. What is clear is that overtime never happened because Bernard took the punt 74 yards for a score to give North Carolina a 43-35 win. The return was much more than just Bernard - watch below how good his blocking is as he runs behind a wall down the right sideline. But before Bernard ever had a chance to win the game, Tar Heels kicker Casey Barth had to hit a 34-yard field goal with 1:24 left to play to knot the score at 35-35 in the first place. North Carolina punter Thomas Hibbard also had an excellent day with nine punts for a net average of 41.1 yards with a long of 60 and three kicks pinned inside the 20-yard line.
Call of the Week - Mack Brown and Bryan Harsin, Texas: Texas was a quarter away from being the first Big 12 team to lose to Kansas since 2010, and the first current Big 12 team to fall to the Jayhawks since Iowa State in 2009, when Brown inserted backup quarterback Case McCoy to spark the Longhorns to a 21-17 win. McCoy didn't do much in his first drive as Texas ran all nine plays of its 84-yard drive to tie the game at 14-14 with 9:41 to go. After Kansas used a seven-minute drive to reclaim the lead at 17-14, McCoy came alive. He hit five passes in a row, including an 18-yard gain on fourth-and-six and a 39-yard connection to get Texas to the KU three-yard line, before Harsin dialed up a play-action lob where McCoy found tight end D.J. Grant alone in the corner of the end zone on third-and-goal with 12 seconds to play to seal the win.