There’s one phrase that makes blood run cold from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Provo, Utah: College kickers. On Saturday, the fortunes of four SEC programs were changed in an instant by two college kickers missing critical kicks in painful fashion.
Arkansas had a manageable 42-yarder to beat Texas A&M for a second straight season. The Razorbacks out-gained the Aggies by more than 80 yards and needed just one swing of the leg to remain ranked in the top 10. Unfortunately, Cam Little’s kick improbably bounced off the top of the upright — a doink unlike any in recent college football memory.
All Missouri needed was for All-American kicker Harrison Mevis to make a 26-yard field goal. Easy enough, right? Mevis nailed 20 of 22 field goals last season, including three from more than 50 yards. A 26-yarder is child’s play … except not against Auburn on the Plains as Mevis shanked the kick to the right and the matchup went to overtime. The game swung again after Nathaniel Peat fumbled an open touchdown at the goal line, and that was that. The Tigers are still searching for their first Power Five win.
Here are more winners, losers and overreactions that highlighted the Week 4 action around the country.
Kansas QB Jalon Daniels: Start the Jalon Daniels Heisman campaign. He’s been that ridiculously good through the Jayhawks’ 4-0 start. Daniels completed 83% of his passes for 324 yards, 83 yards rushing and accounted for five touchdowns in an emphatic 35-27 win over previously undefeated Duke. The junior from Lawndale, California, has been the catalyst for a Kansas program that had not won four games in a season in 13 years. He deserves the lion’s share of the on-field credit.
Tennessee: The Vols let things get a little hairy in the last five minutes thanks to some quick Florida touchdowns, but the performance was more dominant than the 38-33 final score. This was a coming-out party for Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker, who threw for 349 yards, rushed for 112 yards and had three touchdowns in a win over Florida. This was just the second Tennessee win over Florida since 2004, and gives the Volunteers a great chance to enter the AP top 10 when the polls come out on Sunday.
Miami coach Mario Cristobal: The Hurricanes earned some early credit for beating up cupcakes, but the last two weeks have been a disaster. Miami had 27 first downs against Texas A&M, the most ever in a game without scoring a touchdown. On Saturday, a 45-31 embarrassment against Middle Tennessee sent any Miami hype train off the rails. Once-promising quarterback Tyler Van Dyke was benched after two interceptions, but rushing for fewer than 2 yards per carry and surrendering 500 yards to Middle Tennessee is nothing short of a disaster. Cristobal can’t blame talent in that kind of loss — this is coaching.
Houston: The Cougars needed to score 10 unanswered points in the final five minutes to survive a challenge from 2-2 Rice. The Owls led for much of the game as the Coogs committed 10 penalties and turned the ball over to give Rice a chance. After the game, Houston coach Dana Holgorsen expressed frustration to the Houston Chronicle.
“I’m tired of yelling at them. Tired of motivating them. Tired of all that crap,” Holgorsen said.
For a team that was thought at one point to be a serious contender for the New Year’s Six, narrowly avoiding a 1-3 start isn’t bringing many warm feelings.
Week 4 Overreactions
Oklahoma isn’t winning the Big 12: The Sooners flew up the polls after dominating an easy schedule featuring Nebraska, Kent State and UTEP. However, Kansas State to open Big 12 play was a rude awakening. The Wildcats scored more points (41) than the Sooners surrendered all season (30) thanks to a five-touchdown performance by Nebraska transfer QB Adrian Martinez. Suddenly, Brent Venables’ task in Norman feels far less turnkey than it did after eviscerating the rival Cornhuskers. Considering the depth the Big 12 showed in nonconference play, there are no easy games remaining.
Kansas State has a tiebreaker over Oklahoma. Road trips to TCU, Iowa State and Texas Tech could be hairy. Battles with Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma State remain. There’s too many speed bumps for the Sooners to make it to Arlington if this is the Oklahoma we’re getting in 2022.
Wisconsin isn’t Wisconsin anymore: Between 2004 and 2017, Wisconsin was close to the most consistent program in college football. The Badgers went 141-45 and finished ranked in 13 of the 16 seasons, including five top-five finishes. Losing to No. 3 Ohio State was expected, but a noncompetitive 52-21 decision to fall to 2-2 suddenly brings up some existential questions.
The Badgers have finished ranked just once in the last five years under Paul Chryst. After the loss today, the Badgers have no ranked teams left on their schedule. It’s unlikely they can show enough to fight back into the polls. Additionally, Wisconsin has just one Rose Bowl since 2012. At one point, this was a program that could measure success by trips to Pasadena.
Chryst went 34-7 in his first three seasons. Since 2017, he is 33-18 — a fine record but not one that satisfies the Wisconsin standard. Complicating things is the fact that Wisconsin likely has one of the most attractive coaching candidates in the nation on its staff in defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard.