College football takeaways: Cincinnati has AAC title in its sights
Mississippi and Mississippi State sought to shake up the hierarchy in the SEC West during the offseason, with glitzy coaching hires of Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach. And while the results of the season openers varied, with Mississippi proving no match for mighty Florida and Mississippi State upsetting LSU, both schools have implemented exciting, high-tempo offenses.
Here are three takeaways from Week 4 of the college football season.
Oklahoma, LSU stunned
A pair of top 10 teams went down last week, as Oklahoma and LSU lost to unranked foes Kansas State and Mississippi State.
Oklahoma coughed up a 28-7 lead in the third quarter, as Kansas State completely shifted momentum with four consecutive scoring drives to tie the game, 35-35. Oklahoma gained 517 yards, but the No. 3-ranked Sooners appeared shell-shocked once Kansas State got rolling.
Quarterback Skylar Thompson (335 passing yards, three rushing touchdowns, and a passing touchdown) and freshman running back Deuce Vaughn (174 total yards and a touchdown) led the way for the Wildcat offense.
After a 35-31 loss at home to Arkansas State, the Kansas State defense forced four turnovers, including three interceptions off Oklahoma freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler, to assist the wild, 38-35 win.
LSU figured to take a step back, after it had 14 players drafted from last year’s championship squad. Two of their three returning starters on defense were inactive, but the Tigers were still an 18-point home favorite over Mississippi State, which was playing its first game under Leach, after a 6-7 season.
Quarterback K.J. Costello took it to LSU at Tiger Stadium, where he threw for an SEC-record 623 yards and five touchdowns to orchestrate a 44-34 upset and snap LSU’s 16-game win streak. LSU became the first national champion to lose its opening game since Michigan in 1998.
The Bulldogs overcame two interceptions and a pair of lost fumbles, but Costello led a pair of late scoring drives after LSU rallied to tie the score at 34-34.
Cincinnati got defensive
With championship aspirations in the AAC, Cincinnati looked the part defensively against Army and throttled its formidable triple-option offense.
Army, which was ranked No. 22 entering the game, had been averaging 389.5 rushing yards per game and led the nation with a 71.4% third-down conversion rate, but the Black Knights were held to 182 rushing yards and converted only three of their 13 third-down attempts.
Cincinnati surrendered only three points, after it fell behind 7-0 on a fumble return for touchdown by Army’s defense, and won comfortably, by a 24-10 margin. Veteran quarterback Desmond Ridder led the way, with 258 passing yards and two touchdowns, and special teams made key plays.
However, Cincinnati must get its ground game going, after it gained only six rushing yards in the first half and finished with 69.
With tough road tests ahead at Central Florida and SMU, and Memphis making a visit to Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati will rely upon a strong defense in its bid for a conference championship.
Ehlinger orchestrates Texas-sized comeback
Texas extended its lead to double digits on four different occasions, but the Longhorns appeared beat when Texas Tech stormed back to take a 56-41 lead with only 3:13 remaining.
Sam Ehlinger did not panic, however, and led Texas on a four-play, 59-yard scoring drive.
After Texas recovered an onside kick, the senior quarterback guided a six-play scoring drive, and he threw a two-point conversion pass to tie the game. Ehlinger delivered a 12-yard touchdown toss to Joshua Moore in the overtime session, and defense sealed the 63-56 comeback victory with an interception. Ehlinger wound up with five touchdown passes, and Moore has become his go-to guy (he had three touchdowns Saturday).
Texas will be fun to watch offensively this season, but the defense revealed itself to be a major liability. The Longhorns surrendered five touchdown passes and 35 second-half points to Texas Tech.