College football: Week 3

Way to go, Muleriders.

I had returned to my home in Little Rock late Saturday night after having watched the University of Central Arkansas’ come-from-behind victory over Tennessee-Martin.

I had just checked the college football scores and knew that I was 8-0 on my picks for the week for games already completed.

One game had yet to conclude.

Southern Arkansas University was hosting Southeastern Oklahoma in Magnolia in a game that had been delayed two hours at the start due to lightning. I went to the website www.d2football.com (an excellent source for NCAA Division II scores) and clicked on the radio link for the Southern Arkansas broadcast.

I tuned in just in time to hear longtime Mulerider play-by-play man Dan Gregory describe the last play.

Trailing 29-23, the Muleriders had one chance. And guess what? Si Blackshire found Aaron Johnson in the end zone for a touchdown to tie the game as time expired. Dylan Nowak then kicked the winning extra point. SAU had put together a 10-play, 61-yard drive in the final 1:31 to make me 9-0 for the week.

So thank you.

At the FBS level, the day’s big story was Black Saturday for the Big Ten.

Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech.

Michigan lost to Notre Dame, getting shut out for the first time since 1984. That shutout ended an NCAA record string of 376 games in which the Wolverines had scored.

Michigan State lost to Oregon.

Purdue even lost to Central Michigan.

In the Southeastern Conference, it was a day of really bad football games. The only conference game was a rout as Ole Miss downed Vanderbilt, 41-3, in Nashville. It was the largest margin of victory for Ole Miss against a conference team in six years. Bo Wallace threw for 320 yards and a touchdown. The Rebels scored on seven of their first eight possessions. Vanderbilt has now been outscored 78-10 since James Franklin left for Penn State.

At the start of the weekend, Arkansas and Virginia were tied for the second-longest FBS losing streaks at 10 games each.

Miami of Ohio was first, and its losing streak grew to 18 games with a 17-10 loss to Eastern Kentucky.

Virginia and Arkansas both won.

UVA downed the Richmond Spiders.

Arkansas won a glorified scrimmage against Nicholls State. That Nicholls team hosts Henderson this week. How many of you are picking the Reddies after what you saw in Fayetteville on Saturday?

What can you say about Arkansas 73, Nicholls State 7? How about these highlights:

— It was the most points scored by a Razorback team since 1928.

– It was the fifth-largest margin of victory in school history.

— Arkansas set a single-game school record for yards per play with a 12.7 average.

— The Razorbacks’ 684 yards of offense were the third most in school history. The record was set when the Hogs gained 859 yards in a 53-0 win over the Pittsburg State Gorillas in 1936.

— Arkansas scored eight touchdowns in its first 20 plays from scrimmage.

— In the event you were counting, it was 356 days between Razorback victories.

Last week’s 9-0 record makes us 13-0 for the season. That perfect record is going to be hard to keep intact this weekend with some interesting matchups.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 3:

Arkansas 28, Texas Tech 27 — This is a game Arkansas can win. At this point in the program’s evolution, any win over a Big 12 team would have to be considered a quality win. Tech has been less than impressive in its first two games. In the season opener, UCA took a 16-7 lead at Lubbock in the first half. After trailing by two scores in the second half, the Bears cut the Red Raider lead to seven points with 2:57 left and attempted an onside kick. Tech recovered the kick and ran out the clock, but the Red Raiders certainly had been tested by an FCS team. On the second Saturday of the season, Tech went to El Paso and hung on for a 30-26 victory over UTEP. The Red Raiders just aren’t getting it done for second-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury. This is a golden opportunity for Arkansas to show the ABC audience that there is indeed improvement in the second year of the Bielema era.

Miami 34, Arkansas State 24 — Too bad this is not Miami of Ohio, which has that 18-game losing streak dating back to October 2012. Instead, it’s the U down in south Florida, though this is not to be confused with the U of old. Bobby Petrino got his return to Louisville off to a rousing start on Labor Day with a 31-13 win over Miami. The Hurricanes rebounded for a 41-7 victory over outmanned Florida A&M, which is better known for band scandals that football. To give you an idea of where the Miami program stands, the Hurricanes went 9-4 in 2013, 7-5 in 2012, 6-6 in 2011, 7-7 in 2010 and 9-4 in 2009. Decent but not dominant. Tennessee had to work hard for its 34-19 win over Arkansas State in Knoxville on Saturday. The Red Wolves had come into that game as a 17-point underdog. ASU quarterback Fredi Knighten out of Pulaski Academy passed for 166 yards and ran for 65 yards. ASU is bothered by injuries right now, but look for the Red Wolves to put up another fight. I like what I’ve seen of the new coaching staff in Jonesboro.

Montana State 30, UCA 29 — The Bears evened their record at 1-1 with that exciting win over Tennessee-Martin in Conway last Saturday night. UCA drove 80 yards in 13 plays at the end of the game for the 26-24 victory. Senior quarterback Ryan Howard replaced Taylor Reed out of El Dorado as the Bears’ quarterback on the final drive. UCA had no timeouts and had to convert a fourth-and-15 play. I saw the Montana State opener as the Bobcats gave ASU all it could handle for a half in Jonesboro before falling 37-10. In the second game, Montana State posted a 57-10 victory over tiny Black Hills State. Sophomore quarterback Dakota Prukop is the real deal. His 176 yards rushing against Black Hills State were the most ever for a Bobcat quarterback. Montana State is a traditional FCS power and is ranked 18th in the current FCS coaches’ poll. UCA would be No. 28 if the poll extended out that far. Expect this to be a good game between two talented FCS teams.

Henderson 42, Nicholls State 33 — There. I did it. I picked Division II Henderson to beat an FCS team on the road. After all, the Reddies have won 24 consecutive regular-season games. I can guarantee you that they won’t be intimidated by anything they find in the swamps of south Louisiana. Reddie senior quarterback Kevin Rodgers could start for a lot of FBS schools. Henderson beat Southern Nazarene by a score of 72-7 in its season opener. It could have been a lot worse since the Reddies led 59-0 at the half. Playing only the first half, Rodgers was 27 for 36 passing for 408 yards and seven touchdowns. Darius Davis set a Great American Conference record with five touchdown receptions. Nicholls could well lose this game and then lose again when the Colonels travel to Conway to play UCA later this month. Nicholls will then have the distinction of having lost to an FBS, FCS and Division II school from Arkansas all in the same season.

Ouachita 49, Southern Nazarene 21 — Ouachita has the only college football program in the state with six consecutive winning seasons and opens its new Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia on Saturday night. The Tigers won’t score as many points as Henderson did against Southern Nazarene, but the home team should do just fine in its season opener with Auburn transfer Kiehl Frazier at quarterback. You’ll remember that Frazier was the USA Today Offensive Player of the Year nationally following his senior season in 2010 at Shiloh Christian. He joins a senior-laden Ouachita team that took Henderson to three overtimes in last year’s Battle of the Ravine and hopes to fight it out this season with Henderson and Harding for the GAC title.

Harding 48, Northwestern Oklahoma 20 — Harding opened the season in Searcy with a 42-6 win over Southwestern Oklahoma, outgaining the Bulldogs 485 to 196. The Bisons have one of the top rushing attacks in the country. They had no turnovers against Southwestern as Romo Westbrook became the fifth player in school history to top 2,000 yards rushing. A Northwestern Oklahoma team that won only two games last year and fell by a score of 33-14 to Arkansas Tech in the 2014 season opener won’t come close to slowing down the Bisons this week.

Arkansas Tech 32, Southwestern Oklahoma 31 — The Wonder Boys began their season on a Thursday night with a school-record 98-yard touchdown pass and a 33-14 victory over Northwestern Oklahoma. Tech scored 24 consecutive points in the first half of that game after the Rangers had taken a 7-0 lead. Wonder Boy quarterback Dennis Robertson was 12 of 29 passing for 226 yards. Tech makes the long trip to Weatherford, Okla., this week to take on a Southwestern Oklahoma team that’s a bit better than it looked against Harding.

East Central Oklahoma 19, Southern Arkansas 16 — The Arkansas schools in the GAC went 4-1 against the Oklahoma schools during the first week of play. The only winner from Oklahoma was East Central with its win over UAM by a final score of 38-34. Southern Arkansas, which lost its quarterback and leading rusher from a year ago, will come in on a high after the last-second victory in Magnolia. But East Central always plays tough in Ada. Look for the Tigers to move to 2-0 against Arkansas competition.

Southeastern Oklahoma 38, UAM 36 — Both teams are coming off disappointing losses in their openers. UAM fell to East Central despite two kickoff returns for touchdowns. East Central had trailed by 12 points heading into the fourth quarter of that game. And, of course, Southeastern lost on the final play in Magnolia. This appears to be an evenly matched contest. The game is in Durant, and we’ll give a slight edge to the home team.

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