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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

It was a remarkable day, even before USC beat the Buckeyes

Great endings and surprising finishes were seen from Ann Arbor to Stillwater.

September 13, 2009|CHRIS DUFRESNE

What a day -- and then USC played at Ohio State.

What a day -- unless you had one of those new-fangled "motion" cameras and got chased off the field Saturday by Penn State Coach Joe Paterno.

For conveying information, Joe wished people still used Pony Express.

What a day -- unless you were Lou Holtz and picked Notre Dame to go undefeated, or a former USC coach who is now coaching at Tennessee.

Don't worry Pete, we'll take care of Neuheisel and Chow and UCLA, you go get them in Columbus -- your friends in coaching: Lane Kiffin, Monte Kiffin, Ed Orgeron.

What a day -- unless you were billionaire Oklahoma State booster T. Boone Pickens and spent one-fifth of a billion to win the national title this year only to watch your Cowboys go boots up in a home loss to unranked Houston.

Pickens can commiserate with Nike billionaire Phil Knight, who sank a fortune into an Oregon team that was eliminated the Thursday before Labor Day.

Meanwhile, in Ann Arbor, anyone remember a controversy surrounding Michigan football? Something about that ruthless, demanding second-year Coach Rich Rodriguez practicing too much?

You didn't need to wait for USC's exciting come-from behind win over Ohio State to see a true freshman perform under the hot lights in front of more than 100,000 fans.

Before USC's Matt Barkley took the Ohio field, Michigan's Tate Forcier put the Wolverines back in football business when his five-yard touchdown pass to Greg Matthews with 11 seconds left lifted his team to a 38-34 win over Notre Dame.

Nervous?

"I've been preparing for this all my life," Forcier, who accounted for 310 total yards and three touchdowns, told ABC's Holly Rowe after the victory. "It's like nothing new to me."

You didn't need to wait for USC-Ohio State to see if another rookie could come through when it counted.

UCLA's second-year freshman Kevin Prince did just fine at Tennessee, leading the Bruins to a 19-15 win. Prince took one on the chin, literally, and was gushing blood from his mouth. Everyone else in Knoxville was spitting orange.

UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel, once a whippersnapper himself when he began his head coaching career at Colorado, got the upper hand on Tennessee's kid coach, Lane Kiffin.

Not only did Kiffin lose to UCLA, he's now 1-1 after two games and he's playing at Florida next week.

And not only was it the Bruins' second straight win over the Southeastern Conference team with the checkerboard end zone -- it almost felt like a half win against USC with all of the Volunteers' ties to Pete Carroll.

Not a bad second Saturday, huh?

* North Carolina made two free throws and then went into the four corners' offense to hold off Connecticut, 12-10.

Or, maybe that was a football score.

* Fresno State Coach Pat Hill took his "anyone, anywhere, any time" mantra to Madison and . . . lost another heartbreaker to a BCS school. Wisconsin prevailed in two overtimes, 34-31. Last year, Fresno State lost at home to Wisconsin by three points on a night its kicker missed three field goals.

In 2007, Fresno had Texas A&M in the clutches of defeat at College Station before losing in three overtimes. Nothing seems to have gone right for Hill's team since that night in 2005 when Fresno State lost a crusher to USC at the Coliseum.

* Final score: Houston 45, Oklahoma State 35. Preseason theory postulated that if Oklahoma State could play a stitch of defense -- the team ranked 93rd in defense last year -- the Cowboys could compete for the national title.

Reality oil check: Houston amassed 512 yards and scored five shy of 50 on a day when championship waters went still in Stillwater.

The Big 12 South started the year with three teams in the top 10 -- Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State -- and it's down to Texas.

Well, you say, Houston does this all the time . . . not really. It was the Cougars' first win over a top-five team since 1984.

The game of the day before USC-Ohio State, though, was Notre Dame-Michigan, two stalwart programs that desperately need to renew their magical memberships. Michigan finished 3-9 last year and Notre Dame went to the Hawaii Bowl, but Saturday you could see that spark again.

Michigan is 2-0 and Notre Dame is 1-1. Ann Arbor day on Saturday will be remembered as the day people climbed off Rich Rodriguez's back. For fifth-year Irish Coach Charlie Weis, that day has not yet arrived.

What a day. Florida State headed off Jacksonville State, of all states, and Washington won a football game for the first time in almost two calendar years.

And no sweat if you didn't have Michigan State in your preseason top 25 -- the Spartans lost Saturday to Central Michigan.

USC night-capped it all by sending Ohio State and the Big Ten to purgatory.

Matt Barkley?

His offense generated one touchdown: the one that counted.

And, in football, only the scoreboard counts.

So long, San Jose State . . . hello, big leagues.

--

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/DufresneLATimes

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