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November 12, 2011

Winners and losers: Boise's dream ends

The debate about whether Boise State deserves a chance to play for the national championship has been settled.

Heck, the Broncos now probably won't even win the Mountain West title.

Boise State's 65-game regular-season home winning streak and its hopes for a perfect season ended Saturday with a stunning 36-35 loss to TCU. For the second consecutive season, a missed field-goal attempt shattered the Broncos' dreams.

Last year, Kyle Brotzman missed a 26-yard field goal at the end of regulation and a 29-yarder in overtime as Boise State fell 34-31 at Nevada. This season, it was Dan Goodale who sent a 39-yarder wide right as time expired.

Boise State (8-1 overall, 3-1 in the Mountain West) entered the day fifth in the BCS standings, but this loss almost certainly will lock the Broncos out of a BCS game while opening the door for No. 11 Houston to get a BCS bid if it remains unbeaten. Boise State could fall all the way to the Las Vegas Bowl, Poinsettia Bowl or Independence Bowl - lower-tier postseason games that have ties to the Mountain West.

TCU (8-2, 5-0) can capture the Mountain West title outright if it beats Colorado State and UNLV at home in its final two games.

"I'm happy for us, but I'm sad for them," TCU coach Gary Patterson told reporters after the game. "I know how hard they have fought to get to this point."

Boise State had won each of its first eight games by double-digit margins, and the Broncos entered the day needing to make a national statement that it deserved a shot to play for the national championship if only one major-conference team was unbeaten at the end of the season.

TCU instead proved Boise State wasn't championship-caliber by exposing all the flaws the Broncos had managed to hide all season.

Casey Pachall threw for 473 yards and five touchdown passes against a Boise State secondary that was torched all afternoon. Three of Pachall's touchdown passes covered at least 69 yards.

The fumble that turned the game in TCU's favor showed Boise State lacks the depth of other national powers. Leading rusher Doug Martin sat out the game with a leg injury, which caused third-string tailback Drew Wright to get some carries in crunch time. Boise State was leading 35-28 lead when Wright coughed up the ball, giving TCU possession at its 27 with 2:26 remaining.

Boise State also had an unproven kicker. Goodale entered Saturday 3-of-4 on field-goal attempts and hadn't even attempted one from beyond 32 yards. His kick on the game's final play wasn't even close.

Boise State moved into field-goal range only after a questionable pass interference call on fourth-and-10 gave them an automatic first down.

TCU refused to fold after the penalty. The Horned Frogs showed plenty of guile and gumption all day, particularly after they scored a touchdown on Pachall's 25-yard pass to Brandon Carter with 1:05 remaining.

Rather than settling for an extra point that would have forced overtime, TCU went for a two-point conversion. That Ross Evans had missed an extra-point attempt in the second quarter may have made Patterson's decision easier. The gamble paid off when Pachall found Josh Boyce, who got into the end zone to give the Frogs a 36-35 lead.

"I told them when we started the drive to get the two-point play ready because we weren't going to be able to go for overtime and beat these guys," Patterson said. "Nobody beats Boise in Boise. If we're going to beat them, we're going to have to do it differently."

They sure did.

Here's a rundown of other winners and losers from the 11th week of the season.

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Oklahoma State: The Cowboys made a heck of a statement that they deserved to remain second in the BCS standings, no matter what happened in Saturday night's Oregon-Stanford game. Brandon Weeden threw five touchdown passes and Joseph Randle had three touchdown runs as Oklahoma State grabbed a 49-0 halftime lead and breezed to a 66-6 blowout of host Texas Tech.

Wisconsin RB Montee Ball: He scored on two runs and one catch in a 42-13 victory over Minnesota to give him 27 total touchdowns this season, breaking the Big Ten record formerly shared by Ohio State's Pete Johnson (26 in 1975), Indiana's Anthony Thompson (26 in 1988) and Penn State's Ki-Jana Carter (26 in 1994). Wisconsin also saw its Big Ten title hopes receive a major boost when Leaders Division rivals Penn State and Ohio State both lost.

Penn State's student body: All the media attention surrounding Penn State in the wake of Joe Paterno's firing could have turned the Nittany Lions' final home game of the season into a chaotic situation. It didn't happen. As Penn State continues to be rocked by the child sex abuse charges surrounding former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, its home crowd supported the Nittany Lions while also showing proper respect. Most of the fans wore dark blue to support victims of child sexual abuse. Spectators even formed the outline of a blue ribbon in the student section. The Nittany Lions may have lost 17-14 to Nebraska, but the day still represented a major step forward for the Penn State community.

Clemson K Chandler Catanzaro's redemption: After booting a potential tie-breaking 30-yard field goal wide right with 1:18 remaining, Catanzaro made the most of a second chance. He made a 43-yarder as time expired as Clemson erased a 14-point, second-half deficit to beat Wake Forest 31-28 and clinch its second ACC Atlantic Division title in the past three seasons.

Georgia QB Aaron Murray: He threw four touchdown passes in a 45-7 rout of Auburn, giving him a school-record 27 for the season. Murray broke the record formerly held by Matthew Stafford, who threw 25 touchdown passes in 2008. Murray has thrown nine touchdown passes in the past two weeks.

Kansas State QB Collin Klein: Who said this guy's a one-dimensional quarterback? Klein, a junior, ran for 103 yards in a 53-50 quadruple-overtime victory over Texas A&M, and he also threw for a career-high 281 yards. Klein didn't throw for as many as 200 yards in any of Kansas State's first eight games, but he has thrown for 512 yards in the past two weeks.

Michigan State: The Spartans moved a giant step closer to a spot in the inaugural Big Ten championship game with a 37-21 victory over Iowa that marked their first win in Iowa City since 1989. Michigan State (8-2 overall, 5-1 in the Big Ten) can clinch a spot in the championship game by beating Indiana at home and winning at Northwestern in its final two games.

Purdue DT Bruce Gaston: Just when it appeared Ohio State had scored a go-ahead touchdown with 55 seconds left in regulation, Gaston blocked Drew Basil's extra-point attempt to make sure the game stayed tied at 20. Gaston's play proved decisive when Purdue went on to win 26-23 on Robert Marve's 1-yard touchdown run in overtime.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores' 38-8 rout of Kentucky represented their biggest margin of victory in an SEC game since a 49-19 blowout of Mississippi State in 1971. Vanderbilt (5-5) can become bowl eligible if it wins at Tennessee next week or at Wake Forest on Nov. 26.

Northwestern WR Jeremy Ebert: Give Ebert's performance a thumbs-up. Ebert caught seven passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-6 victory over Rice. His 208-yard effort matched the fourth-highest single-game total in school history. Over his past two games, Ebert has 13 catches for 355 yards and three touchdowns.

Missouri RB Kendial Lawrence: He stepped in for an injured Henry Josey and rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown in Missouri's 17-5 upset of Texas. Lawrence's efforts helped Missouri withstand the loss of Josey, who had run for at least 129 yards in four consecutive games before getting carted off the field Saturday with 19 yards on 11 carries.

Colorado RB Rodney Stewart: He was a one-man show in Colorado's 48-29 victory over Arizona that prevented the Buffaloes from going winless at home for the first time in the 87-year history of Folsom Field. Stewart rushed for 181 yards and three touchdowns, and he also threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to QB Tyler Hansen on a flea-flicker.

Wyoming: One year after it finished 3-9, Wyoming is on the verge of bowl eligibility. Wyoming capitalized on an injury to Air Force QB Tim Jefferson and upset the Falcons 25-17 on the road to double its 2010 win total. Because two of its victories came against FCS programs, Wyoming (6-3) still must win one more game to become bowl-eligible.

Navy: The Midshipmen suddenly are back in bowl contention. After losing six consecutive games, Navy has won two in a row, including a 24-17 victory Saturday at SMU. Navy (4-6) can become eligible for its ninth consecutive bowl bid by beating San Jose State and Army in its final two games.

Arkansas WR Jarius Wright: His five catches in a 49-7 rout of Tennessee gave him 155 for his career, making him the Razorbacks' receptions leader. Wright broke the record formerly held by Anthony Eubanks, who caught 153 passes from 1994-97.

Oregon RB LaMichael James: Although he missed a couple of games with a dislocated elbow this season, James remains one of the game's most electrifying players when healthy. He proved it again Saturday by rushing for 146 yards and three touchdowns in Oregon's 53-30 victory over Stanford.

LSU's and Alabama's defenses: One week after LSU edged Alabama 9-6 in a bruising battle without a single touchdown, both teams continued to dominate with defense. Alabama allowed 131 total yards in a 24-7 victory over Mississippi State, the 11th consecutive game in which the Crimson Tide have allowed 14 or fewer points. LSU won 42-9 over Western Kentucky and has allowed more than 11 points in a game just twice all season.

USC's defense: The Trojans held Washington TB Chris Polk to 36 yards on nine carries in a 40-17 victory. Polk had been averaging 121.8 rushing yards per game. Although Washington scored 17 points, the Huskies' point total included a meaningless touchdown in the final minute.

Notre Dame's hurry-up offense: The Irish stepped up the tempo of their spread offense and reaped the benefits in a 45-21 victory over Maryland. Notre Dame ran 84 plays from scrimmage and gained 508 total yards.

Michigan RB Fitzgerald Toussaint: He rushed for 192 yards to help Michigan withstand an injury to QB Denard Robinson in a 31-14 victory over Illinois.

California RB Isi Sofele: His 190-yard effort helped California breeze to a 23-6 victory over Oregon State. Sofele has rushed for 328 yards over his past two games and is the ninth Cal player in the past 10 seasons to reach the 1,000-yard plateau.

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Big East: West Virginia's 24-21 victory over Cincinnati means that every team in the conference has at least two losses and increases the likelihood that the Big East champion could stagger into its BCS game with an 8-4 record for the second consecutive season.

Cincinnati: Not only did the Bearcats lose a game, they also may have lost star QB Zach Collaros for a substantial length of time. Collaros was carted off the field after injuring his right leg in the second quarter, though no immediate word was given about the severity of his injury. Munchie Legaux stepped in and played well against West Virginia, but the Bearcats are much better when Collaros is on the field.

Texas Tech: Oklahoma State handed the Red Raiders their most one-sided loss in school history. Oklahoma State's 66 points were the most ever allowed by the Red Raiders at Jones AT&T Stadium, breaking a 28-year-old record. Texas Tech has been outscored 159-33 in the three games since its upset of Oklahoma.

Auburn's offense: Life in the post-Cam Newton era isn't going so well. Auburn's 45-7 loss to Georgia was its most one-sided defeat in this rivalry since 1946. The Tigers have scored more than 17 points just once in their past six games.

Texas' offense: After scoring a combined 94 points in back-to-back victories over Kansas and Texas Tech, the Longhorns' freshman-laden offense endured some growing pains Saturday. Texas gained 2.6 yards per carry, and freshman QBs David Ash and Case McCoy were a combined 16-of-36 for 171 yards and an interception. They put up those meager numbers against a Missouri team that entered the nation ranked 89th nationally in total defense.

Texas A&M's inability to hold leads: Texas A&M blew an early 14-0 lead and a 31-21 fourth-quarter advantage in a 53-50 quadruple-overtime loss to Kansas State that continued the Aggies' penchant for struggling down the stretch. The Aggies have squandered double-digit leads in four of their five losses.

N.C. State's offense: Rather than building on the momentum of their 12-0 victory over in-state rival North Carolina last week, the Wolfpack followed up that emotional triumph by falling 14-10 at lowly Boston College. The Wolfpack lost despite limiting Boston College to minus-2 yards of total offense in the second half. Because two of its wins are against FCS programs, North Carolina State (5-5) won't become bowl-eligible unless it sweeps its final two regular-season games: next week against Clemson and Nov. 26 against Maryland.

Wake Forest (in the fourth quarter): If only games ended after 45 minutes, Wake Forest would be a BCS contender. The Demon Deacons have been outscored 103-37 in the fourth quarter and overtime this season. The trend continued Saturday as Clemson scored the game's final 17 points - 10 of them in the fourth quarter - to erase a 14-point deficit. In three of its five losses, Wake Forest led in the second half.

Kansas' OT gamble: After reaching the end zone to cut Baylor's lead to 31-30 in overtime, Kansas went for two rather than kicking the extra point to force a second extra session. The move was understandable. Baylor was a three-touchdown favorite and had all the momentum after erasing a 21-point, fourth-quarter deficit. But the risk didn't pay off, as Jordan Webb threw an incomplete pass that gave Baylor the victory.

Arizona QB Nick Foles' lack of ball security: Foles has needed to carry Arizona all season long, so it's no surprise that he makes the occasional mistake from trying to do too much. Although he threw for 345 yards against Colorado, he also threw three interceptions and lost a fumble.

Stanford's carelessness with the football: Stanford committed five turnovers in a loss to Oregon that knocked the Cardinal out of national title contention. Stanford QB Andrew Luck may have hurt his Heisman candidacy by throwing a couple of interceptions, but he didn't get much help from a receiving corps that dropped numerous passes.

Tennessee: The Volunteers are 0-6 in SEC competition for the first time in school history. Tennessee (4-6) must win its two remaining games, against Vanderbilt and at Kentucky, to become bowl-eligible.

Ole Miss: The Rebels didn't exactly give an inspired performance for lame-duck coach Houston Nutt in their first game since Ole Miss announced its coaching change. Louisiana Tech's defense actually outscored Ole Miss' offense in its 27-7 victory over the Rebels. Louisiana Tech scored defensive touchdowns on Chad Boyd 33-yard fumble return and Javontay Crowe's 26-yard interception return.

Illinois' offense: The Illini gained just 30 yards in the first half of their loss to Michigan. Illinois' meager production shouldn't have come as much of a surprise: Illinois has scored a total of 42 points during its four-game losing streak.

UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel's job security: Just when Neuheisel apparently had saved his job last week with a victory over Arizona State, he put himself back on the hot seat with a 31-6 setback at Utah.

The jinx on home teams in the Florida State-Miami rivalry: Florida State's 23-19 victory over Miami marked the first time since 2005 that the home team won in this annual rivalry. The road team had won each of the past five meetings.

Florida Atlantic: The Owls aren't sending Howard Schnellenberger into retirement with the kind of season the legendary coach deserves. FAU's 41-7 loss to Florida International dropped the Owls' record to 0-8. FAU has lost each of its games by at least two touchdowns.

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Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com, and you can follow him on Twitter.

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