Mon Nov 29 06:29pm EST
Notes from the undercard.
Here are a few facts about Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman. He's a former walk-on from Meridian, Idaho, majoring in business management. As a redshirt freshman in 2007, he was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award as the best kicker in the nation. He's made 65 field goals over four years, more than all but two other active kickers nationally. He's scored more points in his career than any other active player in Division I. He holds the school's career scoring record, and with nine more points in Boise's last two games, he'll pass Nebraska's Kris Brown (1996-99) for most career points by a kicker in NCAA history. He's also the Broncos' regular punter, and memorably completed a pass for a first down on a fake punt that set up Boise's game-winning touchdown against TCU in the Fiesta Bowl in January.
None of which has ever compelled anyone to post to YouTube or seek Brotzman out on Facebook. But none ever had the immediate consequences of his two critical, season-killing missed field goals in Friday night's 34-31 overtime loss at Nevada, nationally televised flubs that quickly inspired fake commercials, bawling children, at least two different "Downfall" parodies and a particularly morbid edition of Xtranormal. And, of course, mockery. Lots and lots of mockery.
Fortunately for Brotzman, a few kindhearted Boise fans have launched a Facebook page, "The Bronco Nation Loves Kyle Brotzman," in hopes of preventing him from becoming the next Ray Finkle. As of Monday afternoon, the group has almost 21,000 members. Curiously, 19,000 all have the last name "Einhorn" …
The Crib Sheet. Elsewhere in mid-majordom…
• We're going streaking. Besides crushing the Broncos' hopes of a bid to the BCS Championship Game or the Rose Bowl, the loss in Reno marked the end of a winning streak of 25 straight in all games, 37 straight in the regular season, 22 straight in the WAC. With the head-to-head tiebreaker in the Wolf Pack's favor, the conference championship will go to a team other than Boise State – or "teams," actually, with Hawaii joining in a three-way tie at 7-1 – for just the second time in nine years. It's the first time the Broncos have ever lost a WAC game they were favored to win.[Rewind: LeBron James takes out ad to thank fans]
The one streak they do have left: Sixty-two consecutive regular-season wins (interrupted only by Boston College in the 2005 MPC Computers Bowl) on the blue turf since joining the WAC in 2001. Utah State gives it one last go on Saturday, after which the Broncos will leave for the Mountain West next year without a single WAC loss at home in their 10-year tenure.
• Eat it, death penalty. June Jones' quiet resurrection of SMU is nearly complete with a 45-38 overtime win Friday at East Carolina, a victory that sealed the Mustangs' second consecutive winning season and their first Conference USA West title. Jones, fresh off a 12-0 season at Hawaii that ended in the Sugar Bowl in 2007, inherited a 1-11 bottom dweller in Dallas and promptly went 1-11 himself in 2008.
Last year's run to 8-5, though, made SMU the most improved team in the nation from '08 to '09 – the second time Jones has turned that trick, having once raised Hawaii from 0-12 in 1998 to 9-4 in his 1999 debut – and with an upset Saturday at Central Florida, the Mustangs will be C-USA champs.
• It's getting better. This year's "Most Improved" title belongs to Miami (Ohio), which completed an 8-4 regular season Saturday by blowing out Temple, 23-3, a wholesale turnaround from last year's 1-11 disaster in coach Mike Hayward's first year. With Kent State's upset over Ohio U., Miami also took the championship in the MAC's East Division, setting up a MAC Championship date with West Division champ Northern Illinois on Friday night. NIU is opening as a 17-point favorite, closer than all but one MAC opponent (Western Michigan, a 28-21 loser on Oct. 30) came to the Huskies during the regular season.
• It's official. Your 2010 Sun Belt Conference champion is Florida International, courtesy of a 31-24 win Saturday against Arkansas State – nearly three years to the day after FIU suffered the final defeat in a 23-game skid over 2006-07. The win over ASU was the Golden Panthers' fourth in a row, the longest winning streak in FIU's short existence, and guaranteed both its first non-losing season and first bowl game.
Game of the Week. Utah 17, BYU 16.
Utah failed utterly to make things interesting over the first three quarters, producing five punts, two interceptions, one missed field goal and zero points on its first eight offensive possessions. It took BYU more than 40 minutes to find itself, though, allowing the Utes to rip off 17 fourth-quarter points – aided by a sketchy fumble call that kept the Utes' go-ahead touchdown drive alive – to go ahead 17-16 with a little over four minutes to play. BYU answered by driving 54 yards to set up a 42-yard field goal attempt by Mitch Payne on the final play … which was subsequently blocked by Utah's Brandon Burton to deliver the last "Holy War" among conference rivals to the Utes.
The real losers? This guy, and this other guy:
Honorable mention: Louisiana-Monroe rallied from a late 23-13 deficit to pull within one point against rival Louisiana-Lafayette, 23-22, with 5:08 on the clock – then missed the subsequent PAT to tie. The loss dropped Monroe to 5-7 for the season, costing the WarHawks a shot at the first bowl game in school history. Lafayette congratulated coach Rickey Bustle on the victory by handing him a pink slip.
Player of the Week. Alex Green, RB, Hawaii.
Green set a school record with 337 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries in the Warriors' 59-24 rout at New Mexico State, including gains of 30, 62, 45, 71, 28 and 33 yards. With the outburst, Green is Hawaii's first 1,000-yard rusher since 1992, on slightly under 10 carries per game.
Honorable Mention: North Texas running back Lance Dunbar accounted for 305 total yards and four touchdowns in the Mean Green's 49-41 loss at Kansas State. … Louisiana Tech running back Lennon Creer, late of Tennessee, ran for 252 yards and three touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 45-38 win over San Jose State.[Video: Fans protest game by making it rain tennis balls]
Upset of the Week. Akron 22, Buffalo 14.
It's not saying much to beat the Bulls, who limp into the clubhouse with just two wins and the nation's worst scoring offense under first-year coach Jeff Quinn, but the victory was a major triumph for the Zips, who avoid the ignominy of finishing as the only winless team in the I-A/FBS ranks under their own rookie coach, Rob Ianello. The Zips end the season 119th out of 120 in total offense and 117th in scoring, but at least they end it without a fat '0' in the win column staring at them for the next nine months.
A Somewhat Arbitrary Mid-Major Top 10.
1. TCU (12-0). Still holding out some slim hope for a BCS Championship nod, but Super Frog can't complain about taking his lady to the Rose Bowl.
2a. Nevada (11-1). Upset over Boise State cost the Wolf Pack over half a million dollars, and it was worth every penny.
2b. Boise State (10-1). What a run, guys. Now welcome to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
4. Utah (10-2). Utes rallied from near-collapse in early October to take two conference games on their way out of the Mountain West.
5. Hawaii (9-3). Warriors have won eight of their last nine (the only loss: at Boise State) and own a share of their second WAC title in four years.
6. Northern Illinois (10-2). Huskies obliterated Eastern Michigan, 71-3, to finish a perfect regular season in MAC play.
7. Central Florida (9-3). Knights have quietly outscored C-USA opponents by 24 points per game.
8. Tulsa (9-3). Golden Hurricane end the year on a six-game winning streak, including that one in South Bend.
9. San Diego State (8-4). Aztecs got back on track with a 48-14 trouncing over UNLV to close the year at 8-4. Now: Can they keep Brady Hoke in the fold?
10. Air Force (8-4). Falcons win eight for the fourth year in a row under Troy Calhoun, matching the best streak in academy history.
At the Other End of the Barrel…
• With Akron's win over Buffalo, Memphis (0-8 in Conference USA) goes out as the only team in any league to end the season without a single conference win to its name. The Tigers' last victory: 24-17 over Middle Tennessee in September, prelude to nine consecutive losses in coach Larry Porter's first season. They may be joined next week by San Jose State, which takes an 0-7 WAC record and 10-game losing streak into the dreaded Kibbie Dome to take on Idaho. The Spartans' greatest triumph against a brutal schedule that included current poll-dwellers Alabama, Wisconsin, Utah, Nevada, Boise State and Hawaii: They were only shut out once.
• New Mexico's grisly 66-17 loss to TCU left the Lobos limping in at 1-11 for the second year in a row under coach Mike Locksley, but don't expect any changes in Albuquerque anytime soon: The cash-strapped state can't afford to buy out his contract.
• A 59-24 beating at the hands of Hawaii leaves New Mexico State with two wins in DeWayne Walker's second season: A two-point comeback over New Mexico on a late field goal and a two-point comeback over San Jose State on the final play. Enough said.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.