We begin the tour in Tulsa with the biggest news in the conference this week. Safety Demarco Nelson – a second-team all-conference pick last year, preseason all-conference pick this year and Thorpe Award watch list member – lost his NCAA appeal and is now academically ineligible for the season.
Nelson’s absence wasn’t the sole reason the Golden Hurricane got thumped by Bowling Green in their season opener – the Falcons passed for just 163 yards, but rushed for 233 – but it sure didn’t help.
The Nelson announcement wasn’t made until after Tulsa Coach Bill Blankenship held his weekly press conference, and the school said it would have no further comment than what it said Wednesday. But at that press conference Blankenship gave a curt assessment of how much the Hurricane missed Nelson.
Significantly. There’s a reason he’s a four-year starter. It’s a big deal.
At East Carolina, the Pirates might still be icing down quarterback Shane Carden’s arm. The ECU quarterback was named conference offensive player of the week after his ridiculous 447-yard, five touchdown performance against Old Dominion.
That yardage total was just nine yards behind Fresno State’s Derek Carr for the top performance in the Football Bowl Subdivision last week. But Carr needed 52 completions on 73 attempts to get his 456 yards. Carden needed just 46 completions on 54 attempts. That’s an 85.2 percent clip for you folks who aren’t so mathematically inclined.
ECU Coach Ruffin McNeill had plenty to crow about concerning Carden’s performance.
Shane did a good job of leading us and distributing the football to all five guys. That’s the biggest thing about this offense: the distribution of the football, and Shane did a really good job of that. I really like the way he’s grasped this offense. (Offensive coordinator) Lincoln (Riley) has added some things, flavor-wise, to it in the run game. Shane is at that point where he’s understanding distribution, the when, where and how. He was able to extend some plays, and that’s always been a part of his repertoire. But what he did the other night was staying within the pocket to open up routes, so I was proud to see him get to that level.
Three C-USA teams face top-25 opponents this week. UAB visits No. 9 LSU, while Southern Miss goes to No. 22 Nebraska. UTSA has the good fortune of hosting its top-25 opponent, 13th-ranked Oklahoma State. In an interesting twist, UTSA Coach Larry Coker was Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator when current Cowboys Coach Mike Gundy was the OSU starting quarterback. Gundy threw for 4,366 yards and 33 touchdowns in two seasons under center with Coker guiding the offense.
Coker has fond memories of Gundy and sees why he’s been so successful as OSU’s head coach.
He was a very smart player and tremendously competitive. He was a playmaker when there weren’t plays to be made. He was an outstanding player. He’s very confident and you can see that in their team now. He’s had some staff changes and they keep on progressing and getting better. They’re a talented team.
The Blazers probably have it toughest, forced to invade Baton Rouge and a brutal atmosphere at Tiger Stadium. LSU got past then 20th-ranked Texas Christian in its opener, so the Tigers already are battle tested. UAB is no stranger to hostile environments, linebacker Jake Ganus said, so that should give the Blazers some support for Saturday’s game.
We treat it like any other game. We played South Carolina and Ohio State last year, so that doesn’t really (faze) me and I don’t think it (fazes) anybody else. We are just going to go out there and play the game of football like we know how.
The Golden Eagles’ game against the Cornhuskers likely won’t be the one that breaks what is now the longest current FBS losing streak, a skid that has reached 13 straight after a loss to Texas State. But the one good thing that came out of it was that Coach Todd Monken might have solved USM’s quarterback issues, after Allan Bridgford threw for 377 yards.
What an unbelievable job Allan Bridgford did, when you think about a guy who wasn’t here in the spring, wasn’t here in the summer. He came a week before camp and then had just fall camp to really try to understand what we’re doing and to move forward. I mean, that’s a credit to him … Did he make his mistakes? Of course he did. But that’s to be understood. But for him to come out and really throw the ball accurately, to really, honestly run our offense the way he has is really almost unprecedented when you think about it.
Monken still needs to do something about those 23 yards rushing against Texas State, but, hey, it’s a start, right?