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In the college football world, the games should outweigh the business


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Now comes the part when the outrageous zaniness of college football games — you know, sports — tries to outpace the droning chatter about mergers and acquisitions and realignment and business, business, business — you know, tedium. How did Saturday do?

In daytime, it had its simultaneous wonders in Iowa City and gorgeous Boone on a planet where few sports can boast simultaneous wonders in Iowa City and gorgeous Boone. It had Iowa nudging past a gutty band of Jackrabbits visiting from South Dakota State in that crazy-rare 7-3 finish derived from a 3-3 tie. It had North Carolina nudging past a storied bunch of Mountaineers at Appalachian State in that crazy-rare 40-22 score, with the 40-22 meaning only the fourth quarter.

By evening, it had an interregional tussle of Utes and Gators in a Swamp that went back and forth and 29-26 at the end — to Florida — and it had an overtime leap into the end zone for a two-point conversion in a meaningful scrap between Houston and UTSA, proving again how very many people play meaningful football scraps in Texas.

Georgia makes a loud statement (college football winners and losers)

At 11 a.m. Central time on a cloudy 77-degree day in Iowa City, some 69,250 people bunched into an adored stadium to witness the fine and unfairly ignored art of punting. South Dakota State’s Hunter Dustman punted 11 times for 457 yards, a 41.5 average. Iowa’s Tory Taylor punted 10 times for 479 yards, a 47.9 average.

That’s 936 yards in punting, and that’s the dean of all FBS coaches, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, saying, “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a punter be so involved in a game,” and he’s been involved in head-coaching Iowa games since last century.

Nor in all that time had Ferentz seen a team reach seven points through the 3-2-2 method, so he pointed that out and said, “I’ve never been around a game like that, but we’ll take it today.”

By the end, Taylor had punted so often he wasn’t sure how often he had punted, and he told reporters, “But I did find out I had 10 punts breaking a personal record for me, which is probably not the best thing, I’d say.”

For those who sneer at punting, he added this: “I’d say I have four or five types I really use.”

While burnishing your punter knowledge with the knowledge punters can have four or five types, consider that Taylor would be another of those punters in the curious pipeline from Melbourne, the big Melbourne, the one in Australia. Consider also that two other Melbourne-raised punters, brothers Mason Fletcher and Max Fletcher, punt for Cincinnati and Arkansas, and that Cincinnati and Arkansas happened to play each other on Saturday, No. 19 Arkansas edging the excellent Cincinnati by 31-24 in a game that qualified as good.

The game that qualified as somewhere beyond madcap happened in Boone, where at noon Eastern time on a cloudy 73-degree midday, a record 40,168 bunched into Appalachian State’s Kidd Brewer Stadium to see something woolly. “Why we don’t play these in-state football games every single year blows my mind,” Appalachian State coach Shawn Clark wound up saying.

Everyone knows why, another of the lunacies of the most lunatic sport. Do you credit North Carolina with scheduling it when you figure North Carolinas should be scheduling it routinely?

It’s worth reviewing the fourth quarter, which began with North Carolina ahead 41-21 and ended with North Carolina ahead 63-61. The Mountaineers went 71 yards in eight plays to score with 12:10 left for 41-28. The Mountaineers went 28 yards in three plays to score with 10:37 left for 41-35. The Tar Heels went 75 yards in three plays to score with 9:25 left for 49-35. The Mountaineers went 77 yards in seven plays to score with 7:20 left for 49-42. The Mountaineers went 64 yards in three plays to score with four minutes left for 49-49. The Tar Heels went 75 yards in five plays to score with 2:50 left for 56-49. The Mountaineers went 75 yards in eight plays to score with 31 seconds left, then missed the two-point conversion for 56-55. The Tar Heels returned a kickoff 43 yards to score with 28 seconds left for 63-55. The Mountaineers went 48 yards in two plays to score with nine seconds left, then missed the two-point conversion for 63-61.

“You can’t get 21 points in one score and everyone knows that,” Appalachian State quarterback Chase Brice said, but anyone flipping streaming services between his game and Iowa might have wondered if you could. And yes, that would be the Brice who steered one of the important drives of recent years, in 2018, Clemson’s 94-yarder with a fourth-and-6 completion halfway through against Syracuse that preserved the unbeaten part of that unbeaten, 15-0, national-championship year.

Across the miles from a game of artful punters, Boone staged a game of bored punters. Appalachian State’s Clayton Howell punted once. North Carolina’s Ben Kiernan went mad and punted twice.

It all led to some of the usual outrageous stuff from these intoxicating Saturdays, such as Houston quarterback Clayton Tune streaming for the end zone with a 35-35 score in a third overtime, then leaping a defender into that end zone for a 37-35 win. And some Utes and Gators trading scores in Gainesville, Fla.

That’s where Anthony Richardson starred as quarterback for a Florida program which has not been as good lately as its Tom Petty-singing followers have hoped. No. 7 Utah came to town, another bold bit of scheduling. The Utes led late when Richardson took Florida on a 14-play, 75-yard, winning drive, scoring with 85 seconds left with two of his 106 rushing yards.

“The guy is like 6-4 and 240 and runs like a 4.3 so there is no way to keep him bottled up,” Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham said after the 29-26 heartbreak. So credit Whittingham, the second-longest-tenured top-tier coach behind Ferentz, with the scheduling. Let the College Football Playoff selection committee weigh that in any assessment of the Utes come December.

But that’s speculative business talk in a sport with too much speculative business talk. Sometimes, to enjoy it, one must look at the games, the games, the games, and how these crazy matters spent Saturday giving wild rides to seasoned types such as Whittingham, 62, and Ferentz, 67, and North Carolina’s Mack Brown, 71.

You might even say it keeps them going.





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