Sometimes, channel-flipping makes things better. Sometimes, on the other hand, it simply redoubles the agony. Or requadruples it, as the case may be. Once upon a time, Thursday night football was a cause for joy; a night full of wild and crazy nonsense fueled by magical broadcasters seemingly able to conjure chaos from the very humidity in the air.
Thursday began in Troy, Alabama, at the only place in FBS other than Bill Snyder Family Stadium where a man patrols the sideline of a house bearing his name. The Troy Trojans jumped out to a 10-0 lead on Western Kentucky Hilltoppers before the Hilltoppers could answer with a touchdown late in the first quarter. Then Larry Blakeney, the namesake of the field on which the game was played, did something he hadn't done in 21 years. At the end of a grinding 18-play drive which chewed up the first eight minutes of the second quarter, Troy, facing fourth-and-goal from the one, lined up for a field goal. Only they didn't kick it. Holder Jaquan Robinson flipped a shovel pass to D.J. Taylor for a touchdown, and Troy led 17-7. Western Kentucky answered with their own long drive; 17 plays and all but the final 34 seconds of the half resulted in a nine-yard pass from Kawaun Jakes to Jack Doyle to bring the Hilltoppes back within three. With the exception of the final play of the half, a sack of Troy quarterback Corey Robinson which resulted in the dreaded "injury above the shoulders", the entire second quarter had consisted of one possession for each team.
Western Kentucky opened the third quarter with a short drive which took less than four minutes, Kadeem Jones tumbling in from the one to put the Hilltoppers in front. Troy got a 22-yard Will Scott field goal to get back within 21-20, but less than three minutes later WKU struck again, Jakes finding Jones for an 18-yard touchdown pass. Troy fired back immediately, backup QB Deon Anthony hitting Eric Thomas from 47, but Blakeney ordered the Trojans to try and tie the game. They failed, and wouldn't score again. Western Kentucky added a field goal with just 1:12 to go to take a 31-26 lead and remove the possibility of Scott kicking a game winner for Troy. Although they crossed midfield after the kickoff, a personal foul pushed the Trojans back into their own territory with just a half a minute left, and on 4th-and-25 Anthony's shot for a first down was batted to the ground harmlessly and the Hilltoppers had the win in hand.
The win leaves Western Kentucky at 5-Alabama, 2-0 in conference play. Troy falls to 3-3, 2-2 in the Sun Belt.
Defense was the name of the game for the first 30 minutes as the Tulsa Golden Hurricane and their vaunted offense limped into the locker room with a 6-3 lead over the UTEP Miners. This wasn't a case of sloppy offense; the defenses really were in fine form in the first half.
Second half? No, not so much. Tulsa exploded for 20 third-quarter points to effectively bury the Miners, going on to win 33-11. The onslaught was aided by an 81-yard scamper by Ja'Terian Douglas, who had 128 yards on the night. Alex Singleton had 96 and two touchdowns to aid the Tulsa running attack; the Golden Hurricane ended up with 281 yards on the ground to 31 for UTEP. The Miners aired it out well, though, racking up 376 yards passing, but three turnovers soured the effort.
Finally, in Boulder, the Colorado Buffaloes did what they almost always do: got destroyed. Arizona State routed the Buffs 51-17. Colorado tried to make things interesting, taking the lead on a Tony Jones touchdown midway through the second quarter, but within five minutes Arizona State was back up 20-7. Colorado clawed back into the contest, scoring a touchdown with 24 seconds left in the half then recovering the onside kick and adding a field goal as time expired to get to the locker room only down 20-17. But the Sun Devils opened the proverbial can in the second half, starting with a 100-yard kickoff return by Rashad Ross to open the half. The Devils outscored Colorado 31-0 in the half, racing to a 51-17 blowout. The Sun Devils had 593 yards of offense on the night, and don't look now but I think the seat of Jon Embree's pants is now actually on fire.
CBS College Sports provides a D-II Game of the Week every other week (hey, I don't make the rules), and in this week's edition #17 Saginaw Valley State was clinging to a 10-7 lead over #18 Wayne State (MI) early in the fourth quarter when Wayne State punter Stef Terleckyj made a critical error (though it's arguable he had little choice given the alternatives). With the ball on the Warriors' own 24, Terleckyj lined up at his own nine to receive the snap. It was low and offline, and in order to corral it he had to go to a knee, which immediately downed the ball right there. The Cardinals scored a couple of plays later to go up 17-7, and suddenly the game was in control. Saginaw scored again on their next possession, successfully killing off most of the clock as they went on to win 24-7.
Sadly, I have to report that this was the best game I watched all night, and if you think I'm being my usual small-college smoke-blowing self, trust me on this one this time. I'm not even remotely kidding. In other action, Tuskegee won 16-0 at Stillman in the night's other D-II game, while Guilford secured a 23-20 win at home over Bridgewater in D-III.
There is only one D-I game tonight; the Navy Midshipmen (2-3) visit the Central Michigan Chippewas (2-3) at 7pm on ESPN2, and please sweet Jesus let us have some MACtion. The only other game tonight is a D-III contest; Shenandoah (1-4, 0-2 ODAC) visits Catholic (2-3, 1-1 ODAC).
SATURDAY'S TV FUN
Get this: there are actually televised D-II and NAIA games Saturday. Not that many people will be tuning into Mercyhurst at Gannon on Root Pittsburgh at 11, since we'll all be busy watching FX at the time and everyone else will be glued to ABC for the Red River Showdown. Wisconsin visits Purdue on BTN at 11 as well, but the rest of the morning slate is underwhelming.
Meanwhile, the NAIA game -- Lindsey Wilson at Campbellsville on FCS Atlantic -- officially kicks off the afternoon flight, which will be highlighted by a bunch of big games at 2:30. Stanford at Notre Dame on NBC, Alabama visiting Columbia to welcome the Tigers to the SEC on CBS, Oregon State at BYU on either ABC or ESPN depending on your location, West Virginia at Texas Tech on either ABC or ESPN-Alt, and in the afternoon game must unfairly flying under everyone's radar, Utah State visits San Jose State at 3pm on Altitude. The winner will be Louisiana Tech's ultimate rival for the WAC title.
Evening action centers on what's theoretically the best game of the night, South Carolina at LSU at 7pm on ESPN. An hour later on ESPNU Texas A&M visits Louisiana Tech in the most interesting game of the night, as opposed to the best. Finally, we get midnight football as New Mexico visits Hawai'i at 11pm on Root Rocky Mountain.
As always, I've prepared a spreadsheet with the TV grid at Google Docs, because I know how to take care of you rabble.