Downs and distance

Four items of interest on the college football landscape

By Jim McBride
Globe Staff / November 5, 2010

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1. Irish sighs
They’re easy to spot this week. You’ve no doubt seen them walking, zombie-like, in your office, on the T, or at the mall. We’re speaking, of course, about Notre Dame fans. Brian Kelly’s first season as coach has been a big letdown. Losing to Michigan and Michigan State was tough. Getting blown out by Navy was embarrassing. But the 28-27 loss to Tulsa was the Irish’s worst on-field moment since David Gordon split the uprights for BC in 1993. Kelly’s decision to eschew a winning field goal attempt (David Ruffer is 18 for 18) and throw the ball (it was intercepted) — with his rationale of “get used to it, because that’s the way we’re playing’’ — is indefensible. That mentality is fine for most of the game. But when it’s crunch time, you have to go for the win.

2. Non-American idol
With Auburn’s Cam Newton and Oregon’s LaMichael James threatening to make the Heisman contest a two-man race, a dark-horse candidate emerged last Saturday out in Lincoln, Neb. Roy Helu Jr., the Cornhuskers’ 6-foot-2-inch, 220-pound I-back, put on a record-setting performance in a 31-17 win over unbeaten Missouri. Helu rumbled for a Nebraska-record 307 yards, including touchdown runs of 66, 73, and 53 yards. Helu, a rugby player in his high school days in California, was once asked about the runners he idolized growing up. Nebraska legends Mike Rozier, Ahman Green, or I.M. Hipp? Nope. Helu went with Jonah Lomu, one of the legends of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby squad.

3. Just a minute . . .
So the Big East wants to expand? Great! But let’s be honest, aren’t the powers that be reaching by targeting Texas Christian and Notre Dame? Why not ask Boise State and Southern Cal, too? Villanova, the defending champ in Division 1-AA (sorry, “Football Championship Subdivision’’ still sounds silly), is a logical candidate. Central Florida makes sense because adding a school from the Sunshine State is never a bad thing. But what about UMass? The Minutemen have enjoyed success at the 1-AA level, could compete in the Big East in other sports, and would have a built-in natural rival with UConn. This business about not accepting two 1-AA teams at the same time is rubbish. These schools could be up to speed in the time it takes to fly to TCU.

4. Get a grip on it
A lot has been made about Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham flashing the choke sign to Florida kicker Chas Henry last week. Henry got the last laugh when his 37-yard overtime attempt sailed between the uprights, snapping Florida’s three-game skid and extending Georgia’s season of misery. Grantham apologized (albeit after TV snapshots of him committing the act flooded the media) and Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said Grantham would “learn from it and move on.’’ But was Grantham’s gesture really that egregious? Certainly it was immature, and he no doubt felt like a fool after the successful kick, but did he do anything wrong? It would bother me at the Pop Warner level, but not in the Southeastern Conference.