College FB: Russellmania takes over

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Associated Press
The college football notebook …
MADISON, Wis. — Russell Wilson’s polished persona on the field mirrors his calm confidence off of it. Both are being tested this week.
The one-and-done quarterback for No. 7 Wisconsin has put up eye-popping numbers and emerged as one of the most valuable newcomers to any team in the country while the Badgers (4-0) have feasted on inferior nonconference foes.
Russellmania is in full force. And everyone in Madison has been downright jumpy when it comes to discussing Wisconsin’s outlook with Wilson at the helm.
The crescendo should start to peak Saturday night when the Badgers host No. 8 Nebraska in the Cornhuskers (4-0) first Big Ten Conference game, and Wilson’s performance will certainly set the tone for the rest of Wisconsin’s season.
“We have to play great football,” he said. “It should be a great game, great atmosphere, and we’re excited about it.”
Wilson’s path to Wisconsin is unique.
He was a three-year starter at North Carolina State who graduated a year early, opted to play pro baseball, wasn’t welcomed back to the Wolfpack and took advantage of an NCAA transfer rule to be immediately eligible to play for the Badgers.
Wisconsin had a big need after two-year starter Scott Tolzien graduated and the Badgers were growing impatient waiting for one of a group of unproven backups to emerge.
“Transferring is never something that you necessarily want to do going into things. But I think the best thing I can say about it all is, I got my degree from N.C. State, and I graduated early. I graduated in three years, and that’s not easy to do,” Wilson said. “That’s one thing that I’m proud about.”
ATLANTA — Four games into his first full season as Georgia Tech’s starting quarterback, Tevin Washington wears a big smile.
The No. 21 Yellow Jackets lead the nation in total offense, rushing, scoring and — surprisingly — pass efficiency.
Hardly anyone expected Georgia Tech (4-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) to be much of threat in the air this season after it finished 2010 ranked 113th in pass efficiency.
The Jackets’ triple-option attack leads the nation in rushing for the second straight year, but their passing game is no longer an afterthought.
“I guess you can say we’re doing better than we were,” Washington said Tuesday night. “We’re just trying to do the opposite of what the other teams try to take away.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla.— Florida was essentially noncompetitive in its last two games against Alabama.
There was the debacle in Atlanta in the 2009 Southeastern Conference title game, then the drubbing in Tuscaloosa last season. The Gators were outplayed, outcoached and outscored by a combined 44 points in those lopsided losses.
Players surely want revenge, retribution, payback, right? Maybe, but they’re certainly not saying it. In fact, the only telling quote to come out of Gainesville this week has been on Twitter.
“We ready to shock the world!” Florida safety Matt Elam wrote on his Twitter feed.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s special teams gaffes were almost too numerous to count against LSU and Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen can only hope there’s enough time to fix them all.
No. 22 West Virginia gave up the most points at home in six years in a 47-21 loss to LSU on Saturday.
Holgorsen is trying to sort out bad punts, poor field position blamed in part on a lack of punt returns, and two missed tackles on an LSU kickoff return that went for a touchdown.
“The only way of fixing that sort of thing is getting out there and working at it,” Holgorsen said Tuesday. “We’re not going to make wholesale changes because the people that are on those units are guys that we’ve got. We can’t do anything else other than just coach them and get them better at what they’re doing.
“So we’ll work hard on it. We’re not going to hit panic mode.”
The battle of field position is sure to continue for West Virginia (3-1) on Saturday against Bowling Green (3-1), which leads the nation in net punting with an average of 45 yards. West Virginia is dead last at just under 30 yards per punt.
Setting the tone for the sour night against LSU was Corey Smith’s 14-yard punt on the first series that led to a short touchdown drive for the Tigers.
Of LSU’s 14 possessions, eight started on the Tigers’ 40-yard line or better and only one touchdown drive was longer than 60 yards.
When it came time to get the ball back, West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, one of the nation’s best punt returners, didn’t get a single return. LSU’s Brad Wing averaged 49 yards on six punts and West Virginia started six possessions inside its 15.
“LSU has been known for being as good as a special teams team as there has been in college football over the last decade,” Holgorsen said. “Part of the thing that was discouraging for everybody involved was the fact that they were far better than us in all four phases. They just set the bar and we’ve got to work hard to get it to the point where we’re like they are.”
Holgorsen said he doesn’t expect the speedy Austin to field every punt that comes his way because there’s a lot of ground to cover. He placed the blame on others needing to hold their blocks.
“I thought their punter did as good a punting performance as I’ve seen in all my years of coaching as far as where he placed it,” Holgorsen said.
Special teams aren’t the only phase Holgorsen needs to tweak. West Virginia is still looking to balance out its offense.
Although Geno Smith threw for 463 yards on Saturday night against one of the nation’s most respected defenses, the Mountaineers are 115th in rushing offense at about 77 yards per game.
Freshman Andrew Buie sat out the LSU game with an injury. Freshman Dustin Garrison got his most extensive work of the season and ran for 46 yards on 10 carries, including a 1-yard score.
Holgorsen said fans shouldn’t expect performances like he saw last year as Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator when the Cowboys’ Kendall Hunter ran for 1,548 yards and 16 touchdowns
“We’re still searching for guys that are every-down backs, which we don’t have one yet,” Holgorsen said. “We’ll get to the point where we’ll trust those guys more and we’ll give them the ball more. We’re still missing that guy that can burst through that, pick his feet up and get through it.”