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Week Three College Football Recap: Top 10 Teams Survive
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 18: Bryce Young #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates after defeating the Florida Gators 31-29 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 18, 2021 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
James Gilbert/Getty Images

Week three of the college football season had some incredible finishes. There were also some head-scratching and bizarre moments.

Every team in the top-ten won — though survived might be the more appropriate word — and the Pac-12 had a rough end to the day, with both UCLA and ASU losing. 

Let’s start with a wild finish.  

Down 37-33 with six seconds left in the fourth quarter, SMU somehow found a way to win. 


And then there was the bizarre. 

In Happy Valley, Penn State somehow lost a down, forcing them to punt instead of attempting a third-and-11. In the second quarter, Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford completed a 5-yard pass to Jahan Doctson on second-and-16. It should have been third-and-11 but it was marked as fourth down and Penn State was forced to punt. 

“I talked to all of [the officials], and they said, look, they all agreed on the call and so did the replay [official],” Penn State head coach James Franklin said. “They all agreed. I kept bringing them over and saying, ‘It’s not accurate.’ I don’t know what else I can tell them, but they all concurred, all the officials, they got on the headset, they talked to each other, and they all agreed. They ran it by replay, and they all agreed as well. I don’t know what else I can do or say.”

It was just one example of some very questionable officiating in the game that included a horrendous intentional grounding penalty on Clifford and a brutal ejection for targeting that went against Auburn. 

Speaking of Penn State, let’s take a look at their game against Auburn as well as other games of note from a wacky Saturday in college football. 

Penn State Outlasts Auburn In Whiteout Game

If you ever need to point to a reason why college football is truly a special sport, Saturday night in Happy Valley is your talking point. 

109,958 screaming fans all dressed in white showed up for the top-25 matchup between No. 10 Penn State and No. 22 Auburn. 


The Nittany Lions defense held twice late in the fourth quarter, and quarterback Sean Clifford was 28-32 for 280 yards and two touchdowns as Penn State held on late to win 28-20. 

Auburn quarterback Bo Nix had a chance to get Auburn into the endzone with three seconds left, but his pass was batted down by Jaquan Brisker at the Penn State five, sending Beaver Stadium into a frenzy. 


“I was ready,” Brisker said. “When you come to Penn State, you expect to play in front of big crowds like this. You’ve got to take it in for 10 seconds, then it’s back to reality.”

The final defensive stop came after the Penn State defense held on fourth and goal late in the fourth quarter. 

With 3:12 left in the fourth and Auburn down eight, head coach Bryan Harsin drew up a highly questionable fade on fourth-and-goal that never had a chance. 


“I think we have a really good mentality on defense,” Franklin said. “I think our leadership is really good. I think we’re a mentally tough football team. I think we’re a physically tough football team.”

No. 1 Alabama Holds On In Gainesville

Maybe Alabama isn’t a shoo-in to win the National Championship. Or maybe Florida is a really good football team. 

The Crimson Tide jumped on Florida early, quickly grabbing a 21-3 lead in the first quarter on three touchdown passes from quarterback Bryce Young. It looked like we were heading for the romp many predicted, but Florida’s rushing attack produced 245 yards on the ground as Florida gave Nick Saban and company all they could handle. 

The second half was a back and forth affair, with Florida cutting the Alabama lead to 21-16 on a three-yard touchdown run by Dameon Pierce to start the third quarter. Alabama responded with a touchdown of their own late in the third, and Florida was pinned at their own one-yard line after Ja’Markis Weston muffed the ensuing kickoff. 

Quarterback Emory Jones and the Gators responded with an 11-play, 99-yard drive to send the game into the fourth quarter down just five. 

The Gators got a 17-yard touchdown run from Pierce with 3:10 left in the fourth quarter to cut Alabama’s lead to two, but the two-point conversion failed, and the Crimson Tide escaped Gainesville with a 31-29 victory.  

“Crazy atmosphere,” Alabama quarterback Bryce Young said. “Those fans were really loud. We knew it was going to be a hostile environment coming in and they lived up to it for sure.”

No. 3 Oklahoma Beats Nebraska In Rivalry Game Renewal 

It’s been 50 years since “The Game of the Century,” and Oklahoma and Nebraska did not disappoint as the two schools renewed their rivalry for the first time since 2010. It turns out the bad blood between the two schools hasn’t cooled, as the two teams had to be separated before kickoff. 

The Sooners held on late for a 23-16 victory, but both of their wins against FBS schools have been shaky, and there’s work to be done in Norman. 

The Huskers and Scott Frost put forth a valiant effort, but special teams was a major problem for the Huskers. Kicker Connor Culp missed two field goals and the Sooners returned a blocked extra point from their own end zone for two points late in the third quarter. 

But Nebraska held OU to just 23 points — its worst offensive performance since 2016 — giving the Husker faithful hope that Frost has the program on the right track. 

“I’m so proud of our players with how they fought and competed with that type of team on the road,” Frost said following his team’s 23-16 loss. “I told them after the game everything they want to accomplish is right in front of them. We are going to get more opportunities to win a big game.”

“If they play like that, like we did today all year, and fight that hard all year, we are going to have a chance in a lot of games. As disappointed as I am, I’m happy with the way they competed.”

Heisman-hopeful Spencer Rattler was 24-34 for 214 yards and a touchdown, and Oklahoma rushed for 194 yards on the ground. It wasn’t pretty, but OU moved to 3-0 on the season as they enter Big 12 play. 

“It was just a hard-fought game,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “You knew it would be. There’s a lot of pride in these two programs. Both these programs have won a lot of games, a lot of championships. To bring this game back — I think everybody sensed how special it would be. Both teams rose to the occasion and gave us a great college football game.”

I’ll leave you with the play of the day … You may never see an interception like this again. 


No. 8 Cincinnati Passes Their First Test Of The Season In Bloomington  

Head coach Luke Fickell has had to deal with rumors surrounding the opening at USC, but the Bearcats overcame a slow start by quarterback Desmond Ridder to beat the Hoosiers on the road 38-24. 

“It’s huge for us,” Fickell said. “It’s a little different world for us just because it’s a little bit of a spotlight, a little bit of a bull’s eye. I’m not saying it’s any more of a spotlight or a bull’s eye than anyone else who’s ranked. But for us as a program it’s a little different than what we’ve experienced and our guys are finding a way to really handle it.”

Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. struggled mightily, finishing the day just 17-40 with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Indiana also gave up a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to Tre Turner with 3:41 left in the third quarter. 

Cincinnati’s biggest test of the season comes October 2 in South Bend against a Notre Dame team that has looked anything but dominant to start the season. 

Other scores: 

The Pac-12 conference was coming off a solid start to the season, with UCLA beating LSU in Pasadena and Oregon going into Columbus, Ohio, and taking down Ohio State. But just in case you went to bed early, Saturday night ended in a bad way for the conference. 

Chip Kelly and No. 13 UCLA suffered their first loss of the season, losing to Fresno State 40-37. No. 19 ASU lost to No. 23 BYU 27-17 as the Cougars won their third straight game against a Pac-12 school to start the season. 

Michigan State took down No. 24 Miami as the Hurricanes fell to 1-2 on the season. The Spartans — led by coach Mel Tucker — have a good chance of moving into the top-25 for the first time since 2019. 

“It was a good team win for us on the road against a good opponent,” Tucker said. “Credit to our entire organization … everyone had a part in this. We had a lot of challenges that we knew we would have to overcome to get this done.”

Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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