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September 12, 2011

Monday with Mike: Scary moment in Minnesota

One of the most chilling scenes in recent college history played out in Minneapolis on Saturday in the final seconds of New Mexico State's stunning 28-21 victory over Minnesota.

Shortly after Gophers QB MarQueis Gray had thrown an incomplete pass with 20 seconds left, Big Ten Network cameras panned to what appeared to be a Gophers player down on the sideline being tended to by four Minnesota trainers and/or doctors.

Suddenly, viewers saw the person begin violently flailing around while on his back on the sideline. The announcers then realized it was Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, not an injured player, who was down, and the cameras quickly -- and correctly -- cut away.

What followed was an eerie 10 minutes. There seemingly was no sound in the stadium, and cameras found groups of players on each sideline, gathering together and kneeling in prayer.

Eventually, the game resumed -- Minnesota threw another incomplete pass on fourth down, then New Mexico State took over and took a knee on the final play -- and announcers were able to tell viewers that Kill had suffered a seizure and been taken to the hospital.

Ironically, a year ago, on Sept. 11, 2010, while coach at Northern Illinois, Kill had been hospitalized after a victory over North Dakota with dehydration.

Sunday, team doctor Pat Smith said in a statement released by the school that all tests on Kill -- who turned 50 on Aug. 24 -- had come back normal and that there would be more tests as the situation dictates. The statement gave no more details, including when Kill might be released from the hospital.

"Right now the reports we have received from our medical staff are positive, and I am very pleased that he continues to show steady signs of improvement," athletic director Joel Maturi said in the statement.

Smith had said Saturday night Kill was given sedation on the sideline after the episode, and also said the temperature -- it was 88 degrees at kickoff -- coupled with dehydration might have played a role in his seizure.

It was the third time in his career that Kill had had a seizure on the sideline. Both happened when he coached at Southern Illinois, in 2001 and in '05. He also collapsed and had a seizure while taping his highlight show in 2006.

He never has missed a game because of seizures, and if history repeats, he will be on the sideline Saturday when the Gophers play Miami (Ohio).

In 2005, while at SIU, Kill was diagnosed during the season with kidney cancer. He had a tumor removed from his kidney in January 2006, and his cancer has been in remission since.

Kill's scary moment overshadowed the magnitude of New Mexico State's upset.

The Aggies were coming off a 20-point home loss to Ohio University in which they rushed for just 6 yards, and they were 20-point underdogs to Minnesota. The Gophers had lost by just two at USC in their opener, taking the Trojans to the wire.

New Mexico State came into the season having won just 16 games in the past six seasons and has had just four winning records since 1967. The Aggies haven't been to a bowl since 1960, the longest bowl-less streak in the nation among teams that have been to at least one bowl, and they had lost 19 consecutive games to Big Six opponents. The last victory over a Big Six team had come in 1999, when the Aggies thrashed Arizona State 35-7.

The 19 consecutive losses weren't close, either: They were by an average of 32 points, with just one (by five to Oregon State in 2001) by fewer than 10 points. Eleven had come by at least 30 points and four by at least 40 points.

Then came Saturday, when the Aggies rolled up 421 total yards and controlled the clock in stunning the Gophers. Sophomore QB Andrew Manley, a former Gatorade high school player of the year in Hawaii, threw for 288 yards and three TDs, and a defense led by CB Jonte Green held Minnesota to 2-of-12 on third-down conversions.

"I guess I would be lying if you didn't say it wasn't a good feeling to beat my alma mater, but this is just a great win for our entire program -- coaches, players, administrators and, most importantly, for the university and the Las Cruces community," said coach DeWayne Walker, who lettered at Minnesota in 1980 and '81. "This was a team win, and that is how we are going to continue to build this program -- winning as a team."

Walker called it a "signature win for our program, and I hope we can build on it."

Incredibly for a team that hasn't been bowling in 51 years, a bowl bid may not be that far-fetched. Next week, the Aggies play host to a bad UTEP team, and the home team has won 11 of the past 14 in a series between schools whose campuses are about 35 miles apart on Interstate 10. Then come back-to-back road games -- but against San Jose State and New Mexico, who have combined to win just five games since the start of the 2009 season. The Aggies have won three of their past four against that duo.

Later are games against Idaho, Louisiana Tech and Utah State, games not nearly as daunting now that the Aggies have beaten a Big Ten team.

"Our kids played big the whole ballgame," defensive coordinator Dale Lindsey told the Las Cruces (N.M.) Sun-News after Saturday's victory. "They played like a Division I team."

USC scores a late TD -- real late

There was a mighty weird ending to USC's 23-14 victory over Utah in the first conference game ever in the Pac-12.

If you were watching live, you saw USC OT Matt Kalil, who is 6 feet 7, block Coleman Petersen's attempt at a game-tying 41-yard field goal. You also saw the Trojans' Torin Harris pick up the ball on one bounce and return it for a TD as seemingly everyone on the USC bench swarmed onto the field during Harris' run. You then saw officials rule that the TD did not count because of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on the USC bench for pouring onto the field.

Thus, if you turned the TV off at that point, you thought the game ended 17-14. But about two hours later, a Pac-12 spokesman said the TD did count and that the final instead was 23-14.

"All unsportsmanlike conduct fouls by substitutes [on the bench] are enforced as dead-ball fouls," Pac-12 officiating consultant Mike Pereira said in a league statement. "Since the game was over, the penalty could not be enforced, and the referee stated it was declined by rule. The officials did rule it a touchdown, making the final score 23-14."

Grid bits
All hail Washington State. The Cougars -- who had won just five games in the preceding three seasons -- are 2-0 for the first time since 2005 and lead the nation in scoring at 61.5 points per game. They have rolled up 1,200 total yards in beating Idaho State 64-21 in the opener and UNLV 59-7 this past weekend. That's 123 points already; Washington State scored just 144 total points in 2009 and 165 in '08. It's the first time the Cougars have topped 50 points twice in the same season since 2001, when Mike Price was the coach and led the team to a 10-2 mark. Now, we're not saying this season's team is going to go 10-2, but they appear to have a pulse and could be in a position to make things interesting for some Pac-12 opponents.

A stat you might have missed: Florida Atlantic managed one first down -- one -- in losing 44-0 at Michigan State. (The NCAA record is zero, and the last time it happened was in 1990, when N.C. State blanked Western Carolina.) The Spartans outgained the Owls 434-48, and FAU now has been outscored 85-3 and outgained 902-195 this season. Next up? A trip to Auburn. Given how poorly Auburn's defense has played this season, FAU might actually reach the 200-yard mark.

Josh Jarboe was a four-star prospect and the No. 10 wide receiver in the 2008 recruiting class. But Jarboe, from Ellenwood (Ga.) Cedar Grove, hasn't exactly had smooth sailing in his college career. He signed with Oklahoma, but was booted in the summer of 2008 for some off-field issues; the final straw was a misogynistic, obscenity-laced rap video about guns and shooting people that he uploaded onto YouTube. He ended up at Troy; he redshirted in '08, was a backup in 2009 (15 receptions, one TD), then was booted for a violation of team rules in the summer of 2010. He has resurfaced at Arkansas State, a rival of Troy's in the Sun Belt, and he had a huge game Saturday in the Red Wolves' 47-3 destruction of Memphis, with seven catches for 162 yards and two TDs.

Maybe SEC refs are mellowing a bit -- and it's about time. After Georgia's Rantavious Wooten caught a 27-yard TD pass to give the Bulldogs a short-lived 13-7 second-quarter lead against South Carolina, he threw the ball up in the air, then started beating on his chest. Incredibly, there was no excessive celebration penalty on the play, and we say incredibly because SEC refs in the past have thrown flags for far less. Just ask Wooten's former teammate, WR A.J. Green.

For three years in a row, Rivals.com has included FIU WR T.Y. Hilton in our preseason list of the nation's top 100 players. And for three years in a row, we have received emails blasting us for his inclusion, asking how we would deign to rank a Sun Belt player. Well, Hilton once again showed off his skills in Friday night's upset of Louisville, catching seven passes for 201 yards and two TDs. We've been saying it for three years now: Hilton can play for anyone in the nation.

Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson threw three TD passes in the Badgers' 35-0 victory over Oregon State. That gives him five through two games, and he's already almost a quarter of the way to the school single-season record. John Stocco threw 21 TD passes in 2005 to set the mark. Wilson and Wisconsin play Northern Illinois this week; NIU allowed three TD passes to Kansas on Saturday.

BYU fell to 1-1 with its loss to Texas. The loss essentially removes BYU from BCS consideration. No one really was touting the Cougars as a potential BCS-buster anyway. Still, no BCS berth means that if BYU is bowl-eligible, it definitely will play in the Armed Forces Bowl, against a Conference USA team. Remember how BYU used to be in the Mountain West Conference? The Armed Forces Bowl last season had the fourth choice from the Mountain West Conference.

It's probably safe to assume Pittsburgh coach Todd Graham isn't too pleased with how his high-octane offense has fared in his two games with the Panthers. Pitt barely held off FCS member Maine 35-29 Saturday, and starting QB Tino Sunseri was benched in the fourth quarter in favor of true freshman Trey Anderson, who walked-on during fall camp and already has earned a scholarship. Sunseri threw two picks and was sacked seven times.

Last week, FBS teams went 36-2 against FCS opponents. This week, FBS teams went 20-0 against FCS competition.

One of the wildest games Saturday involved an FBS/FCS matchup. Louisiana Tech prevailed 48-42 over Central Arkansas in overtime. Louisiana Tech true freshman QB Nick Isham, just 17 years old, threw for 318 yards and two TDs. Central Arkansas' Nathan Dick, a former Arkansas quarterback, threw for 372 yards and four TDs. Central Arkansas' Jesse Grandy, a former Ole Miss wide receiver, had seven catches for 143 yards and two scores; he also caught a two-point conversion pass from Dick. Louisiana Tech has an SEC transfer of its own, and RB Lennon Creer, who began his career at Tennessee, ran for 177 yards and two TDs, including the game-winner in OT. The teams combined to run 165 plays, with Central running 83 and Tech 82.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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