Charles Dunn might be one of the best running backs you’ve never heard of, mostly because he plays for a Division I-AA program whose most notable football alum is former NFL quarterback Neil Lomax.
The Portland State junior had his second consecutive game of 213 yards rushing as the Vikings rallied to beat Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Saturday, 42-28.
Dunn, a 5-foot-8, 185-pounder from Pasadena Muir High who goes by the nickname “Chip,” is closing in on the school’s career rushing mark and could break it next week when Cal State Northridge visits Civic Stadium. All he needs to do is resemble anything close to what he has done in recent weeks.
After Dunn’s 31-carry effort Saturday, it moved him to 4,044 career yards, second to Curtis Delgardo’s record of 4,178.
Before last week’s 213-yard game against Weber State, Dunn rushed for 185 yards in 30 carries in a victory against Montana State.
Portland State, ranked 17th in the ESPN/USA Today poll this week, is tied for first in the Big Sky Conference with Montana, a team the Vikings defeated, 51-48, earlier this month.
Last year, during a breakout season that saw Dunn rush for 1,561 yards and top the 100-yard mark in eight of 11 games, his best effort came against Sacramento State when he gained 247 yards.
Another big game could be in store for Dunn this week, if history is any indication.
As a freshman, Dunn had the best game of his career to date against Cal State Northridge.
In that game, Dunn rushed for 250 yards, setting the stage for what has transpired the last two seasons.
PENNINGTON ON THE MONEY
So far, nobody has figured out a way to stop Chad Pennington and No. 13 Marshall.
Pennington threw four touchdown passes as the Thundering Herd beat Northern Illinois, 41-9, Saturday.
Pennington completed 26 of 33 passes for 288 yards. He has 26 touchdown passes this season, two more than last year’s total, and third in Division I-A behind Western Michigan’s Tim Lester (29) and Louisville’s Chris Redman (27).
Pennington has 10,236 yards in 2 1/2 major-college seasons and, with 96 touchdown passes, is within four of becoming the third player to pass for 100 touchdowns. Pennington threw for 2,445 yards and 15 touchdowns as a freshman in 1995 but Marshall was in Division I-AA that season.
It marked the fourth time Pennington has thrown four or more touchdowns this season.
“He is so sharp,” said Northern Illinois Coach Joe Novak. “He figures out what you’re doing, and sooner or later, he’s going to lock in on it.”
But don’t think Pennington lets himself get caught up in his success. He was extremely critical of himself after throwing two second-quarter interceptions to keep Northern Illinois in the game at the time.
“The second quarter was the worst quarter I’ve ever played,” Pennington said. “If it was the lowest point of the season, I still feel pretty good about it.”
EX-MOUNTAINEER OF A MAN
As West Virginia was losing at No. 23 Miami for the Mountaineers’ fifth loss in eight games, Curtis Keaton was rushing for his third straight 200-yard effort for James Madison.
So how are these two events connected?
Through Keaton. The running back, who transferred from West Virginia, has become one of Division I-AA’s most dominant players. In a 13-3 victory against South Florida on Saturday, Keaton scored the game’s only touchdown on an 80-yard run and finished with 210 yards in 34 carries for the 7-1 Dukes.
James Madison, picked to finish 10th in the 11-team Atlantic 10 Conference, has won seven in a row after a season-opening loss to No. 3 Virginia Tech.
Last week, Keaton rushed for 237 yards and five touchdowns against Connecticut.
Meanwhile against Miami, the Mountaineers gained just 88 yards in 29 carries and had three fumbles, losing one.
Think they could have used Keaton?
BEWARE OF BULLDOGS
The way this season has gone for USC--with blown leads, crucial penalties, etc.--it doesn’t seem too early to warn the Trojans about what awaits them in their final regular-season game.
All the better to prevent a letdown in a matchup that comes the week after playing UCLA and the day after Thanksgiving, right?
On that Friday, Louisiana Tech comes to the Coliseum with quarterback Tim Rattay in its arsenal, one of the nation’s leading passers.
In a 34-17 victory Saturday against Toledo, Rattay completed 44 of 66 passes for 508 yards and three touchdowns, spreading the ball to eight different Bulldog receivers.
IT’S RAINING BOOS INSIDE DOME
Minnesota Coach Glen Mason got booed at home, first for playing it safe and then for risking it all.
The Golden Gophers fell to No. 18 Purdue, 33-28, Saturday after Mason chose to run out the final two minutes of the first half and then try an onside kick with nearly three minutes left in regulation.
“I was just trying to get in at halftime. The last thing I wanted to do was give Purdue the ball back with time on the clock,” Mason said. “They’re too good. I heard everybody booing. I don’t care.”
And he also didn’t care about the catcalls from the miffed Metrodome crowd when he went for an onside kick with 2:43 remaining after the Golden Gophers had cut Purdue’s lead to 33-28.
“I didn’t want to take a chance of not getting the ball back,” he said.
Purdue quarterback Drew Brees made sure of that as he moved the Boilermakers to the Minnesota 10 before running out the clock.
HEARTBROKEN IN AMES
Iowa State might be on the nation’s most heartbroken team.
Saturday’s 44-41 loss to No. 12 Texas did nothing to dispel the notion as the Cyclones were turned away by a field goal as time expired.
Three of Iowa State’ four losses have been by a total of 14 points, including a 35-28 setback to No. 6 Kansas State.
“We just can’t get over that hump,” Iowa State defensive back Ryan Sloth said. “We need one of these games like this that we win. Then we could get some momentum.”
At 1-4 in the Big 12 Conference standings, it might be a bit too late.
PAIN IN THE . . .
Idled a week ago because of migraines that were believed to be the aftereffects of a concussion, Mike Moschetti proved to be a major headache for Oklahoma on Saturday.
Moschetti, a former La Mirada High and Mt. San Antonio College standout, passed for four touchdowns and ran for one and an aggressive defense had four interceptions as Colorado upended No. 24 Oklahoma, 38-24.
Moschetti completed 22 of 31 passes for 382 yards, including 49- and 88-yard scoring tosses to Javon Green. Not bad for a guy who could barely tolerate the pain of a week ago.
“Today was probably as good as we could play in most respects,” Colorado Coach Gary Barnett said. “That was just a great effort from the heart. I challenged our guys to play that way. Mike Moschetti played particularly well.”
Afterward, the last thing on Moschetti’s mind were the migraines.
“There were times in the game when we had to score because of Oklahoma’s offense,” Moschetti said, “and we went down the field and scored. That’s what I’m most proud of.”
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Pacific 10 teams haven’t done a good job lately of following up on Rose Bowl seasons. UCLA is the fourth Pac-10 team in six seasons to fall flat after a New Year’s Day appearance in Pasadena.
Rose Bowl team Following season
1998: UCLA 3-6
1997: Washington State 3-8
1996: Arizona State 9-3
1995: USC 6-6
1994: Oregon 9-3
1993: UCLA 5-6
--Compiled by Jim Barrero