Larry Coker is making his return to college coaching at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is not inheriting a program of tradition and championships, he is building a program from scratch. UT-San Antonio will begin playing FCS football in 2011 with hopes to move on to FBS a few years after that. The Roadrunners have brought back Coker to coaching in the hopes he will ignite college football in a big city in a state where football is king. Coker and San Antonio hope that he can rekindle that magic he had for a few years in Coral Gables.
Coker had been a lifetime assistant at schools like Oklahoma, Ohio State, and was the offensive coordinator at Miami under Butch Davis. When Davis left for the Cleveland Browns following the 2000 season, the players lobbied for Coker to get the job. At that point how could the administration argue with the players' desires? The 2001 Hurricane team is regarded by many as the best college football team of all time. Coker led the Canes to an undefeated season and national championship. He went 31-1 to start his head coaching career. It started to go downhill from there however. The recruiting slipped, losses mounted, and Coker began to feel the heat. In his final season, 2006, the Canes lossed defensive player Bryan Pata to murder and had an on-the-field brawl with FIU. The brawl is one of the first things people point to when they accuse the U of being "thugs". Coker was fired after the final game of the regular season after amassing a 60-15 record (that's an .800 win percentage).
I firmly believe that Coker got a bad shake of things. Current head coach Randy Shannon was the defensive coordinator on the team but the problem was with the offense. Coker never found a suitable replacement for himself, and the Miami offense turned anemic. Shannon was drowning in the same predicament until he hired Mark Whipple in the offseason. The Canes offense has seen a resurgence so far this year. It is hard to gauge how Coker is remembered by the Miami faithful. He should be remembered for guiding the ship to success after Butch Davis fled. Yet most will see him as the coach who let Miami slip into mediocrity in the middle part of this decade.
When I was at Miami and waiting on line for tickets to the 2003 Fiesta Bowl Coker came by and thanked the fans and provided pizza for us who were waiting in the rain. No one ever doubted Coker as a person and that will be a big strength for him as he builds the program. I will be rooting for the Roadrunners when they start their program up in 2011.
The hiring of Coker is similar to what Georgia State is doing with their start-up football team. They begin play next year with NFL and college coaching veteran Bill Curry at the helm. What better way to introduce football to these big urban areas than by bringing in a coach with the experience and credentials to succeed. Many more programs are entering the football fray in these instances, like Charlotte who will begin their college football in 2013. The addition of these big names might bring along bigger expectations from teams that are coming out of nowhere, but Jim Leavitt has been able to bring South Florida out of obscurity to rankings in the polls so the future may be coming quick.
Coker, Who Won It All at Miami, Starts Over With Nothing [NYT]
Wednesday, September 30
Tuesday, September 29
There are two questions surrounding Tim Tebow's concussion. Neither involve Conan O'Brien's concussion but here's hoping he gets well also. The most important one is when he should return. Fortunately the Gators have a bye week before heading down the Baton Rouge to face the Tigers, at night. But is that enough time for Tebow's halo-encompassed cranium to proerly heal? Orson over at EDSBS does not think so (the comments section has some good info and perspectives as well). The main argument is that when someone suffers an injury like this they are more likely to suffer it again. Considering that Tebow has been rushing the ball quite often the last few games, one has to think Florida is going to curtail his rumbling.
Now Tebow being the great competitor that he is (that is said without sarcasm, the dude is a gamer) is going to most likely lobby for the status quo when it comes to playcalling. Add to the fact that the UF receivers have shown a sliver of the ability that Harvin and Murphy provided last year and it seems that Tebow will again be charging into opposing defenses. We have seen NFL quarterbacks take these shots again and again which led to their retirement. Troy Aikman, Steve Young, and most recently Trent Edwards. There is no replacing or repairing the noggin and when it gets rattled, it is serious trouble. Maybe even a more appropriate example is former Carolina linebacker Dan Morgan. Morgan suffered repeated concussion and was forced to retire before his Pro Bowl career reached its fulfillment. The way Tebow runs makes him more alike to Morgan that the others mentioned.
I am positive that Florida's medical staff is working around the clock to ensure Tebow is ready and cleared to play against LSU but the decision will ultimately be up to Tebow and I think we all know what he will choose. Although I rip Tebow for the media hype that surrounds him, it is unfortunate that he is injured and if this affects how the college season plays out. On the flip side, a worse scenario is him returning and the Gators winning it all in which he will be instantly canonized as a living deity and his concussion MRI is installed on a plaque outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
The second question to answer is more hindsight in nature and has already been bantered on at length but: WTF was Tebow doing in the game at that point? If you take away the fact that Florida was dominating the game and it was late in the 3rd quarter, Tebow was ill before the game even started. All day long TWWL's bottom line informed me that Tim was suffering from a "respiratory illness" and flew on a separate plane to Kentucky. When he was carted off it suddenly became a possible case of the flu. Bottom line, he was not fully healthy so why extend him in a game that was already secure. Put Brantley in,have him hand it off and get out of Dodge. Not everyone agrees on this point but I think the Tebow illness beforehand should have made the decision. If it is pertinent enough to be a headline, then I am sure it was a concern for Florida before the game took place.
I am not trying to go all Al Pacino on everyone, but after watching the games this week it really hits home how much a game of inches professional football really is. One play, catch, drop, penalty, or missed tackle your team is in crisis mode instead of yocals screaming Super Bowl aspirations on the radio. With the microscope permanently fixed on the landscape of the NFL, those plays are seen over and over again and talked about ad nauseum until the weekend gives us a similar set of plays to discuss. I, as a fan, have been on the uplifting side of the slim margins, and I have watched everything slip away by the fingertips of fate. It is why we hate and love being fans at the same time and this week we look at instances of inches that have teams going in different directions.
Justin Leonard Leaps For The First
A lot of glory will rightfully go to Cinicnnati Bengals QB Carson Palmer and Andre Caldwell (who is the the brother of Reche, but apparently the eye-bulging is not a shared genetic trait) who connected on the game-winning TD in the 23-20 Bengals win, but it was a key 4th down play that allowed that to even happen. It was a tremendous drive by the Bengals, but they were faced with a 4th down and Palmer checked down to Leonard in the flat. Leonard, who was featured on Hard Knocks this season outraced James Farrior and dove across the sticks. If he falls short, the game is over and the Bengals are saying "here we go again" to themselves. Instead it is the Steelers who are looking inward at 1-2 with the Bengals one freak play away from being 3-0.
The Redskins Stopped Short
The Hogs are taking the brunt of criticism this week after being the first team to lose to the Lions since 2007. The Lions eluded fail by downing the Skins 19-14. The inches in this game were the ones that Clinton Portis failed to get on 4th down from the goal line. Portis was stopped just shy of the endzone in the first half. The loss of those 7 points turned out to be the difference. The Lions winning a game was inevitable, but of course nobody wanted to be the first to break the streak. The hot topic in DC is now the hot seat that resides under the posterior of Jim Zorn. The players have come out and shown support and having Tampa at home this week helps, but it is hard to believe that a team could be in this much turmoil after only 3 weeks. I just hope Zorn is not looking to L. Ron Hubbard for guidance.
Sigh, He Is Still A Kid Out There
The inches in this case belong to receiver Greg Lewis, but the man who delivered the ball is getting all the attention. How lucky for TWWL that they have the Vikings for MNF against the Packers. If you dislike Wrangler jean commercials and discussion of number 4, stay away from ESPN this week. Maybe the "Best Damn" lists from Fox can sate you. Favre made the tremdous 32 yard pass to Lewis in the back of the endzone to give Minnesota a 27-24 win over San Francisco and move the Vikes to 3-0. Really a spectacular play by Lewis who was cut in preseason by the Patriots and now may have new life in Minnesota or become the Tyree of this regular season. I am not sure if Lewis was cognizant of his first foot being inside the line but he did drag the second one. The Niners are still 2-1 and with Arizona and Seattle looking bad, the division could be theirs this year.
-Mark Sanchez is doing well at the helm, but let's not anoint him yet. Joe Flacco did the same kind of game management for a Rex Ryan defense last year. If Sanchez can develop like Flacco seems to be, then he may don said crown. Tough week for Ryan Mouton who muffed a punt and fumbled a kickoff which was pretty much the difference in the Jets 24-17 win. Titans 0-3, eep.
-The inches the penalty flag flew on Muhsin Muhammad's offensive pass interference call last night in Dallas is unknown, but what I do know what that it was a horrible call that erased a touchdown and helped secure the Cowboys 21-7 win. CB Mike Jenkins was riding Muhammad way past the 5-yard zone and if you are going to let that go, then you have to let Muhsin's hand on Jenkins' shoulder pad go.
Sunday, September 27
Everyone certainly got caught up in the hype didn't they? Miami was a team that some predicted to go 0-4 to start the season when looking at the gauntlet schedule of at FSU, Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech, and Oklahoma. Yet after two big wins the ridiculous rants came in from all sides.
The worst among them were (not surprisingly) from Canes fans. Check any message board or comments section from a UM related post and there were the inane statements such as:
"The U is back!"
"Jacory for Heisman!"
"We're running the table!"
"The swagger is back!"
"It's just like the early 2000s!"
Delusional Miami fans were not the only ones. Leading the hype machine in the media was ESPN, who after ignoring the U when they had been down the last couple years, began to see good ratings for Miami's Labor day and Thursday night game. Suddenly every show was discussing them, Herbstreit had them in his top 5, and everyone on the gameday set was picking them to beat Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. This of course led to all the idiots watching TWWL to regurgitate that sentiments that Miami was indeed back and Jacory Harris was no doubt impermeable to mortal forces. Virginia Tech ended all the discussions yesterday with a 31-7 win.
Not that some of the praise was without cause, Miami's offense looked good, the defense had a great performance against a Georgia Tech team that scorched them last year, and the team had some confidence. Even I allowed my hopes to get up after the 2-0 start. If we had won yesterday it would have been a 3-0 ACC start with the tiebreaker over the best two teams in the division. Even Hokie prognosticators were predicting Miami to win.
It all came crashing down yesterday though. The skies opened up, Harris fumbled after a blitzer came free, tackles were missed, Matt Bosher (BOSHER!) happened again, passes were dropped, and the muffs did not bounce the Canes way. This should be a good lesson for the Canes. Perhaps they got a little ahead of themselves and thought it was going to be easier to walk into one of the toughest places to play and beat a team that had its pride hurt twice in the early season. Now the Canes can scrap any nonsensical national title talk because as of right now they are not even leading their own division in the ACC. I hope this reality check brings back the focus and urgency we saw in the first two games for this Saturday when Oklahoma comes to town.
Miami is not back, because back for Miami means competing at a national championship level every single game. All the great Miami teams never had a game like this. This week instead of reaping in praise from the media and fans, the Hurricanes should focus solely on how to beat Oklahoma. If they need a reminder bigger than the beating the Hokies put on them, they should bring out the tape of the last meeting they had with Oklahoma in Norman two years ago when they got undressed 51-13.
Friday, September 25
Starting tomorrow at noon there will be a parade of games that are worth tuning into. There may be no shifting on the national landscape of college football but there are some critical match-ups and a chance to get a sense of where teams stand.
(9)Miami @ (11) Virginia Tech, 3:30 on ABC
Even as a Miami fan I am tired of the question of whether the U is back or not. I still say no but just look at the commenting thread on any of the bevy of articles on UM this week and you will see such gems stating how the U is back and cannot be beat. Anyone can be beat in Blacksburg and as Tyrod Taylor showed last week, the Hokies do not even need to be in control of the game to pull one out. Still, as Chris Brown points out the passing attack of the Canes has been formidable even in its simplicity. This game more than likely comes down to Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple vs. legendary defensive coordinator for Tech Bud Foster. Whoever wins gets a leg up in the ACC and will be in the top ten come next week.
(6) Cal @ Oregon, 3:30 on ABC
You may be saying, "Cleet, these first two games are at the same time?!" Well while I will be paying full attention to the game above, no reason why this game should not occupy your attention during commercials and timeouts. Last week in casual conversation Catfish mentioned to me how Michigan State was the Clemson of the midwest. Clemson is known for being a team with high expectations from their fans who attract good talent and maybe have one year or two where their program was the best in the land yet always fall flat on their faces. I concurred with his observation and took it further by saying Cal is the Clemson of the west. Here is step 1 to proving me wrong. Cal travels to Eugene tomorrow to take on a Oregon team that just snapped the longest FBS winning streak in the country by beating Utah. When Cal has high hopes, it usually drops one of these Pac-Ten games. Now with USC losing to Washington, Cal has the inside track on the conference title if they can beat the Ducks and then beat USC next week at home. It is a tall order for sure, but the Bears have been hyped up and they have the premiere player in Jahvid Best. You know how when each season starts the Heisman hype is beyond annoying and the lead candidate usually lacks the big performances to back it up? Well enter Best who is averaging 7.8 yards per carry and has 8 rushing TDs through 3 games. I will pause a moment to allow that to sink in. If Oregon wants any chance in this game, they have to put Best on the ground.
Iowa @ Penn State, 8:00 on ABC
I am really not being ABC's boy here, I swear. Most mention of this being the Saturday night big game is being met with groans and eye rolls. However, considering Penn State has played Akron, Syracuse, and Temple nobody really knows what they can do. There is the revenge factor for the Lions since Iowa crushed their title hopes a year ago, but to me this is more of a battle for who will occupy the spot of contender for the Big Ten title with Ohio State. Iowa fans have been praying for the Kirk Ferentz to take the big leap with the program and once again their hopes are high. Do not expect many fireworks here, both teams will put forth solid defensive efforts and the 20 point barrier may not be crossed, by both teams combined. But if Penn State loses the Big Ten will have a huge identity crisis now that their two featured schools will be all but out of the title picture.
Thursday, September 24
One of the events we missed covering from being away last week was the passing of Patrick Swayze. I was amazed at how many people shared my affinity for Dalton and Bodhi. It's never to late for a nod to the man who taught us that "pain don't hurt." RIP and Vaya con Dios.
A preview of the Miami-Virginia Tech match-up featuring the keys to the game for both sides. [Gobbler Country]
Speaking of that game, the guys over on the 7th floor are trying to come up with the definitive nickname for Jacory Harris. [7th Floor Blog]
A bit of optimism for the worst teams of college football. [Rumors and Rants]
Too soon? Steve McNair's death mocked in the nameof Halloween. [Sportress of Blogitude]
Rex Ryan has another phone message for Jets fans for the Titans game this Sunday. [KSK]
The best leaps in college football. [Bleacher Report]
A dust storm rolled over Sydney yesterday turning it into a life-like simulation of Mars, without Cohagen, Quaid, or Michael Ironside. [YBNBY]
The MLB playoffs are right around the corner, which means it's time for A-Rod to commence choking. [Bugs and Cranks]
Hockey is back! Yes you are probably just as enthused as I am and what better way to discuss which teams will make the playoffs than through the eyes of Vegas. [Puck Daddy]
Wednesday, September 23
One of the most anticipated games of the week and the season in college football occurred Saturday with a mild 23-13 result. It was one of my top ten games to watch the entire season. The thought was that Urban Meyer was so infused with wrath that he was going to light up the scoreboard at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium like Bastille Day. So it was a surprise to many that the Vols hung tough with the first-ranked Gators Saturday in Gainsville. For all the warnings about the incoming wrath of Pope Urban and Lord Tebow, Tennessee being out-manned, and the Gator fans screaming for blood, it was a pretty darn well contested match-up.
No one was disregarding Monte Kiffin and his defensive genius, but the popular thought was that Tennessee did not have the personnel to stop the incoming onslaught of Gator offense. However, Kiffin together with defensive line coach Ed Ogeron showed just how well they could put together a gameplan. What really helped the Vols was the play of safety Eric Berry who flew all over the field making tackles and intercepted Tebow. Berry cemented his top ten pick status on the field, but in the end it was not enough to overcome the Gators offense. The 28 and 30 point spreads though, suddenly looked ridiculous.
So it a hard fought game and it appeared after a brush-by handshake by Kiffin and Meyer that everyone could move on with their season. But no, once again the words of the two coaches have sucked everyone into the vortex once again. It was Meyer firing shots at Kiffin first, insinuating that Kiffin was just playing ball control and not trying to win the game.
"When I saw them start handing the ball off, I didn't feel like they were going after the win,"
Why would a two-time national champion even bother to say this after the game was already won? Because this is who Meyer is, bottom line. He is one of the best coaches, if not the best, in the country there is no disputing that but his insistence on embarrassing opponents on the field and thin skin when it comes to his adversaries is getting old for UF detractors.
Kiffin of course refused to hold back and came back with this salvo:
"This offseason the commissioner made a big deal of renewing vows in terms of what we say about other teams, other coaches and other players," Kiffin said. "Obviously Urban feels he doesn't need to follow that. We won't say anything else."
In regards to Meyer playing up the fact that members of his team had flu symptoms before and Saturday's game, Kiffin lofted this grenade:
"I guess we'll wait and after we're not excited about a performance, we'll tell you everybody was sick."
With the rest of the season to go for the national title, it only plays to this notion that Meyer and the Gators wanted to embarrass Tennessee for them to make such statements after the game was over and won.
My favorite quote out of these shenanigans was from Meyer alluding to the pace of the game:
"The way we lose a game there is throw an interception. Why put yourself in that position? Let's find a way to win the game. We're not trying to impress the pollsters."
So is this really how Meyer feels about Tebow's ability to throw the ball? For all the rebuking about Tebow's lack of passing ability his own head coach said he was hesitant to throw the ball in a contested game because of a possible second interception by the defense. Urban knew where Tebow's strength lies, running the read option and carrying the ball in short yardage for first downs. Tebow ended the day with 24 rushes. This appears to be the same strategy that lead to the Ole Miss loss last year for Florida, and there is no Percy Harvin to turn to this year.
So the Gators were sick and just playing down to their competition on Saturday. They are not trying to impress pollsters, they just want to win big to stick it to their opponents. Perhaps Meyer has that confidence because he knows as long as his team wins the SEC and has no more than 1 loss, the BCS title game is all but guaranteed. In this case, since Florida is scrutinized and receives as much praise as any college team in the country, they should just focus on the task at hand and leave the Volunteers in the dust and out of the papers.
Kiffin rebuffs Meyer's comments [ESPN]
Tuesday, September 22
With the first two weeks of the NFL season in the books, the pundits are out in force to point out that teams that lose their opening two games have a very small percent chance of making the playoffs. Until last season, they enjoyed using the “Since 2000...” stat, but with three teams making the playoffs after losing two straight to open the season and with the Giants as the then reigning champions, despite an 0-2 start, many have switched back to “Since 1990...” representing the expansion of the league from 14 to 16 games and from ten to twelve teams in the playoffs.
So here are the stats:
Since 2000, only nine of 79 teams that began the season 0-2, made the playoffs.
Since 1990, only 22 of 160 teams that began the season 0-2, made the playoffs.
Annually, these stats have suggested that good teams have had a less than 15% chance to make the playoffs if they get off to a slow start. This is a bit of a red herring, however, because they include the often futile efforts of teams like the Rams, Browns, Lions and Bengals, as well as four expansion teams. With this in mind, let's take a look at the true impact of going 0-2.
Of the 160 teams that have started 0-2 since 1990, 44 (27.5%) won six or less games both the year prior and the year they started winless (Think Shula/Coslet era Bengals, Kotite's Jets, or Mornhinweg's Lions). These are bad teams that serve only to negatively skew the perceived chance that good teams have to make the playoffs after a slow start. More than half, 92, weren't above .500 in either the year before or during the 0-2 season. While some were decent teams, their statistical merit when considering the chances for teams such as the 0-2 Panthers, Dolphins and Titans (all playoff teams from a year ago), is negligible.
What we're left with are 68 teams that were over .500 either the year before or the year they began 0-2. So of these 68 nearly a third, 22, made the playoffs and of the 43 teams that made the playoffs prior to their 0-2 start, nine (20.9%) made the playoffs the following season. This stat, however isn't without it's own skewing. More than a handful of these teams had to deal severe injuries, retirements, etc. that lead to a dramatic decrease in their record (four or more additional losses). A quick glance reveals at least 10 teams that had significant changes that severely hurt the team's ability to make the playoffs.
1992 Jets – Contract dispute with quarterback Ken O'Brien ushers in the Browning Nagle era.
1994 Oilers – Departure of Warren Moon leaves the team in the less than capable hands of Billy Joe Tolliver, Bucky Richardson and Cody Carlson.
1996 Falcons – Sideline tirade after week 3 leads to Jeff George being waived and 36 year-old Bobby Hebert taking over.
1998 Lions – Replaced quarterback Scott Mitchell with rookie Charlie Batch.
1999 Falcons – Jamal Anderson blows out his knee leaving Ken Oxendine as the team's leading rusher.
1999 Jets – Vinny Testaverde tears his achilles' tendon week one, beginning the Ray Lucas and Rick Mirer era.
1999 Broncos – John Elway retires and Terrell Davis tears up his knee.
2001 Vikings – Robert Smith retires after four straight 1,000 yeard years, leaving rookie Michael Bennett to carry the workload.
2004 Chiefs – Priest Holmes suffers (effective) career-ending neck injury after 8 games while on pace to break single-season touchdown record.
2005 Packers – Injuries to leading rusher Ahman Green and leading receiver Javon Walker.
While the Titans saw a defensive tackle walk in free agency and the Panthers lost one due to injury, the cores of all three winless playoff teams from a year ago remain intact. Removing the ten teams that had substantial changes from consideration means nine of 33 playoff teams that started 0-2 the year after, still managed to make the playoffs. If we deduct 10 from the 68 “good teams” that went 0-2, 22 of 58 (38%) made the playoffs following this “death blow” beginning to the season. Going 0-2 certainly hurts a team's chance to make the playoffs, particularly in a conference like this year's NFC where there is tremendous balance, but more often than not it's the tougher schedule over 16 weeks and perhaps having some free agents being poached that has much more impact. An 0-2 start is not optimal, but it certainly doesn't mean the season's over, particularly for good teams.
The ending of "Black" by Pearl Jam in the background is a perfect touch while he is bent over the can pondering the state of his semi-conscious mind.
via World of Isaac
Lions fans are never to be outdone.
One of the events of last week while we were in blackout mode was the U.S. Open final between Roger Federer and Juan Martin Del Potro. Del Potro beat Rafael Nadal and Federer in consecutive matches to win the U.S. Open title handing Roger his first loss in New York since 2003. Federer had chances to close out the match but the younger Del Potro had a motor and a hefty forehand. At one point Roger was even reduced to swearing at the official for allowing what he thought was a late challenge.
Another year, another failure to get Federer and Nadal in a Grand Slam finals. This year, it seems injuries have caught up with Nadal. If it is not his knee, it is an abdominal injury. Last year when Nadal could not keep up in the U.S. Open after winning the French, Wimbledon, and an Olympic medal Catfish ruminated as to whether Nadal was tennis' version of D-Wade. The man pushes himself so hard so often that maybe Nadal will use a different approach entering next year's Grand Slam run.
It has been well over a year since one of the greatest matches ever and we have yet to see another Grand Slam final between to two titans of tennis. We may not see another; with Nadal's injuries and Federer approaching 30, perhaps we will not be that lucky. This got me thinking about the greatest tennis rivalry of the previous generation, Sampras-Agassi. While Nadal and Federer have met 7 times for a Grand Slam title compared to Pete and Andre's 5, the latter had the ability to capture the nation because they were Americans and prevalent in the landscape of sports during the 90s and early 2000s. It is unfortunate that no American has risen up to challenge these Nadal or Federer or that they are not as appreciated for their accomplishments because they are not American.
Besides their nationalities, Pete and Andre had everything you could want in a sports rivalry. They had distinctly polar personalities; Andre was always outgoing and loved the attention even after he dropped the "image is everything" label while Pete was more shy and retiring. Pete is arguably the game's best server ever not only because of his power but his accuracy and timing. Andre is just about undisputed in his title of best returner of all-time. Their rivalry began back when they were just kids training to become greats and lasted throughout their careers. Sampras won the most majors and 20-14 over Andre including 4-1 in Slam finals yet Andre had more fans and completed the career slam. Below are the highlights from one of their best matches, the 2001 quarterfinal final which went to four straight tie-breakers while neither man was broken on serve.
Last night in muggy Miami Peyton Manning found an undrafted second season wideout from Mount Union college for the game-winning 48 yard touchdown. His name is Pierre Garcon. It was his only catch of the game but he displayed his great speed dashing away from Dolphin defenders. The score secured a 27-23 victory for the Colts and thanks to one of the worst cases of clock management by Miami the Dolphins could not muster a comeback. While it may seem that the name Pierre would only be found in an uppity French restaurant or on the streets of France, there are a few Pierres making news in the NFL so far this year.
Last Monday night it was Pierre Woods of the Patriots stripping Leodis McElvin of the ball on a kickoff return which got the Patriots another chance to drive down for the winning score.
Perhaps the most well known Pierre is Pierre Thomas of the Saints. So far he has only drawn the ire of Fantasy players because he was had a sprained MCL and has only touched the ball once this season.
For general knowledge Pierre is the French form of Peter and the name means "rock" or "stone".
Monday, September 21
A new week and the ASD is hoping to get back into regular functional mode. Of course any discussion begins and ends with the football right now. The space between week 2 and week 3 is always an interesting one filled with hyperbole. Teams at 2-0 have their fanbases thinking Super Bowl. The 1-1 teams appear to be on the fence and either falling into "we're ok" territory or into panic mode in week 3. The 0-2 teams will certainly be faced with "the sky is falling" prognostications. In this recap of week 2 a team at each record will be profiled as well as assumptions about the state of all teams will be made even though I believe it is too early to make them. If the mainstream media can be duplicitous, why can't I?
2-0: Baltimore Ravens
Last year it was Joe Flacco learning as the season progressed and being carried by the defense. You get the sense so far this year Flacco and the offense will be pulling their own weight. The Ravens' QB has 497 yards and 5 TDs in the young season. The running game has also been impressive led by Willis McGahee who had 2 scores yesterday in their 31-26 win over the Chargers. The defense has been intense as always but maybe something is not quite there without Rex Ryan and Bart Scott. The Ravens' have given up 24 and 26 points in their first 2 games. Last season they only gave up those numbers 5 times. Confidence has to be high for the defense to right the ship, the hope for them is that the offense continues to roll. The addition of Al Saunders as a "consultant" for the offense has put some new imagination into the passing game, particularly the short passing game and it has the Ravens offense in a good place right now. Baltimore gets the early season nod, especially since they can say they hold sole possession of first place in the AFC North after the Steelers lost in Chicago. Baltimore does not have to face Pittsburgh until the final week of November and it may be then when we find out what this team is truly capable of.
1-1: New England Patriots
It is always good to admit when you are wrong, at least that is what the female population tells me, so I feel a bit like Happy Gilmore apologizing to Chubbs today. Not only did I think the Patriots were going to win this game, I thought Mark Sanchez would be brought down to Earth. While it was not the embarrassment Kerry Rhodes desired during the week's chatter, it was an impressive performance by the Jets' defense 16-9. Sanchez did not turn the ball over and made some key passes early in the second half to get the job done. It is hard to decipher what this all means for the Patriots. The company line this week will certainly be that it was just one week and that they can work on improving, but huge questions loom for this team.
Although rookie Julian Edelman had a nine catch day filling in Wes Welker who was hurt, he had some communication errors and dropped passes. The Jets knew with Welker out, they couldfocus even more onstopping Randy Moss who only had 24 yards receiving. The one time Brady tried to go deep to Moss he was picked off. The offensive line was a question going into this season for the Pats and after the first 2 games the question has been answered: this line is failing to protect Brady. I always enjoy analysts saying that "Brady does not throw as well when he is getting pressured." or "He does not like to get knocked down and hurried." Can you tell me what quarterback does? Add the knee recovery and Brady seems off on a lot of his throws. The passes that he was hitting with ease two years ago are now going high, off target, or a split-second too late. The lack of a running game also puts more pressure on Brady's shoulders. The Pats offense is evolving into the Colts offense of the early decade before they started running the ball. On defense it is a simple numbers game. Belichick is known for being able to plug players into roles filled by veterans and have them perform well, but he has never had to replace this many at one time. The injury to 2nd-year linebacker Jerod Mayo does not help either. Mayo was essentially taking Bruschi's role as leader of the defense but he is out until mid-season. It is hard to bet against this team from improving, and yesterday they did only yield one touchdown. However, anyone with delusions about the Brady return bringing about a repeat of 2007 can wipe that notion from their head quick, this team is going to be in a fight for a playoff spot.
0-2: Carolina Panthers
Moral victories get you nowhere in the NFL, just ask the Lions. The Panthers were a 12 win team last year and expectations were high for this season. Carolina had a hard fought loss 28-20 in Atlanta yesterday but playing better than their week 1 blowout at the hands of Philly does not comfort Panther fans. Once again turnovers hurt the Panthers but Jake Delhomme was not the biggest source of the problem. He and Steve Smith connected 8 times for 131 yards but a late fumble by DeAngelo Williams was very costly. The Panthers defense could not stop the Falcons from moving the ball and had problems guarding Tony Gonzalez near the goal line. With the Panthers facing Dallas next week in the new behemoth of a stadium, 0-3 is a definite possibility.
Despite Carolina's 12-4 record last year there are few in media that know much about this team. They know Steve Smith and Julius Peppers and they can wax poetic about how foolhardy it was to give Jake Delhomme a 5 year extension in the off-season, but they glance at a roster sheet and say, "Can you believe that the same team that went 12-4 last year is winless this year?!" Therein lies the great mystery. This is the NFL, the most covered league in the country and national media still have no clue what goes on inside small(er) markets. The entire O-line is back for the Panthers yes, along with "Double Trouble" at RB and pretty much their entire offense. They did lose two key back-ups on the line though and have a new QB coach. Defensively is where the team has suffered the most change. They lost their big run stopper Maake Kemoeatu in training camp, their safety Chris Harris has not played a down this year, and have a first-time starter at CB. People like to point to Julius Peppers as their big defensive signing but he swallowed up over $17 of cap space and those who watch this team know Pep is not always max effort all the time. Add a new defensive coordinator to the mix and it means the Panthers are facing more internal challenges than a year ago. Not a comforting thought when they have repeatedly mortgaged future draft picks away to keep this version of the team on the field.
The rest of the early season praise/panic:
Jets- Before you get all excited Jets' fans, remember how last year started...and ended.
Denver- Ladies and gentlemen, Kyle Orton is 2-0 in Denver. Everyone has to be thinking this won't last.
Giants- Former defensive backs from the U had all the interceptions for the Giants last night, I assume a fruitbasket is in the mail to Romo.
Minnesota- Things are going according to plan.
Atlanta- This team looks strong. Beatable, but strong.
New Orleans- They struggle for a game or two with their own mistakes, but it is hard to see any team outscoring them.
San Francisco- Break out the Catfish surprise playoff team that he projected at the end of last year.
Buffalo- Team showed grit bouncing back, but I still see .500 in their future.
Cincinnati- Who knows? Week 1 they looked putrid against Denver and yesterday they go into Lambeau and score 31.
Pittsburgh- Played well enough to win yesterday, no one is panicking at all nor should they.
Houston- Much like Cincy they are hard to nail down. Horrific performance week 1, and surprising win in Tennessee week 2.
Oakland- If Louis Murphy had just held onto that ball the Raiders would be 2-0. This team has talent, too bad it does not appear to be at the QB position.
San Diego- Here we go again. We thought the Chargers could coast to the AFC West but it looks like another long road.
Dallas- More shots on television of Jerry Jones please.
Philadelphia- For all the talk of quarterbacks, I don't think this team can win without McNabb.
Washington- This team is pathetic. Something has to change, the QB, the coach, something there is no way this team should look as poor as it does on the field.
Chicago- The comeback win yesterday could turn the whole season around.
Green Bay- Cannot afford losses like yesterday's if they want to finish ahead of Minnesota.
Arizona- This team is not finished yet, especially if they take down Indy at home next week.
Seattle- No Hasselbeck, no chance.
Cleveland- Good night Cleveland! There will be no encore.
Jacksonville- The bell tolls for thee, Del Rio.
Tennessee- I cannot think that a Jeff Fisher team will not turn this around, but if Houston is for real it gets dicey.
Kansas City- Not so simple is it Todd and Matt?
Detroit- They are inching ever so closer....to being able to win 1 football game.
Tampa Bay- That "we're rebuilding" crutch might break under the weight of its extensive use.
St. Louis- Not a pretty sight. Not at all.
Friday, September 18
Wednesday, September 16
Due to circumstances beyond our control we will be away from the blog until later this week or into next week. Unfortunate since there has been such a bevy of activity from NFL week 1, the U.S. Open, and Kanye West. I hope to be back up and running tomorrow. Thanks for your patience.
Thursday, September 10
While we have spent a majority of the last month focusing on college football, today is the day when the big brother NFL kicks off. There is a large contingent of people who say that this is the true kickoff of the football season. The Titans face the defending champion Steelers in the opening game. We throw our ASD predictions into the pot at the last possible second after reading and hearing all the analysis from the so-called "experts". One thing that irks me is the fact that strength of schedule is always brought up in the NFL when clearly the trend this decade is that there will be a group of playoff teams that completely fall off and some surprise teams will rise up. That is the parody of the NFL; it's not that each year any team can flip-flop into a winner or loser, there are the elite teams at the top, the horrible franchises at the bottom, and the teams in the middle oscillate between being an upstart playoff team and double-digit losses. Each division is picked in order of predicted finish and the playoffs as well after the break.
New England Patriots: The Patriots will not and cannot be as dominating as they were two seasons ago. First off, they are replacing 6 starters on defense that had years of experience in the league and under Belichick's system. This does not mean that they cannot be a sturdy crew. Also, after Brady went down last year I think a bit of restraint will go into Belichick's head. If they are up 20 in the 4th, Brady is coming out and they are running the clock out. The 2007 season was a once in a lifetime run at perfection for the Patriots, and they failed. Now it is a matter of trying to get their hands on the Lombardi trophy and nothing else. The offense should be firing on all cylinders once again with Brady and the Pats should be able to attain 12 wins.
Miami Dolphins: While the Dolphins will finish second, I do not see the playoffs in their season this year. They will not sneak up on anyone this year. Teams will be gearing up to stop the wildcat and whatever offensive coordinator Dan Henning has cooked up with Pat White. Tony Soprano has the team moving in the right direction as a whole, but the Dolphins will not catch the good fortune they had last year. The wildcat is said to produce 5.5 yards per play which is impressive, but something that sticks in my mind is this: Last year at the end of the season the Dolphins played New England again after carving them up in Foxboro with the wildcat and in that rematch the wildcat only netted 25 yards. In the Dolphins' wild-card round playoff loss to Baltimore they had only 7 yards from the formation. In other words, the wildcat gimmick can work in the NFL but if you run into a team that has seen it before and has the good players to stop it, it can be stopped.
New York Jets: This pick is made mostly due to what Rex Ryan will being to the Jets' defense. Besides being a great defensive mind, Ryan gets players excited to play defense for him and they believe that they can beat anybody. I do see the Jets struggling on offense though. Mark Sanchez is going to find that he is not picking apart the Oregon secondary with 12 seconds to throw the ball. He is going to have to make split-second decisions and fit balls in very tight spaces and while in the long run I think he has what it takes to be a successful NFL QB, for right now it will be a learning process that will handcuff the ability for New York to score.
Buffalo Bills: Even TO could not believe all the people waiting for him in the airport when he arrived in Buffalo. Have these people not learned to get their hopes up? Ignoring the fact that the offense was abysmal in the preseason, the Bills have questions on the offensive line and linebacker. Can former Penn State stars Aaron Maybin and Paul Posluszny anchor down their defense? People want to believe that bringing one aging star who gets a bevy of media attention can fix all the cracks within the team but in this league that is not the case. I foresee not a total disaster this year for the Bills, but one that is far from playoff contention.
Pittsburgh Steelers: You would be hard-pressed to find someone this side of Baltimore than does not have the Steelers taking this division again. Everyone from their core that won the Super Bowl is back, including reigning defensive player of the year and White House detractor James Harrison. With the defense expected to be every bit as staunch as it was and the offense continuing to evolve in the passing game, Pittsburgh once again claims the division and most likely the number one seed in the AFC.
Baltimore Ravens: In another case of last year repeating the Ravens should finish right below the Steelers in the division. The loss of Rex Ryan and Bart Scott does have an impact but with Suggs, Ray-Lew, and Ed Reed patrolling the backfield Baltimore will have a chance to win every game they play. The key to this year's team is the development of Joe Flacco. he was able to be "game manager" last year but if Baltimore succeeds they need him to make plays when they run into teams with similarly strong defenses. A healthy Todd Heap would go a long way into making that happen.
Cincinnati Bengals: I thoroughly enjoyed watch "Hard-Knocks" on HBO. I think it gave a great glimpse into how the Bengals are working to eradicate their recent history of fail. The uncomfortable feelings also oozed through the TV whenever team president Mike Brown was running a meeting, talking to Andre Brown, or giving his thoughts on the team. When Marvin Lewis and coaches talk, you believe their optimism and you want to root for them. When the Don Rickles look-alike Brown was giving his thoughts, you felt like you needed a shower. I have every confidence that Carson Palmer and Chad Ocho Cinco will deliver big seasons this year and that the Bengals will be around if not above .500 but fall short of the playoffs. Is the over/under on Andre Brown field time this year 30 minutes?
Cleveland Browns: There is no reason for me to believe the Browns are going to turn the corner this year. It took them this long to name Brady Quinn the starter and while Browns' fans may like the result,what took so long? If Quinn is such a better option than Anderson, why did it take this long? Mangini trying to be coy? It all points to the fact in my opinion that the Browns are not ready to put together a successful season. I can honestly see them going 1-5 in the division.
Houston Texans That's right, you're reading that correctly. No, I would not bet the farm on this prediction but I jumped on this bandwagon last year and I feel the only way to exceed the simple surprise playoff predictions from most analysts is to bite the big one and say that the Texans will finish ahead of the Titans and Colts. Gary Kubiak has the offense where he wants it, the defense will be the question. Outside of DeMario Williams can you name another defensive starter? They will have to make themselves known if the Texans plan to win. New linebacker Brian Cushing will have to have immediate impact and with Eugene Wilson sidelined thanks to Brett Favre's "exuberance" the defensive backfield is a question as well. If Matt Schaub cannot stay healthy at QB then it will be up to (rolls eyes) Rex Grossman. I am really talking myself out of this pick but it's too late now.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans actually played well when Albert Haynesworth was out of the lineup last year, but a wholes season without him may prove troublesome. Still you can expect this Jeff Fisher team to play tough defense and limit opponents scoring. Kerry Collins again will work the gray-bearded magic and have the Titans in the playoffs. The enigma that is VY will pine for playing time but unless an injury happens I doubt he will ever see the field as a starter for Tennessee.
Indianapolis Colts: It is hard to put the Colts and Peyton down here, but I had to make room for my sweet Texans pick! The Colts have undergone a changing of leadership at their coaching positions and lost their franchise wideout. While Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez are worthy of picking up the slack, and Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai can be great when healthy, I just think the Colts have lost their edge. That is not to say that they are not a good football team. 9 or 10 wins is a possibility but for the first time since 2001, the team will miss the playoffs.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Jack Del Rio has taken the Jags to the playoffs multiple times but after this year, I think he wears out his welcome. After starting his career with a flurry, David Gerrard has come back down to earth and with the only proven receiver being Torry Holt, the passing game figures to struggle. They are young but unproven at many positions and youth often leads to volatility. Can Derrick Harvey make an impact this year after a tough rookie season? Add a tough division to the questions and it figures to be a rough year for the teal-tongued cats.
San Diego Chargers: The division is the Chargers' to lose, which they just about did last year. LT coming back was huge for the offense which should be as potent as ever. Merriman returning on defense should help the Chargers throttle opposing rush attacks (sorry could not help myself). The biggest reason to pick San Diego is the rest of the division which I think will have bad years.
Kansas City Chiefs: While people wait to see the health of Matt Cassel will play week 1, do not forget that Tyler Thigpen is a capable back-up who played well for them last year. Todd Haley and Scott Pioli begin their tenure with a revamped 3-4 defense anchored by 2 former LSU linemen Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey. The success of the defense is definitely up in the air. They have added veteran Mike Vrabel and their safeties have returned as well. Yet I still think the Chiefs defense will be a problem. Fantasy players are high on Larry Johnson coming back strong this year and it may very well happen but like the rest of the Chiefs, it is a game of wait and see.
Denver Broncos: I believe Josh McDaniels came into Denver thinking he could run the team exactly the way Bill Belichick ran the Patriots. What may have escaped McDaniels' mind was that the Hoodie faltered in his first coaching job in Cleveland because of a quarterback issue and the way he took on the players and media. The only way Belichick got to where he is now is because Tom Brady became Tom Brady combined with Bill's superior game-planning ability. McDaniels thought he could jump right in and do it his way. Subsequently he lost his starting QB right off the bat, faced the harsh criticism from the media and now is looking at Kyle Orton or Chris Simms to lead his team. This is going to be a long year for Broncos fans and I am unsure if McDaniels does not get the axe at the end of it.
Oakland Raiders: What can I say that has not already been said?
New York Giants: The Giants won the division easily last year mostly without Plaxico. Now people said that hurt them in the playoffs but now the Giants receiving core has known from day 1 that Burress will not be there. I also think rookie Hakeem Nicks is a star in the making and will be that deep threat for Eli. But then you see what they have added on the defensive line; Osi is back, Tuck returns, and Rocky Bernard is added. The front four will take a lot of pressure off the back seven. Derrick Ward is gone to Tampa so with one of the elements gone from Earth, Wind, and Fire it is unlikely that the Giants will be able to summon Captain Planet but they still have two solid running backs.
Philadelphia Eagles: Everyone is very high on the Eagles this year, which makes me cautious. I personally think that Vick will have very little impact on the field this year barring injury. The offense has a lot to like with McNabb at QB, Jackson and Maclin at WR, and the Westbrook/McCoy combo at RB. It could be the defense that struggles for the Eagles. MLB Stewart Bradley is done for the year which leaves their starting LBs as follows: Chris Gocong, Joe Mays, Akeem Jordan. And while they will be playing for Jim Johnson, they may miss some of what he could breakdown on his side of the ball. They will still blitz and blitz often but it may result in a lot of getting burned.
Washington Redskins: When you look at the Redskins' defense, it is damn impressive. Haynesworth added to the defensive line, Orakpo, London Fletcher, and Rocky McIntosh at LB, and Laron Landry, Carlos Rogers, and DeAngelo Hall in the defensive backfield. That will get the Skins to ten wins this year, but with the tough division I think they will finish no better than 3rd in the East.
Dallas Cowboys: I see no improvement for this team from last year while every other team in the division has gotten better. Roy Williams is going to have to show me something before I grant him status as a great wide receiver. Tony Romo got a lot of fan fair when he came on the scene, but that was years ago and he still has not limited his mistakes. The pressure put on this team by their owner, the media, the fans, and the players themselves seems to ignite an internal combustion that ends the season in collapse.
Green Bay Packers: The Vikings with Favre, the Bears with Cutler, lost in the fray has been the Packers. It was not the play of Aaron Rodgers that caused the Pack to falter last year. Rodgers has been groomed for years and has the physical tools to be an elite QB. I think he takes that step this year. If the defense gets their act together and stays healthy, then I see no reason why the Packers should not rise above the other teams in this division.
Minnesota Vikings: That is not to say that the AFC North will not be very competitive. Aside from Favre, the Vikings have a great team. AP always gives you a chance to win and many underestimate Chester Taylor as a back-up. If Percy Harvin adds the dimension they want the offensive balance could be very good. There is no reason to think the Vikes defense will slack off at all this year, they will still be tough to put 7 on.
Chicago Bears: Cutler gives the Bears a solid QB for the first time but someone has to be the odd man out in this division and I think it will be the Bears. I like their defense just as much as Green Bay or Minnesota but if I had to defend my reasoning it would be at the wideout position. Devin Hester should be allowed to develop at the position instead of being labeled as go-to-guy in only his second year of consistently playing the position. I think Cutler and Greg Olsen will do nice things though and the Bears will be over .500 at season's end.
Detroit Lions: Where at this point in professional sports, especially in the NFL can you get to the point as a coach where 1 win is considered a success? Apparently in Detroit. Jim Schwartz has to just win one game to improve on last year's debacle. Pinning the hopes to Matt Stafford right off the bat is a bad move in my opinion. Stafford is getting thrown to the wolves and despite developing a good rhythm with Megatron, this is not the ideal situation you want your franchise quarterback to be in. I still think Detroit wins 3 or 4 games this year.
New Orleans Saints: /ducks. The Panther fans around these parts will not like this section of the picks but I think the Saints are going to be very good this year. Sean Payton and Drew Brees will continue to get only more efficient and imaginative on offense while the defense will be the big hurdle for this team to overcome. Making Pierre Thomas the full-time RB and making Reggie Bush the slot/wildcard guy will help the offense tremendously. While my gut misleads me more than not, I think this will be a special year in New Orleans. Be prepared to see a lot of Katrina montages.
Atlanta Falcons: I expect the Falcons to come back down to earth a bit this year. While the much of the components return from last year in Turner, White, and Ryan, they did lose speedy wideout Harry Douglas. Yet they have also added Tony Gonzalez. Matt Ryan showed he has the makings of a star and Turner is a great powerful runner, but I am not sold on the defense. The balls don't quite bounce in their favor and despite possibly getting to double-digit wins they fall short of the playoffs.
Carolina Panthers: All off-season the talk around here has been the bitter taste from the shelling they took from Arizona at home in the playoffs. It was up to the team to fix what went wrong. But did they? The Julius Pepper situation was a debacle to the nth degree. I feel certain he will infuriate Panther fans this year with more uninspired play while collected his $17 million paycheck. The loss of runstopper Maake Kemoeatu for the year at DT was crippling. I do have confidence in the Panther offense however. Jonathan Stewart is back in practice, and DeAngelo Williams should have another big year. You know what you will get from Steve Smith every game and Dwayne Jarrett is expected to make the leap this year. I just don't see the defense stopping anyone and while the opposing team plays ball control, the Panthers offense sits on the sideline. It will be tough to swallow for Panther fans after last year's success but it appears to be a season hovering around .500 in Carolina.
Tampa Bay Bucs: It's a rebuilding year in Tampa. They know it, we know it, the league knows it. That relaxes expectations and the team should play with no pressure. I was high on Josh Freeman during the draft and I think he could be under center by the last part of the year. At season's end, the Bucs will probably be at the bottom of the South but have a good idea where to improve.
Seattle Seahawks: The Seabirds were completely beaten down last year with injuries and disappointment but I think this year they get back on track. I like the backfield combo of Julius Jones and Edge. If Hasselbeck is right the passing game should return to form. They're going toget the ball and they are gonna score. While the secondary maybe a bit sketchy I like the linebacking core. How could you not? Hill, Tatupu, and Curry. The Cardinals will not be as "great" as they were last year and Seattle once again wins the division.
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals were a 9-7 division winner last year and I think they will repeat the record without the playoff run this year. I do not expect the team to be as hot as they were last year in the playoffs all year long. Their problems on defense will plague them again and despite the offense running efficiently, no free pass on the home playoff game this year.
San Francisco 49ers: Everyone is piling on the Michael Crabtree hate train right now and I am here to say: he deserves it. This is completely ridiculous by Crabtree. I don't know if this is a manifestation of his personality or those he has chosen to surround himself with but no matter what kind of deal you have been dealt, I am a believer in getting out on the field no matter what. Ever since that great catch against Texas last year Crabtree has been steadily dropping in my eyes and the eyes of the public. Now public opinion does not matter when it comes to football, but actually getting out on the field does. The Niners are moving in the right direction and despite Catfish pegging them as a surprise playoff team this year I think they are a year away. That is a year away if they finally decide to grab a decent quarterback.
St. Louis Rams: I doubt there is a more classic example of a team not handling the transition of an era well than the Rams. Ever since the turf show they have made decision after decision which has sunk them lower and lower in the standings. Consequently, they will not have a long climb out of the hole they have dug for themselves. Another bleak year while sports fans in St. Louis choose to focus on their baseball team.
AFC Wildcard Round
Ravens over Texans
Titans over Chargers
Patriots over Ravens
Titans over Steelers
Patriots over Titans
NFC Wildcard Round
Vikings over Seahawks
Packers over Eagles
Saints over Vikings
Giants over Packers
Saints over Giants
Saints over Patriots
Yes, I am picking the Saints. Maybe I wanted to avoid picking my team to win it all but I feel the Saints will do in the playoffs what the Cardinals did last year and have their defense get hot and force turnovers. Last year my Super Bowl picks did not even make the playoffs so consider that before you take stock in my picks. The Saints winning it all this year? It's not unusual...is it?
No it isn't Drew, no it isn't.
Wednesday, September 9
Tuesday, September 8
While most of the country watched the game last night between Miami and Florida State with a high level of enjoyment, it was agony as far as I was concerned. And my team won. I believe I have finally reached the point where I can no longer enjoy the games that my favorite team in sports plays. After the heart-pounding end to the Hurricanes 38-34 upset victory at Florida State I felt numb, like I had just had ten cups of coffee, four red bulls, and a bottle of Quaaludes. It was hours before I fell asleep and that was not due to my excitement over what lay ahead for the U or the relief of winning the game, it was my body uncoiling from the stress I put myself under watching the marathon game. What follows is a recount of how I watched the game and it is no means a happy tale, it is a descent into the madness of the sports mind. So read on, if you do not fear the disturbed.
I suppose the story starts over the weekend when our friend Xtra Medium offered his residence and big-ass HD TV (I believe it is 61.5 inches) for the viewing of the game. Seeing as how this was the best possible viewing station, I would be surrounded by friends, and there would be cases of beer in the fridge I accepted. I did my best to warn them that I would probably not be a socially adept guest during the game but they said it was perfectly fine. In fact, I'm sure they take certain glee in watching my agony over Miami football. Last year in the same setting I watched Georgia Tech run roughshod over the Canes when UM held the ACC Coastal Division in their hands. I assured XM that I was going to keep my mouth shut and just watch the game. After the game was well in hand I took out my vented frustration on kicker/punter Matt Bosher. As he took his sweet time punting a ball that would be partially deflected I threw my visor across the room and shouted, "PUNT THE FUCKING BALL!" My promise to remain in control fell apart as did the dreams of a respectable Hurricanes season.
Later that year while watching the Emerald Bowl I was down and out with the flu. This game had little consequence on the grand scheme of things in college football; Miami would still finish over .500 and they were playing a team in its own backyard. However, after the horrible clock management that led to the eventual loss to Cal, I worked myself into such a rage that when combined with the medication and my overworked immune system firing led me to pass out on the couch. I awoke in a swirl of tissues, theraflu and notions that Patrick Nix being our offensive coordinator was no longer acceptable.
I am a passionate person when it comes to sports. I am competitive and hate to lose. Yet being a lifelong Mets fan and a Patriots fan before their recent success you would think I could handle my teams losing. There just is something about Miami football that boils my blood. A couple years back when Catfish and I were roommates I had a knock on my door from our downstairs neighbor checking to see if there was domestic violence occurring in our apartment. It turns out the horrific noises he heard was me shouting at the television as I watched Miami get crushed by Louisville in a game where they decided to dance on the Cardinal logo beforehand.
I suppose it is part of my personality to take this game too seriously; for some reason Miami Hurricane football encapsulates everything I love and hate about my life and believe me I know that is not healthy. With that in mind, here is what I put myself through last night.
I arrived at XM's house a little after 8:00 which was planned because I did not want to see any of the pregrame or the FSU mascot place the flaming spear in the ground. I realize that the Seminole tribe has given their blessing to allow FSU to keep their mascot and traditions, but you cannot tell me that the Tomahawk chop is a nondiscriminatory gesture. Furthermore it was great to see all the "scalp Miami signs", that screams observant of historical fact recognition. Once I arrived I was so nervous I did not even want to drink. I love beer. I love beer mixed with football but I honestly felt physically ill before the game. I had watched the previous Labor Day UM-FSU games and thought this would be similar in its low-scoring, constant mistakes, frustration to the max level of play. XM offered me the prime seat for screen vision in all its glory but I declined and took a corner couch seat. XM sat with his girlfriend on an adjacent couch and my good friend who is a Georgia fan plopped on the couch next to me.
This is where my mental fiber became severely distorted. My friend, whom I will refer to as Beck for purposes of anonymity, is a huge Georgia fan. While I was unable to watch the Ok State game with her she assures me she is the same way during Bulldog games. So I was very observant of the fact she was pissed about the loss on Saturday, but yet she was here and cheering on Miami no less. Despite the fact that she tried in vain to convince us she was wearing an orange dress in support of UM, everyone agreed that the dress was pink. And yes, I know she reads this blog and your dress was pink Beck, PINK. So getting back to the "plopping", my nerves exploded and I told her to back off because I needed my space. I did not yell it but it was a dick move and looking back I regret it but at the time I was on edge. So right away I have established that I was going to be a problem from the outset.
Watching the Miami offense the past 4-5 years has been painful,especially after my fandom arose when I attended school at Miami during the Ken Dorsey years. The first drive began well as new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple seemed to have a good gameplan. Following a good kickoff return and a few first downs, Jacory Harris connected with Travis Benjamin for a 39 yard touchdown. This would be a time for jubilation as my friends indicated but I only told them I knew not to get over excited because it was only the first drive. 7-0 Miami
Miami also has a new defensive coordinator this year, Jim Lovett from North Carolina. The defensive line was playing without two of their starters however and last year Ponder torched Miami in FSU's win. The Seminoles drove down the field but due to penalties fell to a 3rd and 23. And like clockwork, FSU picked up the first down and eventually scored on a wide open pass to their tight end, Piurowski. 7-7
Miami sputtered a bit on offense helped in part by some penalties and dropped passes(Uggg... one of the problems from last year)and FSU was having minimal problems moving the ball. They got in field goal range or at least on the edge of it. Their freshman kicker, Dustin Hopkins trotted out with his gold shoes for a 52 yard attempt. Now, if you know anything about this rivalry you know that FSU has had its struggles when it comes to field goals. Three "Wide Rights" and a "Wide Left" are the main episodes from the crazy kicking game that still haunts Bobby Bowden to this day. Hopkins however banged it through with room to spare. 10-7 FSU
At this point all good feelings from the first drive had evaporated and visions of a blowout began dancing in my head. At this point the most minute thing will annoy you, even if it is something that is meant to be on your side. Take, for instance the glitter girls whose blasting of their body with sparkly paint landed them their goal of copious amounts of TV facetime.
Anyone else look at the Green girl and think "Hulk Smash!"?
Miami was determined to show that this was not the same inept offense it showcased the last few years. They moved it right back down the field and scored on a 6 yard run by Javarris James. The score would remain that way into halftime. Halfway home and Miami had the lead. Again everyone tried to bring out some optimism in me but I refused, I could not accept that it would be that easy. By now Catfish had joined the soiree and while the others might have refrained from adding certain comments to the general discussion, Catfish knows me all too well and was more than happy to needle me about whatever subject including tight end Jimmy Graham. I had taken my spot on on the outside of the room by the front door, standing and swaying while watching the game. The couch was not going to hold me. But during halftime with Miami in fact with a four point lead I allowed some digression into other subjects of sports discussion. 14-10 Miami
Before we knew it the second half was starting with FSU getting a great return thanks in part to Bosher's stupid late hit out of bounds. (BOSHER!!) My mood became silent once again as Ponder threw to wide open receivers and then pranced in for a 9 yard touchdown. Hopkins shanked the extra point providing some FSU kicking references. It was starting to look ominous, Miami looked to be playing a very soft cover two which requires getting pressure with the front four. There was no such pressure for much of the night. When Miami received the ball back and Harris missed a wide open James out of the backfield on 3rd down I walked down XM's hallway to his screen porch outback. He had a TV back there, which I sat down to watch the game on. That's how messed up in the head I am; a huge HD TV with my friends and beer sitting inside but I cannot enjoy watching the game so I watch from a smaller non-HD Television on the back porch. At least the weather was nice last night. 16-14 FSU
So there I sat outside, alone, dejected as the Noles marched down the field again and scored. Jimbo had clearly figured out what the Canes were doing on defenseand he was exploiting it. Graig (don't call me 'Craig' that is how Phil Fulmer lost out on him) Cooper had an amazing night and repeatedly gave great kickoff returns as he brought Miami deep inside FSU territory. Miami got it down to the goaline but failed to punch it in and had to settle for a Bosher field goal (BOSHER!!). 23-17 FSU
Thinking that settling for a field goal there was going to cost them everything I began to ruminate on a wild array of subjects as FSU got the ball back and once again gained big chunks of yardage.
Where would the season go from here?
Why was our defense playing so conservative?
Why must life suck so much?
What should I do about my job situation?
Man I hate Lou Holtz.
How can these players keep getting cramps, they had a week to get hydrated and they practice in this humidity all the time?
Just as I was accepting defeat Marcus Robinson came around the edge and stripped Ponder of the ball. There's a gleam, there's a gleam. Jacory Harris, as he had all night winged the ball down the field and brought the Canes to the goal-line. This time he snuck it in and there was no settling for field goals. Something even more amazing happened after that; Miami forced a punt. Miami had the ball up one with a hot offense, things might work out. I guess I can go back inside and join everyone right? 24-23 Miami
I came back to my position standing in the doorway by the front door. Two plays later Harris was hit, hurt and the ball intercepted and taken in for a touchdown. Two point conversion successful. I turned around and headed back out to the porch. 31-24 FSU
There sat Harris on the sideline shaking his hand. FSU had the momentum and I convinced myself that that was it and it was a loss. I sat down on the couch outside and pondered how I could shake myself from caring so much about a game that yielded no concrete benefits to myself. There was nothing tangible gained from the outcome of this game. Miami football did not put food on the table, money in my wallet (I don't gamble), or a hot chick in my lap. I needed to reduce it to what it was, an athletic contest in which I rooted for my alma mater and if they lose then it is just a game. Yes that was it, and some meditation sessions should clear the thought from my brain. Just relax and enjoy the ride there are no stakes in this for you. Wow, Harris floats a touchdown pass to Cooper and Miami ties it up. Screw transcendental enlightenment the Canes could win. I got off the couch and began pacing. 31-31
Both teams were having a horrific time on kickoff coverage. I think it will be a point of emphasis for practice this week. FSU again got a short field but had to settle for a long field goal. You cannot always have a wide left or right and Hopkins delivered from 45. Was this it? After all the struggling to get back in the game I could not fathom Harris leading Miami down the field again. I went to maximum slouch on the porch couch. XM's cat Fred came trotting up and gave me the look of "WTF is your problem dude? It is a freaking football game." Cats have that way of looking at you when you are at a moment of irrationality and making you feel silly for it. I patted Fred's head the best I could but returned to pacing lest in a moment of rage he get in harm's way. I took stock in the objects XM had on his porch that could be broken in a fit of hysteria from the game's outcome since the game was winding down. I tried to distance myself from his guitar. 34-31 FSU
For the causal fan the breaks in the action are a chance to converse with friends and enjoy their tasty beverages but for those agonizing the commercials take forever. It seems like Super Bowl length commercials and then we have to come back to Kenny Chesney singing this song that sounds like everyone of his tunes mixed in a blender with corporate schilling easy money. Harris made a unbelievable throw to Benjamin down to the 3. Play was reviewed, call confirmed. I glance at the clock, 1:56. Might not be a bad idea to take a couple downs and waste some clock and force FSU to use its last timeout. But you cannot turn down a touchdown and Cooper put it in. We have the lead, but I have a bad feeling about the ensuing drive. 38-34 Miami
I hope when Randy Shannon (whom I am a fan of) looks back on the tape of the game and sees his squib kick go right to Reid who had been burning them all game and was placed in the squib spot he decides never to squib the rest of the year. When you have the team speed that Miami has, you should never squib the ball. FSU gets the ball at the Miami 49. The last sequence was a swirl of cuss words, leg shaking, gut-wrenching and relief. FSU handled the clock as well as Miami did last year in the Emerald Bowl and despite calling a great play on the last play, Fortson could not hang on. For a second I thought, as Christian Ponder and the 81,000 plus in attendence did, Fortson had caught it. I had no joy when the game was over, not even relief, just a numbness.
I returned inside, watched the highlights with everyone, apologized to them for being an antisocial psychopath and headed home. I hate that I could not enjoy the win, hated that I could not watch a football game and drink beer with my friends, hated that I had the gall to criticize Jacory Harris for that interception, hated that I yelled at Aldarius Johnson for injuring himself on a down-field catch. The next game is next Thursday night against Georgia Tech and while I could sit here and say I will try to relax and enjoy it I know I will be in the same condition. I have not decided where I will watch it but the best place or at least the most fitting would be in a straitjacket inside a padded room.