Sunday, November 06, 2005
SUNDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK
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While waiting to hear someone on the WWL say something about Terrell Owens already...
Everything was looking so promising for us BCS haters: Virginia Tech, UCLA, convolution! Inevitable injustice and outrage! Illegitimacy!
Uh, not no more. There's still Alabama, but...the Tide offense scored exactly three points against Mississippi State Saturday, with LSU and Auburn remaining. So...yeah. USC and Texas, it's...oh God...it's inevitable.
NORTHWESTERN 28, IOWA 27: In the words of a certain abominable WWL phony, "Wha...what happened?" Because SMQ did not watch the Wildcats amazing comeback...because the game was over. Completely done. Iowa up two touchdowns, Northwestern hanging its head after an interception with 4:27 remaining, SMQ flipping to Arkansas-South Carolina. He is forced to consult the play-by-play to decipher exactly how the Hawkeyes, so firmly in control of the game, managed to blow a fourth quarter lead for the second time in three weeks.
The answer actually is pretty straightforward - here's Iowa's six first half possessions:11 plays, 78 yards, TouchdownThat's 316 yards, and a 24-7 lead. Understandable against the nation's worst-ranked defense; Iowa's just better, right? Northwestern's success was inflated by catching two flat teams (Purdue and Michigan State) in mental troughs, right?
4 plays, 40 yards, Touchdown
6 plays, 32 yards, Punt
6 plays, 69 yards, Touchdown
3 plays, 9 yards, Punt
14 plays, 88 yards, Field Goal
The Hawkeyes' seven second half possessions:4 plays, 17 yards, PuntThe box score will say Northwestern's defense remains terrible - Iowa rolled up 493 yards - and the offense had to reach deep, deep down to steal a win. But without the Wildcats' impressive defensive performance in the second half, when it allowed just 177 yards and a field goal - itself coming on a short field, after NU held Iowa to a three and out - the offense has no chance to display its heroics.
3 plays, 3 yards, Punt
9 plays, 48 yards, Punt
3 plays, 6 yards, Field Goal
10 plays, 55 yards, Missed field goal
5 plays, 21 yards, Punt
5 plays, 16 yards, Turnover on Downs
Not that the 'Cats offense didn't do its part: before the oft-replayed onside kick recovery to set up the go-ahead points, Brett Basanez drove NU 77 yards for a touchdown on 12 plays in 1:17. The winning scoring drive went 47 yards in just 1:25. Two touchdown drives, 18 plays, 124 yards in a little over two and a half minutes - Mmmmm, that's good clock management.
SOUTH CAROLINA 14, ARKANSAS 10
A fairly brutal game SMQ mentions mainly because of the revelation of redshirt freshman Sidney Rice, the next "just throw it up to him no matter what" type in the mold of Larry Fitzgerald and Braylon Edwards. Rice only had four catches for 51 yards, but Spurrier tried to get him the ball constantly; Rice's high flying pluck of a desperate, third down heave ho into the end zone for USC's first score was an incredible display. According to the game announcers, Spurrier called the guy the best receiver he's ever coached. As if anyone could surpass the immortal Chris Doering.
Arkansas can still run the ball (Bryant McFadden is a legit stud), but its passing game has been so conservative, the home crowd reserved its biggest cheer of the day for a deep throw by Casey Dick in the second quarter that came nowhere near being completed.
NOTRE DAME 41, TENNESSEE 21: If Mark May or other DeBerry-Paterno condemner wants to flout the "black guys are faster" argument, their best bet would be in South Bend, where very white Tom Zbikowski returned a punt 78 yards with an up-the-middle burst from a standstill and returning a late interception 33 yards for a score, and equally pale Jeff Samardjizaiajasjsa took a short pass 73 yards up the sideline, requiring a serious angle from fast African American safety Antwan Stewart to be caught.
This was an absolutely horrific game for rushing fans: these teams combined for 157 yards on 73 carries, or about 2.15 yards per carry.
SMQ thinks Brady Quinn is going to be very solid on the next level; he already has as a junior better pocket presence than a lot of NFL quarterbacks. He moves and slides well within the pocket to avoid the rush while keeping his eyes downfield and maintaining his ability to get rid of the ball. He can get out and buy time when necessary, too. He'll be a high pick, but much of his fast development from tough, limp-armed kid to confident star may ultimately be attributable to Weis.
NC STATE 20, FLORIDA STATE 15: Because he was hurricane-shocked when they played Miami and working at another game when they played Virginia, this was SMQ's first good look at the 'Noles. And he didn't know any of these guys. Bowden has a bunch of freshmen on offense who can play...in the second quarter. But when it was going downhill in the fourth quarter, and FSU's defense and special teams were making plays to give the team a chance to win, who did Bowden have to turn to? Xavier Lee? Fred Rouse? For all the lauded recruiting classes FSU brings in every year, one would think there'd be some upperclass leadership onhand to get the ball to - and there may actually be, in the form of Lorenzo Booker and Leon Washington - but hardly anyone with so much as a full season under his belt was anywhere to be found on the ghastly efforts that comprised FSU's final drives to win.
It's little consolation, but previously anonymous Andre Brown's record-breaking performance against SMQ's beloved Southern Miss last week doesn't look so bad now that the freshman has done just about the same thing to one of the best defenses in the country. This kid is better than T.A. McLendon, if only because he can handle 25 carries a game; 425-plus yards in two weeks=big time stud potential.
NC State outplayed Florida State and still almost blew it thanks to two extremely fundamental breakdowns on punt blocking in the fourth quarter. Every player from junior high up is taught when blocking for punts and extra points to block down - to make sure no rusher gets by you from the inside, the idea being to close down the shortest lanes to the ball and force rushers to come from around the end, the longest path to the block. Yet on Florida State's first punt block in the fourth, NC State's upback ignored rushers up the middle and instead went for the outside man; easy block. The second FSU block was worse, when one of NC State's linemen immediately opened his body to the outside, when the guard next to him went inside (as he was supposed to) opening a huge gap up the gut for which to have another punt blocked in a critical situation; FSU obliged, and recovered the ball at the NC State 19 with a chance to tie.
But bad as NC State's special teams were down the stretch, Florida State's offense was much worse. The Xavier Lee Experience was uniquely atrocious: this highly-touted young athletic freak completed one pass, out of seven, for three yards in his two fourth quarter drives, badly missing three straight open receivers after FSU's first punt block; the 'Noles had to kick a long field goal. Back comes Drew Weatherford, handed the ball in prime position after the second FSU punt block and immediately intercepted. Given another chance to drive his inexperienced teammates for a tying score, Weatherford threw incomplete, was sacked and frantically tossed up a terrible interception - his third - down the middle of the field. Contrast that effort Saturday with Brett Basanez's, recounted above; clearly, these things take time.
VH-1: I LOVE THE '80s 3D: God help him.
MIAMI 27, VIRGINIA TECH 7: SMQ is prepared to call this win the most impressive any team has posted yet this season; only Alabama's wipeout of Florida can equal the 'Canes' overall dominance over a top opponent Saturday, but the Tide were at home. Miami's defense was so stunningly awesome, SMQ even flipped over to the stunningly competitive Florida-Vanderbilt thriller. A thorough, crushing performance for a team you could visibly see getting its typical swagger back as the night progressed.
The 'Canes' front seven was great, but the secondary was absolutely phenomenal. UM did exactly what it wanted to make Marcus Vick look like a timid newbie: loaded up the box, stuffed the run, and forced Vick to make throws from within the pocket. Nothing new in that strategy, but the key to bringing pressure up front was Miami's unparalleled athleticism in the back four, which made the man-to-man lockdown approach so effective, which allowed extra blitzers, which made Vick panic, which made him ineffective as a runner or passer. The young quarterback was thoroughly confused to see all eleven defenders within seven yards of the line at the snap, and then have no one open; virtually no other team has the speed to trust man coverage to be so airtight as Miami's was again and again. When the game started to slip away, the Hokie running game was a non-entity and Vick had to throw, the 'Canes' mack truck pass rush put it away in highlight fashion.
UM's first touchdown drive, spanning the end of the first quarter and well into the second: 17 plays, 82 yards, 8:18 off the clock, three pieces of lost equipment by running back Charlie Jones. Fix your helmet, son.
What does this mean for Miami's shot at a championship? Given the likelihood of a USC or Texas loss (the top two won by a combined 92 points Saturday) and an Alabama loss, it means we need a freakin' playoff.
FLORIDA 49, VANDERBILT 42: Let's be clear here: the call did not cost Vandy the game, because it still nailed the PAT to tie. But when you've just scored a late touchdown to tie - and maybe go ahead, on a two-point try - of a league power your school hasn't beaten in many decades, to potentially end a four-game losing streak and re-open the seemingly distant possibility of a much-coveted bowl appearance, no celebration short of stripping for a naked orgy with the band while cheerleaders squeeze juice out of grapes into your mouth can be defined as "excessive." Much less the half jig that was called...Bobby Johnson's unusually fierce reaction and Jake Cutler's bitter, withdrawn face during the overtime coin toss proceedings were near-tragic in the face of a Kafkaesque trial.
Still, the Commodores could have played a little defense.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Miami: The beast is back...Penn State: OMG one second from being undefeated! Them boys is good...Florida State: Starting offense can't get into a decent bar...UCLA: Uh, not so good after all...Nebraska: Should just end it. Pull the plug on the program. Don't let us see you like this...Alabama's Offense: May never score again.
SMQ WAS RIGHT ABOUT...
Ummmm...wow. Nobody reads that Thursday thing SMQ does, right? Good.
He did nail Colorado's point total vs. Missouri (41), though the Tigers scored two fewer touchdowns than he had guessed.
SMQ WAS WRONG ABOUT...
SMQ will go crazy if stuck with the Florida State-NC State snoozer, a terrifying likelihood given local ABC affilliates' baffling affection for middling ACC games here.
The monster Wisconsin-Penn State affair for which SMQ had been pining was over in the second quarter; NC State's defense and shiny new running back made its battle with the 'Noles a memorable fourth quarter nailbiter.
Miami is Tech's equal on defense, but the Hokies are better off at quarterback and in the running game. They're also more experienced and at home on a cold night. Miami can match up for big play ability at wide out, but who's going to put their money on Wright here over Vick? Major statement game for Tech.
Obviously. At least there was that shout out, sort of, to the 'Cane defense.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Roger McIntosh: 10 tackles (7 solo, 3 assist), 3 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, 2 sacks; The whole Miami defense was spectacular, but no one stood out more than the unheralded senior linebacker, who was flying around looking like Jonathan Vilma, Jr. He not only got to the ball over and over, he knocked the crap out of people when he got there. Marcus Vick, after a big fourth quarter hit, at least, should remember him.
Upset of the Week
UCLA mounted another late night comeback Saturday...it just fell five touchdowns short. "Pesky and improving," SMQ called Arizona, but holy hell, he was thinking more like another close victory, or slight upset. Not a 52-14 abomination.
JUST WHEN YA THINK YA KNOW A FELLA...
Time to Re-think...
See above. UCLA should be ashamed to have wasted the time of everyone who considered the Bruins as a legitimate contender.
A FINE WHINE
SMQ Complaint of the Week
Is NFL-style over-officiating creeping into the fun-loving college ranks? First we have replay, and that's fine, but Saturday there was not only the egregious call of Vandy's run of the mill "celebration" following one of its biggest touchdowns in years, there was also the call on Darryll Tapp for a perfectly good hit on Kyle Wright in the second quarter of the Tech-Miami game. Tapp knocked Wright out for the rest of the half, but the "leading with the helmet" flag, when Tapp blasted into Wright's chest in time, had a distinctive "protect the money-maker" feel to it. Please, keep the outrageous hands-off stuff to Sundays.
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Entirely independently of one another, we arrived at the same conclusion about the inability of the Commodores to celebrate "excessively" and we expressed that sentiment in remarkably similar ways (although I liked your way of putting it better).
Check it out for yourself at Kyle on Football.