Sunday, September 13, 2009

86 Yards

This is normally where I write in a cheezy double entendre Title and use some hyperbole to describe my reaction to a big game. Today I'll keep it simple:

86 yards.

It was on the road against a very firece crowd. If ESPN broadcasters Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit are to believed, the loudest crowd they have heard in their lives. It was Ohio Stadium, cheering hard for the buckeyes on a Saturday night, and there they were, up 15-10 in what was touted as a HUGE game between visiting USC and the hometown Ohio State.

Way back in January I remember hearing about this game! There was so much on the line for a Week 2 game. This wasn't just a game for Ohio State, this was a game for the entire Big Ten. Everyone remembers how Ohio State was clobbered in multiple bowl games, and most folks still have USC's 2008 Buckeye Pounding fresh on their mind.

Last night, it seemed like the state of Ohio was going to issue huge payback to the rest of the nation. Before the game started, I insisted Ohio State needed not to win, not to dominate, but needed to compete. I was really fed up with their ineptitude in past games such as this.

Also before the game started, I had two good reasons to believe Ohio State would deliver:

1. In the Fiesta Bowl last year, Ohio State really gave Texas the business, and practically embarrasssed the Longhorns, who were favored in most peoples' minds. This was a big moral victory for the Big Ten. Unfortunately, Texas still won.

2. Not only were the Buckeyes at home, but they faced a USC team that lost most of its defensive starters, and also a USC team with a true freshman, Matt Barkley, at quarterback.

We saw the Buckeyes stifle the Trojans for most of the game. The running game was mostly stopped, and Barkley looked like... well, a true freshman.

Then the fourth quarter showed me something special. The Trojans took the ball at their own 14 yard line. Only about 4 minutes remained in regulation. From then on, Matt Barkley quarterbacked the drive of champions: it was a wonderful Touchdown Drive, capped off by a rushing touchdown, which put the Trojans ahead 16-10 with about a minute left. Pete Caroll wisely went for two, and completed the two point conversion. The Trojans fought all the way back and led 18-10.

The Trojan defense took over from there, keeping the Buckeyes at bay, where they never crossed the Trojan 40 yard line. The game ended and a relatively inexperienced USC celebrated on the field!

What a game! First of all, the kind of drive we saw from Matt Barkley is a feat we don't often see from most Senior Quarterbacks. I've never seen Tim Tebow put a team on a game winning drive such as this. I haven't even seen Matt Leinart do this when he was at SC. I could be wrong (feel free to post below if I am). Anyway, two things impressed me besides this drive:

One was Pete Caroll's game plan. I was amazed at how well he prepared for Ohio State. He knew that on the road, a mostly conservative, run happy, game plan was going to succeed, and by George, he was right! Caroll knew that the name of the game was turnovers, and with fewer turnovers, the Trojans would hang around the whole way. Only one interception was thrown by freshman Matt Barkley on this night.

Secondly, and more importantly, I was impressed by how well Ohio State played last night. I imagine Buckeye fans are so disappointed, but they really shouldn't be. I am very proud of their defense last night and their ability to control the ball. 86 yards is the reason they lost, but there was no true shame last night.

Ohio State will drop in the polls, but they will rise in the minds of many. The respect for Ohio State and the Big Ten is sure to be as good as its ever been. I, for one, feel that Ohio State may not have won the game, but they notched a big win for the Big Ten. As Herbstreit says: this may be one game of a two game series.

The rematch? The National Championship game: at the Rose Bowl. It's otherwise known as "A Return to Glory."

Monday, September 7, 2009

More on the Labor Day Laser-Shootout...

A couple of other things impressed me on this night:

Jacory Harris is a man who I've never seen play before, but on Monday I saw something special. Jacory Harris proved last night that he is indeed quite the athlete. However, unlike most mobile quarterbacks, he decided to use the biggest muscle in his body: his mind. I know some of his success is owed to Florida State's extremely soft pass coverage, but Harris set himself apart from other "mobile QBs" like Michael Vick, Terrelle Pryor, and yes, sports fans, even Tim Tebow. He's still a work in progress, but I felt like Harris made some great moves last night.

and in a twist...

Christian Ponder had a similar style, but opted to use his feet more than his arm in big moments. A highlight of his night included a big run to set up a score mid-way through the fourth quarter. Ponder certainly knows about his counterpart in Gainesville. I wonder if he and the FSU staff weren't inspired by the doings of the Gators?

Travis Benjamin made a terrific catch for Miami on this night. Actually, he made a few of them. Now again, he was wide open on a lot of his receptions, but he did make a great catch near the sideline towards the end of the game. Fortunately he had his back foot firmly on the ground when he got control of the catch. Had he lifted that foot an inch, the huge pass from Jacory Harris wouldn't count, and likely the Seminoles keep the lead.

There were many stars on this night, and it was one reason why I enjoyed this matchup immensely.

The Greatest Week One Game Ever Played (in 2009)

Once in a while, you forget about the standings. You forget the stakes, the pressure, the grandeur and the "Championship Prospects". It could be one of those long nights where you wake up from a nap and put on the TV.

Labor Day is a tribute to all of us who put in our hard work in whatever we do. In sports, we often get caught up in the "meaning" of games. Today, I took a day off from this too. Tonight, I just put on the TV and watched some football.

Some of the greatest moments I can remember in sports came as a result of casually tuning in without expectation and last night was no exception. With practically every MLB game in the books this day, all I had left was a mostly meaningless game between Miami, FL, and Florida St. over in Tallahassee.

Was it? If you look at "BCS Standings, Heisman Hopes, and all that", the game doesn't amount to anything. But on this night, we were treated to the most entertaining game of the weekend, bar none.

Imagine my surprise when is saw Miami take a 24-23 lead in the fourth quarter. I was full of wonder when sophomore QB Jacory Harris, of Miami, alluded several linebackers, and instead of running wildly, he STOPPED.

A QB with lots of room just STOPPED as if the play was frozen in time! Harris looked down field, found his man Travis Benjamin, and fired a laser right into his arms. It was a sign of great things to come for the Hurricanes, a beaten football program who haven't had much of anything to celebrate lately.

Imagine my surprise when Harris led the Canes to a touchdown, not only through his elusiveness, but with his stellar accuracy on this night. 21 for 34 he was, for 386 yards and two touchdowns. Interestingly enough, the two biggest TDs of the night were capped off not by Harris, but by running backs Javarris James and Graig Cooper.

But what a night. Even though Miami had that 24-23 lead, it was QB Christian Ponder who pulled his best Tim Tebow impression and ran in a semi-spread offense to the tune of two huge first downs, and a great run for some 10-20 yards. Let's not forget the Seminoles' last chance with about 6 shots at the goal line with 17 seconds left (a pass interference call gave a slight boost of life to FSU). The last play of the game was a pass from Ponder out to Jarmon Fortson that was dropped at the bitter end. The game was as competitive as it gets, and in the end the Hurricanes rose victoriously.

Imagine THAT! The sheer thrill of the fight between both teams was one of the greatest highlights of my weekend in sports. I enjoyed every second of the fourth quarter between two teams that, quite honestly, will factor almost nothing into the Championship Race.

No matter. This was a game I will remember for a good while and I was privileged to be a part of it. It goes to show that sometimes, the greatest moments in sport are games, people, and events that we witness by simply taking a... break from our labor, soaking it all in.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Why Should I Worry?

This post is called Why Should I Worry?

Why Should Sam Bradford Worry?

It seemed like the season was over for both OU and Bradford after Sam was pile drived into the turf at the new Cowboys Stadium. OU suffers a major setback with the ensuing loss to BYU. It seems like Sam Bradford's hopes at a big season and another Heisman are dashed. However, Bradfor ought to be back next month. Not all is lost!

Why Should the SEC Worry?

Not a convincing weekend for SEC Football. LSU gets all it can handle at Washington, Florida embarrasses itself and Charleston Southern by even agreeing to play the game (and yes I understand the benefits and money going to CSU). Despite all this, I think it's still clear both teams are solid in the SEC. Florida's action to even host their game is inexcusable and in all honesty, it shouldn't count. The Gators, however, will have a decent enough schedule the rest of the way to make up for it.

Why Should Matt Barkley Worry?

Seriously, why should Barkley worry? Everyone wrote him off and declared him a failure from the get go. And yet, he turns up a sparkling performance in his USC Debut: 15 for 19, 233 yards, and a Touchdown Pass. I think it's safe to say he's ready for a starting role.

Why Should the Los Angeles Dodgers Worry?

It would be so easy to write this team off now. After all, they are .500 since the All-Star Break. Perhaps the schedule is just catching up to them. Perhaps injuries are catching up to them. Perhaps the stigma of a steroids allegation is catching up to them. Whatever it is, the Dodgers have shown more truly positive signs over the last week, as opposed to signs of danger.

Indeed, the last few games featured great Dodger pitching, one very spritied comeback that came short, and a lineup that suddenly has a pretty good gauntlet in it: Manny, Ethier, Kemp, Thome, Loney, Belliard (not exactly in that order or the same lineup). I don't know about you, but ignore the standings for now: I think the Dodgers could be looking up towards October. They look ready to break out at any moment.

So Why Should I Worry? It's early, and who knows what the future will bring?