Snap Judgement-Championship Week Edition
Written by Curt Popejoy on 12/07/2009
You all know I can watch college football for hours at a time and I do just that. And I do my best with this site to be objective in terms of my rooting interests because I'm watching it primarily to scout players. But I love college football. Not like I love my family, but after my family, it's right up there. I can become so engrossed in a game, that my kids are concerned for my well being. This weekend, we have several of those moments both good and bad. Let's get after it and talk about all the big news that was Championship weekend in college football.
I was going to say game of the week here, but there really isn't one. Practically every game was epic, so I'll just go in chronological order starting with the Thursday night tilt between Oregon and Oregon State in the Civil War. The prize? The PAC-10 title and a trip to the Rose Bowl. Huge stakes but I have to admit I didn't think that Oregon State had enough offense, and especially enough defense to travel to Eugene and pull off the upset. And up until the final few minutes I was dead wrong. I applaud Oregon State for their effort. Sean Canfield showed a ton of skill in the passing game, and I'm sure sparked the interest of NFL scouts. And the Rogers brothers, Jacquizz and James simply torched the Ducks defense over and over again. If James Rogers were a couple inches taller he'd be absolutely dominant, but it showed late in the game, when Canfield had to put the ball high over a defender, Rogers didn't have enough Anatomy to get the football. On the other side, the Ducks simply played their game. Lots of LaMichael James and Jeremiah Masoli running the football, and some controlled passing with great runs after the catch. They don't trick anyone with what they do, but they do execute and on that final drive, when they had to convert 2 4th downs to run out the clock, it was great execution by the offense that closed the deal. Oh, and this game marked the return of LaGarrette Blount as well who had 51 yards and a touchdown. To be completely honest, I hate Blount is back on the Ducks team, and I still contend if this team is playing .500 football he doesn't come back at all. But regardless he's on the team, and seems to be getting worked into the offense. But he's not why they won. Not even close. Next year's Heisman watch list should have LaMichael James squarely at the top. He's a very special player. Congrats to both these teams on great seasons and wow what a way to start Championship week!
A quick note on Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour. He's had an amazing career at Central Michigan, and seems like we've been watching him play forever. He's become quite an intriguing draft prospect because of his production and athleticism. He's certainly experienced and has shown himself to be able to produce on a consistent basis, and his physical body and athletic ability will be enticing for an NFL team.
I won't say the C-USA title game was as important nationally as the PAC-10 Title game, but it was just as exciting. Houston QB Case Keenum topped 500 passing yards, and had 5 touchdowns in the loss mainly because his defense had no answer for the ECU offense and 4 bigtime turnovers by the Cougar offense. Another game that came down to a final drive with under 7 minutes to play. A tremendous effort by both teams. There are some great storylines in this game. First is Keenum. He's been a hot name in the Heisman Trophy discussion, but his inability to win games, regardless of his video game stats exposes him. If Graham Harrell couldn't win last year with how great Texas Tech did, no one should take Keenum seriously when he couldn't close the deal in so many games. He's great to watch and incredibly entertaining, but not a serious Heisman contender, and I'm not sure if he's a serious draft prospect either. The second great story in this game are the records. There were better than 25 C-USA Title game records broken Saturday. The bar has been set high for this fairly young game, and will be tough to match. A final storyline that I am really interested in are the head coaches. Both Houston coach Kevin Sumlin and ECU coach Skip Holtz have been mentioned as up and comers for bigger and better jobs. Both are of serious interest to the University of Kansas and to be honest, both these guys deserve a shot to run a major conference college program and I suspect both will be very soon.
Next came the Big East matchup between Rutgers and West Virginia. No title on the line, but they refused to be outdone so they put on a great show themselves, with the effort by West Virginia punctuated with a brutal stiff arm by WVU quarterback Jarrett Brown to Rutgers DE George Johnson on third down to wrap it all up for the Mountaineers. Another game that went back and forth the entire time, and just to watch the effort both these teams put out made me proud to be a college football fan. Congrats to the Mountaineers, but the Scarlet Knights have nothing to be ashamed of either
If Rutgers/WVU was the Big East undercard, the Cincinnati/Pittsburgh game was the heavyweight title fight. And to continue to be a broken record, this game delivered on the hype and did not fail to maintain the intensity we'd been seeing in games all day long. Although Cinci won(more on that in a moment), I have to first give props to Pitt freshman RB Deon Lewis. His game was outstanding in a loss. He toted the rock 47 times for 194 yards and 3 touchdowns. That effort is why Pitt was up by 21 over the Bearcats late in the first half. But after halftime, Cinci QB Tony Pike came out slinging it, and when you have guys like Mardy Gilyard and Armon Binns to throw it to, you gotta cut loose. And that's just what he did. More on Gilyard. He's such an underrated player. He gets a bad rap because of the offense at Cinci, but at the next level he's going to be a great slot receiver and dynamic kick returner. Think Devin Hester but effective on offense. I really thought the weather was going to bury the Bearcats and play right into the power running of the Panthers, but it didn't happen. Can't help when Gilyard is getting 99 yard kickoff returns followed up with a 49 yarder that should have been another touchdown.
Even though there was nothing on the line, the Fresno State/Illinois game was every bit as exciting as anything we saw all weekend. This game was an absolute heart breaker for Illinois, and Fresno State score a touchdown with only 2 seconds to go. At that point they had a choice Kick the PAT and go to overtime, or go for 2 and try and win it outright. It was such a gutsy call to go for two, and his team didn't let him down. Well OG Devan Cunningham didn't. On a play that has to be seen to be appreciated, Cunningham hauled in a pass that was deflected by an Illinois DB and like a ballerina, Cunningham lumbered into the endzone for the 2pt conversion and the win. The refs reviewed it to be sure it hadn't been touched by a Fresno State player, which would have made Cunningham's play a penalty. It was legit and he was the hero. In a game where the regular players for Fresno State came up big, namely RB Ryan Matthews who continued to be the best back no one has heard of, it's awesome to have an OG like Cunningham seal the deal.
Moving ahead slightly I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Arizona/USC game. First off, I know USC will be better next year. They aren't going to have much in the way of significant losses on either side of the ball, but for this year, seeing them mortal has been pretty sweet. I expected the defense to be bad, but not this bad. And with a Freshman at Qb, I expected to see more running the football, but that hasn't happened either. But sort of like why Pluto is no longer a planet, I don't fully understand it, but I'm just glad it happened.
Now I want to talk about the SEC Title game. I know this is a bigger game than the Big 12 Title game, but I have no idea how long my rant about that game will be, and for this game, I surprisingly don't have as much to say as you might thing. Alabama came out and went American History X on the Gators. Florida has probably won 8 games in the last two years before they stepped off the bus. It reminded me a lot of those Niners teams of the 90's. They had teams so intimidated they had the game won in their opponents heads before a snap. Well Saturday, Alabama didn't give a damn if they were playing the Florida Gators or a team of real alligators. They had no fear. In fact, they came out with the supreme belief that they were the better team. And boy were they. I loved seeing Mark Ingram have a huge game and get an invite to NYC for the Heisman Ceremony. It's especially sweet after all the flames I saw about Ingram after the Auburn game. Dopes. You judge a player by a single game whether it's positive or negative is asinine. Ingram and his teammates were dominant in all phases of the game. The defense clogged all the running lanes, and the secondary exposed Tim Tebow's significant shortcomings of his passing game. He was outmatched. Alabama earned the right to play for the National Championship and I am a little disappointed after a beatdown like this, they BCS kept Florida in a big bowl.
To wrap up the day, we got the Texas Longhorns and the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Big 12 Title game. This game wasw just as exciting as the others, even if it lacked the explosive offense. Why? First because it had Ndamukong Suh. He had what has to be considered the most dominant individual defensive performance in Big 12 history, and probably 1 of the 3 or 4 most dominant I've ever seen in college football. He manhandled the Longhorns line, with their only success doubling Suh, and running far away from him. He took Colt McCoy at one point and just tossed him like a rag doll. His combination of power and athleticism, paired with supreme effort is as good as I've seen in a decade at least. But back to the game. All in all, it was a bit of a slow plodder. Both defense yoked up and playing hard, and both offenses struggling to find their way. So we fast forward to the end of the game. The Cornhuskers have taken the lead and the clock is running out of the Longhorn's season. But as Colt McCoy is rolling out and the clock is ticking down in the back of my mind I just keep thinking, "after the bad kickoff and horse collar tackle, it can't be this easy." McCoy regardless of what he said post game, had no clue how much time was left on the clock. In fact I'd say he was more likely watching the playclock before the snap and not the game clock. he rolls out and with only 3 seconds to go, throwed a fluttering duck out of bounds which bounced harmlessly to the ground, and you saw the clock go to zeros and Nebraska is headed to a BCS Bowl.
But not so fast. The refs review the play, and determine that the Longhorns should have one second left on the clock, and they in turn kick the game winning field goal, sealing the fate of the Cornhuskers and their ticket to the BCS Title game. As I said on Twitter the second it was reversed it was a bad call, and now 24 hours later I stand by that. I've watched the play 2 dozen times, and I have seen nothing to tell me the Texas Longhorns get one more play. Now hear me out. I have read a lot of people saying that when the ball his the ground there was still a second on the clock. That's wrong. Technically there was less than one second on the clock. How much less I do not know, but there was indeed less than one second. Second, I have read that when the ball his the clock, the play was dead. That's not technically true either. A play is stopped by the officials blowing it dead. That's indisputable. We are dealing with 3 dynamics here. The ball hitting the ground, the refs recognizing it, and blowing the play dead, and the timekeeper acknowledging that, and stopping the clock. A chain of 3 events all intertwined and dependent on the other, and 3 things that work together 80+ times in every game. What players, fans, coaches and the NCAA has come to expect and to accept is that in that course of events, there will be time run off due to the reaction time of the human beings involved. As I said it happens again and again in games every weekend, without debate or criticism. A back runs into the end zone for a score, 1 second ticks off before referee can react, they blow the whistle, another half second, the time keeper reacts and stops the clock, and you've essentially lost 3 seconds form when the back scored, and it's never debated. Never.
I have no problem with a review and reversal of an incorrect call, but this call was not incorrect. In fact it was exactly correct from the perspective of human reaction, and what is accepted universally by all teams. Stopping a play and the clock is not an exact science. So why did it need to be last night? Is it right to be so arbitrary in applying such specific rules in a situation like that? I'd say no. And I say this as a college football fan who dislikes both the Longhorns and Cornhuskers. Most arguing that Texas should have had a second left, are participating in one of the errors I pointed out above. You either assume the clock is supposed to instantly stop when the play ends, which is not true, or you assume that even if the timekeeper shuts the clock off the instant the ball does touch the ground, the clock would have stopped on 1. It may very well have stopped on zero, simply because of the split second delay between the switch and the light. Do we review and reverse those too? Can the speed of a circuit closing be reviewed by the booth?
The bottom line for me on the end of that game is this. Colt McCoy made a stupid stupid decision on that play. In terms of idiotic clock management, he's the fairy princess to Queen of Clock Mangementovia Les Miles. You should not be rewarded for that. Miles sure as Hell wasn't. And then as I was thinking about that LSU game, and decided to watch it over again, the end, to check for timing issues. 4th and 26, time running out and Jefferson throws the bomb and it's caught. The LSU wide out hits the ground, down by contact stopping the play. According to those defending the Texas call, the play is over(meaning the clock is to stop) when LeFell his the turf. And after he does, I am able to count a full count of 2, before the official runs up and blows the whistle and waves his arms indicating to stop the clock. 3 extra seconds off the clock from the time the player hit the ground to the clock stopping. LSU tries but with only 1 second doesn't have time to spike it, and they lose. Someone who is defending what the refs did to Nebraska tell me why they did not review that timing? It was certainly as significant a call in that game as it was for Texas. End of the game, opportunity for a game winning field goal. And why wasn't Miles screaming for the review? BECAUSE IN FOOTBALL, YOU ASSUME THERE IS SOME TIME LOST TO HUMAN REACTION TIME AND YOU ACCEPT IT AS PART OF THE GAME! If the Refs had gone back in the LSU game and reviewed that play, and stopped the clock when the play was dead, not when the timekeeper stopped the clock in reaction to the referee signal, they'd have had at least 3 seconds and possibly 4. Plenty of time to stop the clock to kick. But they didn't get that chance. But Texas did. And they shouldn't have. It was a bad reversal, it was not a correct reversal, but it did assure Texas of a BCS Title shot, and I think that's what was more important at the time, than getting the call right. And let's not forget something else. It's NEVER a good idea to leave a game, any game whether it's a title game or not to leave it in the hands of the officials to decide. That is not why they play to let the guys in striped shirts decide the outcome. And especially not by attempting to arbitrarily applying rules(incorrectly).
At this point, I am going to just sit back and wait for the BCS Championship game. Because if Texas thought they had a hard time moving the ball on Nebraska just wait until they get a gander at the Alabama defense. And that 'Bama offense is going to bring the rain. I hope the Crimson steeps on their heads and routs them. Roll Tide!
Last Edited: 12/07/2009