On Saturday, Arizona and Nevada kicked off the bowl season with the Gildan New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, playing in front of dozens of fans. The scoreboard—as foreseen—was lit up like a Christmas tree, and this box score had the look and feel of an uneventful college basketball game.
While few pegged this mid-December tussle between teams with a combined 14-11 record as must-see, the first of 35 glorified scrimmages kicked off Bowlmas in marvelous fashion.
Ninety-seven points, 1,237 yards (599 rushing) and 70 first downs (including a bowl-record 39 from Nevada) were only some of the incredible numbers that surfaced in this game. Nevada dominated throughout much of it and led the entire way…except for the final moments.
The final 19 seconds, to be exact.
A touchdown followed by an onside-kick recovery late in the fourth quarter gave Arizona the opportunity to win the game with a touchdown and a PAT. And once they recovered, the game felt over. They moved the ball with ease and crossed the goal line one last time. The kick sailed through, and the game finished with a final “I hope you had the over” total of 49-48.
If points don’t do it for you, there was also a fight. And not just the regular words exchanged with an accompanied push or two. I’m talking about solid haymakers between players on the same sideline.
Despite the points and the fights, not everyone shared the same excitement for this game as I did. For many, it was quite the opposite.
It indeed felt more like a “flag football game,” something ESPN’s David Pollack noted during the halftime intermission. His disgust for the play—and these kinds of games, really—was obvious, and he was certainly not alone.
While wrapping Christmas presents, drinking Baileys and perusing Twitter for New Mexico Bowl chatter—and there were plenty others with the same intentions, so don’t judge—you could see that others also were not happy to see this brand of football infiltrate their televisions.
I made a comment regarding Pollack’s remarks on the social media outlet, and the backlash was strong. It must have been the Baileys talking.
Yes, David Pollack, that game was terrible. No fun. Awful. So bad. You're right, we hate this.— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) December 15, 2012
The tempo was fast, the scoring was frequent, and defense was nowhere to be found. I can only imagine Nick Saban sitting at home tucked snugly in his couch, watching Notre Dame film on his iPad, listening to Ke$ha and cursing under his breath at each New Mexico Bowl score with the game on mute.
After all, “Is this what we want football to be?”
The answer to this question is an empathic “YES,” although it comes with various disclaimers that are worth examining.
I don’t need offense—perhaps more specifically, a lack of defense—to be engaged, and it takes more than just Michael Bay-designed football explosions to capture my attention. As a self-proclaimed connoisseur, I can appreciate both. In fact, if you put any form of football in front of me, I’m going to watch and probably annoy you about it on Twitter.
Although I love watching the elite play the elite with whatever styles bring them the most success, in the end I just want to be entertained. It’s a simpleton way to approach things, but I’m not asking for much. I crave good football and great teams, just like we all do, but I'm also along for the ride.
I want to see something different. Whether that’s through a flag-football, defenseless game between .500 teams or a BCS game with one touchdown combined, we can respect these different types of games for exactly what they are. Trying to throw a giant umbrella over it all is simply not going to work, especially in an era where defenseless games are becoming far more regular.
In terms of this specific game, however, you didn’t need a disclaimer to know exactly what you were getting for the first bowl game in the middle of December. These are teams that met the lenient bowl requirements, but—as their records indicate—they have serious football flaws.
These football flaws include: defense, tackling, coverage and any other “stop someone”-related tasks that both Arizona and Nevada are simply incapable of completing. So why not appreciate this game for exactly what it is—a circus of sorts, a video game-like performance and damn fine entertainment on a Saturday afternoon.
In the instance of the New Mexico Bowl, the No. 1 college basketball team in the county, Indiana, was being toppled by their in-state “rival” Butler at nearly the exact same moment that the game was starting to get good.
As thrilling of an overtime finish as that basketball game had, the New Mexico Bowl still pulled in more eyeballs.
Why are there so many bowls? Overnight ratings from Sat: New Mexico Bowl (ESPN): 1.9. Butler upsets No. 1 Indiana (CBS): 1.5.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) December 17, 2012
Now, this is not included just so I can puff out my college football-adoring chest (although, I’m totally doing it at this moment); rather, it's just another telling sign that offense sells. You could also make the argument that degenerate gamblers have something to do with this figure, but this is more than just the thought of money changing hands.
The majority of that 1.9 number likely couldn’t tell you a player on either team. They were tuning in for the freak show, and the idea of points being scored excites the general public. While I typically don’t stray towards the direction of the gathering crowd, I’m not shying away here. They’re onto something.
I loved this game with the masses—and games like it, for that matter—for exactly what they are. Different, stimulating and fun. It's just fine to approach 60 minutes of football that way, I promise.
Save your “this is a disgrace to college football" “comments” for someone else and pull up a chair, grab a beer and see if they can get the scoreboard to explode next time.
There’s nothing wrong when the game you adore malfunctions every now and then, and as we’ve seen, sometimes it creates a magnificent few hours of television.
Especially if there’s Baileys involved.