In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a pretty big football game tonight. A football game so big it’s been on everyone’s mind since, I don’t know, the first week of January. A football game so big that it requires me to pull on a pair of lucky boxers that I haven’t worn in those eight months.
Yes, I’m talking about Wisconsin at Fresno State, and I got my Bulldog boxers out and ready…
(What, I can’t have a little humor on a Saturday morning?)
All right, it’s Ohio State-USC. The Collision in the Coliseum. The Game of the Century. Whatever moniker you want to insert here. And all we’ve been hearing about for weeks, months really, is every analyst in the country’s thoughts on this game.
Well, I have nothing new to add to everything that’s already been said by every media outlet in the free world. But obviously, I wanted to preview this showdown. So what’s a columnist to do?
Simple: I played the game. And you’re about to get a blow-by-blow account of it here, courtesy of my roommate Tyler’s XBOX 360 and our copy of “NCAA Football 2009”.
I set the game up (five-minute quarters, on my “Super-Heisman” mode with jacked-up computer AI levels) and we’re underway…
“Ohio State needs good play out of its defense, especially this LB [James Laurinaitis] to slow down this offense,” Kirk Herbstriet says before kickoff. I win the toss and elect to receive, and Ray Small takes the kick to my 35.
On my first play, I try a fake to Brandon Saine (yes, I took Beanie Wells to make it realistic) and look downfield for Brian Robiskie, but Todd Boeckman’s sacked immediately. Then there’s a holding penalty to make it 2 & 29—just the start I’m looking for.
(Where’s that damn reset button…)
I spread the field with five wide and hit Dane Sanzenbacher for 18 yards, then get Brian Hartline dragging across the middle to convert on 3 & 11. “Great throw by the quarterback there,” Lee Corso says. Thanks, Lee. But I only pick up two yards on the next three plays and have to punt.
My defense comes out and sets the tone, nearly picking off a screen pass, and Laurinaitis drops Trojan tailback Stafon Johnson for loss of four as we force a three and out.
I decide to go for the punt block, and USC has to keep everyone in to protect. This leaves a HUGE open field for Small, who fields it at my 25 and crosses midfield, going all the way to the USC five before the punter knocks him out. Two runs by Saine gets me to the one, but Boeckman gets stuffed on a sneak to make it four and GL.
Decision time. Well, more just a matter of deciding what play to actually call, because anyone who kicks a field goal from the one foot line in a video game should have his or her hands cut off. I spread the field with four wide and send Saine up the middle, who breaks a tackle in the backfield and squeezes in to make it 7-0 Bucks with 45 seconds left in the first quarter.
Defense takes over after Joe McKnight takes the kick back to the 41. USC gains nine yards on the first three plays, and Pete Carroll tries to go for it on 4 & 1. Bad call. Laurainaits and Austin Spiller stuff Johnson for a loss, and I take over in Trojan territory.
(I don’t know about you, but reading the words “Trojan territory” make me giggle a little bit.)
I hand off to Saine on my first play and he plows over USC linebacker Brian Cushing for 12 yards—Cushing has to leave briefly with back spasms. I get another first down on a pass to Rory Nicol slicing in front of Rey Maualuga, but the all-everything linebacker gets the better of me on a few runs and I have to settle for a 39-yard field goal to make it 10-0 with 2:42 left in the half.
Then, the big plays happen.
I send Marcus Freeman on a blitz when USC gets the ball back, and Mark Sanchez rushes his throw. He completes it…to Malcolm Jenkins, who returns it 37 yards untouched to put me in front 17-0.
No time to relax, though. Two plays later, Johnson breaks a couple of tackles— I’m piping mad at that—and runs 63 yards for the TD to make it 17-7 with 1:53 left.
I try to answer, but throw a terrible pass with Boeckman that gets picked off when Taylor Mays steps in front of Saine.
Big possession here before halftime. USC moves inside my 10-yard line, but faces a 4 & 2. Again, Carroll goes for it, and Sanchez lofts a ball into the corner for Patrick Turner. But Jenkins is there to slap it away, and I run out the clock to halftime. “This one is far from over as they head to the locker rooms,” Nessler declares as the little animated men stream off the field.
USC gets the ball after half, and pick up a 3 & 15 when Turner catches a short pass and spins out of two tackles for the first down. (Unrepeatable words by me uttered here.) That gets the Trojans deep into my territory, but I’m able to stop them again, and Carroll settles for the field goal to make it 17-10.
I know I need to answer points with points, and open up the playbook a bit. Boeckman hits Brian Hartline for eight yards and Brian Robiskie for five. I slip Saine out of the backfield with a screen and get 26 yards, down to the USC 32.
Drop back to pass again, and find the speedy Small matched up with a linebacker, and the completion nets me 19 yards. On 3 & 8, USC blitzes its corners and I get Robiskie on a hitch for eight and a half yards and the first to end the third quarter.
“A great game so far and it looks like it will be decided in the fourth” intones Nessler.
It actually took about four seconds to decide it in the fourth. I run a toss to the right side, and Saine has more than enough speed to get around Meaualuga and to the corner for the TD. 24-10, Bucks.
“These guys [USC] need to get off their horse and find a new horse, because the old horse isn’t going to get them two scores as quickly as they need them,” Corso says.
“That’s an analogy I’ll never understand,” answers Herbstriet, and the playful, fake banter ends.
USC picks up a few first downs, but I stop them on a 4 &10 inside my 30 when Jenkins slams Turner to the ground after an eight-yard pickup. With 3:07 left, it’s a steady dose of Saine, Saine and more Saine, while Boeckman mixes in a play-action pass to Nicol for a third-down conversion to ice the win for the Bucks. 24-10, final.
As we watch the replay of the Pontiac Game Changing Performance—the Jenkins interception and return—Corso says that he’s “pretty darn impressed. Ohio State faced a pretty good opponent and marched through ‘em. These guys are for real!”
So that’s roughly how it should play out tonight. Because, obviously, video games are an accurate portrayal of real life and should be treated as such.
But seriously, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if it did go this way, especially when I looked at the stats. Boeckman was 13-for-16 with 140 yards, no touchdowns and a pick; Saine was held to 44 yards but had the two touchdowns and also 31 yards receiving; and Sanzenbacher and Nicol were my top receivers, with three grabs each.
For USC, Sanchez finished 12-of-19 with 117 yards and a pick, Johnson rushed for 92 yards and a score while Turner hauled in five passes for 66 yards. Maualuga had nine tackles, Mays had eight, and Cushing returned from his killer back spasms to make three tackles for a loss.
The team stats were also pretty even and belied the defensive dominance that everyone assumes will be the case in the, uhh, real game. USC had 205 yards of total offense and just six first downs, while my Bucks tallied 182 yards. I did convert 7-of-10 third downs though, limiting USC to 2-of-7 and 0-for-3 on fourth downs.
Now, if you’ve actually made it through the first 1,400 words to this point, you are either: 1. A really good friend of mine; 2. Really, really obsessed with soaking up every word written about Ohio State or USC; or 3. A video game junkie.
But no matter what category you’re in, or if you just scrolled to the bottom of this article to see if I actually had a point or if I’m just insane, I say thank you and Go Bucks!
Now it’s time for me to sit back on the couch, enjoy my day off, and watch college football for the next 13 hours…