Some of my Monday morning thoughts...

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Some of my Monday morning thoughts...
First off, a funny story from Saturday’s BYU/UCLA game. I was on the field for the game because I was shadowing a couple photographers. It’s my goal to not only learn to write about games but to learn to photograph them as well. Anyway, so it’s the first quarter and I’m standing near the net where UCLA punter Aaron Perez is practicing his kicks. He’s just standing there kicking the ball into the net when one somehow gets past the net and rolls over to me. I’m not that far, but I figure as a show of courtesy I’ll just kind of roll the ball back over to him. Little do I know when I roll the ball over to him he’s already started his motion to kick another ball into the net. I think you can guess what happens next. The ball I roll over rolls right into his non-kicking foot and messes up his timing. He scowls at me with this extremely angry look and says, “What are you doing dawg????” To which I reply, “Just trying to be friendly,” and slowly walk away. Good thing I didn’t say what I could have said. I could have, as a friend pointed out to me, been really harsh and replied, “Listen, I just don’t want you to waste your time. Your offense can’t hold onto the ball long enough for you to get on the field anyway.” What’s the lesson I learned? Don’t try to be nice. Especially when the other team is getting absolutely annihilated.
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UCLA Bruins at No. 18 BYU Cougars
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This was supposed to be one of the toughest games of the season for BYU. Kirk Herbstriet and many other analysts across the country even picked the Bruins to upset the Cougars. Imagine how silly they all felt when at halftime the Cougars were ahead 42-0. The Cougars didn't just beat the Bruins, they decimated and demoralized them. After the game, Bruins head coach Rick Neuheisel tried to sort of shrug it off citing that in 2001, as coach of the Washington Huskies, he lost at Miami 65-7 only to come back in the Holiday Bowl and play tough against Major Applewhite and a very tough Texas team, eventually losing 47-43.
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"If you are in this business long enough, you are going to get one like this pinned on you," Neuheisel said afterward.
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True, but if you’re in this business long enough, you also realize that teams which get pasted 59-0 don’t usually have legitimate BCS bowl game chances. Maybe UCLA doesn’t have legitimate BCS bowl game chances yet, but since the Bruins obviously don’t, maybe Neuheisel should stop parading around talking about the college football monopoly in Los Angeles officially being over. Here’s an idea Neuheisel: Start winning, over more than just an over-ranked Tennessee team in overtime, and then you can start flapping your gums.
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Anyway, I digress.
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What the point really boils down to though is the fact that BYU needed this result. After watching East Carolina rise all the way to No. 14 for defeating Virginia Tech and West Virginia, while BYU dropped despite defeating Washington on the road, the Cougars didn't need to just escape LaVell Edwards on Saturday with a win. They needed to leave after making a statement.

For making that statement, the Cougars were rewarded.
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With the win, the Cougars leap-frogged over Oregon, Penn State, Arizona State and East Carolina. Three of those teams actually won Saturday – Penn State by 42 over Syracuse, Oregon by 6 on the road at Purdue and East Carolina by 4 on the road at Tulane. I guess the NCAA really is taking this whole statement win thing pretty seriously.
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Why are statement wins so important now? Well, thanks to Hawaii, it isn't enough anymore to just escape games with victories. Because as Hawaii showed last year, just winning doesn't mean you're good. That's why I wasn't upset when BYU dropped from No. 15 to No. 18 last week, and that's why I'm not going to pity Georgia for dropping from No. 2 to No. 3 after a tough conference road win at South Carolina. If the Cougars thought they could just go undefeated and the BCS would just extend a loving pair of open arms, they were foolish.
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Not only did BYU’s impressive victory over UCLA impress the pollsters, it also seemed to impress those annoying ESPN analysts. The Mountain West Conference went 4-0 against the Pac-10 last week, (BYU over UCLA, New Mexico over Arizona, TCU over Stanford and -- gasp – UNLV over Arizona State) and an ESPN article has actually ranked the Mountain West as the No. 5 conference in college football ahead of BCS conferences such as the Atlantic Coastal Conference and the Big East. Even Herbstriet, who many Utahns hate for his supposed disrespect of BYU, came out Saturday night and said he believes the Mountain West Conference to be better than most people think.
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So what does all this mean for the rest of the season? Well, I originally thought BYU was going to finish 10-2. But, if they continue to play as focused and determined as they did Saturday, there isn't one team in the Mountain West which will beat them. Not even TCU or Utah. TCU and Utah are 3-0 and looking good, but I don’t think the Cougars would even come close to allowing teams like Stanford and UNLV to be tied with them in the third quarter. The fact that TCU and Stanford were tied at 14 halfway through the third quarter Saturday, and just a week earlier Utah and UNLV were tied at 14 going into the third quarter, shows how beatable those two teams are. BYU hasn’t shown those kind of weaknesses this year and until they do, there’s no reason to tag anyone but the Cougars as conference favorites.
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(Side note: I was watching this show on ESPN early Sunday morning called "The Sports Reporters" and one of the guys actually said he didn't consider BYU to be the true 1984 National Champions. I wish I was paying attention to his name, but that statement made me laugh. I'm glad this one doofus reporter doesn't consider BYU's 1984 National Championship legit. No matter what any sports history book tells me, I now know without doubt, that BYU wasn't the true 1984 National Champions because he said they weren't. What gives these idiot reporters so much power and arrogance that they think they can overwrite history and facts? I hated BYU growing up, but I never once questioned the legitimacy of its '84 National Championship. BYU won the '84 National Championship fair-and-square according to the rules that were outlined. This lunatic said it wasn't legit when BYU barely squeaked by an inferior Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl while No. 2 Washington won the Orange Bowl over Oklahoma. If history serves me correct, Washington had the option of playing BYU for the National Championship, but forfeited that opportunity for a more lucrative bowl game against Oklahoma. So in essence, Washington forfeited a shot at the national championship for money, giving BYU the National Championship. What is BYU supposed to do when the No. 2 team refuses to play? What a joke!)
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No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners at Washington Huskies
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After finishing up all my stuff at the BYU/UCLA game, I returned home and turned on the television only to find out Oklahoma was already leading Washington 7-0.
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"Oh boy … this is gonna be a looooooooooooong game," I said to my roommate as he left for work.
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Usually, the Huskies can keep a game sort of respectable until the third and fourth quarters. This one was a laugher from the very start. Momentum is everything and first-half fumbles by quarterback Jake Locker and wide receiver D'Andre Goodwin pretty much killed any the Huskies hoped to gain. Trailing 7-0, Locker scrambled for a 17-yard pickup on second-and-2 only to get the ball stripped from him. Then, trailing 20-0 in the second quarter, Goodwin gained 19 yards on an inside slant before coughing the ball up on the Sooners 25. After that, it was pretty much over. How bad was it? The Huskies were playing backup sophomore quarterback Ronnie Fouch to close out the first half.
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I’m trying to think of some positives from the game. Well, Fouch completed 7-for-13 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. Fouch seems to be your more prototypical pocket-passer, and may actually be an overall better QB than Locker. But seriously, does anyone really think he’s going to get a chance to play in anything more than mop-up duty with Locker healthy? I guess there was a bright side on Locker’s performance too. Aside from the one fumble, he didn’t turn the ball over. Most importantly, his completion percentage was a lot better. Locker finished the game completing 16-of-24 passes for 154 yards. He didn’t throw any touchdown passes, but he did run for one. Too bad the Sooners were already ahead 41-0 when that happened.
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The fact is, the Sooners were going to win this game no matter what, and honestly, I wasn't surprised by how much. But what this game did do - in case we all somehow managed to forget after last week's very-respectable performance against BYU - is once again show how young and inexperienced these talented Huskies are. Of course I'm disappointed they didn't play better, but I'm looking at the Huskies right now with a long-term perspective. I genuinely think this team, if it stays healthy, will start the 2010 season ranked and have a legitimate shot at the Pac-10 title and possibly a national championship. The amount of young talent on this team is just scary. So if in two years they are still playing the same, THEN we can really be upset. Furthermore, Oklahoma is now the No. 2 team in the nation. Teams like Washington are supposed to be killed by teams like that.
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San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
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First off, I would like to say what a great performance once again by rookie tight end John Carlson. I never thought I could love a Notre Dame grad as much as I love this man. After recording four receptions for 52 yards in the Seahawks' season opener at Buffalo, Carlson had another impressive game yesterday, notching six receptions for 78 yards. For a team as decimated at the receiver position as the Seahawks are, no doubt Carlson is relieving quarterback Matt Hasselbeck of a TON of stress.
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Anyway, this game was quite possibly the shocker of the day. Well, when six of your top seven wide receivers are out with injuries, maybe this wasn't so much a shocker after all. It’s gotten so bad that the Seahawks decided to convert backup quarterback Seneca Wallace to wide receiver. What was the result? Wallace suffered a calf injury during warm-ups and will likely be gone at least a month. Just amazing.
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Even despite the lack of depth at the wide receiver position though, the Seahawks still managed to put up 30 on the 49ers defense. I think I'm pretty safe when I say on most afternoons, that’s a certain W. No, what truly killed this team was the horrendous play by Kelly Jennings, Marcus Trufant and basically the entire Seahawks’ defense. I don't know if overconfidence was the problem or 49ers quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan is just better than we all think. I'm going to go with the former for now. After getting bushwhacked by the Bills in their season-opener, it's understandable – although maddening – if the Seahawks looked at the Niners as nothing more than a quick pick-me-up. I guess after jumping ahead 14-0 in the first quarter, that train of thought got propelled into a colossal outbreak.
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Now, as is usually always the case when a team starts off flat, many Seahawks' fans are jumping ship. “Oh no, the season is over.” “Well, I guess it’s the end of an era. Time for the Arizona Cardinals to reign supreme.” That's where I come in, hopefully to bring some rational thinking.
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Starting a season off 0-2 is of course not something any team wants. It's been six years since that happened to the Seahawks. But lest we forget the New York Giants started last season 0-2 before going to the Super Bowl and defeating the New England Patriots? Good teams, in all sports, sometimes struggle out of the gate. If you want to look at a great example from the NBA, in the 2006-07 NBA season, the Dallas Mavericks started 0-4 before rebounding and finishing 67-15. Sure, they lost in the first round of the playoffs, but that's beside the point. In baseball, the New York Yankees started the 2007 campaign 21-29 before finishing 93-68. Once again, the Yankees lost in the first round of the playoffs, but again, that's beside the point. The point is, simply saying that a team is doomed and won't make the playoffs because it started slow is laughable. Especially when you consider the division the Seahawks play in. The Rams are about as harmless as a garter snake, the 49ers haven't won more than seven games since 2002 and the Cardinals – although 2-0 - are going to be tested heavily in their next five games (at Washington, at NY Jets, Buffalo, Dallas, at Carolina). By the way, starting a season 2-0 is something Arizona hasn't done since 1992. So forgive me if I'm not TOO worried about the Seahawks' competition in the NFC West right now. If Seattle loses against St. Louis next week, then I may change my tune.
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I think more than anything we have to look at the reasons for the losses. The Bills’ special teams is what doomed the Seahawks in Week 1. Against San Francisco, the defense was the culprit. The 49ers put together five drives that spanned longer than 50 yards. I know that sounds bad – and believe me, against San Francisco it is - but for a defense that allowed an average of just 13.9 points-per-game at home last year, is this something we really think is going to be a consistent problem? Possibly, but I think a defense that performs as well as the Seahawks did last year deserves a little bit more credit.
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If Seahawks fans really want something to be upset about, it should be how yesterday’s loss impacts the team’s playoff seeding. Losing at home against a divisional opponent these days is just like sticking a single bullet in a handgun and playing a game of roulette. You’re just asking to get blown up. Every year, the Seahawks manage to lose a game at home that they should win. Last year, it was a winless New Orleans team that came to Qwest Field and did it. Two years ago, the Vikings and Niners did it. In 2004, Dallas and Buffalo were victorious at Qwest. Except for 2003 and 2005, the Seahawks have dropped games at home they should have won each and every year that Hasselbeck has been the starter. Consequently, those losses end up keeping the Seahawks from getting a better playoff seed. Home losses to the Vikings and Niners in 2006 actually prevented the Seahawks from getting a first-round bye. The Seahawks are 0-3 in road playoff games under Holmgren and entering the season, and entering the season, I felt like the only way this team could advance in the playoffs was to get the NFC's top seed. Losing to San Francisco at home really hurts those chances.
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Also, I find it saddening what head coach Mike Holmgren admitted at the end of the game. Holmgren said that because the Seahawks were starting at their own 11-yard-line with just over two minutes left in regulation and the score tied at 30, it was better to play for overtime than to make a mistake that gave the 49ers the game. As it turned out, Holmgren's conservative game-plan failed and San Francisco was given an opportunity to kick the game-winning 41-yard field goal at the end of the fourth quarter. The kick was missed, which forced an overtime, but when the head coach refuses to go for the win when he knows he might not even see the ball in overtime, saying that he is afraid the offense will mess it up, you know he's not beaming with confidence. This is Holmgren's final year as Seattle's head coach. If he really wants to go out with a bang and win all the marbles, he needs to have a little more guts than he showed yesterday. Knowing this is his last year, maybe Holmgren doesn't really care anymore. But I think the Seahawks' fans who have supported him for ten years deserve better.
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Nevertheless, next week the lowly Rams come to town. I’m told not to overlook the Rams, considering right now the Seahawks are fighting with them to stay out of the NFC-West cellar, but the Rams have lost their first two games by a combined score of 79-16 (38-3 at Philly and 41-13 to the NY Giants). So if ever there was a team the Seahawks should be able to get healthy against, it is the Rams next week. Then, it’s off into the bye week before the hopeful returns of Deion Branch and Bobby Engram for Week 5 at the Giants.
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Other thoughts:
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- The Seahawks MUST re-sign wide receiver Koren Robinson. Robinson - affectionately nicknamed "K-Drop" for his amazing ability to drop routine passes - was drafted by the Seahawks in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft. After multiple problems with the law, along with the inability to stay sober, the Seahawks cut ties with Robinson after the 2004 season. After spending time with Minnesota and most recently Green Bay, Robinson is once again searching for a home. He called Holmgren and indicated his willingness to come back, but as far as I've heard, that call has gone unreturned. In my opinion, the Seahawks need to just man-up and resign the guy. You've lost six of your top seven wide receivers. We know Robinson had his problems hanging onto the football when he was here, but we also saw the lightning speed he, along with Darrell Jackson, brought to the Seahawks offense. We know he had drinking problems, but we also know he has the heart and desire to change. He claims to be sober. This isn't the time to be prideful and let history make decisions. Sign the man to a 1-year contract. He already knows the Seahawks' playbook inside-out; it's not like you'll have to worry about re-teaching a brand-new player. The playoffs and Super Bowl are on the line and you're 0-2. Just do the right thing here. If the Seahawks front office can't forgive Robinson and give him another chance - even though they gave him multiple chances before - I question their true desire to win.
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- Once again, the Notre Dame hype continues after the Fighting Irish defeated the Michigan Wolverines 35-17 in South Bend. Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weiss called the victory “HUGE.” I think that things must be pretty bad when you defeat one of the most helpless teams in all of Division-I football right now and then turn around and call the victory “huge.” Notre Dame was outplayed in nearly every facet of the game Saturday. Except for the all-important turnover battle. Michigan lost four fumbles and threw two interceptions. Notre Dame started its first two drives inside the Wolverines 15 and scored touchdowns both times. Another touchdown came on a 35-yard fumble return. I guess we should give quarterback Jimmy Clausen some credit because he did have a couple long receptions that went for 48 and 60 yards – the former being a touchdown pass. But with the opportunities the Fighting Irish had on Saturday, how bad must they really be if they don’t win? But then I turn around and see Notre Dame has four votes in the AP Top 25 and 5 votes in the USA Today poll while Washington has none? Laughable. Just … freaking … laughable.
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- I think we all know Arizona State is just flat-out better than UNLV. But this is what happens when you look ahead, which is most likely what the Sun Devils were doing Saturday as their game against Georgia loomed just on the horizon. I want to bash BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall in the skull with a nine iron so much sometimes for his never-ending one-game-at-a-time approach, but I have to say, it’s because of that approach that you will NEVER see BYU lose a game like Arizona State did Saturday. I’m trying to think of what could possibly be worse than losing at home to UNLV when you are hoping to go to the Rose Bowl. Is it really that much different than USC losing at home to Stanford last year? Maybe not, but Stanford defeated Arizona on the road as well as California last year. Is UNLV good enough to defeat three Pac-10 teams? Possibly, but coming from someone who has watched a lot of Mountain West Conference football in the last three years, doubtful. Maybe that’s just my blind Pac-10 homerism talking though.
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- I’m glad the NFL is in-line with the NCAA in its quest to follow everything by the book with the attitude that “a rule is a rule.” Giving the ball back to Denver yesterday when the official clearly admitted he had made the wrong call was nothing short of insane. (Side note: Any BYU fan who also cheers for San Diego has a right to be upset though. I mean, a rule is a rule, right? You don’t like it? Too bad.) To once again bring the situation back, San Diego was leading Denver 38-31 Sunday late in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for the Chargers though, the Broncos were driving. With second-and-goal at the Chargers 1, Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler rolled out to throw the ball. As he brought his arm back, he inexplicably dropped the football. The ball was recovered by the Chargers. The officials blew the whistle signaling an incomplete pass, meaning the play was dead. So although the officials reviewed the play and determined it was indeed a fumble, nothing could be done. According to the NFL instant-replay rules, once the whistle blows a play dead, the ruling cannot be altered. Two plays later, the Broncos punched it in for the score and then added a daring 2-point conversion to all but seal the victory. A game that was nothing short of fantastic was ruined just like that.
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I don’t know where to start. Part of me is happy because I hate Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers. So every time I see him lose, it puts a little smile on my face. But to lose like that is just horrible. The reason instant reply was created was because officials wanted to get the play right. I remember back in 1998 when the Seahawks were battling for a playoff spot on the road against the NY Jets. The Seahawks were leading, but the Jets were driving late in the game. Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde took a fourth-down play and bolted for the end zone, only to be tackled short. Testaverde, who was CLEARLY down before he reached the goalline, quickly pushed the ball over the goalline after being tackled, giving the referees the appearance that he had scored. The Jets were awarded the touchdown and ultimately won the game, ending the Seahawks’ playoff hopes. The head official said, “I saw his helmet cross the goalline, and I thought it was the football.” First of all, I want to know whatever that referee is smoking to mistake a white helmet for a brown football. But the point is, instant replay was devised to prevent mistakes like these from happening. So why do we have this crazy clause in the rules that says plays that are blown dead can’t be looked at and changed? What good does that do? The fact is, each coach has an allotment of challenges each half that he can use at his own risk. If he loses the challenge, he loses a timeout. It’s not like coaches have unlimited challenge opportunities and can use them to just slow the game down. If a coach wants to use his challenge on a play that was blown dead, why is that a problem? The NFL says they are going to look into revising the clause, but the fact that this is even a clause is retarded. And the fact that the NFL is so uncaring that they are willing to let something like this slide is … well … atrocious. Yes, rules are rules. But sometimes, things shouldn’t be so black and white. If San Diego loses the AFC West to the Broncos this year by a single game, you can better believe there is going to be some serious problems.
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