I wish I appreciated defense.
I wish I enjoyed a 13-10 struggle as much as a 51-48 shootout.
I’m sorry—I’m just one of those guys that likes a seven-RBI day better than a pitchers' duel.
I’ll always notice Kobe Bryant’s points before Bruce Bowen’s steals.
What can I say? The shortcoming is mine, and this week’s Diamond reminded me again that defense is worth watching. In other words, even though TCU & Utah combined for more punts than the winner had points, our DITR spotlight game was still a classic.
1. DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH: UTAH 13, TCU 10
TCU does some things very well. For example, coming into Thursday’s BCS buster elimination game at Utah, they led the country in quarterback sacks. This is good. Their stingy defense also ranked first nationally in rush yards allowed with a measly 39 per game. Also good.
On the other side of the coin, there are other things the Horned Frogs don’t do so well. They lead the nation in penalty yardage per game.
This would qualify as bad.
The good, the bad, and the ugly were all on display in a 13-10 heartbreaking loss Thursday night. The Frogs’ good defense lived up to its billing, dominating Utah for the majority of the contest and holding the Utes without a touchdown until the final minute of the game.
The overaggressive visitors showed their bad side as well, committing a costly 11 penalties in a contest too close for silly mistakes.
And oh yes, let’s not forget the ugly. That would be kicker Ross Evans missing not one, but TWO chip shot field goals in the final six minutes. With the Frogs clinging to a 10-6 lead, both kicks would have put the game out of reach. Either one would have stretched the margin to seven.
Missing both left the door open.
And despite struggling the entire game to get untracked, Utah barged right through.
The Utes’ Freddie Brown caught a nine-yard touchdown pass from Brian Johnson with 47 seconds left, and all of a sudden, the black-clad home squad was still undefeated.
If you’ve ever heard the saying, “don’t let the other team hang around,” this is the game that cliché refers to.
It's a cliché that Ross Evans and company won’t forget anytime soon.
Here are my random thoughts on this week’s “Diamond in the Rough.”
- Both teams are tricky on offense...and both teams were too smart on defense to be fooled. Fake reverse on a kick return? It may buy five extra yards, but not 50. The old Urban Meyer spread option? The deception may buy you a few seconds, but not enough to bust a big play. These teams’ defensive coordinators both deserve raises.
- Does anyone else find it strange that in a game with hardly any scoring, TCU never actually got the ball over the goal line on its only touchdown? In other words, the next time someone tells you that “every play in college football is reviewed,” laugh at them and walk away. It’s just not true.
Horned Frog running back Ryan Christian scored on a three-yard plunge in the first quarter, but his knee was clearly down before he got the ball into the end zone. Replay? Nah.
Oh well...I guess it’s not like a touchdown is going to matter in a game decided BY ONLY THREE POINTS!!! (I’ll calm down now, sorry. Must be the caffeine.)
- Plays that don’t show up in the box score: TCU had two second-half drives into field goal range that both came up empty when quarterback Andy Dalton took bad sacks on third down, forcing punts instead of placekicks.
The way Evans performed, who knows if he would have made either of those kicks, but in a 13-10 game, your friendly neighborhood Internet columnist suggests altering your play calling slightly to make sure you at least get a field goal try when you get the ball near the red zone.
- Anybody else sick of the Wildcat/Wildhog/Wildfrog formation?
- Utah quarterback Brian Johnson shaking free of a certain sack 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage and managing to wiggle free for a simple one-yard gain is almost worthy of mentioning in “Thank Goodness for My DVR.” Talk about an athletic “how did he do that” moment...
- Back to the awesome defenses for a second...what makes them so great? Answer from my vantage point: pressure on the quarterback, textbook coverage by defensive backs, speed of pursuit (especially to outside), and very few big plays (when they did come, it was because the quarterback got time in the pocket to let his receiver settle down in a soft spot of the zone).
- Utah downed a perfect punt from Louie Sakoda as close to the goal line as humanly possible in the second half. Of course, as I wrote in my notes, “with so many chances, they’ve had plenty of time to perfect the punting game.”
Diamond in the Rough is an in-depth profile of a game outside the national media spotlight. If you want to see your team in an upcoming edition, send an e-mail to email@example.com and tell me why!
2. LOU HOLTZ SPECIALS
(MAYBE BROADCASTING IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT)
“Purdue looks like they’re getting dominated slightly.” – Charles Davis
“A few weeks ago against Wyoming, he knocked out the starting AND the backup quarterback.” – Tom Hart
“That’s not nice.” – Dan Fouts
Reader submission from Brent:
“Derrick Williams is like a mean brother on Thanksgiving Day—he gives a little leg and then takes it right away.” – Brad Nessler
“You want to know the truth about this [LSU fans burning an effigy of Nick Saban]? It was some folks who were trying to attract people to sell condos.” – Verne Lundquist
“Ugh—I thought you were going to say something else.” – Gary Danielson
“NO!” – Verne Lundquist
“I just threw a flag on myself.” – Verne Lundquist
“By the way, President-Elect Obama, give me a call. We’ll talk about that playoff thing. You’ve got my number. You’re probably watching. Well, maybe he’s got better things to do.” – Brad Nessler
“Every single play is important.” – Wayne Larrivee, ironically as the BTN camera is showing a player limping on the sideline and missing a live play.
“How many weapons do the Sooners have?” – Mark May
“Myriad weapons, Mark: a plethora, an assortment, a veritable potpourri.” – Rece Davis
“The big boys are here: representatives from the Orange Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, and the Sugar Bowl, all wearing their tight-fitting blazers. That’s what I want to be when I grow up is a bowl representative.” – Dan Fouts
Last but not least, listening to Lou Holtz justify his rankings to Mark May and Rece Davis on Saturday night was priceless. In Lou’s top five after Saturday’s action, he had Texas and Oklahoma tied for fifth, even though the Horns have ALREADY BEATEN the Sooners this year. Ranking them in the same spot was idiotic, and listening to Holtz stammer when his cohorts called him on it made my weekend.
Don’t forget to write down the wacky stuff you hear! If you come up with an announcer quote worthy of the “Lou Holtz Specials,” send it to firstname.lastname@example.org: You could make it into next week’s column!
3. THAT CAN’T BE RIGHT
The ridiculous stat lines and improbable scores that make you think the sports ticker has malfunctioned...
Nevada rushed for a ridiculous 472 yards on 61 carries in a 41-28 win at Fresno State.
How many of you wish you could trade your NFL fantasy quarterback for somebody in the Big 12? Check out these numbers from Saturday’s action:
Sam Bradford, Oklahoma: four touchdowns and 320 yards (also had one rushing TD)
Colt McCoy, Texas: five touchdowns and 300 yards
Graham Harrell, Texas Tech: six touchdowns and 454 yards
Alabama’s Rashad Johnson had three interceptions against LSU, including one in overtime to help the Tide escape Death Valley alive.
Kellen Moore, Tanyon Bissell, Vinny Perretta, and Mike Coughlin all threw touchdown passes for Boise State in a 49-14 win on the Smurf Turf yesterday.
4. THANK GOODNESS FOR MY DVR
Here are the jaw-dropping highlights that were worth rewinding for this week.
Western Michigan WR JaMarko Simmons’ touchdown catch: Simmons’ fancy footwork in the end zone helped him become the Broncos’ all-time leading wide receiver.
Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor’s touchdown pass to Rory Nicol after breaking two tackles in the backfield...Pryor is becoming a DVR staple in “Carrying On.”
Stanford’s Anthony Kimble recovering his own fumble for a touchdown.
Graham Harrell’s picture-perfect fade pass to Edward Britton...you’ll never see better touch on a football.
Virginia Tech RB Darren Evans literally running over Maryland safety Terrell Skinner to pick up the final third-down conversion and secure yet another Hokie Thursday night win.
Michigan’s Greg Mathews with a brilliant one-handed catch (you’ve probably figured out the one-handers are always my favorite)
One more, but it’s not just a single play. West Virginia’s comeback against Cincinnati before ultimately falling short in overtime had my jaw literally hanging open.
The Mountaineers were down 20-7 with 1:20 to play before using a safety, a touchdown, an onside kick, and then a 52-yard field goal by Pat McAfee to force the extra frame. Watching thousands of hysterical people pile BACK into the stadium was the best football moment of the weekend.
5. SINCE I DO LIVE IN OHIO... (news from around the Big Ten)
I wrote two weeks ago that Minnesota might be the worst Top 25 team I’ve ever seen. Since then, the Gophers have done their best to prove me right, dropping two straight games, including a 29-6 pounding by Michigan in the Little Brown Jug game this weekend.
Illinois was ambushed by a solid Western Michigan squad at Ford Field in Detroit Saturday, giving the MAC at least four wins over Big Ten schools this year (Ball State over Indiana, Toledo over Michigan, and Central Michigan over Indiana are the others I came up with off the top of my head).
Congratulations to Iowa for knocking off previously undefeated Penn State. The fans wore black for the contest, but with an interesting twist. Students were encouraged to wear green to support star running back Shonn Greene, who finished with 117 yards and two touchdowns.
I liked the slogan on the students’ shirts too: Gang Greene.
One other random Big Ten note: You know your football program doesn’t have a lot of history (cough cough Indiana) when the 2007 Insight Bowl banner in your stadium is bigger than most teams’ national championship banners.
Act like you’ve been there before, Hoosiers.
Wait, I remember...you HAVEN’T been there before. Never mind.
Can you tell I’m a Purdue fan? :)
6. MAYBE COACHING IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
Speaking of Purdue, Joe Tiller gets this week’s not-so-honorable mention in the coaching section. Getting “slightly dominated” by Michigan State, Purdue couldn’t play much worse in the first half, yet still was down only 7-0 in the final minute.
Then the Boilermakers threw a pick-six interception with less than 25 seconds to go in the half.
Make that 14-0.
Now, don't get me wrong...I understand trying to get points before heading to the locker room (even though at that point, only a seven-point deficit should have felt like a moral victory and Purdue should have been kneeling the ball.) What I DON’T understand is throwing a risky out route when you’re not really trying to score.
Purdue’s drive had started at its own 27-yard line with 53 seconds to play in the half. In the next 30 seconds, Purdue had gained exactly seven yards on dink-and-dunk pass attempts. If you’re not going to throw the ball down the field, what makes you think you’re going to score in the last 27 seconds?
And if you’re not going to score, why throw an out route across the field that Sparty can take to the house and double his lead?
Momentum? Bye-bye. One-possession game? Sayonara. Bowl hopes? Adios.
All because of an ill-advised call and decision...a full 66 yards away from a potential touchdown in the final seconds...with no real chance to score anyway.
Maybe coaching is easier than I thought.
7. EVEN THOUGH SEVENTEEN IS A RANDOM NUMBER
Here’s today’s Top 17...Tech’s impressive showing against a solid Oklahoma State squad vaults them to first, while mid-majors Utah, Boise State, and Ball State are all in the top 10 with their undefeated records.
1. Texas Tech
8. Penn State
9. Boise State
10. Ball State
11. Oklahoma State
14. Ohio State
15. Michigan State
17. North Carolina
8. COMING ATTRACTIONS
I don’t know why anyone would need a reason to be excited about the upcoming college football weekend. But if you do, here’s three.
a. “Worth buying a ticket for”: a matchup that deserves the hype. Ohio State’s only regular season loss a year ago came to Illinois in the Horseshoe. The Buckeyes will be looking for revenge in Champaign this weekend.
b. “Heat check”: This team’s playing great, but faces a serious test. Spurrier is back in the Swamp Saturday as Florida puts its five-game win streak on the line against South Carolina and the former Gator Heisman winner/national champion coach.
c. “Diamond in the rough”: an in-depth profile of a game that deserves a closer look. Kansas may be a slight disappointment at 6-4 so far, but the Jayhawks have a chance to make a national statement and improve their bowl positioning by knocking off top five opponent Texas Saturday. Check next week’s Carrying On for a complete wrap-up from this Big 12 showdown.
So much for winning one for lame-duck coach Phillip Fulmer. Tennessee lost to Wyoming 13-7 at home Saturday, despite being a 26-½ point favorite. Things are way past ugly in Knoxville.
This was a new one to me...Clemson had a touchdown taken away because “the runner was down by rule when his helmet came off; the ball will be placed at the one-half yard line.” The receiver took a hit from two Florida State defenders that knocked his headgear off, but left him standing upright in the end zone with the football.
Since when is losing your helmet the same thing as being taken to the ground? I guess it’s in the rulebook, but I’ll admit to never having heard of it or seen it before this weekend.
LSU fans got another cell phone number this week...but Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson got the last laugh (and the touchdown celebration to boot).
Last but not least...in addition to being a great football day, Saturday (Nov. 8) was a special date in history. Happy birthday to Bobby Bowden...and to my dad.
Tim Cary (yes, Cary...as in “Carrying on”) is a resident of Springfield, Ohio and a die-hard college football fan (especially when it comes to the Purdue Boilermakers). To submit thoughts, ideas, questions, arguments, or anything else for “Carrying On About College Football,” e-mail: email@example.com.
Send in your ideas throughout the week...and check out the latest installment of COACF each Sunday night on BleacherReport.com.