Friday, September 26, 2008

Beavers' Upset of Trojans and the Implications

Unless you live under a rock I am sure all college football fans are aware of the stunning upset the Oregon State Beavers orchestrated against the USC Trojans. Against the No. 1 team in the land, the Beavers of Corvallis, Or., unseated Pete Carroll's crew 27-21. Behind the obvious thrilling game that took place Thursday night, what really did USC's loss signify?

Looking back their are several main areas this loss touches on. For one, Oregon State needs to get the credit they deserve for having pulled off two straight wins against USC in Corvallis. OSU did not get any lucky breaks or use trick plays, they simply manhandled the Trojans. Head coach Mike Riley seems to have Carroll's number. I know, I can not understand it either, but Riley always gets his troops ready for battle when the Trojans come to town.

My second point rests with big deficits USC throws themselves into. Point 1: In 2006 the Trojans trailed the Beavers 33-10 before losing 33-31 after missing a two point conversion. Last night USC trailed 21-0 at one point. Basically the Trojans do not just put themselves in a hole, they nearly dig a canyon. Had USC not played so lousy in 2006 and 2008 to where the deficits were difficult for any team to come back from, then maybe the team could of rallied for a win. But the fact remains, no matter who you are, coming back from 20+ points is pretty difficult. Especially in an environment such as Corvallis.

Thirdly I would like to discuss the unbelievable performance by 5'6'', 180 pound, freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers. On 37 carries Rodgers had an astounding 186 yards and 2 touchdowns. Oregon State's successes would never had happened had this virtually unknown athlete ripped through the Trojan defensive line time and time again. But, after Rodgers's performance there was one thing I could not stop thinking about? Beanie Wells. Seeing such a small running back do so much damage to the USC defensive line definitely makes us all wonder how Beanie Wells would of done against USC. In fact, it almost puts a big asterisks next to the Trojans' 35-3 win. Then again maybe USC just had an abnormally bad game Thursday night.

Let me say this. A lot of people in the country, more so than ever, really want to see a USC/Ohio State rematch in the Rose Bowl. Bottom line: people want to see what Beanie can do against this Trojan defensive line.

My fourth point: leadership. USC has all the talent in the world. No question about it; Carroll knows how to recruit and put a team together. Yet with all the talent in the world, USC still lost? Why? Like so many others have stated, "USC did not have the leadership it needed at the end of the game." Mark Sanchez could end up being a terrific QB, but last night he did not have it all. He was not able to drive down his team for the tying touchdown when trailing by seven in the fourth. That in itself is nothing short of huge.

In 2007 the LSU Tigers found ways to win. They had players who made plays and made victories happen. It does not seem USC has that yet. Sure, Joe McKnight is one of the most dynamic players in the nation, but he was gone yesterday. He was simply lost in a different world bobbling punt returns and getting tackled for huge losses. This leadership flaw was certainly seen by all.

So overall this victory is significant because it shows a) USC is not an invincible as we were lead to believe, b) USC is in a state of flux. The Pac-10 has one team in the Top 25 (USC), and they just lost to a Beaver team with a losing record. How strong is that conference? And finally, c) USC already has one loss and we have not even finished September yet. Could more be coming?

Before I sign off let me recognize the Unsung Hero of last night's game. Of course Rodgers was the star, but the guy who really made an impact was Johnny Hekker the punter. Three times Hekker pinned the Trojans inside the 20, twice he pinned them inside their ten. Listen I do not care how good of a quarterback you are, to be trailing by seven on the road, 95 yards aways is nothing you could characterize as "simple."

One final note: I must acknowledge that indeed my friend Corey called this upset. Yes, I too was shocked when I heard him make this statement. Very well, Corey you were right I was wrong.

Reap the benefits.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Against All Odds: Lee Drives LSU to Victory

In my lifetime I really wonder if I will ever, 100 percent comprehend, what Jarrett Lee pulled off at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday night.

When all the dust has settled and this game is looked back at in 15 years it will not be the ending of the home winning streak in the LSU/Auburn series that will be remembered, but more importantly the emergence of an LSU quarterback. The birth of a leader who lead his team to victory, despite going against all odds.

Lets try and put into perspective what Lee accomplished last night.

One year ago on October 20, 2007, LSU trailed Auburn 17-7 at half in Tiger Stadium. Even with Glenn Dorsey, Matt Flynn, Jacob Hester, and Early Doucet on the roster, victory for the Tigers still seemed like a long shot. LSU did win that day in one of the most exciting games in LSU history. Flynn-to-Byrd is etched in the minds of Tiger faithful forever.

Now fast forward to about a year later; last night, and you had an even more overwhelming situation. LSU was down 14-3 at the half, at Auburn, with inexperienced Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch taking turns at quarterback. To top off this daunting task the starting quarterback, Andrew Hatch, went out of the game with a head injury in the third quarter.

With Hatch out for the game early in the third quarter, Lee was thrown back under center. In the first half Lee threw 5 passes, all were incomplete, including one that lead to a costly, six Auburn points.

Was LSU's back against the wall? You bet. Was Auburn one score away from putting this game away? For sure. Did seeing Hatch go out injured then replaced by Lee scare the bajezuz out of many LSU fans? Of course.

This was not an ordinary victory for LSU. Yes, you could say this was essentially the same group of men who lead countless come from behind victories last year, but still one main difference sticks out: Jarrett Lee.

A 19-year old redshirt freshman from Texas was supposed to lead the Tigers to victory? Les Miles believed and so did offensive coordinator Gary Crowton.

In one quarter LSU transformed a 14-3 deficit into a 17-14 lead. Behind play calling that had one of the best defenses guessing play after play, LSU switched from a first half team that was a deer-in-headlights to the swaggering, SEC juggernaut that we have all come to know.

Lee's first touchdown to Chris Mitchell for 39 yards gave LSU players one thing: hope.

The second touchdown, Keiland Williams's half-back pass to Demetrius Byrd gave the LSU players another thing: their swagger.

And finally, LSU's winning touchdown, a short screen pass from Lee to Brandon LaFell, gave the LSU team their biggest missing ingredient: confidence.

There are various reasons as to why LSU came out on top last night at Jordan-Hare stadium. Too many to count, too many to state. But the main one, the one everyone saw is Jarrett Lee.

On September 20, 2008, Jarrett Lee transformed from a quarterback prodigy to a starting SEC quarterback.

Welcome to manhood Lee.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

September 7: Football Weekend Thoughts

This past week in Baton Rouge, La., has been nothing short of hell. Hurricane Gustav made sure of that by attempting to ruin all sorts of football entertainment.

He failed because I am still here and I am still going to give you my analysis on some important football games I saw this weekend.


26 Florida 3 Miami-Florida

To the naked eye the final score of this game might make one think it was all Florida all four quarters. As Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast my friend!"

Tim Tebow is an incredible player, but it seems more and more teams are doing a better job of putting pressure on him. (Remember Michigan in the Capital One Bowl?) Miami outplayed Florida in the first half, and maybe could of hung closer if more experience was on the team. Either way, Florida does not look as awesome as they were proclaiming all offseason. The Gators are a work in progress and Superman is not unstoppable.

On the other hand, maybe, just maybe, the U is farther along with Coach Shannon than anyone expected. The 'Canes have the talent it's just a matter of producing on the field.

26 OSU 14 Ohio

Maybe it was the fact OSU plays USC next week, or maybe it has to do with Beanie Wells not playing. Either way trailing the University of Ohio on your home turf going into the fourth quarter is NOT good thing. Listen, personally I think OSU just overlooked the Bobcats. I mean look at the talent on OSU. You think not having Beanie Wells against the Bobcats was really that much of a difference? I didn't think so.

Now let's say OSU did play so poorly because they were without Beanie. Well, then I don't see a happy September 13 for the Buckeye faithful. Reason? This is a clear cut sign OSU relies too much on Beanie. USC will be expecting that. For OSU to beat USC they need Beanie and some more. Make sense?


Ohio State @ Wisconsin (October 4)

We knew this game would be good (at Camp Randall!) before the season started, but now it looks like it could be a classic. The Badgers run the ball crazy (that's a given), but they also seem to be throwing it out more (308 yards against Marshall). When the notorious OSU defense takes the field against the Badgers offense, basic science tells us something has to give.


24 Saints 20 Buccaneers

The ending to this one was nothing short of what the audience expected. But, unlike last year the Saints' D did come through in the clutch. In their first appearance as a team the D unit was shaky at times, but it did seal the victory.

Some key points:

1. Jonathan Vilma. The new linebacker made his presence known forcefully. 9 tackles, all with the same jaw-dropping intensity. The Saint faithful only hope No. 51 gets better.

2. Reggie Bush. No one seems to be criticized faster than Mr. Bush. Okay so maybe he can't be an every down back. So what. Just get him the ball somehow. He's electric and is nothing short of a playmaker. Not every player takes that little slant pass today and turns it into a 42 yard scamper.

3. Pierre Thomas. The undrafted second year man is making a name for himself. 10 carries for 52 yards. With Deuce still recovering and Reggie not being much of an every down back, Thomas has stepped in and done nicely so far. Rumors have it that N.O. is pursuing the recently released Chicago Bear Cedric Benson. Either way, Thomas is moving up the depth chart.

34 Bills 10 Seahawks

Whoa! Are these the same Bills I'm thinking of? Seattle is no pushover so this could be big news for the Bills. Reading the recap on the game, Buffalo jumped out on Seattle and never let up.

For the first time in a while the Bills may have themselves a solid offense, right when Tom Brady is pronounced out for the year. Wow. Can you spell possible AFC East champs? Hmm.

It will be interesting to see if Marshawn Lynch can reach his potential and become that marquee back the Bills have been missing ever since McGahee left town.

Well that covers about all I have to say for tonight. Yes, I could of written more, but again Hurricane Ike is outside my window. What nerve.