Monthly Archives: November 2013

CFB 2013 Week 13:Death Valley Daze

2-1 as Stanford and Wisconsin won but the Ags got blown out at LSU.

Stanford, Wisconsin, and A&M all played 2:30 Central starts today.  I mostly watched the Ags, but flipped over to a bit of Big Game and a bit of the game for Paul Bunyan’s axe.  A&M went into Baton Rouge as a higher ranked road underdog. The expectation was for another shootout, with LSU being able to use their power running game to wear down the Ags, especially late in the game, but with Johnny Manziel having a chance to pull of a win. Unfortunately for the Ags, weather, LSU’s defense, and just being off led to Manziel having probably his worst game of his two years at A&M, competing only with his other loss to LSU in Kyle last year.  After failing to score on their opening possession, the Ags got the ball back on the LSU 39 when the much-maligned D turned the Bayou Bengals over on downs. A&M squandered the first of many chances to score by failing to convert on 4th and 6. Johnny was off, the receivers dropped too many, the O-line didn’t protect, and the D did wear down.  I kept thinking the Ags would be able to get back in the game, but after going into halftime down 21-10, the Ags were completely shut out in the second half.

Wisconsin played Minnesota at their place, but won the Paul Bunyan axe for the 10th year in a row.  The Gophers were one of the feel-good stories of this season, winning several games while their coach dealt with seizure problems. They were on a 4-game winning streak to be 8-2 when the game started.  Minnesota wasn’t really dominated, but the Badgers never trailed after going up 10-7.

On the other hand, a rebuilding Cal was no problem for Stanford. The Cardinal won Big Game handily… and amazingly also won the Pac-12 North that everyone thought they had blown by losing to USC last week when Oregon got run out of the stadium by Arizona. The Wildcats ended up beating the Ducks 42-16.  Did not see that coming.  This sets the Pac-12 championship game as Stanford v. Arizona State, as the Sun Devils held on to upset UCLA in LA.  If ASU beats Arizona next week, they get to host the championship game. If the Cats beat the Devils, Stanford hosts by virtue of a head-to-head win on Sept 21.

Other notable results:

  • The Big 10 championships game was also set when Michigan State clinched by keeping Northwestern winless in conference play.
  • Florida was upset by FCS Georgia Southern. Florida has had terrible injury problems this year, but even playing their third-string QB, this isn’t supposed to happen. This clinched the Gators’ first losing season since 1979.
  • Duke got to 9-2 with a win over Wake Forest. If the Blue Devils can beat UNC next week, they get to play #2 Florida State for the ACC championship
  • #4 Baylor was dominated by OK State in Stillwater. The Cowboys held Baylor to just a FG for the first 3 quarters and ended up winning 49-17.  #10 OK State  should rise in the polls tomorrow. In the Big 12, OK State leads at 7-1 in conference with Baylor, Texas, at 6-1 and OU at 6-2.  OK St. plays OU next. Baylor and Texas each have an intervening game before facing each other to end the season.  There are scenarios that lead to a 4-way tie at 7-2.

Both divisions of the SEC remain undecided. In the West, the Iron Bowl will determine whether Alabama or Auburn goes to the conference championship. In the East, the Ags can knock Mizzou out of the lead with a win in Columbia.

Cardinal sin

Stanford dominated Oregon in week 11 and took control of the Pac-12 north.  So… what happened when they went down to play USC on Saturday?  Of course, they lost and handed the lead for the Rose Bowl back to the Ducks.  Ouch.

USC started fast, scoring on their first three possessions (TD, TD, FG). Stanford was able to get a TD and a FG before halftime to make the score 17-10.  Despite looking sluggish in the first half, the Cardinal adjusted, got a stop on USC’s opening drive of the second half, and tied the game at 17 on a 10 play 92 yard drive.  It looked like Stanford would take the lead when the ensuing USC drive ended on a sack and a fumble recovered by Shayne Skov at the USC 19. But not only did Ty Montgomery drop a TD pass on 3rd and 3, but also the FG attempt was blocked.  The teams traded punts and then Stanford had a 9 play drive from their own 15 to the Trojan 10 … and failed to score again when Hogan threw a horrible pass that was picked off.  Neither team could move very well after that and it looked like overtime was looming when Stanford took a punt on their own 32 with 3:40 to go.  But Hogan threw another pick on 2nd and 3, giving the Trojans the ball on their own 44.  I don’t understand how shoving Montgomery out of bounds wasn’t interference, but the refs were mysterious all night, and Stanford benefited from some strange calls as well.  USC managed to complete two passes to get to the Stanford 21 and then almost blew it by losing yards on running plays to turn a 38 yard attempt into a 47 yard attempt. But the Trojan kicker put it through the uprights and that was pretty much the ball game.

The keys to the game

  • USC was outgained 337 – 311 and gave up 6 yards per play rushing, but that stat is deceptive. The Trojan linebackers gambled and won enough to keep Stanford from having the kind of dominance in time of possession that we had against the Ducks.  There were more negative rushing plays than usual for the Cardinal
  • USC’s wideouts are much better than Oregon’s.
  • Hogan’s judgement on the turnovers, plus Montgomery’s drops.  I kept thinking: Manziel might have thrown the INTs, but he would have completed enough passes and scrambled to keep drives alive. I also thought that Evans, Labhart or Kennedy would have caught the ball in the endzone.

The Aggies were off this weekend and travel to Baton Rouge to face LSU in Death Valley. The Badgers stomped Indiana in bad weather. Elsewhere

  • Crazy ending of the year was when Auburn scored on 4th and 18 with 25 seconds to go to beat Georgia, on a pass that was deflected by two defenders into the hands of a sprinting receiver who went untouched for the score.  The play covered 73 yards.  The Dawgs almost came back in the last few seconds, but couldn’t pull it off.
  • Duke beat Miami and could win the ACC Coastal division.
  • Baylor remained unbeaten by running away from Tech
  • OK State crushed Texas in Austin.

CFB 2013 week 11: If a Tree falls on a Duck…

My teams (Stanford, Wisconsin, and TAMU) went 3-0 this week.

Stanford’s win was the biggest and the most unexpected in terms of both the result and the way it happened.  I got home on Thursday in time to watch some of an ugly OU-Baylor first half and switched with trepidation to the start of the game at Stanford stadium.  The Ducks came to Palo Alto unbeaten, averaging more than 55 ppg (with the low end being 42 vs ranked UCLA), and favored by 10.   So, when Duck RB DeAnthony Thomas predicted Oregon would score 40, he was arguably being conservative.  Unlike TAMU, another high-flying offense, Oregon also has a good defense.  And they had the revenge factor to keep them from looking past the Cardinal, as if you should ever look past a top 10 opponent. Meanwhile, Stanford had come into the season with a team built on an experienced defense and power running.  The D has been one of the top defenses in the country, but I was afraid that the offense was too one-dimensional to keep the D off the field.  I figured a bad day for Oregon would be in the range of the 27-28 points Washington and Utah had scored, and the Cardinal might not be able to put enough on the board to beat that.

That last bit was the only place where I was even close to right. Stanford only scored 26 for the night, but it was enough for a 26-20 win, which wasn’t as close as the final score even though Oregon had a chance to save the win at the end.  Stanford completely dominated Oregon for most of the game and probably could have scored more by going for it instead of taking field goals in the second half on 4th and short deep in the red zone, or by making a late FG that was blocked and returned for a TD.  The Cardinal win was fundamentally because Stanford’s D  made more big plays than Oregon’s O and because Oregon couldn’t stop the Stanford running game, especially in the second half. Stanford’s offense  was mostly Tyler Gaffney off tackle on the right side from a heavy package.  QB Kevin Hogan sprinkled in just enough clutch runs of his own to keep drives alive.

The game didn’t look like it would be a Stanford blowout at the start.  The Ducks moved on their first drive but a false start led to a punt.  Stanford went 3 and out. Oregon returned the ensuing punt to the Stanford 28, and at that point I was cringing.  But after getting first and goal at the 7, Oregon couldn’t get closer than the 4.  Foolishly or arrogantly, Oregon coach Mark Helfrich went for it on 4th and goal from the 4.  Mariota’s pass was incomplete, and the Cardinal responded with a 96  yard 12 play drive for a TD, which took the lead for good.  Stanford held the Ducks to a negative yardage 3 and out, and then scored on their next possession.  The first Stanford scoring drive included a beautiful 47 yard pass from Hogan to Michael Rector. The second included a horrible pass that should have been picked off in the red zone. But Stanford got bailed out on a pass interference call.  Down 2 TDs, the Ducks fought back and got deep into the red zone. But Shane Skove stripped Thomas at the 2 and recovered the fumble.  Stanford used up the rest of the first half with a drive that got to the Oregon 2.  The Cardinal settled for a FG to end the half up 17-0.

Stanford took the second half kickoff and drove for another FG: 20-0.  Oregon got to the Stanford 24 and turned it over again as Mariota got hammered and fumbled.  Stanford drove and settled for another FH: 23-0. Oregon 3 and out. Stanford drive, FG: 26-0 with less than 12 minutes left in the game.  Oregon finally got a typical Oregon possession and scored on a drive that took less than 2 minutes to go 60 yards: 26-7 with about 10 minutes to go.  Stanford recovered the onside kick and drove to the Oregon 23, forcing the Ducks to take 2 timeouts.  When Jordan Williamson lined up for yet another FG, it looked like it would completely ice the game.  Instead, the kick was blocked and returned for an Oregon TD. 2 pt PAT failed. 26-13.  Oregon recovered the onside kick this time and got a first and goal at the Stanford 2. When Skov sacked Mariota on third down and forced another fumble, that looked like the ball game. While Mariota recovered, the Ducks had to use their last timeout to gather themselves for 4th and goal from the 12.  Mariota completed a TD pass to cut the lead to 26-20.  At this point, Stanford fans were getting very nervous, as an onside kick recovery would give the Duck a chance to win with a TD and PAT… and Oregon kicker Alejandro Maldonado was using an onside kick method that was really, really good.  Fortunately for the Cardinal, the third onside kick was recovered by the Stanford hands team.

Stanford kept the ball away from Oregon for a total of 42:34, mostly on runs. Tyler Gaffney set a school record for carries with 45 (out of a total of 79 plays for Stanford). Oregon only ran 58 plays. Total yards were 377-312, but on the ground, Stanford outgained Oregon 274-62.

The game is viewed as killing Oregon’s chances for a BCS title game, and could knock them out of a top bowl altogether if Stanford wins out.  Mariota’s Heisman bid is also probably done.

The Ags and the Badgers were on at the same time on Saturday. Both won.  I watched TAMU; Johnny Football is too entertaining to miss, even for the Badgers. Saturday vs. Miss State was the last home game in the current version of Kyle Field, so it was Senior Day. It’s also thought to be the last home game for Manziel and Evans. We’ve gotten so spoiled by the A&M offense under Sumlin that Aggie fans wonder what’s wrong when we don’t score on our first offensive possession. We’ve also gotten so down on the D that we expect to be behind if that doesn’t happen. Against the Bulldogs, the Ags didn’t score on their first possession, and the D stopped Mississsippi State on their first two possessions, allowing the Ags to draw first blood on our second possession.  Unfortunately, this was immediately followed by a 1-play possession by MSU, as Josh Robinson went around the left side and ran 51 yards for a TD.  A&M drove down the field but Manziel threw a pick as the Ags were threatening to score again. This led to the second blocked punt safety in as many weeks. This time it was 12th man Sam Moeller. The A&M drive after the free kick stretched the lead to 7-16.  The teams traded scores with the Ags getting a late TD in the first half to go into the break leading 23-14.

The Ags ended up outscoring MSU 28-27 in the second half for the 51-41 final score. Manziel threw two more interceptions, but finished with 446 yards and 5 passing TDs.  He also added some amazing plays his lifetime highlight reel.  The D continued to cause concern, especially as the game wore on.  The Ags gave up 187 yards in the first half, and 365 in the second, including drives of 96 and 75 yards (twice).  One of the latter was two plays.

Elsewhere

Week 10 cfb: UTEPid win drops Ags in the BCS

Despite grant writing and paper revisions, I managed to get my sports fix this past weekend while my collaborators were taking their turns with the texts.

Stanford was off on Saturday, prepping for next Thursday’s highly hyped game with the Ducks. Badgers won a slugfest with Iowa, pulling away late.  The Ags played UTEP at Kyle in a late game.  This was supposed to be a homecoming for  QB Jamielle Showers, who backed up Johnny Football last year but tranferred to the Miners to get some PT. Showers graduated and thus avoided having to sit for a year.  Showers was back in Kyle but on the sidelines after dislocating his shoulder last week.  The Ags would have been heavily favored anyway, but playing a one-win team with a backup QB pushed the spread to 48 points.  The Ags scored first on a blocked punt for a safety, but when UTEP took a 7-2 lead in the first quarter, there was panic at Texags.com.  But that was the end of the scoring for the Miners, and the Ags ended up covering the spread, 57-7.  This was so unimpressive that the BCS computers dropped A&M from 12th to 15th.

Play of the day elsewhere was the ridiculous Nebraska Hail Mary that kept Northwestern winless in the Big 10.

Between the entertainment value of Johnny Football and my disdain for Brent Musberger, I didn’t watch more than a few minutes of Florida State’s demolition of Miami.  The Canes had been ranked in the top 10 on the basis of an undefeated record that included a win over a Florida team that gifted them the win.