Category Archives: sports

College Football Week 5:Comebacks

I didn’t get around to posting last week’s results, when my teams went 3-0, but each of the wins foreshadowed problems that surfaced this week. I meant to write something last week, but got busy with actual work.

Wisconsin d S. Florida

The Badgers played an early (11AM CDT) game against S. Florida. The game was tied at 3 at halftime, as Wisconsin continued to show problems in the passing game, and was slow to get Melvin Gordon and the passing game going with Tanner McEvoy. The Badgers broke out in the third quarter. Final Score: Wisconsin 27, S. Florida 10.

A&M d Arkansas

The Aggies went to Dallas for the second straight week to face an improving Arkansas team in their SEC opener (talking heads seem to forget that we had already played S. Carolina). After the usual fast start, A&M fell behind on a long run by RB Alex Collins. A&M tied it on a TD to Ed Pope, but the Ags misfired with dropped passes and a surprising FG miss by Lambo. While the Ags drives misfired, we did an OK job stopping the Razorbacks until a fake punt that went 51 yards to give Arkansas a 21-14 lead going into halftime. With Arkansas getting the ball first to start the second half, A&M fans were worried about getting into a shootout needing to break service. The D held on that first drive and A&M moved to the Arkansas 21 with a chance to tie the game. But a Kenny Hill to Ricky Seals-Jones out pattern on 4th and 1 was well covered, and the Ags gave the ball back. Arkansas got a 2 TD lead on their next drive on a play-action pass to TE AJ Derby. Derby blocked CB Devante Harris before releasing into the open with no safety help, while QB Brandon Allen did an excellent job of hiding the ball after faking a handoff. 28-14 Arkansas.

The first major turning point of the game came on a bonehead play by Arkansas tackle Dan Skipper in the 4th quarter. Arkansas ran a well-blocked play that sprang Jonathan Williams to the 2 yd line. But away from the point of attack, Skipper was knocked down and reacted by not one but at least two flails of his legs, ultimately drawing a tripping call that brought back the big play that would have led to a 3 TD lead. A&M’s next possession after a punt to the 12 yard line took 2 plays. The second was an 86 yard bomb to Pope to cut the lead to 28-21. Arkansas went 3 and out on their next drive, but Kenny Hill threw a long interception to give the Hogs the ball back with 8:34 to go. Both defenses got stops and Arkansas took over with a TD lead with 5:27 left. A pair of 17 yard runs got the ball into A&M territory. A fumbled snap was recovered by Arkansas, but the Hogs settled for a FG attempt from the A&M 31 to make it a 2 score lead with less than 3 minutes to go. Unfortunately for the Arkansans, the FG was missed. The Ags struck quickly again, with Hill hitting Josh Reynolds on the right side between two defenders. Reynolds shot through the gap and ran to the end zone to tie it up.

After stopping Arkansas again, the Ags had a chance to win in regulation, getting the ball on the 25 with 1:18 left. A&M got as far as their own 38 before opting to go to OT. The OT didn’t last long, as the Ags scored in one play on a Hill pass over the middle to Malcome Kennedy (who got away with a false start that was disguised by Hill’s acting like there was an audible after Kennedy’s twitch). The Arkansas linebacker bit on a fake WR screen to the right, and Kennedy ran straight up the middle to snag the pass and run into the endzone. Arkansas had to score a TD to keep OT going, but couldn’t convert on 4th and 1. Final Score: A&M 35 Arkansas 28. Bullet dodged.

Stanford d Washington

The Cardinal went to Seattle to play Washington. The game started while the A&M game was already going, so I only caught glimpses of it. But what I did see seemed like typical Stanford for this year: good D combined with an offense that has trouble in the red zone. Stanford had 3 turnovers, and the game was tied at 13 in the 4th quarter. I did not see the peculiar decision by Washington to run a fake punt on 4th and 9 from near midfield. It was stuffed and Stanford scored the game winning TD on the next possession.


There were lots of interesting results on the field, but the story that dominated the week was a decision by Michigan’s Brady Hoke to sub in a player who was concussed during a blowout loss to Minnesota. This seemed to be a product of cluelessness and incompetence more than a manifestation of macho throwback values, but it was still appalling. Michigan handled the aftermath badly as well, leading to campus rallies against the AD and grandstanding from congresscritters.

On the field:

College Football Week 4: Stomp

2-0 for my teams. Stanford had a bye.

Wisconsin d Bowling Green

Wisconsin started a bit slow but then blew out Bowling Green. I watched the beginning of the Badger game but had to go grocery shopping on Saturday, so I left when the rout began. This meant that I missed the record-setting rushing performance. Bowling Green came in having beaten Indiana last week, which turns out to be a better win than it looked like at the time.

The Badgers wore a uniform combo with red helmets, red jerseys, and white pants. When I switched to the game, I thought they looked like Indiana.

Texas A&M d SMU

The Aggies went to Dallas to play SMU, which may be the worst team they play, including Lamar. The Ponies started the season badly by being blown out by Baylor in the opener for the new stadium in Waco. Baylor is a top team this year, so that isn’t so bad. However they looked even more terrible than the score in the few minutes I caught a few weeks ago. Then they got blown out by North Texas. SMU had been predicted to be a middle of the pack team before the season started (The preseason hope was probably why this was a mid-afternoon ABC game instead of being relegated to some alternative ESPN channel.), and had a bye week to regroup before taking on the Aggies at home. But then Coach June Jones resigned in mid-season.

The Ags started slowly, if getting a FG on the first possession counts as starting slowly these days. There were more dumbass penalties and drops. The coaches were clearly working on giving backups playing experience and healing injuries. Center Mike Matthews missed the game but probably would have played if needed. Speedy Noil is out with an injury, but against a stronger opponent I’m not sure Boone Niederhofer would have been out there on the first drive.  Niederhofer took advantage of his opportunity and had a very good game: 6 catches for 73 yards, including a very nice second half grab. Jeremy Tabuyo had only had 2 catches, but they combined for 80 yards and 2 TDs

SMU gave up 8 sacks on the day, which is barely over their average. They did keep Myles Garrett from getting a sack, however. The Mustangs got their first first down in the middle of the second quarter.

The highlight of the day was Reveille’s handler blocking an SMU receiver as he ran out of bounds.


A few results of note elsewhere

  • Florida State suspended Jameis Winston from the Clemson game for being an idiot. Not clear what happened to change the suspension from a half to a whole game, but the rumors are that he lied about an incident that was witnessed and tweeted by multiple people. Clemson blew their chance at the upset.
  • Mississippi State went into Death Valley and dominated LSU for 3 quarters to take a 34-10 lead. Then they came close to giving LSU another wild come from behind finish as the Bayou Bengals scored two TDs in the last 2 minutes to cut the score to 34-29. After a failed onside kick, MSU couldn’t run out the clock and LSU got a final possession with 20 seconds left. A Hail Mary was intercepted at the goal line as time ran out.  This was a great win for the Bulldogs, marred by center Dillon Day deciding that Jameis needed a rival for the biggest asshole in college football. Day decide to make the stomping literal as well as figurative.
  • Mizzou lost to Indiana, marring the SEC vs Big 10 narrative.
  • Some thought that Virginia Tech would have been a better fit for the SEC than Mizzou. But the Hokies are now 0-2 in games after their upset of Ohio State, as Georgia Tech capitalized on a late INT gift from Va Tech QB Michael Brewer
  • Cal celebrated a win over Arizona … before Arizona came back to win on a Hail Mary.

College Football Week 3: Divots

Wisconsin had a bye. Stanford shut out Army. The Ags beat Rice. Stanford-Army was on the Pac12 network and I watched a few minutes, but the format of the non-HD version on Suddenlink  does an annoying cropping of both sides of the image so I didn’t really watch.

Rice 10 Texas A&M 38

Aggie fans, like most college football fans, get spoiled easily. A&M won handily and only gave up 10 points. But because Rice outgained the Ags in total yards and the offense and defense were both slightly out of sync, fans are concerned. And while the players and coaches admit that it wasn’t the best performance, it is also notable that several starters were held out in order to let minor injuries heal. This gives valuable experience to the backups and should pay off in the long run.  Rice is also better than their 0-2 record.

The most notable things about this game was the terrible condition of the playing surface. The field was only sodded at the end of the summer, and the root systems for the grass haven’t intertwined enough yet. Players were leaving softball-sized divots in the turf, and the grounds crew was repairing holes after every play. Despite the team’s protests that the conditions didn’t really affect anything, since both teams had to play under similar conditions, I think it affected play, especially for the defense.  Yes, both teams played on the same bad surface: Rice didn’t exactly shut down the Ags on D either.

Elsewhere in College Football

The most interesting things on this weekend happened elsewhere.  The Big 10 continued its struggles as:

The only OOC wins were Ohio State over winless Kent State, Michigan over winless Miami (Ohio), and Nebraska over winless Fresno State.

The Buckeyes got an indirect hit as well, as the team that upset them last week at home, Virginia Tech, was upset at home by East Carolina. This had a third-order benefit to the Ags, as this win made S. Carolina look better… along with the Gamecock win over Georgia later in the day. A&M’s dominant win over S. Carolina looks better in hindsight… but I should note that I’ve been thinking since before that game that TAMU matches up well against S. Carolina’s weaknesses in the secondary, while the Gamecock strengths on D (linebackers) are better suited to match up with Georgia. Add to that Georgia’s inexplicable play calling at the end of the game. Gamecock QB Dylan Thompson threw a pick that gave the Bulldogs first and goal. Instead of handing the ball to Todd Gurley, Georgia called a pass that became intentional grounding. Having squandered their chance to take the lead, they then they missed the FG to tie the score.

The Pac 12 only had a few notable games this past weekend, and did not help the conference reputation. USC went to Boston College and got beaten badly ( the final score was closer than the box score). For the second week in a row, the Trojans were outgained. This time the opponent didn’t screw up in the red zone. UCLA was unimpressive in a win over Texas. The Bruins did need to use their backup QB most of the game after Heisman hopeful Brett Hundley went out early with an arm injury. But Bruins fans are still disgruntled because they really should have beaten Texas soundly instead of needing a late TD pass.

The other notable thing about this game is that Texas actually screwed up the opening coin toss. UCLA won the toss and deferred. Texas chose to kick off to start the game. So UCLA got the ball first in both halves.

UCLA won the coin toss and elected to defer its choice until the second half, then Texas said it wanted to go on defense. The referee turned off his microphone and briefly said something to the Longhorns players after their decision.

“I had trouble believing it at first,” Mora said. “I told the official, I asked him four or five times, I said, `Are you sure?’

College Football 2014: week 1

My teams went 2-1, with the Ags winning the first big game of the season on the live football debut of the SEC Network, Stanford pitched a shutout and ran up the score on a cupcake, and the Badgers dropping an extremely frustrating game against LSU.  I don’t have anything to say about Stanford, since I didn’t see any of that game, so I’ll just cover the other two games.

#21 A&M d. #9 S. Carolina

Most of the teams in the SEC lost key players to the NFL or to other causes (e.g. kicked off for being criminals). The conventional wisdom on A&M seemed to be that losing Johnny Manziel, Mike Evans, and Jake Matthews would cause the offense to collapse, while the terrible D of 2013 would not be improved with the losses of Darian Claiborne and Isiah Golden, who were kicked off the team for criminal stupidity. Dropping expectations based on these losses was not unreasonable, but I got the feeling that the expectations were even lower than they should be based on prognosticators who expected A&M to take a beating in the SEC were putting too much weight on what Manziel meant to the success of the team.

At the same time, the reputation of Steve Spurrier is the only thing I could think of that caused pundits to anoint S. Carolina as not only a favorite in the SEC east (understandable given the lack of viable alternatives), but also the #9 team in the country. Like the Ags, they lost a starting QB, top receiver, and key defenders. It seemed to me that the rational evaluation would be that both teams would be so dependent on unknowns that the outcome of the game on Aug 28 would be a pick ’em.  Instead, the Gamecocks were 10.5 point favorites at home. Predictions varied from the Carolinians winning big by running the ball down our throats to winning a close one where neither D stops the other O.  I was telling friends that I thought A&M could win because our offense was a bad matchup for S. Carolina’s young defensive backs. But I was far from sure.

On Thursday night the Ags showed that they were not the most overrated team in the nation after all, winning big on S. Carolina’s home field. QB Kenny Hill broke Manziel’s single game record for passing, going 44/60 for 511 yards. 12 different Aggies caught those passes. A&M  converted on 12/17 third downs. They went 2/2 on fourth down, with the other three possessions being two punts and a FG. The D had some breakdowns that led to SC scores, but overall they did well: Carolina was only 2/9 on 3rd down and had 67 yards rushing. The Ags so thoroughly dominated that Gamecock fans were thrown into dark despair.

#13 LSU d #14 Wisconsin

My thoughts on the Badgers are NSFW. I may be able to write something … oh, screw it.


The Badgers started strong, using the ground game to take a 17-7 lead into the half. The Badgers stretched the lead on their first possession of the second half to make it 24-7 with 12:24 to go in the third. From that point on, Heisman hopeful Melvin Gordon, who was averaging 8.8 yards per touch, got 3 more carries.

tweets via Bucky’s Fifth Quarter.

Worse, Gordon’s missing carries were not just given to backup RB Corey Clement. OC Andy Ludwig had Badger QB Tanner McEvoy slinging the ball downfield, despite an abundance of evidence that:

  • Wisconsin has no real threats at WR
  • McEvoy and the WRs were not making the same reads on what routes to run
  • LSU’s DBs were covering well all night
  • McEvoy is not a good passing QB.

McEvoy is a transfer from S. Carolina by way of an Arizona JC. At S. Carolina he couldn’t beat out Connor Shaw or Dylan Thompson (the losing QB in the A&M-USC game above, who is thought of as inconsistent). McEvoy played safety at Wisconsin last year, but beat out incumbent Joel Stave, who may be limited by the lingering effects of an injury from last season. McEvoy ended up going 8/24 for 50 yards and 2 INTs. Both picks came in the fourth quarter, helping LSU slingshot past the Badgers.

One of the completions down the right sideline in the first half may have convinced the Wisconsin coaches that they had a passing game. But I remember thinking to myself: “LSU picks that off more often than not”. McEvoy’s INT numbers were not worse mainly because so many of his incompletions were deep balls that were nowhere close to a receiver or defender.

The conventional wisdom used by Ludwig and Andersen was probably something along the lines of needing to pass to keep LSU from stacking the box. But that only works if there is a credible threat in the passing game, and from what I saw, there isn’t one at Wisconsin. The Badgers are likely to delude themselves into thinking they can improve their passing attack when they move on to the weaker opponents on their schedule, but IMO they would be better off embracing their 1-dimensional nature. Whenever I saw the Badgers line up with no fullback or worse, I wanted to scream at the TV.

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.


Week 9: Shouldering the load

Saturday was a big sports day.  We had work and visitor distractions, but I did manage to watch most of the Aggie game and the end of the Stanford-Oregon State game after the wild ending of the World Series game 3.

Vanderbilt at A&M started at 11:20AM. The big question going into yesterday was whether Johnny Manziel would be able to play after hurting his shoulder last week against Auburn.  He had been seen in a sling and had been reported to be throwing left-handed in practice (presumably goofing off). The fear was that without Johnny Football, A&M would not be able to ourscore Vandy, who had just beaten Georgia. Vanderbilt was without their starting QB, but the freshman who would start had played well vs. the Dawgs and the much-maligned Aggie defense was predicted to give up lots of points. As it turned out, Manziel did play, and the D had its best game of the year, allowing both backup QBs to get reps and lead TD scoring drives.

The game felt closer than the 56-24 final score. A&M jumped out to a 28-0 lead by early in the second quarter, but then went turnover on downs, interception, fumble, fumble, fumble on possessions spanning halftime. Before the intermission, Vandy scored 17 unanswered points and would get the ball first in the second half.  At this point many TAMU fans were getting nervous. Fortunately for the Ags, on first play from scrimmage, Vandy QB Patton Robinette threw a pick-6 to safety Howard Matthews.  This meant that the Aggie D and the Vandy offense each got 7 points out of the Commodores 8 second-half possessions.  A&M doubled their total sacks for the year by adding 7.

Between the end of the TAMU game and the Stanford game, there were a bunch of other interesting things that I mostly didn’t watch while working on the grant and on the previous post about peptidoglycan.

  • Va Tech lost to Duke
  • Undefeated Texas Tech lost to OU
  • Undefeated Missouri lost in OT to S. Carolina

I did catch the end of game 2 of the World Series. Wow!

Cardinal and Badgers win, Ags can’t pull another one out of the fire

Stanford fell out of the top 10 after losing at Utah last week, while UCLA stayed unbeaten by throttling Cal. Thus, the Bruins came into Stanford stadium as the higher ranked team. But they left with a loss and the Cardinal are likely to pass the UCLAns when tomorrows rankings come out. The game was on at the same time as the Ags, so I only saw bits of it.  A&M and Auburn went to halftime in time for me to switch and see this amazing TD catch, however.  Stanford ended up beating UCLA 24-17 with defense and power running.

Wisconsin handled Illinois easily in a game not broadcast here.

Texas A&M started the day at #7 despite having a defense near the bottom of the country. The Ags had given up 30 or more points to four of six previous opponents, and the two who failed to hit 30 were Sam Houston (28) and SMU (13).  A&M had destroyed Auburn last year, when the D was not as bad, but the Tigers got rid of Gene Chizik and brought back Gus Malzahn as their head coach. It was difficult to gauge how good Auburn would be based on their 5-1 record, as most of their wins were vs. weak teams.  But red flags were that they had beaten the Ole Miss team that the Ags barely escaped last week, and that they had not been blown out by LSU.  Auburn came to Kyle leading the SEC in rushing.

As has become customary, the Ags took the early lead by scoring on the opening drive. Auburn answered and then got the ball back on a Manziel INT that was deflected off the hands of tight end Nehemiah Hicks.  The Tigers moved the ball but the Ags forced them to settle for a field goal and a lead that lasted for all of two plays when Manziel hit Mike Evans for the second of his 4 TDs on the day.  A&M failed to capitalize on a fumble when Johnny threw his second pick of the day, trying to force the ball into coverage after escaping a sack on a classic Johnny football scramble. Auburn drove 96 yards for their second lead of the game.

Both defenses got multiple stops in the second quarter, but the Ags were able to tie things up at 17.  Then the Tigers made a tactical error after a Drew Kaser punt pinned them at their own 1 with 1:04 to go in the half. Instead of running Auburn threw on first and third downs, missing an open receiver the first time, and hitting WR Sammy Coates in the hands on the second throw.  Fortunately for the Ags, Coates dropped the ball and the Tigers had to punt from deep in their own territory. The Ags got the ball on the Auburn 42 with 36 seconds to get a score. It didn’t take that long. 1 play, Manziel to Evans for TD #3.  Ags up 24-17 at halftime.

At this point the Aggie faithful were concerned about the D, but felt like we had the service advantage going into the half. When the D got a stop on the opening possession of the second half, I expected A&M to put together a drive and open a larger margin. Instead the Ags went 3 and out.  Auburn drove and scored (24-24). A&M answered (31-24). Late in the 3rd quarter the Ags got another stop and it looked like the good guys would get some breathing room as the Ags drove down to the Auburn 5 as the quarter ended.

The Auburn D had been getting more pressure on Manziel than most opponents. A&M countered that by calling more running plays from passing formations, causing the rush to slow down for fear of being beaten by Johnny’s elusive running. For the past season and a half, Manziel has been able to avoid getting hurt on these runs.  Now, at the start of the 4th quarter, after a false start made it 2nd and goal from the 10, Manziel was landed hard on his right shoulder or elbow at the end of a run to the 2 and had to leave the game with an injury.  Backup QB Matt Joekel was not able to connect with Hicks on the 3rd down play and the Ags settled for a FG and a 10 pt lead (34-24).

From this point on, the Aggie D was completely unable to stop Auburn’s offense. The Tigers scored on drives of 75, 69, and 75 yards. After the first Auburn TD of the final quarter, Manziel was still being treated and Joekel was not able to move the team.  This allowed Auburn to take the lead at 38-34.  Manziel came back in and drove the Ags to a TD to retake the lead at 41-38.  Auburn answered to score their final TD and make it 45-41 with 1:19 to go.

At this point, it looked like  Johnny would get another “Heisman moment” game-winning drive. He took the Ags from their own 35 to the Auburn 18 with 43 seconds left.  A throw to a doble-covered Mike Evans in the endzone was incomplete – a few inches eithe way and it could have been either the game-winning connection or a game-ending INT. On second down Auburn’s Dee Ford sacked Manziel. On third down, Johnny scrambled around the left side but was brought down by Kris Frost with what Aggie fans everywhere thought was a horse-collar tackle for a personal foul and an automatic first down. No call. Fourth and 13 from the 21.  I still thought the Ags would pull out the thriller.  But instead, the protection broke down and as Good Bull Hunting’s Hypno-Toad wrote afterward:

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and the smiles never lack;
But there is no joy in Aggieland – mighty Johnny took a sack.

ball game.

Ags were not the only upset victims this weekend.