Category Archives: sports

Ags survive Ole Miss

While the last couple of weeks have had some games where the top teams survived upsets, week 7 of the 2013 season saw ranked teams fall.  As Lou Holtz pointed out on College Gameday Final, fans forget that this is also the time for midterms. Between road trips and exams and being college-age kids, looking flat in mid October should not be surprising.  It’s also a time when the effects of injuries build up.

Mizzou’s upset win over Georgia was the best of the early games yesterday.  When A&M and Mizzou joined the SEC last year, the conventional wisdom was that the Tigers would do better in the short run. Instead, Mizzou had a 5-7 year with conference wins only over bottom-dwelling Kentucky and Tennessee, two teams that changed coaches in the offseason. We all know how A&M outperformed expectations in 2012.  Mizzou’s 5-0 start came with the caveat that their opposition has not been particularly strong, and Georgia, despite being decimated by injuries, was favored at home. After stalling on their first two drives and letting the Dawgs draw first blood, the Tigers outscored Georgia 28-3 in the first half.  Georgia mounted a comeback in the second half, getting as close as 28-26.  When Missouri QB James Franklin was knocked out of the game with a season-ending shoulder separation, it looked like Georgia would be able to pull off the comeback.  Instead, a 40-yard double pass opened the margin to 8 pts. Interestingly, Ga had the play covered, but the Mizzou receiver just outjumped the defender for the TD.  With more than 9 minutes to go, Georgia still wasn’t out of it, but an Aaron Murray INT led to the final Missouri TD. Losing Franklin means that it will be hard for Mizzou to stay unbeaten before they host the Ags on Nov 30.  Georgia fans are left to wonder what might have been had they been at full strength.

The other early game of note was the Red River Shootout, where Oklahoma was favored to add to the miseries of Texas fans for yet another year. Instead, the Sooners laid a major egg, getting blown out by the Longhorns. The game was not as close as the 36-20 final score. While the Sooners were missing some key players on defense, the main cause of their loss was offensive futility.  The Oklahoma offense produced 2 FG and 1 TD, the latter from a short field following a tu fumble. OU had 12 possessions for the game. Of these, 3 went for 50 yards or more, resulting in 2 FG and a turnover on downs late in the game. The other 9 were the TD, 2 INTs and 6 punts, and included 4 drives that netted zero or negative yards ( -17, -7, -4, and 0). It appears that Blake “the Belldozer” Bell finished with a QBR of 4.2 (12/26 for 133 yards and 2 picks) and his longest run was 4 yards. This Sooner offense is a shocking shadow of their high-scoring editions of the Stoops era.

For Texas, the question is whether this is the turnaround that starts a run to the B12(base 8) championship and a BCS bowl? Or will things go back to underperforming as the season continues.  Texas is tied for the conference lead at 3-0. The good news for the sips is that nobody in the conference looks that great. Baylor’s high flying offense looked beatable vs. KState. They get OK State and Tech at home.

We mostly watched Aggie Michael Wacha’s pitching duel with Clayton Kershaw while the mid-afternoon games were on, so I only saw a little of Wisconsin’s win over NorthwesternLSU beating Florida, Clemson surviving BC etc.  In fact, I only checked the Baylor and Clemson games when they were on upset alert, but by the time I tuned in, they both retook the lead.

The Aggies had a 7:30 Central kickoff at Ole Miss, and that game turned into a wild one.  The A&M D has been so problematic that most were predicting the Ags would win a shootout, and while it turned out that way, the start of the game was pretty different.  A&M got off to its usual fast start and it looked like the Ags would get a comfortable margin when the Rebels oddly went for it on 4th down and 1 from their own 46 on their very first possession.  The Ags held, but missed FG after Manziel went out with a knee strain.  Ole Miss took over and drove for the tying score.  Johnny F returned to lead the Ags to an answering TD drive of 75 yards in 5 plays, capped by a spectacular 18 yard run by Trey Williams.

The Rebels cut the lead to 14-10 by halftime, but it looked like the Ags would take control again after the opening Miss. drive was a 3 and out, followed by a 9 play 67 yard drive to take a 21-10 A&M lead.  But that was the high point of the 3rd quarter for the Ags. Ole Miss used a mix of their two QBs to cut the lead to 21-17, and then, when it looked like the Ags would keep the Rebs at arms length, Manziel threw a pick in the endzone to kill an otherwise good-looking drive.  Bo Wallace threw an INT to give the Ags another shot at the endzone, but A&M could only get a FG from Josh Lambo. That made it 24-17 about a minute into the final quarter.

A short kickoff and a good return set up Ole Miss to tie the game at 24. A Manziel fumble on the second play of the Ags next possession set up the Rebels to take their first lead at 31-24.  The two teams traded scores to make it 38-31 Rebels.  Facing 4th and 7 from the Miss 45, Manziel found his receivers all covered and ran up the middle for 13 yards for a first down. A collision late in the run left Ole Miss LB Serderius Bryant needing a gurney to get off the field.  Fortunately, the news today suggests that he will be OK. When play resumed, Manziel hit Mike Evans for a 26 yard gain to the Ole Miss 6, adding to Evans’ highlight reel as he hurdled a defender on the way.  Manziel’s 6 yard TD run was vintage Johnny Football: starting right, reversing his field and beating the defenders to the corner.

At this point, the questions were whether either team would get a stop and who would have the ball last.  Starting on their own 25 with 3:07 to go, Ole Miss went 3 and out on 3 incompletions, with the last two being near catches for the needed first down. When the Rebels punted, everyone watching expected Johnny Football to use the last 2:33 to ice the win, and the Ags delivered. Josh Lambo hit the game winning FG with 0:04 seconds left

With Georgia and Stanford losing, the Ags #7 in both polls.  Defensive worries mean that maintaining or improving that position could be difficult. But regardless of polls, the thing to take from this season is the entertainment value of watching Johnny Manziel and the A&M offense.  He may not win a second Heisman, but in my maroon-tinted view he’s had the most spectacular performances so far.

College football 2013 – week 5

Stanford and A&M won, while the Badgers fell in Columbus to favored Ohio State. Overlapping game times meant that I didn’t watch all of any game. In fact, I confess that I missed parts of the Ags opening drive to stick with the end of Georgia’s win over LSU.

LSU at Georgia was clearly the game of the day, with the outcome in doubt all the way to the end. Between them, the two teams had 3 turnovers and 4 punts over the whole game. By the second half, it seemed that neither defense could stop the other offense. When LSU scored to take a 41-37 lead with 4:14 to do, it was clear that they’d left too much time on the clock. That score came when Georgia mysteriously decided to rush only 3 on a 3rd and 22, allowing LSU to keep the drive alive with a 25 yard completions. When Georgia scored to go back on top 44-41, I thought perhaps they’d left too much time for LSU to answer.

LSU had the most effective defense against A&M last year, and it will be interesting to see how the teams stack up when the Ags go into Death Valley on Nov 23. The inability of the LSU D to sack Aaron Murray should bolster the hopes of A&M fans that Johnny Manziel’s second game against the Bayou Bengals will be more effective than last year’s performance in Kyle Field. It also might have been not so close without the SEC refs decision to ignore some pretty clear pass interference calls against both defenses.  In my view, LSU benefited from these more than Georgia. The Dawgs also played most of the game without Todd Gurley, who got hurt in the first half.

The Ags took the opening kickoff in Fayetteville while the Tigers and Bulldogs were finishing up in Athens.  A&M prevailed 45-33, but Arkansas stayed close enough to force Manziel to play the whole game and to cause Aggie fans to continue to bemoan the state of our defense, which gave up big plays on the ground and through the air to the Razorbacks.  The Ags did get a pick 6 early in the second half and another INT at the end.  Arkansas was not able to wrest the lead from the Ags despite having the ball down 4 to start the second half, and on several other possessions.  But Arkansas put up 483 yards on the Ags and were 5/12 on 3rd down.  On offense, the Ags were almost perfectly balanced, gaining 261 and 262 passing and rushing, respectively.  This statistical balance came on a mix of very unbalanced possessions, however, as A&M took what the defense was giving them.

The closeness of the TAMU game meant that I only watched bits of the first half of Wisconsin at  Ohio State.  By the time the Ags had sealed the win, Stanford vs. Washington State had started. I watched the end of the Badgers vs. the Buckeyes.  The loss had the feeling of a game where Ohio State was hanging on for dear life but the Badgers ran out of time.  Wisconsin’s offensive limitations let down a Badger D that played pretty well at times.  For example, after the Buckeyes were stuffed on 4th and 1 from the 38 in the middle of the 3rd quarter, it seemed like an opportunity to get back in the game. But the Badgers followed that defensive stand with : sack, INT.  By this time the Buckeyes had shown that the vaunted Wisconsin run game was not going to work. Ohio State took the ball from the Badger 32 to the end zone for their final score.

The Badgers Jarred Abbrederis had a remarkable 10 catches for 207 yards and a TD in the loss. This might have been even more remarkable than Mike Evans performance against Alabama, because Evans has a better QB and A&M has better receivers to spread the coverage.  By contrast, Wisconsin’s other receivers are not that good, and there were several key drops that killed comeback drives.

Stanford handled Mike Leach’s rebuilding Washington State Cougars pretty easily. Final score 55-17.

Other notable results

  • Oklahoma State fell in the first upset of the day to West Virginia.
  • OU beat Notre Dame in South Bend. Tommy Rees threw 3 picks.
  • Bama shut out Ole Miss
  • Arizona State tied Oregon for scoring the most points (62) vs USC ever.  Sun Devils win 62-41

Not all wins and losses are the same

It can be argued that a win is a win and a loss is a loss, and from the point of view of calculating standings it doesn’t matter how you win or lose.  But the aesthetics are not the same, and the loss at the Alamo or at Thermopylae are remembered very differently than the losses at Little Big Horn or Salamis.  Saturday’s College Football had a mix of good and bad wins and losses. The teams I root for went 1-2 this week, with Stanford beating Army early, the Aggies falling to Alabama, and Wisconsin getting burnt in the desert by Arizona State.

Army was a 30-pt underdog to the Cardinal, but their option gave Stanford some trouble in the first half. Stanford pulled away in the second half. This was a neutral win: expected and solid.

The game of the day was #1 Alabama coming here to College Station to face #6 Texas A&M.  I had no idea what would happen going into today; I could imagine blowouts in either direction or a close game. There were too many unknowns about whether Alabama’s defensive experts had solved Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Manziel’s version of the Air Raid, and whether the Tide’s offense and Ags defense were as bad as they seemed in the first games.  The good news for the Ags: the A&M offense is better than last year’s. This was expected, despite losing several key players from last year and replacing offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, who left to become the head coach at Texas Tech. The Ags were deep last year, and despite his overhyped off-field issues, Johnny Manziel was expected to have a better grasp of reading defenses and mastering the options in the Sumlin offense. Johnny Football and the offense scored 42 points on the Crimson Tide on 628 total yards.  It could have been more, but two interceptions and a questionable offensive pass interference call on Mike Evans stopped three drives.  Manziel had 464 yards from 28/39 passing  with 5 tds and 2 ints and 98 yards rushing.  Mike Evans had 7 catches for 279 yards, including a late 95 yard catch and run that set a record for Kyle field.  All of this would have been impressive against anyone, but against Alabama it’s truly remarkable.

Unfortunately, the bad news was that the A&M D has not found its stride. The past couple of years we’ve had an outstanding pass rusher, first in Von Miller and last year in DaMontre Moore. As noted last week, there were many other important seniors on Mark Snyder’s defensive squad. Their replacements haven’t stepped up yet, and despite getting back several suspended starters, the A&M defense had trouble stopping Alabama after their third possession.

That said, this was a good loss in the sense that it was close, entertaining and was a valiant effort by A&M that left the impression that the teams on balance were near equals. If Manziel and/or Evans are up for postseason awards, this game provided plenty for the highlight reels.

By contrast, Wisconsin’s loss to the Sun Devils was one of the many varieties of bad losses.  The two teams traded errors and scores until the middle of the third quarter, when Wisconsin’s defense started to wilt in the heat and ASU’s receivers stopped dropping catchable balls. Arizona State took the lead for good with 11:40 left in the game and made it an 8 point lead at 8:50 to go. Nevertheless, a fake punt led to a Wisconsin TD that cut the lead to 2 after a failed 2-pt conversion, and a 51 yard pass play set up the Badgers for what should have been the winning FG.  But after getting down to the ASU 13, Wisconsin inexplicably tried to position the ball for the FG try with only 18 seconds left and no timeouts.  The clock ran out without the Wisconsin FG unit even seeing the field.  Wow.

Texas and Nebraska exemplified a different kind of bad loss.  Both were blown out at home after leading at halftime, 23-17 and 21-10 respectively. Ole Miss beat Texas 44-23, while UCLA beat Nebraska 41-21.  These were the kinds of losses that put coaches on the hot seat.

For an example of a bad win, see Michigan holding on against 37-pt underdog Akron.  Akron took the lead several times in this game, the last time being at 4:20 to go. Michigan scored with 2:49 left, but as one Michigan fan posted at MgoBlog

Saddest question ever, “did they leave too much time for Akron?”

In fact, Akron drove down the field but could not convert on 4th and 3 from the Michigan 4.

Almost perfect day of college football yesterday

Mitigating factors:

  • it’s early, and wins were against weaker opponents.
  • couldn’t watch the Badgers, didn’t ppv for the Ags
  • Cardinal and Aggies wins still leave concerns about future success.

For the Ags, the future is next Saturday, when Alabama comes to town with vengeance on their minds for last year’s upset at their place.  TAMU was already replacing several stalwarts from last year’s defense: NFL pick DaMontre Moore, and less well-known players like Spencer Nealy (who dominated Bama’s All-America center last year) and Dustin Harris (who made a critical stop in the late goal line stand), Sean Porter, Jonathan Mathis, Jonathan Stewart and Steven Terrell. See Good Bull Hunting’s archives for more on these former students. This meant DC Mark Snyder’s squad would be young and thin even without injuries and early suspensions.  Several players will be back for Bama, but will not have any game time going in. Starting safety Floyd Raven came back from a suspension only to break his clavicle yesterday. The Tide are not who you would normally want to use to get the rust out of your game, but there’s no choice now.  Concern about the D has been high after giving up points, yards, and big plays to both Rice and Sam Houston State.

The high-flying offense led by Johnny Manziel also lost some key performers, but was expected to be less of a problem than the D. The O has put up lots of points in the two warmups, but  can the Ags do it to Bama again?  We shall see.  It’s going to be the most-hyped game at Kyle field in my time here.

The schadenfreude is especially strong in reading the fan reactions from Austin, after the ‘sips were trounced in Provo by a BYU team that had lost the week before to mighty Virginia.  I saw a little of that game while waiting for Stanford to come on in the late game.  It was actually kind of shocking to see how bad the Texas Defense looked in that game.

The best game of the day was probably South Carolina at Georgia. The momentum in that game seemed to go back and forth until Georgia opened a two-score 11-pt lead in the final quarter on an 85-yard pass play.  S. Carolina looked to cut it to less than a TD by driving deep into the red zone on the next possession.  But they were thwarted on a goal line stand with 8:28 to go where they couldn’t punch it in on 4th and goal from the 1. The Dawgs then took over and ran out the rest of the clock.