Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ag Football Preview: Auburn

Auburn is very interesting program.  They remind me of A&M because they were a fellow land grant university and were named early on the Agricultural & Mechanical College of Alabama.

In the broad picture, they are also like A&M in that their fellow large state school arrogantly looks down their nose at them.

The Tigers claim three national championships (1913, 1957, and 2010) and three Heisman Trophy winners - QB Pat Sullivan in 1957, RB Bo Jackson in 1985, and QB Cam Newton in 2010.

When I was a kid, Bo Jackson was like a mythical creature.  He couldn't have been human.  I read his 218 page autobiography in one day while in 3rd grade.  I was just entering the crazy world of sports fandom in the late-80s/early-90s and at that time there were no bigger names than Bo Jackson, Nolan Ryan, Joe Montana, and Magic/Bird.

You could have made a sports Mount Rushmore those would be the faces on it, albeit the Magic/Bird half-and-half would be a bit weird looking. 

I never played Tecmo Bowl but I knew who Bo Jackson was.  He was a rare two-sport athlete - not just a guy who could play both games, but a guy who was good at both games. 

I was a baseball nut so I remember him hitting a lead-off HR in the '89 All-Star game - a BOMB to center field.....he ran up walls and threw strikes to home plate while still halfway up the wall.....he splintered bats over his knee like toothpicks.  The guy was like a cyborg. 

He broke his hip, in what would essentially end his sports careers, but not before building his legend just a little more....he HRed in his first at-bat back a vow he made to his mother before she passed.

Cam Newton is another story entirely.  This was recently, so you all know the story.  He was a freshman at Florida but was kicked off the team following an arrest for stealing a laptop.  He went to Blinn JC in Brenham and then his father was paid a large sum of money to push Cam to Auburn.  In his single season at Auburn he had one of the greatest seasons in college football history.  It was cemented with a 24 point comeback victory in the Iron Bowl against #9 Alabama (in Tuscaloosa).  He went on to win the Heisman and the National Championship.  A tainted Heisman and tainted National Championship.

Sir Charles has an eagle on his arm
The Tigers also love eagles.  Their battle cry is "War Eagle!" and I expect we'll hear it at least 100 times this weekend.  One of the stories of the origin was that a Civil War soldier had found an eagle on the battlefield and kept it as a pet.  He brought it to a game and the eagle flew over the stadium and Auburn marched down the field against arch-rival Georgia for the win.

A great tradition came from that and Auburn now has a golden eagle (named War Eagle VII) that circles around the field prior to kickoff.  I'm excited to experience that in person - I love seeing other school's traditions.

Toomer's Corner after a victory
The other tradition that Auburn is most well known for is wrapping Toomer's Corner.  The corner is downtown Auburn and Toomer's Drug store is on it.  That's not the cool part though - there are two old oak trees at the corner and after big wins the Auburn faithful wrap the trees with paper.

Unfortunately, after Auburn won the national championship in 2010 an outraged 'Bama fan (Harvey Updyke) poisoned the oaks and they are dying.

Only in Alabama would someone be stupid enough to commit a crime of this magnitude and then call into the most popular radio show in the south and brag about it.  That happened.  His children's names are Crimson Tyde Updyke and Bear Bryant Updyke.  We can't make this stuff up, these are real people.

This was the biggest reason I decided to make the trip to Auburn this season over going to Ole Miss or Alabama - I want to see the trees before they're completely gone.  They're not in great shape, or even good shape, but they are still there.  It's a complete shame that someone took the liberty of single handedly killing one of the cooler traditions in college football.
Pat Dye Field at Jordan-Hare Stadium
The Tigers play their home games at Pat Dye Field at Jordan-Hare Stadium, which is located on-campus.  It is named after Shug Jordan (the winningest coach in Auburn history), Cliff Hare (a member of their first football team and later a dean at the school), and Pat Dye (who coached the Tigers from '81-'92).  It has a seating capacity of 87,000+.  Side note: it is pronounced "JURD-an"

This is only the second meeting between the two schools, which somewhat surprised me.  We beat them in College Station back in 1911 by a score of 16-0 and then again in the 50th Cotton Bowl at the end of the 1985 season.
Wrecking Crew > Bo Jackson
That game is probably considered one of our school's signature wins - mostly because of the incredible goal line stand that kept Heisman winner, Bo Jackson, out of the endzone on 4 consecutive plays.  Kevin Murray went nuts and the Ags won on a cold, blustery New Year's Day in Dallas.  That goal line stand was the epitome of Wrecking Crew defense, and the photo above hung on R.C. Slocum's wall in his office as a reminder.

This season's Tiger squad is pretty bad.  I don't think anyone expected them to win the division or conference but that isn't the problem....they are 1-6 on the season (0-5 in SEC play).  The only team they beat was Louisiana-Monroe.....in overtime.

Only once have they scored more than 20 points.  That was bad in the 1960s.  They are kind of terrible at football.
   Auburn O v. aTm D                aTm O v. Auburn D
========================       =======================
 122 (97)   R   138 (45)        221 (19)  R   194 (95)
 154 (113)  P   254 (86)        303 (17)  P   217 (47)
 276 (119)  T   392 (62)        524 (9)   T   411 (75)
15.7 (118)  S  22.1 (38)       43.0 (9)   S  25.1 (55)
Not only are those stats there, but they have also given up 24 sacks in 7 games (que Demontre Moore) and have turned the ball over 19 times (11 INTs and 8 fumbles) compared to their defenses' 9 forced turnovers.

Defensive coordinator, Brian VanGorder, is most likely a registered sex offender, probably.  There is no way he's not, right?  And there is no space in their last name.  There is no way you would hire this guy and then send him into the homes of a teenage boys to meet the parents with the goal of wooing them into letting their boy go with him.

At the helm of this squad is Gene Chizik.  He has a national championship ring from just two long seasons ago - but is about to lose his job.  You see, his glory is completely resting on his ability to have purchased the services of Cam Newton.  If you take Cam Newton out of his record, Chizik is just 16-16 overall and .7-14 in SEC play.  Before that he was 5-19 as the head coach at Iowa State.

Sadly, Chizik's mother passed away on Monday.  I wish to send him and his family condolences in this time of  sorrow.

It just hasn't been a good 3 months for him.  I'm not really even sure how to follow that up.

So I will leave it at this....

I am really excited about the trip - we're leaving on Friday and will likely spend the night in either Baton Rouge or New Orleans and then finish the drive Saturday morning.   It should be pretty fun - this is why I wanted to go to the SEC....I love road trips.

BTHO Auburn!  WHOOP!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ag Football Recap: Ags Fall to #6 Tigers, 24-19

This was a pretty wild weekend.  On Friday night, my wife got pretty sick so I didn't get a chance to do a preview - and it was going to be a good one too - LSU is an easy target for jokes.

Unfortunately, things weren't better by Saturday morning and I had to forgo my trip up to College Station for the game to take care of the kids.  This is only the 4th home game I've missed in 13 seasons, so it was kind of a big deal - but in life you have to have priorities and this time something actually was more important than Aggie football.

Thankfully it was televised and some genius invented the DVR (how is that guy not eligible for a Nobel Prize?)

The Ags came out of the gate swinging.  We marched down Kyle Field and scored on our first possession....and promptly missed the PAT.  It was the third missed PAT in as many games.  That is bad.

We tacked on a 32 yard FG in the first quarter and then hit a 52 yarder in the second quarter to stretch the lead to 12-0.  That's when things got a bit ugly.

We forced a punt on the following possession but Johnny threw a really bad INT that gave the Tigers the ball at their own 42 yard line.  They marched down the field and scored on a 20 yard Michael Ford TD run.

With 1:49 remaining in the half we tried to answer but six plays into our drive Ben Malena fumbled and the Tigers got the ball at our 41 yard line.  Zach Mettenberg hit Kadrone Boone, who made an incredible diving over his shoulder 29 yard reception in the endzone.

Just like that, we were down 14-12.

The third quarter was a series of punts by both teams....except on the one drive we had something going.  Johnny hit Mike Evans, who I LOVE, with a beautiful pass on a short slant over the middle but the ball bounced off Evans' chest and was picked off.  I don't think anyone would have caught Evans if he had held onto the ball - it should have gone for a TD.

Luckily, this was the one turnover that LSU didn't capitalize on, and they missed a 54 yard FG attempt.
In the 4th quarter we started off with a missed 52 yard FG and LSU turned around and made one - score is now 17-12.  We respond on our next drive with Trey Williams' first really big play of his career - a 74 yard KO return - he is insanely quick.  Unfortunately, we squandered it and ended up missing a 33 yard FG.

We forced a punt and then Johnny threw another INT which gave the Tigers the ball at our 47 yard line.  One play later it was 24-12....Jeremy Hill took it to the house.  He had a career rushing day with 127 yards on 18 carries.

I am proud to say that this team of ours has a lot of fight in them and they played hard on every snap.  We were able to answer with a nice drive that ended with Ben Malena scoring from 5 yards out, bringing the score back to 24-19.

We turned around and forced a punt to get one more shot but just didn't have the time to march down the field and score.  The game ended on a crazy attempt to re-create the Music City Miracle....but it ended with a fumble recovered by LSU.  Ball game.

We finished with 5 turnovers (four real ones, not counting that crazy play at the end), two missed FGs and a missed PAT.

Manziel was held without a TD (rushing or passing) for the first time in his career.  He threw for 276 yards on 29-of-56 passing with those three INTs.  Ryan Swope was the team leader with 10 receptions for 76 yards and Ben Malena led our rushing attack with 82 yards and a TD on 18 carries.
I thought that the defense played really well.  LSU isn't a great offense, but their running game is NFL-caliber and we held our own against them.  Damontre Moore had another excellent day finishing with 10 tackles and another sack.

They finished with only 316 yards of offense while we put 410 yards on their incredible defense (a season high against them).  It was squandered opportunities and turnovers that did us in....it was so frustrating to watch because we played well enough to win. A team that forces 4 turnovers (they scored 21 points directly off of turnovers) and benefits from 3 kicking miscues should win the game by more than 4 points.  We're not supposed to be able to compete with these guys.

The silver lining is that this is us just getting started.  It's our first season in the SEC and through 7 games our only two losses are to the #2 and #6 teams in the nation - by a total of 8 points.

I'll take some of the blame for this one - since the start of the 2006 season, the only two home games that my brother and I did not sit together ended as losses ('11 Mizzou and '12 LSU).  We'll work on not letting that ever happen again.

We have Auburn next weekend, who is a complete train wreck, but then stay on the road playing #1 Alabama and #11 Mississippi State before coming home for a breather against Sam Houston.  This is why we wanted to be in the SEC - it's the best league in the nation and big games are so much fun.  It's an exciting time in Aggieland.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

2013 Schedule Released

The SEC released it's 2013 schedule today so we can start making our plans for road trips!

Now obviously this can change between now and then but I'm totally digging it.
Sat.  8/31    Rice
Sat.  9/07    SHSU

Sat.  9/14    Alabama

Sat.  9/21    SMU

Sat.  9/28 at Arkansas

Sat. 10/05    OPEN
Sat. 10/12 at Ole Miss
Sat. 10/19    Auburn
Sat. 10/26    Vanderbilt
Sat. 11/02    OPEN
Sat. 11/09    New Mexico
Sat. 11/23 at LSU
Sat. 11/30 at Mizzou
I love this!  Let me count the reasons:
  • 8 home games....4 road games
  • 'Bama at Kyle Field
  • No South Carolina - so the permanent rival thing doesn't kick in yet
  • Our East road game is Mizzou - that is great because one of my big problems is that I don't want to have to pick between a West Division away game that I really want to go to and an East Division road trip that I only get a once/decade opportunity for.  I can't miss one of those opportunities or I have to wait until my 4 year old son is in college to get another chance.  At Mizzou?  Doesn't even register a blip on the radar.
  • LSU in Tiger Stadium on the Saturday after Thanksgiving - I have already asked for and received the green light on this one from the Mrs.
  • A return to Oxford for a second consecutive season!  I picked road tripping to Auburn over going Ole Miss this year and I am being rewarded.  I haven't brought it up yet with the Mrs. - I'm going to slow play this one.
  • Arkansas - only we'll get a chance to go to Fayettville for years (the series goes back to Jerry's World after 2013 and the original contract was extended)
 My final thoughts?


Now Bring on LSU!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ag Football Recap: Ags Win a Thriller over La Tech, 59-57

If you just showed me the final score of 59-57 I would have said, "Wow, that's crazy.  I didn't think it would get that high."  And that would have been it.  Instead, I watched the whole thing and watched a 27-0 lead dwindle in all to familiar 2011 fashion.

BUT - this is 2012.  This team has Johnny Football and Johnny Football doesn't let his team quit.

We ended up having a fairly impromptu game watching party at my folks house that somehow materialized just a few hours prior to kickoff.  Sean and his girlfriend, Katie, came as well as my old roommate Pat and his fiance, Heather.  I had a meeting out in central Texas that ended just before 5pm so I booked it home and while I was on my way Jennifer ran out and got some good eats for everyone.  It turned into a really fun evening.

Things started off well with our opening drive ending on a 40 yard TD run from C-Mike.  La Tech went 3-and-out and Johnny orchastrated a 10 play, 66 yard TD drive that ended with a Lakendrik Williams TD reception - the first of his career.

It was on that second drive, however, that Ryan Swope exited the game.  He was hit on a blatant helmet-to-helmet hit while he was completely outstretched and exposed.  There was a 15-yard penalty, but I still cannot get over the fact that the defender was not ejected from the game.  It was cut and dry.

The game started to get out of control as the Ags raced out to that huge 27-0 lead but then the Quinton Patton show began.  He's a heckuva WR who really benefited from the additional help he got by an unknown halo rule that was enforced on him all night.  Seriously though, he would have put up big numbers even without the flags.

The Bulldogs inched back into the game as the two teams exchanged plays....27-7....then a one play drive when Manziel found Mike Evans for a 72 yard TD pass (34-7)....then a La Tech TD (PAT was blocked and returned for 2 points by Dustin Harris)


The Ags get it down to the 2 yard line and C-Mike tries to stretch the ball out iwth his arm and it gets popped out.  So what does Johnny do?
He races 80 yards down field, catches the ball carrier and forces a fumble - which is picked up by another Bulldog so Johnny tackles him too.

Thankfully, C-Mike was ruled down prior to the fumble so we got the ball back and Johnny ran it in for a 2 yard TD.  46-23


Then from our own 10 yard line, Johnny threw a pick-6 to bring the score to 46-44

Replay would show that La Tech got away with a face mask on Johnny as he was throwing the ball.

So how do we respond? Johnny strikes back on a 3rd-and-6 with a 17 yard TD pass....53-44.

On the next drive the Ags force a punt that was downed at the 1 yard line.  Johnny hit Evans again for a 30 yard gain and then 5 plays later Ben Malena takes it to the house on a 40 yard run.  Penalty.  Holding.

SI.com described the following fairly well (although they did miss the correct yardage on Malena's run)

Question: What does Johnny Football do when a 60-yard touchdown run from Ben Malena is called back for holding? Answer: Wait until it’s third down and 24, then rip off a 72-yard touchdown run your own damn self.

But wait - La Tech responded with a one play, 62 yard TD pass to Patton.  59-51.  Then they recovered an on-side kick and scored 6 plays later!

With 0:38 second left on the clock down by two points (because we missed the PAT following Johnny's long TD run - the second in as many weeks) they went for the two point conversion.....and didn't throw the ball at Quinton Patton.  So it was incomplete.  PSHEW!  Ballgame.

Patton finished the night with 21 receptions for 233 yards and 4 TDs - he was incredible.  Mike Evans led the Ags with 137 yards and a TD on 4 receptions.

Johnny finished the night with 576 yards of total offense, which broke the SEC record.....WHICH HE PREVIOUSLY OWNED.  Think about that.  Johnny has played 6 games at the collegiate level and in 2 of those he accounted for more total yards than ANYONE IN THE HISTORY OF THE SEC.

He accounted for 6 TDs (3 passing and 3 rushing) and finished with 395 yards through the air and 181 yards on the ground.

I thought this was the best he has looked all season passing the ball.  He made quick decisions and put the ball on the money so receivers didn't have to break stride.

It's funny because I find myself always mentioning that he's a freshman.  After the Pick-6 I told my dad, "Remember, he's still a freshman." but two drives later I was yelling, "WOW!  He's only a freshman!"  It's a really interesting dynamic.

I thought that defensively, Damontre Moore was outstanding (17 tackles and 1.5 sacks) and that Donnie Baggs played really well in place of Steven Jenkins.  Beyond them, the defense looked really bad.  We missed way to many tackles in space that led to a lot of La Tech's big plays all night long.

Penalties were another big problem - we were flagged 19 times for 165 yards, including 3 penalties on 2 plays that accounted for 45 yards.  It was inexcusable.

 The best thing about this game is that it made me realize Kevin Sumlin, in an incredibly short period of time, has raised the bar for Texas A&M.  We feel upset about a....win....on the road....against a ranked opponent....who was playing in their Super Bowl.....with three starting defenders out (+1 heavy rotational guy).

It was ugly and it scared us but we won and are 5-1 on the season (with three road wins!?!).  This coming weekend we will play a HUGE game at home against #6 LSU.  Games like this are the reason we wanted to come to the SEC.  I'm excited and it's only Tuesday night.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ag Football Preview: #23 Louisiana Tech

This game was a big deal for La Tech when it was scheduled.  They don't typically get a big program to come to Louisiana and play them but because of our move to the SEC and the need to fill two additional OoC games on relatively short notice they got their wish.

As strange as this sounds, Hurricane Isaac actually helped them out.  With the Bulldogs 5-0 and ranked for the first time since the '90s, the Aggies stand as the last big road block keeping them from a very realistic undefeated season.

This is a program that has moved the football and scored points.  They've hung 50 on all but one of their opponents (could only muster 44 at UVA) and as a result, they are currently the #3 scoring offense in all of college football..

They are led by their senior QB Colby Cameron, their reserve RB Kenneth Dixon (Tevin King tore his ACL vs. Illinois), and their superstar wide receiver Quinton Patton.

Cameron has thrown for 1,456 yards and 13 TDs without an INT this season on 123-of-180 passing.  Patton is a JUCO transfer who led the team last season with 79 receptions for 1,202 yards and 11 TDs.  This season he again leads the team in all three categories (34/532/5) - by a wide margin.

So, how did the Bulldogs get to 5-0 and a #23 national ranking?
W at Houston 59-49
W vs Rice 56-37
W at Illinois 52-24
W at Virginia 44-38
W vs UNLV 58-31

That isn't murderer's row.  Their five previous opponents have a combined season record of 8-21 (8-16 if you factor out the La Tech game).  UH has the BEST winning percentage of that group at .400 (they're 2-3 on the year).

Interestingly, they haven't played a conference game yet - it's because the WAC only has 7 teams this season, including UTSA and Texas State. 

Lets dive in a little deeper.....

There isn't a very good way to sugar coat this so I'm just going to say it....they have played the WORST collective group of defenses I think I've ever seen an offense get to face over a five game stretch.
           Vs. LaT         Season Avg.
           Yds Pts    Yds (rk)   Pts (rk)
           =======    ====================
 Houston   598  59    487 (113) 31.6 (94)
    Rice   609  56    506 (117) 38.7 (114)
Illinois   403  52    351 (37)  28.3 (78)
Virginia   385  44    401 (72)  34.0 (100)
    UNLV   622  58    475 (108) 35.0 (102)

Of course the first thing that you want to yell at me is, "Well, they've all played La Tech's offense, which has skewed their numbers!"  I, of course, would counter that by pointing out that if you factor out the game La Tech was involved in with each team, not a single one of their scoring defenses changes by even one full touchdown.

The best of those defenses, Illinois, just lost to Penn State (!?!) 35-7 and to Wisconsin 31-14 to open their conference schedule.

So yes, their offense has been very potent but it is VASTLY over rated - and I used all caps & itallics on that.

All that said, they do get a reprieve as a result of our depth chart.  You might remember that LB Steven Jenkins and S Howard Matthews were both suspended for this game during the summer.  To compound that, Steven Campbell hasn't played since SCSt and Deshazor Everett came out of the game last week with what looked like an arm injury and did not return.  We are razor thin in our secondary for this game.  This would have been a great week to have off so we could rest up for LSU.

And on the other side of the ball, things are really bad for them.  Like Torbush bad.  Darnell bad.  Yeah, I went there.

They are ranked 119th in total defense and 106th in scoring defense - remember, that is out of 120 teams.  The crazy thing is that only one of their opponents has a scoring offense better than 70th nationally....and they're STILL getting torched.  Only Illinois didn't best their season total offense average....and of the other four, only Rice didn't best theirs by 125+ yards.

They are also 119th in pass defense.  Someone needs to let the trainers know that we're going to need some ice for Johnny's shoulder immediately following the game.

Historically, A&M doesn't lose to La Tech.  We're 10-0 against the Bulldogs with an average score of 42-12.  We last faced them in 2010 and beat them 48-16 at Kyle Field.  I know that our last two trips to Shreveport were ones we want to forget but La Tech isn't Georgia and it isn't snowing.

Here's the deal.....the only way we lose this game is if we beat ourselves.  I expect the Bulldogs to come out firing and the crowd is going to be into it and there is going to be a lot of passion and I can see it being close in the first quarter and even into the second quarter but they aren't going to be able to keep up on either side of the ball over four quarters.

Other random notes of interest that I came across:
  • Sonny Dykes is HC - he took over when Derek Dooley left to take the Tennessee job
  • Dykes was co-OC under Leach at tech, was on the staff when KK was in lubbock, and is son of tech legend Spike Dykes
  • Brought Tony Franklin in as OC to run the spread
  • 8-5 last year (won the WAC)
  • Lost by only 1 point to UH last year
  • Took MSU to OT last year
  • Beat Ole Miss 27-7 last year
  • Lost by only a TD to TCU in the Pointsetta Bowl (there's a stat that would have been more impressive last week)
  • 86 Ryan Allen - P - ltransfer from Oregon State - last year's Ray Guy Award winner, 1st team All-American - Dustin Harris beware.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ag Football Recap: WOW! STUNNER! 30-27!

Holy Moses that was a wild ballgame.

Locker room celebration:

That was pretty much the scene in the living room at our place.  If you bleed Maroon you have to smile at that - those kids love Coach Sumlin. 

We aren't supposed to win games like that.  Over the last few years we've been conditioned that we're the ones who give up double-digit 4th quarter leads. This isn't last year's team.

It was actually a wild evening in all.  Sean and Dad made a trip up to Austin this morning to shuffle some furniture around and I was originally told they weren't going to be back until 8pm.  Benjamin had a birthday party to attend from 6pm-8pm so Jennifer suggested DVRing the game and when they get back I can watch it with them.  That made sense.

So I set the DVR up for the game and on the way to the party I called Sean to let him know the plans.  They had left early and were just minutes away from the house so they were going to watch the game live.  At the party, the game was on one of the TVs - but I'm too obsessive to half-watch a game while trying to keep an eye on the kids and attempt to socialize so I worked really hard to not watch the game that was on over my shoulder.  Thankfully, there was no audio for it and everyone I spoke to was very courteous and no one leaked any updates to me.

When the party was over I got back to the house and put my fingers in my ears.  They were watching the game in the family room so I ended up running out to get some dinner and then sitting in the kitchen and started watching the replay while they finished the game in real-time in the family room.  Once the game was over in real-time, Sean left and I shifted into the family room and resumed watching the replay.

The first three quarters were pretty much wost case scenario.  I believe my comments in my preview were, "Bottom line: KEEP TURNOVERS IN OUR FAVOR AND WE WIN."  Well, we turned the ball over SIX - S.I.X. - times.  Our seniors played very poorly....C-Mike had a fumble, Swope had a fumble, Dustin Harris fumbled a punt, EZ completely disappeared (1 reception for -3 yards).  The wheels completely fell off.

I must have told my mom ten different times through gritted teeth, "You can't turn the ball over 4 times and win a game."  "You can't turn the ball over 5 times and win a game."  "YOU CAN'T TURN THE BALL OVER SIX TIMES AND WIN A GAME!"

I was told that I was a lot less emotional about it than Sean was.  I'm not sure how that is possible, unless Sean is now hiding in a storm sewer as the police helecopter circles overhead with K-9s barking off in the distance.

Johnny Football reminded us that he is freshman quarterback.  He threw two horrifically bad interceptions and had a careless fumble himself.

On the first possession of the fourth quarter he threw one of those interceptions.  It was a scramble to his left where he just turned and heaved the ball back towards the middle of the field - a huge no-no in it's own right - but the bigger problem was that there were two Ole Miss defenders there and not anyone in white on the TV screen.

How Sean was able to watch the third and fourth quarter in the family room without making any noise to give anything away to me in the kitchen - and then be able to come in and say goodbye without giving it away - will always be amazing to me.

Same goes for both my parents, who had watched it live with Sean.  When Ole Miss went up by 7 in the second quarter my mom asked, "So are you going to be mad?" I was convinced that she gave it away and we were going to lose.  My dad also dropped a couple of small comments that made me think we were going to lose - I was pretty impressed, they were very subtle and in the past he has given away scores/results and then tried to overplay it to throw me off but tonight there were no slip ups.

On Ole Miss's possession following the INT, we forced a punt after a monster DeMontre Moore sack and took possession on our own 12 yard line - we were down by 10 points.  What would happen over the next 8 minutes of football would defy anything seen in Aggie football over the last 10 years.

On the first play, Johnny tries to dance out of trouble and ends up getting sacked at the 1/2 yard line.  He was in the endzone but somehow he had the ball extended out when his knee hit so it wasn't a safety.  That in itself was a near miracle.

Two snaps later he hit Mike Evans on a 3rd-and-19 for a 32 yard reception.  Evans made the play of the game. Talk about a jump ball.

The next play, Ben Malena breaks off a 36 yard run to get us across midfield and then Johnny Football broke off a crazy 29 yard run to the endzone, completely untouched.  It was like the Red Sea parted for him.  3 plays, 97 yards, 1:23 of game time, 7 points.

On the following Ole Miss possession they got the ball and just wanted to eat up clock so they ran.  The box score reads like this:
Jeff Scott rush for 5 yards
Jeff Scott rush for 9 yards
Jeff Scott rush for 6 yards
Jeff Scott rush for 2 yards
Jeff Scott rush for 1 yards
Jeff Scott rush for no gain
 You can do the math on that.  They got into a 3rd-and-2 and Sean Porter blew up the play keeping them to just one yard.  After a VERY favorable spot, Hugh Freeze decided to go for it on 4th-and-1/8".  Porter came crashing in again and filled the running lane while Johnathan Stewart went through and stuffed Scott. 

Turnover on downs and A&M took over on the Ole Miss 39 yard line.  Had they picked up that first down (or possibly even punted) the ballgame is over.  Instead, Johnny hit Evans again for 13 yards and Malena picked up another 9 yards on the first two plays.  On our third play, we had a complete mismatch on the left side of the line because Ole Miss lined-up incorrectly but Johnny misread it and ran an option right - pitching to Malena for a loss of 2.
On 3rd-and-3, Ole Miss put everyone up on the line of scrimmage and Swope slipped behind the coverage and Johnny hit him for the 20 yard TD.

I somehow ended up on the other side of the room and I have no recollection of how I did it.

Just to keep things interesting, we missed the PAT, keeping the score within 3 points - 30-27.

Ole Miss marched down the field, uncomfortably easily and were just out of FG range when Tony Hurd Jr. stepped in front of an Ole Miss receiver and picked off Wallace's pass.  Hurd dropped to the turf and two kneel downs later the Ags are 4-1 on the season, 2-1 in SEC play.

A few random notes:
  • Damontre was held badly on several plays but still finished tied for a team high with 8 tackles and had two TFL, including that big sack
  • I am all for eliminating the Wild Cat from our offense.
  • Need C-Mike in the game on the short yardage downs - and I agree
  • Ben Malena had a monster of a game - 142 yards and a game-opening TD run
  • Johnny looked like he was really trying NOT to scramble on a lot of the plays
  • The OLine had a wonderful night giving him pocket protection, except when they brought outside pressure (they did that a lot in the 2nd half) 
  • Mike Evans continues to Wow.  He again led the team with 8 receptions for 105 yards.  BEAST.
One thing that I am suprised about is that I am glad I didn't take the first opportunity to road trip to Ole Miss.  This is a stop that has been on my Bucket List for years, but as it turned out it was pretty rainy and cold.  I want the full experience of The Grove, not a rain hampered one.

Next week we should be off, preparing for our huge game against LSU, but thanks to that Hurricane that canceled our season opener we will be traveling to Shreveport to take on an undefeated La Tech.  They are now ranked #23 in the polls.

But we're #22.....and rising.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Ag Football Preview: Ole Miss

This year's Ole Miss squad is a tough one to wrap my head around.  Here is their schedule thus far:
  • W 49-27 v. Central Arkansas
  • W 28-10 v. UTEP
  • L 66-31 v. texas
  • W 39-0 at Tulane
  • L 33-14 at Alabama
How do you lose that badly, at home, to a texas squad that hasn't shown that they can score like that in any game other than that game.....and then turnaround and play 'Bama in Tuscaloosa in a relatively close affair.

The biggest difference between those games was how their rush defense played.  The horns ran all over them for 350 yards but then two weeks later they held 'Bama, who has 5 future NFLers on their OL and two freakishly talented RBs, to just 125 yards.

This is a spread zone read offense so our DEs are going to be a huge key in this game (go get'em DaMontre!).  The Rebel Black Bears have two QBs, but Bo Wallace has been starting.  He is 70-for-112 for 840 yards and 7 TD/6 IN.  He can run a little bit but if they bring in Barry Brunetti that's where we need to watch for it - he has run for 154 yards on 29 carries.

We can get pressure on the QB and cause problems - Wallace has thrown 6 INTs in their last three games ('Bama had 5 sacks and 6 QB hits that caused 3 INTs and texas had 5 sacks and 3 INTs).

On the ground Jeff Scott is their top runner and the little guy has 317 yards on 15 carries and 3 TDs. 
Randall Mackey is a guy that can give us problems - he plays WR and RB (so watch for the end-around) but he QBed the team last year in almost half of their games.  Just be cautious when you see the ball in his hands behind the LOS.

Donte Moncrief is a guy at WR that we're going to need to be careful with.  He is an athletic 6'3" and 216 lbs and lit up the horns for almost 150 yards, but he has had only 3 catches in the two games since then. 

Their top receiver against Tulane had two receptions.

Defensively, how they play the run will be important because we're going to get yards through the air.  If David Ash can thrown for 300+ we're going to get there too.

Should be an interesting game.  In these SEC games that we're favored in, I'm a bit timid to go out and say, "Yeah, we're going to crush them" because every week in the SEC something crazy happens.  Even though the teams at the top are GREAT, there is a level of parity.  Maybe it's because they all have such a long history with each other but it just seems something unexpected happens weekly.


Gig'em and BTHO Ole Miss!  WHOOP!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ag Football Preview: Ole Miss Football History

When you think of Ole Miss you think of three things…..the epicenter of the good ole deep south, The Grove (and all it’s glory), and The Mannings.

Well, most guys think about those things.  Most women in America think of the school that poor adopted kid went to in that really sad, touching movie. 

Back to the guy stuff….
Born Elisha Archibald Manning III, he was the starting QB at Ole Miss from 1968-1970 where he finished 4th and 3rd in Heisman balloting in his junior and senior seasons before the Saints selected him as the #2 overall pick in the NFL draft.  The speed limit on campus in Oxford is 18 mph, his jersey number, in honor of him.  He essentially lived out his entire career, collegiate and professional, as a great player on bad teams.  Archie Manning is a cultural icon in both the state of Mississippi and the state of Louisiana. 

The one thing Archie didn’t pass?  His name.  How on earth could he father three boys and not pass that name on one more generation? 

One of those of those boys went to Tennessee, and he could play a little football, but the other two went to Ole Miss.  Cooper, his oldest, suffered from a spinal condition just as he was arriving on campus.  Eli, his youngest, brought Ole Miss football back to relative success.  He was rewarded for taking Ole Miss to the Cotton Bowl with the Maxwell Award, the Johnny Unitas Award and a third place finish in the ’03 Heisman balloting…..and the #1 overall draft pick in the NFL draft.
Wait.  Back it up a bit….Eli’s birth name is Elisha Nelson Manning.  It was the Archibald part that his father didn’t want to hand down?  That’s even crazier.

The glory years of the program were the late-50s/early-60s under John Vaught, not to be confused with John Voight – who also gave us something of importance.  They claimed the National Championship in 1959, 1960, and 1962 and six SEC titles (’47, ’54, ’55, ’60, ’62, ’63). 

Interestingly, the ’59 squad has widely been considered one of the best teams of the mid-century but they didn’t win the SEC title that season (Georgia did).  They slipped against LSU in Baton Rouge, losing 7-3, but avenged the loss in the Sugar Bowl by beating the Tigers 21-0 in a rematch to end the season.

During Vaught’s 24 years at the helm of the program he coached 26 All-Americans, including four players who finished in the top five of the Heisman balloting (Charlie Conerly ’47, Charlie Flowers ’59, Jake Gibbs ’60, and Manning ’69 & ’70).  He is the 4th winningest coach in SEC history behind only Bear Bryant, Lou Holtz, and Vince Dooley.  And you had never heard of him until three paragraphs ago – we have much to learn about the deep history of the SEC.

The 70s, 80s, and 90s were, in general, pretty forgettable for Rebel fans.  In the late 90s, when Tommy Tubberville left Oxford for Auburn, they hired David Cutcliffe (of Peyton Manning fame – he was the OC at Tennessee when Manning was there).  Cutcliff turned things around, along with Eli, but he went 4-7 the year after Eli left and was fired.  He it was his first losing season in Oxford.

The Rebels have been through a whirlwind of coaches in recent years but none as exciting or enthusiastic or hard to understand as Ed Orgeron. 
How do you not go buy a car right now?  

Coach O was a recruiting-aholic and stocked up the USC Trojans roster leading up to their historic mid-2000s run.  
Coach O was apparently much more exciting than he was good a coaching a football team and was fired at the end of 2007 after 3 seasons at the helm.  He was replaced by Houston Nutt who came over from Arkansas, looked like a crazy person, and despite a strong 2008 season, was gone after four seasons to be replaced by new HC Hugh Freeze.

The Rebels play their games at Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium, which was opened in 1915 and most recently renovated in 2002.  It holds just over 60,000 and holds little to no aura when compared to the majority of SEC home fields.
What the Rebels do have that no other school in the country has, is the tailgating mecca that is The Grove.  Just over 10 acres of shade trees and tents – but this isn’t a bunch of coolers in the back of a truck, these set ups would make Martha Stewart proud.  Linens, silver, hors d’oeuvres, chandeliers.  Yeah, this is fancy pants tailgating.  The going phrase around Oxford is, “We may not win every game, but we never lost a party.”

Ole Miss, like most SEC schools, is very Greek – sororities and frats are what everyone does, which is 
something that Ags are going to have to get adjusted to.  The Grove helps take this to another level.  T-shirts and flip flops aren’t going to get it done…..make sure your chinos are ironed, your loafers are clean, and your tie is straight.  And this is their war-cry:

Hotty Toddy, Gosh almighty
Who the hell are we, Hey!
Flim Flam, Bim Bam

That isn’t their only song, they have many, mostly with some reference to Dixie.  The school no longer allows them to play Pride of the South at football games due to the student’s unwillingness to stop using the phrase “The South will rise again” in the song.

Along those same lines, the famous mascot, Colonel Reb, was replaced in 2010 by Rebel Black Bear in an effort by the administration to continue to distance itself from its ties to the antebellum era .  Rumor has it that he still makes appearances in The Grove on game day.  We’ll have to watch for photos.

Ole Miss is a road trip that has been on my Bucket List for years and I’m really excited to catch a game in Oxford in the next couple of years.