Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bowls, Awards, and Changes

A recap of the last month....

A&M was selected by the Chick-fil-a Bowl (formerly known as the Peach Bowl) and will play Duke (who shockingly won their division and played FSU in the ACC Championshp) on New Years Eve in the Georgia Dome.

Bleh.  I hate playing non-traditional power programs in bowl games.

The AP announced their All-SEC teams
  • 1st Team: Johnny, Mike "The Beast" Evans, Jake Matthews
  • 2nd Team: Drew Kaser
The Coaches voted the same but put added Kaser as a 1st teamer

Darian Claiborne was also named to the SEC All-Freshman squad by the coaches and Jake Matthews was awarded the Jacobs Blocking Trophy (as top OL in SEC)

The AP also announced their All-American squads
  • 1st Team: Mike Evans, Jake Matthews
  • 2nd Team: Johnny Manziel, Drew Kaser
It raises the question how the AP could name Kaser to 2nd team All-SEC and All-American but with a different player ahead of him in each?
Those same four Ags were also named finalists for a plethora of national awards this season.
  • Johnny Manziel - Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Trophy, Davey O'Brien Award, Walter Camp PoY, Manning Award, Hornung Award
  • Mike Evans - Biletnikoff Award
  • Jake Matthews - Outland Trophy, Lombardi Trophy
  • Drew Kaser - Ray Guy Award
We came away empty handed, although the Manning Award has yet to be handed out.


FSU QB Jameis Winston (RS-F) is playing in the national championship game with his undefeated Seminoles and their nasty defense.  He is the new shiny toy and got a lot of run as the season went on.  Then in November it came to light that Winston had been accused of rape back in December of last year.  Eleven months later and the Tallehassee Police had yet to even interview the only suspect, Winston.  His lawyer was tipped off months in advance and had plenty of time to put together a game plan to attack the bevy of evidence.

It really is a sad, sad situation.  After 11 months of being pushed into the shadows, the state attorney (who holds his bacholor's and juris doctorate from FSU) decided 3 days prior to the Heisman balloting deadline that didn't have enough evidence to bring charges and cleared Winston.  It was about as shady as they come.

The only silver lining is that the victim has 3 years to file a civil suit so hopefully she waits until Winston signs his rookie contract and then lays the hammer to him.

As soon as that happened on that Friday, Winston went to a 150/1 odd to win the trophy.   You remember all those vocal voters last year who refused to vote for Johnny because he was a) a freshman and b) had been arrested?  Not a word this year.

There were six finalists for the Heisman including Johnny and Winston.  They were joined by Northern Illinois (!?!) QB Jordan Lynch, Auburn RB Tre Mason, Alabama QB AJ McCarron, and Boston College RB Andre Williams (a guy that 80% of sports fans wouldn't be able to name).

Taking a look at the QBs, let's do blind sample....who would you pick?
          TotYds TD Comp% Avg/G
          ====== == ===== =====
Player A   4,013 42 67.9  308.6
Player B   4,557 45 67.0  350.4

Player C   4,418 41 69.1  368.2

Player D   2,697 26 67.8  224.5

I wasn't even going to include McCarron's numbers (he is Player D) because he didn't even deserve the time it takes me to pull up the numbers - the guy wasn't even 2nd Team All-SEC.  But he finished SECOND in the voting (and won the Maxwell Award) because he was quarterbacking a defensive dynasty to their third national championship*

*except they lost and didn't even make it to the SEC Championship

Looking at those numbers, QBs A, B, & C are relatively similar.  But all numbers aren't the same so lets take a look at what kind of defenses they've faced....
Opp. Total Defensive Ranking
               vTop25  vTop50

               ======  ====== 
    Player A     x1      x6
    Player B     x2      x2

    Player C     x4      x6

Player A played 1/12th of his games against Top 25 defenses while player B played 1/6th.  But look at that, Player C played a full 1/3 of his schedule against Top 25 defenses.  That's a significant difference.

You all know where I'm going with this....A is Winston, B is Lynch (who remarkably played a horrific schedule, yet still faced two Top 10 defenses - and then ten really bad ones), and C is Johnny.

And you can't tell me that if Johnny and Winston switched defenses their records wouldn't be reversed.  There is a whole lot of difference in pressure when you know you have to score 30+ points to win as opposed to 11 points.

And here are the RBs....

         Att   Yds YPC TD   YPG    Receiving
Mason    283 1,621 5.7 22 124.7    121 yds 11 receptions, 11 ypc, 9.3 ypg
Williams 329 2,102 6.4 17 175.2    0 receptions

Even with the rough outings against Mizzou and LSU, Johnny still had the better season. 

At this point it's a moot point but it needed to be said.

I'm now going to go around the horn with some quick notes, some quite important:
  • We added Arizona State to the 2015 schedule as the season opener at Reliant (Sept 5th) - I like this, Kyle Field won't be ready so instead of going on the road we schedule a neutral site game against a quality opponent
  • Marcel Yates will be leaving a vacancy as DB Coach as he takes over at Boise State as the Defensive Coordinator - I don't mind this too much - he spent a lot of time in his career at Boise and it's a step up for him.  My only concern is that a replacement has not been named yet - I want that to happen quicker than we've seen in the past.
  • Spav is taking over playcalling duties from Clarence McKinney - this is huge to me.  I don't know if Spav will be a better play caller, but what I like is that Sumlin saw there was a weakness and was not afraid to make a change.
  • Darian Claiborne was arrested for marajuana.  He will miss the Chick-fil-a Bowl and his status for the start of next season has not been addressed.  Jordan Mastrogiovanni will start in his place at MLB (which is where he was projected to start next year with Claiborne sliding over)
  • Our early enrollees for the 2014 signing class have been officially inked and will start classes in January
    • Kyle Allen (QB) - Scottsdale, AZ - 5*, #1 QB nationally in 2014 class
    • Jermaine Eluemunor (OL) - Lackawanna C.C. in Scranton (PA) - 4*; #17 JUCO recruit in country with offers from every top program.  Dude is from London - that's awesome.
    •  Avery Gennesy (OL) - East Mississippi C.C. - 4*; #10 JUCO recruit; another big JUCO OLman
    • JJ Gustafson (OL) - Jesuit HS (Dallas, Tx) 
    • Josh Reynolds (WR) - Tyler JUCO - 3*; will come in classified as a sophomore in 2014 so will have 4 years to play3

    Knocked out some huge needs at OL with guys who can step right in and play and landed Allen who gets a spring and summer to compete with Kenny Hill for the starting job next fall.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

#5 Mizzou Just a Bit Too Much, 28-21

The offense couldn't shake the funk that started last weekend against LSU.  Johnny is hurt. There is simply no other explanation.

I thought the defense played about as well as you could have asked, particularly against such a high powered offense.  It looked like Jay Arnold got a lot of snaps, as did Noel Ellis....and Clay Honeycutt is back after an injury.

I liked what I saw out of the running game, although I didn't understand the rotation.  It seemed like anytime someone got hot they were subbed out.  Brandon Williams came in an ignited us with some much needed energy.

As poor as the offense played in the first half (3 punts and a special teams fumble) we went into the locker room with a 14-7 lead.

In the third quarter, Mizzou came out and manhandled the defense marching 80 yards for the game tying score.  We have to punt (it was a great! punt but terrible coverage) and they dominate the defense again and march for the TD.

We started to move the ball pretty well and on a 4th-and-1 there was a false start by the OL and we had to punt.  So frustrating.

Luckily, we were able to force a punt and get down the field with some intermediate passes to Labhart and three monster runs by Trey Williams (who was led by Cam Clear at FB) before punching it in with Malena. 

It's 21-21 now.

Both teams exchanged punts before Mizzou finally strikes on a long 57 yard TD run leaving only 3:34 on the clock.  We couldn't get anything going and had to punt it to the Tigers, who converted two first downs entirely too easily.

Mike Evans was quiet again (4 receptions for 8 yards), although he is the one most effected by Malcome Kennedy's injury as he is getting ALL of the attention.

This was a game that was there for the taking, but once again we couldn't put together a complete game. 
In other news....

This year's Iron Bowl was a classic.  My DVR cut off with 4:39 remaining in the game and Alabama had just scored a TD that seemingly put the game away.  I wasn't too bummed....until I saw the final score.  Auburn scored quickly and then 'Bama missed an insanely long FG as time expired - and Auburn RETURNED IT FOR A TD! 

As a result, the SEC Championship featured Mizzou vs. Auburn - two teams who went a combined 2-14 in conference play last season.  The parity in this league is outstanding.

Auburn ran Mizzou out of the game (Tra Mason finished with 300+ yards on the ground) and thanks to a Michigan State upset over undeserving #2 Ohio State, Auburn will now face Florida State for a chance to bring home the SEC's 8th consecutive national championship (it would be the 5th consecutive for the state of Alabama).

Coach Sumlin was given a 6-year extension worth ~$5M per season with a $5M buyout and a clause that prevents him from speaking to NFL teams for 3 years.  Since the announcement, the Houston Texans fired Gary Kubiak and the rumors are rampant that they want to sign Sumlin before the board of regents can finalize the deal.  We'll see.

The other we'll see is the smoking hot rumor that Nick Saban is going to replace Mack Brown at t.u.  Brown is supposed to step down some time this week.  I just can't see Saban leaving 'Bama to step into the most spread oriented conference in America - he LOATHES the spread.  I don't even think that t.u. can moneywhip him because 'Bama is going to do whatever they can to match it - shoot, the churches across the state would give up their collections to start a campaign to keep him.  Soooooo....we'll see.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

It Rained in Tiger Stadium, 34-10

I left my house to pick up Sean at 4:30am on Saturday morning.  We didn't have a clue what to expect in terms of traffic and I had read reports that I-10 was a parking lot almost all evening on Friday and the last thing I wanted to do was to drive all the way there and miss kickoff.  With the 2:30p kickoff we were going to try and make it a single day road trip. 

Fortunately, we didn't hit any traffic the entire way there and by 9:15 we were driving past Tiger Stadium.  We were early enough that we were able to park in a free parking lot back behind their softball complex so all we needed to figure out was what we were going to do for the next five hours.

It was supposed to be a high in the mid-50s so we brought some gear to try and combat the cold.  Ha.

On our way out of the parking lot we were "Tiger bait"-ed for the first time.  By a 10 year old kid whose mother had a YOLO sticker on the back of her car and whose father had more ink on his arms than member of Hells Angels.  We just kept walking.
A classroom of higher education
We walked up to the stadium and then took a walk around campus to get a feel for what it was like.  I thought the campus looked quite similar to ours except the buildings all had clay tile roofs.

We got hungry so we figured out where there was some food near by, in a neighborhood called Northgate, so we walked over there and were one of the first ones in the door at BW3s.

I had read that one thing we wouldn't want to miss was the band marching down the hill about 2 hours before kickoff so we walked back and actually ran across the band, who proceeded to "Tiger bait" us.

It's really hard to be intimidated by a bunch of people wearing matching purple outfits, velcro shoes, a purse on their shoulder and a big fluffy feather on their hat.

We found ourselves a seat on a wall down by the two hills, which are affectionately referred to as "The Cleavage" and waited for the band.

Honestly, we weren't really all that impressed with the band marching - there wasn't anything fancy.  But what probably capped the afternoon off was a stout, serious looking guy who was walking by.  The reason for his serious disposition was his high level of inebriation and the need to spend every ounce of his focus to walk forward (at a very slow rate of speed).  He showed absolutely ZERO emotion with his face the entire time we were watching him.

My only regret from the trip was not taking a picture of this guy - or better yet, a video.

He decided to sit down on the wall a little ways down from us, almost missed the wall, and then attempted to do something on his phone, which he dropped.  I cringed as he pulled it closer to himself because the screen was face down - but that wouldn't matter because a few moments after he picked it up he stood up and hurled it towards the ground and it shattered.  With ZERO emotion.

Then he picked it up again and tried to use it (as if it would even turn on) but got distracted and started picking out the pieces of broken screen.  When he got bored with that he decided to try and find his friends by walking back the way he came, except he suddenly got angry with the phone again and threw it again, this time splitting it into two pieces.  Again, his facial expression never changed during the entire ordeal. 

On a scale of 1-10 on the people watching scale he was a 9.5.

We decided that we had seen enough at that point, so we started walking towards the stadium and out of no where we ran into one of Sean's elementary school buddies.  We chatted for a while as we walked but it started to rain a little bit so he headed off to a tailgate and we decided to go into the stadium.

There is a great book by John Ed Bradley, a former LSU football player, titled "It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium" that I read a couple of years ago about him looking back on his athletic career through his eyes from later in life.

He was wrong about the title.

The skies opened up at about 1pm and it poured for about an hour and then continued to sprinkle/mist until about 1/2 way through the second quarter.  It was miserable weather.  We got drenched before we could get into the stadium or get our rain gear on and ended up taking shelter under the stadium until about 20 minutes before kickoff.
The team came out in special uniforms, which I LOVED.  It was a dark grey with maroon trim and socks and the helmets faded from maroon at the crown to black at the neck.

We had to punt on our first possession, which we never do.  On the drive Ben Malena had broken into open field but didn't get to complete the TD run because of a whistle for someone not coming completely set prior to the snap.

On the second drive we had a 3rd & 4 and Johnny's 1st down pass was dropped.

It was on the third drive when I first thought that Johnny was off.  He sailed one to Evans down the right sidelines - it would have been a HUGE gain and probably a TD.

On our fourth possession, Johnny scrambled and at the end of the run collided with Malcome Kennedy's knee - he left the game.  Walker dropped a TD on 3rd & G and we couldn't score on 4th TD.  The game should have been 14-7 at this point.

One thing that LSU did a great job on  was playing Johnny's reverse spin move where he typically gets all of his scramble passing yards.

LSU took over in the shadow of their own goal post and were forced to punt and it only went 13 yards - but we had to settle for a FG.

We did score just before the half on a super quick strike to make it 21-10, which was more manageable

We had four - FOUR - rushing attempts by our talented backfield in the first half (three by Malena and one by Trey Williams).  Tra Carson was cleared to play after a head injury a few weeks ago but didn't lineup in the backfield (he did play on special teams so it wasn't an injury situation).  They literally put the entire offense on Johnny in a cold, wet environment - with what we found out later was in injured hand.

I will also say that if I never see them run with Johnny up the middle again I will be a happy man.  That said, I thought that when he scrambled he did look as quick and fast as I've seen this season - it's almost like he has been a half a step slower this year.

Speaking of scrambling, he had to do it a lot because their defense ate up our OL and were on Johnny quick all night long.
I went into Tiger Stadium expecting to be completely overwhelmed but the LSU fans weren't as loud or intimidating as I expected.  I'm sure the weather played into that but there were A LOT of empty seats (the student section in particular was quite disappointing) and then after the half there were even more empty seats.

They did get loud at certain times but it was not a sustained loud.  They also had some pretty vulgar songs that they would sing, asking to "Suck that Tiger #^@&, &*$(#"  We were sitting in the visitor's section completely surrounded by Ags so we were insulated from the full Tiger treatment that we heard about going into the game.

LSU came out of the half and extended the lead with a FG and then we turned the ball over on an incredible INT by the LSU defender.  The Tigers scored another TD and we punted.  They picked up another FG and I stopped tracking the score.

With right at 6 minutes remaining, Mike Evans fended off a pass interference and caught a TD (but there was no flag thrown).  They reviewed the play and claimed that Evans did not have complete possession of the ball when it touched the ground.  They couldn't go back and retrospectively thrown the flag for the PI so we got kinda hosed on that.  The next snap was picked.  That essentially ended the ballgame.

Trey had two second half carries and that was it for our RBs on the ground.  Shocking.

Johnny finished with 278 yards and one TD (with two INTs). It was his least impressive performance of the season.

Terrence McGee had a career high 149 yards on the ground as the Tigers lit us up for 324 rushing yards.

A couple other thoughts.....
  • I thought that Davante Harris played out of his mind - especially since he was covering Odell Beckham Jr. all night
  • Once again we got NO PASS RUSH.  It was pathetic.
  • Getting no pass rush allows our opponent to simply pick us appart on 3rd down - they converted on 3rd & 6, 3rd & 6, 3rd & 9, 3rd & 10 (overall 11-of-17 on 3rd down, including 3 TDs on 3rd down)
We finish up the regular season next weekend on the road at #5 Missouri.  Hopefully, we can turn things around.

After the game we solemnly walked back to the car, hoping to find all four tires still inflated and nothing scratched into the paint.  We were able to get out to town really quickly, safely made it over the creepy bridge just before Lafayette, and got home around 12:30am.

Overall, it was a bad game and horrible weather - but I'll never regret going on the road to see my Ags.  Man, the SEC is tough.