"Sanctimonious Trolls" and Other Strange Behavior
Last weekend’s college football games, to put it mildly, featured a number of bizarre incidents.
As the late John Lennon might say, “strange days indeed.”
Leach Loses It: WSU coach Mike Leach, who earlier this season threw his team under the bus, went after Spokane Spokesman-Review columnist Jon Blanchette following the Cougars 31-13 loss to Washington in the Apple Cup.
In his post-game press conference, the always gracious Leach defended his six straight losses to Washington by citing the Huskies' high recruiting rankings. When Blanchette asked Leach if he wasn't supposed to beat schools with better recruiting classes, Leach went off. He called Blanchette a "sanctimonious troll" and instructed him to "live your meager little life in your little hole and write nasty things."
Such a class act.
Egg Bowl Fiasco: I've seen a lot of crazy endings, but Thursday's Egg Bowl may take the cake. Or the dog bone.
Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore caught a short TD pass with four seconds left to bring the Rebels within one point of rival Mississippi State on Thanksgiving, which would send the game into overtime after the PAT. But Moore went a little too far with his celebration, crawling on all fours to the back of the end zone and then pretending to pee like a dog.
The resultant unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved the ball back 15 yards for the PAT attempt, which kicker Luke Logan pushed wide right. Final score: Mississippi State 21, Ole Piss 20.
Paranoia Strikes Deep: Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is so paranoid about having his play calls stolen that he has three different players in different colored uniforms (green 38, red 50, and yellow 25) sending in signals.
Saban Embarrassed: Trailing 48-45 with the clock kicking down and Auburn facing a fourth down punt, Alabama was poised to get one last chance with a minute remaining. But Nick Saban's boys were penalized for having too many men on the field, allowing Auburn to keep the ball and run out the clock.
The only thing worse than the error itself was Saban’s incoherent post-game explanation.
Huskers Shucked: A 27-24 loss to Iowa ended another losing season for once proud Nebraska and second-year coach Scott Frost.
Some quick history: Everyone blamed Mike Riley when his first Nebraska team went 5-7 in 2015 with three last-second losses. Riley—one of the truly great people in football—was fired after three years, a 19-19 record, and two bowl appearances. The much-ballyhooed Frost was supposed to be the program's savior. In two years, he has a 9-15 record and no post-season bids.
So how's that working out?
Don't Tie Me Down: In the Ohio State-Michigan game, Wolverine safety Carlo Kemp brought down Buckeye running back J.K. Dobbins by grabbing ahold of his shoe and not letting go. In the ensuing pileup, Kemp decided to untie Dobbins’ shoe, take it off his foot, and toss it aside.
I guess that's one way of stopping a running back who's shredding your defense (211 yards and 4 touchdowns).
The nuttiness wasn’t limited to college football:
NBA Nonsense: The geniuses at the NBA have proposed reducing their interminable 82 game schedule by four games, but adding a mid-season tournament.
Up to now, I've been a fan of Commissioner Adam Silver, but this just might be the dumbest idea of the year, if not the decade. Basically, with the addition of the tournament, teams would actually end up playing more games, likely suffer more injuries, and players would require more "load management" (i.e. days off).
A much better idea would be to cut the regular season to around 64 games. Right now, with the 82 games and multiple playoff rounds, basketball season extends into June. That's crazy.
Some random (non-bizarre) thoughts about the NFL.
Niners-Ravens: The 49ers are legit. They held Lamar Jackson and the explosive Ravens (who'd scored 172 points in their last 4 games) to 20 points and less than 300 total yards. The Ravens were shut out in the second half until the game-winning field goal as time expired.
Both of the 49ers’ losses have come by three points to excellent teams (Baltimore and Seattle), and they annihilated another elite team (Green Bay). Two big reasons—the emergence of running back Raheem Mostert and the phenomenal play (both against the run and the pass) of linebacker Fred Warner.
Charles in Charge: Charles Davis, who years ago succeeded me briefly as associate athletic director at Stanford before realizing he could make a lot more money as a broadcaster, is one of the best in the business. The former Tennessee defensive back was for several years an outstanding analyst on college games, before moving to the NFL.
He's also one of the nicest guys around.
Cardinal Concerns: Speaking of Stanford, Coach David Shaw’s bunch took a 17-7 lead on heavily favored Notre Dame with 9:29 left in the second quarter and seemed to be in control. But a blocked punt turned the game around and the Irish scored 31 straight points while Stanford didn't score again until under two minutes remained in the game. The Cardinal offense was basically AWOL in the second half and the defense once again allowed the opposing quarterback to have a career game.
So Stanford's first losing season in 11 years ends with a 4-8 record. An injury epidemic played a part, to be sure, but the Cardinal slipped significantly this season both offensively and defensively.
Will Stanford bounce back? Is this a one-year aberration or the beginning of a downward trend? Only time will tell, but to win in 2020, Shaw must re-energize his running game, develop a pass rush, and show more creativity in play-calling.
The worst sequence of the Notre Dame game came late in the first quarter, when Stanford had a first and goal from the two yard-line. Three straight line plunges by Cameron Scarlett netted a yard before Scarlett lined up in wildcat formation—telling everyone in the mostly-empty stadium that yet another run was coming—before a penalty forced Stanford to settle for a field goal.
A similar sequence in the final seconds cost Stanford a chance to win in overtime at Notre Dame in 2012, when Stepfan Taylor was stopped four straight times at the goal line.
Petersen Steps Down: In a shocking move, Washington coach Chris Petersen stepped down this morning after a disappointing season in which the Huskies—ranked 13th in the pre-season—suffered conference losses to Cal, Stanford, Utah, Oregon and Colorado.
Defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake, who has turned down numerous head coaching opportunities the past few years, was immediately installed as the Huskies’ new head man.