Fantastic Finishes, Burrow Blowout, Coaching/Officiating Blunders, Stanford Basketball
One of the great weekends of the sports year was marked by two fantastic finishes, one incredible blowout, some questionable officiating (of course), and some strange coaching gaffes.
Fantastic Finish No. 1: Ohio State-Clemson was expected to be the best bowl game of the season, and it didn’t disappoint.
Clemson—which was ranked No. 3 despite being the defending national champs with 28 straight wins—once again proved that it knows how to win with a stirring come-from-behind victory over Ohio State. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence came up big...he's 6'6"...with a 67-yard touchdown run and a number of perfect throws to orchestrate 99 and 94-yard touchdown drives.
The game came down to the final seconds, with the Tigers ahead 29-23 and the Buckeyes, who'd blown a 16-0 lead, threatening to pull out a comeback of their own. Justin Fields, who threw only one interception all season for Ohio State, had two in this game (plus another that was called back), including the game-deciding pick when he threw one way and receiver Chris Olave went the other.
Officials Blow It (Again): Seems like every year there's a big blown call in one of the CFP semi-finals or NFL championship games. This time, it was an SEC crew that reversed a touchdown on a fumble recovery by Ohio State, ruling that the Clemson receiver did not "complete the catch" before fumbling.
The only thing good about this was that, for once, it wasn't a Pac-12 crew. The bad news? A Pac-12 crew will handle the national championship game.
Burrow Blowout: Quarterback Joe Burrow dazzled as LSU waltzed over outmanned Oklahoma 63-28. Burrow showed why he won the Heisman Trophy and will be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft with a performance for the ages. Seven touchdown passes—all in the first half—and a rushing TD in the second. The Tigers could've scored 100 if they wanted.
So we'll have Tigers vs. Tigers in the national championship game. LSU has the better team, but Clemson has title game experience and knows how to win. It should be a dandy.
Fantastic Finish No. 2: Yes, it is a game of inches. The 49ers stopped Seattle tight end Jacob Hollister about two inches short of the goal line with nine seconds left to preserve a 26-21 victory in the season finale. It was a huge win for the Niners, erasing the long-time stigma of being unable to win in Seattle, plus securing the No. 1 seed in the NFC, a first round bye, and home field throughout the playoffs.
Too many heroes to mention, but kudos to linebackers Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner for making the game-saving stop, rookie sensation Nick Bosa for harassing Russell Wilson all night and forcing three bad throws in the final minute, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for his poise and accuracy throughout, tight end George Kittle for his usual heroics, and Raheem "where has this guy been hiding" Mostert for two big touchdown runs. Not to mention head coach Kyle Shanahan for his expert, Bill Walsh-like play-calling.
Round Three? Something that the game announcers and local media have failed to mention thus far is that if New Orleans beats Minnesota and Seattle beats Philly, as expected, in the wild card round, the Niners will host...you guessed it...Seattle in their first playoff game.
Coaching Question: How in the world could Seattle get a killer delay of game penalty in the final seconds, on second and goal from the one yard line?
Maples Madness: I went to the Stanford-Kansas basketball game yesterday with my two little grandsons—Mateo, 9, and Cole, 5. It was good to see Maples Pavilion nearly sold out, although over half the crowd was wearing Kansas blue.
At first, the Cardinal couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, missing its first 14 shots and going scoreless for the first eight minutes of the game. But Coach Jared Haase’s long, lean, athletic team kept it close for awhile with its trademark tough defense.
The core of the team is strong—freshman point guard Tyrell Terry, freshman forward Spencer Jones, veterans Oscar da Silva and Daejon Davis. If they stay healthy and the freshmen continue to develop, Stanford could finish as high as fifth in the Pac-12.