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Archive for January, 2007

AFC Championship Game: Colts vs. Patriots Live Blog

Posted by Mike on January 21, 2007

I don;t need to rehash every thing that’s been said about this matchup, so I’ll let ESPN do it for you.

This is a big matchup. I am rooting for the Colts, but it’s difficult to predict this game because both of these teams are very strong.

The Colts’ defense, much maligned during the regular season, has really stepped up in the postseason thanks in no small part to the return of safety Bob Sanders from injury. If the Colts want to win, the defense must continue to play well, no small task against the Patriots, who have a good playoff defense in their own right. I think this game will not come down to which QB (Manning or Brady) will play the best, but which defense can make the opposing QB play the worst. That’s how New England won the first two matchups against Indy, and the defense will be why either team wins.

6:44 pm: The Pats start with a play action rollout to the right, but Brady has no one to throw to.

6:45 pm: Corey Dillon runs into the defensive line, but manages to get 3.

6:46 pm: New England runs a draw on third down and 7, and they get the first. That play take cajones, but it throws the defense off guard.

6:47 pm: Dillon is stuffed again on 2nd down. They should put Maroney in there, he’s clearly the more athletic back.

6:48 pm: The Pats try a second pass to Faulk in the flat, and again he drops. The Pats are forced to punt. Wilkins returns the punt to his own 29.

6 :49 pm: Indy runs it on first down and Joseph Addai gets 6 yards. I like this play. Addai fakes it like he’s going to the inside, but then bounces outside, leaving the slower Patriot linebackers out of position.

Good lord, it’s good to blog a football game again. This is more in my element than basketball. Maybe it’s because of the set plays, but I like to think I’m much better at analyzing the intricacies of Football.

6:52 pm: Indy runs a play on third down where Addai runs downfield along the sidelines, and he’s a quarter step behind the ball and drops it. Going three and out can’t be good for the Colt’s confidence, but we still have 56 minutes to play.

I’m going to start counting Manning commercials.

6:56 pm: Wow… an entire commercial break in the AFC Championship game without a single Manning commercial.

6:58 pm: This can’t be good. We’re less than five minutes into the game and two Colts defensive linemen (Dwight Freeney and Gary Brackett) are banged up. This means either something up with the turf or the Pats O-line really came to play.

7:00 pm: Why haven’t I seen Maroney in the game? They’re running draws with Kevin Faulk! That’s the third one to him they’ve run today. Right now the Pats are looking at 4th and inches near midfield. If Belichick punts he is a woman.

7:02 pm: This is embarrassing…Pats run the ball on fourth and one and slowpoke Corey Dillon runs it 30 yards into the red zone.

7:03 pm: Maroney is finally in the game and he takes a screen pass 9 yards to the 5. Brady’s sneak on 2nd down fails. Indy had better not let the Pats waltz into the endzone like they let Dillon through on 4th and 1.

7:04 pm: This could be the ultimate WTF play. Maroney fumbles, the ball goes into a pile of 3 Colts defenders, and it squirts into the endzone where a Patriots lineman falls on it in the end zone for a TOUCHDOWN. 7-0, Pats. How doe Indy not get the ball? How does the ball escape into the end zone? How does a Pat notice and fall on it? If this play is any indication, the football gods are Pats fans.

Wait a minute…there are no football gods!!! Then how do explain such a bad play going New England’s way? It screams divine intervention! I think my head is going to explode if I discuss that play any longer.

7:10 pm: Addai makes a hard run for a first down. Seeing a Colt drag three guys with him down the field is fun.

7:11 pm: The Colts run a great WR screen to Reggie Wayne for another first down. Plays like this use a defense’s aggressiveness against them, and that’s exactly what happened in the game.

7:12 pm: What is Indy doing? They’re running the ball well, why are they running pass plays on first and second down?

7:13 pm: Dallas Clark makes a tough catch on 3rd and 6; I can’t believe Manning got it in there.

7:14 pm: After a run and a quick pass to TE Utecht, it’s now 3rd and inches for the Colts. Will they run ot or pass it? I say play action rollout pass to Clark in the flat to the right.

7:16 pm: They give it Addai… and I’m not sure he got it…but he did, just barely. I would have called a fullback dive if they wanted to do that, but Indy doesn’t have a fullback.

People don’t realize that most running backs in pro football are only as good as their blockers, especially lead blockers, which is the role the modern fullback has. Lorenzo Neal is the full back responsible for the successful careers of Eddie George and LaDanian Tomlinson. Great running teams have great lead blockers. I think the colts use a tight end. But I digress. The colts started their set of downs at the 25, but a penalty sent them 10 yards back, and it took an Addai screen play to get it back to good field goal range. Adam Vinatieri hits the field goal to make it 7-3, Patriots.

7:22 pm: Amazing…absolutely no bizarre ads or Manning ads so far. The NFL may have actually become…Sane. Nah, it must be an illusion.

7:25 pm: Already three Colts defenders are injured today. This can’t be good. The first quarter ends with the Patriots leading, 7-3.

7:29 pm: Brady get a first down off a sneak. It looked like he might have been hit pretty good. This got me thinking, what if Tom Brady got injured? What would happen to the Pats? Would they tank, or would Andrew Cassel fill in and lead the Pats to playoff glory?

7:32 pm: Maroney is finally getting the ball, and he’s running the ball well. He’s really making guys miss. He is the future of the Pat’s backfield and today the future is now.

7:33 pm: New england is left with a dilemma, where it’s 4th down, its too close to punt but a field goal would be 52 yards. What will the Pats do? The Pats call a timeout and a commercial break builds the suspense. I hate network TV.

7:36 pm: The Pats go for it on 4th and 6…and again they convert with a huge pass down the middle to Troy Brown, who takes it inside the 10. That really has to suck; the Colts defense force a fourth down, but then the allow a big play on fourth down.

7:37 pm: Corey Dillon waltzes into the endzone. 14-3, Pats. The Colts run defense is rearing its ugly head.

7:39 pm: Wow, we only get our first Manning ad in the mid-2nd quarter ad break (Sprint). Maybe that’s why Indy was losing; no Manning commercials!

7:40 pm: I knew it was only a matter of time before stadiums nationwide would play Trick Daddy and Lil’ Jon’s crunk anthem “Let’s Go”.

7:42 pm: Asante Samuel intercepts a pass off an out route to Marvin Harrison and returns it for a TOUCHDOWN. 21-3, Pats. What the hell is happening to the Colts? They seem to have allowed three freak touchdowns. They all were plays that would not happen 9 times out of 10.

7:47 pm: Seriously, what the hell has happened to the Colts? They are experiencing a complete mental breakdown. I’m not even a big Colts fan and I am having a hard time watching this disintegration. This has to be a mental thing; at worst Indy’s talent is on par with the Pats, and at worst Indy’s talent is far superior. This can only be explained my lack of mental preparation, which is bizarre considering what they were able to overcome the previous two games.

7:52 pm: The Colts are back on defense, and they seem to be playing well, getting good hits and forcing third and long. Just as I say that, the Pats convert another big play. Brady has yet to be sacked. This has to change if the Colts want to get back in this game.

7:55 pm: New England is on 3rd and 21. Surely they cannot convert this. The Colts have to stop them out of FG range.

7:57 pm: Finally something that goes Indy’s way. Two penalties and a sack force the Pats to punt. Hopefully the Colts can score a touch down before halftime and get back in this game, because no one likes to see a b—-slapping for a Championship game. Unless you’re a Gators fan.

8:01 pm: Do you think Peyton Manning has played so much football that his body has altered from a normal human to accommodate? How else is his appearance explainable? These are the kinds of thoughts that go through one’s mind while trying to blog a game and listening to Audioslave’s “Out of Exile” album.

8:03 pm: Manning commercial #2: Sony.

8:05 pm: Indy is driving the ball well, getting three first downs on three straight pass plays. They are determined to get something done before halftime.

Manning gets another pass to Dallas Clark, who gets into field goal range. Manning gets a little too greedy and goes for the end zone; the pass is overthrown. Just like that, Indy is looking at third and 10.

8:08 pm: Indy gets a huge conversion and makes it into the red zone. Manning gets it to Clark inside the 10, and Indy has three shots at the end zone with 24 seconds left.

8:10 pm: I get the principle of running a draw in this situation, but the Pats were expecting it, putting 8-9 guys in the box! This makes no sense.

8:11 pm: Three times Manning has thrown a good pass in the end zone, and three times safety James Sanders (in for Rodney Harrison) breaks the pass up. How bizarre is that.

8:15 pm: Indy hits a field goal, but the snap is almost botched. Belichick must have consulted some sort of voodoo practitioner, that’s the only reasonable explanation for the events if this game.

8:17 pm: The first half ends. New England leads, 21-6. It’s not that the Colts have played bad, it’s that they brought their mental “C-” game, which you simply can’t do against the Patriots.

8:20 pm: Bizarre ad alert: Get your own truck, Nessie!

8:34 pm: The second half begins, and Colts offense starts by giving the ball to Dominic Rhodes, which turns out to be a good decision as he gets them two first downs and brings them close to midfield.

8:36 pm: Marvin makes a big sideline catch thrown where only he can get it, and it takes the Colts to the NE 39. Those are the kinds of plays we expect from these guys.

8: 37 pm: The Pats send pressure and force an incompletion and third down.

8:38 pm: Indy makes a huge third down conversion by the same play a second time, and this time Wayne catches it up the middle. Indy is now in striking distance.

8: 39 pm: Manning throws another pass in the middle and again it’s caught. The Colts are inside the 10.

8:40 pm: Addai fights for the goalline on second down, but is denied by James Sanders. Is Rodney Harrison suiting up without us noticing?

8:41 pm: Peyton Manning sneaks in for a TOUCHDOWN. This I did not expect at all. It’s now 21-13, New England. Suddenly Indy is back in this game.

8:42 pm: Finally, a bizarre ad alert, courtesy of Southwest. Those pet owners must really suck.

8:47 pm: On the ensuing kickoff, the kick returner is leveled, and then Brady throws the ball away.

8:48 pm: Faulk gets an 8-yard run, but Indy makes a huge hit to prevent the fullback from getting the first down. Indy needed that three and out. This is officially a game again. I’m afraid to jinx the Colts at this point.
8:52 pm: Manning opens the drive by throwing a deep pass to Dallas Clark, who goes to midfield. On the next play, Dominic Rhodes makes a big run to the Pats 35. Wow. Indy is storming out of the second half. Then again, Tony Dungy is likely the coach other then Belichick least likely to panic. He is physically incapable of panicking.

8:53 pm: Wow…Marvin Harrison drops a pass. Unbelievable.

8:54 pm: After Rhodes runs for 5 yards, the colts have a third and 5 at the NE 27… but DE Richard Seymour goes offsides, and it’s a first down!

8:56 pm: Addai is back in the game. The Pats are called for pass interference in the end zone. Colts will have three chances from the 1 to potentially tie this game.

8:57 pm: Colts lineman Dan Klecko catches the ball for a TOUCHDOWN. Colts run a rollout to the right, and Marvin Harrison makes an unbelievable catch for the conversion. The game is tied, 21-21. What a comeback by the Colts.

9:00 pm: Almost on cue, Ellis Hobbs takes the ensuing kickoff back to the Colts 21 yard line. Unbelievable. The “football gods” are just playing with us at this point.

9:03 pm: Brady hits an open Gabar Gaffney to take to the five. Dillon is absolutely stuffed on the next play. but doubt that the Pats won’t score on this drive.

9:04 pm: Wow…how does this happen? The Patriots drop a pass in the open, in the end zone.

9:09 pm: Brady waits an eternity before he throws the ball, and it’s caught by Jabar Gaffney in the back of the endzone for a TOUCHDOWN. Dungy challenges the call, but it is upheld. 28-21, Pats. Just when the Colts have the momentum, the Pats get the lead and momentum back in one fell swoop.

9:13 pm: A rare play where a lineman takes the kickoff is decleated, fumbles the ball, and another lineman on his team recovers. It’s a lot of fun to watch plays like that, because they incorporate all that gets fans pumped: fat linemen, decleaters, and scrums for the ball. You gotta love football. You Just don’t see Shaq taking the ball coast to coast, going down the lane for a dunk, missing the dunk, coming down hard on Steve Nash, and Alonzo Mourning getting the rebound and three point play.

9:17 pm: The Colts are driving again thanks to more plays by Manning and Rhodes. Who would’ve though Rhodes would be Indy’s savior in this game. The thirs quarter ends withe the Pats leading 28-21, but the Colts are now within earshot of the endzone. This turned out to be a very exciting game, just not in the way we expected.

9:19 pm: Indy is is now in field goal range, but a field goal does little good in this situation. Just as I say that, Dallas Clark makes another huge catch and Indy is inside the 10.

9:22 pm: The Pats defense is really starting to look tired. It’s showing as their starting to make mistakes. They just got called for offsides, and the Colts are now at the 2 yard line.

9:23 pm: GIVE IT UP FOR THE TARHEELS! Rhodes fumbles, but UNC alum Jeff Saturday recovers it for the TOUCHDOWN. The game is tied again, 28-28. I love football!

9:26 pm: Interesting…it seems that Indy turned off the Air Conditioning in the RCA dome, and now it’s very hot and humid inside the stadium. This could have been a strategy by stadium maintenance crew. If Indy wins, somebody get a game ball to the janitor in section 109.

9:28 pm: New England is forced into a three and out, and Indy will now get the ball with a chance to take the lead.

Uh-oh. It appears that Bob Sanders, safety and spark plug for the Colts defense, was injured on third down. He cannot afford to be hurt in this game.

I have been quite shocked by the lack of bizarre commercials in this game. This is a big game, the ads need to deliver like the players have in this game.

9:33 pm: Just as the Colts were getting some momentum, they go 3-and-out thanks in no small part to Addai sacking his own quarterback. You can’t make those kinds of mistakes at such critical moments.

9:38 pm: Again New England has a short field because of mental errors on the part of Indy. and they are now again threatening to take the lead. In case it needed to get worse, Manning’s thumb is hurt.

9:41 pm: Why is it that the Pats are making the tough catches but dropping the easy ones?

9:42 pm: This is huge. Thanks to a big error by Caldwell, Indy will hold the Pats to a FIELD GOAL. New England takes the lead, 31-28. Anyone think this game might come down to a Boise State-type play?

9:44 pm: We will now see if Manning thumb is OK.

9:45 pm: I guess Manning’s thumb is just fine. He hits Clark again, and he takes it to the Pats 25. Unbelievable.

9:47 pm: Rhodes gets a good run, but Indy faces third and 5 from the 20.

9:48 pm: Indy tries to run, but is stopped short of the first. Vinatieri kicks a field goal to make it a 31-31 tie. If Indy wins, give a game ball to Hunter Smith, who has handled two disastrous snaps and made good holds out of them for Vinatieri to kick field goals.

9:50 pm: Ellis Hobbs gets another big kickoff return. The Pats have good position, and they will need to run out the clock to keep Indy from having a chance, but don;t tell them I said that.

9:52 pm: Thanks to a Daniel Graham catch, the Pats are again in field goal range.

9:53 pm: Indy breaks up a pass to the flat, and suddenly it’s third an 10 from the 29. They give it to the fullback who goes nowhere with it. They will likely kick another field goal.

9:54 pm: Gostkowski kicks a FIELD GOAL to give New England a 34-31 lead.

9:56 pm: You know a game is good when the network stop doing commercial breaks.

9:57 pm: Manning make two quick incompletions under pressure. It’s suddenly third down. If INdy doesn’t convert, then what? There’s less tham 4 minutes left.

9:58 pm: Indy is forced into a 3-and-out.They have little choice but to punt. The Colts need to prevent the touchdown and the clock from running out, or else it’s over.

10:02 pm: on third and 4, Brady’s pass is broken up by-guess who?- Bob Sanders. The Colts will get one final chance. They have 137 seconds, 1 timeout and 80 yards to work with. If not for a 5-yard penalty by the Pats, They have a first down and it’s over.

Forgive me, at this point I’ve stopped being a journalist and become a fan. Is that so wrong?

10:22 pm: Okay, I’m back. Here’s what happened:

  1. Manning throws a 10 yard pass to Wayne as he goes out of bounds.
  2. Peyton is under pressure, but he Fires a bullet downfield to an open wide receiver, who goes out of bounds at the 37 and allows one more play before the 2 minute warning.
  3. And what a play it was. Not only does Manning find Wayne in the middle at the 30, but he ran down to the 23, fumbled the ball in the air, and caught his own fumble while being dragged down.
  4. Manning gets another pass to Dallas Clark inside the 10.
  5. There is more than a minute and a half left in the game, so Indy decides to run out some clock by giving the ball to Joseph Addai. After two runs that take the ball to the two yard line, New England calls a timeout to preserve some clock.
  6. This sets up a big third and 2 at the 2 yard line. If indy doesn’t get the touchdown, they can still tie with a field goal. Ic ouldn’t believe it when they handed it off to Joseph Addai again and he ran it in for the TOUCHDOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWNNNN!!!!!!!! OH MY GOD OHH MYYYY GAAAAAAHHHHD!!! Indy takes the lead, 38-34. The comeback is finally complete. Tony Dungy is pumped, showing his first emotion, like, ever.
  7. You know the drill: Tom Brady has the ball, theres’ 1 minute left, championship on the line, the patriots drive past midfield, and then Brady makes the game-winning throw. We’ve heard this a million times before. Only this time the ball intercepted, which wins the game for Indy.

Wait….

(…)

(…)

What?

Indy wins the AFC! Peyton finally exorcises his demons, Dungy finally makes it so the Super Bowl, and he will face Lovie Smith of the Bears as the first black head coaches in the Super Bowl (which is about the third of a hundred thousand times you’re going to hear this in the next two weeks.

It was nearly impossible to believe after Manning threw the interception returned by Asante Samuel for a touchdown to make it 21-3, at which the script seemed all too familiar. This was a game for the ages.

Players of the Game not named Peyton Manning or Bob Sanders (obvious choices):

Joseph Addai. The entire season is on the line. You’re at home. It’s third and 2. Indy needs a touch down. The Colts may have the the best QB in the NFL taking the snap, and two of the best receivers in the league, and the best receiving tight end in the league. So Indy makes the logical decision is puts the most important play of the season in the hands of…a rookie running back. And he delivered. WOW.

addai.jpg

Dallas Clark. Whenever the Colts needed a big reception, Dallas Clark was there to make the catch. He may not have caught any touchdowns, but Indy doesn’t win this game with any other player at tight end.

dallas_clark2.jpg

Hunter Smith. This is probably a name that won’t come up when discussing keys in this game. But the Colts long snapper botched two snaps. Hunter Smith, who holds for kicks, was able to handle the the bad snaps and allow Adam Vinatieri to make his field goals. If not for him, those two field goals would have been missed, the final touchdown would have left Indy stil down 34-31, forcing an onside kick, which New England recovers to win the game. That’s how important Hunter Smith was in this game.

hunter_smith.jpg

The Janitor in Section 109: It was his idea to turn of the A/C in the RCA Dome. This led to the stadium becoming hot and humid, which in turn led to the Pats defenders cramping up. If the temperature was normal, the defense would have been more fresh and not allowed 38 points for the Colts offense. Sometimes games are decide by people who have nothing to do with either team. Give credit to whoever turned off the air conditioner in the Dome.

rcadome.jpg

Reche Caldwell: He dropped two easy touchdown passes where he is wide open. If he catches either, Indy doesn’t come back. So thank you, Reche Caldwell. I guarantee you Belichick cuts Caldwell and drafts Dallas Baker.

reche_caldwell.jpg

Nothing will stop me from covering the Super Bowl on this blog, so tune in for that and next week’s College Basketball Week in Review.

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Posted in AFC, Championship, Colts, football, Home, NFL | 1 Comment »

Westside! #12 Arizona vs. #2 UCLA

Posted by Mike on January 20, 2007

Today the most important game not involving my beloved Tar Heels is on the West Coast, as two Pac-10 powerhouses, Arizona and UCLA, play in Westwood, CA. Both of these teams expected to be in the national spotlight, but neither of them expected to share it with another Pac-10 team, the surprising Oregon Ducks, who has beaten both teams in nail-biters, or as Dickie V would say, “Maalox mashers.” Both of these teams seem to be heavily reliant on their staring lineup and don’t use their bench nearly as much as ACC teams like UNC, Clemson, and the Techs (VA/GA). Arizona seems to struggle when they 1) cannot shoot from the perimeter and 2) turn the ball over. UCLA’s great defense will definitely challenge them in both these areas. UCLA is not a great shooting team, but they clean the glass like few others in the country. Unfortunately, they will be playing without their best rebounder, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Arizona will need to take advantage of this by trying to outrebound the Bruins. This could be exciting game. If I had to choose a team, I would say UCLA would win, these teams are so close and I concentrate so much in the ACC (living in Chapel Hill) that I can’t give a prediction. I will guarantee, however, that I will have fun watching.

4:02 pm: The game hasn’t even started and already a bizarre ad, Priceline Negotiator, involving Bill Shatner no less.

4:07 pm: Darren Collision and Aaron Afflalo start the scoring and take an early 4-0 lead.

4:09 pm: Radenovic and Shakur get two baskets in the halfcourt to tie the game , 4-4.

4:10 pm: Aaron Afflalo hits the three to make it 7-4, but Arizona responds by getting 2 offensive rebounds before Marcus Williams tips it in. 7-6, UCLA.

Neither team seems to be in sync; Arizona is struggling defensively, and UCLA is struggling on the boards and in ball control.

4:12 pm: Afflalo hits another three, and Lorenzo Mata gets a dunk in of a great pass, as UCLA has a 12-11, lead.

4:17 pm: Both teams seem to be struggle right now, as neither can hit a shot right now. Even Afflalo seems to be going cold. Just as I say that, a UCLA freshman hits a three to make it 15-14, UCLA.

4:20 pm: UCLA put in this gut named Keefe, and he is having an immediate impact. He hit the three, is playing well on defensive and has good hustle. I like this guy.

4:22 pm: Update on Keefe: coming into this game, he has played 7 minutes a game. Watching him today, he is taking the most advantage of Mbah a Moute’s absence. He has a Quentin Thomas quality; he looks like the kind of underrated guy who deserves more playing time off the bench.

4:27 pm: I haven;t heard much out of either point guard today. PG is such an important position; if Collison and Shakur are not playing well, this might explain the sloppy play we see on the court.

4:29 pm: Arizona is definitely outplaying the Bruins in the paint, with the exception of Oboye and a drive that Afflalo made. The Wildcats lead 20-17.

4:31 pm: Right now, both teams are playing just ugly. These are supposed to be two of the best teams in the country, I expected more out of each. Why else would I be covering this game? Shatner ads?

4:34 pm: It doesn’t seem so much that both teams are playing good defense against each other, it’s that both teams are making bad decisions that don’t seem to be forced by the opposition. For example, this guy from Arizona ( I think it was backup G Daniel Dillon) caught a pas in the fast break and overran the basket, forcing him to take a bad angle, as the basketball bounced off the backboard and then off the rim. As he reached to get the rebound, a larger UCLA forward (Aboya?) pushed him from behind and sent him to the foul line. Most of the play in this game has been just like this, as the two teams seem to be tripping over each other. Arizona seems to have the clear advantage in the boards in the absence of Mbah a Moute, and that may be why the the Wildcats are leading 25-22. I can’t seem to point to anything else they’ve done well enough.

4:40 pm: Darren Collision hits a now-rare mid range jumper to give UCLA a 26-25 lead.

4:45 pm: Here’s an interesting fact: UCLA is on an 11-0 run, leading 28-25. An even more interesting fact: they did so with me hardly noticing, even as I watch the game. Does this mean Arizona is really stinking? Hmmmm…….

4:46 pm: I have concluded that UCLA’s big run is the result of two simultaneous phenomena. First, Arizona is really stinking up the pace at this point. Second, UCLA is finally playing well; not dominating but well. Their bench is stepping up. Collison goes to the foul line and makes it 30-25, UCLA.

4:49 pm: Afflalo hits another three to make it 33-27, UCLA.

Nothing against against the crowd of UCLA, but they don’t sound very loud. Maybe I just have high expectations from a college crowd, living in Tobacco Road. I certainly expected more from a basketball dynasty.

4:52 pm: Collison gets the ball with 5 seconds left and drives it coast to coast for a layup at the buzzer to make it 35-29, UCLA.

For the first 12-13 minutes of the game, it looked like both teams were really struggling to find a rhythm. But the Bruins definitely were in control for the last 6-7 minutes of the first half. If they are able to carry that into the second half, Arizona stands little chance of winning.

DOOK UPDATE: In the battle of teams I dislike, Dook leads slightly more likable NC State 45-28 at halftime.

5:10 pm: UCLA continues to play well at the beginning of the second half (shots by Afflalo and Mata), and Arizona continues to struggle. They’re shooting only 29% so far. UCLA leads 39-32.

5:12 pm: Wow…the two announcers for this game (on Fox Sports Net) are el quesisimo. For those of you que no hablan espanol, that means they are the cheesiest. the Color commentator, Steve Carter, sounds cheesy, girly and rough at the same time. Kind of like if Mike Tyson was a weatherman. Arizona cuts the lead to 41-37.

5:15 pm: UCLA is winning because Darren Collison is playing much more effectively in this game than Shakur is for the Wildcats. Shakur really seems unsure of himself out there. UCLA’s backup guard (the Bruin’s answer to Wes Miller) hits two trifectas, and Josh Shipp finally chips in a layup to make it 49-41, UCLA.

5:17 pm: The only reason the Cats are staying in this game is because of Radenovic. He’s getting the looks inside and seems to be the only guy on his team hitting his shots. It makes me wonder why Arizona didn’t give the ball much in the first half. The Cats still trail, 49-43.

5:20 pm: I am a huge football fan, so I can;t help but wonder: what is the basketball equivalent of a turnover on downs? A shot clock violation? That seems like a delay of game to me. Actually, a delay of game should be a penalty in college basketball when the coaches call six timeouts in the final two minutes. Perhaps the two basketball teams should only be allowed 2 timeouts in the final two minutes and 1 timeout in the final minute, barring an injury. The ends of games should go a lot smoother. UCLA leads 53-45, but Mata and Aboya each have 3 fouls. The bruins cannot afford to lose a player in this game under any circumstances.

5:27 pm: Today’s trivia on FSN: “Arizona has made it to the Big Dance 22 straight times. Who has the longest streak in NCAA hisory?”

Do you even need to ask?

5:29 pm: Aboya gets his fourth foul, but Afflalo hit s a big shot to make it 55-46.

5:31 pm: As long as we’re discussing the Pac-10, USC has to scare the crap out of everyone they play at this point. Oregon’s only loss is to the Trojans, Arizona lost to USC, and UCLA needed a miracle shot by Afflalo to bail them out at the Galen Center. They are challenging everyone in the conference. And their getting phenom O.J. Mayo next year. They’ll be making some big waves in the near future.

5:36 pm: 56-50, UCLA. What is Lute Olson assistant doing wearing a goatee?

5:37 pm: 58-50, UCLA. Aaron Afflalo is an absolutely amazing player. He has dominated this gamw as the go-to guy in the Bruins’ offense. He could work on his free throw shooting though. That’s the second potential three point play he didn’t convert.

5:39 pm: 60-54, UCLA. Radenovic has been the hot hand today. The big guy showed some range by hitting a 16 footer.

5:42 pm: I don’t know why, but the female Bruin mascot is looking at me and dancing in the kind of seductive way that makes me uncomfortable.

5:43 pm: 62-54, UCLA. This is embarrassing. Mustafa Shakur, one of the country’s most talented guards, is being outplayed by a guy whose name sounds like the host of “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel.

5:46 pm: 66-56, UCLA. The Bruins are playing extremely well, and Arizona looks like they’ve either run out of gas or given up. Time is running out.

What the —-?!? Urkel is in the stands watching this game! What isFSN doing showing us Urkel? Surely a bigger celebrity attending the biggest sporting event in LA today.

6:00 pm: I began tuning out of the game when UCLA had a 68-60 lead with less than a minute to play; I assumed that the way Arizona was playing, they weren’t coming back. The basketball gods made me pay, as by the time I tuned back in the lead was only three, and I am now unable to tell you why. When I tune back in, again Arizona cannot hit a basket to save their souls.

6:05 pm: The game goes final: UCLA 73, Arizona 69. The Wildcats did not deserve to win this game. Maybe UCLA completely disrupted their gameplan, but Lute Olson did not change his gameplan to make it any better; he seemed to just let the game run its course, and in the end it cost them the game.

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College Basketball Week In Review: Jan. 8-14, 2007

Posted by Mike on January 15, 2007

It’s been a very busy week in college basketball, especially if you live in Tobacco Road like me, so let’s get right to the good stuff:

  • Virginia Tech Upsets #1 UNC, Cracks Top 25: The Hokies did what was thought impossible and slayed my beloved Goliath in Blacksburg on Saturday, becoming the first team since Herb Sendek’s 2003 Wolfpack to beat Duke and UNC in the same 1-week span. The pollsters rewarded them with their first top 25 ranking since, I think, ever. This win leads to two different topics in my mind:
  1. The Hokie win less than 1 week after Duke’s two losses supports my theory that when Duke loses Coach K (a devout Catholic) prays for UNC to lose in the near future in order to balance the college basketball equilibrium. Each of our last four non-Duke, non-Big Dance losses (VT, Gonzaga, Boston College twice) followed a Duke loss no more than one week prior (VT/Ga. Tech, Marquette, UNC). This is a trend worth tracking this season, if you find that kind of voodoo stuff amusing (which you probably do).
  2. NC State fans had absolutely no business running Herb Sendek out of town. His late teams were by far the best the Wolfpack have had since Jimmy V, and just one year before he left, NC State reached its first Sweet Sixteen since 1989. If he was allowed to stay (read: left the hell alone by boosters), he could have turned the Pack into a team rivaling Duke and UNC. But that’s the problem. When you’re a coach at NC State, you end up living in the shadows of two giants in your backyard. I would argue that there may not be a more pressure-filled job in college basketball, when you have to live up to those kinds of neighbors. Maybe that’s why he went as far away from Raleigh as he could and fled to Arizona State. By the way, the Sun Devils are 6-11 and on a seven game losing streak. This may be one of the rare moves that hurt both teams involved.
  3. Almost forgot: UNC dropped to #4. Ironically, I’m not complaining. We fully deserve being behind UCLA, Florida and Wisconsin, but we are still undoubtedly a #1 seed if tournament time was looming.
  • Maryland Beats Clemson, No More Unbeatens: Once again, congratulations to the Clemson Tigers for the honor of being Division I’s last unbeaten team, initially considered by prognosticators (geez, that’s a gross-sounding word) as a weak team in the tough Atlantic Coast Conference. They proved us wrong and showed that they are a strong team. Having said that, I think they will be pressed to win half of their games from this point on. Their schedule is very daunting, as they have 12 games remaining (all ACC) and only 3 are at home against unranked teams below them in the conference standings. This really could go either way. The could go 9-3 or 3-9. My guess is 5-7. This would still put them at 22-8 (8-8 ACC) and in good position for the conference and NCAA tournaments. Speaking of Clemson’s loss, ACC teams should fear the turtle, or at least keep a eye on the turtle at this point. Maryland could surprise some people.
  • Duke Women Crush #1 Maryland: Yet another result I did not see coming. I certainly expected the Dookettes to be competitive in this game against the defending national champs, who return their entire lineup from last year’s squad. But Duke absolutely dominated this game from start to finish, as seniors Alison Bales and Lindsay Harding had career days, and the defense prevented Maryland from getting any momentum. The possibility of UNC-Dook being a 1-2 matchup makes it all the more interesting.
  • Duke Starts 0-2 in the ACC, Behind Butler, Air Force in Rankings: I can’t believe that Dook could actually lose two straight in the ACC against unranked opponents. Then again, I can’t believe UNC lost to Va. Tech. Three stats from the Ga. Tech game stand out at me: they shot 20% from downtown, the Yellow Jackets shot 56% from the field, and Duke only shot 11 free throws. This points to me that Duke needs to play more aggressively if they want to play deep into March. If Coach K asks, I told you NOTHING.
  • Oregon Wins Thriller vs. Arizona, Surprise of Nation So Far: How could anyone have expected this? The Oregon Ducks, who only received 1 top 25 vote from the two combined polls at the beginning of the year are now 9th in the AP, 10th in the Coaches Poll, 1st in the Pac-10 (having beaten Arizona and UCLA), and 20th in the RPI standings. What’s more amazing is that they have done by playing sound defense and playing with a four guard set like Villanova did last year. Speaking of surprises, if the RPI standings are any indication, the game on Feb. 20th between Air Force and UNLV in Vegas is shaping to be one of the best mid-major games this year. And speaking of mid-majors…
  • What The Hell is Wrong with Wichita State? Last year the Wichita State Shockers were a force to be reckoned with, going 26-9 winning the regular season title in the tough Missouri Valley Conference and reaching the Sweet 16 before losing to a team of destiny, Final Four bound George Mason. This year they seemed to pick up where they left off, starting 9-0, beating the likes of Syracuse and LSU on the road, and reaching #8 in the polls. Since then they have lost 6 of their last seven (albeit all close against relatively tough opponents, and their one win blowout of Bradley, who also made the Sweet Sixteen) before beating Evansville this past weekend. I felt it was my duty as a journalist to investigate the crux behind Wichita State’s fall from grace. There are only two common threads that I find in 5 of the Shockers’ 6 losses (Missouri St. being the anomaly):
  1. Opponents in WSU’s wins have a lower shooting percentage than they do in their losses, possibly pointing to the Shockers letting up on defense for the stretch of time they lost games. But this possibly underlies a bigger problem…
  2. Wichita State has suddenly been unable to rely on the normal 18-20 minutes of good play from backup guard Karon Bradley. Currently, they have a nine-man rotation, and Bradley plays at the all-important position of Point Guard. Wichita State seems to always play close games, and a dropoff in his play (his scoring is way down in the losses) could tip the balance against them and be the difference between a close win and a close loss, as all 6 losses have been by 8 points or less. It would be interesting to see how he plays the rest of the season, and if as he goes, the Shockers follow.

That’s pretty much all you need to know from the week in college basketball. If I missed anything important, so sue me. Tonight I’ll be at the UNC-UConn women’s basketball game, and tomorrow I will provide a postgame analysis of the game on Tar Heel Mania.

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Strange Things Are Afoot: Va. Tech 94, UNC 88 (Tar Heel Mania)

Posted by Mike on January 14, 2007

(Note: This article first appeared on Jan. 13, 2007 on my other blog, Tar Heel Mania.)

Today UNC plays their first ACC outside of the friendly confines of the Dean Dome. They open the ACC road schedule against the Virginia Tech Hokies (12-4, 2-0 ACC). They have been an enigmatic team. While having beaten Duke at perhaps the toughest place to play in the nation, they also have a few bad road losses (Western Michigan, Marshall). The Hokies are led by a very experienced lineup, including three seniors and a junior in the starting five. Like the Tar Heels, the Hokies are deep, as nine players have played at least 12.7 minutes per game. The team is also deceptively tall. Even though four guards are listed in the starting lineup, not a single is shorter than 6′3″, and three 6′9″ forwards get regular PT. Their experienced guardplay and depth means that VT will not be intimidated by UNC.

Attention UNC: Watch out for the guy in the picture below.

zabian_dowdell.jpeg

3:45 pm: UNC starts emphatically as Terry takes the tipoff and slams it in. Lawson almost gets another basket off the steal but a travel is called.

3:46 pm: It looks like UNC is simultaneously playing man and zone; I’m guessing a loose man defense. I don’t think I like it.

3:47 pm: Hansbrough gets two quick buckets (including a three point play) and helps give UNC an 9-6 lead.

3:48 pm: UNC is allowing the Hokies to drive the lane to easily; this can’t happen too long if UNC expects to win comfortably.

Terry is playing well today so far.

3:49 pm: 14-9, UNC. The two teams excange threes, and Deon Thompson takes advantage of some early playing time.

3:51 pm: 17-9, UNC. Lawson hits a three in transition to extend the lead force a timeout. Terry is playing really well so far on both sides of the ball.

3:55 pm: CLEMSON WATCH: Clemson is down 84-75 against Maryland with three and a half minutes to go.

3:56 pm: 17-11 UNC. Frasor, Ginyard, and Stepheson are in the game. So far the fist team has played much better. UNC needs to seal up the defensive lane.

3:58 pm: 19-13. Stephenson gets his first basket in transition.

UNC is playing extremely well on the offensive boards.

3:59 pm: Virginia Tech’s stadium is surprisingly loud. Not Cameron loud, but not Wade Stadium quiet either.

4:01 pm: 21-20, UNC. Suddenly the Heels are cold on the paint and playing bad defense.

4:02 pm: 23-21, VT. The Hokies hit a three to take the lead. Terry forces a bad shot. What the f— happened to the UNC team in the first five minutes of the game? We need Lawson or Q at point; Frasor is not working right now.

4:05 pm: ABC is advertising its new series “In Case of Emergency” starring Jane Seymour and David Arquette. Say it with me: network TV sucks. I haven’t watched a network TV series in 3 years.

4:07 pm: 25-21, VT. Another bad start for the Tar Heels. I don’t want to panic; this team has recovered from deficits before. But you have got to stop playing with my emotions, Roy! Besides, this one’s on te road, there’s no home crowd to lean on.

4:09 pm: 26-21, VT. Brendan Wright has got to fix his free throw shooting. Seriously, his Field Goal percentage is better than his Free Throw percentage by about 10 points.

4:11 pm: 30-25, VT. Q’s in the game, but we’re still allowing penetration. Hansbrough and Wright end the scoring drought.

CLEMSON WATCH: The Tigers lose to Maryland, meaning there are no more unbeatens.

4:16 pm: 34-27, VT. UNC is really struggling defensively. This game has thus far been played in the paint.

4:17 pm: 40-32, VT. Just as I say that, Wes hits a three and the Hokies hit two threes. They are determined to render my analysis idiotic.

4:18 pm: 40-34, VT. Free throw shooting aside, Hansbrough and Wright are the only reason we’re still in this game. We can’t allow Virginia Tech to run their offense at will. What’s worse is that they seems to beating us our own game, running the transition.

4:22 pm: 40-36, VT. Brendan Wright is having a much better game than he did against Virginia; I’ve even been surprised by his defensive presence. It’s just too bad our guards are sucking so badly right now.

I have been quite shocked by the lack of bizarre ads so far.

4:24 pm: 43-36 VT. Steve Lavin just called Bobby Frasor Brendan Fraser. That’s OK, we probably need someone to save us from undead mummies. Namely, our backcourt.

4:27 pm: 47-36, VT. Hansbrough has been surprisingly quiet in the last 10 minutes or so. VT’s backcourt is having a great day.

4:30 pm: The game hits halftime: VT 47, UNC 37. Roy walked off the court with his head down. I haven’t seen him this pissed in a while.

I am officially convinced that we are losing because 1) I didn’t write a preview and 2) every time Coach K loses he prays for UNC to lose as well. Nothing against the Hokies: i think they are a great team. I’m just saying that there are other forces at play.

I’m seriously sick of eBay’s It commercials. Meg Whitman seriously needs a new ad agency.

4:38 pm: Today’s basketball broadcast on ABC is presented by KFC. Don’t you find that funny in an ironic and very politically incorrect way?

4:47 pm: The second half is about to start. Our guards have been outscored 35-7 in the first half; this half to be changed if we want to make a comeback.

4:49 pm: 49-37, VT. Frasor and Terry are now injured. This is bad because our bench has been insanely cold, with the exception of Thompson.

4:50 pm: 49-40, VT. Wayne Ellington finally gets a three-the old fashioned way.

Believe it or not, I’m not very mad about this game. On the one hand, I always hate to see the Heels struggling. On the other hand, this team really needed a wake up game to remind them that no game is a cakewalk.

4:53 pm: 51-40, VT. Dowdell injures his ankle on the offensive end. This might help the Heels get back in it.

Q is back in the game. We’re too dependent on the inside right now.

4:56 pm: 53-40 VT. The defense continues to let the Hokies run right through it.

5:04 pm: 57-40, VT. This game is like that scene in “A Clockwork Orange”. I really, REALLY don’t want to watch, but my journalistic obligations force me to. Such obligations at as a steel head brace, keeping me watching even thought it’s gotten really ugly.

5:07 pm: The NCAA wants to distance itself from gambling as much as possible. So why is there an ad on the side of the court for the Virginia Lottery?

By the way, VT now leads 66-44. We have been outscored 19-7 in the second half, and 57-27 since we hit our highest lead.

5:11 pm: NFL PLAYOFF WATCH: Indy 6, Baltimore 0, divisional round.

5:12 pm: I was expecting this game to be a tough game, but Holy S—! What the f— happened to the UNC team I’ve come to know and love? Do they only play like that in Chapel Hill?

5:17 pm: Hansbrough scores his first points of the game. It’s now 72-51, VT. Again, UNC is being beaten at its own transition game

5:21 pm: You know things are getting really bad when the announcers are discussing a completely different that has nothing to do with the game.

5:30 pm: 77-58, VT. I just took a look at Roy’s face. He’s aged 2 years in 2 hours. Just now in the second half he’s been developing jowls.

5:35 pm: 80-61, VT. I have to give credit where credit is due: Virgins Tech’s defense has not allowed North Carolina a single easy shot all day.

Danny Green throws up our third air ball tonight. Uhhhhhhg-leee.

5:38 pm: Finally! A bizarre ad: Bouncy floors.

The grossest sounding word that has nothing to do with grossness: Prognostication.

5:40 pm: 83-64, VT. Nothing against the guy, but you know UNC is in trouble when their best performing bench player is Wes Miller.

5:49 pm: 85-77, VT. UNC is mounting a comeback. It might be too little, too late, but you never know.

The reason they’re coming back is because they have completely let go of inner tension and just played.

5:53 pm: 87-80, VT. UNC is making Hokie fans sweat with 1 minute left as Hansbrough dunks to put it within 7, but Ginyard fouls out.

5:54 pm: 89-83, VT. After Vasallo hits two free throws, Ellington finally hits a three to cut the lead to six. This is unbelievable. Where was this team for 30 minutes?

5:55 pm: 89-85, VT. UNC steals the ball, and Ty Lawson gets a layup. Where has HE been for 30 minutes?

5:57 pm: 91-88, VT. OH THANK YOU JESUS! Psycho T gets the rebound, Lawson get the layup AND the foul! the lead is now 3. Keep in mind the lead was 20 only four and a half minutes ago.

5:58 pm: 92-88, VT. Well, I should have seen this coming a mile away. When the Heels need a three the most they pass the ball to Danny Green, a defensive specialist, he clanks it, the Hokies get the rebounds with five seconds left. It’s pretty much over at this point. But right now, I have to give the Heels a standing ovation for such a valiant comeback. ON the other hand, I have to ask them, why weren’t they playing like this before? My opinion is a some point everyone decided, “screw the gameplan, let’s just play.” I think it loosened them up, not adhering to a system, and VT was not prepared for it. Still, I wish that they had decided on it a little sooner, when the game was more within reach. Still it would have been awesome if UNC had completed the comeback, even if they ended up losing. It would have been an instant classic.

6:00 pm: FINAL SCORE: Virginia Tech 94, North Carolina 88.

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This One’s For the Ladies: #1 Maryland vs. #3 Duke

Posted by Mike on January 13, 2007

Today the best matchup is in women’s basketball, as two of the top three teams square of in a rematch of last year’s Women’s National Championship, won by Maryland in an overtime thiller. I hate both of these teams, Maryland because they handed the Lady Tar Heels their two defeats, and Dook, because they’re, well, Dook. I hate them equally, so I guess this makes me an impartial observer.

12:45 pm: I begin covering this game late. Duke leads, 11-8. Harper gets a pass in transition and scores the basket and the foul.

12:50 pm: Maryland is really struggling against Duke’s pressing defense. Duke plays better with their smaller lineup.

12:53 pm: This crowd is just as crazy in Cameron Indoor as they are for a Men’s game.

12:55 pm: Bizarre ad alert: Chrysler 300C upgrade.

1:01 pm: Not only is Duke playing better defense, they are shooting the ball better against Maryland’s defense, who seems to be sitting back a little. 26-20, Duke.

1:05 pm: Crystal Langhorne ends the drought with a baseline jumper. She then scores in the paint off a pass by Coleman. 26-24, Duke. Coleman is making good passes.

1:07 pm: Harding drives past Toliver in the lane to make it 28-24. I haven’t seen much of Toliver.

1:08 pm: It’s now 32-26. Don’t let the close score fool you: Duke is dominating this game.

1:11 pm: 35-28, Duke. The Devils are passing the ball well, but Maryland is really struggling. They’re 2-13 from downtown and Langhorne has only taken 6 shots while the rest of the team is 8 for 32.

1:15 pm: 39-30, Duke. Harding is dominating this game. She has 14 points and is dictating the pace offensively and defensively.

1:17 pm: At this point Duke is daring the Terps to shoot the three and cornering Langhorne. They do not expect the three at all right now. the Devils hit two FTs to make it 41-30.

1:20 pm: The half ends, Duke up 41-30. Maryland simply cannot keep shooting up 3-pointers and expect to win. They have to penetrate Duke’s frontcourt.

On second thought, I probably should be rooting for the Dookies, because if the Ters lose, guess, who’s the new number 1? My beloved Tar Heels!

Wait a minute, wouldn’t beating #1 Maryland be enough to send #3 Duke to number 1 next week, leaping over UNC?

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

1:34 pm: There are a few UNC fans at the game and they held up a sign that said “I HATE YOU BOTH”. My sentiments exactly.

1:40 pm: Back to the game The second half just started and Duke picks up where they left off, extending the lead to 15 until the Terps hit a layup. 49-36, Duke.

1:41 pm: Harper cuts the leads to 51-38 by performing the lost art of nailing the mid-range jumpshot.

1:42 pm: Coleman hits another basket to make it 51-40. The Terps still aren’t getting the ball to Langhorne, but they are finally attacking the paint, which is starting to level the playing field.

1:43 pm: Toliver hits a jumper, continuing to chip away at the lead and cutting the lead to 9. The score is now 51-42.

1:44 pm: Now that we’re on ads, I must now bring to your attention that the end of the world is coming, Heel will come to Earth, and we are all going to die. I base this precise statement on a shocking observation that I made while flipping onto ESPN2: Fantasy Bass Fishing. Read that closely: Fantasy…Bass…Fishing. There is now a means of tracking “fantasy points” in “fantasy leagues” pertaining to “professional bass fishing” and “professional bass fishers”. THis is the ultimate sign of the apocalypse. What’s next, the Little League World Series of Poker?

1:48 pm: Duke leads 54-43. Langhorne has till yet to touch the ball in the second half.

1:49 pm: Just as I say that, Langhorne gets the ball and hits an easy bucket to again cut the lead to single digits.

I just heard an amazing statistic. Crystal Langhorne is on pace to possibly shoot 80% from the field over the entire season. Simply amazing. An NBA player is Hall of Fame good if he shoots 60% for a season. An NCAA Men’s player needs to be insanely good to shoot above 65% (like Brendan Wright before the UVa game). Langhorne is threatening 80% FG Shooting. Simply unbelievable play on her part.

1:55 pm: Harding again attacks the paint to extend the lead to 60-47.

I have seen a Countrywide home loans ad about 15 times during this broadcast. It’s really stating to annoy me.

1:57 pm: It’s so hot in Cameron Indoor Stadium that even the coaches have to guzzle Gatorade to keep their energy up. Duke extends the lead to 15.

1:59 pm: Alison Bales and Lindsey Harding are completely dominating this game on both sides of the ball. The lead is now 64-49.

2:03 pm: When your center can shoot 20-foot jumpers, that is simply not fair. How is a defense supposed to defend that? Duke extends the lead, 67-51.

2:06 pm: I’ve got bad news, really bad nes and good news for Maryland. Te bad news is that Duke leads 73-53 with less than six minutes to go. The really bad news is that Toliver is injured. The good news is that Terps fans can save loads of money on their home loans by calling Countrywide.

2:14 pm: Harding is having a career day, scoring 28 points and 8 rebounds. The only lowlight may be the Duke band’s horrendous version of “Crazy in Love”.

2:20 pm: The game goes final: Duke 81, Maryland 62. Bales and Harding dominate this game, and Maryland is held to less than 39% percent shooting. Tar Heels fans watching this game must be shaking in their boots right now. Duke dominated the #1 team in the country from start to finish.

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Crikey!: Florida 41, Ohio State 14, BCS National Championship Game

Posted by Mike on January 8, 2007

(Updated Jan. 9)

7:45 pm: Well, this is it: the second most important game of the season, the National Championship. I say the second most important because nothing, NOTHING could top the implications set by Boise State’s Fiesta Bowl win. Tonight I will blog the national Championship LIVE as it happens.

From the very beginning of the season, the Ohio State Buckeyes asserted themselves as the best team in the country, and no one questions their presence in this year’s Championship game. As for the Gators, prior to the Rose Bowl there were many fans and reporters, myself included, who felt that after hanging tough with Ohio State in Columbus, Michigan should be playing for the National Championship instead of the Gators. My argument against Florida was Western Carolina. No team should ever schedule a home game versus a 1-AA patsy in November.

Boy, did we Michigan supporters look bad when USC took the Wolverines to the cleaners in the Rose Bowl. Florida does deserve to be in this game in spite of Western Carolina, because they were the best team in arguably the nation’s toughest football conference, the SEC. Ohio State will have their hands full.

I think the remaining piece of this championship in the equation in Boise State. I think they should be considered for the AP Championship if both teams play badly tonight and Florida wins an ugly game. While the Coaches Poll is required by contract to choose the winner of tonight’s game as the National Champion, the AP has no such obligation, and we may see votes for Boise State to be number one.

Five key players who are NOT the starting QB/RB/WR:

  • Reggie Nelson, FS, Florida. Nelson will be the man assigned to defend Buckeyes uber WR Ted Ginn. He is shutdown corner with the ability to take advantage of all opportunities; he has 6 INTs, and returned 1 for a touchdown this season. If anyone can keep up with Ginn, Reggie Nelson can. The passing of his mother in December could be an interesting subplot.

reggie_nelson.jpg

  • James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State. He is one of nine first-year starters on defense, and he has been the leader of the Buckeyes on the defensive end all year. Laurinitis led the Buckeyes with 100 tackles, including 4.5 sacks, 5 INTs, and 3 forced fumbles. This year, the Buckeyes had the sixth best overall defense in the nation, and Laurinaitis has been one of its driving forces.

laurinaitis.jpg

  • Tim Tebow, Backup QB, Florida. Chris Leak should see about 80-85% of Florida’s offensive snaps tonight, but whenever Tebow is on the field the Buckeyes will have to approach the game much differently. The freshman QB is a fast, versatile, emotional player, who won’t be afraid of the Buckeyes defense or this game.

tim_tebow.jpg

  • Quinn Pitcock, DT, Ohio State. One of only two seniors on defense, Pitcock is a space eater on defensive line, occupying the offensive line, putting pressure on the quarterback and allowing Laurinaitis to operate optimally at middle linebacker. Make no mistake, in front of every good linebacker is a good defensive tackle occupying the guards.

quinn_pitcock.jpg

  • Chris Hetland, K, Florida. This gator is an impact player for the wrong reasons. This season he is an abysmal 4 for 13 on field goal attempts, including 1 for 10 on FGs over 30 yards. But all can be forgiven with one good kick at the right time.

The national championship game is only minutes away. I can’t wait!

8:02 pm: It’s only a matter of minutes until this game starts. So why am I flipping through the channels?

Bizarre ad alert: Domino’s To Go Pizza.

8:10 pm: FOX’s coverage of the game features Florida alum Emmitt Smith and OSU alum Eddie George. And you know what? They aren’t doing too bad for their first live broadcast ever.

8:15 pm: The new stadium in Glendale, AZ may be home to the NFL’s Cardinals, but the fact remains that the biggest games in this stadium will be played by other teams.

8:20 pm: FOX completely botched coverage of the pregame national anthem. No amount of delicious sauce can cover the bitter flavor of this mistake.

8:30 pm: Florida has won the toss, and will kick the ball of to begin the game.

8:35 pm: TOUCHDOWN OHIO STATE! The Buckeyes start the game with a bang, as Ted Ginn returns the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. 7-0, OSU.

8:37 pm: Florida responds with a good return of their own. Tack on a facemask penalty and Florida starts at the 44.

8:39 pm: Florida gets a generous spot on third down, and gets a second first down. Leak is throwing the ball well.

8:40 pm: Tebow is in the back field as Leak takes the snap. He gets the ball and runs for seven yards down the middle. I love this guy’s attitude.

Ohio State seems to be playing a conservative zone defense. It isn’t working very well.

8:42 pm: TOUCHDOWN FLORIDA! On their first play in the red zone, Leak connects with Dallas Baker on a stop-and-go. It’s now tied, 7-7.

8:47 pm: Bizarre ad alert: Bud Light’s new commercial.

8:49 pm: Now we get to see the Ohio St. offense.

8:50 pm: The Florida defense starts by forcing a three-and out, forcing a coverage sack on third down. (A coverage sack is when the secondary defends the lanes of the receivers long enough that the defensive line is able to get to the quarterback when they normally would not.) Florida will again start with excellent field position thanks to another penalty.

8:54 pm: Bizarre ad alert: Allstate car chase.

8:56 pm: After two unimpressive plays, Leak again makes a huge pass on third down, and now Tebow is taking the snap on first and goal. The play doens’t do much.

8:57 pm: Leak back in the game.

9:00 pm: TOUCHDOWN FLORIDA! Leak options to Percy Harvin for the score...but a replay shows that Harvin did not cross the line before going down. The play is upheld. 14-7, Florida.

9:04 pm: The stands look just like they did last week: a mixture of orange, blue, and red. Perhaps this foretells a heroic Florida victory? Hmmmmmm?

9:06 pm: The ready to play rule is going to be the difference between winning and losing in this game. Someone is going to lose because they ran out of time.

Ted Ginn is hurt, and is headed to the locker room. Can Anthony Gonzalez pick up the slack?

9:07 pm: Florida’s Derrick Harvey gets a huge sack, his second tonight…but he gets hurt in the process as well. Fortunately, it looks like he’s going to be OK.

9:09 pm: Ohio State commits another penalty, and it looks like Tressel is about to get committed; he’s really angry. The Buckeyes have yet to gain their first offensive yard.

9:10 pm: INTERCEPTION! Troy Smith gets leveled as he lets it go, and Reggie Lewis catches the lame duck. Florida certainly is controlling this game at this point. If not for Ginn’s kick return, this would qualify as utter domination.

9:12 pm: Leak is 8-8 so far in this game. Ohio State has got to start playing man-to man, or blitz.

They must to something to disrupt the pace of this offense.

9:15 pm: Again Leak converts on third down, this time to Andre Caldwell. He is getting no defensive pressure whatsoever. Florida needs to thank their offensive line.

9:17 pm: In goes Tebow. He goes down at the 2 yard line to end the first quarter. 14-7, Florida.

9:20 pm: FOX is cancelling the OC. There is a God!

9:21 pm: TOUCHDOWN FLORIDA! Deshawn Wynn bangs it in on third down. 21-7, Florida.

9:24 pm: FOX thinks Ohio State is struggling because they went 51 days without playing. I think it’s because they haven’t played an SEC defense. D-FENCE! clap clap D-FENCE! clap clap…

9:26 pm: Just as I say that, the Gators commit a silly personal foul, Troy Smith runs into the red zone, and ANTONIO PITTMAN runs in for the TOUCHDOWN. 21-14, Ohio State. This game is making me sound idiotic.

By the way, I take it back. Florida is so good, they deserve the championship more than Boise State regardless of the result of this game.

9:34 pm: Florida’s offense has begun to slow down. This is direct result of the defense finally putting pressure on Leak. He’s still converting on third down, though.

9:40 pm: Ohio State forces the Gators to punt as Leak finally gets serious defensive pressure.

9:42 pm: Bizarre ad alert: On, off, on, off, on, off.

9:45 pm: Florida is reasserting its defensive dominance, as Ohio State abandons the run and gets a quick 3-and-out. This series makes no sense for the Buckeyes; instead of using the bread and butter of their offense, the running game, Troy Smith throws three quick incomplete passes against Florida’s excellent secondary.

9:49 pm: Less than nine minutes in the second quarter. Leak and Tebow on the field, and Tebow runs up the middle again.

9:51 pm: Again Ohio State plays zone, and again Leak converts a pass on third down. The Buckeyes need to disrupt Leak’s timing on such important downs.

9:52 pm: Percy Harvin gets the ball on two big plays and takes the Gators into the red zone. Florida is blocking excellently tonight.

9:53 pm: Leak throws his first bad pass, and is almost intercepted in the red zone. I have been shocked by how well he has played, and how Tebow has yet to be a factor.

9:54 pm: Third and 15 for Florida at the 25, and Leak throws it away with nothing but green in front of him. This does not bode well for their kicker.

9:56 pm: Just as I say that, Chris Hetland nails a 43-yard field goal down the middle. 24-14, Florida.

9:58 pm: No. No. NO! The FOX commentator did not just make a reference to the movie “Waiting to Exhale“, the prototype chick flick. He did not just do that! Oh, man, that guy must be either girly or whipped.

10:00 pm: Ohio St. goes for it on 4th down and fails, as the defensive line pushes the line of scrimmage two yards backwards. RB Chris Wells did not have a chance. Florida now has great field position with the chance to put their foot on the Buckeyes’ throat before halftime.

I can’t say that I blame Tressel for the decision. If I were a coach, I would go for it on 4th and 1 no matter what the field position. The only major coach that does that is USC coach Pete Carroll and I commend him for his cajones.

10:06 pm: Hetland drills a field goal down the middle again! If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this guy was an NFL-caliber kicker. 1:53 left in the first half, 27-14 Florida. Ironically, this game’s tempo is similar to the Fiesta Bowl thus far.

10:08 pm: On the next offensive play, Troy Smith fumbles the ball, Derrick Harvey recovers and returns it to the five. If not for Ginn, I would say that Ohio State is taking a b—–slapping, although I think I just did. Oh, snap!

10:11 pm: TOUCHDOWN FLORIDA! Tebow fakes the run and throws it into the endzone with his left hand for the score to Andre Caldwell. 34-14 Florida. This truly is a b—–slapping by Florida at this point, considering that Ohio State was the undisputed best team in the country coming into this game.

10:15 pm: Florida commits a bad penalty, but it ends up not harming them as the Gators go into halftime leading 34-14, and in complete control of this game, and receiving the ball to open the second half with a chance to go up by 27, a possibly insurmountable deficit versus such a good opponent. Then again, this is still THE Ohio State University, and they could still mount a comeback.

10:30 pm: For you Ohio State fans, there’s a much more upbeat and less violent event worth watching on AMC right now: Rambo II.

10:43 pm: Chris Leak may have made the best play of the night by turning a potentially disastrous play into an average one. The center snapped the ball very low making the ball live, but Leak did not panic, picked up the ball and threw the ball out of bounds.

10:45 pm: Florida goes 3-and-out and makes a horrible 20 yard punt. OSU starts in good field position; maybe they’e not out of this yet.

10:47 pm: Troy Smith gets sacked by a lineman not wearing a helmet. It was awesome, to see Everett’s deadlocks fly on impact. WHOOOO!

In case you haven’t noticed, tonight I’m slightly partial to the Gators, for the sole reason that my cousin is a Buckeyes fan.

10:50 pm: Bizarre ad alert: “This is Mommy and Daddy wrestling.”

10:54 pm: It looks like Ted Ginn is not returning to the game; he’s wearing crutches and is out of pads.

10:56 pm: The Gators defense is really making the Buckeyes offense look bad tonight. Then again, they’re acting like the forward pass is the only valid way to advance the ball. They’e the Anti-Woody Hayes team right now.

11:04 pm: The Gators defense holds again, and and with 19 minutes left in the game Ohio State is really starting to run out of time. They simply cannot afford to let the Gators score again.

11:09 pm: Florida is driving thanks to a 17-yard run by Deshawn Wynn, but it’s third and 6.

11:10 pm: Again Leak connects for a first on third down to a WIDE OPEN receiver down the middle. The Buckeyes need to abandon the zone. NOW.

11:15 pm: The third quarter ends with the game still Florida 34, Ohio State 14. I hate to say this, but this game is actually starting to get boring.

11:23 pm: Sack! Troy Smith backpedals 15 yards before being pummeled on third down. The Gators will get it at the OSU 39. If the Gators score, there’s absolutely nothing the Buckeyes can do to come back.

11:25 pm: For you Buckeye fans who want something uplifting, Rambo II is still on AMC.

11:27 pm: Chris Leak runs into field goal range. At this point I have to give him the MVP along with the Gators defense.

11:29 pm: Ohio State is playing completely flat-footed. Either they’re completely exhausted or they have simply quit. Either way, the Gators have played well enough to be called the undisputed champion.

11:32 pm: Florida goes for the touchdown on fourth and goal…and it works! Tebow runs it in for the score. 41-14, Florida.

Who would’ve thought that Florida would put a bigger beating on the Buckeyes than USC gave to Michigan or LSU gave to Notre Ame? (no “D”!)

11:40 pm: In this game, Florida has outgained Ohio State 380-84. Now that’s what I call defensive dominance.

11:47 pm: Oh no he didn’t! The FOX commentator who made a “Waiting to Exhale” reference now made a reference to “Dancing with the Stars”. What’s worse is that the show is on a rival network. That dude is a chick. I’m sure of it.

11:52 pm: I was wrong four hours ago. Florida’s performance tonight does have bigger implications on the football world than the Boise State win in the Fiesta Bowl. In part, it shows that no matter how good a team is, you can’t crown them champions before the season ends. It also reasserts the SEC’s dominance in the college football universe.

11:57 pm: The game goes final: Florida 41, Ohio State 14. Ted Ginn’s kickoff return is the only reason Columbus hasn’t sunk into the Olentangy river tonight.

Florida, and the SEC as a whole has emphatically asserted their place in the college football universe.

Players of the Game:

  • Chris Leak, QB, Florida. If I told you that in this game one quarterback threw the ball at will on third down while the other quarterback struggled against a physical defense, you would have said Smith was the star and Leak struggled, right? WRONG! The Charlotte, NC native threw for 213 yards and a touchdown on 25/36 passing, and was in complete control of the offense in his final game in a Gators uniform.

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  • Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida. He helped the Gators to dominate the line of scrimmage the entire game. He had 3 of Florida’s 6 sacks of Troy Smith, including a play where Jarvis Moss sacked Smith, forced a fumble, Harvey recovered the ball and returned it to the 5 yard line, which set up the touchdown that put Florida up 34-14 at the end of the first half and essentially put the game out of reach.

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