Monday Madness

3 01 2012

 

Could college football possibly be better than it was on January 2, 2012?

 

Around lunchtime, #17 Michigan State and #16 Georgia kicked off the day in the Outback Bowl. Both of these squads came into this game having only two losses on the season. Michigan State couldn’t have had a worse start to the day, being tackled behind their goaline for a safety and an eventual 16-0 deficit by halftime. Everything seemed to be going the Bulldogs way as no sort of offensive rhythm could be establish by the Spartans. However, just as Kirk Cousins has done his entire career, Michigan State never gave up and kept on pushing forward. Darqueze Dennard had a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter, quickly cutting the Spartans’ deficit to 16-14. After a back and forth fourth quarter with two interceptions from Cousins, overtime had arrived. Georgia started the first overtime with yet another interception, but then Georgia’s kicker, Blair Walsh, was unable to capitalize on the potentially game-winning field goal. Looking back, this kick turns out to be much more crucial to the outcome of the game than initially believed to be. The second overtime brought along with it a field goal for each team. Michigan State’s Don Conroy then nailed a 28-yard field goal at the start of the third overtime to put the pressure back on Wisconsin. With the game on the line, Walsh needed to make a 47-yard field goal to send this game to yet another overtime. However, the Spartans decided to end the game as they blocked the attempt, bringing the Michigan State program their first bowl win under head coach Mark Dantonio. Cousins collected 27 wins during his time at Michigan State, which makes him the winningest quarterback in Spartan history. This program has been overshadowed by their big brother – Michigan – for many years, so it is nice to see the Michigan State Spartans finish their successful season with such an emotional win.

 

There always should be a little snacktime right before the last meal of the day, but there was nothing little about the Rose Bowl between #10 Wisconsin and #5 Oregon. Once everybody’s eyes could adjust to the Ducks chrome helmets, the barnburner began. De’Anthony Thomas started his career day off by finishing the first quarter with a 91-yard rushing touchdown – a Rose Bowl record. Thomas hasn’t received much national attention because LaMichael James is the face of this Oregon offense, but don’t let that deceive you – this kid has pure speed. He will be a huge force next year. After back and forth play in the first half to knot it up at 28 a piece, Thomas decided to have yet another outburst with a 64-yard rushing touchdown to put the Ducks up 35-28. Ten straight points from the Badgers in the third quarter, but Chip Kelly’s squad then fired off ten of their own in the fourth quarter to take a 45-38 lead. Surprisingly, even though this game looked Alamo Bowl-esque with only offense, a defensive play ironically locked up Oregon’s first Rose Bowl Championship since 1917. As Jared Abbrederis attempted to get a few extra yards down the sideline, Terrance Mitchell made a great play by knocking the ball out of his hands. It looked as if momentum would push the ball out-of-bounds, but the football stopped like a paperweight right inside the white line. Michael Clay fell on top of the ball which all but ended the Badgers hope of victory. However, Russell did get the ball back with 16 seconds left and successfully pushed the ball to the Ducks 25 yard line, but ended up spiking the ball after time had expired. Russell Wilson and Darron Thomas both gave it all they had, finishing a combined 36/48 and 564 passing yards. Along with Thomas’s career-high 155 rushing yards, LeMichael James added 159 of his own. Monte Ball countered these two with 164 rushing yards of his own, but had no help from the other running backs on the team. Wisconsin has lost their second straight Rose Bowl as Oregon proved something to America: get ready to hear more quacking. The emergence of De’Anthony Thomas to the national stage and the return of Darron Thomas to the team gives me full confidence that James’s departure from the program won’t hinder Chip Kelly from taking his squad next year to the 100th Rose Bowl.

 

Finally – dinner was served. #4 Stanford and #3 Oklahoma State squared off in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. These two teams each had a single loss during the regular season and came into this game wanting to prove themselves to the nation. Andrew Luck started off his phenomenal night with the first score of the night, hooking up with Ty Montgomery for a 53-yard touchdown. Stanford took a 14-0 lead in the second quarter before Justin Blackmon took absolute control of two straight drives. After a 43-yard touchdown, the 6-1 freak athlete topped that off with a 67-yard touchdown to tie the game up at 14. In these two plays alone, Blackmon became the first wide receiver all season to collect over 100 receiving yards against the Cardinal. When you watch this kid play, it’s hard to imagine anything but great things to come from him at the next level. Many will look at Stanford and see #12 as the only player that matters, but Stepfan Taylor’s career-high 177 rushing yards gave Luck the balance he needed to play his game. His performance shouldn’t go unnoticed. After Justin Blackmon received his third touchdown in the final quarter – a Tostitos Fiesta Bowl record – the scoreboard read 31-31. The next Stanford drive consisted of mostly Taylor rushes along with 3 completions from Luck to Whalen. Taylor eventually punched the ball in for a 1-yard run, putting Stanford up seven. The way Luck hits not only his targets but also his second and third option makes the Colts ownership salivate. Providing some of his own stellar quarterback play, Brandon Wheeden took command of the Cowboys’ final drive of regulation play. The 6-4 quarterback threw 63 yards on 5/6 passing leading to a Joseph Randle rushing touchdown that put the score at 38-38 with 2:35 to go. Luck was now presented with a 2:00 minute drill. Could he capitalize? Well, Luck went 5/5 with excellent precision, taking the Cardinal to the Oklahoma State 17 yard line. Luck did his job and now needed red-shirt freshman Williamson to connect on a 35-yard field goal to finish the job. Unfortunately, he would be wide left to push this game into overtime. To start, Stanford confused me by calling two running plays for Taylor, which put them in a 3rd and 13 situation. I understand their approach to the game and Taylor’s success on the ground, but when the game is on the line, the ball should be in the quarterback’s hand that only had four incompletions going into overtime. Williamson had a chance to redeem himself with a 43-yard field goal, but once again… the kick was wide left. No matter who you were rooting for, it is hard not to feel for this kid who missed three field goals on college football’s biggest stage. Brandon Weeden completed a 24-yard pass to walk-on senior Colton Chelf that put them on the 1-yard line. The drama finally ended with a Quinn Sharp 22-yard field goal. Even though some NFL scouts stay away from Weeden because of his age (28), with 399 yards, 3 touchdowns, and clutch play throughout, Weeden bolstered the belief that he could still be a valuable NFL quarterback for 5-6 years. What about that other quarterback? Well, Mr. Luck put on a brilliant show, going 27/31, racking up 347 yards along with two touchdowns. Missing his targets just doesn’t seem to happen as he hits his wide receivers play after play. Even though the Colts still have Peyton Manning – who received their most recent franchise tag – Luck is too valuable a player to pass up. When a team has a pick this high in the draft, I am a big advocate for taking the best player instead of the best player for the position most needed on the team, and the Colts should take the Texan quarterback.

 

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One response

3 01 2012
Brandon

Penn State and Houston kicked off the day at noon ET in a not so surprising blowout. PSU might have solidified their spot as the worst 9 win team to ever play college football. Another big game was Florida and Ohio State, a game that showed the transition of both teams. OSU fans were conflicted- mad they lost but happy to see the product that Urban Meyer was responsible for and one that he will bring to Columbus next year.

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