Sports Outside the Beltway

Did Saban Run Up the Score?

Mike Tomasky and Matt Yglesias both argue that Alabama head coach Nick Saban showed a distinct lack of class by scoring a meaningless touchdown with 47 seconds left in last night’s championship game.

Almost to a man, their commenters vehemently disagree. And they’re right to do so.

Alabama Texas Scoring Summary (ESPN) I’m an Alabama alumnus and fan, so I’m biased. But having the backup running back score on a run up the middle with nearly a minute left in a national championship game you’re only leading by 10 points isn’t exactly rubbing it in.

Indeed, one need only to look at the beginning of the game to see why: Texas had already scored twice in roughly a minute.

This wasn’t the local high school powerhouse up against a weakling school from across town. Or even Steve Spurrier running and gunning when he’s up 40 points against some Division II school. It’s a run up the middle against the second best team in the country with the national championship on the line.

And, frankly, Alabama had already come perilously close to giving away a game they had wrapped up by playing ridiculously conservatively. Alabama’s offense essentially sat out the second half, playing not to lose rather than to win. That allowed Texas and their freshman quarterback to find a rhythm and come back to within a field goal with 6:15 left in the game.

It took a dynamic play on defense to end the Longhorn’s momentum and take the game back. A fumble recovery after a hard-hitting sack gave the Alabama offense the ball back a few feet from the goal line and Mark Ingram pushed it in three plays later to get the margin back to 10.

When they got the ball back with 2:01 remaining, Texas apparently didn’t think the 10-point margin meant the game was over. They were throwing the ball, hoping for another quick score. Instead, they gave up another interception, giving Alabama the ball back inside the 30 with 1:48 left.

Texas still had timeouts remaining, so Alabama couldn’t just take a knee and run out the clock. They ran the ball and, combined with a Texas penalty, got the ball on the 5 with 1:41 left. Two runs later, Trent Richardson scored, putting them up by 16 with 47 seconds left.

Surely, this brutality was too much for the Longhorns, who broke down crying and went looking for their mommies?

Not so much.

With 47 seconds left, they kept playing football. They got another nice pass completion but then threw yet another interception with 27 seconds remaining.

Naturally, the evil Saban immediately called for a trick play to get another quick score?

Well, no. With the game in hand, the quarterback took a knee and ran out the clock.


Alabama Beats Texas 37-21 for National Championship

The Alabama Crimson Tide won its 13th* college football national championship tonight by beating the Texas Longhorns 37-21.


Head coach Nick Saban (L) of the Alabama Crimson Tide and Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram (R) hold the championship trophy after their team defeated the Texas Longhorns in the NCAA’s BCS National Championship football game in Pasadena, January 7, 2010. (Reuters Pictures)

For most of the game, it didn’t look like they wanted to.

The Tide won the opening coin toss and, uncharacteristically, chose to start with its shaky offense rather than its best-in-the-nation defense. It promptly ran 3 ugly plays and then, inexplicably, a fake punt which they botched in spectacular fashion.

Texas looked to get an easy 7 points but — in the key play of the game — its Heisman Trophy runner-up quarterback, Colt McCoy, was injured on a freak play where he didn’t even go down.


Texas Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy (C) is injured as he is hit by Alabama Crimson Tides Marcel Dareus (R) in the first quarter in the NCAA’s BCS National Championship football game in Pasadena, January 7, 2010.

True freshman Garrett Gilbert was thrown to the wolves and the drive stalled with a field goal.

Alabama then apparently thought the ensuing kickoff was a punt and didn’t touch the live ball, giving it right back to the Longhorns. The drive once again stalled, though, and they settled for 3.


Marcell Dareus scored a touchdown on an interception return in the first half (UA photo).

Bama then scored two touchdowns on offense, first on a long, grind-it-out drive featuring their Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram, and then on a 49-yard run by his understudy, Trent Richardson.

After some mediocre play back-and-forth, it appeared that Texas was content to go into the half down 6-17. Instead, they decided to have their shaky frosh QB toss a shovel pass from deep on his side of the field, got it picked off, and gave Bama a free TD to end the half 24-6. Amusingly, defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, who made the lick that took McCoy out of the game, did the honors.

But Alabama coach Nick Saban decided to try to run out the entire second half with an incredibly cautious offense. It nearly worked but Gilbert suddenly found his game and Texas scored two quick touchdowns to bring it to 21-24 (they made a 2-point conversion) with 7 minutes left.

Finally, the Bama D made a huge play, stripping the ball near the goal line. Three plays later, Ingram went in for a touchdown and put the game away. A desperation pass from Gilbert was soon picked off in garbage time, padding the Tide’s score with a free touchdown.

Stacy McCain had the live blog. Here’s the ESPN scoring summary:


All-and-all, a rather bittersweet win, both because McCoy’s injury provides a huge What If? and because Alabama really didn’t play very well most of the game.

As with Florida’s Tim Tebow after the SEC Championship game, McCoy was both understandably emotional and superbly gracious.

The game would have gone much differently had he been healthy. My strong guess is that both teams would have played much better and, certainly, the outcome would be more satisfying. I’m happy to have Alabama hoist another trophy, of course, and genuinely think they’re the best team in college football this year. But I’d have much preferred to see them beat an intact Texas team and to play a more characteristic ballgame.

*The number is in dispute. The NCAA counts 8 “consensus” titles and as many as 18 total; the Capstone counts 13, including an incredibly dubious 1941 title. Until the BCS started in 1999, there arguably was no such thing as a championship in the highest level of college football. Several of Alabama’s early championships, including their 1924 and 1925 undefeated seasons capped by Rose Bowl wins, were “awarded” years after the fact. And they both won and lost championships in the years when the polls were voted upon before the bowl games.

Note- This post also appeared at Outside the Beltway.


Crystal Ball Time

My annual sports predictions for the upcoming year. Due to some unknown reason, I skipped doing this a year ago. What matters is I came back, right?

1 Cleveland beats the LA Lakers for the NBA Championship
2 Indianapolis defeats Arizona in the Super Bowl Crystall ball
3 San Jose defeats Washington for the Stanley Cup
4 St. Louis beats the Los Angeles Angels in the World Series
5 Tiger Woods returns to golf, wins at least one tournament but no major championships. That is a risky prediction in light of the fact that Tiger has won majors on 3 of this year’s host courses.(Augusta National, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews)
6 Phil Mickelson wins the US Open
7 Michelle Wie wins at least two tournaments, one of which is a major championship
8 Ji Yai Shin is LPGA player of the year
9 A non-Korean golfer will be LPGA rookie of the year
10 Yu-Na Kim wins figure skating gold at the 2010 Olympics
11 The Miami Dolphins don’t make this year’s playoffs but have a winning 2010 season
12 The Miami Heat make the playoffs but lose in the 1st round
13 The Florida Marlins have a winning record but don’t make the playoffs
14 Urban Meyer doesn’t return as coach of the Florida Gators
15 Joe Paterno announces his retirement after the 2010 Penn State season is complete
16 The Florida Panthers don’t make the playoffs
17 The Florida Panthers trade Goalie Tomas Vokoun
18 Manny Pacquiao loses to Floyd Mayweather
19 Kansas defeats Purdue for the NCAA Basketball Championship
20 Texas defeats Alabama in the BCS Championship game
21 Army has a winning football season and gets a bowl invitation
22 Washington Redskins fire Coach Jim Zorn
23 Serena Williams wins at Wimbledon
24 Versus and Directv finally settle their dispute
25 A North American horse racing track closes its doors.
26 Sebastian Vettel wins the Formula World Drivers Championship
27 New York Rangers fire Coach John Tortorella
28 The New Jersey Nets don’t finish with the worst record in NBA history
29 Connecticut defeats Tennessee for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship
30 At least half these predictions are wrong

We’ll come back on December 31st 2010 and see how I did.


Are you ready for some bowling? II

No I’m not talking about some middle aged man propelling a ball at some objects at the end of a lane, but the games that climax every college football season. Bowl season officially starts this afternoon, here are the matchups for all the college football fanatics out there.

Note- I gave the shortened name version of all the upcoming games. Also I listed what broadcast network would be televising the game and what time they would be coming on the air. All times are Eastern Standard.

Dec 19

New Mexico- Fresno State vs. Wyoming 4:30 p.m. ESPN
St. Petersburg- Central Florida vs. Rutgers 8 p.m. ESPN

Dec 20

R+L Carriers New Orleans- Southern Miss vs. Middle Tennessee 8:30 p.m. ESPN

Dec 22

MAACO Las Vegas- Oregon State vs. BYU 8 p.m. ESPN

Dec 23

Poinsettia- Utah vs. Cal 8 p.m. ESPN

Dec 24

Sheraton Hawaii- Nevada vs. SMU 8 p.m. ESPN
Dec 26

Little Caesars- Marshall vs. Ohio 1 p.m. ESPN
Meineke- Pitt vs. North Carolina 4:30 p.m. ESPN
Emerald- Boston College vs. USC 8 p.m. ESPN

Dec 27

Music City- Kentucky vs. Clemson 8:30 p.m. ESPN

Dec 28

Independence- Texas A&M vs. Georgia 5 p.m. ESPN2

Dec 29

EagleBank- UCLA vs. Temple 4:30 p.m. ESPN
Champs Sports- Miami vs. Wisconsin 8 p.m. ESPN

Dec 30

Humanitarian- Bowling Green vs. Idaho 4:30 p.m. ESPN
Holiday- Arizona vs. Nebraska 8 p.m. ESPN

Dec 31

Armed Forces- Houston vs. Air Force Noon ESPN
Sun- Oklahoma vs. Stanford 2 p.m. CBS
Texas- Navy vs. Missouri 3:30 p.m. ESPN
Minnesota vs. Iowa State 6 p.m. NFL Network
Chick-fil-A- Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee 7:30 p.m. ESPN

Jan 1

Outback- Northwestern vs. Auburn 11 a.m. ESPN
Capital One- Penn State vs. LSU 1 p.m. ABC
Gator- West Virginia vs. Florida State 1 p.m. CBS
Rose Bowl- Ohio State vs. Oregon 4:30 p.m. ABC
Sugar- Cincinnati vs. Florida 8:30 p.m. FOX

Jan 2

International- South Florida vs. Northern Illinois Noon ESPN2 South Carolina vs. UConn 2 p.m. ESPN
Cotton- Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss 2 p.m. FOX
Liberty- Arkansas vs. East Carolina 5:30 p.m. ESPN
Valero Alamo- Michigan State vs. Texas Tech 9 p.m. ESPN

Jan 4

Fiesta- Boise State vs. TCU 8 p.m. FOX

Jan 5

FedEx Orange- Iowa vs. Georgia Tech 8 p.m. FOX

Jan 6th

GMAC- Central Michigan vs. Troy 7 p.m. ESPN

Jan 7th

BCS National Championship Game- Texas vs. Alabama Jan. 7 8 p.m.

Some random notes on the above 34 games

*- 19 of the 34 games are not scheduled till Dec. 31st or later. I guess college football fanatics are expected to flip channels very quickly on those 3 days(Dec 31-Jan 2) when 15 games are being aired.
*- What a downer must it be for Oregon State players and fans. A few weeks ago they were one win from a Rose Bowl trip. Instead they lost to Oregon and are playing in a minor bowl before Christmas.
*- The NFL network televises a college football game. I guess that’s the cable sports equivalent of the Sci-Fi channel showing wrestling….
*- The bowls are now set where now certain conference finishers are locked into the same bowl games every year. I understand why the current system is done, but I prefer the day when bowl games would have greater variance from year to year. The Peach bowl would usually invite a ACC or SEC school but they could be creative, like when they invited Army and Illinois. Wouldn’t a SEC team against BYU or Wyoming be nice for a change?
*- Bobby Bowden’s farewell game is against the same school(West Virginia) that he left before coming to Florida State. I do know FSU and WV have played at least twice previously in bowls during the Bowden-Florida State era.


Former Olympic swin coach Richard Quick dead at 66

He coached women’s and men’s teams at the college level where he won national championships with three different schools. RIP.

Auburn swimming coach Richard Quick, who won 13 NCAA titles with three schools during a career that spanned four decades, has died of cancer. He was 66.

Auburn said in a statement on its Web site that Quick, who coached men’s and women’s teams at the school, died Wednesday. His family told the Austin American-Statesman that he died in Austin, Texas.

Quick had been diagnosed in December with an inoperable brain tumor.

“While he lost a valiant battle against a cruel disease, Richard was an inspiration to countless people who were touched by his steadfast faith and amazing courage in the face of tremendous adversity,” Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said.

He won one title at Auburn, seven at Stanford and five at Texas. He also led the U.S. Olympic teams in 1988, 1996 and 2000 and was an assistant coach at the 1984, 1992 and 2004 Games.

Quick’s women’s teams at Texas won five straight titles from 1984-1988. The Stanford women’s team won the title in his first year there in 1989.

Auburn’s men won the championship in 2009 and Quick was named NCAA Coach of the Year for the sixth time.

“Richard will be remembered as one of the greatest coaches in the history of swimming, but more importantly, he will be remembered as a devoted and loving husband, father, grandfather and teacher,” Jacobs said.

Quick coached at Auburn from 1978-82 and returned there in 2007. In between, he coached the women’s teams at Texas and Stanford. He also served as the men’s head coach at Iowa State during the 1977-78 season and the women’s head coach at SMU in 1976-77.


Texas and Boston College play the longest baseball game in NCAA history

The previous record stood since 1971. From AP-

Travis Tucker hit an RBI single with one out in the top of the 25th inning, leading Texas to a 3-2 victory over Boston College on Saturday night in the longest game in NCAA history.

The game eclipsed the previous record of 23 innings, set in 1971 when Louisiana-Lafayette defeated McNeese State 6-5. The game began at 7:02 p.m. EDT Saturday and concluded 7 hours, 3 minutes later at 2:05 a.m. Sunday.

Texas reliever Austin Wood pitched 13 innings, including 12 1/3 innings of no-hit ball before allowing a two-out single to Tony Sanchez in the 19th inning.

Texas (43-13-1) scored when Connor Rowe walked to lead off the top of the inning and was sacrificed to second by David Hernandez. Rowe advanced to third on a wild pitch, and Tucker grounded past second base through the drawn-in infield for the record-setting victory over Boston College (34-25).

Tucker’s hit came in his NCAA-record 12th at-bat to tie a mark he now shares with teammate Michael Torres, who also batted 12 times.

Texas reliever Austin Dicharry earned his eighth victory by pitching 5 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, striking out four and allowing one hit.

The longest professional game was a minor league affair played in 1981. It went 33 innings. Two future Hall of Famers took part in that affair, Wade Boggs and Cal Ripken Jr.


NFL Draft 2009 Round 1 #13- Washington Redskins- DE Brian Orakpo

The Redskins make this pick very quickly.

ESPN writes- Orakpo came off the board this early because he can get to the quarterback. He has excellent first-step quickness, he can redirect insider after starting outside and has better closing speed than his 4.7 40 suggests. That?s not to say he can’t defend the run. He has excellent upper-body strength and is tough at the point of attack. Still, he could stand to add five to 10 pounds to his frame.


Are you ready for some bowling?

No I’m not talking about some middle aged man propelling a ball at some objects at the end of a lane, but the games that climax every college football season. Bowl season officially starts this Saturday, here are the matchups for all the college football fanatics out there.

Dec 20
Eaglebank Bowl- Wake Forest vs Navy
New Mexico Bowl- Colorado State vs Fresno St
MAGICJACK ST. PETERSBURG BOWL- Memphis vs. South Florida
PIONEER LAS VEGAS BOWL- Brigham Young vs Arizona
Dec 21
Dec 23
Dec 24
SHERATON HAWAII BOWL- Hawaii vs Notre Dame
Dec 26
MOTOR CITY BOWL- Florida Atlantic vs. Central Michigan
Saturday, December 27
MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL- West Virginia vs. North Carolina
Champs Sports Bowl- Wisconsin vs. Florida State
Emerald Bowl- Miami (FL) vs. California
December 28
Independence Bowl- Northern Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech
PAPAJOHNS.COM BOWL- North Carolina State vs. Rutgers
Valero Alamo Bowl- Missouri vs. No. 23 Northwestern
Tuesday, December 30
PACIFIC LIFE HOLIDAY BOWL- Oklahoma State vs. No. 17 Oregon
Texas Bowl- Western Michigan vs. Rice
Wednesday, December 31
Sun Bowl- Oregon State vs. Pittsburgh
GAYLORD HOTELS MUSIC CITY BOWL- Boston College vs. Vanderbilt
Insight Bowl- Kansas vs. Minnesota
CHICK-FIL-A BOWL- LSU vs. Georgia Tech
Thursday, January 1
OUTBACK BOWL- South Carolina vs. Iowa
CAPITAL ONE BOWL- Georgia vs. Michigan State
Gator Bowl- Nebraska vs. Clemson
Rose Bowl- Penn State vs. USC
Fedex Orange Bowl- Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech
Friday, January 2
Cotton Bowl- Mississippi vs. Texas Tech
AUTOZONE LIBERTY BOWL- Kentucky vs. East Carolina
January 3
INTERNATIONAL BOWL- Buffalo vs. Connecticut
January 5
TOSTITOS FIESTA BOWL- Ohio State vs. Texas
January 6
GMAC Bowl- Ball State vs. Tulsa*
January 8

That’s 34 games, 68 schools spread over a period of 20 days for those of you keeping score at home. An ample supply of college football for any fanatics out there.

A few notes

*- There are a few bowl games remaining without corporate names in their title. Gator, Sun, Texas, Independence. Were these games unable to find sponsors?
*- Will Oklahoma St. and Oregon combine for 70 pts or more in the Holiday Bowl? This annually has been of the most high scoring affairs.
*- Oh how has the Orange Bowl dropped. A game that featured early triumphs of Joe Paterno led Penn State, Nebraska and Oklahoma in their glory days, the first major bowl appearance of Florida State, and the all time classic 84 battle between Nebraska and Miami, has Cincinnati and Virginia Tech playing this year. I’m sure they are talented football teams, but how many people are drooling to see them play in a prime-time network slot?
*- Arizona and BYU meet in a bowl 30 years after the former left the WAC conference for the higher profile Pac Eight(Now Ten, Arizona State joined also)
*- Vanderbilt makes a rare bowl appearance. Congratulations to Commodore fans, but this is a sign of how bowls are grown way out of proportion. 6-6 college teams get bids. When I was growing up I could remember Florida State going without a bowl in 1978 even though they finished the season 8-3.

It is my humble opinion that bowl season has gotten out of hand. Someone may say what’s the big deal? If someone wants to start a bowl game and there are two schools willing to play in it, does their records matter. A good football isn’t only a contest between stars at big name schools.

All true, but how much public money is spent on these affairs? Many of the teams are state universities who get funded by taxpayers. Then there is the game itself where police have to be taken from other tasks to work the day or night of the game or paid over-time.

With the economic downturn right now, you have to wonder if there will be less bowls in the near future. That would depend on how long a deal a corporate sponsor signed on for. I wonder how many fans of some schools plan to make a bowl trip. Are there 1,000 or more FAU Owls willing to journey from Florida to Michigan in December to watch the team play? Even if I were a Owl fan and had money, I’d stay home.

Enjoy the games.


College Football Rankings Stink

The USA Today Top 25 College Coaches’ Poll is out.  Here are the rankings for September 28:

LSU (1)
Texas (1)
10. (tie)
10. (tie)

Explain to me how Missouri, who hasn’t played anybody of note, is ranked #3 and ahead of Alabama, Penn State, and Texas?

Missouri has beaten, in succession, Illinois, Missouri Southeastern, Nevada, and Buffalo.  Frankly, if they cancelled the football programs at those last three schools, nobody would notice.  It’s been a complete joke of a schedule thus far and Missouri’s not exactly a storied program.

Alabama, on the other hand, opened the season in a neutral site game against Clemson, then ranked in the top 10, and just went in to Athens and destroyed then-3rd ranked Georgia on their home field.  I can understand putting Oklahoma, also a storied program who plays against tough competition, ahead of Alabama, who has come off a bad season.  But Missouri?!


Upset Saturday in College Football

It was a bizarre weekend in college football, with eight ranked teams losing to teams ranked below them — seven to teams not ranked at all.

    #3 Oklahoma lost to unranked Colorado, 24-27.
    #4 Florida lost to unranked Auburn, 17-20.
    #5 West Virginia lost to #18 South Florida, 13-21 (Thursday night).
    #7 Texas lost to unranked Kansas State, 21-41
    #10 Rutgers lost to unranked Maryland, 24-34
    #13 Clemson lost to unranked Georgia Tech, 3-13
    #21 Penn State lost to unranked Illinois, 20-27
    #22 Alabama lost to unranked Florida State, 14- 21

This was on top of several other close finishes.

ESPN’s Pat Forde dubs it “Insanity Saturday” and observes that this throws the whole season out of whack.

Just that fast, the college football landscape shifted seismically beneath our feet.

Just that fast, the Red River Shootout game Saturday between Oklahoma and Texas was dropped to undercard status. For the first time in years, it’s not the marquee game in the Big 12. And for the first time in years, the league’s maligned North looks more compelling than the South. If you can believe it, the biggest game in that league next week might be unbeaten Kansas at 3-1 Kansas State — either that or 4-1 Nebraska at unbeaten Missouri.

Just that fast, the upcoming LSU-Florida showdown Saturday in Baton Rouge lost half its helium when the Gators were shocked in The Swamp by an Auburn team that had lost at home to South Florida and Mississippi State on consecutive weekends.

Just that fast, the three Big East teams that began the season in the Top 25 all have at least one loss. Louisville went down first, then West Virginia, now Rutgers. Suddenly South Florida, Connecticut and Cincinnati are the unbeaten teams in the Big East. Honk if you foresaw that in August.

Just that fast, Illinois is 4-1 and tied for first in the Big Ten at 2-0. That’s the same Illinois that went 2-10 last year, with only one victory over I-A competition.

Just that fast, we have an ACC plot twist that leaves Virginia and Boston College well out in front in their respective divisions at 3-0 in league play. Virginia was left for dead after a Week 1 blowout loss to Wyoming. Boston College was picked last in its division by at least one preseason magazine.

And just that fast, USC and LSU put that much more distance between themselves and what’s left of the pack.

The object lesson here is that no favorite is safe. Not at home, not on the road, not in league play, not out of league play. If those lessons hadn’t already been learned by Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32, and Syracuse 38, Louisville 35, they were reinforced on Insanity Saturday.

And no lead is safe. You’d think the Sooners getting up 24-7 would be enough to make Colorado quit. You’d be wrong. The Buffaloes scored the final 20 points, winning on the last play of the game — a 45-yard field goal by Kevin Eberhart.


Underdogs aren’t scared right now, by much of anyone. Players and coaches are shrugging off past history, blowing off bad losses, not worrying about falling behind and regrouping to pull upsets nobody saw coming. Nobody’s rolling over.

I’ve seen this sort of thing in college basketball before but never to this extent in football. The bottom line, though, is that Notre Dame and Alabama and Michigan no longer have an automatic recruiting advantage over South Florida and West Virginia and Georgia Tech. There’s a wealth of talent out there and plenty of television exposure to be had in the realigned conference structure. Players would rather go to a program with less prestige and start than sit on the bench and one of the Big Boys.


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