Monday, October 08, 2007

It's a Tough Thing...


With a heavy Packer-fan heart, I slowly begin typing the Monday Blog.

5 turnovers. The Bears deserve credit for winning, but boy, were the Packers generous.

Ok. On to things you care about.

Oklahoma – Texas

It was one of the most entertaining games we have seen all year, and in the end, the team everyone thought was going to win, won. It wasn’t without issues along the way, but Oklahoma won the RRS, and now get the honor of hosting BaD Radio in Norman on Nov 2 (do you think that was on their minds?).

Sam Bradford proved to be money. And Oklahoma looks like they have plenty of playmakers all over the field. As for Texas, that defensive line looks worth the hype, and the gutty performance from Colt McCoy should shut guys like me up for a while. He was solid.

But Oklahoma rolls on. Texas can hope for a mid-level bowl game as the post Vince era continues to sputter. Incidentally, I am about tired of the Texas offense. I thought Greg Davis was great on Saturday with his TE isolation and overall solid play-calling, but before we blame Jamaal Charles, should we consider changing the shotgun option formation if we do not have the QB who best executes it anymore?

Just a thought.

Sherrington knows it was a game of inches


"Fortunate" is how Bob Stoops described his feelings afterward. And for once you didn't file it under coachspeak.

Texas, which came in an 11-point underdog, didn't blow this game like some of its pitiful predecessors.

Didn't get buried. Didn't get outcoached.

Didn't earn a blistering the day after.

The difference came down to a pair of second-half turnovers – both through the hands of Jamaal Charles – to keep the 10th-ranked Sooners' national title hopes alive.

And 19th-ranked Texas? The Longhorns' visions of New Orleans had already evaporated after last week's loss to Kansas State. Now the prospects of a Big 12 title curl up in smoke, too.

Get this: Texas is 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 1956, a factoid that normally stirs up the amateur historians.

But who comes away from what Mack Brown called the most physical game he's witnessed in the series thinking Texas is in trouble?

"It was a heavyweight fight," Texas defensive end Brian Orapko said.

"It was Tyson-Holyfield."

Fortunately, everyone's still all ears. The media horde, in particular.

Listening to both sides, all you heard were expressions of mutual respect.

And what's not to appreciate about Oklahoma's performance? Sam Bradford, a freshman playing in his first Texas-OU game and beyond his years, passes for three touchdowns and 244 yards and drops balls on receivers like he's throwing through tires at 40 yards.

Malcolm Kelly, the fabulous receiver from Longview, hauls in 105 yards worth of passes, 41 of them on a leaping grab that set up Oklahoma's first TD.

Auston English's two sacks, including a diving one, both on critical possessions.
DeMarco Murray, responding to the loss of teammate Allen Patrick, hurdles a fallen teammate and goes 65 yards for a touchdown.

Still, Texas answered. Colt McCoy, shaking off last week's symptoms of a concussion and the effects of four sacks and a devastating hit after the whistle, moved the pocket and played his best game.

A good thing, too, considering the Longhorns' continued troubles mounting a viable running game.

Charles' best carry might have provided the game's turning point. As Charles knifed and twisted for the end zone from the OU 13 in the third quarter, the Sooners' Curtis Lofton grabbed hold and simultaneously slapped at the ball, cradled in Charles' left arm.

Charles tumbled into the end zone but without the ball, uncovering the game-changing moment.

Unless you thought it came in the fourth quarter, Texas at the OU 44 and down by seven, McCoy rolling left. He would say later he was looking all along for Charles. But the pass was high and a little late; Charles even thought it might have been intended for Quan Cosby, open behind him.

"If he catches it," McCoy says of Charles, "he may go score."

But the ball squirted through Charles' hands and into Reggie Smith's, effectively ending Texas' upset bid.

Only it wasn't apparent at the time. Unlike many games in this series, when momentum tilts and points roll, the atmosphere often better than the action, both sides were accounted for.


Colt made believers out of his mates


"I felt offensively this was the game we needed to have," McCoy said. "We executed. From now on, I think we'll be good."

He completed 19 of 26 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns.

McCoy seemed to react much better in the simplified system installed last week by offensive coordinator Greg Davis. The changes took away some of the responsibilities that Davis felt overburdened McCoy.

Davis called it probably McCoy's best game of the year.

"He played with tremendous courage," Davis said. "It's extremely gratifying to see him back and playing. I think early in the year, he's been pressing. He's been trying to get us a perfect play sometimes."

Davis noted that Oklahoma brought an early blitz that surprised the Longhorns. After a sideline conversation, the Longhorns were prepared the next time.

When the Sooners took away the Texas wide receivers, McCoy burned them over the middle to tight end Jermichael Finley.

Although McCoy was sacked four times, the Longhorns did a much better job giving him time than the week before against Kansas State.

English's hit got Texas' attention early. Oklahoma was not penalized on the play.
"If they're going to hit him late, the least we'll get is a flag," offensive tackle Tony Hills said. "Those type of things are not in our hands."

Asked if the hit was dirty, Hills responded: "Very much so. Very much so, because everybody else stopped."

As good as he was, McCoy's performance wasn't perfect and that's what Texas probably needed to beat Oklahoma.

He was just 3-of-8 in the fourth quarter, and his only interception came off a pass that went through Jamaal Charles' hands.

"I was just trying to make a play," McCoy said. "If he catches it, he could score. He was wide open. It was just unfortunate."

Nobody in a Texas uniform blamed McCoy after the way he rebounded.

"Colt is a true leader," defensive end Brian Orapko said. "With this loss everybody is going to attack him. They should attack us, they should attack our defense, our offense. They should attack everybody instead of one person. Colt is our guy."


Bohls isn’t interested in moral victories


Before the nitpicking begins — and there has to be some because moral victories counted only in the John Mackovic era — here's a well-deserved salute to the Longhorns.

They played hard. They played tough. They played well.

Just not well enough, not against a 10th-ranked Oklahoma team that we're betting will be the Big 12's best by December and could still crack the BCS title game.
In the end, the two-game winning streak over OU was snapped, and 19th-ranked Texas' string of 114 consecutive weeks in the Associated Press Top 25 poll might have been snapped. Teams that are 4-2 and have lost two straight league games rarely are found there.

But Texas' fragile confidence got a boost, even in defeat, albeit too late in the season. The Longhorns demonstrated some stick-to-it-iveness, and not just because of the sticky, muggy weather.

They lost 28-21 because they had too few playmakers.

Colt McCoy was excellent, Jermichael Finley was breathtakingly brilliant, and the defense was feistier than a double-parked IRS auditor. Consider:

Oklahoma got a 65-yard touchdown run from DeMarco Murray, a poor man's Darren McFadden. Texas got a game-altering fumble at OU's goal line from Jamaal Charles and no run longer than 14 yards on the day.

OU caused two turnovers. Texas' defense produced none, stretching to 10 consecutive quarters its turnover-free drought, and the Longhorns managed a lone sack of a redshirt freshman quarterback.

Malcolm Kelly and Juaquin Iglesias accounted for 11 catches totaling 204 yards and an OU score. Texas' go-to receiver, Limas Sweed, went somewhere else. He made two insignificant receptions for 25 yards and has become the No. 3 receiver, if not lower.

Otherwise, this game's dead even.

And is the Longhorn season dead as well?


Interesting Sooners Questions



Did freshman DeMarco Murray replace senior Allen Patrick as Oklahoma's top tailback?


As exciting as Murray's 128-yard performance in the Cotton Bowl was — and as bad as Patrick looked on his 11 carries for 10 yards — Patrick is still the Sooners' No. 1 guy.

Patrick exited early in the third quarter with cramps, according to coach Bob Stoops, and he didn't return after Murray got going. But don't expect OU coaches to demote Patrick.

However, they will likely continue to find ways to get the ball to Murray, who again demonstrated his big-play ability with a 65-yard TD run. He has four scoring plays of 40 yards or more.

After the problems OU had containing Texas tight end Jermichael Finley, will Missouri tight ends Martin Rucker and Chase Coffman cause an even bigger problem?

It won't be easy to stop Rucker and Coffman, but it will be a different challenge than Finley presented. The Tigers rarely line up their tight ends with the offensive line, instead choosing to split them out in the slot or wideout positions.

The Sooners finally stopped Finley when they started using defensive backs to cover him and that's what they'll have to do with Missouri's duo.

With the first Bowl Championship Series poll coming out Oct. 14, how do the Sooners stack up in the ranking systems that contribute to the BCS?

Everywhere from really good to mediocre. OU is No. 5 in the Harris Interactive poll and tied for fifth with South
Florida in the coaches' poll.

Not all of the computer polls release their rankings prior to the first BCS poll, but here's a sampling of where the Sooners stand with some of the computers.

Sagarin Ratings: OU is No. 3, behind LSU and Ohio State, respectively.

Colley Matrix: OU is No. 20 in the poll that ranks LSU No. 1 and Arizona State No. 2.

Billingsley Report: Richard Billingsley, an Oklahoma native, was to release his latest rankings following Sunday's late game between Boise State and New Mexico State. Billingsley had OU No. 24 prior to beating Texas.
The latest Massey Ratings aren't out yet, either, but OU was No. 30 last week.

Did tight end Jermaine Gresham make a throat-slashing gesture after scoring OU's first touchdown?

It's hard to say for sure what Gresham's motive was in his TD celebration. The Dallas Morning News reported that Gresham made a "throat-slashing gesture toward the UT bench,” but the television replays showed him facing toward OU fans in the corner of the end zone.


Charles has not lived up to the hype


I was wrong.

I thought Jamaal Charles would be a star.

I should have known better. The Texas hybrid/spread offense would have forced Earl Campbell to start from a standing position. Besides, these Longhorns blockers aren't going to make any runner a star.

But the one who really fooled me?

Vince Young.

Young made Charles — along with everyone else in this program — look better than he is.

Fumbles happen, and Charles' fumble early in the second half is identical to a famous one 20 seasons ago. Then a runner named Earnest Byner was about to give the Cleveland Browns the lead against Denver in the AFC title game when, just as he was about to break the end-zone plane, he was stripped.

The same happened to Charles. With Texas about to take a lead, Charles had everything going for him as he lunged toward the goal line — except the football.
"I just saw the end zone and tried to do too much," Charles said, and Byner likely said something in similarly sad tones.

Here is Charles' consolation: Byner would eventually run for more than 8,000 yards, earning both Pro Bowl berths and a Super Bowl ring.

Still, the fumble sums up a pattern, as well as Charles' status. And this is some contrast to what he was two years ago. Then Charles, in this very game, sped 80 yards for a touchdown on his way to a day only a half-dozen Texas runners have bettered against Oklahoma.

Charles had three 100-yard games that first season despite injuries, and only Campbell and Cedric Benson had more as a freshman. Charles combined his track-talent speed with rare agility; his top half and bottom half never seemed to face the same way.

My opinion then: He had some Reggie Bush stuff going on. He was going to get stronger and improve and become a Campbell-Benson force. He wouldn't be Young, exactly, but he would replace him as Texas' difference-maker.

I wasn't alone in this projection. Two years ago Mack Brown said privately Charles would be better than Benson.

But then Young left for Tennessee, and his zone-read fake went with him. Texas morphed into a spread offense, relying more and more on shotgun draws for a running game. While Charles' numbers and efficiency this season have remained high, he hasn't become the threat that tilted the field his way.

He's remained what he was before, a counter, and Saturday an Oklahoma runner took even that role from him. DeMarco Murray, a redshirt freshman, became what Charles was two years ago, leaping over a teammate on his way to a game-changing 65-yard sprint.

Charles' offensive scheme and line likely inhibit him. But he also lacks the toughness and instincts that define the great players, and another moment Saturday said that. Then, with Texas trailing by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, Colt McCoy threw to Charles.

Charles had to stretch, but, in that situation, doesn't Bush make the play? Brown thought the pass was fine and the football and slipped through Charles' hands.


Aggies survive 17-0 at the half


Maybe A&M's 24-23 victory over Oklahoma State will be the start of something special. Or eventually it might be remembered as nothing more than a statistical anomaly.

It's significance wasn't important late Saturday night. Head coach Dennis Franchione and his players just needed to savor what they'd accomplished. Nor was it time to ask them about this week's game at Texas Tech, where the Aggies haven't won since 1993.

"It always is tough to go there," Franchione said. "And they always are revved up for us. But you know what? I've got a few hours tonight I want to enjoy this one before I have to think too much about that one."
Who could blame him?

Franchione had to beat Oklahoma State. He has to win more games, but something good had to happen Saturday night. A loss would have been devastating after the players came to Tuesday's press conference and stood up for Franchione, who has been under fire since it was reported that he e-mailed a secret newsletter to 12 to 15 boosters for $1,200 a year.

The players' vocal support had fallen on deaf ears after their actions -Êor lack thereof - led to a 17-0 halftime lead for the Cowboys.

Halftime conversations at Kyle Field's restrooms, the concession stands, and especially in the Zone were spicy. A&M fans watching on television were venting via chat rooms, some saying the Franchione era was officially over.

It turned out to be nothing more than idle talk when the Aggies put some action
behind their words.

If A&M plays 12 more halves like the second half it played against Oklahoma State, the off-the-field issues will fade away.

The players at least saved the weekend for the season's largest crowd with the second-best second-half comeback in school history.

You have admire the Aggies' grit, but also question why they trailed by 17 points. Good teams shouldn't get that far behind at home against a program that's now lost 11 of its last 12 true road games.

Yet A&M was only one play away from losing for much of the second half, which was also the case in the 47-45 triple overtime victory over Fresno State earlier this season.

This is more than luck. This is knowing how to win. Seven of A&M's last 12 victories have been by six points or less.

That tenacity will be needed in the next five weeks as the Aggies play four road games and a home game against surprising 20th-ranked Kansas.

A&M is 5-1 for the third time under Franchione. The Aggies finished 2-4 (2004) and 4-3 (2006) the previous two occasions. And this year's second-half schedule is much tougher.

But this is Franchione's best team.


Aggies Final 6:
Oct 13 Sat @ Texas Tech *
Oct 20 Sat @ Nebraska *
OCT 27 SAT KANSAS *
Nov 3 Sat @ Oklahoma *
Nov 10 Sat @ Missouri *
NOV 23 FRI TEXAS *

Wouldn’t 3-3 be respectable? But, would 3-3 save his job? And isn’t 1-5 possible?

On to Cowboys Football, Let’s visit about the Buffalo Bills. They have a beat-up offense that isn’t very good when healthy. They have a beat up defense that isn’t very good when healthy. I would like to tell you they are capable of beating the Cowboys, but unless the Cowboys have 5 turnovers tonight, I don’t see it.

Cowboys 35, Bills 17

Matt Mosely looks at the trap game


No one knows for sure who first used the phrase "trap game, but it's now tossed around on an almost weekly basis in the NFL. I even found myself referring to this week's Monday Night Football matchup as a trap game for the 4-0 Cowboys before eventually coming to my senses.

In its true form, a trap game is any contest against a team with a losing record sandwiched by games against teams with winning records. Since the Cowboys played against the winless Rams last Sunday, Monday's game in Buffalo (1-3) can't be considered the real deal -- even if the Patriots are headed to Texas Stadium next Sunday.

But since we're on the subject, here are some numbers from Pro Football Prospectus 2007, which is now considered a second carry-on.

In the 474 trap games since 1983, the team that was supposed to win compiled a 389-85 record. Turns out teams did slightly better in trap games (.820 winning percentage) than in normal games (1,601-359-3) against losing teams (.815).


Buffalo News previews tonight


A sellout crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium can count on watching one outstanding offensive team. Dallas is averaging 38 points per game, and a banged-up Bills defense is going to be hard-pressed to hold the Cowboys to three touchdowns … if not four. Do you hear five?

The question: Can the Bills’ attack join the party?

“We want to play a complete game in all three phases,” said Bills tight end Robert Royal. “But if it comes to a scoring game, we’re prepared for it. We’re playing pretty good up front. We have the weapons. We’ve got every piece of the puzzle we need to put up points.”

“If they score 28, we need 30,” Royal said. “If they score 40, we need 42. We need one more point than they have.”

Thirty points will be asking a lot of the Bills. Buffalo has hit the 30-point mark once in the last 21 games. Dallas has scored 30 all four games this year and in 10 of its last 18 games.

Bills rookie quarterback Trent Edwards will try to overcome these trends and give the Bills a second straight strong outing. If he does, he may put a vise grip on the starting job.

“Trent’s the guy playing this week, and we hope he does an unbelievable job and he gives us a chance to win the game,” said Bills coach Dick Jauron. “And then we’ll see what happens.”

Obviously, the Bills would rather not see Tony Romo, Terrell Owens, Jason Witten and the rest of the Cowboy stars turn the game into a track meet.

“You see a lot of their dime defense on film because teams have been so far behind against them,” said Bills assistant coach Alex Van Pelt. “Teams are forced to throw, and that’s tough because there’s a lot of talent in their front seven. It’s the best one we’ve faced yet.”

That’s saying a lot, because the Bills have faced two excellent defensive fronts in Pittsburgh and New England.

The Bills will try their best to not become one-dimensional.

“That’s not a pleasant thought,” Jauron said of a must-pass mode. “When they don’t have to worry at all about the run, you’re in tough shape.”

The ideal way to attack the Cowboys is to run between the tackles, eat clock and keep Romo on the sidelines.

Dallas lost nose tackle Jason Ferguson for the season to a torn biceps muscle, suffered in the season opener.

Taking his place is Jay Ratliff, a seventh- round pick from 2005. He’s listed at 298 pounds, but he has more of a basketball body than one of a prototypical nose tackle.
Dallas’ linebackers have good speed, so running wide isn’t easy.

“They’re tough to run on,” said Van Pelt. “Their nose guard is a big guy but he’s not a big tank like [New England’s] Vince Wilfork. He’s quick. Melvin [Fowler] is quick also. That will be a good matchup to watch. Melvin will have his hands full.”


Let’s end with some Ask Sports Me:



Hey Bob,

I don't know if you've said something about this and I've missed it, but can you find the Rangers' record with and without Tex this year

-Matt



Sure Matt. The Rangers were 44-39 without Teixeira in the lineup this season, 31-48 with him.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves 27-26 with Tex, and 57-52 without him.

Interesting numbers, eh?

Touchdown USC….Er Stanford



Wedding Lightsaber duel

7 comments:

Andy D. said...

lets quickie this--

Coming from Sooner fan, thank goodness the clock ran out because the real McCoy was carving our middle defense up. LB's need to play better in pass defense or we will not beat Tech.
-Earnest Byner is a weeeeelllllll
-USC losing is beautiful (2 losses for them this year)
-34/20 Cowboys win
This was one of the first times I have seen UT play hard for Mack.

King Selfish said...

badgerbadgerbadgerbadgerbadgerbadgerbadgerbadger

Jay said...

Cheer up Bob, the Pack beat themselves last night but that won't happen every week.

Jay, Christi and Andrew said...

Those Stanford/USC announcers were amazing...

I can't believe Aggie escaped with that win. I missed the post-game stuff. Did the OSU coach go off on anyone?

And yes, how did you not mention the Badgers? Already erase it from your memory?

I'd like for the Jedi to not even have to play the 4th quarter tonight. Let's shut the door quickly.

Jake said...

A few observations/questions:

Shocked that Longwhorn kept the game that close. Still ranked?
Please blow up Cotton Bowl.

Ag team might have heart but talent? Should I expose myself to sars/bird flu to avoid the drive to Lubbock this weekend? Perhaps I will catch it there, along with the battery that some drunken fan will throw at me.

Stay Classy, Lubbock.

Clean Clean Cowboys.

Fake Sturm said...

Jake is a fag.

Please stay where ever you decide to drive yourself to.

Jake said...

^ Personal attacks, bitter...no?

Enjoy the B12 South cellar, or boys cellar, whichever you prefer.