Wow. What a bye week!
Tech and Ok State brought us great stuff last year …
The scene in Texas Tech's locker room after last season's loss to Oklahoma State remains vivid to Graham Harrell. The frustration and tears he shared with wide receiver Michael Crabtree afterwards are something he'll never forget.
Memories for Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson are a little bit sweeter as he recalls his first victorious college start -- a game that boosted his confidence that he could be a productive college quarterback.
Any reporter who was within earshot of either Mike Leach or Mike Gundy's post-game interview sessions will long recall how their post-game pyrotechnics upstaged the wild offensive show that had just taken place on the field.
Looking back, Oklahoma State's 49-45 victory over Texas Tech last season was one of the most spectacular games in Big 12 history. And it's proven to be even more significant for what has happened for both teams afterwards.
Both coaches have said the game could have been considered a touchstone that has pointed their teams to the recent success the following season. Texas Tech (9-0) is off to its best start since 1938 and brings a nation-best 11-game winning streak and a No. 2 ranking in the BCS standings into the game. And Oklahoma State's 8-1 start -- its best since 1985 -- is marred only by a four-point road loss at then No. 1 Texas.
Some of the impetus for the strong starts began after that wild four-hour, two-minute shootout at Boone Pickens Stadium that left both teams drained and both coaches raging afterwards.
"It was a big win for us because Tech was a very good football team," Gundy said. "For the most part, our program has grown since then. We're more mature and things seem to be heading into the right direction. That game kind of lifted our spirits and made things better."
The bitter disappointment helped point Harrell in the right direction along with Crabtree, who dropped a potential game-winning touchdown pass in the end zone with 11 seconds left.
"I can remember being in the locker room with him and both of us were in tears after how that game played out," said Harrell, who passed for a career-best 646 yards in the loss. "We battled and left everything out on the field. That loss hurt bad at the time. And now, looking back it's kind of a turning point to help us get where we are today."
But the fun was only getting started.
Afterwards, Mike Leach blistered his defense's performance so badly that his coordinator Lyle Setencich resigned the next day. And Gundy became a sports cultural icon for his iinfamous "I'm 40, I'm a Man" catch phrase as he fumed at an Oklahoma City columnist. Those two YouTube staples effectively upstaged a game that featured 1,328 yards of total offense, 62 first downs and three lead changes in the final 12:25 of play.
Leach immediately installed Ruffin McNeill as his interim defensive coordinator. The Texas Tech defense unified over the course of last season under their new leader, steadily improving each week. And it has carried that growth into this season, where it has shown surprising across-the-board development.
"I think that as soon as Ruffin took over, the defense improved immediately and has just continued to grow," Leach said. "He's inspired the whole group and they are a passionate about what he has taught them. I think our whole team has drawn from our defense."
And Oklahoma State grew from the victory as well, charging to a 7-6 finish that was capped by a victory in the Insight Bowl. The Cowboys used that strong finish as a springboard to this season that has pointed them into contention for their first Big 12 South title.
"As a team, we've come a long way dating back to last season," Robinson said. "We knew we had a chance to be a good team, but we just needed to put it together. We're more of a team than we've ever been."
That belief will be tested Saturday as the Cowboys will be battling some significant history. The Cowboys will be looking for their first victory in Lubbock since 1944 and a triumph over their highest ranked road opponent in history.
"There's a lot on the line," said Gundy, who didn't know of the Cowboys' 11-game losing streak in Lubbock until he was told by reporters earlier this week. "We're playing in some big games and I think that's enough motivation for them. To be honest, I don't know if those other things intrigue them that much."
If not, they should just think back to last season and the wild game that helped point them to where they are today.
Dennis Dodd has an idea for Kansas St …
Connect the dots. Dennis Franchione will be strongly considered as the new Kansas State coach.
Kansas State athletic director Bob Krause said Wednesday he would have a new coach hired by the end of the season, and that he preferred a head coach. There's not too many sitting head coaches who are going to leave their jobs in the middle of the season to take Kansas State.
That kind of narrows the field to people like Franchione. The former TCU, Alabama and Texas A&M coach is currently a college football analyst on ESPN radio. It is known he is interested in replacing Ron Prince who was fired Wednesday effective at the end of the season.
Kansas State was Franchione's first college coaching job and his first child was born in Manhattan, Kan. He is a native Kansan who attended Pittsburg (Kan.) State. It is known he is preferred my hoardes of K-State fans although he has not yet been contacted formally by the school.
He has been out of work less than a year since resigning at Texas A&M. That was after the unfortunate newsletter scandal.
The 56-year-old Franchione is 107-81 in 16 years as a I-A coach.
Tim MacMahon has FO in the By week …
Per the FO playoff odds, there's a 96.9 percent chance that the Cowboys will be playoff spectators. Do you see the Cowboys making the playoffs? Why or why not?
I honestly don't. I think their chances are better than that because of the guys they're getting back from injury, but there's no guarantees that Romo or Newman come back at 100 percent or that they don't get hurt again. They have an incredibly difficult second half schedule, all their subtle indicators of performance (fumble luck, third down performance) point to them already playing above their head...This team still has to face the Redskins, Steelers, and Eagles on the road. Should we expect them to win any of those games? One? If they go 1-2 there, then they have to run the table at home against San Francisco, Seattle, the Giants, and Baltimore to just make it to 10-6, where they'll likely only have a tiebreaker against the Eagles. Realistically, this team needs to go 6-1 the rest of the year to ensure themselves a playoff spot. I just can't see that happening.
Total Access tackles that same playoff issue
Big Ben is going to hate the tax hikes …
TOP 20 HIGHEST PAID PLAYERS IN 2008
1. QB Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh $ 27,701,920
2. DE Jared Allen, Minnesota $ 21,119,256
3. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona $ 17,103,480
4. WR JaMarcus Russell, Oakland $ 16,872,400
5. RB Michael Turner, Atlanta $ 16,003,840
6. G Chris Snee, N.Y. Giants $ 14,890,000
7. CB Asante Samuel, Philadelphia $ 14,145,000
8. WR Randy Moss, New England $ 14,006,720
9. T Flozell Adams, Dallas $ 14,005,760
10 .DT Tommy Kelly, Oakland $ 13,978,480
11. WR Terrell Owens, Dallas $ 13,731,560
12. WR Bernard Berrian, Minnesota $ 13,705,000
13. T Michael Roos, Tennessee $ 13,505,520
14. C Jeff Faine, Tampa Bay $ 13,105,760
15. DE Will Smith, New Orleans $ 12,950,000
16. QB Tony Romo, Dallas $ 12,886,600
17. G Travelle Wharton, Carolina $ 12,850,000
18. DE Antwan Odom, Cincinnati $ 12,800,000
19. CB Terence Newman, Dallas $ 12,611,240
20. RB Marion Barber, Dallas $ 12,522,400
Oh Dear …
While watching her favorite team, the Blackhawks, play at the United Center on Monday, Marguerite Kuhlman collapsed and later died.
Patricia and Dorothea Kuhlman said that even more peculiar than the death of their sister, 68, at the hockey game is the fact that their mother died under similar circumstances nearly 22 years ago. Mildred Kuhlman died March 30, 1986, while attending a Blackhawks game at Chicago Stadium, Patricia Kuhlman said.
"We've been hockey fans for many, many years," Patricia Kuhlman said. "People laugh at us because we're old ladies who like to go to hockey games."
The sisters—who own season tickets just 15 rows off the ice—were all scheduled to attend the game Monday. But the two older Kuhlman sisters instead had to attend a meeting of election judges, and Marguerite Kuhlman went to the game with a neighbor.
After establishing the rookie TE from Aggieland might not say all the right things, shouldn’t we see how the rookie TE from Austin is doing? They want him to shut up in Green Bay…
Where do you get off at, Jermichael? Do you seriously have the gall to criticize your quarterback on his throw? You obviously do not know the pro game, young man.
You do not criticize your quarterback, no matter who you are. After all, he is your lifeline to your paycheck. You damn well do not criticize your quarterback when you’re a rookie whose statline consists merely of a drop. Shut your mouth, kid. And the fact you think you deserve more looks in the offense is going straight to the wayside. Just an idiotic move. You’ve barely seen any action so far this year. You should be grateful to the coaches they gave you an opportunity to play in a big game and you should be grateful to Aaron Rodgers for having faith in you to make a play in two critical aspects of the game, a fourth down play and a play deep in the red zone. You need to take responsibility, not deflect it off as misuse of your talent by the coaches.
Of the little game action I saw of the Packers 19-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans I did see, I did see the fourth-and-1 play in question. Finley made no attempt on the ball at all, making it look like an errant throw by Rodgers. It was obvious by Finley’s body language after the play, however, that it was all on Finley. My first reaction to seeing Rodgers’ pass was, “Why the hell are you throwing it to him?”
Finley must be showing something in practice if Rodgers went to the rookie tight end at a critical juncture in the game over Ryan Grant, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and Donald Lee. Finley has extreme athleticism, but it’s obvious he is immature.
It’s also obvious that the Packers coaching staff does not like it.
Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin had this to say:
“I could try to act smart and say there’s some super special technique we had for that, but I mean, jeez, go get the ball. If you’re in the backyard, that’s what you’d do. … You have to go make the play.”
“You don’t have a lot of time, and you better get as quick and clean a release as
you can, knowing he’s got an inside guy covering him and a guy outside blitzing. You have to understand the situation, have to understand the down and distance, understand they have everybody up (and he doesn’t) have all day to get off the ball and into this route.”
Philbin’s comments make this sound more like inexperience than anything else. However, if you contrast it with Finley’s quotation, well, Finley just sounds like a jerk:
“I think he should have led me a little more, well a lot more. Really he didn’t throw it good at all, to be honest. He knows my game, coaches know my game. I’m more like a run and jump (receiver). I’m really not no back shoulder or whatever he had going on back there. They just have to know what kind of player I am and use me in that aspect of the game.”
There are a bunch of names I would love to call Finley right now, but I would like to keep Lombardi Ave family-friendly, so I have to put on the brakes with this one. That’s just an idiotic quote. When the quarterback throws the pass off kilter, you make an attempt to go get it. You use effort. You don’t wait until after the game to criticize him. You make the play. And shut up.
I don’t expect Finley to see the field any time soon. And even if he does, he won’t be getting the ball. When the head coach criticizes you without being asked a question about you, that does not bode well. Finley’s quotation “drew the ire of coach Mike McCarthy, who in his Monday news conference addressed it without being asked specifically about Finley.”
“I don’t agree with the tight end’s quote, Jermichael. But we were expecting man in that particularly situation. It’s a hot situation for that particular play. Jermichael had a poor release. He was too high, and Aaron was trying to back-shoulder him. It’s a play that we practice all the time. It’s a common throw in our offense.”
None of the testimony seems to side with young Jermichael. The kid has to know when to put a sock in it.
Welcome to the NFL, kid.
Hully on Toronto Radio …
Hull also went to bat for both Ott and Avery.
"Steve Ott is Steve Ott and he's unfortunately been thrown in with Sean's predisposed reputation," Hull said. "Steve Ott's an honest guy, he's a great teammate and we really enjoy having him here in Dallas."
Of Avery Hull said: "I don't know what everyone's been hearing but he's been wonderful for us. He hasn't created any problems and I hear it all over the league that our struggles are because of Sean Avery and it's just not the truth. We've got a team that just isn't playing good hockey and we have to figure that out."
Hull said he spoke with Stars captain Brendan Morrow on Wednesday and Morrow told him Avery has fit in well in Dallas.
"I had a coffee yesterday with Brendan Morrow, our captain, and he looked me right in the eye and said (he was) absolutely stunned at how great he's really been."
Hull believes the team's slow start has been caused by problems in its own end and with turnovers, but he refused to single out veteran netminder Marty Turco for criticism.
"When you talk about the Dallas Stars, I think we talk about a team that over the last six or seven years has been in the top five defensive teams every year and when you look at our team you kind of have to shake your head and go, 'What the hell's going on in Dallas?'"
Just a quick hit here, but I was checking out the temporary homes of Stars kids James Neal and Mark Fistric, Manitoba, this morning and found a fabulous "I'll be darned" fun-fact.
The Manitoba Moose, who play in the AHL appear to have the most interesting of rosters.
Not only are Neal and Fistric familiar with other Stars notables, Trevor Ludwig and Nolan Baumgartner, but look who wears #12 for the Moose!
That is right The great, and I do mean great, Mike Keane ...
Now at the age of 41, Mike is playing his 4th season with the Moose. I have a million questions for him, beginning with "you have all the Cups and cash that anyone would surely need, what drives you to keep playing at 41 in the AHL?" I think I need to get him on the show.
Mike Keane's Bio ...
Not to be a sports bully, but if his performance in Game 7 of the 1999 Western Conference Finals isn't in your top 5 Stars moments of all time, you and I will have to agree to disagree...
The Ryan Leaf era comes to a close at West Texas A&M …
West Texas A&M quarterback coach Ryan Leaf has resigned, the school announced Thursday.
Leaf, who also served as the school's men's golf coach, has been on a leave of absence for personal reasons.
A person briefed on the situation said that Leaf acknowledged he had asked a West Texas A&M player for a pill to help him deal with lingering pain from an injury Leaf had sustained during his NFL playing days, ESPN's Joe Schad reported Wednesday.
"Coach Leaf offered his resignation this morning, which I accepted," WTAMU athletic director Michael McBroom said. "He does not want his personal issues to become a distraction to the players that he has coached for the past three seasons.
I year ago, when Texas Tech played Oklahoma State
Rylan Reed is awesome
Mike Smith has had it with Aaron Voros