Run and Shoot: 11 Lessons Learned from Week 11

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11 Lessons Learned from Week 11

There's no doubt that the best place to be on a college football Saturday has to be Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. Especially at night. The noise. The deep passion. The record crowds. The secret flasks of whiskey. That's how I spent my Saturday as I sat with 93,038 other SEC fans plastered in purple, gold, crimson and cream.

(A stadium record crowd of 93,039 was keyed up and foul-mouthed for Nick Saban's return to Baton Rouge. But the No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide made three or four key plays to win 27-21 in OT.)

Like the rest of the football nation, I watched with keen interest as Nick Saban made his return to the place he won a national title just five years ago.

And in case you didn't know, LSU fans aren't the forgiving kind, feeling it treasonous that a coach could even consider leaving Baton Rouge for another coaching gig.

The fans were ready for Saban too, waving signs and wearing shirts that read everything from "Saban is a douche" to "Hey Saban. Up yours."

Even the Tiger Stadium P.A. tried to up the ante and rally the rabid Tiger fans as the third quarter came to an end. "The sun has found its home in the western sky - it’s now Saturday night in Death Valley!"

The crowd responded and the stadium became as highly-charged an environment as I have seen. But to the fans' dismay, Saban's 11 matched that intensity. Though not playing top flight ball, QB John Parker Wilson and his Tide-mates overcame some self-inflicted wounds, including having a last-second field goal blocked to end regulation, to pull out a 27-21 win in OT.

Loved or loathed, those Death Valley denizens saw Saban run off the field pointing at the cheering Tide fans in appreciation. Proving there were actually a large contingency that was quite happy with his crimson conversion.

Here are the other lessons we learned from college football this week.

Lesson 1-
If the president-elect of the highest office in the free world understands our plight, maybe those presidents of colleges and universities finally will too.

I don't know which way your political compass is pointing - and well, I don't care either - but as a fellow college football fan you have to love the fact that the first thing president-elect Barack Obama would fix in his sports world is, "We need a playoff in college football." Hmmm, maybe change IS coming.

At least far be it from the days when Tricky Dick Nixon went and crowned Texas the National Champions even before the bowl games were played.

Lesson 2-
It's time to quit second-guessing Texas Tech.

I've got my hand way high in the air as admitting I'm guilty of thinking the Red Raiders were going to meet their maker either last week vs. Texas or this week vs. Okie State. C'mon people, 56-20? Over the No. 9 Cowboys? Great jiggers of gin. Who ARE these guys?

Okay, let me say two things here. One- Texas Tech deserves a No. 1 ranking. Even if Alabama had beaten LSU by 30. This team is legit and I'm just one of an Army of writers who realizes they are now, for sure, in the conversation for the national title. And two- Graham Harrell deserves top billing in the Heisman race. If you don't agree with me, fine, then Michael Crabtree does.

("OMG, I'm LMAO, so I'll TTYL!" Tech QB Graham Harrell is getting the last laugh and has the Raiders running a high-octane offense.)

Lesson 3-
You CAN go home again.

Nick Saban proved he could go back and pull out a W in Tiger Stadium, just like old times. Oh sure, he wasn't welcomed in this home, but his team had enough cool confidence to overcome a lot of adversity - and a lot of its own bonehead mistakes - to subdue the Bayou Bengals in OT.

Clearly, Mr. Saban has always been quite the politician when it comes to pre or post-game comments, rarely causing drama with his usually well-thought out words. But you KNOW he wanted this one. With 93,000 screaming Cajuns cursing his name, this was sweet revenge on a fan base that was bent on exacting revenge of their own. No matter how ill-aimed that rage was.

Lesson 4-
The college football media won't get that "feel good" story of Joe Paterno’s final national title shot that it wanted so badly.

I don't know about you, but I had visions of Rob Houghtlin beating No. 2 Michigan flashing through my mind again on Saturday. Iowa's improbable rally in the fourth quarter enabled Daniel Murray to nail a last second field goal through the trees of arms provided by the Nittany Lions to essentially end PSU's national title hopes, 24-23.

Now that group of able Penn State seniors know how West Virginia of 2007 felt after that inexplicable loss to Pitt.

Lesson 5-
That giant blow of steam you just heard was the rest of the college football world gasping a sigh of relief that there won’t be a Big 10 team in the national title game once again.

Cruel I know, but that's college football fans for ya'.

Lesson 6-
The fate of a football game should never come down to a non-blocking, non-tackling, non-throwing, non-catching, non-running, non-athlete.

Not only was it painful to watch but it seemed downright wrong that TCU lost Thursday's game at Utah, 13-10, because a kicker couldn't make field goals of 35 and 26 yards in the final quarter. That just ain't right people. Especially when you consider the Frogs out-gained the Utes 416 to 275.

(TCU kicker Ross Evans had some painful moments, missing two 4th quarter gimmes which allowed Utah to rally and win on Thursday night.)

But props to UU QB Brian Johnson, who coolly went 7-for-9 for all 80 yards of the game-winning drive, culminating in his nine-yard pass to Freddie Brown with 48 seconds left in the game.

Lesson 7-
Utah should consider hiring a wicked-good dream team of lawyers.

In this litigious society of ours it shocks me that something like this hasn't happened already, but if the Utes do go unbeaten and don't get to play in the national title game, they should sue the BCS for not getting their shot at the brass ring. Forget just making a BCS bowl, the additional money and prestige for a school that makes the appearance in the title game comes out to a huge monetary bump as well. So who knows, maybe the opinion of the court would override the opinion of college football pollsters.

Lesson 8-
Long gone are the days when teams with lame duck coaches would go out and play like crazy over their heads and pull off big wins for the out-going skipper.

The four programs who recently saw their head coaches get tagged with lame duck status all went down with a whimper, not a bang.

- Wyoming 13, Tennessee 7
You know Coach Fulmer's team has officially quit. I mean, Joe Glenn is on the hot seat in Laramie with the worst team of his tenure and they go into massive Neyland Stadium and win? Gah.

(As bad as Wyoming has been this year, it's hard to believe that the Pokes were able to beat a dis-spirited Tennessee Vol team.)

- Akron 47, Toledo 30
Weird to think that the coach of the first MAC team to ever beat mighty Michigan is getting the exit boot soon. Coach Amstutz, we'll miss that omnipresent whistle.

- Arizona State 39, Washington 19
With the loss, Udub sees its losing streak sink to 11, the longest in school history. I could imagine Sonny Sixkiller is smokin' mad.

- Missouri 41, Kansas State 24
It doesn't seem like three years is enough time for Ron Prince, but this loss marks the fifth straight season that the Cats will finish with six losses. Where are you Bill Snyder?

Lesson 9-
I hate it when best-laid plans go awry.

I had planned on writing a good bit on the "firing" of Phil Fulmer, the coach with the third best active winning percentage in the country. I was going to bring up the fact that the SEC seems to be so harsh to another coach that didn't deserve it. How Fulmer did a good job in the most rugged conference in the country. And how this down season wasn't as bad as it seemed.

Then, Coach Phil's charges went out and lost to Wyoming. So with that, I say nevermind.

Lesson 10-
Like Beano Cook said, a coach’s contract is about as solid as the word of a politician.

Wasn't that Phil Fulmer getting a contract extension just a few months ago? Why do Athletic Directors even bother? Congratulations Tennessee administrators, you just guaranteed yourself a multi-million dollar buyout.

Lesson 11-
A .500 record should never be good enough for a post-season reward.

Consider this. Because you only need six measly wins to go to a bowl game, of the 119 teams in all of major college football, 92 are still bowl eligible.


Here was what Saturday in Baton Rouge looked like through my camera lens.

(Aye! Not a good look. Cowboy boots and short dresses that are thinner than tearaway jerseys? Hmmm, that's not dressing to impress, girls.)

(This may be the most innovative tailgate "toilet" I have ever seen. See the tire behind the port-a-potty? It's filled with kitty litter, to soak up urine. This was the first-class makeshift bathroom that was used at the tail gate party I went to. What the hell, better than the Katrina-ravaged Motel 6 room I stayed in that night.)

(Golly, Alabama's dance team is a rather fetching bunch. Don'tcha think? Hi girls.)

(And of course, no pictorial of an LSU game would be complete without a shot of some of the famed Golden Girls.)

(Judging by this pre-game picture, do you think the media had an interest in catching Nick Saban bringing his team out onto the field? Go ahead, try to count all the cameras here.)

(The real Mike the Tiger rests in his cage before his pre-game drive around the field. The cheerleaders hope the roof doesn't cave in as they are perched precariously on top.)

(Hey President Gore, you smell something funny? Chemical City belches filth into the North Baton Rouge sky. Believe it or not, this pic was taken on a "light day" for the chimneys. You should see when they have all 20 of those suckers fired up at once.)

(Li'l Mike Tiger is revved up and ready to go as the band roars into "Hold That Tiger" to get the crowd whipped into a frenzy.)

(Nick Saban gets out-run by the Bama cheerleaders as he leads his team out on to the field.)

(LSU's defense pressured John Parker Wilson into a pretty poor 15-for-31 day, but he had enough to pull out a W for his team.)

(Ummm, kids, welcome to Football 101. First off, whatever you do, don't ever try to extend the football out in front of you as you try to get across the goal line. Here, you see the result as LSU's Chad Jones knocks the ball out of Eric Alexander's hand.)

(What is this, SOCCER? Demetrius Byrd appears to be injured after fumbling away a catch. He would jog off the field with no problem.)

(Whoa coach! Keep your hands above the equator there cowboy.)

(At the end of the 3rd quarter the sun nestles down behind the Mississippi River and Tiger Stadium transforms into the toughest place in the country to play in for an opposing team.)

(Maybe LSU's offense needs to spend more practice time learning how to tackle? This was one of four Jarrett Lee interception returns for Alabama on the day.)

(BCS title game MVP Ricky Jean Francois got his big mitt on this last second field goal attempt by Leigh Tiffin, sending the game into overtime.)

(Somewhere under that mass of humanity John Parker Wilson has crossed the goal line with the game winning touchdown. Alabama maintains its No. 1 ranking with a 27-21 OT win.)

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