Sunday, September 23, 2007

Stupid Pills!

Yes, sir, the stupid pills were flowing big time around my favorite football teams this weekend. The Indiana Hoosiers got their shipment of the wonderful drugs of pure idiocy before their game against Illinois started on Saturday. In the meantime, the Washington Redskins received their shipment a little late, but they were able to down all of their compliment during the halftime break.

I would start with Saturday's debacle, but it's difficult to figure out where to start. The Hoosiers, coming off their second 3-0 start in about 15 years, came out of the gate...well, they didn't really come out of the gate. Illinois, with their amazing running game, exposed IU's defense as an apparent fraud, running rampant all over the place. On the other side of the ball, the 9th-ranked running game in the entire nation looked like they didn't even know how to walk correctly. On top of that, they turned the ball over way too much and blew far too many chances for the team to be competitive.

I thought that was pretty bad, but then I watched the Washington Redskins play the New York Giants. The 'Skins came out for the first half absolutely on fire. Jason Campbell was completing passes, Clinton Portis was making good runs, and the defense was doing everything it could to keep the Giants down to 3 points. Then there was the second half. for about 20 minutes of the second half, the Redskins had a total yardage of 14 yards. There were no first downs until the Redskins' final drive. The defense, though they put up a valiant effort, could not make up for the absolutely ridiculous mistakes that the offense was making. There was a glimmer of hope near the end, when Antwaan Randle El returned a punt to the Giants' 35, but it would've been better if he could have gotten the touchdown. Instead, the offense put up two stupid plays for each good play they came up with and, unfortunately, those last two stupid plays came from the Giants' 2 yard line.

Two unbelievable collapses from two undefeated teams. For a while there, I thought my teams had turned the corner and were ready to take that next step. Instead, they decided to reach back to recent tradition and lay a fat, rotten egg all over their respective home fields.

Friday, September 21, 2007

To Men's Soccer Coaching Staff, University of Alabama-Birmingham...

There's a little thing in this world called class. Class is a set of behaviors that set you apart from everyone as being that person that can take some heat, and continue on with your day with a smile on your face. Case in point: Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods gets a little criticism here and there, pops back up at the next tournament, and kicks everybody's ass.

Now, in the world of intercollegiate athletics, there is an extra element to everything called students. Students, myself included, are loud, boorish idiots when it comes to being spectators at a sporting event. We taunt you, we make fun of you, and we try to make your life as miserable as possible for the time that you are on our field of competition. However, since we're the ones who pay the university thousands of dollars a year, plus whatever the cost of tickets might be, we get cut a little slack. We're trying to defend the turf that we are putting huge amounts of our money into.

However, you the coach, making tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per annum, have no right to turn around to face the students and be a total dick.

So, let's set up the scene. UAB's men's soccer team has come to take on the Indiana Hoosiers and, most importantly, IU Soccer's fans, who are probably some of the toughest fans in the business. UAB's head coach (whose name I don't care to look up because I have no respect for them right now) is complaining about everything all evening. Whenever the referee blows his whistle, coach is right off his seat, saying some stupid thing to any official he can find. On one play, there is some mutual shoving in front of the IU net, a UAB player goes down, and the ref gives IU the ball after a lengthy discussion. Coach is not thrilled, and he gives the business to the assistant ref, who finally gets the coach to sit down and shut up. On a later play, and IU attacker is blatantly tripped up in the box and is awarded a penalty shot. Coach is back on his feet, goes over to the assistant ref (who had absolutely nothing to do with the call, mind you), and starts giving him the business again. The AR is obviously annoyed at this point, forcefully sends the coach back to the bench, and puts his flag up to signal the head official. Head official comes over, chats with the AR, and puts the red card on the coach. Game over, goodbye, don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.

Of course, the student section is going to get on the coach, because he was being ridiculous and he really deserved to be ejected from the game. Unfortunately, the players on the UAB side happen to be really good at getting up, dusting themselves off, and overcoming these kinds of issues. They come back a few minutes later and put the ball in the IU net for the go-ahead goal....and this is where things get stupid.

The IU fans are quiet. Their team is three minutes from getting beat and they know that it'll be a tough battle just to come back and tie the game. The UAB players go mob the goal-scorer, as soccer players would generally do, but there is one man who isn't joining the celebration: UAB's fat piece of shit of an assistant coach. This guy immediately turns around and starts dancing around in front of the bleachers like a fucking retard. Then, he repeatedly pumps his fists up in front of his face and, even though he kept them down, you know he was just dying to throw his middle fingers up at the IU faithful.

I would describe what might have happened to this gentleman had there not been a fence between the stands and the field, but i think your imagination can figure it out. In fact, if this had been in Europe of South America, that gentleman would be damn near dead right about now. As a member of a collegiate coaching staff, it is not your place to go around being a total dick to the opposing fans, just because they had been taunting you. Even your team, which you are in charge of in the head coach's absence, was playing it real and celebrating the goal. They know what it's like to be in an opposing stadium and take the heat from the fans, but apparently you don't. You seem to think that because the students are taunting you, you can turn around and taunt them right back because you seem to be better than everyone. Well guess what, dickwad. You're a terrible role model, a terrible human being, and you're damn lucky that you coach intercollegiate soccer because, if this had been football or basketball, your ass would be out of a job real fucking fast. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the fucking fire.

...Ok, I'm off my soapbox now. Pardon my French.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hail to Monday Night

Tonight around 8 PM, Hank Williams, Jr, will come out on screen and ask Redskins fans the most important question that can be asked on any Monday this time of year: Are you ready for some football?

Of course, everyone who knows anything about Washington, DC, sports fans is that they are always ready for some football. What's important is whether or not the Redskins themselves are ready to go into the Veterans Stadium Light (Lincoln Financial Field on Philly's south end) and take on the boys win green and white. This will be an amazingly difficult test for this Washington team who, for the first time, will throw Jason Campbell into the fire of Philly's raucous crowd. Obviously, the most important thing for this team will be to establish the running game with Ladell Betts, Clinton Portis, and Mike Sellers, so that Campbell can feel a little easier in the pocket.

If the Burgundy and Gold can establish their running game, the job will fall to Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle-El to find their way past the secondary and make the big plays happen. This game will be vintage Redskins football, with most of the work coming out of the backfield, and the receivers playing the part of the old Fun Bunch to nail down the game.

On the other side of the ball, it will be all about containing Bryan Westbrook and preventing him from making the big run. Donovan McNabb, though still a skilled and intelligent quarterback, has nowhere near the physical ability he once did because of the rash of injuries that he has been through during his career. If he is forced to drop back into the pocket because Philly's run is going nowhere, he can be left to the very tough front seven, who should have a large impact on the game. Look also for a lot of blitzing from the likes of Carlos Rogers, Shawn Springs, and Sean Taylor.

Since I really haven't seen much of either of these teams so far this season, I'm somewhat weary of giving a final score. However, I believe that, if the Readskins do everything I just mentioned, they could take this game by the margin of one touchdown. See you tonight, folks.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

"First Dooooown Hooooosiers!"

I'd like to comment on something that has become (gasp) a football tradition for the fans at Indiana University. From an outside perspective, you might look in at an IU football game (since they ARE 3-0 for the first time in who knows when), see the students and a fair number of the alumni doing this:

And then you might say, "What the hell was that?!"

Well, let me describe all this to you, since I've been in the middle of it a few times. For some amount of time now (I can't really give you an exact timeframe...), IU's Marching Hundred has played a strain from the "National Emblem" march every time the Hoosiers picked up a first down. For the first couple of years I was there, nobody really seemed to know what to do with this song, probably because we weren't very adept at getting first downs back then. However, I believe some of the fans started noticing something that the Hundred's drum majors would do during the song, which was pump their fists out into the air, then point in the direction of the first down. People began to catch on and, lo and behold, Hoosier football fans suddenly have their own ridiculous thing that they get to do at games. As with all football traditions, it may look kinda stupid at first, but when 30,000 or 40,000 people are all doing it at the same time, it looks really cool.

Yesterday afternoon against the Zips from the University of Akron, the Hoosier fans got quite a few opportunities to break out their first down celebration, especially in the second half. If you take a gander back a couple of posts, I said that Akron would keep it interesting for a lot of the game, but the Hoosiers would pull away. After the first quarter, that seemed like a stupid statement on my part, but then someone in the Akron coaching staff read the blog and decided to follow what I said. With under ten minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, in fact, it was a four point game with the score reading 27-23. Then, Kellen Lewis took the game on his back and ran it all over the field.

Kellen Lewis was obviously the player of the game because of this stat: 199 yards. You might say, "199 yards, that doesn't seem like a lot for a quarterback," until you realize that those 199 yards were rushing yards. Coming into this season, many fans were drawing comparisons between Lewis and the last big-time Hoosiers QB, Antwaan Randle-El. On Saturday, Lewis showed us the reason for those comparisons, falling ten yards short of Randle-El's school record of rushing yards in a game. Not only did Lewis run the ball well, but he tossed some great passes (as he always does to a number of different receivers. In light of all of this, I'd like to postulate this little gem: Kellen Lewis will be in some Heisman Trophy discussions before he graduates from Indiana University.

Friday, September 14, 2007

What on Earth is a Zip?!

As it turns out, Indiana is not the only school in this world that has an identity crisis. It turns out that the best answer we have here for the question, "What is a Hoosier?" is still, "a person from Indiana." However, as I looked ahead to tomorrows showdown in Memorial Stadium, I looked at the opposing team and said, "What on Earth is a Zip?"

Well, thanks to our good friends at Wikipedia, the most trusted source for any sort of information ever (/sarcasm), we have an answer. Despite the fact that their mascot is a kangaroo (huh?!), the name "Zips" actually comes from "Zippers," which was the old name of Akron's athletic teams. You might think that "Zippers" is some sort of slang for kangaroos and that the kangaroo is actually a cool animal to use, since it's original, it moves fast, and it punches its rivals like a heavyweight boxer -- a perfect image to convey with your team.

Unfortunately, it's not nearly that complicated or cool. The name "Zippers" is, in fact, derived from that useful little thing that's on the front of your jacket or the back of your dress. For today's history lesson, we learn that one of the steps in the invention of the zipper took place in a town called Elyria, Ohio, which sits somewhere between Cleveland and Akron. As such, someone decided that the local university's athletic teams should take the name. Eventually, since "Zips" is easier to say, the teams took on that name

I can't really tell you where the kangaroo comes into all of this, but I actually do like the unique nature of using that animal as a mascot. Also, get this: Zippy the kangaroo is one of six female mascots in college sports.

As for the game, I think the great defense Akron displayed last week will keep the game interesting. However, their total lack of offense will translate to them losing on the Hoosiers' home ground Saturday afternoon. Watch for some fireworks out of Tracy Porter and Mitchell Evans in the Hoosier secondary and Will Patterson in the linebacker corps. Kellen Lewis and the offense will probably put two or three scores on the board and will look pretty solid as we get ready to hit the Big Ten schedule.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Glance Back, and A Look Ahead

Ok, so I didn't blog immediately after the Indiana-Western Michigan game. First of all, I was completely zombie-fied by watching that game for over 4 hours. Then I went and sprained my ankle on Sunday, which has kept me completely distracted for the past couple days. But here I am, finally.

First of all, let's have ourselves a look at the good that came out of this 37-27 victory in front of a wet and wild crowd of over 32,000 at WMU's Waldo Stadium. What is becoming entirely clear is that, even if the offensive line is still rather average, Kellen Lewis can make a something out of nothing with relative ease. When the defense finds Lewis, he runs away from them until he either tucks the ball and runs, or one of his receivers gets into the open. The ability to run away from defenses will be very useful when the tough defenses of the Big Ten come knockin'.

Another thing Lewis did well in this weekend's game was spread the ball around to different receivers. Five different men pooled together to pull in 20 passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns. The stud of the receiving corps this time around was Ray Fisher, who caught nine of those passes for 77 key yards.

One other big bright spot in this game was the play of the defense, most notably true freshman Mitchell Evans. Evans stepped in front of two Bronco passes, taking away two key Western Michigan drives and becoming the first IU freshman in three years to pick off two passes in a game. The line also played impressively, holding the Broncos to a grand total of 30...yes, 30 yards rushsing. That number comes from WMU's positive yardage of 80 and an incredible negative yardage of 50. 39 of those negative yards are on the stat line of QB Tim Hiller, meaning the defensive line was putting tremendous pressure on passing plays.

Despite all of those positives, there was one glaring negative: Western Michigan outscored the Hoosiers 20-6 in the second half. Luckily, IU had put up 31 points to WMU's 7 in the first half. However, things suddenly felt a little tense as the game progressed through the fourth quarter and WMU closed the gap. A fair part of WMU's rally can be attributed to a less-than-stellar performance by the Hoosier secondary, despite the two interceptions earlier in the game. When all was said and done, the Broncos had managed to pick up 354 yards through the air, which will be something IU's defensive coaches will want to look at in preparation for the Akron Zips.

Speaking of Akron, I am actually a little worried about how they will do against the Hoosiers. The Zips played a very strong first half against Ohio State at the Horseshoe, holding the Buckeyes to 3 first half points while forcing a safety in the first quarter. Even when Ohio State found its groove in the second half, Akron's defense only allowed 17 more points to a team that is supposed to vie for the Big Ten title. Thankfully, IU's spread-out offense differs quite a bit from Ohio State's more traditional run-first mentality. Hopefully that use of the spread will keep the Akron secondary on their heels.

On offense, Akron was completely inept this past Saturday. That bodes well for the Hoosiers who, as previously mentioned, have gotten a lot better at putting pressure on the quarterback and the running game. Look for an interesting game for two or three quarters, but a Hoosier victory when all is said and done and the clock reads 0:00.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Indiana 55, Indiana State 7

No interesting or clever title needed for this one. That score right there says it all. The Indiana Football Hoosiers came out andIn absolutely dominated in front of an official crowd of about 34,000 (it was closer to 40,000 because freshmen got free tickets).

Lets start with what I think is one of the most impressive stat lines I have ever seen: 3 catches, 153 yards, 2 TDs. The name next to that line was James Hardy, who put on a dominating show against ISU's secondary. In fact, this line should have been even bigger because it does not include a long pass on which ISU's Warren English-Malone was forced to put the hammer down on Hardy and pick up a pass interference penalty. That pass, plus another pass interference call in the second quarter, would've put Hardy over 200 yards on 5 catches. Hardy looks good at this point in the season, and his improved speed and footwork will come in handy when it's time to go up against the big defenses in the Big Ten.

The man on the other end of those passes was also quite impressive for the Hoosiers. Kellen Lewis seems to have his mind and concentration in the right place at this point in the year. There were only two or three passes that didn't look all that great, including one toss under pressure into double coverage that became an interception. The rest of his stuff was spot-on, and he would tuck the ball and take to the ground at all the right times.

When combined with a little bit of shutdown defense, the Hoosiers easily knocked over the Sycamores and looked quite impressive in the process. The next test comes in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in what will be the one trap game in IU's non-conference schedule. The Western Michigan Broncos, despite the beatdown they received in West Virginia this weekend, are one of the tougher teams in the Mid-America Conference. Given that it will be a night game on the road in Kalamazoo, the crowd will be there in force and will give IU a tough time. I believe that this game will be the one that shows us exactly what IU will do this season and we will have a much better idea of whether or not Terry Hoeppner's dreams will be fulfilled.

Random, Off-Topic Note:
A stadium-record 7,240 rowdy fans showed up to Jerry Yeagley Field at Armstrong Stadium on Sunday to watch IU Soccer take out #1/#2 UCLA 1-0. Can this soccer team make it back to the College Cup and bring IU it's 8th soccer championship? We'll find out come December.