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Smell the Roses

Michigan-Texas classic makes up for Mediocrity Bowls

Posted: Monday January 3, 2005 12:45PM; Updated: Monday January 3, 2005 12:45PM
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Dusty Mangum
Dusty Mangum's game-winning kick capped off an all-time classic Rose Bowl.

OK, so I have not been ass-glued to the couch watching 6-5 teams play each other all holiday season. It wasn't until halftime of yesterday's Rose Bowl that I finally found got serious. Herewith, scenes from a second half of the most exciting bowl game of the season thus far:

• Who's announcing this game, I wonder? "Two of the big uglies got tangled up and had a go of it." Oh, it's Keith Jackson announcing.

• Who was that idiot who wrote that Mack Brown should've yanked Vince Young in favor of Chance Mock during Texas' loss to Oklahoma in October? Oh yeah, that was me. Well, Vince is all growed up.

"I'm waiting to see him bend backwards," says Jackson.

"People ask me who he reminds me of," says color man Dan Fouts. "After this performance, he doesn't remind me of anybody."

The closest I'd venture is either Randall Cunningham in his prime or Donovan McNabb before he discovered Campbell's Chunky soup. The Syracuse McNabb. Or, as "Go Blue!" supporters will recall (even though he was a wideout), Anthony Carter. Simply put, Young looks like the fleetest flag football quarterback who ever lived.

(I say that last line to my parents. About 20 minutes later, after Young scores on that miraculous, cue up the Heisman reel, 10-yard TD run, my mom asks, "John, did you say that Vince Young was gay?" Bill Walters, the granddaddy of 'em all among our clan, just shakes his head.)

• OK, who let the guy with the real longhorns attached to a helmet into the Rose Bowl? No, seriously, how'd he get past security? They're checking the purses of every little old lady from Pasadena (and Ann Arbor and Austin) and this dude gets by with, like, 8 feet of antlers? "Don't worry, I'm gonna put a Red Bull can on the end of each horn [he did], so it's all perfectly safe." This fan is one sneeze away from a double homicide.

• Just noticed that No. 79 for the Wolverines, an offensive lineman, is named Stenavich. Maybe it's just me, but doesn't it seem as if Michigan always has someone named "-avich" on their O-line? Favorite Michigan player name of all time, by the way, and it isn't Tim Biakabutuka (he's second): Yale Van Dyne.

• One of the all-time great non-sequitur exchanges between Fouts and Jackson, regarding what the Longhorns will be able to say should they eke out a win:

Fouts: "They can say veni, vidi, vici."
Jackson: "Ah yes, how sweet the wine."
Fouts (after a pause): "Wrong play."

Nobody likes a know-it-all, and I have the benefit of time here, but I don't know what Jackson (and I love him, hope he's still calling college football when I'm as old as JoePa) was talking about. Fouts, meanwhile, was referring to Julius Caesar's famous line, which isn't even from a play. It's the message he sent to the Roman senate after routing the army of Pharnaces of Pontus in 47 B.C. (yeah, like I knew that off the top of my head). Not trying to show anyone up here, just trying to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's.

• Doesn't anyone on this field know how to cover kickoffs?

• Texas wins, 38-37. Ever notice how all the best college football games end with both teams scoring in the 30s? Miami 31, Nebraska 30, in the 1984 Orange Bowl; Notre Dame eking by Miami by the same score in 1988. Did a Michigan defender get a hand on Texas kicker Dusty Mangum's game-winning kick? How come nobody is addressing this? We don't all own TiVo.

• Were you also hoping that sideline reporter Todd Harris would have to conduct an uncomfortable postgame interview Michigan coach Lloyd Carr? "Coach, can you talk about your decision not to tackle Vince Young whenever he ran the ball?"

• Cal, you deserved to be here, but how awesome was this game? Jackson calls it "a remarkably good college football game." That's about right. That, and a remarkably great performance by Young.

Eight in the box

1. Celebrity Blackjack? Did I really see Celebrity Blackjack on the Game Show Network the other day? I know I'm late to the table on this one, but we're inching closer and closer to Celebrity Staring Contest, aren't we? Every actor on this show -- and it has a two Baldwin minimum (Daniel and Billy; strange to see Stephen exercising such restraint; unless, of course, he wasn't invited) -- should be made to wear a T-shirt that reads, "WILLING TO DO A LIFETIME MOVIE."

2. Urban Meyer, on why he enjoys running trick plays, according to ABC's Gary Danielson on the Fiesta Bowl telecast: "I just like to do stuff to bother people." Oh, don't worry, Coach. You've done plenty of that the last month.

3. So, at the end of Minnesota's 20-16 defeat of Alabama in the Music City Bowl, the Golden Gopher marching band serenaded the Crimson Tide with Rocky Top. Nice touch. The game did take place in Tennessee (Nashville), after all.

4. Friend and colleague Arash Markazi argued in favor of the nuclear bowl proliferation that is taking place. Currently, there are 28 bowl games. I argue in favor of capitalism, which is to say that if enough people want to spend their money to watch a pair of 6-5 teams play in a bowl whose name will probably be different next year, God bless 'em. Me, I've got Caroline in the City reruns to catch up on and Ace of Base CDs to burn for friends and family. But I did notice most of those bowls, which I refer to collectively as the Mediocrity Bowl, drew about as many fans as the studio audience of Celebrity Blackjack. If you apply the "Would I watch this game on a Saturday?" standard, no December bowl besides the Liberty (for Boise State-Louisville) measured up.

5. UConn's women's basketball team had three losses before New Year's Day, the first time that's happened since 1991-92, Rebecca Lobo's freshman season. It doesn't get any easier for the Huskies, who in a nine-day stretch in January host Tennessee, visit Notre Dame, and host Villanova and Texas (they host the Irish again at the end of the month). Three of those four schools were responsible for six of UConn's eight losses during the Diana Taurasi era, when the Huskies were 139-8. UConn sorely misses last year's senior backcourt of Taurasi and Maria Conlon. Besides solid guard play, what the Huskies most lack is an ass-kicker, the meanest dog in the fight. Jen Rizzotti filled that role in the mid-'90s. She graduated, and UConn ebbed for a year or two until Shea Ralph and then Sue Bird arrived. Ashley Battle is aptly named, but we'll see if the fifth-year senior will assume that role.

6. At my parents' church yesterday, Fr. Joseph Wambach observed that the Three Wise Men truly were wise because "they may be the only men in history who ever stopped to ask for directions." They may also be the only three men who ever arrived at someone's residence all bearing gifts (excluding the obligatory six-pack).

7. Someone wrote last week to ask why sportswriters feel the need to opine on issues outside of sports on these blogs. It's a valid question, but I reminded him that reading this site costs the same as what most opinions are worth. That said, Fred Arnesen is the funniest person on Saturday Night Live these days. It was a repeat, but if you caught the skit in which he played the parrot ("Strangers in the night/Glances!") two nights ago, you know what I'm talking about. If Jimmy Fallon had also been in that scene, he would still be laughing (the only way to keep Fallon from laughing is to show him Taxi; or at least that works for me).

8. Caught Mystic River on HBO recently. I'm wondering how come the Savage Brothers never become bigger cult heroes. I'm thinking a death match between them and the Hanson brothers would be worth watching. The Hanson brothers of Slapshot fame, that is. Though I'm not opposed to seeing the Savage boys mix it up with the Hanson brothers of Mmm-bop fame.