College Football Overtime (cont.)
Pete Carroll and Rick Neuheisel: Not fishing buddies
Personally, I've never understood the perennial outrage among fans and media over coaches "running up the score." This isn't Little League. We spend most of the time exhorting our favorite coaches and players to "punish" their opponents, to show "intensity," "tenacity" "hunger," "drive," etc., etc. -- but then, once they've achieved their desired goal, we request that they morph into respectful golf buddies.
That said, even I cringed upon first seeing the bizarre closing sequence of Saturday's USC-UCLA game when Carroll, up 21-7 with 52 seconds left, ordered up the ultimate "gotcha" -- a 48-yard Matt Barkley touchdown bomb to Damian Williams that elicited a near-brawl between the two teams.
Upon further reflection, however, and after reading various opinions around Cyberspace, I can't come down too hard on Carroll for the decision. For one thing, he initially did try to run out the clock, with Barkley taking a knee on first down, only to have Neuheisel call his first of three timeouts. Apparently, UCLA's coach didn't feel the game was over. Why should Carroll?
"He called timeout, nothing wrong with that, just compete," said Carroll. "Then the play came up on the headset [from offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates] and I thought, great freaking call."
Lest we forget -- these guys are rivals. They rightfully hate each other. Neuheisel took out an ad in the Los Angeles Times shortly after his arrival declaring: "The football monopoly in Los Angeles is officially over." You think Carroll's forgotten that? You think he's going to waste an opportunity to further humiliate a school with which he directly competes on the recruiting trail?
My beefs with Carroll involve his reaction after the play. First, he and his players turned an ultimately meaningless touchdown into cause for a World Series-style celebration, pettily jumping up and down with glee over their "feat" (remember when the Trojans celebrated after actual championships?) and practically begging the Bruins to retaliate. Carroll is lucky things didn't get out of hand between the teams or he'd have a far bigger problem on his hands today.
But most gallingly, in his postgame news conference, USC's coach attempted some convenient revisionist history regarding Jim Harbaugh's similar rub-it-in two-point conversion try against the Trojans in their last game. "I [had] no problems with Jimmy's call,'' he said Saturday night. Sure he didn't. I suppose he was inquiring about Harbaugh's contract details when he asked him, "What's your deal?"
As Andy Staples wrote in his Snap Judgments column Saturday night, "Run it up all you want, coach. Just don't get upset the next time someone hangs 50 on you."
Jake Olson: A 12-year-old hero
The real shame of Carroll's UCLA controversy is that earlier the same day, he and his program were featured in one of the most powerful segments I've ever seen ESPN's GameDay produce. Reporter Shelley Smith and cameras told the story of Olson, a 12-year-old who lost his eyesight to cancer but who, in the weeks before surgery to remove his second eye, was granted inside access to his favorite team, soaking in the sights while he still could. Chillingly, Smith interviewed Olson both before and after surgery.
Put aside six minutes and watch this piece.
Michael Floyd: Gold medal on the balance beam
One of the great mysteries of football is how a wide receiver can look in a catch while remaining acutely aware of exactly where the sideline marker is. Perhaps Notre Dame's receiver can explain how exactly he did this.
Tim Tebow: One last hurrah
If you were watching on CBS, you saw the flicker of flashbulbs (presumably camera phones) light up the Swamp every time it appeared Tebow might score his last touchdown. I'd say this fan got a pretty darn good view.
Mini-previews for three of this week's big games
Florida vs. Alabama, Saturday (4 p.m. ET): Tebow's defining performance to date came in last year's game, when he led consecutive fourth-quarter touchdown drives to knock off the top-ranked Tide 31-20. There's every reason to believe this one will go down to the wire, too. Who will be this year's game-winning hero?
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, Saturday (Noon ET): The Bearcats' biggest challenge figured to be slowing down Panthers standout Dion Lewis. But the freshman running back went for 155 yards against West Virginia and Pitt still lost. Perhaps Cincy should go after Stull, instead. Or ask Pike to throw six more TDs.
Texas vs. Nebraska, Saturday (8 p.m. ET): Texas' McCoy will be going against the toughest defense he's faced since the Oct. 17 Oklahoma game. Nebraska has recorded 33 sacks, but if the 'Horns manage just half their season average of 43 points per game, it should be enough to top the offensively challenged Huskers.
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