Friday, November 24, 2006

Black Friday: Arkansas & Texas lose, Coker canned

While women around the country, my wife, stepdaughter, mother-in-law & sister-in-law included, were scurrying around from mall to mall & sale to sale, men were at home gorging themselves on leftover turkey & tradition-rich college football. I love this day.

But some people didn't enjoy the Biggest Shopping Day of the Year as much as I did.

-Larry Coker gets the boot immediately after Miami's season ends
So that's why Miami won that game against BC last night. Coach Coker was fired so quickly following the Canes disastrous '06 campaign that word had to have gotten out last night that he was as good as gone, win or lose. At least his kids sent him out on a high note after a season filled with low notes both on & off the field. Coker took over the Canes in 2001 and guided them to a National Championship in January of 2002 with a victory over Nebraska in the Rose Bowl. He won 59 games against 15 losses, but it was widely known that the team he won with, and that ripped off a 25 game win streak to start Coker's tenure, was recruited by outgoing coach Butch Davis.
Once those players left for the NFL, Coker could not bring in the blue chip recruits to replace them. His last 2 years, when the team compiled 9 of Coker's 15 losses, were marred by melees & mediocrity on the field and histrionics & tragedy off of it: they were involved in two nasty on-field brawls, one after last year's Peach Bowl vs. LSU and the infamous one against FIU in October; had one player shot in the buttocks while another returned fire this past July; their top receiver, Ryan Moore, was suspended for half the season after choking a woman; and suffered the death of teammate Bryan Pata, who was shot to death outside his off-campus apartment in early November.
Put it all together, and with influential boosters all but calling the shots down there, Miami decided to cut the ties with the man who started his Hurricane career with such promise and ended it with such disappointment. They will likely look in a new direction; here's an idea- go for someone who doesn't look like Uncle Fester's grandfather and can bring in some of the local talent. Does the name Greg Schiano come to mind? You'll hear the former Miami assistant & current Rutgers head coach's name mentioned about a gazillion times between now and the time they hire someone, and Schiano would be a perfect fit. It will take a lot to lure him out of his cushy gig at Rutgers, but cash + championship-caliber school= goodbye Piscataway, hello South Beach (sorry Scarlet nation.)

- 5Arkansas' BCS dreams go up in flames, lose 31-26 to 9LSU
MY PICK: Arkansas 24-20
Woooopigsooooey indeed. The Hogs championship hopes were blindsided by a hungry Tiger team that was hell-bent on not allowing Arkansas to celebrate a possible BCS title berth by winning the Golden Boot. That trophy, which symbolizes the union of the two neighboring states, is coveted by the players from both schools, no time more so than today when the winner of the trophy would have a great chance for a BCS bowl bid, and Arkansas still had an outside shot at the BCS title.
But LSU QB Jamarcus Russel was man amongst boys today (well with the exception of Arkansas' Darren McFadden) when he put the team on his shoulders and guided them to the win. Russell finished 14-22 for 210 yards, 2TDs & no INTs, and it was his poise that helped LSU survive an early Arkansas onslaught. After driving 80 yards capped by a 1-yd McFadden TD run, they missed the PAT, but the defense was swarming Russell like crazy. No problem. he settled into a rhythm and guided two scoring drives, one near the end of the first quarter and one to begin the second. The lead ballooned to 24-12 after Russell connected with Early Doucette (great name) for a 2-yard score after a Casey Dick (not a great name) INT early in the 4th. The game hinged on the 2-play sequence that followed. McFadden boosted his Heisman chances with a herculean day-21 carries for 182 yards & 2 TDs, completed 2 passes for 33 yards and caught a ball-and he broke off an 80-yard touchdown run 5 minutes into the quarter that gave the Hogs hope, cutting the score to 24-19 LSU. But the backbreaking, season-wrecking play came right after, when LSU's Trindon Holliday returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for the soul-crushing score. Game, set, Boot. Arkansas still has the SEC Championship game next week against the Gators to console them, but with their title hopes gone there will be no "pigsooey" chant in Arizona this January (thank God.)

- 11Texas loses game, quarterback, & Big 12 title all in one day, fall to A&M, 12-7
MY PICK: Texas 27-19
In another one of those "how the f- did that happen" games, Texas A&M rushed for 244 yards against the nation's top-ranked rushing defense, held the high-scoring Longhorns to points and 30 total yards, and battered & bruised QB Colt McCoy so much he had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. It was that kind of day for the defending National Champs as they suffered their 3rd defeat of the season, and they have lost consecutive games for the first time since 1999, a span of 87 games. The Aggies bludgeoned Mack Brown's team on the ground all day as the trio of QB Stephen McGee & RBs Mike Goodson & Javorski Lane (great name #2) combined for 41 yards rushing. Meanwhile the Texas stars, McCoy (7-28, 160yds, no TDs, 3INTs), Limus Sweed (1 rec, 20yds) and RBs Charles & Young (80yds, 1TD) all had their worst possible game at the worst possible time. Texas had plans on being in the Big 12 Championship game next week against Nebraska, with a BCS bowl berth on the line. Now they will settle for a minor bowl and the indignity that has befallen many champions in all sports over the last few years. As they say, repeating is a bitch, especially when you got a green quarterback playing in his first intense rivalry game with a hungry Aggie squad. McCoy was rouged up on many hits all day, wounding his already injured shoulder. One play late in the 4th, a late hit that got an Aggie tossed from the game, was especially painful. But the next one that followed sent the cart out and out went Texas' Big 12 title chance with him. A&M coach Dennis Franchione has a lot to be proud about with this win to cap a 9-3 season. But the Longhorns will have to live with the memories of last season, and hope that they can get back to the promised land next year.

Other games:
-The Big 12 Championship game-bound Cornhuskers dispatched the pesky-but-putrid Buffaloes 37-14 (MY PICK: Nebraska 33-6) in Lincoln to wrap up the Big 12 North. The Huskers head to the title game for the first time since 1999, and coach Callahan is doing it with some un-Husker like plays. Gone are the days of the power running game & the option and in place is a NFL-style West Coast passing attack and enough trick plays to make Bobby Bowden envious. Nebraska pulled 4 tricks in this one, the killer a 29-yard TD catch by defensive end Barry Turner on a fake field goal, and QB Zac Taylor tied the great Tommie Frazier's school record with his 43rd TD pass and set the record with 2,789 yards passing. This is not your grandfather's Nebraska team, and they might be fun to watch in a BCS game this year.

-I was remiss earlier by not including one of the great rivalry games in my preview of today's action: The Civil War between Oregon & Oregon State. Ducks vs. Beavers for supremacy in the Pacific Northwest, in the rain & sleet with those hideous Oregon unis causing thousands of fans to go blind- it doesn't get any better than that. But seriously, this game is always a bloodbath- 'civil' my ass- and the 110th edition was no different. The Beavers were enjoying a comfortable 27-14 lead late in the game when Oregon got a touchdown run from Johnathan Stewart, his 3rd of the game, that cut the lead to 27-20 (the PAT was missed) with about 6:00 to play. After holding OSU to a 3 & out, Oregon QB Brady Leaf (yes he's related) hit Jordan Kent for a 26-yard TD and then ran in the two point conversion (gutsy call right there) to give the Ducks a 28-27 lead. Not to be outdone beaver QB Matt Moore charged his team downfield behind 2 passes for 53 yards to Slammin' Sammie Straughter, which set up Alex Cerna's game-winning 40-yard FG. Just another nail-biter in the Civil War, one of the most exciting rivalries in college football. Minus the unis.

Well the final game of the day just ended with Fresno State knocking off La Tech 34-27 in a game that featured a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD and a last second touchdown by the Bulldogs to secure the upset. Just another terrific, wild, and unexplainable day in college football. And it's just about 12 hours away from starting all over again.

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