Thursday, December 28, 2006

2006 Emerald Bowl:Extremely N-tertaining

The 2006 Emerald Bowl
Florida State 44, UCLA 27
MY REC: 3-6

We won the trophy! The Diamond Walnuts Emerald Bowl Champion Trophy!

Reason # 4,598 why I don't gamble: it sucks to bet against a team you like. You begin to root for your team to lose just because you have a vested intert in the outcome. Even if that interest is a meaningless prediction on a blog.

But I can't feel too badly about this one because I don't believe there was a pro prognosticator in the country who could have foreseen what would happen at the 5th Emerald Bowl in San Francisco.

The Bruins and Seminoles hooked up for the first time in each schools' storied history, and boy did they play a memorable one.

Not only did the Seminoles score the most points it had in 2 1/2 months, since a 55-24 drubbing of lowly Duke on October 14th, but it did so against one of the stingiest teams in the nation; UCLA had only been allowing 18 points/game.

The two offensively-challenged teams combined for 867 yards and 71 points in a game that featured a 300-yard passer (FSU's Drew Weatherford, 325), a 100-yard rusher (UCLA's Chris Markey, 144) and a 100-yard receiver (FSU's Lorenzo Booker, 117.)

The 40,000+ fans at the sold-out contest also saw a 78-yard touchdown bomb (UCLA's Pat Cowan to Brandon Breazell), an 85-yard interception return for a TD by FSU's Tony Carter, and the Seminoles score 21 unanswered points in a span of 11 minutes of the 4th quarter.

So much for the defensive struggle.

How did this happen? The Energized Noles suddenly found the offense it had been looking for all season- if it had played like this every week they would have been playing on or near New Years Day and Jeff Bowden would be getting paid to coach next year, not be the official schmoozer at FSU booster functions.

The main reason behind the sudden offensive explosion was Booker. Playing in his final game in Garnet & Gold and before roughly 130 family & friends who made the trip from Booker's hometown of Oxnard, the senior running back was unstoppable whether he was taking a handoff (22 carries, 92 yards, 2 TDs) or receiving the ball and running with it (5 receptions, 117 yards.) The man who was touted as possibly the best back in the nation coming out of high school saved his best for last.

My question: What the hell took you so long, Lo? Did the Executive Noles need to schedule every game in Cali just so you could play in front of an audience of friends & family? Fitting the game was played in AT&T Park, maybe Lo can get the Family Plan offered by the communications giant.

Another reason for the points parade: Drew Weatherford shook off early rust to guide the offense efficiently and effectively in the 2nd half.

The Enthusiastic Noles hung tough in the first half, bouncing back from a 20-10 deficit to take a 23-20 lead early in the third. That lead came courtesy of a blocked punt that was picked up and returned 25 yards by star linebacker Lawrence Timmons for a touchdown, and the defensive score seemed to spark the offense.

Weatherford (21-43, 325yards, 1TD, 1INT) directed all three scoring drives in the 4th, compiling 126 of his 325 passing yards in the frame, and his 30-yard TD pass to Greg Carr (4 recs, 88yds, TD) on 4th & 9 proved to be the game winner, making it 30-27 at the time. The sophomore redeemed many of his poor efforts from this season and gave hope for the offense heading into next year.

So despite allowing a 100 yard rusher for the first time this season, and giving up 434 yards of offense the Ecstatic Noles found themselves a huge victory out in the City by the Bay. So it wasn't a major bowl, and it was played on the opposite side of the country.

But it prevented the Eager Noles from having its first losing season under Bowden since his first year in Tally (1976) and moved the underclassmen-dominated Seminoles (17 true freshmen saw playing time this year) one step closer to returning to dominance.

Side Note: The bowl certainly wasn't widely regarded as far as the networks go. ESPN Nutcases sent its C-team of Dan Fouts, Tim Brant, and Jack Arute; these guys had about as much passion calling the game as Ben Stein. Also the officials were pretty bad (from the "USA Conference" as Fouts put it.)

Oh, and the sponsor ads for Emerald Nuts were Enormously Nausiating.

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