Another full weekend of football.
First, as I may have mentioned and the pic above will show, we trekked up north to attend the Notre Dame – Air Force game. A good friend from KC has a friend rather high up in the administration at the Academy, and came to town for the weekend with access to some pretty good tickets. When I say pretty good I mean really freaking good. In the lower Air Force section, in the southwest corner of the stadium. Row 32, which isn’t nearly as high as it sounds, right above the Air Force band. A pretty great location to watch a game from.
It was great weather for a November football game: a little chilly, yes, but dry and not bitterly cold, thank goodness. I was disappointed we had to don the coats, though. I’ve always worn KU gear when I’ve gone to South Bend, as pretty much everyone who isn’t a big Irish fan does, but in the past it was just to represent. This year, I was carrying the banner of a team in the hunt for the BCS title game. I wanted people to behold the power and beauty of the bird on my chest. Alas, only one person stopped me outside the stadium to ask about the Jayhawks. But my blue shirt and hat made me fit right in with the Air Force fans, which was kind of cool.
It wasn’t much of a game. All the fanboys can say what they want about Notre Dame being young, which is true, but they’re also not very good. It was frustrating to watch them struggle to contain Air Force. Granted, Air Force runs a unique offense that is difficult to prepare for, but all those blue chippers on the ND defense should have been able to chase down a bunch of 5’10’’, 4.7-40 guys. And the Irish’s running backs don’t run with a purpose, instead tip-toeing to the line then just kind of falling over when there’s contact. When ND had handed it off for no gain for the third straight time at one point, a very loud AFA fan by us shouted, “Another great call by that offensive genius Weis!”
The funniest thing I saw at the game came outside the stadium, as our friend was getting our tickets from the Will Call window. That was the same moment as two Air Force jets did a very low fly-over. An Air Force student, or perhaps just a fan, was standing near us. As the jets roared overhead, the kid started jumping up and down, pointing at the jets, and cheering. He was full of enthusiasm, and perhaps beer.
Because of childcare restrictions, this wasn’t as lengthy of a visit to South Bend as my two previous trips, but it is always fun to go there.
Thanks to our early departure from the game (we left at the beginning of the fourth quarter) we got home just in time for the KU game, which thanks to good scheduling on the part of the Big 10, was on in HD here in Indy. To say I was a little cranked up for the game would be putting it lightly. When Todd Reesing threw that beautiful ball to Marcus Henry in the third quarter, which resulted in an 82-yard touchdown, I hopped around the room, trying to contain my glee (three of the other four people in the house were upstairs and asleep by then). Later, when Reesing and Henry did their best Montana to Clark immitation, I did a silent lap through the house, bouncing along and pounding my right fist into my left palm, since at that point I was the only person left awake. As the game wound down, I had to break into the more potent beers, because I knew there was no way I was going to sleep without some help from some strong alcohol.
Oklahoma State was probably the best team we’ve beaten this year, although Nebraska’s performance Saturday makes our victory over them look a little better. It’s hard not to get defensive when people knock KU’s schedule, because any slight of your team is a slight on you and must be defended, right? I’ve been trying to take it all calmly, reminding myself this is a dream season and I should enjoy it instead of arguing with people. Yes, we’ve played a soft schedule. But the goal this year was to find the easiest possible path to seven wins. No one expected us to be in the hunt for the BCS title game with two games left in the regular season. Comparing KU to K-State circa 1998 just doesn’t work. I have no problem with people who say they’re reserving judgement on KU until we get to Missouri, and then hopefully Oklahoma. I do have a problem with the people who have summarily dismissed us from the BCS discussion because of our schedule. Ohio State’s schedule wasn’t that much better than ours going into last weekend, yet no one questioned their place in the discussion. I think what people are missing is how well KU has done on the road. Four road wins against teams ranked between 36 and 56 in the Sagarin ratings is nothing to sneeze at. But people like Selena Roberts would rather see the same old teams playing for the BCS title, instead of KU and Oregon, a game she called boring on ESPN Sunday. And unfortunately for every Kirk Herbstreit who held his judgement until he saw KU and then said the Jayhawks were legitimate contenders and the best story in college football this season, there’s a Roberts running around looking at the name on the jersey, the cupcakes on the schedule, and deciding they don’t want to include KU in the discussion, regardless of what happens on the field.
But, as I said, I’m trying not to get bogged down in that. Worst case, KU is going to have a ten win season. Saturday, they’re playing for their 11th win for the first time in the program’s long history. If things go very well over the next month, as crazy as it sounds, KU will be playing in the final college football game of the season. As I keep saying each step along the way, I never, ever in my wildest dreams expected anything like this to happen to KU football. It’s been a remarkable season and I’m going to continue to enjoy every second of it.
Segueing a little, can we just get rid of the Heisman? After Saturday’s game, Todd Reesing has popped into the discussion, which is great. But I keep wondering why Missouri’s loss to Oklahoma has kept Chase Daniel out of the discussion. I think Tim Tebow is the clear leader right now, but after him, doesn’t Daniel have as good of a resume as anyone in the country? It’s just another example of how the national sports media is lazy. Darren McFadden can have a subpar year, drop out of the discussion, then have one huge game and is suddenly one of the favorites again. Yet the guys who put up stats every week, but weren’t part of the intial list of favorites in August, don’t get the same kind of slack. Besides, the Heisman just ain’t what it used to be. Look at the <a href=”http://www.heisman.com/winners/hsmn-winners.html”>list of winners</a> for the last 20 years. They don’t exactly stack up with Tony Dorsett, Archie Griffin, and Earl Campbell, do they?
Finally, what a crazy game Sunday night between the Colts and Chargers. I’m not sure what the proper spin should be for the Colts. Gutty comeback by an injury-depleated team that is a sign once they get healthy they are still the second best in the league? Or concern that they are dropping like flies and until they get everyone back on offense, Peyton is going to be out of his comfort zone and throwing picks left and right? For me, it makes the last four years seem even more impressive. Other than the occasional playoff game against New England or Pittsburgh, they’ve never really been off their game during that run. Everything is always clicking offensively, and it’s been a long time since we’ve seen Peyton out of sorts like he was for parts of the game last night. That’s a testament to the system they run. Despite its complexity and injuries over the years, they’ve always been able to put him in a position where he can look at every option, on every play, and find the one that works best. Even with his struggles last night, he was still getting them in position to win the game.
A few years back, when I was still employed at C. Corp., I used to piss off the people in our St. Louis office by telling them that Kurt Warner had, despite his public statements about his faith, in fact sold his soul to the devil to get the Rams their one Super Bowl title. I’m starting to wonder if there’s something like that going on with Adam Vinatieri. “Please, Satan, give me one ring away from the Patriots so I can carve out my own legacy.” How on earth does he miss that last field goal? I think his skills are either erroding rrapidly, he’s paying his debt back to the devil, or Bill Belichick has even more power than we thought and is somehow causing Vinatieri’s descent into normalcy.