Holidays =Bowl Games galore

The week between Christmas & New Years is filled with a heavy dose of college bowl games…some very, very good and some being used only as a noise background at holiday parties. Also this week are huge, traditional Holiday Basketball Tournaments on the High School level in the Lou. I didn’t watch all of the bowl games …I do have a life…..and in very few of them did I watch the entire game….but…some thoughts…
…starting of course with the Texas Bowl….Mizzou’s 33-16 loss was disappointing….the first 5ish minutes of the game was brutal for the Tigers…penalties, turnovers…looking ill-prepared….Texas scored twice in first half on TD passes to backs out of the backfield…another time that the Longhorns picked up a fumble and took it into the end zone…it wasn’t a pick-6…it was a scoop & score…..Mizzou settled down….maybe too much…the Tiger play-calling in the 1st half seemed even more conservative than when I called plays “back in the day”..Mizzou looked considerably sharper and better offensively in the 3rd quarter…I realize that it was the 1st game of play calling for this Mizzou coach(Off Coordinator left for U Cen Flor)….so….understandable…I guess…or maybe that’s just an alibi……anyway…..Mizzou’s beautiful long drive in the 3rd quarter resulted in a FG…down 21-16 but a “surprise” snap to Drew Lock…or so it seemed…turned into a safety for Texas…..and that errant snap turned the momentum back to Texas…..Texas finished 7-6 (same as Mizzou) to snap a string of 3 consecutive losing seasons..I believe that the kicking game was the difference…an outstanding area for Texas was their punter…..he pinned the Tigers inside the 10 yard line repeatedly…as he seemed to be kicking it straight towards the “cover man”…usually this cover man caught the punt inside the 10 yd line….I’m wondering why Mizzou didn’t bang the heck out of that guy at the LOS to stifle the timing of the play? Those punts game the Tigers extremely loonngggg fields to score…For the most part, Mizzou had a superior passing game…over 100 more passing yards than Texas…..was about even in rushing yards…but Texas had 10 more minutes of possession as they “ground it out” late in the game. The Tigers displayed lots of good plays and good play but fell short. Mizzou made a bowl after a horrendous start to 2017 so clearly this was a step forward.
…Ya think, Lane Kiffen was making a statement about getting a job back in the “big time”….in his 1st year as Head Coach @ Florida Atlantic, his Owls crushed Akron 50-3 to glide to victory in the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl…is that a mouthful or what? Where’s he going is the question?
….the Rose Bowl game game–Oklahoma-Georgia was one of the best bowls that I’ve watched in a long time…maybe the best ever….the Bulldogs won in 2-OT 54-48. The 1st half kept you on the edge of your seat. The Sooners came out “on fire” offensively” sharp passing, good holes for the running backs, some clever wrinkles offensively. Georgia answered practically each OU drive in the 1st half with explosive, long runs. Sony Michel (181 yds) and Nick Chubb (145 yds) were explosive and powerful. It was 21-17 OU at half. In the 2nd half, the Georgia d-line seemed more aggressive, made quick penetration across the line and began getting to Heisman Trophey winning QB Baker Mayfield quickly. Georgia tied the game 31-31 in the 3rd. In the very entertaining 4th quarter, Georgia scored the 1st TD, OU scored the next 2 touchdowns only to see Georgia tie it with just 55 seconds left. Both teams were forced to kick FG in the 1st OT of the BCS competition. When Georgia blocked OU’s FG attempt in the 2nd OT….you had to feel that the “big mo” had swung back to the Bulldogs…and it did…Michel scored on a 27 yd run…game over…thriller! Those lying stats…hard to believe.. OU …the passing team .. had 32 min of possession and UGA just 27 min.
….on the other hand, in the Sugar Bowl, Alabama controlled Clemson throughout the entire game as they won 24-6. The Crimson Tide played with more emotion that I’ve ever remember a Nick Saban team showing. Maybe….it was due to the fact that Bama WASN’T ranked as the best team? This was the 3rd straight year that these two very talented teams had met…previous 2 years was for the title….this game was MUCH more defensive oriented than the OU-UGA game. Bama controlled the LOS, their backs found some space to run and often shrugged off the 1st tackler. I mean…Alabama’s 261 total yards paled by comparison to the 1st game but they always looked in control.
….the stunner to most fans was the Peach Bowl…and probably the experts…. with the unknown team at the dance…U of Cen Florida (UCF) upending the 10 point favorite, Auburn 34-27. This game went back & forth…it was tied 13-13 in 2nd qtr and 20-20 in the 3rd as each team moved the ball primarily through the air. UCF QB….bet none of you know his name…yet his team went 13-0…McKenzie Milton was “off” early in passing. As the game unfolded, he made some long runs scrambling that kept the UCF’s offense moving. Each defense came up with some key interceptions and the final interception of the day with 28 seconds left by UCF iced the game for UCF. Auburn’s Head Coach, Gus Malzahn seemed extremely angry and upset with the loss in his post-game “interview”. Going 13-0 won’t win the Knights a bid to the National Championship but it sure puts them on the stage for the future….how hard is that…to bring a nobody into the “big time”? You may recall, the UCF head coach, Scott Frost is moving to Nebraska next year…with his entire staff….makes lots of sense to me…bring people that you know.
…way down the list of bowls is the Cactus Bowl…it doesn’t even “sound” good….but the venerable Bill Snyder again demonstrated why he is a premier coach. K-State down at halftime to UCLA 17-7. What did Kansas State do in the 2nd half…they shutout the Bruins 28-0 and won the game 35-17. I guess you could say that Snyder made the right adjustments, heh…I luv using that hockey word.
… the Liberty Bowl, saw Matt Campbell, 2nd year head coach of Iowa State .. coaching in the Siberia of College Football… Ames, Iowa…led his team to an 8-5 record with a win over the home-town team of the Liberty Bowl, Memphis 21-20. The Cyclones had some good wins this year…they upset Oklahoma 38-31 and beat a good…not great but good… team, TCU 14-7. Campbell kept his team in the game against Texas (lost 17-7), W. Virginia (L 20-16 @ WV), fell to K-State in Manhattan 20-19. He won’t win any national accolades but his achievements but they really are remarkable when you look at the recent records of Iowa State –2016-3-9; 2015-3-9; 2014-2-10; 2013-3-9. This was the first team over .500 since 2009 when the Cyclones went 7-6. Congrats to Campbell & Iowa State.
…the Citrus Bowl had two “big name” schools…LSU vs Notre Dame…LSU had the first opportunity to score midway in 1st quarter….it least to some that the LSU back had crossed the goal line on 3rd down…officials said no….no big was inches away… pushed it back to the 5 and then…then the FG attempt was missed….OMG!…seems like LSU is always just missing a little something and this FG attempt portrayed it perfectly. ND DID kick a FG to take a rousing 3-0 lead after 1st half and Notre Dame had ditched the 1st string QB for the 2nd unit QB …who would call the rest of the game!?After ND botched a punt return, LSU punched across a TD in the 3rd qtr to grab a 7-6 lead. With ND trailing 17-14 with only 1:28 left, WR Miles Boykin caught a long pass, one-handed in spectacular fashion, eluded 2 defenders and scored the winning TD for the Irish (10-3) as they win it 21-17. Irish thrilled to reach the 10 win plateau, LSU has to wonder if Ed Orgeron can put aside his HS play book of 1980 and move into the current era to win. The Tigers annually have tremendous athletic talent but can’t seem to move up into the highest echelon of NCAA football.
So….we have the national championship game coming in 2 weeks between Alabama & Georgia. Two familiar foes…the SEC fans are euphoric. Taking a wider look at the overall bowl results of this post-season, there may be some surprises. I believe that the bowls attempt to match up teams of about comparable skill to make the game exciting. The Big 10 went 7-1, Big 12 5-3, ACC 4-5, SEC 3-5, the Pac 12 1-8. Looking at those results of the Power 5 conferences, SEC still has the “cream of the crop” with the top 2 or 3 elite teams of the conference, but beyond those teams, it appears that the their league is about the same as everyone else. Maybe, it could be said that the Big 10 didn’t have a superior team(s) but more “good” teams than anyone else…based on the bowl results. The Pac-12 appeared to be “down” this year in quality and quantity of very good teams.
Over the Holidays around the Lou there are many HS basketball tournaments. The long-standing huge tournaments are at Visitation for the Girls and Meramec (now called Coaches vs Cancer) tournaments for the boys still reign supreme. At Viz, the championship game featured two of the Girls basketball programs and coaches that have excelled for many years…it was Edwardsville vs Incarnate Word. IWA is coached by Dan Rolfes, who just broke through the 500 win plateau this season as he holds an incredible 504-78 lifetime record in HS Girls Basketball. He’s led IWA to 7 state championships in 17 years at the helm. Edwardsville is led by Lori Blades who also coaches the Softball team. Coach Blades is 681-84 as the Head Basketball Coach @ Edwardsville. She’s led the Tigers to nine seasons of 30+ wins. In softball, Coach Blades is 452-61….yes…she has over 1000 wins combined….btw…if I’m a bit off in these staggering numbers, I apologize to these highly driven, meticulous, hard working coaches who both continue to excel year after year. Back to Viz…some of the players from each team had been teammates in AAU basketball to there was the “personal” touch to this championship game. A few of the HS basketball guru’s think that this was the first encounter between the two schools but..some say.. that they may have competed “way back when”. At any rate, the game lived up to expectations in front of a huge crowd in the tightly packed Viz Gym. IWA jumped ahead 18-9 by the end of the 1st quarter. The Tigers cut the lead to 31-27 @ half. At the end of 3 quarter, IWA was still on top 41-38. As often happens…it came down to Free throws and the Tigers prevailed and won it 61-57. The diference was the 4th quarter FT, Edwardsville was 22 of 30 from the line, IWA 7 of 8. I’ve had the opportunity to know personally each of these two outstanding coaches. I’ve seen them in action. THEY both are the real thing…if you want to see great girls basketball…check out these 2 teams.
…the Meramec tournament always ends up with terrific championship games. Many of the best teams compete there annually. This year was no different. The #3 large school, Hazelwood Central (#2 seed), faced the #1 small school, St Mary’s (#1 seed)…you see…coaches really can seed properly. SM had won the semifinals with two of the best players, Yuri Collins & Tony Burks, out with injuries. Collins was nursing a sore shoulder that has plagued him all season. Burks was busted up and required stitches. SM jumped ahead and still held a 53-44 lead when Tony Burks drained a 3-pointer to open the 4th quarter. A key play occurred with just over a minute remaining when Yuri Collins had stolen the ball and was headed for the game-tying basket when seemingly…out of nowhere…Cameron Williams blocked the shot and seemed to dash hopes of a comeback for the Dragons who lost their 1st game of the season. Haz Cen captured their 5th title in the Meramec/Coaches vs Cancer tournament. Senior shooting guard Shaun Williams showed his all-around game as he scored 16 points, grabbed eight rebounds, handed out four assists to lead the way for the Hawks. Dragons bounced back on Jan 1 as they played in East Chicago and crushed Moreau Catholic (California) 101-76….that’s called “bouncing back” 
….well….Holiday Season is ….far the most part…behind us now….thanks for “bowling” with me through this article….your comments are always invited…post right on the page or if you don’t want your name…send to me …I’ll post with your initials. Thanks…have a great 1st week of 2018.

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