Monday, September 1, 2008

Mulligan, por favor

So last weekend wasn't the best for college football teams I was rooting for.

The only game that I was bursting at the seams to see was USC's visit to UVA. Unfortunately it conflicted with a tailgate I was attending (the best tailgate I've been to in my Austin stint thus far, mind you), pre-Texas vs. Florida Atlantic.

So unsurprising to all, Texas rolled over Florida Atlantic with a 52-10 score. I can't admit any sadness over this outcome. However the state of Virginia, my beloved Commonwealth, ended far from unscathed.

Despite being a Wahoo fan, I find myself rooting for Virginia Tech in various instances. I know this is a majorly frowned upon fan faux pas. I rationalize it in a variety of ways: "when VT is good, it's good for the state," the victory over VT (the .06% of the time it happens) is so much sweeter when both squads enter the contest undefeated (a rare situation, of course), and probably the worst of justifications: "but my brother goes there!"

Anyway, VT fan or not, the Hokies game against the East Carolina Pirates was disappointing. ECU is certainly far from a bad team, but unfortunately for Hokies fans, the general public probably now thinks their beloved squad is terrible this year, or that they lost to a bad team, both of which are far from the truth. Anyway, I watched this game in its entirety before the tailgate, and well, the Hokies looked sloppy. And the team had a penchant for sloppy play during the most inconvenient of times. An interception thrown in the red zone on the opening drive. Unsuccessfully trying to ram the RB Evans into the endzone on a 4th and goal play after his being halted at the line the two previous plays. Another red zone turnover, this time on downs (and on the very next offensive drive). With the final score of 27-22 in the Pirates' favor, you realize that if VT was able to get two field goals on the first two drives instead of two turnovers in the red zone, the game would have had a different winner. But there were many other mistakes, as well as a few instances of brilliance.

Macho Harris' injury certainly had an impact on the team, and they missed his leadership and spark on the field. Always known for Beamer Ball, with its intensity and acumen on special teams, there were some exciting plays, like when VT blocked a Pirate extra point, which resulted in a 2-pt conversion. However, these points were more than nullified with a variety of special teams miscues: by missing their own extra point, a moderate-length field goal attempt that smacked into an upright, and a VT punt that blocked and returned for an ECU touchdown in the game's waning minutes. The team certainly had their opportunities, but never was able to fully capitalize on them.

While I care an awful lot more about UVA's loss to USC, I wasn't able to see the game due to the scheduling conflict with the tailgate. As it turns out, 3 hours of deliciousness and fun probably was a better decision than 3 hours of heartache and disappointment. After viewing part of the NC State-South Carolina game on Thursday night, I had one mission for the Hoos: whatever you do, just please score! Though I didn't see the enough of the game to make a convincing point about this, there isn't a doubt in my mind that the Hoos were missing the leadership and impact of their now-NFL hero, Chris Long. When you lose 52-7, it's obvious that the team is lacking both offense and defense. And I'm pretty confident when I say that if Long was still a Cavalier, the Trojans would have scored less than 52. That's not to say I think "we'd" beat USC, but I think it would have been a lot more competitive. Well the good news is that USC is #3 in the country, so the scant few really expected the game to have a different outcome. Yeah, I'm not sure how mollifying that statement that really is.

Anyway, the state of Virginia will be looking for some sort of redemption next week. The Hokies will face Furman and the Hoos will host the just-down-I64 Richmond Spiders. Uni Watch promises that UVA will be wearing some sort of interesting throwback jerseys for the battle. UT plays away next week, so I'll be doing my darndest to find a way to watch the action, without conflict. The good news, I suppose, is that both teams are on an even playing field now, with a blank slate more or less. If both are 0-1, that means the Hokies can't already be bragging about their superior record. Either way, I was happy to see that UVA is getting credit in the press for their difficult schedule this season. Even with the caveat of it being an "inexact science" I liked that someone else acknowledged those playing tough schedules this year (the article gave UVA the #10 nod, with the Georgia Bulldogs topping the list).

By the way, college football season really makes me miss the East Coast. You're probably thinking, how is that possible? You live in Austin, TEXAS, the heart of all football action. Well you're right, that is true. But why, when I have hundreds of channels on Time Warner, am I only able to get 2 or 3 games on at a time on gameday? On Saturday, my options for early game were VT vs ECU on ESPN (solid choice), Pitt vs Bowling Green (not bad) on ESPN2, and some D2 or 1-AA game of one team I had heard of, and one I hadn't, on one of the ESPN HD channels. Well on the (amazingly awesome) East Coast I was always able to find decent football on non-cable channels as well. ABC always had at least one key SEC matchup (yes, the best conference in college football, more on that in future posts probably) and CBS would broadcast at least one ACC game. It is so difficult to keep up with my old region now that I'm in Texas. It always makes me sad, but I guess I'll just have to keep silently lobbying for more network coverage of those two conferences in other parts of the EEUU. Well see how successful that campaign is.

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