Apologies for the absence last week and the delay this one, but eventually
all of us are waylaid by schedules that simply won’t cooperate.
And again this week my time has been short, and there are mere minutes
before The Red makes its way down to the cultural epicenter and pinnacle
of human achievement that is Lawrence, Kansas. So let’s begin.
Watching the Mizzou game in a national-chain bar and grill in Big Ten
country is a curious experience. No one gives static to the Red N on
the shirt, perhaps because of the Red-stained battleaxe holstered below.
But the strangest of strangers become the easiest of chums when Red
friends gather in enemy territory. So a tip of the helmet to Nameless
Hastings College Guy, who was in Iowa City to visit his friend Blonde
Physicians Assistant Grad Student Girl and Her Boyfriend, plus Foul-Mouthed
Guy Whose Speech Progressively Became More Slurred. I enjoyed your company,
and did not mind the sidelong glances when I took notes at odd times
during the game. I don’t mind telling folks who I am and what
I’m doing, but I also prefer to fly under the radar. Also, not
answering the usual query, “Why are you writing stuff?”
kept me out of jail for one more Saturday, as I typically answer “Because
I like the taste of your curiosity,” followed by drool flinging
off my waggling tongue.
Not sure if the Mizzou game would qualify as an upset, by the bookies
or not. What it does show is that a team doesn’t have to have
future NFLers all over the roster in order to present more matchup problems
than an interracial dating service in the Ku Klux Klan. One particular
concern I had the whole week prior was finding some Blackshirt to stay
with their tight end in order to keep him from running open and further
affecting the already shaky defensive personnel scheme on the wideouts.
We didn’t, he did, and it was. Mizzou was a loss that was not
the toss-up I expected it to be, and it is the only one of the three
losses this season in which we were simply beat hands-down. The nifty
comeback to tie didn’t hold, and this one didn’t hinge on
one or two woulda-coulda-shoulda plays. There was more to say about
the much disappointment in Columbia, but we must kill those darlings
at this point and move on to the hillbillies.
I will disagree violently, as in with actual spatters of blood, with
the notion that OU outcoached us in this game. We started slow (again)
because of the usual deadly sins of this team: penalties, poor execution,
mental mistakes, and poor tackling. OU did nothing surprising nor brilliant;
they simply made plays and we did not stop them when we could.
Let’s be direct. We simply cannot match a team like Oklahoma
when they have so severely trounced us in recruiting the past several
years. You didn’t seriously think that it was pure coincidence
that the two most talented teams we have faced were the two that jumped
out to a three-score lead, did you? You did? Oh how cute. It’s
amazing how a gameplan looks sound when you can line up and outmuscle
an opponent at the LOS, and a gameplan looks faulty when you cannot
squeeze rice paper through the running lanes. OU was not about to let
Ross have his day, and they were ready for the early screens when we
went to them when OU started to rush more on ZT. A team can afford to
gamble on a blitz, such as leaving one D-lineman on a RB when they know
a screen is coming, when there is enough talent—young and raw
or not—on the field to recover from the risks of an aggressive
defense. That this dinged-up and depth-lacking team played well enough
to win against T-Tech and OU means this team deserves screaming accolades
from the Red faithful. Because Bobbie and the bloodsucking Leach know.
Fun time’s almost over.
Some people unfortunately become addicted to things that are bad for
them. For my Sunday school teacher, it was heroin. For this NU team,
it’s going down three scores before balling up the fists and finding
a way to land the shots that matter. And yet, these coaches take Bobbie’s
little 24-3 lead and show him it ain’t all that much. The correct
halftime adjustments were made and OU managed only one score on a throroughly
usecheked touchdown run. The Okie cheerleaders appeared to understand
that the play was somewhat “gude fer arr teem, yaa fer uhs!”
although it was not easy to understand their cheers as they pronounced
their R sounds as Ws due to all nine of their collective teeth protruding
horizontally out of their mouths.
Close games bring a host of what-ifs, such as an INT that goes the
other way for six or the tying TD thrown ten yards in front of Swift
with around two minutes left in the game. But even a successful fake
FG and a double-extra-special-slashworthy OU score were not necessarily
the doom of the day. It’s not difficult to romanticize about the
heart and not-gonna-die-ness of this NU team, but that doesn’t
mean simply blocking a field goal is enough to assert control of an
opponent. This team walks a laser-thin line every week, and missed opportunities
have cost at least two losses this year. Both quarterbacks were making
dangerous throws in the first half, and I had no sooner noted in the
notepad that ZT was desperately trying to give the ball to a defender
than moments later he does for the INT-TD. Zac did not have a banner
day, but there was a Halloween-appropriately horrifying number of blown
blocks. Far too many of our plays had no chance, and that’s not
on ZT. While noting that the OL has not developed into a strength this
year, let’s further embrace the obvious and state that Genghis
Khan was not nice, The Dukes of Hazzard was not an intellectually stimulating
movie, and Steve Usecheck has such a pronounced difficulty calling obvious
penalties that the chair I am currently sitting on is more likely to
teleport to Memorial Stadium, throw a flag on all sixteen of the people
holding Adam Carriker, return to my study, and de-animate itself that
it is likely that Steve Usechek will even be marginally competent.
From the usual Steve Usechek Officiating Stand-up Comedy Routine (“There
was…a…penalty of some kind…against that team over
there…Um.”) to the Craig James Halftime Festival of Ignorance
(“Oh lordy lordy, Northwestern and Minnesota…gaaa gaaa…the
Big Ten, so strong and muscley from top to bottom…please someone
tell me it’s possible to French kiss an entire conference…Yum.”)
to the Dusty Dvoracek interview (“Me kick off team. Bad. Play
foot. Ball. Good. Me like bad. I mean. Good. Um.”), there was
not a lot of MIT-caliber content during this game to keep the neural
synapses from going numb. This makes the cleverness of Porkchop’s
TD toss shine all the brighter. Curiously enough, earlier I had scratched
in the Moleskine: “We have run that same sweep three times, effective
not once. Wonder how well Ross can throw?” I began to wonder how
powerful this little notebook could be. I decided to test it in writing:
“I just won the lottery.” ATM said no dice.
“Morena Baccarin is about to ring the doorbell.” Silence.
“Aliens have abducted Steve Usechek and are subjecting him to
probes that not even Kenneth Starr can imagine.” Well, there’s
It’s another visually-silent Saturday as The Red takes the field
without television. The KU defense is no joke, but their offense is,
ranking dead last in the conference. This one is likely to be sack-heavy
on both sides all day, and there is every reason to be concerned that
ZT will finally take one too many hits. We’ve seen how the depth
chart is transitory even after it’s set in stone every week, so
if ZT goes down, I would not put too much stock in Beck holding the
# 2 spot right now. Burning a Redshirt for a game or three to end a
season is not preferable. But hopefully we’re getting much too
far into dark speculation.
The Big Mangino on Campus has a strong defense, ranking fourth in the
XII in total D. They are average against the pass (7th with 290 per
game) but second against the rush at 69.5 ypg. Yep. Two-tenths of a
yard behind Oklahoma. You might say that Mangino’s defense swallows
ballcarriers whole. It likely won’t take a ton of offense to win
this one. Here’s to the Blackshirts licking their chops and feasting
on a turnover or several.
And all our yesterdays have slashed opponents
The way to dusty Red death. Out, Steve Usechek!
Simultaneous recovery is but a walking shadow; a poor Sooner
That holds and gets away with it upon the FieldTurf,
And then is heard no more: it is a game
Officiated by an blubbering idiot, full of sound and fury,