20 posts categorized "Football"

February 04, 2013

You just never know

It's remarkable sometimes how an athlete's career plays out.

Years ago _ it was the summer of 1997 _ I stood on the floor of Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines, interviewing the quarterback of the winning team in an Arena Football League playoff game.

This particular quarterback, who played for the Iowa Barnstormers, went on to win two regular-season MVP awards in the NFL and was the MVP of the 2000 Super Bowl.

Of course, we're talking about Kurt Warner. But in 1997, who could have foreseen all that happening? Arena football could be fun to watch, but it wasn't exactly the NFL's prime feeder system.

Now, fast forward to December 2007. I slogged through an ice and snow storm so I could get to Cedar Falls to cover a Northern Iowa football playoff game. Not sure what I was thinking because this was after I had retired and I easily could have said, nope, not gonna risk it. But my trusty Pathfinder got me there safely and, looking back, I'd have to say it was worth it.

Northern Iowa was unbetean and a contender for the Division I-AA championship. But the Panthers were upset that day, in part because they had a terrible time trying to tackle the opposing quarterback.

He was big, strong, had a cannon for an arm, was fairly mobile and he just wouldn't go down, even as defenders seemed ready to wrestle him to the turf. Time after time, he slipped away to make a key play. He ended up throwing for two touchdowns and running for another. Afterward, he sat in the modest interview room and talked to us about the "insane atmosphere" in the UNI-Dome and how much fun he had playing there.

Well, on Sunday that quarterback performed in a much bigger dome, in a much bigger game.

Yep, it was Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens, MVP of the Super Bowl, former quarterback at Delaware.

This is one of the great things about football or any other sport. You just never know where it's going to take someone.

 

 

September 08, 2011

Iowa-Iowa State 10 years ago

Every generation, it seems, has that riveting moment, when there's an event of such magnitude that you'll always remember where you were when the news broke. My parents' generation had Pearl Harbor. For those of us who are Baby Boomers, it was President Kennedy's assassination (sixth-period study hall in the eighth grade at Elida Junior High School). Those born after JFK was shot had the September 11 terrorist attacks 10 years ago.

Pam and I were in the kitchen, watching one of the morning news shows on our 9-inch portable TV, when the jets slammed into the Twin Towers. I was getting ready to drive to Ames for Iowa State's weekly football press conference and, with a full staff in the AP Des Moines office working on the Iowa angles, I was still free to see what was happening at ISU.

It was eeriely quiet. All the regular reporters were there, but the normal kidding and jocularity was absent. Everyone seemed compelled to speak in hushed tones. The Iowa-Iowa State game was to be played in Ames that Saturday and it was like no one wanted to appear crass enough to ask the question until someone finally ventured, "Do you think they'll play the game?"

The question went unanswered that day, a Tuesday. The next day, the two schools announced they would play. A day later, the game was off, part of a domino effect of postponements started by the NFL. Eventually, officials from the schools decided to reschedule the game for the end of the season, on November 24.

Maybe it was because of what led to the new date, but I didn't notice the rancor and pettiness among fans that usually occurs during the week of this game. The terrorist attacks had given us a new perspective on sports. Also, both teams were 6-5, so each had a good chance of going to a bowl regardless of who won. No need to get upset about anything. Just play football. And it turned out to be one of the better games in the series -- for me, maybe the most enjoyable of all the Iowa-Iowa State games I've covered.

Iowa State won 17-14. The game wasn't decided until ISU's Adam Runk made a late interception and quarterback Seneca Wallace ran for a first down that enabled the Cyclones to run out the clock. Both teams received bowl bids and Iowa got the better deal: the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. Iowa State went to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport.

So, which game to cover? I'd never had to make that choice because this was the first time in my career that both teams went to a bowl. Hmmm.

Actually, it was an easy decision. Sorry, Cyclones, I just couldn't pass up a chance to go to San Antonio and hang out on the River Walk. Which I did -- after spending each day working, of course.

Now it's 10 years later and we're getting ready for another Iowa-Iowa State game. Iowa State needs to win more than Iowa does because when you look at the Cyclones' schedule, you don't see many potential victories. But the Hawkeyes have regained the momentum in this series and they're going to play just as hard to keep it going.

Just give me a game that's close and entertaining and I'll mark it down as a good day.

 

November 03, 2010

So long, Big Red

It's going to feel a little strange when Nebraska plays Iowa State in Ames on Saturday. Because it most likely will be the very last time we see the Cornhuskers at Jack Trice Stadium.

That's too bad, and I say that even though the games with Nebraska usually have turned out  badly for Iowa State. They've been playing each other since 1896 and this will be the 105th game between the two rivals, though it's hard to call the series a rivalry because it's so lopsided. Iowa State has won only 18 of those games.

Still, the Cornhuskers always have been an attraction when they showed up. They had such tradition and such good players. No matter how much you'd read about Turner Gill, Mike Rozier, Roger Craig, Ahman Green, Tommie Frazier, Eric Crouch and, the best name of all, I.M. Hipp, and no matter how often you watched them on TV, it was much more interesting to see them in person.

Besides, the Nebraska helmets always were good for a joke, you know, the one about the big red "N" standing for Nowledge.

The few times Iowa State did manage to beat Nebraska made it all the more satisfying for the Cyclones. Heck, in most cases, it made their season. To this day, the most memorable play I've ever seen from the Cyclones came against Nebraska. It was the 1992 game and if the name Marv Seiler pops to mind, we're thinking alike.

Iowa State prevailed 19-10 in a game it had no business winning. Nebraska was ranked seventh in the country and coming off routs of Colorado (52-7) and Kansas (49-7), both nationally ranked. Iowa State was 3-6 and a 28-point underdog.

The Cyclones led 12-10 early in the fourth quarter after four Ty Stewart field goals, but it seemed inevitable that Nebraska would get serious, score a couple of quick touchdowns and put it away. That was Seiler, a fifth-year senior making the first start of his career at quarterback, became an unlikely hero. From his own 20, Seiler kept the ball on an option to the right, found daylight as he turned upfield and headed for the far-off end zone.

Marvelous Marv went 78 yards before safety Tyrone Byrd dragged him down 2 yards short of a touchdown. Byrd caught Seiler about 20 yards earlier and tried to strip the ball as he rode him. Then, it was like Byrd realized, "Hey, I better bring this guy down before he scores."

Fullback Chris Ulrich did score on the next play, but it  wouldn't have mattered if he hadn't. Seiler's run had dissipated whatever wind was left in Nebraska's sails.

After Saturday, Nebraska can start a new rivalry in this state. The Cornhuskers are leaving the Big 12 for what they perceive as greener pastures in the Big Ten and they'll play Iowa every year. It'll be fun to see how that matchup develops over the years.

Any Iowa future Iowa State-Nebraska game would have to come in a bowl. At least, that's the only time they should meet.  Scheduling Nebraska as a non-conference opponent would be absolutely foolish. With the Cyclones playing nine conference games starting next season and Iowa on the schedule for the foreseeable future, ISU needs to fill those other slots with schools that have directions or hyphens in their name. Nebraska-Omaha is fine. Nebraska is not.

And here's another piece of advice for Iowa State administrators: Don't even think about scheduling Utah again.

 

September 24, 2010

Big day at Iowa State

Another football Saturday at Iowa State is coming up and this one is huge.

It has nothing to do with the opponent (Northern Iowa) or the date (September 25) or the type of game we can expect (entertaining and competitive).

No, this game is big for a much more important reason.

It's Taco Day!

Iowa State serves up a pretty good spread in its pressbox on game days. Maybe not always the healthiest fare, but the menu changes with each game and the food is nicely prepared and tasty. And there's plenty of it.

They never put out a bad meal, either. But ISU pressbox veterans -- and I'm among the most veteran of all -- will tell you the tacos are the best of the lot. You can get beef or chicken (or both), hard shell or soft shell (or both), lettuce, tomatoes (not on my plate) and chips that you can drown with a thick, gooey cheese sauce.

As I said, we're not talking healthy eating here. But hey, once in a while you've got to stop to smell the nachos.

This year, though, there's a complication that will make things a bit more challenging.

Used to be, you could go up and down the food line as often as you wanted. Then, at halftime, out came dessert. Sometimes it was cookies, sometimes it was cupcakes, other times it was brownies or lemon bars. Whatever the item, few managed the discipline to resist them.

Now, to cut costs -- which is entirely understandable in these times -- the food folks limit you to one trip through the line. And the dessert is out there, too, so you have to work that onto your plate as well. You can pile on as much as you want, but only once.

So what's a taco-holic to do? Two huge soft shells? Three or four smaller hard shells? Stack the nachos and cheese sauce on top of everything else?

Hmm, this is going to require some strategy. Good thing the game doesn't start until 6 p.m. Gives me more time to plot.

Lest you think that's the only reason I'm going to Iowa State on Saturday, I just want to note that when kickoff approaches, I'll have my game face on (hopefully free of dried cheese sauce), eager and ready to pay attention and work.

Will I remember to wave at my friends Jim and Joyce at the end of the first quarter?

Probably not.

But it won't be because I have another plate of nachos beside me.

 

August 22, 2010

Iowa football: A frustrating duty

Retiring from full-time work has been incredibly liberating. I don't have to show up at an office. When I do work, I can pretty much set my own hours. I have more flexibility for just about everything I want to do, whether it's spending time with Pam, planning trips and long weekend getaways or just working in the yard.

If it's too wet to mow Wednesday, I'll do it Thursday. If we decide at the last minute to leave for a trip on Thursday instead of Friday, we do. If Pam and I decide we've worked enough by 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon, we quit and go sit on the porch. We might have a cocktail then or we might not. Depends on how we feel at the moment.

There's also another bonus to being on my own: I don't have to cover Iowa football on a daily basis. Now that would be frustrating. Sure, you get to cover a winner when you follow the Hawkeyes. You visit big-time stadiums and watch some of the brightest stars in college football. The season usually ends with a nice bowl trip. But all that comes with a price because your access to coach Kirk Ferentz and the players, especially at this time of year during preseason camp, is severely limited.

If you're one of the local reporters, that is. If you're with the Big Ten Network or have a national radio network talk show, well, that's entirely  different.

Look what's happened in just the last few days.

The local media had to confirm the fact that linebacker Jeff Tarpinian injured a hand by talking to Howard Griffith and Gerry DiNardo of the Big Ten Network. They were allowed to watch practice last Thursday. Local reporters weren't.

When Ferentz confirmed for the first time that running back Brandon Wegher had left camp, he did so on ESPN radio's Scott Van Pelt Show, not in a session with local reporters. To get an update on Wegher's situation, reporters had to listen to Ferentz on Fox Sports Radio.

If someone wants to be secretive, fine. But don't be secretive on a selective basis and freeze out the people who cover you day in and day out, the ones who keep the vast majority of your fans informed, not only through breaking news but with interesting features and analysis.

Reporters around here will cover the bad news when it happens, but it's been my experience that most would rather write stories with a positive bent. And it seems to me they've been incredibly fair with Ferentz. No one gripes too much when the Hawkeyes struggle. When something does go wrong, offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe usually gets blamed. No one harps on the fact that while he's one of the highest paid coaches in the country and gets around $3 million a year, Ferentz has taken Iowa to only two BCS bowls -- and has a losing record against Iowa State.

The thing is, interview sessions with Ferentz are almost always pleasant. He doesn't toss out one-liners or homilies the way Hayden Fry did, but he gives reporters something they can use. And after his "formal" press conferences, he willingly steps to the side and answers more questions from print reporters. That's when those reporters get in the questions they really want to ask.

So c'mon, Kirk. It wouldn't hurt to give the local media a little more time. They might not dress as well as the network types or comb their hair as neatly, but they're a hard-working bunch who are fair and just want to do a good job. And they'll be there regardless of whether you're in the Top 10 of the nation or the bottom half of the Big Ten.

In the meantime, to all of you covering the Hawkeyes, I sympathize and feel your pain.

August 04, 2010

A day almost no one likes

Ah, yes, it's that time again, time for college football media days. They're among the rites of August, like the State Fair or back-to-school shopping. Everybody is undefeated and a bowl contender. The players are bigger, faster and stronger. They can't wait until that first game. Optimism courses through the team like the river of water that rushes through our front yard when it rains.

All the players and coaches are available for interviews, so it's easy for the reporters. Most everyone is smiling and happy.

Yet hardly anyone likes media days.

For reporters, it's the same thing every year -- listen to the coach talk for awhile, ask him some questions, then head out to the field and wait while the players have all sorts of "official" photographs taken.

Rarely does anything new come out of these sessions, other than maybe a player being suspended for some off-the-field transgression or learning of a couple of guys who, for one reason or the other, won't return. Players are coached to stick to the company line and answer questions politely but with caution so they don't say anything controversial.

For the players, it has to be even worse. It's usually hot and sticky and they're out there in full uniform in the middle of the day. Most end up sitting or standing around the whole time because they're not the stars and no one wants to talk to them, though I imagine for some, that's just fine.

The stars, meanwhile, are paraded in front of TV cameras, where they answer the same questions over and over. Finished with those interviews, they're promptly surrounded by writers and radio types and get the same questions yet again. I mean, how many times can Iowa State's Austen Arnaud come up with a creative way to answer when he's asked for the umpteeth time if the offense will be better now that everyone has a year of experience with coordinator Tom Herman's system.

Oh, and don't forget the photographers, who arrange the players in all kinds of silly poses to try to get something different. I'd like to see them go retro, back to those black and white photos of the 1940s and '50s, you know, the ones with the quarterback cocking his arm like he's getting ready to pass, the running back in a swivel-hipped pose while stiff-arming an imaginary opponent, the wide receiver pretending he's leaping to catch a pass and my personal favorite, a defensive lineman diving to the ground with arms and legs outstretched because, well, what else do you do with a defensive lineman?

So, why does everyone put themselves through this yearly exercise?

Mainly because that's just the way things are done. With everyone available in one place, reporters can stock up on stories for a couple of weeks. As repetitive as the questions might be, the players and coaches can get them out of the way in one day and then start concentrating on football. The school gets a ton of free publicity because newspapers and Web sites display their media day coverage prominently. It might be a drag, but in the end, everyone benefits.

Plus, if you're at Iowa State, like I was today, you can always go to Hickory Park for lunch. And that makes enduring almost anything tolerable.

June 16, 2010

If it looks like a bribe, sounds like a bribe and smells like a bribe ...

By remaining in the Big 12 Conference, Texas can cast itself as the good guy, the savior even. The Longhorns stay, the Big 12 lives on. No matter that it has only 10 members, thanks to us, it's still a league. Aren't we wonderful?

The reality, though, is that the Longhorns were bribed. And so were Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

Had those three schools left, the Big 12 would have broken up, leaving Iowa State, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State and Baylor homeless. That wouldn't do. So they offered to give up part of their expected increase in league-wide revenue and hand it over to Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M -- already the three richest programs in the league -- if they'd stay in the conference.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe says ISU and the four others agreed to give up their share of the penalty that Nebraska and Colorado will pay ffor leaving the league. ISU athletic director Jamie Pollard disputes that. But he does say ISU and the four others will compensate Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M for any revenue  they might have lost by staying instead of fleeing to the Pac-10.

In other words, we'll pay you guys to keep playing with us.

You also can expect the Big Three to collect more television revenue than the others, which already is happening. Unlike the Big Ten, the Big 12 doesn't divvy up TV money equally among its members.

What's more, Texas gets the go-ahead to start its own TV network if it chooses -- and keep all the money. The rich just keep getting richer.

When I mentioned the bribery angle to an Iowa State fan the other day, she said she didn't care because her Cyclones wouldn't have to find a new league. Most other ISU fans probably feel the same way because the program will be better off in the end. Instead of 12 schools splitting revenue, it'll be divided only 10 ways, so Iowa State figures to get more money, not to mention the prestige of remaining in a BCS conference.

Some other issues will come into play. All 10 schools will play each other in football every year, meaning the Cyclones will face Texas and Oklahoma annually instead of twice every four years. Nine conference games will mean one less non-conference game. Does that leave room for the Iowa State-Iowa game to continue? We'll see.

In basketball, everyone probably will play a full round-robin of 18 conference games instead of 16. With Nebraska and Colorado no longer available to kick around on the hardwood, the league gets even tougher. As ISU women's basketball coach Bill Fennelly put it, the conference went from best to bestest.

For now, math purists must be offended by these conferences. The Pac-10 has 11 teams, the Big Ten has 12 and the Big 12 has 10.

But hey, what's in a name? Besides, the only numbers that count anymore in college athletics are those that have a dollar sign in front of them.

January 18, 2010

Wistful thinking

If you've seen the New York Jets in the NFL playoffs, you know they're happy to have Shonn Greene in their backfield. And Greene has to be delighted he's there because, heck, he's one victory from playing in the Super Bowl.

But if you're an Iowa fan, no one could blame you for engaging in a little wistful thinking as you watched Greene tear through the defensive lines of the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers.

Oh what might have been if he had remained with the Hawkeyes for one more season.

Remember, Greene skipped his senior year at Iowa to enter the NFL draft after a sensational 2008 season.  He rushed for more than 100 yards in every game, was named the Big Ten's offensive player of the year and received the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back.

But Greene already was older than most college juniors (23) and his market value was high. Everyone understood when he decided to move up. The opportunity and potential earnings simply were too tempting.

Just for fun, though, imagine if Greene had been around this past season.

First, redshirt freshman Adam Robinson and true freshman Brandon Wegher did an admirable job splitting time at running back. They combined for 1,575 yards and 13 touchdowns and averaged a respectable 4.6 yards a carry.

But they weren't Shonn Greene -- and they didn't occupy an opponent's attention to the extent Greene would have if he had been carrying the ball. Just think of the pressure he would have taken off quarterback Ricky Stanzi. It's not a stretch to think that if Greene had stayed, the Hawkeyes might have been undefeated.

Even after Stanzi rolled his ankle in the Northwestern game, you've got to figure the Hawkeyes would have held on to win that one if Greene had been around. As for the Ohio State game, the Hawkeyes almost won that one -- maybe should have won it -- with what they had. Now, how much better would they have been with Greene thrown into the equation?

Of course, an undefeated season wouldn't have necessarily put Iowa in the BCS championship game (See Boise State, TCU and Cincinnati). But it certainly would have given the Hawkeyes a chance. And think about how much fun the debate would have been with yet another undefeated team in the BCS mess, er mix.

If only ...

But hey, Iowa ended up having a great season and Greene's pro career is off to a promising start, so everyone has something to celebrate. The season played out the way it did and can't be changed. Still, a little wistful thinking sometimes can't be helped.

January 04, 2010

Bowl memories

The scene outside my window looks nothing like the photos in the paper this morning. You know, the ones of those University of Iowa students frolicking in the ocean as they await the Hawkeyes' game in the Orange Bowl.

I see snow on the trees, snow on the roof, snow on the ground, snow everywhere. Icicles, a couple of them at least four feet long, used to hang from the eaves, but I knocked those down. The snow, I can't do anything about. Maybe we'll see the grass again in April.

Anyway, snapshots and newspaper stories from a bowl game would have made me envious many years ago. And what football fan hasn't felt that way? Think about when the Rose Bowl comes on television. You're sitting at home on a cold New Year's Day and there's the sold-out stadium on your TV screen, the sky a perfect blue, the San Gabriel Mountains rising in the background and the field as green as any pasture in Ireland.

But I went to enough bowl games when I was working that I'm perfectly happy to watch them on television now, though that first view of the Rose Bowl on TV still is, and probably always will be, the most dazzling scene in all of football. Some of those bowl games were memorable, others not so much.

When Iowa went to the Rose Bowl after the 1981 season, ending its 23-year bowl drought, my masters at The AP decided to do it up big. So whatever the team did out there, I was to tag along. You should never complain when you're traveling on someone else's dime, but I felt I was in Southern California long enough that I could have registered to vote.

I followed the Hawkeyes to Disneyland and Universal Studios. I went to every practice. Before eating with the team at Lawry's restaurant one night, Ron Maly, who was covering for The Des Moines Register, and I wrote our stories in the restaurant's kitchen. Not that there was any hardship involved. We ended the night eating prime rib. 

For two solid weeks, I wrote two or three stories a day. Believe me, I was running out of things to write, so the game itself was a welcome diversion. Well, sort of. I had to figure out what to write after the Hawkeyes fell flat on their collective faces and lost to Washington 28-0. And this was after Pam and I pulled ourselves out of bed at 4 a.m. so we could get to our seats for the parade. At least they were good seats. And the right price, too -- free.

Two years later, I was looking out on maybe the bleakest scene ever. It was one of those dark hours before dawn, the wind howled, snow blew everywhere and it was about 25 below. This was the day I left for Jacksonville to cover the Hawkeyes in the Gator Bowl. Which turned out to be the coldest Gator Bowl in history.

It was so cold the pipes in the stadium froze. No one brought enough clothes. One day, several of us ventured out to Jacksonville Beach for a media luncheon to get some stuff on Florida, Iowa's opponent. Gray clouds hung low over the beach, which was pounded by evil-looking waves. No one was tempted to take a dip. I sat next to Florida coach Charley Pell, a charming fellow who later was busted for some NCAA rules violations. OK, it was 107, but after 50 or 60, who can keep track?

Neither team acted like it wanted to play the game and Florida won 14-6. The wind chill at kickoff: 13 below. I told you it was cold.

So, Pam and I go from there to Miami, where the weather was much more pleasant and we saw a classic -- Miami foiling Nebraska's gutsy two-point conversion attempt at the end to win 31-30 and deny the Cornhuskers the national championship. I wrote a Nebraska sidebar and received a nice compliment from the desk editor in New York. I thanked him and then told him I had a lot of practice writing about the loser. It was my fifth bowl game and the team I was covering lost four of them.

Iowa's appearance in the 1984 Freedom Bowl in Anaheim was memorable, and not just because Chuck Long threw those six touchdown passes to lead a rout of Texas. That was the trip that introduced us to Crackers, one of the finest bars ever.

The music was great (oldies, of course), the servers lively (every hour they stopped what they were doing to sing and dance) and at midnight, a huge American flag unfurled from the ceiling while Kate Smith's "God Bless America" blared from the speakers. I'm no super patriot, but it was pretty cool. I think we went every night. Much to my embarrassment, it was only later that I realized that Orange County, how do we say it now, trends conservative. My first clue should have been the local airfield's name -- John Wayne Airport. Duh.

We were back in Southern California the next year, watching Ronnie Harmon fumble four times -- and drop a touchdown pass -- in another Rose Bowl loss for the Hawkeyes. But those gaffs were all accidental, right?

Yeah.

The 1988 Peach Bowl became a lot more fun when we discovered Flamingo Joe's, a downtown Atlanta bar that played lots of old music. I think Mark Neuzil, then with the Cedar Rapids Gazette, won us free drinks by guessing the singer when the following intro was played: "Been forty days since I don't know when .. "  (Lee Michaels, "Do You Know What I Mean"). 

Naturally, we went every night -- but only after writing our stories

One of the Holiday Bowl trips produced some extra work over a rumor that Iowa coach Hayden Fry was being considered for the Southern Cal job. This was before the days of the internet, so we had to drive around to find the newspaper that reported this tidbit so we knew what we'd be asking about. Then several of us, including Marc Hansen of the Register and Bob Brown of the Fort Dodge Messenger, waited in the dark (it gets chilly at night in San Diego) for Iowa to finish practice so we could corral Hayden. He was polite and, as you might expect, he laughed the whole thing off.

A couple of days later, Bob and I approached Hayden after a luncheon the day before the game and Bob asked an innocuous question about the game. Hayden must have thought Bob said something about Southern Cal because he said, "Are you guys trying to piss me off?" Not sure what he heard, but it had nothing to do with Southern Cal. Still, Bob and I laughed about that for years.

Before the 1991 Rose Bowl, I wrote quite a bit about Iowa working hard on punt protection because the Hawkeyes had a couple blocked during the season. So the first time they punt? It was blocked, of course. I just looked at Ken Peters, the kind-hearted soul who heads the AP sports operation in LA, and shook my head.

Now the challenge is stopping Georgia Tech's run-happy triple-option. Some doubts about the Hawkeyes' ability to do that must be creeping in because Tech is now favored by five points, after the line opened at 2 1/2.

Norm Parker will have his defense ready, but it sure would help if the Iowa offense plays well. The Hawkeyes managed to get by with only their defense in the regular season finale against Minnesota. That won't cut it Tuesday night. Just look at what Navy and Air Force did in their bowl games. They run an offense similar to Tech's and made their opponents, Missouri and Houston, look silly. And Tech is doing it with better athletes.

No matter the outcome, I don't need to be there. I'll be perfectly content watching from the comfort of my sofa, regardless of what's going on outside.

Besides, I'll be in Florida in less than a month -- and I won't have to write a word.

December 06, 2009

What one second can do for you

It doesn't matter how old you might be, you can always learn something new.

Take last night, for instance. Who knew Sully's Irish Pub in West Des Moines attracted so many Texas fans? We're there toasting a Drake basketball victory, friendship and any other excuse we can dream up for drinking Irish coffee and Guinness. The Nebraska-Texas game is on television and a huge cheer erupts when Texas kicks its game-winning field goal as time expires.

Funny thing, there's not a hint of burnt orange or Longhorns' gear in sight, yet a lot of people are really excited. Hook 'em Horns, right?

Well, not quite.

We're being facetious about all of this, of course. Those weren't Texas fans celebrating. They were Iowa fans -- and there no doubt were whoops and hollers in bars across the state when Hunter Lawrence's field goal sailed through the uprights. Because the Texas victory improved the Hawkeyes' chances of landing a berth in a BCS bowl.

But Iowa fans everywhere had to be squirming as Texas quarterback Colt McCoy rolled to his right with the final seconds ticking away. When he finally threw the ball away, the clocked showed zeros and the Nebraska players rushed the field, thinking they had won the game 12-10 and clinched the Big 12's BCS berth. But the play was reviewed, one second was put back on the clock and Lawrence came through.

And that one second has made all the difference. What if the Longhorns had committed one of the biggest blunders ever and really let time run out? What if the official review determined time had indeed expired?

Oh my.

A Nebraska victory would have sent shock waves rippling through the entire bowl scenario. It would have put the Cornhuskers in the Fiesta Bowl and dropped Texas into the at-large pool, from where the Longhorns might have bumped Iowa from a BCS game.

With two Big 12 teams in BCS bowls, Iowa State would have moved up in the pecking order and the conference wouldn't have had enough teams to fill its bowl commitments, which would have affected other bowls. If no Big Ten team got into a BCS game, everyone in the league would have moved down a notch and that also would have impacted other bowls.

Imagine the hand-wringing that would have ensued, not to mention the fact that TCU or maybe Cincinnati would have ended up in the BCS championship game against Alabama.

But one measly second and a calm, accurate kicker kept the BCS house in order. So Iowa fans, you might want to try to get Lawrence's cell phone number and send him some congratulatory text messages. And maybe a thank-you note to that replay official.

As for Texas, one touchdown and 13 points isn't going to strike any fear in Alabama hearts. After the way Nebraska manhandled McCoy and the Longhorns, the Tide defense has to be licking its chops.

Mack Brown and his offensive coaches had best be getting to work soon. They've got a lot to figure out between now and Jan. 7.