Football Fodder - Editor's Insights
  By Dave Hershorin Managing Editor


September 2, 2003
Welcome to another great opening week of our favorite competitive viewing past time, College Football. In my ability to omnisciently inspect the weekly landscape of games, I will use this column to try to point out the best, worst, most interesting, and often the most hidden items one could see in their viewing.

But realize my limitations - I have two televisions and can only watch what my fleeting multi-tasking abilities allow me. This weekend had its own too-many-games-on-at-once moments that tried our limits. Yet I see and hear a lot, so the observations that follow will cue you to what you need to know as the season unfolds.

In MD vs. N. Illinois, on a huge third down play, ESPN showed a camera angle that was from about 50 yards back, a camera not used when play gets to the opposite side of the field. We got to see the entire field of play, from safeties to offensive backs, during this crucial sequence. Nice one there, eh!…in same game, an analyst exclaimed, "Overtime is like getting a free dessert after a great dinner." I'd rather have a great dessert, but…Scheduling contract snafu: to boot, there was no replay after the N. Illinois win. Here, the local Pittsburgh Fox Sports affiliate cut straight away to local analysis, something most regional Fox Sports outposts did, too. This ultimately left anyone who looked away in a holding pattern until some news agency could report that game, which my local analysts failed to do…did you see Maryland QB Scott McBrien catch his own deflected pass? Look in the stats to see if I lie. Only one QB played for the Terrapins, so how did that QB also registered a reception? …and why show N. Illinois' Dan Sheldon's knee hyper-extension eight different times?…on top of that, the lack of respect from the announcing team for what the N. Illinois 'D' did was noticeable. Not to harp too much on this game's coverage, but the lack of due-props seemed glaringly unjust - unjust enough that writers like me need to point out the grand job the Huskies did in allowing the Terrapins only 222 yards in their shocking OT upset…ESPN's Lee Corso stated how Louisiana Tech's long reception that turned into a Miami fumble return for a touchdown was "a season killer". A bit strong on the predicting scale, 'eh Lee? We'll see on that one, stay tuned…did anyone else watch late enough into Miami's dominance to see Kellen Winslow's one-handed grab of an errant pass as he stood off-field with his helmet in the other hand? His superior physical skills evidently blew everyone away as we saw a replay of this fluky scenario. It was strangely impressive…Tennessee's 'D', especially their secondary, was truly impressive in holding stellar Fresno State QB Jeff Grady and their potent offense scoreless - but it was at home…not at home was USC, finding their shutout pitched at then-#6 Auburn possibly the week's best team performance. Under ex-NFLer Pete Carroll, Southern Cal looks like they could be enjoying etoufée come January - the Tiger's 159 yards prove this … USC-Auburn was THE hardest hitting contest, no doubt… the live phone conversation segment with Peyton Manning (he was in Jackson to see his brother Eli struggle to a 24-21 win over a determined Vandy team with an 18-game SEC winless streak) was excellent. He outlined how he had worked with now-starting Tennessee QB Clausen, something that was evident as Clausen's decision-making seemed keener…speaking of keen, South Florida's junior QB Ronnie Banks is one we all need to watch. His ability and confidence took USF to a 17-7 lead before Alabama figured out a way win. The Crimson Tide was being somewhat handled on both sides of the ball before the turn-around. The proverbial dark cloud that had been looming over the program lasted well into the second quarter until Mike Shula secured his permanence...Mizzu, with its own proven stellar QB in Brad Smith, now has a respectable defense that should keep Smith from again being the comeback kid every week. Did the Big 12 really need to get that much stronger?…the "What were you thinking?" Award this week goes to West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez for his QB management. With starter Rasheed Marshall at a local Morgantown hospital spitting up blood from Alex Lewis' career-changing hit, backup Charles Hales led a 13-play, 80-yard drive that gave them a 10-7 second quarter advantage over visiting Wisconsin. The momentum had seemingly switched and was now with the Mountaineers after Wisconsin initially opened the scoring up with their punt-block for a TD. WVU then held the Badgers and drove deep again (for a missed FGA). This trend continued to open the second half, with WVU scoring quickly on a 66-yard drive to immediately go out 17-7. Marshall remained out this whole time, but had returned to the Mountaineer sideline as all this occurred. Wisconsin came back to make it 17-14, and then Marshall was questionably reinserted. He struggled in his decision-making, apparently rattled from the earlier physicality. Rodriguez should have seen his team's response to Hales and kept him in. The resultant drives that struggled under Marshall prove this hindsight. But it was obvious, after two sputtering late-third quarter go-nowhere drives, that Marshall was a liability rather than an asset… Two of the best statistical facts of the day came in the Penn State-Temple tilt. First we saw how Temple's sophomore JUCO-transfer QB Walt Washington benches an astonishing 500 pounds. Then we saw a graphic showing us just how far Temple has come defensively - they were ranked 95th in 1999, but had risen to rank 19th by 2001 and 18th by last year under head coach Tom Bradley. Both stats were telling - Temple really gave it to the Lions good for three quarters (Temple wound up ahead in total yards 357-310 and trailed 10-3 as the third dwindled)…the Miami (Ohio)-Iowa broadcast capacitated viewers to know what would happen before the ball was even hiked. Color commentators saw early on that the way Iowa's RB Fred Russell lined up told of what the Hawkeye offense would choose to do - when lined up seven yards back or farther, Iowa ran EVERY TIME, passing only if/when Russell was five yards or closer. Couldn't anyone watching there in Kinnick Stadium get this information to Miami defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi?…a nice Labor Day present: Tulane's Freddie Smith returned a kickoff for a TD with 45 seconds remaining in the first half to give us all a reason to watch Monday's only evening tilt the rest of the way - TCU barely escaped 38-35 …Ohio State's championship rings were displayed in a still-shot ABC ran during their home opener with Washington. The rings looked nice, but the warted-forefinger attached to the hand on which they were displayed didn't…we all know the preferential treatment usually given to bigger stars, so why hasn't the NCAA cleared up this Maurice Clarett business yet? It is glaringly unfair to make both Clarett and the Buckeyes wait as the season gets under way. Decide on this matter and stop prolonging the duress this situation has created!!!…Colorado State's #7 WR Eric Hill wins the Wrong Place-Wrong Time award for his special teams' debacles. On one punt, his blocking assignment took him to the exact spot where the ball came down, allowing it to touch him for a live ball Colorado easily recovered by CU. Later, in the second half, Hill was blocked into speedster Dexter Wynn to disallow any potential return. Not knowing where he was when on the field allowed Hill to individually cause more damage to these Sonny Lubick-led special teams than most entire teams of late…vacant again is the Washington Huskies' running attack. Last year's abysmal showing - ranking 113th - wasn't allowed to be reversed as Ohio State used their three returning defensive line starters to hold Washington to SEVEN yards on the ground. Was this a function of the Buckeyes' defense or another weak Huskie run-dimension? Some of both, to be sure…the CU-CSU lightning-delay followed third quarter, rain-drenched play that featured mistakes galore. Both State's Bradlee Van Pelt and the Buffaloes' Joel Klatt were marginalized by the inclement conditions, which made the weather a deciding factor well into the fourth quarter…wasn't Tommy Bowden supposed to make the struggling Clemson Tigers better?…and wasn't Nebraska supposed to be a passing team? The Black Shirts are back, but the efficient air-attack we were promised has a long way to go. 78 yards on 8-of-16 passing seems insignificant compared to 268 rushing yards, but it was head coach Frank Solich who put this in our collective heads… and Florida State seems to have stabilized its troubled secondary situation with a shutout shellacking of North Carolina…this week's North Carolina State-Ohio State contest holds both more football and entertainment value than the newly-revisited Miami-Florida rivalry - see if I'm wrong…the Big 12 will definitely produce one, if not both, of the nation's two best teams by year's end. Trouble is, they may chink each other's armors just enough to ultimately keep all of them from the BCS Sugar Bowl-finale…will Oklahoma's visit to Alabama play out similarly to the USC-Auburn game?…Connecticut who? If you don't know yet, watch the Huskies and Rentschler Stadium elevate to the next level. Ahead soon, (at) Virginia Tech September 27th and (at) North Carolina State October 11th, regardless of results, will build character for a predictably powerful 2004 entry into the Big East…Utah-Texas A&M should be surprisingly competitive. Remember Utah coming one play away in their 10-7 loss at Michigan? MWC makes waves…long-term prediction of the week: Miami (Ohio) QB Ben Roethlisberger will be the first QB from his draft class to win a Super Bowl. Remind me to get back to you on this one, please.

Onward and upward…