Sunday, September 12, 2004

It was a weekend of well-timed glances at the TV for the The Index -
1: Plays I had to watch in FSU-Miami to watch Chris Rix throw an interception. I turned on the game as soon as I got in from work on Friday and the picture was hardly on the screen long enough for Musberger to say something dumb and up went a pass from the guy in white and down it came to a guy in orange. Say this for Chris Rix – he’s almost certainly the greatest quarterback of all time, as measured by vaulting. Hell of an effort on that mid-game first down, vaulting an honest 18 feet to pick up a first on a busted scramble. Not in the class of the all-time QB vault Gold Standard put up by Elway in the Super Bowl (chills thinking about that one), but right there with Blaine’s effort against UCLA in 2002. Hell of a play by Rix. If it wasn’t for those 12 or 43 interceptions in crunch time against Miami, he’d be a legend. I mean, in a good way.
2: Days after the FSU game it took ESPN to label a struggling QB (UGAs David Green’s wasted first-half against South Carolina) as “Rixian.” There’s lots of reasons to hate Rix, but that seems a bit off-sides.
And that is two items on the Index, about 1 more than that dreary game deserves.
2: Consecutive plays I saw in the Texas-Arkansas game where Cedric Benson ripped off a long TD or a long run to inside the 3. I honestly don’t remember if the second was a TD or not, because I was watching the late-night ESPN replay after 2 glasses of wine and 2 Alaska Summer Ales (drink ‘em now, cuz winter’s coming) and fading in and out of sleep on the sofa. But twice I opened my eyes, Young takes the snap, handoff to Benson, and he’s off to the races.
Like I said, it was a good week for random glances at the TV.

1: Weeks The Dream lasted for Rutgers. Blown out by I-AA New Hempshuh?!?!?!? What can that possibly mean for Michigan State?
14: Lead against a non-BCS team that would scare me to death. Missouri jumped on Troy 14-0 – and got whipped the rest of the way. Oregon State jumped ahead of Boise State, 14-0 – and the Broncos promptly threw 58 straight back at them.
4: Non-BCS teams who, by September results, could finishe first or second in any BCS conference – Fresno

0: Points to my post-Va Tech analysis of SC that were wrong: the engine that drove SC’s offense in that game was Lendale White, not Reggie Bush (though, obviously, it was the O-Line that matters most); it was the lack of a passing game that was most troubling; the defense is a suffocating curtain against anything except a Vick-type QB.
1: Games I continue to be ahead of the media on SC’s success this year.
First off, the D – CSU runs a distinctly un-Vick-like offense, with a very capable passing QB working with good receivers or handing off to very capable running backs. But the QB himself is not a threat to Playstation-scramble his way upfield for 40 yards on any given snap. And though it is a traditional offense, CSU ran it well enough to come within a yard of beating Colorado at Boulder a week ago.
And SC’s defense devoured it.
Turnovers, sacks, gang tackles, as Petey Pablo put it, “anything you can handle.” Or not handle. And with nothing but pass-pass-handoff offenses ahead on the schedule, things look good on the D side.
Now, to SC’s still-misunderstood offense. For the second straight game, somebody came up big for SC, allowed a teammate to score 3 Tds and the wrong guy got all the attention.
Against a stingy Va Tech, it was Lendale White, picking up first downs, knocking back linebackers, breaking free for first downs and generally grinding up the VT D, only to let Reggie Bush come in and catch – catch - 3 easy lobs for TDs.
This week, it was White collecting 3 chip-shot Tds, all bought and paid for by the remarkable efforts of Matt Leinhart. And this case, unlike the shaky Va Tech game, the truth of it isn’t even close – Leinhart was poison. I haven’t studied any game so far as close as I’ve now studied this game, but I can’t imagine a stronger September case for the Heisman.

The stat repeated over and over and over after the game – reasonably enough – is that SC rushed for 320+ yards, their highest total since The Last Good Year Before The Dark Age (in fact, the Last Good Game), 1991 against Ohio State.
But Lendale only got 123 of them.
Bush – and just to be clear, I LOVE Reggie Bush – got just 84.
Leinhart got 74. Rushing. That’s 305 yards of offense just from him, but that’s STILL not my Holy Shit-stat..

HERE’s the Holy Shit stat:

First Downs responsible for (passing, rushing or receiving):

White: 4
Bush: 7
Leinhart: 15 (including scrambles of 19 and 23 yards)

Same stat, adding TD plays:
White: 7
Bush: 7
Leinhart: 16

And here is the same stat for the “real” game, everything up until SC took a 21-0 lead and CSU basicly surrendered.
White: 4 (including all 3 Tds)
Bush: 3
Lienhart: 11 (including the 19 yard scramble)

Now, you can write all this off to Norm Chow – reasonably – but somebody has to execute it, and ‘product’ QBs don’t scramble for 42 yards when the system breaks down.
You can also write it off to CSU (backs broken by Colorado or similar) and argue that if USC runs into a secondary well equipped to stop the short-to-medium passing game, then they are in trouble. And that’s a damn good point. Rejoinder: a) against the only team to do just that in 3 years, Va Tech, the running game came through behind White and b) nobody else has.

So what did we learn today?
We learned that if you believe it’s consistent first downs that win games (hint: they do) than it isn’t White or Bush or the ghost of Marcus Allen, but Leinhart that drives the train. And we learned that SC’s passing game – invisible at Va Tech – is fiercely alive, at least against mid-tier defenses like CSU’s (and speaking of the word “fierce” in odd contexts, did anybody catch the Real World Philly debut where Flaming Gay Guy Willie felt up Raging Slut Sarah’s fake tits (on invitation) and pronounced them to be a “fierce” boob job, meaning they felt real? And how about a few seconds later when Sarah, in full predator mode, stalked over to Idiot Party Guy Landon and dared him to grab a handful and he recoiled backwards from her in fear so hard that he knocked over a painting? I have grave concerns about the Philly cast and the prosects for the season which I’ll discuss elsewhere, but that moment was priceless).

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