Sunday, November 27, 2011

USC Trojans Finish Strong

If I told you one year ago that between Joe Paterno and Lane Kiffin one coach would be unceremoniously dismissed in scandal while the other would be credited with reviving a powerhouse program...

Funny how quickly things can change.

Credit to Kiffin and the coaching staff for getting the team to play with maximum effort in the second half of the season. Following the loss to Arizona State and with contests looming at Notre Dame, Stanford and at Oregon the Trojans could have easily imploded. Instead USC, led by Heisman contender Matt Barkley, played with brilliance and toughness the rest of the way. Only a triple-OT loss to Stanford would be the only blemish in the second leg of the 2011 campaign, which included upsets at South Bend as well as at Eugene and culminated in last night's 50-0 bulldozing of crosstown UCLA.

Even with no possibility of playing for the Pac-12 Championship or bowl game the Trojans performed with tenacity and precision not seen since the Pete Carroll glory days (ironically those times are what led to the current sanctions against the team. But I digress). Monte Kiffin should feel especially vindicated as the linebackers and secondary gelled and USC's defense "zoned" in on opponents.

I think most USC fans coming into the season would have considered 10-2 (with wins against the Irish and Bruins) a roaring success. While 2011 will be remember with sunny fondness 2012 is looking a lot murkier. Juniors Matt Barkley, Matt Kalil, TJ McDonald and Nick Perry all projected to jump to the NFL. But in his sophomore year as head coach Lane Kiffin proved the doubters wrong. The football monopoly in LA isn't going anywhere.

Monday, November 21, 2011

RIP Greg Halman

Tragic news this morning as 24-year-old outfielder Greg Halman was murdered at a home in the Netherlands. His 22-year-old brother has been taken in as a suspect.

I always rooted for Greg. He oozed athleticism yet was extremely raw as a ballplayer. Halman could swing at a slider three feet in the dirt and smash a fastball 450 feet in the same at-bat. Either way there was never a dull moment watching him.

2012 was going to be a critical season for Greg's development. He was one of many young, talented outfielders who had been accumulated to play left and potentially replace CF Franklin Gutierrez and RF Ichiro Suzuki.

Halman could have went in any direction. Perhaps his hand-eye coordination would improve to the point he would develop into a solid Major Leaguer. Maybe he'd always struggle hitting offspeed stuff. There was even a chance he would have been traded this winter.

But now all of that is meaningless. Greg Halman has left all of us far too soon and we're left to look for answers.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

God Bless Tim Tebow

For that incredible 95-yard drive at the end of tonight's Jets-Broncos game, punctuated by Tebow's twenty-yard dash into the endzone. Love him or hate him Tim keeps a game interesting.

God curse the Broncos for blaring "Cotton Eye Joe" at Sports Authority Field.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Raiders Implode Against the Broncos

This afternoon the Denver Broncos, led by Tim Tebow's legs and Eddie Royal's really fast legs, scored 24-unanswered points to upset the Silver and Black 38-24 in Oakland. The Raiders now sink to 4-4 and might be the worst team in the AFC West.

The story of the game was Denver's rushing attack. Willis McGahee broke off a pair of TD runs and Tebow used naked bootlegs and QB draws to scamper for over a hundred yards. The Broncos constantly gashed the hapless Raiders on the ground to the tune of 298 yards. The Oakland front seven only mustered two sacks and gave up leverage in the trenches. It did well to hamper Denver's offensive line with holding penalties and pressure but in the end it wasn't enough.

Oakland's secondary didn't fare much better, giving up a pair of 26-yard TD passes. Michael Huff in particular was beaten badly on several occasions.

Special teams was awful too. Eddie Royal returned a punt for a touchdown and although Sebastian Janikowski nailed a 48-yard field goal his thunderous left leg looked tentative. Still recovering from a hamstring injury his kickoffs were short all game long.

Carson Palmer and the offense was up and down. He threw a pair of touchdowns that couldn't have been any prettier. He also threw three interceptions and could've thrown a couple more. Michael Bush had a good game though Darren McFadden was definitely missed. Surprisingly the Oakland receivers had a great game. Denarious Moore and Jacoby Ford in particular really meshed with Palmer while TJ Houshmandzadeh looked rusty.

And finally, 15 penalties for 130 yards. Hidden yards the Raiders just give away every single damn game. A special shoutdown to OLB Aaron Curry, whose horrific out of bounds shove on Tebow on 3rd on 20 resulted in a first down that proved deadly.

Sloppy and stupid. The Raiders did not execute in all three phases of the game and suffered a well-deserved loss. Normally I would say the division title is out of reach but the Chargers and Chiefs looked awful this week as well. Oakland still has half the season to right the ship and reach the playoffs.

But will they? Probably not.