Posted on: January 2, 2012 6:55 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2012 7:31 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
PASADENA, Calif. -- Granddaddy of them all? Try granddaddy of all the offense.
Oregon and Wisconsin traded touchdowns so quickly at the Rose Bowl Monday afternoon that even Baylor and Washington were a little impressed, setting a host of bowl records in the first half.
Amid the pageantry and picturesque setting you expect in Pasadena at the start of a new year, Wisconsin won the toss and made the unusual move to take the ball to open the game. The Badgers had a gashing first drive, with Montee Ball close to breaking several long runs. Quarterback Russell Wilson effectively used the play action to roll out and hit a streaking Abbrederis for a 38-yard touchdown on an impressive opening drive.
Oregon answered right back, as Darron Thomas, with a Badger defender in his face, threw off his back foot to hit Lavasier Tuieni for a big gain to the one-yard line on the Ducks' opening drive. LaMichael James punched it in for a touchdown up the middle on the next play and it was away… we… go...
A big run by Ball was the answer for Wisconsin on their next drive, capped by a spin move that netted him a few extra yards that moved the Badgers into scoring position. Wilson did the rest near the goal line, running in a touchdown unopposed off of a bootleg to get Wisconsin a 14-7 lead with over five minutes left in the 1st quarter.
Electrifying freshman De'Anthony Thomas ended the 1st quarter on a high note, taking an inside handoff 91-yards for a touchdown by showing off his speed and pulling away from the Wisconsin defense. It was a Rose Bowl record run, breaking the 88-yarder Michigan's Tyrone Wheatley had in 1993. It also gave the two teams a new record for combined points in the 1st quarter of the bowl.
That wasn't the only record to fall in Pasadena on a hot Southern California day (the 82 degrees at kickoff was the sixth-highest in the game's history). Ball took a handoff off to the left side for a three-yard touchdown run to tie Barry Sanders' FBS-record for touchdowns in a season with 39.
Sanders immediately congratulated Ball on Twitter right after the play, "Congrats @M_Ball28 - I love that it was a go-ahead TD."
De'Anthony Thomas took the kickoff back to midfield and, on the very next play, Darron Thomas found Kenjon Barner on a wheel route for a 54-yard touchdown pass to tie things up again at 21. At that point, Oregon was averaging over 14 yards per play.
Wisconsin took over and Ball was stuffed for no gain on a 3rd and short at the 17. Head coach Bret Bielema opted to keep the offense on the field to go for it and Wilson dropped back off a play-action fake but pressure forced him to be flushed from the pocket before Kiko Alonso ultimately sacked him near the sideline for one of the few early defensive plays of the game.
The Wisconsin defense stepped up on the next series though. On third down, Darron Thomas was sacked and fumbled the ball, which Louis Nzegwu scooped and scored a 33-yard touchdown to put the Badgers ahead 28-21.
Thomas and the Ducks responded with an impressive drive that featured several sharp pass plays to get into the red zone. Then the signal-caller faked a short run on third and goal following a timeout and found Tuinei in the end zone for a three-yard touchdown pass with 30 seconds left in the half.
The 56 combined points was a new Rose Bowl record and the two teams had 631 yards of total offense - good for 8.8 yards per play.
Like I said, granddaddy of all the offense.
Posted on: January 2, 2012 12:16 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2012 12:19 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
After one of the worst defensive performances in college football history - 777 yards and 67 points allowed - in the Alamo Bowl, Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian quickly let go of his entire defensive staff, including highly paid coordinator Nick Holt.
Just as quickly as Baylor's offense was able to move down the field, Sark has found a replacement in former Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, according to ESPN.com. Volunteers linebackers coach Peter Sirmon is also making the trip to the Northwest.
Wilcox came to Knoxville after coordinating Boise State's defense for four years, including 2009 when he shut down Oregon and TCU en route to a perfect season and top 15 finish in most defensive categories. He has plenty of Pac-12 experience having played four years at Oregon along with coaching linebackers for three seasons at California. He was pursued by Texas last year before turning down Mack Brown to remain at Tennessee but with head coach Derek Dooley on shaky ground at the moment, appears to have jumped at the chance to head out of town after two seasons.
Sirmon, who was Wilcox's roommate at Oregon, is known as a terrific recruiter and will replace fired linebackers coach Mike Cox on the Huskies' staff. A Washington native, he spent seven years playing in the NFL before beginning his coaching career as a graduate assistant with the Ducks.
Tennessee finished the year ranked 28th in total defense despite a 5-7 record. The Vols showed significant improvement despite depth issues after winding up 69th in total defense in 2010.
Wilcox, who was making roughly $600,000 at Tennessee, also figures to get a nice raise. Holt was among the highest paid assistants in the country and with the Pac-12 flush with cash thanks to their new media deals, it's likely the Huskies new defensive coordinator should have plenty of cash to buy a nice house in Seattle.
Posted on: January 1, 2012 1:07 am
Edited on: January 1, 2012 1:12 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
ATLANTA -- After every score Saturday night Virginia fans swayed back and forth singing their alma mater to the tune of 'auld lang syne.'
On New Year's Eve at the Georgia Dome however, it was the Auburn faithful who sang the actual song with gusto to ring in 2012 with a 43-24 win in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
"What a great win," head coach Gene Chizik said. "You can say it's the last win of 2011 or the first win of 2012. However you want to spin it, it was a great win. I couldn't be more proud of our players or our coaches."
Playing their final game in the waning hours of 2011 was not what some in the orange and blue were looking forward to. The program had been to the top, been perfect, nearly 12 months earlier but had tumbled down the mountain to 8-5.
The confetti and plush Chick-fil-A cows falling from the rafters in Atlanta were nice but it was unmistakably different from what was falling from University of Phoenix Stadium in January.
The victory, in many ways, bookended one of the most up-and-down years in school history.
"I've said many times that our future is extremely bright. We've got a lot of really good young players," Chizik said. "We've had a lot of highs this season and we've had some lows. The highs have been really high and the lows have been really low. But these guys always bounce back."
They had been through so much, Aubie the Tiger could have gone to the court house and changed his name to Teflon Tiger. NCAA investigations? Asked, answered and over. They were walloped at home by rival Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Top running back Michael Dyer was not with the team and rumors swirled all month about him transferring. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof departed for Central Florida and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn surprisingly accepted the head coaching job at Arkansas State.
Despite all that, the program wrapped up 30 wins in three years and are tied for the active lead with five straight bowl wins.
"Even though we didn't have a defensive or offensive coordinator, I give all props to Coach Chizik and the staff for holding us together," defensive tackle Gabe Wright said.
Chizik, who is a perfect 9-0 in bowl games as an assistant or head coach, had a little extra on his plate given that he was coordinating the defense.
"It was very challenging," he said. "(Virginia) was an offense that did a lot of things we hadn't seen all year long. You have a lot of obligations. To try and be a position coach, the defensive coordinator, to call the game and still make decisions on the sideline - to go for it, onside kick it, punt, whatever it is - that's a lot of moving parts."
Special teams - one area where the head coach usually helps oversees - was key to turning a tight game into a blowout. Down seven, Onterio McCalebb scored on a statue of liberty play. Instead of putting the defense on the field, Chizik called for an onside kick.
Well, was nudged into calling it.
"We told them before the game started that after we scored the first touchdown, we were going to do it," he said. "But I forgot because I was over getting mixed up with the defense. After the second one, one of the coaches came up and said we had to do it. The players were all in to it."
The defense set a school-record, though it's nothing for them to be proud of, by allowing 408 yards per game. It's one reason why Roof is in Orlando and Chizik now sits at a crossroads having to replace two coordinators.
Last season, it was Malzahn - not Chizik - who was credited for most of the Tigers success last season. He won the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant and his departure is one reason why, despite the amount of talent on the depth chart entering 2012, the future at Auburn still seems unclear.
How respected is Malzahn? He was the one, not the head coach, that was showered with Gatorade as the final few seconds ticked off the clock.
"That style of offense, they change up the reads and make it to where your run fits are important," Virginia head coach Mike London said. "Coach Malzahn does a great job and I wish him luck at Arkansas State."
"He's always going to be a great friend of mine and I'll always be very appreciative of him for what he's done for Auburn in three years," said Chizik. "I wish him the best, he's going to do a great job and be a great head coach."
Malzahn was aggressive and sped up the offense more than he had during the season. The Tigers' offensive output was so unusual that even normally sure-handed H-back Philip Lutzenkirchen dropped what would have been a touchdown pass in the 2nd quarter. The Auburn sideline took a few moments to stare in disbelief before snapping the ball again.
Starting quarterback Clint Moseley, who took over down the stretch run to close the season, injured his ankle early in the game. The offense didn't skip a beat with Barrett Trotter and Kiehl Frazier however, the former using his arm and the latter his legs to power scoring drives complete with misdirection and big plays. Fully healthy for the first time since October, wide receiver Emory Blake seemed to change the dynamics of the offense with his ability to stretch the field. The game's most outstanding player, McCalebb, had the team's longest run of the season in the second quarter.
"We just went out there and played hard," Lutzenkirchen said. "It felt good to get a win for the seniors."
The Cavaliers, who competed a remarkable turnaround in London's second season to come close to playing in the ACC title game, couldn't sustain momentum despite 428 yards of offense at nearly six yards a play. They missed a chance at the program's first bowl win in six years but did so without two of the team's best players, cornerback Chase Minnifield and linebacker Steve Greer.
"It's been a fantastic year for us," London said. "You get a chance to reflect on a lot of things. Right now this one stings a little bit. They played better than we did. We just regroup and get ready."
While London appears to have Virginia pointed in the right direction, there's still plenty that remains to be seen about the direction Auburn is taking. If the bowl game was any indication though, things will be just fine on the Plains.
"We just came out here and got the job done," said McCalebb. "People didn't give us much credit coming in. We knew we had to go out and do what we do."
Wright, a freshman defensive tackle who said he would ably step in for Nick Fairley on Signing Day in February, had a coming out party with a sack that setup the safety and was the only player who was able to get any pressure on quarterback Michael Rocco most of the night. Fellow frosh Quan Bray had a nice return after the safety and, despite his lack of attempts, Frazier left an impact by scoring two touchdowns in goal line situations.
"I've said it before, the future is extremely bright," Chizik said. "And this win gives a good idea of the direction we've been going in."
Bookended by success, Chizik will have to hope he's got a few more lessons ready to keep the program from taking two steps forward but one step back in 2012.
"We won some big games and we got beat in some big games," he said of the season. "There's a lot of teachable moments in there for our team."
Enough, he hopes, to carry over into next season as old acquaintances be forgot.
Tags: ACC, Alabama, Arkansas State, Aubie the Tiger, Auburn, Barrett Trotter, Broyles Award, Bryan Fischer, Central Florida, Chase Minnifield, Chick-fil-A Bowl, Clint Moseley, Emory Blake, Gabe Wright, Gene Chizik, Georgia Dome, Guz Malzahn, Iron Bowl, Kiehl Frazier, Michael Dyer, Michael Rocco, Mike London, NCAA, Nick Fairley, Onterio McCalebb, Philip Lutzenkirchen, Quan Bray, Steve Greer, Ted Roof, UCF, University of Phoenix Stadium, Virinia
Posted on: December 30, 2011 4:30 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
WISCONSIN WILL WIN IF: The Badgers make their way to Pasadena with a solid, experienced defense - sixth in the country in scoring, allowing just 17 points per game - but they haven't seen anything like the Ducks' fast-paced attack that has been putting up points and yards quicker than you can say "quack." The team played in the Rose Bowl last year against a good team that had some speed but Oregon certainly runs a different style and will mix in plenty of zone-read with between the tackles running. While the big front seven will have to be in shape and prepared to fill their gaps, the secondary will also have to be on alert - not just for LaMichael James or De'Anthony Thomas breaking a big run but for quarterback Darron Thomas, who has been passing the ball more than last year.
On offense, Russell Wilson and Montee Ball have put up some eye-popping numbers and will need to continue their efficient play in the Rose Bowl. Oregon's defense isn't anything to write home about but is very opportunistic. Nick Aliotti is a very good coordinator and has shut down plenty of high powered offenses before as well. The size difference between the lines will be something everybody will point to but the real thing to keep an eye on is if the Wisconsin o-line can have success blocking at the second level to spring Ball for some big gains. This should be a great match up with a team set on coming home with the trophy this year.
OREGON WILL WIN IF: The Ducks come into this game looking to prove that they're an elite team by winning, for a change, a BCS game. The only way they do that is to limit turnovers and, most importantly, convert on third downs. Oregon has had issues with drops and penalties when trying to convert and pick up a first down and has to come out sharp or they'll get a repeat of other games where they've had plenty of time off but came up flat. Getting James, Kenjon Barner or Thomas in space is the priority and hopefully Chip Kelly will have a better game plan than he has had in the past two BCS games. The wide receiver corps has to come through with a good game and avoid the drops that they've had all season long too.
Defensively, this team has faced similarly built teams during the regular season such as Stanford and USC. They won against the Cardinal by forcing turnovers and came back against the Trojans in a similar manner. If they can create penetration and put some pressure on Wilson, the iffy secondary should do just fine against the Wisconsin receivers. There's no doubt the unit will take a pounding but still should be fine. Special teams is one area that the layoff could lend improvement too. The kick return unit has taken a few back but the punt returns definitely need work. Bottom line, if Oregon wants to win the Rose Bowl, it all comes down to execution and the Ducks have to do a better job at the little things than they have in the past.
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X-FACTOR: Both teams are coming off wins in their respective conferences' first ever championship game. While the defenses have done well, it's the offenses that are the reason Oregon and Wisconsin are in Pasadena and will likely determine the winner as well. With the Ducks' offense, Wisconsin will likely try to hold onto the ball but that likely won't matter given how quickly they can score. On the flip side, the Badgers can set up play action passes that could be very effective. Oregon will have to focus on sustaining drives and creating big plays while trying to be aggressive but sound on defense. Should be a fun game that might end up coming down to who can give their offense the best field position on special teams.
Posted on: December 29, 2011 10:11 am
Posted by Bryan Fischer
A look at the key matchup that could decide the Outback Bowl.
Georgia's interior offensive line vs. Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy
Though it wasn't the grueling grind of past years, Georgia still made it through the SEC schedule and saw plenty of good defensive linemen. Outside of games against South Carolina and LSU however, they haven't seen anybody playing at the level that Jerel Worthy has been for Michigan State this season. Named a first team All-American, the 6-foot-3, 310-pound junior racked up 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks but the numbers don't show how dominating he was during games. His play is one reason why CBSSports.com draft experts have him pegged as a first round pick should he decide to leave school early.
The Bulldogs offensive line has come together better than expected after dealing with injuries and other issues at the beginning of the year. They had their issues with good defensive lines from Boise State, South Carolina and LSU and better buckle up to face another big test in Michigan State. The group gave up just over two sacks a game on the season, good (bad?) enough to rank 80th in the country in that category. Ben Jones is an experienced and battle-tested center who will likely be part of plenty of double-teams of worthy with young guards Kenarious Gates and Chris Burnette. The ability to contain worthy and keep quarterback Aaron Murray upright to deliver a few throws will be key for the offense to move the ball at all down in Tampa.
It's not all about the passing game either, as the Spartans allowed just 104 yards per game on the ground thanks in large part to Worthy. The UGA run game is a bit of a mystery at the moment but they no doubt need all the backs healthy and for the offensive line to get some push up front. Don't expect this to be a high scoring game given the way both teams are constructed but the ability for the Dawgs to break big plays comes down to their offensive line creating holes and time to throw.
This should be a great battle in the trenches but based on how Georgia has fared in other games this season, expect Worthy and his defensive teammates to get plenty of pressure. Don't be surprised if a running back is kept back to pass block more than usual and, given the amount of time between games, expect Mark Richt and the coaching staff to develop an offensive game plan that avoids Worthy as much as possible. In a matchup of two 10-3 teams, this one should go to the group who controls the line of scrimmage the best.
Posted on: December 28, 2011 11:52 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
TEXAS WON. It wasn't pretty, and they still didn't see much out of the offense, but it was a win for the Longhorns. If you're a Texas fan, you had to be impressed with what coordinator Manny Diaz has done all season long with the defense and the Holiday Bowl served as a great way to finish out the year. After neither team went to a bowl game last year, it was interesting to see how they respond to the layoff and it appeared to be not well. Cal turned the ball over five times and quarterback Zach Maynard was sacked six times - largely the difference in a game that was pretty close for three quarters.
WHY TEXAS WON. Don't look at the offense, which struggled most of the night. Quarterback David Ash was given the start and despite having issues moving the ball through the air early, got the ball in the hands of his playmakers. The reason the Longhorns will be able to enjoy their trip back to Austin however, is because of Diaz' defense. The front seven was particularly active and put plenty of pressure on Maynard. They also bottled up running back Isi Sofele, who showed some flashes but was limited after scoring a touchdown in the 3rd quarter. Underclassmen Jackson Jeffcoat and Jordan Hicks were particularly active with two sacks each.
WHEN TEXAS WON. Cal had threatened several times throughout the game but always seemed to shoot themselves in the foot. In great field position following a punt return, the offense just started to go backward and then Adrian Phillips sacked Maynard, who committed the fourth turnover of the night by fumbling. Reggie Wilson recovered and on the next play, Marquise Goodwin ran it 36 yards to set the Longhorns up inside the 10. On the first play of the 4th quarter, Cody Johnson punched it in from the four-yard line to push the lead to 21-10.
WHAT TEXAS WON. It was a disappointing season by the Longhorns' high standards but plenty of programs would be happy with a bowl win and eight wins. With such a young team, Mack Brown hopes this win can be a building block for next season. Sticking with Ash despite his early struggles seemed to indicate that he would be the guy going into 2012. The halftime adjustments were really good and both sides of the ball came alive in the second half. It's not the bowl win Texas wanted but a win is a win.
WHAT CALIFORNIA LOST. The ball for one. The Bears fumbled four times against Texas after only coming into the game with eight. The offense had issues up front all night and Sofele finished with just 58 yards rushing. The lone bright spot might be the kickers and that's not something to be proud of. The defense had its moments but couldn't stop a couple of big plays after bailing out the offense several times. This game was billed as a revenge match because of what happened a few years ago with the BCS but Cal didn't exactly fight like they wanted to win the game.
FINAL GRADE: This game was the definition of ugly for the entire first half. It wasn't as though the defenses were great - they were solid - but the offenses never could get anything going. Were it not for a few big plays out of Goodwin, there wouldn't be much to write home about on this one. The storyline coming into the game was about Cal's BCS snub in favor of Texas a few years ago but after watching this one, it would have been ok if the Holiday Bowl selection committee had snubbed both of these teams based on the way they played. At least Bevo enjoyed the San Diego weather and went home happy. GRADE: C
Posted on: December 28, 2011 10:58 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
A look at the key matchup that could decide the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
UCLA's pistol offense vs. Illinois defensive line
When it comes to stopping UCLA's Pistol, an attacking front four can cause havoc against the run-based offense. The Bruins have been pretty good on the ground this year - one of the few things they've seemed to execute ok - finishing 29th in the country with 190 yards per game rushing. Kevin Prince wasn't the greatest signal-caller (1,627 yards passing, 10-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio) but was a solid trigger man who could pull the ball and run for a first down when needed. Johnathan Franklin had a big game against Colorado but other than that was nothing to write home about after being held under 100 yards rushing in all but three games this season. Fellow back Derrick Coleman was on and off throughout the year but turned in a productive season.
Though the Bruins have faced some good defensive lines, they haven't faced anybody like defensive end Whitney Mercilus. The 6-foot-4, 265-pound All-American led the country in sacks with 14.5 and led the conference in tackles for loss with a total of 19.5 for the year. Though Illinois struggled down the stretch by losing six straight, it wasn't because of the defense, which finished seventh overall in total defense. Michael Buchanan finished 8th in the Big Ten in tackles for a loss playing on the line and was also a disruptive force at times this season. If the line can get penetration and make some plays, that allows the back seven to matchup well against UCLA's skill position talent that hasn't done much all at all outside of Nelson Rosario. Freeing up linebacker Jonathan Brown to make some plays will be something to watch if the Illini want to win the game.
Points might be hard to come by given the way Illinois' offense has looked down the stretch so that puts the pressure on the defense once again. If the team has any hope of ending the slide, they're going to have to limit big plays from an offense that can create some with misdirection. A good push from the defensive line against a bad UCLA offensive line is where things start.
On the other side, if the Bruins want to avoid going 6-8 on the year, the offense has to execute less like they did against USC and show some of the signs of life like they did against Oregon. Prince can pick up first downs and there should be a solid rushing game but if the o-line can't block Mercilus and the defensive line, interim head coach Mike Johnson could be in for a long night.
Posted on: December 28, 2011 8:44 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
UCLA WILL WIN IF: The defense has to step up and get some stops. The Bruins defense looked better in the Pac-12 Championship game than they did in the regular season finale but still gave up nearly half a hundred. The secondary is young but has come along late in the season and should be healthier than they were at the end of the year. Both lines need for a few players to step up and become solid contributors this game, especially along the disappointing defensive line that was among the country's worst at getting into the backfield. The offense should be solid but if UCLA wants to get back to .500 for the season, they're going to need the defense to play the best they have since the Colorado game in mid-November.
ILLINOIS WILL WIN IF: The Illini have a pretty solid defense that has surprised some folks this season so it's up to the offense to use the extra time off before the game to get things going again. Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino has already left the team and that might be a good thing considering the team averaged just 11 points per game in their six game losing streak to end the season. Luckily their weakness (the offensive line) is matched up against the Bruins' weakness (the front seven - without middle linebacker Patrick Larimore) so it's likely quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase could have some time to make some plays. You can probably put All-American defensive end Whitney Mercilus down for a big game against the UCLA line he'll be facing.
X-FACTOR: Does anybody really want to be here? That seems to be the biggest question surrounding the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl given that two interim head coaches will be leading two teams that ended the year by falling flat on their faces. Illinois, sans Ron Zook, lost six straight games and you would figure that they want to get that taste out of their mouths. UCLA was thumped in their final two games to become the first team to make a bowl game at 6-7 and has several players who didn't make the trip up to the Bay Area due to a variety of reasons. Needless to say, motivation will be an issue in this one.