Posted on: January 6, 2012 8:58 pm
NEW ORLEANS -- Alabama Nation took its best shot at Jeremy Shelley. The Crimson Tide kicker survived.
“It wasn’t anything bad,” Shelley said of the social media barrage that hit the junior following the events of Nov. 5. “I’d tweet something and they’d say, ‘You shouldn’t be tweeting, you should be out practicing kicking.’ “
Shelley was. Diligently. It just so happened that his one-for-two performance against LSU in the first meeting was part of a horrid two-for-six performance by Bama kickers.
“If you’re a baseball player and hit .333, it probably gets you in the Hall of Fame,” Nick Saban.
At Alabama, it gets you scorn. The failure of the kickers against LSU revealed a hole in the seemingly impenetrable Saban force field. Alabama goes into Monday’s BCS title game 94th nationally in field goal accuracy. Since the LSU game, Bama kickers have missed three of seven down the stretch.
Shelley, from Raleigh, N.C., is more or less the regular kicker having made 16 of 20 this season and 28 out of 36 in his career. Sophomore Cade Foster, a Texas native, is the long-range specialist beyond 42 yards. He is two of nine this season and only nine of 18 in his career. Foster made only one of four kicks that night against the Tigers, all between 44 and 52 yards. The final miss in overtime, from 52 yards, allowed LSU to win it with a field goal on its possession.
“I think what we’ve tried to do with our guys is say, ‘Look, you had a bunch of low-percentage kicks in that game,” Saban said. “We are confident in your ability to just stay focused.”
With everything on the line, again, that could be a problem in a field-goal game. LSU is third nationally in accuracy with Drew Alleman, who has missed only two of 18 kicks all season.
Alabama didn’t do its kickers any favors that night two months ago. The offense penetrated the red zone only once. Prior to that overtime kick, Alabama was flagged for illegal substitution. In the plays prior to those six field goal attempts, 'Bama completed only two of five passes and AJ McCarron was sacked. Net yards: zero.
“We put them in situations they shouldn’t have been in,” tailback Trent Richardson said. “Everybody likes to blame their kickers. It’s our fault, it’s not their fault.”
The kickers haven’t been allowed to talk to the media since the first LSU game. Strange, they can kick in front of 100,000 people but are judged unreliable to express their feelings. That’s Saban. That still doesn’t make it right.
“We knew going into the game that we would have a chance to make that big difference in the game,” Shelley said. “With the teams being so close, neither team scored a touchdown. I would have never thought that. It came down to us.”
After Nov. 5, both kickers tried to stay away from their various social networks. They probably were not alone. Kicking snafus allowed Alabama to get here to New Orleans. A missed field goal was largely responsible for Boise State losing its only game to TCU. The same for Oklahoma State in its only loss to Iowa State.
The postseason has been ruled by clutch kicks gone wrong. Both Virginia Tech third-string kicker Justin Myer and Stanford’s Jordan Williamson missed overtime kicks in BCS bowl losses.
The virus, it seems, is catching.
“It [criticism] comes with the position,” Shelley said. “Whether it’s a game you have to hit three field goals to win or it comes down to your foot in the last second, you’re going to be in the spotlight. It’s a matter of, you’re going to be a hero a goat.”
Shelley played youth soccer growing up. He found out about the pressure of kicking [a different ball] playing international games in Spain, England, France and Scotland.
“It’s not nearly as big of a stage, but not being used to what I’m used to now, it was very cool,” Shelley said. “You could have up to 5,000 per game.”
He knows the reps of all kickers. While teammates bust their butts in practices, they … kick.
“We’re not busting heads all day,” Shelley admitted. “Maybe we don’t work as much. Maybe we don’t work as hard. You can’t kick for three hours every day. The value of kickers has gone up tremendously, especially this bowl season. How many games have to come down to the kickers’ foot?”
Perhaps one more.
“I have no problem with the game coming down to our foot,” Shelley added. “I have complete faith in Cade and myself being able to put this game away. With this second chance, there’s a chance for redemption.”
Posted on: January 1, 2012 12:16 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2012 12:18 pm
Recapping 2011, anticipating 2012 (more or less) A-Z …
Meanwhile, the AFCA continues to rig a BCS system it profits from in the coaches’ poll. Before coaches demand accountability from media, players and assistants, they need to give up control of a poll that holds the purse strings to a multi-million system and awards its final No. 1 ranking to the BCS title game winner.
Michigan-Virginia Tech? (Where was Boise, Kansas State?)
Clemson-West Virginia? (Six combined losses?)
Oklahoma State-Stanford is nice in the Fiesta Bowl but there are those who believe the Cowboys should be playing LSU in New Orleans. A Plus-One wouldn’t totally fix things but we’d love to see one this season – No. 1 seed LSU vs. No. 4 Stanford and No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Oklahoma State.
Unfortunately, the next chance for change, 2014, looks to be more of the same. The Pac-12 and Big Ten aren’t likely to allow the Rose Bowl to become a national semifinal. Even a Plus-One wouldn’t account for No. 7 Boise, a team that was a missed kick away from playing for the national championship.
BCS trivia: Nick Saban (4-1) and Les Miles (5-2) have each beaten Alabama at least four times as SEC coaches.
BYU: Courted by the Big 12 and Big East (at least) during conference realignment, BYU stood strong and stayed independent in 2011. Whether the Cougars’ status stays that way remains to be seen. Glory is still elusive. A seventh consecutive bowl resulted in the world’s largest Mormon school beating the FBS school with the smallest enrollment (Tulsa) in the final 12 seconds in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Charlie Weis: Quietly, Notre Dame’s former coach accounted for the biggest recruiting day in the history of Kansas football. On December 22, Weis lured quarterbacks Dayne Crist (Notre Dame) and Jake Heaps (BYU) as transfers.
OK, it’s only Kansas and it’s a couple former five-star quarterbacks who underachieved. But as long as Weis is in Lawrence, Kansas will be worth our attention. The Big 12 is a quarterback league. Weis has his for at least the next three years. He and the Jayhawks will be a story as Weis tries to rehab his college coaching image.
Conference realignment: In the chase for money and automatic qualifying status, networks and commissioners couldn’t help themselves. They acted like businessmen at a strip club during happy hour, making it rain. The change was so fast and furious that we’re still not sure what conference West Virginia will play in 2012.
David Boren: Oklahoma’s president trashed the Big 12 and then-commissioner Dan Beebe one day. Then, after finding out 24 hours the Pac-12 wasn’t going to take his Sooners, he shifted stance and said he was actually trying to save the league.
Oklahoma’s former governor is a dangerous, manipulative, powerful, fascinating figure. Just don’t cross him. Boren ran Beebe out of the Big 12 in one of the great injustices of the year.
Death Cam: On the second-last day of 2011, there was a sobering warning for 2012. An ESPN SkyCam almost smashed an Iowa player Friday night during the Insight Bowl. Dear networks: Our desire to see every possible angle has been sated. We’ve got HD, blimps and replay. We don’t need a debilitating injury – or worse.
LaMichael James: Quietly – yes, quietly – “LaMike” became one of the era's most dangerous weapons and the best running back in Oregon history. If James stays for his senior season, which he is not likely to do, he would challenge Ron Dayne for the NCAAA career rushing record.
As it is, James will have plenty left for the NFL because of his efficiency (6.6 yards per carry, only 746 career carries). The question is, can the leading edge of Chip Kelly’s quick-strike offense survive as a pro at only 5-foot-9, 185 pounds?
Lane Kiffin: Before Todd Graham jilted Pittsburgh, Monte’s boy was bolting Tennessee after a season. Funny, how we’ve forgotten. Lane matured before our eyes in 2011 leading the probation-crippled USC to a 10-2 record, including a win at Pac-12 champion Oregon.
It looks like the Trojans are back. This time, Kiffin isn’t going anywhere.
LSU: Look at the roster. It’s so young. The SEC defensive player of the year is a sophomore (Tyrann Mathieu). There are 13 sophomores (or younger) in the two-deep. On defense. These Tigers were built to win in 2012. This season has been gravy.
No matter what happens Jan. 9, the Tigers are a good bet to start as the 2012 preseason No. 1.
Matt Barkley: Probation, what probation? USC’s blond, Hollywood-ready quarterback is returning for his senior season Leinart-style. After a 10-win season during a second consecutive bowl-ban season, the Trojans will likely start 2012 in the top five and be the Pac-12 favorites.
Mike Leach: He’s baaaack and that’s good for all of us. The talk turns from lawsuits to alignments again for The Pirate who has been out of the game too long. Things are about to get real interesting in Pullman.
What a emerged was a more accessible NCAA but one that, at times, was more interested in promoting itself than addressing the issues. That August summit was a great idea but moved too fast to the point that groundbreaking stipend and scholarship legislation was overridden. The decision to allow the Buckeye Five to play in the Sugar Bowl a year ago remains inexplicable.
Notre Dame: Weis recruited quarterbacks but couldn’t produce enough wins. So far, Brian Kelly can’t even get the quarterback thing straight. The Irish are becoming something they can never be – boring. After losing to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl, ND is now 2-10 in its last 12 postseason games.
Its last two coaches have been decidedly offensive guys. Those Notre Dame offenses have, since 2005, finished 61st or worst more times (three) than they have in the top 10 (two). The 2007 unit under Weis was dead last. That’s an average of No. 46 in total offense since Weis arrived. That equates to the offensive standing of Virginia in 2011.
Before the Irish can return to national relevance, they have to become more exciting.
The average figures for points per game (28.3), passing yards (229.4), completions (19.2) are all on pace to finish second all-time. The current total offense mark of 392.75 is ahead of the record set in 2007, 392.64.
SEC: You don’t have to be told again … The SEC is so dominant that the best football conference is assured of both its sixth straight title and first title game loss.
The league has used the BCS to make an unprecedented run. Voters and computers are conditioned to give the SEC champion the benefit of the doubt each season. Not saying that’s wrong, it just is. It’s sort of like the next Jay-Z album shooting to the top of the charts in preorders.
Lyles reportedly sang to the NCAA in August. That followed allegations that Chip Kelly’s program commissioned after-the-fact recruiting info that it had already paid $25,000 for. There is still the unsettling feeling that Oregon could be in for major sanctions in 2012.
Posted on: October 6, 2011 9:31 pm
Edited on: October 6, 2011 9:32 pm
The love-child addendum to Friday's Weekend Watch List ...
In some small (or large) way they -- or any coach in the process -- could manipulate who plays in the national championship game. College football continues to stage the only championship literally controlled by the coaches competing for it.
--Add Mike Stoops to the hot seat list. Arizona (1-4) goes to Oregon State having lost so many conference games in a row (seven) that the streak began in the Pac-10 and continues in the Pac-12.
Monday: Texas Rewind, a one-hour replay show that requires a two-hour commitment.
Wednesday: Longhorn Sportsline with Mack Brown. One-hour show that requires a slightly more than a two-hour commitment; Also 10-15-minute segment on Texas All Access.
Thursday: Game Plan with Mack Brown. One-hour show that requires a 90-minute commitment.
An interview to open coverage of live practice Tuesday and Wednesday. (5 or 10 minutes).
Home games: Texas GameDay on set, 10-15 minutes. Road: one-on-one sideline.
One-hour show every Wednesday: All-access recordes interview 10-15 minutes.
--Finally, SWWL can't get enough of Texas safety Blake Gideon who has been a friend of The List for three years since he dropped the potential game-clinching interception against Texas Tech in 2008.
"In reality, we're not playing for anybody in the stands," he said of Saturday's Oklahoma game. "We're playing for the brotherhood we've developed."
Q: You're a senior what's it like to go out there in Red River Shootout for the first time?
Gideon: "It was tough for me as a true freshman to go out there and really being overwhelmed by it for the that first series. It's hard not to get caught up. I just tell the young guys, 'It's the same game you've been playing."
Gideon: "It's heartbreaking to lose, last year obviously. The first two years we played we came away with victories. It doesn’t matter how you played individually. You won, you beat Oklahoma. It's the game everybody grew up watching, at least everyone in Texas.
Q: Tell me about that first series when you're so nervous.
Gideon: "You make a tackle for a loss, half the stadium stands up and goes wild. Half the stadium is quiet. Next play they get a first down, it's completely flipped. It really hinges like that one play the entire game. The fans are on the edge of their seat, the entire game.
"From the time both teams come out of the tunnel to the whistle, it's all out emotional passion. You can't help but give everything you have and pouring everything you have into it."
Gideon: "It's sore every now and then, nothing like it was in high school. In high school, that was definitely a scary time in my life. There was numbness in my legs, excruciating pain.
"After my sophomore year [in high school], my back had been bothering me. I drove back to my house after a game. I really couldn't get out of the car because my legs were numb. I wore a back brace for nine months."
Gideon: "There's a little bit of talking going on, a lot of emotion. The past three years, the Oklahoma fans have been at that end of the stadium.. They're sending all the good lucks down to us."
Posted on: August 18, 2011 1:13 pm
Edited on: August 18, 2011 1:39 pm
Josh Luchs seems like ancient history. The Sports Illustrated story detailing the former agent's lavishing extra benefits on college players is 10 months old.
Since then we've had Ohio State, North Carolina, Miami, etc. But there's one thing about scumbags: If they see an opening, they're likely to take advantage of it.
Luchs is in the process of writing a book that essentially is an extension of the SI story. If you listen or watch close enough, you can probably catch Luchs going through the national carwash promoting himself.
Imagine that, a sleazy former agent hawking his wares.
Luchs has turned righteous just in time, or maybe it's because of the times.
"The ideal of amateurism truly doesn't exist, and I don't know if it's existed since the '50s," he said. "Until the powers that be realize they're trying to operate in a broken system, nothing is going to change."
I caught one of his radio interviews Thursday morning. Suddenly, Luchs sounds like the voice of reason, ripping the NCAA and the culture that allows cheating. It's a lot of the stuff that those of us without books to sell have been saying for years.
Ah, but the money shot came while talking about Nick Saban. Speaking on WHB 810 in Kansas City on Thursday (listen), Luchs was asked about Saban's infamous "pimps" comment from July 2010.
You'll remember how Saban reacted to a question about unscrupulous agents during the '10 SEC media days: "Are they any better than a pimp?"
Luchs took particular issue with that statement Thursday, reminding his audience that Saban made more than $5 million per year, adding, "What he's done here is he's showed who the whore is."
Whore? Really? Can't wait to see how that plays in Alabama. While you're likely to hear/view Luchs as he, um, prostitutes himself, you may not hear those particular words from him in future interviews. A recording of the interview has been passed along to Alabama. I'm not expecting a reaction. There will be enough of one from 'Bama Nation when this gets out.
Scratch Tuscaloosa off his book tour list, I guess.
Other nuggets from Luchs:
• He says he was sought out by the NCAA to speak at East Coast and West Coast compliance seminars. That, in itself, isn't surprising. The NCAA has used convicted gamblers to speak on the evils of gambling. This quote from Luchs, though, sticks out.
"For the 20 years that I was in the business -- half of which I spent breaking every one of the rules, breaking rules paying players -- I had never once seen a compliance person."
• Luchs also said the compliance business has a fundamental flaw, those directors are paid by schools.
"When you think about that for a minute, it's mind-boggling. It's against the schools self-interest to find the wrongdoing. The checks should come from a pool at the NCAA ... This, to me, is at the heart of this Miami issue."
• Luchs spoke of Nevin Shapiro with a sense of jealousy.
"This guy provided illegal benefits to 72-73 players over an eight-year period ... I only gave [benefits to] 32-33 over an eight-year period. Heck, this guy was just killing me."