The Most Influential College Football Game In The Last 50 Years

Slaton celebrated all night with a dazzling rushing performance.

Slaton celebrated all night with a dazzling rushing performance.

Then along came Rich Rodriguez and his West Virginia Mountaineers. He took the spread offense to a complete zenith with what you could do with a 53 1/3 yard wide field and implemented a power rushing attack from a spread formation. First he recruited Pat White from Alabama.  At 6’0 (being generous) and 185 lbs. he was short for a quarterback and had a decent arm, yet it was his 4.28 40 yard dash that made it nearly impossible for interior linebackers to read blocking patterns, than get to the flank to defend against his options or pitch to Steve Slaton.

Slaton was brought down from Pennsylvania and one of the nation’s fastest running backs coming out of high school in 2005.  He had committed to Maryland who had offered him a scholarship then retracted their offer.  He took his 4.3 speed to West Virginia to team with Pat White, Owen Schmitt, recievers Darius Reynaud #82 and Brandon Miles#7 and a powerhouse was born. They spread from a traditional set and some 3 receivers yet ran what they call a speed option that most MLBs didnt have the lateral quickness to stay with.  The result?? First we have to set the table for you.

Pat White became the first QB in history to win 4  New Years Bowl Games.

Pat White became the first QB in history to win 4 New Years Bowl Games.

The Miami Hurricanes and Boston College had just fled the Big East to join the ACC. Many felt that the Big East was no longer a top flight conference with two of their heavyweight schools having departed. Yet the Mountaineers started a redshirt freshman in Pat White, and a freshman tailback in Steve Slaton and a new offense took the country by storm.  They improved as the season went on and Slaton finished the season with 1,128 yards and 17 TDs, while White finished with 952 yds rushing and 7 TDs to go along with moderate passing to keep defenses honest.

Once they ran out to a 10-1 record, their Big East championship gave them an automatic bid to the BCS Sugar Bowl where they would take on Georgia. The Bulldogs that year were 12-1 and only a close loss in SEC play had kept them from appearing in the National Championship Game. Experts scoffed that West Virginia’s offense couldn’t perform that well against a superior defense from a superior conference. Yes experts were treating the Big East as a second tier conference with the remaining teams.  So the battle lines were drawn and since the Sugar Bowl had to be moved from New Orleans to Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, because of Hurricane Katrina, this would be a home crowd for the Bulldogs too. No way the Mountaineers could stay on the field with an SEC team……………….right??

 

The Mountaineers had humiliated the Georgia defense rushing for 382 yards. They were within 53 yards of the Sugar Bowl record of 439 that had stood for 35 years. A record was set by Steve Slaton’s 204 yards on 26 carries and 3 scores. West Virginia embarrassed the entire SEC into recognizing the spread offense in front of millions. Since the game recieved a 9.0 Nielsen rating, somewhere around 49 million viewers watched Georgia’s defense give chase but never catch Pat White and Steve Slaton.

So the landscape has changed, first through the proliferation of cable television stations allowing players to play in far away places and still be seen back home.  This changed the way colleges could approach players when they weren’t the clear cut favorite to land a particular recruit. Players weren’t forced to switch positions to go to a particular name school when there were other alternatives. This happened simultaneously with the NCAA limiting the amount of scholarships teams which spread talent all over the collegiate landscape.

Steve Slaton killed Georgia with 202 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Steve Slaton killed Georgia with 202 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Then in an effort to find the great equalizer, coaching innovations leveled the playing field even more with better tactics while landing a better athlete on their campus than ever before.  Couple these factors with the natural chip on the shoulder that most underdogs play with and college football has turned into “On any given Saturday…” Making college football an even greater game than before.

Yet it was this Sugar Bowl played in prime-time that changed the attitudes of coaches and pundits of the power conferences. From coast to coast teams were using the uptempo spread offense to run as well as pass. Teams could outflank those they couldn’t physically go toe to toe with. Forcing their opponent to field a different set of defenders and players who play better in space. This game was Rich Rodriguez’s masterpiece and changed the way college football is being played today.

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Whither Johnny Manziel – Kicked out of Manning Passing Academy

Returning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.

Returning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.

Early last December we had the first redshirt freshman win the Heisman Trophy. Everyone marveled at “Johnny Football’s” mobility in and out of the pocket. His touch once he threw the football during games, and a slew of YouTube tricks to marvel at. Yet no one thought of the light that would be shown on a 20 year old kid. The scrutiny that would follow him off the football field has led to an off-season of setbacks. All of which culminated with his removal from the Manning passing camp.

In the ever-changing world of social media, there is light where there has never been before. Any anonymous person, can take a picture of you while in the middle of devouring a cheeseburger, and link it to the rest of the world via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc… Caught in this lurch are the first generation of athletes who can’t escape the limelight of the media, now that the American populace has become a part of it. Athletes are having to mature faster and think quicker on their feet in regards to what their actions can possibly cause.

Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram had just cooled from the Pouncey twins sporting “Free Hernandez” ball caps. This of course in reference to former Florida Gator teammate Aaron Hernandez, who has been accused of murder. Now comes the story of Manziel being released from the camp run by the Mannings. He’s been blown up on social media for a series of transgressions this off-season. Pictures of him in drinking establishments although he’s not 21. The rest of us football fans have taken to social media, to express ourselves about Johnny Manziel and his celebrity.

First and foremost, let’s not forget this is a 20 year old who was at a football camp. The camp is there to mentor and train hundreds of prep school and college signal callers about the nuances of playing the position. Of course they were covering 3, 5, 7 step drops, Pistol shotgun mechanics, and footwork. Here is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner attending a football camp to help the next generation.

Although he has a lot of light on him for various reasons, he was kicked out of the camp and now has to deal with the embarrassment on ESPN and social media all alone. The Chancellor of Football’s take?? I would think higher of the Mannings had they sat Johnny Manziel down and mentored him about professionalism and kept things in-house. Between Archie, Peyton, and Eli, there is nearly 40 years of NFL experience between them. Just like Johnny, Peyton and Eli grew up affluent also so they could identify with his position. This isn’t a poor college student who can only afford to go home and train out of the spotlight only. To boot him out and say”Oh we’d invite him back” while he now has to be a 20 year old in damage control mode. Understand he doesn’t have an agent to coach him and he could always say the wrong thing in front of one of these cameras.

Yet lets ask ourselves a question: What were all of us doing at 20 years of age?? Are you kidding?? I went to parties at schools in four different states let alone be a real high profile college KID. Don’t let social media warp your level of perspective. Does he need to calm down some?? Yes…why not have some compassion for his situation and sit Johnny down?? The Mannings missed a golden opportunity to mentor him in something more important than football…life.

To get him to slow down and understand how living in the fast lane has derailed many careers, or worse. To know how his life is being scrutinized by future employers. To understand the 15 minutes of fame young girls, and other fans who want to befriend him will do with this instant media, can paint him in a negative light. Naturally someone may say it’s not their responsibility to tell him that. The reason they had him there in the first place was they had the platform to teach young quarterbacks about playing football. Why not take it a step further with him instead of let him twist in the wind from a P.R. standpoint?? He has no one around him to tell him NO. He’s hanging around other 20 year old kids who are more popular because they hang out with “Johnny Football.’ Don’t forget there are limited hours his college coaches can talk to him in the off-season due to NCAA regulations. Not one of them could have sat him down for a 15 minute heart to heart conversation??

We do have to keep in perspective that he’s only 20 yet let’s empathize with what he’s dealing with also. If I tapped you on the shoulder and told you I have pics and vids of your behavior to upload to facebook from you at 20, how wide would your eyes get?? Exactly. For what we’ve heard this off-season give this kid a break, he’ll learn from this. The number one thing for him is he’s just a few weeks away from where he needs to be… back in school and in the safe haven of practice at Texas A & M. I hope he’s learned a couple lessons.

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A Trip To New York In The Near Future

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Just like last year, one of the nation’s college quarterbacks is starting to leave his contemporaries behind. Last week The Chancellor placed his first vote for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award for Geno Smith of West Virginia. What does he do for an encore? A 4 touchdown performance on the road in a 48-45 win over Texas. Now this isn’t the first time the Mountaineers have shocked on a national stage.

Less than a decade ago, West Virginia rose to prominence when Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College, abandoned the Big East Conference only to have WVU revolutionize college football with their run first spread option play. Eight years later they jump to the Big 12 and now have college football’s #1 rated passer. Talk about coming full circle.

For the year Geno Smith has 24 touchdowns without an interception. With his team facing new competition in a new conference, you have to appreciate what you’re seeing. It would be different had he faced these teams in previous years and knew what to expect from his opponents. This puts him ahead of even Robert Griffin III’s performance last year in Big XII play. The question is can he keep up this blistering pace?? Well, considering the fact WVU dropped 70 on Baylor last week, you can’t bet against him. With the success of RGIII and Sam Bradford in the NFL, his stock is rising dramatically for next year’s draft.

Of course we’re getting ahead of ourselves here but when you look ahead to the four games against ranked teams, he faces Oklahoma and Kansas State at home. However, the trip to Stillwater and Oklahoma State looms large in the distance. If Smith continues his play and can go 3-1 against TCU and these teams, the Heisman is his. If WVU can go undefeated for the season beating 5 ranked opponents, they have a legitimate shot at the National Championship. Both of these eluded Pat White and that great Mountaineer team of nearly a decade ago.

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Baylor’s Robert Griffin III Takes Home the Heisman Trophy

Robert Griffin III outruns Andrew Luck for the 2011 Heisman Trophy

Congratulations to the 77th Heisman Trophy winner in Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. He was easily the most electrifying player this year, a Cam Newton-lite if you will. It may have been a benefit Newton didn’t win it last year. Although he was swirled amidst off field allegations, had he won it last year the voters may have looked to give the award to another type of player this year or position. However if you look at Griffin III’s season in a vacuum, he deserved it hands down.

All he did was lead perennial doormat Baylor into the National spotlight completing 267 of 369, for 3,998 yards, 36TDs to only 6 interceptions. He was also a threat on the ground where he ran for 649 yards and another 9 touchdowns. He’s just 353 yards away from a 5,000 yard season against stellar competition and still has an Alamo Bowl showdown with Washington to pad his stats further.

Statistics don’t tell half the story. It was this electrifying talent that led his teammates to believe they could play with anyone. It started with his destruction of #14 TCU’s highly ranked defense, to the tune of 359 yards passing and 5 touchdowns in building a 47-21 lead. After the Bears offense grew cold, Griffin proved his mettle driving the Bears to the winning field goal 50-48 and a collegiate star was born. This was the first great early game of the season and talk of Griffin III’s exploits were showcased on national television.

Then really grew steam when he performed the coup de gras against Oklahoma. His Baylor Bears were ranked 22nd and were taking on media darling Bob Stoops and his #5 ranked Sooners. You have to understand the Bears were 3 weeks removed from losing badly to ranked #4 Oklahoma St. (59-24) and #23 Texas A & M (55-28). Their confidence was shaken as a team going into this game and it was do or die to find out if they were for real.  Griffin, who passed and ran his team to a 38-24 fourth quarter lead in one of the game’s of the year, dazzled early. Once their momentum crested, the high powered Sooners sprang to life and rallied to tie the score 38-38, with 2:38 to go.

With Oklahoma holding all three time outs, the Bears came out conservative and ran a dive showing they were content to go to overtime. Stoops called the first of his timeouts, which showed the Sooners wanted to force the Bears to punt the ball back and give the Sooners a chance to win it in regulation. Baylor’s body english looked defeated and Waco was completely silent. Armed with the knowledge of what Oklahoma intended to do, it was Griffin III who charged back to the huddle to breathe life in his team. He completed two strikes in the heart of the Sooner’s zone to put Baylor in field goal range reversing the momentum. Instead of waiting to kick the winning field goal, on first down he scrambled to his left and fired a 34 yard touchdown to Terrance Williams with :08 left. BALLGAME!!

By the time he engineered a 48-24 trouncing of the 22nd ranked Texas Longhorns, it was obvious this was the best player in all of college football. He led the Bears to a 4-2 record over top 25 teams. In the aforementioned games with Oklahoma and Texas how’d he do?? Against Oklahoma Griffin III ran for 98 yards while throwing for 479 yards and 4 touchdowns. Then you had him toast up the Longhorns rushing for 36 yards and 2 TDs, while throwing for 320 yards and 2 more scores.

Buoyed by these three signature games, it was impossible to hand the Heisman to another player. He carried his team into national prominence and backed up the press clippings with performance. The Baylor Bears went 9-3 with him at the helm and had their best record since 1986. Now further that distinction with bringing the school it’s first ever Heisman winner. So what does he do as an encore?? We suspect a 500 yard performance (rushing and passing) and a high draft status in April.  With the Colts eyeing a pure drop back passer in Andrew Luck, it looks like many teams would vie for his services. Right now, the Cleveland Browns are on the clock.

For if he’s Cam Newton-lite, he may be just as deadly in his rookie year. We’ll have time for that later. As for right now, congratulations Robert Griffin III. You deserved your Heisman with a performance for the ages.

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THE Ohio State University: Columbus is a sprawling URBAN area

Luke Fickell does look like Adam Sandler

After a tumultuous season in Columbus, the Ohio St Buckeyes concluded their Big Ten regular season with a loss to Michigan. The loss ended a seven year reign for the Buckeyes in this signature game and the end of the run for Head Coach Luke Fickell. What was terrible is the fact that they brought him in to be a lame duck coach after having served at OSU as a player and assistant for several years. They made the decision to elevate Fickell, who played nose tackle from 1993-1996 for OSU, to head coach amidst the allegations and subsequent dismissal of Jim Tressel.

In one of the season’s most spectacular games, the Buckeyes fought tooth and nail with the Wolverines, who were desperate to reverse their fortunes in this rivalry as of late. This 40-34 game has to be one of the best ever in this long rivalry and illustrated how much fight the players had for Luke Fickell. He was in over his head having to replace such a legendary coach and replace such a celebrated quarterback. The Buckeyes would have served him better if they had anointed another as interim coach. Fickell is and was an upcoming asst. coach through the Buckeye ranks in his own right. At first they wanted him to be interim coach until pressure forced Tressel to resign.

Ohio State as a university should have been more fair to Fickell and not appointed him to the interim position knowing they were going to go after a bigger fish to coach the team. Why put a blemish on his collegiate coaching career this early?? If you knew you were going to go after Urban Meyer all along why string along one who played and served you the right way?? It was a chance for Fickell to excell but it was a little early for him to take on his first head coaching position in this way. He had to close ranks in a hurry and even contacted his former OSU teammate Mike Vrabel to aid in leading their alma mater. Vrabel, who has won 3 world championships with the New England Patriots, was the veteran leader of the Kansas City Chiefs who chose to retire to coach with Fickell. Yet a recently retired Urban Meyer, who had just purchased a home in Dublin, Ohio to rest his 2 National Championship trophies on would cast a shadow over Fickell with each loss.

For those that don’t understand, Columbus, Ohio IS Buckeye football. Business owners and many businesses shut down during Buckeye football games. Over 100,000 of a community of less than a million are in paid attendance at Buckeye home games with another 15,000 working around the stadium as vendors and such. Our CEO recounted selling programs before games and even a season ticket holder for 1980. In fact, working at a Jeep dealership in Columbus, there were straws drawn for who was to cook what, bring in a television, or chairs, with the understanding they were going to watch the game with NO customers that day. Every move and game is scrutinized to the enth degree and consumes those who live in Columbus. Fickell, being born and raised there knew all about it yet was he prepared for it??

After a 6-5 season the answer would have to be no. However had he a legitimate chance to recruit, without the stench of scandal, we don’t know how good he could have been. With this move did the Ohio State University place the chances of his legitimate candidacy as head coach elsewhere in jeopardy?? They could have done his chance at being a head coach a serious disservice with this one year as coach to highlight ALL of his shortcomings before he was ready. Ohio State thought nothing but for themselves in this situation and treated a son, who grew up in the shadow of “The Shoe” and attended DeSales High School some 10 miles away from OSU, as a pawn in a larger game.

Then you have Urban Meyer. The coach who retired amidst health reasons and wanted to spend time with his family nonsense, then proceeded to travel the countryside for ESPN in his 1 year off. Are you kidding?? Then with every time there was a loss or question about Ohio St’s play, who do you think they would ask, living right there in a Columbus suburb?? Meyer would give his “aw shucks” comments about what could have been done and alluding to his being retired as though we didn’t know the situation. OSU was orchestrating this all along and it’s come to a head and Meyer still hasn’t confirmed it…yet we know better. Last Friday, before the OSU game here is what came to Taylor Blitz Times from a reliable source.

This came across our newsdesk late last week……..

– Deal done. 7 years – 55 million plus incentives

… – Luke Fickell retained as Asst. Head Coach

– Greg Studwara – Offensive Coordinator – BGSU connection, currently Offensive Line coach LSU

– DJ Durkin – Defensive Coordinator – FL LB Coach

– Zach Smith – WR Coach – G.A. FL – WR Coach @ Temple (Earle Bruce grandson)

– Mickey Marotti – Dir Football Ops – Strength coach Florida

– Stan Drayton – retained by OSU – moves from WRs back to RB coach – RB coach under Meyer @ Florida

Job opening was to be posted yesterday or Monday per State/Federal regulations – announcement expected next Tuesday @ OSU vs. Duke basketball game!!

So it’s at this time that Coach Fickell who supposedly worked hand in hand with OSU in securing Fickell should take a step back and think of his own coaching career. There is a difference between service to Ohio State and being a disservice to your own aspirations. If he wants to be a coach for Ohio State it might be a ten year window from now. However once one sees you as a pawn, they’ll always look upon you in that regard. Don’t expect a second shot… For Urban Meyer, the one year hiatus of “Oh, i have to take time off for health reasons” bullshit shenanigans are out the window. He had to find a soft landing spot after the Tim Tebow is God mantra he helped foster at the University of Florida.

If Fickell really wants to be a head coach someday he might want to escape the dark side of the force that is Ohio St, Coach Meyer, and find his own path now. He has about a one year window with which he has a chance to go elsewhere to prove his own mettle and then become a successful coach. He may now have to step outside the sway that is Ohio State to achieve this…

A Word From the Chancellor: College Football- Boise St Needs To Become The New Miami Hurricanes

Boise St Broncos storming the field

After watching TCU and Boise St beat their heads against a brick wall just to play in BCS Bowl games, it finally hit our chancellor what needs to  be done.  The Mountain West Conference will never garner Boise St the respect it needs to crash the BCS Title Game no matter how well they play. The 4 undefeated seasons through the 2000s aren’t enough and neither were the 2 BCS Bowl wins in the eyes of jaded BCS conference lovers. With everyone joining these collegiate super conferences it’s time to reverse gears and go independent. Especially Boise St, at least TCU gets love since they hail from Texas.

Well, the blueprint has already been laid out for them. They are to copy the pattern that garnered the Miami Hurricanes prominence throughout the the 1980s and ’90s by being the independent foil that played 5 or 6 ranked opponents every year. This way they can play toward the mantra “it’s all about the money”, and take on teams that think they can beat them and will pay them for 3 to 4 game series. Think about it. Get a reported $800,000 from those three teams and supplement this with their bowl money. It will be a financial windfall. What happens if they take on a 3 game series with an LSU, and Ohio St., and an Alabama team that believes they can beat them?? Then they take on two to three single game  performances against a ranked West Virginia and USC, then schedule weaker opponents. If they come through a crucible such as that it forces the voters to rightfully vote them #1 if they can march through those 6. Gone is the conference argument being used against them. How well did this formula work for Miami??

Well the last time Miami was an independent and won the National Title outright was 1989, funny thing is they won a split title in 1991 as a Big East Conference member. You’ll note that they even lost to Florida St. yet ran the table against the rest of their ranked opponents. The teams that were not ranked by season’s end did hail from BCS conferences in Wisconsin, Cal, Pitt, defending champion Notre Dame (also an independent) and the pollsters couldn’t avoid voting them up. Look at this schedule for the 1989 Canes and fashion a 2012 schedule for Boise with some substitutes. If they could go 5-1 or 6-0 versus that tough of competition they could be #1 with ease. Think about it Coach Peterson!!

Date Result Miami Rank# (Rank#)Opponent Stadium · City
September 9, 1989 W 51-3 #3 Wisconsin Camp Randall Stadium – Madison, WI
September 16, 1989 W 31-3 #3 California Orange Bowl – Miami, FL
September 23, 1989 W 38-7 #2 Missouri Faurot Field – Columbia, MO
September 30, 1989 W 26-20 #2 Michigan State Spartan Stadium – East Lansing, MI
October 7, 1989 W 56-0 #2 Cincinnati Orange Bowl – Miami, FL
October 14, 1989 W 48-16 #2 San Jose State Orange Bowl – Miami, FL
October 28, 1989 L 10-24 #2 @ #9 Florida State Doak Campbell Stadium – Tallahassee, FL
November 4, 1989 W 40-10 #7 East Carolina Orange Bowl – Miami, FL
November 11, 1989 W 24-3 #7 @ #14 Pittsburgh Pitt Stadium – Pittsburgh, PA
November 18, 1989 W 42-6 #7 San Diego State Orange Bowl – Miami, FL
November 25, 1989 W 27-10 #7 #1 Notre Dame Orange Bowl – Miami, FL
January 1, 1990* W 33-25 #2 #7 Alabama Louisiana Superdome – New Orleans, LA
*Sugar Bowl #Rankings from AP Poll released prior to game.

The Boise St. Broncos need to copy this formula and wind up with a ranking that will elude them with their present conference situation. They have to take the voters stance and embrace the BCS and force their vote. Without this type of set-up it’s more of the same thing. A big win against a Georgia team earlier this year and SEC pundits and fans scoffed they were an SEC bottom feeder. Well if Boise St schedules two of these schools and march through them it would bode well for their shedding the “one tough opponent” label. Without this they may never get their due as the well coached team that they are.

Kellen Moore, soon to become the all time winningest quarterback in Division I history.

The funny thing is most people equate the Broncos with BYU in past annals when they are not like BYU at all. This well oiled machine mines football talent from Northern and Southern California, and nabs some of the soon to develop talent who had issues with grades. They even allow players to send try-out tapes to the school and shop their wares instead of relying on big time scouting to be noticed. There are a lot of inner city kids on these Boise teams and these other “big schools” think they’re going to “punk” the Broncos. Then they wake up in the 4th quarter in a dog fight against a team where every player has a chip on his shoulder. There is a ruggedness to their teams yet they’re disciplined. It takes this type of attitude from the coaching staff and players to make this go. What do you say Coach Peterson?? The time is now or you may let one of history’s finest runs be regarded on the periphery of achievement when compared to other schools.

Just remember Boise St, the University of Miami was seriously thinking about dropping their football program from Division I altogether before Howard Schnellenberger came up with this bold plan. It turned a fledgling school in South Florida into a national power and may be just the tonic Bronco nation needs to finally crash the BCS Title Game. Well, that and a place kicker that can make a 4th quarter field goal.

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