Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Longest Long Weekend Ever

Coming back to work after a long weekend is a painful enough process, but coming back after an action-packed three-day weekend that felt more like seven days is even tougher.

It all began with the trip out to State College on Friday night. Arkansas Fred and I loaded up our gear and made the three-hour trek west on Route 80. Now I'm not sure if it's just the time of year, the need for more tickets to written to help supplement shrinking budgets or what, but we must have seen 6 or 7 people pulled over on our way to Penn State. Seriously, there were state police everywhere with their radar guns, not hesitating to pull over anyone exceeding the speed limit. Luckily, we were not one of them.

On the ride, I received a text message from Adam EatShit: "What's going on with Lee?" Seeing as I was in a car in the middle of Pennsylvania with no reception of the Phils game, I had no idea. But apparently, for the second straight start, Cliff Lee got rocked, and the Phils lost the series opener to the Astros. Not good, but my mind was elsewhere.

As we pulled in to town, I immediately longed for my days as a college student. There were loads of female college students dressed in some rather revealing clothing. The sights were plentiful. I called my cousin, who was kind enough to put Arkansas Fred and I up for the night, and he asked if I knew where the HUB was and if we could pick him up there. Funny story, I know exactly where the HUB is. I did go to school there for four years after all.

Anyway, Friday night we sort of took it easy, drank some drinks and prepared for the opener on Saturday. Noon games are so annoying. First of all, we barely got any sleep because there were deafening Penn State chants and raucous students doing what college students do all night. Either way, we made it to the game and were all set to go. Unfortunately, the cowboy hat-wearing douchebags made it as well. I fucking hate those guys.

As far as the game is concerned, it was roughly what could be expected. Penn State breezed through to a 31-7 victory, going up 31-0 at halftime. They looked really, really good in the first half, and the second half was a complete pile of dog shit. But Penn State looked pretty good overall.

I do, however, have a few things I took issue with. For starters, I was told Jerome Hayes would start.

He did not. In fact, he wasn't even in the first two defensive series. This made me very unhappy. Though when he did get in, he immediately recorded a tackle for a five-yard loss. Great to have you back, Jerome. Secondly, the starters were in entirely too long in that game. Daryll Clark stayed in until there were 4 minutes left in the game, with a 31-7 lead, for no good reason at all. Ditto Sean Lee. And plenty of other starters for that matter. Nothing good can come from them staying in. It was just asking for trouble. Thankfully, nothing bad happened, but it would be wise to sit guys like Lee and Clark down early when you can.

Finally, I was pissed that I had no idea Navorro Bowman got hurt at practice earlier in the week. After the first series, Bowman didn't take the field and I had no idea why. Arkansas Fred and I were searching the sidelines for him, seeing him sitting back on the bench all by himself. We were curious as to if he got suspended or hurt or what. Turns out he tweaked his groin during the week, so the coaches and Bowman were being cautious. Good idea. No reason to risk injury against Akron or Syracuse or Temple. Save him for that payback game against Iowa.

As for the game, the passing game did a fine job, as Derek Moye and Chaz Powell got open and made excellent catches, while the rest of the receiving corps did a fine job, save Brent Brackett. Brackett dropped a few balls and missed a ton of blocks. That was discouraging. But Clark, while not sharp (he underthrew his deep ball and routinely made inaccurate passes), got the job done, thanks to some fine catches by his receivers.

The passing game will be just fine. The running game, well, it was evident that the inexperienced offensive line has some work to do there. On pass protection, the new line was fantastic, rarely letting anyone near Clark. But on running downs, they got virtually no push, resulting in a struggle on the ground. Still, with Evan Royster, Stephfon Green and freshman lightning bolt Devon Smith, you'd think they'll get things going sooner or later.

Speaking of Smith, I was surprised to see him get so much playing time. Of course I heard about the speedy freshman tailback with the sub-4.3 speed, but I didn't figure he'd see much time on the field in 2009, especially with a tiny 5'7", 150-lb. frame. Yet there he was, out there to receive the opening kickoff. Out there on the first series. Regularly getting touches. The guy is tiny, but the coaches must be really high on him to see so much PT as a true freshman in his first game.

The true story of the game, however, was the Penn State defense. The defensive line was the best unit on the field, routinely getting in the backfield and wreaking havoc. Because of their dominance, Akron was limited to just 186 yards of offense, and just 28 of which came on the ground.

Jared Odrick was the best player on the field, bar none. He was overpowering the Akron line, and he freed up his teammates to make plays. That guy is surely primed to make himself an early first-round pick this season. Joining Odrick in the starring role was sophomore end Jack Crawford. The 6'5, 256-lber was a beast, making an immediate impact. The play of the line was the biggest plus for the Nittany Lions.

Of course, the linebackers had their say as well. Any doubts about whether or not Sean Lee has fully recovered should be gone. He wasn't asked to make many plays with the defensive line controlling things, but when he was, he made them all. And he made them all in impressive fashion. He looked like the same Sean Lee that was teaming up with Dan Connor and Paul Posluszny.

And with Navorro Bowman limited due to his injury, sophomore Nathan Stupar stepped in and impressed. Last year's best special teamer, Stupar came in and flew around the field, showing Linebacker U is in good hands. He made some very nice plays and looked like a guy who belonged. Given the ho-hum game by Josh Hull, don't be surprised if we see a linebacking corps of Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman and Nate Stupar down the road.

The downside of the game was Collin Wagner, the junior kicker. After booming the opening kickoff nearly out of the end zone, Wagner struggled. He missed a 28-yard field goal and later a 49-yarder, and his kickoffs got progressively shorter and lower. Perhaps freshman Anthony Fera could do a little better.

Still, not much to complain about with the opener. Penn State handled Akron easily, as they should. They certainly looked a lot better than Ohio State and Iowa.

After the game, Arkansas Fred and I headed back to the Philadelphia area, where we proceeded to see a ton more cops with radar guns pulling people over. It was pretty crazy. I finally got back to my house in Philadelphia in time to watch the Phillies along with the Oklahoma-BYU game and Alabama-Virginia Tech game. I wish I didn't bother with the Phils.

After battling back in the 8th inning to grab a 4-3 lead, Brad Lidge came in and blew his freakin 10th save of the season to drop the second straight game to the Astros.

I'm sorry, but this isn't 2008 anymore. It's 2009, and Brad Lidge is just plain awful. He needs to be demoted pronto. Brett Myers made his return and looked damn good this weekend. Closer good. Time to make the move. Because Lidge blows. Donkey balls. Sweaty donkey balls.

At least Sam Bradford got hurt. That was kind of cool, though it sucks for Bradford and Oklahoma. It was nice to see BYU pull off the upset and get everyone off the Big 12's nuts for a change, and Bama looked damn good against Va. Tech. Mark Ingram was a beast, and I know I would not look forward to tackling any Alabama running back.

Those games were pretty sweet, but they couldn't compare to last night's epic battle between Miami and Florida State. After the Phils shit the bed again Sunday and then yesterday to suffer a 4-game sweep to the hands of the God damn Astros, the Phils still have a 6-game lead, but if anyone should know how important it is to bury the opposition, it's this team. They were the beneficiaries of back-to-back late-season collapses. They know firsthand how important winning is this time of year.

Though it seems they should lock up this division, it's no gimme. Getting swept by Houston doesn't exactly instill confidence. If this team simply had a reliable closer and focused down the stretch, they could easily be 15 games up. As it stands, it's still a six-game lead, but they better not get too complacent. Just ask the Mets how that worked out for them.

But back to the Florida State-Miami game. Man, was that an awesome capper to a long first weekend of college football.

You couldn't have asked for a better game by two hated rivals. The Hurricanes and Seminoles have been a bit down the past few years, but if last night's game was any indication, these two programs are back on the rise. It was a coming out party for the two quarterbacks, as Christian Ponder looked incredible in the first half for Florida State and Jacory Harris played incredibly in the second half for Miami.

I mean, both guys were insanely impressive. Harris had the best game of his young career, throwing for 386 yards on 61.8 percent passing, while Ponder got 294 yards of his own, not to mention 28 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Graig Jones looked like a frighteningly talented athlete for the Canes, and it's evident both teams are loaded with studs. It was a great game with great implications for college football. This storied rivalry came down to the final play, and best of all, it saw Miami come out on top. Take that, Bowden.

This weekend really whiped me out. Between the trip to Happy Valley, the crappiness of the Phils and the full plate of college football, I barely even found time to drink, though I did on Sunday night. Couldn't have asked for more out of the first weekend of the football season. Except for maybe making that long three-day weekend even a little bit longer.

BallHype: hype it up!


  1. The NL road to the W.S. this year is going through St. Louis. If the Phils keep playing this way St. Louis will take a giant shit on them in the playoffs. Lidge better get his head out of his ass if the Phils are to have any chance of getting back to the promised land.

  2. Oh and i will be making the trip with pops Boland out to Penn State on the 19th to take in the game against Temple. Another cup cake game for Joe Pa's sqaud, should be and 28 point spread minimum.

  3. The road to the WS is still through Philadelphia, lest you forget who the World Fucking Champions are.

  4. haha they sure as hell ain't playing like it! If they keep going like this the Cards are going to ass rape them then put them on the corner to make them some money.

  5. this is true Pujols and Holliday is not joke. and having to face Carpenter and Wainwright twice in a 7 game series is no good either.