Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Six Thoughts on the Fiesta Bowl

1. Yes, I'm very disappointed this morning that I touted TCU throughout November and then they played below their level in the biggest game of the season. That said, the game last night was very good. How good? Der Wife, who is a casual football fan and usually goes to bed before a game is over, watched the entire thing and kept remarking "this is a really good game." After a bowl season in which many of the games have been mistakeapaloozas, it was refreshing to watch a taut, defensive game in which the teams were making relatively few errors. Give me 10-10 going into the fourth quarter any day. And as much as I don't like Boise State, the fake punt to prolong the winning drive was the product of an outstanding play design. I've been watching football for a long time and I've never seen a fake run quite like that.

2. For me, the difference in the game was the offensive line matchup. TCU's line was apparently the team's weak link, as they couldn't run the ball all game and they struggled to protect Andy Dalton in the fourth quarter. Rushing 3-4 on most plays, Boise was able to get pressure fairly consistently, including on the final play of each of TCU's last two drives. Conversely, the TCU pass rush, which I expected to be the difference in the game, was neutered by the Boise State offensive line. TCU's defense certainly played well enough to win, but you can attribute the result to the time that Kellen Moore had to throw the ball as compared to the pressure that Dalton faced.

3. I'm going to miss Fox's coverage of BCS games about as much as parents miss the Wiggles when their kids outgrow them. It's one thing to have to listen to Sam Rosen butcher the college rules of remind us every time that Kirby Moore caught a ball that he is Kellen's brother. (Rosen and the other Fox announcers do college games the way that I would do a game in the Hungarian first division. They understand the sport, but they don't get any of the context.) It's another to become nauseous from the quick shots of the crowd and the band every three seconds. A 12-year old with ADHD would have found the cutting excessive. Fox doesn't do this when they cover NFL games, do they? I imagine that the game producer was in the truck, under an Ed Goren-imposed mandate to show "The Pageantry! The Pageantry!" Overwhelmed by the prospect of showing the TCU dancers as opposed to slovenly Philadelphians wit Cheez Whiz in their goatees, said producer gave us thousands of crowd reaction shots as opposed to, you know, the game.

4. I might be an outlying opinion, but I am giving Boise State more credit for this win than for any other win in program history. The Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma was nice, but it combined implausibility (re: the hook and ladder) and a disparity in motivation. (What exactly was Oklahoma, a two-loss team that won the Big XII in a down year, going to prove by beating Boise State?) This game, on the other hand, was against a highly motivated opponent that I and a number of other members of the blognoscenti thought was close in merit to the Texas team that will play Alabama in Pasadena. I'm also giving Boise State more credit for beating TCU than I would have if they would have beaten Georgia Tech, Iowa, or Cincinnati (especially the Bearcat team that would have showed up without Brian Kelly). I didn't take Boise State seriously when they looked like another 1980s BYU: a program that wins against inferior opponents with a great offense, but that lacks the horses on defense. Now, they look like a complete team. They're not the best team in the country, but they're closer than I previously thought. This win puts the Broncos in position to contend for the national title next year, especially because they have a springboard game against Virginia Tech in Washington, D.C. for the opener.

5. The horrendous pass interference call on TCU in the second quarter is a perfect illustration of why I like the college rule that pass interference is 15 yards as opposed to a spot foul. Can you imagine giving a line judge or umpire the power to give half the field to the offense by calling pass interference after a receiver fell backwards while pulling the defender with him? If the guys in stripes are going to consistently butcher interference calls (and this was not the only time that I've seen receiver-initiated contact called against the defense), then the stakes of the call should not be as high as they are in the NFL.

6. The first two BCS games were both won by teams whose coaching staffs implemented significant changes that rendered their opponents' film study useless. Ohio State ditched their Woody Hayes homage on offense to grab the initiative against Oregon and then rode their newly-minted modern offense to victory. Boise State deployed a new defense that confused TCU for the better part of a half, which allowed the Broncos to seize the initiative and render the Horned Frogs into a one-dimensional attack. I don't like the fact that the long layoff between the end of the regular season and the bowl games can cause teams to come out stale and sloppy; I do like the fact that the layoff allows smart coaches to make radical changes.


Anonymous said...

TCU's weak link was its receiver's. The could not beat press coverage. If they happened to beat the coverage they dropped the easy catch.

Ike said...

4 turnovers and 14 penalties is not what i call a clean, mistake-free game (per point #1).

i thought that game sucked, and offered little evidence about the true quality of either team. And Boise needed a 35 yard play on a fake punt from their own 30 yard line... how was that not using trickery to win the game?

Anonymous said...

Agree that the achievement was better than the 07 Fiesta Bowl, but disagree about the quality of the game. That was a snoozer! Dropped passes, strange phantom penalties, and constant inaccuracy by Andy Dalton combined with the aforementioned surplus of crowd shots to make that game borderline unwatchable. The 07 Fiesta Bowl was much more exciting, and it featured one clearly dominant player (AP). This game didn't have that.

Michael said...

Aside from the dropped TD catch, I thought that TCU's receivers were a strength. They looked very athletic once they got the ball. TCU's best drives happened when they got the ball to their slot men in space.

Four turnovers isn't a huge number and they were mostly the result of strong plays by the defense as opposed to big errors on the part of the offense. Still, to each his own.

The fake punt didn't seem as flukish as a hook and ladder at desperation time. You see the former a lot more than the latter, even if the design of the former was unique. Plus, Boise State's defensive changes were fascinating.

I guess I'm just a purist dealing with the unwashed masses. (Strong TIC.)

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