Saturday, December 01, 2007

Saturday live blog, Vol. 9

The live blog has heard your rumors. It's watched you track those planes. It knows you've read every detail of its buyout. But the live blog wants to assure you that it's not planning on going anywhere. Well, at least not today. It's got some continual updating to do.

2:25 a.m. If this isn't the season that gives legs to that whole playoff idea, I don't know what can be. What I do know, though, is it's been great fun to watch and write about, and I very much appreciate your readership throughout the year.

I'll probably churn out some posts about the bowls before it's all said and done, but for now, the live blog is calling it both a night and a season. As always, thanks for reading, and Roll Tide.

2:18 a.m. Locker lofts up a perfect TD pass, but it bounces around to become an INT. Hawaii wins, 35-28, to defend the honor of a perfect season and earn a big-time bowl paycheck. And as wild as this season has been, a win over the big-name opponent to be named later could open the door for a share of a split national title. The last thing you want to do this year is laugh at that idea.

2:14 a.m. The regular season is not at all over. Locker shreds the secondary to get the Huskies inside the Hawaii 5. After a failed scramble, it's second-and-goal with 12 seconds remaining.

2:10 a.m. With 44 seconds left, Colt Brennan connects with Ryan Grice-Mullen for the biggest touchdown pass in Hawaii history. Warriors, 35-28. The only remaining task is to hold on tight.

2:07 a.m. First-and-goal for the Warriors after one of those exceedingly rare Hawaii rushing plays. Fifty-six seconds to glory.

2:02 a.m. Brennan is in the zone. Three quick passes have the Warriors at the Washington 27. Two and a half minutes to go. You can feel the BCS in the air over there from here.

1:59 a.m. Washington quarterback Jake Locker evades pressure and makes a ridiculous first-down play. Unfortunately for him, the officials differ with him on the issue of whether he crossed the line of scrimmage before tossing that beautiful pass. The Huskies punt, and Hawaii has 4:15 to make something of it.

1:51 a.m. At long last, Hawaii remembers what a touchdown pass is, and Brennan gets his fourth of the night. Tied at 28 with eight minutes to go. One of the loudest per-capita little stadiums in the country has erupted in sheer jubilation.

1:40 a.m. Hawaii misses that memo about the TPS reports field goals, just like it misses another field goal attempt. The festival of scoring has ground to a halt in Honolulu.

1:21 a.m. Yes, Hawaii, you can block a field goal. A blocked field goal isn't a touchdown pass either, but it doesn't seem to be covered by the scoring clause. It's still 28-21 late in the third.

1:11 a.m. No, Hawaii, you can't have a field goal. A field goal isn't a touchdown pass, and that's specifically all that you're allowed to have. Washington's lead stays at 28-21 as I ponder how it came to pass that Ron Franklin, ESPN's best play-by-play man, is calling a game that will end well after 3 in the morning on the East Coast.

1:05 a.m. Pass-happy Hawaii converts on a crucial fourth down with an option pitch. It's going to be a late night on the island.

12:39 a.m. The GameDay guys like LSU, too. Something tells me, though, that the only thing that will put the college football world back on its axis is Ohio State claiming that national title it missed out on last year. Or maybe we should crave the disordered splendor of a split title between a two-loss team and Hawaii. The Warriors are back within seven as the second half draws near.

12:23 a.m. Lou Holtz, speaking from the heart to the pollsters: "They don't trust me. They don't give me a vote." This brings me inexplicable sadness. The kind that only a pep talk can erase. (Note: Don't actually drink during the pep talks. You should be sober and completely aware to enjoy them to their fullest.)

12:18 a.m. We still could see Vili roaming around on Bourbon Street. Hawaii has slashed the Washington lead to 28-14 and is on the march again just before halftime.

12:04 a.m. Les Miles on the Michigan job after LSU's SEC title win: "I'm not going there. ... I've got a great place. I'm at home." All right, that's about as clear as words get. Now it's just a matter of getting his John Hancock on the dotted line down in the bayou. A virtual home game for the national title can't hurt on that front.

11:58 p.m. The ESPN talking heads at long last, seem to have absorbed the core, transcendent lesson that this football season offers everyone: None of us really know anything about anything.

11:53 p.m. The state of Alabama officially gets no nice football things this year: Valdosta State took down North Alabama in the Division II playoffs today, meaning it'll be yet another season with a championship game in Florence without the home team there.

11:45 p.m. Colt Brennan finally tosses a touchdown pass for Hawaii to cut the deficit to 21-7. Over on the original ESPN, College Football Final is beginning. This should be fun.

11:37 p.m. Washington 21, Hawaii 0 as the second quarter begins. There'll be no BCS berth for the Warriors at this rate. But Arizona State may get one after holding on to a 20-17 squeaker over its in-state rival tonight. Hey, look, another two-loss team!

11:34 p.m. Les Miles breaks out that "undefeated in regulation" argument for LSU again as ESPN gathers up the coach of every available two-loss to pit them in proxy verbal battle for a shot at the crown. Pete Carroll sounded much more relaxed, probably because he's resigned to the Rose Bowl after, you know, Stanford.

11:11 p.m. Over on ESPN, Georgia coach Mark Richt just finished pleading his two-loss team's case. The Bulldogs are playing the best football in the country right now and probably would win it all were there a playoff. But with that said, they shouldn't get a shot at the crystal football. They didn't win their conference, and that has to be considered a disqualifying factor under the current, badly flawed BCS system. The same goes for one-loss Kansas.

Of the two-loss conference champions, LSU and Oklahoma are the only teams that still merit real consideration. Virginia Tech is out after that stomping from LSU back in September. West Virginia is out after its loss to a sub-.500 team at home. And USC is out after dropping a home game to the singular Cardinal. I'd give the edge to LSU, because the SEC, for all its vicissitudes and multi-overtime chaos, still looks like the nation's toughest conference. If the Sooners slip in, though, LSU has no one to blame but itself.

11:07 p.m. Hawaii is losing 14-0 at home to a sub-.500 Pac-10 team, because the space-time hole won't even let your non-BCS Cinderella story be nice and tidy.

10:50 p.m. No. 1 has suffered No. 2's fate. Oklahoma has proved that the first time was no fluke by annihilating Missouri, 38-17. I think I'll just acknowledge the winner of the I-AA playoffs as the national champion. It's as good as anything else.

10:39 p.m. At least someone sent the Orange Bowl out in style. Florida International schooled North Texas, 38-19, to avoid a winless season and defend the home turf before it disappears.

10:18 p.m. "Boomer Sooner" is running on an endless loop in the Alamodome. Oklahoma is up 35-17, and it's just about time to call that Ohio State vs. Mystery Opponent matchup in the title game.

10:10 p.m. Oklahoma is up by 11 and inside the Missouri 10. It's the perfect ending for a beautiful disaster of a season.

9:57 p.m. The good news for the Mountaineers: They have two more points. The bad news: They have zero more seconds. Pitt caps the regular season in fitting fashion: with a humongous, 13-9 upset of a No. 2 team that makes no sense whatsoever.

9:51 p.m. It's incomplete out of the end zone on fourth down for White, and Pitt is a minute and a half from locking up a career win for Wannstedt. Over in San Antonio, the Sooners have a 14-point lead. Get ready for a two-loss team playing for the gold.

9:48 p.m. Missouri's Chase Daniel gets intercepted off a quite unfortunate ricochet that leaves Oklahoma with first-and-goal. West Virginia is mounting a furious comeback, but Ohio State may be about to clinch a championship shot anyway.

9:45 p.m. West Virginia gets it back with precisely three minutes left after a terrible no-call on obvious holding on third down.

9:42 p.m. Now Oklahoma retakes the lead down in San Antonio. You thought I was kidding about that Hawaii national title, huh?

9:38 p.m. The spark didn't ignite. Pitt stops Slaton a yard short on fourth down. Four minutes left until THE Ohio State University (not just any state university from Ohio, they'll have you know) clinches a national title shot from the comfort of its couch.

9:35 p.m. Best word to describe WVU's Noel Devine: fast. In italics. He returns the kickoff for 47 yards. And now Pat White is back in the game to play through the pain. It's about to get good.

9:31 p.m. Pittsburgh stalls out at the WVU 1 and has to settle for a field goal. Wannstedt is swinging crutches everywhere. Pitt, 13-7.

9:24 p.m. West Virginia's backup quarterback, in because Pat White is hurt, drops the ball milliseconds before getting annihilated by a blitzing Pitt defender. The Panthers recover. Steve Slaton has had a grand total of seven carries for WVU in this game. This prompts certain questions about the game plan.

9:18 p.m. ESPN announcer extraordinaire Mike Patrick: "First down for the Steelers." Moments later, he remembers that just because you see Dave Wannstedt, that doesn't mean it's the NFL.

9:05 p.m. Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy dashes into the end zone to make it 17-7, but it's called back on a holding call of unclear origins. Wannstedt shares his sentiments with language that's not safe for a family website. Then Pitt, being Pitt, pushes the ensuing field goal try wide left. The game just turned on a dime.

9 p.m. The Versus cameraman takes the hardest hit I've seen all day and lives to tell about it. Wonder if he has any eligibility left?

8:58 p.m. Stanford leads the Big Game by 10 in the fourth quarter. The singular Cardinal is playing on Versus, which the school should enlist to televise all of its games if the past is any indication. Stanford is five minutes away from breaking Cal's five-game winning streak in the series. See there? Some teams can prevent their rival from taking six straight.

8:53 p.m. Someone really needs to start hiding the couches up in Morgantown. West Virginia punts after a comedy of errors. Elsewhere, Missouri scores just before halftime, goes for two, and ties it up on an absolutely delightful double-reverse gadget play.


8:33 p.m. Half an hour later, Nos. 1 and 2 are still in low-scoring slugfests. With White injured, West Virginia has let Pitt cut the deficit to four. Also, Missouri is down 7-6 in a championship game that bears a mighty close resemblance to its brother in Atlanta.

8:03 p.m. Oklahoma and West Virginia put up touchdowns within 10 seconds of each other. It's 7-3 and 7-0, respectively.

7:53 p.m. Missouri scores on a top 10 team -- it's only a field goal, but it still counts -- before its prospective national title game opponent scores on a team coached by Dave Wannstedt. Also, West Virginia quarterback Pat White appears to have injured his thumb. Hawaii's championship dreams yet live.

7:33 p.m. Dave Wannstedt is pacing the Pittsburgh sidelines and sporadically bashing his crutches into the turf. And this is with his team playing one of its best games of the year so far on the same day he got a three-year contract extension. Fear the mustache.

7:27 p.m. Oregon State stuffs Jonathan Stewart on fourth down in double OT to win the day's most entertaining non-Sun Belt game.

7:22 p.m. The Oregon schools swap field goals. Overtime, part two. Elsewhere, Pittsburgh and West Virginia are still scoreless because that's what happens in high-stakes rivalry games, Stanford is springing a mild upset of California because that's what happens in lower-stakes rivalry games, and Arizona and Arizona State are still waiting for ESPN2 to switch over, because that's what happens in rivalry games scheduled to air after other rivalry games. Also, Missouri has gone three-and-out to start the Big 12 championship, because that's what happens to No. 1 teams that are underdogs.

7:10 p.m. It's an oddball sequence in Eugene, where Oregon misses a 53-yard field goal attempt to win, only to get a free pass on a Beavers personal foul penalty. Then the Ducks move it to the middle of the field and flap around in all different directions trying to kick another field goal with no timeouts left. That one misses, too. Overtime. Who wants a December trip to El Paso more?

7:01 p.m. Well, it wasn't a missed field goal attempt; it was a blocked field goal attempt. Oregon gets it back with a minute to go.

6:59 p.m. West Virginia opens its play-in game for a national title shot with a drive for a missed field goal. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Oregon State has mounted a drive for what it hopes won't be a missed field goal attempt for the win.

6:45 p.m. Victory formation for LSU. The Hat grabs the SEC title and -- barring any more breaking news -- gets ready to wale away on Hawaii in the Superdome with his damn strong football team.

6:39 p.m. Ainge finds Arian Foster wide open for an enormous, momentum-changing strike to the LSU 15. Then he immediately throws an interception. Yeah, that's about right.

6:22 p.m. Erik Ainge gets in on some Error of Unspeakable Horror action, lofting a touchdown pass straight into the arms of Jonathan Zenon, who happens to be wearing an LSU uniform today. After the two-point conversion -- successful, unlike last week -- the Bayou Bengals lead, 21-14.

6:19 p.m. Oregon, playing with its third-string quarterback, has scored 28 points in that game they call the Civil War. To head off your inevitable question at the pass: Jonathan Stewart has more than 150 rushing yards on the day, that's how.

6:16 p.m. Tennessee is playing lights-on on defense but still leads by only one. The old-school SEC is back. Eleven minutes left.

6:02 p.m. Verne Lundquist joking about LSU trainers' work to keep the cameras from getting a peek at their healing efforts on quarterback Ryan Perrilloux: "They're secretive about their injury reports, but we all know it's a finger! Unless they're cutting it off..." You dare ask why Verne is the reigning voice of college football?

5:52 p.m. Another missed field goal for the Vols. Does either team want to go to the Sugar Bowl? Is Hawaii that fearsome?

5:46 p.m. Now that the space-time hole is a permanent fixture of the college game, it's somehow fitting that the team that totally dominated the Third Saturday in October would collapse into a heap and the team that lost would emerge as utterly bulletproof. Tennessee snags an INT from Ryan Perrilloux and is near scoring position. Again, stop asking for this to make sense.

5:41 p.m. Glad we got that Rammer Jammer in when we did, because now Tennessee is leading the SEC title game and looking like an entirely different kind of team. I'll begin bracing myself for that epic New Year's showdown with Hawaii now.

5:24 p.m. Now the Vols cap off a good-looking drive with a missed chip-shot field goal. What happened to those 80-79, seven-overtime classics you've been giving us all year, SEC?

5:13 p.m. Tennessee's defense absolutely drills Early Doucet, then forgets to cover Demetrius Byrd down the sideline. LSU, 13-7.

5:09 p.m. Any chance that Oregon could pick a uniform style and stick with it? Preferably one that isn't about four different colors all blended into one. The Ducks have scored but still trail the Beavers by seven. In other Pac-10 news, the Rose Bowl dream is dying across town for UCLA, which is fine, because, like a toucan with fangs and gills, that Rose Bowl dream just shouldn't be.

4:47 p.m. Any chance that guy from the Dr. Pepper halftime quarterback contest has some eligibility left? And some interest in an education from the Capstone? I'm just saying.

4:41 p.m. After its best-looking drive of the day, LSU pushes a chip-shot field goal wide right. Tennessee leads 7-6 at the half, and I have to look at Phil Fulmer's grinning orange-clad visage.

4:32 p.m. And the state of Alabama will get no conference championship love. The Troy comeback drive stalls at the FAU 30, and the Owls hang on for the road win. Meanwhile, LSU has more penalties (seven) than points (six). The ugly continues.

4:25 p.m. Two and a half minutes left. Troy is near midfield. The Trojans were down by 23 just minutes ago.

4:18 p.m. Troy has stormed back to cut FAU's lead to 38-32 with a little more than four minutes left. Meanwhile, LSU faces third-
and-35. Miles might want to get a fourth-down play ready. I suggest the punt. No, Les, not the fake punt. The real one.

4:06 p.m. Les Miles goes for it on fourth down? Never! That his damn strong football team didn't get it is of no relevance.

3:49 p.m. A man is rolling around Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium in a miniature plane with a giant Santa hat on its tail. I'll take this as a cosmic suggestion to watch the SEC title game again.

3:46 p.m. Tennessee is clinging precariously to a 7-6 lead. Virginia Tech has tasted revenge in front of many, many thousands of empty seats to capture the ACC crown. And FAU, up 35-12, is tearing Troy's hopes and dreams of playing in New Orleans' third most important bowl game limb from limb in that stadium that used to be named for certain HealthSouth founders who shall remain nameless.

3:33 p.m. On Sept. 8, Oklahoma State beat Florida Atlantic, 42-6. On Sept. 14, Troy beat Oklahoma State, 41-23. So of course, on Dec. 1, FAU leads at Troy, 28-12. It's irrational. Just accept it.

3:25 p.m. Five minutes into the game, LSU's Jacob Hester has 33 yards. He's on pace for 396. This isn't promising for a defense.

3:20 p.m. Since halftime, Troy has kicked another field goal. Unfortunately, those are worth less than touchdowns, of which FAU has notched another. Owls, 14-12.

3:17 p.m. The Tennessee band cues up that other song it plays that isn't "Rocky Top." Three minutes in, the Vols strike first. Tennessee, 7-0. Down the road in Jacksonville, the Hokies have seized the lead from the Eagles midway through the fourth quarter. The empty seats look on stoically.

3:08 p.m. The SEC championship begins with two displays of ugly. One is the hideous orange-on-orange getup that Tennessee is wearing, and the other is whatever that quasi-onside kick attempt was that LSU tried on the opening kickoff. Sorry, Les, but that can work on the Vols only when DAVE is calling the game. As far as I know, they aren't, unless it's for fun from the couch.

2:43 p.m. Central Florida has finished off Tulsa again. The de facto Sun Belt title game is at halftime. And the literal SEC title game is still about 20 minutes away. That leaves only the ACC title game, which is tied, but about which I still don't care. Break time.

2:27 p.m. Troy and Florida Atlantic have introduced the Sun Belt to the grueling defensive battle. The Trojans lead, 9-7, despite zero touchdowns on a cool, sunny Pike County day.

2:20 p.m. Six straight for Navy, which wins 38-3 and graduates another class of seniors who never lost to a service academy. Anchors aweigh, and enjoy that Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.

2:02 p.m. At some point a while back, Central Michigan finished off the original Miami to repeat as MAC champion. Of far more interest is the de facto Sun Belt title game, where Florida Atlantic leads Troy by a point but just missed a field goal. In other Florida school action, UCF is a touchdown away from mirroring the 44-23 winning margin of its first meeting with Tulsa.

2 p.m. Upon further review, here's the key line of the new ESPN story on the Les Miles situation: "Coach Miles and the chancellor have already worked out a contract that they're happy with, but it hasn't been signed yet." And until it is, nothing is absolutely final.

1:51 p.m. Navy blows the game wide open. Campbell finds the end zone for the second time today to put the Middies up 31-3. Army surely can't wait for Paul Johnson to load up the U-Haul.

1:40 p.m. I flip back to the ACC title game to spot a player with the ABC college football logo shaved into his hair. Words... words fail me. Virginia Tech promptly saves me from the imagery by scoring a touchdown. The game is tied at 16-16 just before halftime. The bad news: The stands still haven't started to fill up. The good news: The Hokies' quarterback, Sean Glennon, gets to wear one of his own team's jerseys for the fourth straight week.

1:30 p.m. Out of my viewing, Virginia Tech has executed that rarest of college football plays: the blocked extra point returned for two points for the other side. It's at least the second instance this weekend, though; Fresno State did it Friday night, too.

1:23 p.m. Half a yard away from a touchdown, Army coughs up the ball. Navy recovers. It's just not the Cadets' year.

1:14 p.m. If they have an ACC championship game and no one attends, does it really exist? Virginia Tech scores to cut BC's lead to 10-7 in a stadium that's way too full of emptiness for a game that allegedly matters. Somewhere, maybe someone cares.

1:04 p.m. So, um, that thing about Les Miles going to Michigan? That thing that's been a widely acknowledged certainty since Appalachian State struck a blow for I-AA teams everywhere? That thing that Kirk Herbstreit just confirmed as recently as three hours ago? Well, never mind. He's staying at LSU after all. Probably. In other breaking news: Yasser Arafat is still dead.

12:42 p.m. Campbell nearly breaks another kickoff return for a touchdown at the end of the half. Navy slips in a 51-yard field goal -- literally, it slides down the back side of the crossbar -- to take a 24-3 lead into the locker room. In other news, Central Michigan is in control, Central Florida leads by eight, and a TD has been scored in the ACC title game for the first time since 2005. BC, 7-0.

12:20 p.m. And things fall apart for Army. The Midshipmen recover a fumble inside the Cadets 10 and punch it in three plays later. Navy, 21-3. If Paul Johnson's guys are worried about his possible departure, it's not showing on the field.

12:14 p.m. Ninety-eight yards later, Navy goes up by double digits. Reggie Campbell drives a dagger by taking the longest kickoff return in school history to the end zone. Navy, 14-3.

12:09 p.m. Army's second try at a 28-yard field goal is more successful. Navy leads 7-3 in a hard-hitting defensive struggle in Baltimore that's quite the opposite of that North Texas basketball game on grass earlier this season.

11:59 a.m. Central Florida opened the C-USA title game with a 10-0 run, then choked away the lead. Now, early in the second quarter, UCF is back on top, 17-13. The winner goes to the Liberty Bowl, where Alabama conceivably could go, so perhaps I should try to care more. In all likelihood, though, the Crimson Tide is headed back to Shreveport, where the opponent, like last year, probably would be another 6-6 Big 12 team, this time Colorado.

Now is as good a time as any to get acquainted with the Buffaloes' starting lineup, and who better to introduce them than Eric Cartman? Yes, that Eric Cartman. And yes, it's real. Here's the Colorado offense, and here's the defense.

11:47 a.m. After a quarter of bending, Army's defense breaks. Zerbin Singleton breaks free from 38 yards out to put Navy up 7-0. I suspect the broadcasters are secretly disappointed that it wasn't a quarterback scramble by Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, just so they could indulge in some transcendent joy by saying his full name yet again. For the record, that's 12 vowels, nine consonants, two hyphens, and a whole lot of fun to enunciate.

11:33 a.m. Need six yards on third down? Hand it to the fullback and make it work. This Navy offense is sick. I've heard you're interested in the SMU job, Paul Johnson, but honestly, I think you can do better. For that matter, I think you're doing better now.

11:26 a.m. Six minutes, 14 plays, a huge fourth-down conversion in the red zone, and a missed 28-yard field goal attempt for Army. That's the sort of thing that'd deflate a lot of teams.

11:21 a.m. Army has come out like a house afire. Five straight losses to your rival and constant talk about how it's going to be six will do that to a team. Well, some teams, anyway.

11:19 a.m. The ACC, C-USA, and MAC all will be playing their title games by noon. The primary game I'll watch during that time frame? Army-Navy. I feel sure it's the right decision.

11:10 a.m. OK, so I didn't post on the Iron Bowl last week. What do you want me to say? Once again, Alabama had momentary flashes of brilliance but ultimately lost another game to an Auburn team that's somewhat above average at best. Once again, Alabama looked pretty good for the first eight or nine weeks of the season before apparently forgetting how to play football in November. Once again, Sisyphus almost got to the top of the mountain before tripping over a dropped pass or a silly penalty and letting the rock roll back down over his foot. It'll take time, but sooner rather than later, that rock is going over the edge.

11 a.m. It's an hour until noon, and the MAC championship game is six minutes away from halftime over on ESPN2. I believe kickoff came before sunrise. At least it's not being played on a Tuesday morning. Or in Guam Memorial Stadium. Yet.