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The Alphabetical, Week 13: In Which We Learn What The Andrewsarchus Has To Do With Football

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A is for Andrewsarchus. There is a reason prehistoric apes didn't have writing. It would have meant looking down for a second and thinking, and looking down for a second meant being devoured by the Andrewsarchus.

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Like a pit bull with the head of an alligator and the appetite of a thousand starving sorority girls kept awake past two in the morning, the Andrewsarchus ruled its day like Jeremy Shockey on holiday, ripping and killing at will with its only real opposition being the limits of its stomach and anatomy.

Evolution's a bastard, and Andrewsarchus is proof. Two-thousand pounds of pure, flesh-ripping charisma was the Andrewsarchus, and even it couldn't escape extinction. Thus our segue to college football, where the horrifying beasts of ages past finished out the string on Saturday in mixed fashion. Florida State fell to a new, previously undiscovered rock bottom by losing its sixth straight to in-state rival Florida 37-10.

The other goliath of the 1990s, Nebraska, defied the logic of the box score by beating Colorado despite being outgained in almost every key category.

Ancien regime charter members Notre Dame finished out a miserable final third of the 2009 season by losing to Stanford and losing their third head coach of the millenium. (Four if you count Nobel laureate George O'Leary.)

Even USC, the most ballyhooed team of this decade, struggled against UCLA for much of the night and had to rely on a spectacular fit of bad manners to turn the margin into a blowout. (More on that in a bit.)

The Andrewsarchus has a lesson for all toothsome monsters rampaging their corner of the world: time is short, and success fleeting even for the most ferociously designed beast. 

B is for Behold A Pale Horse.

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.

Goodness, there is unreasonable, and then there is what Toby Gerhart was versus Notre Dame on Saturday night. Just rude. If they'd had babies wearing ND gear, he would have punched them. If they'd demanded he RSVP'd for the party he would have shown up drunk, late, and without so much as a housewarming gift. Gerhart ran for 205 yards on 29 carries, scored 3 TDs, and threw another one on an 18 yard TD pass. He demanded, Notre Dame gave, and that was the order of operations for the night without a peep from the Irish.

Gerhart should be called the Pale Horse, and not just because a handoff to him is pure, pale death. It is also because he is white, and do not pretend you don't notice this every time you watch. He's not just white, he's a white running back from Stanford who has meant more to his team than any player, is brilliant, athletically gifted, and has an equally beautiful and intelligent girlfriend. Hopefully this means he has some kind of secret disability evening up the universal karma score, like an inability to park on the right or a deep and unbudgable dislike of cheese. (It's a living hell, Toby. Trust me.) If the Heisman meant anything or was defined by any real terms for selection, he would get it. As he plays on the West Coast for Stanford, he won't, because staying up 'til 11 is really, really demanding.

C is for Confusion. Georgia Tech, the second ranked rushing attack in the nation, attempted four straight passes to end their chances in a game where they only trailed by six points. 

D is for Die On Your Feet Or Knees We Don't care. Kansas also obliged those seeking bizarre coaching decisions by having Todd Reesing pass twice from his own endzone on 1st and 2nd down, and then had him run an easily read QB draw on third down for a game-killing safety. Mizzou went on to, win, Mangino quoted Zapata in saying "He'd rather die on his feet than live on his knees," and Mizzou fans said that's fine, we'll just keep shooting no matter how you'd like it.


Danario Alexander's postgame tweet summed up the damage nicely:

Brand new Nike cleats =$100, new beast mode helmet =$250, beating KU and keeping them out of a bowl game = PRICELESS!!!!!!

E is for Endogenous. Proceeding from within, as in TCU's slow, steady ascent to 4 in the BCS from the potential cliff it faced with the departure of Dennis Franchione to Alabama in 2002. Typically, the departure of a coach for a small program occasions the sort of suction a sinking ship makes on the way down, with the vacuum inhaling all the progress the program made as a new and often lesser coach comes in and inevitably screws things eight degrees to hell in a matter of three years. (SEE: STEVE KRAGTHORPE.) Both TCU and Boise, the welterweights no one wants any piece of whatsoever, hired from within, kept everything else in place, and watched the wins roll in when they had trusted in-house folk to work with. In both cases, the assistants did brilliantly while their departed coaches failed in their next endeavor. (Hawkins has been a total failure to this point at Colorado and would be fired if CU had the money to buy him out; Franchione, well...he happened to Texas A&M, and they're still trying to dig themselves out of the trash heap he piled the program into.)

F is for Flurry. Auburn's opening salvo against Alabama was a flurry of trick plays, motions, endarounds, and multiple formations sprung directly from the skull of Guz Malzahn, the Auburn offensive coordinator largely regarded as a kind of minor football genius. In case you wondered how long that fountain of genius can run, the answer is: exactly 15 football minutes. Aside from a blown coverage allowing Auburn's third TD, the Tigers ran through all their ammo in the first quarter of the game, noticed the guy in front of them wasn't going down, and then spent the remainder of the game watching the lead slowly bleed away from them.

Additional news from the game: Julio Jones is now a Keyshawn Johnson-style possession receiver, albeit one you can throw to four times on the final drive for the win with ease. There's worse things to be, but a field-stretching dervish he is not.

G is for Game Theory.  Take the arguments about "class" out of any discussions about Pete Carroll calling a deep pass for a TD with 52 seconds left in a 21-7 game against UCLA. Class is the last resort for those whose asses have just been set on fire and handed to them on the field of battle, a kind of ghost fans of a freshly slaughtered team can point to and say "he still thinks we're better."  

Instead, let's crack this open as a game theory question. Two parties, A (Pete Carroll) and B (Rick Neuheisel) engage in a game. Towards the end, A has gained a clear advantage over B, and offers a surrender option. In this case, the surrender option is the kneeldown with 54 seconds left. B refuses to concede, and calls a timeout to prolong the game.

Admirable? Sure. B refuses to concede, insisting they will fight to the last possible moment and exhaust all possibilities. This means we're still playing, in other words, and thus ready to defend any and all possible attempts to make the game any more difficult to even up than it already is. Fine, says actor A, who immediately reacts by scoring and making the margin even more lopsided.

Neuheisel initiated hostilities, in other words, by calling the timeout in the first place. He essentially said all options remained on the table, and play on, cowboy. Pete Carroll more than happily accepted this offer, and illustrated that the fair, logical response to "no surrender" is to continue bombing. As tired as analogizing war to football is, it is necessary here: the "no surrender" situation in any game forces the aggressor's hand into continuing a game, and thus the calling of plays designed on whiteboards to go infinitely forward to the endzone.

Did it require a nuke, i.e. the bomb Barkley dropped to Williams? No: a cannon shot would have sufficed, most likely. Carroll chose overkill to make his point, and if you'd like to slag him for that, go ahead. Still: all options are on the field at that point at the request of an opponent who explicitly requested that you keep attempting to score. Don't blame Arthur for chopping the Black Knight's legs off. He was the one on the ground asking for you to keep swinging.

H is for Hernandez. Aaron Hernandez is invisible to you if you wear the colors garnet and gold. We all have our superpowers, and this is his. Hernandez took two different variations of the shovel pass for TDs against Florida State, and ran through Seminole defenders like Goldy the Gopher trampling Pop Warner All-Stars. This was almost lost in the emotional tumult of Brandon Spikes' final game at the Swamp, undoubtedly the most emotional and overreported event of this college football weekend. Also, Tim Tebow played his final game, too, completing a disappointing career often overshadowed by his predecessor Chris Leak.

I is for Indigenous. Dan Mullen, going native and turning back the clock at Miss State to the Jackie Sherrill era of endless power runs and passing with both teeth gritted, though it's less painful when you win your first Egg Bowl in a 41-27 upset. 14 passes left the hands of Keith Relf and Tyson Lee in this game, a mere fourteen attempts matched with fifty-nine rushing attempts for a total of 317 yards on the ground. Ole Miss now completes the inevitable called-for Houston Nutt collapse under high expectations, and Mississippi State finishes the year with five victories, one of the tiny miracles few will notice amidst greater hubbub in college football.

J is for Jackrabbit. Noel Devine can make 88 yards disappear in 10 seconds. Watch:

Bill Stewart's charmed life continues as he only gave Devine 17 carries, let the turnover-friendly Jarrett Brown throw the ball 31 times, and stood on the far end of his kicker's range at the end of the game like an inexperienced gambler standing on 15 at the blackjack table facing a King up. He was facing the Wannstache, however, who managed to outgaffe Stewart by putting the game in Bill Stull's hands when it mattered, earning Pitt two critical turnovers in a tight defensive game. (To be fair, the Bill Stull random event generator did throw a game-tying late TD when it mattered, but in sum this was a losing proposition for Pitt.) This classic matchup of two coaches attempting to lose the game first is brought to you by the Big East: Racing to the Bottom Since We Lost Rich Rodriguez and Bobby Petrino.

K is for Kneecapped. Arizona State was down 14-0 at the half and scratched back to a 17-17 tie when Kyle Williams floated down into the endzone with a TD pass heaved on a prayer on 4th and 12. Kyle Williams then muffed a punt, gave Arizona the ball on the ASU 22 yard line, and snuffed out the very life he had breathed into the game, capping a six game collapse for the Sun Devils with a devastating loss to their in-state rival. There is no responsible advice for moments like these in life. I suggest taking cash and your ID to the nearest bar, writing your phone number and address on your arm, and throwing yourself to the wolves of a night of drinking to forget. You'll probably end up at home, and by home I mean the county drunk tank. (Say hello to dad for me!)

L is for Lesson. Boise State opened their scoring against Nevada with three straight TDs on the same play, a play action rollout pass to the backup fullback Dan Paul. Doing it once is strategy validated; doing it twice is opportunism; and doing it three times is giving career advice to the linebacker and defensive coordinator that they might want to consider taking up other jobs. Chris Petersen is a giver like that, and always has been.

M is for Mock Heisman Ballot Composed By A Heisman Voter And Sportswriter Who Only Watches Two Games A Week: 

1. Tim Tebow: What a passer! Better yet: I can cite "leadership," which no one ever questions because they just assume being the quarterback involves it, and "Faith," because that has a lot to do with football.

2. Colt McCoy: He's a quarterback at a major school, he's white, and he completes tons of passes against bad defenses, meaning when I add  up all these numbers they look REALLY BIG ON PAPER. He's also named Colt. That's neat! 

3. Mark Ingram: he's a running back for a major program. That'll do.

4. Boise QB: whoever that guy is. My goodness, does he throw a lot of touchdowns. They're all on this stat sheet, since Boise games come on very late here in New Jersey, and I need my beauty sleep. EDIT: Find his name for me and paste it in.

5. Toby Gerhart: never seen him play, but golly, that's a lot of touchdowns. Never heard of a black guy named "Toby," though. Curious.

N is for Nitwits: Nowhere is there a greater chasm of total dropoff in broadcasting than between Verne and Gary on CBS and the number two crew, Craig Bolerjack and Steve Beuerlein. It's easy to criticize broadcasters: they have to appear on television, which is instantly mockable, and then have to evaluate live events as they happen for the ears of the listening millions. They make mistakes. It happens. Conditions granted. Moving to next paragraph where we rip the innards out of them anyway.

Bolerjack and Beuerlein together got nothing--repeat, nothing--right in calling Alabama/Auburn right Saturday. They announced the temperature as "purple o'clock." They belched into live mikes and referred to Saban as "Sheila." They drew elaborate games of tic-tac-toe on the screen during plays. At one point, both fell asleep during the broadcast in the most enjoyable five minutes of the production.

None of this happened, by the way, but it would have been an improvement over what did. Bolerjack missed Ingram's short run on 4th and 1 by confidently calling out "GOT IT!" even though Ingram was clearly a full two yards short. He bellowed over much of the game pointlessly while Beuerlein got paid to say things like this: "Gilbert Arenas still gets nervous before every punt. That's amazing." 

Not at all. Punt returns involve 11 men running full-speed at you, with many of them intent on shattering any bones they can get a helmet on in the process. If you're not nervous doing this in front of 90K people, you're not human. As much as Bolerjack wrestled with making sensical statements, Beuerlein was worse, suggesting things like "Auburn came to play today!" when he wasn't blandly mumbling out the box score, making declarative statements about the sun being sun-like and the air being particularly air-y, and saying that Doug Flutie completed his famous Hail Mary to Brian Brennan in 1984. Gerard Phelan probably didn't watch this game, but he wouldn't appreciate you airbrushing him out of history, Steve.

If they're calling a game I care about in the future, I'll just turn on that endless loop of dying mules I have on iTunes just for such occasions. 

O is for Obese. Thanks to the Freedom Tray, I can have my own trough to tote from place to place without the shame of spilling my cheese-fry smoothie on myself.

That this was airing during the Pitt/West Virginia game probably says all you need to know about who they think is watching the game: a collection of 400 pound shutins who crave their own portable but patriotic feed bin.  Bill Stewart ordered four of them, but if he comes through my drive-in I'm throwing the bitch back at him.

P is for Pinpointed. Weaknesses in Texas' game do exist. Rivalry games add some degree of improbably even competition, sure, but Texas A&M riddled the Texas secondary for 342 yards and 4 TDs through the air, lending some weight to the notion that Texas would, in a projected title game, suffer grievously at the hands of anyone with a passing game. Sadly, this will not happen if the SEC Champion is that team, since neither Florida nor Alabama can pass their way around a well-arranged set of tackling dummies. The team that would give Texas the greatest problems? Most likely Cincinnati, who they will not face due to BCS rankings, but who could give Texas their least comfortable matchups on the edge with Pike dishing to receivers short, long, wide, and deep. This is the column's second reminder that the BCS sucks, sucks, sucks.

Q is for Quelled. Les Miles and clock management, friends for a week. It's so beautiful, really: not only did LSU run a beautiful short-clock drill to get in field goal position to send the game against Arkansas into overtime, but Miles called the timeout to take the field goal with a cozy nine seconds left on the clock. He seemed genuinely shocked at how easy it was:

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Or, possibly, Les Miles was told that field goals count as points that can win games. Either way, it's a beautiful marriage for LSU fans, one that will last until the bowl game when Miles blows a game fist-pumping-out the clock on a potential game-winning field goal attempt, and then reminds everyone "we'll make up the points in the lightning round."

R is for Rancor. Max Hall on Utah after the Cougars 26-23 win in the Holy War:

"I don't like Utah," Hall said. "In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, I hate their fans, I hate everything.... I think the whole university, their fans and their organization, is classless. They threw beer on my family and stuff last year, and they did a whole bunch of nasty things, and I don't respect them, and they deserve to lose."

Sounds like this needs to be settled over some milk and casserole, Max. Blame his grumpiness on the worst winning performance by any quarterback actually allowed to throw passes this weekend: 12/32, 134 yards, and 2 TDs despite the overall lack of productivity. Mormons: they're nice, except when you throw things at their mother. (And really, who doesn't this rule apply to?)

T is for Tickling. Georgia Tech's defense didn't defend Washaun Ealey or Caleb King this weekend, but they did appear to do a very good job attempting to tickle them, as they were in stitches averaging 7.7 yards a carry. Additional tickle artistry was on display by Kansas' run defense, who allowed 7.1 yards a carry to Mizzou, and by the tickle kings of this weekend, Notre Dame. The Irish allowed 8.1 yards a carry to Stanford in an affectionate and hilarious display of cuddle/defending that had all 854 people at the Farm in stitches.

U is for Unblemished. Western Kentucky and Eastern Michigan, step forward: you have received the participation certificate for 2009, going winless.

V is for Very Tasteful. After somehow going up 59-0 on Rice at the half, Houston throttled back to merely annihilate the Owls by a score of 73-14. See, Rick Neuheisel? Don't seem them calling timeouts? Otherwise it's Kevin Sumlin calling in shots to the Rock 'n Jock 30 point goalposts located forty yards behind the regular endzone, and one one wants to see this okay we do because you know Kevin Sumlin would do it.

W is for Will You Miss Any Of The Recently Fired Crop Of Coaches? Given that all were between the bland, blandly unlikeable, inept, and mediocre, the answer is: NEIN.

Aside from the bizarre firing of David Elson at Western Kentucky, this collection of rolling heads all makes perfect sense in one way or another. It also allowed me to shoehorn in Cookie Monster singing with Rammstein. Thanks, life. /winks /points

X is for Xerxes. The Great Persian Emperor depicted as a cut and oft-pierced club kid in 300, and the man who failed to press his advantage correctly given the chance for supreme greatness. This week in the SEC title game Urban Meyer has a shot at imperial glory with his third SEC title in four years and his third national title shot in as many, but he's not the only one: Nick Saban is attempting to become the first SEC coach to lead two different teams to conference titles, and the first to win national titles at two different conference schools. It's really the tale of two great potentates standing on the brink, actually, though if we have any say in the wardrobe department I'd really, really like to avoid the Xerxes getup and stick with simple togas if they're feelig regal.

Y is for Yeats. A repeat, but it bears repeating that the man was the greatest poet of his time, and three times over, and that he would have never stood for Al Groh using substandard verse. Rather than the sad solipsism of "The Man in the Glass," can we go with this, perhaps, instead?

If suffering brings wisdom, I would wish to be less wise.

See, now that's a proper sendoff for a place as proud of its academic standards at UVA, not something you ripped off an Ann Landers column.

Z is for Zirconium. As in cubic, the kind of shiny thing you should buy your loved one instead of diamonds as a sign of protest against the wall-to-wall jewelry advertising during college football as Christmas approaches. He went to Jared! That's excellent. I'm going to buy my wife some treasury bonds and stocks. That's how you spell love when you're married to a WASP, and it's the best aphrodesiac around no matter the season.