Agita. Nick Saban press conferences sizzle with the real possibility that someone could, in a single instant of miscalculated verbiage, set him off, and thus kill or injure the assembled media taking terrified dictation. A young reporter very nearly died Saturday night. This is his story.
Reporter: You had several new guys in there tonight. Can you talk a little bit about how they played?
Saban: New guys where? We had 'em all over the place.
Reporter: Can you talk about how they did?
[Photographer in front of me grabs flak jacket, helmet. He's a veteran.]
Saban: Could you, like, be more specific?
[Entire room hits floor, texts loved ones goodbye. Some make love with strangers to feel pleasure one last time.]
Saban: If I started to go through every young guy that played tonight, well ... everybody'd leave. Who do you wanna know about? I'll talk about anybody you wanna talk about.
[I peek out cautiously from the tipped edge of a combat helmet.]
Reporter: How about the offensive line?
Saban: We've been talking about the offensive line, and we need to improve in the offensive line.
[Exhalations. A few tearful embraces. Someone holds up an American flag.]
And then, in a moment after his team won by 25 points against a malicious Virginia Tech defense in a game that was never really in doubt after the second quarter, I realized not just that we were not going to die that day. I realized that Nick Saban was coaching up a reporter. The Process never stops. It sometimes continues deep into the postgame press conference.
Butt-Out. The fun part about having football spread across five days of an opening weekend is you get to watch a bit of everything. The bad part is that you find yourself watching teams like Michigan State, the grisly, simple, and effective hunting tool of college football teams you'd rather not see in action. Yes, they won 26-13. No, you did not need to see it, save for this, the venison steak we pulled out of the horrible deer carcass for you.
Sparty hates offense so much they subcontract half of it to their defense. It ain't pretty, but you think steaks grow on trees in plastic wrap and styrofoam trays, kid? Someone's got to turn a carcass into meat, and it's gonna be Mark Dantonio.
(P.S. Pretty things do sometimes happen in Michigan State football games, though probably entirely by accident.)
LEMME TELL YOU SOMETHING JEANNINE. FIRST OF ALL, CLEMSON DIDN'T RUSH THE FIELD. CLEMSON'S FIELD IS OPEN AFTER GAMES. IT'S GREAT. KIDS GET TO HOLLER AND RUN AROUND AND PRETEND THEY ARE ON THE FIELD SCORIN' POINTS JUST LIKE WE DID AGAINST GEORGIA. YOU CAIN'T GET MAD ABOUT US RUSHIN' THE FIELD BECAUSE UNLIKE OTHER SCHOOLS WE DON'T LOOSE POLICE DOGS ON YA IF YOU WANNA GET YOUR TOES A LITTLE CLEMSON FESCUE MASSAGE. WE'RE COOL LIKE THAT.
SECOND: YES I WAS PREPARED TO TELL YOU THAT WE DONE BEAT OUR SECOND SEC SCHOOL IN A ROW. THANK ABOUT THAT: WE GOT LSU LAST YEAR AFTER WE RUN A HUNNERD DAMN PLAYS ON 'EM, AND NOW TOOK DOWN THE SEC EAST CHAMPS IN A BACKWOODS FISH SHACK BRAWL OF A GAME WHERE OUR QUARTERBACK HAD TA DRIVE THE FIELD TO WIN. AND THAT'S WHAT WE DID. THERE'S FILM OF IT AND URRTHANG.
THIRD: I KNOW WE GOT OUR OWN SYNDROME. AND NEXT WEEK WE MIGHT HAVE THAT SYNDROME BACK, BECAUSE THAT'S HOW LIFE WORKS: IT'S UNPREDICTABLE, AND SOMETIMES YOU PULL THAT FISHIN' ROD BACK AND GET A FACE FULL AH ANGRY SNAKE. I KNOW THAT. BUT I ALSO GOTTA TELL YOU THIS; WE GOT THE BEST OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR IN THE GAME RIGHT NOW. WE GOT A DEFENSE FULL OF WILLIN' BODIES TRYIN' REAL HARD. WE GOT SAMMY WATKINS PEELIN' THE TOP OFF AH DEFENSES AND A SLEW OF DUDES IN ONE-ON-ONE UNDERNEATH WHO CAN MAKE YOU HURT REAL QUICK. WITH A NAME LIKE STANTON SECKINGER HE'S PROLLY GONNA BE GOLFIN' HIS WAY INTO THE SOUTH CAROLINA LEGISLATURE ONE DAY, BUT DANG IF HE AIN'T DOIN' MATRIX BALLET THINGS TO GET INTO THE ENDZONE FOR THE TIGERS RIGHT NOW.
PARDON MY LANGUAGE. BUT THAT WAS A DANGED INSANE PLAY, AND A DANGED INSANE NIGHT. AND PARDON ME AGAIN, BUT DANGIT IF OL' DABO -- OL' DUMB DABO, THE WIDE RECEIVERS COACH OUTTA NOWHERE WITH THE FUNNY NAME WHO WAS SO POOR HE AND MOM SLEPT IN THE SAME BED; OL' DABO WHO HAD A FEW CLEMSONIN' MOMENTS HISSELF EARLY IN THE CAREER -- THAT WAS OL' DABO RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF IT ALL, TELLIN' YOU WHAT HE'S BEEN SAYIN' ALL ALONG: THAT IT'S ONLY UNTHANKABLE IF YOU DON'T THANK IT. YOU MIGHT THANK YOU UNDERESTIMATED HIM. THAT SEEMS LIKE A PRETTY DANG THINKABLE THING RIGHT NOW.
Discounts. Bill Snyder may have watched his team lose to FCS North Dakota State, but at least he didn't waste a new jacket on it.
El-P Lyric That Explains Everything About One Particular Thing:
"I got memories to lose, man. I am in a rush."
Frangible. Breakable into fragments. The line between FCS and FBS teams can be quite clear, or it cannot. For instance, take the gulf between Nicholls State and Oregon. This is the office of Nicholls State head coach Charlie Stubbs. This is the office of an Oregon assistant coach. Oregon defeated Nicholls State by a score of 66-3 this weekend, but the apholstery in those photos already told you that.
That line is less obvious at other places. Kansas State lost to an North Dakota State team what was 14-1 last year and won the last two FCS national championships. Oregon State lost to Eastern Washington, they of the blood-red field and the last non-North Dakota State FCS national championship. It's not always blind, fumbling, shambolic football incompetence that gets you a loss to an FCS team. Sometimes that team is very good and does things as well or better than you under recruiting constraints and challenges not too dissimilar than yours.
NDSU and EWU both live in the neighborhood of the teams they beat. This weekend they got paid to burgle houses.
Gutted. But yeah, sometimes you should just burn everything for the insurance money and start over, USF, UConn, San Diego State, and USF. USF gets a free pass because Skip Holtz did all the home repairs himself without ever applying for a city permit, and Willie Taggart is just staggered by all the rot he's got in the drywall. (No concept of how a continuous drainage system, reclaimed materials all over the place, and a foundation poured out of cooking grease and sawdust? Skip Holtz had the bootleg contractor triple crown in hand at USF, AND once kicked a field goal on 3rd and 2.)
Pregame prayer in Neyland thanked God for a new coach. #Ouch— Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) August 31, 2013
Prayer in thanks for delivery from Derek Dooley is a new gold standard in selective prayer, Tennessee, but a kid in my high school did pray on the question of whether to keep wrestling or join marching band to be with his girlfriend. God told him to make out with his girlfriend in the back of a dark bus instead of doing mat drills and catching staph off filthy wrestling mats, so he's two for two on case studies and positive outcomes here. Austin Peay got drilled by the Vols 45-0 for holy retribution and also a large sum of American money.
Illustration. This is why you watch things twice
Watching North Dakota State deliver the killing blow took almost nine minutes and left only :32 for a last death rattle for K-State. It also, at least after watching it the first time, felt like NDSU crushing the marrow out of the Wildcats. That wasn't what happened, though: the Bison survived off the pass and only finished with pounding runs to end the game, including a last quarterback option keeper that looked like poor Brock Jensen being shoved into a Tokyo subway car at rush hour.
Jameis. He's really, really good! (Winston is a five-star quarterback recruit who everyone suspected was really, really good.)
He completed passes effortlessly to receivers in stride all night! (Against Pitt, and with a veteran offensive line blocking a large, comfortable pocket for him most of the night.)
He is a demonstrably beautiful and charming human being! (He is, and that's delightful, and he ripped Pitt from stem to stern on a nationally televised game. We hope he is wonderful, and suspect he will be. And this is one game in the 2013 season against Pitt.)
But oh, the luminous glow of Winston blowing things up! It was warm, colorful, and exciting! (We have no further objections. It was. Get excited. It's life, and not worth living if you can't get giddy off the delicious fumes of the moment.)
Keeton. In contrast to Jameis Winston -- WHO IS VERY GOOD, AND WILL BE VERY GOOD IN THE FUTURE -- unlocking the cheat code of having a veteran offensive line and ample blue-chip running backs to support him, Chuckie Keeton is out in Utah running alone for his life like a Cormac McCarthy character fleeing a pack of murderous wolves on foot.
The wolves caught him, as Utah State lost to Utah 30-26, but at this rate Chuckie Keeton appears to have a solid bid on a spot in the Bradlee Van Pelt Club of "obscure-ish collegiate quarterbacks whose greatness usually occurred on ESPN2 at best." Members of that club include the aforementioned Van Pelt of Colorado State, Dave "I won't slide for a damn freight train" Ragone of Louisville, Boise State's Ryan Dinwiddie, David Garrard of East Carolina, and Dan LeFevour of Central Michigan.
Luis Peralta. The Spanish soldier who once owned Rancho San Antonio, the piece of land that would become the city of Berkeley.
Sonny Dykes' Cal team lost to Northwestern thanks to the usual flubs a first year team runs smack into: a few defensive breakdowns, a few INTs thrown when they could afford it. But they were blazing INTs thrown out of aggression, not indecision, and defensive breakdowns because well, Cal's a kit car, and Dykes hasn't gotten around to putting the seatbelts in yet. Their first TD was a fake field goal, and that's about all you need to know besides "Jared Goff is going to be quite good at quarterback and was allowed to throw 63 times in his first start as a freshman." (No really: 63 times when he was playing high school football a year ago. Sonny Dykes DON'T CURR.)
Mitts. As in catchin' hands, which Northwestern's defense had on several cartoon interceptions. This may seem like an exaggeration of their style of play. It is not, and is in fact a subtle rendition of the kind of reckless behavior Northwestern has codified as football. Love them, and love them now.
Natal. As in birth, or tiny baby football teams growing into what they will become, or why Georgia fans shouldn't be too shocked their retooling defense gave up so many yards to Clemson, Alabama fans shouldn't worry too much about the offensive line, Aggie fans shouldn't sweat giving up so much ground to Rice, and USC shouldn't be overly concerned about how they sleepwalked through a game in Hawaii.
Okay, USC fans should be worried. But the other three? Relax.
Open Source Sports Blog Business Plan. Johnny Manziel played football this week and was good at it. He made colorful gestures and engaged in playful speech and boastmanship with the opponent. For this, he should be shot into space, preferably to the frozen, lifeless surface of Europa to learn the meaning of teamwork, sacrifice, and other kinds of hard work. Please RT this and share it on Facebook. <----BUSINESS PLAN FOR 2013 PLEASE DO NOT COPY OUR DOMINANT PAGEVIEWS STRATEGY. #EuropaIsForWinners
Presyncope. Feeling faint, weak, aka the moment just before passing out, a perfectly respectable feeling for anyone who watched the end of Ole Miss-Vanderbilt. And a totally understandable clinical term for those who participated in it.
The final five minutes of the game saw Vandy take the lead, Ole Miss then retake it, and then the return of Jordan Matthews to the field after he deposited several gallons of sports beverage on the turf after a huge hit to his midsection on a catch. An exhausted Matthews had 10 catches for 178 yards and a touchdown, so of course the game-clinching interception went off his hands at the end. Why? Because the only rule in the recent Ole Miss-Vandy series has been someone making excruciatingly painful turnovers in the last quarter of the game.
Quokka. The second happiest animal on the planet this week thanks to the mighty buffalo winning a real American football game against Colorado State. Watching Colorado blow a lead, and then come back to win was like watching a child take its first steps: they will crash face-first into the coffee table at one point, but they're walking, dude, and that's thrilling enough.
Right Foot Let's Stomp. When you have four linemen who can play just about every position, you can shift your offensive line like this, Vandy.
Scorcese. That's a tracking shot Scorcese himself would be proud of, ESPN.
This had to take hours, days, and months of lead-up to build, orchestrate, and scheme out, ESPN, but when you do? Oh, it's sublime, and almost makes us forget you allow a rabid badger to talk about sports for several hours a day when everyone's at work. That's the Copacabana entrance tracking shot of college football coverage, there. (Please say there's a matching "'Layla'/bodies" scene detailing dashed hopes of BCS contenders and the inevitable Florida State loss on the road waiting at the end of the season.)
Type. Andre Ware, unfairly taken out of context:
"I love his body type."
This was from the Toledo/Florida game, described best as a bland, competent procedural for Florida, and as the first stage in a grim two-week march home for Toledo, who play at Missouri next week because frequent flyer miles don't make themselves. (P.S. They might beat Missouri, because Toledo happens to be a very good MAC team, and so at this point is Missouri.)
Ursa Turntus. Before a six minute clock-burner of a drive in the fourth quarter, Baylor was averaging 1:40 per scoring drive against Wofford. They had ten scoring drives total on the day. That was against Wofford, sure, but just because a killer whale is a lot bigger than a seal doesn't make the end result any less spectacular.
Vanquished. They lost the game, but Washington State won the war.
"Your fans drank us completely out of beer," Brooke the bartender said with disbelief. "We are going to have to close the place down."
And they almost had some chances to beat Auburn on the road, so it's not all bad for the Cougars, who outgained Wazzu, outplayed the Tigers for much of the game, and looked pretty good if you erase the memory of Connor Halliday's horrendous, game-destroying interceptions from your mind. (Note: Wazzu fans appear to have pre-erased all memory of the game, so good on them for preparing in advance.)
Wiped. All hard drives, memories, and any other record of what Boise State did this weekend, and had done to them by Washington. That never happened. Mistakes were not made, and Chris Petersen did not ditch his offense for Mississippi State's in the offseason. Shhh, Boise State. Let the pills work. Shhhhhhhhh. Reality is what you say it is, and we'll talk about what that is once you pass out, sleep for 48 hours, and wake up in a new town with a new name. Joe Southwick threw the ball 40 times for 152 yards, and may be Cody Hawkins in disguise at this point.
XJRF. The $118,000 Jaguar sedan with quick-twitch handling, luxurious styling, and a 550-horsepower V8 engine that promises a top speed of 174 mph. Kirk Ferentz could have easily bought two of them with the $325,000 he made for losing to Northern Illinois.
Yukon Cornelius. You really can't hate Matt Millen unless you think of him less as a broadcaster, and more as a car accident for the brain you get to share with hundreds of thousands of viewers each week.
Yukon Cornelius, a character in the Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer universe, was a giant, affable lunatic forever looking for one stroke of prospecting luck to make him rich and successful. All he needed was one Charles Rogers, or platinum seam, or something like that. THE POINT: Matt Millen really, really feels Yukon Cornelius on so many levels here, and not just because he licks pickaxes when making important decisions.
Zinc. As in Zinc, a small town in Arkansas with a listed population of 103 people. None of them were injured in the explosion of a t-shirt gun during Arkansas' breezy 34-14 win over a good University of Louisiana-Lafayette team to start the Bret Bielema era. We always thought it would be Louie the Lumberjack who first harmed someone with America's cuddliest firearm, but college football is first and foremost about the element of surprise. (Like waking up and finding Bret Bielema cozy and comfortable in the SEC, for instance.)
The weekend's 39 best college football photos:
- A look at the newly-renovated Husky Stadium. Otto Greule Jr
- Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
- Christian Petersen/Getty Images
- Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
- Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
- Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
- Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
- Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
- Jeff Hanisch, USA TODAY Sports
- Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is a popular man. Mike Cashore, USA TODAY Sports
- Paul Abell, USA TODAY Sports
- Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports
- Matthew Emmons, USA TODAY Sports
- Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports
- Streeter Lecka
- Scott Sewell, USA TODAY Sports
- Greg Bartram, USA TODAY Sports
- Thomas Campbell, USA TODAY Sports
- Scott Halleran
- Brendan Maloney, USA TODAY Sports
- Scott Olmos, USA TODAY Sports
- Stephen Lam
- Jim Brown, USA TODAY Sports
- Jeremy Brevard, USA TODAY Sports
- Scott Olmos, USA TODAY Sports
- Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
- Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
- Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
- Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
- Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
- Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports
- Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
- Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
- Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
- Michael Chang/Getty Images
- Streeter Lecka
- Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
- Vernon Adams celebrates Eastern Washington's stunning win over Oregon State Jamie Valdez, USA TODAY Sports
- Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports