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The Acrostical, Week 9: The value of staying angry forever

Gary Patterson demands 83 points next time, Cal football is the most entertaining fire department ever, and you are the next to fail at trying to tackle Josh Robinson.


Josh Robinson did not run through the entire Kentucky defense in Mississippi State's win over the Wildcats. He did, however, run through half of it, and that's enough to make your jaw drop to the floor in silent tribute.

1. Josh Robinson barrels toward certain tackling at the hands of either safety Marcus McWilson or linebacker Khalid Henderson. Henderson, No. 22, is the first to miss, spun off by pure torque and flying off Robinson's ass like a child bounced off a trampoline. McWilson, No. 15, loses grip on Robinson before he ever thinks of having it.

2. Robinson meets No. 45 Josh Forrest head on, and ... we won't mince words, but this is very bad, Josh Forrest. Robinson spins like a judoka and plants Forrest in the ground with his left arm like a unslung duffel bag. Forrest weighs 236 pounds and is 6'3 and was unraveled by a much smaller (and thicker) man.

3. If there is any consolation, Henderson gets back up to get slung off Robinson a second time in yet another instance of the universe punishing and humiliating those who try. Khalid Henderson, I want to hug you.

4. No. 16 Cody Quinn gets a legitimate missed tackle here, but leviathan tackle No. 69 Matt Elam just sort of falls on his teammate. Elam's less trying to make a tackle and more a stunned sequoia falling to earth in Josh Robinson's honor.

5. After end-running the entire width of the field, Robinson is finally tackled by linebackers No. 2 Bud Dupree and McWilson, last seen being shrugged off on Robinson's first contact with the Kentucky defense.

6. In total: At least six missed tackles, one tree-felling and a 22-yard gain on first down.

I got to ask Gary Danielson how to stop the spread, at a game when some corrupt person let me into the CBS booth pregame to wander around and steal pens. His honest and sort of breathless answer was, "Oh! I don't know."

So, after watching Miss State against multiple teams this year, and watching those teams play sound enough defense against them, that answer holds up pretty well. There may not be an answer for Robinson and Dak Prescott beyond "tackling better." (It's not even like Prescott and Robinson are getting a whole lot of support from the offensive line, which has been average-to-good, and not consistent at all.)


The read on LSU and Les Miles has been wrong for years, so let's repeat it. If you give the Tigers a freshman quarterback, they'll be happy, because all Les Miles wants to do is line up a Leonard Fournette or a Kenny Hilliard or any of their blue-chip running backs and run at the defense until they reduce it to fine powdered brick. At one point, LSU mounted a nine-minute field goal drive in the first half, which was fine even without the TD, because the point of all that punishment was exactly that: punishment and keeping the Ole Miss offense off the field.

So it is fair to say that Bo Wallace had a bad game and a horrible endgame performance. It's also fair to say that LSU has fully rediscovered its run game (264 yards on the night) and slowed down the game to the slow boil Miles enjoys best. It's slow football, the homemade kind, and one made better when you can watch La'El Collins mash up his blocks effortlessly.

None of this has changed, ever, and if you forget that, remember that Jordan Jefferson started a national title game at QB once.


It's also fair to say that Hugh Freeze saw that last decision by Wallace to throw to the end zone and, for just one moment, beheld the cold skull-mask of death itself.


(via @cjzero)

P.S. Ole Miss is still having a wonderful season, and their athletic director will totally fight you if you suggest otherwise.



Maybe this is how a football team ends. You give someone a stake as a symbol of holding things down. You give someone an axe to symbolize "chopping away at a problem," and they cut part of their foot off. You give someone a rope to hold, and they lose by 77 points to Oklahoma.

Maybe the timing is bad, and we never hear about all the cornball motivational tactics that do work, and only learn about the bad ones after they become part of a proven narrative of failure.*

*The exception: the Raiders' Tony Sparano literally burying a football. That's so dumb and literal he has to fail because science requires it. When Tony Sparano wants to move on, he entombs that problem. Tony Sparano's yard may look like a serial killer of appliances lived there: a fax machine buried under a bush, an old Westinghouse microwave tucked underneath some pavers.

Whatever the case may be, since Mike Hart called Michigan State "little brother" after the 2007 Michigan-Michigan State game, the Wolverines are 1-6 against the Spartans and getting gradually more futile by the year. So you can make fun of Michigan for resorting to motivationals, but that may be all they have at this point, particularly when you look at the complete collapse of the Michigan run game over that time span.

Bad motivational tactic Brady Hoke may use in a desperate attempt to save his job:

  • Plastic grocery bags handed out to remind everyone to "put the rest of the season in the bag." Result: locker room resembles sad strip mall parking lot.
  • Rubber bands worn around wrist to call to mind the need to "bend, but not break." Result: countless arm hairs torn out at root, in-class disciplinary measures after rubber band wars break out mid-lecture.
  • Bury steak under practice field to "put the beef to rest" and illustrate need to overcome disputes on team. Result: stray dogs digging huge hole in practice field, vultures circling coaching tower. (Might be appropriate.)
  • Hand out "deeds" to the offensive line to declare "ownership" of the line of scrimmage. Result: left guard convicted of real estate fraud for taking tax exemption on home in "line of scrimmage, [YOUR STATE HERE.]"


As cheesy as they might be, motivational grudges are not a crazy place to start. After all, they're where Mark Dantonio began the long path toward slowly flattening his in-state rivals in 2007.


There are all the little elements, sure. Michigan State happens to have coached and developed better than Michigan over that span of time and done so with remarkable consistency. But there's also Michigan State's ability to stay pissed off forever, a real talent shared by only a few other teams in college football.

Some teams have coaches capable of spreading anger virally, a term administrators need to add to job descriptions: "Must be able to maintain a simmering level of furious anger and hell-vengeance at all times."


Last year TCU went 4-8 and lost a heinously officiated game, 20-10, to Texas Tech. (Yes, the one with the fox on the field.) The Horned Frogs' offense coughed to a full stop, the defense collapsed beneath the pressure, and they finished 1-5 in their last six games. (Yes, that one is Iowa State, and yes, it was another valiant loss for Paul Rhoads.)

This year, he Frogs are averaging almost as many yards as Baylor on offense, and did something even Baylor hasn't done this year in scoring 82 points against ... Texas Tech, the team the Frogs took a new co-offensive coordinator, Sonny Cumbie, from in the offseason. Trevone Boykin has thrown 21 TDs to 3 INTs and does not look like the same human, much less the same quarterback. Their defense is the standard top-30 unit, and that's with a 61 spot from Baylor warping the average. They're really, really good at football, and yes, one bad quarter away from being in the national title discussion.

This was Gary Patterson after an 82-27 win:

"I don’t think we played well all game,’’ Patterson said.

Even an offense that scored on 14 of its 16 possessions?

"We still had to kick four field goals,’’ Patterson said.

TCU could have scored 100 if it'd really wanted to, both because it is very good, and also because Patterson also has the unique ability to stay incandescently angry for decades at a time. Put him, Dantonio, and Nick Saban in a fusion reactor and make them watch a reel of missed tackles. Satisfy the power needs of humanity for at least the next millennium.


An amusement park in Lubbock, Texas, and one of the only sources of happiness in the city at the moment.

Eighty-nine percent of the money in Kliff Kingsbury's contract is guaranteed. 11-10 on the field and undefeated off it is still not a bad way to live, Kliff, and life is still a blowout in your favor.

Also, there's no way he's getting fired after a dismal year in Lubbock, because that would be very expensive, and Tech does not like to do things that are expensive. (See: their stinginess in Mike Leach's last contract negotiations.) Hey, remember when their defensive coordinator resigned earlier this season after allegedly being under the influence of "something"? It got all bad in Lubbock early, and now the dust storm's settled in with a fierceness.

Epworth sleepiness scale

A standard questionnaire to determine whether an individual is sleepy or not, though you can save some trouble and time by simply asking if they've been watching Pac-12 football this year, specifically Cal football.

Cal is like the fire department, if the fire department showed up with flamethrowers and napalm. Even in this year's fully realized cartoon football Pac-12, the Bears remain the most cartoonish of cartoon teams. Your game? It will take nothing short of four hours. Is the game over? No, the game is never over. Twenty-one points is striking distance with anything less than four minutes in the game. Can the Cal defense hold? Yes, for two downs, two illusory downs giving the impression of hope. Then, as they did against Oregon, the Bears will give up third-and-21, and the cycle starts again.

Did this all start at 10 p.m. ET or beyond? Of course it did. And with zero respect for human life, the need for sleep, or for defense. Someone from the SEC or Big Ten might hire Sonny Dykes just to end this. That someone should be Michigan, because you really, really want to see a disgusted Dantonio's reaction to defending an air raid team in freezing temperatures.


Do not lie: If we said one team was going to fumble five times in a row to start a game, Pitt would be in your top five based on pure Pittness alone. (A value also expressed in Wannstedt Units of football futility.) (Remember when Pitt ruined West Virginia's shot at a national title? That still happened despite everything we know and think about Pitt football.)


The short list of teams performing way over expectations:

  • Kentucky, a startlingly physical team that'll go to a bowl.
  • Iowa, sitting at 5-2 no matter what your eyeballs saw happen on the field.
  • Minnesota, which lost to Illinois but is somehow still 6-2 even though Illinois losses should count twice in the standings.
  • Utah, 6-1 via the Ugly Football Protocol.
  • And finally, Nebraska, a 7-1 team with almost no national buzz whatsoever.


The short list of teams coated in a fine glaze of disappointment:

  • Virginia Tech, owners of the country's least potent offense (coordinated by Scot Loeffler) not toiling away in Gainesville.
  • Texas Tech, who just emptied TCU's stadium fireworks supply for the year.
  • BYU, a sabotaged 4-4 after the injury to QB Taysom Hill.
  • Washington State, a 2-6 team containing zero ability to play defense whatsoever.
  • And Texas A&M, the only team to go from national title candidate in Week 1 to retooling project in Week 8.

St. Johns

The backwards-running river that the World's Largest Cocktail Party will be held on this weekend to zero fanfare. Florida football has died, and Todd Gurley will surely play and make any result besides a Georgia victory seriously improbable.

TCU-West Virginia will have to provide the entertainment, i.e., a game with each team in the mid-40s and a Morgantown crowd fuming with moonshine fury. The Pac-12 will definitely lose a one-loss team when Arizona State and Utah play; so will the SEC when Auburn and Ole Miss meet, and thus continue the unraveling of the SEC West's schedule. Louisville is Florida State's toughest remaining test on Thursday night, and if the Cardinals pull off the upset, the entire season flows fully backwards from this point on into the first Playoff.