Bad Things Happen in Threes
Courtesy of Bobby Smith
CEO, Sports Reporter
On New Year's Day, one of our local TV stations ran a Twilight Zone marathon. I'm thinking we're actually in the Twilight Zone. Either that, or somebody, somewhere has cracked a comeback code. I'm sorry, but I can't hold back any longer. It's time to fight back a little and vent.
The Western Kentucky bowl game debacle was bad enough. Nobody should have to endure a 0-34 fourth quarter with a -3 favorite that held a 49-14 lead when the quarter began. I tried to say as little as possible about that and move on. Last week, I asked, "Is somebody testing us for character? I guess so. I hope so. You are judged by how you handle adversity, not by the fact that it happened."
Well, if not winning with a -3 favorite that held a 49-14 lead beginning the fourth quarter is called experiencing "adversity," what do you call the Baylor -3 and Pittsburgh -3 games that followed on back-to-back days to start 2015? I'll try to exhibit a little of whatever class may have existed in me to begin with, and summarize the hurt.
I have no problem appointing myself as President of the Moron Club for thinking that Florida State could beat Oregon. Having earned that position, I get to nominate a Vice President. My pick for VP is Baylor head coach Art Briles. Watching Baylor's lack of strategic know-how after they'd entered the fourth quarter with a 41-21 lead on Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl, it was obvious to me that Baylor didn't have to find a way to blow the game because they actually knew how to blow it. They were built to blow it, and were holding the keys to blowing it.
I was so certain they'd blow it after Michigan State scored its first, fourth-quarter touchdown that I sent an email to a Baylor football operations person, just so I'd be on record as predicting their awfulness to somebody connected with the program. I mean, I had to do something to soften the inevitable hurt just a bit. It said: "Baylor leads Michigan State by 13 points with 9:00 left. I predict Baylor will lose. The reason is obvious. Michigan State's coaches are much smarter than yours."
Art Briles is not known as a superior strategist. As a football coach, he is probably the closest thing to Mike Leach, the 2013 New Mexico Bowl Boob whose main objective is to watch his team snap the ball as many times as possible, regardless of the score and situation. Did anyone else out there lose count as to how many times Baylor snapped the ball with still 12 seconds remaining on the play clock in the fourth quarter? Did anyone else out there notice how often they threw sideline routes where the receiver was ridden out of bounds by a Michigan State defender to stop the clock? I would guess that Baylor allowed about 1:30 of extra game time to happen, and that it never crossed their minds that Michigan State had all their time outs remaining as the game-clock was ticking down. Michigan State scored the winning TD with 0:17 left.
Maybe somebody on the Baylor coaching staff had a clue about how things should have been taking place. But it sure wasn't Briles, who spent the fourth quarter (and probably every quarter of every game) as a spectator, squirting water from a bottle into his mouth and spitting it out onto the turf. Nor was it his son, the new offensive coordinator (Of course! The apple doesn't fall far!). I would love to see the print-out of what goes through their minds in situations like this. Probably something like 'Yards...points!...Yards... points!... Snap it!... Hurry up! ...Snap it!)' The remote-control operated quarterback-robot seemed to be programmed exactly that way - one, mindless, single-speed. As President of the Moron Club, I look forward to working with Art Briles - signaling for him bring me coffee, doughnuts, and bagels every 23 seconds and never huddling with him.
Pittsburgh led Houston 31-6 with 13:58 remaining in the fourth quarter in the 12 Noon, ET bowl kickoff the next day. The post-tramautic stress was in full manifestation. Immediately, with a 25-point lead, 21 vs. the spread, the only thing I could only think about was, 'How can Pitt screw this up?' Normally, you think through the worst-case scenarios to help assure yourself that the odds of them happening are too astronomically high to actually take place.
Well, this collapse started with a bang-bang touchdown drive by Houston to make the score 31-13 with 10:43 left. And I'm thinking, 'Two more Houston TDs, and one outta two on two-point tries, and it'd be 31-28, Houston covering by the half-point for all the early bettors, and the people who layed up to -5.5 on game-day wouldn't even have a chance if they'd bought 2 points.
And it wasn't even that narrow. Instead, Pitt basically played with themselves on the field, dicked around in the red zone when they got there instead of just pounding the ball across the goal line, and had to settle for a field goal. Then, their clown kick-coverage personnel couldn't recover two straight onsides kicks, and Houston would eventually score not three, but four touchdowns against the idiot Pitt defense in the final 10:43 of the fourth quarter!
Incredibly, less than 24 hours after Baylor, it was another, bigger instant meltdown, another avalanche. Incoming Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi of Pitt, who stuck it out with Michigan State as defensive coordinator and went out on top as part of Sparty's comeback win vs. Baylor, shouldn't bother to interview any of the current Pitt coaches who might want to stay on. 'We coach and play football games for four quarters here, slackers. You obviously don't. So, buh-bye to you!'
I don't really feel any better about this after venting. It's that bad an experience, being outscored 0-34, 0-21 and 10-29 in fourth quarters (3-29 in the final 10:43 in Pitt vs. Houston) with what somebody, in an attempt at consolation, told me were "the right sides." In the calendar year 2014, FBS college football teams that trailed by at least 20 points in the 4th quarter were 1-333 SU. In 2015, teams that trailed by at least 20 in the 4th quarter already have two outright wins. Less than three hours after the pathetic Pitt production, our phone service had UCLA on Friday night. They led 31-6 at halftime. They easily could have lost the game they won 40-35. Deep breath. Sigh. Shoulda just had it all on Tennessee in their bowl game romp over those lousy stiffs from Iowa, I guess.
Bobby Smith is Editor of Sports Reporter and sportsreporter.com, and author
of "How to Beat the Pro Football Pointspread," currently the nation's #1 best-
selling sports betting book. Check that fact, and order it, at www.amazon.com.