I’m going to post a weekly article on one NFL game that caught my eye this past weekend. Look for a post on the matchup between the defending champs Kansas City Chiefs and the LA Chargers later today! Thanks for reading.
Joe’s Writers’ Club 9/21/20
Today’s Weekly Football Matchup
Kansas City Chiefs vs. LA Chargers
Will the defending champs build on their current, league best active winning streak against the Chargers? Early on, Patrick Mahomes wasn’t himself and give credit to the Charger defense who stymied both the run and pass game of the Chiefs early. With Anthony Lynn at the helm, and the emergence of rookie quarterback, (due to a pre-game injury incurred to quarterback Tyrod Taylor), Justin Herbert, an Oregon product, held his own and then some. It was quite the defensive chess match in the first half and there was no telling how or when Mahomes would eventually bloom in this contest.
The Chargers built a 17-6 deep into the third quarter. Herbert made a questionable decision which led to some momentum in favor of the Chiefs. Instead of running for an apparent and obvious first down conversion, Herbert forced the ball downfield, where his target was literally in triple coverage. The Chief secondary took full advantage of this mishap and one of their players intercepted the pass within their own five-yard line.
Mahomes was able to gather the troops and settle for a field goal which cut the lead to 17-9 with less than a quarter to play. Throughout the game, Herbert’s passing game and flow of the run game were able to keep drives alive and keep Mahomes off the field as they were able to dominate the time of possession throughout. But Mahomes being Mahomes and the Chiefs being the Chiefs were able to mount a surge.
In the final minutes of regulation, Mahomes put together a text book drive, which resulted in a 54-yard touchdown pass to wideout Tyreek Hill. It was not so much the individual play itself that turned the game around, but the non-call that was made as Hill galloped into the end zone, awaiting the arrival of his satisfied and adoring teammates. Hill removed his helmet, illegally, and was not flagged the 15- yard misconduct. The commentators shared this non-call with the viewers as many Chargers fans near and far disputed such a “non-call”. It would have pushed the ball back to the 17-yard line for the two point try to tie the game. Instead Mahomes worked his magic from the two and the Chiefs got two to tie the game, subsequently sending it to overtime.
The Chargers came out flat in the overtime on offense and in the ensuing Kansas City drive their defense could not prevent the Chiefs to establish reasonable field goal distance and attempt to win the game on the foot of kicker Harrison Butker. The Charger staff tried to psych out Butker and initially they were successful, once forcing a 5-yard false start. However, it wouldn’t rattle the kicker as he tied his own mark and the previous franchise record length of 58 yards to win the game 20-17!
This was obviously not the first time a crucial game was decided by a missed penalty call. If that call was made, then LA could have escaped in regulation. But, as fate would have it, the Chiefs pulled it out yet again, earning a 2-0 start to defend their title. The Chargers fell to 1-1, as Herbert pulled out all the stops and earned himself a 300-yard passing game as consolation.
Joe’s Writers’ Club 9/26/20
Saturday College Football
Air Raid Attack on Death Valley
Many avid college football fans couldn’t disagree with you if you said there was nothing like a Saturday afternoon spent watching the SEC Home Depot College Football on CBS. Today’s broadcast would be the first of the 2020 season. It pitted the 6th ranked defending National Champion Louisiana State Tigers against the unranked Mississippi State Bulldogs in Baton Rouge. The Tigers had a 16-game winning streak on the line, the longest current streak in all of college football. The Bulldogs brought their own swagger with new head coach and journeyman Mike Leach who would be coaching his first Southeastern Conference matchup along with starting quarterback K.J. Costello, who was making his SEC debut as well.
Leach, who is well known for his one-dimensional passing game, aptly named his “Air Raid Offense”, took control early and never let go. LSU was starting a true junior quarterback for the first time after the departure of NFL-bound and national champion Joe Burrow. Before the game even started, the Bulldogs were written off. But, a key ingredient on defense was missing for the Tigers. It would be Derek Stingley Jr., the All-American sophomore cornerback, who would be ruled out due to an undisclosed illness. Leach’s Air Raid offense pummeled the LSU defense and never once let up, going blow for blow all the way through with Ed Orgeron’s club.
The game was won in the fourth quarter as Costello diced up the LSU secondary and culminated the late drive with a touchdown pass to wide-open wide receiver Orsirus Mitchell from 24 yards out to give the Bulldogs some much needed cushion (44-34) with just 3:46 to play.
Throughout the game, turnovers proved to be a big part. In fact, LSU had an early defensive touchdown for their first score in the second stanza. Nothing rattled the Stanford transfer Costello who marked the highest passing yardage total in SEC history and the 11th most passing yards ever in any college game with 623 yards on 36/60 passing with 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. LSU’s quarterback, Myles Brennan couldn’t match those numbers, going 27/46 for 345 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions as well. Three Bulldog receivers finished with 100-yard games, including two with 150-yard plus receiving performances. Leach never let up and it showed on the scoreboard as well as the stat sheet.
Despite it being a relatively close and high scoring game, it was the stingy Bulldog defense that made key stops down the stretch in order for the club to hold on for the win at 44-34. Boy, it was great to hear the voices of Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson!
Joe’s Writers’ Club 10/4/20
Saturday College Football
Two losses Sooner than Later
Oklahoma hasn’t had such a great start considering that they were in the pre-season top 5 to begin their 2020 campaign. Credit the underdog with spoiling the Sooners plans for a college football playoff berth come December. The boys of Ames, Iowa became the latest to disrupt Oklahoma’s bid for a national championship.
The first quarter wasn’t much of a show with the exception of Sooner quarterback Spencer Rattler diving in for a touchdown to break one of three ties on the evening, giving OU a 10-3 lead with four minutes remaining in the first. This game was never one-sided as many might have not suspected with OU’s arsenal and their ability to quickly put points on the board. Many fans thought that the unranked Cyclones would have their hands full, but that was not the case Saturday night.
The QB numbers weren’t eye-catching like many would have thought, especially Rattler’s. Both were fairly modest with Rattler passing for 300 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 pick and Brock Purdy passing for 254 and one score with no mistakes. The eye opener was Purdy’s yards per completion rate. He only connected on 12 passes with 24 attempts, but on those completions, he averaged over 21 yards per completion as you saw his yardage total previously.
He more than often threw the ball down the field. He hooked up with wideout Xavier Hutchinson late in the 3rd on a 65-yard score, while the play action sucked in the linebackers, leaving the Sooners vulnerable in man coverage with no safety. Hutchinson beat single man coverage and galloped down the field to give the Cyclones a late lead at 23-20 with less than two minutes to play in that frame.
In addition to the passing game for ISU, starting tailback Bryce Hall was the workhorse on the ground. He rushed for 139 yards on 28 carries, averaging 5 yards per, and two scores. The Oklahoma defense was baffled by the play of more than just those three standouts. It was a collective effort on both sides of the ball. Opportunistic plays on defense aided the Cyclones as they captured their first home win against OU since November 5, 1960.
Bryce Hall capped the win with 8-yard TD run with about four minutes to play and the Cyclone defense stood tall on OU’s final possession to give them the final tie break of the night, hanging onto the upset win, 37-30. Oklahoma has a lot of work to do as they will head back to the proverbial drawing board and figure out what went wrong and how to game plan for next week’s opponent, Texas, who is also coming off a loss. Iowa State will be on a high this week, but can’t overlook a home matchup against Texas Tech next Saturday.
Joe’s Writers’ Club 10/11/20
Saturday College Football
Red River Rivalry
When you think of college football rivalries, many different matchups come to mind. If you want to think of the most meaningful rivalries in recent times, you could probably think of Alabama versus LSU or the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn, but look a bit further into a rivalry that captivated audiences from all over the country this past Saturday afternoon.
Yes, I’m speaking of the annual Red River Rivalry at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas between the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners. Boy, Saturday’s matchup was a dandy. Both teams were coming off losses. Oklahoma was smarting the most after the defeat to Iowa State, which knocked them out of the rankings. Texas came off a nail-biting loss to Texas Christian at home. Texas remained ranked coming into this matchup at 22nd in the country. No one knew that this would set the stage for what seemed to be a moderately low-scoring showdown of two Big 12 opponents.
It was relatively close through three quarters. Oklahoma started to slowly pull away with 1:31 to play in the 3rd. At that point, the Sooners led comfortably 31-17. Both defenses held for the most part of the 4th quarter until the guts of Texas senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger showed. He had a convincing showing of 30/53 for 287 yards with 2 passing scores and 2 INTs, but it was his legs that propelled a comeback late in the 4th in Dallas. He managed to scramble for a few first downs to keep UT alive late. With 14 seconds left to play, Texas tied the game with a TD and extra point sending the game into the second OT matchup in the rivalry’s history. OU had the lone win in 1996.
Once again, the teams went blow for blow as they exchanged TDs in the first two OTs. With a 45-45 score entering the third OT, Texas was on offense to start, but hope sank to their knees as a potential go-ahead FG try was blocked. Things looked good for OU as they lined up for a game winning FG try. But somehow fate played favorites as Brkic’s kick hooked wide left, leaving the door open once again.
Luckily, OU rebounded with a TD and 2pt conversion (mandatory in 3rd OT and beyond). Now, it was up to Ehlinger to use the magic he had been accustomed to using the whole game. A couple of downs into the possession, he sailed a ball into the endzone only to have it picked off by Trey Brown to end the game. Despite 20 plus carries for 100 plus yards and 4 rush TDs, Ehlinger’s bid for victory came up short as Oklahoma potentially saved their season with a death-defying win in extra frames.