The SF Sports Authority, as you no doubt heard yesterday and can read more about here, was awarded on eight of the 19 bids it submitted to the NCAA to host championship events.
Here’s the list:
2015 Division II women’s basketball: March 27,28,30 at the Sanford Pentagon
2016 Division II women’s basketball: March 22,23, 25 at the Pentagon
2016 Division II wrestling: March 11-12 at the Denny Sanford Premiere Center
2016 Division II women’s volleyball: December 8-10 at the Pentagon
2017 Division II men’s basketball: March 22,23,25 at the Pentagon
2018 Division II women’s basketball: March 27,28,30 at the Pentagon
2018 Division II men’s basketball: March 28,29,31 at the Pentagon
2018 Division II men’s and women’s outdoor track: May 24-26 at the USF Lillibridge Track and Field complex
You’ll notice the list is comprised entirely of Division II events. Executive director Wes Hall didn’t disclose what the other 11 bids they submitted were for, but at least a few of them were for Division I events, including a women’s basketball regional. Hall seemed to suggest that bid might’ve had a chance at coming through, but the NCAA decided to play those games at the sites of the higher seeds.
At the press conference I asked, specifically, if there was any disappointment from bids that were not chosen. Hall gave a very enthusiastic, ‘No, not at all’, as his answer, which is not surprising.
And to be fair, it might almost seem greedy to complain about what you didn’t get when you were chosen for 8 bids. That’s pretty good, particularly for a town the size of Sioux Falls.
Still, I wonder if the NCAA is taking the attitude, right now at least, that Sioux Falls is more of a “Division II town”.
Perhaps that perception can and will change if the city does well hosting the D2 events, which I expect it will.
Sioux Falls is certainly as big or bigger, even, than many cities that are home to Division I schools, but championships are generally regarded as the territory of major cities. I don’t know if I see that changing, but I could be wrong.
Of course, Wednesday’s announcement is good news for Division II. SDSU and USD are still in the infancy of their Division I affiliation.
While I don’t think either is ever going to rise to the level of support that NDSU enjoys in Fargo (primarily because of their respective locations), they’ve both pretty well established themselves as being at the top of the totem pole when it comes to area sports.
Augustana and USF get fairly strong attendance (Augie moreso than USF) and significantly strong media attention (thanks in large part to the work of myself), but the gap between the NSIC and the Summit League, between Division II and Division I, when it comes to those exposure issues, seems more likely to widen than shrink over time, in my opinion.
I think others see it that way as well. That’s why bringing D2 events to Sioux Falls is good for Augie and USF, for the NSIC, and for Division II.
For all of Wednesday’s glad-handing about how great this is for Sioux Falls (I don’t exactly see how a single tournament brings “millions of dollars” to Sioux Falls, and as is always conveniently overlooked, most of those dollars simply go to restaurants and hotels, anyway), it’s especially important, potentially, for Division II sports.
I was at the women’s Elite Eight last year in San Antonio. I assure you, the event did not make a blip on the local sports radar down there. The crowds were small, even after they brought classes of grade school children in to fill seats and at least create some noise in the arena.
That won’t be the case here. I don’t expect any of these games to sell out the Pentagon, especially if all of the teams are from Texas and New York and Kentucky, etc., but there’s a good chance the attendance will be solid. We’ve seen that in Summit League games that have not involved one of the Dakota schools.
And while it’s hard to speculate what our media situation will even look like in 2017-18, I’d have to assume that at the very least, the Argus Leader will provide front page sports coverage when the Division II national championships are being played in town.
All of that is good for the NSIC and Division II sports. It keeps them relevant in Sioux Falls, and actually gives the NSIC and Division II a chance to strengthen, not just maintain, its presence in Sioux Falls. There are, and this may come as a shock to some of you in the blue and yellow (or red and white) glasses, a significant number of sports fans in Sioux Falls who aren’t all that enthused about the D1 experience taking place in Vermillion and Brookings.
I don’t count myself among them, but there’s a lot of them in this town.
Some are Augie/USF/DWU/etc. fans, some just refuse to drive to Brookings or Vermillion, and some consider the Summit/FCS to be ‘glorified Division II’, and keep their attention focused on professional or major college sports.
As good as it is for the Pentagon and Sports Authority to bring major events to the city in hopes of later parlaying them into even more/bigger events, it’s equally as good for the NSIC and Division II to bring these events to town in hopes of getting themselves on the radar for people who don’t much care what’s going on in Brookings and Vermillion.
Ultimately, I think the potential for attention is what won out for Sioux Falls. The Pentagon is a nice facility, yes. But for the athletes, the idea of coming to South Dakota in March to play for a championship, over past sites like San Antonio and Boston, can’t sound appealing.
The tradeoff, of course, is that they’ll get more out of it. That they’ll be a ‘bigger deal’ in Sioux Falls than they would be elsewhere.
Judging by how well Sioux Falls has done with the Summit League tournament (wouldn’t most of us agree that has turned out to be even better than the most optimistic among us could’ve hoped?), I’m pretty certain Sioux Falls will do a good job of hosting these tournaments, from game operations to hospitality to media coverage. I’m not sure exactly what attendance will be like (this year’s NSIC tournament might be a good litmus test), but it can’t be any worse than what is usual.
If nothing else, I’m happy about it. As our resident D2 guy, I’ve got plenty more to cover right in my own backyard.
That’s assuming the Argus is still paying me in four years.
The SF Sports Authority, as you no doubt heard yesterday and can read more about here, was awarded on eight of the 19 bids it submitted to the NCAA to host championship events.
If you’re a Twins fan, this analysis piece from Baseball Prospectus will depress you. But it will also illustrate pretty clearly how things went wrong for the franchise that spent much of the 2000s being a model franchise in major league baseball.
Spoiler alert: Bill Smith and Mike Radcliffe don’t come off looking good.
It’s kinda long but it’s a good read, especially if you feel like getting worked up about the Twins in the dead of winter.
2 p.m. argusleader.com/mattchat
Come to recap the USF/Augie doubleheader, stay to complain about Pete Morelli.
The Vikings are 3-9-1 after their latest loss, an entertaining but ultimately heartbreaking 29-26 loss at Baltimore.
It was an enjoyable game, one in which Pete Morelli (the same guy who ref’d the Vikings loss to New Orleans in the 2009 NFC title game) and his crew were spectacularly awful for the duration.
But I’m not here to blame the officials — readers of this blog know I’m not a fan of that — because as much as the Toby Gerhart non-fumble ruled a fumble and Chad Greenway phantom pass interference call gave the Ravens 14 of their points, the Vikings still should’ve won the game.
The kick return TD by Jacoby Jones following Gerhart’s TD run was a pathetic special teams play, topped off by Blair Walsh making one of the most feeble efforts at a tackle in history. He didn’t even have to make a tackle, he just had to shove a guy out of bounds who was tiptoeing the sideline. Apparently making contact with another human being was a little too much to ask for poor little Blair.
(December football is awesome, btw - photo, Vikings.com)
It looked like the Vikings overcame that when Cordarelle Patterson took a screen pass and went 78 yards for a score only seconds later, putting them back on top.
The Ravens got the ball back, and they had to go 80 yards in 45 seconds. I don’t care how bad the PI call on Greenway was, if you can’t keep a team out of the end zone when they have to go 80 yards and only have 45 seconds, you don’t deserve to win.
It was a heck of a finish, though, and that has been the norm for the Vikes this season.
I know I’m not alone in reaching a point in my life where I don’t really let the Vikings record and/or performance affect my life all that much — I simply wake up every Sunday hoping that they entertain me for three hours. Judging on that scale, they’ve been pretty good this year.
Just go down the list:
They opened the season with a 34-24 loss to the Lions in Detroit. Adrian Peterson went 78 yards for a score on the first play of the season, which was, of course, awesome. The Vikings led 14-13 at half and trailed by just a field goal after three quarters.
A week later, the Vikings appeared poised to steal a win in Chicago, taking a 30-24 lead late in the game on a trio of Blair Walsh field goals. But failure to cash in TDs cost them, and the Bears rallied, with Jay Cutler finding Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds left for the game-winning TD in a 31-30 Bears victory.
The Vikings were 0-2, but easily could’ve been 2-0.
An easy win figured to be on the horizon in Week 3, with the Browns coming to the Dome, having just traded RB Trent Richardson.
But Brian Hoyer threw for 321 yards and 3 TDs, leading the Browns to an embarrassing loss that basically wiped out the Vikings’ playoff hopes.
The Vikes took a 27-24 lead on a Walsh field goal early in the fourth, but Hoyer rallied Cleveland late, hitting Jordan Cameron with :51 left for a 31-27 win.
Another highly entertaining game that the Vikings could’ve won, but didn’t.
Matt Cassel took over at QB the next week, as the Vikings went to London and got their first win. They appeared headed towards an easy rout of a win, going up 34-17 late in the 3rd on a Cassel strike to Greg Jennings, but Ben Roethlisberger rallied the Steelers, getting within a touchdown with a pair of fourth quarter scores.
Minnesota escaped with the win in another back and forth game that went down to the end.
For those scoring at home, the Vikings were 1-3, but legitimately a few plays away from being 4-0.
But a couple stinkers followed. Cassel was not good in his second start, an embarrassing 35-10 home loss to Carolina, and Josh Freeman did a Rick Ankiel impression at QB the next week in a 23-7 loss to the Giants in arguably the worst game in the history of Monday Night Football.
That was followed by a 44-31 loss to the Packers that was nowhere near as close as the score makes it sound, with the Viking defense failing to make Green Bay punt even once. Aaron Rodgers completed 24 of 29 passes. The loss dropped the Vikings to 1-6, and raised serious questions about Leslie Frazier getting fired in-season. It probably would’ve happened if his coordinators were not so poorly regarded.
I was certain, for some reason, that the Vikings were going to beat Dallas the next week, because #LOLCowboys, and they nearly did, with Christian Ponder rallying them late to come back from down 20-10 to go up 23-20, but Tony Romo found Dwayne Harris for a 7-yard TD strike with :35 left, allowing the Cowboys to escape with the win and sending the Vikings to 1-7.
Just four days later Ponder played one of the best games of his career, leading the Vikings to 20 unanswered points as they rallied from down 27-14 to win 34-27, their first win of the season on American soil.
They were predictably routed the next week in Seattle, but bounced back to tie the Rodgers-less Packers a week later in one of the more memorable (because of how bad both teams are) recent games in the MIN-GB rivalry. It was the first time the Vikings tied in my lifetime, so that was something.
They nearly tied again the next week, with Robbie Gould of Chicago edging Minnesota’s Blair Walsh in a battle of which usually-reliable kicker could miss the bigger field goal, allowing the Vikings to escape with another dramatic win.
And then, of course, there was yesterday’s game, with the Vikings and Ravens combining to score 42 points in the fourth quarter — 36 of them in the final 2:05.
So let’s recap: 8 games decided (or not decided, in the case of the tie) by one score or less, six of them by four points or less. Two games that went to OT. Five that were decided in the final minute (six if you include the tie).
The bad news, of course, is that the Vikings are 1-4 in those games that were decided in the final minute. If they find a way to hang on in those four games they lost in the final minute, they’re 7-5-1 and in first place right now.
Maybe that means they’re not as bad as we think. Maybe it means they’re worse.
But, for me at least, they’ve been entertaining almost every week. And that’s enough to get me to keep watching.
I think most would agree that the USF/Augie basketball double header doesn’t pack quite the same punch this time around, what with it being the second time at the Stewart Center, but probably moreso because we’re still so early in the season.
All four teams have played one conference game so far (only Augie’s women lost), and will play another game Friday before staging round one of the intra-city rivalry on Saturday at USF.
Augie visits Southwest Minnesota State Friday, while USF hosts Wayne State.
Last year, the Vikings men were a playoff team, while the USF men scratched and clawed their way to an 8-14 conference record, a decent debut showing considering they didn’t have a peritcularly intimidating roster.
And despite that disparity, both meetings were competitive and entertaining. They each finished with identical 70-58 final scores, with the home team winning both. I felt like the one at Augie was closer than the score indicated while the one at USF was a little less so, but others might disagree.
The USF women were similarly mediocre as their men, while the Augie women, of course, went to the Final Four. The Vikings won both meetings easily.
What about this year?
The Viking men are rebuilding, but then again, they were rebuilding last year, too. Augie figured to be strong despite their youth this year, but losing Al Richter (injury), Zach Huisken (quit) and Brennan Olson (injury) left them even younger, as well as thinner, obviously.
Sophomores Dan Jansen and Casey Schilling have both been tremendous so far. They’re already arguably among the top 10 players in the 16-team conference, and when you’ve got that kind of star power, it can take you a long way (as Cam McCaffrey showed last year).
That said, the Vikings are extremely young at guard, with freshmen Matt Brazendale, Ethan Guske and Adam Beyer and sophomore Jamall Taylor, and that group has been, not surprisingly, extremely inconsistent.
When the Vikings frontcourt plays well, I imagine Augie will be awfully tough to beat, because Jansen and Schilling look like they’re going to be able to get theirs night in and night out (though it’s fair to wonder how long they’ll hold up, Jansen because he no longer has Huisken to spell him, Schilling because of his style of play).
As for USF, they were a tough team to watch at times last year. AJ Holland and James Rader were solid players, and Derek Brown really emerged, but they made almost everything they did look extremely difficult. They managed to overcome physical shortcomings with solid defense and simple effort. They controlled Augie from start to finish in the Stewart Center last year, and it wans’t because they necessarily played all that great. They just played really, really hard.
The USF students/fans played a role, too, as it was obvious to everyone in the building that Jansen was rattled, to the point that Billeter had to take him out of the game after he airballed a series of free throws.
I’ll be a little surprised if that kind of thing happens again. But it shouldn’t be as necessary, because I think USF has a better team this year.
Brown is still Brown, while Robert Goffney has taken a big step forward both as a scorer and a leader. Mack Johnson is a smooth shooter, and Mahlon Jones, Charles Ward and Preston Rayburn all have the ability to score. Jordan Stotts and Bryan Kielpinski are strong in the frontcourt, Stotts as a shooter and offensive rebounder and Kielpinski as a big body. It should be fun to watch him go up against Jansen. He’ll be giving up an inch or so, but he won’t back down physically.
Cutler Finneman was a guy they were pretty high on when they recruited him, but he hasn’t impressed me so far.
It’s dicey to read into stats when so few games have been played and almost all of them have been against non-conference foes, but the Cougars average 90 points per game. They’re a completely different team than they were last year.
It’s too early to even really try to determine which team is better, but I know last year Augie was definitively better, and the Cougars still managed a split. With the team’s being more evenly matched this season, I’m guessing we’ll get another split, and hopefully both games will be as competitive as they were last year.
Prediction: Cougars 83, Vikings 79
On the women’s side, I’ve been impressed with the Cougars so far. Laura Johnson is a terrific player — she plays a similar role to USF that Casey Schilling does for the Vikings, in that she basically does everything. She’s averaging 17 points and 8 boards a game, shooting 42 percent on 3s and 95 percent at the line.
But last year, all the Vikings had to do was stop (or slow) Johnson and USF had no one else who could hurt them.
This year, sophomore point guard Taylor Varsho, a transfer from Colorado State, has given them that, averaging over 13 points a game. She hasn’t actually played all that well so far — she’s not shooting well and seems to be trying way too hard to make big plays every time she has the ball — but once she settles in she’s going to make a big impact on both ends of the court.
And while Shaunteva Ashley and Emily Schulte are a handful for anyone, Chrissy Strassburg and a quickly-emerging Marie Malloy are better equipped to handle that matchup than people think.
The big advantage USF has is in the paint. Johnson is a 3-point shooter but she can hurt you with her back to the basket, too, while 6-2 freshman Sam Knecht (8.0 points, 5.6 rebounds) is going to be a handful for the Vikings.
That said, Dave Krauth has not surprisingly found a way to work around his team’s lack of post depth. Rhianna Gullickson has done a nice job, averaging 10 points and six rebounds while playing the most minutes of anyone not named Ashley or Schulte, and senior Katie Meister had a breakout game in the conference-opening loss to Wayne State. I’d keep an eye on Meister. Krauth’s teams have often had an unheralded upperclassman emerge when they need it most. She could be it.
I think on many nights, the Vikings success will be very simply dictated by whether or not they make their outside shots.
Ashley, Schulte and Riley Nordgaard were a combined 5-for-26 against Wayne, and they lost by five. Meister kept them in it, but they don’t have the strength inside to handle that kind of inaccuracy from their guards.
I still think Augie is the better team at this point, but they haven’t always been a great road team.
I’ll give the Cougars the slight edge due to the home court, but nothing would surprise me. As with the men, I expect a close, entertaining game.
Prediction: USF 72, Augie 70
I’ll be hosting a live chat from the games at argusleader.com/mattchat. Women start at 4, men half hour after the conclusion. Tune in if you can’t make it, and if you can, you know, send me jokes from your smartphones.
A few years ago, my dad bought me a snowblower. This is the best gift he has ever given me, and that’s saying something, considering he’s also bought me two vehicles, helped me buy my house and paid for my college education.
Great as all those things were, I’m not sure any of them top not having to shovel a driveway buried under three feet of snow.
And three feet is usually how much snow there is on my driveway, as I’m always on the end of blowing, drifting snow. I had to blow out my driveway three separate times on Wednesday, and as I look out my window just a half-hour after the third time through, I can already see blowing snow accumulating on the far side of the driveway, even though it stopped snowing 10 hours ago.
But you can’t stop it. All you can do is howl angrily at the wind, like Zebbie.
They used to love the snow. But now Zebbie is 10 and Tiger is 9 and the novelty appears to have finally wore off.
Anyway, thanks for the snowblower, dad.
If you’re considering buying one, trust me, they’re worth it. They’re so, so worth it.
Tomorrow on the blog I’ll look ahead to the USF/Augie basketball double header that will take place Saturday at the Stewart Center. The women’s game starts at 4, and I’ll be hosting a live chat from both games.
In the meantime, you absolutely must click this link to gifs of kids getting run over by animals. It’s just the best. Be sure to wait for the comment thread to load (the Obama dog thing isn’t the main attraction).
Well, they did something. They spent some money.
The Twins signed RHP Ricky Nolasco to a 4-year, $49 million deal that qualifies as the most expensive free-agent signing in team history, then a couple days later, signed RHP Phil Hughes to a 3-year, $24 million deal that qualifies as the second most expensive free-agent signing in team history.
There are several angles to these signings, but a couple things.
1. I’ve never felt like the Twins problem was a refusal to spend money, at least, not since they moved into Target Field. Handing out bad contracts just because fans demand payroll be at a certain threshold is bad business. The Twins stink, and for the last couple years, there weren’t any free-agent deals that were going to change that. Spending money for the sake of spending money is dumb, and there are enough bad contracts out there (the Yankees gave the latest one to Jacoby Ellsbury last night) to make anyone think twice about breaking the bank (enjoy paying an already-breaking down Albert Pujols $212 million over the next eight years, Angels).
The Twins are still going to stink this year, most likely, but when they saw a couple pitchers they liked, they spent the money.
So if nothing else, fans who keep whining about the Pohlads not spending money will hopefully pipe down for awhile.
2. Don’t get caught up in the cost.
Yes, the contracts are, as mentioned, the most expensive in team history. That says more about the Twins than it does about Nolasco and Hughes. If you’re expecting either of them to become the ‘true ace’ that fans keep nattering on about just because they’re the most expensive free-agents in team history, you’re almost certainly going to be disappointed.
The Twins are spending $8 million per year for Hughes and $12 million per year for Nolasco. That doesn’t buy you a Cy Young candidate. It buys you a 3rd starter.
Nolasco is coming off a very solid season, posting a 3.70 ERA in 33 starts between the Marlins and Dodgers.
He’s durable, having thrown over 185 innings in five of the last six seasons. He has excellent control, but unlike other Twins strike-throwers, he’s not a ‘pitch-to-contact’ control specialist. His career strikeout rate is a very respectable 7.4/9 innings.
He’s also traditionally graded out very well in peripheral numbers, as his xFIP has always been much lower than his ERA.
xFIP — expected fielding independent pitching — measures what a pitcher’s ERA should be if you factor out defense, bullpen and luck.
Nolasco’s career ERA is 4.37, his career xFIP is 3.75. But the Twins haven’t been a great defensive team in recent years, so that might just mean Nolasco is in line for a 4.70 ERA when he deserves a 4.10.
On a scarier note, Vance Worley had nice numbers in the National League, too. Solid strikeout rates, a good ERA, and relatively decent stuff. He won one game last year.
I still haven’t given up on Worley — unless he just forgot how to pitch there’s no way he can be as bad as he was last year — but his difficulty making the adjustment to the AL is at least a little worrisome in bringing another NL pitcher over.
On the other hand, Kevin Correia actually pitched slightly better last year in his first AL season than he did in his last years in the NL.
Hughes is only 27, and is actually something close to an honest-to-God power pitcher.
Of course, being a ‘power pitcher’ doesn’t automatically make you a good pitcher, and Hughes has gotten knocked around quite a bit over the last few years. His $8 million yearly salary was not earned based on his previous performance, it’s based on the Twins hoping something close to the future ace he was projected to be as a youngster is still in there somewhere.
On the one hand, the Hughes signing probably has more potential upside than the Nolasco deal, but on the other, it also feels like it has a higher chance of falling flat.
Hughes got hit hard last year, going 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA, two years after going 5-5 with a 5.79 ERA. In between, he had a decent year in 2012, going 16-13 with a 4.23 ERA, and his best year was 2010, when, at age 24, he was 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA.
Like Nolasco he has a solid K rate (7.6/9), and his control is solid as well (2.8 BB/9). He’s also been extremely home run prone, giving up 59 gopher balls in 61 starts the last two seasons.
Unlike Nolasco, his xFIP (4.43) isn’t significantly better than his actual ERA (4.54).
The Twins are obviously banking on the fact that a change of scenery will help, and it almost certainly will to at least some degree. Hughes is an extreme flyball pitcher, which is a terrible fit for Yankee Stadium but potentially workable at Target Field. And it’s also possible he just didn’t take well to being ‘The Next Big Thing’ in New York. Remember, this was the guy Brian Cashman refused to trade for Johan Santana.
Maybe relaxed expectations in Minnesota will bring out a better pitcher. Hughes wouldn’t be the first pitcher to thrive in Minnesota after washing out in New York (see Pavano, Carl).
It doesn’t seem like there’s a ton of upside to either of these deals. If Nolasco can give them 200 innings of 4.00, he’d be coming pretty close to earning that $12 million per. Obviously the Twins are hoping for better than that, but they also better be aware that it wouldn’t be a big shock to see the guy put up an ERA in the 4.50 range, if not worse, every year of the contract. Same goes for Hughes.
That said, both of these guys have enough of a track record that it’s probably safe to assume neither will do what Worley did last year. Both should provide innings. Both are upgrades over what they had. And now, suddenly, the Twins have some actual depth, to where they aren’t going to get stuck throwing PJ Walters or Cole DeVries or Pedro Hernandez out there for 7-8 starts just because there’s no one else.
Just last year, Vance Worley and Scott Diamond were this team’s 1-2 starters, and fans actually felt like that was an upgrade from the previous year. Now neither of those guys are even guaranteed a spot in the rotation.
Nolasco, Correia and Hughes will be the 1-2-3, and they should at least be competent. There’s still a chance they re-sign Mike Pelfrey (I wouldn’t, but he was better than his 5.19 ERA last year would suggest), and the Twins are still apparently in on Bronson Arroyo, who would basically be another Correia.
That would leave Diamond (12 wins, 3.54 ERA in 2012), Worley (3.50 ERA in 46 starts with the Phillies), Andrew Albers (who opened his ML career with back-to-back shutouts), Sam Deduno (who was a very solid 8-8 with a 3.83 ERA in 18 starts last year), Kyle Gibson (remember him?), Anthony Swarzak (2.91 ERA in 96 relief innings last year) and, potentially, prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May, to compete for one spot.
Someone out of that group is probably going to figure it out.
It won’t get the Twins into contention, but it should make them better. And if some of their young hitting prospects start to develop quickly, the Twins could, in a couple years, have a solid rotation to go with in Nolasco, Hughes, Gibson, Meyer and May/Worley/Deduno.
If nothing else, it’s nice to see the Twins spend some money, and even nicer to see them take a risk. Because that’s what both of these signings are — risks.
When you’re in a small market and you’ve lost 100 games three years in a row, you’re not going to just go out and reel in Clayton Kershaw.
You’ve got to roll the dice and hope you get lucky. The Twins didn’t likely hit the jackpot with Nolasco or Hughes, but they made their team better.
It’s USF-Augie week again, already, with the Vikings basketball teams visiting the Stewart Center for just the second time ever on Saturday. Both teams will be in action Friday, too, with Augie visiting SMSU and USF hosting Wayne State.
Still plenty of football stuff to chew on, plus a couple big Twins signings.
2 p.m. argusleader.com/mattchat
There weren’t a lot of drills I enjoyed during my high school football career, but one that I did was called the pursuit drill.
The purpose of the drill, I believe, was to prevent long scoring plays, to keep big gains from becoming huge gains and/or touchdowns.
How it worked was, one guy, usually the starting halfback or someone fast at least, would take the ball and sprint down one sideline, and every played on the defense had to cut off his angle and touch him before he got to the end zone. For the guys on the short side of the field, it was easy. For the cornerback lined up on the far side, it was harder. You basically picked a spot on the sideline, after judging how fast the guy was moving versus your own foot speed, and tried to beat the ballcarrier to that spot.
A lot of the drills we ran in high school football 15-20 years ago have sort of faded from memory, but I remember the pursuit drill well, probably because there have been so many times over the years that I’ve watched an NFL team fail miserably to stop a breakaway play and thought back to that drill.
The reason I enjoyed it was because it was easy. You didn’t have to stop the ballcarrier behind the line of scrimmage. You didn’t have to prevent a first down. You didn’t even have to stop a big play, all you had to do to ‘win’ the drill was prevent a length-of-the-field touchdown.
The latest example of a breakdown in pursuit came on Saturday, when Auburn shocked No. 1 Alabama on a 109-yard field goal return with no time on the clock. Tide coach Nick Saban has taken heat for attempting a field goal that had little chance of connecting, and there’s some validity to it.
But how do you not prevent a touchdown when the guy has 109 yards to go? I get it sometimes when guys miss tackles on a return in the middle of the game, because in the middle of the game, you’re not just trying to prevent a touchdown, you’re trying to tackle the guy as quickly as possible for field position.
But on this play? There was no time on the clock. All ‘Bama had to do to go to overtime was prevent a touchdown. The guy could’ve gone 100 yards on the return and it wouldn’t have mattered, as long as they tackled him at the 1-yard line or sooner.
But watching the play, look how many tacklers fail. They don’t take an angle far down the field, they chase, or worse, they dive at the runner’s feet. To me, diving at a ballcarrier’s feet has always just been a way to make it look like you tried when in reality you were just too afraid or unskilled to make an actual tackle.
Sure, not everyone is Ray Lewis, and to be fair, in this instance, the ‘tacklers’ were actually offensive players (the field goal team).
But you’ve got a national championship on the line, and Alabama’s players are all jogging down the field, assuming someone else will make a play. All someone had to do was grab a jersey and hang on for dear life. No one did, and now the Minnesota Golden Gophers will remain the most recent team to win three consecutive Division I national championships.
* The other big finish in college football was, of course, Michigan/Ohio State, and I loved Brady Hoke’s decision to go for two and the win.
My take on those situations is this: If there’s a team that entered the game as a heavy favorite — and in this case the Buckeyes definitely were — the longer the game goes, the greater likelihood that the superior team eventually takes command and wins.
In other words, if the game goes to OT, Ohio State is likely to win, because they’re the better team. But if Michigan converts the two, the game’s over right there. So go for it.
If the playcall was poor, that’s another story, but I love what Hoke did, and I’m sure his players do, too.
* St. Cloud State — you know, the team that barely even got into the Division II playoffs despite a 10-1 season, stunned No. 1 Minnesota State 54-48 in Mankato on Saturday. Program-defining win for the Huskies. Then, hours after the win, this happened. Good move, fellas.
* Oh man, if the Vikings had tied back to back games? That would’ve been so awesome.
As it turned out, a win over the Bears was pretty awesome, too.
The Vikings may not be going to the playoffs this year, but they’ve now handed potentially damaging losses/ties to the Bears and Packers.
As far as whether or not the win hurts the Vikings’ draft prospects, well, so what? It’s not exactly as if being one of two spots higher in the draft guarantees anything, and if you don’t want your team to win, why follow them at all?
The competence (or lackthereof) of the Vikings’ personnel department will likely have a greater impact on the team’s future success (or lackthereof) than their placement in the draft order.
Side note: I kinda had a feeling when Thom Brenneman suggested Robbie Gould might be the greatest kicker of all time (seriously, dude?) that he would miss a big field goal later. Also, great game Rhett Ellison.
* Great game for Adrian Peterson who is quietly having another great year. He’s still 1,300 yards shy of his idiotic goal of 2,500 yards, though. Maybe next year he’ll come up with a more team-centric goal.
* I have no real opinion on whether or not Bo Pelini should remain the head football coach at Nebraska. But I’ll say two things.
1. Yes, Bo has been a pig to the media at times, but nothing he did Friday gave him any reason to apologize to them (which he did, in a statement released after Nebraska’s AD released a statement of support). Halftime sideline reports are idiotic even when the reporter doesn’t ask idiotic questions, and asking Pelini ‘what he thought of the interceptions’ qualified as a really dumb question.
And nothing he said in his post game presser was offensive, either. I don’t know why the Nebraska media thinks it’s so important that Pelini cater to them, because if he wins games he doesn’t owe them a damn thing. If he deserves to be fired, it’s because he hasn’t won enough, not because he hasn’t put up with moronic questions from the media.
2. The fact that his current players are coming out in full force support of Pelini doesn’t really mean anything. Of course they love him. They’re the ones who bought what he was selling and agreed to come to Nebraska. They’re the ones he puts in the lineup every week.
Firing him would be something of a reflection on them, so why wouldn’t they oppose such a decision? Keep in mind that for every player who loves a coach, there might be another player who chose not to attend a given school because they didn’t like him.
* Two big signings for the Twins in Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes. I’ll have more on that later. Quick take: Both guys are a gamble. But the money — $49 million for Nolasco and $24 million for Hughes — isn’t as much as it sounds like. As long as neither of them are terrible, the Twins should at least be better.
* Another 2-0 weekend for the Stampede, with Zeb Knutson netting his second four-goal game of the season in Saturday’s 10-4 win. Remember when people thought Gary Weckwerth was delusional for thinking a Sioux Falls kid could be worth the No. 1 pick in the draft?
* Good news, we had turkey — and ham, and mashed potatoes and corn and beer and rum and football, for Thanksgiving.
* RIP, Herschel. Up yours, Governor. Don’t mess with Michonne.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. This is the preferred holiday of most males over the age of 21. Four day weekend, excessive food, football, etc., etc.
Let me offer three pieces of advice for anyone hosting a Thanksgiving dinner:
Seriously. Do not mess around with this. If you want to also cook and serve ham, or pheasant or something, fine, but you don’t do it in place of turkey. Turkey, mashed potatoes and corn are mandatory parts of a Thanksgiving dinner. This is non-negotiable. Nothing will make your family forget what they’re thankful for and ruin their holiday quicker than a botched Thanksgiving dinner.
And while subbing roast beef or steak or whatever for turkey is criminal enough, whatever you do, DO NOT get cute and try to have one of those ‘hey, let’s do something different this year’ Thanksgiving dinners and make pizza or lasagna or something. My mom made lasagna for Thanksgiving one year and I almost ran away from home.
Not everyone in America is a football fan. That’s perfectly fine. You don’t have to be. Sports aren’t always for everybody.
But this is Thanksgiving. You watch football. It’s your duty as an American. It’s part of remembering what you’re thankful for (I realize that might not make complete sense, just go with me on this one).
Unless every single person at your gathering is in agreement that they want to watch something else, you put the games on.
A friend of mine who will remain anonymous here told me recently that his wife’s family doesn’t watch football, and every Thanksgiving they go the entire day eating and chatting in silence, not only not watching football, but acting as though the absolute last thing in the world they’d ever consider doing on Thanksgiving is watching football. That’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s grounds for divorce.
It’s Thanksgiving. Put the game on.
3. Bring friends
A big reason that most of us love Thanksgiving so much is because most of us always have somewhere to go. We have big families or friends who will take us in.
Sometimes, however, for whatever reason, it doesn’t work out that way.
Chances are all of us have friends who, for whatever reason, don’t have anywhere to go tomorrow.
Maybe their parents are dead, maybe they live too far away from home, maybe they have to work on Friday and it’s just too much of a hassle to go somewhere Thursday and have to quick turn around and come back.
If that’s one of your friends, invite them over. Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be just for family.
Have a great weekend, and thanks to those of you who make this a regular stop every week.
(If you missed it in today’s paper, here’s my column on the Vikings’ miserable season. Happy Thanksgiving, Leslie!)