On my way to get food at halftime, I see this. And that's when I knew we'd be without Sterling Griffin for a while. Ugh.
I'd just like to point out that Jamie wanted to leave with over six minutes left in the fourth quarter. He actually said to me "do you want to go?" And I said no. Mind you I didn't blame him for asking because it sure looked like it was over after the Bulls unconscionably chose to punt with 6:56 remaning in the fourth quarter down by 11. And the better team, the one running their signature offense with ruthless efficiency, was moving the ball up and down the field ad nauseum. The pistol offense is death by a thousand paper cuts when run effectively. A beautiful balance of run and pass (40 dropbacks, 51 rushes) that can gash you for a big play at any time either on the ground or through the air.
But we came back and won. And this is why you never, EVER leave a game early.
As an aside, the best player on either team was Wolf Pack QB Cody Fajardo. It goes beyond his 27-38 for 217 yards and 18 carries for 134 more. He was strong with the ball, accurate on all routes (without a few drops this line is even better), is really fast for his size, and tough as hell to tackle. And he's only a sophomore. God speed, Mountain West.
But in our group the most entertaining part of the afternoon was during the "gallows humor" portion of the game, which was basically everything until the final six minutes. We watched a member of the USF Athletics staff play great coverage on an Iron Bull donor that couldn't wait to get to the fence and scream bloody murder at Skip after the game for the loss. He literally was covering him man-to-man, using his hands inside the 5-yard chuck window, and shaded inside so the benches acted as an extra defender. It was Revis-like technique, and this went on for several minutes. I'm not exaggerating, this actually happened
Of course the idiot donor (also a good friend of mine) quickly shut his mouth after our game-ending Hail Mary's ended up being full of grace. But that doesn't mean all is right in Bulls Nation.
The penalties were straight out of Pop Warner. Picking up THREE 5-yard flags on two separate two-point conversion attempts is totally unacceptable. The clock management was often atrocious, and the Bulls seemed incapable of getting a play called and lined up correctly inside the 25 or 40 second clocks. And just because they punted with over six minutes left down 11 doesn't mean it was the right thing to do.
Not to mention the defense seemed incapable of stopping the Wolf Pack early, though to their credit they only gave up 10 points over the final three quarters against a rather potent offense. That shows an ability to adjust during the game that needs to be applauded. And the conditioning, which was thought to maybe be an issue in the altitude, ended up not being a factor. But giving up 549 yards of offense is never a good thing.
Rare has been the Bulls team that has escaped with a win late in a game, especially on the road. Hopefully the veteran leadership this club has can eek out another win or two like this in 2012. And I think we found the way that the Bulls offense might be the most efficient: Find the guy in man coverage, send him on a deep post/go route, and get BJ to chuck it up there. Despite his accuracy shortcomings and occasional bad decision making in the pocket, he's still got a cannon for an arm. And that might be our best weapon the rest of the way.
Some other bullets from our road trip:
* Jamie and I were both profitable sports betting for the trip (as well as other forms of degenerate gambling), but I must give him credit for turning me onto Eco Kat. I should have doubled my net worth on that game, but instead only took 2/3 of what Jamie bet because he got in at -6.5 and I was a bit worried laying 7. The 39 point victory made this all moot, and the lesson continues that I'm an idiot. Also thanks to Ohio State for blocking an extra point so our Buckeyes -7 second half bet came in as well. Betting against UCF and winning is truly like winning twice.
* The most fun bet we made all weekend was from neither of us, but our friend Mike who binked the first 11 of his 12 team 6 point parlay. Since Mike used to work in college athletics, this was the first time in his life he's ever bet on sports, and he starts his career with a $5 ticket that was about to cash for $325. The garbage touchdown by the Houston Cougars late sealed his perfect Saturday, and we were far more interested in this score than the Sacramento-Reno Pacific Coast League playoff game we were attending. The 12th game he had was the only NFL one on his card, and it was Carolina +3.5 over the Bucs. Fortunately I talked Mike into a money line hedge on the Bucs at +130 so he still cashed a nice payday, but he was thisclose to having his first ridicuparlay actually hit. I also taught him how to play craps, and we both did quite well. With beginners luck like this, I suspect he'll be in bankruptcy by bowl season this year.
* Jamie has all the pictures of us at the Camel/Ostrich/Zebra Racing Championships in Virginia City on Friday. I even rode a camel, and it was worth every penny of the $12 of tourist trap we fell into. Delightful times, especially when inebriated.
* The fans at Nevada were incredibly nice and hospitable, and we loved being there. We got taken in by a tailgate full of Wolf Pack alums that showered us with beer and water, and were as kind as could be. Thanks so much to everyone we met there, and Reno should be proud of the way they support their team. Also, in case you were curious... they really, really hate UNLV. Boise is second on their list, and that game at the end of this season should be a fun one. Their football "facility," on the other hand... eek. Rough place to watch a game. There are plenty of high schools in Florida with better amenities.
* Mike and I will run it back at Temple in a few weeks, so join us at our tailgate at The Linc if you can. And if you've never been to a road game, just know they're always way more fun than being at Ray Jay.