Weekend full of surprise finishes and near-upsets
The wintry weather that visited Southeast Texas and Southwestern Louisiana last weekend prompted many of us “weather wienies” to throw another log on the fire and sit in our favorite easy chair and take in a flurry of football games that were on the tube Saturday and Sunday.
Several of the contests that were televised Saturday were between the divisional winners of various college football conferences, with the winners getting an automatic invite to one of the major high-dollar BCS bowls that will be played during the first week of January.
Some of the other winners of Saturday’s action would get bids to some of the better bowls that will begin in another week. And some of the losing teams can look back on a single play that cost them the game and even the conference title.
The bottom line is that most of the nationally-televised football games offered plenty of excitement for those ardent college football fans who were plopped so comfortably on that couch or rocking chair.
Several of those important games were played in some kind of inclement weather—either in the snow, sleet, rain or just numbing cold temperatures. But that’s what football in December is all about.
The action featured six undefeated college teams and two NFL teams with unscathed records. And when the weekend ended, only one team—No. 1 Florida—suffered an upset loss. But several others escaped only by the skin of their teeth.
One of those teams lucky to still have an unblemished record is the Texas Longhorns who squeaked out a stunning 13-12 victory over 14-point underdog Nebraska Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on a 46-yard field goal by Hunter Lawrence as time expired.
Texas quarterback Colt McCoy almost blew the game for the Longhorns as he rolled out and threw the ball out of bounds with a scant second left in the game. McCoy also didn’t help his Heisman Trophy cause by having three passes intercepted by the Cornhuskers’ tenacious defense.
The ‘Horns kept their National Championship hopes alive by winning the Big 12 Championship. They will meet Alabama Jan. 7 in Pasadena for the National Championship and are already a touchdown underdog according to the early betting line.
The No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide—a five-point underdog to top-ranked Florida in the Southeastern Conference Championship game earlier Saturday—whipped the Seminoles convincingly 32-13 in only the fourth non-bowl game in college football history between to nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams.
Florida will meet Cincinnati (13-0) in the Sugar Bowl at 7 p.m. Jan. 1 as the Bearcats also lucked out in their game against once-beaten Pittsburgh Saturday 45-44, the difference being on a bobbled a perfect snap on an extra point by Panthers’ holder Andrew Jonocko.
In another high-scoring game with no bowl implications Fresno State decided to go for the win over Illinois Saturday, trailing 52-51 after scoring a touchdown with just two seconds left.
Fresno State quarterback Ryan Colburn got trapped on the two-point pass try and just slung the ball toward the end zone where it caromed off three sets of hands and right to offensive lineman Devan Cunningham who caught the ball and stumbled into the end zone giving Fresno State an exciting 53-52 upset victory over the three-point favored Illini.
In the NFL Sunday both Indianapolis and New Orleans remained a perfect 12-0 as the Colts snapped Tennessee’s five-game winning streak 27-17 while the Saints trailed the Washington Redskins the entire game before tying it in the final two minutes 30-30 and then winning 33-30 on an 18-yard field goal by Garrett Hartley 6:29 into the overtime period.
A weak rushing attack cost both Texas franchises as the Texans rallied from an early 17-0 deficit only to lose to the Jaguars in Jacksonville 23-18. The Cowboys fell victim to some big plays by the New York Giants and lost a big NFC East game 31-24. The loss dropped the Pokes (8-4) into a first-place tie with Philadelphia which smashed Atlanta 34-7.
And a couple of the NFL elite teams—the defending World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers and the three-time Super Bowl winning New England Patriots—seem to be taking some giant strides toward mediocrity which could jeopardize their playoff hopes.
The Steelers’ proud defense surrendered 21 points in the fourth period to the lowly Oakland Raiders to blow another lead and lose their fourth straight game 27-24. Oakland backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski burned the Steelers’ defense for three touchdowns, connecting of 20-of-33 passes for 308 yards.
The Steelers now stand at 6-6 for the season and trail the Cincinnati Bengals by three games in the AFC North Division.
And the Patriots lost for the third time in the last four weeks as Miami Dolphins’ back-up quarterback Chad Henne threw for a career-high 335 yards and led his team to a 51-yard drive for the game-winning field goal with 1:02 left to give Miami a 22-21 victory and moved the Dolphins (6-6) to within one game of the AFC East-leading Pats (7-5).
KWICKIES…A couple of former West Orange-Stark Lady Mustang basketball standouts—Brittney Scott and Brittney James—squared off against each other Saturday when the University of Houston downed North Texas 104-65. Miss Scott led the Lady Cougars with a career-high 32 points while Miss James poured in 21 points for North Texas.
Despite an unusually snowy night, there was a good crowd on hand for Louisiana’s Richest Night of Racing Friday night at Delta Downs in Vinton where purses for the 11-race program totaled $1.25 million. Rule, a two-year old colt that won the $175,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes last month and set a new record at Delta Downs for the mile, came back and captured the $750,000 Boyd’s Gaming Delta Jackpot Grade III Stakes Race. Don’t be surprised if this colt is one of the better horses entered in the 2010 Kentucky Derby next May. Rule has won over $600,000 in just five outings with three wins, one second place finish and one third.
Dallas Cowboys head coach and Orange native Wade Phillips has won 14 of his 23 challenges of the NFL game officials’ rulings, including one-of-two in Sunday’s 31-24 loss to the New York Giants. Wade’s challenge percentage, much like his won-loss percentage as the Cowboys’ head coach, is among the best in the NFL.
JUST BETWEEN US…Besides undefeated Texas (13-0) meeting Alabama (13-0) for the BCS National Championship Jan. 7 in Pasadena the Fiesta Bowl will feature another pair of undefeated teams—TCU (12-0) and Boise State (13-0)– locking horns Jan. 4 in Glendale, AZ. Oregon (10-2) will tangle with Ohio State (10-2) Jan. 1 in the Rose Bowl at Pasadena and undefeated Cincinnati (12-0) will meet once-beaten Florida (12-1) on the same day in the Sugar Bowl at New Orleans. Oklahoma State (9-3) and Ole Miss (8-4) will clash in the Cotton Bowl at Dallas Jan. 2 while Iowa (10-2) and Georgia Tech (11-2) compete in the Orange Bowl at Miami Jan. 5. Other Texas teams involved in bowl games include Texas A&M (6-6) vs. Georgia (7-5) in the Independence Bowl Dec. 28, University of Houston (10-3) vs. Air Force (7-5) in the Armed Forces Bowl Dec. 31, Texas Tech (8-4) vs. Michigan State (6-6) in the Alamo Bowl Jan. 2 and SMU (7-5) vs. Nevada (8-4) in the Hawaii Bowl Dec. 24. LSU (9-3) vies against Penn State (10-2) in the Capital One Bowl Jan 1 at Orlando.