Cavalcade of Whimsy - The Positives
Posted Sep 25, 2006

With all the ugly problems going on with bad officiating, a Michigan State collapse, and general clunkers all over the place, this week's Cavalcade of Whimsy focuses on ten interesting, positive, things you might not be noticing. Also, the Pac 10 officiating issue, how JoePa should retire, and more.

By Pete Fiutak    What's your beef? ... E-mail with your thoughts  
Past Whimsys
Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3

If this column sucks, it’s not my fault … a stomach virus forced me to leave the column a few times to hit the bathroom. Sorry it was broadcast on national TV and analyzed in front of millions of people.

It’s not a plus when the 79-year-old head coach runs faster off the field than his team does on it ... It would be the greatest way to retire in the history of retirements if Joe Paterno, when he decides to hang them up, chose to run off the field and out of the stadium midway through the second quarter of a big game.

“I’ve spent way too much of my life doing this. I’m tired. I'm going to the mall to get a slice and catch a flick.”

It didn’t really matter since Anthony Morelli would’ve been more than happy to come up with a redo … With all the talk about replay, why wasn’t anyone complaining about not reviewing whether or not Ohio State DB Malcolm Jenkins actually got into the end zone on his pick six against Penn State? I couldn’t have been the only one who thought he might have spiked the ball before crossing the line. At the very least, it was worth a closer look.

On this week’s episode of Great Moments in Sports Gambling History … There’s a reason I don’t gamble on anything other than yesterday's spinach salad lunch. Penn State fans weren’t the only ones looking to break something tasteful after Morelli threw his second interception for a touchdown in the final few moments in the loss to the Buckeyes. How many of you out there chucked your remote at the TV when Joe Garcia picked off a late pass for a cover-the-spread touchdown in Nevada’s win over Northwestern? That was why you watched the Wolf Pack and Wildcats on a Friday night, right?

I promise, as long as I’m writing it, this column will never lose to Michigan State again … Could Desmond Howard and Lou Holtz have been more excited about a Michigan State loss/Notre Dame win? In the post-game analysis, they acted like six-year-olds on Christmas morning with a tree full of presents to open and with five bowls of chocolate frosted sugar bombs in their bellies. There's no truth to the rumor that Greg Norman gave the halftime speech in the Spartan locker room.

And I promise not to jump ship to the NFL. At least for a few years ... I’d like to officially announce that I’m making a push for the soon-to-be-open University of Miami head coaching job. My qualifications? Well, like Bobby Brady, I can finger paint, but I’ll leave the actual coaching to my assistants. Bernie Kosar and Steve Walsh will be my co-offensive coordinators. Bennie Blades will coach the defensive backs, Michael Irvin will coach the receivers, and Warren Sapp and Ray Lewis will realize that NFL life just isn’t for them and will be my co-defensive coordinators. Lamar Thomas will be in charge of teaching the Hurricane players how to properly show how bravado is done Miami-style. I don’t care if there are 37 penalties a game; I’m restoring the order. Actually, I'm blowing up the order. My players will rip their helmets off after big plays, dance on the benches, celebrate like mad after touchdowns, and get back to being the Miami that dominated for so long after years of the button-down, corporate version. The team attire to road games will be army fatigues, like the ones worn at the dinner with Penn State before the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, and I’ll demand wacky jersey numbers like the old days when Kosar wore number 20 and Irvin wore 47. I’ll have no problem getting in the talent thanks to recruiting coordinator Luther Campbell and his armada of booty babes armed with hypnotic butts with cheeks that operate as their own independent prisoners of inertia. I will win at Miami. Oh yes, I will win.

Temple, here’s your assignment to get the attention away from your football team … You'd think some school would’ve come up with a bigger bass drum just to cheese off Purdue and ruin the whole World’s Largest Bass Drum schtick.

And death is not an option … Paul McGuire or the new clock rule. You can get rid of one, and the other stays as part of your college football world for the next 25 years. You’ll go back and forth on this for the rest of the day.

And Michael Brown was brought in to serve everyone a complementary hot dog … Wouldn’t it have been nice if the people who were stuck in the Superdome during the Katrina disaster got the tickets for the Saints game against Atlanta?

And I’ll be hoping the good people at the Downtown Athletic Club send me another T-Shirt in a tube …
My Heisman ballot for this week would be: 1. Adrian Peterson, RB Oklahoma, 2. Troy Smith, QB Ohio State, 3. Mike Hart, RB Michigan, 4. Steve Slaton, RB West Virginia, 5. Calvin Johnson, WR Georgia Tech.

“Colonel Jessup, did you order the Code Red?”
I know, I know, you’re as excited about revisiting the Oklahoma-Oregon debacle as you are for the next Growing Pains reunion movie, but there’s still some unfinished business that’s being swept under the rug.

Gordon Riese, the embattled replay official who missed the call on the onside kick, and has taken a voluntary leave of absence for the rest of the year, is a veteran referee. He was on the crew in the famous 1982 Stanford-Cal band game, and he was a stalwart of Pac 10 officiating for 28 years. It’s not like the guy was picked out of the Autzen Stadium stands to review the game-changing onside kick, yet the Pac 10 felt the need to suspend him for one game after all the controversy ensued. Talk about being thrown under the bus.

What did the Pac 10 hope to accomplish? If he’s such a strong, veteran official, you either say it was a bad call and move on, or you fire him for incompetence. The whole world knows it was a missed call, no one’s disputing that, so why the need to punish him if it really was an honest mistake? A one-game spanking makes it seem like he did something wrong instead of insinuating that he simply made a human error. It opens up the perception that there was more to the gaffe than meets the eye, or else it was just a way to try to appease all the angry fans.

To understand officials is to know that they’re a different breed of cat. By nature, they’re the most honest people you’ll ever meet, despite what you might believe. You might think they stink at times, and you might get mad at them, but for an official to get to the level where an he has anything to do with a game like Oklahoma vs. Oregon, he had to have earned his stripes with credentials that should more than speak for themselves.

So was Riese lying when he initially said that he didn’t get all the right angles to review? Sorry, but I find it hard to believe that he just made that up. Did his assistant mess up? Was there an overall problem with the technology in the heat of the moment? Like the Oklahoma fans, I still want to know more, because it is important when it comes to the integrity of officiating in the Pac 10.

Now the problem is perception, and it showed during Saturday nights USC win over Arizona. There were two big plays on catches by Trojan WR Steve Smith that had to be reviewed. One obviously should’ve been overturned, and it was, and a second, on an apparent touchdown catch, shouldn’t have been reversed since there wasn’t conclusive evidence to change the call, but it was overturned anyway. One of the officials who worked the Oklahoma-Oregon game (not Riese, but referee Dave Cutaia) was involved in the Trojan-Wildcat battle, and Tim Brant in the announcing booth irresponsibly questioned whether or not the officials were going to hose over another Stoops. Did the officials go too far the other way since Mike Stoops, Bob Stoops' brother, was coaching on the other sidelines? That anyone's even thinking about that shows there's a problem.

Heaven forbid if the calls went USC's way, and that was for a Pac 10 game. That’s why the league must use neutral conference officials for non-conference Pac 10 home games from now on, since there can’t be the slightest bit of a thought in anyone’s mind at any time that the
officials are biased in any way. Fans can think how they want to think, but once coaches, players, and administrations think things might not be kosher, then there’s a problem. Currently, there's a problem.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” … E-mails to me from angry Oklahoma fans last week on the overall topic of the Oregon game and the officiating: 1,313. E-mails from Oregon fans last week on the overall topic of the Oklahoma game and the officiating: 2. It’s always the worst thing in the world when something bad happens to you. History tells me the e-mail numbers would be reversed if the game was played in Norman and the Ducks got screwed.

Because I didn’t get enough “Your an Idiot” e-mails last week … To all the Oklahoma fans who still can’t get over the botched calls against the Ducks: now you know exactly how most of the college football world felt when your Sooners, after getting blasted 35-7 in the 2003 Big 12 title game by Kansas State, got to play in the national championship game that year instead of USC. Trust me; I had to hear about it for months, and I didn't hear one word from OU fans suggesting that their team might not be deserving of playing for the title.

Oklahoma was on the right side of two of the biggest calls over the last ten years getting into the 2004 Sugar Bowl over USC and the 2005 Orange Bowl when Auburn was left out of the dance. In the world of college football karma, the Sooners are still way ahead of the game.

“Counselor! Come out, come out, wherever you are!" ... Let me make myself very, very clear here. The vast majority of Oklahoma fans who e-mailed me last week were just frustrated and really, really mad, as they had a right to be. They weren’t out of line and they weren’t saying anything that any other fan base wouldn’t have. We’ve all been there. If you haven’t had a sporting event rip your guts out and chopped into a fine powder to later be used as a power boost for someone’s Jamba Juice, you’re not a true sports fan.

But to the 103 e-mailers that I put in my Max Cady folder, like the one who wanted “to beat the living crap out of the officials,” and the one who suggested that Riese had better not set foot in Oklahoma or he’d  “know what payback is really like,” or the one who was so upset that his “year is ruined,” or the one who’ll “never, ever get over this or forgive what happened,” I suggest you go to for some semblance of perspective on what a tragedy really is. Kid dying from leukemia vs. bad calls in a game played by 18-22-year-old kids who’d rather play video games, chase girls, and play more video games than acknowledge your existence. No need for replay on that one.

Remember, this is all just a game that six billion people worldwide don't care two hoots about. It's all supposed to be fun. And it is.

The C.O.W. airing of the grievances followed by the feats of strength
After all the bitterness and all the anger from the Oklahoma-Oregon game, from Michigan State fans after the brutal loss to Notre Dame, and from college football fans in general after a somewhat dry start to the season (at least compared to last year), here are ten good, goofy, interesting things going on so far that you might have missed, and in some cases, should be watching out for over the next few months. Consider this your big, fat, college football hug.

10. Gary Danielson
He stepped up his game in a big way as the color analyst next to the equally strong Verne Lundquist on the big SEC game of the week on CBS. Yes, he did describe a wraparound handoff in the Alabama – Arkansas game as an “Emima draw, because you come from behind.”

9. California
You completely wiped the Bears off your radar screen after the opening day 35-18 loss at Tennessee, and that’s a huge mistake. It’s a shame Jeff Tedford’s team didn’t play a warm up game before facing the Vols, because it appears to have taken a little time for the ultra-fast, ultra-talented team to get going. Not only did it blow away a decent Minnesota team, and hold the vaunted Gopher running game to just over 100 yards, but it obliterated Arizona State 49-21. The team really is that good.

8. Giving credit where credit is due, part one …
Yeah, Oklahoma got screwed, blah, blah, blah, but lost in the poor officiating in the Oregon game two weeks ago was the performance by the Ducks. No one seemed to notice that the Oregon offense cranked out over 500 yards of total offense with two touchdowns in the final 1:12 to come up with the win. Give credit to the Duck special teams from coming through the block on the final field goal after they could’ve caved after the momentum swung to the OU side of the field following the long kickoff return. 

7. Giving credit where credit is due, part two …
It took two teams for Michigan State to collapse. Lost in all the craziness of the final five minutes was a gutsy, possibly season-defining play by Jeff Samardzija. With under ten minutes to play on fourth and five on the MSU 43, the Chicago Cub took a short Brady Quinn pass 43 yards for a touchdown to pull within ten to spark the epic comeback. Quinn is getting the Heisman talk, but Samardzija and Rhema McKnight deserve just as much hype.

6. Les Miles and LSU
Many LSU fans were worried the program was about to go into the tank after Nick Saban left for the Miami Dolphins and Les Miles took over. Remembering that Miles had to keep his team focused through the Hurricane Katrina disaster last year, his 15-3 start is impressive. The losses came by three to Tennessee last year, to Georgia in the SEC title game, and by four in a nasty loss to Auburn this season. Remember, Saban only had one season with fewer than three losses.
5. Northern Illinois RB Garrett Wolfe
He’s not going to come within 14 miles of the Heisman, but he’s going to finish the year as the nation’s top rusher by a huge margin. Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson is second in the country averaging 160.75 yards per game. That’s a whopping 46.25 yards behind Wolfe, who’s not only the only one in America averaging over 200 yards per game, he’s also one of two backs among the nation’s top 100 averaging more than eight yards per carry (Felix Jones of Arkansas is the other, but he only has 31 carries so far). Granted, he ripped up Ohio, Buffalo and Indiana State, but he also tore off 171 yards rushing and 114 receiving against Ohio State.

4. The new Big 12 quarterbacks
Much of the talk around the Big 12 this off-season was about how so many teams had to replace star quarterbacks. Brad Smith, Reggie McNeal, Cody Hodges, Joel Klatt, and of course, Vince Young, were all gone. After the off-season, Oklahoma needed to replace Rhett Bomar. There might not be a VY in the bunch, but Oklahoma State’s Bobby Reid is progressing into a potential superstar, Nebraska’s Zac Taylor is completing over 70% of his passes, Oklahoma’s Paul Thompson is getting better and better, Missouri’s Chase Daniel has been effective, and Texas A&M’s Stephen McGee has been terrific with six touchdown passes and no interceptions to go with 219 rushing yards. Five of the nation’s 13 most efficient passers are in the Big 12, and that doesn’t include Daniel, Texas Tech's Graham Harrell, or Iowa State’s Bret Meyer.

3. Boise State vs. Utah
It’s not an overstatement to say the September 30th battle between the Broncos and Utes might be the most hard-fought non-conference game this season. Why? It might be an elimination game for one of the “little guys” in the race for a BCS slot. Utah still has to face TCU and BYU, but both of those games are at home. Wins in those two games, and an 11-1 record, would likely be enough to overcome the opening day UCLA loss to get into a big money game. Barring a total disaster, only a home game with Fresno State and a season-ender at Nevada could possibly keep the Broncos out.  

2. Air Force and time of possession
Everyone wants to complain about the new clock rules, but they help teams that are great at controlling the ball and the tempo. Alabama leads the nation averaging 35:41 of possession, and Air Force is number two averaging 35:28 per game. Appearing to be a dying program at the end of last year, Air Force battled Tennessee to the wire in a 31-30 loss, and then beat Wyoming in Laramie to show that it might be a sleeper in the Mountain West race. Most interesting about the win over the Cowboys was the time of possession holding on to the ball for a whopping 40:25. Air Force ran 77 plays to Wyoming's 42.

1. Rutgers, Wake Forest, Washington, Kent State, and San Jose State
Of course, the bubble will quickly burst for some of these formerly downtrodden programs, but it’s been a great first month so far. Rutgers is in the top 25 for the first time since 1976, Wake Forest is 4-0, and will be 5-0 after playing Liberty, going into the big game against Clemson, Washington stunned UCLA to start out 3-1 going into the date at Arizona, Kent State, after going 0-10 vs. D-I teams last year, is 2-0 in MAC play with road wins over Miami and Bowling Green, and San Jose State, thanks to a ball-hawking defense, is 2-1 with only a close loss to Washington.

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item … The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated:
Brent Musburger allegedly giving away USC’s hand signs in the 28-10 win over Nebraska ... Underrated: Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada
2) Overrated: Snoop Dogg at USC … Underrated: Muddy Waters at Michigan State
3) Overrated: Ohio State … Underrated: “Ohio” according to Andre 3000
4) Overrated: Rudy Carpenter ... Underrated: Sam Keller
5) Overrated: Deal or No Deal girl No. 3  ... Underrated: Deal or No Deal girl No. 18
Sheer hubris run amok … The three lines this week that appear to be a tad off: I went 2-1 proving I’m only a partial idiot. I’m 4-5 so far going 3-0 by picking against Temple. 1) Baylor -2.5 over Kansas State, 2) Wisconsin -10.5 over Indiana, 3) (never mess with a streak) Vanderbilt -34 over Temple.

Sorry this column sucked, but it wasn’t my fault … I had the column well in hand, but Alabama PK Leigh Tiffin pushed several items wide right.