5 Thoughts ... Where's the love for Leak?

Posted Oct 2, 2006

Can Notre Dame really get into the national title game? Why Sam Keller should've stayed at ASU, the need for a camera and replay on field goals, and giving some credit to Florida's Chris Leak, in the latest 5 Thoughts.

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The importance of being Irish

By Pete Fiutak   
1. In 1982, Penn State, fresh off a fantastic 27-24 win over Nebraska, went into Birmingham and got flattened by a decent Alabama team 42-21. Over the next six games, the Nittany Lions went on a run to go 10-1 before facing unbeaten and No. 1 ranked Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Walker Lee Ashley and the Penn State D stopped Herschel Walker and the Dawgs 27-23 for the win and the national title. Next year, Miami lost 28-3 to Florida in the opener, but still went on to win the national championship. The precedent has been set.

Notre Dame got its doors blown off by Michigan, but it came up with decent wins, highlighted by a blowout of Penn State and the epic comeback against Michigan State, to close out a tough September 4-1. If things go according to plan, and the Irish walk through Stanford, UCLA, Navy, North Carolina, Air Force and Army, and if USC does its part and goes unbeaten until November 25th, don’t be the slightest bit shocked to see Charlie Weis and the boys in Glendale on January 8th even if Michigan’s only loss comes at Ohio State.

It’s not right, but it’s as much about when you lose as if you lose. Notre Dame might have lost ugly to the Wolverines, but that appeared to be forgotten about after the Michigan State win. Beating an unbeaten USC at USC would be the huge victory to make everyone buzz loudly about wanting the Irish to play for the whole ball of wax as long as there aren’t two major unbeaten teams. Once again, I’m not saying it’s right, and I would never agree with putting in a one-loss Irish team in ahead of a one-loss Michigan squad, or someone like LSU if it runs the table and finds a way to win the SEC title. I’m just saying to be prepared. It could happen.

ASU needs Keller, but Keller could've used ASU

By Richard Cirminiello
2. You think Sam Keller wishes he was still in Tempe, playing for Arizona State? Yeah, me too. That's all I could think about as the Sun Devils got scorched by a Pac-10 opponent for the second straight week. A little more than a month ago, Dirk Koetter tabbed Keller as his starter, changed his mind a few days later, handing the job to Rudy Carpenter.

Oops. Not long after, football's version of a soap opera broke out.

Accusations flew, Keller seethed and the Sun Devils lost a terrific quarterback to Nebraska. Bad move by Koetter. Worse move by Keller.

Sure, he'll do fine in Lincoln next year, but by next year, he should've been cashing fat NFL paychecks. Had he swallowed his pride and stayed at Arizona State, right now Keller would be the hands-down most popular player on the Sun Devil roster--the backup quarterback on a team that's crashing and burning. Carpenter has been a complete mess the last three weeks, completing 46% of his passes, throwing seven picks and losing his confidence along the way. Against an average Oregon pass defense Saturday, he completed just 6-of-19 for 33 yards and an interception, the low point of his career. The bottom has fallen out, and a trip to USC is next on the schedule. It wouldn't have taken very long for chants of Kell-er, Kell-er, Kell-er to ring throughout Sun Devil Stadium Saturday afternoon. Ahhh, Keller himself couldn't have drafted a better script. Oh, and as shattered as Carpenter is these days, there's no doubt Koetter would have obliged, giving his senior the ball to the delight of the home crowd. The quarterback now craves redemption and a chance to prove ASU wrong after feeling he got shafted by his teammates and his coach. So determined is Keller to redeem himself, he left a campus he loved and is taking a mandatory year off from football. He didn't have to. Had Keller been patient and stuck it out, he'd probably be enjoying the last laugh without ever leaving Tempe.

It's up, and it's ... it's ... it's ... ?

By Matthew Zemek
Florida kicker Chris Hetland missed a field goal against Alabama by a hard-to-discern margin. This kick seemed to travel just behind the left upright and looked "good" to the naked eye in real time. The official on the ground had the best view, however, and said no. This does raise the need for networks--especially in big games--to either have cameramen or automated/mechanized cameras on the ground directly under the uprights.

There's no reason why high placekicks that climb over the top of the uprights shouldn't be subject to review. Fans, coaches and replay officials deserve to get a clean, clear look at kicks from the ground, so that if there's any dispute about whether or not a high kick traveled above the upright--or just behind it, or just in front of it--coaches can challenge it if they want to. What if Hetland's kick was on the final play of regulation? Darn straight Urban Meyer would want to challenge the ruling on the field. He should be able to exercise that option. Get ground-level upright cameras into football coverage, PRONTO!

The coaching cries will begin, but are they warranted?

By John Harris
4. One game.  One play.  A 37 yard bomb.  A 43 yard game winning field goal in the final minutes.  Five seconds before, a win is all but locked up.  Five seconds after, a man and his livelihood are in question.  But, that’s all it takes for one man to turn from genius to goat.  From 4-0 and ready to win the conference to 4-1 and the alums are cueing up the “fire [insert coach’s name]” banner for the airplane. 

This being the first day in October, the “fire [insert coach’s name]” rants will be heard loud and clear on the nation’s airwaves and message boards over the next few weeks.  Take Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione, for instance.  If instant replay doesn’t overturn an interception with a minute to go against Texas Tech, the 12th Man would be lauding the huge win at home.  Instead, Coach Fran is as good as gone.  At least in their eyes.  One play.  Texas A&M played well enough to win – there was no 77-0 effort on that field yesterday.  Mistakes?  Sure, but it doesn’t always go back to the coach.  Case in point, in the second quarter, Tech WR Robert Johnson caught a quick pop three yard pop pass from Graham Harrell and turned it into a 21 yard touchdown.  He wasn’t touched until he got into the endzone.  Why?  The safety on that side of the field Brock Newton turned and ran to the sideline, away from Johnson, AFTER the ball was thrown and Johnson was running down the field.  Is that coaching?  No, that’s a bad play by a young player.  Cost A&M seven points.  A&M lost by four.

Michigan State head coach John L. Smith will take the heat for not having his team ready for Illinois.  But, I ask you have you ever lost a heartbreaker like they did against Notre Dame?  It’s easy, right?  Just get back to practice forget about it – it’s a game, right?  Uh, no, champ.  It’s not easy to get back up off the mat after a loss like that.  This game is played by 18 to 22 year old young men, not paid professionals and lingering emotion can and will influence the next game.  Unfortunately, JLS’s problem is that this has happened before and now it seems to be happening again.  But, then again, to place full blame on Smith would be to slight Illinois QB Juice Williams who was nails down the stretch – the kid was ready for his moment.

The point is that coaches are going to be shown the door this winter.  Maybe it’s the two men above.  Perhaps not.  But, whether it’s right or not, who’s to say.  Aggie fans wanted RC Slocum’s head five years ago because he didn’t win pretty.  His offense wasn’t imaginative.  He had gray hair.  He spoke funny.  I don’t know.  But, now the same people want Coach Fran’s head.  One play turned Fran from “Stay here a while and turn this around for good, Coach” to real estate signs in his yard.  Fair?  Who knows what fair is in this business?  Not us anyway.

Plugging the Leak

By Pete Fiutak   
. In Florida's Chris Leak, can you ever remember a legitimate Heisman candidate that a fan base (for the most part) was so ready to get rid of? Maybe he’s seen as Ron Zook’s quarterback. Maybe he’s not considered flashy enough. Maybe it's the stoic demeanor compared to the fiery Tim Tebow. Maybe Florida fans think the offense will go from great to oh-my-goodness once Tebow gets the gig full-time. Just be careful for what you wish for. Tebow appears to be the real deal, but over the history of college football, the sure-thing prospect doesn’t always have the better career than the rock-solid college star. Just ask Miami fans if they’d rather have Ken Dorsey back than one-time super-recruit Kyle Wright. Rhett Bomar was considered top recruit No. 1A along with Adrian Peterson a few years ago, but how’d that work out for Oklahoma? Jason White looks like a world-beater now. Leak might never be loved by the Gator world like Danny Wuerffel or other great Gator quarterbacks, but that might chance a wee bit if No. 12 leads the way to a national title.