Instant Analysis - Orange Bowl
Iowa 24 ... Georgia Tech 14
Orange Bowl Stream-of-Consciousness Notes
But I still think this thing can work.
This is the second straight big bowl game that Paul Johnson's offense
was shut down (Georgia Tech lost to LSU in ugly fashion in last year's
Chick-fil-A Bowl), but the thing started to work in the second half once
some adjustments were made. The Yellow Jackets lost to Iowa because of
penalties, the lack of timely defense, and yeah, because Iowa's defense
really is that good.
But I still think this thing can work.
Navy tore up Missouri's run defense, one of the strongest in the Big 12,
for 385 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-13 stomping in the Texas Bowl.
Air Force doesn't quite run the same type of attack but it was able to
rip off 402 yards and five touchdowns against Houston in the Armed
Forces Bowl, and both the Falcons and the Midshipmen held on to the ball
for over 40 minutes. I know, I know, Houston couldn't stop you,
me, and nine friends from running the option, but it was still an
impressive performance by a ground game that scares the heck out of
everyone who has to face it.
Georgia Tech won the ACC title and came close two years ago with this
ground game leading the way, so it really is possible to be successful
without throwing the ball 30 times a game. I don't think this game
turned out to be an indictment of the option offense, it was
breathtaking when it was working early in the second half against the
Hawkeyes, but it's hard to sell it on a wider scale when there isn't the
mega-success that the spread enjoyed over the last decade. When
Johnson's offense is working and all the parts are humming, it's over,
but when it fizzles and can't get a first down, like it did throughout
the first half, it's brutally ugly and it's hard to play comeback when
But I still think this thing can work.
I asked Jimmy Johnson a few years ago what the best way to stop the
spread was, mainly because his Miami teams all but ended the Oklahoma
wishbone era, and his response was to simply have better defensive
players than the offensive players trying to run the dangerous attack.
Remember, the Johnson experiment in Atlanta is still in its infancy. He
was able to get the skill players and make them adapt, but he's still
working on getting the right linemen on both sides and he's still trying
to find all the right pieces to fall into place. There's a reason Iowa
was in the Orange Bowl and there's a reason LSU was in the Chick-fil-A
last year, and it just so happened that the Tech offense struggled
against better teams. But all good offenses struggle against good teams.
Witness the brutality that was TCU and Boise State trying to run their
high-powered offenses against each other in the Fiesta.
Look at it this way. Georgia Tech managed just 155 yards, 143 on the
ground, with nine first downs, but when Anthony Allen ran it in from one
yard out with 12:30 to play to pull the Yellow Jackets within three,
find the Iowa booster who wasn't quaking in his boots. This was as bad
as Tech could play, and it was as bad as the offense could be run, and
it was still a dogfight down until the final minutes.
So now, if you're Georgia Tech, you keep running the Johnson offense,
you keep winning at least nine games a year and stay in the hunt for the
ACC title, and eventually, that break will come and the day will arrive
when the offense will obliterate a great team in a bowl game on a
national stage. And for those mediocre programs who are trying to climb
up out of the depths by using some form of the spread, the offense can
work. If you want to win, and if you want to go from mediocre to
above-average in a hurry, run it.
And then be better in your bowl game.
Just for tonight, let’s refer to that Georgia Tech running game as the crippled-option.
This looked like a bad match-up for the Yellow Jackets before the Orange Bowl. It looked that way during it as well. The dirty little secret about Tech is that it’s not very talented along the offensive line, an issue that can be hidden against certain defenses, but not the one from Iowa. There was just way too much talent on that Hawkeye defense and way too much time for veteran coordinator Norm Parker to prepare. There was no way that the Jackets were going to operate under normal conditions on this night.
Georgia Tech ran for 142 yards this evening. That’s not bad for most schools, but it’s a recipe for the short end of the stick if you’re a Paul Johnson-led team that averaged more than 300 yards a game on the ground. The offense never got in sync, producing just a single touchdown and spending much of the night trying to dodge Iowa defenders in the backfield. Game MVP Adrian Clayborn was a beast for all 60 minutes from his end position, but he got a ton of help from the rest of the front seven. Linebackers Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds, and linemen Broderick Binns, Karl Klug, and Christian Ballard were obviously well-coached and well-prepared over the last six weeks. The Hawkeye front sealed off running lanes, shed blocks, and wrapped up when it got its hands on Jonathan Dwyer and Josh Nesbitt. Tech really never stood a chance against this group.
Line play still matters. It sure did in the Orange Bowl. Iowa dominated both lines of scrimmage, containing the Georgia Tech option and springing its own freshmen backs, Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher, for 174 yards and a score on 30 carries. Sprinkle in a successful return from injury for QB Ricky Stanzi and the Hawkeyes have given the Big Ten its fourth win over a ranked opponent this postseason. That ought to keep the critics quiet for at least another year.
1) Dick Bumpas of TCU. Justin Wilcox of Boise State. Buddy Green of Navy. Tom Bradley of Penn State. Brent Venables of Oklahoma. John Chavis of LSU. Pete Carroll of USC. Charlie Strong of Florida (before jumping to the top spot at Louisville). Kirby Smart of Alabama. Jim Heacock of Ohio State. Will Muschamp of Texas. Bo Pelini of Nebraska. These are some of the finest defensive minds in the Football Bowl Subdivision, but if you wanted one coordinator to coach your defense in a bowl game, the two men who would top the lists of most football connoisseurs are Bud Foster of Virginia Tech, and the man who throttled Georgia Tech’s triple option on Tuesday night, Iowa mastermind Norm Parker.
Even when Georgia Tech’s offense improved in the second half, the Yellow Jackets scored only one time. Even when the ACC champions pried open Iowa’s defense with the use of pitch plays to the boundary, and even when Tech used the angled “rocket toss” to catch the Hawkeyes off guard, Parker’s pupils never allowed big plays. Iowa never surrendered the one home-run pass play or the 60-yard run that could have turned a narrow victory into a crushing defeat. By dominating the first half and still standing tall even when Tech coach Paul Johnson began to make some sound adjustments, the black-shirted boys from Iowa City put on a clinic against a very dangerous opponent. Chalk it up – literally, on the chalkboard – to the X-and-O wizardry of Parker, the best defensive coordinator this side of Blacksburg, Va.
In a game where a receiver slipped in the opponent’s end zone, a running back ran 12 yards backwards into his own end zone, four turnovers littered the field, and numerous penalties blunted different drives, the best-coached unit on the field – hands down – was the Iowa defense. By giving up only seven points, Norm Parker’s stellar students enabled the Iowa program to win its first top-tier bowl game (one of the four current brand-name bowls: Fiesta, Orange, Rose, Sugar) since the 1959 Rose Bowl against Cal.
Take a bow, Norm. Few souls in the United States can match the standard you set against Georgia Tech.
2) According to a longtime Miami resident who attended the 2010 Orange Bowl, the announced attendance was 66,731 in a stadium that holds several thousand more people. Land Shark Stadium – formerly known as the more family-oriented Joe Robbie Stadium – is the home of the Miami Dolphins and the site of the upcoming Pro Bowl and Super Bowl. Sadly yet undeniably, this game represented what felt like a Miami Hurricanes game compared to the NFL extravaganzas that will visit South Beach in one month’s time. A total of 15 sections – 15! – were covered with a black tarp. The brazen attempt to cover large swaths of seats is even more insulting than the inability to fill the full stadium.
Let’s get this straight, then: The Sugar Bowl produced a meager crowd of 65,207, and brought only 71,872 to last season’s game between Utah and Alabama. By point of comparison, the most recent national title game played in New Orleans, in January of 2008, drew 79,651 to the Louisiana Superdome.
The Fiesta Bowl drew over 73,000 for Boise State-TCU, a fine crowd that was partly the result of two fan bases who were hungry to attend a showcase game. However, there have been at least 2,000 empty seats for each of the previous two Fiesta Bowls at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. When that ballpark hosted the 2007 BCS Championship Game between Ohio State and Florida, 74,628 people crammed into the seats. Yet, only 70,016 attended the ’08 game between West Virginia and Oklahoma, while only 72,047 came to suburban Phoenix for the ’09 Fiesta Bowl between national powers Texas and Ohio State.
Last year’s Orange Bowl drew fewer than 58,000 fans. Now, with another extremely poor crowd at Land Shark Stadium, this once-proud bowl game – saddled with comparatively uninspiring matchups due to the ACC’s tie-in – is wondering what it needs to do to catch a break.
We all know what the Orange Bowl needs: If not the Big 12 champion (think Nebraska or Oklahoma, like the good ol’ days), this college football classic needs to be freed from both the clutches of the BCS and a restrictive tie-in system.
The Orange Bowl - along with the Sugar and Sun Bowls – owns the distinction of being the second-oldest bowl game in America behind the Granddaddy of Them All, the Rose Bowl. This game – like the other prestigious bowls – used to be a big deal in the pre-BCS era, but the 2010 version fell flat in terms of ticket sales, overall buzz, and television stature. The BCS clearly produces mythical, controversial and highly disputed “national” (cough, cough, cough) champions, but the underappreciated aspect of the BCS’s systemic injustice is that Roy Kramer’s creation has destroyed the magic aura which once permeated every signature New Year’s Day bowl game.
If we put an end to the pretense that each bowl game (other than the Rose Bowl) should have a specific conference tie-in; if we put an end to locking the Mountain West Conference out of the BCS; if we forced the champions of each conference to either finish in the top 20 or lose no more than three times in order to maintain BCS bowl eligibility; and if we played all the non-championship BCS bowls on New Year’s Day, we’d return some (not all, but some) of the excitement to the Orange Bowl and the other formerly great games the Bowl Championship Series has so thoroughly and lamentably diminished.