Sunday, September 12, 2010

best loss ever

Yeah, OK. If you believe all those commercials that want you to GET PUMPED and then buy Gatorade or Under Armour or whatever, and if you do you too can NEVER QUIT and protect this house and never under any circumstances accept losing, then this post isn't for you.

Sure, if we were Virginia Tech this week, that'd be the right attitude. When you're ranked and you looked like ass in losing to James Madison (and I will not tire of this for a while given that William & Mary was still a favorite topic of conversation in Hokie circles up til Saturday afternoon) there's no point in pretending to look for positives. Everybody is running gassers for an hour, and it's only a question of who gets yelled at more in the meetings. But reality bites with this hard notion: we have a crappy football team on our hands that needs a major-league rebuilding in nearly all facets of the game, and losses come in all different shapes and sizes, and this one yesterday night is the best kind there is. Because that crappy football team is a giant leap along the path to non-crappiness.

I said before the game it would take a mistake-free game to pull off the win, and damn if that didn't bear itself out in painful fashion. If there was a mistake to be made, the Hoos did it. A laundry list, and this just off the top of my head:

- Red-zone interception.
- Missed field goals.
- Stupid late-hit penalty facilitating a USC touchdown.**
- Running into the punter.
- Dropped passes. (When your quarterback is that inaccurate, you have got to catch the ball on the rare occasions it hits you between the numbers.)
- Triple-digit penalty yardage.

**By a fifth-year senior! Trey Womack's numbnuts play was a carbon copy of one committed by a freshman Michigan cornerback that put them at real risk of blowing the feel-good win over Notre Dame. But that guy was a freshman. Womack has no excuse whatsoever for not knowing better.

And I didn't even get to the apparent mistake by the refs, with the bogus penalty on the fake punt. They apologized at halftime. Whoops, sorry for screwing you with our incomplete knowledge of the rulebook. This calls for a suspension. Bogus pass interference calls and holding penalties and such are one thing. Happen all the time. Cuss at the refs, move on. Even something like missing a ballcarrier stepping out of bounds are at some small level understandable because the fast pace of the game doesn't let you see everything. That's why they have instant replay and the saying that holding occurs on every play, it's just the really blatant ones that get called. But failure of an entire crew to have a correct knowledge of the rule book? Suspension-worthy. They should spend the next Saturday or two in an unpaid rules review seminar. It's unfortunate because the crew was otherwise mostly on top of things, but there's no excuse for a crew of officials not knowing the rule book. I sure didn't take that kind of mistake into account in the game preview.

At any rate, the 2008 game was a 52-7 loss of the ugliest kind, and if you'd told me in advance about all those screw-ups listed above, I'd've expected the same kind of score. Heck, a lot of Hoos were expecting that kind of score anyway, and I'd be lying if I said I'd've been surprised to see it. That we were so close anyway says at least as much about USC as it does about UVA, frankly: for example, if I were them, I wouldn't be too excited about that front seven.

Still, USC is a talented bunch. And even if the passing game was totally dysfunctional until the last drive, you have to love how the running game is shaking out. Two games in and the running back question has been very definitively answered, and the O-line looks like they know what they're doing. That's my favorite part of these first two games: the 1-2 punch of Perry Jones and Keith Payne looking like a really legit threat.

Second-favorite part: that UVA just walked into the Los Angeles Coliseum not even remotely intimidated and stayed that way all night. If there's any USC mystique left, Mike London didn't let it get to his team. If they can show that kind of poise in the Coliseum, could it be that the Jekyll-and-Hyde act of flopping miserably in road games is also a thing of the past?

The ACC took a major, major beating on Saturday, but what Hoo fan really cares? We never were looking at a BCS berth and still aren't, really, but between almost winning at USC and watching VT (they lost to James Madison) and the rest of the conference shit the bed (particularly VT, who lost to James Madison), that ACC schedule looks a lot easier to negotiate than it did on Friday. At this point there's nary a game on the docket that looks unwinnable anymore, not even VT, which just lost to James Madison. Lose this battle against USC and still the war looks a lot easier? I'll take it.

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