Lightweight Champs

October 2, 2005

(at Cal 28, UA 0)

Ah, the thought process of a fanatic. After two weeks of waiting and hoping, a game that everyone had written off as a loss when the schedule came out is suddenly winnable. We forget that last year Cal beat us 38-0 on our own field. We try to justify this optimism with things like, "The Bears' all-world quarterback and running back are gone!" or "New Mexico State hung with Cal for three quarters!"

Then you really start grasping at straws. You hear that "When September Ends" song on the radio. Then you learn it's by Green Day…who is from Berkeley…which is where we play this weekend…when September just ended! It's an omen! It must mean Cal's dominance over us is about to end too!!

OK, maybe that one's just me.

Random sports note: The San Diego Padres just clinched their division by evening their record at 79-79. If they named pennant races like they name auto races, this would have been the NL West .500.

On to the Cal "game":

I guess the offense doesn't take a compliment very well. Only 169 passing yards and 206 yards of total offense. Another eleven penalties. Our longest drive went 50 yards. Only two out of thirteen drives went more than 30 yards. My eyes, they burn.

Because of that, I'm almost afraid to say the following: All in all, the defense played pretty well. We forced two turnovers. We had five sacks. We only gave up 331 yards of offense (or 82 yards fewer than our average in the previous two losses). Surrendering 28 points in a Pac-10 game isn't disastrous, and one of the TDs came on a busted play that should have been a ten-yard loss. Obviously there are still things we need to learn, like how to bring someone to the ground after we have him trapped for negative yardage, and not tackling air when we blitz, but it was a step in the right direction.

Continuing the Jekyll and Hyde routine, as soon as the punt return team shows signs of life, our previously dominant punter is sub par and the coverage team gives up 15 yards a return. If we could ever get both sides of the ball to play well in the same game we might just be in business.

Everything else:

Welcome back, Copeland Bryan! Please don't do anything dangerous during the week like running with scissors, playing with downed power lines, or spending time with Spencer Larson. We need you each and every game the rest of the way.

If Richard III were a Wildcat fan he'd say, "A play-action pass! A play-action pass! My kingdom for a play-action pass on the goal line!"

Would you believe a Mike Jefferson sighting? Three catches for 48 yards. The yellow on Cal's uniforms must have confused him. Either that or watching ASU's 7-35 second half fired him up.

Speaking of which, I may as well burn this one now: Keller threw five interceptions this week for the Devils. Was that Sam back there, or Helen?


Here come the Trojans. #1 in the land for 24 straight polls and counting. It got me thinking: Since they refuse to give us a true on-the-field playoff, I vote they decide the National Champion like in boxing. If you beat #1, you become #1, until someone beats you.

Think about it. The Arizona "Buster Douglas" Wildcats sneak into L.A., catch the mighty Trojans off guard with an uppercut to the chin, and leave town with the temporary crown.

Now there's a way to spice things up. Coaches could start sporting Don King hairdos. Bowl presidents could wave little American flags. Who needs the Thrilla in Manila when there's the I'll-Be-Seein'-Ya in Pasadena?

You'd never have a split National Championship again. In 2003, Kansas State would've been #1 after beating Oklahoma, and Ohio State would've been #1 after winning the Fiesta Bowl.

It'd be a game of Capture the Flag, with the top spot possibly changing hands multiple times a year. In 1998 Ohio State would've been #1 until losing to Michigan State the first week of November. The Spartans pass the baton to Purdue the very next week. The Boilermakers then win out and a champion is crowned in the Alamo Bowl. Who wouldn't want to hand out a crystal egg in a game named after a rental car company?

The best part is, there wouldn't be a need for a preseason poll any more. The defending champ would truly be the defending champ. If Purdue did in fact win the 1998 title, the rest of history would look like this:

1999: Purdue loses to Michigan, who loses to Michigan State, who gives it back to Purdue, who gets beat by Penn State, who coughs it up to Minnesota, who loses to National Champion Oregon in the Sun Bowl.

2000: Oregon, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Purdue, Michigan State, Penn State (who finish 5-7, a champion of whom the Padres would be proud).

2001: Penn State, Miami (who goes 12-0. See, the system works).

2002: Miami, Ohio State (2 in a row!).

2003: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue (man, these guys are good), Michigan, USC.

2004: USC, and counting.

The Pac-10 wins three championships in seven years, and the Big Ten wins three of the remaining four. The Rose Bowl tells the BCS where to stick their Sagarin Poll. I don't see anything wrong with any of that.


So off we go to the lions' den that is the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. We have to stay positive. We need to give USC our best shot and use all four quarters to improve. There are in fact unranked teams coming up on the schedule.

Keep your head up, Arizona. Stanford at home is only two weeks away. And who knows, maybe we'll be the #1 team in country by then.

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