Friday, September 13, 2013

Won't Get Fooled Again-Chargers

I was exhausted and four hours into a six hour drive that got started much too late.  It was Sunday, November 25, 2012.  Firecracker (asleep in the passenger seat) and I were retuning to Austin after watching the Sooners escape Oklahoma State 51-48 the night before in Norman.   I was able to find the Ravens vs Chargers game on the radio which was helping the drive move along.  To my surprise, the Chargers were winning.  They played excellent defense and had the Ravens on the ropes.  At one point ahead 13-3, the Chargers clung to a three point lead near the end of the fourth quarter.

As a Chargers fan I had mentally checked out of the season.  There were no expectations.  They were 4-6 and would definitely miss the playoffs.  Norv Turner and A.J. Smith would be fired at the end of the season and the Chargers would once again try to rebuild with a new staff.  Like so many years past, I had sworn not to get emotional about the Chargers.  I would follow the games and root for the team, but I wouldn't get upset, no matter what the situation.

With 1:37 left in the fourth quarter the Ravens were facing fourth and 29 from their own 37.  If the Chargers could keep the Ravens from gaining 30 yards, the game would be over.  Some of you might remember what happened next.  "Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle."  A one yard dump off turned into a comedy of errors defensively and Rice picked up the 29 yards by an inch.

That's when I screamed, "WHAT THE FU**?!? ARE YOU FUC*ING KIDDING ME?!?"  Not my proudest reaction.  Even after swearing I would not be emotionally invested, I was again torn apart by something terrible the Chargers did.  The Ravens went on to kick a tying field goal sending the game to overtime where they defeated the Chargers 16-13.

It's really unbelievable.  Since I started this blog in 2009, I have had very few positive things to write about the Chargers which is why they don't make many appearances.  It's very easy as a San Diego sports fan to complain incessantly, and no one wants to read that. 

My explosive reaction gave Firecracker quite the rude awakening to which I was admonished sternly.  As an elementary teacher, she really has a way of distributing quick punishment that makes you feel like an eight year old.  An eight year old driving a car with a filthy mouth, but an eight year old nonetheless.

Or maybe, it's the Chargers that make me feel like an eight year old.  Tantrums become commonplace.  Entering this season, I once again swore off tantrums.  I did and do not have playoff expectations.  When friends asked me (mockingly I'm sure) how the Chargers would be this season my response was slightly below mediocre.  I bragged that I wouldn't get emotionally invested.  The same claim I made last season and the season before and the season before and the....

So as the Monday night opener approached I was not nervous.  I was still rocking Chargers gear and excited to see them play on TV, but certainly not nervous because I knew I wouldn't get too high or too low.  There was no way the Chargers would fool me again.

Then the Chargers had a seven point lead 15 seconds into the game.  I was excited.  Damn it.  Then more scoring and great defense.  By the beginning of the third quarter the Chargers were ahead 28-7 and only needed a few first downs to get a fantastic win against the supposed second best team in the AFC.  The game was all but over.

I started thinking I was wrong to doubt these Chargers.  I started thinking I could get excited.  Yes.  Screw it.  I'm excited.  The Chargers are going to win!  And once again, the rug was pulled out from under me.  A second half collapse led to an improbable come from behind win for the Texans.


It was almost one in the morning as I sat numb on my sofa.  I wasn't really surprised.  Had I stuck to my guns and not allowed myself to get excited, there really wouldn't be any sting.  But, I didn't.  The words of The Who, Won't Get Fooled Again rang through my head.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss...don't get fooled again, no, no!

That's the most maddening thing about the Chargers.  They do fool you.  It's not like they're atrocious.  They have just made a habit of falling short of expectations that they build.  Even in a one game scenario expectations are dangled in front of your face only to be ripped away by that familiar Chargers quality of letting the win slip through their fingers.  It wasn't quite "Hey diddle diddle, Ray Rice up the middle," but it still stung.

For the second time in a season that is one game old, I have sworn not to get fooled by the Chargers.  I'll root, but I won't get fooled again.  At least not until they have a fourth quarter lead against the Eagles this Sunday.  Kinda like I swore I wouldn't write another post complaining about the Chargers.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

That Didn't Take Long

Blake Bell is starting the third game for the 2-0 Oklahoma Sooners.  Those following the OU quarterback situation knew there was a strong chance there would be more than one starter this season.

Trevor Knight was inaccurate at best in the opener against Louisiana-Monroe, but ran the ball effectively leading the Sooners to an impressive 34-0 shutout.  Despite poor passing numbers I think most fans were encouraged by Knight's performance.  He was clearly nervous which lead to accuracy problems, but that's to be expected from a freshman making his first start in front of 80 thousand restless fans.  He also threw three touchdown passes and had several drops by receivers.  After a slow start, the Sooners committed to the run which helped get points on the board.  Knight looked like a freshman, but he would surely improve with his nerves if nothing else.

A week later Knight failed to improve his poise or passing accuracy against a weak West Virginia team.  The Sooner defense turned in another stellar performance, but Knight and the offense struggled to the point that he was replaced after two horrendous interceptions.  The first came near the goalline after four consecutive runs had the offense set up for a touchdown.  Making matters worse, the coaches said the play was designed as a run-pass option in which the run was the best option.  After Knight was picked off the next series, his evening was over.

I was begging for Bell well before the change.  Truth be told, I was begging for Bell after the fourth offensive series against ULM.  Knight was so nervous and inaccurate that passing was not an option.  It was my understanding that Knight won the job because of "explosive play" ability.  In two games he has failed to be the catalyst of any explosive plays through the air.  I know he can run.  I also know Bell can run.  What I don't know is if Bell can pass or lead the offense, but he can't be worse than Knight has been.

Knight's play is reminiscent of Rhett Bomar's freshman year after taking over for Paul Thompson.  Bomar and the Sooner's improved but not before losing four games.  Unlike Bomar's year, there are other options at quarterback.  The Sooners cannot wait for losses this season.  The defense looks like it will be an asset, the running game is the best in years and the receivers are too experienced to wait out a freshman to get settled.  This is doubly true when you consider there is a redshirt junior on the bench who has meaningful game experience.  If there is a tie in this competition, the tie should go to the junior.

Bell only had to wait two games more than he originally thought to start for the Sooners.  Knight was injured against WVU giving Bob Stoops a break from the quarterback controversy questions, but I believe this change was coming regardless.  Knight had his chance, now we see what Bell can do.  If he fails to show more promise than Knight then the Sooners will need to make another move.  Patience is not in the best interest of this team at quarterback.  They can win with average, turnover free passing.  That's all it will take.  The defense and run game will shoulder the rest of the burden.

Muddying the waters a bit will be the return of Kendal Thompson who is once again practicing after missing time with a fractured foot.  Thompson had a great chance of winning the starting job before his injury paved the way for Knight.  The quarterback roulette should spin until the Sooners hit on a winner.

So, should we freak out as fans?  Absolutely not.  I am so excited about the defense and the fact the Sooners are forced to commit to the run.  That is exactly what I wanted from this season and it looks like I'll get my wish.  Oklahoma stock is selling much too low at present.  I don't care how awesome spread-tempo offenses look, if you can run and play defense, you can win.  The Sooners are winning time of possession again and the defense is starting series fresh and getting off the field fast.

Of the three quarterbacks the Sooners might use this season, every one of them can run.  As long as they aren't making dumb decisions or turning the ball over, I expect the Sooners to win.  The Tulsa game is the first game of the rest of Bell's life.  How he plays will determine how many more there will be. 


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