Good Call

As the old saying goes, offense sells tickets and defense wins championships. While that will be put to the test again Wednesday night when USC and Texas play, it proved to be operable in the Cotton Bowl Monday in Alabama's 13-10 last-second win over Texas Tech.

The problem, generally speaking, is that selling tickets and making good television has become an integral part of the business models of football enterprises. The NFL has virtually outlawed most all contact with a quarterback, and defensive backs in the National Football League must be tacticians to break up a pass in "The League" without being flagged for pass interference or illegal contact.

Intentional grounding has become so easy to avoid by simply escaping the pocket and throwing the ball out of bounds beyond the line of scrimmage that defenses are basically penalized for chasing a quarterback out of the pocket and wasting their energy for what results in the offense getting 10 or so yards back when the incomplete pass is thrown instead of what rightfully used to be a sack.

In many things, as the NFL goes so follows the Southeastern Conference and major college football. The grounding rule changed in the NFL and college football quickly followed suit. Physical defensive play is becoming more and more rare.

Alabama cornerbacks Ramzee Robinson and Anthony Madison played a physical and aggressive man-to-man style against Texas Tech receivers, and there was contact involved both at the line of scrimmage and beyond. That contact, however, was mutual.

Mutual contact often results in a defensive penalty, regardless of the rule, which reads:

"Defensive pass interference is contact beyond the neutral zone by a Team B player whose intent to impede an eligible opponent is obvious and it could prevent the opponent the opportunity of receiving a catchable forward pass. When in question, a legal forward pass is catchable. Defensive pass interference occurs only after a legal forward pass is thrown. It is not defensive pass interference (A.R. 7-3-8-I, IV, V, IX-XI, XIV and XV):

"1. When, after the snap, opposing players immediately charge and establish contact with opponents at a point that is within one yard beyond the neutral zone.

"2. When two or more eligible players are making a simultaneous and bona fide attempt to reach, catch or bat the pass. Eligible players of either team have equal rights to the ball (A.R. 7-3-8-XII).

"3. When a Team B player legally contacts an opponent before the pass is thrown (A.R. 7-3-8-XIII). "

"Equal rights to the ball" is a myth, I have been told, but the Mountain West officiating crew called it correctly on Monday, despite any complaining that might come from another direction.

The contact in the Cotton Bowl game was mutual from both the receivers and cornerbacks. In the SEC pass interference would have probably been called.

There were also a couple of different occasions where personal fouls could have been called on either team, but were handled more properly by the officiating crew. One play occurred when the refs waved off the pass interference call in the end zone when they said Brodie Croyle's pass was uncatchable. The hitting a defenseless receiver after the ball as passed like that could have been called.

Likewise, Roman Harper could have been called for a late hit out of bounds that was also let go. There was some jawing between the players that settled down after the early moments of the game. The refs let it go and the players settled down.

After the game there was a lot of respect being shown on both sides of the ball. Some Tech players were heard saying 'Man, y'all played hard as h***.' and there were responses in kind from the Bama kids amid the post-game hugs and handshakes.

Brodie Croyle said it might have been the most fun he's ever had in a game.

And after being picked on a criticized and maligned for nearly a whole career, Anthony Madison got a little redemption Monday, but quickly pointed out "88 is a good receiver, man. He is good."

Quarterback Cody Hodges was another part of the class shown at Fair Park Monday.

"What a great competitor," Mike Shula said. "I saw him afterwards and we talked about him going into the game, what a true warrior; very productive. We've got a lot of respect for him and he's got a real good future. Our hat goes off to Texas Tech and their fans and their whole program."

The game was a fitting tribute to the Cotton Bowl itself, who treated the players with class and respect above and beyond normal treatment all week, and in a move that is all to uncommon, the players and coaches of both teams responded in kind.


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