I own a green Chevy Lumina. Her name is Lola. Now, Lola is sneaky fast, and occasionally surprises people (more under the hood than you would think for a standard four-door sedan). But, heads up she's hard pressed to outrun a Corvette. The Corvette is just built stronger.
Is it possible? Sure. If the ‘Vette driver
underestimates Lola and I get a big lead, or if I change her gears at the right
time and drive perfectly, it could happen. But, if the Corvette is at its best,
and Lola is at her best, Lola is going to finish second 100 out of 100 times.
Syracuse on the road this past
Saturday reminded me of Lola. The
Orange is a pretty good football
team, and could have won the game if it played mistake free football against
Syracuse didn't, and got beat.
In a 60-minute football game, this one was decided
in three plays, resulting in, at the very least, a 17-point swing. All were in
the first half, and each was huge.
The first was a fourth and five around the 30-yard
line of FSU early in the game. Perry is in the backfield surrounded by two or
three defensive players (you know,
Syracuse's typical offensive play
this year). He makes this Daunte Culpepper kind of move and throws a guy off of
him, then runs for the first down.
True story, at that very moment, I look at my
buddy John and say, "I'm officially impressed." Before I can get the "essed"
part of the sentence out of my mouth, the ball pops out like one of Janet
Jackson's nipples. I felt like I was going insane. There is no way I was ready
for that kind of emotional change. You can't go from exuberance, to pure anger.
It's not healthy.
Not much later in the game,
State is around midfield, and I'm
thinking, "Hey, we still might have a chance." The defense is playing pretty
well, the home crowd has been quiet so far, and Steve Gregory picked off a ball.
Things are looking pretty good. Then it happens.
State's QB Drew Weatherford skies a
ball over his receiver's head and Gregory has what looks like an interception,
but he bobbles it. Gregory makes a great play to keep the ball alive by tapping
it, but FSU wide receiver Willie Reid grabs the tip and takes it in for the
I don't know if somebody up there is trying to
kill me, but again, my mind can't handle that type of sharp left turn. I'm sure
it was demoralizing for the team as well.
One other thing really bothered me about that
play, people who blame Steve Gregory. It wasn't his fault. It's called a freak
play. It happens. Any athlete would do the exact same thing just out of reflex.
When a ball comes near your hands you try and tap it. Think about Steve Bartman,
the guy who interfered with an out in the Chicago Cubs playoff run a few years
ago. The ball was coming toward him. He was a Cubs fan and obviously wanted them
to win, so he wouldn't have grabbed the ball on purpose, but he went for it
anyway. This is a fan were talking about too. Of course someone on the field is
going to try and make that play. Tipping it was actually a pretty tough thing to
do. So I ask, how can we be mad at a guy for being too athletic?
But, it doesn't change the facts. It did happen,
and it really went downhill from there. On the next kickoff Kareem Jones made
the third costly play of the half, and probably pushed in the dagger for
Syracuse. He fumbled the kickoff.
And, naturally, Florida State scored.
So, in about three seconds the score went from knotted up at 0-0 to 14-0.
You can't do that on the road, especially against a good team like the
I was impressed, however, with how
Syracuse kept fighting. A Paul
Pasqualoni team would have just folded after the freak touchdown and lost by 50
or something ridiculous. This one didn't. Robinson had the
Orange playing hard for the whole
game. Although, I have to admit, it started to get a little ridiculous towards
the end. Syracuse is down 38-14 late
in the fourth quarter, and Robinson's flying around the sidelines trying to pump
up everyone like he's Vince Lombardi. I understand the thought behind it, but
that was a little over the top.
Syracuse gets any points on the
first drive, the freak play doesn't happen, and Gregory makes the pick, you're
talking about a 3-0 or 7-0 lead with ball and momentum.
Syracuse was in the game, and
State was vulnerable, but the
Orange didn't capitalize.
After the lead was 14-0, it was pretty much over.
Syracuse was in hot conditions the
team wasn't used to and playing from behind. The moment that sealed it for me
was when Mike Tirico, who was announcing the game for ESPN, mentioned that Steve
Gregory had fluids pumped through him by I.V. in the first quarter of the
Virginia game two weeks prior! At that point, the field was about 100 degrees,
and I thought, "Yeah, we might be in trouble."
I was even more impressed with
State's use of the sidelines. It was
genius. Put the visiting team on the side of the field that gets the brute of
the Sun while we sit in the shade. That's Tonya Harding conniving right
goes into the half down 17-0, there's a quick score by FSU after half time, and
that's all she wrote. Syracuse
needed to get up on the Seminoles early, surprise them. Then try and hang on to
the lead in the second half when Florida State woke up, but couldn't do it
because of those three big plays in the first half. So, unfortunately, there
would be no cruising for Lola in Tallahassee