Car Trouble in Tallahassee

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 Florida State. But, 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, Florida 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. Florida 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 score.


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 Seminoles.


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. 


So if 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 Florida 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 Florida 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 there. 


            Orange 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

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