By Knute Lombardi
For those of you who don't know me, I used to write a semi-regular column for the website riseandpout.com. It was a nice little website whose sole purpose was to poke a little fun at the Utah sports scene. It was the Daily Show of sports websites. Apparently, my column was fairly popular with the regulars and when RAPC shut down a few weeks ago, I began to get some invitations from other websites to come and write my column for them. I decided on Ustateags.com because I check out a lot of the fan boards and I've always enjoyed the Aggie board for some reason. Maybe it's the whole underdog thing, I dunno. Anyroad, here I am with all my old tricks and opinions. Since I'm short on time today I just wanted to pop in and say hi, give you all a primer on "Knute-Speak" in case you haven't read me before and then I'll whip out The Ol' Crystal Ball (see Knute-Speak to find out what the heck that is. By the way, phrases like "whip out" are verboten on the BYU message board, that's why I'm not writing for them.) for the rest of the weekend's games.
First of all, the column is tongue-in-cheek observation with some real life nuggets thrown in. If you take the column seriously, and it really gets under your skin, you probably suffer from the malady commonly known as "Being a BYU Fan". I would like to make you think from time to time but the point is mostly to make you laugh. Or at least snort in a non-derisive manner. Look it up Ute fan, D-E-R-I-S-I-V-E. Remember, it's all in fun. The kind of thing you would do with your friend if he were a fan of one team and you were a fan of another.
There's another point. I hit on all Utah D-1 teams and a lot of topics. I give credit where credit is due and I'm an equal opportunity basher. BYU gets picked on a lot because they provide the most material being the big dog on the block and all. One of the stipulations for my column being here is that I could continue to look at all the teams in Utah and give comment. So if'n you are expecting a brand new Aggie Blue Knute, you'd best borrow your wife's Prozac before reading.
Here are a few phrases I use a lot:
TOCB = The Ol' Crystal Ball - I keep a crystal ball in a old bowling ball bag once owned by Larry Eustachy. How I procured the ball is immaterial, the important thing is, I consult it weekly about upcoming games and it lets me know what to expect. In just over a season and a third of published predictions, TOCB has an uncanny record of 35-4 in football. TOCB is the bread and butter column and the one people have the most chuckling at or fuming at depending on their level of love for UC-Provo.
UC-Provo or UCP= University of California at Provo. BYU. Bet you never heard that one before...or not. It was actually shared with me by a Provo city police officer as I was with him on a ride along a few years ago. He swears that BYU only lets in Californians because all of the BYU students he has busted have been from California. I told him that if he was so dead set on busting kids from Provo/Orem he should work for the UVSC police or the Ricks College cops.
Gary Glitter = Gary Crowton. All style, waiting for the substance. Style points don't show up on a scoreboard.
Mick Dennehy = Aggie coach Mick Dennehy. I haven't thought of a moniker for him yet. I was thinking of "Sheriff Droopy" but that's just mean. With the heat he's starting to take I think I may start calling him "Coach Deadasme". It works on multiple levels. It describes his current "dead man walking" situation at USU and also his scintillating personality. At least the one the public sees. From what I gather Mick is a great guy and a real man's man. So should I break his chops for showing all the personality of Keanu Reeves? At least he doesn't cry during interviews...
Quag Meyer = Urban Meyer. See, it's a play on words. Another facet of the Knute column is that everyone is fair game. I would count Quag as my fave current coach in Utah yet I still poke fun with sophomoric little names. Are you with me?
Mrs. Lombardi - The only thing I like almost as much as football. She and I have our differences and I occasionally air them here in public because I am a masochist and actually want her to be mad at me and withhold favors for months at a time. Hey! She's doing it anyway, I might as well give her a reason.
Taxpayer Stadium = Rice/Eccles. The house that we all built. I think since we all foot the bill, we should all get a day a year to use it as we see fit. Kinda like a big, red timeshare.
That's about enough of that. If you read the columns you'll catch on, and if you don't like a column please keep reading. I tend to grow on people, like a fungus. OH! Or a boil! Yah, that's more like it. Now on to TOCB for the upcoming week.
USU @ North Texas
Last year I made a comment that USU offensive coordinator and resident lunatic Bob Cole would at any moment, burst from his coaching box, walk next door to the defensive coach's box, grab then defensive coordinator Kraig Paulson by the neck and throw him out the window. All because the Ags averaged about 50 points per game but gave up 55. This year I'm wondering if the roles will be reversed and new DC Dave Kotulski will be the one administering the bitch slappin'. Kotulski's defense is much better than what the Ags mustered last year, even with a plethora of underclassmen. The problem is, the offense is running under a new scheme called "Three and Out". Sometimes they abandon that set for the equally popular, "Give Up Big Sacks and Dumb Penalties Then Turn the Ball Over Inside our Own 10" scheme. You know, just to keep the defense honest. The Aggies used both sets very effectively against a stellar Wyoming team that wins about as often on the road as the Washington Generals.
So after showing some promise through the first four games of a brutal schedule, the Aggies have looked like a bumbling, 1-AA team the last two weeks and Aggie fans are getting restless. In fact, after one possession that started at the 20 but ended after 4 straight penalties and a turnover, the Aggie "faithful" (and I use that term loosely) pelted the field and sideline with debris. I, personally think it was an embarrassing moment for USU fans who are usually among the best, but that was a bit silly. Still...the anger and frustration about the state of the USU football program may be boiling over and I know Coach Deadasme is feeling the heat.
The Aggies held a team meeting this week to "clear the air" and try to get their heads right. From what I've heard from the little birds, it was quite a show and no one was above criticism. Let's hope for the Aggies' sake that the meeting was effective because this week they travel to Denton, Texas to take on the Mean Green (Is their mascot a Booger?). This is a team that USU routinely whooped up on whilst in the Big West conference so this game will be a good measure of how far the Aggies have fallen. Beat the Green in Denton and maybe things aren't as bad as everyone thinks. Get blown out and they are worse. Pivotal game. Big game. Close loss. I said in my 2003/04 football preview column on RiseandPout that the Ags would finish second in the Sun Belt because they would lose to North Texas. I stand behind that prediction.
UNT - 24 USU - 21
Before I move on to the other games, I need to share with you a quote by Coach Deadasme. The quote is the all-time coachspeak, clich king. Count the clichs and tell me if you have ever in your life seen that many uttered in one paragraph. Coach has really "taken it up a notch" and is really "playing his game". If he can continue to "keep up this intensity" and "stay in the zone", he'll become the greatest Clich Coach of all time. I count 11 clichs. How many do you see?
"The bottom line is this: We have got to steer the course and stay on track," Dennehy said. "What we are doing X's and O's wise is good. You compound the fact we haven't won and that makes it even more difficult. Somehow, some way we have got to get back to the very basics and fundamentals of what it takes to win. In my mind, that is doing exactly what our game plan dictates that we do, but that we go back and not focus on the Superdome in New Orleans. We need to focus on making ourselves a better football team by lining up and playing each game one play at a time and then moving onto the next play. We need to not get real, real complicated in terms of putting the cart before the horse."
Utah @ UNLV
UNLV shocked the world (okay, Milwaukee was slightly stunned but the folks in Madison were gobsmacked okay?) when they beat Wisconsin a few weeks ago then they start Mountain Wretch Conference play with a loss. On the other hand, Quag has his team looking like world beaters and the perennially apathetic Ute fans (all 6 of them) are starting to sound suspiciously like BYU fans with their cries of no respect since the Utes can't crack the top 25. (Note to indignant Ute fan: You need to whine a little more shrilly and throw around words like "persecution" and "bias" more often. Didn't listening to BYU fans all day on all the sports talk shows teach you anything?) Well, I'd say that they are getting close to cracking the polls but I don't think they are quite there. A big win @ UNLV and a strategic loss or two within the top 25 and the Utes are in this week. Personally, I think Coach Meyer wants to see them stay out of the polls. Sure it will help him as he ascends the coaching ladder (He keeps this kind of production up and he's outta Salt Lake at a bigger school by 2005. Write it down.), but it also helps keep a team that traditionally swoons late in the season hungry.
Alex Smith is playing like the QB Gary Glitter wishes he had and Brandon Warfield continues to help the school build a reputation as "Running Back U". Put that with Kyle Whittingham's solid defenses and good golly you have a pretty good team. A wake up call versus SDSU ensures the Utes come back from Vegas winners and that's all any of us want when we head for Vegas right?
Utah - 31 UNLV - 14
BYU (UCP) @ Wyoming
Boy Wyoming looked good against USU Saturday and let's be honest, UCP isn't playing that much better than the Aggies these days now are they? Casey Bramlett is a nice looking QB and they boast Shaq O'Neal and Kevin Garnett as receivers but for some reason, Wyoming has struggled. The Cougars know all about struggling. Right now, they are an aging German performer caught in a tiger's mouth. Will they fight and live or will they pack it in and call it a season? "It vas guut vile it lasted but now ve say nighty night!"
The team is in shambles, they took a beating with a sock full of pennies last week...AT HOME...at the hands of big, bad CSU and Rams QB Linus Van Pelt, and now Gary Glitter in all his wisdom has decided to go back to the QB platoon system that served the Cougars so well last year. Isn't there some scripture about repeat offenders, likening them to "a dog returning to his vomit"? Eat up Rover. It was entertaining listening to all the UCP armchair QB's during the summer and early fall whining about how Glitter should start Beck because he was going to be so much better than Berry. Quick question then for all you Barcalounger Boscos, how's Beck workin' out for ya?
Things are going south in a hurry for the Cougs and to tell the truth, a whole lotta people love it (cue whiny Zoobie throwing out words like "persecution" and "bias" as he reads this column.) because everyone wants to see the top dog fall. Fans are calling for Glitter's head and they want to exile Bronco Madmanhall to Antelope Island where he can spend the rest of his days teaching brine flies all sorts of crazy blitzes. Maybe Gary can give Mick Deadasme a ride to the unemployment office if things keep going the direction that they are.
I can't get a handle on this team. I know they aren't the UCP of the past, but I don't see how they can be so bad at times. Actually, Gary is right...they're young and they show all the signs of a youthful team. I think the Cougs bounce back this week against Wyoming but their success will ultimately lead to their doom since Glitter will think platooning the QB is still a good idea and he will then continue to do it. The reason UCP will win this week is the defense. Madmanhall's defenses have games like the CSU game historically but they always seem to follow up with a much better game the next week.
UCP - 23 Wyoming - 10
Thar she blows folks. TOCB's proclamation on the coming week.
Oh! By the way, TOCB keeps trying to tell me that the Cubs blew it when Joe Dumbass knocked that ball away from Moises Alou setting off the bomb that led to 8 runs in the 8th for the Marlins. TOCB says that the Cubs are losing game 7 despite Kerry Wood being on the mound. Here's one time I'm hoping TOCB is wrong.
You know part of me wants to see a Boston/Cubs World Series but another part of me isn't ready for the world to come to an end yet.
**Feel free to respond to Knute or tell him what topics you'd like to see him tackle at email@example.com . I can't promise that he will respond to each email (or any email for that matter unless it contains free porn and/or a proposition from an attractive young lady. In which case, I'll ask Mrs. Lombardi if it's okay to respond) but I do enjoy seeing what folks have to say.