September 1, 2008

The Monday Morning Quarterback

There will be outcry that Mack Brown has gone soft by suspending junior defensive tackle Lamarr Houston for only one game after Houston was charged at 3:14 a.m. Sunday with driving while intoxicated.

After all, Brown suspended defensive end Henry Melton and linebacker Sergio Kindle three games for the same offense last season.

I'm in no way defending what Houston has been charged with doing. And, yes, the legal process has just begun (see the Duke lacrosse case and dismissed accusations of sexual assault against USC's Mark Sanchez).

Brown did the right thing last year because the glare of negativity on the program was so bright with all the off-the-field issues. Brown had to take extreme measures.

Melton and Kindle may have paid for the sins of Robert Joseph, James Henry and Andre Jones - all of whom were dismissed.

Brown also had some time to reflect and gather information regarding their arrests because they happened in the summer and he announced their suspensions right before the season.

Brown is taking an immediate step in suspending Houston the same day he learned of Houston's arrest. If more information surfaces regarding the case, Brown will undoubtedly take more action.

We also don't know if Melton or Kindle were model citizens in the classroom leading up to their arrests.

We do know about Houston.

He's a two-time member of the Athletic Director's Honor Roll. Model citizen. Horrible mistake, if he's guilty of what's charged. Potentially deadly mistake. But he has been exemplary up to this point and America was founded on second chances.

MEET EARL THOMAS

Earl Thomas started the day Saturday talking to his mom about her evacuation from Orange, Texas, on the gulf coast because of the impending arrival of Hurricane Gustav.

"My mom did a good job of calming me down," Thomas said.

Thomas volunteered his time as part of a rebuilding project following Hurricane Katrina three years ago, so he knows the severity of the situation.

By the time he took the field against Florida Atlantic, he was focused on his role as the last line of defense. His night was up and down - typical for a freshman. He missed a tackle that led to a 62-yard catch-and-run. Two plays later, he helped tip a pass that was intercepted by teammate Ryan Palmer in the end zone.

There appeared to be miscommunication between Thomas and Palmer on FAU's only TD pass in the second quarter, but in the third quarter, Thomas blocked a punt.

"As a defensive back you have to forget," Thomas said. "At any given time, you can have a big play thrown at you, so you have to forget about it and go to the next play."

Thomas started at safety alongside true freshman Blake Gideon.

"Blake is a really fast learner," Thomas said. "He helps me out a lot. Having him on the field helps me out a lot. Overall, there were only a couple situations we hadn't seen. The coaches did a good job of making sure we had seen most of what they threw at us."

The defense gave up 239 yards in the first half and only 53 in a second-half shutout.

"The first half, we were getting the feel of it, getting our feet wet," Thomas said. "The second half we had a better feel for what we were getting thrown against."

Thomas said he'd give himself a B- for Saturday's game and looks forward to a lot of improvement before this week's trip to UTEP.

"Everyone knows we're young and inexperienced," he said. "We're just trying to go out there and prove them wrong."

THIS WEEK'S OPPONENT

UTEP - lost its opener at Buffalo 42-17, giving up 484 yards, including 263 rushing yards and turning the ball over three times. The Miners played as badly as they could. Expect a much better effort Saturday. UTEP QB Trevor Vittatoe, who threw for 25 TDs and seven INTs as a sophomore in 2007, completed 20 of 37 passes for 199 yards.

BIG 12 POWER RANKINGS

1. MISSOURI (1-0)

Bottom line: A 52-42 win over Illinois solidifies Mizzou's top 10 ranking. Defense was shaky, but DE Stryker Sulak wasn't. He had eight tackles, including five tackles for loss and three sacks. He also forced a fumble and blocked an extra point. The offense got a scare when WR Jeremy Maclin went down with an ankle injury.

This Saturday: home against SE Missouri (1-0)

2. TEXAS (1-0)

Bottom line: Big plays on offense, defense and special teams help UT start to form an identity in Week 1. UT gets the No. 2 spot because its opponent went to a bowl game last year and might be a conference champion. OU's opponent looked like an intramural outfit.

This Saturday: at UTEP (0-1)

3. OKLAHOMA (1-0)

Bottom line: What's worse than a 57-2 blowout? One that is prolonged an hour and 12 minutes by a lightning storm. OU led Tennessee Chattanooga 50-0 at halftime. At that point the Sooners led the yardage battle 343-10 and had a 19-1 edge in first downs. You get the point.

This Saturday: home against Cincinnati (1-0)

4. OKLAHOMA ST. (1-0)

Bottom line: The only Big 12 team to play on the road in its opener, the Cowboys pounded Washington State 39-13, although the offense struggled to find a groove until the fourth quarter with coach Mike Gundy calling the plays. OSU scored on a safety and 90-yard kick return by Perrish Cox.

This Saturday: home against Houston (1-0)

5. COLORADO (1-0)

Bottom line: Darrell Scott had 54 yards on 11 carries, but his uncle, Josh Smith, was the story on offense in a 38-17 victory over Colorado State. Smith had 189 total yards, including a 93-yard kick return for a TD.

This Saturday: home against E. Washington (0-1)

6. TEXAS TECH (1-0)

Bottom line: Mike Leach wasn't happy with his team's 49-24 victory over Eastern Washington after a school-record 18 penalties for 169 yards. "We are a spotty team," Leach said. Graham Harrell threw for 536 yards and Michael Crabtree had nine catches for 73 yards and a TD. As for that vaunted Tech defense? It gave up 364 yards and 24 points.

This Saturday: at Nevada (1-0)

7. KANSAS (1-0)

Bottom line: Todd Reesing was 37 of 52 for 256 yards and three TD passes to Dezmon Briscoe. The KU defense without Bill Young (now the DC at Miami) held an awful Florida International team to 139 yards under new DC Clint Bowen. After KU's 12-1 Orange Bowl championship season, 52,112 fans made up the largest crowd ever to witness a Jayhawks' home opener.

This Saturday: home against Louisiana Tech (1-0), which upset Mississippi State Saturday

8. NEBRASKA (1-0)

Bottom line: QB Joe Ganz threw for 345 yards and four TDs (with two interceptions), but RB Marlon Lucky had only 43 yards on 12 carries and that Nebraska defense gave up 342 yards passing in a 47-24 victory over Western Michigan.

This Saturday: home against San Jose St.

9. KANSAS ST. (1-0)

Bottom line: Junior QB Josh Freeman dominated for K-State in a 45-6 win over North Texas. Freeman was 18-of-24 passing for 232 yards and three TDs without an interception. Freeman also ran five times for 23 yards and two more scores. He is the highest-rated B12 QB nationally after one week (No. 10).

This Saturday: home against Montana St. (1-0)

10. IOWA ST. (1-0)

Bottom line: Gene Chizik's defense picked off South Dakota State five times for a record 202 yards but ISU still won the yardage battle just 383-350. Both of Iowa State's QBs Austin Arnaud (8-of-11 for 98 yards and a TD with another TD rushing) and Phillip Bates (5-of-8 for 61 yards and a TD as well as nine carries for 55 yards) played well.

This Saturday: home against Kent State (0-1)

11. TEXAS A&M (0-1)

Bottom line: Texas A&M fans were so disgusted with Mike Sherman's failed debut they criticized his decision to wear all khaki (shirt and pants) and no maroon for the Aggies' 18-14 loss at home to Arkansas State. Stephen McGee had two interceptions and no TD passes. The A&M defense allowed 255 yards rushing. Mike Goodson ran for 124 yards but had a costly fumble late. After A&M's streak of 20 straight wins in home openers ended, the loss got into the conversation as most embarrassing ever.

This Saturday: at New Mexico (0-1)

12. BAYLOR (0-1)

Bottom line: True freshman QB Robert Griffin was ready for primetime in a 41-13 loss to Wake Forest. Griffin went 11-of-19 passing for 125 yards without an interception. Griffin also had 29 yards rushing and a TD while earning a spot on ESPN's SportsCenter Top 10 plays of the day. Now, the rest of the team has to play up to his ability and desire.

This Saturday: home against Northwestern St. (1-0)

COAST-TO-COAST

Who thought these games would matter this week? …

Miami (Ohio) at Michigan: If Rich Rodriguez loses this one, Michigan might be begging Gary Moeller to come back.

Texas A&M at New Mexico: Will Mike Sherman reconsider the possibility of Jerrod Johnson at QB to run the zone read with Mike Goodson? An 18-14 loss at home, sure wasn't the defense's fault.

The Citadel at Clemson: Tommy Bowden hustled off the field from a 30-14 beating by Alabama, trying to get away from sideline reporter Lisa Salters. The whole thing made him look like a coach on the way out. And don't get us started about the first carry going to a true freshman RB because of a recruiting promise.

Buffalo at Pittsburgh: After Saturday's loss to Bowling Green, Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt is once again mastering the art of hanging onto a head coaching job when it's clear he is not head coaching material (an art he perfected at Chicago and Miami in the NFL.)

Tennessee Tech at Louisville: Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville's offensive genius coach, went without an offensive point in a 27-2 loss at home to Kentucky Sunday.

ONE FINAL THOUGHT

Florida Atlantic listed a freshman linebacker named Yourhighness Morgan. So I'm thinking of changing my name to Imperial Sugar Brown. (Or any of your suggestions ...)



 

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