1. The final four — plus Louisville — all survive the first Saturday in November. Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame all remain undefeated (as do the Atlanta Falcons, but who cares? The NFL season doesn’t start for non-bettors or non-Fantasy Football Leaguers –all three of us–until after Christmas). More on how they did so below.
2. The New York City Marathon is canceled on Friday afternoon, stirring debate over whether 1) it should have been allowed to take place and 2) you spell it “canceled” or “cancelled.” We prefer the former. By the way, Sunday brought absolutely sublime marathon conditions to the Big Apple: bright, cerulean skies, little wind, temperatures in the forties.
3. We didn’t even know such a thing as African painted dogs existed, either, but yesterday a two year-old boy fell into their exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo and was mauled to death. Truly tragic.
4. Now that the marathon has been cancellllllled, what’s the next kerfuffle awaiting NYC and Sandy-based insensitivity? Would you believe the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show? Turns out that 300 or so National Guardsmen and military personnel who have been bunking down at the Lexington Armory in between shifts are being evicted so that preparations may be made for Wednesday’s runway show. We imagine that the men in uniform would be happy to share the space with the ubermodels.
5. The Chicago Bears score a franchise-record 28 points in the first quarter (and this is a franchise that has existed as such since 1922, the inaugural NFL season) against Tennessee and win 51-20. It was the Bears’ first 50-point effort since 1980. Adam Duerson, SI’s NFL editor and Bear fan extraordinaire, is a very happy man today.
Mary Wittenberg, CEO of the New York Road Runners, continues not to get it. Kudos to Mayor Bloomberg and to Wittenberg for canceling the marathon — a little race catering to 47,500 runners winding through the storm-ravaged streets of the five boroughs, what harm or callous message could that possibly be sending? — but their remarks afterward showed a defiance that was dumbfounding. And dumb. For Wittenberg to blame the media for creating this chaos (“…the resulting extensive and growing media coverage antagonistic to the marathon…“), a body that has for more than four decades rained nothing but sunshine on the race and, more recently, on her stewardship, is epically insipid. Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post believes that she should be fired over this. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I do think that his colleague, Phil Mushnick, nailed this pretty well here.
On the other hand, Mike Cassidy, the fastest marathoner in Staten Island, one of the hardest hit areas in New York City, feels that the shoe must go on, that the marathon should have taken place (and he was not even entered to run). Cassidy spells it with two “l’s”, by the way.
We love Boise State, love Chris Petersen, and will continue to do so. But we are SOOOO giddy about San Diego State and quarterback Adam “I Couldn’t Have Done It Without Myself” Dingwell beating the Broncos on the blue turf. The Aztecs are 3-0 since Dingwell took over and have won five straight overall.
The end of Lori Grimes on The Walking Dead. Holy mother…
The nation’s No. 2 “athlete” and No. 37 recruit over all (and, granted, such ratings are highly elastic), Max Redfield, decommits from USC. And he’s an Orange County native.
Richard Deitsch with an exhaustive and well-done media column in today’s SI.com, though it could have been edited gooder.
This is THE iconic photo of the season, thus far, for Crimson Tide football, if not all of college football. T.J. Yeldon scoring the game-winner late at LSU. That’s LSU first-round pick Barkevious Mingo on his backside. I’ll take syrup with that pancake.
CFB’s Final Four: No one, at least no one we have seen, has yet taken a moment to appreciate how wondrous and diverse the final four unbeatens (again, Louisville, we apologize) in college football happen to be. In Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame you have…
1. …three of the nation’s four time zones represented
2. …a fine array of the color spectrum, from crimson to green and yellow to purple and gray, to blue and gold.
3…. the nation’s No. 1 (and No. 2) scoring defenses in Alabama (9.11 ppg allowed) and Notre Dame (11.67).
4. … the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense in Oregon (54.33 ppg) and its No. 5 in K-State (44.33).
5. … the nation’s oldest coach in Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, 73.
6. … the nation’s most-hyped (most, but not all of it deserved) in Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.
7. … the nation’s No. 1 team in terms of the all-important Turnover Margin, Kansas State, at +2.22 per game. The Wildcats, as noted by SI’s Stewart Mandel, have scored 111 points off turnovers. Their opponents have scored zero.
8. … the nation’s leading Heisman candidate in K-State’s Collin Klein.
9. … the nation’s defending national champion in Alabama.
10. …possibly the nation’s fastest player in Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas.
Why Notre Dame Should Have Lost — but Didn’t.
If you have watched — alums would say “endured” — Notre Dame football since the 1993 victory against No. 1 Florida State, you’ve seen the Fighting Irish squander games in just about every conceivable fashion (anyone remember the excessive celebration penalty against Bobby Brown in the ’97 Michigan contest?). Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh appeared to have all the similar omens, but somehow the Irish prevailed. Below, a list of pivotal plays in which the game should’ve turned so that Irish fans would again be spending Monday lamenting the defeat. Talk to any Notre Dame fan today and they will tell you, they feel very fortunate that their team still has a goose egg to the right of the dash.
1. First and goal for the Irish at the Pitt 2-yard line in the first quarter after a pass interference call in the end zone on K’wuan Williams versus Tyler Eifert (who had about an eight-inch height advantage). Notre Dame loses a collective three yards on the next three plays and settles for a field goal.
2. Late third quarter, Ray Graham of Pitt takes a handoff at the Irish 13 and bounces off tackle left. Graham jukes an Irish DB (Kevai Russell?) and is headed for pay dirt before being tripped up two yards shy of the end zone. Pitt, already up 17-6, fails to put it in with their own first-and-goal from the two and settles for a field goal. The 20-6 result keeps it a two-score game.
3. The two gift interceptions by Notre Dame, one each by Tommy Rees and Everett Golson.
4. The fourth-down interference call against Pitt’s Williams that really was not. Notre Dame scored soon after to pull within 20-12.
5. The resulting missed PAT — his first of the season — by Irish kicker Kyle Brindza.
6. Cierre Wood‘s fumble in the end zone as he scored what should have been the game-winning touchdown in the second overtime. If there were ever a play that encapsulated Notre Dame football this millennium, that was it.
7. Pitt’s Kevin Harper missing a 33-yard game-winning field goal try in the second overtime. Just like that he went from potentially being Boston College’s David Gordon to becoming Michigan’s Mike Gillette.
8. Notre Dame puts two No. 2’s on the field, wide receiver Chris Brown and cornerback Bennett Jackson, during Harper’s field goal try but the referees fail to notice the infraction. As does Pitt’s coaching staff. A flag would have resulted in an automatic first down. Now THAT would have been the signature play of 21st century Notre Dame football.
So how come the Irish won? Well, they had some decent luck, both in terms of officiating and Pitt failing to put in the final dagger. But they also never fully imploded. Finally — and this is the biggest factor — they have Everett Golson. On Notre Dame’s game-tying drive Golson illustrated what he is able to do for the Irish that no quarterback in years has been able to do: he has the potential to extend plays with his legs and quickness. Both the touchdown pass to Theo Riddick and the resulting two-point conversion were the direct result of Golson being too quick for Pitt’s front four. It’s plays such as those that demonstrate why Brian Kelly has been so adamant all season long that Golson is his starter.
The Irish, by the way, are 25-10 in Brian Kelly’s first 35 games. Notre Dame was 25-10 in Lou Holtz’s first 35 games. Also, the fact that a Pitt player named Holtz might have scored the decisive touchdown against the Irish is perfect. Especially when you remember that Mark May is a Pitt alum and Dr. Lou is the last coach to steer Notre Dame to the national title.