Another wild sports weekend is in the books and I've been left with three moments etched in my mind, two from the world of football and one from NASCAR racing. Look 'em over and tell me what you think!
1. "The Rally In Death Valley":
That AJ McCarron-led rally at LSU in 2012 aside, Blake Sims has at last grabbed national respect after leading the Crimson Tide to an overtime win at LSU. I mean, 50 passing yards and 5 yards rushing in 47 seconds with no timeouts to help then Crimson Tide send their game against LSU to overtime? Then a perfectly thrown TD pass to DeAndrew White in OT? Are you kidding? Now comes Miss State, where Heisman candidate Dak Prescott will bring his #1-ranked Bulldogs to Tuscaloosa. Still thinking Prescott is a superior quarterback to Sims? I got to perusing those updated SEC stats - take a look at how similar these men are in SEC numbers in 2014:
Total Yards Passing: Sims 2243 Prescott 2231
Yards per completion: Sims 9.2 Prescott 9.3
Completion percentage: Sims 61.6 Prescott 61.1
Passing Touchdowns: Sims 17 Prescott 18
Quarterback Rating: Sims 159 Prescott 158.5
The edge to Prescott comes when you look at season rushing totals, where Prescott has gained some 779 yards, and an additional 11 TD's, Sims 262 rushing yards and an additional 5 TD's. Still, for a young man who was all but forgotten after the spring game, Blake Sims has been superb, and he's forced Bama fans everywhere to look to next season to get a glimpse of Jake Coker.
There's lots of football to be played, but regardless of how the rest of the season plays out, Blake Sims should always be remembered fondly as a tough player who led his team to the "Rally In Death Valley", and in the process stamped himself as a formidable quarterback force in the SEC.
2. "Fumbles In The Jungle"
The Auburn Tigers were favored by over three touchdowns, but here they were trailing by 18 points at the half, that after allowing a Texas A&M team that was shut out at Bama 59-0 to put 35 points on the board in two quarters. Who'da think it? The Aggies blasted away at the Auburn defense from the start. A&M's backs averaged over 5 yards per carry while the Tigers, unable to get pressure on QB Kyle Allen, allowed explosive plays and huge chunks of yardage. Back to the numbers, where am Auburn defensive free fall will look to be corrected ASAP.
First 5 games : Last 4 Games
100 Rushing Yds Allowed 166
206 Passing Yds Allowed 320
14 Points/Game Allowed 35
The Auburn loss will forever be remembered for those two costly fumbles with less than 3 minutes remaining in the game, but I'm here to tell you the poor Auburn pass defense didn't do anything to help the Tigers. Rhett Lashlee spoke to the media Sunday night and said of the fumbles, "I'm not here to assess blame like some people. It doesn't always have to be somebody's fault."
Hats off to the OC going to bat for the likes of Nick Marshall, Cameron Artis-Payne and Reese Dismukes, but if there is one area to assign specific blame, you have to point to the defense. The good news? A two-loss Auburn team could get into the College Football Playoff Final Four with some superb play and some help as we head down the home stretch. As Jonathan Jones told me when I asked him after the game if he still has hopes for a Final Four bid, "Certainly".
3. "Well Hello, Newman!"
They say rubbin' is racing, and Sunday in Phoenix, rubbin' is what helped Ryan Newman catapult himself over Jeff Gordon into a Final Four spot in The Chase. With the laps winding down and Gordon cruising to a second-place finish behind Kevin Harvick, Newman knew he need to move up one spot to bump Gordon out of the Chase and in return put himself in. So Newman, on the last lap of the race, slammed Kyle Larson aside and passed the young driver. Game, set, match: Newman was in and Gordon was out.
The Newman move has once again raised questions about racing etiquette, with of course two trains of thought: You race clean and let the chips fall where they may, or you do what you have to do. Said Newman after the race, "I don't like racing that way, but there's a lot on the line here."
Said Gordon, "I'm not going to wreck a guy that's racing me clean all year just to make it into the Chase.".
Of course Ryan Newman justified his move by reminding the media that he and Larson battled hard in last year's Camping World Truck Series. That seems like a stretch to me, but the bottom line here is that Newman will join Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin in the Final Four at Homestead, while Gordon's title hopes are done.
Would Gordon ever think of taking out Newman this week? I imagine it would cross his mind, but if Gordon lives by his creed that "You don't wreck people to win championships", I believe Newman will be just fine. As for the new elimination format that may indeed breed this kind of cut-throat racing? Says Gordon, "I'm a little concerned where it could go." Gordon also admitted there's been more interest taken in his sport this year than in years past. Lesson learned? For fans like you and me, this rubbin' and bangin' can't be all bad.
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