Weekend Warrior: September 16

FOXSports.com writer Joel Beall examines the weekend that was in the sport's world.

Welcome to the Weekend Warrior, your web-based congregation for water-cooler discussion. We will get you up to speed on what you missed over the past few days and what’s on this week’s itinerary. At worse, this will give you a five-minute respite from being productive at work or school.

“You lost today, kid. But that doesn’t mean you have to like it.”

That wisdom from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was perennially dropped by my buddy Roof in college. The phrase certainly got its run: coming out on the business end of an intramural contest, a mid-term exam gone awry or one of our many botched attempts at the female species.

It became our de facto mantra, one said with pride. We might have come up short, but there was something virtuous and noble in our futile efforts. And despite our underdog status, we clung to hope that, one day, the tide would turn. It’s also the state of mind shared by the Akron Zips at the moment.

In truth, the school’s football program has been well acquainted with this pathos, as the team’s accumulated a 3-33 record the past three seasons entering 2013 (with only one of these victories coming against a FBS school). Since moving to the NCAA’s top level of competition in 1987, Akron has experienced only seven winning campaigns. Worse, they’ve made just one bowl appearance in their history: the illustrious Motor City Bowl in 2005…which ended in defeat. It’s hard to argue another program fits the ball of “wretched refuge” than the Zips.

So when “Halftime: Michigan 7 Akron 3” scrolled across the ticker on Saturday, hardly few gave a second glance. Surprising? Sure, but hardly shocking. The Wolverines were coming off an emotionally-draining contest against Notre Dame, it was a noon kickoff and, hey, it wasn’t like the Maize and Blue were losing. Even when the Zips took the lead in the third quarter, that advantage was quickly nullified by two touchdowns from Michigan, with the home team taking a 21-10 lead into the fourth quarter. Up 11 in the Big House, the only thing in question was if Michigan could cover the spread.

Yet the Zips proved they had no intentions of going quietly into the night, picking off a Devin Gardner pass and taking it into the Promised Land, cutting the deficit to four. Following two more defensive stands, Akron quarterback Kyle Pohl found L.T. Smith for a 40-yard pass, bringing the Zips to Michigan’s goal line. Three plays later, Pohl connected with Tyrell Goodman for six. With four minutes to go, the Akron freaking Zips were up on the most successful program in college pigskin history.

Alas, Michigan countered in just 81 seconds with a touchdown of its own, and David’s slingshot would come up short, as a last-minute Akron drive stalled at the Michigan four-yard line. The Wolverines, favored by 38 points, escaped with a 28-24 W.

There’s no such thing as moral victories at the college level. Such a sentiment demeans the talent of the athletes from the perceived inferior schools. And this isn’t one of those sappy, “We know who the REAL winner was in Ann Arbor today” pieces; whether it’s a route or a nail-biter, a loss is a loss.

I’m sure some will point to Zips’ defeat as a possible program builder, one to get the school on the map. I doubt that serves as solace for the kids in the Akron locker room.

However, if they are looking for consolation, I offer this:

You lost today, Zips. But that doesn’t mean you have to like it.


Weekend winners


Escaping Lincoln with a win is reason enough for commendation. The fact the Bruins accomplished such feats against the Cornhuskers after the death of teammate Nick Pasquale earlier in the week is spectacular, and heart-warming.

4. Jim Furyk
Hey, who said fall golf doesn’t matter? (Oh, right, I did.) Furyk shot just the sixth 59 in PGA history on Friday, and heads into Monday’s rain-delayed final round of the BMW Championship with a one-shot lead. Speaking of Furyk, anyone else think his 5-Hour Energy sponsorship is one of the more head-scratching endorsement deals in recent memory? Furyk seems like the antithesis of everything that product seems to promote. He’s quiet, impassive, meticulous and a golfer. Not exactly one I envision chugging a 5-Hour for extra umph for an all-night binger.

3. Johnny Manziel
His off-the-field nonsense and subsequent 24-hour coverage of these transgressions almost jade the fact that this dude can ball. Manziel reminded everyone of this truth on Saturday, as he racked up over 560 total yards and five touchdowns against the No. 1 team in the nation. How good was Johnny Football? No one on Twitter was trolling the Heisman winner after the defeat. THAT good.

2. Todd Helton and Vlad Guerrero
Two of the best hitters from the past twenty years called it a career over the weekend. Out of the majors since 2011, Vlad had been hoping a team would need his services at some point in 2013, but aside from an abridged minor-league stop with the Blue Jays in 2012, that call never came. Guerrero was one of the most feared hitters at his peak and undoubtedly a Hall of Famer. One of the best things you can say about Vlad is, when he was up, you sure as hell weren't changing the channel.

Helton will likely fall short of immortality, as back issues robbed much of his power in the second half of his career, and his home-and-away splits show a player heavily influenced by Coors Field. Nevertheless, Helton will finish his career with over 2,500 hits, a .317 average and .415 on-base percentage. That’s getting it done, son.

1. Aaron Rodgers
Happy, Greg Jennings? This is what happens when you piss-off the best quarterback in the league who happens to hold infamously-long grudges.

Rodgers threw for 480 yards and four touchdowns in Green Bay’s evisceration of Washington on Sunday, and now has 813 yards, seven scores and one interception through the first two weeks. Better yet, he’s brought back Bill Swerski's Superfans! This cat can do no wrong.


Weekend losers


5. Big Ten football
The aforementioned Wolverines squeaked by Akron, UCLA laid the smackdown on Nebraska in the Sea of Red, Illinois failed to beat Washington in Chicago, Wisconsin lost in bizarre fashion in the desert, Purdue blew a late lead to Notre Dame and Penn State was upset by UCF. That’s not…that’s not good.

4. Texas Rangers
The Rangers had a chance to make things interesting in the AL West with the division-leading A’s coming into Arlington. Instead, Oakland left the Lone Star State with a 6 ½-game advantage over Texas following a three-game sweep. I know the attention of fans in Texas turns to football at this time of the calendar, but given their September collapse in 2012 and this year’s 2-11 record this month, apparently the players’ consideration is on the gridiron as well.

3. C.J. Ross
Calls of controversy and corruption in boxing? Say WHAT???

The judge who dubiously called the Mayweather- Alvarez bout a “draw” was also one of the arbitrators on the infamous Bradley-Pacquiao fight a year ago. Almost feels like a move out of the Vince McMahon playbook. I guess C.J. stands for “Can’t Judge,” am I right? (rimshot)

2. Philip Rivers
Concededly, Rivers has never been a favorite around these parts. He’s pretentious, quick to blame others for his mistakes and is one of the worst trash-talkers in the league. Go ahead and apply “flopper” to his list of indiscretions.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars
They lost to Oakland in a battle of cellar dwellers, Maurice Jones-Drew is hurt again and an Orlando affiliate ran this disclaimer at the bottom of its Sunday broadcast. By the way - Tim Tebow. No, don’t think he’s the answer for the team, but having “Tim Tebow Jacksonville Jaguars” in this article vastly improves its search engine optimization.

Other news of note

Wladimir Balentien broke Sadaharu Oh’s long-standing Japanese home run record, blasting his 56th and 57th bombs of the season on Sunday. Given the controversy surrounding Oh’s record, some of which continued in Balentien’s pursuit, nice to see the 29-year-old capture the long-ball crown.

Have to admit, when I saw “point shaving” and “Knicks” trending on Twitter, my first thought was, “Dammit J.R. Smith!” Turns out that assumption was a tad off.

Feeling cynical? This should thaw that ice - Eric LeGrand continued his amazing comeback this weekend, as Rutgers honored the paraplegic by retiring his jersey, the first number to be put out of service in Scarlet Knights history.

Victor Oladipo took some heat after telling a group of Magic season-ticket holders, “I really didn’t want to go to Cleveland.” How is this news? It would have been more noteworthy if a college athlete WANTED to reside in the Mistake by the Lake.

Mariano Rivera was venerated at Fenway on Sunday night…with a video tribute featuring his infamous blown save that facilitated Boston’s historic comeback in 2004.

Josh Freeman wants out of Tampa. At this point, I think Tampa wants out of Josh Freeman, too.

From the band that brought you “Gangnam Style” and “Party Rock Anthem” it’s the Ohio University Marching 110’s rendition of Ylvis’ “The Fox.”

According to FOXSports.com’s referee czar Mike Pereira, Wisconsin should have been allowed the opportunity for a field goal at the end of the Arizona State game. Then again, perhaps if the Badgers would have started out with a tougher slate than UMass and Tennessee Tech, they would have been prepared for such a situation.

Turns out Steve Spurrier doesn’t have the Godfather-type power he holds in his own mind, as a South Carolina newspaper will allow writer Ron Morris to cover the Gamecocks this fall. Morris had previously been banned from USC events after he drew the ire of Spurrier last season. And so ends one of the more ridiculous journalism stories from the past month.

Week Ahead

On the NFL front, we have the Steelers vs. the Bengals on Monday night, followed by Andy Reid’s return to the City of Brotherly Love on Thursday. Everyone has been quick to write-off the Steelers after an embarrassing Week 1 loss to the Titans, and the season-ending injury of Maurkice Pouncey doesn’t brighten that forecast. However, as long as they have Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu, I’m never counting out the Steel City. As for Eagles–Chiefs, Philly might be the most exciting offense since the Greatest Show on Turf, and I’m not going to complain about any scheme that rejuvenates Michael Vick to his Madden 2004 days. Unfortunately, if the defense can’t get its act together, it could be a long season for Chip Kelly (#AstuteAnalysis).

Washington looks to persist its winning ways against divisional foe Atlanta in our nation’s capital this week, while the Braves hope to close out their NL East title. The Nats are just 4 ½ games back of the Reds, a figure that seems insurmountable until remembering the Athletics late-season charge last year.

Speaking of playoffs, Cleveland and Kanas City face off with both clubs hanging out to October aspirations, and Tampa looks to overtake Texas at the Trop. Also significant on the baseball itinerary is the return of Cincinnati ace Johnny Cueto, making his first start since June for the Redlegs on Monday.

Although “Clemson pulling a Clemson” is not defined in Urban Dictionary at the moment, that could change if the Tigers lose to North Carolina State in Raleigh on Thursday night. If Clemson can take care of business, it should be smooth sailing until October 19 when the Seminoles visit Death Valley.

And we’d be remiss if failing to note…Furyk! Stricker! Snedeker! Watney! It’s the final round of the BMW Championship!

Tweet of the Day

What, no Shane “Footsteps” Falco? Junior Floyd at least warrants mentioning over Sunshine Bass. And God help you Shooter if "Steamin" Willie Beamen finds out about this.

Also, Weeden should be like eight spots lower, especially after this image.

No “Weekend Movie” review, although The Rock dominated the USA airwaves with showings of Faster AND Fast Five. For those who have yet to see Faster, picture Drive with terrible acting and Billy Bob Thornton and BAM! you have Faster. As you can imagine, I loved every minute of it.

Thanks for stopping by, check by on Friday as we preview the upcoming weekend, and don’t just be about it this week…Beall about it.

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