Big winners from wacky season
Last week, Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton was all over the Eastern Seaboard, accepting awards left and right. He swept the evening and did interviews in Florida on Thursday, hoisted the Heisman in New York City on Saturday, and showed up to the CBS NFL pregame studio to get his tuchus kissed by Boomer Esiason and company on Sunday morning.
One award show that Newton opted not to attend, though, was the one I hosted in my New York City apartment. Newton’s father Cecil was invited, too, but allegedly would only attend if I provided him free refills on his soda. Sorry folks, but I can’t be bought.
Though attendance numbers were low (one person attended -- me), the show was a true success.
Drum roll, please.
1. The Thomas Crown Affair Award (To the most elaborate heist of the season)
Winners: August Cuneo and Alexander Westerberg. Who the heck are Cuneo and Westerberg? Only the country’s next great con artists. Yes, Cuneo and Westerberg are the two gentlemen who stole Lee Corso’s oversized mascot head off the “ESPN Gameday” set last weekend. Corso’s mask went missing Dec. 4 following the annual Civil War game between Oregon and Oregon State, and was reportedly on the loose for a few days (before an Oregon State employee found the prop the following Monday near his home in Harrisburg, nearly 30 miles from the Oregon State campus). Cuneo, a 26-year-old from Eugene, and Westerberg, a 25-year-old from Harrisburg, were both cited that afternoon. They both attended Oregon.
In a forgettable college football season where scandal, crime and illegal activity dominated the headlines far more than any of the action on the field, a $5,000 oversized Lee Corso head being stolen on the year’s final weekend was truly the icing on the cake.
2. The Chaminade-over-Virginia Award (To the oddest upset of the year)
Winner: James Madison over Virginia Tech. Five days after falling to No. 3 Boise State on national television, the eventual ACC champion Hokies lost in Blacksburg, Va., to the Dukes, an FCS division team from the CAA Conference. Oddly, the Dukes -- who outplayed the Hokies in their own building from start to finish -- went on to lose five of their next six games after the colossal upset. Virginia Tech, naturally, went on to go undefeated in the ACC and end the year on an 11-game winning streak. James Madison wound up finishing the season 1-0 vs. teams that will play in the Orange Bowl this year, but 3-5 in their own FCS Conference. Three months after the fact, the Hokies’ loss to JMU stands out as truly the most bizarre upset of the entire college football season.
3. The Chinese Democracy Album Award (To the unit we anxiously waited all off-season to see, only to never see them at all)
Winner: The 2010 North Carolina Tar Heels Defense. Six different UNC defenders were named to Phil Steele’s Preseason All-ACC squad. I had the same six players all listed as first-round picks in my “way too soon” 2011 NFL Mock Draft back in April. The 2010 UNC defense was expected to evoke memories of the 2001 Miami Hurricanes D that featured the likes of Sean Taylor, Phillip Buchanon, Ed Reed, Jon Vilma, William Joseph, Vince Wilfork and Mike Rumph. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Twelve different UNC players -- nine of which were members of the star-studded defense -- were suspended for potential NCAA violations for the Sept. 4 season-opening 30-24 loss to LSU. Defensive tackle Marvin Austin, a former top-rated high school prospect who’s still considered a likely first-round pick, was suspended for the year in early September for various NCAA infractions. When all was said and done, Austin was dismissed from the team, defensive end Robert Quinn was ruled permanently ineligible and cornerback Charles Brown didn’t play all season. Kendrick Burney, perhaps the most talented defensive back on the team, was suspended for six games, missed another, and didn’t record an interception until the season finale at Duke on Nov. 27. On the year, the defense that was supposed to be in the “greatest ever” argument, finished the year ranked 44th in the nation in scoring defense and eighth in the ACC.
4. The Heidi Game Award (To the best finish nobody on the East Coast saw)
Winner: Boise State-Nevada. Okay, so maybe some people saw this one, but you couldn’t blame the casual fans on the East Coast who dozed off at midnight with the score 24-7 at the half and the post-Thanksgiving tryptophan kicking in. Nearly nine hours after Auburn completed a monumental second-half comeback of their own in Tuscaloosa vs. Alabama, Nevada pulled off an even bigger shocker over the Broncos in Reno. The highlights on Saturday morning focused on poor Kyle Brotzman -- the WAC’s all-time leading scorer -- missing two chip-shot field goals down the stretch, but this one was really all about Colin Kaepernick and the Nevada ground game. After being held in check by Boise State's defense in the first half, the Wolf Pack outrushed Boise State 239-8 in the second. The Wolf Pack entered the game as 14-point underdogs and had lost 10 straight to the Broncos. In roughly two hours of real-time action, they rallied from a 17-point deficit, ended their losing streak and kept Boise from the school’s first Rose Bowl appearance. Nevada kicker Anthony Martinez nailed a 34-yard attempt in overtime, at exactly 1:54 a.m. EST.
5. The “Where’s the Beef?” Award (To the fan-made sign that best utilized a pop-culture phrase)
Winner: The Alabama fans who incorporated the lyrics of Antoine Dodson’s “Bed Intruder Song” into their sign found here. Kudos to these fine young Crimson Tide fans that somehow found a way to get me humming, “Hide Yo Tigers, Hide Yo Gators, Hide Yo Nittany Lions, Cuz We Beatin’ E’Erbody Out Here!” for an entire college football Saturday. And if you’re not one of the 47 million of people who’ve viewed the YouTube clip of Dodson’s work, please enjoy the ditty here.
6. The Ocean’s 11 Award (To the finish that sent Las Vegas into hysterics)
Winner: Northwestern's 29-28 victory over Minnesota. The situation? The Wildcats, 6.5-point favorites over the Gophers, were up one with less than 20 seconds remaining in an early October Big Ten clash. Minnesota had the ball and was driving when quarterback Adam Weber heaved a desperation pass on fourth and 3. The ball was tipped and intercepted by Wildcats defender Ben Johnson. Johnson had the entire field -- truly, nothing but the end zone -- in front of him, but instead of returning the ball for the easy pick six and the cover, he opted to do the wise thing and took a knee. It was a genius move. Northwestern took a knee and won by a point, and Johnson was universally lauded for his smart decision. Alas, some folks with “other” interests in the outcome of the game were obviously not as pleased out in Nevada.
7. The Karch Kiraly Award (To the most athletic volleyball play of the year)
Winner: Oklahoma State cornerback Brodrick Brown’s bump-and-set interception vs. Oklahoma. This was not only the best volleyball-style play of the year, but hands-down my favorite college football play of the year, too. With his team trailing 21-10 in this year’s Bedlam Game, Brown went airborne over the out-of-bounds line and intentionally two-hand tapped the ball to his teammate Shaun Lewis for the interception. Creative, quick, and downright awesome, check the highlight out here.
8. The 'I’m Not Tee Martin' Award (To the college quarterback that didn’t quite pick up where his predecessor left off)
Winner: Tie between Florida’s John Brantley and Texas’s Garrett Gilbert. Our only tie of the evening came in this one. Brantley came into the season with more hype surrounding him than Kanye’s latest album, pumped up as an upperclassman not only capable of filling in for Tim Tebow, but as a quarterback blessed with a far superior arm than No.15. Gilbert, meanwhile, was given tons of love over the summer after an impressive second-half showing in relief of Colt McCoy in 2009’s BCS championship game. In the end, both quarterbacks were complete duds, and the Gators and Longhorns each had their worst seasons in decades. Brantley threw just nine touchdowns in 2010, but managed to toss nine interceptions, too. Gilbert hurled 17 interceptions and just 10 touchdowns on the year. Neither quarterback’s offensive coordinators will be back in 2011.
9. The World B. Free Award (To the best 11 names in college football this season)
Winners: You can have your All-American team. I’ll take the All-Name team. Here’s my squad:
· Bo Bowling, Oklahoma State
· Yourhighness Morgan, Florida Atlantic
· T-Bob Hebert, LSU
· Blair Bomber, Washington State
· Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, Kent State
· Konockus Sashington, North Texas
· Bunduka Kargbo, Buffalo (no longer on team)
· Ho'oikaika Cavaco-Amoy, Hawaii
· Necho Beard, Nevada
· Wyatt Suess, Iowa
· Dwellie Striggles, Buffalo
10. The Man of the Year Award (To the individual who captivated the nation in a way like no one else did in 2010)
The Winner: Les Miles. Who’d you think was getting this, Cecil Newton? Get out of here. The “Mad Hatter” was Mr. 2010, and it’s not even a question. Whether it was a balls-to-the-wall fake field goal on the road in Gainesville, absurd time management at the end of the first half against Arkansas -- and at the end of the game vs. Tennessee -- or the shocking revelation that he regularly eats grass -- yes, real-life grass -- Miles took the nation by storm on a weekly basis this season. Miles’ 2010 campaign started with a bizarre response to a question about the BP oil spill on a local radio station, in which he said:
“Well, it uh, the impact is more of a . . . you know . . . anything, anything along the . . . the uh . . . the . . . shore and those issues are very serious issues and there . . . the impact is on the . . . the uh (long pause) you know, what is, the natural resource of our country, uh, but ah . . . I don't know that it's, I don't know exactly, uh, to what extent it's being handled well and managed or mismanaged I have no idea. The only thing I know is it's very sincere and it's, it's uh, it affects more than Louisiana and it affects (muffled pause) . . . the ocean."
The regular season ended with a loss to Arkansas on Thanksgiving weekend that cost the Tigers a Sugar Bowl bid. All in all, Miles offered us a myriad of head-scratching moments, some tremendous quotes, enjoyably unique play-calling, and yet another 10-win season in Baton Rouge.
The Tigers play Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl in January. Here's hoping he saves his best for last.