Pick Six: Bunnies
After a couple years of doing this, I thought it was time to freshen up the process. So as the FCS playoffs have unfolded I've done a couple variations of the Pick Six format. You can see the two priors forms, along with the way that it had been done since it's inception.
With the playoffs coming down to another game against SDSU, it's time for another variation of break down form.
Let me know what you think of them!
Even with all the highlights that the game included, there were a couple negatives that I'm not going to ignore.
For the second week in a row, the officiating had a decided tilt against NDSU. I don't like complaining about officiating because it's so cliche and lack of objectivity can skew perspective. But I won't ignore what I consider to be a decide approach to affect NDSU's chances to advance. Nine flags for 70 yards is not egregious, even though the team was very good at not breaking the rules over the course of the season. The false starts get called about 90% of the time but the two sequences that most clearly indicate an intent were the 30 yard touchdown run by Pierre Strong and the touchdown by NDSU that required three trips into the end zone to get seven points. There's no way that a guy can run for 30 yards, untouched with the kind of space that he had without their being some illegal play by the offense. I know that holding can be called on practically every play but the decision to not throw a flag on anybody on that scoring play but to do it on consecutive touchdowns by NDSU smells foul to me.
NDSU handled their business and overcame all 17 opponents on the field but they also had a negative in their ranks.
Even if the officials had been calling the game fairly, the offensive line had as many struggles today as they have all year, maybe combined. The infractions were more in the first half than the second and the offense bailed them out on several occasions but I don't think I would be doing the game justice if I didn't mention it as a top six storyline from the semi-final. They are a very experienced bunch so I don't see it being an issue in the championship game, unless the officials are once again intent on calling it one sidedly.
It's a quick pivot, but with that in mind, let's move onto the positives!
Many of the usual suspects contributed with big time plays yesterday. Jabril Cox, Derrek Tuszka, Dan Marlette, Stanley Jones & Rob Grimsley are just a few of the guys that made impact plays to hold the bunnies to 21 points. If I were to pick the biggest play of all, I would give the nod to Grimsley's, because of the point in the game that it came but also because it put him second in school history with 17 interceptions. The entire defense was up to the challenge from the first snap and they should all be pleased with what they did last night!
Speaking of elite seniors that came up huge in their second senior day, Bruce Anderson was great last night. The 79 years rushing is fairly pedestrian, but he would have gotten a couple more yards if not for the refs. Where he really showed out is that he turned his 10 touches into three touchdowns. Two rushing & another receiving was a great way to exit the loud house by Anderson!
Easton Stick nearly put up as many yards by himself as the entire South Dakota State offense. The passing game took a backseat but he still managed to complete 80% of his throws. I was really impressed by what he had been doing over the final 3 or 4 weeks of the regular season but he just keeps finding a way to new heights of greatness in every game. Last night is the kind of game that players don't surpass, so maybe it's a good thing that there are a few weeks til the championship game so that the expectations come back to Earth a little bit, or so that he can find a way to do even better. I don't know how the latter will happen but I'm not putting anything past him at this point.
So what's #6 you may ask? The only thing it could be.
The fans in the dome gave a sendoff that coach Klieman deserved. He has one more game as head man of the program and Texas will be the party, but last night was the swan song. As high as Craig Bohl took the program, coach K found ways to build on it. I truly don't know how the success that he had over the last five years can be replicated. He's leaving behind a record that will be nearly impossible to live up to, much less surpass but that's part of the beauty of it. The challenge to extend and improve greatness. He's earned the opportunity to succeed at the highest level and the Bison are the better for it, even with the unknown of the future. I'm not breaking any news here but he has been the best and last night was a full display of that.
So whether it's Eastern Washington or Maine, I don't see how either will be able to stand up to the send off that the seniors will have or that the team will have for their coach. It's been fun, and it will continue to be into the new year!