The Motor City Bowl: TiVo-Blogged
Before I start tonight’s TiVo-blog of the Motor City Bowl, I’d like to pass along condolences to the friends and family of President Gerald Ford, who passed away Tuesday. There will probably be tributes and retrospectives written about the man, and the writers will no doubt be better qualified than I to reflect on his life. But since Ford was a former college football player and perhaps the best athlete ever to occupy the country’s highest office, any sports article written so closely to his passing probably should make mention of the loss.
Rest in Peace, Mr. President.
• As some of you may know, I did a TiVo-blog last month for the MAC Championship game, which was also held at Ford Field in Detroit. The immediate result of that game was the placement of Central Michigan in this game. Another result left CMU without a coach. Brian Kelly left for Cincinnati, and Jeff Quinn took over. No one knows for sure whether Quinn will get the job full time. Their opponent is Middle Tennessee State, a team I will admit knowing nothing about. Thank goodness for the Internet.
• Amazingly, my TiVo starts with kickoff just moments away. An ESPN game starting on time? I need to check my watch to make sure it’s not 1988. Because of this, the announcers are never introduced to me, and I can’t recognize either voice.
• The announcers are talking about Joe Tresey, who will be Central Michigan’s defensive coordinator for the MCB and then join Cincinnati in that capacity for the International Bowl Jan. 6. Working for both sides? Who does he think he is, Dick Morris?
• The Chippewas get the ball first. Meaning we’ll get to see John Mayer, er, Dan LeFevour, a freshman, at quarterback for CMU. He marches the Chippewas down the field without much resistance, going 78 yards. Announcer No. 2 tells us Quinn, despite being the team’s offensive coordinator, never called the plays. Kelly did. Very Maurice Carthon. Still, if Quinn excels, I doubt he’ll be interim much longer. LeFevour rushes to the 1, then Ontario Sneed goes in for the score at 11:06. The Blue Raiders trail, 7-0.
• Clint Marks in for the Blue Raiders at QB, and completes his first pass. A 6-2 senior from Fort Myers Fla., Marks us a lefty who completes his second pass, a screen to Desmond Gee. After two plays, Middle Tennessee State is down to the 38 of the Chippewas.
• Gee is a 5-8 freshman receiver, and looks to be the primary weapon on offense. The Blue Raiders keep moving, until CMU’s Mike Ogle sacks Marks for a loss of 11. The sack stalls the drive, although Middle Tennessee State gets close enough on a third down-and-forever to attempt a 39-field goal. Colby Smith makes the attempt, and misses it badly, hooking it left. About seven minutes remain in the first quarter.
• Sneed starts the Chippewas’ drive with a 36-yard run. A review wipes out six yards of that. Well, make that 10 yards. I hate instant replay, because honestly, there is nothing instant about it. Officials are supposed to make the right call the first time, and if they don’t, well, that’s part of the game. As I write that, a few plays after the review, LeFevour finds Sneed for a 29-yard TD. Right now, CMU looks to be playing a team that is not in its league, at least defensively.
• Damon Nickson attempts to shut me up with a 27-yard kickoff return on the next play. The Blue Raiders take the ball at the 46.
• The announcers for the game are Dave Lamont, Ray Bentley, and Vince Welch [on the sideline]. I have never heard of any of them, but they are doing a very good job so far, telling the stories that need to be told and letting the play speak for itself.
• On a third and 10, Marks throws an incomplete pass, forcing a punt. Smith (who apparently does kicks and punts for the Raiders. Impressive) boots it away.
• Though Central Michigan drives from inside its 10 to almost midfield, Middle Tennessee State forces its first punt. The Blue Raiders get the ball at their 20. A first down and an interference penalty sets the team up at their 41. It was a long pass, and the penalty meant all of 15 yards. It sends a good message to college defenders: If a receiver beats you, tackle him. Better to lose 15 yards than 40.
• Brian Kelly joins the announcers on the phone. As soon as he does, the Middle Tennessee State offense starts moving. Kelly says he wants Quinn to get the job. Any other response would be treason. Meanwhile, Eugene Gross takes the ball to the CMU 5. For God’s sake coach, get off the phone, you’re bad luck. Gross almost scores, then it’s second and goal. But the magic of review makes it a touchdown with 10:57 left in the half.
• Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Sockstill calls for an onside kick, which the Chippewas recover. It’s a great call by Sockstill – if it works. It didn’t, so it’s a bad call. It’s especially bad because CMU, with the help of a completion and a roughing the passer penalty on the Blue Raiders, gets the ball to the Middle Tennessee State 15. Two plays later, LeFevour rushes nine yards for a TD. This game is probably over right now. There is more than 10 minutes left in the second quarter, but CMU has sapped any momentum from the Blue Raiders, and leads 21-7.
• Meanwhile, Nickson bobbles the ensuing kickoff and Middle Tennessee State starts inside the 10. But the Blue Raiders surprise me again, moving to the ball past its 40 before punting. The Blue Raiders look definitely game for this, but don’t appear to be quite at the level of the Chippewas. They need a turnover, badly. Instead, Central Michigan, led by the legs of LeFevour, moves the ball into Middle Tennessee State territory. It just looks like CMU can put this game away any time it wants, because its offense is moving the ball almost at will. But a holding penalty derails the drive, and Middle Tennessee State capitalizes by forcing another punt.
• The announcers are starting to sound bored, talking about Middle Tennessee State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. He was a production assistant at ESPN from 1995-1997. According to the announcers, he was “known for his wardrobe.” Well, if you have to be known for something…
• The ESPN announcer (Rece Davis) tells us T-Mac is back in the NBA. This reminds me of in the playoffs, when the announcers referred to Mariano Rivera as Mo. I hate nicknames. Then Lamont quotes Eminem as they show a road sign for 8-Mile. Pathetic. I can just see Ernie Harwell quoting Jimi Hendrix during the 1968 World Series.
• At halftime, Quinn talks about a lack of execution by his team. This guy has to be selected as the full-time head coach. He even has the “we played well but not well enough” lingo down.
• Is it just me, or is Bowl Game just a phrase that means “more commercials?”
• Middle Tennessee State starts with the ball. Desmond Gee makes a first-down catch. He looks like a star. The Blue Raiders are doing an almost equal balance of pass and run after the half, and move the ball into Chippewas territory. As I write these positives, Marks makes his biggest mistake. Facing pressure from Dan Bazuin, he attempts to find Gee over the middle on third down. Instead, CMU linebacker Doug Kress picks it off and runs the ball back, untouched, 57 yards for a touchdown.
• You know, there’s only so many ways you can write that the game is over. But the pick pretty much seals the game. Dan Bazuin is a beast. He sacks Marks on the next possession, forcing a punt from MTSU’s end zone. Bazuin has two sacks midway through the third quarter, to go along with a batted pass. He made the All-MAC first team. www.NFLdraftscout.com says he will be a mid-round pick. That was posted a day before this game.
• A Central Michigan punt downs the Blue Raiders inside their 1, and MTSU changes quarterbacks, bringing in sophomore Joe Craddock. Interesting situation to bring your backup into a bowl game, on the 1-yard line, with your team losing. Against a dominating defense. Then again, Marks is probably banged up. Good luck Joe. He goes three-and-out.
• Oh, check that. A CMU defender ran into Smith on the punt, resulting in a personal foul. The drive continues. Meanwhile, we get Bobby Knight highlights, as a promo for Texas Tech’s game Thursday. No one watching this game cares about Bobby Knight right now, ESPN. Then again, they probably don’t care about half the things I’ve written about tonight, either. The Blue Raiders punt again as the third quarter ends.
• Gee gives MTSU some life, returning a CMU punt inside the Chippewas 15. A little more than 13 minutes remain in the game. Middle Tennessee State is dominating the time of possession, but has very little to show for it. It’s like a senator who spends a lot of time in office but doesn’t really have much to his name besides longevity. Still, MTSU moves closer, as DeMarco McNair scores from six yards out on a rush. More than 11 minutes remain, and, technically, the Blue Raiders are still in it. That’s bad news for me, as I’ve written diplomatically that the game is over about eight times.
• CMU responds to the score by driving inside the Blue Raiders’ 30. A pass interference on MTSU puts the Chippewas at the 15. CMU is staying aggressive, which I guess works for tit. But I want it to run the ball. I only gave the game an extra half hour of recording time on TiVo. CMU attempts a field goal with 7:04 left. Rick Abreski’s attempt from 33 yards misses – badly. It was a “Bengal” snap, though.
• Marks is back. Actually, he returned a while ago. Down 28-14, this drive has to result in a TD to give the Blue Raiders any kind of chance.
• ESPN reports Randy Johnson has drawn interest from the Diamondbacks. Why?
• MTSU has the ball at its own 29, facing a fourth and one. With no other alternative, the Blue Raiders go for it. But the handoff to McNair is stopped short. Again, MTSU was ready for this, and played hard. But CMU was better. Middle Tennessee State, which has never even been in a Division I-A bowl.
• The Chippewas move four yards, then bring on Abreski, who connects on a 42-yard field goal and a 31-14 score. Our sports editor Matt Sussman IMed me to say CMU has now won as many games in Ford Field this year as the Lions. Ouch.
• Bentley, in showing Kress’ interception, says he took it “all the way to the hizzouse.” Oh Lord. ESPN announcers need pop culture courses. Not so they’ll get better at references, but so they’ll be off TV for a while. That said, I have, for the most part, enjoyed the announcing.
• CMU’s Calvin Hissong picks off a Marks pass, and Quinn gets a Gatorade bath. Hopefully, he gets a contract to go with it.
• Quinn: “The statement’s been made.” Bazuin is interviewed, and he reaffirms that Quinn deserves the job. No argument here.