Tuesday, September 29, 2009

M's Clinch .500. Celebrate Good Times!...I Will

2008 was a tough year for being a Seattle Sports fan, there wasn't a franchise or program that wasn't abysmal or stolen from us. Even with the Hawks going 4-12 and the Dawgs going 0-12 the Mariners and their $110 million payroll for 101 losses stuck out as the clearest example of pure fail.

Coming off a solid season prior, many fans felt the addition of Erik Bedard via trade would be the key to success in '08. People hoped the acquisition of a "true number one" was the final piece to make this team a contender, paving the way for domination. Instead it turned out to be one of the worst trades ever. So terrible in fact that it caused many fans to actively forget about the Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek for Heathcliff Slocumb trade.

The M's were in such a terrible state of disrepair after Bill Bavasi's tenure it seemed that there truly was no floor. I felt that no matter who was hired as the next GM they would have a Chernobyl sized clean-up in front of them. Fans seemed resigned themselves to the idea of a long rebuild. Enter Jack Zduriencik.

As a former Director of Player Personnel for the Brewers many in the blogosphere, including myself, worried that Zduriencik was too much of an old school GM when hired. With a solid field of up and coming stat-oriented candidates Zduriencik seemed too scout oriented to complete the overhaul needed to make the M's decent again. Feeling wrong never felt so right.

Tonight, with King Felix making his second to last start(ever?), the M's won their 81st game this year, ensuring a .500 record for the season. I, for one, am at Billy Mays on the excite-o-meter. My beloved M's seem to be building towards something good. FINALLY!!

Equipped with the best defense in the league-a full 20 runs better than the next best team- and possibly the best defense of the decade, a pitching staff and line-up(however impotent) built for the stadium it look to have a solid foundation for the future. The upgrades all over the team have added 20(!!!) wins so far to this season's total all thanks to Jack Zduriencik.

I am very excited to see what moves he makes over the winter to upgrade the offense and tweak the bullpen. Seeing what he has done so far I expect nothing less than a philosophers stone type move of turning Carlos Silva into Albert Pujols somehow. I kid, but I know there will be some move he does that has me standing and cheering when I get the news, even if it's in the middle of class.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stanford Goes Mike Vick on Dawgs in Palo Alto

There have been many litmus tests for the coaching staff so far this season. The LSU game was a test to see how these new-look Dawgs would fair against a perennial power from the SEC. Despite the loss most eveyone would say that was a test the Dawgs passed. Next came Idaho, could the coaching staff, that had everyone patting them on the back for a good loss the week before, get their kids ready to play against an also ran of college football. A strong win in front of the home crowd, the first in almost two years, gave them a pass for the test. Then came USC. It was Coach Sark's chance to go against his mentor and his always high-powered Trojans. Another test passed. After the win catapulted the dawgs into the top 25 since god knows when there was another test to pass. Could the coaching staff keep the team focused on the road after a big win and get a win against an up and comer in the conference? That answer was a resounding "FUCK NO!"

The Dawgs played poorly from the start yielding a touchdown on the opening kick of, a rather ominous start to the game. Things went downhill from there. The Dawgs defense that had stiffened against the vaunted running games of LSU and USC provided as much resistance as Jeramy Stevens' date at a frat party. Big Toby Gerhart rumbled to the tune of 200 yards rarely finding anybody to run over til at least the second level. Though on one run he ran through a couple weak arm tackles on his way for a 60 yard touchdown.

The pass defense didn't fair too much better. Oh sure, they didn't give up near as many yards but when you're running the ball the way Stanford was you can get away with having your quarterback go 7/14 as Andrew Luck did. The dawgs might not have forced luck to throw as much as they had hoped but when he did throw it was on roll outs or off of play action. With the Stanford running game giving UW a Lexington Steele like pounding any play action was bit hard on and left Stanford players wide open for the reception.

After a decent looking first half marred by a single interception Jake came crashing down faster than the crew of the Challenger. Yes, he was hurried, but even when he wasn't his passes seemed to lack the certainty of prior games and his decision making was off as he tried to force the ball to his receivers to make plays. This is why Jake shouldn't leave for the NFL after this season, contrary to what all the talking heads were saying about him last week.

One thing that had seemed to be the hallmark of this new coaching staff through the first three games was their ability to make adjustments at half-time and learn from first half mistakes. Going into the half I had faith in the coaching staff that they could figure out how to stop the run and get some points on the board to erase the 10 point deficit. That was not to be the case tonight. The Dawgs got run over just as bad in the second half as they did the first. In fact they failed to even score the entire second half. Which is damn shameful. It's not like Stanford has an elite defense that should be able keep the number of UW offensive playmakers out of the endzone. And yet they did.

In my mind, if a team can beat USC they should be able to beat anyone in the Pac-10. That didn't happen this week and that worries me. Hopefully this terrible loss will allow the coaches to go hard on their players this week to make sure there is not a repeat performance this week as the Dawgs head to South Bend to play Notre Dame and Charlie Weiss's FUPA.

Oregon Is Killing My Stiffy!!

What is the opposite of a schadenfreude hard-on? Whatever it is that is what Oregon has been doing to me lately. I can't say I appreciate it too much either.

After their nationally televised implosion against Boise State it seemed Oregon was in for a dark season. They lost arguably their best player in LaGarrette Blount, head coach Chip Kelly looked like he dropped a load in his size 12 huggies overnights during his debut, and Newly minted AD and former headcoach Mike Belotti stalked the sidelines unable to relinquish the reins of the program. I was loving every second of it.

The next week Oregon barely managed to get past a weak Purdue team. It was a sloppy game on both sides and Oregon was lucky to have come out of the game with a win. Belotti was still down on the sidelines and not in his AD's booth. He continued to tell anyone who would listen about what the problems were that were haunting the Ducks. Despite the win I could smell blood. This was a weak team due for collapse at any given moment. Too bad they just kept winning.

After coming out of another sloppy game against an overrated Utah team with a win I was certain of one thing. This Saturday, against the Cal Golden Bears, Oregon would meet it's gruesome demise. I could picture Oregon being swallowed whole by the Cal juggernaut. Sure, I knew Cal had QB issues but I just assumed possible Heisman front runner RB Jahvid Best would run over the Ducks and QB would not be a factor for BSU. How wrong I was.

Oregon beat the holy hell out of Cal. I mean they did Cal like Monica Belucci in "Irreversible". It was a grisly scene at Autzen Stadium with the mangled corpse of Cal laying there after a 42-3 mauling by the Ducks. It turned my stomach worse than a Luis Buñuel film. My head is still spinning with confusion.

How had this team that seemed destined to fall on black days and start it's slow descent to the bottom of the Pac-10 managed to not only pull out wins out of it's ass but to also dismantle a Top-10 team like Cal?

I wish I knew how this turnaround has occured. Sadly, all I really do know is that Oregon's success has left me flaccid. And that's no way to be.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Leroy Hill Out Til Week 8. Fans Rend Their Garments.

I remember for my 12th birthday my dad took me to Toys 'R' Us and told me to find a toy a 12 year old would like. I figured this was his fucked up way of telling me to pic out my present. Vague directions such as these were nothing new, my dad was often rather indirect about what he wanted. It was easier for him to get mad later that way. Anyway, I frantically searched up and down the aisles for my present, admiring action figures, looking over board games, ogling legos. Then I found it, my excalibur, a Nerf Ballzooka. 8 barrels of ball blasting menace sure to make me the king of all Nerf wars. I was stoked. I could already imagine the pwnage I would inflict upon my opponents. I could picture them running from a hail of little yellow Nerf balls.

I took my prize up to my dad, doing my best not to lose my cool from my excitement. He brought it up to the cash register, paid for it, took it out to his Blazer and put it in the back. There it remained for weeks, mocking me. Every time I got into the back seat I would inevitably look into the back seat and see the ballzooka sitting there in it's box just waiting to be used. Every time I'd look at it and get depressed thinking of all the cool things I could be doing with it. My dad eventually gave it to one of those buy a present for a needy kid places in the mall.

Losing Leroy Hill for 8 weeks after just a few plays in the first game reminds me exactly of this situation. Hill was to be a integral part of the new look West Coast defense. His blitzing and ability to track down plays in the backfield made him an intriguing weapon for D coordinator Gus Bradley. Now Bradley has to sit and watch as hill stands on the sideline with a groin injury. He'll probably cast a longing glance at what he can't have, much like a 12 year old me. The difference is Bradley gets Hill back after a few long weeks where as I never got my ballzooka.

UW Upsets #3 USC. Sark asks Carrol "How's My Ass Taste?"

Many Dawg fans believed that USC was vulnerable after last week's tough win over Ohio State. I, however, was not one of them. I'll admit that. I was afraid that USC would run us over and leave just a purple and goal smudge on their helmet.

Such fear was not unfounded. USC looked solid playing a tough OSU team on the road and coming out with a victory. UW, on the other hand had a lot tougher game with Idaho than the score would indicate. If not for a few costly mistakes by Idaho there might've been a game. The defense looked less than stellar and against a monster like USC not a mistake could be afforded.

The first drive by the Trojans did little to allay my fears. It took all of 6 plays, 80 yards and a little over two and a half minutes for USC to score the first touch down of the game. The Dawg's defense looked over matched against an elite O-Line as they were gashed for big yardage. It was the moment I feared. Playing an elite team that already had a tough game to get everything in line for I worried we wouldn't be able to sneak up on them like perhaps we did against LSU.

A quick three and out by the UW offense did little to instill confidence in me. I was close to slipping into the abyss of dejection after a Trojans field goal gave USC a 10-0 lead but was thankfully saved the next UW drive when Jake ran the ball in for the score. That drive kept the Dawgs more than close enough to feel confident about their chances. A game that seemed almost out of reach at 10-0 felt damn winnable tied at 10 going into the half.

Even then I worried, though. I should have felt ecstatic about the former 0-12 Dawgs hanging with a National Championship contender. Instead I knew that USC was a second half team. I'd see too often USC not play sharp in the first half against a lesser opponent only to steam roll them in the second half. I feared a disembowelment when the Trojans came down the the tunnel and took the field for the second half.

Luckily, what I saw was a defensive battle throughout the second half punctuated with USC turnovers. Key turnovers at that. It seemed everytime USC would get into scoring position they would magically turn the ball over to the defense. That's not to take anything away from the UW defense, they played out of their minds. Holding USC to 13 points is impressive no matter what but the turnovers were uncharacteristic of a Pete Carrol coached team.

What impressed me the most about that game, more than the defense coming through, more than special teams doing a great job on Joe McKnight, was the continuing development and stellar play of Jake Locker. USC might very well have had the best player at nearly any position. There was one position where UW had a clear advantage and that was at quarterback. Despite consistent pressure and taking hits like the sham-wow hooker, Jake looked poised throughout the game. He did his best to stay in the pocket and make USC pay for keeping a spy on him.

The 3rd and 15 will be a play forever remembered in Husky lore. It was a perfect example of Jake's using his legs to keep the play alive down the field where in years past he woulda just ran with it. When Jake started to get flushed out of the pocket he kept his eyes downfield and spotted Jermaine Kearse open down the sideline and hit him to convert the crucial first down.

Jake went 21/35 completing 60% of his passes against a tough Trojans defense. He made reads, put touch on his throws and all around looked like the savior he has hyped to be when he arrived down on Montlake. Jake very well could be the best QB in the conference and I think he has the tools in his playmakers to have a great season. Best of all he allowed Steve Sarkisian to ask his old boss "Pete, how's my ass taste?"

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Woooo!!!!! Holy Fuck!! Wooooo!!! Dawgs beat #3 USC!!!
I say this without hyperbole, that has to be the biggest win since the Rose Bowl win over Michigan for the National Championship. On another note, Jake Locker very well might be the best QB in the Pac-10.
How crazy is it that a year ago Jake was shakier than a Sodo bum going through DT's when he's dropped back to pass and this year he's making throws with precision and confidence. The turn around is amazing and has to be attributed to the ability of the new coaching staff to actually teach unlike the last regime who seemed to feeling learning was done via osmosis.

I'll have more on this game later. But, for now, Go Huskies!!!!!! WOOF!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Seahawks Pwn Rams in Season Opener

2009 marked the beginning of a new era for the Seattle Seahawks under head coach Jim Mora. As often is the case with new things people worried about the changes to the team. How would the offense fair without offensive mastermind and devourer of clams, Mike Holmgren? With John Marshall gone would that mean no more zero blitzes for the defense? And if that was indeed the case people wondered what new surefire play would the 'Hawks design to give up first downs? All these questions and more haunted 'Hawks fans until Sunday afternoon.

I doubt anybody really expected the Rams to be any good this year, even Rams fans. That said the 28-0 ravaging of St Louis was still damn impressive considering all that separated the two teams last year was one win. If not for a turnover filled 1st quarter the game would have been even more of a blowout.

After a rocky start Hass looked as comfortable as ever under center. Hell, there was a decent number of plays where Hass took snaps from the shotgun, something Mike Holmgren only occasionally let Matt audible into.

Overall the thing that impressed me the most, other than Aaron Curry absolutely leveling Stephen Jackson, knocking him off his feet before escorting him to the turf with his shoulder, was the creative new play calls on both side of the ball. This was not The Walrus' ordered yet predictable West Coast offense. In fact, I'm pretty sure Holmgren must have knocked over his bucket of clams in anger and astonishment on more than one occasion while watching the game.

The quintessential play that demonstrated how far the play calling has come since the old full back draw was run out of a Sea-Cat formation. Seneca Wallace lined up at QB in the shotgun with Hass out wide on his right. After receiving the snap Wallace threw the ball to Hass who faked like he was going to go upfield with it before he threw the ball back to Seneca who took off up the sideline for a huge gain.

I've opined for years that Seneca, while a decent back-up QB, could be so much more than that given the chance. Like Antwaan Randle-el but with a better arm. I often dreamed of all the crazy plays that could be designed to use Senecea's athleticism and sighed knowing Holmgren would never dare to risk injury to Seneca even if the gain from such plays far outweighed the chance at injury. Seeing my dreams materialize in front of my eyes like that gave me a lot of hope for this season and a lot of love for this new coaching staff.

The run game looked decent with Julius Jones breaking off a 62 yard run that showed he still had some of his old speed still in him. Edge was serviceable, plodding forward and taking what he was given while always falling forward. Justin Forsett looked solid as a 3rd down back and proved worthy of wearing Maurice Morris' old number, 20.

The receivers went all Jack the Ripper on the Rams secondary carving them up all day. TJ Houshmazode(championship!) looked like Bobby Engram 2.0 running crisp routes over the middle, absorbing contact and making good yards after the catch. Deon Butler caught a couple passes and threatened with his deep speed. The true star was Nate Burleson. Always a great athlete Nate struggled with the demanding precision that Holmgren's offense required. The new coaching staff recognized his talent and instead of trying to force him into a role for which he is not quite suited they are trying to develop a role that takes advantage of his strengths. Bubble screens, quick hitches and getting the ball out to him fast if his man plays off were all part of the new Burleson repetoire.

Remember when people complained John Carlson was slow? Well, how does the fact that a slow player got off for 6 catches, 95 yards and 2 tubs grab you? I loved JC last year. In a lost season his play was a savior. As he develops more of a rapport with Matt he will become even more of a monster.

Defense was solid. Some fools worried that the 'Hawks had shown too much of their new defensive schemes in the preseason and that once the season started teams would be ready for our defense. Like I said before, no one expected the Rams to be good or even decent but a shut out is damn satisfying. The depth of versatile players on the defense means the days of zero blitzes with Brian Russel left in cover-1 are over. And thank Christ for that.

I have faith that the 'Hawks can regain their winning ways this season and prove last year's 4-12 record was a fluke. With the way 'Hawks played yesterday the division title will be back in our hands by the end of the season. And that, friends, is always a good time