Big Ten rules the Senior Bowl,
so long, 2006

FootballThe North dominated this year’s Senior Bowl, getting a 27-0 victory in a heavy rainstorm.

The game was full of good football, most of it coming from Big Ten players. As usual, the rules were a bit restricted, which protected the players but kept the stats down. Offensively: the game used college rules, but no spread offenses, no motions or shifts, no shotgun formations, and a TE had to be in for every down. Defensively: all plays had to be “Man Free,” all formations 4-3, no nickel or dime, and no blitzing allowed. This ensured that the passing lanes were as crowded as possible for the QBs, and really challenged the receivers and DBs athletically.

Overall, offensively, the North’s O-line had no problem with the “speedy” line from the South. In fact, the only thing that kept the score from becoming even more lopsided was mediocre WR play from the North. (I’ll put it to you this way: The best WR on the field was Rhema McKnight. Ugh.) Especially in the first quarter, the North’s receivers were running bad routes, dropping passes, and so on. The heavy rain didn’t help, so Gruden relied heavily on Tony Hunt and Brian Leonard for the first couple of scoring drives.

Defensively, the North’s front four completely dominated the O-line from the South. OSU’s two big tackles Pitcock & Patterson combined with the 19-year-old phenom Amobi Okoye to have their way with future CFL-punt-coverage-specialist Chris Leak and the rest of the South’s skill players. If a ball carrier got past the front four, they had the UM crew of Hall, Harris, and Burgess to deal with.

Depending on your agenda, Troy Smith had an impressive victory or an unimpressive one. Case in point: Both ESPN and CSTV ran the same AP article but gave it differentheadlines. Whatever. People see “5 for 15” and think he had a bad game. During the regular season, that’s true, but not for the senior bowl, where the game is stacked to be tough for QBs. Scouts were more interested in which QB led scoring drives and who didn’t, which QB made the best decisions, did they convert important third or fourth downs or not, throw INTs or fumble the ball, etc., etc. Each team rotated at least three QBs, usually two series at a time.

Some standout players from the Big Ten included:

Troy Smith – Led the North on three of its five scoring drives. Highlights included a big fourth down conversion, a double reverse where he threw the lead block downfield, and a classic “Troy moment” in the fourth quarter when he moved the pocket & threaded the needle with a TD pass that exceeded Mach 1. On two or three other occasions, Smith drew collective gasps as he slipped out of sure tackes (including a face mask tackle) to scramble open and make throws… that were then dropped by his WRs.

Tony Hunt – Hunt led all rushers, and was the game’s MVP. I felt good for Hunt. He’s a workhorse back. Fast, agile, but can still plow defensemen over. He’ll be an excellent NFL player.

Drew Stanton – Drew could be the dark horse among QBs headed to the NFL. Had a great game, going 8 of 12 for 53 yards, and led a scoring drive. Was also plagued by a few drops, but was fortunate enough to draw Iowa’s Scott Chandler as his TE, and they did some damage together.

Quinn Pitcock and David Patterson – Combined for three sacks, for minus 15 yards. Patterson had the best game of his year, right when it counted the most (for him).

Leon Hall, David Harris, and Prescott Burgess – Great showing from the UM crew. They split twelve tackles between them. It seemed like a skunked-claw helmet was involved in almost every single tackle.

There were other standouts, too, from teams other than the Big 10. Defensively, Jay Moore (Nebraska) and Amobi Okoye (Louisville) played well; offensively, Tyler Palko (Pitt) had an excellent showing.

…And so officially ends the 2006 football season. Sigh. I’m sure there’ll be another burst of interest as the combine nears, and perhaps another burst following the Reggie Bush/USC fiasco (betcha that Cowboys job is looking a lot better now, huh Caroll?), but that’s pretty much it for 2006.

What a great season it was to be a CFB fan.

Think about some of the iconic events of 2006:

In preason, we had OSU vs Texas, the much hyped rematch between nos. 1 and 2.

Michigan’s prison rape of Brady Quinn and Notre Dame.

The “Referee Bifocal Bowl” (Oklahoma vs. Oregon).

In the regular season, highlights and oddities included Pat White’s 344 yard and 4 TD performance against Syracuse.

Ted Ginn, Jr. setting the Big 10 record for punt return TDs.

Established powerhouses Miami and Florida State totally laying an egg, while Rutgers, Clemson, and Wake Forest all contended for major BCS respect.

The back-to-back Thursday night Big East bowls with WVA, Louisville, and Rutgers. Ray Rice crying in his mother’s arms after defeating Louisville.

Temple winning its first game in almost three seasons.

The iconic image of a very sick Joe Paterno making a beeline for the bathroom across the field during a PSU punt.

Notre Dame making miracle comebacks against Michigan State and UCLA. Michigan State, a few weeks later, making a miracle comeback of its own against Northwestern, setting the division I-A record for largest comeback in history.

Michigan’s angry defense knocking two PSU quarterbacks out of the same game, while holding the Lions to minus 14 yards rushing.

Terry Hoeppner managing to coach his team back into respectability, while recovering from stinkin’ brain surgery, and somehow being denied a shot for the Coach of the Year award.

Bo Schembechler dying on the eve of the most exciting and overhyped OSU/Michigan game in history, with OSU and Michigan playing for all the marbles.

UCLA’s ruining heavily-favored USC’s title chances.

Florida, from a conference that has complained for almost ten years how unfair it is that a team that plays in a conference championship will never be able to compete for a BCS title, gets into the title game after all, and only does it because they had to play in the SEC championship game.

Jim Tressel, having never coached a bad game in his career, folds miserably in preparation, game plan, and game adjustments in a humiliating loss to Florida in the title game.

Troy Smith setting a record for most #1 votes in a Heisman ballot, ever.

Jamarcus Russell coming from nowhere to the likely #1 QB pick in the NFL draft.

…I’m sure there are tons of others. Any that I missed? Throw them in the comments section.


  1. *sniff…*

    Even as a Buckeye, Bo literally doing everything he possibly could to beat the Buckeyes was admirable, even in death. Great compilation and great blog guys. Thanks for guiding me through the year. I found you while I was living in Las Vegas, which for me was living out of the state for the first time. I’m back now for at least a few months and it was a phenomenal year.

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