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Archive : December 2011

December 13, 2011

BULLDOGS ARE DEFINITELY THE "UNDER"DOGS AGAINST MASON

Dillon Cobb, a Stamford Bulldog in the late 90s and an elite wide receiver at ACU, still follows the Stamford Bulldogs regularly. His parents still live in Stamford. He has put together what may be the most comprehensive pregame analysis of this matchup anywhere in the region...I have added/changed little. These are Dillon's words:

 

First, let's start with a little about the Mason Cowpunchers. Mason's rushing attack is led predominantly by star running back David Mora, voted preseason Offensive Player of the Year by Dave Campbell's Texas Football Magazine.

Mora led the NATION in rushing last year with 3,573 yards on a Texas state-record 498 carries.  This year he has only managed around 2,250 yards on the ground, while his backfield mates, Sr QB Austin Trip & Jr RB Rio Schmidt, have combined for another 2,250 yards rushing.   

These gaudy rushing statistics are due to the "Fat Boys" up front (see San Angelo Standard Times Article). Mason returned all five starting offensive linemen, all seniors, who have now compiled a 26-2 record as starters.

Their only 2 losses (both in 2010) were to district foe and perennial powerhouse Goldthwaite. In 2011, the Punchers have scored 695 points (an average of just fewer than 50 per game), which is the second highest in Class 1A.

But it's not only their offense that has excelled. Through 14 games this season, Mason has allowed just 116 points (8 per game), including five shutouts, and limited the opposition to seven points or less on four other occasions. During their playoff run of 4 games against the best the state has to offer, they have still managed 43 ppg while allowing only 10. 

For the entire season, Mason has only played ONE game in which they won by less than 22 points. That game was three weeks ago against Ganado, who had been the #1 team in Class 1A all season. Mason shut out Ganado, 7-0, in a defensive slugfest. Every other game, including the playoffs, has ended in Mason's favor by at least three TDs, often times more. 

Needless to say, Mason has not struggled much in 2011. In fact, Mike Lee of the SA Standard Times wrote an article last week after Mason defeated Ganado saying they are now "the team to beat."

As Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend!"

I'm sure Mike Lee is only looking at rankings and win-loss records. After all, Stamford was only the 3rd place team in its district and barely squeaked by Olton in the first round. Almost all of their players are underclassmen. They can't possibly beat a senior-laden, battle tested Mason team, can they?

Yes they can!  Here's why:

  • District 4A - First, we must give credit to District 4A. Top-to-bottom, it may be the best in the State. However, when Stamford's QB Hagen Hutchison is healthy, this team is the best the district has to offer. In fact, Stamford avenged the back-to-back district losses against Albany and Seymour with back-to-back wins against those same teams on its way to the State Title game. Oh, and don't forget that Stamford opened the season with a lopsided victory against Munday, a team that can clinch the 1A Div.2 State Title immediately following the Stamford/Mason game Thursday in Arlington.  
  • Hutchison is healthy - Throughout much of the season, Hutchison was limited by a severe high-ankle sprain. If you pay enough attention, you can still see him limping on it at times during the games. However, he's as healthy as anyone else at this point in the season and healthier than he's been since about Week 2. 
  • Offensive Diversity -Mason hasn't played an offense as diverse as Stamford's this season. Sr Jesse Ramos is clearly the lead WR with 82 receptions, but Jr WR Dalton Mathis (35), Soph WR James Washington, and Jr RB Austin Alvarado (15) have provided depth. Also, Hutchison and Alvarado provide a nice 1-2 punch on the ground when the passing game needs a breather. 

So there you have it. Four reasons why Stamford can do the unthinkable.

The last bullet point is the key for Stamford. When looking at Mason's opponents, every single one is, or seems to be, a run-first offense. Almost every single opponent had many more rushing attempts and yards than passing attempts and yards.

What's more is that several of their opponents had fewer than 5 passing attempts, while very few attempted more than 10 (Shiner & Ganado).  Reread that last sentence and let that sink in...fewer than 5 passing attempts. This is all while their opponents are trailing by large margins.

Mason simply has not faced a balanced offensive attack like Stamford. Consider that Mason's opponents have only managed 75 passing yards/game for the year and only 62 ypg in the playoffs. There's good chance that the defending 1A state champ in the 200m (Ramos) will break a single play longer than that at some point Thursday.

Hutchison will attempt somewhere between 20-30 passes, and complete 15-20 of them, something the Cowpunchers have not seen all season. 

Let me be clear on one point, though. Mason will be, by far, the best team Stamford has played all year. Don't expect a track meet. Neither team is likely to reach the 40s, and there's a good chance this game ends 28-27 or somewhere close to that.

The Bulldogs have played several run-heavy offenses, and though none do it as well as Mason, Stamford has to feel somewhat prepared on defense heading into the final game of the year.

Where it gets tricky is on the other side. Mason's defense will be unlike any the Bulldogs have faced. I'm just betting that the style of play Stamford employs, and the level at which they do it, will be too much for Mason. Let's hope so.

December 12, 2011

ROMO TO BLAME? I'M AFRAID SO...

A quick analysis of the box score from last night's heart breaking, gut wrenching 37-34 loss to the Giants reveals that the secondary blew the game for Dallas.

The secondary has, once again, blown a late lead. They've moved the Cowboys from being in the driver's seat of the division race and a playoff berth, to a more likely scenario of missing the post season altogether.

Is that unreasonable to think? Not at all. Eli Manning threw for a gaudy 400 yards. The defense gave up more than 500 yards to the Giants. They allowed a 100 yard rusher AND receiver. The defense, as a unit, committed stupid penalties and made amateurish mental mistakes.

But, in my opinion, the defense does not get the blame for this loss.

Tony Romo does.

Wait!! What?? Romo completed 67% of his passes, threw for 300+ yards, 4 touchdowns and NO interceptions! What do you mean it's his fault?? He couldn't have played better!

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury...I give you...Exhibit A.

3rd and 5. 2:25 to go. Dallas up 34-29. Giants come with an all-out blitz. Miles Austin beats his man in man coverage...he's WIDE OPEN. Pass falls incomplete.

That's it.

That's all I need to see. Romo's stats might as well have said: 0-1, 0 yards, 0 TDs, because that was the play that mattered.

If that pass is completed, Dallas wins the game, has a two game lead on the Giants and, barring a Boston Redsox-type collapse (which isn't out of the question from this team), is going to the playoffs.

And I know all the arguments to this opinion:
"they wouldn't have been in that position without Romo"
"if the defense could stop someone, he wouldn't have to complete that pass"
"if our kicking game wasn't in the toilet all of a sudden, we would have forced OT"

I know the arguments. But none of them matter.

Here's what matters:
In the moment, all things leading to that one, single moment. Game on the line, Clutch time. Glory time. Prove yourself to the fans and critics time. Incomplete.

Joe Montana completes that pass. The Manning brothers complete that pass. Ben Roethlisberger completes that pass. Drew Brees completes that pass. Tom Brady completes that pass. Roger Staubach completes that pass. Troy Aikman completes that pass. Aaron Rodgers completes that pass. John Elway completes that pass. Tim Tebow completes that pass (OK..that was a joke).

You get the idea.

That list of QBs (less Tebow - who I hope wins 19 Super Bowls by the way), didn't use their defenses or their amazing stats as excuses. When they find/found themselves in a do or die situation...they do (or did)...they don't die.

And as much as I love what Tony Romo does on the field, and how good a QB he is...he dies in those situations (remember the botched snap at Seattle? Exhibit B).

I hope Romo proves me wrong about being clutch. I hope he can do what Bobby Bowden, Mack Brown, Dirk Nowitzki, and John Elway did. Those guys were able to shed the "can't win the big one" monkeys from their backs after years of carrying it. But those are rare instances.

For all intents and purposes...usually you are what you are this late into a career. Romo's not a burgeoning, young, influential QB. He is what he is.

And at this point, he's proven time and time again that he's a really, really good QB...he's just not a great one.

Not when it's 3rd and 5, with the game on the line, with 2 minutes left and your team desperately needing you to hit a wide open receiver.

I wanted so bad for Romo to blossom into a great QB and lead Dallas to a handful of Super Bowls. And he still could lead Dallas to the promised land.

But, if I was a betting man, I'd put my money on it never happening under his control. And that makes me sad.

Stereotypes are usually stereotypes for a reason...trends are analyzed as trends for a reason...because a pattern develops, and there's some truth to the pattern.

Romo's pattern or formula goes something like this.

Great early in season and in November + regular 300 yard passing games + mobility + gunslinger - chokes in December - 4th quarter turnovers = Tony Romo.