For some reason, this I decided it would be a good idea to make a pit-stop in Forth Worth, TX this past Saturday on my way to a wedding in Los Angeles, CA the next day. After recovering from sunburn, heat exhaustion and jet lag, I'm finally back at the computer and ready to write up my thoughts. Or at least, what's left of them.
Because of the travel, I was uncharacteristically out of touch with the sites, blogs, tweets, etc after the loss to the Horned Frogs. So it was with some amusement that I started reading them this morning and finding out what everyone else thought about the game. Amusement, I say, because I hadn't noticed the sky falling while I was flying at above 10,000 feet most of the weekend. But apparently, according to some, it is.
There are two words that I have to describe the game from my perspective high above the field at Amon G. Carter Stadium: Frustrating & Competitive.
Doesn't really seem like those should go together. I also assume that a lot of people will disagree with me on the competitive part. Maybe I'm an optimist. Maybe I'm a homer. Maybe it was the sun. But that's what I saw.
The Horned Frogs scored five times. That's not great on our part. But two of them were field goals and one was a long touchdown where our young secondary got burned by a guy making an amazing catch. Overall, our defense was at least adequate - dare I say competitive - on the road against a talented top-20 team.
Virginia scored once. Late in the game when it was all but over. But it's not like we didn't have some scoring opportunities. We had three turnovers on 3rd down, all of which occurred on somewhat long drives. They occurred on the 6th, 8th and 12th plays of drives that went for 19, 50 and 51 yards.
We also had some non-third down opportunities. A great Michael Rocco pass dropped by Darius Jennings where the defender clearly tripped him before the ball got there - though a more experienced receiver likely would have still caught the ball instead of getting hit in the face mask with it. A failed fourth down attempt that occurred in the red zone as Rocco's pass to Jake McGee from the TCU 12 fell incomplete.
A couple of those frustrating offensive things go our way and this is a much closer game. But of course, that's the way football works. We made mistakes. TCU didn't make as many. They deserved to win the game as it was played on the field.
As always, time for my random musings from the game:
- The game was supposedly a sell-out with standing-room-only tickets being all that was left from either school. But based on the number of empties in the west stands, I don't know how that could be possible.
- The Virginia contingent was nice. Not huge, but still good. Lots of folks in from Dallas and Houston. Also saw some Charlottesville people, including Engineering School Dean Jim Aylor, and Wayne Cozart and Cecil Banks from the Alumni Association.
- Our seats were pretty bad though. First away game in a while that I can remember where the whole visitor section was in the upper bowl. Maybe I'm making that up, but I'm used to sitting in the lower bowl at away games. My seats were the second row from the top, facing the blistering Texas sun.
- TCU's version of The Sabre Scramble involves four blocking sleds with running back jerseys on them and you have to keep track of who has the football. They dance around and come to a stop. All the jerseys are former players (like LaDainian Tomlinson). Nice little tweak, but it was WAY easier than The Sabre Scramble is and there were no prizes awarded - it was just for the crowd as a whole.
- TCU has a mobile app that allows you to order your food from the concession stand and pay for it while staying in your seat. When the food is ready, you get an alert and can run down and grab it. This is an awesome idea and one that U.Va. should seriously look into.
- So... the TCU Showgirls... Yes. Please.
- The TCU fans were very friendly. Not a single negative word was said to me and I got lots of "thanks for making the trip" type comments (that appeared to be serious, not in jest).
- There's an area at the north end of the stadium where you could stand to watch the game. Reminds me a bit of the area past right field in Camden Yards. Except that no one was using it. I guess that that's where the standing-room-only tickets were for, but no one bought them.
- I'm pretty sure TCU must have been coached to block people in the back during kick returns. I'm pretty sure I saw a block in the back on every single one of our punts. Thankfully, at least some of them were called.
- Speaking of calls on punt returns. How in the hell can a team get called for kick catching interference when the kick returner is running away from the ball? The ball hit the ground first. The returner wasn't near the ball and was in fact moving away from it. That just makes no sense at all. Once the ball is on the ground, the returner should just be a blocker. Just makes absolutely no sense.
- I'm still trying to figure out how TCU quarterback Pachall's last name is legitimately pronounced "Paw-Hall."
- I can understand why the ref didn't throw a flag for pass interference on Jenning's drop in the first quarter. But it was clear both live and on replay that the TCU defender dove forward to hit Jennings and tripped him before the ball got there. I'm not that upset about it, but that was textbook pass interference.
- A lot of the crowd around me at the game was mumbling for Phillip Sims to come in and replace Rocco basically from the Rocco's first incompletion. Then Sims came in and his two pass attempts on his first drive were... let's just say... not good. That quieted some of the folks down for a while.
- Is it just me or does it seem like Sims throws a better long ball (with a nice touch) to a moving target than he does a straight short pass to someone standing (mostly) still?
- E.J. Scott just didn't look comfortable finding running lanes during kick returns. Just never seemed to find a seam. Shepherd just seems to have a better feel for it right now. Which may be exactly why TCU kicked it to Scott.
- Tiki already mentioned this, but our O-line looked better. Not great, mind you, but better. 164 net yards was solid, as was Parks's long run on third and short. Even if you take away that long run, we still averaged nearly four yards per rush. Like I said, not great. But better.
- How do you execute a good onsides kick now that the ball has to bounce twice? I'm guessing over the years we'll see new strategies. But I'd say that nutmegging the first guy was about as good as an attempt as any. Just too bad it didn't ricochet off his back leg.
- Would I go back to TCU for another game? Yes. Downtown Fort Worth was a lot of fun after the game and the people were all very nice (as I'd expect in the south). But am I glad that the 'Hoos are back at home this weekend? Definitely yes.