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Washington Huskies Take Zaxby’s Heart Of Dallas Bowl

December 27th, 2015 · Tags:Cities · Sports

 

Looking Back BW sized

 

 

“Are we on offense or defense?”

That’s what I asked my teammate Les, just before we lined up. He set me straight and pointed where to line up, and the quarterback threw me a pass, that I caught. (Ha … I didn’t make very many yards after that catch, but then I never did. I was just happy that I ran the right way on that one.) It was perhaps a less-heady time. In those days, we thought it kind of funny when someone “got their bell rung.” We played on, crazy as that seems with today’s discourse on head injuries in sports. (Which, btw, I take seriously, but also think there is a movement to sissify football so more people can play, and the sissification movement is using head injuries to further their cause … I digress …)

But we were high schoolers … playing for love of the game, not millions of dollars … What did we know?

That same season, I experienced my second spinal injury related to football, about halfway through the season, unbeknownst to most of my teammates … and coaches. I never discussed it with anyone but my dad and a friend in healthcare. I was told the doctors would put me in traction for at least six weeks … and basketball season was coming on. Instead, I just started going down easier after I caught a pass, or returned a kickoff or punt … coasting through the end of the season. But I finished that season. Then retired from that sport.

My point?

Ha … I never took myself out of a game.

… Until yesterday.

I have been battling the crud for 2.5 weeks, but was determined to work the day after Christmas — and enjoy — my favorite season of the blog — college football bowl games … blogging from the press box and shooting selfies … I mean action shots … from the sidelines.

Well … it is not like me, but I even called the doc to request a prescription to be called in. He agreed, and the medicine was ready in Fort Worth, just a few hours after I drove to The Cotton Bowl in Dallas, naturally.

My apologies to people in the press box. I hope it was not the bubonic plague to which you were exposed. (I was no longer sneezing or coughing … had more of a sinus/ear infection thing working it.) This was a blessing … I sat way off on the side in the pressbox … and for the record, the guy nearest me was coughing more than me. Second, I spent most of my time on the sidelines anyway … So … I sort of did the right thing.

But … sadly … with The Washington Huskies leading the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles, 21-17 at the half … I took myself out of the game. Drove to the pharmacy. Pilled up and went to bed.

So after the midway point, my reporting is based on the handy dandy scoring summary provided by the EXCELLENT sports information team working the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl. Ha … in my defense, you would be shocked at the number of sports writers in any press box who pay more attention to the nachos — or chicken strips in this case — than the game on the field and write their stories from the statistics provided regardless …

Ha … As a blogger, I had to beg to get into the press box of a Big 12 game a few years ago, and was pretty amused what the local beat writers — who were busy with the afore mentioned nachos and were actually watching an SEC game on the TV above — asked me several times “What just happened?” in the game down on the field. I kid you not. But I do digress …

I think that was the day that PingWi-Fi coined one of our favorites: “Statistics are so the blind men can enjoy the elephant too.”

 

Broken Up sized

So … Here’s how we’re going to do this. I’ll share a few thoughts from the game and then regurgitate the numbers:)

Bloggers Stick Together
Some guy sat down by me before the game, and we worked our way through the normal get acquainted questions … when suddenly I realized we were both bloggers, and that we had had the exact same conversation and realization at a previous playing of the Heart of Dallas Bowl. We continued to compare notes and he told me the trick to getting press credentials for The AT&T Cotton Bowl … “You have to introduce yourself to ‘Joe Blow’ in charge, and just ‘kiss his ass’ and eventually you’ll get in. (In that case, I don’t think I will be covering The Cotton Bowl game over at AT&T Cowboys Stadium.)

 

Pass Protection

 

Before Kickoff
Being early to the game, I fired off some social networking points about the game — sampled the Cotton Bowl Wi-Fi, of course — and for the most part, the PingWi-Fi tweets seemed to resonate with cyberspace — a few likes, retweets and new followers. Here are a few fave tweets:

And to think, these bowl games don’t take PingWi-Fi seriously:)

 

Golden Eagle Cheer

Golden Eagle Cheer

On The Side
Down on the sidelines, I was not only watching the game, the bands and the cheerleaders, I was also reviewing a new lens — The AFS Nikkor 200-500mm zoom. For the record it is certainly a “big boy” lens that will reach out and touch just about any point on the field. But also, it is somewhat slow, with an aperture of f/5.6 … so maybe a little more adept for bird watching than QB spotting … but a keeper. I rate it 6 pings. FYI, you can get faster lenses with an f/2.8 aperture for example, but you will double or triple the cost, depending on the lens.

It’s always fun on the sidelines, to stare through a lens, while avoiding the ESPN camera-mobile zooming to and fro behind the player benches. Sometimes there are incendiary batons in the mix … usually a gaggle of bowl game VIPs who step in front of the working photographers to squeeze off a sideline selfie with their camera phones … AND there is the photo nazi. Ha! I am pretty polite to other photographers and don’t jump in front of them for a shot. (Admittedly, until recently I have been a little timid, given my lens was not as long as their’s … LOL.) The only people who do jump in front is the ESPN sideline camera, but that’s understandable. They are broadcasting live. All the other shooters just move over on the sidelines, or shoot from the end zone.

 

Washington Cheer

Washington Cheer

SO … I was quite surprised when the photo nazi came over to me and asked me to step back about 10 inches, from the first photo line to the second photo line when the ESPN cameraman was nearby. I assure you, no one saw me on ESPN yesterday, and I did not block their view. But you know how some people are when they have a little authority. My suggestion … move the non-photographers away from the field first, then worry about the guys with bird-watching lenses. Just saying.

Speaking of ESPN … I looked over, and bumping my elbow was this vision of loveliness … The ESPN sideline reporter … the newsgatherer that many less-politically correct Web sites refer to as “the sideline babe.” Hell … I’ll talk to a fencepost if I think I have something to share, so you bet we engaged in conversation. I soon learned that although she covers games throughout the region, she is based in College Station. We all know what that means. (Gig ‘em … “whooooop!” and everything that goes with it …) Funny, now that the Johnny Football Clan is in the SEC, Texas Tech grads and Aggies can be so civil to each other.

Ever-so-sincerely (not) I told her that I knew all football coaches love to do that obligatory, polite little sideline interview before they go into the locker room at halftime and go bat s..t crazy in front of their players – LOL. That was part of her job, the sideline-ambush interview. On the topic of Tech vs. A&M, I thanked her for sending “my boy Kliff Kingsbury” back to Raiderland. (You probably know, KK, an assistant quarterback whisperer, left TAMU (where he nurtured Johnny Manziel), to become the head quarterback whisperer for the Red Raiders.) Just the mention of his name changed her expression. “Man, I wish we had him back,” she said with a smile and a far-away look in her eyes. I said I understood, and noted The Aggies are now playing musical chairs with QBs, just as Tech experienced the last two years. “Ha … we could use him to come back and play,” she laughed. Me? LOL – I think she wants Coach Cool back for her ownself. I digress …

So about the game (note: sports content warning … loyal reader Judy S. stop reading here):

 

Breaking The Plane sized

Gaskin Breaks Plane … Trust Me

2015 Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas — Recounted

 

Near Interception sized

The Washington Huskies posted scoring outbursts in the first and fourth quarters to take the trophy in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, in an otherwise close game over the Golden Eagles of Southern Mississippi (alma mater of one Brett Favre, btw).

After battling to a 21-17 halftime lead in Dallas’ storied, old Cotton Bowl stadium, the Huskies cruised on to a 44-31 win, and accepted their trophy just before the Dallas area was hit by violent thunderstorms and eventually tornadoes.

But it was in the second quarter when it appeared favor might shine on Southern Miss for a while. Late in the second quarter, The Golden Eagles dialed up the fake. Deep in his own territory, Southern Miss punter Tyler Sarrazin connected on a 22-yard pass to Jayden Mickens for a first down to their own 47 and a huge momentum shift with 1:46 let in the first half. Southern Miss scored and pulled within four by halftime, but never led.

It this classic rushing team vs. a passing attack matchup, the Huskies’ muscle pulled threw, with 580 total yards, their season high — almost 300 on the ground.

MVP Gaskin

MVP Gaskin

Cracking the biggest whip for the dogs was true freshman, Myles Gaskin — named the bowl’s MVP — a 184-yard day on 26 carries and one reception, and four touchdowns (the most bowl game TDs ever for a Huskie).

 

Knocked Out sized

As far as turnovers and ball control go, the HODBowl was a thing of beauty, with only one lost fumble among these two teams that had finished strong at the end of the regular season. The Huskies had won their last two games to become bowl eligible. The Golden Eagles were fighting for a possible 10th win this year. It was that one turnover — the lost fumble recovered by Southern Miss in the third quarter that was quickly converted to a TD — that tied the game at 24.

To answer, on the first play of the next possession, Washington’s Gaskin cut loose for an 86-yard run from scrimmage. The MVP’s other TDs on the day were runs for 1, 2 and 13 yards out.

The entire season, it was the big play that kept Southern Miss on top. In fact they led the nation in that category. Big play threat, receiver Michael Thomas had 190 yards on 9 catches for the day and two TDs. His longest was a 56-yard strike.

Nick Mullens sized

Mullens

The Golden Eagles’ quarterback Nick Mullens — who was hurried repeatedly and sacked four times – went 25 of 38 on the day, for 331 yards in the air. The Huskies’ Jake Browning was 23 of 34 in the game, for 284 yards.

In other head-to-head comparisons, The Huskies held possession for 34:25 minutes compared to The Golden Eagles’ 25:35 minutes. Both teams scored every time they entered the red zone, making field position a strategic boon. Three scores came from Washington kicker Cameron Van Winkle with strikes from 24, 12 and 23 yards. Golden Eagle kicker Stephen Brauchle hit once from 22 yards out. The punting advantage leaned in Washington’s favor, with an average of 56 yards on two punts. Southern Miss averaged 38 yards on six punts.

 

Browning

Browning

So sorry to have missed the second half … one last statistic — my favorite of the day — 40 hits of Cephalexin from the local CVS Pharmacy $26.82. I call that a bargain.

Know what I sayin?