By Phil Clark

manzielThis past weekend was all about one game in the world of college football. There were noteworthy games throughout the day and night, but all attention was focused on College Station, Texas. Manziel Mania may never end until Johnny ManzielJohnny Football to many—goes pro, but all the hoopla was at least about a football game for the last few weeks. That game was Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies hosting the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in a rematch of last year’s game between the two. That game last year was the one that really started the monster that Manziel Mania has become.

The Aggies and Crimson Tide engaged in a shootout that looked close at 49-42, but in reality was what I figured the game would be: the Aggies playing catchup for the majority when their defense finally caved.

After the Aggies jumped out to a 14-0 nothing lead like they did last year, the Crimson Tide either found their mojo or stole the Aggies’. The Crimson Tide scored 35 unanswered points after those first two touchdown drives from Johnny Football and never looked back. Quarterback A.J. McCarron and the Crimson Tide running game did the leg work while their defense simply tried to fend off Manziel as best as they could. They didn’t do well as Manziel had another monumental day at the expense of the Crimson Tide defense. The difference this time around was that this monumental performance was one in valiant defeat rather than glorious victory.

The champion of the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences usually meet in the Rose Bowl on January 1. This past weekend may not have offered any games that are realistic previews for what two teams will meet in Pasadena on the first day of 2014, but it did offer four Big Ten versus Pac-12 games nonetheless. The conferences split these games with one in particular ending in controversy.

My home state Wisconsin Badgers joined the Green Bay Packers as being a Wisconsin team losing a game to a West Coast team thanks to poor officiating practices. Last year it was The Fail Mary on Monday Night Football that cost the Packers a victory against the Seattle Seahawks, this year it was the referees failing to properly manage the final moments of the Badgers’ game against the Arizona St. Sun Devils that cost the Badgers a chance to win the game.

Badgers quarterback Joel Stave kneeled down in the middle of the field with 18 seconds to play, setting up the Badgers for a straight field-goal instead of one to the right; it wasn’t the best kneel down, but Steve did kneel down. From there, the Sun Devils did a good job of stalling and keeping the ball from being put in place by a referee. The referees were just at good at forgetting that they are in control of the game and failed to place the ball until time was running out. By the time the Badgers were able to line up to try and spike the ball, there was barely a second left on the clock. And that’s how the game ended, with a 32-30 win for the Sun Devils.

This wasn’t what cost the Badgers the game, it cost them a chance at winning the game because the field-goal they would’ve otherwise been able to attempt was well within their kicker’s range. Other contributing factors to the Badgers’ loss was missing a two-point conversion minutes before that left them down by two, nearly 80 yards in penalties during the game, and their offense’s inability to convert key third downs. This game’s end is what it will be remembered for, but like any close game with a crazy finish, there were other factors that helped create that crazy finish.

The Ohio St. Buckeyes were without Braxton Miller against the California Golden Bears, but it was simply a matter of no Miller, no problem. The Buckeyes were up 14-0 after their first four offensive plays and up 21-0 before the game was even six minutes old. After that, it was all about offense on both sides. The Buckeyes were able to produce on offense so well in this game and put up such a lead that their defense basically got to take the final 54 minutes of game time off.

The Nebraska Cornhuskers haven’t had a lot of positive news regarding their football program recently, but they did provide a moment that not only offered perspective, but showed how competition will always be second to simple humanity.

UCLA Bruins wide receiver Nick Pasquale died in a car accident six days before the Bruins ventured to Lincoln, Nebraska to play the Cornhuskers. And while a member of the media didn’t show any respect when he answered his cell-phone during Bruins head coach Jim L. Mora‘s press conference regarding Pasquale’s death, the Cornhuskers and their fans showed tremendous respect with a pregame ceremony that saw blue and yellow balloons released in a take on the Cornhuskers’ own tradition of releasing balloons after their first score during a home game. Along with that, multiple #36 (Pasquale’s number) banners, signs, etc. were made by Cornhuskers fans in a show of solidarity to a university and a team reeling from a tragedy. It was a very thoughtful thing to do, but also another example of how football and sports in general act as an anesthetic.

It’s amazing sometimes how much a team or teams can be worn out by a game. The Michigan Wolverines and Notre Dame Fighting Irish both seemed to still be drained from their game against each other two weekends ago when they took the field this past weekend.

The Fighting Irish at least had the excuse of being on the road for the second straight week. Still, they were going up against a Purdue Boilermakers team that has no prospects for this season other than to make it to a bowl game, any bowl game. Yet for the second straight year, the Fighting Irish needed a big fourth quarter to get by a team they are clearly better than and should have beaten without the need for fourth quarter heroics. This year it was a 21-point final quarter that brought the Fighting Irish back.

The Wolverines needed even more last-minute heroics to escape the jaws of defeat against an even worse team, the Akron Zips. It was four turnovers by the offense and poor defensive play from the Wolverines that created a situation where they were fending off the Zips in the game’s final moments. Only a good pass rush on 4th & goal inside the Wolverines’ five yard line forced the Zips into an incomplete pass that preserved a 28-24 win, probably one of the more embarrassing wins in Wolverines’ history when you consider that the Zips haven’t won a road game in five years. But on the plus side, Brady Hoke is still undefeated in The Big House as Wolverines head coach.

The funniest thing to happen to me last Saturday was receiving a phone call from my friend, Dylan. He had just woken up in the afternoon (he’s a third-shift worker), turned on his T.V., and saw the Oregon Ducks laying waist to the Tennessee Volunteers. He immediately called me and asked a simple question: is Tennessee really that bad? My answer, one that I stick by, was “Yeah, but Oregon is that good too.” I’m not saying that there aren’t complicated elements within the game of football, but sometimes it’s just that simple. So far this year with the Ducks, and their opponents, it is that simple.

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Phil Clark

Born in Muskego, Wisconsin, Phil attended UWM and graduated with a bachelor's degree in Creative Writing. A fan of football his entire life, he began writing about football for Inside Pulse in 2007. Since then, he has written for several different sites while writing about football, mixed martial arts, boxing, basketball, and pro wrestling.

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