The Stanford Axe “Theft” of 1978

The Stanford Axe, symbol of the rivalry between Cal and Stanford, has gone to the Big Game victor since 1933. Since then, it’s also been stolen a few times by each university, with the last ‘real’ theft by Stanford at Ming’s Restaurant in Palo Alto in 1973. But in 1978, there was a different kind of “theft.” During halftime of a men’s basketball game between Cal and Stanford at Maples Pavilion, two Cal students ran across the court, holding the Axe, and showing it to both sides of the arena before running off the court, and disappearing.

I was one of those students.

It wasn’t a real theft. The Axe that we carried was actually a fake – but an unbelievably good one. The story started with Stanford’s convincing victory in the 1977 Big Game, by a score of 21-3. I was a freshman in the Cal Band, and the week before had been a full one: late nights spent guarding our practice field, playing at luncheons, riding a San Francisco Cable Car (and having to somehow position the rather large bell of my tuba out the rear window of the cable car, without falling out myself!), and managing to fit in a couple Calculus problem sets during the wee hours. It was wild, dizzying, and almost overwhelming. And then we marched up to my first Big Game Bonfire Rally in the Greek Theater. I loved every bit of it.

After the Rally, the Band split into four bands, boarded buses, and played at various alumni reunions throughout Berkeley, San Francisco, and Oakland. Old people clapped and cheered, and bought drinks for us. This I liked! The next morning came early, though, and we boarded buses once again to make the trek to Stanford. Just three hours of rehearsal at Palo Alto High School, followed by a short march to the old Stanford Stadium, an intense, lung-burning PreGame show, and then… the game.

What a letdown. I watched helplessly in the fourth quarter as Cal’s offense seemed unable to do anything. Guy Benjamin, the Stanford QB, had great success at throwing flare passes to freshman Darrin Nelson, and he was nearly impossible to stop. At that moment, every bit of lost sleep from the week caught up with me. All that cheering, playing, guarding, singing, and dancing seemed a wasted effort, and a feeling of hopeless exhaustion came over me.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.

The story of how the Fake Axe plot was conceived, planned, and executed is already well documented by Jamie Rawson (’77). His account of the entire Fake Axe saga (which is in iGoBears, under the title “The 1978 Axe Caper: The Official Story”) is still the best reference available. Besides, for the hatching of the plot, and the building of the Fake Axe, I was completely out of the loop. Everything was on a “need to know” basis, and at that point, I didn’t need to know.

The plot revolved around fellow Bass player Jay Huxman, who had the idea to make a Fake Axe, and then made one; and Jamie, who expertly painted the the plaque to give the appearance of the brass plates that show the scores for all Big Games past.

I was only involved in the last 1% of the plan. But it was definitely the most exciting 1%!

I don’t remember when I first saw the Fake Axe, but I remember feeling amazed and astonished. I’d seen the Real Axe before, and honestly, I couldn’t tell that it was a fake until I got within about five feet of it. Jay and Jamie couldn’t have done a more thorough job. It was brilliant!

I remember meeting the Cal Band bus at Maples Pavilion before the game on January 28th, 1978. Jay and Kip Parent came up to talk with me, and they asked me if I would be interested in running the Fake Axe across the basketball court along with Jay. “Sure,” I said. I was pretty agreeable at the time, and I thought it might be cool. I was in with both feet. And I was definitely too young and naïve to have any thoughts of self-preservation.

We took a walk around the Pavilion, and saw the paved path that led to a gate; an ambulance was parked there, and it seemed natural that the gate (a 9-ft tall section of chain link fence) should be open. We went over the basic plan and the escape route, and everything seemed pretty straightforward. The getaway car, driven by John Gezelius, would be just outside the gate. We were all set.

We did our normal playing with the Cal Band at the basketball game. Then, with a few minutes to go in the first half, we removed our white dress shirts, straw hats, and vests – anything that would identify us as members of the Cal Band. We didn’t want to do anything that might reflect poorly on the Band. I put on the Cal sweatshirt that was brought for me, and during halftime, Jay and I crouched down at the edge of the floor, with the Fake Axe still inside a thin cardboard box, and watched the pee-wee basketball game that occupied the first part of halftime. It was during this time that Eric eased over and whispered to us, “the gate is locked.” Whoa.

We waited nervously for our signal; when the little ones cleared the court, and precisely ten seconds after the Stanford Band started playing its first song, we would make our run. Appropriately, the trumpets started the familiar William Tell Overture…. and we were off!

Holding one side of the Axe, and Jay holding the other, we ran from the end line to the top of the key, holding the Axe horizontal, with the blade down. Then we held it up to show the Stanford Alumni section for a second – still running – and then turned it around toward the Stanford Band and Student Section.

By then, we were a few meters from the other end of the court. Jay tucked the Axe under his arm, we sprinted through a human tunnel of our “blockers,” who were willing to get in the way of, slow down, and for some, get run over by our pursuers. The human tunnel closed after us – and that probably saved my life.

We ran up the tunnel toward the exit – a glass and steel double-door. There weren’t many people at all, except for a Stanford policeman. He seemed surprised to see us, as we were to see him, but we sped past him and got out the door. He wasn’t going to outrun us, and in 1977, we were pretty sure he wouldn’t shoot us.

We were outside! I remember easing up to about half-speed, and I thought, “No one is going to be chasing us…” Jay was still running full speed, and he and the Axe were about 10 yards ahead of me. It was strangely quiet.

And then, I heard a sound. It was somewhat familiar… Yes! The sound of someone hitting the bar of a steel double-door, but really hard – and not just one person, but maybe… a lot!!

By now, the Stanford frat guys from the Student Section were in full chase, and I heard numerous threats to my physical well-being. I was now in a full sprint (and then some!). The run seemed like it was about a hundred yards, and it went pretty quickly. But I could hear footsteps… Jay, still ahead of me, slid the Axe under the locked gate to one of the guys on the other side. As Jay started to climb the gate, I hit the gate at a full sprint — Jump, Pull, Over. (To be honest, I’ve always been kind of a wimp about climbing fences & all that, but with adrenaline and threats of dismemberment, the climb seemed fast and easy!)

As I was going over the gate, facing Jay, I looked down – and the first Stanford guy had a hold of Jay’s ankle! Jay shook him off, got over the gate, and we dashed to the getaway car. We hadn’t practiced this part, though, and there was some hesitation ahead of me, and I’m not sure if I said it, or only thought it: “GET IN THE DAMN CAR!!”

As we started to drive through the parking lot, I could see literally hundreds of Cardinal-clad, hostile fanatics chasing us. We weren’t out of the woods yet. One guy pulled an 8-ft long barricade right in front of us! John managed to squeeze past it (with only a minor smearing of white paint on his car), and we were on our way through the parking lot.

I think we were doing about 80 mph down Palm Drive, and when we got into the first block of downtown Palo Alto, John made a hard right turn (with screeching wheels) onto High St. However, our speed had attracted the attention of another one of Stanford’s finest Campus Police, and she pulled us over on High St., with lights flashing.

She motioned for us to roll down the passenger window, and she asked John for his I.D.

Then I saw the reflection of many, many more red and blue flashing lights.

No fewer than three Palo Alto Police cars pulled up behind the Stanford Campus Police car. A burly sergeant, 50-ish, lowered his head into the car window and snapped, “You guys know anything about an Axe?”

Nobody responded, until Jamie replied, “Well… Should we tell him?”

I rolled my eyes, but I had to admit that I felt much safer in police custody than I would with the guys in red! Besides, I was still shaking uncontrollably, and this continued for nearly a full day afterward.

So we told the sergeant about the Fake Axe, and we got out of the car to show him, and he took a good, long, look at it. Then he reached on his belt for his radio, put it to his ear, and said, “If the real one’s gone, you guys are in deep sh-t.”

After a few beeps , squawks, and unintelligible bits of radio-speak, the sergeant got his radio confirmation that the Real Stanford Axe was, indeed, still locked in its highly-secure case in Tresidder Student Union. The sergeant immediately put the radio back on his belt, got in his car, and the three Palo Alto Police cars went away as quickly as they had arrived.

Our Stanford Campus officer, on the other hand, was intrigued, and she asked us what all this Axe stuff was about. So we told her the stories of 19th-century baseball games and ribbons and trans-Bay thefts, and she was fascinated by it all. And she said “Thanks, guys!”, and bid us a good night.

And I got back in the car, feeling very, very lucky to be not only alive, but intact! …and still shaking…

I was there

I feel lucky in that I’ve seen live three of the greatest plays in all of football.

First was the Immaculate Reception in 1972 when I was a teenager – and what a cast of characters – Snake Stabler, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris!  To this day, the play is just astonishing.

Second, was Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary to Gerard Phelan for Boston College against the Bernie Kosar led Miami Hurricanes in 1984.  The game had already been built up as a major showdown, and we had just moved to Boston so we were being supportive of the local boys.  Unbelievable.

And the only one that I saw in person, The Play.  On my wife’s birthday, November 20, 1982, with a Cal team going nowhere, and facing one of the greatest QB’s of the time, John Elway.  I had seen ‘furd wallop Cal the year before at the Farm 42 to 21 and so there was concern that this game could be worse.  This guy was in the running for the Heisman Trophy – but we had the whackiest coach in football.

But we all knew that anything could happen in The Big Game so a packed stadium was rocking when Cal held a slim 19-17 lead with about a minute left.  Then the play I most vividly remember is the 4th and forever ‘furd had around their 10 – you figure there is no friggin’ way they are going to get out of that hole.  After that it seemed ‘furd was running downhill toward the goal line and an inevitable winning field goal at the final gun.

And, as the saying goes, they left too much time on the clock – actually just 1 second would have sufficed.   What transpired you’ve all seen and heard a thousand times.   I was sitting in the Alumni section on the North side of the stadium around the 20 so not the greatest place to watch a play that occurred mainly from the 50 yard line south.  But as soon as the kick was fielded, you could see this Rugby thing developing – and more important is that we didn’t see any officials waving their arms or stopping play.  The ball was apparently still alive.   Somewhere.  I saw the band run on to the field, and, like the head referee for the game, I had also not noticed that Moen had made it into the end zone.  I had thought we were going to see some kind of field interference penalty call.  So when the points were put up on the board after all the confusion – the folks in our section were simply stunned.   We had gotten so used to seeing things go so terribly wrong late in games (reference: 1976 Big Game where Markey Crane fumbles the game away to ‘furd in the final minutes) that this was truly a miracle.

Cal Game Day Preview: The Big Game & Pac-1x

The Big Game in October.  Enough said.  At least its not on the Pac-1x channel.

OK, I’m going to quote something I said in my season preview:

Another great game – if Cal makes steady improvements, they could be peaking, freshmen could be delivering, and its a home game.

I think a two-game winning streak, including a win on the road qualifies.  Cal’s strength of schedule fell to #12 after the WaZombies but we’re still the highest ranked 4-loss team on Sagarin at #41 (‘furd is #18).  More importantly, while we’re not sparkling statistically, we’re doing better than ‘furd.  What I’m going to say is going to startle you.  Cal is better than ‘furd in the following statistical categories:

  • Total Yards per game (416.6 vs 366.2)
  • Passing Yards (221.6 vs. 212.7)
  • Rushing Yards (195.0 vs 153.5)
  • Points Scored (28.9 vs. 28.5) – yes, seriously
  • Quarterback Rating (134.4 vs. 119.1) – no, I’m not kidding
  • Road Wins (1 vs 0) – and both teams were robbed at TOSS-U and Our Lady of the Golden Football

So what’s happened to ‘furd?   Or more importantly, where did Cal find its MoJo?  Some teams go from adversity to success, and some go from success to adversity, and I think we’re witnessing that right now for both squads.   At roughly the half-way point in the season, where would you rather be?  I mean, ‘furd loses a game on a call by Pac-1x officials.  Sure, its a road game, but they brought our officials.  And they’ve failed to score an offensive TD on the road.  Whoa!  All this talk about greatness, and top-5 rankings, and BCS bowl, and ‘furd Football’s IPO has gone out the window.

With respect to Cal, we’ve made a nice recovery from the brink of a season going nowhere – and teams with nothing to lose can sometimes do surprising things.  The bottom line is that this was never a team without Sunday talent and it was perhaps just a matter of time before the ingredients jelled and a few players got well.  I think a lot of it has to do with attitude because we continue to have key players injured and to get hurt by penalties – only now we seem to say, OK, so its a little tougher, we can handle that.  And the second and third string players are buying in to a winning season.  And lost in the discussion is the fact that Tedford has once again loosened his grip on the play calling with QB Coach Marcus Arroyo taking a more active role.

So the key to success against the ‘nal is ball control.  I think it always has been.  Give Plunkett, Elway, or Luck the ball and 45 seconds and you’re going to lose (except in 1982).  If we continue to rotate the backs and give significant touches to Bigelow and Allen, ‘furd is just not going to be able to catch their breath.  The game will probably start tight and slow as usual – after Maynard’s opening INT’s the last two games, seriously would we have him throw a bomb on the opening series.  Let the kid get the feel for the game – run a bootleg, do some short passes, screens, maybe even an end around.  Can ‘furd contain the outside game?  I don’t know – I hear all this talk of size and speed, but are we talking Bigelow and Allen speed.  We’ve got an excellent chance with play calling to stretch the game out sideline-to-sideline and from line-of-scrimmage to goal-line.  No defense can cover that much real estate – and if they do for 3 quarters, there won’t be anything left in the tank in the 4th.

The Cupper called it 31-17 last week on the post-game show and its probably not a bad prediction, although on the 30th anniversary of the play, almost anything could happen.

As for the rest of the Pac-1x, a pretty boring weekend – the other big game being Thursday night between the Quacks and the Devs in Tempe.  This could be the preview of the Pac-1x championship game.  The key to the game is whether Taylor Kelly can play like Andrew Luck (or Tom Brady or Peyton Manning) against the Quacks.  If he can, then with a friendly home crowd allowing him to adjust to the Quacks erratic defense, he could pick them apart.  And I don’t see the Quacks coming up with a half-time solution other than trying to score their average 52 points to make it a 52 to 49 game.  The Devs mediocre running game will have to perform a little better (or block really well) or we could see 50 or 60 pass attempts by Kelly.  Line says Quacks by 8.  Kind of a litmus test game – if Quacks win in a blow-out, then book their tickets for the Big Sponsor Championship Bowl in Miami.  If the game is tight or (god forbid) the Quacks lose, then expect the electrical grid in the West to explode.

Otherwise, not much to look at – 5-1 plays 1-5, 5-0 plays 2-4, and 3-3 plays 3-3.  $C and Large Brown Rodents mail in their game ballots under new Pac-1x mercy policy. And kudos to Cody Vaz

And do I care who wins between 3-3 Dawgs & 3-3 ‘cats?  I suppose seeing the Dawgs suffer in the desert prior to hosting the Giant Water Rats in Bad Cable TV Stadium – we could see the Dawgs limp into CMS for the Friday night game with a 3-5 record.

 

Cal Game Day Review

Well, that was the most tense sort-of-blowout that we’ve had in years.  It had the flavor of the old Cal, you know the one that you couldn’t be sure had won the game until 0:00 showed up on the scoreboard (particularly back in the bad old days).  By the numbers, a great game.  An actual honest-to-god rotation of the backs leads to over 300 yards rushing and just a bit of confusion in the WaZombie defense.   We can only hope that they maintain the rotation and don’t go back to Isi into the middle of the line for a 2-yard loss on 20 carries.  And the fact that Maynard avoids a sack for the first time this year – and against a team with more than a few sacks on the season.  Mike Leach’s motivational speech on zombies and empty corpses didn’t have much effect on the game – the WaZombies are circling the drain in the Pac-1x and are unlikely to see another W this year.  Definitely an effort that the Cal team could be proud of and could also learn a lot from game film on things that went right and wrong.  The other thing I liked was the fact that the play calling was somewhat restrained – leaving a lot in the book to drop on unsuspecting ‘furd next week.

Cal Game Day Preview: WaZombies & Pac-1x

This was the game that ESPN’s Miller said we were going to lose in both the Best Case and Worst Case scenarios for the season.  Now its looking like a lock because of the meltdown of Wa into a Zoo.  I guess these coaches have made so much money that they figure they can go around saying any old damn thing – but I have to admit this was about as crazy as anything I’ve ever heard in almost 50 years of watching sports.

“Some of (the seniors) have been great, and some of them have been very poor,” Leach said Monday. “Some of them have had kind of this zombielike, go through the motions, everything is like how it’s always been, that’s how it’ll always be.

“Some of them quite honestly have an empty-corpse quality. That’s not pleasant to say or pleasant to think about, but that’s a fact.”

So we not only have to go to Pullman, but we have to play flesh-eating, empty-corpse, zombies???  Wow!  Now I understand why there is a Pac-1x network – these things are really not appropriate for children to watch (or anyone for that matter).  So as the Bears try to crawl out of the deep hole they’ve dug themselves, I think it is appropriate that we have to face WaZombies.

But if we put the season so far in context, Sagarin has us with the #2 toughest schedule in D1 with the Dawgs as the #1 schedule.  And we get a merciful #46 ranking because of it (the highest ranked 4-loss team in Sagarin).

As for Wazoo, a repeat of the performance against fUCLA will certainly do the trick.  I love the fact that the WaZombies are hoping for bad weather.  OK, we know that Pullman is bad, but praying for snow in early October is a real stretch.  And a noisy stadium?

The ‘gars are a real train wreck – a couple of demotivated seniors leading some talent in the most complex offense ever devised.  While Leach had our number in that memorable Holiday Bowl (I was there), our team was really demotivated in that game.  The Bears have a lot to prove and this is the stage to put the team in 2nd gear en route to The Big Game.

We’re going to be in nickel and dime for most of the game so maybe Mr. Jackson can collect a few more INTs for his collection as WaZoo’s QB tandem has been generous in that category.  And this is a game where rotating the backs (perhaps a different one in each series) may really pay off – their different running styles should completely befuddle a porous defense that is giving up over 450 yards per game.

So we’re rightly a touchdown favorite in this one, expect it not to be that close, even if it snows.

As for the rest of the Pac-1x, the Devs crushed the Bufs which is setting up one hell of a game next Thursday night in Tempe.  Ambush doesn’t quite describe what that atmosphere will be like – perhaps the OK Corral.

‘furd travels to Our Lady of the Golden Football for what may turn out to be an ol’ fashion’ ass kickin’ if the Irish are for real this year.  The ‘nal have been struggling with all sorts of things this year, passing game, defense, IPOs, and this is not the game to fix those things.  Expect a beaten and bruised team bus to crawl up Uni.  The Lady by 14.

$C at $C Norris – oh this is a wonderful time of year – nothing like grass hockey when you don’t have the NHL to watch.  Expect more than a few fights to break out – the emotions are going to be pretty high in this one.  The rain may cool tempers a bit.  Its my unsurprising upset pick of the week.  Dawgs by 1.

The Large Brown Rodents face the Romney Extended Family in Provo and to show how tough they are, they’re leaving their starting QB at home.  OK, so he got injured but still this is the ultimate test for Riley to coach a new quarterback thru a road game in the rain against a pretty good squad coached by Bronco Mendenhall who almost beat Cal in the whatever-the-heck-it-was Las Vegas Bowl a few years ago.  Against another team and coach, I’d expect Riley and the Rats to win, but Bronco is going to throw everything at Cody Vaz (really?) and I don’t expect it will be a pretty game in the rain.  And while it is Pumpkin Festival weekend here in Half Moon Bay, I don’t think the Great Pumpkin is going to be smiling down on the Rodents – the Chosen by 7.

Ooots travel to the Rose Bowl to face the LA field station.  After almost pulling an upset last week, expect ‘tah to keep it close and maybe take the game in another stunner.

 

Cal Game Day Review: Homecoming

So this year homecoming was on my birthday and you have to admit that beat-down of fUCLA was the best birthday present, especially since my brother is also a fUCLA alum.   Anyway, there was a bit of rope-a-dope to the win since no one watching game film of the 2012 Bears could have expected what materialized on the field in all aspects of the game (except for the missed extra points).   The team is still rough around the edges – penalties were still a problem – although we’re only #2 in the Pac-1x behind the Large Brown Rodents (no surprise there).  Lots of things came together, Rodgers at tight end, Maynard actually thinking before throwing, and an appearance by the Howard Hughes of Cal Football, Bigelow.  The huge card stunt was a big hit, but the best was seeing an empty fUCLA section half way thru the 4th quarter.  And the re-dedication of the stadium was done with class and honor.

The 1978 Axe Caper: The Official Story

Excerpted from The Pride of California: A Cal Band Centennial Celebration

The tale of the fake Stanford Axe begins the day after Big Game 1977, at the Freshman/Senior Barbecue. Jay Huxman (’76) and Jamie Rawson (’77) were lamenting the loss of the Axe at the game (Stanford trounced Cal, 21-3) and wondering what they could do to get even. They hatched a plan so clever that sports fans on both sides of the Bay still talk about it.

Huxman, an excellent wood carver, got the idea to make a fake Axe, take it down to Stanford for the basketball game with Cal and then run it across the court and outrage everybody in Maples Pavilion.

Jay carefully carved a plaque and an Axe out of wood. He garnered the dimensions by taking calipers to an old photo of James Berdahl holding the Axe. Jay stained the backing mahogany and painted the Axe silver and red to match the original. The difficult part, he figured, was to recreate a realistic plaque; the original was bronze with the winners and scores inscribed. For this job he enlisted Jamie Rawson. Jamie did such a fine job painting it in the trompe l’oeil style that one had to touch it to believe that it did not have raised letters. Jay and Jamie hid the Axe in their room at TH and told no one about it except their roommates Chris “Iceman” Mosher (’75) and Eric Abrahamson (’77).

Jay and Jamie checked out Stanford’s Maples Pavilion to assess the security and select a get-away route. The get- away car would be driven by Jay’s friend John Gezelius (’78) because his car was similar to those of the Palo Alto Police. Knowing there would be quite a surge to get the Axe back, they decided that Dan Blick (’77) would help Jay run the Axe across the basketball court at half-time because they were both tall and notably fast.

Before the basketball game, the trio smuggled the fake Axe, hidden in a xylophone case, into Maples Pavilion. Just before halftime, the rest of the Straw Hat Band was informed that something big was going to happen, and they needed people to be ready to create confusion and disturbances to block for them. About half the Band shed their Straw Hat Band clothes so that they would blend into the crowd. Interrupting a pee-wee basketball game at the half, they bolted across the court with the Axe, flaunting it to the Stanford section. This caused quite a commotion among the students. One Stanford student decided to make a valiant leap from the stands but landed on a Stanford police officer.

Dan and Jay ran up the steps, passing another police officer. After they passed him, the officer saw the crowd running up after them and-knowing something was wrong-he blocked the doorway saying, “No one is getting out of here. What’s going on?”

The angry mob was slowed enough so that Dan and Jay could vault the fence and get to the car. By this time the mob, which now included Stanford football players and most of the Delta Tau Chi fraternity, had done an end run around the fence, picked up a parking lot barricade, and put it right in front of the car. Gezilius made an immediate U-turn, drove over several curbs, and raced out of the parking lot ahead of the crowd.

The next morning the newspapers proclaimed that a band of Cal desperadoes swiped the Stanford Axe but were apprehended by the Palo Alto Police. Jay wrote a letter to the Daily Californian telling exactly what had happened, and Stanford’s band sent a case of champagne to the Cal Band.

The Axe Channel

For the Big Game edition of iGoBears, we’re adding The Axe Channel – this is one channel you can get if you have DirecTV!

So we’ll be adding stories and pictures to this channel during the build-up to The Big Game – stay tuned!

Wine Serving Temperatures

Happy Game Day Bears! So today’s game is a night game. Does that mean it’s time to bring out the red wines? I hope so!

Whether you drink white wine or red wine before and after (and during) tonight’s game, it’s helpful to know what temperature to serve the wines. We Americans tend to serve our white wines a little too cold and our red wines a little too warm.

I came across this chart from Scott Harvey Wines that I’m planning to keep close at hand for all my tailgate festivities. I hope you find it helpful.

Cheers and GO BEARS!

Wine Serving Temperature Recommendations – Scott Harvey Wines

 

Cal vs. fUCLA – “Comprehensive” Analysis

Today’s analysis is “comprehensive” because it includes so many factors — like

  • Wow! It really is a gorgeous day, even on our normally fog-shrouded coast!
  • Hmmm… the garage sure could use a little organizing and straightening out…

Yes, when the Bears are 1-4, the sheer excitement of going to watch Cal pound UCLA into submission subsides, and a variety of real-life concerns re-emerge in importance, one by one.  Do I still love and support my beloved University?  Absolutely!  But coming to grips with the frustration and disappointment with the season thus far is a multi-stage process, and just like Tailgating, everyone has their own way of doing it.

Speaking of which, it’s time to do a special shout out to The Roman, my partner in crime and the Chief Developer of all these great — and Award-Winning — apps:

H a p p y   B i r t h d a y ! !

Enjoy those Fog-Cutters!!!

On to the game…

When sportswriters across the nation are talking about Coach Tedford (JT) being “on the bubble,” it’s obvious that there’s trouble.  We’ll see if JT and the offense are able/willing to make the adjustments that teams make when the OL can’t keep the defense out of Zach Maynard’s face.

And then there’s Brendan Bigelow.  He’s got the blazing speed and moves that give defensive coordinators night sweats.  Most of us-who-think-we-know-better-than-the-coaches are thinking, “Hey, this guy lit up Ohio State for two TD runs, and he’s a threat every time he touches the ball.  Why the —- is he on the sidelines??”  He doesn’t know the playbook?  Seriously??  Maybe they’re on a schedule to bring his twice-injured knees back to health slowly, but if that’s not it, I have no idea why he isn’t getting 20-30 snaps.

Maybe he hasn’t developed as a blocker in JT’s favored “max protect” scheme, where only two receivers go out to be double-covered, and everyone else stays in to block the remaining 7 salivating defenders.  Without a doubt, UCLA’s defense has seen films of the Ohio State game (on ESPN, if not in their film sessions), and whenever #5 is in the game, he’s going to take two UCLA defenders with him wherever he goes!  Just send him out for a swing pass — if he’s open, hit him (hmmm… that’s not a given….), and if not, he’s taken two defenders out of Zach’s face.

No one on defense wants to over-pursue when a speedster like Bigelow is in the game, mostly because these guys want to be known for their hits and tackles — and NOT for being the guy who whiffed on #5 when he had him at the line of scrimmage.  The derision from fellow defenders for a Conspicuous Fail is bad enough, but what young college kid wants a call from Uncle Charlie in Poughkeepsie saying, “That was you, wasn’t it?  Number 43??  Hey, I saw you on SportsCenter!  Boy, that Bigelow guy sure is fast!”  Trust me — defenses treat a guy like that differently, and it opens a whole set of opportunities for the offense that they wouldn’t have otherwise.

So, look for Zach to roll out, or pooch kick, or do something to reduce the Nation’s Highest Sack Total, and look for Bigs to get 15 or more snaps.  There may be hope for the season yet.

If not, I’ll just straighten up the garage…

Go Bears!  (*please!*)

— Dan