While most people look forward to tonight’s BCS championship contest, it’s easy to overlook some of the other post-season college bowls that have played out in recent weeks. For those who quickly grow weary of football played at the highest level, these lesser games offered something else: mediocre teams playing in contrived contests featuring players and coaches of questionable integrity.
One such match-up was staged this past weekend in Mobile, Ala. The storied BBVA Compass Bowl Game, with a long and distinguished history going back to last summer when it was first thought up, showcased the marginally successful Pitt Panthers (7 wins, 5 losses) versus the thoroughly average Kentucky Wildcats (6 wins, 6 losses).
Beyond the long-simmering rivalry between Pennsylvania and Kentucky over who has the best coal, there was another story line. Which side has the most suspected criminals? Fans of the blue-and-gold from Pitt would point to their recently fired coach, Mike Haywood, arrested on New Year’s Eve on domestic violence charges. Followers of the UK program could claim their team is equally sordid, arguing that the Dec. 10 arrest of starting quarterback Mike Hartline on charges of disorderly conduct and public intoxication was every bit as seedy as Haywood’s alleged sins.
Eager to see how both squads would respond to such challenges (and since I couldn’t work in the yard because it was raining), I tuned in to the ESPN broadcast at noon Saturday. Not only that, I live-blogged the back-and-forth action that continued right up to the final gun, when it was determined that Kentucky sucked 2.7 times more than Pitt.
For those of you who had something better to do on Saturday and missed it, I’m compiling the highlights here in today’s post. I hope you are able to pick up some sense of the pageantry and excitement that was the BBVA Compass Bowl Game.
15:00 — Kentucky kicks off to Pitt.
14:46 — Pitt cheerleaders begin the game-long chant “Let’s go Pitt!” Where it is they want the team to “go” is not specified. Players assume they’re being encouraged to continue hurtling through the cosmos on this fragile blue orb we call Earth.
14:30 — Pitt gains one yard on an off-tackle run.
12:20 — The growl of a big cat resounds from the public address system throughout the stadium. Whether it’s designed to strike fear into the Pitt Panthers or the Kentucky Wildcats is unclear, but neither team is noticeably frightened.
10:03 — Kentucky coach is named Joker Phillips. This will provide at least a small measure of amusement each time it is mentioned during the game.
9:17 — First three possessions result in turnovers. Sloppy play by both offenses continues throughout the first half and is characterized as a “defensive struggle” by game announcers, though it’s much more likely that both teams simply stink.
6:52 — Fan holds up sign for TV camera reading “SEC Stomps Pitt & OregoN“. ESPN appreciates the shout-out and broadcasts it nationally.
3:46 — At the end of a 6-yard draw play for Pitt, a player is apparently decapitated. Upon further review, it is determined that his helmet simply came off.
1:12 — Former Pitt coach is called a “real Pitt man” and, moments later, a “true Pittsburgher.” There must be a subtle difference, since sportscasters are known to never repeat themselves.
15:00 — It will only take me 15 minutes to find out if I can save 15% or more on my car insurance.
13:34 — I go to the bathroom for no more than six or seven minutes (think I got a bad omelet for breakfast) and when I return, the score has changed from 3-0 into a 3-3 tie. Fortunately, I’m recording the action on my DVR and can back up to see what I missed. (A guy kicked a football through the goalposts).
5:57 — A Kentucky receiver goes offsides, a penalty flag is thrown and the play is blown dead. On-rushing Pitt defensive lineman tackles Kentucky quarterback anyway, just for fun. A fight ensues as additional penalty flags fill the air. This is about the most action we’ll see in the first half.
2:22 — I’m told I can watch Sunday night’s Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (Nevada vs. Boston College) on my smartphone. The promo displays some of Kraft’s most iconic brands, including Oreos, Miracle Whip, Ritz crackers, Maxwell House coffee, Kraft mayonnaise, and Kool-Aid. If those are the foods they plan to fight hunger with, I’m not sure the effort will succeed. But it’s a nice thought.
Halftime score: Pitt 13, Kentucky 3.
ESPN’s “Sports Science” segment looks at the physics that make Auburn quarterback Cam Newton such a great player. The fact that he’s 6-foot-6, weighs 250 pounds and can run explains at least part of his success.
Remainder of halftime report is taken up with talk about the BCS Championship game scheduled for Monday night. Little mention is made of the current game, despite the fact that both schools have marching bands striding up and down the field. Might’ve appreciated at least a brief analysis of why that football kicked through the goalposts at xxx resulted in three points.
Brief interview with Kentucky coach Joker Phillips (“hee-hee”) reveals his second-half strategy. “There’s no question that we need to take the fight to Pitt,” he observes.
14:16 — Fan holds up sign for TV camera reading “KEntucky WinS Over Pitt — It’s iN the Cards”. Again, ESPN is appreciative.
13:02 — College-age men wearing football costumes continue their play, occasionally falling down as they do.
8:55 — I can’t find the remote! It was lying across my prone torso only moments before, and now it’s gone. I wanted to check the score of the Austin Peay vs. Murray State basketball game, now playing on ESPNU.
8:35 — Oh, there it is. It slipped down behind the couch cushion.
3:56 — Officials call for a booth review of a disputed play on the field. The head referee thinks that one cheerleader for Kentucky isn’t wearing any underwear, while the linesman thinks she is. After five minutes of examining the videotape replay, they rule that she was wearing underwear but that it was flesh-colored.
13:58 — Fan holds up sign for TV camera reading “I’m wEaring a rainbow wig and have my cheSt and face Painted with bright, toxic colors. Will this be eNough for someone to notice me?” This time, ESPN recognizes the plea as a desperate cry for help and contacts the proper authorities.
8:22 — Trailing 27-10, Kentucky tries a field goal that will get them within 14 points. It’s, like, a million miles wide right.
6:57 — A blocked punt that set up a second-quarter Pitt touchdown is named the “H&R Block Never Settle Play of the Game”.
3:39 — A crawl across the bottom of the screen announces that the trophy ceremony following the game will be shown on ESPN3, rather than on plain ESPN. I don’t get ESPN3. I do get it as part of my cable package, but I don’t get why it exists.
1:07 — With the game’s outcome determined, Pitt’s acting head coach is doused by his players in a shower of ice water. The water is filling in for Gatorade, which is serving an academic suspension.
Final score: Pitt 27, Kentucky 10.