Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Hangover: Bye Week

A few teams I wanted to win yesterday didn't. 

I wanted Arkansas to beat Texas A&M. They couldn't put the Aggies away when they had the opportunity in the fourth quarter and eventually lost in overtime. 

A similar story line played out in Columbia, South Carolina. After playing the Tigers tough for three quarters, the Gamecocks played crappy defenses against Mizzou and lost. 

NC State lead for much of the game against Florida State, and then the Seminoles took over. 

From what I can tell from reports on the U of Memphis-Ole Miss game, it sounds like the Rebel defense played quite well, but their offense got into trouble with self-imposed mistakes. 

I expect Ole Miss will give Alabama everything it has this Saturday. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Music Friday: "Troubled Man"

As the artist has admitted in interviews over the years, it's never been cool or hip to like John Mellencamp. 

I guess I'm not hip then. 

Mellencamp's new album, Plain Spoken, came out this week. 

If you're not cool, watch this video of the opening song of the new album. Kudos to all of the troubled men out there in the world. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Hangover: Florida

This game would have been a shutout if the Tide didn't commit stupid turnovers. The longest drive Florida had yesterday was for 31 yards. 

I got what I wanted: Blake Sims throwing the ball down the field. And he did a great job. 

He had two really bad snafus though. 

In other news, Amari Cooper has put himself in the Heisman conversation. 

Yesterday afternoon he amassed 201 yards on 10 receptions and 3 touchdowns. One of the big mini-battles within the game was Cooper against Hargreaves, who could be the best cornerback in college football. Coach Kiffin strategically moved around Cooper during the game, but for the most part, Cooper won most of the battles against Hargreaves. 

Given a short field in the first half, the Tide defense played well. 

Tony Brown, a true freshman, started at corner and looked quite good. They brought him off the edge at least a couple of times on corner blitzes. 

On the D-line, Jarran Reed's name was called out often by the announcers. The D held Florida to 107 net yards rushing. 

Yeldon had sort of an off game, but I was surprised when Yeldon worked out of the wildcat. Those plays brought back memories from Ingram's stellar performance against South Carolina in '09.  

Through the first part of the game, one of my refrains was, "Where's Henry?" We got a steady dose of 27 in the second half though. Overall, he gained 112 yards on 20 carries. As much as I really like Yeldon, Henry is a beast that they don't use enough. 

For some gaudy stats, check out Blake Sims: 23 completions on 33 attempts, 445 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception. 

I would imagine that in the bye week two matters will be emphasized: ensuring ball security and avoiding stupid penalties. Those two matters kept Florida in the game when they shouldn't have been. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Music Friday: "Born in the U.S.A." & "Downbound Train"

This week Dead Man's Town came out. It's a tribute album to Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. 

There are all kinds of solid covers on the album ~ particularly the Quaker City Nighthawk's "Darlington County," Blitzen Trapper's "Working on the Highway," Low's "I'm on Fire," and Trampled by Turtles' "I'm Going Down ~ but my favorites so far are the ones below: Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires' "Born in the U.S.A." and Joe Pug's "Downbound Train." 

Enjoy the covers and have a good weekend, folks. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Stay Positive: Meetings

The video below is emblematic of a number of meetings I've attended this month. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Hangover: Southern Mississippi

If I remember right, the last time Alabama played Southern Miss, Tyrone Prothro made his improbable catch.

That game was back when the Golden Eagles were a consistently good football team. The past few years, they haven't been.

As is typical these days, Southern Miss now runs a typical hunh offense. 

For the most part, Alabama handled them. The Golden Eagles had some decent drives, but the Crimson Tide didn't give up any touchdowns. The first quarter got off to a rocky start with the USM QB connecting on some longer passes that defensive backs were in position but got beat on the play, unfortunately. 

The defensive line played a good game and pressured the quarterback, especially in the middle and later parts of the game. Trey DePriest, Jonathan Allen, Xzavier Dickson, and others had strong performances. 

Blake Sims has started the first three games, and I'm sure he'll start against Florida next week. He commanded the offense effectively, made some plays with his feet, and connected on some solid passes. He went 12 for 17 for 168 yards, had 2 touchdowns passing, and ran a touchdown in. 

Once again, Amari Cooper was his main target as Coop hauled in 135 yards on 8 catches. 

There weren't any 100-yard runners for this game. The Tide gained 333 net yards in the rushing game but spread the yards to five different backs. Tyren Jones, who looks to be fourth on the depth chart, was impressive in mop-up duty with the second-team offensive line. 

Next week begins SEC play for the Crimson Tide as the Florida Gators visit T-Town. Florida narrowly escaped losing to Kentucky last night, so it's difficult to evaluate whether Kentucky is vastly improved and/or the Gators aren't as good as people think they are. 

I know Alabama will face a much stronger defense than they have faced the first three games. I expect them to stack the box to stop the run and challenge Sims to beat them. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Music Friday: "Elvis Went to Hollywood," "John Appleseed's Lament," & "Raining in Baltimore"

This week I stumbled upon the fact that the Counting Crows have a new album, Somewhere Under Wonderland. It came out this month. 

I snapped it up. It's a pretty darn good if you like the Counting Crows, which I always have. 

August and Everything After is one of those albums that brings me back to a certain time and place in my life. I heard "Mr. Jones" played a lot at my fraternity house. I might have even danced to it while cavorting with women and buzzed by Schlitz, which is a key to getting me to dance. 

The final song is from the their first major release. I remember my friend and brother Roy telling me that "Raining in Baltimore" was his favorite song on that album. When that song played at his funeral, I broke down crying. I miss that ginger-haired, music-trivia-knowin', goofy-ass, argumentative, loquacious bastard. 

And I say "bastard" with love. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday Hangover: Florida Atlantic

This game turned out to be about what most people expected except for it being stopped with a little under eight minutes in the fourth quarter because of a storm and lightning in the area. 

The on-the-field lightning yesterday was another stellar game from Amari Cooper. He tied the single-game reception record for Alabama with 13. Cooper amassed a career-high 189 yards in the game. 

If he stays healthy, he could be as good if not possibly better than Julio Jones. But no one will ever be better than Don Hutson

The Tide defense welcomed back two key players: Trey DePriest and Eddie Jackson. DePriest is key because he makes all the calls for the front seven, and Jackson is probably Alabama's best corner right now. 

The offense gained 620 yards with 416 yards coming from the passing game. 

Jacob Coker got his chance to "show out," as they say in the South, but Blake Sims looked more confident, threw the ball with more velocity on the short passes, and overall commanded the offense quite well except for a major screw up on the goal line. 

Here are the QBs' respective stats from the game:
  • Blake Sims: 11 completions on 13 attempts, 214 yards, 2 TDs
  • Jacob Coker: 15 completions on 24 attempts, 202 yards, 1 TD
Those stats disguise reality though. Sims threw a bunch of short passes that then turned into long pass plays because both Cooper and Drake caught the ball and ran like hell for touchdowns of 52 and 39 yards.

Coker looks the part of the pro-style passer ~ tall, big body, big arm ~ but he missed some pretty basic reads, and some of short throws looked lethargic. 

I doubt Coker can do this though.

What I'm a little perplexed by is that Sims didn't have many pass plays called where he could attempt to stretch the defense with vertical throws. If Sims is going to be the starter, he has to be able to make the big throws against SEC defenses, and I can only recall a handful over the first two game that might approach the moniker of "deep balls."

He's going to have make longer passes sometime, so he might as well start doing so against Southern Miss next Saturday. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Music Friday: "Headin' Home"

As I related in my previous Music Friday post, my daughter is taking up the saxophone, so I've integrated some jazz CDs into my rotation for the car. 

When I dropped her off at school today, this song was playing from Joshua Redman's MoodSwing

I'm not usually a fan of jazz that uses an electric bass. I like the traditional stand-up bass, which some jazz musicians call a "dog house." 

But I dig this tune. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Bourbon Subterfuge

As I wrote about a while back, I've become a bit of bourbon dork/connoisseur, so I'm reading up on the history of the spirit and the current boom of America's spirit. 

Some bourbons and ryes out there craft interesting narratives for their products. Some of them are relatively true, but many of the stories behind the brands should be considered very creative non-fiction, and others stories are outright bullshit inventive marketing lies like the nonsense surrounding Templeton Rye

If you're interested in learning about some of those lies, check out Eric Felton's "Your 'Craft' Rye Whiskey Is Probably From a Factory Distillery in Indiana." 

In the article, you discover the shenanigans of Diageo and smaller producers. One of hyperlinks in the article via Sku's Recent Eats provides a comprehensive list of who is really producing what. 

It's good to see both Cedar Ridge in Swisher and Mississippi River Distilling Co. in Leclaire, Iowa are making their own stuff. I doubt the juice they make is as solid and consistent as many of the products from Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace, and Four Roses, but it's good to see smaller companies out there hustling to make bourbon on their own. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Hangover: West Virginia

As the Crimson Tide has done for almost every first game of the season during the Saban era, Alabama took on a "power conference" team at a neutral site. This season it was the Mountaineers of West Virginia. 

And as usual, Alabama's opponent gave the Tide its best shot. 

As is the trend these days, West Virginia employs a hurry-up-no-huddle (hunh) offense. I hate abhor dislike hunh offenses. 

One of the commentators noted during the game that Saban thought about using some of the concepts of the hunh offense with his new offensive coordinator, but he decided on hiring Lane Kiffin, who runs a pro-style offense that Saban runs. Thank the football gods for that. 

The buzz around the Tide regarding this game related to three questions:

  1. How will Blake Sims do at quarterback, and will Jacob Coker player?
  2. What will the offense look like under Kiffin?
  3. How will the defense do?

So I'll take on these questions one by one. 

Blake Sims did quite well as QB during this game. According to the Alabama media relations office, he had the most completions and attempts in a debut game for an Alabama quarterback. He went 24 of 33 passes for 250 yards for 72.7% completion percentage. He had two poor throws on the run during the game and had one interception. 

A few times in the first half he looked a little shaken, and the team had to take some unnecessary time outs. But he also made some key throws on third down to keep the chains moving. One characteristic I really like about him as a QB is that he's quick, shifty, and highly mobile, so if receivers are covered or the pocket breaks down, his ability to run is an added dimension to the offense. 

Coker played but it was way at the end when the game was at hand. He just handed the ball off.

The offense looked much the same. I was surprised that Kenyan Drake wasn't used much because during spring scrimmages he was often the leading receiver. I was anticipating him being used like USC used Reggie Bush under Kiffin back then. 

As I complain about almost every season, where were the throws to the tight end? Alabama has some talented tight ends, so why not use them? 

Overall though, stats don't lie with this game. The Crimson Tide rolled up these numbers on offense: 
  • 30 first downs (13 rushing, 14 passing, 3 on penalties)
  • 49 rushing attempts, 288 net rushing yards, 5.9 average per rush
  • 250 net yards passing, 10.4 average per completion
  • 538 total yards on offense
  • 4 for 4 on field goals from 47, 41, 27, and 45 yards

Strong performances besides Sims were both Yeldon (132 yards) and Henry (113 yards) with two 100-hundred-yard rushing games. 

Amari Cooper was Sims's security blanket, so he had a career game: 12 catches for 130 yards. 

So why are Tide fans complaining you might ask? 


Alabama had two new starters at the middle linebacker spots--Reuben Foster and Reggie Ragland--because Trey DePriest was out with some minor infraction, and DePriest was supposed to be the commander of the defense this year. For the most part they did fine, but fine isn't good enough. Foster, in particular, got exposed when he had to cover in zone defense. 

The receiver that gave Tide fans anger and frustration was West Virginia's no. 11, Kevin White, who had 9 catches for 143 yards. Many of those catches were against no. 3, Bradley Sylve, who was with him usually stride for stride but sometimes lost in how his body should be positioned to defend the ball. 

Then again, sometimes a quarterback makes a great throw and the receiver makes an outstanding catch. See below. 

In a bright spot at cornerback, Cyrus Jones had a good game, but I suspect Sylve's starting cornerback spot is in jeopardy unless he performs much better. Eddie Jackson (when healthy) and two true freshmen, Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey, will probably vie for that spot. 

A new starter on defense, J.K. Scott, had a good game with one solid punt and a outstanding punt for 62 yards. 

Sophomore Jonathan Allen had two tackles for loss and one sack, and there was some production from the Jack LB position with Xzavier Dickson with two tackles for loss and two sacks. 

Early on in the game, West Virginia had some success running the ball, but that issue got rectified, and the Mountaineers only had 28 net yards rushing for the game. Giving up 365 net yards of passing though does not sit well with Tide fans though. 

Not at all. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Music Friday: "In the Crease" & "Doctone"

In honor of my daughter wanting to be in band and also choosing the saxophone, I offer one of my favorite jazz musicians who is a sax player. 

He's one the artists that really got me into jazz. He's my gateway jazz artist along with his brother Wynton. The second video also features Joshua Redman. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Stay Positive: Flip Phones

Last week I went to my daughter's 5th grade orientation session. 

During the teacher's presentation, I noticed the dude next to me had a huge smart phone. It was a monster. Some of the smart phones nowadays are getting so big people might as well get one the size of an iPad and put it up to their faces when they talk on them, that is if anyone ever used a phone like the technological gods intended it: for calling people. 

As you might have guessed, I'm a proud owner of a flip phone, and I don't have any plans to change that fact. 

I do have some changes that should be implemented, however: 

  • Quit assuming I text. I don't. 
  • Look at me when I'm talking to you instead of staring at your goddamned phone.
  • Instead of playing on your phones, go exercise or watch nature or have a conversation or take a nap or daydream every once in a while.
  • Don't tell me that I need to get a smart phone. I don't need to do anything.
I get that they are fun devices. I really do. I have an iPad, so I understand the allure of apps and whatnot. I watched a TED talk through its app this afternoon, in fact. 

I just worry about hyperconnectivity. 

I just went on a tangent. My original intent of this post was to make fun of the increasing size of smart phones and put in some good words for flip phones, which are much smaller and don't take up a lot of room in your pocket. 

With so many people with smart phones nowadays, the joke/image below might not even make sense. 

And that's sad because the SNL "Jeffrey's Store" sketch is a funny one. 

Check it out by mashing ----->HERE

Music Friday: "Am I Wrong" & "Old Me Better"

The other day I picked the new album from Keb' Mo'. 

So today I'm offering one the best songs on his first album and a song from the new one, Bluesamericana.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Reminded of the Zow-Watts Debate

Unless you don't know much about recent Crimson Tide football history, the title of this post might make you think I'm about to discuss politics.

I'm not. This post is about college football. 

Alabama starts the season in a neutral-site opener against West Virginia on the 30th, and Coach Saban has not settled on a starting quarterback. In fact, the team might not have a definitive starter for the first few games, possibly figuring out the starter by the Florida game in Tuscaloosa. 

The QB battle is between senior Blake Sims and recently-transferred-from-FSU Jacob Coker. 

When I was at school at the Capstone, a debate among fans raged about who the starting quarterback should be. The candidates were these two guys.

Andrew Zow

Tyler Watts

As you can see, one guy is African American, and the other guy is white. 

As you would imagine, in the Deep South, I'm sure there were Lazy-Boy pundits who opined about who should start, sometimes using strange reasoning for support. 

The darkly humorous part of the Zow-Watts debate was that their skill sets went against the racist racially normalized predispositions people have when they talk about QBs. Zow was the slower, pocket passer with a heck of an arm. In contrast, Watts didn't have as great of an arm and was more of dual-threat QB.  

As the seasons played out, Zow was a QB, who when he got hot, was phenomenal. When he wasn't on, he was incoherent. Very streaky. From what I recall, Watts was a steadier QB but rarely reached spectacular levels. Eventually Zow was relegated to the bench after Mike Dubose met his deserved demise and Watts took over to direct Franchione's gimmicky partial-option offense.  

Let's check out their stats though. Let's get data-driven. Watts did not play in 1998, and Zow didn't play in 2002. 

Zow 1998: 11 games, 143 completions, 256 attempts, 55.9 completion%, 1969 yards, 7.7 yards ave., 11 TDs, 7 Ints, 129.2 QB rating

Zow: 11 games, 148 completions, 264 attempts, 56.1 completion%, 1799 yards, 6.8 yards ave., 12 TDs, 9 Ints, 129.5 QB rating
Watts: 9 games, 47 completions, 83 attempts, 56.6 completion%, 498 yards, 6.0 yards ave., 2 TDs, 5 Ints, 102.9 QB rating

Zow: 10 games, 120 completions, 249 attempts, 48.2 completion%, 1561 yards, 6.3 yards ave., 6 TDs, 14 Ints, 97.6 QB rating
Watts: 6 games, 31 completions, 51 attempts, 55.4 completion%, 303 yards, 5.4 yards ave., 1 TD, 1 Int, 103.1 QB Rating

Zow: 6 games, 48 completions, 83 attempts, 57.8 completion%, 654 yards, 7.9 yards ave., 6 TDs, 2 Ints, 143.1 QB Rating
Watts: 9 games, 94 completions, 172 attempts, 54.7 completion%, 1325 yards, 7.7 yards ave., 10 TDs, 3 Ints, 135.1 QB Rating

Watts 2002: 11 games, 112 completions, 181 attempts, 61.9 completion%, 1414 yards, 7.8 yards ave., 7 TDs, 4 Ints, 135.8 QB Rating

Because of the offense used during the Franchione regime, Watts had a ton of rushing yards gained: 564 yards in 2000 with 5 TDs and 356 yards in 2001 with 3 TDs.  

If you remember, 1999 was the year the Tide saved Dubose's job by winning an overtime thriller in "The Swamp" and then beat the Florida Gators again in the SEC Championship. 

2000 was easily one of the worst seasons of Alabama football history. If I remember right, the Tide won 3 games, and I have the privilege of seeing one of them when Alabama beat a mediocre South Carolina squad coached by blubbering Lou Holtz. 

Looking at all of this, both guys have pretty evenly matched careers with Watts possibly having a better career because the offense that was implemented in 2001 was more suited to his brand of athleticism. Yet when Zow did play, which might have been mop-up duty (I can't remember exactly), he did well, showing the highest QB rating of any of those years. 

Looking toward this season, we have another QB battle in Tuscaloosa. In contrast to the Zow-Watts (in)decision, we have these candidates.

Blake Sims

Jacob Coker

From the sound of it from fall camp so far, neither candidate has won the job. I expect Coach Saban to play both early on. 

Sims has turned himself into more of a passer by improving his throwing motion after working with a QB guru who has helped some players who are now in the NFL. Coker is prototypical pro-style quarterback with supposedly an NFL-quality arm. 

If I were a betting man, I don't know who I'd put my money on. But I'm pretty confident Saban will not rotate quarterbacks all season. Someone needs to lock down the job by the Florida game.