Super Bowl Recap
COLLEGE BASKETBALL ALERT
UTAH (10-13, 3-6 Mountain West Conference) at #7 SAN DIEGO STATE (23-1, 8-1 MWC) -- 10:30 p.m., MTN
Okay, so the College Hoops world is now starting to ask in earnest:
Where should the high-and-mighty San Diego State Aztecs be seeded come next month's NCAA Tournament? Steve Fisher's club -- fresh off last Saturday's 60-53 non-cover win against 21-point underdog TCU -- featured more gritty defense as San Diego State once again held an opponent to below 40 percent shooting (21-of-53 FGs) while F Billy White poured in a game-high 19 points but here the Aztecs look to keep the Utah Utes down as the Salt Lake City gang has dropped its last three in a row.
Oh, the answer on where San Diego State should be seeded? If the ‘Tecs run the table the rest of the way and finish at 33-1 prior to Selection Sunday, than look for ‘em to be no lower than a #2 seed and possibly even a #1 seed should there be some conference tournament upsets. Got it?
SUPER BOWL XLV --THE RE-CAP
Okay, so you've seen the Super Bowl XLV highlights so many times already that you're head in spinning -- so let's take a different approach here and dissect the Top Game-Changing Plays ... here goes:
#1 THE MENDENHALL FUMBLE -- The game had just entered the fourth quarter and the Packers were barely hanging on 21-17 and there were the Steelers on the march with a second-and-two on the Green Bay 33-yard line. Consider that all the momentum was on Pittsburgh's side and this particular play was your basic 'bonus play' -- why not throw the ball here and put more stress on the Green Bay defense and, if QB Roethlisberger throws incomplete, you run for it on third-and-two.
Instead, the Steelers -- and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians -- elect to 'play it safe' and Mendenhall fumbles when he's double-teamed on a tackle with Packers' LB Clay Matthews mainly responsible for knocking the ball loose. Sure, Mendenhall (14 carries for 63 yards rushing and that included an 8-yard rushing score) had played well to this point but this was the time to strike a short-handed Packers secondary playing without CB Charles Woodson (collarbone) and really sway the whole tempo of the game in Pittsburgh's favor but instead the Steelers got conservative and, in reality, it cost ‘em a seventh Super Bowl crown.
P.S., note that Mendenhall never rushes the ball the remainder of the game ... hmmm.
#2 -- THE COLLINS 'PICK SIX' -- It's still hard to believe that the Steelers surrendered the game's first 14 points in a span of 17 seconds late in the first quarter and don't discount just how important the 37-yard INT-for-TD by S Nick Collins was as the Packers were able to open up a two-score margin and give a Green Bay team that appeared a tad nervous some very important breathing room. Collins was the beneficiary of a ball that simply didn't get to speedy WR Mike Wallace after a clean hit of Roethlisberger's right/throwing arm in the pocket but don't forget that a key special teams penalty on the kickoff that preceded this play forced Pittsburgh to begin the drive at its own 7-yard line.
In retrospect, this was the time to run Mendenhall up the gut and try and give the Steelers some breathing room and instead they went for the gusto -- another poor choice by Arians -- and paid for it dearly. Not only did Green Bay go up 14-zip at the time but Roethlisberger began to lose some confidence in his offensive line and so it was a double-whammy of sorts.
P.S., did you know that teams that return an interception for a touchdown now are 11-0 in all Super Bowls past?
#3 -- THE RODGERS-TO-JENNINGS 31-YARD CONNECTION ON THIRD-AND-10 -- Just think about how the Packers were teetering on the brink of disaster in Super Bowl XLV with a 28-25 lead and facing third-and-10 from their own 25-yard line and with 5:59 remaining in the game.
If ever QB and Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers (304 yards passing with 3 TDs and 0 INTs) earned his keep, it was on this straight-as-an-arrow laser strike to WR Greg Jennings right smack in the middle of the field. The 31-yard completion brought the ball to Pittsburgh's 44-yard line and got ‘em a fresh set of downs. Obviously, most importantly here it also chewed up clock and the not-so-heady Steelers were in a real bind having already used a pair of second-half timeouts.
If Rodgers misses his moving target here (following a false start penalty that really could have crippled Green Bay) than the final six minutes of this clash could have turned out quite differently but following the Rodgers-to-Jennings strike the Pack brought the clock all the way down to 2:10 remaining following a PK Mason Crosby 23-yard gimme field goal that gave Mike McCarthy's club a 31-25 lead.
No doubt about that Rodgers could have and should have thrown for more than 400 yards had WRs Jordy Nelson (9 receptions for 140 yards and one TD but targeted some 15 times) and James Jones (5 catches for 50 yards) hauled in a couple of well-thrown Rodgers aerials but the Pack had butter fingers at some real inopportune times until Jennings (4 catches for 64 yards and 2 TDs) made the game's biggest catch of them all.
If you want to slap the goat horns on the Steelers (and their coaching staff) for a couple of other things, than consider that faulty decision to allow PK Shaun Suisham to attempt a 52-yard field goal with 4:35 remaining in the third quarter and Green Bay holding a 21-17 lead -- why Steelers' boss-man Mike Tomlin didn't punt there and attempt to pin back Rodgers and Company is a valid question but we didn't hear anyone ask it in the post-game pressers. Note that Pittsburgh had all the momentum in its favor after having scored 14 straight points to rally from down 21-3. Bad move.
Finally, doesn't it always come down to turnovers?
The Fox folks displayed a graphic during the game that showed teams with a plus 3-or-better turnover margin were 30-4 SU (straightup) in Super Bowls past and now we can update that record to 31-4 following Super Bowl XLV when Green Bay didn't commit a single turnover and Pittsburgh lost the ball three times -- two Roethlisberger interceptions and the aforementioned lost fumble by Mendenhall -- and so that's how you lose even after the Steelers had 19 first downs to Green Bay's 15, after having the Steelers sport a time-of-possession advantage of 33:25-to-26:35 and after the fact Pittsburgh averaged a whopping 5.5 yards per rush (23 carries for 126 yards).
NOTE: Catch our Mid-Week Hoops Report in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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