Call it courage, call it huevos, call it moxie, call it plain old "guts". Pat Hill has plenty.
Yeah, I know, Hill has his warts (see below, #9, for just one example), but nobody with a brain ever called him a coward.
Pat marches down the field for the tying touchdown against the Fighting Illini and the Bulldog offense (with kudos to Jeff Grady) gives him six points. The score is 52-51, Illini, two seconds left in the game.
I told my wife, "Pat's going to go for two - he doesn't want a tie, he wants to win this thing".
Ron Zook told his team, "Pat's gonna go for two".
The broadcasters for the Big 10 Network said, "Pat's gonna go for two."
KMJ's Paul Loeffler and Jordan Christensen told each other, "Pat's gonna go for two."
Pretty much half the country, watching on semi-national TV, said, "Pat's gonna go for two."
Pat went for two.
But after he decided that - after the refs (with yet another video review) confirmed the touchdown - but before the two-point fireworks - just as the 'Dogs were lining up for the conversion, something washed over me.
I felt a glow of pride and respect. I muttered something about respect for Pat Hill. My wife told me to stop muttering. I couldn't help it. I said, "Even if they don't make it, I am really proud of this team. Pat has made a gutsy call - regardless of the outcome."
Then, the clouds parted and a beam of light shone straight down from heaven and illuminated the face of Devan Cunningham. God smiled and the football headed the big man's way.
2. Big man, soft hands
I actually got to watch the big man eat, one time. Understand me, now. This is a big man. He knows how to put away the groceries. He eats with a practiced, confident manner, very workmanlike. He shovels it in. It's a pleasure to watch.
Devan had a plate with four (4) big brat hotdogs on it, buns, relish, mustard, etc. He had a mound of potato salad. Big pile of Boston baked beans and two (2) "pulled pork" sandwiches with BBQ sauce dripping.
It didn't take long.
He was quiet for a short while.
Then, he kind of wiped the last of the sauce up with a morsel of bread. Plate was clean. "Mr. Cunningham," I said, "you ain't quitting now, are you?" He smiled that big smile. "Nope. Just resting a minute." Then, he got up to fill his second plate.
I watched the big man play during that "swirl"-thingy two-point conversion call. Weird play. Strange looking. Whatever.
The play didn't work, but Devan did.
He was into that play.
I'm tired of hearing it was all luck. The only luck involved was the bounce - the tip, if you will. The rest was heads up football by a big, big man. He saw the ball coming, reached out and caught it nicely, tucked it away properly and battered his way into the end zone from the two-yard line. Looked like a D-7 Caterpillar. A 350-pound fullback for one play. Game over, man! Game over!
3. Road Dogs
That was a rough trip, flying into Illinois Friday, playing Saturday morning, then flying straight home. Wow! Impressive! Makes the win sweeter. Big win for the team. Confidence builder.
Who do we get as a bowl game? Wyoming. New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, oh, well. At least we get to watch Ryan Mathews run the football for one more game.
BTW. That was a big win for Pat Hill. Huge! Makes him more of a commodity, turns down the flame under his hot seat.
4. Jamel Hamler
Rapidly becoming the "go to guy". Awesome hands. Fast enough. Good routes, but, best of all, he has amazing - truly amazing - body control!
That stretching for the goal line - as you are being tackled - that was what Marlon Moore TRIED to do at the Texas A&M game. Hamler put on a clinic. One handed grabs, acrobatics, great moves. And - he catches the frickin ball!!! The guy is coming.
I remember thinking, as I watched his 21-yard pick-six, that he caught that ball in stride, that he was endzone-bound as he caught the ball!
In other words, Thomas was thinking, "Oh, yeah, baby... I got this... I'm taking this downtown!" I love that.
He has a "get a pick" mentality - he looked like a wide receiver - and if you have been following the defensive back stats, that is something the ‘Dogs desperately need. In fact, it was probably the reason Desia Dunn had that takeaway - he should have knocked the ball down - but the motive is something we want. Hang in there Desia.
Thomas had a second interception to ice the game as time ran out. Sweet! Great game! He's another comer (actually a safety).
6. Moses Harris
He had a big game, his last regular season game as a Bulldog. Good player. Thank you, sir.
7. Ryan Colburn
Did you know that Ryan Colburn had yet another 50-yard rushing effort? Not saying he is a great running quarterback. But I am saying this, the guy is developing that knack, completely uncoachable, of finding a way to win. He never gives up.
Take that 21-yard run for the touchdown. I watched replays a couple times. He runs clear across the field, probably covered 40 yards, total, and he doesn't slide. He bulls in for six. Growing respect for the guy, as a winner.
Still have a few minor growth issues with him, as a passer, of course.
Yes, the wind was blowing, and yes, there were some bad drops. But there were still some ugly throws. Behind, high, short.
Let's keep it real, though, 13-of-21 for 183 yards (64%), 2 touchdowns and one interception. That's not bad in sub-freezing temps and big wind! Not bad at all for a first year quarterback. He is nailing down the job, for next year. If he has a good bowl game, Carr will have to wrest it away, cause Colburn will be the heir apparent.
8. The Awesome Mr. Mathews
I actually think that game hurt hopes to have Ryan return next year.
He rumbled for 173 yards and got stronger as the game wore on. Set all kinds of Fresno State records - and he is a junior! Illinois held him to 50 yards in the first half, but Mathews smoked 'em for 120 in the second. There were PLENTY of pro scouts watching that game. This running back is a hard man not a boy, he is talented and durable. He is NFL material, right now.
Unfortunately, those scouts got an eyeful.
It is a strange, confused, mixed emotion, actually...Many Bulldog fans are feeling it. They think he ought to go into the draft, but they want him to stay. This game, and another like it coming up... looks like he is out of here. God bless you, Ryan Mathews. It has been a privilege to watch you. You are a class act.
9. Pat Hill with the sideline reporter
Sometimes, you just want to get one of those shepherds' crooks, you know, the kind with the curved end that looks like a question mark...
You just want it to come in from the side of the picture, hook around Pat's neck and drag him off camera. Sometimes he gets so defensive, he makes up stuff they might be meaning, and he gets all huffy. Chill, Pat. It is just a cute info babe, looking for a story angle. Be nice.
So many issues, so little time. The ‘Dogs need new blood at the defensive helm... They need an infusion of different attitude and a different approach. They have potential for next year (heard that before?), but they need a new coaching direction. The ugly truth.
11. More Grudging Respect
Our old Bearcat enemy, Mardy Gilyard.
Holy crap! 119 yds receiving versus No. 14 Pitt. In addition, he ran back seven kick returns for 256 yards. He personally contributed 375 yards of all-purpose yards to that victory.
The University of Washington, under new Coach Steve Sarkisian, smoked the Cal Bears. Nice. Sweet victory.
Boise is undefeated, again. What is that, their seventh WAC title? (editor note: Hawaii won the WAC outright in 2007) Scary good football program. Continues to get better.
Have a great Christmas, Bulldog Nation. Looking forward to our bowl game.
Redroadster is highly regarded attorney in the Central Valley, a loyal Bulldog fan, and a regular poster/contributor on BarkBoard.com. Check in time to time for his take on games and other Bulldog athletic events in his View from the Roadster.
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