Tag Archives: Hawaii Bowl

Hawaii Bowl: San Diego State vs. Cincinnati

Question mark: Is San Diego State really any good?

I haven’t seen the Aztecs play.  I’m assuming you haven’t either.  They have a stout defense and they run the ball, but who’ve they played?  There were only two other teams in the Mountain West that finished with more than seven wins.  SDSU didn’t have to play Boise State and beat Air Force by a field goal in the conference championship.  Other than that, the Aztecs used a weak schedule to their advantage, beating up on mediocre conference opponents.  So, how good is San Diego State, really?

Game inside the game: Cincinnati air attack vs. San Diego State pass defense

Cincinnati’s offense ranks third in passing yards per game, which should shock you.  Normally, teams that chuck the ball around a lot do it with one quarterback.   Cincinnati, however, has been splitting time between Gunner Kiel and Hayden Moore all season.  Unfortunately, personal reasons will keep Kiel from playing in the game, or even making the trip.  Hopefully, all that alternating throughout the season will pay off.  Moore will have to step in against a secondary that doesn’t allow much.  SDSU comes in giving up only 176 yards per game through the air.  With their starter out and their opponent shutting down what they do best, the Bearcats have their work cut out for them.

Player to watch: Donnel Pumphrey, running back, San Diego State

Pumphrey is a little guy at 5’9”, 180 pounds, but don’t let his size fool you.  This guy’s the real deal.  Pumphrey has accumulated 4,173 yards and 44 touchdowns in his career, as he wraps up his junior season.  The Aztec offense, which averages 235 yards on the ground, leans on Pumphrey like few other teams lean on their running back.  Since Cincinnati allows 190 yards rushing per game, Pumphrey is poised for a primetime performance.

X-factor: Turnover battle and time of possession

San Diego State leads the FBS with a +19 turnover margin and holds on to the ball for 32 minutes, 30 seconds, on average.  Obviously, winning the turnover battle and controlling the clock are two big parts of the Aztecs’ game.  If the Bearcats can take the ball away and hang on to it, they’ll be halfway to beating the Aztecs at their own game.

Prediction: San Diego State over Cincinnati, 28-20

Cincinnati is good enough to keep this close.  In the end though, everything working against them will outweigh the Bearcats’ solid play.

Isaac Seumalo: One of the Best Linemen You Never Heard About

What does it take to get noticed in college football these days? Be highly recruited by big name schools? Go play for a major program? Have a highlight tape that is phenomenal? How about if we go with choice “D”, all of the above? In some cases, you don’t have to check all those boxes that I mentioned. Sometimes you just have to go out and do your job as people thought you would coming out of high school. No huge fanfare, but a dedication to the game that people can’t argue against. Isaac Seumalo, an offensive lineman for the Beavers of Oregon State is exactly that kind of player.

What makes him noticeable? Well, to begin with it is his measurable statistics. Coming out of Corvallis High School, he was ranked at the top of best linemen in the country, and what made coaches salivate over this guy was that he measured the tape at 6’3” and tipped the scales at 310lbs. The other aspect that made him the number one recruit coming out of high school in Oregon, the number three lineman rated in the country, and the number 52 recruit in the entire country was that he could play any of the five positions on the line and be extremely successful at it.

He received so many offers from different schools that some people outside the program or even outside the state of Oregon wondered why go to Oregon State? There is a pretty simple answer to that question, family. His father was the offensive line/defensive line coach for Coach Riley, his brother, Andrew, was already on the team, playing defensive tackle for the Beavers. Why leave the comfort of home right? It is easy to see why the Beavers had the inside track to land Isaac Seumalo and why he decided to literally go about two miles up the road from Corvallis High School and attend Oregon State.

Once he stepped on the practice field for the Beavers, he was immediately inserted into the starting center position for the team. That turned heads with many people, but as coaches have known for a while now, if the player is talented and can handle it, you play him regardless of year in school. Isaac adapted quickly and had to because as the center of the team, he had to make all the line calls. His freshman year he started all games at center, only one of two true freshmen centers in college football. When 2013 rolled around, his reputation was well known by everybody in the Pac-12 as he started 12 games at center and two games at right tackle. Going from center to right tackle can be a challenge for most people, but not Seumalo. This move to right tackle for certain games showed his versatility and his willingness to do what was necessary for success on the field.

His attitude on the field has not come without it’s down side for him. He has been hurt a bit more than he or anybody anticipated. In 2013 he missed parts of spring practice due to an elbow injury, and he missed a regular season game due to a knee injury. The big blow came in the Hawaii Bowl game against Boise State where he injured his foot and after multiple surgeries on that foot, the new coaching staff for the Beavers remain hopeful he will be good to go come the opening game in 2015. With all the questions going into this question for Oregon State, the offensive line is not one of them, and if Seumalo is ready and able to strap the pads on, it adds more certainty for the rest of the team that this could be a better year than most people think.

Even though he hasn’t played any competitive football in over a year, Isaac Seumalo still grabs enough attention that he was recently put on the All-American 2nd team and on the 1st team All-Pac-12 team going INTO 2015. When he returns to the field he’ll also be on the Outland Trophy watch list, the Remington Trophy watch list, and Rotary Lombardi award watch list. Even injured, people know the potential of this young man and respect that ability.

Besides having difficulty pronouncing his last name (pronounced Say-u-mah-low), the most difficult thing that people have with Isaac Seumalo, especially defensive linemen in the Pac-12, is getting through to the quarterback. He just doesn’t let that happen when he is on the field. He’s leader on the field, makes the calls for the line, plays multiple positions and does that phenomenally. When Seumalo lines up across from these defensive linemen, they know they are in for a tough, physical, long day on the gridiron. He plays physical and makes sure he leaves his mark on the field, and most importantly, the players on the Oregon State football team know they can count on him.

Even though he is working to get back to the field from his injury he is certainly helping others on the team get better at their craft. Teammates say he is a guy that likes to hold people accountable and wants the players around him to perform to best of their abilities.

At the end of the day, Isaac Seumalo is, when healthy, and there is nothing to suggest that he won’t be for the upcoming season, is one of the best players in the Pac-12, if not the country at his position. I have every reason to believe that he’ll play at the next level and with a couple of seasons left because of his use of his redshirt year he will be a high round pick for a very fortunate NFL team. The other aspect of his game that will be put on display for the Coach Andersen era is that he’ll be showing how well he can block in a spread scheme and knocking guys into the third row on a block.

Like I stated in title of this column, Isaac Seumalo is the best lineman that you probably haven’t heard of, and hopefully after learning a bit about him, he won’t be an invisible guy anymore to you or anybody else that loves college football. He has made a mark, he’s looking to continue that mark on people and the game of football.

 

 

The Big Game: Redux…Again

big game I

 

Before we can stuff our faces with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and the like; we will plop down in front of tube and watch the 2014 rendition of the ”Big Game” between the California Golden Bears and the Stanford Cardinal this Saturday afternoon.

This year, it’s a little different. Ok, it’s a lot different. It’s no longer Cal’s Super Bowl because their season has been rendered to nothingness due to its putrid record. This game has the potential to yield seemingly miraculous rewards if the Bears are indeed victorious. One: Cal will have defeated a Cardinal team that has dominated the head-to-head series the last four seasons. Two: Cal will have earned that elusive bowl bid (Cal is currently the at large bid for the Hawaii Bowl).

I had made a prediction the previous week, if Cal was unable to defeat USC, it could lead to Cal spiraling out of control and possibly missing a bowl game and a potential winning season under second-year head coach Sonny Dykes. Like I said, this is crunch time. Cal made last week’s game against the Trojans respectable. Too little, too late though.

This week’s opponent ranks 7th in the nation in points per game allowed (16.5). If the Cardinal play half as tough as the Trojans played Cal, it’s going to be a long afternoon. But, I don’t think the Cardinal offense should warrant any concerns from the Cal defense. Yes, they have a strong running game, but Cal has proven to be relatively stout versus the run as opposed to the pass. If Cal can make Stanford one dimensional, there’s hope the Golden Bears can pull off the upset. Whoa, wait a minute! Would a 5-5 Cal team beating a 5-5 Stanford team be considered an upset?

I’m glad Stanford’s offense has been missing in action. I can’t get enough of the struggles the Cardinal have been facing as of late. I understand Stanford had the reputation of being the bullies of the Pac 12 – but if you’ve seen “Back to The Future”, once George Mcfly balled that fist and let it fly to Biff’s jaw, the tide forever turned. Cal may have to throw a few shots to topple the giant. If Cal can make their shots count, I have no doubt, Cal will come away with the “W” and kiss the girl at the end. Of course, the euphemism of kissing the girl refers to a bowl bid.

Can you imagine the hype and fanfare that would surround Cal if they were to win this Saturday? It would certainly turn some heads and draw some curious recruits toward the East Bay Area. It would be fantastic!

If the victory were in fact a reality, I believe Cal could catapult itself into the realm of top teams in the Pac 12. Well, at least the top 6. When you look at it, it’s not that bad. Cal’s in loaded conference- for the most part. Hell, not even the SEC is elite from top to bottom. But that’s a conversation for another time.

Alas, we cannot talk of a possible success without the possibility of a failure. Do I really need to explain the ramifications if Cal were to lose? It’s academic. Cal gets one more shot at a bowl bid against BYU. Depending on the loss, Cal would have to lick their wounds quickly and prepare for the 12th and final opponent of the season. Like I said, depending on the outcome, if it is in fact a loss, how psychologically damaging would it be? There in, lies the danger.

It’s hump day and it’s time to get some billboard material to help put things into perspective. Stanford is just 1-3 on the road this year. Yes, that’s it! ONE win and THREE losses. Cal has the definite home field advantage. I’m sure Memorial Stadium will be rocking all the way up to Cheap Skate Hill. With a renewed sense of confidence in this year’s team, I’m sure Cal alumni and current Golden Bears will squeeze themselves onto those bleachers a cheer on what could be another major turning point in California’ s storied program.

Again, I was impressed the way Cal fought back against USC, despite being dominated for the majority of the game. If Cal can take some of that momentum and transfer it to this game, I think they can give the “mighty” Cardinal all they can handle.

My only fear in this is that Cal may begin to press if they are unsuccessful early on in the game. The pressure of needing one more win could haunt them and cause undue stress to play too perfect and not take the necessary risks that has made this Cal squad so dangerous throughout this season. It’s not as if they’re playing with nothing to lose-they’re playing with a lot on the line. It’s “put up or shut up time!” I can only hope Cal “put up” early and often and send those redwood trees tumbling back to Palo Alto with missing limbs.