10 Things I think I thought
The 1967 NFL Championship game between the Packers and Cowboys is known as the ‘Ice bowl’, played in the most awful conditions at The Frozen Tundra of (Curly) Lambeau Field. Well we had our own epic contest, Hogs 23-22 Spartans in the grand final rematch, but whilst my warm winter wear was required I think it was closer to a ‘Pretty Chilly Bowl’
During the weekend, I was thinking of some of the ways that the Spartans could have won the game. In a game that close, both teams have plays they want back. The Hogs negative plays were primarily turnovers, however the breadth of instances that the Spartans could have put more points on the board, or stopped Adelaide Uni, was startling and so those instances feature heavily in this week’s column.
- Both teams were far from perfect, especially in the first half, with sloppiness including lots of penaltiesimpeding each team’s offensive rhythm. In the cold, the referees be forgiven for hurrying decisions but their committee approach helped ensure that decisions made were as thought-out as possible.
- There was a familiarity in the scoringfrom what we’ve seen in the early contests. Isaac Musallam scored his third, fourth and fifth rushing TD’s of the season as he has taken on the Spartans lead back duties with aplomb. The Hogs TD’s came to Brendan Thera-Plamondon (BTP), who added two TD’s on end arounds to last week’s length of the field effort against the Chiefs.
- Worth giving a shout out to the Spartans for their incredible 19 games unbeatenin regular season games. Fantastic effort.
- Some ways the Spartans almost won Part 1.. After an impressive interception by Brad Vegera (was he in bounds? I was dubious!) , the Spartans went three-and-out inside their own 10, with the 3rddown play creating room for the punt. QB David Webb, whose impressive spiral punt later would show his ability, hit the ball too high in the air and with the unfortunate bounce the Hogs took the ball back at the Spartans 9 and scored with the very next play. It was 14-0 at that point and the Hogs had been struggling to get out of their half. At this level, punting is dangerous, I wonder if the result would have been different had the Spartans taken the intentional safety (what im now calling a ‘forced behind’) and punted the resulting free-kick pinning the Hogs back in their own half
- Some ways the Spartans almost won Part 2…At 22-7 to the Spartans, they were unlucky to not get a safety after Harry Headding appeared to take the ball in the field of play and purposefully retreat into the endzone. That would have added to the Spartans score, to 24.
- Some ways the Spartans almost won Part 3….A critical penalty after the first of two viscous, but legal, hits applied by Ryan Ottens for taunting. I may have missed it but I thought Ottens was demonstrating his strength to his own bench rather than directing it at the unfortunate Hog. That was on third down and would have forced a fourth down decision, instead the penalty created a new first down and BTP found the endzone on the very next play (to make it 13-22). Worth pointing out just how well both safeties played, stifling the Adelaide Uni offense for large periods of the contest.
- Some ways the Spartans almost won Part 4…The Spartans ran out of time at the end of the 1sthalf inside the red zone. A catch to Reichstein and a run to Musallam both were ruled as still in-bounds, and hence the clock ran. If one of them was ruled out I think the Spartans put at least 6 on the board. Musallam had a great game but he needed to do more to ensure he got out of bounds and stopped the clock. It was extra critical when Reichstein fumbled, for the Spartans, after a reception on the first play of the 2nd half. 22-14 could have become 28-14, instead the Hogs wrestled momentum away.
- Some ways the Spartans almost won Part 5…What looked a critical fumble on a promising Hogs drive was nullified, I assume due to a ruling of the runner’s forward momentum being stopped. BTP’s (otherwise I breach the agreed Gridiron SA word count limit) catch for the Hogs third Touchdown was a strong one, holding off safety Ryan Ottens over the middle.
- Some ways the Spartans almost won Part 6…This was the first play that I thought of which would have gained the Spartans the 2 critical points needed to win. After pulling within 2 (at 20-22), the Hogs went for the tie, their opportunity was intercepted by Ottens who looked to have a good chance to return it the other way for 2 points. He was caught, and the score remained a 2-pt game, those two points would have forced Adelaide Uni into ‘endzone or bust’ instead of requiring a field goal.
- You either love or hate Olive’s….Adelaide Uni Coach Thomas Etherton and QB Josh Welbourn love him (Mitchell Olive #89) after several clutch sideline catches at the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth stanza. Offensively, the Hogs lined up in four receiver sets most of the game with two on each side, but seemed to have more success when moving into trips formations (three receivers on one side) late-on. Olive then lined up for the game winning kick which he slotted through.
I hope you enjoyed your rare public holiday with a full slate of NFL games. For those lamenting missing the game last weekend, there could be a game just as dramatic this week with Gridiron SA’s two winless teams (Eagles and Chiefs) squaring off at 1pm next Saturday. Add that, and the next time the Hogs and Spartans meet (17th October @ 4pm) to your calendar.