Dave’s Free Play, Monday 11/24/14

  • November 24, 2014

Having now lived more than half my life in Las Vegas, I’ve pretty much shed most of my old New England tendencies. Some reluctantly because I’ve had no choice (no real steamers, which is a genuine shame), others with glee (no more shoveling snow and walking through slush). In the process, I’ve become as Las Vegas as it gets. Translated, that means I have no clue about what shows to go see (so please stop asking, friends and relatives who might be visiting anytime soon) and I’m not looking for the keno runner every time I set foot in a hotel/casino restaurant (do they still have those?).

I’ve also become a big UNLV fan and make an annual contribution to the school’s athletic fund. I follow several of the school’s sports closely (basketball, football, baseball, golf) and am always pleased to hear about success being enjoyed by any of the programs. I’m ardently in favor of anything that would benefit the university, which of course includes the much needed construction of a new stadium. Said stadium would obviously be a huge improvement over what we presently have, and while the football team would clearly benefit, such a facility would also be a great venue for many other events as well.

UNLV will close out the current football season on Saturday evening as they host the battle for the Fremont Cannon against Nevada. The cannon has been painted red for the last year as UNLV traveled north and knocked off the Wolf Pack last season. The visitors are favored to reclaim the cannon this time around, and while this year has been a tough one for the Rebels, maintaining possession of this trophy would be tremendously satisfying.

It’s actually a good thing the biggest game of the campaign is taking place this weekend. Otherwise, I really don’t know how the Rebels would be able to get focused after what took place at the conclusion of the Hawaii game on Saturday night. I’ve been watching sports closely for more than a half century, and what happened to the Rebels in this game was among the most unfair things I’ve ever seen. Perhaps there’s some admitted bias because I’m a fan (no, I had no wager on the game, so it’s got nothing to do with that), but this was disgraceful.

UNLV scored with 20 seconds remaining to take a 35-31 lead, capping off a great drive and fourth quarter rally. Naturally, the Rebel players were exuberant. Perhaps a little too much so, and with the rules being what they are, I guess the refs had no choice but to flag them for excessive celebration. Had they stopped right there, no problem. But they didn’t. They actually flagged UNLV a second time for the same infraction. Like I said, I’ve been watching football for a whole lotta years. And I’ve never seen a team get flagged twice for the same thing on one play. Never. I’m not saying this hasn’t happened elsewhere, but if it has, I sure missed it.

This forced UNLV to kick off from its own 10 yard line, which guaranteed Hawaii decent field position and an outside chance to score a touchdown, as the Warriors still had all three time outs in their pocket. But UNLV was still in great shape to get the win. Or so it seemed.

Hawaii got the ball into the red zone and had five seconds remaining on the clock to run one play. The QB dropped back, and tried to hit his tight end, but the pass fell incomplete. That’s it, Rebels win! Only they didn’t, because there was still somehow one second showing on the clock. Next play, touchdown and Hawaii wins 37-35.

I was watching the game on my phone, and let’s just say the feed was not the best of all time. Regardless, I don’t know how it’s possible for the one play to have not caused the clock to expire. One person who follows me on Twitter claims he timed it with a stopwatch three times, and it took 4.15 seconds from snap to ball hitting ground (but not to official’s whistle, which absolutely matters).

At the very least, this play had to be reviewed by the referee, and apparently he simply refused to do so. Head coach Bobby Hauck did an amazing job of not going on tilt postgame, but he and all the Rebel players have every right to feel they got jobbed here in the worst way. The Mountain West officials working this game decided the outcome with the excessive penalizing for what amounts to players being excited, and might well have given Hawaii an extra play that they weren’t entitled to.

I don’t know what the aftermath will be on this travesty, although I would at least hope Commissioner Craig Thompson will address this personally, rather than just issuing some kind of vanilla statement. When the integrity of the game is compromised, as it may well have been here, more than a cursory comment is required.

As for Coach Hauck’s summation, I’ll be interested to hear what he’s got to say now that cooler heads are prevailing. For locals, it’s definitely worth a trip to Born & Raised for the Wednesday coach’s show, which goes live at noon and airs on 920 The Game locally (replay at 6 PM on ESPN 1100/100.9FM). I’ll be there along with former Colorado great and longtime NFL star Mike Pritchard, hope some of you can join is in person!

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2-1 NFL Sunday, but I shot wide with the Blackhawks on the ice and got on the wrong side of a down the stretch fade in college hoops. This was not a good weekend on any level. The task is to get it right back together with a big run, and I’m determined to do exactly that. I’ve had five straight winning months, and would not enjoy seeing that streak end, but it’s very much in danger of doing just that, as I’m down for November.

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Wrong side with the Sunday free play on the Texans. I’m going the big dog route tonight in college basketball for the Monday comp.

11/24 05:00 PM   CBB   (719) PEPPERDINE  at  (720) IOWA

Take: (719) PEPPERDINE +14.5

Bigger is usually better in basketball. It probably will be to some extent tonight as Pepperdine visits Iowa, and on that count it’s all Hawkeyes. Iowa is one of the tallest teams in all of D1. The Waves are at the other end of the height spectrum. But I think there’s more than just what meets the eye tonight as these teams take the court.

I’ve been impressed with what Marty Wilson has already accomplished at Pepperdine. The Waves weren’t even a ripple when Wilson arrived, and he’s helped them take small steps up the ladder in each of his first three seasons at the helm. Pepperdine has not been blessed with exceptional talent by any means, but they’ve chiseled out a reputation as a team that won’t get outworked and they’re no longer a pushover. By no means is Pepperdine ready to put fear into the hearts of the top programs in the WCC but they’re not going to be a soft touch either.

So I’m confident I’ll get the usual big try out of the Waves tonight. That should give them a chance to compete with Iowa, at least from a spread standpoint. Iowa is not in a great spot from a scheduling stance, as they’re off games with Texas and Syracuse. The Hawkeyes lost both battles and I’m just not sure about the mix on this team. Iowa was being talked about as a Final Four possibility as they got off to a dominating start last season. But the Hawkeyes fell apart down the stretch, and it looks to me like veteran coach Fran McCaffery is still searching for the right mix as far as this year’s team in concerned. Iowa was certainly not very impressive in the two games at Madison Square Garden and they’re at best a current work in progress presently.

Pepperdine has some quickness and while they’re going to have a problem contending with the Iowa size, I won’t be surprised if the Waves can hang around here. The visitors should be very excited as this their biggest name non-conference opponent in ages. I’m dubious as to how revved up the Hawkeyes or their fans will be for this game. Carver-Hawkeye Arena has been a very tough venue for out of conference road teams in the past, but I’m not sure how that pertains to this Iowa edition.

I’m not boldly calling for an upset tonight. The Waves are at a physical disadvantage and Iowa needs a win. But I don’t see this being lopsided with an under the radar dog that might be better than most think getting a big spot from a host that’s just not that sensational right now. I’ll grab the substantial points with Pepperdine tonight.