McMurphy's Law: Oregon's Replay Man Gets a Significant Workout
EUGENE, Ore. – Except for the defensive coordinators of Oregon's remaining opponents or Lindsay Lohan's public relations spin doctor, the individual with the toughest job in America would be none other than Olaf Bahr.
That's right, Olaf Bahr.
Bahr is the "slow motion replay operator" at Autzen Stadium. It's the only thing associated with the Oregon Ducks that can be described with the word "slow."
Bahr, 41, is in charge of cueing and showing the replays on Autzen Stadium's videoboard. Not just a few replays per quarter, but a replay after every single play. If you've seen Oregon on offense, you realize Bahr has maybe, at most, 15 seconds, to cue and show the replay before Oregon runs its next play.
"It's very difficult," Bahr told FanHouse. "You welcome any timeouts or the reviewing of a play (by the officials) to get your brain in order."
Bahr said because the Ducks are so quick to run the next play, the replay frequently skips the center snap and starts with quarterback Darron Thomas handing off and throwing.
Bahr ironically is an Oregon State graduate. He's been doing Oregon home games for 18 years, but he's done replay work for several other sports, including the Olympics and the NBA's Lakers, Clippers and Trail Blazers.
Before working Oregon's 72-0 season-opening win over New Mexico, Bahr had been working the previous months doing WNBA and Major League Baseball games.
"That first game is the most difficult because you're not in sync," Bahr said. "There's football and then there's Oregon football. I had to switch gears. Most people are bewildered how fast it is."
When Oregon coach Chip Kelly's Usian Bolt-like offense debuted in Eugene, Bahr was stunned how quickly the Ducks ran plays. Bahr said in the other sports, he has an abundance of time before the next play. Not so with the Ducks.
"We're used to having time and telling a story," Bahr said. "Here, it's just the Cliff Notes. It was absolutely shocking. How are we going to keep up with this? He caught us by surprise."
Bahr, who works in a trailer with a production crew set up outside Autzen Stadium, said because he's concentrating on showing each replay, sometimes he has no idea who won the game until he gets home. During halftime of Thursday's 60-13 win over UCLA, he said this was an exception.
"Tonight," he said, "is not one of those games."
Not surprisingly the Ducks, who lead the nation in total offense and scoring offense, also are the nation's most efficient offense. Oregon's average time of possession is 26 minutes and 40 seconds, which is the nation's seventh-lowest average. Yet, the Ducks still lead the nation in yards (569) and points (55) per game.
Oregon also leads the nation in points per minute on offense. While on offense, the Ducks are averaging a staggering 2.069 points per minute. Oklahoma State is next at 1.75 points per minute on offense.
Here's a look at the NCAA's most efficient offenses based on points scored per minute (PSPM) – points scored based on their average time of possession.
Oregon 2.069 PSPM
Oklahoma State 1.75
Boise State 1.509
East Carolina 1.35
And then there are the Kim Kardashian defenses – the easiest to score on.
Here are the nation's five-worst teams in points allowed per minute (PAPM) when their defense is on the field. These not-so-fantastic five teams have a combined record of 5-31.
Eastern Michigan 1.477 PAPM
New Mexico 1.449
Western Kentucky 1.297
Marrone's Orange Crushes 'The Chipotle Curse'
Syracuse junior defensive end Chandler Jones said before the season he didn't believe in it. Sharon, a manager at Chipotle's new location in Syracuse, said Monday she's never heard of it. Sean Keeley, who first chronicled the phenomena last year, hopes it's finally over.
It, of course, would be the dreaded "Chipotle Curse."
The curse began last year when Syracuse basketball players Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph Tweeted about eating for the first time ever at a Chipotle on consecutive days before Syracuse played in the Big East tournament in New York City.
At the time Keeley, who is director of creative development for SBNation.com and runs the blog "NunesMagician.com," questioned the Orange's food choice.
"They're about to play in the nation's most grueling conference tournament and they're chowing down on these burritos," Keeley said.
The Orange not only lost their opener to Georgetown, but also lost starting center Arinze Onuaku to a leg injury. "Obviously," Keeley said, "it was Chipotle's fault or we would have won the national title."
Keeley, 32, could at least take comfort that there were no Chipotle's in Syracuse. That changed, however, in May when Chipotle announced it was opening a restaurant in Syracuse. The grand opening was last week, putting Syracuse's 4-1 start in danger. Especially when senior defensive tackle Andrew Lewis, senior linebacker Ryan Gillum and junior running back Averin Collier each Tweeted they would be eating at Chipotle.
A few days before it opened: Pittsburgh 45, Syracuse 14.
"A bunch of players said they were going there and I thought, 'That's it, we're never winning a game the rest of the year,'" Keeley said. "Just by wanting Chipotle, you can lose games."
Last week, though, Syracuse beat the Chipotle Curse along with No. 20 West Virginia 19-14. The curse was finally lifted.
Pat Manley, 25, who is working on a master's in public administration at the Maxwell School at Syracuse, said he was a "firm believer" in the curse. Until Saturday's upset, that is.
"After watching the football team dominate West Virginia, I'm not quite as worried about it," Manley said.
Keeley, a 2000 SU graduate, also believes it's over. "As far as football, the curse is dead," Keeley said. "Basketball is another story. I'll have to see some tangible evidence."
The evidence so far indicates coach Doug Marrone has the Orange headed in the right direction.
Before taking over at his alma mater last year, Marrone was offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints. He said watching Syracuse struggle from a distance was "very difficult. You feel very helpless."
That changed when Marrone took over in 2009 after Greg Robinson's four disappointing seasons. This year, the Orange, 2-1 in the Big East, are 5-2 for the first time since 2001 and received votes in Sunday's AP Poll for the first time in seven years.
Syracuse was 10-37 in four years under Robinson. With Marrone, SU is 9-10. Featuring linebacker Doug Hogue, quarterback Ryan Nassib, running back Delone Carter and wide receiver Van Chew, the Orange are far from satisfied.
"We're not even near where our goal is – a winning season and a bowl game," Marrone said.
Next Year Is Finally Here
Even with at least a month remaining in the college football season, several teams have already shown an improvement in the win column. Of the 120 FBS teams, 11 have surpassed last year's win totals, while another 13 have matched last year's wins totals.
Here's a look at the 24 schools that have exceeded or matched last year's win totals and their prospects for the remainder of the season.
Ball State 2-6 (2-10 last year): Since 1997, David Letterman's alma mater has failed to have a winning season in 11 of 13 seasons. That's soon to be 12 of 14 non-winning seasons. The Cardinals will get their third win when they host winless Akron on Nov. 6, but that's about it.
Baylor 6-2 (4-8): The no-longer Bad News Bears are ranked (No. 25) for the first time in 17 years and bowl eligible for the first time in 16 years. And QB Robert Griffin says there's more to come. It won't be easy: BU will be underdogs in three of its final four games.
Colorado 3-4 (3-8): Dan Hawkins has matched last year's win total and with games remaining against Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State, he might earn his second bowl berth in five years in Boulder. The question is: will that be enough to bring him back in 2011?
Eastern Michigan 1-7 (0-12): The Eagles ended their 18-game losing streak with a thrilling 41-38 overtime victory over Ball State on Oct. 16. They followed that up last week with a 27-point loss at Virginia and the prospects in their final four games don't look much better either.
Hawaii 6-2 (6-7): After a 1-2 start, the Warriors have won five consecutive games, including an upset of No. 19 Nevada. Other than next week's visit to No. 2 Boise State, the Warriors could win out to give Hawaii its third season in the past five years with double digit wins.
Illinois 4-3 (3-9): The Illini's only losses were to Missouri, Ohio State and Michigan State and with no remaining games against ranked opponents, Ron Zook will be headed to his second bowl in his six seasons. Unlike 2007, though, it won't be the Rose Bowl.
Indiana 4-3 (4-8): The Hoosiers matched last year's victory total by defeating FCS member Towson along with Arkansas State, Akron and Western Kentucky, who are a combined 4-19. Their finishing stretch isn't as easy: five Big Ten foes with a combined 25-11 record.
Louisville 4-3 (4-8): So far Charlie Strong's head coaching debut has been, well, strong. And it could have been even better: UL's three losses were each by a touchdown. In the watered down Big East, the Cards should reach at least six wins and their first bowl since 2006.
Maryland 5-2 (2-10): The Terps have been one of the ACC's biggest surprises and they only need one victory to clinch a fourth bowl trip in the past five seasons. Their best opportunities to get bowl eligible are Saturday at home vs. Wake Forest or at Virginia on Nov. 13.
Miami, Ohio 4-4 (1-11): The RedHawks' showing in the season opener at Florida was an indication Miami would be much better this year. Three of their final four games on the road make a winning season unlikely, but Mike Haywood's second season is an improvement.
Michigan 5-2 (5-7): For the second straight year, Rich Rod started 5-1. This one, though, won't end with a six-game losing streak. Saturday at Penn State won't be easy, but UM should win the next two weeks vs. Illinois and Purdue before closing with Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Michigan State 8-0 (6-7): Mark Dantonio is a lock for Big Ten coach of the year and among the leading candidates for national coach of the year. The Spartans biggest remaining challenge is Saturday at Iowa. Win that one and a 12-0 season and the Rose Bowl looks like a go.
Mississippi State 6-2 (5-7): What a job Dan Mullen has done and the Bulldogs aren't done yet. They should win at least two more, which would be their most regular season victories since the 1999 team, coached by Jackie Sherrill, went 10-2, including a Peach Bowl victory.
N.C. State 5-2 (5-7): Since starting 4-0, the Wolfpack have lost two of their last three games. N.C. State is still alive in the ACC Atlantic, but must win Thursday at home against Florida State. After that, it's not much easier with three of their final four games on the road.
Rice 2-6 (2-10): The Owls' two victories have been by a total of four points; the six losses by an average of 18.1 points. Three of their final four games are against C-USA teams with losing records, but I don't see the Owls finishing better than 4-8.
San Diego State 5-2 (4-8): Among the Aztecs' final five games are contests against unbeatens TCU and Utah. San Diego State will be prohibitive underdogs in those, but should win its remaining games to clinch its first winning season since Ted Tollner was coach in 1998.
Syracuse 5-2 (4-8): With two of the Orange's victories against FCS teams, Syracuse must get to seven victories to qualify for its first bowl berth since 2004. With home games remaining against Louisville, UConn and Boston College, that shouldn't be a problem.
Toledo 5-3 (5-7): The Rockets are a virtual lock to post their first winning season since 2005. To earn a berth in the MAC championship game, Toledo must win next week at Northern Illinois. I don't think the Rockets will pull that off, but they'll still go bowling.
Tulane 3-4 (3-9): Only two wins shy from matching their most victories since 2002, the Green Wave begin a stretch of four consecutive home games Saturday. The bad news? They'll be underdogs in three of the four and fall just shy getting to six wins and bowl eligibility.
UTEP 5-3 (4-8): Since a 5-1 start, the Miners have lost to UAB and Tulane. If the Miners want to guarantee a bowl berth, they better win at Marshall Saturday because they'll be underdogs in their final three games: home vs. SMU and at Arkansas and Tulsa.
Vanderbilt 2-5 (2-10): The Commodores are likely headed for a 27th losing season in the last 28 years. But first-year coach Robbie Caldwell has a good chance of doubling last year's win total as Vanderbilt closes the season with home games against Tennessee and Wake Forest.
Virginia 3-4 (3-9): Three of the Cavaliers' final five games are on the road. That doesn't bode well for a team that hasn't won a road game since Oct. 17, 2009. The Cavs should still top last year's win total, but it's doubtful they'll make it to seven wins and a bowl berth. They need seven because two of their victories are over FCS teams.
Washington State 1-7 (1-11): The good news: the Cougars are guaranteed of not having a worse record than last year. Now the bad news: they're not going to have a better record either. Barring a sizeable upset down the stretch, WSU closes the year on a 10-game losing streak.
Western Kentucky 1-6 (0-12): The Hilltoppers' 26-game losing streak ended last week, so anything more is gravy. With three of its final five Sun Belt games at home, Western could easily hit three to five wins. The regular season finale at Troy appears the only sure loss.
Trash Talk, Twitter-style
Remember the good old days, when coaches or players would say something controversial. It would get printed in the next day's newspaper and then posted on the bulletin board to motivate the team that was insulted.
These days, players are simply posting the bulletin board on their Twitter accounts.
In the past few days, USC quarterback Matt Barkley and former Nebraska linebacker Blake Lawrence have called out Oregon and Missouri. Ironically, both the Trojans and Huskers are hoping to hand the Ducks and Tigers, respectively, their first loss.
Barkley Tweeted: "Wow, Brock just got rocked! Lesnar is to Oregon as Velasquez is to SC. Lezgo" referring to UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar being upset by Cain Velasquez last weekend.
However, Barkley later removed the Tweet, meaning (a) he hoped no one would see it (they did) or (b) he didn't want to give Oregon more motivation.
"That had nothing to do with Oregon," Barkley told the Los Angeles Times Monday. "I just got fired up thinking about my teammates. It had to do with kind of being an underdog in a big fight, like we're going into.
"Everyone, of course, takes it out of context and blows it up."
Lawrence, who played for Nebraska last season until concussions ended his career, also sent a Twitter post to Missouri after the Tigers upset Oklahoma.
Lawrence's Tweet read: "I'm glad #Mizzou wins. Makes it better when we crush them next week. #Huskers #MissouriHasTheWorstFansInTheNation"
Unlike Barkley, Lawrence did not remove his Tweet. Then again, Lawrence will not have to personally deal with it on the field Saturday.
Coming Soon To Ames: A Big 12 Title?
Last year, Iowa State won at Nebraska for the first time since 1977. On Saturday, the Cyclones won at Texas 28-21. The win, ISU's first over Texas, may have been a surprised some since the Cyclones were coming off blowout losses to nationally-ranked Utah (68-27) and Oklahoma (52-0). But the significance of the victory was not lost on second-year coach Paul Rhoads.
"It was not a lot of fun walking around campus after the last two games, but nobody flinched," Rhoads said. "They came back to work every day and you see the result of what happened in Austin, Texas."
The Cyclones (4-4) play Kansas Saturday, and with a win would need to defeat either Nebraska, Colorado or Missouri to earn a second consecutive bowl berth.
"Someone down in Austin informed me Iowa State had never beat the University of Texas," Rhoads said. "I thought it was high time we put that to an end.
"We're building a championship program," Rhoads told a few thousand fans who met the team when it returned from Austin Saturday night. "One day we'll be in here celebrating a Big 12 championship. That, I can promise you."
The turnaround under Rhoads and his defensive staff led by coordinator Wally Burnham and defensive tackles coach Shane Burnham has been remarkable. Before they arrived in Ames, Iowa State had lost 14 consecutive Big 12 road games. It has now won at Nebraska and Texas in consecutive years. Maybe a Big 12 title doesn't seem so far-fetched.
What Caught My Eye
A couple of Pac-10 fan bases are not too thrilled with the goings on in Tempe, Ariz., and Los Angeles. Since debuting 10-3 in his first season at Arizona State, Dennis Erickson is 12-19 the past 2 1/2 seasons at ASU. That includes a 9-19 mark vs. FBS schools and a 7-15 record in Pac-10 play. Saturday's 50-17 loss at Cal dropped ASU to 3-4 overall, 1-3 in the Pac-10. With upcoming games against nationally-ranked USC, Stanford and Arizona, the Sun Devils might miss a bowl game for the third consecutive season, their longest bowl drought since 1988-1995.
UCLA's 60-13 loss to Oregon also dropped coach Rick Neuheisel's Bruins to 3-4 overall, 1-3 in the Pac-10. Before Neuheisel arrived, former coach Karl Dorrell was 35-27 in four seasons, including a 10-2 mark in year three. Neuheisel's third year has been like his first two – consistently inconsistent. In 2008, Neuheisel debuted with a upset of No. 18 Tennessee only to lose to BYU 59-0 the next week. This year, UCLA stunned No. 7 Texas, but also has been blown out by Stanford (35-0), Cal (35-7) and Oregon (60-13). Most troubling for UCLA fans is of Neuheisel's 14-18 record, only three of those losses were by seven or fewer points. The other 15 losses were by a staggering average margin of 24.6 points.
The latest example how karma will come back to get you: after the 2006 season, Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong was en route for his official interview at Minnesota when a friend informed him Tim Brewster had already been given the job. Strong, who is black, was brought in simply for a token interview. Two weeks ago, Brewster was fired after going 15-29, while Strong, in his first season at Louisville, has the Cards within two wins of their first bowl trip in four years.
Kirk Bohls, of the Austin-American Statesman, let it rip after Texas lost consecutive home games for the first time since 1997. "This coaching staff has made so many mistakes, it needs an index," Bohls reported. "Garrett Gilbert is so overrated. ... (Offensive coordinator) Greg Davis, who may legally change his first name to Embattled, has failed to attack defenses early and has not come close to developing his sophomore quarterback. His and Bobby Kennedy's receivers have run so many routes short of first-down markers, you wonder if the ends are allergic to them. ... The bloom is coming off (defensive coordinator) Will Muschamp's rose. ... Starters not producing should be benched. Coaches not performing should be replaced at season's end. Fans should see more raw emotion and fire from these players as they make plays, not afterward. Texas isn't paying Mack Brown $5 million a year to lose two home games to a pair of teams that were a combined 6-8 before Saturday."
At least Texas hasn't fallen to Kansas' depths. The Jayhawks have lost consecutive games to Baylor, Kansas State and Texas A&M by a combined margin of 159-24. ... Before Saturday's Syracuse-West Virginia game in Morgantown, W.Va., an intoxicated fan ran onto the field and lay down on the artificial turf. I'm not sure if he just wanted to take a nap, but WVU's band literally marched right over him before the police intervened, the Charleston Gazette reported. The funny thing is the drunk showed more life than the Mountaineers did in their loss to Syracuse. ... On ESPN's College GameDay picks segment last week, Lee Corso went 6-4, Kirk Herbstreit 6-3 and guest picker Desmond Howard 7-3. Season totals: Corso 49-27 (64.4 percent), Herbstreit 41-27 (60.2 percent) and ESPN's guest pickers 49-27 (64.4 percent).
Observations From the Road
True story, Part 1: I was in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, for the UCLA-Oregon contest. When I pulled into the media parking lot outside Oregon's Autzen Stadium, there was a mother duck and her little ducklings waddling near some bushes about 10 feet away. True story, Part 2: I was in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday for the Nebraska-Oklahoma State contest. I was about two miles out of town when a cowgirl riding a horse galloped along the side of the road. That's the first time I've ever been greeted by the team's live mascots when arriving before a game. Thankfully, it's never happened when I've covered the Florida Gators or the Miami Hurricanes.
Autzen Stadium lived up to the advance billing – if you ever have the chance you have to experience a game there: awesome, awesome and loud. Also, I love the Pac-10 stadiums. At Washington, they served clam chowder in a sour dough bread bowl. At Oregon, they had a wild pacific salmon sandwich for $8.50. At Stillwater, it was my first game back at Boone Pickens Stadium (formerly Lewis Field) in 26 years since I worked as a student assistant in OSU's sports information office. This time, fortunately, I didn't have to lug a telecopier (google it, young 'uns) up to the press box before kickoff. I'm also happy to report the chain link fence under the south stands, that I snuck into games under maybe once or twice in high school, has been repaired. With all its amenities, Pickens Stadium is a miniature NFL-type stadium. The coolest thing, though, was hours before the game seeing former OSU and Dallas Cowboys star Walt Garrison hanging out with the homecoming crowd at George's Stables.
And Now, Here's Steve Hill's View of the College Football World
Brett McMurphy is a national college football writer for FanHouse. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or please follow at Twitter.com/BrettmcmurphY