Live Blogging the Conference Championships: Chicago at San Jose

15 07 2007

D’Orazio has been more mobile in the past

Full disclosure: this live blog is coming to you more than 24 hours after the fact as I unexpectedly had to leave town and had very little access to AFL broadcasts and internet connectivity, but I’ve been able to keep myself in a media blackout and have no idea what happened in this game. Also on the plus side – last night I managed to prove my virility to anyone in eyesight as I won a giant stuffed cheetah after shooting the star out of a paper target using a BB gun fashioned to look like something employed by Al Capone in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. So, J wins. A giant stuffed cheetah.

Anyhow: let’s see if D’Orazio is able to complete this game without the use of crutches, or if the refs break down and let him QB the game by using a golf cart on the field (prediction – they’ll let him use it, but he can’t drive it over 5 miles an hour).

In the locker room, D’Orazio is wrapped up like a spring roll and waddling like a duck – “No worries, I do this all the time”. Yikes. James Browns’ “The Big Payback” is blasting in the SaberCat’s locker-room – this doesn’t bode well for Chicago, given they knocked off San Jose in the playoffs last year (according to the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network).

My favorite soap star Mark “Check Out My Goatee” Schlereth is calling the game with Trey “I Look Kind of Like Matt Lauer Before His Haircut” Wingo. Fantastic. They compare the San Jose-Chicago rivalry to the one with the Colts-Patriots… whatever, I’ll give it to Trey.

Bobby Sippio and Clevan Thomas have a simultaneous interview in which they’re asked if they’re ready to play. Both gents mumble “yeah” with a level of enthusiasm that screams “I really wish you’d interview me after I did something good on the field instead of right before the kickoff, announcer dudes.”

14:24 – D’Orazio hobbles onto the field after the kickoff, and his flak jacket looks a little poofier than usual. His first pass attempt is slapped down by a San Jose defender, but an offsides penalty gives Chicago 5 free yards. A SaberCats fan that reminds me of my grandmother uses (REALLY) a ref puppet and a SaberCat puppet to mime her displeasure from her post on the sideline – she basically has the SaberCat doll hump the ref.

I. Am. Weirded. Out.

14:09 – Sippio drops an easy pass on the sideline, I blame the cowbells that apparently symbolize fanship of the SaberCats. Maybe Darren Arbet is a big fan of Blue Oyster Cult?

12:33 – Woah – in the time it took me to Google the above video, Sippio had what appeared to be a diving TD grab called incomplete after a San Jose defender knocked it from his hands following being down by contact in the endzone (lousy call by the zebras), and on the subsequent play D’Orazio over-shoots Sippio – INT. About 4 seconds after he releases the ball, D’Orazio is blindsided, but the INT isn’t called back because the late hit was after the interception. I’m about to start spewing Dan-Rather-esqe backwoods platitudes about how angry this makes me as a resident Chicagoan.

12:01 – After a slight miscue for Grieb on his first pass attempt of the game, Trey says that both the QBs aren’t quite playing like themselves. Which, of course, you could judge after the first pass attempt of the game. Trey obviously has played pro ball and I have not.

10:51 – Grieb throws his second-almost TD – thus far, the Chicago secondary is looking good – not letting the SaberCats get behind them. And of course, as I wrote that Grieb finds Nelson all alone mid-field setting up a 3rd and 1. The Rush make up for it by forcing a 4th and 2 – TD pass incomplete, Chicago takes over in their own territory. Since I’m watching on TC’s Tivo (even though he’s kicking it old school at his parent’s house (?)) I don’t need to watch commercials. The consumerist in me dies a little.

9:05 – Coach Ho totally doesn’t look like he was hit by a car earlier in the season.

8:43 – Trey and Mark inform us that Sippio is “twisted steel / football appeal” – Trey calls out Mark on probably being up all night thinking of that little half rhyme. I’d throw up in my own mouth if they weren’t right about Bobby.

7:04 – D’Orazio is not throwing so well – almost as though his back is a giant bruise – but Sippio makes an over-the-shoulder TD reception… I am amazed. “Twisted steel / football appeal” indeed – they’ve now uttered the phrase about three billion times. Chicago strikes first, leading 7-0.

5:58 – The Rush almost pick up a fumbled kickoff in the end zone, which would have made me feel a little better about D’Orazio hunched over like… a hunchback, I suppose. Sadly the Rush don’t come up 14-0.

4:12 – Grieb makes the mistake of trying to scramble a la Steve Young and gets tossed into the boards sideways for his efforts. It seems to get him calmed down a bit, as he throws a 20-yard TD three plays later.

2:09 – I feel a lot less bad about linking to the cowbell video, as after Trey mentions that following the TD pass, the bells that had been strangely silent starting rattling again, Mark says, “as it’s been said, these fans have a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell!” Trey says, I swear: “Mark Schlereth, ladies and gentlemen – a poet for the 21st century”. My brain is melting. PAT is good, San Jose ties it up 7-7.

:43 – Ugg. Rush WR Molden fumbles and turns it over to San Jose – D’Orazio is getting tossed around like a rag doll on the tail end of these plays – he gets hit by about three separate guys and takes a hit to his ankles, his knee, his arm, his shoulder, and his back. Maybe this is why my dad didn’t teach me to follow in the footsteps of one of my childhood heros, Joe Montana.

15:00 (second quarter) – Coach Ho gives an interview to the booth following the commercial break, and when asked how long he can leave D’Orazio in there when he’s taking hits like he is, Ho simply says, “Not too long, the way he’s getting hit out there”.

13:34 – After a long pass by Grieb, San Jose runs it in from the 2 to go up 14-7, using the “fat package” – this is funny because some of these football players, such as full backs that run in TDs, happen to be fat. On an unrelated note, TC’s aforementioned roommate Ryan (The Official Yeti Roommate of It’s Still Football) regales tales of his laundry situation and gracefully avoids telling me who won this game. Thanks, Official Yeti!

12:36 – Mark says D’Orazio looks like an 80 year old man out on the field – “no offense to any 80-year-old men out there” – and it looks like he won’t be able to handle too much more. He just overshoots a diving Sippio. Of course, it would have been a TD.

11:43 – Time for the EA Sports Scouting Report on Matt D’Orazio!

  • Needs to overcome back pain
  • Tendency to hold ball
  • Competitive nature

He played under Jim Tressel at Youngstown State? I say this completely without irony – this is interesting. Apparently Tressel wanted him to be a TE, so Matt transferred to Otterbein. Maybe it’s just me, but I think D’Orazio looks a little small to play TE. Kind of like Devin Hester might be a little small to play WR. But that’s just me.

1 0:45 – 4th and 10 for Chicago – THERE IS NO PUNTING IN ARENA FOOTBALL! Mark and Trey explain, as we have many a time before, that really, if you just try a long FG it is exactly the same as a punt. Frantz’ kick is blocked – San Jose takes over on the Chicago 2. This will not go well for the Rush, especially if San Jose thinks “fat” – they do. Matt Kinsinger rumbles in for his second TD of the day, the SaberCats go up 21-7.

9:14 – San Jose’s kickoff goes into the stands – the Rush take over at their own 20. Old Man D’Orazio completes the first pass for about 6. On 3rd and 3, D’Orazio wings a sure TD from his back foot – and it slips right through Bobby’s hands. It’s his third dropped pass on the day, so the Rush react by… adjusting Sippio’s helmet? Seems to me you could just tell him to catch the ball. On the 4th down attempt, D’Orazio leads Sippio about 3 yards too far. D’Orazio hobbles back to the sideline.

5:58 – On San Jose’s first attempt, Jimmy Unertl makes a huge pick – I can almost hear D’Orazio groan as he tries to stand up after just sitting down. Commercial break – Casey Kane as a nomadic herder once again. Tee hee!

5:31 – WHAT JUST HAPPENED? D’Orazio throws directly to San Jose with not a Rush player in sight, but the INT is fumbled and Chicago takes over again… and then he throws another pick in the end zone. Trey and Mark have been discussing how Matt is selfless on the field and he’ll take himself if need be… I think he might take himself out after that one. Yikes.

2:51 – Under pressure, Grieb scrambles around and rather than trying to force it in to the end zone, he aims for San Francisco – completion to the stands! On the next play, San Jose gets in to the 7 for a first and goal.

1:15 – Phil Glover, a LB sometimes TE, makes a huge TD grab for the SaberCats, who go up 28-7. Not looking good for Chicago.

1:00 – Russ Michna, backup QB for Chicago, is heading in for D’Orazio. First play – he completes a 15-yard pass. Interesting tidbit – he spent some time slinging balls for the now-defunct Amsterdam Admirals. After completing another pass deep into San Jose territory, it’s clear he’s a journeyman. Your belated blogging guide is feeling a little better about Chicago’s chances in this.

22.1 – At the time out, the HP Pavilion was blasting “Hell’s Bells” – it must have gotten Michna pumped up, as he threw a bullet to Sippio in the corner of the end zone. Chicago starting to stage a comeback as they close the gap to 28-14. Russ Michna takes off his helmet and he looks about 14 years old. The SaberCat fans throw Sippio’s TD ball back to the field. I giggle.

16.8 – Don’t knock kickers – Frantz flings the return man into the boards to save a TD return. That was, without a doubt, the best thing I’ve seen thus far.

3.7 – Grieb throws the ball away after Chicago’s #1 defense doesn’t give him an open man – the FG attempt is wide right. At the half, it’s 28-14, San Jose.

HALFTIME STRATEGY REPORT

If Chicago wants a fighting chance, they should probably leave Michna in. San Jose should encourage their fans to continue to rock the cowbells. Whoever scores more points in the second half stands a good chance to win this game. Is it me, or do a lot of these AFL QBs (I’m looking at you, Grieb) look kind of old? Are they really bald, or do the helmets just rub off all their hair?

END HALFTIME STRATEGY REPORT

In the Chicago locker room, Coach Ho gives a pretty convincing pep talk. Mark and Trey say that the Rush have a shot if their D comes up big, which, coincidentally, is more or less what Coach Ho said.

14:49 – Frantz again runs the kick returner out of bounds, and they both almost go over the wall. Mark and Trey share my enthusiasm for this particular kicker – Mark says “I’m pretty sure he’s now my favorite kicker in the arena league”.

13:26 – Grieb hits Nelson in the end zone for an easy TD, and San Jose goes up by three scores, 34-14. Hopefully the missed PAT comes back to bite San Jose in the keister. If you’re rooting for the Rush, that is.

11:23 – Sippio pulls a major Reggie Bush at Fresno State and gets down most of the field on a short pass. Two plays later he almost pulls in a TD pass from Michna. Next play, shovel pass for a 3 yard TD, Chicago trails 34-21. Michna – looking very good. In terms of a football player. Playing well. This is awkward.

8:49 – Grieb gets sacked on the first play of the drive… am I sensing… a momentum shift?

8:00 – 3rd and 9 for San Jose – “THERE IS NO PUNTING IN ARENA FOOTBALL”. It doesn’t come to that, though, as San Jose gets a 1st down after a 14 yard pass.

6:59 – FUMBLE RECOVERY IN THE END ZONE! Chicago almost gave up a TD, but Alfonzo knocks the ball out of the hands of the receiver, and the Rush recover the fumble before it rolls out of the end zone (there aren’t walls on the ends of the field in San Jose) and gets the touch back. Momentum shift towards Chicago? Survey says… yes.

5:37 – Trey and Mark are starting to drool over Russ Michna – his stats in the game thus far are rather good – but on the next play he underthrows his receiver.

3:57 – Sippio pulls in a chain-moving reception, and the SaberCat fans go silent. I daresay Bobby is finding his rhythm, and not a minute too soon.

2:14 – Sippio draws a pass interference and gets the Rush to 1st and goal. Sippio runs the option from under center – what? – and Alfonzo gets the TD. The PAT is good, Chicago trails 34-28, and before I can type the platitude, Trey exclaims “We got ourselves a ball game!”

1:10 – Given this is an indoor field, it kind of unnerves me every time I see a player spit on the field. It’s not grass. The spit doesn’t just disappear here, folks.

At the end of the third, San Jose has a 1st and 10 at their own 15, and we are looking at one hell of a 4th quarter cooking up here.

14:52 – Rodney Wright pulls down a TD from Grieb to start out the 4th quarter. Chicago loses a little momentum as the PAT is good, San Jose jumping out to lead 41-28.

14:25 – Trey refers to Mark Schlereth as “Mark Schlereth” for maybe the fifth time this game, and after a nasty tackle by San Jose’s kicker, Mark says he’s starting to eat his words about kickers not being football players. Just like I’m eating my words about Columbus not standing a chance against Georgia.

12:48 – Michna pulls his own Steve Young to pick up about 20 yards, and gets clobbered at the end of the run. He jumps up unscathed, but throws a INT on the next play – San Jose will take over at midfield. When I blipbloop through the slow mo Russel Athletic ad, it appears to be normal speed. TC is not here, and Official Yeti Room Mate has gone to sleep, so I have no-one to share that with but you.

10:56 – San Jose gets another TD, and the momentum is perhaps starting to shift once again. The extra point is straight down the middle, San Jose leads 48-28.

9:50 – Michna overthrows Sippio – goodbye, sure TD. By the way, I was supposed to call TC at some point during the evening, but since it’s already way past our working man’s bed time, I’ll let him sleep. Sorry, TC. You’re my buddy!

7:37 – Okay. I’ll play Devil’s advocate even though it hurts – what would’ve happened if Michna had been put in sooner? Chicago is lolly-gagging between plays. Seems to me if you want to play in the Arena Bowl and you’re trailing by 20, you gots to pick up the pace.

6:27 – Sippio grabs a TD pass to shut me up. Chicago trails 48-35 after the extra point is good. With only a 13 point deficit and 6 minutes left, this could be far from over for Chicago.

6:04 – Oh dear. On-side kick is recovered by San Jose and run in for a TD that stands after the flag on the play was an offsides against Chicago. San Jose leads 54-35 after San Jose kicker Hagland tries to pass a fumbled long snap and rather than get hammered by Chicago at mid-field, flips a free souvenir into the stands.

4:43 – Chicago. You’re giving me a heart attack. STOP WALKING. Trey and Mark are flipping out. Mark says the Rush could use “a little pep in their step”. Sippio gets a TD pass – HURRY UP. PAT is good, 54-42. 3:18 left on the board. I’m wide awake, for the record, even though it’s rather late at the moment.

3:18 – Speaking from personal experience, you can’t try a lot of onside kicks late in the game. It didn’t work for the Wildcats in the Sun Bowl in ’05, it’s not working for the Rush tonight. However, I forget that the clock never stops in this game. San Jose is going to bleed the clock after recovering the onside kick near midfield, and we’re already down to 1:55 when Chicago burns their first time out.

1:55 – Uh oh. I think TC’s Tivo may not have taped the end of the game. Tivo is showing about 4 minutes of recording left…

1:39 – Wow – Peters throws Grieb over the wall pretty blatantly, and Grieb lands hard on the concrete. We almost get a scuffle near the wall.

1:35 – Official Yeti Room Mate just crossed the hall to the bathroom. In his unda-wears. Hooray.

1:20 – Nail in the coffin for Chicago – Ben Nelson pulls down his fourth TD on the day, and as San Jose goes up 60-42, the Tivo runs out.

Judging by the box score, Chicago managed to get a TD in garbage time and held off San Jose, but at the final gun (I’m pretty sure they don’t fire off guns in the arena league) San Jose prevails 61-49.

The SaberCats played a strong 60 minutes here tonight (by which I mean yesterday afternoon), and Grieb will give the Columbus defense a lot to deal with come Arena Bowl XXI two weeks from today. I’m a little disappointed in the Rush for not completing the comeback, and a little more disappointed I’m getting up for work in about 5 hours. It’s been fun, kids. Stay in school! Respect your elders! Don’t spit on indoor turf!

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29 09 2007

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