Where Did The Week Go…
Since it’s Oregon’s bye week, here’s some quick observations from the first half of the season.
Marcus Mariota got off to an impressive start to his freshman season. Playing cupcakes like Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennessee Tech proved to be nice learning experiences for the young quarterback as he threw eight touchdowns and only one interception in that time.
Mariota displayed better speed than the previous two Oregon quarterbacks, but the most impressive thing to me has been his poise in the pocket. He doesn’t seem to get rattled while under pressure and that should serve him well for the more difficult second half of the season.
Since entering Pac-12 play, Mariota has thrown at least one interception in each game, but those mistakes have proven to be minor as the Ducks have yet to face a strong opponent. But that will change next week beginning with Arizona State. The remaining six games will determine how well Mariota can deal with pressure (With the exception of Colorado) and whether Oregon will be playing in a National Championship game.
Like Mariota, De’Anthony Thomas feasted on the weaker competition at the start of the season. In his first three games, Thomas touched the ball 24 times and scored seven touchdowns. Now that’s efficient!
But like Mariota, Thomas has seen his numbers dip after entering in-conference games. Thomas has seen the ball more, but his yards per carry has fallen to 5.3 yards-per-carry. I say that like 5.3 is bad. It isn’t, it’s actually still great, but not quite the video game-type stats he was putting up earlier.
Watching Thomas through six games has led me to believe that the sophomore just isn’t an every-down back. At 5-9 and 173 lbs, Thomas isn’t big enough to handle carrying the ball 20 times a game and shedding tackles. He’s more of a specialized weapon best used when he can get in the open field and turn into Usain Bolt. It will be interesting to see him when Oregon faces USC. The Trojans are the only Pac-12 team who can match the Ducks’ speed and athleticism so we’ll see if Thomas will be able to blow by their defenders.
Speaking of defense. The most impressive aspect of the Ducks so far has been the defense. Ignoring a few second-half scoring outbursts when the Ducks already had the game in hand, the defense has looked very impressive.
Highlighting their effort was the Arizona game where the Wildcats had six opportunities inside the twenty-yard line and came away with nothing. Now when a team goes 0 for 6 in the redzone, there’s a little bit of luck involved. But to hold an Arizona team that put up 58 on Oklahoma St. and 48 on Stanford to zero points shows that the Oregon defense is the most consistent aspect of the team so far.
As much as I love seeing the Ducks win handley, I’m ready for some close games. Something to raise the blood pressure just a little bit. I won’t go so far as to say winning easily has become boring, but how about a little drama on a Saturday night. At the very least it will make Monday water-cooler talk more enjoyable than the usual, “Did you see that touchdown from Thomas?” “Which one there were so many?”
Netflix Instant Pick: Undeclared, Freaks and Geeks, The Job
Instead of recommending one movie this week, I’m picking three television shows that share a warm place in my heart. These shows have three things in common: They were all comedic shows that had an element of drama, they were all cancelled way too soon and their cancellations lead to better shows from their creators.
First up is The Job. Airing just 19 episodes over two seasons in the early oughts, this Denis Leary-starring cop show followed a group of New York city detectives as they dealt with heavy case loads, rocky personal issues and a desire for some real police work.
At the center of the series was Mike McNeil (Leary), an unconventional cop dealing with a small alcohol problem while also juggling a wife and a girlfriend.
For a series that was on ABC, The Job tackled some edgy subject matter. No it wasn’t because of the violence like on other cop shows, it was because of Leary and his style of pushing the envelope. As the lead character on a broadcast show, Leary used what made his stand-up routine successful and incorporated it into McNeil. He drinks, curses, sleeps around and more than once breaks a few rules.
But that’s what made this show unique. At only a half-hour, Leary and his supporting cast were able to balance the usual procedural routine of cop shows and offer enough funny moments to make each 22-minute episode entertaining from beginning to end. The chemistry between McNeil and his square partner in particular stand out.
Sadly the show was cancelled after two seasons. But the end of The Job meant the beginning of Denis Leary and Peter Tolan’s next show, Rescue Me. If you liked that show, you’ll probably find The Job equally entertaining as Leary basically plays the exact same character. And with only 19 short episodes, you should be able run through them quickly.
I’m going to group the next two shows together because they both came from the mind of Judd Apatow. One was about high school, the other about college.
Freaks and Geeks was an hour-long dramedy that ran from 1999-2000. Starring a host of young actors that would go on to become either stars: Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, James Franco. Or strong supporting characters on other TV shows: Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daley, Martin Starr, Busy Phillips, Freaks and Geeks was a smartly written series about teenage angst and the reluctance of growing up.
Set in 1980 and 1981, the series tackled the usual problems found on teenage shows such as acceptance, drugs, drinking and bullying. But Geeks always felt original. Apatow productions often involve a lot of improvisation, and this was a show that thrived in the smaller moments when characters would just riff.
Each episode never seemed to end on a happy note (Despite the constant danger that the show would be cancelled) and yet this decision created a more realistic tone. You couldn’t wait for next week when characters would be given the chance to bounce back.
The show was finally put out of its misery in 2000, but its demise gave Apatow another crack at coming-of-age stories with Undeclared, a comedy following college freshman Steve Karp.
Karp, played to nerdy perfection by Jay Baruchel, is entering the first year of his life away from home. Unsure what he’s going to major in (As the title indicates), Karp seems to be more worried about fitting in at his dorm and wooing a girl. Featuring Seth Rogen and Jason Segel again, as well as a pre-Sons of Anarchy Charlie Hunnam, Undeclared relied on the great chemistry between cast members as well as the signature Apatow improve. The show didn’t really follow a linear path, but that allowed each episode to be its own funny story.
Thinking perhaps his brand of comedy would work better in a half-hour show rather than an hour, Apatow was proved wrong again as Fox pulled the plug after just 17 episodes. But despite its untimely end, Undeclared managed to put together a strong collection of episodes featuring cameos from Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler.
The canceling of Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared was unfortunate, but without those moronic television executives, we might not of been able to witness Apatow’s foray into movies: The 40-Year-old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad. As much as I’d like to see him tackle television again, maybe he should stick with churning out funny comedies every few years instead.
Ohio State Marching Band (Plays) Tribute to Video Games
The most impressive thing during last Saturday’s college football games predictably happened on the field. But it wasn’t from one of the teams.
During halftime of Ohio State’s game against Nebraska, the marching band came out onto the field for their turn to entertain the crowd. And oh were the fans treated to a show!
With an idea five years in the making, 225 band members took the field and performed a choreographed tribute to video games featuring gaming staples such as Mario Bros., Pac-Man, Zelda and Halo.
The nine-minute performance featured Mario’s signature music, a complicated movement depicting a Tetris game being played and the beautiful formation of a galloping horse celebrating Zelda.
The video has already amassed nearly 10 million YouTube hits and the band director has even received praise from the Buckeyes hated rivals, Michigan. Watching so many people working in perfect unison to create both visual and musical entertainment reminds me of the old Busby Berkeley movies (Look it up kids!) I watched in film class.
After witnessing this as well as the Oregon marching band, we apparently need to step our game up.