September 7, 2005

Football Brings In New Headlines

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College football is underway, and the NFL season is about to begin. Not only does this equal five months of great happiness until the Super Bowl – it also gives me a lot to write about.

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Harvard is ranked No. 18 in the latest Division I-AA national poll. Somehow, the Crimson managed to get a first-place vote in the poll, which is odd because the next highest team to get any first-place votes was ranked at No. 6. I’d really like to know which voter thinks Harvard has the best football team in Division I-AA.

The Safety School has lost its 2004 quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to graduation and the NFL Draft. However, the Crimson will have back junior running back Clifton Dawson – the Ivy League version of Adrian Peterson (and by that I mean the Adrian Peterson of last year, because his awful performance against TCU on Saturday could damage his Heisman hopes, as well as my analogy).

Anyway, last season, Cornell was able to keep Dawson to only 61 yards in the teams’ encounter. Sounds good. The only problem was that Fitzpatrick ran for 102 yards and a TD. He also had 317 yards by way of the air, and a couple of touchdowns. Cornell lost 34-24.

It should be interesting to see what the Red defense can do this time around. It will be up against an even better Dawson. But with Fitzpatrick gone, the team will face a new QB – either sophomore Liam O’Hagan, or sophomore transfer Richard Irvin. Maybe the Red’s confusing defensive schemes will affect one of the newcomers. Or maybe not. After all, the Crimson did get that mysterious first-place vote.

The old QB Fitzpatrick recorded a solid 95.8 passer rating in the Rams’ 27-23 preseason win over the Chiefs on Friday. He threw the game-winning touchdown, and went 12-for-22 for 195 yards, with two TD’s and one interception.

Sure, none of the starters were playing. And, of course, the preseason doesn’t mean much to anyone (although newly-injured Bears QB Rex Grossman might disagree).

But with the strong performance, Fitzpatrick will likely earn a job as the No. 3 quarterback in St. Louis. Maybe one day, he can do better than Dartmouth grad (and new backup QB for the Jets) Jay Fiedler.

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As you may know, Ricky Williams won’t be playing until the middle of October. He’ll be serving out an old four-game suspension for drug use. Apparently, in the past, Ricky liked to smoke a lot of weed. Of course, that was all before he journeyed across the world to find the meaning of life.

The former Heisman winner played well in the preseason. He averaged 4.2 yards on 30 carries, and looked to have his act together. If Ricky could live up to his potential, he’d have a really solid career. If you remember, he was one of the greatest college running backs to ever play the game. Plus, he has now acquired some deep, ancient wisdom.

For now, Ronnie Brown, the rookie out of Auburn, will take Ricky’s place as the starting tailback. Brown may not know the meaning of life, but he’s a real good runner. The problem – he’ll be up against some tough competition. Miami will face Denver (No. 4 in rush defense last year), the Jets (No. 5), Buffalo (No. 7), and an improved Carolina front seven. You have to figure the Dolphins will go 0-4 over this term. In fact, I’ll bet you all the money Master P could get me in a contract that I’m right. Anyway, Ricky comes back against Tampa Bay on Oct. 16.

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That improved Carolina defense I just mentioned is highlighted by Julius Peppers. He’s the best athlete in the NFL, Michael Vick aside. Peppers is 6-6, and apparently he’s bulked up to 300 pounds. Even at that weight, he can run like a cornerback, and you might say he’s fairly good at getting to the QB.

Last year, at defensive end, Peppers had 52 tackles, 11 sacks and two interceptions in just his third season.

If Carolina makes the playoffs this year -like everybody is predicting – you can be sure that Peppers will be a major reason why.

By the way, he runs a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash (did I mention he weighs 300 pounds?). That’s what Jerry Rice ran, way back in his prime years.

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Jerry Rice. After twenty years, he has announced his retirement. For most college-aged people, No. 80 was the archetype receiver, having some his best seasons just as our generation began to watch the game. He always seemed like a good guy too. And compared to Terrell Owens and Randy Moss – well, I mean, do I even need to say?

Ted Nyman is a Sun Staff Writer. Fast Times appears every other Wednesday this semester.

Archived article by Ted Nyman