Friday, September 4, 2009

Ugly night in Boise

The Chip Kelly era got off to a horrible start last night as the Oregon Ducks were embarassed by the Boise State Broncos 19-8. That score doesn't begin to reflect how badly the Ducks were outplayed. Their offense, which averaged 42 points a game last year couldn't manage a first down in the first half. Their decision making and offensive line play were awful.

Compounding their rotten performance was the behavior of Ducks running back Lagarrette Blount. After the game, as Blount was walking off the field, Boise State defensive end Byron Hout came over to Blount, said a few words and gave him a small shove. Hout appeared to be taunting Blount, and most people assume it was a response to Blount's remark in a Sports Illustrated interview that "We owe that team (Boise) an ass-whuppin'."

Blount turned around and nailed Hout with straight right to the jaw, dropping him to the ground. Making matters worse, Blount fought with some of his teammates as they tried to pull him away. Still unable to control himself, Blount proceeded to go after some Boise fans who were mocking and taunting him. It was an ugly scene as teammates, security and police practically dragged Blount off the field.

There has been a lot of talk on the internet about what should happen. Many, including Oregonian columnist Jon Canzano demand that Blount be kicked off the team immediately. I think this is a gross overreaction.

First of all, let me say for the sake of full disclosure that I am Duck fan. So try as I might, I don't know that I can be totally objective. However, I wish to add a little perspective to this discussion. Much as been made in the media of Blount's "ass-whuppin'" remark in the Sports Illustrated college football preview issue. But I believe the media (especially ESPN) have taken his comments out of context, as though he were simply running his mouth, and used them to hype the game.

From what I understand, during the interview with Sports Illustrated, the reporter showed Blount footage of last year's game in which Duck quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was knocked out of the game with a concussion after a late hit by Boise State saftey Ellis Powers. After watching the video, Blount made his comment. That's hardly talking trash. But it makes for great bulletin board material for the opposing team's locker room. He should have been smarter.

Back to the incident. Lagarrette Blount is a scholarship player that represents his team, the program, the university and the state of Oregon. His behavior was unacceptable and he should face serious consequences. If he has no previous such offenses, and he is truly contrite, he should be suspended indefinitely, or for at least 5 games. If he has a history of bad behavior (fights in practice don't count. That happens everywhere), then the university should take more severe action, even that means dismissal from the program. But a blanket "kick him off the team" stance is an overreaction.

To read Canzano's hysterical account of the incident, you'd think Blount ran across the field to find Hout and knocked him out. It is me or does that guy write as though he has a grudge against the program?

Let's keep in mind that these are young men playing a violent and highly competitive sport. Fights break out, punches get thrown and cheap shot are taken every Saturday. This was worse because (1) it was caught on camera, (2) it was after the game was over and (3) Blount's continued actions after the punch.

But let's not kid ourselves, Byron Hout deserved that sock in the mouth for taunting a beaten opponent as he walked off the field. So before we get too self-righteous, let's try to imagine how we would react in a similar situation. Personally, I have a much bigger problem with his meltdown after the punch, taking shots as teammates who were trying to save him from himself, and going after idiot fans. You have to have more self control.

And for those Beaver fans who are taking this opportunity to trash Oregon's football program, try to remember when Beaver nation was cheering every late hit and personal foul during the 2000 Fiesta Bowl. Or repeatedly taking revenge on Fresno State's punt returner in 2002 when the ball was still 10-15 yards in the air, risking serious injury. Or the general thug element that existed during the Erickson years until Mike Riley finally got back control of the program.

By the way, is it too late to change my Pac-10 predictions?


Trevor Elliott said...

Well put. The emotion involved in this sport is highly explosive. Blout's actions were dissappointing. Sportsmanship is just as important as heart or emotion and controlling yourself takes more strength that throwing a punch.

Josh said...

Okay, okay, we know that I'm a Beaver fan and can't be objective as well, but I have a couple of comments regarding the end of this post:

Did you say he deserved to socked in the mouth? Really? What could he possibly have said to deserve getting a punch in the face when he wasn't looking? I agree that both parties should be punished for unsportsmanlike conduct, but somehow I doubt he "deserved" to get that sock.

Also, as a Beaver fan I never remember cheering for late hits or cheap shots. Yes, Dennis Erickson has a history for recruiting players with less than pristine characters, and there were some bad apples in the early 2000s, but I don't remember supporting dirty play. I like fast, physical defenses, not cheap shots. I also think some of those bad apples gave Oregon State a reputation for questionable conduct and borderline calls typically went against us.

Like you, if it had just been the punch Blount could have skated out of this okay. His conduct after the punch is what might seal his fate.

Josh said...

If I were you I would also be concerned about Oregon's ineptitude on offense and lack of overall offensive plan, getting man-handled on both offensive and defensive lines, and the some of the insubordination towards Chip Kelly.

Jordan said...

The punch was bad. But I agree, after that it was clear he had totally lost it (e.g. scuffling with teammates, charging fans, swinging at security guys). I'd be surprised if he's back before mid-season. Thanks for the analysis, buddy.

I am also biased, but here's an honest question. As a duck fan, how long do you give Chip Kelly before you start getting nervous? He looked uncomfortable on the sidelines. Granted, playing at Boise is tough for anybody (just ask the Beavers), but that was a pretty bumpy start.

Jake Shore said...

Josh, you may not have cheered for that stuff, but most of Reser was cheering when the Beavers tried to take out Fresno's punt returner. My point is that Beaver fans can't have it both ways. And I wonder how many of them would be singing a different tune if Jacquizz Rodgers reacted the same way after being taunted.

And Josh, you're insinuating that Blount waited until Hout turned his head to pop him. ESPN keeps showing the slow motion replay, where you might get that impression, but if you watch it full speed, Blount reacts immediately to Hout's mouthing off. I'm not defending him. He was wrong to throw a punch, but again, if you get in a guy's face and start taunting him when he's already down, you're asking for it. And much as I hate to say it, I don't know that I would have reacted much differently.

To answer your question Jordan, I'm already nervous. It almost sounds like Kelly is on the verge of losing the team. Too bad we don't have Mike Hass. Apparently he's the only guy from the state of Oregon who can play well in Boise.

Josh said...

Well, as a high school coach of a varsity sport I put an extreme emphasis on sportsmanship. My team has won awards in sportsmanship for the way my kids play and act on the field. So, I would like to think that if it were Quiz I would not stand for his behavior.

By the way I saw it in real time, and I don't think that Blount waited for Hout's head to be turned, but the fact of the matter is it was. He could have kept walking and let Chris Peterson rebuke him like he was about to do.

Jake Shore said...

Josh, you are right. There is no doubt about what the right thing to do is. Neither player behaved with any sportsmanship, especially Blount. I just don't think Blount's behavior is an accurate reflection of Oregon's program as some are suggesting.

Boise St. coach Chris Peterson really shined as the classy guy in this situation by trying to pull his guy away, and not taking shots in his post game interview.

Jake Shore said...

I think I've figured out why this whole situation bugs me so much. I absolutely despise taunting. I think its classless, cowardly and shows no respect for your opponent. A little jawing and trash talking is one thing, but to behave like Terrell Owens on the Dallas Star or Shawn Merriman's sack dance shows a real lack of character in my opinion.

I can sympathize (to a degree) with a guy who loses his head like Blount. I have lost my head and done stupid things. Taunting, on the other hand is pre-meditated and deserves no sympathy. The sad part is that Blount's career may be over, while Hout will likely get no sanction for instigating the incident.

Josh said...

I couldn't agree more. Blount's college career is over, and who knows what that can cost him in terms of the NFL draft. Hout will be playing next week. That's not right.

Tim Lewis said...

They should both be suspended.