AP Photo/Elise AmendolaNFL- Holy crap- where to start with this one?
The NBC Sunday night game featured the AFC East Champion Patriots hosting the NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers and had all the appearences of a dud that did not live up to its billing.
That appeared to be the case on Sunday night when San Francisco got out to an early 7-0 lead and headed into the locker room at the half up 17-3 over New England. And in the second half, things started to go from bad to worse for the Patriots as 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick threw for 2 quick TD passes to give San Francisco a seemingly insurmountable 31-3 lead in the 3rd quarter.
Even after Danny Woodhead rushed for a TD with less than 6 minutes to go in the 3rd, it still wasn't looking like much of a game at 31-10. But with time winding down in the 3rd, the Patriots put together a nice looking drive that culminated with Tom Brady hitting paydirt on a quarterback sneak on 4th and 1 in the opening seconds of the 4th quarter to make it 31-17. As nice a drive as that was, it still had the appearence of 'too little, too late'.
But then the 49ers were held to a 3 and out on their opening posession of the 4th quarter and the Patriots got the ball back. The New England offense managed to move the ball into the San Francisco red zone again, thanks to a Brady to Welker pass on 4th and 2 and a 38 yard pass interference penalty on the 49ers. Brady capped the minute-long drive with a quick 5 yard pass to Aaron Hernandez to make it 31-24- a one-score game with just over 12 minutes to go in regulation.
On their following posession, San Francisco was once again held to a three and out thanks to penalties deep in their own end and a Rod Ninkovitch sack of Colin Kaepernick, forcing the 49ers to punt.
Although the Patriots started out on their own 8, Brady found Brandon Lloyd for two consecutive (and pivotal) receptions- a 10 yard pickup to give New England a 1st down outside the shadow of their own end zone and a 53 yard catch and run from Lloyd that saw him dodge tacklers and tightrope the sideline. This time, Danny Woodhead was able to punch it in for paydirt and do what seemed impossible in the 3rd quarter- erase a 31-3 defecit.
However, just as quickly as New England erased the 49ers lead, San Francisco found themselves ahead once again on the following posession. LaMicheal James returned Zoltan Mesko's punt 62 yards to give the 49ers excellent field position and on the 1st play, the Niners QB connected with WR Micheal Crabtree for a 38 yard catch and TD run to put San Francisco back on top once and for all. Taking a 38-31 lead with 6:25 to go in the regulation.
Although New England came back to erase a 4 touchdown defecit, the 4th quarter go-ahead TD for San Francisco would end up being the back-breaker as Akers and Gostkowski ended up trading FGs for a 41-34 win for the 49ers. This is the first loss for New England since October 14th, a 24-23 loss at Seattle against the Seahawks. Currently, the Patriots have a 10-4 record with three of those four losses coming from NFC West teams.
Brady went 36-65 on the night with 2 TDs and 2 INTs along with 443 yards while the 49ers Colin Kaepernick went 14-25 with 216 yards, 4 TDs and an interception. Apparently the NFL is in the 'flex-schedule' portion of the season and has rescheduled it so that the 49ers will be on for the 2nd consecutive Sunday night game- and intraconference matchup with the 9-5 Seattle Seahawks at Qwest field.
Meanwhile, New England will head down to the Sunshine state to take on the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars at 1:00 PM ET- the game will be televised on CBS.
NCAA FOOTBALL- According to some, we're in the 'who cares?' portion of the Bowl season, but if you really think that, you've missed some pretty good games so far. And by 'pretty good games', I mean Arizona's improbable comeback against the Nevada Wolfpack in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday. With the Wildcats trailing 28-31 at the half, the Wolfpack came out in the second half and added to their lead in the 3rd to make it 45-28. And while Arizona got a TD early in the 4th to make it a 10 point game, it looked as though the Wolfpack had some insurance when they booted a FG to make it 48-35 with less than 2 minutes to go in the 4th.
After getting the ball back on their own 25, the Wildcats were able to move the ball down the field thanks to short passes along the sideline and a couple of pass interference penalties to close the gap to 42-48 with 42 seconds to go in regulation.
Arizona then opted to go for the onside kick and successfully recovered it at mid-field with 40 seconds to go. Starting from midfield, Arizona advanced on two quick strikes before getting the go-ahead TD with 20 seconds left in the game and was able to hang on and win by a 49-48 final.
OTHER BOWL GAMES- The two other Bowl games haven't been quite as dramatic, with #22 Utah State besting Toledo by a 41-15 final in the Famous Idaho Potatoes Bowl on Saturday immediately after the New Mexico Bowl. On Thrusday, San Diego State hosted former Mountain West foe Brigham Young in the San Diego County Credit Union Poisnettia Bowl. After being held to just 3 points in the first half, the BYU Cougars exploded for 20 points in the 4th quarter and topped the Aztecs by a final of 23-6.
ELSEWHERE IN NCAA FOOTBALL- Hilltoppers, hide your volleyball players. Former Louisville and Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino was announced as Western Kentucky Univesity's new football coach in a press conference earlier this month.
Petrino was fired by the university of Arkansas earlier this year after filing a false police report in regards to a motorcycle accident he was in to cover up an extramaritial affair he was having with a Razorbacks staffer. Petrino also gained infamy for lying to his employers at Louisville and the Atlanta Falcons about his commitment to them before leaving for a better offer elsewhere.
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers have been only been in the FBS since the 2008 season- transitioning from the Gateway Football conference to the Sun Belt conference with a few seasons as an independent program in between. In 2002, the Hilltoppers beat McNeese state to become the NCAA Division 1-AA football champions.
Although they were bowl-eligible last season, they didn't recieve any invitations. This season, WKU finished 7-5 and will face the Central Michigan Chippewas in the Little Ceasar's Pizza Bowl in Detroit the day after Christmas.