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December 24, 2012

Ketch's 10 Thoughts From The Weekend

Santa Ketch is not feeling very giving this morning, not after one of the all-time worst Sundays that he can remember in a very long time.

In addition to having a trip to Dallas for the Cowboys game fall through at the absolute last moment, I lost my fantasy football championship in the most painful way possible, as my team underperformed at a level that it hadn't done all season and I had my head bashed in by Dez Bryant's Herculean performance, which went for naught anyways in a loss.

In all the years that I've played fantasy football, I've never had a Cowboys player crush my hopes and dreams of a title with a single dominant performance that I was facing, but it happened yesterday and I'm at a loss for words.

Therefore, you'll have to forgive me if Santa Ketch doesn't hand out gifts this year, as he's feeling angry and used.

I'm pissed, I'm stunned … it's Dez Bryant.

Let's just get on with the rest of the column before I start breaking things.

No. 2 - Scattershooting on the Longhorns…

… I thought I would lead off with a few notes from practice via a source that saw the team earlier last week.

a. A point of emphasis is being made in bowl workouts to strengthen things up-front on the defensive side of the ball. Don't be surprised if you see the Longhorns play more sets that feature three down defensive tackles and an end, rather than the traditional two-tackle/two-end sets we've seen for so long. What the Longhorns give up in pass rush, they pick up in mass and in the ability to control the line of scrimmage.
b. The source mentioned that Steve Edmond looks like a better player behind the bigger front four because it helps keep traffic off of him and allows him to play more downhill.
c. Again, a key area of this game for the defense is playing much better between the tackles at every level of the defense and it's been an area stressed in workouts.
d. The move of Quandre Diggs to safety isn't some experiment that won't translate to the field. Per several people in the program, it won't be a shock at all if Diggs is asked to fill Kenny Vaccaro's role next season.
e. It was mentioned that Sheroid Evans is a strong candidate to fill the open spot at cornerback if the move of Diggs to safety remains permanent. The battle for playing time in the secondary will be intense in the off-season.
f. Good news on the defensive line front: The source that I communicated with mentioned that the young defensive ends in the program look really promising, as Hassan Ridgeway looks like a natural five-technique, while Shiro Davis and Bryce Cottrell look like edge players that will help in future years.
g. Bad news on the defensive line front: The same source wasn't doing cartwheels over any of the defensive tackles not named Malcom Brown.
h. That being said, Alex Norman is showing flashes as well and has people optimistic.
i. The person I communicated with felt like the battle at middle linebacker is not much of a competition right now, as Edmond is ahead of Dalton Santos by a lot at the moment.
j. As has been discussed previously, expect less pre-snap movement from the offense than we saw under Bryan Harsin's direction.
k. This shouldn't come as a surprise because it is one of things he specialized in as a player, but look for Major to run more vertical routes within the offense.
l. With the Longhorns looking to go vertical a little more, Malcolm Brown's involvement becomes more important because he's the best at picking up extra pass rushers in protection.
m. Both Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley look very comfortable in the passing game tweaks.
n. David Ash is officially Major's project and he has spent a lot of time in practice working with the sophomore signal-caller.

… Oregon State is going with a change at quarterback for the bowl game, benching Sean Mannion and instead going with Cody Vaz. Honestly, I'm surprised it took this long because Mannion hasn't been the same since his knee injury earlier in the year and Vaz looked really, really good in work in relief before Mannion returned to the field. Neither guy gives you much in the way of a run threat, but Vaz flashed a little more of the "It" quality in the Oregon State games that I watched this season and he turned the ball over at a far less frequent rate. That being said, it should be noted that the Longhorns have seen at least a half-dozen quarterbacks that are better than the one they'll see in San Antonio.

… Just to stress home the point about Vaz's lack of run ability, his career long rush is seven yards.

… Consider me a very bitter Longhorns media member over the fact that Mack Brown hasn't opened up a practice all year, but the one time he decides to throw the fans a bone, it happens to be at 5:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Way to look out for the fans … was Christmas morning not available?

No. 3 - Baby steps get on the bus, baby steps down the aisle, baby steps ...

Three things really stood out from a 67-56 loss for Rick Barnes and Co. in East Lansing.

1. This team is making significant strides from the absolute dreadful state it was in a month ago.
2. This team has guts and want-to.
3. This team still has a ways to go before it's an NCAA Tournament candidate.

More than perhaps anything else, this team became watchable this week in a win over North Carolina and a loss to the Spartans, and that point should not be underrated. For much of this season, I've been pained by the task of watching this team play basketball and suddenly I'm fairly interested to see were this group goes in the next couple of weeks. For the first time all season, I didn't feel like I had wasted two hours of my life that I can never get back.

Oh, this group still plays basketball like a young fawn learning to walk, but there was something about what happened on Saturday that earned a little respect. The Longhorns didn't play well at all in traditional terms, as they shot poorly, were outrebounded and turned it over nearly 20 times … but … but … this was a game that Texas led at halftime and the group showed a level of toughness/fight that these eyes hadn't seen much of thus far this season.

Remember the way you felt when you watched Hoosiers and Rade punched the gorilla from Cedar Knob, which led to Coach Dale having to escort him out of the gym before a riot broke out? That was the Longhorns on Saturday in a pretty rabid atmosphere in East Lansing, as they played without their Jimmy Chitwood (Myck Kabongo), but still played their guts out from start to finish.

When you think about it, Javan Felix kind of reminds me of Ollie, Connor Lammert kind of has a Strap quality and I'm pretty sure that Ioannis Papapetrou is the kid whose father had to bring him back to the gym.

Oh, and the UT compliance office is the group of people that want to get Coach Dale fired.

(Is Tom Penders going to play the role of Shooter later in the film?)

No. 4 - Championship weekend thoughts… …

… If Saturday as your first chance to see Denton Guyer quarterback and current Longhorn commit Jerrod Heard, now you know why everyone is so excited about his future. With his team down 30-14 in the third quarter and seemingly on the ropes against Georgetown, Heard took the game over with his feet (five touchdowns on the ground) and then landed a knockout punch with his arm with a 71-yard touchdown pass. While he's still a guy that is developing in the passing game, his ability to make plays with his feet and arm is obvious. He continues to remind me of a young Ell Roberson.

… If the scuttlebutt behind the scenes if to believed, Longhorn fans need to thank Mack Brown for pushing the button on the decision to offer and take Heard as the quarterback in the 2014 class. Several team sources have indicated this season that it was Brown, and not former Texas OC Bryan Harsin, who made the decision to pull the string on the offer.

… Katy running back Adam Taylor is an interesting college prospect. What he lacks in terms of flash is replaced with an ability to get go North/South quickly with the power to run though defenders and finish runs. The kid just chews up yards and has a great feel what he's doing. The lack of dazzle to his game makes it easy to understand why he hasn't received a lot of offers from the elite of the elite in college football, but he's such a good all-around player that he could easily be a guy that a lot of folks regret not offering in a few years.

… Kyle Fulks is a guy that I really like off of that Katy defense. At the next level, more so than defensive end Matt Dimon.

… Katy is incredible. It's amazing what it's been able to do as a program for almost two decades. My wife is a very proud alum.

… Congrats to Cedar Park High School for its first state championship. Like Katy, there's not a lot of flash in this team, as it just slaps you in the face repeatedly until a team gives out.

No. 5 - Have I ever mentioned that I hate being a Cowboys fan?

It all comes down to the final game on the final night of the season for all of the marbles. It's Cowboys vs. Redskins for all of the NFC East Marbles …

Oh, and the game on Sunday? It didn't mean a thing … never happened … at least that's how I've doctored things in my head because if I think about what happened against the Saints too much, my head just might explode.

Instead, I'm focusing on Sunday night when the Cowboys return to Washington D.C. with a chance to exorcise a few late-season demons from the past. The Cowboys will be the underdog because they just aren't playing as well as the RG3-led Redskins and they were drilled by the same team about a month ago.

Before the season, I called the Cowboys and 8-8 team that would miss the playoffs, but they'd be close enough to hang into playoff contention until the last game. Even though I've prepared myself for the worst all season, I know what's coming for me in a week …the sports fan's equivalent of a kick to the gonads.

You'd think being prepared for the situation would make things a little easier to deal with, but I'm not so sure. A kick to the gonads is a kick to the gonads, whether you are braced for it or not.

Oh, and that New Orleans game? It never happened.

No. 6 - WTF Was That!?!?!?! …

Look, I was the first person to give the Texans a pass after what happened to them in New England a couple of weeks ago, but I don't know what to make of what happened at Reliant on Sunday.

It's one thing if Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady put you on the grill, but it's another thing when the guy doing the BBQ-work is Christian Ponder. Yes, the same Christian Ponder that has been the butt of jokes around the country for pretty much the duration of the season.

Hell, it's not like Adrian Peterson went crazy, either. Minnesota just whipped the Texans on both sides of the ball … and … Ponder outplayed Matt Schaub.

Minnesota 23 Houston 7

I still can't believe it.

On the bright side, this game won't mean squat if the Texans can go on the road and win in Indy next week. The magic number to clinch the home-field edge throughout the playoffs is still within grasp, but that this thing is going to come down to the final week is problematic.

Also, I don't care what the team said in the aftermath of the game, the fact that Arian Foster was forced to leave a critical game with an irregular heartbeat is scary. The more they call it minor, the scarier it seems to me.

Of course, I can understand if some Texans fans were more frightened by the fact that Minnesota's players seemed a lot better than the Texans. Again, WTF?

No.7 - It's the sport of kings, better than diamond rings, That's why we're here to sing, football Sunday in the snow, referee's whistle blows, We've been warriors toe-to-toe…

… Holy, Jamaal Charles! The former Texas star had his third 200-yard game of his career on Sunday and emerged from the game with enough career carries that he now ranks No.1 in NFL history in yards per carry. Let that sink in for a moment.

… The Redskins might never lose again. *sigh*

… The Giants were the Evil Giants again on Sunday and now they are on the cusp of missing the playoffs without a lot of luck. I'll be honest, I didn't see this coming at all. I thought after they destroyed the Packers that this team would run away with the NFC East and now they can only hope … while they shine last year's championship rings, of course.

… Anyone want a piece of Seattle in the first round of the playoffs? Me neither. That's a scary looking team right now. They didn't just whip the 49ers, they exposed them in a truly ugly light. I can see Russell Wilson playing for all the marbles this season, but not Colin Kaepernick.

… Pete Carroll is doing a hell of a job in Seattle. Give the man his due.

… Cam Newton in his last five games: 13 touchdowns, one interception and a 4-1 record.

… The Titans got their coach fired yesterday.

… What was up with the Vikings coaches poaching rush attempts from Adrian Peterson in favor of Toby Gerhart? Good grief, let your horse go for the record and give him some extra carries. This wasn't your average late-game situation and it warranted being treated differently. If Peterson comes up 20 yards short in his question to run down Eric Dickerson, let's make sure we remember that Leslie Frazier and his staff robbed Peterson of a few touches that would have put him over 100 yards for the day.

… The Chiefs rushed for 352 yards as a team and scored just 13 points against the Colts. How is that even possible?

… Greg McElroy was sacked 11 times on Sunday and the Jets officially crashed for good in 2012.

… This version of the Steelers feels done. D-o-n-e. That team deserves to be broken up to a large degree after that loss. Obviously, they have the right coach and quarterback, but they need a lot more.

… Calvin Johnson is so out of this world good that it's crazy, but Jon Gruden was right when he said on Saturday night that there were a lot of hollow yards mixed in his season-long pursuit. That's not Johnson's fault, but it doesn't make it any less true.

No.8 - Five few more sports things before we go…

1. The NBA's line-up on Christmas Day is n-i-c-e. The five-game line-up is highlighted by Lakers/Knicks and a Thunder/Heat Finals rematch. Ho-ho-ho!

2. Steve Nash is back. Pau Gasol is back. NOW is the time when we need to start judging these L.A. Lakers. I'm curious to see where this team is headed now that all of the key players are back in the mix.

3. Boise State made a field goal on Saturday to win a bowl game. I had to see it to believe it.

4. The Kansas schools look like the teams to beat in the Big 12 after the Jayhawks punked No. 7 Ohio State on the road and Kansas State beat No. 8 Florida at home on Saturday.

5. Do you know how I know it's time that Manny Pacquiao needs to retire from boxing? Because he's beefing with Justin Bieber in the aftermath of getting knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez. Honestly, I can't imagine a more embarrassing aspect of losing a fight than getting clowned online by Bieber and then watching all of the Philippines its mind in the process.

No. 9 - Pop goes the culture because the culture goes pop.…

… Movie Trailer of the Week: A Stoner's Handbook to the End of the World (NSFW) .

… Hottie of the Week: The one… the only… Candice Swanepoel

… Must-see from the weekend: If John Maher believes Jessica Simpson is sexual napalm, what in the world is Rihanna?

… Caught on camera I guess we can't trust the UPS guys around the holidays .

… He'll be back : Arnold Schwarzenegger: Sex is 'Never Over' .

… We're gonna need a bigger boat : Ladies and gentlemen, meet Megapiranha, no relation to Calvin Johnson.

… It's about time: Ashton finally files for divorce .

… What did the five fingers say to the face?: Disney just says no to call-girls . What's the world coming to?

No. 10 - The List: Nirvana

If there's one thing I realized in the last couple of weeks while I worked on this particular music listening task, it's that the music world really misses Kurt Cobain.

I'm not sure I got Cobain when I was younger. In fact I know that I didn't. However, as time has passed and added perspective has been created, I feel like more and more that I can understand the place from which Cobain came from.

Although it wasn't always pretty, Cobain had a voice that music needed in the 90s and still needs in 2012. Whether he was writing songs about being homeless or heartbroken or even being raped, Cobain's music was more than raw and un-tamed, it was a window into the soul of a musical genius that just hadn't come to grips with the truth of his importance.

The guy had a chance to be my generation's Johnny Cash and it's our loss that the pressure created from his genius helped take it from us. While he might not have become Generation X's version of Cash, he still might be the closest thing it has to him.

Let's get on with the list ( subscribe to this Nirvana list via Spotify

The last five out: Milk It, Pennyroyal Tea, Aneurysm, Something in the Way and On a Plain

Ok, here we go…

10. Dumb

The more and more I listen to the song, the more it connects with me. The world can skip to whatever beat it wants to, but I've got my own and I'm sticking to it.

9. All Apologies

It's not a happy song by any means, but it's beautiful nonetheless. There's just a place that Cobain was able to tap into that was different than what others were creating 20 years ago.

8. In Bloom

Like About a Girl, there's a hard pop feel to the song, which ironically helped make the song so popular that it became beloved by the same crowd that Cobain was singing about.

7. Lithium

It's a song about a guy that's on the verge of the end but ends up finding religion, which saves him from otherwise cracking all the way. It's a song about someone looking for something to save them from the depths of despair. All these years later, you can feel Cobain's personal story all over this song.

6. Heart-Shaped Box

This song is either about kids with cancer or Courtney Love's body. Either way, it's a great track from the group's final album.

5. About a Girl

Cobain loved The Beatles and you can hear the influence in his music with this great popish track. I'm not sure you can have a Nirvana list with this song off of it.

4. Rape Me

It's an anthem of survival of the highest order.

3. Come As You Are

It feels like everything you need to know about Cobain is right here in this song.

2. Smells Like Teen Spirit

It's one of the most important songs ever recorded and its popularity not only made Cobain uncomfortable, but the incredible success sometimes hides the fact that this is an incredible song. It should probably be ranked No. 1, but out of respect for the fact that Cobain would cringe at the thought of it being No. 1, I decided to slot in the second spot.

1. Where Did You Sleep Last Night?

Perhaps its blasphemy to list a Lead Belly song in the top spot, especially when you consider Cobain's chops as a song-writer, but I can't help it … this performance from the MTV Unplugged album is absolute musical perfection. More than any other song Cobain ever recorded, you can feel that Johnny Cash quality coming though this performance, as the song builds up steam over the course of the first couple of minutes and finishes with Cobain delivering as powerful of a vocal as he had to give inside of his body. When the producers of the show wanted him to make an encore performance, he refused because he believed he couldn't deliver a better song or performance … he was right. This performance is for all-time.

Previous Lists: 2-Pac,Aerosmith, Beastie Boys, Beethoven, Biggie Smalls, Boyz II Men, Chuck Brown, Jeff Buckley, Cartoon themes, Eva Cassidy,CCR, Phil Collins, Sam Cooke, The Eagles, Joe Ely, Al Green, Guns N' Roses, Hall and Oats, HBO Shows, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, Ice Cube, Janis Joplin, Jodeci, Kool and the Gang, Led Zeppelin, Amos Lee, Bob Marley, Metallica, George Michael, Mo-Town, Bill Murray, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks, One-hit Wonders from the 1990's, Pink Floyd, Prince, Outkast, Queen, Reba, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones, Scarface, Sexiest Women of All-Time, Snoop Dogg , Bruce Springsteen, Gary Stewart , George Strait, The Strokes, TV Themes, UGK, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Hank Williams Sr.

Previous Lists on Spotify: 2-Pac, Aerosmith, Beastie Boys, Beethoven, Biggie Smalls, Boyz II Men, Jeff Buckley, CCR, Phil Collins, Sam Cooke, Joe Ely, Al Green, Guns N' Roses, Hall and Oats, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, Ice Cube, Janis Joplin, Jodeci, Amos Lee, Bob Marley, George Michael, Mo-Town, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks, One-hit Wonders from the 1990's, Prince, Prince (After Hours), Outkast, Queen, Reba, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones, Scarface, Snoop Dogg . Bruce Springsteen, Gary Stewart , George Strait, The Strokes, UGK, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Hank Williams Sr.

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