Nick Saban began yesterday’s title game by impaling Honey Badger through his blonde mohawk. He then proceeded to eat the screaming animal while it thrashed around in his teeth and spewed gore and organs all over the Superdome. It was brutal. Almost unwatchable. Almost exactly like Jordan Jefferson’s quarterback play.
Alabama cruised to at 21-0 victory over the LSU Tigers last night, and Bama’s defense trampled the Tigers.
While defenses aren’t usually considered beautiful, the pride of Tuscaloosa showed exactly what a number one ranked defense should look like.
In the first half LSU was only able to convert one first down, they piled up 43 yards of total offense, and they punted five times. And it didn’t get any better in the second half.
Jefferson looked overwhelmed most of the game, and his best play was a leaping tackle he unleashed after an interception.
It was a dominant performance by Alabama, and their defense should be remember as one of the best the college game has ever seen.
So we tip our hats to you, Alabama. Tonight we drink to your women and the Crimson Tide. Cheers to you. Maybe you can raise your illiteracy rate while the mojo is flowing.
Football, beignets, and nipples are already out in force, and New Orleans is throwing it into overdrive this evening. Coming off another Superdome victory, the town should be ready to explode for tonight’s National Title game. The LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide will once again clash, and the two top-ranked college teams are both vying for blood and a championship.
The Tigers are coming off a brilliant year in which they outscored opponents 491-131, and went a perfect 13-0. Their ground game rumbled for over 215 yards per game and featured four different tailbacks. This medusa-like attack wore down defenses all season, and gave quarterback Jordan Jefferson enough balance to be effective in the air and ground.
On the other side of the ball is the nation’s top-ranked defense. The Crimson Tide ranked third in the nation against the run and were sixth against the pass. Trent Richardson is one of the nation’s best backs, and led the Tide with over 1,500 rushing yards this season.
Both teams run well, both defend well, both have multiple players headed to the NFL, and both have championship coaching.
This game is so evenly matched that it’s almost a coin flip at this point.
In their first meeting Alabama squander a 6-3 fourth quarter lead, and lost in overtime. The pressure will be on the Tigers to win the game, and we think the game will once again extend into extra minutes. But Baton Rogue is only an hour’s drive to New Orleans and we expect the crowd to howl and scream the Tigers to victory.
It should be a wild game either way.
Point Spread: Louisiana St. Tigers -1/Bama +1
Over/Under Total: 39.5
Verdict: Tigers win 20-17
Coach Raridon has been the head coach of the North Central Cardinals for over seven years. During that time he’s led the school to its most successful stretch on the court, compiling a record of 106-75.
We talked to the Cardinals coach about this season’s road woes, his experience coaching his son, and what he’s learned in 30+ years of coaching.
Coming off your success from last year, did you have special expectations coming into this season?
I think everyone had high expectations for us. I think our players did, our coaches certainly did. But anytime you lose one or two players from the year before the continuity factor becomes important. We had three starters, sometimes four starters, back from a year ago, but it’s just a matter of how well that chemistry comes together with those players. It’s about finding that combination that gives us the most success, and we’re still trying right now.
How do you find that combination? Do you see it in a game? Do you see it in practice?
Both. I think you have to find what works in both areas. And there’s certain situations that one individual may be better against an opponent because of the matchups. So we really have to take a look at that, and then how well that individual fits into our philosophy on offense and defense.
You started the season with some success, but it seems like your team has been on a little bit of a skid as of late. What are you telling the guys in practice?
You’re right, skid would probably be a good word right now for the month of December. The problem that we’ve had is winning on the road. All of our loses have come on the road, but they’re against quality teams. And hopefully this (losing) will pay dividends once we hit conference because our conference is very, very good.
You know we’re trying to find teams out there that have the quality of competition that we will see throughout the course of our conference. And we’ve done that. We’ve had success at home, now it’s just a matter for these kids to find a way to win on the road. So what we’re telling them in practice is to stay focused for 40 minutes. Especially on the road. There’s no time off.
Have you seen a personality from this team yet?
Not really. That’s probably the most frustrating thing right now. We don’t have that identity at this point. It doesn’t seem like we’re the overachievers that we need to be, and that’s something that we’re really trying to stress right now: to be overachievers, to outwork people, to work harder than our opponents. It’s just a question of how hard these kids are going to work for that extra inch, yard, or mile. Whether it be on the practice floor or in a game, and we’re trying to gain that identity to outwork people. I think last year our kids overachieved and that’s something we need to learn from.
What other things are you stressing in practice?
There’s a lot this team needs to work on. From a defensive standpoint, we’re really trying to work harder on that side of the floor. And I don’t think our defensive philosophy is in everyone’s mind yet.
I’m a big believer that our defense is going to create our offense. I think that a lot of our new kids really feel that it’s more about offense, and that’s something that we need a different mindset about. Our upperclassmen understand, but it’s a work in progress.
You’ve been a head coach for over 20 years, what’s the biggest thing you’ve learned during that time?
A lot. You see a lot over the course of twenty years. Have the kids changed? I don’t know if they’ve changed so much. I think they all want to play. The thing that I see right now is that the incoming kids don’t really want to pay their dues. A lot of kids have expectations that they should play right away, and that’s not something I saw when I first started coaching. Now kids want that instant success, they want to start right away.
We’re trying to develop a program here. And every year we want to load that program with kids that know our philosophy and want to put in the time and work.
You’re coaching one of your sons and your other son is an assistant coach, what’s that experience been like?
Tremendous. It’s really something that until you experience it on a daily basis, it’s really hard to explain. You see them everyday in practice, it’s not like I see them off the floor that much, but you get a chance to see them develop and utilize their talents. Both of them have worked extremely hard on their games, and that’s something from a leadership standpoint you like to see. You want them to work hard. They probably have to work harder than the other kids because I’m their father. If you ask my sons, they’d probably say they didn’t get special treatment. I think they’ve earned everything they’ve achieved and I’m very proud of them.
Is it harder for you?
Sometimes it is. It’s probably harder on the family. I’m a very intense individual on the floor, and I want what’s best for our players. And if they’re not doing what’s best for our team, I may get on them. I don’t think it hurts their feelings so much. I think they look at me as their coach and not their dad, but at the same time I still have to go home to their mother. So I hear both ends.
Do you have any bad habits as a coach?
I think every coach has bad habits. I’m probably overly intense on the floor. But I think I’ve always been like that. I want what’s best for the players because they don’t understand how good they can be. My job as a coach is to push them to their limits, beyond what they feel like what they can do. I always say, ‘Be careful what you do once,’ because we’ll expect that every time.
What’s been your greatest accomplishment as a coach?
Seeing individual kids come together as a team. Each year, each team is special. They’re different, but they’re special. Some teams have come together quicker than others, and others have taken more time.
You can check out the Cardinals schedule here: LINK TO THE PAST.
The field house is big and empty. It’s quiet and lights hum up and down the red-floored hallways. The halls are decorated with decades of photos: football players, swimmers, runners, coaches, men, women, some smiling, some competing, some with perms, some with moustaches, all Cardinals, all frozen in time. Although the field house is home to all of North Central’s indoor sports, it also acts as a miniature museum of sorts, chronicling Cardinal history throughout the years.
In one of the few active offices in the building, John Thorne sips coffee and chats amiably to a few of the other athletic staff members. The Cardinals coach had only earlier this week created some more Cardinal history, by winning his third CCIW’s Bob Reade Football Coach of the Year award.
The well-deserved award, not only reflects his team’s record (9-1) this year, but his team’s overall dominance in Division III football over his ten-year tenure (Six consecutive conference titles, 87-23 overall record).
The Cardinals are about to begin their playoff push tomorrow against the University of Dubuque, but Coach Thorne took a few minutes to talk about his team’s dominant season.
You’ve had another great year. Players have won awards, you’ve won another coach of the year award; what have been the strengths of this team?
Speed. College football is all about speed. We have a lot of players at all 22 positions that have good speed, some have exceptional speed. The other this is depth. We started the season with a 140 players, which we’ve done before, but in other seasons there weren’t that many that were ready to play college football on Saturdays.
With this group we’ve had more depth at both lines, and thank goodness we had that because we have lost three offensive line starters. It’s really important to be able to plug in that next guy and know that he’s ready to do something.
We also have 37 seniors. That’s a gigantic number in any D-III school. We used to always preach to them that if we could get 20 (seniors) per year we’d play for the conference title every year. So to have 37, we weren’t at all surprised that we’ve won every conference game by over 20 points.
What’s this team’s personality like?
It’s been fantastic. Our senior captains have done a wonderful job. They’ve adopted a young boy, Connor, who has a brain tumor. They spend time with him, they stay in touch with him, they send things back and forth to him, he comes to practice, and he comes to games. It’s really been exciting to watch them want to make someone else’s life better. So it’s not just them thinking about themselves, which is a hard thing for every young person to learn. Sometimes we get caught up in what we’re doing and we forget that we’re here to impact other people.
What types of philosophies have you tried to impart to your team?
Our philosophy statement starts with faith, family, academics, overcoming adversity… but this year I told our coaches that we’re going to try and make a bigger impact on faith. And it’s exciting to see it happen.
Are those the program’s ethos?
No. For 22 years I was the head coach at Wheaton Warrenville South, and we developed a philosophy statement then. It was called the Red Grange Philosophy at the time, and it’s just what I believe in. And when I came to college, we thought, ‘Well I can’t call it Red Grange Philosophy because he didn’t have a whole lot to do with North Central,’ so we just called it the Cardinal philosophy. A lot of people said that it wouldn’t work with college kids but I said that, ‘We’re going to do it anyway.’
We’ve won 6 conference titles in a row. When we came here 10 years ago, 1960 was the last time the school had won a conference title. I think an awful lot of that has to do with the change in philosophy.
What improvements have you seen over the course of the season?
We came in No. 3 in the nation this year, and I think a lot of us thought were going to start the season right where we were last year. And what we found out was that you have to go back to teaching it all over again. We stumbled our first game and we lost in a shootout out in California.
So the improvements have been in refocusing the team, for both the coaches and players. We both had to realize that you don’t just show up the next season and start at the same place. You have to get back into it. And the guys have really done that and grown together as a team.
That’s the fun part of coaching. Witnessing that meshing together of players, and personalities and coaches. This has been one of those really special years where it’s all come together.
What did you say to your team after that first loss?
We were soft. And we didn’t hit very hard. I told the players that it was totally my fault that we weren’t ready to play that game.
We changed how we finished practices. We didn’t do the really hard conditioning that we normally do, and we just hadn’t pushed hard enough on some of the things that we probably had done in years past.
My wife happens to have cancer this year, and I’m always going back and forth to the hospital. All during those first two weeks before we had to play Redlands. The assistant coaches have done a fabulous job, but there are certain things only a head coach can see happen. And some of those things I let slip through my fingers.
I take full credit for that first loss and I feel terrible that it happened, but the kids have responded unbelievably.
Your first playoff game is tomorrow. What is your team looking at?
This particular team has the number one receiver in the entire nation. He’s broken all kinds of records. Their quarterback is completing 74% of his passes. They have a very nice running back, their offensive line does a great job blocking inside and outside zones, and they have one real speedster. So we have got to be really sound in our secondary, and linebacker play against the pass.
But it all starts with what we call the “real football players,” the linemen. These aren’t the pretty boys, making beautiful plays. We need our offensive line to allow us to run and throw the ball. And we need our defensive line to create throws that are off target and incompletions. It starts up front, and these guys know that.
Besides your first game, what’s been your toughest challenge?
We’ve had a large number of concussions this year. It’s really kind of scary at times. Guys have to pass certain tests before they’re ever allowed back on the field and some of them aren’t going to get to play again this year. You can’t mess with the head. You got to make sure they’re ready to play again. I love football and it’s a great game, but I wish we could play it and keep our guys healthier.
What are you going to tell your players before they take the field tomorrow?
I don’t really give pregame speeches. Tonight we’ll have a meeting, and that’s where we discuss important things. We want the guys to realize that football is so much like life. You have to overcome adversity all the time in football, and the same goes for life. So this is just a practice round. We want to make football our classroom so these guys can use those lessons when they face real adversity.
But I’m just an old guy and nobody listens to me anymore anyway (laughs).
Coach Throne and the Cardinals will host the University of Dubuque in the first round of the NCAA Division III Football Championship tomorrow. Kickoff at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium is scheduled for 12:00 noon.