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2010 Simulated Season Part 1: A Strong Start, Obviously

The day after the MLB All-Star game is probably the nadir of the sports calendar.  It is the only day of the year that there are literally no major league or college sports games being played.  I wrote that sentence with an 80% confidence level, but since then, I have thought it through and am sticking with the stat.  First person to prove me wrong gets my entire share of the EA Sports sponsorship check for the last month. 

Anyway, for college sports fans, especially UofL fans, the off-season is a lot shorter than it used to be.  With full-time recruiting news, college baseball and online nerd-communities such as this place, sometimes it seems as if college sports lasts the entire year now.  But by about this time, the season seems so tantalizingly close, but yet still so far away.  Especially this season - so much excitement, so much uncertainty, so much CharlieStronglust around here...the season literally cannot get here soon enough.

Well, the simulated season will have to do.  Last year's versions (Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) were pretty far off prediction wise, but I don't think anyone really thought the season would play out like the PS3 version did.  This season?  Sky is the limit.  Rosters have been downloaded (thanks Gaming Tailgate), tweaks have been made (for superstitious purposes, Demar Dorsey has NOT been added to the roster), position switches have been made, the season has been simulated.....and an overly verbose description of the Simulated 2010 Season awaits....after the jump....

Game 1 (0-0, 0-0 Big East) - Kentucky @ Louisville

This game needs no introduction, and will get none here.  Chris Philpott becomes Charlie Strong's Harry Douglas by scoring the first points of his coaching career on a 36 yard field goal with 7:57 left in the first quarter.  Ryan Tydlacka becomes Strong's Derrick Townsel (or Taylor Begley?) and knots it up at 3-3 with a field goal late in the first quarter. 

Either these teams' defenses are just outstanding, or the offenses are not good....we will find out the answer soon.  Whichever, the Cards take a halftime lead of 6-3 after a 34-yard Philpott field goal halfway through the 2Q.  Philpott keeps it rolling, nailing a 21 yarder (not a good start for the red zone offense) to put us up 9-3.  Finally, mercifully and awesomely, Adam Froman connects with Vic Anderson on a 5-yard TD pass, and Strong consults his handy "should I go for 2 points?" chart and nails it, and the Cards lead 17-3.  There is much rejoicing. 

As the fourth quarter starts, the Cards defense is really dominating the game.  UK is held to 13 first downs, 265 yards of total offense, only 98 of which are on the ground.  As the 4Q starts, UofL fans are anxious, not really wanting to get our hopes up, but thinking, hey, maybe this thing is real, you know? Could it be, I mean, like do you think we are back?  I dunno man, it's hot out here though.  Also, I've been meaning to ask you....

Sorry, that got a little out of hand.  Anyway, with a 17-3 lead and UK ball halfway through the 4th Quarter, there needs to be some magic on both sides to close this one out with a victory.  Morgan Newton fakes the handoff to Derrick Locke and takes off the other way, only to be stripped of the ball.  Out of no where, Johnny Patrick flies in and picks it up, running it 30 yards into the end zone for the game clinching score.  There is much, much, much rejoicing.  And my rejoicing, I mean, I am sorta getting pumped even imagining how awesome PJCS 2.0 would be if this actually happened, or anything close to it.  Randall Cobb tacks on a meaningless TD with 1:27 left, and the Cards win it, 24-10.  Strong makes the defense run sprints because of the last TD.

Feels good to just type it.  The new Cardinal offense has an easy time moving the ball (423 total yards, 24 first downs, 142 on the ground and 281 in the air) but leaves points on the board after twice failing to convert in the red zone.  Adam Froman looks like a Ginger Stefan Lefors by going 22-31, 144.8 QB rating, 1 TD pass, 2 INTs (doh) and a few scampers for positive yardage.  Vic continues (or re-starts?) the trend of the winning team's leading rusher outrushing the entire other team, gaining 109 yards on a knee-killing 30 carries.  Cam Graham proves he's no Aaron Hernandez, as the only TE shovel pass thrown his way nets negative 4 yards.  Still no endzone for Doug Beaumont, but he does rack up 109 yards, 15.5 YPC on 7 catches, and Michaelee Harris is welcomed to the program with 5 catches for 60 yards. Mario Benavides would like 5 pancakes, please. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Scruggs and LB James Miller (I have no actual knowledge of this person but look forward to getting to know him) lead the way, and Chron favorite Champ Lee earns it by getting 2 picks in his first collegiate game.  So help me deity of your choice, if it turns out Champ Lee's redshirt was burned last year....anyway, newcomer Mike Privott contributes with 3 tackles, as do a number of other dudes, and Patrick proves that last year was no misunderstanding and gets an INT as well.  UK goes on to finish 3-9 (0-8!!), another thing that feels good to type.

So far, so good.  I don't think I realized until going through this mostly completely pointless exercise how awesome a win over UK in the opener would be.  Let's just hope there is no let down against....

Game 2 (1-0, 0-0) - FCS Midwest @ Louisville

Licensing issues prevent this team from showing up by its real name - Eastern Kentucky University - but licensing issues do not prevent EA from encouraging superfans to create completely named rosters of actual college students and distribute them over EA's network through a feature EA invented.  Discuss below, citing controlling legal authority where appropriate. 

There's no suspense in this one, or if there is, it is gone midway through the 2nd Quarter as for a moment it turns into 2005.  Chichester catches a 13-yard touchdown pass (I mean, that's gotta be a fade/jumpball right?) from Froman on Louisville's first drive.  Philpott continues his Carmodic year (note: the adjective Cardmodic can be applied to any task you do on a day to day basis, consistently well and/or while 11 angry men run at you at full speed while yelling to distract you from said task) with a 42-yarder early in the 2nd quarter.

And then the floodgates come off and the wheels open, as Chichester catches another 8 yarder (on a play action jetsweep clearly), CamGram snags a 13 yarder and Beaumont hauls in a 9-yarder, which IRL would be his first but in terms of simulated seasons would not, so I don't really know how to count that.  Luckily, the only other score in the first half is a Philpott field goal as I was running out of synonyms for "catch."  The Cards take a 34-0 lead into the locker room. 

We score again on the first drive of the 3rd Quarter, Vic's first running touchdown of the season, from 3 yards out.  EKU is finally on the board with a 39 yard FG of their own, but Darius Ashley moves back from CB to score a touchdown in the early 4th quarter.  I swear I moved him to CB...anyway, EKU scores on a 77-yard run by HB#30 (damn you HB#30!), but the final margin stays at 45 after Will Stein throws a ball to Pete Notcha, who ensnares it for a 21 yard TD pass.  Cards win, 55-10.   For the first time since October of 2008, we have won 2 straight games.  

Game 3 (2-0, 0-0) - Louisville @ Oregon State

I remember the 2005 Oregon State game well.   It was my first year with season tickets, and we came into the season with a ton of hype, including the New York Times picking us to play Michigan in the BCS Championship game.  Brian Brohm and Michael Bush were both going to become full-time starters...the UK game the week before was a little closer than people liked, but hey, we were dominating them and just sorta let them back in, and Bush's last TD was called back and we just took a knee after that, so I mean, probably fine still. 

And then Oregon State scored a touchdown.  And then a field goal.  Brohm did not look comfortable, and it looked like he was running Lefors's offense still, which was not his best option.  I'll admit it, I was nervous, and actually texted Quinn1979 something about still going to the BCS if we win our conference.  Amazing how one play can change a game, or a season.  After two straight short drives/punts, and a huge sack on first down, Brohm found Joshua "Greg" Tinch for a nice gain, and on first down lined up tight like it was a power running play.  Harry Douglas went long and Brohm found him after the play action fake, a 47-yard gain that set up a score 2 plays later, and we never looked back, absolutely dominating OSU 63-27.  This was also the game that Mario was introduced to the world.

Memories.  Anyway, one non-game related thing about that game: I remember reading in the CJ the next day that the return game was in 2010 and thinking, 2010, that's a crazy sounding year, and in no way can I conceptualize what life will be like in 2010 because it is just too far away.  Well, here we are.  No flying cars, but Youtube.  I guess I'll take it.

Would 5 years be long enough that no one in Corvallis, Oregon, would be hankering for some payback?  The first quarter starts off more defensive than anything else.  OSU breaks through, however, with a 1 yard TD run with 3:11 to go.  UofL quickly answers back, and I mean quickly - with 2:25 left, Zack Meagher runs it in for 2 yards.  He's like the fullback in this game, FYI.  I would imagine that TD was set up by Jacques Caldwell's 89-yard kickoff return.  Anyway, UofL continues the scoring in the 2Q with a 20 yard Chichester touchdown get one's fingers on, on a, I dunno, post route or something.  Maybe Coach Strong should consult this simulation before finalizing Chichester's move to TE.  He's dominate so far this season, virtually speaking.  Meagher tacks on another 6-yard run and the Cards take a 21-7 lead into halftime. 

At this point, I am likely flipping out.  Beating down UK at home - awesome.  Going on the road to a top-25 BCS team and taking a 21-7 halftime lead?  I probably start looking at stubhub for BCS tickets.  Not championship game - be reasonable, man.  But Orange Bowl?  I mean, doesn't hurt, we can always sell them, right honey? 

I just sorta peek at BCS championship tickets, as a joke really, with about 8 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter after Josh "I'm taking my talents to tight end" Chichester captures a 49 yard TD pass from Froman.  An OSU field goal means the 4th quarter begins with a 28-10 UofL lead.

This lead is extended to 31-10 on a Philpott 37-yarder with 13:49 left to go in the game.  OSU answers with 7:49 left to bring it back to 31-13, and Philpott rejoinders with a 25 yarder.  So this game is basically over, right?  That's okay, a touchdown by OSU with 2:28 to go, on a 9 yard pass, I mean, that will make the game look closer than it was, but let's just run out the clock.  Crap, another TD with :21 seconds on a 62 yard TD pass and I'm cursing myself for looking at stubhub.  I'm sure Champ Lee found out about it with like 6 minutes to go and was like, oh, CardsFan922 is looking at stubhub?  I literally do not have to do anything in the secondary but stand here as we have already won this game, metaphysically speaking, but wait, why is that guy running so fast and why does Coach look like he is writing me a nasty letter in Comic Sans font? 

The final onside kick goes out of bounds and the Cards kneel it to end it, escaping the dreaded state of Oregon with a 34-27 victory.  That was a little closer than it needed to be at the end, guys, but I mean, we dominated, so let's keep these positive feelings going.  We are 3-0 and Officially Back. Breathe.

One reason why it is a little hard to breathe: the defense gave up 536 yards, 419 of it in the air, to the Beavers, and let them get 25 first downs to our 16.  Garbage time, I assert.  Another tough time scoring in the redzone (teams start to double cover Chichester), as we go 3-6 with only 1 TD to show for it.  388 yards and a less efficient but still great Froman outing (18-38, 323 yards, 2 TDs but a Carmodic 0 interceptions), but only 65 yards on the ground, 51 of which were from Vic on 19 carries isn't exactly 2005-like numbers.  Chichester had an outstanding game, 6 hauled-in passes for 101 yards and the 2 TDs, and a generation of OSU fans thinking all UofL does is produce giant WRs who catch touchdowns.  Vic had a good day in the air, nabbing 4 balls from it for 97 yards.  Incredibly, and this whole simulation thing just lost of a whole lot of credibility from me, Byron Stingily had 3 pancakes and gave up 0 sacks. 

Champ Lee had another pick, maintaining his ChronFav status.  If he was on Twitter, I would totally follow him.  Not stalk him like @LeighBrad does @vic20anderson, but I mean, I'd be curious as to which class he was annoyed to be in or which casual dining restaurant/local mall he would be patronizing that evening.  Anyway, Shenard Holton leads the Cards with 10 tackles, Miller is right behind him with 8 and Brandon Heath (can't believe he's a senior, time flies) has 7.  No sacks.  But Jacques Caldwell has 4 kick returns for a 41.5 yard average (the aforementioned big one helped a lot with that) and also added 64 yards off of punt returns for a lot of running and being chased. 

And he, like the whole team, may have been forced to run all the way home for the lollygagging they showed in the fourth quarter to let OSU score 14 quick points and get a remote chance to tie it up late.  But, the fans are happy to be unhappy about too-close-a-win-and-how-this-affects-our-ranking arguments again, and the Cards head into the bye week and a return visit to the Arkansas State....damn, forgot again....Red Wolves, undefeated and generating some buzz beyond Kentucky's borders. 

Game 4 (3-0, 0-0) - Louisville @ Arkansas State

Beating Arkansas State is so easy, a Kragman can do it.  But a 21-13 grossfest in front of dozens of pissed off fans in the cold while interfering with Halloween (deep's over....deep breaths) is not going to get it done this year, and Strong knows it.  The sluggishness left over from Oregon (probably still gloomy from all the rain and trees) continues through the first quarter, until Froman opens the scoring with a 1 yard TD pass to Doug B.  Like last game, the 2nd quarter is really where the action happens: a 24 yard Vic TD pluck is followed a few short minutes later by a 4 yard Vic TD run, and Chichester adds 2 TDs to his season total, an 11 yarder (jumpball!) and a 53 yarder to take a 35-0 halftime lead.  An 8 yard pass to Doug for a TD with 11:51 to go in the 3rd quarter are the last Cardinal points, and the defense earns a small smirk from Charlie Strong for holding Arkansas State to 0 points.

The defense pitched the shutout thanks to giving up just 210 yards of total offense, more than half of which were on the ground, only allowing 10-23 passing and forcing a fumble.  Arkansas State is held to 5-19 on 3rd downs and only 13 first downs overall.  Froman has himself a game: 18-23, 277 yards, 5 TDs and a gaudy 251.1 QB rating.  Chichester catches only three passes but two were for TDs, and CamGrm gets 5 for 74 yards.  Pancakes were evenly spread among the guys on the line.  Trust me, you need to know these things: Kessling had 3, Benavides 2, Hernandez 2, Wetterer, Byrom, Joyner and Stingily 1 apiece.  There will be a quiz.

CJ Peake gets on the board with 7 tackles, and Scruggs gets a sack, but other than that, no one stands out on defense.  A team shutout, but not enough to make Charlie Strong actually smile.

So, the Cards head home 4-0.  The first third of the season literally could not have gone any better on a macro level.  Micro, we aren't perfect and we aren't dominating.  But we are good, we are playing hard, some guys are finally living up to their talents and headline writers everywhere are given the easiest headlines ever to write: something like, Cards Start Strong and Strong Start In Louisville. 

And there was much rejoicing.