SPORTS COLUMN | Karma catches up to Masoli

Jeremiah Masoli received a heavy dose of karma last Saturday when his new football team suffered an unforeseen loss and his old team achieved the greatest victory in the program’s history.

The beauty of sports lies in its quality of fair play. It is a realm of rules and regulations that levels the playing field.

However, it is not without a sense of humor, as exemplified by the events that unfolded for both the Oregon University and  Mississippi University football programs.

Masoli was the Heisman-hopeful quarterback for the Oregon Ducks in 2009. His ability to both run and pass well conjured the possibility of becoming the right-handed Michael Vick.

Masoli threw for more than 2,100 yards and 15 touchdowns and ran for 13 more that season.

But perhaps Masoli is too much like Vick.

During the 2010 offseason, Oregon suspended Masoli for the upcoming season after he plead guilty to felony burglary charges.

On June 9, head coach Chip Kelly dismissed him from the team following a citation for marijuana possession.

Masoli then began looking for a new team and chose to transfer his talents out of the Pacific-10 Conference (Pac-10).

Ole Miss and the

glory of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) gave him a second chance.

I’m confident that Masoli was looking for a fresh start with his new team, and playing a team like the Jacksonville State Gamecocks for their season-opener probably made  his eyes widen with hunger.

Highly-ranked teams, and those from power conferences such as the Pac-10 and SEC, often like to schedule teams from smaller conferences and weaker traditions as their season opener. The match up often pairs a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team versus a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team, formerly known as Division 1-A and Division 1-AA, respectively.

I think of these as exhibition games that count as regular season games.

The predicted favorites might think of them as ceremonial beatings and an automatic win.

Last Saturday, both Oregon and Ole Miss had this brand of game arranged. Oregon was able to win theirs, while Ole Miss was not.

Jacksonville State University, an Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) team, upset the Mississippi Rebels, 49-48.

A winner was not decided until the second overtime when Jacksonville State had a choice to make: kick an extra point to tie and begin a third overtime or attempt a two-point conversion, regardless of the result.

The Gamecocks went for two and were successful thanks to an athletic throw-and-catch between quarterback Coty Blanchard and running back Calvin Middleton.

The only things that Ole Miss players could do were throw their helmets and put their heads in their hands.

“The coaches called a shovel pass,” Middleton said. “I don’t even know if (Blanchard) saw me, but I knew if I could catch it, I was deep enough in the end zone to score.”

Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt was disappointed in the result to say the least.

“Without a doubt, it’s the worst loss of my career,” Nutt said.

Masoli was somewhat dumbfounded afterwards.

“Crazy stuff happens sometimes,” he said. “I never expected us to be in overtime.”

Perhaps that was the problem—expectations don’t win football games.

Masoli threw for 109 yards, no touchdowns in the game, and one interception. Jacksonville State held the mobile quarterback to just 29 rushing yards as well.

The former Duck made a key mental error when he was forced into a broken (and eventually unsuccessful) play after being ill-prepared for a snap on fourth-and-10.

Granted, Masoli was not the one who gave up 49 points to an FCS team, but the great collegiate quarterbacks are supposed to overcome close deficits.

Perhaps there was a good reason for Ole Miss to be voted last in the SEC’s preseason coaches’ poll.

Meanwhile, the Oregon Ducks were experiencing the other side of the coin approximately 2,350 miles away in Eugene, Ore.

The Ducks hosted the New Mexico Lobos, who were the victims of a 72-0 slaughter, one which broke many Oregon records.

The 72-point victory is the program’s largest margin of victory in modern scoring era and the 720 yards of total offense broke the previous record of 694 set in 2008.

The Ducks set a new first-half scoring record of 59 points and the team’s 35 total first downs is a new record in Autzen Stadium.

Also, I find it quite impressive that Oregon did not punt once.

We should now review the lessons to be learned from this story.

First, in hindsight, it probably would have done Masoli some good not to have committed burglary, possessed marijuana and as a result lose his spot on the seventh-best football program in the nation. If he could ever humble himself enough to do it, Masoli could make a wonderful anti-drug commercial about this situation.

Second, the underdog should never be underestimated or overlooked.

Third, it is an absolute certainty that there is no such thing as a sure thing in sports. Teams change from season to season, players get better or worse and the underdog always has a chance, no matter what people may say.


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