IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

To be honest, my break has been consumed by college football bowl season, the NFL Playoffs, the first half of the NBA season and the beginning of college basketball. If you were preoccupied, these are the top 10 sports moments of winter break, severely affected by my own personal bias.

10. Insight Bowl: Missouri vs. Iowa

 

Before you put down the newspaper in disgust, hear me out. This was one of the most entertaining bowls of the entire year, having everything you could ever want from a football game. Missouri and Iowa combined for 937 yards total offense with outstanding individual performances by Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert — 434 passing yards — and Iowa first year running back Marcus Coker — 33 carries, 217 yards and two touchdowns.

Missouri fell behind 17-3 before scoring 21 of the next 24 points to take a 24-20 lead in the fourth quarter. Iowa was unable to respond and the game appeared to be over as Gabbert led Missouri down the field for the would be put-away touchdown, when all of a sudden Iowa defensive-back Micah Hyde returned an inexplicable Gabbert interception 72 yards for a game-winning touchdown. 27-24 Iowa. Crazy stuff folks.

9. Pinstripe Bowl: Kansas State vs. Syracuse

This game, which revitalized a somewhat boring start to the bowl season at the time, was filled with lead changes, big plays, flea-flickers, fake field-goal attempts and a controversial finish to top it all off. Kansas State trailed 36-28 with 3:08 left in the fourth quarter after a Syracuse field goal. Carson Coffman, the Kansas State quarterback, proceeded to lead his team down the field and threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to receiver Adrian Hilburn.

After scoring, Hilburn dropped the ball and saluted the crowd in celebration and was inexcusably flagged for excessive celebration for “calling attention to himself.” Long story short, the necessary two-point conversion attempt took place from the 17 instead of the two-yard line and Kansas State was robbed of a chance at a bowl victory. 36-34 Syracuse.

8. Sugar Bowl: Ohio State vs. Arkansas

 

 The game was certainly a memorable one — Ohio State picking off standout Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallet to seal a close game — but the real story was the hypocrisy and corruption of the NCAA. Five Ohio State players, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, were suspended prior to the Sugar Bowl by the NCAA for accepting improper benefits. Yet the five suspended players were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl, their suspensions instead taking effect at the beginning of next year. Just another example of how corrupt the NCAA truly is.

If the players were suspended when they should have been, obviously for the Sugar Bowl, the television ratings and the revenue generated would have been decreased exponentially. Instead of doing the right thing, the NCAA made the decision that benefited their wallets and the wallets of their corporate sponsors. That being said, the game turned out to be a fantastic one. 31-26 Ohio State.

7. Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. TCU

Other than the national championship game, this was the game I was most excited for when the bowls were first announced. It was a matchup of the traditional power of Wisconsin against the upstart, non-traditional TCU team.

TCU was undefeated entering the Rose Bowl and beating an extremely talented Wisconsin team would validate their position as one of the nation’s best. As fans, we got an immensely entertaining and satisfying contest that was decided in the last seconds, as TCU’s Tank Carder — great football name — batted down a would-be-tying two-point conversion from Wisconsin.

I personally was rooting for Wisconsin and was extremely confused with the play-call on the two-point conversion. Wisconsin’s team was built on a dominating offensive line and a triple headed running attack of James White, John Clay and Monte Ball. Why throw the ball in that situation? 21-19 TCU.

6. NCAA Basketball: Kemba Walker’s insane run

I can’t remember a monthlong span where I tuned in to watch the last few minutes of an individual team’s game and saw one player will his team to victory the way UConn’s Kemba Walker has done it. Walker — who is averaging 25.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg and a misleading 3.8 apg — has a remarkable resume this season. Keep in mind that UConn was not ranked entering this season and was picked to finish in the middle of a talented Big East Conference.

Nov. 22: Walker scores 29 of 31 points in the second half against Wichita State, including a key jumper with less than a minute to play to lead UConn to victory in the first round of the Maui Invitational.

Nov. 23: Walker leads UConn with 30 points and hit a fall away jumper with 52 seconds left to give UConn a lead that wouldn’t be relinquished against No. 2 Michigan State.

Nov. 24: Walker scores 29 points and caps off his three-day tear by defeating No. 8 Kentucky.

Dec. 3: Walker records a triple double  — 24 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists — against UMBC.

Jan. 8: Walker makes incredible plays late in the game — “Incredible” meaning go YouTube “Kemba Walker Amazing 3 Pointer in OT, UConn Texas” — capped by a game winning 15 footer with 5 seconds left in overtime against a quality Texas team. If that wasn’t enough, seven of his 22 points came in the overtime period. Talk about clutch.

 Jan.17: Walker scores 24 points against No. 7 Villanova including a 10 foot floater with 2.5 seconds left to give UConn a 61-59 victory over the Wildcats.

 Moral of the story: Kemba Walker is really, really good.

5. NFL Playoffs: New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks

After watching what I still believe was one of the worst games I’ve ever sat through — the week 17 Sunday night game between the Rams and Seahawks — I thought the Saints would rip apart the Seahawks. I didn’t care that Matt Hasselbeck was coming back; I gave the Seahawks zero chance. And if Marshawn Lynch didn’t turn into a monster for one play, I would have been right.

The Saints were in the process of recovering from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter and had just scored to cut the lead to seven. I was sitting on my couch thinking, “there is no way Seattle is going to hold this lead.” That was before Lynch literally manhandled six Saints defenders and completed the greatest 67-yard rush you will ever see and arguably one of the greatest plays in post-season history given the circumstances. Had Lynch been stopped, there is no doubt in my mind that New Orleans drives down the field and beat the Seahawks. 41-36 Seahawks.

4. NFL Week 15: Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants

 

The miracle at the New Meadowlands was just one of those occurrences in sports where you sit there and look at the person next to you without speaking, mouth hanging open, silently asking “Did that just freaking happen?”

DeSean Jackson gave the Giants one of the most heartbreaking losses in the history of their franchise, capping off a remarkable comeback for the Eagles. The game basically decided the division and the Giants blew a 21-point second-half lead. I am a New York- residing Giants-hater, so this was great for me, but it caused my father, a Giants fan, to become more rattled than Tom Brady against the New York Jets defense. 38-31 Eagles.

 

3. BCS National Championship Game: Oregon vs. Auburn

  Not much to be said about this game. It took a while for both high-powered offenses to wake up after more than a monthlong break from competitive action, but the end result was a classic title game that took all 48 minutes for a winner to be decided. The only negative was that there was no overtime. The Oregon touchdown drive at the end of the game and the ensuing two-point conversion, followed by Auburn’s game winning drive, is why we watch sports. 22-19 Auburn.

2. NFL Divisional Playoffs: Trash Talk

I am talking Jets-Pats obviously. I can’t remember a week leading up to a game where so much back-and-fourth was exchanged between the teams and the fans of those teams alike. Rex Ryan, Wes Welker, Barstool New York, Barstool Boston, talk radio from both cities, Pats fans, Jets fans — everyone just hated each other. It made the game to come one of the most anticipated in recent memory and allowed for the number one moment of winter break

1. NFL Divisional Playoffs:

New York Jets vs. New England Patriots

Pats fans, I really mean this when I say it: I hope you remember that day for the rest of your lives. How sick to your stomach are you? How disgusted are you that such an arrogant team as the Jets came into your house and beat you up? How much does it sting to remember Rex Ryan running down the sideline to celebrate the game-sealing touchdown with his team? How many Jets fans would you like to punch in the mouth? How much does it bother you that Tom Brady was weeping onto the shoulder of Welker after the loss in the locker room and that he had fear in his eyes five minutes into the game?

I could really go on all day but I have a page budget to keep here. I am by no means a typical New-York-residing Boston-hater. I respect the Celtics and the way they play defensive-oriented, team-first basketball. I actually like the Red Sox because I am a Mets fan and have a burning hatred toward the Yankees. But the Patriots are the one Boston team I genuinely and passionately dislike. This game will live on for a long time after this season for Jets fans whether you like it or not. The Jets finally backed up all the arrogance, all the talk, all the fanfare and left New England in shock as they watched the impossible unfold. 28-21 Jets.