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Mutka: College bowl season brought more mediocrity

Former Chicago Blackhawk Dennis Hull autographs picture him as player for fan Jake Gurgevich who is freshman Mount Carmel High

Former Chicago Blackhawk Dennis Hull autographs a picture of him as a player for fan Jake Gurgevich who is a freshman at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago during the 68th annual Gary Old Timers banquet held at Avalon Manor in Hobart on Wednesday January 8, 2014. | Charles Mitchell/for Sun-Times Media

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No doubt about it, couch potatoes never had it better over the holidays. Unfortunately, college fans will no longer have Johnny Football to kick around.

Many bowl games were wildly exciting, none more so than Manziel’s grand finale in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. In a 52-48 victory over Duke, he passed for 382 yards and four touchdowns and ran for a fifth to rally Texas A&M from a 21-point deficit.

Before departing the cocky quarterback surpassed his Heisman Trophy numbers, passing for 4,114 yards and 37 touchdowns. Compare that to 3,206 yards and 26 TDs in his memorable first year.

Manziel fell short of 1,000 yards rushing (a mere 759), but what really derailed his chances of a Heisman repeat was a fatal early hit, a 49-42 loss to Alabama exposing the worst defense in the SEC. It was one six times the Aggies gave up at least 30 points.

Manziel threw for 464 yards and five touchdowns against the Crimson Tide, but critics used a 10-4 season as an excuse to bail out on him.

Now bound for the NFL and more cash in one contract than most of us make in a lifetime, all he has to worry about is staying healthy, keeping his head from swelling and dodging predatory females eager to take advantage of a naive party animal from Kerrville, Texas.

Once again the Big Ten was well represented in bowls, but not results. Represented by at least six teams for the 15th straight year, the conference managed to go just 2-5.

Michigan State came to the rescue with its stirring defense, edging Stanford to give the Big Ten its first Rose Bowl victory in 13 years. The Spartans will take a 10-game winning streak into next season thanks to linebacker Kyle Ellsworth. Subbing for suspended leader Max Bullough, he stuffed Stanford on fourth-and-1 with 1:46 left to preserve a 24-20 victory.

Nebraska gave the Big Ten its only other reason to crow with a 24-19 victory over Georgia in the Gator Bowl, highlighting a wild 9-4 season.

Lowlights centered on coach Bo Pelini’s often bizarre behavior. Seemingly begging to be fired, the F-bombing curmudgeon went on a major rant after a loss to Iowa.

Somehow he and his colorful vocabulary have survived. At least temporarily, the Big Red administration is indulging him.

And now for the Big Ten’s dark side:

Outback Bowl: LSU (10-3 record) 21, Iowa 14.

Capital One Bowl: South Carolina (11-2) 34, Wisconsin 24.

Texas Bowl: Syracuse (7-6) 21, Minnesota 17.

Wild Wings Bowl: Kansas State (8-5) 31, Michigan 14.

Orange Bowl: Clemson (11-2) 40, Ohio State 35.

Mediocrity abounds: Bowl teams continued to be rewarded for merely being average. Twelve elevens continued this alarming trend.

Syracuse, Oregon State, Mississippi State, Pittsburgh, Maryland and North Carolina escaped losing seasons with victories. Losses doomed Michigan, Georgia Tech, Tulane and Ohio to 7-6 records.

Washington State and Rutgers, gearing up for Big Ten membership (I can hardly wait), slipped to 6-7. Just another year of the needy being greedy.

Someone’s got to pay coaches those ridiculous salaries. Feed the beast. That’s the American way in the home of the crave and the land of the fee.

Old Timer leftovers: During his visit to the Gary Old Timers former Blackhawks great Dennis Hull was asked his opinion of the current two-time Stanley Cup champions.

What impresses him the most is their speed and stamina.

“They play fast and hard all the time,” said Hull, who teamed up with his brother Bobby for eight of his 14 seasons in the NHL. “They never take a shift off. Some teams are lucky to have one (really) good player. The Hawks have half a dozen.”

Ten of them will participate in the Winter Olympics next month.

“When they play some of the lesser teams they’re so much better it doesn’t seem fair,” Hull said.

During his visit to Northwest Indiana, Hull hooked up with his former linemate Jim Pappin. They talked about how the 1971 Stanley Cup finalists would stack up against the current Hawks.

“Jimmy said, ‘of course we could (give them a game) if we trained the same way they did, but if they trained the way we did we’d beat the (expletive) out of them.’”

In the 1970s concussions were not taken as seriously.

“We called it getting your bell rung,” Hull said.

He told of an incident involving J.P. Bordeleaux, who played for the Hawks from 1969-82. Hull was on the ice when a trainer checked out his teammate for a concussion. Asked where he was, Bordeleaux correctly replied Chicago. Pressed for details, he answered Chicago, Florida. After examining him downstairs the trainer eventually returned to report to coach Billy Reay.

According to Hull he said, ‘JP doesn’t know who he is.’

“Billy said, ‘tell him he’s Gordie Howe and get him back up here.’”

Obviously, medical attention was not nearly as sophisticated in the NHL in that era. Hull offered this example.

“Our team doctor was (former owner) Mr. Wirtz’s brother-in-law. He was also a gynecologist.” Hull laughed. “None of us got pregnant.”

Helmets became mandatory in 1979, but not before players offered considerable resistance. Hull disagreed with my opinion that “macho” reasons were involved.

“I’d been playing without one since I was five years old,” said Hull, who came to the Hawks when he was 18. “The first time I put one on in felt like a bale of hay on my head. It just didn’t feel comfortable.”

When helmets were enforced only those who played before that date didn’t have to wear them, but only after signing a waiver. The last player to wear one was Craig MacTavish of the St. Louis Blues in 1997.



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