If you have been watching ESPN at any time over the past two weeks or so, you knew that yesterday marked the beginning of the 2009 NCAA Football season. I’m more of an NFL man myself but over the last couple of years have began to get into the college game as well. Marquette has no football team so I haven’t picked a school to root for (despite my man-crush on Tim Tebow), but I am starting to respect and enjoy the game more.
The year was kicked off on ESPN with a top-25 matchup between the 14th ranked Boise State Broncos and 16th ranked Oregon Ducks. The bordered rivals entered the game with BCS berth aspirations, full-well knowing that the loser of the game was pretty much out of the running with Boise State playing in a non-BCS conference and Oregon having USC in theirs, the Pac-10.
Much hype was made of the game, but a lackluster 19-8 Boise State win became a whole lot more exciting after the final whistle blew. As the two teams congregated on the field in a standard post-game handshake, Boise State sophomore defensive end Byron Hout ran by Oregon running back LeGarette Blount and said something. Blount then stared at Hout for a moment and delivered a sucker-punch, knocking Hout to the ground.
Blount then punched a teammate trying to hold him back as he attempted to get back to where Hout was. He was escorted off the field by a few teammates and security as he got into it with a group of fans who, Blount says, punched him and held up a chair as if to throw at him.
The melee was a mess and really took away from the start to what looks to be an excellent college football season. Blount will have repercussions from his actions, but the real question is this: is Byron Hout at fault as well?
The beginning of this story goes way back to last season, after Boise State had defeated the Ducks 37-22 in Oregon. Two late hits in the game by the Broncos were the talk of the town, and last month Blount told Sports Illustrated that Oregon owed Boise State “an ass-whooping”.
Here’s a lesson that young (OK, he’s older than me) Byron Hout needs to learn: bulletin board talk is supposed to psych you up before the game and during it, not after. How many times we seen players come out in the media and say something to rile the other team up before a huge rivalry? It’s part of sports and something that happens all the time.
Mature players speak with their actions on the field, something all but one Bronco did Thursday night. I played four years of high school football, and while I would never compare it to a meeting between a Pac-10 school and a WAC powerhouse, the jist of what goes on is the same.
Trash talk happens in every facet of the game during all minutes of the game. From the second the kickoff takes place to the final whistle, kids are hooting and hollering at the opposition to get their squad jacked up. In Hout’s case, he had 60 minutes to say anything and everything he wanted to Blount. Odds are he said quite a bit during the game, meaning he clearly got his point across enough that he could have shut up after the game.
The other aspect of all this is that Boise State won the game handily. Despite the score, Boise State controlled the game and never let Oregon back in it. Blount rushed for negative yards on eight carries and caught just two passes on the evening. He was shut up in every aspect as the Broncos delivered him his self-proclaimed “ass-whooping”.
The term “leaving everything on the field” does not just apply to work ethic and heart. It applies to the trash-talking and bitterness towards your opponent. After the game, Blount was seen shaking hands with Boise State players just as any normal player would do. The game was over and so was the trash-talking.
If Hout wants to hate Oregon and LeGarrette Blount for the rest of his life, that’s his prerogative and something I wouldn’t blame him for. After all, the rivals have had a battle of words but in the end, Boise State has two “W’s” that any Oregon Duck wishes they had. Those two wins in the last two years were enough for everyone on the Smurf Turf expect one Byron Hout.
For some reason he needed more than just a victory to settle the score with Blount. The Oregon running back had just started off his senior year in the worst way possible, had just blown any realistic chance at a BCS berth, and had one of the worst games of his football career. Hout taunted him like a child and basically kicked him while he was down. Hout does not deserve to be suspended, but some internal action needs to be taken so Hout knows he wasn’t just a victim in this incident.
As for Blount, the proverbial last straw has been taken from his and his days in an Oregon uniform need to be over. First year head coach Chip Kelly suspended Blount in the off-season for “failing to fulfill team obligations” before being re-instated for the start of the season. Out of high school, Blount did not qualify academically and had to jake the JUCO route before winding up at Oregon.
If Kelly wants to make a statement with his new program, he will sacrifice his starting running back to show that Oregon is not full of punks. It’s true that Hout is at fault for talking after the game, but if a player can not show enough restraint to not sucker-punch a player, his own teammate, and go after fans after the fact of the matter, then he has no place on a respected Division-I football team.
It’s sad that the end of a game between two great football teams had to end in such a poor way, but don’t think that Blount is the only one at fault here. Hout had no place going and taunting, not talking to, Blount after the game. He was jumping around him, patted him on the back and said something that clearly angered Blount. It was immature and stupid of Hout, but Blount’s even dumber actions seem to be covering that up.
Whatever happens to Blount, likely a suspension of some sort, Hout needs to come out publicly and apologize for his words and actions to clean this act up. Not only will it make him look better, but it will remove some of the dark cloud that is being put over the heads of the poor winners of Boise State. Only one person took it too far, but every second Hout wears the Boise State blue, he represents the school and has to know that anything he does is a representation of the school.