Super Bowl 50 - this year’s edition of the biggest football game of the year is compelling. There is always a great story. This year it’s about the quarterbacks - the “young” Cam Newton against the “old” Peyton Manning.
The football Gods wanted Manning to have one more Super Bowl ring (his fifth). Denver is fortunate to be in Santa Clara for Sunday’s game. If not for the first extra point miss in 573 attemptss by Patriot kicker Steven Gostkowski against the Broncos in the AFC championship game, all New England does at the end of regulation is kick a PAT. Brady was on a roll and the Pats would have won in overtime.
Although not always pretty, Manning led the Broncos to seven straight wins at the start of the season. Give Manning credit for coming back from his foot injury (he missed six games). His last performance before the injury was not exactly a good night for him. He was five for 20 for a mere 35 yards, and four interceptions. It was the night he set the new NFL career passing yards record.
His first start in two months was against the Steelers in the AFC Divisional Round, winning 23-16. He had another bad game against the Chiefs, but bounced back again against the Chargers - coming off the bench in the third quarter leading the team to a 27-20 comeback win. Sunday is the biggest game in his career, because it will be the one, win or lose, that he will be remembered for.
For those of you who have issues with Newton, get over it. Fans equate his touchdown celebrations to being cocky. I think Cam is having a blast. He is the MVP and is transforming the quarterback position. His stats in 2015 are staggering: 35 touchdowns passing, 10 rushing. He has thrown for 3,800 yards and run for 600 more. 4,400 yards and 45 touchdowns. How can there be a MVP debate?
I grew up in the mid 1970s. When you scored, hand the ball to the ref and act like you’ve been there before. You so wanted to spike the ball, but you would be benched. Privately, I would practice my Billy “White Shoes” Johnson moves. For those under 45, it’s worth checking it out on Youtube.
Newton, unlike Manning, is in his ascendency. He can do it all. Newton could always throw deep and at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, the guy is lethal carrying the ball. The difference this year is Newton is a solid drop-back passer. He is a threat on every snap and really can’t be defended. For those who say he isn’t ready his resumé comes with a National Championship at Auburn. The guy has played and won on the big-time stage.
Denver’s defense will be the Panthers biggest test to date.
What Denver doesn’t have is a killer run game. Manning is incredibly smart but really can’t throw the ball downfield like earlier in his career.
Carolina has it all: A nasty defense and a balanced offense that can score with the run and pass. If El Niño continues Sunday, Carolina has even more of an advantage.
Prediction: Panthers win 27-13, and Newton is crowned the new king of the NFL. Manning will sail into the sunset as one of the top five quarterbacks to ever play.
Former Yosemite Badger great Cole Popovich may soon be wearing a Super Bowl ring himself. The Fresno Bee’s Anthony Galaviz had a nice article Jan. 27, detailing Popovich’s new career move as assistant offensive line coach for the New England Patriots - something all Badger faithful can be proud of.
There is a great Mountain-Fresno State connection with the New England Patriots. Former Fresno State Coach Pat Hill was an offensive line coach for current Patriots coach Bill Belichick in Cleveland prior to beginning his 15-year tenure at FSU in 1997. Hill, who remains close with Belichick, and former FSU coach Moses Cabrera, recommended Popovich for the job. Hill’s word means a lot to Belichick, and Coach Cabrera is on the Patriot’s staff.
Another Hill recommendation was Mariposa High and Fresno State star Logan Mankins. Mankins was drafted No. 32 by New England in 2005, in a surprise first round pick. Mankins played for New England from 2005-2018 earning 6 Pro Bowl appearances. Mankins and Popovich played alongside each other in 2003 and 2004 at Fresno State.
Current Patriots and former Bulldog center Ryan Wendell has been a starter for New England for five years. Wendell played alongside Mankins and Popovich at Fresno State in 2004.
Last Sunday the Fresno Bee announced its Fab 50 high school football all-stars from this past season. I was disappointed with the selections overall - with most of the 50 (27) from Fresno schools.
Only one player from the North Sequoia League was selected. That was league MVP Anthony Stewart of Chowchilla, who nearly won a state title. Only one player from a strong league like the NSL? No one from a good Washington Union team? The NSL is competitive and deserves more respect.
Congratulations to former Yosemite Badger players Jayson Lee, Jeremy Miller, and Chase Maurer. All three migrated and played at Clovis North, and all three were named to the Fab 50.
I have also been disappointed with the Bee’s overall coverage of high school football this season. There were no weekly stats or rankings. Instead, it appears the Bee wanted readership to go online. In my opinion, the sister paper in Modesto does a better job with in-depth articles and weekly stats.