By Anthony Harris, Contributing Writer
Last Thursday night at SoFi stadium was a movie being played out on the field starring Baker Mayfield and the reigning Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams. The 2022 season has been a major struggle for the Rams sitting at 4-9 prior to Thursday night’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders. The story is not about the Raiders being on a 3-game win streak or the Rams trying to limp to the finish line of a dreadful follow up season to their Super Bowl title just 10 months ago. It was about a former number one pick in the 2018 NFL draft. A former Heisman Trophy winner with charisma and the cloud of doubt and intrigue that seems to follow him. Baker Mayfield’s fall from atop the football pedestal has increased in depth and velocity since Deshawn Watson was tabbed to replace him in Cleveland and his short stint in Carolina failed to produce the results the Panthers were seeking. After being released by the Panthers, the only NFL team interested in Mayfield’s services were the Los Angeles Rams. With his new playbook in hand, Mayfield boarded a plane to Los Angeles just 48 hours before the Thursday Night Football matchup. At best, most thought Mayfield would dress for the game and serve as a back-up in emergency situations only. How could he possibly learn the playbook in such a short time to make an impact in a game less than two days away? The Rams started their first offensive series with backup John Wolford. When number 17 came running out for the Rams second offensive series of the game, whether at home, in a sports bar, or witnessing firsthand at SoFi stadium, all football fans sat forward in their seats. Mayfield looked calm and completed his first pass for a 21-yard first down. I found myself thinking ok, there you go Baker. I couldn’t help but rout for the guy. On the other hand, the Raiders had as much to do with the outcome of the game as Baker Mayfield. The Raiders controlled the game and didn’t trail until the final seconds of the game. What doomed the Raiders chances was their inability to stretch the lead out of striking distance. Raiders Head Coach Josh McDaniel’s, who also calls the offensive plays got away from utilizing his stars to snatch the win. Derek Carr was mediocre at best throwing for a measly 137 yards. The Raiders simply didn’t go in for the kill feeding the ball to Devante Adams (3 catches, 71 yards) and Josh Jacobs (99 rushing yards). The Rams defense had a lot to do with the production woes of the Raiders. Although superstar Aaron Donald was out for the Rams line-up due to injury, the defense played with energy, physicality, and kept the Rams in the game. Baker Mayfield did not look like a guy meeting his teammates in the huddle for the first time. However, he must’ve been drawing plays in the dirt and telling guys to turn around at the black Buick. In the final drive to win the game, Mayfield was both lucky and sensational at the same time. After what looked like a game clinching sack, Raiders Jerry Tillery smacked the ball out of Mayfield’s hand after the played and was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty that gave the Rams 15-yards and a first down. The next play was a Mayfield interception nullified by a blatant holding penalty on the Raiders secondary. Finally, the Raiders lined up in man coverage from the 23-yard line with 10 seconds remaining which is an extremely questionable coverage in the redzone at that point of the game. Mayfield recognized the man coverage and put one up for Van Jefferson to go get the touchdown. The extra point kick is good and the conclusion to this contest is something only written for Disney movie endings. Rams win 17-16 to break a losing streak with a heroic effort by a former star quarterback that arrived hours ago trying to revive his career. These are the moments in sports that last a lifetime and keep the fans coming back.
Caleb Williams breakfast club laid the foundation for the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner!
As the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner was announced, the USC Trojan football legacy claimed the most Heisman recipients in the history of the award. The Heisman is awarded to the best football player in the nation in a particular season. The following Trojan names have now been inked on this historical award: (1965) Mike Garrett, (1968) O.J. Simpson, (1979) Charles White, (1981) Marcus Allen, (2002) Carson Palmer, (2004) Matt Leinart, (2005) Reggie Bush, and now Caleb Williams. I won’t mention the Reggie Bush situation. He was one of the most electric college football players I’ve ever seen and won the award fair and square. Those Bush moments and accomplishments cannot be taken away from the memory of sports fans. Caleb Williams winning the award was no surprise as he pulled away from his fellow nominees with sensational performances in his final three games of the season against UCLA, Notre Dame, and Utah. Williams passed for 4,075 yards, 37 touchdowns, only 4 interceptions, and a season QB rating of 86.5. He also punched in 10 rushing touchdowns and 372 yards on 109 carries. This year’s winner thanked many during his acceptance speech including USC Athletic Director, Mike Bohn. A classy move to include and acknowledge the behind-the-scenes hard work of the USC athletic administration. Caleb Williams also created a first when he brought his entire offensive line with him to New York and thank each one publicly. Williams continued to thank his Head Coach, Lincoln Riley, and his Gonzaga high school coach. All who have played a significant role in his development as the award-winning quarterback he is today. As most winners do, Williams also thanked his mother who he said always has a smile on her face and is the most important woman in this life. The speech turned emotional when Williams described his relationship with the “Old Man” over there (his dad). Williams mentioned the “Breakfast Club” workouts when he and his father would train daily beginning at 5:30 am. Williams won the 2022 Heisman in a landslide claiming 544 1st place votes with second place Max Duggan of TCU a distant second with 188 1st place votes. Williams had a message for his fellow nominees that although he won the award, they are competing in the College Football Playoffs so be careful what you wish for. Williams’ message was “the job is not done” as he is looking to lead USC back to the National Championship in his time in Southern California. That job is not done although the future is bright for the USC football program with Caleb Williams at the helm. The Trojans will have one more season in 2023 to get to the CFP before Williams becomes a First Round NFL draft pick. But first, Williams and the Trojans will take on a tough Tulane (11-2) team who will be the Trojans (11-2) opponent in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T stadium in Arlington, TX on January 2nd.
Chargers getting healthy at the right time, positioning themselves for a playoff spot It’s no secret that when healthy, the Chargers have one of the most talented rosters in the league and can play with anyone. Unfortunate injuries have destroyed Chargers playoff opportunities in recent years. It has been 3 seasons (2018) since the Bolts beat the Ravens in the Wildcard round and then lost to the Patriots in the Divisional round. As the end of the regular season approaches, the Chargers will need to run the table beating the Titans, Colts, Broncos, and Rams to get in the playoffs. A tall order but if the Bolts can get key players like Derwin James, Joey Bosa, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Bryce Callahan, and perhaps Rashawn Slater back on the field, they certainly have a fighting chance to advance. The Chargers played one of their best and most complete games of the season on Sunday hosting the Miami Dolphins on Sunday Night Football at SoFi stadium. Coach Brandon Staley called it a “complete team win”. On a night where wide receiver Mike Williams returned to the line-up with Keenan Allen, Justin Herbert eclipsed the most passing yards by a quarterback in NFL history by a player in their first three seasons. Herbert is looking healthier recently as shown on a game clinching 10-yard run in the fourth quarter. Herbert can hurt defenses with his running ability but has been hesitant to run this season. Herbert was pleased to have his top guns #81 and #13 back together and found them early and often. Mike Williams snagged 6 balls for 116 yards and a touchdown while Keenan Allen pulled in 12 catches for 92 yards. Herbert finished 39 of 51 connecting with 9 different targets for 367 yards, a TD, and no interceptions. While the offense seemed to get their grove back, the Chargers defense executed an all-around stellar performance holding the top ranked passing offense in check. The Dolphins best offensive play was a fumble scooped up by Tyreek Hill as he raced 57 yards to the endzone for a lucky Miami score. Hill did beat Michael Davis on a long TD throw from Tagovailoa in the fourth and walked into the endzone due to Davis falling on the play. The Chargers must build on this win and create serious momentum that will carry them into the post-season. Combining that momentum with getting key players back from injuries has Charger fans eager and hopeful to break the playoff curse. The Bolts must take a one game at a time mentality without looking ahead. The Titans come to town on Sunday with a two-game losing streak and will look to run the ball with their punishing running back, Derrick Henry. Hope is in the air and a little luck would be nice for the Bolts during this holiday season.