Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Return of 360

And now, for the chronicles of...

After the death of 360, I sent him on his final journey. But then came an imposter. I know not where it originated, but this curious black box arrived one day at home. It looked much like my dearly departed 360, but it did not sound like him. This black box did not hiss loudly. Nor did it possess the fateful red ring that claimed the Xbox. Yet, this box resembled Xbox Original in color. So I placed it underneath Xbox Original, as you can see below.
This 360 imposter did not like my controllers, and refused to sync with them...demanding that I use my play and charge kit to tether a controller to him. While I could play NCAA 2009, I could not access some of my downloaded content. This Dark 360 refused to play it. And so I tried to make peace with the machine, an act that did not go well. I noticed a strange inscription upon the console..."K65."

Just days after I'd said goodbye to 360, this dark usurper began to try my patience. Then, hope arrived. It was a box, possessing the approximate weight of an Xbox 360. But the strangest thing happened; when I opened the box, this is what I found inside:
The box was empty! Sensing something strange was afoot, I closed the box and waited three days. After unsealing it a second time, I found 360 had arrived! It was a different 360!
Skeptical because of my encounter with Dark 360, I unboxed the Light 360 carefully. It soon became clear that this Light 360, this White 360, was the true replacement for 360...not some Dark Usurper.
As a token of its goodwill, this new 360 presented me with a gift: an Xbox Live card good for a month's subscription. In addition, I knew this 360 had nothing but the best of intentions. It was an understanding machine, very accepting of other cultures. Photo evidence is below:
Convinced of this 360's purity, I removed my hard drive from Dark 360 and installed it in Light 360. With a satisfying click, they became one...and suddenly my downloaded content...all of it...was playable.

Friday, September 26, 2008

House update

Well, we've moved into the place. All our stuff is now parked inside the new condo. Just a few things remain in the apartment...most of which we'll be giving to Goodwill. Except for the computer mouse. Somewhere, I've misplaced the mouse to my desktop. Good thing I have a laptop as a backup, eh comrades? Eh? Below you'll find some comparison shots. They're not from the exact angle of the original pictures in most cases, but I think they're close enough for you to get the idea.

First, the living room. The pictures below are the exception to the rule. They're from just about the same angle as the originals. You'll see a pub table to the left. That's what we will use as the dinner table until we get something else. The couch is quasi-centered at the far end of the room. If you look closely, you'll see some wiring for the surround sound that I haven't hooked up yet. Behind the pub table, Anne set up her sofa table. It has lots of nice pictures on it and a ridiculously large ceramic angel. You can thank Christmas clearance for that. What you don't see is a bookshelf to the right. I couldn't fit that into the picture. The white (did you know there were like eight billion types of white? Just ask Sherwin Williams, they'll sell you all eight billion) on the walls is called Ibis White.

It's very hard to get a good picture of the room known alternatively as "Matt's Playroom" and "The Green Room." I have here two views from different angles. The one up top is the room as it originally was; we think the walls were not painted...the original paint was the primer coat, we think. We added a nice green color as the accent wall. You'll see the old recliner in here, along with a computer desk (I just put it together today!) and a Colts chair. We're still working on this room, but right now, it's got a 42" plasma HDTV and my Xbox 360. When Anne's watching BBC America in the living room, you'll find me in here, catching the game. Our old coffee table serves as the TV stand that you can't really see. Oh well.
Below, you'll find the bedroom. I'm really digging the blue color Anne picked. It gives the room a nice, cool feel. We also found a nice bedspread (on clearance!) that matches the walls. We have also had cable run to the upstairs room so we can watch TV at night. A spare DVD player is hooked up as well. We have an oscillating fan upstairs because it does get a bit warm. We've learned if you keep the air circulating, it's not a problem at all.Monster Closet is pretty much finished. We've filled just about all the racks in one way or another. You may (or may not) notice some blurred images in one of the pictures. That's because I knew Anne would kill me if I posted pictures of our undergarments on the blog.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Doomsday for the Colts?

Sunday's game was an exercise in frustration. It seemed like the Colts couldn't do anything right.

I've heard a lot of talk this season along two lines: 1) the Doomsday Scenario and 2) the Super Scenario.

The Doomsday Scenario is pretty simple. This means quite simply that the Colts are doomed this season. There's no way they can fix anything that's broken, including the offensive line play, the defense...anything. It's pure skepticism.

The Super Scenario is a complete 180. It means that the Colts, despite their early struggles, are still Super Bowl contenders. In fact, some of the fans who follow this particular line of thinking believe Indy is destined for a championship. This is pure optimism.

Me? I fall somewhere in between. While the team isn't playing particularly well right now, I believe there's hope. I think there's simply too much talent for the Doomsday Scenario to be in full play. Here's why:

Peyton Manning. He's simply one of the game's best. And even though he's not 100%, he's quickly getting back up to speed. He's moving around in the pocket well, absorbing hits when they come, and delivering good throws most of the time. He's too competitive to let this team fall flat on its face.

Saturday, Saturday, Saturday! Jeff Saturday provided an emotional and physical boost for the offensive line. The Colts' running game actually made a cameo against Jacksonville, even though Indy couldn't exploit it because the defense was getting gashed by the Jags. After the first drive against Jacksonville, I saw a great deal of confidence from the offense. Saturday is that important.

Too much talent. The Colts have too many weapons on offense. When a three-wide set is on the field, it means Anthony Gonzalez, Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, Dallas Clark, and Joseph Addai are on the field together. I like those odds.

Hitman MIA. The Colts are very protective of Bob Sanders and they should be. He provides a spark that's impossible to match. When Sanders is on the field, the team plays with a swagger and enthusiasm that's otherwise missing. That being said, Sanders hasn't made a ton of difference this season so far. The Colts have been gashed in every game. However, their strength lies in not giving up touchdowns. They've been bent, but they haven't broken that often. When Sanders returns, it will help. Until then, the Colts have to concentrate on staying home and making tackles. The biggest problems against Jacksonville were overpursuit and poor tackling. Guys were getting penetration in some spots, but they weren't getting a solid tackle on the running back. This defense has proven (with much of the same personnel on the field) that it can be effective against the run. Getting embarrassed by the Jags at home should prove to be a motivating factor, especially with Sanders out.

Special Teams. A few penalties excepted, the Special Teams units have played pretty well this season. The return game hasn't been anything special, but kickoff and punt coverage have been better. In my opinion, those units have made more plays than they've given up. A couple spring to mind, like Tim Jennings' downed punt and his great shoestring tackle last week.

Those factors have some fans thinking the Colts will pull off a miracle like 2006, when they shored up all their shortcomings and won the Super Bowl. It certainly feels that way, except for the fact the Colts managed to rattle off a lot of wins, despite their defensive ineptitude that season. But the "blueprint" is there: no Bob Sanders, bad run defense, Jacksonville embarrassment, etc. We'll have to see.

Of course, those who follow the Doomsday Scenario have a lot of firepower as well:

Protecting Peyton. A young, inexperienced offensive line has translated into a lot of hits on The Franchise. Sometimes, Manning rushes because he knows he isn't going to get protection. Even with Saturday back in the lineup, Peyton took some shots while delivering the ball. He gets up after every hit, but the problems have accelerated his mental clock, and that's especially bad because he's coming off an injury.

Drop it like it's hot. Colts receivers have shown an inability to hold onto the ball. Even Reggie Wayne, who possesses some of the game's finest hands, has dropped a lot of key balls. Ditto Anthony Gonzalez. Marvin Harrison has even dropped a couple. I've also seen it from the tight ends. Simply put, they're not doing Manning any favors. While you can't catch every ball, some of these drops are inexcusable. An incompletion on a throw that should've gone for 25 yards and a first down is demoralizing and brings drives to a grinding halt.

What running game? This is an area you'd probably blame on the inexperienced offensive line. The Colts haven't been able to "out-physical" anyone this season. Of course, they've played stout defensive units from Chicago and Minnesota. Until last week, Indy hadn't shown anything in the running game. Trust me, I know: Joe Addai is on my fantasy team. This area must improve.

Ooops, Jones-Drew broke another tackle. So did Fred Taylor. And Adrian Peterson is still running away... Defensively, the Colts are a mess. They've faced some good running backs (Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Fred Taylor), but what we've seen is ridiculous. Get some guys out there who can finish plays and make tackles. That one play where Taylor should've been stopped for a loss but cutback for a huge gain (you know the one I'm talking about) was awful. If this defensive unit has any pride remaining, it will show up against Houston.

So there you have it, reasons for skepticism and optimism for the Colts. The bye week comes early this year, something that originally garnered a few complaints. But the week off comes at a perfect time for the Colts. They can lick their wounds, steam over the Jacksonville loss, and come back focused and (I hope) a little healthier.

Also, I want to comment on that pass interference call at the end of the game. The NFL says it was the right call. Sure, sure, whatever. The game was officiated poorly and it sure looked to me like the two players just kind of ran into each other. The game hinged on the call and it wasn't my favorite...but the Colts really didn't deserve to be in the game anyway. Their defensive effort was a joke. I hated the call, but that's kind of the way the season is playing out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Turnovers key as Boilermakers top Hoosiers

In the old days, Purdue would've fumbled or thrown an interception at an inopportune moment.

In the old days, the Boilermakers would've found a way to squander their #3 ranking and shot at the Big Ten title.

These are new days for the perfect Gold and Black.

Well, sort of.

Curtis Painter threw an interception on the first series of the game, which hated rival Indiana turned into a field goal. It was the only lead the fourth-ranked Hoosiers would see all day.

"I was trying to hit Kory (Sheets) on the play, but threw it behind him. Just a little too much adrenaline to start off, I guess," Painter said.

"It was exactly the kind of start I expected from Purdue," IU Coach Jason Sims said following the game. "Big game, big stage, Corso and Nessler and Herbstreit in the booth...I pretty much expected Purdue to do something stupid. I mean, they're Purdue. You can set your watch to it."

The Boilermakers recovered from their miscue by marching down the field to score a touchdown on a game-defining drive. They converted two fourth down opportunities along the way.

"You know, I guess I was listening to the crowd," Coach Matt Adams said, adjusting his trademark black ballcap. "You know, when the stands are rocking and you're near midfield, three yards doesn't seem that long on fourth down. We're fortunate, notice I said fortunate and not lucky, that it worked out."

With a seven-point lead in place, Purdue's defense went to work, stifling record-breaking running back Marcus Thigpen. Thigpen entered the game as the single-season rushing and touchdown leader for the Hoosiers. But Purdue didn't let him get free for a big run.

"That guy's averaging 20 yards a carry," Adams said. "He's had an amazing season. It took all our team discipline to keep him in check. I told our defensive ends, 'You guys can't lose contain.' I told our linebackers to be decisive. 'Take out (IU quarterback) Kellen Lewis or Thigpen. Don't think about it.' And I told our guys in the secondary, 'You've gotta play tough and stay on the ball.' And for the most part, everybody did their job. I was really proud of their effort."

Thigpen finished with 64 yards on 11 carries, good for a 5.8 average. His longest run was 20 yards.

"Man, that defense was swarming. Each time I got the ball, I just kept thinking, 'break one tackle, Marcus.' But I never got the chance, that's a fundamentally sound team out there," Thigpen said. "And keep in mind, I'd rather play for Kentucky than compliment Purdue. That's important to remember."

It was another game in which the statistics are deceiving. Kellen Lewis threw for 294 yards, compared to 170 for Heisman candidate Curtis Painter. Most of those yards came in the second half as the Hoosiers tried to play catch up. Painter's numbers were well below his standards, despite two touchdown throws.

"Yeah, I wanted to ram the ball right up their cream and crimson buttcracks," Painter admitted. "But sometimes you have to put your personal pride aside and just win. Even if that means throwing for almost half of your average yards per game. Even if that means running the freaking ball. Seriously, if we're just gonna hand the ball over to Sheets all freaking game, why the (expletive) am I even here?"

The Hoosiers outgained Purdue 370-270 in total offense and also held the edge in time of possession. But some key miscues kept Indiana out of the endzone. IU also settled for field goals, when the team needed touchdowns.

"I know Painter and Adams were out there going for it on fourth down and throwing the ball around, but you have to use your head. You can't come away from the redzone without any points. Of course, we screwed that up more times than I'd like to admit," Sims said, shaking his head.

Two interceptions in the redzone kept Indiana at a distance. The first turned the game definitively in Purdue's favor, when Brandon King stepped in front of an off-balance throw from Lewis and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown. The score gave the Boilermakers a 35-6 lead.

The second brought a promising drive to a halt when linebacker Kevin Green picked Lewis off.

Green, it bears mentioning, had a whale of a day for the Gold and Black. He finished with eight tackles, an interception, and also recovered a fumble that led to a 31-yard run by Kory Sheets.

"Just chopping wood out there," Green said. "Naw, I don't know what that means."

While turnovers keyed the defense, Sheets greased the wheel for the offense. He carried 19 times for 104 yards and caught four passes for 73 yards. His ten-yard touchdown on the speed option came during a critical third and goal in the second quarter, when his team trailed 3-0. He also reeled in a crucial 32-yard screen pass that gave Purdue a 14-3 lead at halftime.

"You know, Curtis takes a lot of credit for himself, so I usually don't need to hand it over to him. But that drive he put together before halftime was a thing of beauty. He marched us right down the field. I was like the icing on top, the finishing touch. He flung it to me and I followed my blockers and that was about all there was to it," Sheets said.

The Boilermakers are ranked third in the nation and finish the season 12-0. Only time and the conference championship games will tell if the Boilers will find themselves playing for the national championship. They are assured a BCS Bowl, at the very least.

"We've taken care of business on our end," Adams said. "We did everything we needed to do. We beat Oregon when they were ranked, we beat Notre Dame who is in the top 20 now. We beat Penn State, Ohio State, and Indiana. I just hope that's enough to get us into the championship game. It'd be a travesty if we didn't make it."

Notes

Safety Sterling Moss, punter Brian Moore, multi-talented juco prospect Michael Beck, and standout halfback Tyson Haas watched the game at Ross-Ade stadium; Haas is a highly-touted recruit who appears to be leaning heavily toward Indiana...the Boilermakers added their seventh recruit of the season after announcing the signing of wide receiver Luke Campbell of Lancaster, SC...the Boilermakers currently have the fourth best recruiting class in the NCAA, according to several draft experts...Curtis Painter's consecutive game streak for finishing a game without an interception lasted exactly one game...Painter now has 48 touchdown passes on the season...Sheets broke the 100-yard rushing mark for only the second time this season; he rushed for more than a hundred yards against Kentucky in Purdue's first game of the year...Junior safety Brandon King has intercepted two passes this season and both were returned for touchdowns of more than 96 yards...Painter will have to put up 570 yards in Purdue's bowl game to tie Drew Brees' single-season passing yards record...Sheets leads the team in touchdown receptions with nine.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I called in a favor, Studicus...

Here's to one of the best damn consoles I ever got my ass kicked in college basketball on. Gone, but not forgotten!

360's Final Journey

The viewing: Xbox 360 prepares for his final journey. Those who attended commented on how natural he looked.

On Saturday, my faithful Xbox 360 died. It was so sad...he was looking forward to seeing our new house. He never made it there.

Instead, my friend is getting a first-class memorial send-off courtesy of UPS and Microsoft. Soon, 360's remains will reach Texas, where he'll retire for eternity with other 360s who have suffered the calamity of a red ring. 360 made it very clear in his will: he did not wish to be cremated, though there would be some poetic justice in spreading his digital ashes around our new home. He was eager to settle in.

It would have been a way to include him.

Yet, it's my role to abide by 360's wishes, and if anything were to befall him, he wanted Texas to be his final resting place. I have no idea why that was the case. It must have been fate: Microsoft's repair center happens to be in Mesquite, Texas. Armed with a paid shipping label from Microsoft/UPS, I loaded 360 into the sturdiest, roomiest, most comfortable box I could find, delicately removed his power supply, and rested them together on a soft bed of lovingly-crumpled newspaper. A choir sang "My Way" and "Nearer My God to Thee" (360's favorite song and hymn, respectively) as I took upon the heart-wrenching task of covering him in more newspaper before sealing the box.

The most painful moment was our separation at the UPS store, where a nice gentlemen took my return shipping slip, looked at my red-rimmed eyes and assured me that "he'd take care of it."

On September 13, 2008...360 became no more.

On September 16, 2008...he started his journey "home."

360 will travel almost 900 miles from Indianapolis to Mesquite, Texas. It's supposedly about a 13-hour drive. You can see the route below.


View Larger Map

Whether 360 will travel by road or air, there is no doubt he will reach his destination. What he will find in that afterlife, we'll never know. Is his spirit already up high, forever processing an elaborate fantasy world in which he and those of his ilk run for all eternity without fear of red rings or faulty disc drives? Will his video chip conjure up a happy afterlife in which every child has an Xbox 360 and takes loving care of it? Will he find himself no longer shackled by the earthly realm of faulty solder and ineffective heat sinks, able to, in a sense, live without pain?

Present arms! Unfortunately, the bagpipers from Star Trek II were unavailable for "Amazing Grace." We settled for the Titanic guys and "Nearer My God to Thee."

That is my hope as 360's best friend. That he will find himself in an existence where there is no limit to his processing speed or disk space, no cap on his power consumption, no DRM, no long downloads of HD movies, no fee for Xbox Live. And perhaps 360 will, for once and always hereafter, pick which game he wants to play...and who he wants to play it for.

Monday, September 15, 2008

So, um...the Colts won

I thought I was going to have to suffer through three brutal losses this weekend.

The first loss involved Xbox 360, who died peacefully on Saturday morning. The cause of death: a red ring. You'll find the memorial here.

The second loss involved the Purdue Boilermakers (the real ones, not the fake ones). The Real Boilers blew a game against Oregon that felt like a punch in the gut to anyone who's a Purdue fan. I'm not a diehard Boilermaker follower...I just got stuck with the team for our NCAA Football 2009 on-line dynasty...but the loss still hurt.

The third loss...well...it turned out not to be a loss. After an embarrassing first half performance, the Colts finally put something together remotely resembling a hard-nosed effort. They gritted their teeth, settled down defensively, and made enough plays to win a ballgame they really should've lost.

Two games into the season, this team has already had its share of adversity. First off, Peyton Manning isn't 100%. He's lost some weight and looks downright fragile out there. Looks can be deceiving, however. While #18 was continually battered and pummeled, he also continually bounced back up. Okay, "bounce" probably isn't the right word, but he kept getting back up. I haven't seen Manning so frustrated in a while. Nothing seemed to go right for the Colts. They couldn't run the ball (a game "key" that everyone from Bob Kravitz to Dan Dierdorf pointed out as an area of emphasis for the team this week), they couldn't stop the run (shades of 2006...yeah I know I'm not the first person to point that out), Tony Ugoh got hurt, Bob Sanders left, Adam Vinatieri missed a "gimme" field goal, Reggie Wayne dropped what looked like a sure-fire TD pass, the team had terrible field position all game, and special teams racked up two stupid penalties.

But there was a spark: Anthony Gonzalez broke free for a long pass play and pitched the ball back to Reggie Wayne (that's left trigger on the Xbox controller, right?). Wayne took the ball the rest of the way and scored a touchdown! Colts fans were elated at the amazing play!

But wait...did Reggie actually make it to the goaline? Did the ball break the plane before he went down?

A thrown red flag and two minutes later, and the answer was "NO."

Then things got stupid.

The Vikings have a HUGE defensive line. So the Colts tried to QB sneak it in. TWICE.

I'm not sure the ball moved more than three inches after both attempts. Thankfully, Joseph Addai to the rescue!

Kind of.

Addai succeeded where Peyton failed, managing to pick up a few inches. And he scored a touchdown!

Or did he?

I'll tell you what, the very tip of the ball MAY have gently kissed the goaline. MAYBE. Thankfully, the officials ruled it a touchdown and there wasn't a whole lot I could see to overturn it. If Addai had been ruled down short of the goaline and the Colts had challenged, I'm pretty sure that would've been equally inconclusive. It's just one of those things where you're at the mercy of the officials...if the initial ruling goes in your favor, it'd better be clear cut before they decide to overturn it. Of course, even then, there's the ol' inadvertent whistle (just ask the San Diego Chargers).

It was after Vinatieri missed the field goal (it followed a great sack n' strip by Dwight Freeney that the Colts desperately needed) that I felt a great comeback just wasn't in the cards. Let's face it, when Captain Clutch (or Mr. Automatic, if you prefer) misses a 30-yard field goal, you just go home, say it wasn't your day, and sulk. Thankfully, the Colts didn't do that. Vinatieri's miss would've pulled the team to within five points. The miss kept them down by eight.

Not down and out, thankfully.

The defense came up with an immediate stop and then watched as Manning's pass to Reggie Wayne was batted up and intercepted. The Colts "D" followed that up by forcing Minnesota to attempt a long field goal. For once, Ryan Longwell didn't hit it well long. His miss breathed new life into the Colts.

After Longwell's miss, Manning went to work. He found Wayne for a 17-yard hookup. Then, Gijon "Grey Poupon" Robinson hauled in a 12-yard catch.

The kicker was a 32-yard TD strike to Wayne, who ran a skinny post, broke a tackle, and strolled into the endzone. Trailing by two, the Colts went for the tie...and somehow succeeded by running the ball. Thanks, Dominic Rhodes.

The Colts defense came up with another stop, setting up a dramatic, instant offensive score to put the game away.

Oh, if only it had been that easy. Instead of driving down for a decisive score, the Colts had to punt as well. At least someone came up with a big play. Tim Jennings somehow managed to tip the punt without stepping across the goaline. The result changed the game. Indy backed the Vikings up...and Minnesota netted only two yards on three plays. The Colts used all their timeouts to make sure there was enough time left on the clock for a dramatic go-ahead score. They got a big boost when Justin Forsett (a new acquisition) returned Minnesota's punt to the 35-yard-line. It would've been fantastic if Darrell Reid hadn't felt the need to pick up a stupid penalty for unnecessary roughness. Instead of needing to pick up a few yards to set up a chip shot, the Colts needed a big play. Their starting position was the 50 instead of the 35.

A short run by Addai (whaaaaaaaaaat?) and an incomplete pass set up third and nine. Instead of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, it looked like the Colts would settle for overtime from the jaws of victory. But Manning unleashed his best throw of the day, zipping a pass to Wayne for 20 yards. That put the Colts at the 29. Manning took his time to spike the ball, and Vinatieri nailed a 47-yard field goal.

It was an unconventional comeback during an ugly game. But the Colts redeemed themselves in all phases: offense, defense, and special teams. They avoided the franchise's first 0-2 start since Manning's rookie year. All in all, it was a pretty gutsy performance.

I hope the team gains some momentum from this win. I think we'll have to watch a few 20-17 games this season until everyone gets healthy. The offensive line sure misses Jeff Saturday, Tony Ugoh, and Ryan Lilja. Let's just hope they all get healthy soon.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A loss in the family...


Today, we celebrate the life and times of Studicus' Xbox 360, who showed the fatal sign of termination known as the "Red Ring of Death" on this, the 13th Day of September in the Year of our Lord 2008.

It burst onto the scene in November of 2006, a month after Studicus' marriage. It was one of the first major purchases of his married life. The start was modest; no Xbox Live Gold membership, no on-line play. Just one game, college basketball. To the dismay of Xbox 360, J.J. Redick was on the cover. Never one to complain, 360 played the game anyway.

Soon, 360 enjoyed Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, a Christmas gift from Mrs. Studicus to her husband. Together, 360 and Studicus fought the forces of evil as Marvel's top heroes. And it was good.

Their fun together was not limited to disc-based games. 360 gallantly played Xbox Live Arcade games such as Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Prince of Persia, and most recently, Bionic Commando: Rearmed.

Though possessing a relatively small number of games compared to past departed friends of Studicus such as Intellivision, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis, and Xbox Original, 360 smoothly played several top games, including Halo 3, Mass Effect, and Grand Theft Auto IV. Together, 360 and Studicus acquired all Gamerpoints for Mass Effect, a beloved game they enjoyed despite graphical hitches and too many elevator rides.

Studicus became alarmed recently, when 360 began showing signs of a bad DVD drive that repeatedly displayed disc error after disc error. In the past week, 360 began freezing up during loading screens. This morning, around 10:00 a.m. Eastern, 360 locked up during a game of NCAA Football 2009. Studicus ejected the disc and restarted 360.

The beloved green start-up screen never came up. Instead, darkness fell and the formation of three red lights became apparent on 360's power button.

They had looked forward to adventuring together in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and Lego: Batman.

Please observe a moment of silence for Studicus' 360.

Thank you.

Now, remember the good times: saving the galaxy as Commander Shepard in Mass Effect. Downloading the Heroes & Villains pack for Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. Actually winning a race on the most challenging mode of Project Gotham Racing 3 despite Studicus' complete ineptitude at racing games. Swearing collectively at MLB 2K7 after 360 was unable to advance to the playoffs, thanks to a grievous programming error from 2K Games that was never addressed or responded to, despite several emails from Studicus to 2K Games customer support. Giving Yaris a try because it was free. Mastering the overly complicated system for putting custom stadium sounds into NCAA Football 2009.

These are what we should remember about 360.

If there exists a heaven for video game consoles, 360 is surely there already. We remove his harddrive for posterity, and pray that the gods at Microsoft see fit to deliver a new friend as loyal, dedicated, and fun as Studicus' beloved 360.

360 is survived by 12 games, his harddrive, Xbox Original, and a Zune. Yes, a Zune.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

R.I.P: Ed Johnson, 2007-2008

He came into our lives with such joy, a troubled kid from Penn State who just wanted to make things right.

His "first" misstep, as it was, happened to be his involvement in a brawl at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion in 2004. Disciplinary action followed quickly and Johnson was suspended from the summer semester and some Penn State practices.

Then there was the "sexual misconduct" allegation that came to light in 2005. He broke team rules and violated the University Code of Conduct. It was enough to get him suspended from the team and expelled from Penn State University. He was also no longer allowed to live in campus housing. He was never charged with a crime.

Johnson returned in the spring semester for 2006. He was a huge part of a stout Penn State defense. Even then, the big man could not control himself. Instead of playing in the Outback Bowl, Johnson was out again, suspended for breaking team rules.

Without these problems, Johnson would've been a sure-fire lock to go in the draft, probably as a first-round pick. But NFL teams, wary of image problems in the wake of "athletes gone wild" like Pacman Jones and Chris Henry, steered clear of Johnson.

His considerable talent didn't go unnoticed by the Indianapolis Colts. The team took a chance, hoping a stringent series of rules would keep him in line. They brought him into camp as an undrafted free agent. Short-handed on the defensive line, Johnson became a key contributor.

But it didn't last.

Early Wednesday morning, Johnson was pulled over for speeding, his friend marijuana riding shotgun, according to police.

The Colts decided to cut him.

Thus ends the Indianapolis career of Edward Andre Johnson, formerly of Detroit's Crockett Technical High School, Penn State University, and the Indianapolis Colts. His play on the defensive line will be missed.

His behavior will not.

But you know what? Johnson's had so many chances over so many years and he's extremely talented. Someone will give him another shot. It won't be this week or next week, but it will be soon.

Let's just hope we won't have to eulogize his career yet again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Don't panic!

It's Wednesday...three days after the Colts' season started with a whimper.

Honestly, it was like watching the Colts from a different, parallel universe.

Peyton was there, but he may as well have had a goatee like Mr. Spock in the Mirror Universe.

Bob Sanders was there, but we didn't really see any big hits from him.

Dwight Freeney hung around...

And...well...hey, Freeney drew a double team. At least that was familiar.

As John Travolta/Castor Troy said in "Face/Off," it's like looking in a mirror, only not. That's how the Colts started their latest campaign. A new stadium. A new season. A renewed reason my Sundays are all booked up.

I have to give a lot of credit to Krildog's Bears. They played well and for every move the Colts made, Chicago had a counter. Matt Forte was excellent and exciting...I hoped for a while that he would fall to the Colts in the draft. Obviously, that was nothing but a naive, childhood fantasy. The kid's got game.

And while my buddy Krildog won't admit it (he'd be far more likely to take a full water cooler and chuck it through the window to his boss' office), Kyle Orton played well. He didn't do anything fancy, but that's not what the Bears need from their quarterback. They don't need a guy who slings the ball around wherever he wants; they need a guy who is calm under pressure and makes good decisions. Purdue product or not, Krildog, Orton is that guy.

Yes, even after this.

But I'm not here to talk about the Chicago Bears. No, no, no.

I'm a Colts fan and that means it's time for me to commit my thoughts to paper (er...Blogger...or whatever).

My first thought is disappointment.

I wanted the first game at Lucas Oil Stadium to be a celebration for the city, the fans, and the team. In some ways it was. "Big Oil" looked great on the national stage and the city looked World Class. Of course, I felt kind of bad for the RCA Dome, all dark and empty. But it's not a person, right? It doesn't have any feelings, right? The fans were obviously very pumped up and I heard a few players say the homefield advantage will remain a homefield advantage despite Lucas Oil's comparative caverness to the RCA Dome's more, ahem, intimate setting. However, I don't remember seeing the Bears go to a silent count. Then again, the fans didn't have much to cheer about.

Though seeing Peyton Manning in uniform and on the field was cathartic for many fans, the initial burst of excitement faded away quickly. While the guy on the field looked like Peyton, sounded like Peyton, and shrugged and yelled and shook his head like Peyton, that wasn't Peyton. We saw mere glimpses of the #18 we've come to know and love as fans. Little things, like a savvy audible here or a crisp pass there, the ability to sense the rush and deliver the ball before it's too late. We should take heart at that.

Not everything was 100% Peyton, however. Deep balls that are normally delivered without fail to receivers ended up out of their reach. Several throws were low...almost kissing the FieldTurf as they tried to reach their receivers. Despite obvious blitzes, Peyton wasn't able to torch the defense. Remember a few years ago when the Green Bay Packers insisted on blitzing almost every play? Peyton made them pay. He couldn't do that Sunday night.

When your franchise quarterback is coming off knee surgery and has barely practiced at all, the last thing you want him to do is have him throw 49 passes in his first game back. That's exactly what Manning had to do. He had no running game and the team fell behind early. I think Manning suffered from some self-imposed pressure to prove he's capable of getting the job done. Unfortunately, he wasn't up to the task. While he stood tough in the pocket, the Bears were able to get constant pressure on him.

You could tell the offensive line struggled. I mean, if you were Peyton Manning and you're coming back from an injury, the least you could ask is for Jeff Saturday to be snapping the ball, right? No...instead it was some kid named Jamey Richard. The guy played in the MAC last season. Just think about that for a second. To be honest, I didn't see any real hiccups from Richard. There wasn't a point in the game that I recall where he screwed up the snap or anything like that.

However, he's not Jeff Saturday, he's a rookie, and that means mistakes are inevitable. It's not like I've surveyed the game film or could even spot anything if I did, but you can't ask Richard to make the right calls all the time. I'm sure Saturday messes up line calls every so often. At right guard, Ryan Lilja was out, leaving Dan Federkeil to take his spot. With Jake Scott gone via free agency, Charlie Johnson took the other guard spot. So, instead of a line with one new piece (last year, Tony Ugoh was the addition while continuity remained the same), the O-line was 60% new for this year's Colts. Sure, Johnson has played just about every position, but he's not a starter; Richard is a rookie and Federkeil wasn't a starter for Indy last year. That's the middle part of the line and that's where Chicago attacked, constantly and without mercy.

No wonder Peyton danced in the pocket at times.

From a wide receiver standpoint, I liked what I saw (a few glaring drops aside). Gonzo should flourish as long as he stays healthy. Reggie Wayne is Reggie Wayne. With a few diving catches and nicely run routes, we can say Marvin Harrison is back. Mr. Reclusive needs to hold onto the ball, however. In two games, Marvin has had two game-changing fumbles. If this continues to be an issue, I don't know what the Colts will do. Maybe they should threaten to take away his Tastykakes.

Already a bit banged up, the Colts saw Joseph Addai and Dallas Clark leave with injuries. Neither seems to be serious, but I'm really tired of seeing Addai and Clark get hurt. It seems like it happens all the time.

On the defensive side of things, well, let's just say the team missed some assignments. The run defense reminded me of '06. They couldn't stop Forte or Kevin Jones. It seemed like they got five yards a pop...and that's just a guess. I'm not far off, either...Chicago averaged 4.7 yards per carry. The one that killed the team was Forte's 50-yard TD run. Antoine Bethea overpursued and couldn't correct himself and Bob Sanders couldn't "erase" that mistake. That play really turned the game.

I was also floored by the Colts' inability to get the Bears off the field. When it came to third down, it was too often third and short. The Bears were 10-16 on third downs. That isn't the greatest mark ever, but think about it: they converted TEN TIMES on third down. Every time the Colts needed a stop, the Bears seemed to have an answer.

They came up with big plays time and time again.

29 yards to Greg Olsen, followed by a ridiculous field goal before halftime.

26 yards to Desmond Clark, followed shortly by a touchdown that pretty much ended the game.

Brandon Lloyd also had an 18-yard reception. It came on 2nd and 18, a long down and distance set up by a holding penalty. The catch was good for a first down.

The Colts just couldn't stop them and it was disappointing.

In addition, the Colts barely outscored the Bears defense 13-9. A fumble recovery TD and a safety didn't help things at all.

Ah, but it's not all a lost cause.

Peyton's in the lineup. So are Freeney, Sanders, and Harrison. Freddy Keiaho played at a high level. The AFC remains wide open. The Patriots lost Mr. All-World Tom Brady, San Diego squandered a game and saw game-changer Shawn Merriman opt for season-ending surgery (finally), Tennessee won its game but may have a QB with a shattered psyche, and Jacksonville, well...the Jags usually do a good enough job of speaking for themselves (and that's about all they can do).

However, when you have to point to other teams' misfortunes as a positive sign for your favorite football team, that means there's a problem. The Colts under Tony Dungy simply don't lose in September.

Until now.

Peyton Manning usually doesn't look human at this stage of the season.

Until now.

Colts fans don't usually feel like hitting the panic button this early.

Until now.

Step away from that panic button. While we could all use an "Easy" button...the panic button won't do us any good. It's one game. Yes, it was an important game to us and it was on the national stage. But it's only one game.

Now, if the Colts consistently put together an effort like the one we saw Sunday for several games, then trust me...I'll hit the panic button myself.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Defense, Sheets dump punchless Hawkeyes

Many happy returns: Kory Sheets (background) returns the opening kickoff for a touchdown as Adam Wolf (#43) and Mark Thompson (#46) celebrate.

It took just 12 seconds for Kory Sheets to score Purdue's first touchdown.

The defense did the rest until Purdue's offense decided to show up.

Sheets steamrolled through Iowa defenders on the opening kickoff, en route to a 91-yard touchdown return that left the crowd stunned and had the Boilers thirsting for another blowout victory.

"Kory's had a lot of those returns this year," Coach Matt Adams reflected, "but I'm not sure we needed any of them as much as that one."

Iowa held the Boilermakers' vaunted offense in check for the first half, forcing not one but two punts.

"I thought my leg was going to fall off," senior punter/kicker Chris Summers said, causing the press room to erupt in laughter. "No, shut up! I'm serious. I just about strained something. Two punts in the same half? I haven't worked that hard since I worked at a corrugated box factory back home two summers ago."

Purdue rolled to a 42-0 victory, but it seemed much harder than usual. The #3-ranked Boilermakers led 7-0 after the first quarter and Iowa's defense put in a proud effort that constantly frustrated Curtis Painter and one of the Big Ten's best offenses.

The defense came up with the biggest play of the day, a 95-yard interception return from safety Torri Williams.

"That was huge," Adams said. "They were driving. If they'd scored at that point in the game, who knows what happens?"

"He (Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi) was trying to make something happen, and he did. For us," Williams said after the game. "I was just playing deep and he unleashed a floater. Had no chance of getting to a receiver. So I took it and did everything I could to help the team. Really enjoyed running by Stanzi. That was cool."

The Boilermakers didn't score their first offensive touchdown until there was 1:21 left in the first half. It was Sheets, who bookended the half with a score, this one a 65-yard touchdown on a screen pass.

"We were really struggling out there today," Sheets said. "I just wanted to get something going. We've used that play a couple times this year and it's been effective."

The touchdown put Purdue ahead 21-0 at halftime. At that point, it was clear Purdue's defense had come to play. They forced a turnover, scored a touchdown, and the closest Iowa came to the scoring was a missed field goal.

"I know you'll hear Curt talk about how great of a second half he had," Adams said. "But you have to give credit to our defense. They kept us in the game and prevented Iowa from scoring. Some might say Iowa's offense blows. I say our defense made it that way."

Have a seat: Reserve corner Charlton Williams flattens Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi.

Once the second half began, Purdue's offense finally caught fire. Painter threw three second-half touchdown passes, one each to Kyle Adams, Brandon Whittington, and Desmond Tardy. He eclipsed the 300-yard mark and finished with four touchdowns on the day.

"If you're not thinking 'Heisman' yet, I hope that put your thinking straight," Painter said in a typically self-absorbed post-game news conference. "I was awesome in that second half. You know, if that first half hadn't happened, I could've thrown for 600 yards today. I was feeling that good."

"600 yards? He actually said that? I think I'd better have a talk with him," Adams admitted, shaking his head in disbelief. "I don't mean to take Curt down a notch, but has he paid any attention to what that kid from Indiana is doing? (Marcus) Thigpen has like 2200 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns. If those aren't Heisman-caliber numbers, I don't know what are."

"Has coached looked at my numbers? 46 touchdown passes. That's a school record. A couple more good games, and maybe I'll get the single-season yardage mark as well," Painter shot back defiantly. "Can't really figure out how (Missouri QB) Chase Daniels is ahead of me in the Heisman standings. I've got more passing and rushing touchdowns and my team is in the top five. What? Oh, Missouri's #1 in the BCS? Oh, well, I, uh, stand corrected."

Purdue outgained Iowa 361-181 in total offensive yardage. The tally included 330 passing yards from Painter. Defensively, Purdue held the Hawkeyes to 2-9 in third down conversions.

"Like I said, this was a total team victory. Special teams set it up, defense kept it going, and the offense finally got it together. If I had to give a game ball, it'd go to Torri Williams. That guy was great," Adams said.

In addition to his interception return for a touchdown, Williams seemed to be everywhere. He finished with nine tackles. Kevin Green also had an impressive game with eight tackles and a sack.

The Boilermakers (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten) face rival Indiana (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten) in what will essentially be the Big Ten Conference Championship Game.

Notes

Painter didn't throw an interception, the first time in seven games he hasn't thrown one up for grabs; the performance was his first Big Ten game without a pick...Cornerback Royce Adams reeled in a late interception, his first since week two against Oregon...Painter was injured late in the first half on a scramble and missed two plays before returning in the third quarter...Kory Sheets started the game with four carries for 25 yards, but finished the game with seven rushes for 16 yards...receiver Greg Orton had six catches for 85 yards but didn't catch a touchdown pass; he had caught a touchdown pass in four games prior to the Iowa game...Sheets now has four kickoff returns for touchdowns this season and leads the NCAA in touchdowns and average yards per return...Sheets' TD reception gives him the team lead with eight...Torri Williams' TD return was his second defensive TD of the year...the Boilermakers seem to be putting together a solid recruiting class for 2009 after getting formal commitments from linebacker Rashad Crum of Denver, CO, and guard John Simmons of Graham, TX; the Boilermakers have now secured six recruits for next season.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Painter, Sheets too much for Spartans

Who shot Painter? Curtis Painter writhes in apparent agony as reserve lineman Andrew Brewer (#66) celebrates.

Curtis Painter doesn't have any problem powering up the Heisman Hype Machine.

Neither does Coach Matt Adams.

"If I had a vote for Heisman, I'd give it to Painter fair and square. Six touchdowns today. Six touchdowns. It's astonishing," Adams conceded as he looked over a loose set of stat sheets from his fourth-ranked Boilermakers' 56-13 thrashing of Michigan State. "This kid's going far, I can tell you that much."

"I just work hard, show up, expect the best and it usually happens. I mean, really. I'm amazing," the ever-bashful Painter reminded everyone in the press room.

Never mind a brilliant effort from Kory Sheets, who accounted for two of Painter's five touchdown passes. Sheets also returned a kickoff for a touchdown, his third this season.

They're not...gonna...get 'im: Kory Sheets outruns Michigan State defenders on a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

"Yeah, yeah...I guess other guys contribute in their own way," Painter said. "They do whatever they can, when they can. It's kind of like when you give to charity. Just give a little. And Kory gave us a little."

Painter's comments aside, it's impossible to understate how important Sheets is to the Boilermakers. He put on another all-around spectacle, rushing 15 times for 59 yards, catching five balls for 123 yards, and adding a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that left the crowd breathless and plunged Michigan State into a 21-6 hole.

"It was all in the blocks, man. I saw a good seam and then bounced it to the outside. All I had to do was outrun a couple guys. Gotta give props to my blockers on that screen pass, too. That was an amazing play."

The screen pass Sheets referred to was a 65-yard score that started with 12 seconds left in the first half. Painter flinged the ball to Sheets, who got loose and broke a few tackles to hit the endzone.

"I just wanted to call a safe play," Adams said. "Something that would maybe get us into field goal position. But Kory wouldn't settle for that. Neither would Curt."

Sheets' touchdown was his third of the second quarter, part of a 35-point blitz in the quarter that left MSU fans speechless. Count their coach in on that, too.

"It was the most amazing three minutes I've ever seen from an individual player," Spartan Coach Mark Dantonio said. "I know Painter wants and gets and the hype and buzz, but Sheets greases the wheel. Hell, when we were down 42-6 at halftime, I wasn't freaking cursing Painter's name; I was cursing Sheets. What a tremendous performance from that kid."

"You know, I don't think guys like Dantonio should have opinions," Painter countered. "He obviously didn't see my five freaking touchdown passes or my three-yard TD run. Not like I'm keeping track or anything, but that's like 46 touchdowns or something. Off the top of my head, I think 42 of them are through the air and four are on the ground. But I'm not obsessed with numbers like my 83% completion rate or anything like that. I really don't look at the stats."

And he's not afraid to tell you, either: Senior Curtis Painter had another remarkable game for Purdue, throwing five touchdowns and adding a sixth on a run.

"Dude's crazy," Sheets said. "In fact, I'm pretty sure instead of looking at pictures of the defense during the game, Curt is getting stat updates from the coordinator. Check that out."

The numbers were all Purdue. The Boilermakers outgained MSU 397-144 in total offense. Painter had another 300-yard game, throwing for 318 yards. Purdue was a perfect three-for-three in the redzone. The total yardage disparity was a ridiculous 644 to 358.

That's gotta hurt! Junior corner David Pender upends MSU's Javon Ringer, resulting in an incomplete pass.

"A lot of credit goes to that defense. I don't think anyone stuffed the stat sheet, but they played great. Except for the touchdown. I was disappointed in that," Adams lamented, referring to the Spartans' lone touchdown of the game, which came with just 34 seconds left in the fourth quarter when Brian Hoyer hit sophomore Mark Dell for a five-yard TD strike.

"I know we were down 56-6 when we scored, but I still couldn't help but yell 'suck on that!' at the defense," Hoyer admitted. "If I'd had a flag handy, I would've planted it at midfield, just to tick 'em off. I mean, hell, take away the other three quarters and we win that game. Shut 'em out in the fourth."

"Oh yeah, because the other 75% of the game in which they sucked doesn't count," Painter said, rolling his eyes.

The Boilermakers (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten) face Iowa next week.

Notes

Painter broke Purdue's single-season record for touchdown passes...the record-breaker was the 65-yard screen pass to Sheets as time expired in the second half...in their last three games, Purdue has allowed just 22-points...Michigan State's fourth quarter touchdown broke Purdue's consecutive quarter streak for not allowing a touchdown, a mark that spanned 11 quarters...Chris Summers unleashed his third punt of the season, a 48-yarder that netted just 29 yards after a 19-yard return; "We don't plan to punt, so we don't really practice coverage," Coach Adams admitted to a stunned press room...with two touchdown catches, Sheets tied Joe Whitest and Greg Orton for the team lead with seven...Sheets' 65-yard TD reception was not his longest of the season; he had a 69-yard catch for a score in the season opener against Kentucky...another idiot in the Coaches' Poll gave Purdue a first-place vote...the Boilermakers are third in the BCS rankings, fourth in the Coaches' Poll, and third in the Media Poll...if Purdue can top Iowa and Indiana (#7, 10-0, 6-0Big Ten) can beat Penn State, both teams will enter the Old Oaken Bucket Game undefeated; as long as both teams don't lose next week, the rivalry game will determine the Big Ten winner and also have major bowl implications...Purdue addressed one of its chief concerns next year by getting commitments from two outside linebackers: Joe Broussard of Athens, GA, and Tony Brown of Seven Oaks, SC...rumor has it that another linebacker, Rashad Crum of Denver, CO, may commit soon, along with wide receiver Luke Campbell and guard John Simmons.