Tag Archives: prolate spheroid

College Football: GaTech uncorks UGA with pow

1893. Grover Cleveland was the President of the United States. Thomas Edison was forty-six years-old. F. Scott Fitzgerald wouldn’t be born for three years (he hadn’t even been conceived). DW Griffith was eighteen years-old. And, for our purposes today, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the UGA Bulldogs first felt the pangs of anything-you-can-do-i-can-do-better.

The stingers and the barkers doled out their best moves in Athens today. Would UGA win for the eighth time in a row? Would GaTech yank the handkerchief from the Bulldogs’ breast pocket? Televised by CBS, the first quarter started with a Bulldogs possession which led to a touchdown catch by tight end Tripp Chandler, who spent most of the season injured. UGA 7 and GaTech 0. In the bottom of the first quarter, UGA quarterback Matthew Stafford threw an interception–right into the arms of GaTech safety Morgan Burnett, who then ran thirty-five yards into the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point snap wasn’t executed well (due to the rain perhaps?). An improv two-point conversion was not successful. UGA 7 and GaTech 6.

The second quarter started with a TD for UGA thanks to wide receiver Mohammed Massaquoi. UGA 14 and GaTech 6. Running back Lucas Cox took the Yellow Jackets into the end zone on their next possession. A deliberate two-point conversion was foiled. UGA 14 and GaTech 12. It’s not my imagination. On UGA’s next go, Mohammed Massaquoi threw the ball in search of wide receiver AJ Green (the pass was incomplete). And then, Massaquoi swept himself forty-nine yards into the end zone. Bulldogs 21 and Yellow Jackets 12. The bottom of the second quarter ended with another Massaquoi TD. Going into halftime, UGA 28 and Yellow Jackets 12. Actually, it literally ended with GaTech quarterback Josh Nesbitt throwing an interception; the ball was grabbed by safety Reshad Jones.

Whatever happened in the Yellow Jackets locker room during halftime–a thundering speech by head coach Paul Johnson or just an austere stare down–worked very well. The third quarter started with GaTech running back Jonathan Dwyer running sixty yards into the end zone for a touchdown!!! He also made it into the end zone for a two-point conversion. Bulldogs 28 and Yellow Jackets 20. GaTech, capitalizing on their newfound electrifying umph, increased their points with a TD by running back Roddy Jones. Another two-point conversion was effectively attempted–the goal line broken by Nesbitt. Both teams tied with 28 points. UGA, on their next possession, had the ball for one play. Bulldogs running back Richard Samuel was ferrying the ball back, and as he was tackled, the prolate spheroid fell out from his grasp. GaTech recovered the fumbled ball; Jonathan Dwyer ran it into the end zone one play later. The extra point kick was good. The Yellow Jackets took the lead with 35 to 28 points. GaTech kicker Scott Blair sent out a field goal towards the bottom of the third quarter. Yellow Jackets 38 and Bulldogs 28. The third-quarter-ending play had UGA running back Knowshon Moreno hobbling off the field (but he was able to go back in in the fourth quarter).

The fourth quarter started with Moreno cramming the ball into the end zone. GaTech 38 and UGA 35. Jaybo Shaw had to step in for Josh Nesbitt when the game clock was about nine minutes. Two plays later, Nesbitt was back in the game. Roddy Jones increased GaTech’s lead with a forty-five yard rushing TD halfway through the fourth quarter. C’etait magnifique! Yellow Jackets 45 and Bulldogs 35. UGA was not about to let their rivalry victory reign slip from under their chins. Aided by successful connections between Stafford and Moreno, the Bulldogs got to the red zone and AJ Green put the ball into the end zone. GaTech 45 and UGA 42. Final score. FINAL SCORE. For the first time since he’s been head coach at UGA, Mark Richt and his Bulldogs lost to the Yellow Jackets.

Observations & Miscellania:

1. Craig Bolerjack and Trev Albert something or another provided commentary.

2. Both teams were on the field before the game, emulating mosh pit frenzy.

3. Brief shots of the spectators revealed a lot of red.

4. The Yellow Jackets wore white jerseys, the Bulldogs red.

5. The interception that Matthew Stafford was the best thing that could’ve happened to UGA. The Bulldogs offense was on fire after that move.

6. One of the UGA fans wore a Grinch mask and some plaid.

7. Product Placement break: Matthew Stafford holding a Coke cup on the sidelines in the top of the third quarter (after the play where one of GaTech’s defensive players had to hobble slowly off the field). I guess a Gatorade cup wouldn’t have matched his uniform.

8. By the bottom of the fourth quarter, the offensive Bulldogs’ white pants had turned greenish-gray on account of contact with the turf. The defensive Yellow Jackets’ white pants, on the other hand, were still quite white.

9. Four minutes left to play in the fourth quarter, each team had only one time-out. UGA used their last time-out with ninety seconds left. GaTech took their final time-out with forty-eight seconds on the clock.

Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.

Pic cred: google image search


Oh, and New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself last night. He’ll live.

Virginia Tech won against Virginia.

Field goal this prolate spheroid

It took much longer than I thought, but I finally finished reading Timothy Gay’s book The Physics of Football.


Gay is a physics professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  This book of his makes me wish I were better at physics.  The subject fascinates me much more than political science and economics (as an entity separate from an industry like the arts or agriculture), but at a certain level, my mind stops making sense of its principles.

The Physics of Football (formerly published as Football Physics),  is technical enough not to strike hardcore science scholars as fluffy, but is comprised of clearly defined prose so that average science folks don’t feel like complete idiots.  Being a fan (or participant) of football definitely helps.

There are many fascinating bits throughout the book, which consists of nine chapters, an introduction, an appendix, notes, acknowledgments, and an index.  The chapters are as follows: Blocking and Tackling; The Pit; The West Coast Offense Explained; The Football in Flight; Kicking the Football; Passing the Football; Gear; Turf; and Waves in the Stadium.

I’m really zonked right now, and my brain is having a hard time forming more coherent and articulate thoughts.  Thus, I shall leave you with a few enlightening excerpts from the book:

The NFL record for a successful field goal is 63 yards, held by both the New Orleans Saints’ Tom Dempsey (1970) and the Denver Broncos’ Jason Elam (1998)…(The goalpost was moved from the front to the back of the end zone in 1978 by the NFL, but the field-goal distance of record is still specified in terms of the actual distance between the kicking tee and the uprights)….There is one crucial difference between the two NFL record field goals: Dempsey’s was kicked in New Orleans, essentially at sea level, whereas Elam’s was kicked in the old Mile High Stadium…Dempsey had to kick the ball harder than Elam….Dempsey needed to kick the ball with a speed of 173 feet per second, or 118 miles per hour.  Elam would have had to launch his kick at 145 feet per second, or 99 miles per hour” (140-141).

Of all the varied skills required of players, passing is the most difficult to master.  This is one of the reasons quarterbacks get paid more than guards” (168).

“The shape of the football–that of a prolate spheroid, to use a math phrase, has three obvious but important implications.  First, it’s easier to throw than a sphere. …Second, the football is easier to carry than a soccer ball.  It can be tucked firmly between the ball carrier’s arm and rib cage in a manner that makes fumbling much less likely.  Finally, the football’s unique shape gives it an exceptionally erratic bounce that has unpredictable consequence over the course of a game” (203).

I sometimes tell my students that the history of physics goes hand in hand with humans’ never-ending quest to kill each other more efficiently.  That idea is illustrated quite well by the evolutionary development of football protective gear” (219).