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Stuff and Shenanigans: Core Appreciation Week

I say this as a show of respect, Arizona State: I’m so happy to not play you again.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 21 Arizona State at Washington Photo by Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Well, this was supposed to be out yesterday but then as I was writing up the last two sentences, SB Nation’s whole backend crashed so, belated, here’s your lack of intro:

See? None. Move along:

A 0% Sober and 100% Accurate Rundown of Absolutely Everything

Well gee, the person who booked me to work Saturday night sure picked a convenient night for me to not watch most of a Washington football game. I would like to thank them for what we can only describe as an act of prescient altruism.

I ended up getting home right before the end of the third quarter, and hoo boy let me tell you: I’m sure most of you also saw this because I’m not particularly “smart” or even “a haver of functional eyes” (no seriously they’re so bad they can’t be accurately measured... I’m sure I’ve mentioned that in here before), but it only took three throws to see that Michael Penix’ core was off.

Occam’s razor would suggest that whatever Penix was finnicking with in his torso against Oregon was not just “cramps” and that this was a result of that, but I suppose I’ll entertain Grubb and DeBoer’s explanation of:

Regardless, I certainly hope they aren’t being sly with “under the weather” by knowing we’ll assume that means (like normal people) “sick” if it’s actually just a vague enough euphemism for “not perfect” which could mean “cramps weren’t cramps and his torso’s exploded.”

Regardless, I take absurd amounts of issue with Grubb’s assertion that Penix’s under-the-weather-ness didn’t affect his throwing on Saturday.

Because I’ve never seen someone’s kinetic chain so clearly interrupted from the lower body to the upper, arms, and release point. I’m not exaggerating when I said it took three throws for that to be certain in my mind. If anything I spotted it by two. And that’s not because I’m very smart or good at seeing (again, legally blind), that’s just how blatant it was.

The fact is that the way the ball was coming out of his hand plus lofting on passes he’d otherwise complete in his sleep, it all came back to him generating way less torque than he normally does and the end result was *gestures to beginning of sentence*.

This aligns most simply with his torso discomfort near the end of the Oregon game — hence that being a clear Occam’s razor — but I’m willing to accept it’s possible Grubb and DeBoer are really telling the truth and that he just coincidentally was bothered by core issues at the end of Oregon and then also got sick to a magnitude where the muscle sensitivity and weakness affected his throwing motion in a way that would mimic the effects of a core injury which we had previous evidence for.

Okay actually... saying that out loud that sounds insane. But ya know what, I’ve ended up sitting next to my middle school buddy’s family friends from Norway on a flight from Reykjavik while I myself was returning from Germany, and that sounds insane to say out loud too, so... ya never know. Coincidences happen!

Regardless of whether it was caused by illness or injury — sweet Christ I hope the former and we’re not being bullshitted to — the weakening effects on core rotation means you simply cannot generate the same torque as your healthy self when it’s screwed up. And I don’t want to say anything too wild and controversial, but generating torque is a preeeeeeetty important part of both “chucking hella bombs” and “throwing a ball like eight yards on an out route but to exactly where it needs to be.” (For the record, I find the the uncomfortably complex angles vis-a-vis defenders, velocity, and precision required to throw a good out-route makes them the clearest pass type to determine the validity of a quarterback’s strength and biomechanics. Hence why I used them to project what would happen with Noah Kim against UW. You will notice that what I said about his weaknesses was a much more heightened version of what Mike Penix so uncharacteristically showed against ASU.)

Ya know, as much as we like to focus on the lower body and upper body in throwing mechanics, I feel like in casual discussion the core doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Rotational force matters! Without it it doesn’t matter how properly your feet are set, or how much power you’d otherwise be able to transfer from your back leg, or how jacked your tricep and delt and infraspinatus are otherwise! Without core rotation we are all just flailing blobs of unconnected primordial jelly producing no leverage and subsequently throwing neither hard nor accurately.

And I hope you too will help evangelize the gospel of core moving forward (which is one of the weirder sentences I’ve ever typed here)*.

Now the obvious of “why I hope for the love of Thor and all that is holy that Grubb isn’t messing with us and that this truly isn’t an injury”: I trust Mike to out-tough anything.

But it doesn’t matter how tough you are, the laws of physics are the laws of physics. Torque is torque. Chains of kinetics — sidenote: band name? — are what they are, and as long as you are a human being on Earth and subsequently have to deal with gravity and air resistance and blah blah blah while propelling an object from your hand in point A to a point B however many yards away, umm... you can only “out-tough” something so much before the physical realities of your body vis-a-vis physics come into play. And that’s the first time I’ve said “vis-a-vis” twice in one Stuff and Shenanigan.

Or maybe more accurately: It doesn’t matter how tough you are if an injury just straight up prevents your body from being able to do a necessary task.

I’m saying all this because there’s a genre of people on the internet who are eye-rollingly inclined to whine something about how there’s “no excuses” for *let me check my notes real quick* how injuries affect play, in this case Mike’s core situation — whether illness or injury — and him not being able to subvert the laws of physics. I don’t want to be presumptuous here, but I think it’s fair to say that if he got, say, his leg chopped off, we wouldn’t be sitting here going “I don’t care that he’s injured there aren’t any excuses for not being able to stand upright no excuses to not run faster winner’s win now’s his Heisman moment gotta will it to be no excuses” while funnelling the remaining Doritos crumbs into our mouth from above.

Like, it’s not an excuse to just admit that physics exists. Some ailments aren’t about “playing through the pain,” they just make you physically unable to do the thing you have to do, or at least in this case do it with enough whip and precision. You wouldn’t blame John Ross for not running a 4.2 40 if his legs were chopped off, you wouldn’t blame ZTF for not being able to move his ankle when his achilles tore — those just aren’t physically possible to do with those injuries. There is no amount of toughness that can change that.

Clearly this was the case with Penix — whether injury or illness, both of those at a certain point affect how your body can move and that’s especially disruptive to a motion as precision-based as throwing.

Anyways, I didn’t expect to spend most of this week’s shenanigans hyperfixating on the fact that if you don’t have your torso in working order it doesn’t matter how much ass you kick, science is gonna science and what that science is gonna do is gonna f*^& with your ability to throw and there is no amount of “good at throwing” you can be that will make that not true. God I love me a good dumb run-on sentence.

Moving on to:

Freaking hat tip to Meesh Powell. That was the most clutch Husky football play since, like... seven days earlier.

Even before it, while I watched this game on mute sitting cross-legged on my couch and cuddling my cat against her will**, when ASU motioned the receiver pre-snap and Powell non-chalantly tracked him opposite the line of scrimmage through til the beginning of the play, the thought crossed my brain: “Hah that’s some nice pick-six geometry you’ve got going there. Would be a shame if someone took you up on that offer.”

But I didn’t think it was that likely. There’s really not much to say here, just that his read, patience, and discipline throughout the play ruled. Not unlike the same factors that led to his interception against Michigan State, too:

That’s all, Meesh’s instincts and discipline slap, way to be clutch yo.

*If you’ve ever wondered “Why is this former German major who didn’t even take math class her senior year of high school and instead crammed like three months of online self-taught pre-calc into four days in order to get math reqs out of the way and left it there, a biomechanics nerd? That makes no sense?” The answer becomes obvious if you know my softball background (which you all do at this point) and ever see me in person, where your immediate reaction would be “Oh my god, that lady is 90% limbs. Just arms, legs, and a head. She’s the Martin Scorsese of being gangly. The Phoebe Waller-Bridge of lankiness***. It’s a miracle.” And that’s the relatively filled-out adult version of me — you don’t get built like that and throw hard with strength, you throw hard because the only thing you can do is generate trebuchet-ass leverage.

**Never against her will because I am her favorite person alive. Or dead, hopefully.

***Obviously I’m joking, because Phoebe Waller-Bridge is herself the Phoebe Waller-Bridge of lankiness. I was three feet away from her at the Fringe this summer and she is even more gloriously elegant-lanky in person. It was the most starstruck I’ve been since meeting Dubs.

Lines of the Week

Every attempt at running the ball:

I’m guessing over/under 64% of you by halftime:

And Meesh:

Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.