The 2016 TUS Football Report: Maryland Edition

by 89 Chemistry

To put things briefly, either team could win this game—by anything from one to 20 points.

Both teams are poor by B1G standards.   Most analyses project the Terrapins (4-2, 1-2 B1G) to win—but most analyses do not account for changes as the season unfolds.   Nor do they account for how teams actually do on the road versus at home.   UMD seems to have gotten worse and worse in the past two weeks, while MSU may or may not have leveled off in its overall mediocrity.   And while UMD is slightly better at home, MSU’s defense alone is two touchdowns per game better on the road than at home.

How good Maryland will be Saturday night will mostly depend on the health of All-American returner/“nickel back” Will Likely [jersey #4] and quarterback Perry Hills [#11].   Likely is UMD’s leader as Kirk Cousins was once MSU’s leader and is a two-time All-B1G cornerback.   Hills might be the worst QB the Spartans have faced since playing Furman, but he is better than true freshman Tyrrell Pigrome [#3], and has some chance of keeping MSU honest against UMD’s rush-oriented attack.

On that attack:  The QBs run well; the lead backs average nine yards per carry; and they sometimes use a stout guy named Kenneth Goins.

With Likely, UMD employs a 4-2-5 defense—which intrinsically relies on confusing offensive players.   Without Likely, it will probably run a base 4-3.   The defense bends without breaking and frequently sacks quarterbacks.

Assuming Likely and Hills play, the median projection is UMD 28, MSU 26.


Once again, MSU faces a coach that is unhappy with his team.   “Obviously a very sloppy performance,” DJ Durkin said after a 31-10 home loss to Minnesota (1-2 B1G).   “I think we killed ourselves with penalties and turnovers… We didn’t play with the same sense of urgency and grit that we’ve played with for most of the season. … There’s plenty of blame to go around, including coaching. … We need to swing the field better when we’re on special teams.   It’s like every other return there’s a breakdown … We have to learn how to bounce back and have some toughness about us to push through.”   Both UMD and UMN were missing its starting QBs—invoking run tactics that succeeded for the Gophers, but not Pigrome and the Terps.   “They were hugging the line of scrimmage and holding the box, daring us to throw with Piggy,” Durkin said.   “He can execute throwing down the field.   We have to do a better job of protecting him.”   In contrast—and of possible inspiration the Spartans—UMN ran the ball 48 times.   “We have to be sound in our run gaps and be where we’re supposed to be when we need to be there,” said Jermaine Carter—one of the B1G’s better LBs (he had 14 TFLs last year).

Pigrome has played in every game and had his first start last week.   He is almost as likely to run as to throw, averaging ~5 yards per non-sack rush [nsr].   He averages only 3.9 y/throw [the Report considers 7.5 y/t average], but has only a 6.5% sacked rate and a 3.4% INT rate.   Hills splits about 1:2 rush:pass; he averages ~6 y/nsr and 5.9 y/t and only a 2.5% INT rate.   But Hills—the B1G’s third most-efficient passer—is sacked 15% of the time he tries to pass.   Pigrome either passed or carried 62 times last week (including nearly 20 improvised runs) and, if Hills cannot play, seems to have Durkin’s trust: “There’s other guys I’m worried about bouncing back, he’s not one of them.”

In comparison, O’Connor averages 4.8 y/nsr and 7.3 y/t.   His sack rate is 8%, and his INT rate is 7.4%.   Lewerke averages only 4.9 y/t.   But he has averaged ~9 y/nsr while keeping sack and INT rates down to 4% and 4.3%, respectively.

Despite this, the Report considers O’Connor MSU’s best QB for now.   Someone might object that Lewerke was not the same after taking a safety vs. NU.   But in the 10 offensive minutes before that, MSU’s offense gained 10 points and 131 yards.   With O’Connor in for MSU’s final eight minutes of possession, MSU gained 23 points and 318 yards.   In order to win this game, O’Connor—the first Spartan to throw two 86-yard passes since Steve Juday over 50 years ago—needs to be quarterbacking for at least some of it.   But it would not be surprising to see MSU use both on Saturday, to good effect.

And to be fair, one cannot praise the B1G’s second-most efficient QB without noting the bright light that wide receiver RJ Shelton is this season.   Those 86-yard TD passes—the longest passes among B1G teams—helped to place Shelton third in the B1G in receiving yards/game [75] and all-purpose y/g [127].   In 2016 conference games, he has both of the two largest receiving-yard tallies [190, 141] and the largest all-purpose tallies [260 y].   The 190 receiving yards vs. NU was the most by a Spartan since early 2008 [Mark Dell, 205 vs. Cal].

MSU’s coaches had another trial of explanations after the NU loss.   LJ Scott had a promising start in the run game.   But he “didn’t see a whole lot of action in the second half as it became a little more of a passing game,” explained Offensive coordinator Dave Warner.   “Gerald [Holmes] has served as our best pass pro guy and has locked in his assignments very well, so that’s pretty much what happened.”   A depleted offensive line puts more pressure on backs to block well, in the Report’s view.   A great O-line might be able to cover a hot running back’s shortcomings on pass plays.   In 2016, the hot running back must be a blocking back—which, it now seems, hobbles MSU’s running game if Holmes is having an off day toting the rock.

After a day when MSU gave up more points than in any game since 2003, defensive coordinator Mike Tressel had several items to address.   He thinks the impact of missed tackles is largely a consequence of MSU’s dearth of gang tackling so far this year—reiterating the point that MSU practices tackling a lot between games.   (The Report ventures that the implied lack of defenders’ flow to the ball is, in turn, a consequence of inexperienced players simply not recognizing the ball’s position fast enough—and/or not shedding blockers promptly.)   When asked why the D seems okay before halftime and falters afterward, he said, “Really what I think it is right now is when we give up a big play or we give up a big drive, we don’t respond very well.   If you go and look at how people are attacking us in the second half, it’s not like it’s a whole different offensive game plan…”   And on coverage problems on deeper throws, he offered an explanation with a blunt conclusion: ““[I]t’s frustrating when you know something that’s coming and you don’t make the play.”   (Safety Demetrious Cox“told me after the game his legs are ailing and in need of treatment,” Chris Solari of the Detroit Free Press revealed this week.   The safety probably had the most glaring coverage breakdowns in the NU game.)

Brian Lewerke got to speak after the game, too.   “I would probably give myself a B+,” he said.   “I think I did pretty well, but there were obvious mistakes that still need to be corrected.   I would probably stay in the pocket more.   I skipped too much.”   After reviewing game footage, Dantonio said that the “game got a little fast for Lewerke after the first quarter”.   In fact, quarterbacks coach Brad Salem later laid responsibility for the safety on Lewerke: “It’s knowing progression.   He had a free-access hitch to the field, so the ball would’ve been out quicker. You know when you’re in five-man protection, you gotta get the ball out.”

Dantonio—who reserved judgment right after the game—was frank about film review on Sunday night.   “We were outplayed, out-toughed, out-coached,” he said.   Those Usual Suspects that would not describe the entire past month the same way are few to none.

On Tuesday, Dantonio told the press that the players’ attitudes remain strong and positive.   A cascade of interesting remarks was drawn from Dantonio—all beginning with a reporter’s question that asked if he was “concerned about [MSU] becoming, in certain cases, predictable”.

“I think it’s hyperbole,” Dantonio replied.   “There are always wrinkles, as I said last week. … But you just can’t change and overhaul something that you’ve done, especially if you’ve been good at it. … The problem right now is sometimes our players aren’t playing fast.   I watched [freshman defensive end] Josh King, who is going to be a phenomenal player.   He…comes off the edge, before he gets hit on a wham block, a block coming back from the tight end, he fixes his helmet in the middle of a play.   Well, you can’t do that.   That’s just a very small thing.   But you have to be able to know what you’re doing, play fast, and execute whatever it is…at a rapid rate and aggressively.   That’s what we need to concentrate on and be fundamentally sound.   That’s what wins football games, fundamentals.”   Dantonio went on to imply that defensive problems fall into several categories, but pointed out a positive obscured by the final score.   “We had six [defensive] three-and-outs on Saturday. … If you get more than five, you’re doing pretty well because it doesn’t happen all the time.   So we did have a lot of three-and-outs.   But when we didn’t, things sort of snowballed a little bit.”

Dantonio said some things about Maryland, too.   “From a defensive perspective, I think you see a lot of what Coach Durkin did at [Michigan].   You see a lot of press coverage, a lot of different pressures with middle-of-the-field safety.   They are going to play a variety of different coverages, a little quarters, they have an extensive nickel package.   I think he’s got his guys playing hard.   I think their wide receivers are talented.”   Defensive end Jesse Aniebonam [#41] has 5.5 sacks in six games (second in the B1G).   The Terps seem good at minimizing pass yardage, but are even worse at seizing turnovers—especially INTs—than the Spartans are.   And the receivers are talented—relative to the intrinsic talent of most of the Terrapins.   Levern Jacobs [#8] had ten catches last week, and DJ Moore [#1] had 147 receiving yards against Florida International.   According to Ryan Connors of the UMD blog Testudo Times, “For [highly-regarded O Coordinator] Walt Bell’s offense to work, the team needs wideouts to catch the ball close to the line of scrimmage and get yards after the catch.”   That happened only in the fourth quarter last weekend—and in that quarter, the Terps scored their only points of the game [10] and racked up 200 yards    (A cautionary point for fans of a defense that wilts late in games and no longer renders offenses one-dimensional.)

The Terps’ longest reception belongs to running back Ty Johnson [#6]—a 66-yard TD vs. Penn State.   He has theB1G’s longest rushing play in 2016; the 76-yard TD was part of his 204 yards on seven carries in UMD’s 50-7 win over Purdue.   He, the quarterback(s), and Lorenzo Harrison [#23] should account for almost 80% of the rushes of a team that tends to rush on 60-70% of its plays.   “The freshman [Harrison] wasn’t a super-ballyhooed recruit, but he scored touchdowns in his first four games and is still Maryland’s leading rusher,” says Testudo Times’ Thomas Kendziora.   “He’s a shifty, elusive back, while Johnson is a speedster who always looks like he’s on the brink of breaking off a big gain.”   All of the rushers benefit from an experienced line; UMD is among the best teams in the FBS at getting RBs at least five yards beyond the line of scrimmage—and at converting short-yardage [two or less] downs.   (One of the best tackles in the B1G, Michael Dunn [#76], anchors the line.)   But the key to UMD’s rushing success is perimeter blocking, and Jacobs has said, “it may be more fun blocking than catching the ball.”   With the Terps having the the 10th-least prolific passing attack in the nation, that seems like a good attitude to have.

(Dantonio said that LT Kodi Kieler has some minor injuries and did not practice much last week.   Backup LG David Beedle is injured and will not play—which probably forced Dennis Finley (the only OL in the four-year senior class) to overcome the leg fracture he suffered last year and back up freshman Tyler Higby.)

Without Likely, UMD has no credible kick-return threat.   It does have adequate alternates on punt returns—and, like MSU, it has had pretty good punt-coverage success.   Last weekend the Spartans starting staggering two returners on punts; the up-man is there to catch shorter punts so that MSU is not burned on long rolling punts as it has been at times this year.   (Johnson and Harrison, of all people, have each blocked a punt this year for the Terps.) 

The Report projects a close game for four quarters.   Lest Members think things hopeless in spite of the rationalizations for hope in the Brief, the narrative will end with a few more points along those lines.   First, the Spartans have played a tougher schedule than UMD; the two UMD foes that are about as strong as NU and BYU have beaten the Terps by wider margins than those suffered by MSU in the last two weeks.   Second, UMD gives up 3.2 sacks per game (worst in the B1G; 10th-worst in the FBS).    Third, MSU has never lost at Maryland; it is 6-1, and the only loss was in 1950.

Finally: While MSU has lost four turnovers in past three games, UMD has lost eight in its last three games.

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Fall is Going Fast: Get Your Color Fix Before It Is Gone!

Okay, okay… I understand that you are very busy, very important, and buried in the details of one of the most important issues known to human-kind.  However, have you taken a moment to pull your head out from [fill in the blank] and soaked in the colors of fall-time?

In spite of being exceptionally self-important and consumed by a Presidential Election that is certain to send me to Canada on November 9th (no matter the winner).  I have done so. and so should you!

Click on the images below for an expanded presentation,


The first morning of fall in the Sawtooths. I walked out from the cabin (in the trees straight ahead) to capture this shot.


The Arctic Willows at their prime fall color in early morning on Lewis & Clark’s River of No Return (Salmon River) above Fisher Creek.

If your cross the Wood River at the base of the Boulder Mountains (at your own risk) you can enjoy sunset on some hidden Beaver Ponds.

Aspens bursting with color at the base of the Galena Pass at the source of the Lewis & Clark’s River of No Return (Salmon River).

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Thought Provoking & Somber With Grace – Literally: The Light Between Oceans


The film The Light Between Oceans could quickly and easily be classified as a tear-jerker Chick Flick sponsored by Kleenex brand tissues.  This characterization would be selling the film, its source novel, and its potential audience short, very short.  This is a story about making very… no.., extremely tough choices so as to benefit one that you love with a material risk to your own well being.

Yes, The Light Between Oceans could have been a costume-drama Hollywood executives chose to turn into a courtroom procedural or a thriller with car chases.  Car chases in the 1920’s in Australia are not as dramatic as in the 1960’s – 1980’s in San Francisco.

None-the-less The light Between Oceans is meant specifically for the brain and the heart to embrace and consume.

Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Bastards, Shame, 12 Years a Slave), Alicia Viklander (ex-Machina, AA The Swedish Girl, Jason Bourne) and Rachel Weisz (AA The Constant Gardener, About A Boy, Enemy At The Gates) are superb in the lead roles.

Ironically Jack Thompson and Bryan Brown two males leads of the 1980’s in Australian film (AAN Breaker Morant) are the key supporting characters in the film.  This is one of my favorite films.

Oh… then there is the music score by Andre Desplat (AA Grand Budapest Hotel, AAN The Imitation Game, AAN Argo), Cinema-photography by Adam Arkapaw (McFarland USA, Animal Kingdom) and costumes by Erin Benach (Drive, Lincoln Lawyer, Blue Valentine) These three aspects are worth seeing the film on their own.

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Adding Up on Almost Every Count: The Accountant


Similar to General Accounting Principles (GAP), if filmmakers follow General Filmmaking Principles (GFP) a movie can operate by the books and in most cases be successful both financially and as entertainment for its audience.

The Accountant is an exciting genre film that while not overtly appearing to do so – follows virtually all of the GFP. The Accountant is a Super-hero film for Adults that is not dragged down by all the branding, licensing, and cross-promotional baggage brought on by an association with D.C. or Marvel Comics.  Although it should be noted that I would like to receive an Official The Accountant Pocket Protector ™ and a Official The Accountant Anti-Tank Rifle ™ from Santa for Christmas.

From a checklist perspective, The Accountant has an intriguing base storyline and sub-plots that are added and well extended. The Accountant has primary and secondary characters who’s roles are well developed.  The Accountant has music and sound properly blended into the film.  The Accountant has excellent acting and direction.

Ben Affleck (Gone Girl, Argo, The Town) is outstanding as the lead character – Christian Wolff. Wolff has an affliction that our society has a hard-time diagnosing and understanding – let alone treating correctly.  Affleck exhibits the traits of this affliction with superb effect.  The filmmakers seize this affliction, embrace it, and weave it and its implications into The Accountant with the precision a bespoken suit-maker.

As with any good Super-Hero feature there are supporting roles – almost all well played in this film. There is the good-guy, good-guy-bad-guy, bad-guy-good-guy, conflicted-guy, observer-chaser-guy, at-risk-needs-protection-guy, and of course the role-becomes-obviously-clear-at-the-end-and-you-should-have-seen-it-coming-guy.  Guy in this definition is both male and female.

As with any Super-Hero film the story and characters should not be scrutinized too deeply or for very long – as it will lead to the uncovering of holes, gaps and worst off  – your loss of suspended disbelief.  So yes, the bad-guy is going to do something at the end that makes absolutely no sense and leads to their demise. However, the film The Accountant is bad-ass good entertainment and I would see it a 2nd time in theaters.


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No Ride is Too Long if it Involves Jackson Browne


Jackson Browne and Greg Leisz (right) at the Morrison Center in Boise.

Linda and I took in the Jackson Browne Acoustic Solo Performance in Boise on Thursday night October 13, 2016 at the Morrison Center in Boise, Idaho.  Both of us love his music and the acoustic format enhances the listening experience (at least for me) exponentially. Thursday’s concert was our 2nd of his current tour – as we attended a performance in Reno, Nevada in June as well.  Instead of playing solo, Browne is joined by long-time associate Greg Leisz – a wonderful and pleasant development.

It should be noted that with the exception of a run to the store (10 miles out and back), a trip to and or from our home in Idaho is by definition Destination Travel.  As most of you know first-hand our regular 154 mile (one way) commute to Boise includes traversing the 100 mile Camas Prairie section of the actual Oregon Trail (US 20).  After 30+ years, I remain enamored with this drive for which I never tire.  Historians tell me the current driving conditions and modes of transportation are materially safer and improved upon from the Oregon Trail’s hey-dey of 1873.

Linda and I have attended Browne concerts since the 1970’s and together since the 1980’s. Truth be revealed we have used Jackson Browne and his music as a means to travel for over three decades.  Need to see the family in Kansas City?  Plan it around a Browne concert! Want to take in a professional ball-game?  Is Jackson touring?  Yes, well let’s take in both.  Want to go to Winery?  Oh… Browne will be performing there was well!  Want to visit a city or region?  What a coincidence… Jackson will be performing their in a few months.  Music in a interesting setting? – Mississippi River Gambling, a former prison, music venues that are national historic sites, effectively a private party – hey why not with Jackson Browne!

One thing I am finding of interest is that the age of Browne’s audience at these concerts ranges from the 20’s to the 80’s – with Linda and I approaching the end of our 50’s.  That is a big spread.

Browne is the consummate first-person performer.  He connects to his audience with small reflective insights that feel personal and directed to you specifically.  Sure it is showmanship, but effective no less.  So when Browne makes fun of himself about the closeted nature life on the tour and how it was obliterated by the natural beauty of Idaho – to his absolute surprise – you take him at his word.

Browne is also a master of modifying the music to be performed based on the taste, inclination and request of the audience.  To use a sports metaphor, Browne almost always seems to be in the zone – even when he is tour weary – as he was in Boise.  So when Linda yells Fountain of Sorrow,  Browne actually turns his head, tilts it sideways in acknowledgement, smiles, changes instruments, and plays the requested song.  The beauty of this approach is that the concert goer gets the standard classics but also the album oriented songs of their choice.  On this night that includes Browne playing – at the request of someone in the crowd – The Naked Ride Home.  And therefore with Jackson Browne – for us at-least – no ride is too long.

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A Thriller which Just Happens to be About a Disaster Film


The film Deepwater Horizon is best categorized as a Thriller that coincidentally is about a disaster – not a Disaster Film.

The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, Airport – these films are the standard bearers of Hollywood Disaster Films.  Thank goodness Deepwater Horizon is not a Disaster Film or we would be forced to see Helen Hayes sweetly encourage people to jump into the firery water.

Deepwater Horizon is a Thriller and a highly watchable one at-that. Directed by Peter Berg (Lone Survivor) and based on the New York Times reporting of the worst ecological event in our history, Deepwater Horizon stars Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter, Pain & Gain, Lone Survivor), Kurt Russell (Bone Tomahawk, Silkwood, Escape From New York), John Malkovich (Of Mice and Men, In The Line of Fire, Rounders), Kate Hudson (Almost Famous) and Gina Rodriquez in her first principle role in a film.

Deepwater Horizon can be broken down into two acts. The first act sets up the situation and the second deals with the immediate implication of the disaster itself. The initial scenes of the main characters getting ready for their tour of duty are the weakest point in the film.  The dialog and settings are monochromatic and perfunctory.  One in particular, I found – quite frankly – to be gratuitous and not worthy of the rest of the film.

The best parts of the film are presented in detail and with relative accuracy during the build up to the disaster event.  The film does a superb job of taking the time to show in understandable terms, the huge and multi-varied challenges and pressure associated with a major exploration project.  These projects are big money and big risk. It could be argued that Deepwater Horizon is a bit long with the background and technical details of the project. However, this technical background and the revealing of humans operating under monetary, political, and the contractual pressure makes the actual disaster and its causes better understood.

The disaster on the Oil Rig is pretty devastating.  The challenges presented to the staff on the Oil Rig are formidable and presented with a manner that feels fairly believability.  The film closes rather quickly and does not fall victim to forcing too much preachiness down the viewers throat.  The real life heroes and villains and their updated story are presented in the credits.

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Father Knows Best


The film Blood Father is an interesting take on a dad protecting his daughter in her time of need. Blood Father is a taught, well acted, funny, ironic, somewhat bloody, and nicely paced thriller that takes 88 minutes start to finish.

Blood Father does not feel particularly original, but it also does not feel lamely derivative.  Why?  Blood Father is straight-shooter (literally) created by professionals who chose to make an independent feature.  Blood Father is written by Peter Craig (The Hunger Games Mockingjay 1&2, The Town) and Andrea Berloff (World Trade Center, Straight Outta Compton) and directed by Jean-Fancois Richet (Assault on Precinct 13, Mesrine).  They know how to make films of this genre and send you home feeling you easily got your money’s worth.

Blood Father stars Mel Gibson (Mad Max, The Bounty, Forever Young, Lethal Weapon), Erin Moriarty (The Kings of Summer, True Detective, Captain Fantastic) and William H. Macy (The Cooler, Shameless).

Given Gibson’s off screen issues (the list is long and offends many) and his relationship with the Hollywood establishment (the list is equally as long and offends as many) Gibson could be characterized as persona non grata when it comes to major production releases.  So Blood Father is not a major Hollywood film.  However, this does not mean Gibson is no longer a capable actor (or Producer for that matter).  Quite to the contrary, Gibson is superb in Blood Father.  Link is an ex-convict, recovering alcoholic, living on the very edge of the grid of society who is estranged from his daughter and is simply trying to lay low and get to the next day on earth without incident.  This role is square in Gibson’s wheel-house.  Gibson as Link is clearly a character, but does not play the role as a chariacture.  Moriarty as Link’s daughter Lydia is highly convincing.  The script and Moriarty’s performance afford you the opportunity to completely dislike, give a second chance and then cheer for Lydia – all with good reason.  Gibson is often even better (in his role) when he has a partner as a sometime foil.  Blood Father and Moriarty fit the bill.

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia

Because Blood Father is not a Major Hollywood release the Producers also made a deal with DirectTV/OnDemand to be purchased during its theatrical release.

Gibson narrates Blood Father in similar style as Payback (1999).

The Gibson produced Get The Gringo (2012) was one of my favorites of the year.

Forever Young is the highly watchable film co-starring Jamie – Lee Curtis, directed by Steve Miner, and written by JJ Abrams that showcases the other type of character Gibson plays to perfection – happy-go-lucky.

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Steady at the Helm – Sully and the Number 35


As a film Director Clint Eastwood chooses to be steady and follow conventional paths.  This approach has served him (as a Director) and us (as viewers) well. As an Actor Tom Hanks knows how to play the common-man under duress who ultimately possesses uncommon stamina, staying power and heroic traits.  Combine these two with the story of Chesley Sullenberger and you end up with a film almost all movie goers would say is engaging.

Sully includes a forced water-landing – not a crash according to Sullenberger – in its storyline, but the focus of the film lies elsewhere.  Screenwriter Tom Kormanicki (Prefect Stranger, Resistance) using the book Highest Duty by Sullenberger and the late Jeffrey Zazlow (60 Minutes), centers on the people and events associated with Sully before and after the crash. Kormanicki’s script creates a narrative and voice that is as steady as Eastwood’s directing and Hanks acting.  Sully presents second guessing and challenges to overcome – prior to and after the crash – both internal and external.  These aspects make for the creative drama in Sully.  Some you will expect to see revealed, others you might find surprising.  The result is a film that feels human.

Eastwood’s Directorial treatments as it relates to the female character have never been his strength.  Historically women are either weak and needy or wicked and conniving in almost all Eastwood directed films and it shows again in Sully. The terrific actress Laura Linney is portrayed as a monochromatic needy plot device.  This role and performance feel perfunctory in nature and almost plug and play in execution.

The record books show the air-event took 202 seconds from lift-off to forced landing and the rescue took 24 minutes.  There are 35 seconds of which will prove crucial on a number of fronts.  These 35 seconds are played to perfection in terms of movie timing and if you pay close attention depicted correctly to the second.

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia

Traditionally if Eastwood skimps or lacks focus to detail on anything in a film – it is location and production values. This is not to say, Eastwood is Ed Wood Plan Nine from Outer-Space bad – but he aint’ the industry’s visionary and leader on this front. However, Sully is a pleasant surprise in this respect.  The aircraft, crash and rescue scenes in Sully are pretty compelling.


The Cockpit scene in Plane Nine from Outer-Space uses the exact same shower-curtain my brother Roger had in his apartment while in college.


My brother Dave says turn over the salad plate and coffee cup of 1950’s everyday china and you have the invasion scene in Plan Nine from Outer-Space.

I tip my hat to Clint on the 35 second thing.  Yet, I love films that have timed detonations or time/space sequences where in supposedly real-time film action the event takes longer (or shorter) than the countdown period or logical distance.  In other words the 10 minute countdown takes 45 minutes in supposedly real-time action on film or the one-mile run takes 11 seconds.  The record setter for creative license on this front?  The Fast & Furious 6.

I believe, the otherwise fabulous and over-the-top 13 minute and four second Russian Transport Airplane takeoff on the runway scene sets the industry standard.  The longest paved runway in the world is in China (3.4 miles in length) and the takeoff scene is not set at the runway in China.  However if you do the math, the runway in the film is almost 29 miles in length.  Talk about government project overruns?

ff6-runway-1 ff6runway

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The 21 Lake Tour – 56 Hours Off Trail and 28,000 Vertical Feet


Jeff Lubeck paddles on Warbonnet Lake.


21 Lakes Route. Inset the Sawtooth Wilderness. Map © EB Phillips – all rights reserved. Overlay Jeff Lubeck















The Redfish Lake drainage in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) situated between the towns of Stanley, and Ketchum Idaho is a geologic masterpiece.  No doubt about it.

Most people call the south end of the lake and the first few miles of the trail on Redfish Lake Creek Shangri-la. Buttressed by Elephants Perch on the south and Braxon Peak on the north it is easy to understand the claim.

For the vast majority of day hikers – Flatrock Junction – the 3.75 mile one-way trip from the south end of the lake on the Redfish Creek trail is the farthest travel distance.  It is a wonderful thing to experience.

For the hearty hiker an additional leg – up the steep but exceptionally well constructed trail – to Alpine Lake and on to the Baron Divide encompassing 6.5 miles one-way – is worth every single ounce of energy.  The journey is memorable.

For the over-night trail oriented back-packer a superb trip is 18 mile round-trip to and from Cramer Lakes.  Complete this trip and you can look locals in the eye with a gentle nod of acknowledgment.

But Wait There is More…

However, these trips are is simply the start of the treasure to be found and enjoyed in this region of the Sawtooths.

For me and my regular teammates Chris and Sara Lundy of Sawtooth Mountain Guides we establish an additional level of adventure and fun is to be had by venturing off-trail and cross-country to the south and west of the aforementioned trail-bound trips.

This adventure takes 61 hours – of which only four hours and 7.5 miles will be be on-trail. It encompass 21 lakes, climbing three high elevation passes, covering three drainages and summiting Reward Peak. As an added part of the adventure the team floats on the three highest lakes in a Alpaca Raft.

The 21 Lake Tour represents the ninth photo-shoot the team has performed together over the past few years. The photo-shoot takes place from Thursday August 25th through Sunday August 29th. The photo-shoot starts and ends at the wonderful Redfish Lake Lodge.

The challenges on this photo-shoot are many. On the first day the smoke from the Pioneer Fire greets the team late in the day at Verita Pass (9,600) which requires crossing over a mile of large boulders at a steep angle from the Baron Creek drainage to the Warbonnet Lake Overlook followed by a 700 vertical foot descent on unstable scree to the lake.

On the afternoon of the 2nd day smoke greets the team as it reaches the Cony Lake and Cony Peak area. We confirm smoke at high elevation is not much fun.


Sunrise from Cony Lake – Copyright Jeffrey H. Lubeck MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

On the afternoon of the third day, the last 189 vertical feet to the top of Reward pass requires the teammates to follow each other in lock-step one step at a time on terrain that is best described as sand blasted to a fine grain with little to no foot grip.


Lake Kathryn (near) and Redfish Lake (distance) from the summit of Reward Peak. Copyright – Jeffrey H. Lubeck MESH Art LLC – all rights reserved.

Each of the challenges mentioned above make for a colorful narrative but are easily outweighed in enjoyment by a factor of 100x given the remarkable beauty of the region with virtually no evidence of human impact. And truth be told – the challenges are not really all that tough in the first place.

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A Story Rich in Irony about Lean Men in Lean Times: Hell or High Water


The setting, characters and storyline for Hell or High Water directed by David MacKenzie (Starred Up) and written by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) make for a otherwise superb film.  It is a film where the viewer can easily become attached to good guys and bad guys.  Who is ultimately to be viewed as the good and bad is left to the viewer.  Regardless, the viewer understands the position and plight for all involved.

The magic of Hell or High Water is the richness by which every character’s role is presented – small or large.  Each seems to possess and reveal life’s contradictions.  Be it a bank teller who speaks her mind, a waitress who challenges the law, a lawyer helping ensure a plan is executed to perfection and completed with an exclamation point, or a lawman pretending to be an old-coot racist when his heart is really 180 degrees the other way.

In present day West Texas, the have-nots look tired from the day at-hand and life in general. While the have-nots of West Texas are not overtly complaining about their apparent hopelessness they do look to be trying to figure out how to tread-water until their time on earth runs out.

Toby Howard (Chris Pine) is one of the have-nots.  He too has wasted away into something of which he is not necessarily proud.  By nature Toby is a gentle person and considerate of others. He has never committed a crime or is a violent person. However, Toby cannot find steady work, is divorced, behind in child-support payments and about to lose his family’s property via a reverse-mortgage scam given his mother’s recent passing – for which he was her care-giver.  Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) is Toby’s older brother.  Tanner stands in about the same spot, but arrived at it through violence and prison time.

Toby has asked his brother to assist him in a plan to square things for his children.  Toby has carefully thought this plan through and Tanner – who will do anything for his brother – knows exactly how to execute it.

The execution of the plan forces the introduction of Texas Rangers into the storyline. Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) are the team to apprehend the perpetrators.  This case is Hamilton’s last gig, and he wants to finish his career on a good note.

Thus begins the cat and mouse game between the Texas Rangers and the Howard Brothers.  Hell or High Water executes on all cylinders through to competition.  There is no Hollywood ending in Hell or High Water. Simply one that is very interesting.

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia

The look of the Cowboy and Cow Poke.

In the middle of last century, Hollywood’s version of Cowboys and Cow Pokes from the Old West feature men who are shorter and prettier than the women. Alan Ladd in Shane (1953) Montgomery Cliff in Red River (1948) best come to mind.  Terrific actors, damn handsome, and wearing the best cowboy outfit the Costume Department can produce. A few decades later, Hollywood’s version of present day Cowboys and Cow Pokes were taller, buff, full bodied and often shirtless – think Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.  Chris Pine as Toby Howard is lean, really lean and scruffy.  If you did not know otherwise you would think he was from West Texas.

Location, Location, Location.

Although set in West Texas, principle filming for Hell or High Water was in eastern New Mexico – Clovis, Portales, and Tucumcari.  I have spent a fare amount of time in this region.  The TV Series of the 1950’s Rawhide used similar locations.

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