In Memory of our great friend Tom Ables, Mr. San Diego State!

My brother Chris and I first met Tom Ables, Mr. San Diego State, at the UTEP game in 2006.

     On October 16 of this past year, a great friend we made over the course of  this great, fun adventure of ours now going into our 40th year, passed away – Tom Ables,  Mr. San Diego State!  Tom leaves us a target to catch up with having seen his beloved San Diego State Aztecs play in 788 games.  We figured rather just write a memorial to him in the middle of our fast-moving, hectic football season when he passed on, we wanted to pay tribute to him after the course of our 2017 season to leave it on our site when there is a lull in the college football action. 

     Below we’ve included the excerpt from our book, “Tales from the Tailgate”,  when we first met Tom at our first Aztec game.  After that, we kept in touch each season exchanging information and stories about games we’ve attended since.  My son Eric and I visited him at his place of business he still operated all these years when we attended the Holiday Bowl near his home in San Diego in 2010.  And in 2015, Tom ventured out with his son Ken to see his Aztecs play Penn State at Beaver Stadium.  With a cane and slightly hunched over then, he proudly stood along the sideline with his team where we got to greet him.  We were thrilled to see him at a game once again. 

Tom and I meet before the Penn State vs. San Diego State game in 2015 as his son Ken and Mike Ford, next to me, look on.

     The following year, I could hear the excitement in his voice on a phone call telling me that he was going to see his Aztecs visit South Alabama in Mobile.  He could not wait as he would have the chance to go visit his old WWII ship, the USS Alabama close by in Mobile Bay.  Soon after his discharge from the Navy after the war, Tom Ables went back home to San Diego, matriculated at San Diego State , became sports editor for his school paper, married Nancy, started a family, and the rest is history following Aztec football as you will read below. 

     Tom was always a positive, forward thinking guy since I first met him despite his age in 2006.  He was also proud of his past as a Navy vet, a dedicated family man, a successful business man, and of course as San Diego State’s most dedicated fan.  It was an honor to become his friend.  I think more than anything else,  to me meeting great people like Tom Ables along the way is the greatest reason for going to all these college games all over the country. We’ve met a lot of great new friends along the way, and he is one of them.   We will never forget him.  As is the  title of his book,  we say,  “Go Aztecs!”  

Tom sent me this pose from Boise a few years ago.   San Diego State’s No. 1 fan, Tom Ables,  missed only two SDSU Aztec games since 1946!

 

(106) Texas- El Paso at (107) San Diego State

 August 31, 2006

San Diego – Several years before the 2006 season, I read a Sports Illustrated article about a San Diego State fan by the name of Tom Ables who had attended almost every Aztec game since 1945! I decided that if I ever went out there to watch the Aztecs play, I would have to meet him. SDSU seldom ventured out to play games on the east coast. They play from Hawaii to the Rocky Mountains and sometimes foray into the Midwest. When the 2006 SDSU slate became final, the Aztecs announced their season home-opener against Texas-El Paso. Perfect! I needed both teams.

I contacted San Diego State by e-mail to see if I could get in touch with their greatest fan when I came out to see them play. They forwarded my message to Tom and he contacted me the very next day. He enjoyed hearing about my quest to see every team play. He also said that he had 20 season tickets for his family, and if any weren’t being used, my brother Chris and I were invited as his guests. Of course, going to a Thursday night opener in California also opened up the opportunity for me to attend a game on Saturday. As I would be staying with Chris in Long Beach, I could join him and Jill, a UCLA grad, along with their kids Emily and Nick, who’d never been to a Bruins game at the Rose Bowl before.  On Saturday, UCLA would host Utah for my left-coast weekend double-header.

 In San Diego, Chris and I kicked off the season having the honor and privilege of sitting with Tom, who cheered his Aztecs on in person for the 646th time. We shared a great time exchanging stories with Tom and rooting for his Aztecs. For instance, I’d seen coaching legends Paul “Bear” Bryant, Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden, and Harold “Tubby” Raymond. Tom’s history went back even further. In one of his early SDSU games covering for the school paper as a student, his team played the University of the Pacific, coached by none other then Amos Alonzo Stagg.  Talk about a great connection to college football history! Tom still writes articles for the program Aztec Game Day. Under “Looking Back” in this game’s edition, he gave a history of all the head coaching debuts at San Diego State. Chuck Long, former Oklahoma offensive coordinator and former Iowa Hawkeye QB I’d seen against Penn State, made his head coaching debut for the Aztecs in this game.  In an editor’s note, it stated Tom had seen 645 games in 61 seasons. He missed a trip to Cal Poly in 1964, but has been to 475 Aztec games in a row since! He also missed the 1951 trek to the Pineapple Bowl in Hawaii because he couldn’t afford it.

Denny Fallon, president of the SDSU Alumni Association and rabid Aztec fan, of course, stopped by to welcome my brother and me and presented me with “vintage” Aztec sportswear featuring “Monty,” as in Montezuma, the Aztec chieftain.  During halftime, we conversed with Tom about some of the stadiums where I’d like to attend games in the future. He provided us with his insights to the ones he’d been to: Wisconsin’s Camp Randall—“Great atmosphere!” Ohio State’s Ohio Stadium—“Loved the stadium and the fans there.” After a 16-13 loss, the Buckeye fans gave his Aztecs a standing ovation. The Big House at Michigan—unimpressed. His wife, Nancy, veteran of 411 games as of this date, says that the one place she will not go to again is Laramie, Wyoming. “Too cold!” Tom told how the Aztecs almost didn’t make it to the game there on October 6, 1984, because the team traveled through a blizzard to get there. Wyoming pushed for a no-show forfeit while the Aztecs were enroute. SDSU showed up an hour late, and they went on to defeat the Cowboys in the snow, 21-0.

As for action on the field this evening, UTEP was led by Jordan Palmer, brother of USC star Carson. He led them to a 14-3 lead at the half.  Tyler Campbell, son of Pro Hall of Famer Earl, returned the ball for SDSU to start the second half. Things didn’t look good for the Aztecs trailing 27-3 in the third quarter. A quarterback switch and a couple of big plays by the Aztecs defense helped SDSU get back into it. With 4:38 remaining, the Miners were up, 34-24, and there was no sign quitting from Tom’s Aztecs. Starting the next drive, the replacement, Dan Mougey, completed four straight passes to bring State to the UTEP 10. The Aztecs settled for Garrett Palmer’s 34-yard FG. With 1:59 left in the game trailing 34-27, their onsides kick went out of bounds.  The Miners took over, but the suspense didn’t end there.  UTEP Coach Mike Price decided to hand off to a runner three times rather than take a knee to avoid risking a fumble back to the Aztecs. “Didn’t he ever hear of The Miracle at the Meadowlands?” I asked Tom. He smiled and said, “Herman Edwards played for San Diego State!”

There was no miracle at Qualcomm today as time expired for a final of 34-27 in favor of the Miners. SDSU fans told me they often have to look for a silver lining. Tom Ables said that he was proud that his team never quit. We think he had every right to feel that way.  Take it from the guy who just attended his 646th Aztec game.

Extra point: In 2010, Tom and his wife Nancy, despite her previous experience, went back to Laramie, Wyoming.  She had no choice.  Tom attended his 700th Aztec game.  A week later at halftime against Colorado State at Qualcomm, San Diego State presented Tom with the ball from that game commemorating his record.  By the end of the season, Tom was up to game 705 and planning for the 2011 San Diego State season.  I hope to catch up with him again some time.

Below is an article by Kirk Kenny in a tribute to Tom Ables in his hometown paper, The San Diego Union

Aztecs super fan Tom Ables dies

San Diego State has lost its No. 1 fan.

Tom Ables attended nearly 800 SDSU football games and more than 1,000 SDSU basketball games over seven decades. He literally wrote the book on SDSU football, “Go Aztecs!” chronicling the team’s most memorable games through the years and highlighting the Aztecs’ best players and coaches.

When the Aztecs played Boise State on Saturday night at SDCCU Stadium, Ables was there — announcing in a pregame video posted on his Twitter account that he was attending his 788th SDSU football game.

Ables died Monday morning at Scripps Mercy Hospital, the same place he was born 91 years ago.

“Obviously, he was as good a fan as there ever was,” SDSU head coach Rocky Long said. “He was close to our program and with us most the time, a lot of time spent on the sidelines. He was in our locker room a lot and meant a lot to everybody.”

Asked what it meant to the players to have such a dedicated fan, Long said: “Every year you explain to the players who he is when you introduce him, because most of the new guys don’t know who he is, the older guys do, and they know his record for how many games he’s seen and that kind of stuff. I don’t know if they relate, but, obviously they honor him and they respect what he did supporting this football team.”

When Ables enrolled at then San Diego State College in 1946 after serving in the Navy during World War II, little did he know that it would start him down a path as the Aztecs’ biggest fan. He began going to football games while sports editor of the school newspaper, continued as the school’s first sports information director and never stopped going over seven decades.

In 1993, Ables was an honorary inductee to the Aztec Hall of Fame.Ables celebrated his 69th wedding anniversary over the summer with his wife Nancy, an SDSU alum who was by his side most of the time at games. Their son Ken, a 1980 SDSU graduate, has joined his father at home and on the road for years as well.

Ables, owner of his own PR and marketing firm the past 34 years, celebrated game No. 700 in Laramie, Wyo., in 2010, when SDSU defeated Wyoming 48-38 to become bowl eligible for the first time in more than a decade.

The Aztecs’ bowl streak stretched to six straight years with a 42-7 win over Cincinnati in the 2015 Hawaii Bowl victory over Cincinnati. That was the first SDSU game Ables ever watched on television. He had seen every game in person since TV was invented. An ear infection grounded Ables, preventing him from flying to Honolulu for the game.

Ables had attended his 600th straight SDSU game just a few weeks earlier when the Aztecs defeated Air Force 27-24 in the Mountain West Championship Game at Qualcomm Stadium.

Last year, Ables joined the Aztecs for their 34-10 victory over Houston in the 2016 Las Vegas Bowl. The victory sparked him to update his book for a fourth time to highlight SDSU’s second straight 11-win season as well as recognize running back D.J. Pumphrey’s NCAA-record rushing performance.

Weeks earlier, Ables was touched when Pumphrey presented him with the game ball following SDSU’s 42-28 victory at Northern Illinois. A more poignant moment came two weeks later when he joined the team at South Alabama.

Ables completed a circle of sorts while on the road trip, visiting the ship he served on during World War II. The USS Alabama is a ship museum now in Mobile Bay, located just five miles from South Alabama’s Ladd–Peebles Stadium.

“I can’t tell you how emotional I get when you stop to think what the odds are of something like that happening in anybody’s life,” Ables said a couple days before making the trip. “Almost 70 years to the day I’ll be back on the ship. … And to have it happen the same day I’m with my Aztecs is unbelievable.

“I’m looking forward to it and very excited about it. I’d like to go on, go down to my old engine room and quietly be emotional.”

Tom Ables got just as emotional when it came to SDSU, although he was never quiet about it. He was an “Aztec for Life” long before the expression was put to words.

 

Super Memories 2018

Super Memories 2018

When the Super Bowl arrives each year, we like to peruse the rosters and see who in the game we may have seen before they turned pro that will conjure up Super Memories 2018 of college seasons and games past we saw them play in on their journeys to the top.  We check our computer files, old programs, wrinkled newspaper clippings, and we then scan our fading or distorted memory banks for points of interest we’d like to share. Kind of like a “we knew them when”.   Hopefully we caught a few in action on purpose or even by accident in a picture.  

      This year, a quick perusal of the two Super rosters recognized about thirteen players on both the Patriots and on the Eagles who we had seen dating back from 2002 up until our 2016 season.  Some of the memories are vivid and personal.  Others are stirred by the aforementioned research over available materials looked over about an hour.    We don’t have the time nor interest to report on every player, but we pulled some prominent and some not-so-prominent names of players from our past playing both squads. Here’s names that shook loose some Super Memories 2018 before Super Bowl LII. The list depicts the player with his current position he’s playing in the pros, his position in college, his alma mater, and the years we watched his particular team in action when he was on the roster.

Eagle players:

TE Brent Celek, TE Cincinnati, 2004 – Celek played as sophomore for the Bearcats under HC Mark Dantonio when they visited 0-4 Army at West Point . Back then, both teams competed in Conference USA.  Cincy came in with their typical mediocre record of 2-3.  Army on the other hand, started off the season poorly with a record of 0-4.  However, the Cadets struggled more mightily than that, they rode a 19-game losing streak.  Celek caught two TD passes this day of the four thrown by QB Gino Guidugli.  Army answered the first one with four straight TDs in the first half to take a 26-7 lead.  Celek’s second TD also came in the second period to close the score to 32-29 at intermission in favor of Army.  A FG and a recovered fumble in the end zone by Army in the second half ended their losing streak by beating Cincy, 42-29. The Cadets in Michie Stadium stormed the field, tore down a goal post, and heaved it in pieces to into Lusk Reservoir outside the stadium.  It was a thrilling upset for the beleaguered cadets.   As for Cincinnati in the Associated Press report after the game, QB Gino Guidugli was quoted saying, “This is the most disappointing loss of my life.  We’re probably the laughingstock of the nation.” Celek caught ten passes for 130 yards and one TD for the Eagles this season.

WR Alshon Jeffery, WR South Carolina, 2011- While our daughter Alex attended the University of South Carolina becoming a die-hard Gamecock fan, we got to see her team play each of the four years.  Twice, we attended the season-ending traditional rivalry against Clemson.  In 2011, Steve Spurrier’s No. 14 Gamecocks hosted Dabo Swinney’s No. 18 Tigers. This was for the “state championship” Spurrier would say.  The two teams clawed at each other in the first half with the Cocks leading 17-10 at halftime.  QB Conor Shaw threw his second TD pass of the game in Q3.  The two teams exchanged FGs in the final period, but WR Alshon Jeffery capped the scoring with a tremendous 18-yard TD reception in back of the end zone to put the game on ice for a 34-13 Gamecock win.  He caught two passes for 29 yards.  With a win in the Capital One Bowl over Nebraska, they finished 11-2 overall and ranked No. 9.  Jeffrey would leave the program after this, his junior season. He ended his Gamecock career with 183 receptions for 3,042 yards and 23 TDs.  In 2017 for Philadelphia, Jeffery knabbed 57 receptions for 789 yards and nine TDS.

OT Lane Johnson, DE Oklahoma, 2012 – Well we can’t resist saying that we never saw the player who promised everybody in Philadelphia a beer after the Eagles win the Super Bowl.  Even Bud Light stepped up to sponsor him.  We can’t say he starred or even played when we saw his Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl in New Year’s Day of 2011.   I bought the tickets well in advance of the two teams being invited figuring it was going to be a big match in this traditional major bowl game.  For my son Eric, who was 15 at the time, and for me, the aura of this game was kind of disappointing.  UConn, winners of the Big East that year with an overall record of 8-4, showed up as the competition in Glendale. Hell,  I’d seen them win twice in good games over other mediocre Big East competition in East Hartford a three-hour drive from home earlier this season.  They beat WVU, 16-13, in overtime, and they edged Pitt,30-28, in a well-played game.  I didn’t plan to come all the way out to Arizona to see them play again, especially against the likes of a football dynasty like Oklahoma.  The winner of the Big East had to get into one of the majors, and I regretfully picked this one.  UConn played OU tight through the first half, but the No. 6 ranked Sooners (12-2) with QB Landry Jones and RB DeMarco Murray eventually rolled them, 48-20.  As for Johnson, our new beer buddy, he wasn’t listed in the top two tiers of the depth chart, and he didn’t play on the offensive line either.  He roamed the sidelines that day as a sophomore DE.  This shows that everyone gets to the top somehow or other. If the Eagles win on Sunday, he will lead the team in beers purchased.    Hey Lane, even if the Eagles don’t win, pass one over here to Jersey!

UW Husky DT No. 11 Elijah Qualls squares off against Alabama in the CFP semi-finals in 2016 in Atlanta.

T Elijah Qualls, DE Washington, 2016 – Alabama went on to defeat Washington, 24-7, to go on to the championship two play Clemson after we saw these two tangle in Atlanta for the CFP semi-final.  When did you ever see a #11 jersey at DT?  That was Qualls’s number at UDub.  He now wears #98 at the same position for the Eagles.  He didn’t see much action this year as he posted a mere four tackles.  We don’t see him being a force to be reckoned with in this Super Bowl.  Maybe in the future.

UT DE Derek Barnett (9) tracks down Northwestern QB in 205 Outback Bowl.

DE Derek Barnett, DE Tennessee, 2014-16 –  For thee three consecutive bowl seasons, I picked my schedules in advance based on proximities, budgets, and travel schedules to attend as many games as possible, not knowing who would play (as usual).  For three consecutive years, my eyes hurt from all that Tennessee Orange filling the stadiums.  Barnett was active in the last two games I watched them in.  The Vols went 3-0 in all three games basically dominating all three Big Ten teams they faced and outscoring them in all three by a combined score of 128-58.  The reality though was that in the first one, they whipped up on Iowa so bad, they had guys who hadn’t played all season playing defense the second half after scoring most of their points before halftime.  In the TaxSlayer in Jacksonville, they beat up on Iowa 35-7 by halftime on the way to a 45-28 win as the Hawkeyes scored three TDs in the last period.  In the Outback down in Tampa a year later, the Vols slammed Northwestern, 45-6.  And in 2016, Nebraska fared a little better than the previous two reps from the Big Ten West but still lost in the Music City, 38-24. The rookie made 21 stops, tallied five sacks, and forced a fumble for the Eagles this season.

 

Barnett pursues Husker RB in his final collegiate game at the 2016 Music City Bowl.

Next up:

Patriot Players:

 

 

WR Danny Amendola, WR Texas Tech, 2007 – On September 22, 2007, we watched Oklahoma State defeat Texas Tech in a wild, shoot-out, 48-45. Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell threw for 646 yards, fourth highest ever in a single game in college football history.  Tech played under pass happy HC Mike Leach.  On the receiving end of Harrel’s passes, Danny Amendola latched on to 13 passes for 192 yards and a TD.  Tech had a chance to win the game late on its final possession as a Harrell pass glanced off the shoulder pad of another future draft pick, Michael Crabtree.  Of course, the final story line was all about Mike Gundy’s postgame tirade: “I’m a man!”  With New England, Amendola has 79 receptions this year for 855 yards and four touchdowns.

WR Kenny Britt, WR Rutgers, 2008 – Among the trio of Rutgers players for the Patriots, Britt was “saved” from the Cleveland Browns late in the 2017 season, he landed with the Patriots. Two other former RU players have been mainstays of the New England secondary since being drafted right from the “Banks on the old Raritan”.  DB Devin McCourty was selected by the Patriots in the first round of the 2010 draft, and DB Duron Harmon was brought on in the third round of the 2013 draft.  McCourty stands out in our RU memories as he and his twin brother, Jason, played in the RU secondary together.  Jason still plays DB for the Cleveland Browns after eight seasons with Tennessee.   Over the span of these three RU players years now with the Patriots, the Scarlet Knight had a record of 4-3.  Bill Belichick attributes the former Scarlet Knight players’ skills and capabilities to their experience playing under their HC at the time, Greg Schiano.   Schiano is now the defensive coordinator at Ohio State.  The two DBs will be looking to both win their third Super Bowl rings with the Pats.  Britt is seeking his first ring.

R-U Rutgers! Rutgers rah!

LS Joe Cardona, Navy, 2011-14 – Cordona started as the Long Snapper for the Midshipmen for four years in Annapolis.  We saw him and the Mids attain a 7-5 record over those years.  In the 2013 game versus Hawaii, he caused a fumble on a punt return that led to a Navy TD in a 42-28 win over the Rainbows.  Since he’s been with New England, he’s started in every game.  He is stationed at the Naval War College in Newport Rhode Island still serving in the US Navy.  Of all the teams in the NFL, it makes sense that the Patriots drafted him in the fifth round in 2015.  New England HC Bill Belichick’s late father, Steve, served as a football coach and a phys ed instructor at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland for 34 years from 1956-1980. Bill Belichick is a graduate of Annapolis HS.

Go Navy! Go Joe Cardona!

DB Stephon Gilmore, DB South Carolina, 2011 – Gilmore was not only a classmate and a teammate of the Eagle’s WR Alshon Jeffery’s at South Carolina, he also roomed with him there.  We saw them both play against Navy in a 24-21 win and in the win over Clemson in 2011.  Both moved on to the NFL after their Junior seasons. In his final season in Columbia, Gilmore made 46 tackles and four INTs.  Gilmore was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the first round at No. 10 overall.   On Sunday, he will cover Jeffery on several occasions for the first time in his NFL career.

LB David Harris, LB Michigan, 2006 – Harris and the entire front seven of Michigan held Penn State to  -14 rushing yards and tallied seven QB sacks in a 17-10 win over the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley.  The Wolverines finished No. 8 at the end of the season with an 11-2 record. One was a 42-39 loss in the regular season finale to Ohio State before losing to USC in the Rose Bowl.  Harris garnered first team Big Ten defense honors.  He made 103 tackles that year. The Jets drafted him in 2007 in the second round 47th overall. This is his first season with the Patriots. He totaled 1.5 sacks, 16 tackles,  and 3.3 assists. He will be fired up to win his first Super Bowl ring ever as well.

Happy Super Bowl!

Collegefootballfan.com Season 2017 in Review

Collegefootballfan.com Season 2017 in Review

New record of 27 games in our 39th year!

     Welcome to Collegefootballfan.com’s season 2017 in Review, part 2. If you missed our review of our first 13 games of 2017, scroll down.   Disappointingly, we finished neither in Atlanta (too expensive for our budget), nor in Frisco, Texas, where Mother Nature grounded Plan B with a major snow storm along the eastern seaboard cancelling our flight and any convenient options to Dallas on Friday, January 5 to attend the FCS national championship game. She thwarted our plan to see at least two national champions play this year.  She and the North Dakota State Bison did us in as the winner of five of the last six FCS championships defeated James Madison, 17-13.  Had JMU taken the title for its second in a row by defeating the Bison, we’d have attained this distinction since we’d seen them win two other games already in 2017.  Clemson gave us a shot to enable us to claim that we’d seen three, but the Tigers’ demise to the Alabama Crimson Tide took away our possibility to see three title winners compete during the 2017 season.

    Despite missing the chance to see at least one of two national championship games in 2017, Collegefootballfan.com still set a new site record having attended 27 NCAA college football games in one season.  In 2014, we attended 26.  2017 turned out to be great season once again for us, not only because of the action enjoyed on the field of play, but also because we had so many great times with good friends before, after, and during our games.  In our Collegefootballfan.com 2017 Season in Review that follows, we summarize our second half of the 2017 season with memorable moments on and off the field of each game attended:

Penn State 42Michigan 13   At the start of season 2017, this matchup loomed as our biggest game of the regular season figuring this one had major implications regarding what team in the Big Ten East could represent that conference in the CFP.  PSU showed up undefeated, but Jim Harbaugh’s hyped-up Michigan Wolverines showed up blemished already dropping their game with Michigan State, 14-10.  The Lions looked to avenge the second of their regular season home losses from the previous year.  In front of a record “White-out” crowd of 110,823, Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorely both scored two running TDs and hooked up on a pass play while the defense held Michigan in check on all but two series to win big.  The Lions remained in contention, but the Wolverines were done for any shot at the CFP.  Michigan fell to all its primary rivals by the end of the season.  To make things look even worse for the vaunted Wolverines and their bombastic HC, their come from behind loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl turned out to be the only setback on the Big Ten bowl record as the conference finished 7-1 overall.  Michigan finished 8-5 and out of the Top 25.

TE Mike Gesicki (88) hauls in one of Trace McSorely’s completions during the second Penn State possession against Michigan.

Wake Forest 42 – Louisville 32   During the course of CFF.com football history, we’ve attended six Demon Deacon games, all on the road.  Remarkably they’ve won them all.  With our good friend Jim “Bug” Harton retiring to North Carolina to be close to friends, family, and his beloved Wake Forest, we finally got our chance to attend a Deacon home game at BB&T Stadium.  Wake hosted Louisville with 2016 Heisman winner Lamar Jackson still leading the Cardinals at QB.  After the game we left knowing we’d seen a former Heisman winner play, and that possibly we may have seen a future Heisman candidate in our midst as well.  Entering the final period, Wake enjoyed a 35-17 lead thanks to four TD passes from QB John Wohlford to his freshman wide receiver Greg Dortch.  Despite, 10 catches for 167 yards and another possible TD catch nullified coming loose in the end zone on a diving catch, Dortsch left the game with a stomach injury that ended his season.  We plan to go back to see him again.  Jim’s pre-game review to us was on the money. He said that Dortsch was one of the most exciting players he had ever seen.  Lamar Jackson played up to his standards as well running for 161 yards and passing for 330 including three TD runs and a TD pass.  Adding to a great game, Jim invited us to a great tailgate experience with his WFU frat friends Goober, On-Iron, Earl, and Wheels among others.  Louisville finished 7-5 with three more wins before being slain by Mississippi State in the Taxslayer Bowl.  Jackson announced he was forgoing his senior season and moving on to play on Sundays.   As for the Demon football fortunes, I vowed to Jim and his friends that if Wake made it to the Belk Bowl, to which I had never been, that I’d meet them there near the end of the season.  I already intend to get back down to BB&T to see one of the most exciting players in college football play again.  Read on!

2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson on the move versus Wake Forest.

Temple 34 –  Navy 26    On Thursday, November 2, we met up with Annapolis tailgate pals Brian and Jay at The Linc in Philly to see Navy now on the decline at 5-2 having dropped their last two games to Memphis and Central Florida. They faced Temple 3-5, struggling since we saw them get by UMass earlier.   However, the Owls had the Mids well-scouted seeing what we noted in their 48-45 win over Air Force and how they were dominated through the air in their two previous losses.  The Owls prepared better for Navy’s difficult triple option than any other team ever could have. With a week and a half to prepare against the Mids, their previous loss to Army had given them an additional week to prep for another offense that relied on the triple option.  TU had two and half weeks to get ready.  It paid off as they held Navy QB Zach Abey to 60 yards on 25 carries. He got injured and the Mids took to the air, but came up short.  On the other side of the ball, TU’s Frank Nutile threw for 289 yards and four TDS.  Two went to Adonis Jennings who blew by the Navy secondary with his speed to take advantage to gain 127 yards on only five receptions.  The Owls got out to a 34-13 advantage into the final period before Garrett Lewis took Navy downfield on two drives scoring through the air.  With this win, the Owls built some momentum into the end of the season to finish 6-6 overall and earn a trip to the Gasparilla Bowl (a prime example of why these games should be called Consolation games instead of Bowl games).  They defeated Florida International, 28-3.  We still had at least one more Navy game on our schedule for the 2017 season.  By the way, Brian, Jay, and I enjoyed Philly Cheese Steaks from a Linc concession stand before kickoff.  They confirmed what I had discovered last season.  What they offer here is much better than what you can get from those well-known Philly tourist traps.

 

Temple’s Isaiah Wright nears goal line during early drive for a field goal against Navy.

Virginia 40 – Georgia Tech 36   The Virginia Cavaliers overcame an early 15-0 deficit early in this game and overcame a bad case of the dropsies as QB Kurt Benkert lofted a 27-yard TD pass to Andre LeVrone who made a nice over the shoulder catch with 1:22 left in this game to drop Georgia Tech. Like Navy two nights before, the Yellow Jackets abandoned the triple option late in this game to go back and forth against a superior passing attack.  The Cavs did not display such an effective air attack to start this game.  They could have dominated early if not for at least seven dropped passes.  It was an exciting game marked by a TD on a kick-off return, a pick-six, a safety, two-point conversions, multiple lead changes, lightning-quick scores, effective punts, and long scoring plays on the ground and through the air.  Despite the rain throughout, we stayed dry getting tickets under cover from a local seller.  CFF.com’s first game at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville was highlighted by a special occasion as Brian Donnelly and I we accompanied by my son, Eric, who came up from his Navy base in Little Creek, Virginia.  Eric hadn’t had a chance to attend a game this season and he would be deployed after Christmas.  He joined us for the game, brews, a tailgate featuring wings and cheese steaks, and dinner at a micro-brewery before we all headed back on Sunday.  UVA ‘s Benkert impressed us as the game went on and his teammates started holding on to his passes to total 260 passing yards and three TD passesGT QB TaQuon Marshall motored his offense.  Early in the second period, Tech LB Bruce Jordan-Swilling intercepted and returned a Benkert pass 27 yards for another GT TD to make the score 28-13.  UVA mounted its second comeback to tie the score at 28-28 before halftime.  This turned out to be an exciting, intense game.  Tech finished 5-6 with no bowl invitation.  The Cavs finished 6-6, and we would end up attending their bowl game as we had already bought tickets not knowing who we would see at The Military Bowl. By the way, we will not be surprised to see Cav punter Lester Coleman drafted by some team next April.  We never saw such an outstanding display of skills keeping an opponent near their goal line so effectively. 

Virginia Cavalier Joe Reed en-route to a 92-yard kick-off return for a touchdown!

Penn State 35 –  Rutgers   6    We headed to Penn State again for our third and final game at State College for Season 2017.  However, we went disappointed as the Lions dropped their two previous games on the road at Ohio State by one and at Michigan State by three.  Their chances for the CFP were very slim, if there was any chance at all. We had big expectations for them prior to this season.   Due to some early morning travel changes, Vince Gallo and I took our seats late in the first period with Rutgers in the lead, 6-0.  The score deceived though. Penn State players looked like they were sleep-walking against the underdog Scarlet Knights.  The stalwart PSU female fan we’d met in front of us at previous games yelled out, “Somebody should tell them this is Rutgers.” PSU woke up and scored 35 points while the defense held the anemic RU offense to 200 yards.  QB Trace McSorely ran for the first TD and threw for the second to DaeSean Hamilton to finish the first half. On only 14 carries for 35 yards, Saquon Barkley scored twice with the third.  In the final period, McSorley threw to his TE Mike Gesicki for the final score.  PSU played second and third teamers defensively in the last quarter. The Lions won, but the game wasn’t a celebration of what we anticipated as another win on the way to the CFP.  We planned for the real big celebration when we planned to see the Lions at Maryland to finish in their last game of the regular 2017 season.  As for RU, they finished at 4-8 looking to build its Big Ten future on three conference wins achieved this season.

Barkley (26) takes it in from the four against Rutgers in the third period.

 

USC  28 – UCLA  23   We looked to finally add this great, traditional crosstown rivalry to among the many other great ones we have already attended.  Since early in the season, we anticipated seeing two of the top FBS QBs in all the land in a showdown.  Despite UCLA QB Josh Rosen outgunning Sam Darnold of USC 451 yards to 264, Darnold’s superior leadership skill on offense seemed to be the key to the Trojan victory.  Both will get drafted in April, but we say Darnold’s leadership capabilities give him the edge at the next level.  The Trojans took the early lead in this game and the UCLAns put together long drives but never evened the score. When the Bruins closed to within four, 21-17, Darnold seem to light the spark to get his team on a TD 90-yard drive finished off by a two-yard run.  Rosen’s comeback attempt resulted in a 27-yard TD to Jordan Lasley, but the two-point conversion pass attempt misfired.  USC ran out the last 2:36. Good rivalry game.  Great thanks to our friends Jim and Judy Lewis and their son Danny for hosting us, and it was great to meet up with my niece Emily and her boyfriend Tommy at “LA Live!” for lunch before the game.  What impressed us most during this great rivalry, sitting in a perfect sightline, were the UCLA cheerleaders, No. 1 hands down for our 2017 season!

UCLA’s Cheerleaders were ranked No. 1 by Collegefootballfan.com in 2017.

And No. 2!

Penn State 66 – Maryland 3   We scheduled this game expecting to celebrate a Penn State send off to the Big Ten Championship.  That wasn’t happening.  Instead, the win turned out to tie our most lopsided victory of all time with the Lions’ 63-point margin.  The Lions have two incentives going for them to apply such devastation on the Terrapins.  First was the uncalled-for 2015 hand-shake snub during the coin toss when PSU struggled to overcome sanctions for the Jerry Sandusky debacle.  The game marked the first time both met as Big Ten foes and Maryland won, 20-19. In addition, HC James Franklin intends to be Maryland’s biggest recruiting competitor for players both programs will try to attract from the Delmarva region.  Penn State QB Trace McSorely completed 22 of 37 passes for 237 yards and two TDs.  He also ran for 36 yards and a touchdown.  His backup QB, Tommy Stevens, saw a lot of action as RB as well as QB during the course of the game.  He carried the ball 12 times for 113 yards and three TDs of 21, three, and six yards.  He also threw a five-yard TD pass.  Saquon Barkley ran the football 16 times for 77 yards and two early TDs.  TE Mike Gesicki hauled in two TDs among his five catches.  Everybody on Penn State contributed on offense.  They never turned to ball over. Maryland rushed for 124 yards and passed for 179. They fumbled the ball away twice.  The Terps finished 4-8, 2-7 in the Big Ten.  Good luck to them on the recruiting trail this year.  Penn State finished 11-2 with a 35-28 win over Washington in the Fiesta Bowl to finished ranked No. 9.  The margin of victory tied that of Virginia Tech’s 63-0 win over Western Michigan we witnessed in 2004.

OK and No. 3 – No. 10!

Coastal Carolina 28 – Georgia Southern 17   We scheduled this game between 2-9 Coastal and 2-9 GSU just to maintain our goal to “see ‘em all.”  The CCU Chanticleers played in their first season of FBS football and we wanted to keep pace.   We met some fans on our flight down who maintained tight connections with Chanticleer HC Joe Moglia who followed a very interesting and successful path in coaching and in business to get where he is today.  However, an illness sidelined him for the season and his video before the game assures CCU fans that he will return next year to keep the Chants on their winning ways.  At the FCS level, his team near Myrtle Beach achieved a 51-15 record since he took over the program.  Southern scored early in the third period to take a 17-14 lead over the home team.  The big turnaround for CCU occurred on a fake punt as Osharmar Abercrombie ran 19 yards for a first down to continue the drive.  A 37-yard TD pass from Kilton Anderson to Malcolm Williams put the Chants ahead for good, and Abercrombie’s 41-yard touchdown finalized the score.  The Chant defense held the Eagles in check throughout the fourth period to give them their third victory on the final game of the regular season for both teams.  We plan to go back to Conway, SC again to see what this program will do with HC Joe Moglia back on the sideline. We look forward to seeing that.

Coastal Carolina’s squad landed in our Top 25, too!

Army   14 – Navy 13    As time expired, Navy’s Bennet Moehring’s field goal attempt of 48 yards missed to the left in Game 554 played during a snow storm with swirling winds at Lincoln Financial Field to give the Cadets of West Point their second consecutive win over arch-rival Navy after 14 straight losses.  Army took the lead with 5:10 left on QB Ahmad Bradshaw’s QB sneak and Blake Wilson’s PAT.  Army won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the first time since 1996. Thanks to Dan Donnelly of DanfromtheTailgate.com, who treks out from California each year to attend this classic game. He coordinates a big get-together with friends from his alma mater, Frostburg State, primarily Ray Carlucci, to have a great grand finale for tailgating at Army-Navy.  This year’s menu had everything: Taylor ham, egg and cheese sandwiches; Sausage and peppers; Long Island kielbasa, Morristown cheese steaks, South Jersey cheese steaks, Cousin Frank’s burnt end pork rounds, Pulled pork, Dino’s famous pot luck/road kill chili, Brian Donnelly’s Old Bay spice wings, Bubba burgers, Cannoli’s from Calandra’s Bakery in Parsippany, NJ, Pop LeBlanc’s and friends’ lobsters direct from Boston, and more!  Bloody Mary’s, Fireball/Rumchata, Evan Williams Honey Bourbon, and all kinds of beers were overflowing in Parking Lot P near Lincoln Financial.  Army finished a very successful season under HC Jeff Moncken with an exciting 35-28 win over San Diego State in the Armed Forces Services Bowl for a 10-3 record.  With a 6-6 record at the end of regulation, we would follow Navy to Annapolis for the Military Bowl.

Moehring’s attempt for the Navy win goes long enough but to the left to preserve the Army victory.

Mount Union 12 Mary Hardin-Baylor 0   For the second time in our history, we traveled to Salem, Virginia for the D-3 national championship to be played on Friday night, December 15.  On a cold, windy evening, the defenses dominated with 12-time national champion Mount Union leading the defending champs from MH-B, 3-0, going into the final period. MU QB D’Angelo Fulford’s 42-yard TD pass to Justin Hill through Crusader defenders extended the Purple Raider lead, 10-0.  Raider defender Nick Brisk, game MVP, tackled MH-B QB Paul Robinson in the end zone for the safety that made the score 12-0.  The entire Raider D stymied The Cru offense throughout to take the title back to Alliance, Ohio for the 13th time. 

Raider RB Josh Petrucelli sweeps left against tough MH-B defense in the D-3 championship.

 

James Madison 51 – South Dakota State   16     The D-3 championship turned out to be even more convenient to attend in our 2017 Season as the FCS semi-final between the host JMU Dukes and the visiting SDSU Jack Rabbits played in Harrisonburg, Virginia about two hours north of Salem.  It gave us the chance to attend two games this weekendFor collegefootballfan.com, it was our first game ever at James Madison’s Zane Showker Field at Bridgeforth Stadium, a beautiful setting near the Blue Ridge Mountains.  No. 1 and defending FCS champ James Madison let South Dakota State hang close in the first half, but a burst of five consecutive scores in the third period put them on their way to 51-16 victory to head to Frisco, Texas on January 6 to face North Dakota State in the national championship.  JMU ‘s defense forced 10 turnovers, nine by QB Tarvyn Christion (six INTs, three fumbles) over the course of the game.  Of the first four in the first half, only one resulted in a score by the Duke’s offense.  In the second half, the offense got on track and became virtually unstoppable. On the second play from scrimmage, Marcus Marshall broke through the middle for a 65-yard touchdown run.  On the third play of the next JMU possession, Marshall out did himself with and 85-yard TD jaunt.  Next, the Dukes drove 70 yards on seven plays culminated by Taylor Woods’ three-yard run.  Following QB Tarvyn Christion’s third fumble of the game recovered at the Jack Rabbit sixteen, Ethan Ratke’s 24-yard FG went through the uprights.  The Duke defense picked off its third pass for its next score.  S Raven Greene took it 59 yards for the score and the home crowd frenzied with their Dukes up by a score of 51-10. The SDSU Jack Rabbits finished 11-3 ranked No. 4.  JMU went to Frisco for the FCS championship versus North Dakota State.  We planned to follow and would be in a position to have seen two national champs play this year, but Mother Nature put the kybosh on that with a snowstorm cancelling our flight until Monday after the game.  The Bison defeated the Dukes, 17-13, to take the title for the sixth time in seven years.

Marcus Marshall, top left, bolts through the line for his 66-yard Jaunt early in the second half.

Iowa 27 – Boston College 20   In the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, the Hawkeyes scored a touchdown with 3:09 left in the game to win, 27-20, but not before S Josh Jackson sealed the victory with an INT to take away any life left in the Eagles’ faint hopes of a comeback.  After running the clock down to 54 seconds, BC took the ball back and the Hawkeyes defense held on to win its first Bowl Trophy in its last five attempts. The Hawkeyes and Purple Eagles went into Q4 tied playing on a slippery field with temps in the teens with Iowa driving at their 46.  Our beers froze!  Iowa put up a 38-yard FG and BC countered with a 24-yard FG. On the Eagles’ next possession, a sack by Iowa DE Anthony Nelson forced BC QB Darius Wade to fumble and DE Parker Hesse recovered to give Iowa the ball at BC’s 48.  Game MVP Akrum Wadley ran it 21 yards to the 27 before Nathan Stanley connected with TE Nate Wietting who bounced in at the one warranting a review. FB Drake Kulick took it in the old-fashioned way with a power drive through the middle to give Iowa (8-5) a 27-20 lead that the defense would never give up in the remaining minutes. Iowa finished 8-5 while BC completed its season at 7-6.

Slips like the one seen here were common on both teams at Yankee Stadium especially early in the game before they changed from spikes to turf shoes.

 

Navy 49 – Virginia   7   The Virginia Cavaliers showed up with the dominant fan base at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium among a paid crowd of 35,791, and kick returner Joe Reed throttled the Mids on the opening kickoff for a 98-yard touchdown.  We also saw him return one in the UVA win over Georgia Tech earlier in our season 2017.   The Cavs looked like they were going to be a formidable foe for the Mids today as both came in with records of 6-6 overall.  However, Reed’s explosive jaunt would be Virginia’s only score of the day.  Navy came right back and dominated the Orange and Blue with 452 yards on the ground compared to 175 yards of total offense for UVA to wallop them in the Military Bowl sponsored by Northrop- Grumman.  Unlike our first UVA game, QB Kurt Benkert threw poorly.  Like that game, his receivers dropped catchable balls when he was on target.  Navy’s coaching staff made some adjustments in their secondary to defend against the passes more effectively. On offense, Navy never attempted a pass.   Starter Malcolm Perry carried 16 times for 114 yards and two TD runs of 22 and 19 yards.  After Perry suffered a leg injury in the second period, Zach Abey, the starter early in the season, took over and garnered MVP honors with 88 yards on 13 carries coring five times with runs from the one three times, the five, and the 20. Navy annihilated UVA for the win and the teams finished their seasons 7-6 and 6-7 respectively. 

Zach Abey (9) carries the ball over for one of his five TDs in the Navy win at the Military Bowl.

Wake Forest 55 – Texas A&M 52 The Aggies took a 42-41 lead into the final period.  The Aggies and Deacons exchanged the lead three more times until Wake Forest’s Matt Colburn blasted over from the one with 2:28 remaining to take the lead in the Belk Bowl, 55-52.  A&M drove to their 44 the following series, but the Demon Deacon defense halted them to preserve their second bowl victory for the first time in school history for two years in a row.  For Collegefootballfan.com, our first Belk Bowl set a record for most points scored in a regulation game with 107 total points.  In 1999, we attended Army’s 59-52 victory over Louisville, but two OTs attributed to the final score. We attended the Belk with good friend and Wake alumnus Jim Harton along with his fellow WFU classmates I had met this season at the Wake vs. Louisville game.  All of Jim’s (“Bugs’”) cohorts still refer to each other by their collegiate nicknames.   I now belong to this elite club with a nickname of my own – “8 and 0” Koreivo. That’s Wake’s record for all their games I’ve attended including three bowl games.  They want me and WR Greg Dortch back bad next season!

“Ironman” George Lazarides on the far left and yours truly on the far right now known as “8-0 Koreivo”  flank WFU alum “Bug”, “1-Iron”, and “Goober” at BB&T after the Wake win over Louisville earlier in 2017. 

     Unexpectedly, the Belk Bowl turned out to be my last game attended in the 2017 season.  The FBS championship in Atlanta fell way out of my price range, and Mother nature ruined my travel plans for the FCS title game I intended to see on January 6 in Frisco.  Despite these disappointments, as you’ve read, I probably could not have asked for a more fun, exciting, memorable season seeing some personal records broken.   Also, we attended most having great times with good friends met over the years and with some new ones who we hope to get together with for more tailgate festivities in the future.  For more details about each game, check out our original Game reviews on this site.   We’re already planning our 2018 schedule to do it all again next season.  Our 2017 season will be hard to top, but like the players we see compete every weekend during the fall, we’ll give it our best shot.

     Check back soon as we will do “Super” memories, our 2018 pre-draft preview, our tribute to a departed friend who passed on in October, and other offseason updates in Steveo’s Salvos to keep our guns blasting about this great game of college football.  We can’t wait until next college football season!

How can any American disrespect this?

 

Join us again next season!

 

Collegefootballfan.com 2017 Season in Review

Collegefootballfan.com 2017 Season in Review

New record of 27 games in our 39th year!

     Welcome to Collegefootballfan.com’s 2017 Season in Review.  Disappointingly, we finish neither in Atlanta (too expensive for our budget), nor in Frisco, Texas, where Mother Nature grounded Plan B with a major snow storm along the eastern seaboard cancelling our flight and any convenient options to Dallas on Friday January 5 to attend the FCS national championship game. She thwarted our plan to see at least two national champions play this year.  She and the North Dakota State Bison did us in as the winner of five of the last six FCS championships defeated James Madison, 17-13.  Had JMU taken the title for it second in a row by defeating the Bison, we’d have attained this distinction of seeing two since we’d seen JMU win two other games already in 2017.  Clemson gave us a shot to enable us to claim that we’d seen three, but the Tigers’ demise to the Alabama Crimson Tide took away our unique possibility to see three title winners compete during the 2017 season.

    Despite missing the chance to see at least one of two other national championship games in 2017, Collegefootballfan.com still set a new site record having attended 27 NCAA college football games in one season.  In 2014, we attended 26.  2017 turned out to be great season once again for us, not only because of the action enjoyed on the field of play, but also because we had so many great times with good friends before, after, and during our games.  In our Collegefootballfan.com 2017 Season in Review that follows, we summarize our first half of the 2017 season with memorable moments on and off the field of each game attended:

Hawaii 38UMass 35  The Rainbow Warriors won as QB Dru Brown threw a seven-yard TD pass to Metuisela ‘Unga with 48 seconds left in the game.  Hawaii finished its season at 3-9.  Mike Ford and his son Colby joined us in Amherst.  We hope they will join us again early next season for UMass at BC.

UMass and Hawaii banged helmets and went down to the wire in our first game of the 2017 season. We try to always find the most competitive games possible, but it doesn’t always turn out that way.

Delaware Valley 24Wesley 19 –  DelVal QB DaShaun Darden tossed two TD strikes and LB Nick Wright returned a fumble for a TD in the first half to take a 22-3 lead over the Wesley Wolverines. The Aggies held on for a big early season win as DelVal finished the regular season undefeated winning the Middle Atlantic States Conference title before losing to Brockport State in the D-3 quarterfinals, 31-28.  They finished ranked No. 7 with a record of 12-1.  Wesley won the New Jersey Athletic Conference championship undefeated, but finished at 10—2 overall also falling to Brockport State in the first round of D-3 play, 49-28.  They finished ranked No. 12 in D-3 Nation.  We attended this opener for both teams with fellow Juniata College alum Bill Reilly on the meticulously kept campus of Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Pa.

 

WR Laquille Nesbitt catches a pass for a first down for Delaware Valley against Wesley.

Villanova 38Lehigh 35   On this Saturday of Labor Day weekend, St. Laurie and I, Dan Donnelly and “his” Saint Laurie, along with Steve and Donna Ciesla geared up for unusually cold weather, but also for a heated battle between two preseason Top 25 FCS teams.  Neither program lived up to their seasonal expectations due to injuries and upsets, but they played a game of epic proportions to start their respective seasons at Lehigh’s Goodman Stadium.  Villanova took a 21-7 lead with QB Zach Bednarczyk, lost a few games later in the season, in the first half, but with 4:43 remaining in the game, Lehigh’ QB Brad Mayes fired his fourth TD to get within a field goal, but the Wildcats ran out the clock for an exciting, hard-fought victory.  Both squads finished the 2017 season with only five wins each.  However, the Patriot League struggled against non-conference foes all season and Lehigh’s 5-1 conference record earned them a spot in the FCS as Patriot League champs.  In typical 2017 season style, Stony Brook blasted the Patriot in the opening round, 69-29.  Lehigh remains one of our favorite FCS tailgate venues, and we’ll plan to attend more Mountain Hawk games there in the future. 

My camera ran out of memory at the Lehigh -Nova game, but I don’t think anyone minds that I’m throwing in a UCLA cheerleader photo from a game later in the season!

Virginia Tech 31 –  West Virginia 24  For our fourth and final game in four days over Labor Day weekend, we attended with VA Tech grad-fanatic Scott Benson who savored his alma mater’s    proclaimed “surprising” victory over West Virginia at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.  Preseason No. 21 VT and No. 21 WVU played to a cat-and-mouse final as well.  Tech took three seven-point leads in the second half.  The Mountaineers came back after the first two to tie up the score.  Tavon McMillan’s three-yard TD run gave Tech a 31-24 lead with 6:30 left.  The Hokies did not have the game in hand though until the Mountaineers misfired three straight incompletions at the Hokie fifteen as time expired.  Virginia Tech finished at 9-4 and after falling to Oklahoma State in the Camping World Bowl, ranked at No. 22.  WVU finished 7-6 after their loss to Utah in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.

A reception here by WVU’s David Sills V could have sent VT and WVU into OT.

Penn State 33Pitt 14   Penn State looked to avenge one of two regular season losses from a year ago and did so on this day dominating Pitt in the 98th renewal of this fractured rivalry, 33-14.  PSU got off to a quick lead in the first at 14-0 and its defense kept Pitt in check all game long before RB Saquon Barkley scored twice in the second half.  Marcus Allen’s tackle in the end zone for safety resulted in five points with Tyler Davis also putting up a 24-yard FG.  The tailgating was good on a beautiful day.  Great pulled pork mixed in with various concoctions enjoyed with PSU alum and stalwart John Massimilla and friends.  The Panthers’ season ended at 5-7 with a key upset for the second year in a row as they knocked off No. 2 Miami, 24-14, in their final game of the season.

Bare-boned tailgating before Pitt at Penn State.

Temple 29UMass 21   Before heading to our first game ever at the University of Minnesota, we stopped at The Linc in Philly on the way to the airport the night before for this appetizer.  It turned out to be a sloppy one at best.   Temple looked to be a shell of the program it had been under former HC Matt Rhule who left for green, not greener, pastures at Baylor.  UMass could have had a fighting chance to win this game if not for three missed field goals that kept them out of reach.  Temple’s Isaiah Wright’s one-handed TD catch in the fourth put the Owls up 29-14.   QB Andrew Ford led the Minutemen to within eight again with a TD run to cap a 76-yard drive.  The U of M defense forced TU to a three-and-out, but their final drive stalled at Temple’s 38 as time expired.  The Minutemen doubled their win total from the previous season as the finished at 4-8.  We plan to see them play at Boston College on Labor Day weekend next season, and we may possibly see them play in one or two more games as we start piecing together our 2018 season.

I can’t find pics from the Temple-UMass game as well. Sorry!

Minnesota 34Middle Tennessee 3   We met up with cousin Anthony Cavalli, former Air Force Flight Surgeon who is working toward a degree in Physical Medicine at U of Minnesota Medical while he also serves there in residency.  His status got us seats within the student section as I added the Gophers’ home venue for the first time.  The Gophers ramped their lead up to 20-3 on DB Jacob Huff’s interception return for a TD late in the first half.    The defense held the Blue Raiders in check all day long holding the visitors to 230 yards of total offense.  RB Kobe McCrary rushed for 107 yards and three TDs to lead the Gophers to a 3-0 mark at that time.   However, under HC P.J. Fleck in his first season after his 13-1 stint coming from Western Michigan after 2016, the Gophers tallied a final record of 5-7.  Fans of Minnesota are still very optimistic for their future, and we will meet up again with Dave and Bob of the Gopher Tales club who we met later at Hopcats that evening.  They plan to attend the Gophers game at Rutgers in 2019 as it is only one of two Big Ten venues they have not visited yet.  Should be a great time.  MTSU turned their season around to even out their record competing in Conference USA and defeated Arkansas State in the Raycom Camellia Media Bowl 35-30 for a 7-6 record.

Our view from the student section at the University of Minnesota.

Navy 42Cincinnati 32   For our traditional Boys’ Weekend at the Naval Academy for food, fun, football, and tailgating, many of our first-time attendees abandoned ship after half-time for cooler climes and liquid refreshment as the sun was blistering hot. Navy rambled for 569 yards on the ground against the Bearcats, three short of a school record.  QB Zach Abey ran 20 times for 128 yards and one of his three passing attempts went for a TD.  On the other side of the football, Bearcat QB Hayden Moore went to the air exposing the Mids pass defense completing 28 of 46 for 381 yards and three TDs. Cincy got to within 10 with 10:07 left to play, and drove deep into Navy territory where a sack of Hayden and a fumble recovery by Navy LB D.J. Palamore sealed Navy’s victory.  Our post game celebration in the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium parking lot lasted into darkness for a good time recovering from the heat before heading back to our hotel around midnight. Other fans were receiving medical help in the shade of the stands during half-time.  Despite the heat, it was great time and we plan to return do this again next season in Annapolis.   Navy started off the season with its fourth straight win. Cincinnati under first-year HC Luke Steckel ended their season with a 4-8 record. 

We unfurled our new flag at our tailgate at Navy- Marine Corps Stadium before the Cincinnati game.

James Madison 20Delaware 10   Defending 2016 FCS champ and NO. 1 JMU held UD under first-year HC Danny Rocco to 239 yards of total offense. However, Delaware held the Dukes way below both their season averages for total yards and points per game (47.2 ppg) prior to the meeting. This was a hard-fought football game indicating that Rocco was starting to develop the Blue Hens back into a formidable FCS program.  The Dukes took a 17-10 lead before the first half benefiting from two turnovers. JMU DE Andrew Ankrah made a heads-up play picking up a lateral others thought fell as an incomplete pass and returned it 23 yards for a TD to take a 14-10 lead.   S Raven Greene picked off a UD pass at his six with 3:46 left.  JMU drove for a field goal as time expired in the first half to lead, 17-10.   Defenses dominated in the second half and strong winds impacted kicks with only JMU’s Tyler Gray converting on a 48-yarder, his second of two, to make the score final late in the game.  UD’s Frank Raggo set a school record earlier with a 55-yard for an early 3-0 lead with the wind to his back.  We had a great day tailgating with friends and family, many who came to see their former student of Passaic Tech (NJ) HS, Thomas Jefferson, play for the Fighting Blue Hens.  He’s a great kid and has very nice parents.  We want to try to get the Blue Hens on our schedule again next year.  They fell short of getting an FCS playoff bid with their 7-4 record, but they seem to be headed in the right direction.  We’d see JMU play on a bigger stage later in the season.

We watched No. 1 James Madison U. play football, but we got to actually meet Thomas Jefferson of Delaware  after the game.  Great kid!

Navy 48Air Force 45   Navy hosted Air Force in the 50th meeting between the two academies, and as usual the two traditionally opened the first round among the three academies (Army included) for the coveted Commander-in -Chief’s Trophy for football supremacy in the annual round robin competition to collect the cherished hardware at The White House.  Navy entered 4-0 while the Air Force came in at 1-3 against some good competition.  Navy took a 28-7 lead in the first half, but as Cincinnati had done two weeks earlier, the Falcons of Air Force took advantage of Navy’s dismal secondary play.  In front of a record crowd of 38,972 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Air Force QB Arion Worthman riddled Navy’s secondary for 257 yards and two TDs on only nine of 16 passes.  He also ran for 139 and scored on two of his runs.  Air Force outgained Navy on the day 621 to 557.  The Mids rushed for 471 yards on the ground to outdistance the Falcons entering the final period leading 38-24.  With 1:53 left, Worthman connected with Marcus Bennet badly beating the Mid secondary for a 51-yard scoring pass to take a 45-41 lead.   However, they left too much time on the clock as Zach Abey tossed a 15-yard scoring strike to TE Tyler Carmona in the end zone to take back the lead with only 15 seconds in the balance.  The game remained in question as Air Force attempted about 12 laterals on the subsequent kickoff return before the clock expired as the play was run.  It was a thrilling, exciting victory for the Mids and all in attendance.  John Massimilla, who attends just about every Penn State home game and more, said that despite not having any partiality to either team, he viewed this game as among his top five for excitement.  As usual, our tailgate party at Navy-Marine Corps was outstanding.  Disappointingly, this would be the last of my visits this season because three Navy home games conflicted with three must-see games for me up at Penn State.  However, I would see Navy play three more times later in the season.  For Air Force, it was an unusual down season for them.  Though they started off at 1-4, they finished at 5-7.  We doubt that they won’t improve upon that mark next season.

Mids’ TE Tyler Caroma flies high for  the game-winning catch as Navy beats Air Force, 48-45.

Syracuse 27Clemson 24 We traipsed up to Syracuse taking off Friday afternoon from work to see what No. 2, 6-0 Clemson looked like and to make it a double-header weekend by going over to see a Colgate home game for the first time the next day.  The Carrier Dome crowd of 42,475 was pumped up for the Friday night game looking for the big upset.  The Blue and Orange crowd rocked.  Syracuse got off to a fast start scoring the first time they had the ball.  An excessive celebration penalty gave Clemson good field position, and they retaliated with a score of their own to tie the score right away.  The Orange and the Tigers went toe to toe all game as SU staked the lead three more times and Clemson came back to tie them each time.  Orange QB Eric Dungey led his team offensively with 20 of 32 passes for 283 yards and three TDs.  Defensively, DE Alton Robinson made several key stops and his hard hit on Clemson QB Kelly Bryan knocked him out of the game in the first half.   At 5:19 into the final period, Cole Murphy booted a 30-yard FG for the Syracuse lead, 27-24.  The Orange defense forced Clemson to punt on its next possession and Dabo Swinney’s team attempted a long pass that fell short on the fake punt to turn the ball over to the Orange. Clemson used its two remaining time-outs and SU converted third downs into first downs three times to eat up the clock. With 1:37 left, Syracuse set up in the Victory formation to run out the clock and pull off the biggest upset we ever witnessed as unranked Syracuse knocked off No. 2 Clemson. The Tigers rebounded after their only loss of the regular 2017 season.  After a bye week the Saturday after, Bryant recovered from his injuries and played the rest to the season with the Tigers defeating Miami, 38-3, for the ACC championship to finish No. 1 overall for the College Football Playoffs.  In the Sugar Bowl, they fell to eventual national champ Alabama, 24-6.  After posting their 4-3 record after defeating Clemson, Syracuse dropped all five remaining games of their season by a combined score of 216 to 110.  We caught them at the pinnacle of their season and Clemson at the rock bottom of theirs.  We’re glad we got to this one as it will go down as Collegefootballfan.com’s biggest upset ever.

Syracuse QB Eric Dungey (2) looks to fire downfield to get his team rolling early for an upset over No. 2 Clemson.

Colgate 36Fordham 12    This game definitely became our biggest disappointment of the season.  Luckily, we had attended our upset of all upsets the night before through 545 games.  In that game, we expected to see a blow-out.  In this game, we scheduled it thinking it would be a shoot-out for a Patriot League playoff bid.  Instead, Fordham came to Hamilton with only one win in five games and Colgate picked up only two among their first five. There was also a nostalgic angle to this game for me.  The first college football game I ever attended was in 1966 as a kid when I saw Colgate beat Princeton, 7-0, at crowded Palmer Stadium on the Princeton campus.  Since that day 51 years ago, I had seen Colgate play five or six times since, but I had never seen them play on their home field.  This was supposed to be special.  Also, we expected to see Fordham Senior RB Chase /Edmonds pursue career FCS records, but instead, we saw him held to 53 yards after seeing him put up some big numbers in previous games we’d seen him play since he was freshman for the Rams.  Since HC Joe Moorhead left to take over as OC at Penn State, the Rams were in a tailspin under second year HC Andrew Breiner.  Colgate took a 24-0 lead on the arm of frosh QB Grant Breneman who threw three TD passes.   We saw his brother Adam play TE for UMass two games previously this season.  Funny thing was that after this dull game, both teams, unlike Syracuse, played better through the end of the 2017 season.  Well, Syracuse definitely played a superior schedule to say the least.  Fordham won three of its last four including a win over co-Patriot League Champ Lehigh to finish at 4-7.  Colgate won all its remaining games to finish 7-4 overall with a Patriot league record of 5-1 to share the Patriot League crown.  However, its controversial, previous loss to Lehigh broke the tie-breaker sending the Mountain Hawks to the FCS playoffs where it lost to Stony Brook as previously mentioned.  The best part of our day seeing Colgate host Fordham was meeting up with a few new friends who invited me to tailgate with them when I parked next to them   I had a great time meeting avid Colgate fans Sam, Ray, and Bruce. We’ll look them up for future Colgate game we may attend.

A lot of what this is all about , meeting some other great college football fans at different schools  -Sam, Ray, and Bruce with yours truly at Colgate. We’ll have to meet up with them again.

Check back soon for our rehash of the balance of our great 2017 season.  After that, we will do our 2018 schedule preview, “Super” memories , our 2018 pre-draft preview, our tribute to a departed friend who passed on in October,  and other offseason updates in Steveo’s Salvos to keep our guns blasting about this great game of college football. For complete game coverage of all our games attended this past 2017 season, check out all our Game Reviews on this site.

 

 

Game 559: Demon Deacons defeat A&M Aggies in a high scoring thriller, 55-52

Game 559: Demon Deacons defeat A&M Aggies in a high scoring thriller, 55-52

Charlotte, NC – Texas A&M took a 42-41 lead into the final period of our Game 559, and the Aggies and Deacons exchanged the lead three more times until Wake Forest’s Matt Colburn (21 rushes for 150 yards, one TD) blasted over from the one with 2:28 remaining to lift WFU past A&M in the Belk Bowl, 55-52.  A&M drove to their 44 following Colburn’s run, but the Demon Deacon defense halted them thereafter to preserve their second bowl victory for the first time in school history for two years in a row.  For Collegefootballfan.com, our first Belk Bowl set a record for most points scored in a regulation game with 107 total points.  In 1999, we attended Army’s 59-52 victory over Louisville, but two OTs attributed to the final score.

Wake RB Matt Colburn picks up early yards against the Aggie defense.

This game started with A&M blocking two Wake punts.  The first resulted in a TD as Charles Oliver recovered for the Aggies in the end zone.  The second block started the Aggies from their 45.  Following a 43-yard pass from Nick Starkel (42 of 63, 499 yards, four TDs, 1 INT) to Christian Kirk (13 catches for 189, three TDs), it put A&M on the Wake two.  Trayveon Williams took it in from there for what looked could be an Aggie beat down of the Demon Deacons.

Trayveon Williams (5) led A&M in rushing with 65 yards and a TD.

 

Deacon Comeback

However, under the leadership of their tough, senior QB John Wohlford (33 of 49, 400 yards, four TDs), the Deacons not only tied game 559 at 14-all after their next two possessions, but they raced out to a 31-14 lead in the second period.  Fantastic catches by WRs Scotty Washington (an ESPN Top 10-er) and by Tabari Hines who dove before going out of the end zone for the second score highlighted the Deacon offensive action (his catch should have been an ESPN Top 10-er, too. A bad non-call in the NBA was No. 1 – they gotta be kidding.).  Wake’s scoring spree ended with A&M’s third block of a kick, this one on a 43-yard FG attempt.

Tabari Hines makes a diving catch to tie the score for Wake , 14-14.

Offensive battle

The two teams traded scores through the end of the second period.  Starkel and Kirk connected on scoring strikes from 54 and ten yards respectively.   Sandwiched in between, Wohlford hit his TE Cam Serigne (9 catches for 112 yards, one TD) for a 37-yard TD.  The Deacs led 38-28 going into halftime, but the way these two offenses were clicking, no one had any clue if either defense would rise to the occasion today.

Cam Serigne nears end zone for Wake after a catch.

Defense? Defense? 

Maybe the Aggies D would step things up in Game 559.  Their defense forced Wake to punt after a three-and-out to start the third period.  Followed by Williams’ 43-yard run to the Wake 17, the Aggies closed to within three on Starkel’s nine-yard pass to Kirk.  On two consecutive possessions, both defenses forced punts.  Wake ended the scoring drought with Mike Williams’ 27-yard FG.  The defenses again stepped up on consecutive series, but this time with turnovers.  LB Jaboree Williams picked Starkel, but Alex Bachman fumbled away a completed pass recovered by A&M on their 33.   Keith Ford picked up 37 yards on the ground this drive with 33 on the first play and one for the final yard for a touchdown to head into Q4 leading, 42-41.

Keith Ford (7) scores from one for the Aggies for a 42-41 lead.

Offensive battle continues

Before Colburn’s winning run, the offenses dominated again during the last 15 minutes.  Dave LaCamera’s 19-yard FG extended A&M’s lead by four.  RB Cade Carney finished a 69-yard Demon Deacon drive with a one-yard TD to give WFU a 48-45 lead.  OT anyone?   I could hear the voice of Lee Corso in back of my mind after I pondered this, “Not so fast, my friend.”  Starkel led the Aggies back on a 10-play, 72-yard drive culminating with a 13-yard TD pass to Jharron Ausbon to go up again by four.  Wohlford led his team back right away with a 13-play, 69-yard drive with Colburn providing the honors of scoring the winning touchdown in the 55-52 victory.  What a game!

Officially accepted

We attended game 559 with good friend and Wake alumnus Jim Harton along with his fellow WFU classmates.  Most I had met this season at the Wake vs. Louisville game in Winston-Salem won by the Deacs, 42-32.  All of Jim’s (“Bugs’”) cohorts still refer to each other by their collegiate nicknames.  I sat with Bug and One-Iron, met with AC and others along the way.  Goober and Wheels didn’t make it this time.  Earl goes by the name Earl because he claims to have something like 53 different nicknames.  I now belong to this elite club with a nickname of my own – “8 and 0” Koreivo.

In the annals of collegefootballfan.com history, Wake is undefeated at 8-0 dating back to 1980, something these alums cannot fathom no matter who I saw them play.  They are considering chipping in to not only buy me season tickets for next season, but could offer up a condo to settle in Winston-Salem although Jim and his wife Courtenay tell me I might as well just move in with them down there.  Not only are the Deacs 8-0 in my presence, but this includes a 3-0 bowl record with wins over Navy, Temple, and now Texas A&M.  I believe there is a bright future ahead for the Demon Deacons whether I see all their games or not.

Wake victory!

The Future of Wake Forest football

With HC Dave Clawson steering this program, the future for Wake football looks promising.  A new QB will need to step in to replace Wohlford next season and TE Serigne graduates as well from the offense, but lot of experienced skill players and the entire offensive line returns in 2018.   Also from what we saw versus Louisville and the scouting report of Bugs and his schoolmates, we look forward to exciting WR Greg Dortch return to action next season.  He is an explosive, exciting player and had four TDs against Louisville before suffering a stomach injury and missing the rest of the 2017 season.  He could be a serious contender as a Heisman candidate over the next few years. Mark these words!

Wohlford Watch

John Wohlford might not be a contender for the next level of pro play because of his stature, but based on toughness, smarts, a strong arm, and resilience, if anybody lacking in height can pull it off at the next level, it would be him.  We envision his future being a successful football coach as a career path if he does or doesn’t play at the next level.  Based on our experience seeing him play twice this year, he will land as our pick as top QB for our all Collegefootballfan.com 2017 team to be announced in its entirety after the season.


Under pressure, John Wohlford (10) looks down field for an open receiver.

 

Season Finale

CFF.com has one more game to attend this season.  No, not the CFP Championship game!  The on-line price tag for that game is way out of our price range.  I budgeted for it, but not nearly enough.  Instead, we will attend another championship game to add our Hit List (not a “Bucket” list, too much negativity in that term) and one that we can afford.  We will be in Frisco, Texas next Saturday for the FCS Championship between James Madison (14-0) and North Dakota State (13-1).  This should be a great game! JMU comes in as defending champs and the Bison won five consecutive national championships the five years prior to that.

For Collegefootballfan.com, we will be attending our 28th game of the 2017 season setting a new record for the amount of games attended in one season.  We attended 26 in 2014 and 2017.  We will definitely see at least two and possibly three national champions play by the time this season is over if Clemson wins the FBS.  What a memorable season for Collegefootballfan.com!

 

Game 558:  Navy blows by Virginia in the Military Bowl, 49-7

Game 558:  Navy blows by Virginia in the Military Bowl, 49-7

Annapolis, Maryland – The Virginia Cavaliers showed up with the dominant fan base at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium among a paid crowd of 35,791, and kick returner Joe Reed throttled the Mids on the opening kickoff for a 98-yard touchdown in Collegefootballfan.com’s Game 558.  The Cavs looked like they were going to be a formidable foe for the Mids today as both came in with records of 6-6 overall.  However, Reed’s explosive jaunt would be Virginia’s only score of the day.  Navy came right back and dominated the Orange and Blue with 452 yards on the ground compared to 175 yards of total offense for UVA to wallop them in the Military Bowl sponsored by Northrop- Grumman, 49-7.

Our pal, Navy Al, a civil war re-enactor, thought he recognized this Cavalier from some of his “battles”, only he was wearing gray. When Al saw him leading the charge at us, I think I heard him murmur from behind , “Fix bayonets.”

No air, just ground

Navy never attempted a pass with either QB Malcolm Perry or Zach Abey.  Perry carried 16 times for 114 yards and two TD runs of 22 and 19 yards before suffering a leg injury in the second period.  Abey, the starter early in the season, garnered MVP honors with 88 yards on 13 carries and scored five times with runs from the one three times, the five, and the 20.

Zach Abey carries the ball  for one of his five TDs.

No O at all

Earlier in the season, we watched Virginia defeat Georgia Tech, another triple option team, 40-36.  The Cavs won behind a strong passing performance by QB Kurt Benkert.  We saw totally the opposite in game 558.  He not only threw poorly, but his receivers dropped catchable balls when he was on target.  Benkert finished with 16 completions on 36 attempts for 145 yards and one interception.  Navy’s defense held the Cavalier rushing game to only 30 yards.  In the secondary, the Mid coaching staff rotated players effectively for better coverage than displayed in the latter part of the 2017 season, something that they will probably focus on for the 2018 season.

Malcolm Perry scores one of his two TDs early in the Military Bowl Navy Victory.

More to look forward to

Collegefootballfan.com plans to attend Navy games again next season with a ticket package to tailgate with good friends again for more good times in Annapolis when the Mids host Lehigh, Temple, Memphis, Tulsa, and Houston before the arch-rivalry against Army in Philly again.  Brian Donnelly, Navy Al, and Jay along with other friends tailgated with too much food and drink to consume before this one despite the cold but sunny weather.  After this game, we departed for our third bowl game within 48 hours to see Wake Forest clash with Texas A&M at the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, NC.

Cavalier fans showed up in large numbers for the Military Bowl a short drive away from their home state. Most would leave early as the temps got colder and the Navy margin of victory much wider.

Game 557: Hawkeyes take down Purple Eagles for 27-20 Pinstripe Bowl Victory

Hawkeyes take down Purple Eagles for 27-20 Pinstripe Bowl Victory

New York – On the morning of our Game 557, I watched a small hawk in my front yard attack and take a small woodpecker hard to the ground, locking it in a death grip before whisking off with its limp prey into the snow-covered trees to eat its breakfast.   It must have been an omen of what was in store that evening at Yankee Stadium where the Iowa Hawkeyes took on other birds of prey, the Boston College Purple Eagles, in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.  The Hawkeyes scored a touchdown with 3:09 left in the game to win, 27-20, but not before S Josh Jackson sealed the victory with an INT to take away any life left in the Eagles’ faint hopes of a comeback.  After running the clock down to 54 seconds, BC took the ball back and the Hawkeyes defense held on to swoop away with its first Bowl Trophy in its last five attempts.

Boston College Frosh RB AJ Dillon (2) stopped for a short gain here,  ran for 157 yards and a TD.

 New Game Experiences

For Collegefootballfan.com. it was a unique college football experience on several fronts.  Guest Game Analyst Frank Scarpa and I avoided New York traffic and parking challenges by using Uber from Hackensack, NJ to The Bronx and back.  It offset parking fees and toll costs while avoiding typical New York traffic hassles.  We “tailgated” in overcrowded Yankee bars packed with fans from Boston College bundled up in layers several times over, like us, to embrace the frigid elements predicted for the evening.  We also visited NY Yankee Monument Park in Yankee Stadium at Game 557 to view historical markers of Yankee greats and other historic events at the famous ball park before ascending to the upper deck over center field.   There we stood throughout the game near an outdoor concession stand with a bar and bathroom nearby for our convenience.  It made lot more sense for us to have a shelf in front of us for our beers and better than sitting on cold aluminum bleachers and a night when the temperature and wind chill hovered near single digits.  Oh, what a night for college football!

In Monument Park,  one of my favorite Yankee plaques because Casey managed the Mets!

On the field below as the paid crowd of 37,667 either freezing or who never showed up,  the two teams tied the score twice and exchanged the lead six times.  Though the game was well-played despite the frigid temperatures, the frozen playing surface hindered solid footing for the players.  Early slips played a factor in the abilities of players to keep their feet and even risked injuries.  At some point, players for both squads changed from spikes to sneakers.

Slips like the one seen here were common on both teams especially early in the game before they changed from spikes to turf shoes.

Lopsided, but close

At the half, Boston College led 17-10 before both teams went to get warm in the locker rooms.  To open the scoring, Iowa S Jake Gervase intercepted a pass and took it down to the BC six.  The Eagles only gained three more yards before Miguel Recinos converted for three.  Boston College RB A.J. Dillon (32 carries for 157 yards, one TD) ran in for a four-yard TD to give the Eagles a 7-3 lead going into the second period.

AJ Dillon looks for yardage against the solid Hawkeye defense.

Nathan Stanley’s eight-yard TD pass to Noah Fant following a 72-yard kick-off return by Akrum Wadley gave Iowa a 10-7 lead in the second.  BC countered with Darius Wade’s 39-yard TD pass to TE Tommy Sweeney (seven catches for 137 yards, one TD), and Colton Lichtenberger’s 30-yard boot gave the lead back to the Eagles.  With :02 left, Lichtenberger had a chance to extend the lead by three, but his 36-yard attempt went wide and his team maintained a 17-10 edge in Game 557 despite dominating in total offense – 281 yards to 66 in the first half.

PK Miguel Recinos gives Hawkeyes early 3-0 lead as we watch high above from our center field perch at Yankee Stadium.

Media miscue

Before the game, as I picked up my game program and turned around, Guest Game Analyst Frank Scarpa introduced me to a camera crew from the YES (Yankee) network.  He told the young reporter and cameraman that I was here attending my 557th collegiate football game.  “You have to interview this guy,” he told them.  I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was.  The interviewer asked me the worst question he could ever come up with under these circumstances.  “What do you enjoy about coming to Yankee Stadium to see a college football game?” Bad question.

Yankee Stadium? Didn’t he realize that there wasn’t much of a choice on a December evening when you’re living in Jersey and there’s what, only two or three other games being played in far parts of the country where it was warm?  He was asking a guy who was very happy when Army and Rutgers decided not to play each other at Yankee Stadium in November 2015 because of poor field conditions (as BC and Iowa found out tonight).  When they announced they would meet at West Point instead, it was perfect.  That change allowed me to plan our Game 500 celebration at a place where we could have a great tailgate!  No way was I ever going to plan this at Yankee Stadium.  I nixed a plan for a fund-raising bus/tailgate party this past year when Rutgers and Maryland were supposed to meet here in November (they changed that plan two weeks before the date because the field wouldn’t be ready because of the Yankees’ playoff run.  It still wasn’t).  Had it originally been scheduled at High Point Solution Stadium, there would have been our traditional Big Tailgate at RU for the first time.

I started to ramble hoping to come up with something positive. My mind focused on high prices; horrible tailgating facilities; bad sight lines; seating a mile away from the field; a stadium built only for baseball; bad playing surface; heavy, rush-hour traffic; excessive beer prices; crowded, over-priced bars. Why would I come here?  Good match-up on the field, and I eventually remarked about “history” and/or “tradition” of college football at Yankee Stadium.  Weak answer, I knew my “enthusiasm” for coming to see a game at Yankee Stadium was a crock.  We all knew it.  My chance to promote CFF.com, my book, my website, my game-watching records, my love of college football – all to be talked about on the YES network all blew away on the wind chill factor.

It’s a horrible “football” venue. I’m not taking that back.  I came to watch a competitive football at Game 557. I didn’t come because it was being played at Yankee Stadium. What a set-up.   As we walked away, Frank grumbled and paraphrased my “interview”.  “Your stadium sucks, you’re over-priced, tailgating is better anywhere but here, and I’m a pissed-off Mets fan.  Thanks for the opportunity to talk to you.  I don’t care if you put me on your program or not.”  I can’t help it.  I call it as I see it.

“Number two, please step forward!” “That’s him officer. Cousin Frank, former media relations director for Collegefootballfan.com!”

And I’m not kidding

Yankee Stadium is not a football venue.  It just happened to be convenient to attend to start my three-day bowl tour this season since it’s about an hour from my house.  It would be better if they played this in The Meadowlands, but I’m not in love with the new stadium there either.  Been to 147 stadiums now to see college football games.  Of the major stadiums I’ve been to across the country, for a football game, this is the worst.  No doubt.

Back to the second half

Q3 started and the teams continued to slip and slide.  Iowa started a drive from its 40.  A 32-yard completion by Nathan Stanley (8 for 15, 99 yards, one TD) to Nick Easley put the Hawks on the 13. RB Akrum Wadley (Newark, NJ, Weequahic HS) took it in from the five to tie it up at 17 each.  The Hawkeyes and Purple Eagles went into Q4 tied with Iowa driving at their 46.

Iowa’s Akrum Wadley (25) , Pinstripe MVP, looks for a few of his 88 rushing yards against BC defense.  His kick returns were big factors.

Miguel Recinos made good with his 38-yard FG to put the Hawkeyes up, 20-17.  On BC’s next drive, Wade completed a 48-yard past to TE Tommy Sweeney (Ramsey, NJ) to the seven.  Iowa held BC to a net of one yard and Lichtenberger came in to finish the drive with a 24-yard FG to even the score.  On the Eagles’ next possession, a sack by DE Anthony Nelson forced Wade to fumble and DE Parker Hesse from the other side recovered to give Iowa the ball at BC’s 48.  Wadley ran it 21 yards to the 27  before Stanley connected with TE Nate Wietting who bounced in at the one warranting a review.  From there though, FB Drake Kulick took it in the old-fashioned way with a power drive through the middle to give Iowa (8-5) a 27-20 lead that the defense would never give up in the remaining minutes. S Josh Jackson’s eighth pick of the season and tight defense similar to the clutch of that hawk in my front yard earlier in the day stopped any chance of an Eagle come back in the final minute of play.

Hawkeye DB Josh Jenkins looks to turn a play in here, but put an end to BC’s comeback late in the game with his eighth pick of 2017.

Epilogue

It was a great game on a frigid night on the frozen turf of a baseball stadium.  The Hawkeyes struggled with the Eagles (7-6) all evening and held on until the end to put them down before absconding back to Iowa City with the victory hardware.  Wadley, the kid from just across the river in Jersey who had never been to Yankee Stadium before, took home the MVP award. He ran for 88 yards on 22 carries including a touchdown, caught two passes for 24 yards, and returned kickoffs five times for 171 yards including a big 72-yarder to get into scoring position.  Draft analysts tag Josh Jackson as a first-round pick in next year’s draft.  As for CFF.com, we headed south after this game with a plan in place to meet fellow Navy tailgaters the next morning to head to Annapolis for the Military Bowl between Navy (6-6) and Virginia (6-6) the next day at 1 pm.  We forged on to attend three bowl games within 48 hours!

It was so cold at Yankee Stadium tonight, that everyone’s faces were frozen. Just look at the smile on the Iowa Hawkeye mascot’s face!

 

 

 

Game 556:  No. 1 JMU’s ten takeaways, third quarter burst jolt South Dakota State, 51-16

Game 556:  No. 1 JMU’s ten takeaways, third quarter burst jolt South Dakota State, 51-16

Harrisonburg, Virginia – No. 1 and defending FCS champ James Madison let South Dakota State (11-3) hang close in the first half of Game 556, an FCS semi-final game, but a burst of five consecutive scores in the third period put them on their way to 51-16 victory to head to Frisco, Texas on January 6 to face North Dakota State in the national championship.  JMU ‘s defense forced 10 turnovers, nine by QB Tarvyn Christion (six INTs, three fumbles) over the course of the game.  Of the first four in the first half, only one resulted in a score by the Duke’s offense, but late in the first half of Game 556, the offense got on track and became virtually unstoppable.

For collegefootballfan.com, it was our first game ever at James Madison’s Zane Showker Field at Bridgeforth Stadium, a beautiful setting near the Blue Ridge Mountains. The atmosphere and the spirit during the game was lively and energetic amongst its fans and its marching band.

One of three Christion fumbles. LB Kyre Hawkins  (9) recovers this one for the JMU Dukes.

Jack Rabbits stay close

The Dukes (14-0) totally dominated in the second half to say the least.  QB Bryan Schor completed 18 of 25 passes for 203 yards and two TDS, both to WR Riley Stapleton in the first half.  For his counterpart Christion, despite one INT and three fumbles early in the game, he tossed a nine-yard TD to WR Jake Wieneke.  PK Chase Vinatieri also added a 37-yard FG.  Narrowing the margin, 14-10 on the FG, it seemed to wake up the Dukes’ offense.  Marcus Marshall returned the next kickoff 38 yards to the 42.  Four plays and 47 seconds later, Schor plunged in from the one with just nine seconds left before the half.  With a 21-10 lead, the Dukes would receive the second half kickoff.  Look out!

JMU QB Bryan Schor (17) plunges in behind center Mac Patrick (73) before halftime. We got to meet Mac’s dad Dave in the parking garage before the game. Mac and his brother Tabb on specialty teams are both sophs at JMU meaning they are undefeated after two seasons.

Second half burst

On the second play from scrimmage, Marcus Marshall (15 carries for 203 yards, two TDs) broke through the middle for a 65-yard touchdown run.  On the third play of the next JMU possession, Marshall out did himself with and 85-yard TD jaunt.  The Dukes put more time into the next score as they drove 70 yards on seven plays culminated by Taylor Woods’ three-yard run.  Following Christion’s third fumble of the game recovered at the Jack Rabbit sixteen, Ethan Ratke’s 24-yard FG went through the uprights.  Next, the Duke defense picked off its third pass, but unlike the others, S Raven Greene took it 59 yards for the score and the home crowd frenzied with their Dukes up by a score of 51-10 in our game 556.

Marcus Marshall, top left, bolts through the line for his 66-yard Jaunt early in the second half.

In the fourth, HC Mike Houston pulled Schor and some other key starters as well as most of his defense to keep them healthy for the FCS finale on January 6. An SDSU INT of Cole Johnson by LB Chris Rozeboom to the JMU five resulted in a five-yard pass from Christion to TE Dallas Goedert to close out the game’s coring.

JMU Safety Raven Greene breaks up pass intended for Jack Rabbit TE Dallas Goedert.

Should I stay or should I go?  I stayed…

Christion stayed in the game until he tossed two more INTs in the final period.  After each turnover, he sat distraught by himself in the bench area.  Without conferring with his HC John Stiegelmeier, he eventually walked over to senior back-up QB Dalton Douglas, evidently told him he was finished, (some nearby fans and I wondered why he wasn’t pulled earlier), and Douglas went in to finish off the long day for the junior who hopefully has better days ahead of him his senior year at South Dakota State.  Final score of the FCS semi-final in game 556, 51-16.

WR Jake Wieneke (19) Hauls in TD pass for the Jack Rabbits in Q2.

Coming up…

JMU heads next to Frisco, Texas to “Defend the crown” as their placards read.  The interesting thing now is that they will be defending it from the program who held it five consecutive years before they won it.  North Dakota State, who fell in last year’s semi-finals to Youngstown State, will be just as anxious to bring the hardware back to Fargo after one year’s absence after a five-year championship streak.  The Bison show up in Frisco at 12-1.  Their lone loss – 33-21 at South Dakota State on November 4.  This should be a great game!  Maybe we should go there instead of Atlanta for which tickets are way out of our price range.

Blue Ridge setting.

As for Collegefootballfan.com, after seventeen straight Saturdays of College football games in 2017 dating back to August 26, we have our first BYE Week.  This must be a collegefootballfan.com record:

Merry Christmas!

On December 27, we will be back in Bowl action starting with Boston College (7-5) vs. Iowa (7-5) in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx. Rutgers/Army fan Frank Scarpa will be joining us there.  The next day, back to Annapolis to see Navy (6-6) face Virginia (6-6) in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman.  Virginia played on our slate this year beating Georgia Tech in a great game in Charlottesville.  The Mids didn’t fare as well under our watch this year as in more recent years.  We saw them start strong with two wins, but they later fell twice in Philly, to Temple and to Army.  We will be tailgating with most of our usual cohorts down at Navy -Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, home of the Mids.  From there, we head down to our first Belk Bowl in Charlotte, NC  to see Wake Forest (7-5) play Texas A&M (7-5). We will be joining up with friend and Wake alum Jim Harton along his WFU friends we tailgated with this year on October 28 when we watched the Deacs knock off Louisville.  We’ll hang out with Jim (aka “Bug”), One-Iron, Goober, and Earl among others for what should be a fun time. They’ve been there before and have a plan in place.

Happy New Year!

If we go to Frisco, we hope the weather will be warmer!

(We gotta think about this Frisco trip. Forget Atlanta.  Stay tuned.)

Game 555: Mt. Union shuts down Mary Hardin-Baylor for D-3 title, 12-0

Game 555:  Mt. Union shuts down Mary Hardin-Baylor for D-3 title, 12-0

Salem, Virginia – On a cold, blustery evening with temps in the 30s and winds around 18 mph, two defenses dominated high-scoring offenses as the Purple Raiders of Mt. Union defeated UMH-B’s Crusaders, 12-0, for their 13th national title in our Game 555.  Defending D-3 champ, UMB-H, also known as The Cru (14-1), came in averaging 38.1 ppg on offense.  The Purple Raider defense allowed 13.8 ppg on the season and shut them down holding them to only 144 yards of total offense.

Not only did the two teams shake hands in a display of sportsmanship before the game, but unlike other games we attended this year, both came out to stand for the national anthem. Great job!

The offensive styles of both squads mirrored one another as both teams relied on their QBs to run as well as pass.  The Raiders (15-0) averaged 53.3 ppg, but the Crusader defense allowed 10 points – three points more than their seasonal average allowed.  MU gained 299 yards, 137 through the air on D’Angelo Fulford’s 12 of 21 passing for one TD and two INTs.  For Game 555 in Collegefootballfan.com history, we attended our second Stagg Bowl, our first since 2007, also won by Mt. Union in Salem.  With the Purple Raiders’ title intact, the possibility exists where we may have seen three 2017 NCAA college football champions play this season – if Clemson and James Madison win the FBS and FCs respectively.

The first quarter ended with no score and the second seemed headed for a deadlock as well.  Late in the period, CB Gabe Brown picked off UMB-H’s Paul Robinson to start a Mount Union drive from their 47.  With 1:15 left in the half, the Raiders put points on the board with Alex Louthan’s 31-yard FG to take a 3-0 lead into the warm locker rooms.

Mount Union defense closes in on Paul Robinson (30) for a short gain. No. 37 Nick Brish took home MVP honors.

At halftime, people from Salem, Virginia were honored at the 25th NCAA D-3 football championship game played in the small city near the Appalachians.  These honorees brought this game here 25 years ago and have managed it very well ever since.  The city of Salem has hosted 86 NCAA D-3 championships in several sports over the years.  Give these people a lot of credit.  Driving down through a snowstorm in Pennsylvania and sitting it the cold, windy confines of Salem Stadium in December to attend Game 555, it makes one wonder why the NCAA hasn’t considered moving this some place warmer with a variety of other attractions?  But the city thrives on it and evidently the D-3 schools are satisfied.  Before Salem, the games were played in Bradenton, Florida for three years.  Not bad, but not within driving distance for us despite the snow.  And take a look at ticket prices on-line for the CFP game in Atlanta!  Try $1500/each plus fees!  I paid 1000 times less for this ticket and parking was free.  What a bargain for a championship.  Prior to Bradenton, the championship game was played in Phenix City, Alabama.  On a sad note, the first featured Wittenberg defeating the Alma Mater dear, Juniata College, 41-0.

This wasn’t the NCAA Hockey Championship, but these Mary Hardin-Baylor cheerleaders could be the poster for “The Frozen Four.”

The score remained 3-0 through the third. The teams exchanged interceptions and Mount Union got stopped short on fourth and one which was so short, it amazed everyone in the crowd when the officials measured.   It looked like we may see a record-breaking low score in Game 555 for the annals of our history.  Both defenses held the other’s scoring machines in check.  Would either break?

Raider RB Josh Petrucelli sweeps left against tough MHB-H defense.

In the final period, a short punt on this windy night put Mount Union at the Cru’s 46.  QB D’Angelo Fulford fired a long pass from the 42-yard line close to the hands of two Cru defenders to WR Justin Hill who caught it and took it a few yards into the end zone for a 10-0 lead.  UMB-H started its next drive from its seven.  Defender Nick Brish, the game’s MVP, sacked Robinson in the end zone for a safety to extend the lead, 12-0.  The Purple Raiders could not mount any more scoring drives, but with the wind to his back, P Adam Snyder placed his punts away from dangerous return man Bryce Wilkerson and set the Cru back on their four and on the two on his subsequent punts.   On Mount Union’s next possession, they used the clock to hand the ball over on downs with only 49 seconds remaining.  As all night long, the Raider defense stuffed the Crusader offense in its tracks.

Mount Union starts 13th D-3 Celebration.

Congratulations to Head Coach Vince Kehres, his coaching staff, and all the Purple Raiders!  They go back to Alliance, Ohio with their 13th NCAA D-3 football championship since 1993 – the first ever played in Salem.  We at collegefootballfan.com stay overnight to drive up to Harrisonburg, Virginia Saturday afternoon to see James Madison (13-0) defend it 2016 National Championship in a semi-final game against the South Dakota State Jack Rabbits (11-2). We look forward to a great game and our first game ever at JMU.

Game 554: Army edges Navy 14-13 to take home Commander-in-Chief Trophy

Game 554: Army edges Navy 14-13 to take home Commander-in-Chief Trophy

Philadelphia – As time expired, Navy’s Bennet Moehring field goal attempt of 48 yards missed to the left in Game 554 played during a snow storm with swirling winds at Lincoln Financial Field to give the Cadets of West Point (9-3) their second consecutive win over arch-rival Navy after 14 straight losses,  14-13.  Army took the lead with 5:10 left on QB Ahmad Bradshaw’s QB sneak and Blake Wilson’s PAT.

Moehring’s attempt for the win goes long enough but to the left to preserve the Army victory.

Navy QB Malcolm Perry ran for 250 yards and a 68-yard TD dash to give Navy a 10-7 lead at the half.  Both defenses tightened up in the second half.  Both teams ran their triple option throughout game 554. Army completed its only pass for 20 yards.  Navy completed one of its only two for two yards. On the ground the Mids out-gained the Cadets 294 to 221.  On the final Navy drive, Perry dropped a snap of fourth down at the Army 37, but he picked it up to get the first down.  Two procedure penalties set Navy back to the 31 making the game-winning attempt longer. Army scored first in Q1 on Darnell Woolfolk’s three-yard run.  Navy cut the lead 7-3 with Moehring’s 28-yard FG.

Navy QB Malcolm Perry picks up a first down in the game’s final drive.

Spoils and Bowl games

Army won its 51st game of this greatest of all rivalries in college football against 60 wins for Navy and seven ties.  For West Point, it gave them their first outright Commander-in-Chief Trophy since 1996 when they last defeated Navy and Air Force. The Cadets head next to Fort Worth, Texas to meet San Diego State (10-2) in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl on December 23.  Navy (6-6, 4-4) will meet Virginia (6-6,3-5) in Annapolis in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman. Collegefootballfan.com will be there for our second of three bowl games in three days.  We will sandwich it between the New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Iowa vs. Boston College) and The Belk Bowl (Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M).

However, before we go bowling over the holidays, we have Championship weekend coming up this Friday and Saturday. On Friday evening, we will be in Salem, Virginia for the D-3 National Championship between Mount Union and defending D-3 champs Mary Hardin-Baylor. Both teams weigh in at 15-0!   On Saturday right up Interstate 81, we will attend the FCS semi-final games when the South Dakota State Jack Rabbits (11-2) visit No. 1 James Madison Dukes (13-0), also defending national champs.  The winner will head to Frisco, Texas for the title game against the winner of North Dakota State and Sam Houston State. Check back with us as we’ll still be attending games as college football in 2017 heads into exciting championship action.

Cadets celebrate victory with their team.

Points After Tailgating

This past weekend, we ended the regular season on a high note for tailgating though our Game 554 was played in cold, snowy weather.  Thanks to Dan Donnelly of Dan from the tailgate, who treks out from California each year to attend this classic game, he coordinates a big get-together with friends from his alma mater, Frostburg State, primarily Ray Carlucci, to have a great grand finale for tailgating.  This year’s menu had everything: Taylor ham, egg and cheese sandwiches; Sausage and peppers; Long Island keilbasa, Morristown cheese steaks, South Jersey cheese steaks, Cousin Frank’s burnt end pork rounds, Pulled pork, Dino’s famous pot luck/road kill chili, Brian Donnelly’s Old Bay spice wings, Bubba burgers,  Cannoli’s from Cataldo’s Bakery in Parsippany, NJ,  Pop LeBlanc’s and friends’ lobsters direct from Boston, and more!  Bloody Mary’s, Fireball/Rumchata, Evan Williams Honey Bourbon,  and all kinds of beers were overflowing in Parking Lot P near Lincoln Financial (btw, they need more and cleaner port-o-potties in that lot).  A slight last-minute change in the meeting area delayed our start time a little later than planned, but we overcame and improvised starting around 9:30 am.  After the game, the grills got started and steak sandwiches tasted great before heading out around 8:30 pm as most of us we let traffic clear.  Great job by everyone organizing and participating for a great time at Game 554 with a lot of great and fun-loving people!

Post-game grilling!