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!

Game 553: Coastal Carolina defeats Georgia Southern, 28-17

Game 553: Coastal Carolina defeats Georgia Southern, 28-17

Conway, SC – In our Game 553 between two Sunbelt bottom feeders playing without the head coaches they started their seasons with, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (3-9, 2-6) defeated the Georgia Southern Eagles (2-10, 1-7), 28-17, at James C. Benton Field at Brooks Stadium near the Coastal Carolina campus.  The teams battled into the third quarter, but the Chants’ defense came up with big stops in the final period to clip the Eagle’s ability to soar when they had to.

Why the heck are we at this game?

For Collegefootballfan.com, Brooks became our 144th stadium ever attended as a college football venue, and we added Coastal Carolina as our 131st, soon to be 130th   (again) Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team ever.  We can officially proclaim once again that, “we’ve seen ‘em all!”  Next season, the Idaho Vandals rejoin the FCS for all the right reasons to reduce total FBS membership by one, but Liberty University located in Lynchburg, Virginia, will take their place stepping up to play in the FBS.    Though our game 553 between the Chants and the Eagles featured two programs currently dwelling near the very bottom of the FBS rankings, as anticipated, they played in a competitive, evenly- matched game – our preference when planning out our schedules each season.

I was given a ticket voucher approaching the ticket office to get prime seat at the 50-yard line to see the opening kick off up close and personal.

Fast start for Chanticleers

Coastal took the early lead on the second play from scrimmage when QB Kilton Anderson (9 of 17 for 180 yards, two TDs, 1 INT) connected with his primary WR Malcolm Williams on a post pattern over the middle for a 67-yard touchdown.   GSU started its first possession from its own one as the return man slipped coming out of the end zone.  Later in the first, the Eagles notched their first score putting up three with Kevin Bass’s 48-yard FG.  Before the period ended, back up QB Dalton Demos, a grad transfer from Northern Iowa, tossed a pass to Ky’jon Taylor to put the ball at the three.

Two plays later, the first of the second period, RB Osharmar Abercrombie (19 carries, 133 yards, two TDs) took it over for the score to put the Myrtle Beach boys up, 14-3.     The Eagles sacked Anderson to stop the next Chant series on a fourth and two to take over from their 26 late in the second.  Bolstered by a nice catch for a key gain by RB Wes Fields at the CCU 46, the Eagles moved down to the one where TB L.A. Ramsby score to lower the margin, 14-10, before intermission.

GSU RB came down with this nice catch for a big gain on the Eagles’ first half touchdown drive.

Fellow college football fans

On the departure flight of my very affordable Saturday round trip from Atlantic City to Myrtle Beach on Spirit Airlines to add Coastal Carolina as FBS Team 130 in game 553, I sat with two other big college football fans, Larry and Pat, high school football coaches in Delaware, heading down to attend this clash between Sunbelt squads.  The give-away right off was Larry’s Navy football jacket.  His sons played at USNA under Paul Johnson. He has season tickets at Annapolis as well.    Larry himself played for Delaware back in the ‘70s, and Pat played for Ursinus, a D-3 nemesis of the alma mater, Juniata, when both schools played in the Middle Athletic Conference.  Both coaches played for CCU HC Joe Moglia early in his career.  They’ve maintained a close relationship with him ever since.  They filled me in on something that I hadn’t heard about.  Moglia, a very successful coach who had this program winning often at the FCS level to step up into the FBS, sidelined himself right from the start of the season due to an irritable lung infection.  That explained my surprise regarding Coastal’s poorer than expected start at 2-9 in their first season of FBS football.

Chauncey the Chanticleer mascot leads the halftime finale.

CCU’s Head Coach Joe Moglia

A little background here: Joe Moglia coached high school and college football successfully for 16 years.  In 1984, he made a career change by entering the MBA training program for Merrill Lynch.  After graduation, he became their most productive asset manager leading to a major career move to become CEO for the investment service, TD Ameritrade.  For seven years, he led that firm to great success increasing its client’s wealth to over $10 billion, a 500 percent return.  After that run, he stepped down and became Chairman of the Board for TDA.  After great success in business, here returned to coaching college football in 2009.  Moglia served as executive advisor to the Nebraska Cornhusker football program helping administer two Big 12 North championships. He left to take over the Chanticleer program in 2012.

Since he became HC at Coastal, his teams have racked up a record of 51-15.   At Brooks Stadium prior to the game, his recorded message on the video board confirmed what Larry and Pat told me.  He tells the Coastal Carolina fandom that his life is not in danger, but that he has to address his breathing problems.  He emphasizes that he wants to do this now to assure his health for the long-term so that he can continue as HC of the Chanticleers for many years to come.  In the meantime, he’s appointed offensive coordinator Jamey Chadwell, up until last year the HC of a successful Charleston Southern program, as his interim HC.  Joe Moglia plans to return to the sideline next season at full strength to continue to coach and make the Chants a competitive program at the FBS level.  Based on his success in his diverse endeavors over the course of his careers, we definitely want to attend more CCU games in the future to see the progress he can bring to this burgeoning program.

Chant’s’ Cheerleaders sideline action.

 

Plight of the GSU Eagles

As for the GSU Eagles, after an 0-5 start to this season, the school’s administration released HC Tyson Summers from the program and replaced him with interim HC Chad Lunsford.  Over the years, GSU has been ranked among the top programs in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).  They even got off to a great FBS start when they moved up in 2014 going 9-3 and winning the Sunbelt title with a record of 8-0.  For some inexplicable reason, they were not eligible to go to a bowl game despite winning the conference championship.  Over those years, they ran a very successful triple option offense under Paul Johnson who left after 2001 to turn Navy’s football fortune’s around before moving on to Georgia Tech.  When joining the Sun Belt, the Eagles success with the triple option continued with HC Jeff Moncken who learned the offense while at Navy working for Johnson.   Since leaving Georgia Southern, he left and has successfully turned the corner at Army leading the Cadets to two consecutive winning seasons for the first time in years.

Georgia Southern cheerleaders fire up Eagle fans.

Summers’s change in offensive strategy away from this offense that brought much success did not sit well with the school’s admin based on his very poor results.  The school will now be looking for someone to turn their program around using most likely that same offensive strategy that made them an FCS powerhouse.  In the annals of our history leading up to Game 553, Georgia Southern won one of four games we’d seen them play –  winning a 2001 playoff game vs. Appy State, losing twice to Delaware, one in a 2002 regular season game and then again in a 2010 playoff before losing to Navy in a 52-19 thrashing in 2014.

 Second half tease

Eagle QB Shai Werts looks for running room.

To start Q3, Miles Campbell returned the kick out to CCU’s 48.  The Eagles finished a scoring drive with an eight-yard pass from QB Shai Werts to TE Ellis Richardson to make this a competitive game by taking the lead, 17-14.  Werts, a redshirt freshman, led his team in passing (6 of 15 passes for 57 yards, one Td, one INT), in passing (28 carries for 108 yards) and even in receiving yards (one catch for 30 yards.  Despite the low number in the passing game, we can say that we can’t recall anybody else lay claim to that.  Whoever takes over this program as HC has an experienced triple option QB with some opportunity to get better over the next three years.  This turnaround seemed to that this game would be played fiercely to the end by two inspired teams looking to end bad seasons on a positive note for next year.  Next, GSU forced a CCU punt from their 43, but the turning point of the game occurred when Abercrombie took the snap directly in punt formation and powered for 19 yards for a first down to maintain possession.  Anderson connected with Williams (four receptions, 120 yards, two TDs) for a 37-yard TD pass to take back the lead, 21-17.  The Chants forced the Eagles to punt from their 27.  On the legs of Abercrombie, a 41-yard burst put the Chants at the one where Abercrombie finished off what he started to extend the home team’s lead, 28-17.

CCU’s Osharmar Abercrombie picks up big yards on a touchdown drive.

CCU rises to the challenge

The score stagnated in in the fourth primarily due to CCU’s defensive efforts.  The Chant’s stopped Werts on downs at their 37.   Two series later, CB Preston Carey picked off a Werts pass at his 24.  The Chanticleer D halted GSU’s final drive at their 29 on fourth down with 1:29 left to play to preserve their third victory of the season.  Both teams showed potential but have lot of work cut out for them as other teams in this conference are making great strides toward improvement.

Chanticleer’s defense stops Werts’ final effort on fourth down to end GSU’s chances.

Evidently, both teams are done for the season.  As Pat and Larry told me, if Moglia is feeling better, the Chant’s might be out practicing that evening.  I’m sure, however, that like most programs this staff is back out on the recruiting trail as we speak. As for Georgia Southern, there is probably a meeting with Lunsford and the rest of the coaches right away to determine their status in the short-term to continue some recruiting while planning to announce who their next HC will be.

More to come…

For CFF.com, our task following Game 553 is easier.  We are preparing for a tailgate next Saturday for the greatest rivalry in all of college football when Army (9-2) and Navy (6-5) clash for the 118th time.  The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy is at stake at the Linc in Philadelphia before both go on to play in bowl games against San Diego State and Virginia respectively.   These two teams have lot of pride and incentive heading into the now annual finale of college football’s regular season.   This will be our 12th time in attendance for this game.  We look forward to this and some playoff action at the D-3 and possibly FCS level the weekend after.  Check us out!

 

CCU’s Osharmar Abercombie breaks Eagles tackles for a gain.

Home of the Chants! We plan to go back when Joe Moglia’s back on the sidelines for CCU.

Game 552:  Penn State flattens Maryland Terrapins into “pizza turtles”, 66-3

Game 552:  Penn State flattens Maryland Terrapins into “pizza turtles”, 66-3

College Park, MD – No. 9 Penn State flattened Maryland (4-8,2-7) leaving the Terrapins looking like squashed road kill on a paved road in Collegefootballfan.com’s Game 552, 66-3. This analogy comes from a vivid, childhood memory.  That’s what these Terrapins reminded me of at the end of Saturday’s game. The Nittany Lions (10-2, 7-2) dominated this game in every aspect from beginning to end never giving the Terps a chance to compete in the regular season finale for both.  The Lions tied a CFF.com record for our greatest margin of victory with a total point differential of 63 points set by Virginia Tech in their 63-0 win over Western Michigan in 2004.  If not for the Terp’s Henry Damstadter’s 42-yard FG late in the third to close the gap, 52-3, the Lions could have set our new record in Game 552.

On offense…

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.  The sophomore 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 to TE Tom Pancoast.  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. WR Juwan Johnson caught six passes for 63 yards.  Everybody on Penn State contributed on offense.  They never turned to ball over. Game 552 was a complete butt-whipping.

On defense…

Defensively, unlike a week ago where the Lions played a lot of second and third teamers in the rain during their 56-44 win over Nebraska, the first team played most of this game.  Maryland rushed for 124 yards and passed for 179. They fumbled the ball away twice.

The Lions totally dominated.  HC James Franklin’s team was driven to win this Game 552.  It may have to do with the disrespect shown the Lions three years ago at State College where Maryland team captains refused to shake hands under former HC Randy Edsall at the coin toss.  Now that the Lions have made vast improvements since, they may have decided to send a strong message.  According to GGA John Massimilla (PSU alum), it’s been decided this game will become the seasonal B1G finale for both programs for years to come.   However, I think James Franklin decided to stake a claim in the Delmarva peninsula to say that his program is going to continue to recruit the best players it can right from Maryland’s back yard.  He wanted to impress the local recruits paying attention to this outcome.

Double darn!

Regretfully, my camera was left in my care dropped off at the meeting point before heading in with Brian Donnelly and his fiancé Laurie on our way to meet the rest of our fellow tailgaters on the way to College Park.  No action shots or cheerleaders for Game 552.  I missed out on a lot of good photo ops.   We got to conduct the small portion of the Blue Band sitting right behind us wearing civvies in the upper deck of what is now referred to as Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium (formerly known as Byrd Stadium since we’ve been going here) while most members probably went home for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  Today, 49,680 were in attendance. Had Penn state not had the two losses against Ohio State and Michigan State, I’m sure  a lot more PSU faithful would have been here in attendance to send this team off to a CFP playoff spot, but, it’s been a great season.

Great reasons to be thankful

Brian and I are usually in sync attending Navy games together and partying before cheering on the Mids in Annapolis.  However, today he wore his red Maryland apparel while yours truly along with fellow PSU fans John Massimilla and his sons-in-laws Aaron and Dex wore traditional white and blue for PSU.  Fun times, good friends, great food from the grill, an assortment of enjoyable beverages, and great PSU football (for some of us) made it all a great tailgate party once again.  No matter who won though, all of us tailgating together along with a few new guys for the first time and some neighboring tailgaters from U of MD have a lot to be thankful for this time of year. You just can’t beat enjoying going to college football games and tailgating with other great people we meet along the way as much as we do!

Upcoming…

Penn State awaits a major bowl bid.  Most signs point to the Cotton Bowl.  Maryland HC DJ Durkins and staff hit the recruiting trail.  Good luck to them.  We wonder how many recruits for both teams may have been in attendance for both programs.

CFF.com heads to Conway, SC for the first time for our next to last regular season game of 2017.  We got cheap flights to and from Myrtle Beach on Saturday to attend a battle at the bottom of the Sunbelt at 1 pm between Georgia Southern (2-9, 2-5) and Coastal Carolina (2-9, 1-6).  The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers joined the FBS this season as the 130th team.  We’re going so that we can still say that, “We’ve seen ‘em all!”  GSU is on a two-game winning streak having defeated South Alabama, 52-0, and UL-Lafayette, in a mild upset, 34-24.  The Eagles fell to UMass midway through the season, 55-20.  CCU downed UMass to start the season, 38-28, at home.  The Chanticleers didn’t win again until last week defeating Idaho, who returns to the FCS next season, 13-7.

Go ahead and laugh at us.  This will be a competitive game and we are looking forward to spending another day attending a college football game.  “What better way to spend an Autumn afternoon?”  We’re running out of them this season.  Our college football weekends all go by too fast.  We’ll catch up on the conference championships at some local sports bar in Myrtle Beach before flying back home.

Come back and check out the upcoming action next week for not only this game, but for Army-Navy, division play-offs, and bowl action on our agenda.  We are going as deep as we can into this season.

Game 551: USC outlasts crosstown rival UCLA for cherished Victory Bell, 28-23

Game 551: USC outlasts crosstown rival UCLA for cherished Victory Bell, 28-23

Fantastic sight lines for our first USC-UCLA Rivalry experience.

Los Angeles – The No. 12 Trojans of Southern Cal defeated crosstown rival UCLA, 28-23, in a game for nothing much more than for pride for their 47th victory in the 85th “official” meeting of this rivalry in our Game 551 (two Trojan wins were vacated in 2004 and 2005).  For that and for the Victory Bell Trophy that the Bruins have not enjoyed the pleasure of taking home over the last 19 years. The Trojans (10-2,8-1) move on as the PAC 12 South champs on December 2 while Bruins (5-6, 3-5) still need one more victory for bowl eligibility.  Bruin QB Josh Rosen out-passed USC counterpart Sam Darnold 451 yards to 264 yards, but SC’s ground game outgaining the UCLAns and Darnold’s ability to move his team when they needed inspiration the most made the difference in the final outcome. Neither QB played exceptionally well today as both are considered top prospects for April’s pro draft.  Neither team really impressed, but it turned out to be a somewhat competitive game.

Bruin QB Josh Rosen (upper left) looks down field for a completion.

 Glad to finally add this great rivalry to our history

For Collegefootballfan.com, Game 551 lived up to our expectations for our first experience in person attending a game at the LA Memorial Coliseum, the 140th venue at which we’ve attended a college football game.  Traveler the Trojan Horse, “Fight on!”, home jerseys on both teams, the Olympic torch at the venerable Coliseum, and the USC Song Girls made the long flights across the country and back worthwhile. Although I do have to say I appreciated my seat atop the UCLA student section because  I found I preferred the UCLA cheerleaders over the famed USC Songstresses. Also staying with my Boonton (NJ) HS classmate and Emmy Award Winner Jim Lewis and his beautiful wife Judy and their son Danny, and meeting up with my niece Emily and her boyfriend Tommy at “LA Live!” made the trip enjoyable and memorable as well.

Traveler prances behind SC Song Girls for his entry into the LA Memorial Coliseum.

The two teams played as equals through much of this game statistically in time of possession, turnovers, and total yards.  However, effective deception put the Trojans in the early lead.  UCLA punted from its 24.  Stefan Flintoft’s punt sailed down to the right sideline. All but one SC player moved to field the ball to the left sideline and the Bruins took the bait.  Trojan Mike Pittman fielded the punt on the right almost stepping out where only two Bruin defenders including the punter tracked the ball. Two blockers took them out and Pittman cruised 72 yards into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.  Never saw anything like it.  UCLA responded more conventionally.  Rosen completed a pass 40 yards to Jordan Lasley (10 catches for 204 yards, three TDs) to get to SC’s 28. At the SC 13, the two hooked up again on the left side of the end zone to tie it up, 7-7.  USC TB Ronald Jones II returned the ensuing kickoff out to the 44.  He finished off the drive with a two-yard TD run to give SC a 14-7 lead heading into the second period.

USC TB Ronald Jones II plunges in from the two for a 14-7 Trojan lead in the first period.

The second period of game 551 went scoreless, but not without either side having chances to score.  The Bruins came up short on a 47-yard FG.  Bruin DB Jadeel Wadood picked off a Sam Darnold pass near the end zone and started UCLA from the six after a 15-yard penalty.  UCLA’s subsequent drive resulted in a sack and a fumble by Rosen recovered by ILB John Houston JR to put SC on its 40. The Trojans used up all their time-outs and Darnold picked up nine yards to the Bruin 14-yard line as time expired to end the half with neither team changing the scoreboard.

Hated Trojan starts pre-game.

Worth the trip for CFF.com

I couldn’t come up with any tailgate plans for this game though I contacted friends with LA connections, but my niece Emily suggested that she could meet me for lunch at the Yard House at LA Live!  for lunch and beers.  The place was packed with more LA King fans than college football fans for a 1 pm face off when we got there.  It worked out great though driving down from Jim and Judy’s in Burbank to LA Live which is near the Staples Center and other sporting attractions.  The Coliseum is located a little over two miles just south of there on a straight shot down Figueroa.  I considered taking the convenient Metro North bus line, but the walk was flat, straight, and safe and I needed the exercise besides after my long flights traveled and the two-and-a-half hour drive in the LA traffic congestion the day before from John Wayne Airport to Burbank.  Once down in the Exposition area near USC’s campus, I walked among the USC throngs priming for the rivalry.   Despite facing a crosstown foe, they significantly outnumbered the Bruin fans interspersed throughout. I wandered about looking for ticket deals, but found none worthwhile.

Great seats, hey buddy!

I got a real ticket, took a trip into the soon to be refurbished stadium, found no beer, settled on lemonade after my walk, and went to my seat in row 69 where my legs dangled in the walkway around the stadium to soak in the atmosphere and traditions as kickoff neared at 5 pm PST.    I moved down one row eventually since people constantly walked in front of row 69 blocking my view and ruining my much appreciated sight line.  Wearing my dark blue 119 jersey commemorating “seeing ‘em all” for Game 551, I was glad to find myself appropriately seated atop the UCLA student seats where I could cheer along for the upset I wanted.  Even better, I got a great sight line, especially through my binoculars, above the very fine UCLA cheerleading squad. I got a lot of great photo ops as you will see here.

Blended in fine among the blue pom-poms.

 Troy maintains the upper hand

UCLA received the second half kick and drove until S Marvell Tell III picked off Rosen in the end zone and returned the ball out to the 27.  Rosen (32 for 52, 421 yards, three TDS) out-passed Darnold, but he could not finish off key drives in the end zone as could his rival to get his team a leg up in this game.  USC sacked him on consecutive plays during his next possession forcing the Bruins to punt from their 15.  The Trojans started at the 44, and Darnold’s eventual two-yard run put Troy up, 21-7.  The Bruins heeded their wake-up call.  Rosen led the powder-blue clad visitors 79 yards to pay dirt with an 11-yard scoring pass to Lasley for their second TD drawing back to within seven.

 

WR John Lasley (2) somehow pulled this one in for the Bruins.

The Bruins started Q4 within striking distance, and forced the Trojans to punt at their 48.  Their next drive starting from their 14 for six fizzled at the Trojan nine resulting in a 26-yard FG by JJ Molson (from Canada appropriately).  Unlike Rosen, Darnold knew how to spark a sense of urgency into his teammates when they needed to score.  He led Troy on a 90-yard TD drive as TB Ronald Jones II (122 yards on 28 carries, two TDs ) broke over from the two for a 28-17 lead with 5:19 left.  UCLA fans hoped to see Rosen show leadership now to bring his team back to upset the Trojans with their eyes possibly focused ahead to their date for a PAC-12 championship.  However, USC HC Clay Helton seemed to have his team well prepared to face this bitter rival in a game for nothing more than pride.  Having a week off before the PAC-12 Championship probably helped his cause.

WR Deontay Burnettt (80) got this ball into scoring position for Jones’s second TD of the game.

With a 15-yard penalty setting the Bruins back to the 39 after a good kickoff return, Rosen led his team to within five with a 27-yard pass to Lasley for their third score though the air.  A pass attempt into the end zone for two failed.  The Bruins would need another TD to pull off the upset.  Recovering the onsides attempt, SC started from their 49 with 2:36 remaining.  The Bruins would have to get a three and out at best with only two time-outs left.  After using both, SC converted a first on a third and one.  Game over, closer than most expected despite a classic rivalry, 28-23.

Trojan defensive stop early in Q1.

 

Collegefootballfan.com was greatly satisfied in having the opportunity to add this historic, traditional rivalry as our game 551 to our list of other such rivalries attended over the 39 years of this great and unique adventure. It was good timing on our part also as this will be the last game to be played by the Trojans before refurbishing the LA Memorial Coliseum will take place starting in early 2018 to modernize the venerable facility for the 2019 season.  USC vs. Notre Dame is on our wish list, so maybe we’ll do it here.

Upcoming

USC will play the winner of the North Division to be determined next week for the PAC 12 championship on December 2.  They have a long shot chance to make the CFP ranked now at No. 11.  Former HC Tom Mora’s UCLA team hosts the Cal Bears next week still trying to get the sixth win for bowl eligibility.  Mora was fired on Sunday. OC Jedd Fisch takes over for him.   The Bruins continue to slip in this most local of rivalries having lost 15 of the past 19 encounters with the Trojans. CFF.com heads to College Park, Maryland to tailgate and to see the Penn State Nittany Lions (9-2, 6-2) on the road against the Maryland Terps (4-7,2-6). We hoped this game would be a celebration of the Lions winning the Big Ten East, but it should still be a great tailgate.

Points After Traveling

My flight got delayed on Sunday that would have missed my connection to Chicago.  I ended up taking a red-eye flight to get home late Monday morning.  Luckily, I had taken a vacation day.  Through all the agony of traveling, I looked forward to posting these pictures below of Game 551.