Tigers claw back from deficit to upset Gamecocks with late rally, 21-20

Columbia, SC (September 27) – South Carolina’s Dylan Thompson fired a touchdown strike to WR Pharaoh Cooper who made a great grab as he was hit hard by Missouri defenders at the goal line for a 23-yard scoring play. Elliot Fry’s extra point gave USC the lead with 7:29 left to play, 20-7. The Gamecock lead looked comfortable the way the game had transpired since early in the first period. The Gamecock defense played its best game of the season thus far, and after Russell Hansborough’s 18-yard TD on Missouri’s first possession of the game, SC held the Tigers in check on their next eleven possessions forcing them to punt ten times and to take a knee before the first half expired. By game’s end, Mizzou totaled 280 offensive yards and QB Maty Mauk, who tossed 14 TD passes in four previous games, tallied none against the Carolina defense. At the 7:29 mark of the final period, his passing total for the day was mere 65 yards. The Cocks seemed to have the game in hand. The defense had finally risen to support the offense which struggled at times during the game with dropped passes and inopportune penalties. After the game, however, even Gamecock HC Steve Spurrier had to second-guess himself why he didn’t consider going for the two-point conversion after Cooper’s touchdown.

The Tigers turned the tables on Carolina in the time remaining to avenge last season’s double overtime loss to SC that jarred the Tigers out of first place in the SEC East. From his own32, Mauk (12 for 34, 136 yards) hit WR Bud Sasser for a 41-yard pass to the Carolina 27. In the next play, he connected with WR Wesley Leftwich to get to the Gamecock one. On the next play, Hansborough (10-45, 3 TDs) started to sweep left, then cut back against the grain around the unprotected right to cut the USC lead, 20-14, with Andrew Baggett’s point after. The drive consumed only 36 seconds. Mizzou’s defense forced Carolina to punt next holding them to no yards on three plays. Marcus Murphy returned the punt 22 yards to set the Tigers up from their 49. Nine plays later, the Tigers snapped the ball on a fourth and goal at the SC one. With the line stacked against him, the 5’ 9” Hansborough took drove the ball through with legs churning on a dive up the middle with 1:36 left to knot it up, and Baggett’s PAT made the difference. Four subsequent plays by the Gamecocks went nowhere and Mizzou had the ball at the USC 40 when time expired. The Tigers (4-1, 1-0) took the win, 21-20, in front of 83,493 at Williams-Brice Stadium on Carolina’s Parents Weekend 2014.

Under there somewhere is Russell Hansborough for Mizzou's winning score.

Under there somewhere is Russell Hansborough for Mizzou’s winning score.

It was a hardfought game and unexpectedly dominated by the defenses although Carolina’s offense shot themselves in the foot with several key dropped passes. The Cocks (3-2, 2-2), the only Power Five conference member with four conference games already under its belt, have a tough road ahead of it to challenge for the SEC East, but there’s still time ahead as the Tigers, 1-0 in conference play, still have Georgia at home in their next game on October 11 followed by visits to Florida and Texas A&M later in the season. SC defeated UGA earlier, 38-35. South Carolina travels to 3-1, 1-0 Kentucky next week who fell to the Gamecocks in a close one at last year’s Parents Weekend, 35-28. We will see the Cocks play again at Auburn on October 25 in what could be a key game for the success of their season if Mizzou and UGA tumble to fall in behind them. CFF.com travels to Old Dominion in Norfolk, Virginia for the first time as we welcome the Monarchs as our 125th FBS team in their inaugural season at this level. It should be an interesting match up with two pass-oriented teams going at it. Taylor Heinecke leads the passing attack for the Monarchs, (3-2,0-1 C-USA), against undefeated conference foe Marshall (4-0) led by QB Rakeem Cato who is closing in on Russell Wilson’s NCAA record on 38 consecutive games with a TD pass. It will be our first trip to Foreman Field and our Guest Game Analyst will be our son Eric Koreivo, now enlisted in the US Navy and stationed at nearby Norfolk Naval Base.

Extra points: Mizzou’s first TD came after they stopped Carolina’s first drive on a fourth and short at the 33. Baggett missed a 47-yard FG wide right, and SC came back with Fry’s 33-yard FG. RB Mike Davis (22 carries for 104 yards, 1 TD) finished the first half scoring with his 17-yard TD run starting to his left and ending up to his right in the end zone to give Carolina a 10-7 half time lead.

ESPN’s Game Day presented by Home Depot broadcast at 9 am at the crowded SC Horseshoe in the middle of the campus as students camped out the night before to get up close to the stage for the entertainment which included the day’s guest picker, Kenny Chesney. Big screens were in the background for the more distant views of us later arrivals to watch regular hosts Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, and Heisman winner Desmond Howard, but some trees in The Shoe needed trimming to enable us to see the full screen. I guess there is now a greater sensitivity toward trees in the SEC since the dastardly act down at Toomer’s Crossing at Auburn. Features shown on the broadcast and transmitted to the big screens included stories about Michigan’s recent foibles and the lives of SEC Coaches’ wives among other topics (hard to hear in the back). The crowd would pay some attention, carry on their own conversations, and wait for the broadcast of the Game Day hosts to come back on screen so they could catch a glimpse of themselves. Signs and banners would go up and the crowd would become more vocal and performing again to catch their 15 seconds of fame. The Washington State University flag was there as usual. North Dakota State is in the mix as well and we saw a brown and white Lehigh banner. There were many original signs, but the best I saw was held by an SC coed that read, “The real USC, the real Carolina, and the real Columbia” – digs establishing South Carolina as the “real” as opposed to the University of Southern California, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Missouri located in Columbia, Missouri. Chesney performed “American Kid” in front of the stage during the broadcast. Only Herbstreit was brave enough to select Missouri to win in front of the hometown Carolina crowd. Now wonder why they work within a screened in stage, kind of like the Blues Brothers at the old country music venue in their movie. Corso wore the “Cocky” mascot head to select the Gamecocks to win it, and guest picker Chesney chose them also not to hurt record sales in Carolina. He’s a Tennessee fan. Probably would have picked the Tigers if this was broadcast back in Branson, Missouri. You can check out my pick on any replay of “Pete Spadora on Sports” broadcast from Saturday by listening to the replay on the I-95 radio website this week. The interview was done live while I walked far away from the loud noise at the Game Day broadcast.

ESPN's Game Day live and on the big screen at Carolina's Horseshoe.

ESPN’s Game Day live and on the big screen at Carolina’s Horseshoe.

One feature focused on Spurrier and his witticisms from the previous week about the weak play of his team in their 48-34 win against Vanderbilt. His best line – “Two kickoff returns for touchdowns is like two holes-in-one in one round (of golf).”

Maty Mauk’s success in the final 7:29 of play came on long pass attempts. Earlier attempts were more of the short variety that Texas A&M used to gain big yards in the opener of the season against SC courtesy of wide open receivers and many missed tackles. Others had similar success, but The Gamecocks covered and made tackles in those situations in this game. The long coverage seemed to catch the Gamecock secondary off guard late in the game once they had stopped the short passing game.

Alex's roommate Kelly partied before the brawl with the Tigers. Note the stuffed Gamecock on the table in back.  That's what Corso probably really held during the Game Day Broadcast.

Alex’s roommate Kelly partied before the brawl with the Tigers. Note the stuffed Gamecock on the table in back. That’s what Corso probably really held during the Game Day Broadcast.

Our post game tailgate was a downer as could be understood for all the South Carolina faithful who had gathered for our final Parents Weekend tailgate. All our daughters are seniors. Our daughter Alex, her friends and their families, and especially Eleanor’s grandfather Jerry, a long time Gamecock season ticket holder, were particularly distraught. The girls were in shock. I felt bad for them as they’d been looking for a great senior season. They had enjoyed three previous years finishing with eleven wins in each. This year is off to a bad start, so they are genuinely dismayed that their last year may not be as memorable as the others. Tough times lie ahead, but they are hoping their team is going to pull together for the balance of the season. It’s not over by any means. Jerry just couldn’t talk about the game. When someone asked what he thought what Spurrier might be saying to his players, he just said didn’t want to even think about it. The grill didn’t even get fired back up for a post-game party. There was no joy in Columbia. Our friend Darlene and her daughter Courtney didn’t even stick around to go to Sonic with us like we did last year! Things have to fall in place going forward for the Gamecocks to get back into the SEC East hunt (or as Spurrier also stated in another post-Vanderbilt interview, “or whatever we’re still in a hunt for.”). Things have to unravel properly for the Cocks to have a chance, but the team is really going to have to step up and play better in all aspects consistently if they want a shot to get back into the SEC race with a great effort starting at Kentucky next weekend.

I reminded my daughter Alex, that when I brought her and her brother Eric to a Navy game for the first time back in 2000, we watched Toledo beat the Midshipman, 35-14. On that day on October 28, the Head Coach for Toledo was Gary Pinkel, who now is HC at Mizzou in his 13th year. Fourteen years later, he stuck around to beat Alex’s team.

Bird's eye view of one of the famed South Carolina Cockabooses from the mezzanine of Williams-Brice Stadium.

Bird’s eye view of one of the famed South Carolina Cockabooses from the mezzanine of Williams-Brice Stadium.

 

Collegefootballfan.com Week in Review #4

Our take on Jameis Winston: as we said before, we predict that this kid is a catastrophe waiting to happen. If he hasn’t learned anything from the recent punishments dished out by the NFL for anti-social behaviors, will he ever learn? The crux of the problem is the pedestal kids like him get placed on for being so athletically inclined. We start them young, tell them they’re great, shower them with accolades, give them plenty of leeway not to berate their growing egos, and allow them to get away with anything they want. They’re primped, treated with kid gloves, and tempted by every school in the country to come play for them. Awards, offers over and under the table, media attention, signing day, Rivalries.com, etc. can overwhelm to make a kid self-centered, especially without strong guidance from a parent or guardian to teach wrong from right, reality from fiction, individualism vs. being a functional member of society. Such a kid grows up with an attitude that his special skills entitle him to whatever he selfishly wants to do. Damn everybody else. “It’s all about me and I can do no wrong.” At this stage of life for a college athlete, it’s time for the school to do what it’s supposed to – educate. Sometimes this means with negative reinforcement. The positive play doesn’t seem to be working here for this young man. Is Florida State (still) up to this challenge? Of course, in the grand scheme of things, school coffers are what college education (not just college sports) has become all about. This will probably never stop based on the mores and priorities developing in today’s society. Eventually for Jameis, all this will somehow end tragically if no one teaches him and he refuses to learn. If something tragic does happen involving him, we’ll say nobody could do anything, nobody will be at fault, and nobody will probably care. It all sucks. We wonder what Charlie Strong would have done? Texas (1-3) may not be as bad off as some people think based just on recent results on the field…This weekend we go back to South Carolina (3-1) to see Spurrier’s bunch take on Missouri (3-1). How many Parents’ Weekends feature a game between two schools that finished at No. 4 and No. 5 from the previous season? The Gamecocks come in this week at No. 13. ESPN’s Game Day will be on campus at The Horseshoe bright and early before the 7 pm kickoff. Kenny Chesney will be this week’s guest picker. I have a College Football 100th Anniversary book I got back in 1969. Lee Corso’s picture is in it as head coach of Louisville that season. I wonder if I can get it autographed?… If this wasn’t Parents’ Weekend at SC this weekend, we’d probably drive to New Haven, Connecticut to see Yale host Army to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Yale Bowl. Both the Bulldogs and the Cadets seem to be improved this year. It would be interesting to see a competitive game between two historic teams in that great old bowl’s setting. Hope it draws a good crowd…Due to a work conflict, we have to cancel our D2 plan on Thursday night Oct. 9 to watch Kutztown State (1-2) host No. 10 West Chester State (3-0) in a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference battle… Our biggest interest this week about the Gamecocks is to see if they have learned to cover receivers and tackle better than they did when we saw them fall 52-28 against Texas A&M…Speaking of which the media is Still raving about Kenny Hill and the Aggies. No. 6? Four first place votes? The last three wins were against FCS Lamar, winless Rice (0-3), and winless SMU (0-3). Come on! Arkansas next. We’ll see…SEC hype: I turned on ESPN radio on the way back from PSU-Rutgers late two Saturdays ago and learned the score 34-10 regarding Oklahoma’s (4-0) win over Tennessee (2-1), but all I heard about was how well UT played…Unofficial Power 5 vs. Power 5 conference records: Pac 12 (6-2), SEC (5-2), ACC (4-5), Big 12 (4-6), B1G (5-11), and Notre Dame (2-0 ). Seventeen Power 5 conference teams have not yet played or will not play a team among these conferences this year. Among 65 teams, there have only been 26 games. This stinks. The Big Ten has the worst such record, but they’ve already played twice as many such games as any other conference…Among undefeated FBS teams on our schedule remaining this year are Florida State (3-0) (Go Orange!), Penn State (4-0),Marshall (4-0), and Auburn (3-0)…Coming up on October 4 – a shootout! At high noon, we’ll see Marshall (4-0) visit Old Dominion (3-1) at Foreman Field in Norfolk, VA to add ODU as our 125th team. MU QB Rakheem Cato is 11th nationally in passing yards with 1,163, 10 TDS, with a 57% completion mark. With big leads in four games, he’s taken a seat on the bench early and often. For the Monarchs, QB Taylor Heinecke is 10th in passing yards with 1,172, 10 TDs, and a 66.7 % completion rate. The footballs will be flying that afternoon. Can’t wait!…Right behind both of these QBs in passing yardage is Dylan Thompson of SC who we will see play again this week. We’ve also already seen No. 6 A&M’s Kenny Hill with 1,359 and No. 8 Christian Hackenberg of Penn State with 1,261…We’re set on Oct. 25 to see South Carolina at Auburn. We hope to get to the War Eagle Supper Club on Friday night while on the Plains.

Rutgers domination along both fronts holds off Navy, 31-24

Annapolis, MD (Sept. 20, 2014) – Navy QB Keenan Reynolds fired the last shot of the game against their second Big Ten opponent this season to try to send the Mids into overtime or for a last second win, but it was a misfire as WR Jamir Tillman caught his pass out of bounds beyond the end zone, and Rutgers (3-1) held on to win against Navy, 31-24. It may have been a costly win for RU as leading RB Paul James suffered a knee injury in the second period and left on crutches after gaining 96 yards on his first seven carries. Reports came out on Monday that he suffered a torn ACL and is lost for the season. The result of the game was clearly won by the Scarlet Knights along both fronts. The offensive line dominated opening up holes to amass 284 yards, RU’s most since the 2007 International Bowl, in rushing. Defensively, the front seven thwarted Navy’s triple option rushing attack averaging 403 yards per game limiting them to 171 yards on 43 carries. What kept Navy in the game was a surprising passing game. Had Navy HC Ken Niumatalolo opened it up earlier and a little more often, his team may have put more points on the board against a suspect RU secondary. However, early misfires may have prompted him to stay on the ground longer than desired, but as the game went on, Reynold’s passes became more effective.

Navy (2-2) scored on its first possession after recovering a James’ fumble at the RU 25, and Reynolds (19 carries for 25 yards , two TDs/ 12 of 26 passing for 231 yards, 1 TD) ran in the first score from the one. The score remained 7-0 when Navy’s Nick Sloan went wide with a 40-yard FG attempt that could have extended the Navy lead, and at that point, the momentum seemed to shift to the Knights. On a fourth and two, James broke through a hole in the right side and raced down field for a 38-yard TD to tie the game, 7-7. Late in the period, Reynolds fumbled and put RU at Navy’s 36.

Rutgers QB Gary Nova follows his line into the end zone from the one for a touchdown.

Rutgers QB Gary Nova follows his line into the end zone from the one for a touchdown.

Kyle Federico did for RU what Sloan couldn’t do for Navy and put three on the board for a 20-yard FG to put the Knights in the lead, 10-7. On Rutgers’ next drive, James left the game for good, but Justin Goodwin (Madison, NJ) and Desmon Peoples (19 carries for 82 yards) stepped up effectively. QB Gary Nova (11 of 14 passing, 151 yards, two rushing TDs) plunged in from the one for 17-7 Scarlet Knight lead. Navy came right back with a 75-yard drive ending with Reynolds’ seven-yard TD run to narrow the gap. However, Rutgers’ o-line continued to dominate Navy’s defensive front and drove 91 yards. With: 27 left in the half, Goodwin (26 carries for 104 yards, 1 TD) took it over from the three for a 24-14 halftime lead. Under an intense sun the entire first half, we spent the intermission in the shade of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on the Gold side, where St. Laurie and I met with GGA Steve Ciesla who sat with Frank Scarpa who stayed in the bleachers commiserating with fellow RU fans.

Navy’s opening drive was highlighted by a 53 yard pass to Tillman down to the 27. Sloan converted with a 35-yard FG to close to 24-17. Rutgers started from its 37 with the aid of a 15-yard illegal block by the defense – never saw an illegal block called against a team without the ball. From there, Rutgers controlled the line of scrimmage and Nova took it in from the one once again to end the third period scoring for their 31-17 lead.

Keenan Reynolds attempts a pitch, but RU held Navy to a season-low of 171 yards on 43 carries.

Keenan Reynolds attempts a pitch, but RU held Navy to a season-low of 171 yards on 43 carries.

In the final period with 5:20 remaining, the Mids finished off a 75-yard scoring drive with a rare TD pass. WR Brenan Dudeck was left wide open in the end zone for a 14-yard TD reception. On RU’s ensuing possession, the Mids’ defense stopped the Knights in a third and one to force a rare three and out. They took over from the 26 with 3:12 left. Blue and Gold got down to the Scarlet 16, but sacks by second team safety Andre Hunt and DE Kemoko Turay put Navy back to the 36 with a fourth and 20 from where Reynolds took his final shot into the end zone that went for naught to end the Navy threat. Exciting finish! Unusual stats for both teams that learned a lot going into the balance of their seasons. RU can run the ball to keep mistake-prone QB Nova from forcing INTs. Can they continue to do it against better run defenses than Navy’s however without Paul James? It knows it can stop the run, but Rutgers still needs to shore up its secondary. Navy needs to sharpen up its passing game with some play action to take advantage of its run game to utilize its passing game more consistently which can be effective if needed.

Rutgers returns to High Point Solutions Stadium to finish its non-conference slate against Tulane (1-3) on Saturday at noon. Navy welcomes high-scoring Western Kentucky (1-2) now of Conference USA to Annapolis for a 3:30 kick off. Last year, the Hilltoppers defeated USNA, 19-7. CFF.com heads to Columbia, SC for our final Parents weekend there and for ESPN Game Day as the No. 13 Gamecocks (3-1, 0-1) host Missouri’s Tigers (3-1) in an SEC game kick off at 7 pm.

Extra points: With Rutgers win over Navy, the respective CFF.co records of both teams are 24-30 and 21-33. They are tied for second in appearances with 54.  RU is second in wins with 24. Navy is first in losses with 33. With Navy’s admission into the American Athletic Conference next season, the teams are not scheduled to meet any time in the near future due to conference scheduling obligations.

Rutgers Mom Patty Rafferty and Navy Mom St. Laurie Koreivo pose together in front of Navy's Tecumseh in T-Court before the game.

Rutgers Mom Patty Rafferty and Navy Mom St. Laurie Koreivo pose together in front of Navy’s Tecumseh in T-Court before the game.

It was a special weekend for us in Annapolis this weekend. Nick Rafferty, second team LB for Rutgers has been friends with our son Eric since kindergarten. Nicks’ father Frank and I coached both boys in Little League baseball for ten years. For Lenape Valley (NJ) High School, Nick played RB and Eric started at offensive tackle their senior year and finished with an 8-2 record. Frank and his wife Patty, who is responsible for making my “119” jersey that adorns the cover of “Tales from the Tailgate”, joined St. Laurie and me for the weekend to tailgate, go to the game, and tour Annapolis. Long time Guest Game analysts Steve Ciesla and Frank Scarpa joined us as well. Nick called Eric, now stationed at Norfolk Naval Base as an ITN, to offer him a will-call ticket to the game. Eric had no duty this weekend and was able to join us on Saturday. We didn’t expect to see him again until we visit him in two weeks down at Norfolk. He wore his Navy t-shirt and sat with Frank and Patty in the Rutgers parent section. He cheered for the Navy (would’ve cheered for Nick had he gotten into the game), and people around him wondered how he got his ticket. He told him that he’s a friend of Nick’s and that he’s an enlisted Navy guy, but not a Midshipman. He accepted defeat with grace in the end. We enjoyed tailgating, the weekend, and a post- game meeting with Nick before the RU team headed back home by bus. At LVRHS their senior year, Nick and Eric and the rest of the Patriots fell to Madison High School featuring Justin Goodwin (now in the RU backfield) in a one –point loss featured on MSG Varsity TV. A last second FG went wide for LVR to miss the chance to beat Madison, a top 20 team in the state, that evening. Nick’s RU roommate, Safety Andre Hunt, who came off the bench, made a critical sack of Keenan Reynolds on Navy’s final drive.

For breakfast on Sunday, we went to Chick and Ruth’s on Main Street an Annapolis for the first time. We had to wait outside for about 15 minutes, but it was worth it. It was featured on “Man vs. Food.” We’ll go back again. Try it when you get down there. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

 

Week #3: Penn State’s final drive spoils Rutgers Big 1G debut, 13-10;Fordham Rams blast Rhode Island Rams, 57-7;The College of New Jersey outlasts FDU-Florham, 17-13

Penn State’s final drive spoils Rutgers Big 1G debut, 13-10

Rutgers ready?

Rutgers ready?

The Birthplace of College Football, NJ – In a hard fought game in front of a record crowd of 53,744 at High Point Solutions Stadium between Penn State (3-0, 1-0), freshly off NCAA sanctions for Jerry Sandusky’s crimes, and Rutgers in its historical Big Ten Conference debut, Penn State RB Bill Belton scored on a five-yard TD run to cap a last effort, 80-yard drive to spoil the RU inauguration, 13-10. Both defenses held running games in check throughout the duration of the game as PSU totaled 64 yards and Rutgers 102. Penn State stopped five Rutgers’ drives with INTs and allowed the Knights only three first downs in the second half which they entered trailing 10-0. Rutgers kept the pressure on QB Christian Hackenberg, but his poise and resilience down the stretch made the difference in the final score.

The Knights scored first on a 14-yard scramble by QB Gary Nova (15 of 30, 192 yard and 5 INTs) early in the second. Kyle Frederico booted a 32-yard FG with 12 seconds remaining in the second to finish the first half scoring for both squads.

Me and Frank before the game: Dear old White and Blue and a Scarlet Knight

Me and Frank before the game: Dear old White and Blue and a Scarlet Knight

Penn State finally got on the board late in the third with a 32-yard FG by Sam Ficken. An early 39-yard attempt in the first period was blocked by RU’s Kemoko Turay. Ficken added another from 25 yards early in the fourth to close the score to 10-6. Penn State’s final drive for the winning score was sparked when Freshman WR Eugene Lewis caught a pass between two Rutgers defenders and raced 53 yards to the RU 27. From my end zone seat in section 115 with RU fan and Guest Game Analyst (GGA) Frank Scarpa, it looked as if Lewis could have gotten more yards possibly for a touchdown had he been able to run parallel along the sideline instead of stepping out. On a third and two at the 19, Hackenberg fired a pass to TE Jesse James that sent PSU fans into a celebration for what appeared to be the game-winning score, but a holding call sent PSU back to the 29 instead. On the very next play, Hackenberg converted the third and 12 into a first down connecting with Lewis again to get to the Rutgers six. Two plays later, Belton charged into the end zone to give the Lions a hard-fought victory in front of a raucous Rutgers crowd. It was a spirited game and a true fight to the finish for an exciting football game.

Penn State WR Eugene Lewis gets down to the six on the winning touchdown drive.

Penn State WR Eugene Lewis gets down to the six on the winning touchdown drive.

Penn State returns to Beaver Stadium next Saturday to host UMass (0-3) before five straight Big Ten games. We will not see them play again until November 8 when they host the Maryland Terrapins. RU (2-1, 0-1) travels to Annapolis to meet Navy (2-1) in the Mids’ first game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium this season for a 3:30 pm kickoff, and we will be there for that one, too.

Extra points: Guest Game Analyst and tailgate hosts Frank and Patty Rafferty, parents of Rutgers LB Nick Rafferty, saved us a spot at a nearby house to park at a convenient location within walking distance to High Point Solutions Stadium. We plan to park there for future games at The Birthplace.

Frank Scarpa’s season seats were luckily surrounded by a mix of Penn State and RU fans. Things were basically amicable and mixed groups of friends from both schools seemed to be common. It was great to be surrounded by numerous PSU supporters, mostly native Jerseyites who were also Penn State Proud.

Many prime Rutgers recruits were in attendance down along the sideline during the game. They had to like what they saw with the lively crowd and the hard-fought game with a traditional power in the East. The outcome should not discourage any serious RU recruits. As a matter of fact, they probably noted some positions where the Knights need shoring up in the next few years. On the other hand, if they were teetering between PSU and RU, the result could benefit the Lions as will who just got back their full complement of scholarships to award next season since the NCAA sanctions were removed this past week. PSU HC James Franklin’s greatest attribute is supposedly his ability to recruit, so some of those players may be swayed to Dear Old White and Blue rather than to the Scarlet Knights.

I was disappointed in the Penn State play calling where most calls went to the outside. I can’t figure out why they are having such a tough time developing the run game. They have the experienced backs and the O-line, though short on experience, are pretty solid up front. I’m sure that is where Franklin’s focus will be on his next recruiting class, but coaching and not just recruiting has to be utilized to make the kids they have better.

On the Rutgers side execution seems to be a problem at QB, but the play calling is definitely better with Ralph Friedgen, former Maryland HC, calling the plays. Franklin was on Friedgen’s staff when they were all fired by Maryland a few years back. I think he will be a difference maker for the Knights in the near future.

 

Fordham Rams blast Rhode Island Rams, 57-7

The Bronx, NY – With the 8 pm kickoff scheduled at Rutgers, CFF.com looked to take advantage of an open afternoon to catch a second game close by. We settled on the opportunity to see a game played at Fordham’s Jack Coffey Field for the first time starting with a 1 pm kickoff in their Homecoming game against the Rams of the University of Rhode Island (0-2). Well, we can at least check off Jack Coffey Field as another venue visited. Fordham has a beautiful campus surrounded by an urban neighborhood close to the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Gardens. No. 19 Fordham (2-1) started the preseason ranked as high as No. 10 in the FCS, but a 50-7 spanking by Villanova of the Colonial Athletic Conference the week before exposed the Rams. Well this Saturday, it was Fordham’s turn to do the spanking, or maybe we should say dominant head-butting. Sitting in a steady rain that started in the second period and looking forward to our main event of the evening, GGA Frank Scarpa and I had seen enough by the end of Q3 as Fordham was crushing the hapless Rams from Rhode Island, 47-0. URI, under new HC Jim Fleming utilized a lot of inexperienced, young players against a team of veteran performers on a team expected to win the Patriot League championship. Fleming has a lot of work cut out for him to turn this program around based on what we saw Saturday.

Fordham defense puts the stop on Rhody's Harold Cooper.

Fordham LB Victor DiFusco puts the stop on Rhody’s Harold Cooper.

The visiting Rams looked like they may make a game of it right at the start. CB Myles Holmes made a diving, acrobatic interception in front of QB Mike Nebich’s intended receiver to put Rhody at the FU 21. A pass from RS freshman Mack Lowrie, a Boston College transfer, gave URI a first and goal on the two, Fordham held and Dylan Smith came in to kick a FG, but his 19-yard attempt clanked down off the left upright, and that was the last of the URI scoring threats until very late in the game as Fordham reeled off the next 47 points. And it was a slow start as Frank noted that the first quarter alone took an entire hour.   We wanted to be sure we got some tailgating time in down at Rutgers. Numerous penalties on several Fordham drives, incomplete passes, and a few injuries prolonged the first period. Freshman RB Chase Edmonds scored the first two Fordham TDs by the end of Q1 for a 14-0 lead. At the end of the game, he set a Fordham freshman rushing record with 231 yards and four TDs. Nebrich, a QB on several FCS preseason watch lists completed 22 of 38 passes for 331 yards and a TD, and you know what? We weren’t impressed by him. His own mistakes and the level of competition told us that the Rams of the Patriot League might not have a walk in the park to the conference title and a playoff spot after all. WR Tebucky Jones snagged six passes for 124 yards and a TD while All American WR Sam Ajala, caught five for 114 yards. It wasn’t a pretty game. Rhode Island was mistake-prone and lifeless. Lowrie, the QB, winds up and throws in slow motion, ripe for the pickings though he does have velocity on his passes. His runs on broken plays were the best aspect of his game (13 of 29, 127 yards, 2 INTs, 48 yards rushing). Rhody’s Lyle McCombs ran for 98 yards on 22 carries.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

We came away knowing that Fleming, former defensive coordinator at Central Florida the past few years, has his work cut out for him in Rhode Island. The program’s been a challenge for a number of years. We hope we’ll see some improvements as we remember some good days of Rhode Island football back on the 80s when they had some high-powered offenses that made the 1AA playoffs. It would be fun to see Rhode Island competitive again and playing in some significant CAA games.

Fordham (2-1) has been involved in three straight 50-point games to start this season. In addition to URI and Villanova, they defeated St. Francis of PA, 52-23 in the opener. They travel to Manhattan next Saturday to play Columbia of the Ivy League (all Ivy teams open next weekend) in their annual Liberty Cup game. URI hosts Albany in its first CAA game of the season.

Tribute to Fordham's "Seven Blocks of Granite".

Tribute to Fordham’s “Seven Blocks of Granite”.

 

The College of New Jersey outlasts FDU-Florham, 17-13

Madison, NJ – In an opening D3 game for the Fairleigh Dickinson University Red Devils (0-1) marred by many mistakes and sloppy plays by both teams with inept play-calling, neither team impressed and both struggled to generate much offense in the TCNJ Lions (1-1) 17-13 win on a comfortable Friday night in front of 1,614 fans including CFF.com and St. Laurie. FDU outgained TCNJ in total yards 223 to 215. Respectively, the teams were penalized for 138 and 68. It was a bore of a game though the Devils scored early. It was tough game to enjoy as neither team looked sharp in early season play.

Fairleigh Dickinson's Devils had their backs to the wall early before their first score.

Fairleigh Dickinson’s Devils had their backs to the wall early before their first score.

FDU QB Tyler Maurer threw a nine-yard TD in the first period to Malik Pressley and teamed up together for a second score late in the fourth on a 33-yard pass to tally all the points for the host team who has a record of 29-112 since the new millennium. WE are always optimistic to see the Devils have one break out season. This won’t be it. TCNJ’s Colin Cazzetta’s FG from 29 cut the Devils’ margin to finish the first half trailing 7-3. In the final period, Frank Fuccello’s 5-yard run and Khani Glover’s two-yard run gave the Lions a 17-3 lead. Surprisingly, the Devils found the drive to score again with 1:59 left. These two teams will struggle for the rest of the season. St Laurie’s analysis was that the College of New Jersey has enhanced its academic reputation over the years, so the quality of the football program has begun to tail off. I never think one has to do with the other. If a D3 program can get the right chemistry of a versatile coaching staff that can build a team with the skills its team has and student athletes who will work and play hard for success, a school you can have a successful program.

FDU has a chance next week to win and extract revenge from a year ago when the visit Misercordia College in Dallas, PA. The Cougars (0-2) have been outscored in its first two games, 96-7. TCNJ goes in the opposite direction as it will host defending D3 National Champ and No. 1 ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater (2-0). The Warhawks have won their first two games by a combined margin of 115-20. TCNJ has a lot of football to learn between now and Saturday. Good luck to both the Devils and to the Lions this weekend!

FDU cheerleaders: The girl in front is a granddaughter of a Boonton High School grad. Go Bombers!

FDU cheerleaders: The girl in front is a granddaughter of a Boonton High School grad. Go Bombers!

Extra points: Stopped at the Red Dog Lounge in Convent Station for drinks and bar food before heading to the game.  We met a fellow Boonton High school grad whose grand daughter is on the FDU cheerleading squad. We remembered teachers we both had in common who taught at BHS for many years and shared some laughs.

In line for tickets, we met FDU girls from Zeta sorority who our daughter Alex belongs to at The University of South Carolina.  They were nice enough to have their pictures taken with us at St. Laurie’s insistence who she could send them down to Alex whose Gamecocks defeated Georgia this weekend, 38-35.

 

Privateers sink Buccaneers in second half duel, 31-30, in the Seventh Annual Chowder Bowl

Throggs Neck, NY (Sept. 11, 2014) – Trailing 14-3 at the end of a sloppily played first half, the SUNY Maritime Privateers (1-1) defeated the Massachusetts Maritime Buccaneers (0-1) in and entertaining, second half, seesaw battle to take their sixth Chowder Bowl victory in seven meetings. QB Zack Chilcott took a QB sneak in from the one with 1:33 left to take the lead for good, but not before great last minute efforts by the visiting Buccaneers from Buzzard’s Bay on Cape Cod. An unsuccessful point after attempt gave the Privateers a 31-28 lead. Mass Maritime’s next comeback attempt resulted in an interception of a John Turdel “duck” by CB Chris Klass. MMA used their three remaining time outs to force a punt. With 22 seconds left, SUNY LB Duke Alvora took the snap and raced back 49 yards for an eventual safety while trying to run out the clock. However, the Buccos knocked him out of the end zone with nine ticks remaining on the game clock. SUNY kicked off from the 20 with a 31-30 lead, and the Buccaneers used a couple of nifty laterals on the return to get past midfield until they were stopped after time had expired for SUNY Maritime to come out on top.

Flag and Freedom Tower from Reinhart Field on 9 11, 2014.

Flag and Freedom Tower from Reinhart Field on 9 11, 2014.

The contest was played at SUNY’s Reinhart Field in the shadows of the Throggs Neck Bridge connecting The Bronx with Long Island on the 13th anniversary of 9-11. The home team hosted “Heroes Night” honoring the Military, NYPD, and NYCFD first responders in attendance and those related to players of their football team. From my seat, I could see the Freedom Tower in the distance and the New York City Skyline as well as the lit-up Throggs Neck Bridge. Freighters and tugs pushing barges steamed past the field through Little Bay toward the East River. The Empire State Building lit up in red, white, and blue. It was an appropriate game to attend on this infamous day.

The first half of play was marred by excessive penalties, turnovers, blocked kicks, and inept play by both offenses resulting in a 14-3 first half lead for MMA. Klass’s first INT resulted in three points for SUNY to score first on a 24-yard FG by Diego Deitrich (Bergen Catholic, NJ by way of Rio de Janiero, Brazil – remember, Catholic high schools in NJ do not recruit). The Buccaneers scored in the second period with a 10-yard TD pass from John Trudel to TE Aidan Desrosiers. The PAT was blocked. Their second score came close to the end of the first half when LB Victor Andrade picked up a fumble and returned it 30 yards for a TD. Trudel’s pass to Jon Wright gave MMA a14-3 lead.

Cannoneers welcome Privateers with a blast at the Seventh Annual Chowder Bowl and Heroes Night.

Cannoneers welcome Privateers with a blast at the Seventh Annual Chowder Bowl and Heroes Night.

SUNY honored members of players’ families in the military and first responders during halftime festivities. Many SUNY students, a mixture of military in hairstyles and some in uniforms but definitely typical college students, hung around during the first half and left at halftime not seeming confident in their classmates’ capabilities to come back. Both offenses ran the triple option and were frustrated in the first half against defenses very familiar with their similar styled offenses (SUNY’s HC is Clayton Hendrick-Holmes, a 1992 gradaute of the US Naval Academy) . Things would change in the second half. Both offenses came out much more crisp.

Chilcott ended an 88-yard TD drive with a 13-yard TD run and threw a two-point conversion to RB Greg Capernaro to tighten the score, 14-11. The Privateers didn’t stop there. On their next possession, a 52-yard pass down to MMA’s seven gave them a first and goal. After that, Capernaro ran it in from the four to take the lead for the Privateers, 18-14.

Late in the third, the Buccaneers offense found life starting a drive from their 44. In the final period, MMA started the scoring on a one-yard dive by David Yerxa to retake the advantage, 21-18. SUNY’s offense fired on all cylinders on a 67-yard drive with Chilcott rolling right and connecting with WR Brian Leonard on a post pattern from the same side for a 24-yard score. The home team was back in command, 25-21. Turdel brought Mass back quickly as a 34-yard pass to WR Bobby Rossano went to the Privateers’ 29. With a fourth and goal at the two, a quick slant to the right to Desrosiers reset the scoreboard for a 28-25 lead before Chilcott led his team from their 42 for the exciting finish.

The game started slow and sloppy. Checking out the surroundings was more interesting than the football game, but both offenses came to play better in the second half to make for an entertaining game.

This early Privateer drive resulted in a field goal.

This early Privateer drive resulted in a field goal.

Extra points: Traffic was fairly light driving into the city over the George Washington Bridge and non-existent on the way home. Take exit 9 off I-295 South before crossing the Throggs Neck and a quick right and a left at the next light takes you to the campus on Throggs Neck on the Long Island Sound.

Fans heckled the PA announcer who was used to saying “Maritime” to describe the home team. Fans would say, “They’re both Maritime!” There’s one set of bleachers looking toward Little Bay. Fans from both teams sit on the same side. The Home team stays across the way, near the shore line.

The most expensive cost this evening was the $13 toll to cross the GWB. Parking was free, tickets were free, program was $3, and two dogs with everything on them and an iced tea were only $8. Cheap date by myself and in New York City no less!

Driving off campus on the way home, there was neighborhood bar on a corner with an outdoor deck that was hopping after the game. Looks like a place we’ll have to visit if we go back for a Saturday afternoon game.

The campus has some affiliations as a Navy base. It’s on the grounds of what was originally Fort Schuyler which defended New York waterways back in the day.

The Privateers next game is literally a short swim away east along the Long Island sound at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point. The Buccaneers head back to Buzzard’s Bay to host Maine Maritime for another traditional rivalry game between Maritime schools. We go to FDU Madison in Jersey for another D-3 game when the Devils host The College of New Jersey Lions.

According to the game program, nearly 100% of SUNY-Maritime grads are employed in careers of their choices within three months after graduation. Their 565-foot training ship, Empire State, is docked on campus and cruises with student crews during the summer months around the world.

Throggs Neck at night.

Throggs Neck at night.

Collegefootballfan.com week in review 2

Dan Fm tailgate

(Go to the next blog down to link to our Interview with Mile High Sports in Denver on Sunday evening)

Due to a family obligation that came up over the weekend, we had to cancel our schedule of two games over the weekend, but this Thursday night, we will see our first of four games through Saturday. In the meantime, our friends Dan and Brian Donnelly (pictured above) took Dan’s Football Tailgate Blog on the road to Eugene, Oregon for the Oregon Duck win over Michigan State, 46-27. The picture of Dan and Brian with their logo appropriately details the Big Ten’s season. They’re done – for the College Football Playoff that is. With Wisconsin’s loss to LSU last week, and losses by Michigan State, Michigan, and Ohio State to Oregon, Notre Dame, and Virginia Tech respectively this weekend, no Big Ten team seems to be able to carry the conference’s reputation for the balance of the season if they dominate the conference. Losses by Purdue and Northwestern to Central Michigan and to Northern Illinois as well as struggles by Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois to non-Power Five conference teams indicate that the Big Ten will be a tough sell to the CFP selection committee this year. And it’s only the second week of the season! Well, you can say that the Big Ten is competing with some good competition early compared to some of the conferences. See who some of the others were playing in early season blow-outs…Who the heck does USC AD Pat Haden think he is? Jerry Jones? And if USC Head Coach Steve Sarkasian summoned him to his aid, what does that say about his leadership? When have you ever heard of a coach request an administrator come down out of the press box to argue for him anywhere? Who’s next? His mommy?  And what did Saraksian or Haden think the outcome was going to be? Some kind of reversal? I think the CFP Committee needs to be looked at again. Haden can’t vote for USC, but his USC player/AD connection is almost too political. If he’s going to only attend USC game home and away games (which makes sense due to his job) how is he going to judge other playoff teams among the others eligible? I can do the assessment much more unbiased than he can…Tell CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock to call me. I will either continue with my own schedule, or we can make up another… It was the first Saturday in a long time where I did not attend a game live in person and spent the late afternoon into the late evening sitting in front of a TV. I hate it. Too many commercials. Too much talk. Too much spin. Not enough cheerleaders. Too many Top 25 score updates over and over and over. I’d rather be outside watching a game at any level…I watched Ball State almost pull the upset over Iowa. I’ve heard about the potential of Kirk Ferentz too many years now. What’s so special about him?…Army’s triple option paid off under Jeff Moncken in the Cadets’ first game under the former Georgia Southern and Navy coach with a 47-39 win over Buffalo. OK, so they are from the Mid- American, but that’s the same conference that stared down the Big Ten yesterday. Army rushed for 341 yards and threw for 125 on 7 of 7 passing. Not bad. Their only two Power Conference teams on this year’s schedule come over the next two weeks at Stanford and at Wake Forest. Three games are against the MAC, two vs. FCS teams, and of course, Air Force and Navy. They are trying to jump start winning once again at West Point…So much for Vandy as a competitive SEC program. Not only did they lose to Ole Miss, 41-3, but Temple who defeated them soundly the week before, got handled by Navy, 31-24, at home. Their “magic” (and coaching staff) went along to Penn State with James Franklin most likely…Our original plan for the previous weekend was to see a D3 game with Albright visiting Kean University where we’d hope that we would get to see another of our former Little League Baseball players perform. Albright defeated Kean under the lights Friday, 25-14, and OT Matt Hill, a sophomore this year, did not play…Our game plan for Saturday was to see Lehigh open at home against James Madison. JMU took a 31-28 lead with 4:42 left. Lehigh responded with a drive for a chip shot FG with: 51 left, but the Dukes blocked it to preserve the victory. We will see Lehigh play Lafayette on November 22 at Yankees Stadium for their historical 150th meeting. Lafayette fell to Sacred Heart, 27-14; in their opener…South Carolina defeated East Carolina at home, 33-23. The difference seemed to be in SC’s running game where Mike Davis ran for 101 yards and two TDs on 18 carries after leaving the A&M loss with an injury after gaining only 15. Ball control helped, but ECU QB Shane Carden still had a decent game statistically completing 32 of 46 for 321 yards, but only one TD and two INTs. The Gamecocks must have challenged him a little more than the Aggies’ Kenny Hill. South Carolina hosts Georgia in a key SEC East game next week… We will see 2-0 Rutgers play 2-0 Penn State Saturday at 8 pm. We will go with PSU having a stronger defense. Washington State (0-2), whom RU defeated to start the season, lost to Nevada in Reno this weekend, 24-13…Marshall QB Rakeem Cato kept his streak going as he threw two TDS against Rhode Island in a 48-7 win. He’s now thrown TD passes in 34 consecutive games. The opponent we will see him play on October 4, Old Dominion, fell to NC State, 46-34. Cato’s counterpart, Taylor Heinecke, completed 35 of 49 for 274 yards, two TDs, and an INT… Speaking of Rhode Island, we will see them in the first game of this Saturday’s DH when we see them visit Fordham for our first trip to see a game in The Bronx not played at Yankee Stadium. The Fordham Rams, ranked number 10 and picked to win the Patriot League, got whipped by No. 7 Villanova (FCS), 50-7, on Saturday… Missouri beat Toledo Saturday, 49-24, as Gary Pinkel defeated the school he coached prior to Mizzou. We saw him coach Toledo to a 35-14 win over Navy in 2000. We will see his Tigers take on South Carolina on September 27 at Parents’ Weekend for the second time in three years…HC Craig Bohl, formerly of North Dakota State, was the winning coach in his first Mountain West game as his Wyoming Cowboys (2-0) defeated Air Force, 17-13….On Thursday, Sept. 11 we will be under the Throggs Neck Bridge in New York City to see SUNY Maritime (0-1) host Massachusetts Maritime at a D-3 venue we’ve seen while crossing the bridge to Long Island. SUNY fell to William Paterson Saturday, 36-20. It will be the opener for MM…The College of New Jersey got clobbered in their opener to Ursinus of Collegeville, PA, 47-7. We plan to see TCNJ visit FDU-Florham Friday night to open their season. TCNJ better improve quickly. The week after, they will host defending D3 champ Wisconsin- Whitewater. UWW defeated Waldorf in their opener, 73-7. It may not be pretty be a pretty site on September 13 in Ewing, NJ.

Audio

Listen to our Mile High Radio interview this Sunday night

Our friend Bill Rogan is back on the air with his “Artificial Turf” show  in Denver on Sunday nights on Mile High Radio 94.1 FM.  We will be on with Bill early in the 11 pm EST hour ( 9 pm MST) to talk college football with Bill, an author of many sports books himself.  Check out his website www.artificialturf.com.  Tune into a fun interview this Sunday night by clicking on the Mile High 94.1 Radio logo below.  Click through to the station’s site and click on to “listen now” for another insightful interview with collegefootballfan.com.

Mile High Sports

 

This week at Collegefootball.com

Notes about teams on this year’s schedule and other stuff:

Our Tailgate buddy Dan Donnelly from Dan’s Tailgate blog is back up on his feet again and doing well after having medical issues that laid him up for week one.  He’s back out on the west coast and will be at the big one this weekend, Michigan State at Oregon.  We talked about this as a potential trip as a follow up to Boyz Weekend last year down at The Grove at Ole Miss.  I just couldn’t swing that long trip this year with all the other things going on. We expect an exclusive report, Dan.  And some pics if you know what I mean!…The AP article about Missouri’s 38-18 win over South Dakota State wrapped up saying that the Tigers “moved to 14-0 all-time against Football Championship Subdivision teams.” That’s something to brag about?  Why shouldn’t they and every other FBS school have a similar record against schools with less scholarships, less money, less media hype, etc. etc.  On the other hand, why have they played so many?  Who impresses us is FCS three-time Champ North Dakota State.  Last week, they handily beat FBS Iowa State, 34-14. They defeated the last five FBS squads they’ve faced: Kansas State (2013), Colorado State (2012), Minnesota (2011), and Kansas (2010). This year they did it under first-year HC Chris Klieman.  Craig Bohl ,who took over at Wyoming this year, coached the Bison in those previous victories.  How many will he tally this year with the Cowboys?…Now that South Carolina took their 52-28 beat down at the hands of A&M, and Clemson got clobbered by Georgia, 45-21, do you think Steve Spurrier and Dabo Swinney will quit exchanging barbs in the media about their November 29 meeting in Death Valley and focus on the other 10 teams they each have to play between now and then?  They continue to play like they did in their openers, the only thing they might be playing for is the championship of the Palmetto State, and who will care?

Tra Carson of Texas A&M carried seven times against the Gamecocks for 30 yards and three TDs.

Tra Carson of Texas A&M carried seven times against the Gamecocks for 30 yards and three TDs.

…RU-tude is raising it’s ugly head already after the Rutgers Scarlet Knights beat Washington State in their opener in Seattle, 41-38. WAZU is improving, but they are not a perennial power house. Mike Leach-coached team always allow as many points as they score.   And RU still couldn’t stop the pass, a major weakness all of last year. A few RU fans have called with the same message in today’s Newark Star Ledger: Rutgers could be 5-0 going in against Michigan.  Everyone gives them FCS Howard, or else pack it in.  QB Christian Hackenburg threw for 454 yards for Penn State last Saturday behind line described as “a mess” in scribe Steve Politi’s article.  Well, they defeated Central Florida with nine returning starters on defense, 26-24. Will RU be able to stop that?  A week later after an emotional Big Ten debut, they travel to Navy.  In recent years, Rutgers had a bye week before Navy to prepare for the triple option. Not this year. We’ll be at both games to see if the RU-tude is the same as it’s been the last 30 years…Army opens at home against Buffalo this weekend.  HC Jeff Moncken fresh from Georgia Southern, has a two-deep offensive line that includes five plebes (freshman). Sounds like he’s building for the future, or he must have had a great recruiting class…On a bright note for Rutgers offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen was named Athlon Sports Coordinator of the Week.  The former HC of Maryland did look like he had his offense looking pretty good for the comeback win…Due to a family obligation this Friday night and Saturday, we have to miss the Albright vs. Kean  game and James Madison at Lehigh.  If we do go to a game on Saturday, it could be No. 10 Fordham at No. 7 Villanova. The Wildcats bypassed the Rams in the polls this week after losing in overtime to FBS Syracuse in OT, 27-26. They moved up seven spots with a loss.  The Rams will be fired up.  Another possibility is a later start with Lafayette, defending Patriot League Champs, playing at Sacred Heart in the openers for both.  Lafayette had the highest APR among all the FCS playoff teams last year.  Of course, they were ousted in the first round…There’s evidence of an upcoming shootout in Norfolk when we see Old Dominion host Marshall.  In a 41-28 win over Hampton, ODU’s Taylor Heinecke completed 29 of 40 for 281 yards, 3 TDS, but threw 2 INTs.  In Marshall’s 42-27 victory over Miami (O), QB Rakheem Cato played more than half the game and left with a significant lead completing 21 of 33 for 264 yards and three TDs. It was his 33rd consecutive game with a touchdown pass. The NCAA record is 38 held by Russell Wilson formerly of NC State and Wisconsin.  If Cato keeps connecting, we will see him shoot for his 37th straight when we see the game at Foreman Field…QB Jeremy Johnson played for Auburn in the first half for suspended Nick Marshall. He threw for 243 yards and two TDs in the 45-21 win over Arkansas…Towson fell to No. 19 in the FCS from No. 7 with the loss to Central Connecticut. The Blue Devils with that win after a 3-8 season received 13 votes. Princeton who hasn’t played yet and who we will see play Brown on October 18, has 11. Lehigh, who we see still versus Lafayette in their 150th meeting this November, has four votes before their opener. Even Delaware, who lost to Pitt, 62-0, in the “Joe Flacco Bowl”, received a vote. Go figure.

" Le Regiment"

” Le Regiment”

A&M’s Allen passes through South Carolina sieve; Ohio State ovecomes Navy; Central Connecticut springs upset over Towson in Week 1

You’ve heard the spin from the big media outlets, now you can get the real stories.  We spent Thursday through Saturday attending, travelling, and since analyzing to our first three games of the 2014 season.  Come back for our stories as they will all be posted by Monday evening.

Carolina cheerleaders get their fans ready before kickoff.

Carolina cheerleaders get their fans ready before kickoff.

 

Columbia, SC – (Aug. 28, 2014)   You’ve heard all the “experts” (spin doctors) report on the domination of Texas A&M’s sophomore QB Kenny Hill over South Carolina in his successful debut of displacing former and controversial “Johnny Football” as he eclipsed the A&M game mark with 511 passing yards last Thursday as the Aggies throttled SC, 52-28. It was both the season opener and SEC opener for both teams. Hill, who Manziel christened “KennyFootball” during an ESPN interview, completed 44 of his 60 passes and threw for three TD passes. It was no shocker the way the Gamecock defense played that he threw no interceptions. His numbers are very impressive for a first-time signal caller no doubt. However, his competition was not! The Aggie passing game set up three short rushing TDs by Tra Carson who carried the ball in three times among his seven carries for only 30 yards. On the other side of the ball, Dylan Thompson was respectable completing 20 of 40 for 366 yards, four TDs, and one INT, but he was throwing into a defense that had some teeth compared to what Hill threw against.

A&M defender demonstrates tight pass coverage to WR Nick Jones of South Carolina.

A&M defender demonstrates tight pass coverage to WR Nick Jones of South Carolina.

 

 

Slant passes, crossing patterns, fade routes, all patterns – the Gamecock defense was never close to covering receivers no matter what patterns the Aggie receivers ran when Hill threw their way. Pass coverage was horrid – worst ever witnessed in the memory of our 460 college football games. One wonders what the Gamecock defenders have been practicing since the beginning of the spring semester. Maybe they conditioned themselves in the weight room for body building and ran so they could make the track team. However, weight training and running drills are supposed to condition football players, especially DBs, for hard hitting to punish a receiver when he puts his hands on a football and for covering speedy, quick receivers closely – at least once in a while. These “defenders” did neither. They embarrassed themselves never challenging receivers, never batting down any ball from a receiver’s hands, nor making any solid hits to make a receiver think twice next time the ball came his way. One, two, or even three would-be tacklers in the secondary slid off Aggie receivers on multiple occasions on many plays. It looked as if Gamecock defenders had “greased” themselves down to make tackling more challenging than what it should be. Aggie receivers slipped arm tackles throughout the game after catching the football. “Yards after missed tackles” don’t show up on any official post-game stat sheets. For this game I’d love to know what the total misses and yards totaled, but I’m sure the coaching staff at Carolina has been analyzing those numbers closely since Thursday night and figuring out changes to remedy those problems. Carolina fans felt particularly let down after the game. Another SC Dad on his way out of Williams-Brice after the game ended was overheard saying to his daughter, “I came all the way out from Chicago to see this?” I was shocked into the same line of question as I selected the Cocks with all their returning experience to win the SEC East and end up in the College Football Playoff (CFP). So much for that now. With key RB Mike Davis out of action and questionable for East Carolina this Saturday, they may not win a game in their first three as Georgia, winner over Clemson (45-21), comes to Columbia the week after.

What really kills me though is the spin put on by ESPN – Hill’s accuracy, laser passes, and big numbers. Granted, we saw those things, too, but no mention was made pertaining to the horrendous play of the Gamecock defense. Credit Steve Spurrier for his honesty after the game about being outcoached and outplayed by A&M all around on Thursday evening. His body language along the sideline during the game indicated disappointment and frustration. We could only imagine the look on his face from where we sat in the upper deck. He had to have that crooked sneer of disbelief on his face. During the postgame, he commented something along the line of “How’d you like that 3-4 defense?” 3-4? 4-3? 5-2? “Spur”? Seven in the box? Dime? Nickel package? Whatever you want to call the defense, if you can’t cover receivers to prevent them from catching the ball nor tackle them, the defensive alignment doesn’t make a difference!

Hardreck Walker and A.J. Hilliard put the pressure on Dylan Thompson.

Hardreck Walker and A.J. Hilliard put the pressure on Dylan Thompson.

Speaking of missing tackles, we saw and heard how well ESPN can spin things to favorably present their desires in a light favorable to them – like the overall strength of the Southeast Conference. Highlights shown for the 59-31 Western Kentucky win over Bowling Green showed replays of missed tackles by Falcon defenders by the numbers on one play to show their ineffectiveness. They could have been doing exactly that for most of the 44 receptions by the Aggies against the Carolina defense. That’s probably how they got the idea for the Friday night game they televised from this game on Thursday. They showed an angle of Hill’s 14-yard TD pass to Edward Pope that was described as a “laser” as it passed the defender who was ineffectively out of position to begin with. The highlight of his five-yard TD pass to Josh Reynolds to take a 38-14 lead on the first series of the second half made no mention that he caught it before going out of the end zone while the Gamecock defender watched flatfooted near the pylon on the goal line. What kind of pass coverage was that? Is that what they teach DBs at Carolina, or did he just quit on the coverage? Short passes turned into big plays for A&M, mostly to the credit of a very weak Gamecock defense. Don’t believe me? Go back and watch the highlights yourself on their website. Turn off the sound, ESPN’s great equalizer.

It was horrible display of defensive (or rather lack of defensive) football. It looks like the SC staff may change to the 4-3 this week to get ready for East Carolina who will be running a similar offense to A&M’s next Saturday. However, the Gamecocks look more like they need a solid week of tackling drills and pass coverage, things they should have been working on since spring drills started. You now wonder what they were doing during all that time aside from reading their press clippings (or more likely blogs, fan emails, and the World Wide Web now-a-days. Maybe they should read this one instead).

First of all in the aftermath, we give credit to Aggie HC Kevin Sumlin for being a very good coach who came up a highly effective offensive plan that had the Cocks back on their spurs starting with the very first drive. They kept it going from there scoring five of the first seven times they had possession. Give Spurrier and his staff no credit for having their defense prepared to start with or making any adjustments to improve the coverage during the game. The coaching staff can’t make tackles of course, but maybe they should add someone to their staff who can teach their players how to evidiently. Get ready possibly for some more big numbers from Hill against Lamar, Rice, and SMU during the next three weeks, but maybe these programs have actually taught ther defenses some of the basics. If not, you can understand why we are all seeing and wondering why there are so many record-breaking passing performances in college football in recent years. Are the QBs that much better, or are the skills to defend against them lacking more and more?

Extra points: Our pal, Dan Donnelly of Dan’s Tailgate blog, had an urgent medical issue and regretfully couldn’t attend his first Gamecock game at Williams-Brice Stadium with us. Thankfully, we hear he’s doing better and will be traveling from his northern California home this weekend to see a good one next Saturday when Michigan State visits Oregon. We’d sure like to be at that one, too. We won’t see Dan now until Army-Navy. Check out his blog in the meantime.

Dan was able to hook me up with a couple of his acquaintances we had planned to meet in Columbia when we were both there – Kevin O’Connor and Mike (whose last name I’ve forgotten). Kevin is an Arizona State grad and a die-hard Sun Devils fan. Mark’s an Iowa grad and early in his career in the early 80s coached football at Eastern Michigan. We shared stories about times had by both of us in Iowa City. Both were in town not just to see the blow-out we witnessed on Thursday night, but both came to Colombia to watch their daughters play for Gardner-Webb in the South Carolina Women’s Volleyball Invitational. All of us had adjusted to our travel and logistical issues we had all run into getting into town, so we met up at the Holiday Inn where Mark and his wife were staying. He brought his beer cooler down to the lobby, and when Kevin showed up, he had a blender and Margarita mix all ready to make. I admired their resourcefulness as we got together on a somewhat impromptu basis. I was coordinating a beer delivery from my daughter Alex for a later tailgate party that didn’t happen as others also got started late at the lot for the 6 pm kickoff. With Kevin, Mark, and some of their family members, we went to Wild Wing Café right down Assembly Street before heading off to meet others at Williams-Brice. I see that the Runnin’ Bulldogs Ladies’ Volleyball team lost three games in Columbia over the weekend, but I can guarantee that Kevin and Mark and their families made the most for a good time between matches!

Before the game, Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Alexander, a US Marine seriously wounded in Afghanistan in 2010 and now a student at South Carolina, was on hand before the game to lead the student body in pre-game cheers.

Medal of Honor Winner Kyle Alexander leads South Carolina Student body in pregame cheers.

Medal of Honor Winner Kyle Alexander leads South Carolina Student body in pregame cheers.

 

Navy and Ohio State players meet for a pregame hand shake.

Navy and Ohio State players meet for a pregame hand shake.

Baltimore, Maryland – (Aug. 30, 2014) Ohio State (1-0) overcame early struggles against Navy’s triple option that gained 370 yards on the ground, and prevailed with 21 points late in the game to win in the opener for both teams, 34-17. Ohio State’s redshirt sophomore QB J.T. Barrett filled in for injured incumbent Braxton Miller and threw for 226yards and two TDs while also rushing for 50 yards in his debut.

The Mids (0-1) led at the end of the first half, 7-6, thanks to a diving TD to the pylon by DeBrandon Sanders to cap a 75-yeard scoring drive. Before intermission, Navy HC Ken Niumatalolo fumed at his offense expending their final time-out with nine seconds remaining. He wanted a few more yards to move Nick Sloan’s subsequent attempt closer to add three more points to their halftime margin. Sloan’s attempt was long enough, but wide right. USNA was even more ineffective using its time-outs in the second half which limited their ability to compete late in the game.

 

Navy started moving the football effectively down field during the opening drive of the third quarter to the OSU 36 until DE Joey Bosa forced a fumble on a pitch by Keenan Reynolds ( 42 yards rushing, 1 TD) and strongside LB Darron Lee scooped it up for the Buckeyes and returned it 61 yards for a 13-7 lead. Navy shocked most of the scarlet-clad crowd of 57,579 as the Mids put together a four-play drive of 84 yards to retake the lead, 14-13, with Reynolds taking it over from the one. SB Ryan Williams-Jenkins (7 carries, 118 yards) sliced through the Buckeye defense to gain 67 yards to the OSU 17 to put the Mids in scoring position quickly. However, on second and goal, Navy called time out to avoid a 5-yard delay of game penalty. It would be at least one of two wasted time-outs. After an exchange of punts, Barret fired his first pass downfield to WR Devin Smith who beat the secondary badly and went on to score 80 yards on a one-play drive to take a 20-14 lead to go into the final period. Navy had taken a second time-out after a sack during its previous offensive series. For an option team in a close game late in the game, it is very difficult to control the clock for any late scoring comeback attempts.

Buckeye defense stops Keenan Reynolds short of the goal line.

Buckeye defense stops Keenan Reynolds short of the goal line.

 

 

Reynolds pitches to DeBrandon Sanders around Ohio State defense for a Navy touchdown on the next play.

Reynolds pitches to DeBrandon Sanders around Ohio State defense for a Navy touchdown on the next play.

 

Early in the fourth, Navy cut the lead to 20-17 with Sloan’s 32-yard FG. By this time, Buckeye HC Urban Meyer realized that his bigger but inexperienced offensive line was beginning to wear down the Naval Academy. His team rushed nine times among the next ten plays for an 80-yard scoring drive with Ezekiel Elliot scoring from the ten. OSU now led, 27-17. Niumatalolo put his team at greater risk by using its final time-out during the scoring drive. After a short gain on a third and three for a first down, he called time out hoping the play would be reviewed and reversed, but to no avail. This was truly a big mistake. His team that completed only two of four passes for 20 yards in the passing department now had no timeouts with time running out. Guest game analyst (GGA) Barry Rappe, an Ohio state grad and fan I attended the game with along with his son Mike and a friend Mike ( aka “Jeff’), a rabid Buckeye fan, questioned why Navy now ran the ball up the middle on all three plays of its next series in which OSU forced them into a three and out. He noted how well Navy optioned around the ends throughout and could only stop the clock now by running out of bounds. The Buckeyes took over from their 30. They overpowered Navy rushing the ball while eating away the minutes. Barrett finalized the score with a nine-yard pass to Michael Thomas for the OSU win, 34-17. Ohio State remained on the field with the Mid players to listen to the alma mater “Navy Blue and Gold” as part of a USNA tradition, win or lose. Navy returned the same respect in front of the Ohio State’s Marching Band known as “The Best Damned Band in the Land” while they played their school song, “Carmen Ohio.” The Buckeyes could and would never do this with Michigan! TBDBITL dotted the “i” in Script Ohio during their halftime performance.

Ohio State hosts Virginia Tech next Saturday. Tech bested William and Mary in its opener, 34-9. Navy goes to Philly for a 1 pm kickoff against Temple, a 37-7 winner over Vanderbilt of the SEC last Thursday, at “The Linc”. Navy will join Temple and ten other teams next season as a football member of the American Athletic Conference.

Extra points: Barry had gotten us tickets early and could only get them as part of a hospitality package with a pregame tailgate. We’re not complaining, however, there were plenty of empty seats available for a pretty good game at M&T Stadium. Plenty of seats were even blocked when Barry looked into the tickets. We wonder if a strategy to draw a big crowd backfired to scare a lot of potential buyers away. Crab cakes, macaroni and cheese, some kind of tortillas, and beer, wine and sodas were available under tents. We sat with a bunch of local Ohio State fans. I was the only one in Tent 23 wearing a blue jersey.

I stepped out for my interview on the radio with Pete Spadora on his show “Spadora on Sports.” I think Pete is impressed now with my analysis of this game. We will do it again on September 13 at 10:30 am the day of the Rutgers Big Ten debut at home against Penn State. I will be wearing blue among the red at that venue, too.

Had a great burger after the game at a downtown bar and grill (Pete’s? Gotta check with Barry) after the game. The bartender there hustled as she had no table help to serve food to customers sitting outside as well as inside. I’m keeping this in mind when we return on December 13 to Baltimore for this year’s Army-Navy game. I guarantee that we won’t be sitting outside because I’ll guarantee that it will be to coldest Saturday of the year there. That’s part of the tradition for the Army-Navy game!

Ohio State Drum Major leads Script Ohio at halftime.

Ohio State Drum Major leads Script Ohio at halftime.

 

Towson, Maryland – (Aug. 30, 2014) I left Baltimore around 5:30 that evening. With an FCS game a short distance away at 6 pm featuring last season’s FCS playoff runner up at Johnny Unitas Stadium for the first time, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, especially with two days off for Labor Day coming up. In addition, their opponent, Central Connecticut State, despite a 3-8 record a year ago, starred a bona fide preseason All-American in All-purpose RB Rob Holloman. The Towson Tigers enter the 2014 season as defending Colonial Athletic Conference champs ranked No. 7 in the nation despite a lot of key losses to graduation. Their 2013 star RB, Terrance West, was drafted this past spring in the third round by the Cleveland Browns. HC Rob Ambrose in his sixth season returns with 29 wins, two CAA championships, and two FCS playoff entrants in the past three seasons. The Blue Devils of the Northeast Conference look to turn things around with Rob Holloman who rushed for over 1,000 yards the last two seasons and appears on the FCS watch list for the Walter Payton Award, the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy in the FCS. This looked like an interesting game to cap off my first weekend of college football.

I got to Johnny U. Stadium during the first minute of play and moved to the press box side opposite the “visiting” stands filled in substantially by the Towson student body and band primarily wearing bright yellow t-shirts for “Gold Rush” night. It sounds like pledge week for their frats and sororities. They had a great turnout to support the team through the first half any way.

 

The Central Connecticut Blue devils get comfortable in front of the Towson University student section.

The Central Connecticut Blue Devils get comfortable in front of the Towson University student section.

Both teams struggled early trying to establish an offensive rhythm in their first game as only a missed FG by CCSU was the only possession not resulting in a punt during the first quarter. Early in the second, Towson QB Connor Frazier raced for a 24-yard touchdown run on a QB draw play. Rob Holloman returned the ensuing kick 44 yards. The Blue Devil drive resulted in a 38-yard TD pass from Nick SanGiacomo (22 for 28, 273 yards, 2 TDS) to WR Tyrell Holmes ( 4 catches, 102 yards, 1 TD) to knot the score 7-7, and that’s the way things stood going into the second half as neither team mounted another scoring threat. The Towson band and dance team entertained at halftime before the band got the student body pumped up as part of the interactive festivities in the stands. It’s rare to see a visitor’s bench in front of the home student section, its band, and their cheerleaders, and everything else. It should be a supposedly intimidating factor at a small school venue with a capacity of 11,198 that gets a pretty good student turnout. Were the Blue Devils intimidated?

Both teams were still trying to overcome early season sluggishness on offense when CCSU started a drive at TU’s 49 midway through the third. SanGiacomo connected with Holloman on a drag pattern across the middle in the end zone for a five-yard scoring pass with 7:00 remaining in the quarter. A botched snap of the PAT left the Devils with a 13-7 lead. After a kick out of bounds, Towson started from its own 35 and was forced to punt from their 39, but a roughing the kicker call sustained their drive. RB Darius Victor (19 carries for 105 and 1 TD) bulled his way to the seven before he took it over right tackle for a seven-yard TD and a one-point Tiger lead. Both offenses seemed to finally find some life. All American candidate Rob Holloman ( 161 rush yards, 48 passing yards, 64 kickoff return yards, and seven punt return yards) blasted through the Tiger defense for a 74-yard burst to the three of TU before he took it over from there. The Devils converted a reverse end around with Willie Quarles running it around the left side for the two-point conversion and a 21-14 lead. Later in the period, Towson DE Drew Cheripko recovered a SanGiacomo fumble and TU took over at CCSU’s 19. On the very next play, Frazier (14 for 25, 125 passing yards, 1 TD, 80 yards rushing and 2 TDs) connected with TE Tanner Vallely who hauled it in about ten yards out to even the score 21-21 with 25 ticks left in the third. The game looked like it would go down to the wire.

 

Darius Victor (7) on the move for the Towson Tigers.

Darius Victor (7) on the move for the Towson Tigers.

 

Holloman returned the next kick out to the 41. This drive resulted in a 32-yard FG by Ed Groth. Trailing now 24-21, Frazier took the snap at Central’s 49, broke off left tackle and ran unscathed the length of the field for a 49-yard score. The extra point was missed, but Towson seemed in control again on defense forcing Central to punt from the 33, but a roughing the kicker call against TU this time kept the Blue Devils on offense. Facing a staunch Tiger defense on a fourth and 13 at the TU 36 with 1:18 remaining, San Giacomo found Joey Fields for a 34-yard pass play to convert for a first down at the two of TU. At the: 36 mark, Holloman scored his third touchdown of the day from there to take the lead and go ahead, 31-27. Towson’s offense with the help of an interference call got into striking range at Central’s 30 for a last gasp pass into the end zone, but the ball bounced off someone’s hands and out of bounds as time expired. With no TV coverage at this game, the officials raced off the field to the locker room, and Central Connecticut pulled off their season opener upset over the No. 7 Tigers, 31-27. It was a fantastic finish to a three-game weekend. The lower divisions may not be as talented as the FBS, but playing amongst themselves, the game of college football is still exciting!

 

Rob Holloman moves the Tiger line for the final score.

Rob Holloman moves the Tiger line for the final score.

 

Next week, Towson steps up for a money grab when it shows up in Morgantown to play West Virginia, loser to Alabama last Saturday, 33-23. What’s the sense (oh, cents!)? CCSU tries to build momentum for a successful season when they host a newer CAA squad, the Albany Great Danes, at Arute Field.

Extra points: For his performance, Holloman was named not only Northeast conference Player of the week, but FCS offensive player of the week. HE tallied 280 all-purpose yards and three TDs.

Johnny Unitas had three of his kids attend Towson. He was committed to the school’s fundraising as community liaison for the athletics department. In 1992, He passed away less than a week after throwing his last pass to celebrate the opening of Towson’s new stadium, which he was assisting in finding naming rights for. His wife Sandy carried out the fundraising in his place and supposedly quite successfully as she attained the sponsorships for the venue now named Johnny Unitas Stadium.

Besides Terrance West, Towson presently has three other former players in the NFL. For Giants fans like myself, here are two Towson grad of note who helped the Giants win a Super Bowl – PR specialist/RB Dave Meggett and P Sean Landeta.

 

Fantastic finish to our first weekend of the 2014 college football season!

Fantastic finish to our first weekend of the 2014 college football season!

Upcoming weekend game notes

South Carolina is the only undefeated team in the annals of our 34-year history who has played more than six games and are still undefeated at 8-0. A&M and Mizzou will visit Columbia this year and we plan to see … Continue reading