Game 550: Penn State Nittany Lions sleep walk through Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 35-6

Game 550: Penn State Nittany Lions sleep walk through Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 35-6

State College, PA – After three consecutive weeks played by Penn State in games critical to put them into position to vie for the 2017 College Football Championship series – beating Michigan handily in front of a record crowd before losing late at Ohio State by one and then to Michigan State by three on the last play at East Lansing – our Game 550 resulted in the Lions sleep walking over B1G foe Rutgers (4-6, 3-4) despite a final score of 35-6.  The Lions spotted the Knights two FGs early into the second period to trail 6-0.  As my season ticket-holding neighbor seated in front of me said at about that point, “Somebody should tell them this is Rutgers.”  They must have heard her.

The Nittany Lion welcomes the Scarlet Knight to Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley.

Two years later, Game 550 already

For, this contest became our Game 550 of all time.  Though we hosted two busloads of friends, fans, and well-wishers at that November 21, 2015 celebration held at West Point where Army hosted this same Rutgers program to celebrate Game 500, Vince Gallo who attended that grand occasion joined me as GGA for this mile marker (Game 600 is a couple of years away).  Today, he attended his first game ever at Beaver Stadium, home of the Nittany Lions (8-2, 5-2).  What impressed Vince most was how just about every Penn State fan dressed in the school colors of navy blue and white adorned with some form of a Penn State logo.  He mentioned that he was happy to wear his Centenary (NJ) College ball cap which with the same colors helped him fit in somewhat. Next time, he said, he’ll buy a Penn State ball cap.

PSU LB Brandon Smith (47) puts the stop on Gus Edwards (13) during a second quarter drive by the Knights. S Nick Scott (4) moves in to assist.

Gotta have some Harte

After Andrew Harte’s second field goal of the day gave Rutgers a 6-0 lead early in Q2, the Lion offense woke up after starting a drive from the 35 since the RU kick drifted out of bounds.  After two long passes by QB McSorley (16 for 21, 214 yards, two TDs; 13 rushes for 44 yards, one TD) moved the Lions to the Scarlet Knights 15, he faked the handoff to RB Saquon Barkley who drew several Knights’ tacklers his way and McSorley swerved and dodged several remaining defenders up the middle for a 20-yard TD run.  PSU took the lead right then and there to never look back again.  The Lion defense bounced out of its early trance and forced Rutgers after that to punt seven straight times following three -and-outs.  Late in the second, McSorely’s 22-yard touchdown pass into the end zone to WR DaeSean Hamilton gave PSU a 14-6 lead heading into halftime of Game 550.

The Lions held RU QB Giovanni Rescigno (17) to 43 passing yards and the run game to 157 for total of 200 yards of total offense.

Veterans’ Day tributes on display

At halftime, The Penn State Blue Band and its Alumni band in town for their annual Homecoming festivities paid tributes to veterans of all our Armed Forces on this Veteran’s Day.  Before the game, Vince and I had perfect views of the pre-game flyover as we walked toward Beaver Stadium having hit major traffic delays on the way in.  As a matter of fact, we watched the three F/A 18 Hornet strike fighters practice over Happy Valley several times from our car.  State College requires early arrivals for noon kickoffs when 107,531 fans basically arrive en masse before the early start.  Some early morning changes to our original plans set us back, but to Vince’s point, despite our late arrival into our seats late in Q1, we didn’t miss a thing.

The Blue Band half time tribute to the Air Force as seen on the Beaver Stadium video board as part of their dedication performance on Veterans’ Day.

Penn State takes off…

Kicking off to start Q3 of Game 550, Penn State forced a fumble from returner Janarion Grant.   However, the Lions could not capitalize.  A sack of McSorley by CB Dacoven Bailey set back the Nittany Lions into punt formation at the RU 36.  Rutgers punted back three plays later.  Barkley, the key the Knights determined to stop offensively, carried 14 times for only 35 yards.  However, he finished off this series with a one-yard TD run for a 21-6 lead.  The big play on this drive was McSorely’s pass to WR DaeSean Hamilton in the right flat who pitched it to Barkley coming around the right side to get in to the one.   The visitors from The Birthplace of College football lined up to punt after its next thee plays, but their fake run through the middle by TE Jerome Washington resulted in a two-yard loss with the Lions taking back over on Rutgers 46.  Barkley ended the drive with a four-yard run to give the Lions a 28-6 lead into the remaining period.

Barkley (26) scores from the four-yard line in the third period to increase PSU’s lead, 28-6.

 …and lands.   

On a drive starting from its 38 in the final period, PSU scored on a 16-yard pass play to TE Mike Gesicki (Manahawkin, NJ) to finalize the score, 35-6, with 6:52 left.  The Lion’s second team defense came in off the cold benches (Kickoff temp at 26 degrees) to take over, and RU’s first team offense drove down to the PSU five before a sack and an incomplete pass put PSU into the victory formation to eat up the remaining 1:01 left.  The Happy Valley fans rejoiced with relief as the sun started to descend after Game 550. They didn’t display the exuberance we had all hoped for after the Michigan last time we were all there together for a huge celebration.

TE Mike Gesicki (88) on the way for his 16-yard TD catch and run to make the score final, 35-6.

Regular season winding down 🙁

Next up for PSU will be Nebraska (4-6, 3-4) at home for Senior Day festivities.  We plan to follow the Lions the following week to see them battle with Maryland in College Park the Saturday after Thanksgiving.   Rutgers stays on the road heading to Indiana who sports the same 4-6 overall record, but who has struggled to only 1-6 in the B1G.  Both programs are seeking two more wins in their final weeks of this season to become bowl eligible.  The Scarlet Knights will host Michigan State the week after they play the Hoosiers.

Frustrated Scarlet Knight sideline.

We add a new rivalry

We at head west all the way to Las Angeles for our first opportunity to go to the LA Memorial Coliseum to see the No. 12 Trojans of USC (9-2, 7-1) take on their cross-town rivals, the Bruins of UCLA (5-5, 3-4) for their 86th meeting. The game won’t mean anything more than pride as the Trojans have clinched the bid to represent the Pac-12 South for the conference championship, and the Bruins look for the opportunity to knock them off with an upset.  We’ll be seeing two outstanding QBs in USC’s Sam Darnold and in UCLA’s Josh Rosen.  We look forward to adding this rivalry to many others attended during our historical past, i.e. Army-Navy, Alabama-Auburn, Pitt-Penn State, Ohio State-Michigan, Clemson-South Carolina, Florida-Florida State, Harvard-Yale, Lafayette-Lehigh (the longest), and Rutgers-Princeton (the first) to name a few.  The LA Coliseum will be the 140th venue we’ve attended to attend a college football game. got to tailgate with a lot of great friends from over the years at West Point for our 500th game on November 21, 2015!

Points After Tailgating

WR Juwan Johnson led the Lions in receiving with five catches for 78 yards while LB Jason Cabinda led the Lions with 11 tackles.  Johnson hails from Glassboro, NJ and Cabinda played for Hunterdon Central HS in Flemington, NJ.

RU’s Janarion Grant was seen limping late in the game.  The Lions kicked to him on every kickoff to the deep left corner of the end zone.  One time the ball sailed out of bounds for a penalty to start RU from the 35.  Another time, Grant looked to get around PSU’s left flank until a long gain was thwarted from behind after 29 yards as he almost broke free.  He is returning from a leg injury suffered last season.  The Lion strategy paid off holding him to only 82 yards on four returns, but look for him to be an exciting return man if he makes it to the pro level.

For, this was our 105th Penn State game today with many thanks to our great PSU alum and friend, John Massimilla, who couldn’t make it today as he was under the weather as they say.  It was a rarity to be there without him.  John has seen many more PSU games than us as we roam the country “to see ’em all”.  Another landmark for us today was PSU’s 80th win that we attended.  As for Rutgers, we saw them fall for the 38th time.  They tied Army now for the most losses in the annals of our history.

Our late arrival actually put us in the last row of the yellow lot, but Vince (right) got a front row view of Mount Nittany during his first trip to Happy Valley before our post-game tailgate.




Game 549: Virginia drops Georgia Tech, 40-36

Game 549: Virginia drops Georgia Tech, 40-36

Charlottesville, VA – Despite numerous dropped passes by the Virginia receivers in the first half and two quick Georgia Tech scores to start the third period for a 15-point lead, the Cavaliers, aka the Wahoos, came back twice from behind late to finally defeat the Ramblin’ Wrecks, aka Yellow Jackets, with 1:22 left to win this ACC Coastal confrontation, 40-36.  This game featured a little of everything – from a TD on a kick-off return, a pick-six, a safety, two-point conversions, lead changes, lightning-quick scores, effective punts,  and long scoring plays on the ground and through the air.  The game started off slowly in the first half as UVA receivers dropped at least seven clearly catchable passes despite the rainy conditions.  So much for wearing fashionable gloves. Take them off!

The Virginia Cavalier rallies his team!

 Special Guest

With this win, the Cavaliers improved to 6-3, 3-2 while Tech fell to 4-4, 3-3.  On a very rainy day, along with our Guest Game Analysts (GGAs) Brian Donnelly (Towson) and Eric Koreivo (USN, PO 2/c) lucked out with “discount” tickets under cover protecting us from steady to driving rains that continued throughout the game in central Virginia.  The rain did not prevent us from tailgating beforehand, however.  Dogfish Head brand brews, Brian’s Old Bay wings specialty, and Philly cheesesteaks imported from South Jersey heated upon the grill primed us for today’s game.   Game 549 was our first game ever at Scott Stadium, home of the Wahoos. We enjoyed having Eric come up from his command in Little Creek, Virginia for the weekend.  He hadn’t gotten a chance to attend a game this season until now, and he’s not sure if he’ll get to another before his deployment in 2018.    At least the one game he made it to turned out to be entertaining.

Georgia Tech cheerleaders had their ups and downs during a very rainy day.

 Slow start, exciting end to first half

Georgia Tech enjoyed a 14-13 lead at the half, but it could have been a significantly different story had UVA receivers not suffered a severe case of the “dropsies” over the course of three series.  Even worse, HB Olamide Zaccheaus (nine caches 98 yards) fumbled the football on his own 14 after which GT QB TaQuon Marshall (6 for 22, 129 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs; 29 carries for 143 yards rushing, 2 TDs) dove over from the one for a short-lived 14-6 lead.  On the ensuing kick-off, UVA’s Joe Reed slipped a tackler on the right, raced across field, dodged a tackler along the left sideline, and 92 yards later had the Cavs back within one again.

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

Score, team , score

On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, if you count extra point conversions and not include the last kickoff, Marshall scored on the fifth play in a row as he bolted over the right side from his 22 for a 78-yard touchdown run. Like lightning which didn’t come from the sky on this rainy day, on the next play from scrimmage, Cav QB Kurt Benkert (21 of 43, 260 yards, 3 TDS, 1 INT), the passer of many dropped passes got picked by LB Bruce Jordan-Swilling who ran it back 27 yards for another GT TD to make the score 28-13. It seemed like the Yellow Jackets were about to ramble away with this game.  “Not so fast, my friend” comes that indomitable phrase to mind from college football sage Lee Corso.

TaQuon Marshall comes out of this pile with a TD for the Ramblin’ Wrecks from Georgia Tech.

Just as quickly as the Ramblin’ Wrecks buzzed off to a sudden 28-13 lead, the Wahoos came aback just as strong in the same period.  Benkert led the Cavs starting from his 22 on a scoring drive capped by his 34-yard TD pass to Andre LeVrone.  On GT’s next series, All-American FS candidate Quinn Blanding intercepted Marshall to set the Wahoos up at Tech’s 30.  Benkert spiraled a pass 28 yards to Doni Dowling in the right corner of the end zone to lead the offensive charge back to within one.  Second-year HC Bronco Mendenhall, formerly HC at BYU, opted for a two-point conversion, and Benkert zipped it to Zaccheaus who held on to it to tie the game at 28-all.

Punt, Wahoos, punt!

Late in the third and early in the fourth, the two teams traded punts.  UVA P Lester Coleman kept Tech deep in their territory. His first of 40 yards put Tech back at the two before a three and out.  He boomed the next from his 23 for 63 yards that rolled out at GT’s 14.  A sack by LB Chris Peace forced another Tech punt from there and the Cavs tool over at the Jackets’ 43.  UVA finally got its first lead off that drive, 31-28, on Mejia’s 28-yard FG.

Tech looked to come back quickly as Marshall heaved a long bomb to his receiver who looked wide open down the middle.  Eric noted that his receiver had to slow up and even come back for it, and because Marshall put a lot of air under it, FS Brenton Nelson swooped in to make the interception.  The Cavs went three and out, but once again, Coleman’s leg was an effective offensive weapon.  He boomed another spiral into the air for 58-yard punt that hopped sideways just once, and the ball died at Georgia Tech’s three.  On the next snap, LB Jordan Mack applied pressure and the ball fell loose from Marshall’s hands into the end zone.  He pounced on it to avoid a Wahoo touchdown, but the Cavs came away with two more points for 33-28 lead.

Marshall recovers his own fumble for a safety.

Final Countdown

Tech basically did away with the triple option at this stage to mount a comeback after holding the Cavs to two yards before forcing a punt.  Coleman once again put them deep back at their ten with 7:10 remaining.  Advancing to Virginia’s 33, Marshall connected with a wide-open Ricky Jeune over the middle at 3:10 to retake the lead.  For the two-point try to go up by three, Marshall race left and just hooked the ball around the pylon as he dove to give Tech the lead, 36-33.  The Wahoos took the kick out to their 36.  The dropsies epidemic amongst the orange and blue seemed to be over.  On three of four plays, Benkert completed three passes and added five more yards with a run to get his team to the 27.  With 1:22 left, Benkert lofted a pass toward the end zone down the left sideline where LeVrone caught the ball for a nice over-the-should catch as he crossed the goal line.

Marshall has a man wide open downfield.

UVA was back on top, 40-36.  Tech had three TOs left and used them over a nine-play drive to their 24 down to UVA’s 27 where Chris Peace broke up a pass on fourth down to take back over on downs.  One play in the victory formation and the Cavs are on their way to a bowl game. It was another greet game to enjoy in Game 549, our 17th of this great 2017 season.  The season winds down, but we have nine more and possibly a tenth to see as our fantastic season races to the end.

Brian and I thought the UVA band was one of the best we’d seen in a while.


Virginia heads to Louisville (5-4, 2-4) next week whom we saw lose to Wake Forest last, 42-32.  GT hosts No. 17 Virginia Tech who fell to undefeated Miami last Saturday. goes disappointingly to State College since the Nittany Lions are out of the CFP picture now with consecutive losses to Ohio State by one and to Michigan State by three on a last second FG, 27-24.  They host surprising Rutgers with a 4-5 record in our 550th game since 1979.

Points After Tailgating: Game 549

UVA ILB Micah Kiser led all tacklers with 18 in this game.

Tech totaled only 220 yards on the ground while UVA could tally only 97.

We curtailed any post-game parking lot celebrations in the parking lot due to continuing rain and darkness.  Instead we found BJ’s Micro-brewery.  A chain with five brewing locations, but not this one in Charlottesville.

Virginia-style celebration.


Game 548: Temple shuts down triple-option and launches air attack to ground Navy, 34-26

Game 548: Temple shuts down triple-option and launches air attack to ground Navy, 34-26

Philadelphia – Temple fell to Army West Point on October 21 and had not played since, but before and after the Army game, HC Geoff Collins’s team drilled against the triple-option since mid-October and used that to their advantage last Thursday night in our Game 548.  The Owl defense shut down the Mids’ potent option to hold them to 136 rushing yards on 52 carries to win, 34-26.  The Naval Academy fell for its third straight loss.  The Mids lost QB Zach Abey (25 carries for 60 yards) to an injury in the fourth quarter and went with back-up Garrett Lewis who was more effective passing the ball for USNA late in the game to mount a comeback that fell short.  On the other side of the ball, Temple had Navy’s secondary well scouted and took advantage as QB Frank Nutile (Wayne, NJ) threw four TD passes and hit on 22 of 30 passes, 289 yards, and one INT.  This was undoubtedly Temple’s best played game of the season.  For, our game 548 was the first of two slated for week ten of our 2017 season.

Battle flags

 Speed kills

WR Adonis Jennings took advantage with his speed against Navy’s slow secondary averaging 25.4 yards per his five receptions including two for touchdowns.  To break an early 3-3 tie in the first, Nutile connected down the right sideline with Jennings for a 40-yard score.

In the second period, the Owls finished off an 88-yard drive with Nutile firing an eight-yard scoring pass to Keith Kirkwood to go up, 17-3.  With 9:35 remaining in the first half, Navy methodically drove down field with short runs up the middle.  Rarely did Abey pitch out on the option as they had the offense pretty well diagnosed.  The Mids used all the time left in the first half before Keith Moehring booted a 24-yard FG as time expired to end the first 30 minutes.  Navy would get the ball to start the second half, but they were going to have to display a sense of urgency to catch up with the Owls who had the explosiveness for quick scores against a Navy defense that applied little pressure on the quarterback and loose coverage against their speedy receivers.

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

Stadium fare

Guest Game Analysts Brian Donnelly and “Air Force” Jay met with for game 548 at the local Holiday Inn Parking lot on Packer Ave. where we found a bottom rate parking fee for only $5 – a new CFF record low!  We snacked and drank while sharing tales around the tailgate before heading into Lincoln Financial Field for dinner.  I had promised both that the Philly cheesesteaks from the concession stands in the stadium tasted much better those we purchased in the past from the Philly tourist traps.  They came away very impressed to say the least.  We all ordered with the chopped onions.  The fresh bread and melted cheese combined with the delicious steak hit the spot. rates this and Premio sausage sandwiches as the best stadium selections of all time in our history.  Brian and Jay might agree.  They confirmed that they had eaten great Italian sausage sandwiches in Philly before, but they were unsure of the brand.  I’m sure they were Premios.  We’ve enjoyed them at Citizens Bank Park in Philly, Citi-Field in New York, and Rutgers High Point Solutions Stadium.  They’ll both have to try them again for us to give us their feedback.  If not too full from tailgating when we go back to Lincoln Financial on December 9 to see Army play Navy, maybe Brian and Jay can go in and each order one to give us their approval once they confirm they tried and actual Premio Italian sausage sandwich.

We plan to see the Mids play again at the Linc on December 9 for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.

Widening the gap

Navy’s sense of urgency took a big setback to start the third.  We didn’t clearly see what happened, but the officials ruled returner Zack Fraade signaled for a fair catch at the four. It must have been inadvertent if anything.  Maybe shading his eyes in the bright lights of the Linc as he started to run up field after the catch, but we didn’t notice any evident signal.  It nullified any early momentum for the Navy to build on to start the second half.   Temple took over after the ensuing punt on their 41.  Nutile connected again with Jennings on they fly easily beating his defender for a 34-yard TD to go up, 24-6.  Without an effective option game thus far, things looked bleak for Navy.  However, the Mids came back with a 75-yard drive and scored on a trick play similarly executed by the Owls earlier.  At the TU five, Abey walked behind his linemen to his right apparently calling audibles.  While doing so, the ball was snapped direct to the tailback who rolled left and pitched it to Malcolm Perry on a reverse end around.  The third string QB passed it to Abey standing alone in the right side of the end zone for a Navy touchdown to pull to within 11.  Temple reacted a little more conventionally. An 81-yard drive was highlighted by a 35-yard pass to Jennings who got caught from behind at the Navy one.  Following a two-yard loss, Nutile threw his next TD pass to TE Jake Robinson to take a dominating 31-13 lead into Q4 of game 548.

Abey hauls in option pass for Q3 touchdown.

 Coming back, but…

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Navy HC Ken Niumatalolo finally decided that he needed more air in his game.  The Mids drove to the TU 28.  On fourth down, Abey got sacked.  The Owls took over from their 38.  A FG by Aaron Boumerhi from 32 gave the Owls a 34-13 margin.  Again, Abey took to the air, but this time the result was worse.  S Devlon Randle intercepted to give Temple the ball on its 33, and Navy’s training staff escorted Abey off of the field.  Navy returned the favor with S Micah Farrar picking off Nutile’s pass on a tip to give Navy the ball at the Owl 37.   Garrett Lewis took over for Abey.  He led the offense on its next series into the end zone with a 16-yard touchdown pass to WR Brandon Colon to make the score, 34-19.  Temple blocked the point after attempt.  After that, the USNA defense finally forced a TU punt.  Lewis completed a 48-yard pass to Perry to get to Temple’s 32. Again, the Mids got into the end zone through the air on an eight-yard scoring play to Tyler Carmona with 2:12 left.  Navy was within striking distance now down eight.  The onsides kick was recovered by the Owls and Navy never had another chance to catch up in game 548.

Malcolm Perry on the move for the Mids.

History lesson

Despite the late scores, GGA Brian Donnelly lamented that after having Navy season tickets for 12 years now, he had never seen Navy play so bad.  I had to think about this. Realizing he started attending Navy games back when Paul Johnson had this program on the upswing after his arrival from Georgia Southern back in 2002, I understood his perception.  After about seven years of not attending Navy games before 2006 because they struggled so often before and during these years, memories started to come back.  Navy teams had played a lot worse before then. Thankfully, the Navy football program has obliterated memories of some very futile years.  Hopefully, this is only a short blip on the screen after many successful years under Johnson and now HC Niumatalolo.  This program is still in the right direction, but it may be time for some tweaking to get this defense to be better prepared for teams that like to throw the football.

Coming up

After a 5-0 start, the three losses probably knocked the Mids out of consideration for the Military Bowl on December 28.  However, looking ahead, things may be looking desperate to be attending any bowl game at all.  Next up is improved SMU at 6-3, 3-2.  Talk about a passing team, QB Ben Hicks has 2,588 passing yards and 20 TDs.  After that, the Mids travel to No. 3 Notre Dame who has its sights set on a CFP bid.  Houston stands in the way next currently at 6-3, 3-2 when Navy travels for this clash in the Lone Star state.   Lastly, the Mids will be play archrival Army for the Commander in Chief’s Trophy.  The Cadets are 7-2, on a five-game winning streak, and just off a 21-0 shutout of Air Force in Colorado Springs.  Navy has its work cut out to get a bowl invite against these four foes.  Their defense needs to shape up quickly.

Temple heads to Cincinnati to play their AAC East foe Bearcats. looks forward to our first trip ever to Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, VA after game 548 to see an improved but faltering Virginia Cavalier team (5-3, 2-2) host Georgia Tech (4-3, 3-2) running the triple option under aforementioned former Navy HC Paul Johnson.  Should be fun!  (It was a great game.  Come back to check out our story line this Tuesday morning)

Game 547: Demon Deacons leave Louisville trailing in wake, 42-32


Game 547: Demon Deacons leave Louisville trailing in wake, 42-32

Winston-Salem, NC – Wake Forest enjoyed a 35-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter of Game 547 thanks to four TD passes from QB John Wolford to WR Greg Dortch.  However,  the result remained in doubt until the waning minutes against Louisville led by 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson for Wake to finally take this ACC Atlantic clash,  42-32.  Despite Wake’s early domination, Jackson became more elusive late in the game rushing for a total of 161 yards and three TDs while completing 22 of 44 passes for 330 yards and one TD.

The scoreboard operator at BB&T Stadium at Wake Forest displayed wishful thinking on the home team scoreboard in the third of our Game 547, but the Demon Deacons won nonetheless, 42-32.

For, we attended our seventh WFU game ever, but experienced our first at BB&T Stadium in Winston-Salem.  GGA George Lazarides (Johns Hopkins) and I had the great pleasure of staying with our good friends Jim Harton (WFU) and his wife Courtenay (UNC Greensboro)  who recently retired back in their native North Carolina and who now revel in being season ticket holders who meet and tailgate with a great group of their Wake Forest friends.   In the end, impressed the WFU fandom as we noted that their Deacs now stand at 7-0 in the annals of our Game 547 history.  We are invited back again already.

Demon deacon sideline action.

 Decisive Action

Trailing 35-17 early in the fourth, the Cardinals (5-4, 4-1) drove from their ten to the Demon Deacon six to attempt to score on fourth and goal.  Jackson’s pass fell incomplete to turn the ball over.  WFU looked to eat up the clock and lock this game up on the ensuing drive with RB Matt Colburn (24 carries for 134 yards) doing the brunt of running the football.  On fourth and one, Louisville looked to jump offsides from our angle, but no flag flew and Colburn got stopped for no gain. The ball went back on downs to the visitors from Kentucky on their 38.  From his 48, Jackson raced the length of the field to put up six and the PAT with 1:10 remaining.

Lamar Jackson breaks loose for 52-yard TD run on late comeback attempt to close the score, 35-25.

The ensuing onsides kick handled by WFU’s Jesse Bates gave the Deacs possession on the Cardinal 46.  With three time-outs left, Bobby Petrino’s LU defense stacked the box.  They stopped Colburn for on a two-yard gain and called their first time-out.  I called Wake Forest’s next play for Jim and George.  Sure enough, the call came from HC Dave Clawson’s mind to my lips.  Wolford, who had his best game ever according to die-hard Demon Deacon followers, faked a hand-off to the dive back and rolled right on an attempted option, stopped, stood, and fired the ball to wide open Chuck Wade who ran the rest of the 44 yards for a TD and a 42-25 Demon Deacon lead.  WFU fans breathed a little easier, but as Jim stated, he never believes the outcome of a Wake Forest win until he reads about it the next morning.  With :57 left, the game seemed to be in the bag, but…

QB John Wolford (10) led Deacons on two touchdown drives in the first  for a 14-3 lead.

Lasting Impressions

With only 14 seconds left, Jackson threw a touchdown pass of 20 yards, after having run for three earlier, to WR Charles Standberry to close the gap 42-32. The next onsides kick was gathered in by the Deacs’ Scotty Washington (six catches for 133 yards). Wolford (28 of 34, 461 yards, 5 TDs, and 0 INTs) finally took a knee in the victory formation just once as time expired.  Jim would check the internet at 5:30 am the next morning to confirm the Wake Forest victory and inform his friends.   Great game!  Exciting plays.  Impressive players.

Dortch hauls in a catch for a four-yard TD. He was injured on the play, but returned to score two more touchdowns after this.



Next week, the Deacs travel to South Bend, Indiana to play No. 5 Notre Dame (7-1).  Louisville will host Virginia in two weeks, and we’ll have the scouting report if Bobby Petrino wants our play-calling expertise since we will see the Cavaliers (5-3,2-2) host Georgia Tech (4-3, 3-2) this Saturday at Scott Stadium, another first-time ACC venue for us.  However, before that game, we’ll be at Lincoln Financial Field in Philly Thursday night to see Navy (5-3, 3-2) try to get back on the winning track when they play AAC East foe Temple (3-5,1-3). As for Wake Forest, we told Jim and his friends that we’re willing to bring our 7-0 WFU record with us if the Demon Deacons make it to the PinStripe, Military, or Belk bowls this year.  We plan to be at all three and the ACC will be playing in each as well.


Points After Tailgating

In Jim’s pregame assessment of Game 547 for us, he said to keep an eye on red-shirt freshman WR Greg Dortch. He’s the most exciting player he’d ever seen.  His ten catches for 167 yards and four TDs proved what Jim had reported.  He made tacklers miss on kickoffs (two for 50 yards in total)  as well as pass receptions. The red-shirt frosh from Richmond, VA beat defenders badly on several patterns. His scores came on receptions from 32, 4, 25, and 52 yards out.  He also missed another TD scored as he lunged across the goal line on a 29-yard pass play in the third only to have the ball fall out of his hand as he extended past the pylon for what was ruled a touchback.   Dortch scored on his longest catch of the day after that.  We think we saw a potential Heisman candidate playing against a previous winner here.   However, Jim reported to us on Monday that on one of the TDs where he remained on the ground after in the second period, something must have happened because he is out for the season with some kind of stomach injury.  We’ll keep an eye out for him in the future.  We would have liked to see what he could do against Notre Dame next week.

Dortch torched the Cardinal secondary for 25 yards on this TD in the second period.

Lamar Jackson is an exciting, elusive player to watch. He ran for scores of 7, 4, and 52 yards.  I have to believe that the difference for him between this year and last was the experienced linemen he had a year ago.  Even with less experienced players in front of him this year, he still makes things happen on offense.

2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson on the move.


George and I met Jim on Friday at the Foothills Micro-Brewery recommended to us by another Jim at our Delaware vs. JMU game on September 30.  We have to thank that Jim for the recommendation before our trek to game 547.  We enjoyed the Amber Ale. They ran out of the Oktoberfest.   The food there was very good as well.  Jim had their Hoppyum in his refrigerator at home and Wake Forest sells it at their stadium.

On Friday after lunch,  Jim took George and I for a tour of Wake’s campus. He toured us around like he owned the place which was great.  He takes great pride now in starting to set up a better rapport between the Chemistry department at WFU and the chemical industry where Jim retired from after 40 years in leadership positions.  He reminisced walking around about some of his greatest memories and great times while in school.  He told us of his friends we’d meet at the tailgate and told us no one would call him “Jim”. Instead he was known to his great fraternity friends he partied with at school as “Bug” and to his smart friends he studied with known as a “Boog-a-loo”, or something like that.  On Saturday at the tailgate, a lot of people called him “Bug”.  Tailgating is about having great times and sharing great friendships (and a lot of great eats and drinks, too).

Ironman” George Lazarides on the far left and yours truly on the far right flank WFU alum “Bug”, “1-Iron”, and “Goober”. Picture taken by their fellow alum, “Wheels”.  She was wearing very high, fashionable hip boots.

We met a lot of Jim’s friends while tailgating by their nicknames. One die-hard Deacon alum among the group we met was Earl, but he claims to have 47 or 48 nicknames given to him by fraternity brothers over the years. Many would be unprintable here.  Earl insists that we get together again for some future Wake Forest games.  We look forward to doing that.

More Wake Forest sideline activity.

We met a lot of Bugs’ friends, had great food, enjoyed great drinks, heard lot of stories from their school days, and talked Wake Forest football for which many of them are excited about under fourth year HC Dave Clawson. We saw him coach Fordham in a playoff game against Northeastern in Boston back in 2002 on Thanksgiving weekend when his Rams won, 29-24.  Talk about memories – I can’t believe that that was 15 years ago already! All the little kids, nieces and nephews, are also college alumni now.  Northeastern also gave up football since.  Too bad.

This Isuzu Trooper was left in this parking spot by one of Bugs’ tailgate friends many years ago. It marks the spot they reserve for tailgating.


Game 546: No. 2 Nittany Lions Maul No. 19 Michigan, 42-13

Game 546: No. 2 Nittany Lions Maul No. 19 Michigan, 42-13

State College, PA – Despite facing a vaunted Michigan defense allowing only 223 yards of offense per game, Penn State RB Saquon Barkley and QB Trace McSorley scored early and often leading the Lion offense for 506 yards to revenge a 49-10 loss a year ago and humble Michigan in’s Game 546, 42-13.   Both players scored two and three times respectively on the ground, and both combined on a long pass for another score to lead the Lions during a charged up “white-out” this evening in Happy Valley.

Penn State welcomes Michigan to its White-out!

After a confident Michigan deferred to kick the ball after winning the coin toss to put its defense on the field first, Barkley scored a 69-yard touchdown run taking a direct snap from center on only the second play from scrimmage.  The next time the home team gained possession, the offense drove 78 yards with Barkley racing around the right end for a 15-yard score to re-ignite the charged-up crowd of 110,823 establishing a new attendance record at Beaver Stadium.  The Nittany Lions looked to be on track early to target my predicted final score of 28-0.  It didn’t happen, but the result still shocked PSU Nay-Sayers and True-Blue fans alike!

Heisman candidate  Saquon Barkley (26) sweeps right for a 15-yard TD run for the Lions.

Penn State’s next series resulted in its only turnover of the day as McSorely (17 for 26 passing, 282 yards, one TD, one Int; 11 carries for 76 yards, three TDs) put the ball right into the gut of DB David Long to start the Wolverines from their 41 heading into the second quarter. Michigan made the most of its new-found momentum as the huge crowd started to settle in after the initial shock of an unexpected 14-0 lead.  QB John O’Korn led his team on a 59-yard drive with RB Karan Higdon taking it over from the one. However, the PAT missed the mark and U of M got within eight.

U of M’s Ty Isaac scores from the six to bring his team to within one during the second period.

The Lions got as far as the Michigan 33 on its next series, but gave the ball over on downs.  Big Blue continued to feed off Big Mo.  A 23-yard pass to WR Kekoa Crawford put the visitors at the six.  Ty Isaac took it over from there two plays later to now be within one.  Had the PSU energy been drained after too much anticipation of a blow-out after two quick scores?  In the words of Game Day’s Lee Corso who picked the Lions to win today when the show was hosted that morning near Beaver Stadium, “Not so fast, my friend.”  Seventy-five yards after starting their next possession, McSorely added six more against this tough Wolverine defense with a three-yard TD run. The Nittany Lions’ lead at the half stood at 21-13.

TE Mike Gesicki hauls in one of McSorely’s completions during the second Penn State possession.

Long way away

With a 7:30 pm kickoff, I met Guest Game Analysts and fellow tailgaters John Massimilla, his wife Kelle, and friend Ty at 1:30 to start our pre-game tailgate a little later than usual.  We drove much further through our reserved yellow parking area than ever before.  We ended up within a short distance to the State College Medical facility on the hill to our northeast.  John couldn’t believe how far we parked this day from the stadium.  It turned out to be combination of a little later start than usual for us and indicated that there was evidently a record crowd setting in.  I joked to John that we parked so far away we might as well go see if Bucknell was playing at home in Lewisburg and we could be back on time for the late kickoff.  They all know that would add a game 546 to game 545 within a day if it was possible.  We’ve done it before.

Blue band at the half

Later on, as we started to work our way over to the stadium, we met up with friends Steve and Cari Dawson and Joe Rogers tailgating with some of their other friends from the Danville area where they live.  At “Tailgate Party 409” (JoePa’s total wins) beyond the outfield fence beyond the PSU /State College Spikes baseball stadium, we met up with bunch of younger college fans from the Buffalo area in pursuit of the same goals we’ve been chasing all these years through our Game 546.  They talked about how they’ve recently started out and get to a big game now at least once a year as they get busy with families and jobs and the like.  They dressed appropriately for a PSU White-out with their jerseys and were already having a great time.  We hope they enjoy all their upcoming adventures as much as we do – seeing great games and meeting a lot of other great college football fans along the way as we have.

Joe, Cari, a Danville PSU fan, Steve D, and yours truly before at least two of us went into the game to help set an attendance record at Beaver Stadium.

Second half domination

In the second half, PSU’s first possession started from their 20. The came out firing on all cylinders just where they had left off.  McSorely scored on a 13-yard run to extend the Lions’ lead by 15.  As much as Michigan’s D came into this game with impressive credentials for shutting down opponents, PSU led the nation in scoring defense coming into this game allowing ten points per game.  They held O’Korn to 16 of 28 passing for 166 yards.  The Huntingdon, PA native (home of the alma mater, Juniata College) transferred from Houston to Michigan after HC Tim Herman moved WR Greg Ward Jr. from receiver to QB to run his offense.  Penn State held the U of M running game to only 103 yards on the ground.  They held them in check throughout the third.

Penn State CB Grant Haley (15) turns the Michigan RB  in from the outside  for a short gain.

Early in Q4, O’Korn, sacked seven times in this contest, fumbled on the next one and DT Robert Windsor recovered to put the Lions at Michigan’s 46.  From 41 yards away, McSorley combined with Barkley who kept the ball in the air until he could gain control before he crossed the goal line having beaten two Wolverine defenders for a 35-14 lead.  Michigan’s next drive ended in a sack on a fourth and eleven with PSU taking over at the Michigan 48.  The student section started chanting, “We want Bama!  We want Bama!”  They still have Ohio State and Michigan State to contend with, but why not?  Only a week ago, the national radio stations were talking like only the Buckeyes had a shot for the Big Ten playoff picture going into the CFP, maybe now they are paying closer attention.

Barkley controls McSorely’s pass before heading into the end zone to lead 35-13.

The offense continued to roll.  This drive ended with McSorely running it in from the nine diving and extending the ball over as he dove in from the one.  Penn State was making their statement here, 42-13.

The defense fed off the crowd’s exuberance stopping Michigan with yet another sack on a fourth and 13.  Michigan’s O has not been effective since the beginning of the year.  The defense, overwhelmed today, basically kept them in the hunt for the CFP.  This game 546, despite the two Michigan scores in the second, showed total domination by Penn State over a major Big Ten East rival.  The Lions hope to keep the momentum flowing into the next two critical games to take the Big Ten East this season.

McSorley about to dive in to finish off his nine-yard TD run for tonight’s final score.

Big games ahead

Penn State (7-0, 4-0) travels to Columbus next weekend for a showdown with No. 6 Ohio State (6-1, 4-0).  The Buckeyes will be the ones supposedly looking for revenge this time.  Penn State knocked them out of the Big Ten East championship with a 24-21 win we witnessed last season in an atmosphere at Beaver Stadium like the one there this night.  PSU then took the conference championship with its exciting come from behind 38-31 win over Wisconsin.  On the other hand, Penn State may be the team looking to extract revenge on the Buckeyes as well.  After winning the Big Ten Championship, it was Ohio State that went into the CFP losing in lackluster fashion,31-0, to eventual national champ, Clemson. PSU will travel the following weekend to East Lansing to take on No. 16 Michigan State (6-1, 4-0). heads to our first game ever at Wake Forest with good friends Jim Harton (WFU alum) and George Lazarides of Johns Hopkins fame.  Hopefully the 12:20 kick-off will allow us to catch a major portion of the PSU-OSU game on TV somewhere after 3:30. Wake (4-3, 1-3) will be hosting Louisville (5-3, 2-3) with last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson at QB.  With Penn State’s Saquon Barkley a leading Heisman candidate this season, we may possibly have the distinction of attending two games on consecutive weekends played by Heisman Trophy winners in one season.  How many fans can claim that?

Michigan gets a breather next weekend when they host Rutgers.  Though the Scarlett Knights defeated Illinois and Purdue the last two weeks, don’t think this will continue in The Big House.  You could put Illinois and Purdue on the field at the same time and they will still be nowhere as good as Michigan’s defense.   Not only will Jim Harbaugh be looking for some style points by running up a score, but he likes New Jersey as a primary recruiting territory.  He will be looking to embarrass the Knights.  On top of that, RU HC Chris Ash came from Ohio State to build the new RU program.  Look out!

Wish we could have seen the looks on Jim Harbaugh’s face over the course of this game.

Points After Tailgating

Steve, Cari, and Joe looked for extra tickets and never made it to the game.  The asking price they reported at Beaver Stadium shot up to $500/each.  A lesson in supply and demand.  When 110, 823 people have seats already paid for and are in attendance, you’re going to pay.  Good luck with that next weekend at The Horse Shoe.

PSU WR DaeSean Hamilton became McSorely’s go-to guy in critical passing situations.  He gathered in six passes for 115 yards.  He had defenders beaten on a slant on several key plays.

LB Jason Cabinda led all tacklers with 13 in this game.  PSU LBs were keys to defeating Ohio State last year after all returning from injuries.

The PSU defense needs to play against Ohio State like they did last year even though they are on the road this time.

Game 545: Colgate pastes Fordham, 38-12

Game 545: Colgate pastes Fordham, 38-12

Hamilton, NY – “Pastes” – what better way can we describe the result of our Game 545 as the Colgate Red Raiders enjoyed a 24-0 lead into the third period. Frosh QB Grant Breneman tossed three TD passes over an inept, downtrodden Fordham Rams team to take their third win of the 2017 season, 38-12.

Colgate QB Grant Breneman (15) on a keeper. We’ve seen his brother play twice this season.

Much anticipation, but…

When scheduled game 545 to follow the Clemson at Syracuse game the night before, we looked at this contest with greater anticipation expecting a competitive game between two Patriot League contenders.  We saw Friday night initially as window dressing figuring we’re seeing the defending national champs on the road to another potential CFP season, leaving SU in their wake tattered and torn.  We expected to see these two FCS teams clash with probably one loss each at the most.   The winner, we figured, would gain the upper hand on the other to go after the Patriot League title and a playoff berth.  That vision dissipated over the first five weeks of the season as both came up short game after game.

However, though the game turned out to be between two unexpectedly struggling teams, Colgate’s Andrew Kerr Stadium loomed for many years as a destination to be visited.  For 51 years ago as a kid, I attended my first college football game ever. Busloads of kids in our area traveled down from among the local schools to see Colgate play Princeton on a beautiful fall afternoon.  I’ll never forget it.   The Red Raiders won that day over the Tigers, 7-0. I still have visions of the Tigers’ Marching Band with straw hats, orange tiger-skin blazers, and tiger tails on the ends of slide trombones leading the way.  Unlike today, however, their band actually marched while they performed.  Years later, I realized that the Colgate star running back that day was Marv Hubbard.  He went on to play FB for the AFL’s Oakland Raiders with whom he played in something fairly new called the Super Bowl. It took us until Game 545 to finally get here.

Fifty-one years later; first time at Andrew Kerr Stadium, home of the Colgate Red Raiders.

Game action

After trading punts to start, Colgate stopped Chase Edmonds on fourth down to take over from their 38.  ‘Gate dominated after that.  QB Grant Breneman led them downfield culminating in a three-yard TD pass to WR Tre Caine.  On their next possession, Breneman connected with Owen Buscaglia for 34 yards to the six.  He finished off the drive with a six-yard TD pass to the left side to the end zone to TE Nick Martinsen.

‘Gate’s Tre Caine on his first TD route.

From that point on into late in Q2, the teams exchanged punts.  Colgate mounted a drive to the Fordham 17, but a sack of Breneman gave possession to the Rams with less than a minute to play.  Two plays into the drive, Medlock was picked by LB Dillon Delulis.  As time expired, Chris Puzzi booted a 40-yard FG to close out the first half score at 17-0 in favor of the Raiders.

 New found College football friends

For halftime, I did something different.   I headed back out into the parking lot for a beer with three new friends.  The silver lining to watching what turned out to be a non-competitive game on the field was meeting up with three great guys met in the parking lot before the game.  My new, instant Guest Game Analysts (GGAs) presented me with lots of insight for today’s game.   Bruce, Sam, and Ray.   These season ticket holders who I happened to park right next to, had already started tailgating long before I arrived from Syracuse for Game 545.

This week’s new Guest Game Analysts -Sam, Ray, and Bruce with yours truly.  Great time!

After I finished making several phone calls to a few fans and family to talk about Friday night’s game they all saw on TV, Bruce, Sam, and Ray invited me over for some grilling, snacks, hospitality, and some Ommegang Beer brewed in Cooperstown, NY.  Always good to try the good local beers wherever we go.  We told “tales around the tailgate” and shared some good stories, football history, and some laughs. Sam and Bruce, a Colgate grad, talked about the days when Colgate’s primary rivals were teams like Princeton, Rutgers, and Army.  I’d attended some of those same games over the years.  Ray grew up in Bergen County, NJ and commuted to Fordham in The Bronx to study there.  He and I shared some history about Fordham b-ball when “Digger” Phelps and Charlie Yelverton put the Rams on the basketball map in the late 60’s before Digger left for Notre Dame.   Sam mentioned that they had brought along their extra fourth ticket for today’s game and invited me to sit with them at their 50-yard line seats with a great view.

TE Nick Martinsen hauls in the second TD pass on a similar route run by Tre Caine.

Quick wrap-up

Midway through the third period ‘Gate took over again on downs, this time at the Ram’ 45.  At the 14, Breneman completed to Caine in the end zone again on a 14-yard score to lead, 24-0.  Surprisingly, after this drive, Colgate started to wake up.  They retaliated with an 80-yard scoring drive as Medlock (16 for 32, 215 yards, one TD) tossed a 20-yard pass to WR Austin Longi.  A two-point conversion failed and the Rams trailed 24-6.

Colgate took over and got back on track as well with a 75-yard scoring drive with TB Alex Mathews taking it over from one to give Colgate a 31-6 advantage early in the fourth.  James Holland scored on a 17-yard run for Gate and Zach Davis finished a Fordham drive running it in from the 15.  Final score of Game 545, Red Raiders 38, Rams 12. Instead of the exuberance displayed at the Carrier Dome the night before, the four of us got to walk across the field and check out the polymerized turf.  We treated it gently.

Colgate’s James Holland picks up yardage.

Halfway mark of the regular season

The  good news for Colgate (3-4, 1-1) is that they trail only Lehigh and Lafayette who are both 2-0 in the league. Problem is, the Raiders fell to Lehigh the week before, 41-38.  Sam and Bruce said ‘Gate go hosed.  A ref was even investigated, suspended for the season, and told that he would never officiate another Colgate game again. Never heard of anything like that.  There was a different crew in town this week. We even met some of their friends after the game.

No Patriot team has a winning record this season. Each League member has four or five games left.  It’s wide open for any team to win right now. We predict that whoever wins among them will be out quickly this year in the opening round.  Colgate travels to Worcester, Mass next Saturday to play Holy Cross.  The Rams head to the nation’s capital to play Georgetown.  We at really step things up. We go to see new No. 2 Penn State host Michigan at 7:30 pm.  PSU’s first of three before heading on to  play at Ohio State and then at Michigan State.

Points After Tailgating

We looked forward to seeing a better played game figuring this was an even matchup coming into this season.  Instead, injuries mounted, experience waned at some key positions, and Fordham lacked any energy.   Luke Medlock stepped in a QB for Fordham in place of Grad student QB Kevin Anderson to start his first game ever despite this being his senior season.  Last week, Anderson threw his 70th TD pass in a 14-10 loss to Lafayette, but a leg injury in that game forced him to the bench against the Raiders.

On top of that, we anticipated Fordham RB Chase Edmonds with his sights set on Adrian Peterson’s FCS rushing mark at Georgia Southern.  Not only was he ineffective (18 carries for 53 yards, 0 TDs), but he got pulled out of the game by young HC Andrew Breiner.  Breiner, selected to take over after a successful stint as offensive coordinator for the Rams, is coaching in his second season after taking over for his former mentor Mike Moorhead who is now running James Franklin’s offense at Penn State.

Colgate held Chase Edmonds to only 53 yard. He’s still seven short of the Patriot all-time rushing record.

This Fordham team played nothing like what we saw during four games the last three years.  In Edmonds’ Freshman year, we saw them trounce lowly Rhode Island, defeat Bucknell in OT, and then fall to New Hampshire in the playoffs.  We saw them get beat up by Navy in last season’s opener, but they still went on to an 8-3 record and the playoffs.  Offensive line play lacked to protect Medlock or open holes for Edmonds. It was a letdown to see this program drop from the level it played at the last three years.

Our tailgate neighbors came to support their brother/boyfriend referee. Careful what you say about those refs. You never know who’s sitting nearby!

Not to take anything away from Colgate’s win. Their prime RB James Holland we learned had been struggling with hamstring issues.  Though seen stretching on the sideline with the help of a trainer several times, he came through with flying colors rushing 22 times for 166 yards and a touchdown.  True Freshman Grant Breneman started at QB for the Red Raiders.  His name rang a bell for us.  From Cedar Cliff HS in Mechanicsburg, PA, he is the younger brother of UMass TE Adam Breneman who we watched play against Hawaii and at Temple earlier this season.

Over the years, Colgate started us with the Princeton game. In the early 80s they ventured into Beaver Stadium when RB Curt Warner had a big day for PSU in a 54-10 win.  We saw the Raiders fall to Rutgers in ’82 when they finished No. 9 in 1AA.  We saw them again on a Thursday night in Princeton, and in 2008, Stony Brook invited us to watch the Sea Wolves host Colgate in a 42-28 win for the home team. 




Game 544: Syracuse springs upset on No. 2 Clemson, 27-24

Game 544: Syracuse springs upset on No. 2 Clemson, 27-24

As per ACC standards, Syracuse and Clemson players display sportsmanship before kick-off.

Syracuse, NY – In front of a pumped-up, energized Family Weekend crowd of 42,475 adorned in blue and orange in the Carrier Dome, the Syracuse Orange (4-3,2-1) got off to a fast start offensively, and its defense stepped up against No. 2 Clemson (6-1,4-1) to pull off the biggest upset to date of the 2017 season, 27-24.  QB Eric Dungey (20 for 32, 278 yards, 3 TDs) spread the ball among seven different receivers starting the offense on a very quick no-huddle strategy to keep the vaunted Clemson defense off balance to get out to an early lead and build confidence.  DE Alton Robinson made several key stops including one before halftime which knocked starting Clemson QB Kelly Bryant out of the game for good.  For, our Game 544 goes down as our biggest upset in our history seeing an undefeated No. 2 team knocked from that high a position by an unranked team.

Syracuse QB Eric Dungey (2) looks downfield behind good blocking to get his team rolling.

The two ACC Atlantic foes went toe to toe with the Tigers catching up to the Orange four times during the course of this game.  Tied 24-24 entering the final period, Cole Murphy’s 30-yard FG provided the home team the lead with 9:41 remaining.  Defense, good clock management, and errant special team plays by the defending national champions helped the Orange seal the final score until time expired.  Syracuse has momentum going forward.  Clemson will have to determine if and when Kelly Bryant will be available to come back any time soon.

Orange off to a quick start

On SU’s first possession, Dungey fired to Dontae Strickland coming out of the backfield in the right flat. He rolled over an attempted body tackle keeping his balance over the defender and raced 23 yards for the Orange’s first lead.  The Domers and the sideline exploded! The refs flagged the home team for excessive celebration.  Considering this was Syracuse against No. 2 and undefeated 2017 champ Clemson, what’s excessive?  On the penalized kick from the 20, Clemson started from its 38 with decent field position.  They wasted little time to tie up the score with a 62-yard drive finished off by Tavien Feaster’s 37-yard run. A sign of things to come, a 34-yard FG attempt by Tiger Alex Spence hooked wide left.  Still fired up and feeding off the very energetic crowd, Dungey connected with WR Ervin Philips streaking right down the middle for a 66-yard catch and run to go up, 14-7, in Game 544.

RB Dontae Strickland follows his blockers for some of his 78 rushing yards against Clemson.

Into the second frame, Will Spiers’ punt put the Orange back at their six. Following a supposed touchdown called back for offensive pass interference, Strickland’s extra effort on the next play resulted in a fumble that bounced up and was cleanly fielded by SS Tanner Muse who returned it 66 yards to even the score.   With a new start aided by an unsportsmanlike by Muse, Syracuse proved that it would still move the ball against the heralded Tiger defense working down to the one.

Clemson WR Ray Ray McCloud after a catch in the second period.

 Quarterback changes

Despite calling time-out, Dungey hobbled off the field, but the officials rule that he had to sit out a play.  For third down, Zack Mahoney subbed and got dropped for a 3-yard loss.  HC Dino Babers called on Murphy to convert a 21-yard FG to retake the lead with 3:49 left in the first half.  The teams exchanged punts before the next Clemson possession.  Tony, a Navy vet and an SU fan who sat next to me in section 125,  noted that the Orange finally applied constant pressure on Kelly Bryant  (12-17, 116 yards).  No sooner spoken when Robinson caught up with him and slung him hard to the surface.  Already hobbled, this looked worse as he lay still.  After a few minutes, he was able to walk off with help but never returned.  Diagnosis reported – concussion.  Freshman Zerrick Cooper replaced him before the half was over with ‘Cuse up by three.

The Syracuse Marching Band rallies Orange fans before the game in front on the University’s Hendricks Chapel.


Road trip musings

All the way up Interstate 81 during my three-plus hour road trip, I pondered this upset for game 544.  Baber’s offense started clicking the past few weeks, and historically in his second years at both Eastern Illinois and at Bowling Green, his teams won 12 and 10 games respectively.  At 3-3, SU seemed poised to start improving.  Dungey threw for over 300 yards in three of the six previous games.  Clemson hadn’t overwhelmed any opponents the last few weeks. The big question coming in was how SU would play defense.  The other questions I had heading up were where was I going to park and what did I want to eat for dinner.  I found a lot for $10 on Harrison Street that was being filled as employees were leaving to go home.  After a beer in the lot and a walk up the hill toward the Dome, I found the pre-game rally with the Syracuse Marching Band in front of the campus chapel.  I had a quick burger to tie me over until after the game when I planned to go to a Syracuse mainstay for dinner introduced to me years ago by Bernie Olszyk when we went to games when his daughter Heather went there.  I decided to have a late dinner at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Q to top off game 544 this evening.

A Carrier Dome tribute to Syracuse’s storied past.

Two more ties

Cooper moved the Tigers into field goal position on their second possession of the third period. Spence put up a 30-yarder to tie the game up 17-all.  Dungey got his offense going during the next Orange possession.  He ran out of the pocket 45 yards to the CU 35.   Two plays later, WR Steve Ishmael grabbed Dungey’s toss for a 30-yard score to go back up.   SU’s next kick went out of bounds to start Clemson from their 35.  Within a minute of ‘Cuses’s TD, Frosh Travis Etienne raced 48 yards around the right flank to knot the score for the fourth time.  With 6:26 left in the third quarter of game 544, it seemed that time remained for a lot more nip and tuck scoring.  With Spence’s 38-yard attempt going wide left again late in the period, Clemson failed to take its first lead this time.

Tiger RB Travis Etienne (9) runs for a short gain against the SU defense.

Grand finale

Syracuse started its next drive from the 21 before the third period ended.  Five minutes and19 seconds into the final period, Murphy scored three with a 30-yarder to regain the lead again for SU.  The Orange defense forced a Clemson punt at their 41.  Clemson HC Dabo Swinney called for a fake punt, and Spence’s long pass attempt down the right side fell short in front of his diving intended receiver.  With six minutes left to play, Syracuse took over on their 41.  The Tigers had two time-outs remaining.  However, the Orange converted third downs into first downs three times effectively eating up the clock.  Strickland picked up three on a third and two from their 49.  On third and 11 at the Clemson 49, Dungey connected with Ishmael for 13.  At the 34 on third and eight, Dungey ran for eight.  With 1:37 left and Clemson out of time-outs, the crowd roared anticipating the reality of the upset as Syracuse went to the victory formation on the final three snaps.  Syracuse students and fans stormed the field to join their team in celebration knocking off No. 2 Clemson not only on game 544 for, but the 1300th game in the annals of Syracuse football history.  A big day for the Orange in Game 1300 on Friday the 13th.  The luck of the Orange?

Syracuse fans and students rush to the on-field celebration to join their team!!!

Syracuse travels next week to play No. 8 Miami (5-0, 3-0) fresh off a 25-24 win over Georgia Tech.  Can they do it again?  Clemson, now No. 7, takes a week off to recover and possibly get Zerrick Cooper ready for his first start.  They will host Georgia Tech the following week. ventured to Dinosaur Bar-B-Q for ribs, chicken, and Allagash beer and to listen to a local band perform. When the lead singer inquired among some SU fans who had won the game, he responded with a jerk of his head, “We won?”  The locals didn’t expect it, probably why the game was not sold out.  That could change over the next few years as Babers rebuilds this storied program.

Head Coach Dino Babers (right) leads his Syracuse Orange on to the field before the big upset.



Next morning, I would be driving about an hour away to our 545th game in nearby Hamilton to attend our first game ever at Andrew Kerr Stadium near the pristine and stately campus of Colgate University.  The Red Raiders (2-4, 0-1) would be hosting the Fordham Rams (1-5, 0-1) in a game we anticipated as a key game with some star power to win the Patriot League before the season.  It looked good on paper before the season.  Disappointed with the records of both schools now, we still planned to go as this would be our first game ever at a school we saw play back in our first college football gamer ever back in 1966.  We felt an obligation to do this for a long time.  Can’t be sure when we’ll be back.  This Friday-Saturday combo set us up perfectly, especially with the big upset! Look for our Game 545 review by Tuesday morning.



Game 543: Navy loses lead but overcomes Air Force with 15 seconds left, 48-45

Game 543: Navy loses lead but overcomes Air Force with 15 seconds left, 48-45

Annapolis, Maryland – The Midshipmen of Navy relinquished a 21-point first half lead over arch-rival Air Force (1-4) in our Game 543 and fell behind by four points with 1:53 left in the game before QB Zach Abey connected with TE Tyler Carmona on a 15-yard TD pass into the end zone to triumph, 48-45.  Even at that point, however, the game remained in doubt among many Navy fans until the final tackle of the game on the last play as Air Force lateraled close to a dozen times as time expired.  Though Navy’s offense struck quickly and efficiently throughout the game to muster 557 total yards, their defense fell short applying pressure and covering receivers  that  allowed the Air Force Falcons to outgain them with 621 total yards of offense including 281 passing yards on only 10 completions.  USAFA QB Arion Worthman completed 9 of 16 passes for 257 yards and two TDs while rushing for 139 and scoring twice on the ground.  Navy’s triple option fared much better on the ground as the Mids picked up 471 rushing yards compared to 340 by the Falcon runners.  The two academies met for the 50th time in this game.

Traditional Pregame “prisoner exchange” of Mids and Cadets before the 50th meeting between the two military academies.

For, our tailgate consisted of great food and drink brought by all. This game inspired some first-timers to join us again for future Navy games and tailgating in Annapolis.  Guest Game Analyst John Massimilla, attending a non-PSU game with us for the first time in a while, stated that though not emotionally tied to either team, the game falls in among his top five ever attended for excitement. He’s attended many PSU games over the years and not just the hundred-plus we’ve attended with him.

On this day, USNA set the record for the most fans to ever attend a game at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium with 38,972 in attendance. Astonishing when John and I have basically attended so many games at cavernous Beaver Stadium including records there of over 109,000.  Nonetheless, the excitement of the fourth quarter at Navy-Marine Corps this day against a prime arch-rival for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy raised the decibel levels at extremes with both Navy and Air Force fans in attendance.  Game 543 will long be remembered by all there in attendance.

Abey drives toward the end zone for the Mids in the second period for some of his 241 rushing yards.

Early game action

In the second period Navy extended its lead 28-7 with Abey’s 40-yard TD pass to SB Malcolm Perry.  The speedy, sophomore slotback opened the scoring earlier with a 91-yard burst around the left side.   Air Force countered with a 77-yard drive finished off with Worthman’s 59-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Marcus Bennet (five receptions, 161 yards, two TDs) down the middle of the field.  Following consecutive Falcon drives resulting in fumble recoveries by Navy LB D.J. Palmore, the Midshipman offense capitalized.

SB Malcolm Perry on is way into the end zone after hauling in Zach Abey’s pass in our Game 543.

Navy took the first fumble and scored with RB Darryl Bonner drawing a loud roar when he hurdled a defender on his way for a 24-yard scoring run.  The next take-away resulted in a one-yard TD plunge by Abey (29 carries for 214 yards and two TDs; 4 of 11 passing for 86 yards and two TDs) to punctuate the 41-yard scoring drive.  As the half ended, Falcon PK Luke Strebel nailed a 27-yard FG to make the score 28-10 at halftime before combined academy Drum and Bugle Corps performed.  Three points as time expires in the first half reminds us that not only is this a game of inches, but a game of seconds.

Navy RB Darryl Bonner about to hurdle Air Force DB on his way in for a TD.

Outstanding tailgate party

Our tailgate offered up a lot of great food. Brian Donnelly did his traditionally great Old Bay wings, but he also added bratwurst we enjoyed from Mike Pitch who brought them to our Navy-Cincinnati tailgate two weeks ago.  Pat Healy brought shrimp, first time for him at a Navy game and first time we had shrimp at our tailgate.  Eileen, Brian’s sister, stayed up late baking brownies for us the night before.  They were still fresh and tasty when it was time for dessert.  My Italian Subs and turkey and cheese subs from a deli here in New Jersey went over big.  We have the best bread around here (they say it’s the water). John brought our old buddy Evan Williams (honey bourbon) who’s joined us over the years at State College.

Our tailgate party under our Navy canopy and our tailgate party flag before the game (picture taken by Superman). Jim, far left, is an Air Force vet. “Navy Al”, kneeling, is a Navy vet. Both served our county around 10 years

Game 543 was celebrated under our flag and we had our group photo taken by Superman – no really, he had the emblem on his shirt.  We found a few TVs among the nearby RVs in our lot in order to catch up on some early game action including the Penn State-Northwestern game we wanted to keep an eye on.  John wore his Shippensburg U. “Ship happens” t-shirt – closest piece of apparel he had to wear for a Navy game, he said.  The D-2 school shirt brought him a lot of attention and some photo ops in the tailgate parking lot.  It gave me a merchandising idea.  “The Ship” in the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference is now 5-1. They lost their first game this past weekend to West Chester State, 37-27.

Navy sideline action.

Exciting second half action

The second half started off as if this could be a blow-out Navy desired in its quest for the C-I-C Trophy.  The offense continued to hit on all cylinders.  They ran plays throughout the game in a hybrid pistol formation where Abey set up in a shotgun formation with a back to each side and a TB/FB directly behind him.  They still ran dives and options as usual, and they were just as effective as their wing formations to run the option.   Navy controlled the football resulting in a 21-yard FG by Bennett Moehring.  Following a 52-yard run by Worthman to Navy’s 21, FB Tim McVey scored a six-yard TD run for the Falcons.  Following a touchback after the ensuing kick, Abey sped down field on a 75-yard TD run making it look like the Mids would remain unstoppable throughout the game.  Air Force did not let up either though as Worthman scored from the one on a methodical, well-engineered 74-yard drive of their own.

TB Tim McVey scores from the six for the Air Force.

Through my binoculars, I watched Navy HC Ken Niumatalolo pacing the sideline in front of his defensive benches.  He let his coaches work with his charges, but he looked ready to jump in only if he was asked or if he determined that he had something critical to say.  He paced back and forth looking back and forth from the field to the benches behind him with a concerned look on his face. His patience impressed me. He left it up to his staff to come up with some solutions to stop Air Force from scoring.    He seemed to realize that this game was not over by a long shot. His team led 38-24 going into the final period, but you could tell that he did not look too comfortable.  There was lot of scoring going on and a lot of time left to play.

Drop and give me 38 this time!

Navy started the fourth by punting on a fourth and 15 from their 49.  The Navy defense could not force the same on the Falcon offense.  Worthman scored on a three-yard TD run following a reverse option pass to him for 24 yards from Gerard Sanders.  Air Force now trailed by only one score, 38-31.  Niumatalolo kept up his pacing hoping his defensive staff could still come up with some solutions to halt the Falcon offense.

Arion Worthman on the run for a short gain for the Falcons.

Perry (four carries, 127 yards, one TD) provided some hope for Navy with his kick return out to the 41.  On fourth down at the seven, Niumatalolo thought about going for a first down in this situation, but settled for Moehring’s 24-yard FG to assure a 10-point margin.  On the first play of Air Force’s next drive, Worthman connected with WR Ronald Cleveland for 60 yards to Navy’s 15.  The Navy secondary didn’t even come close to challenging receivers on many of these pass plays.  McVey scored from the two with 4:09 left to play.  The Falcons then forced the Mids to a very rare three and out.  On the second play from scrimmage, Worthman threw long to Marcus Bennett for a 51-yard scoring play to give the Air Force Academy its first lead of the game, 45-41.  I told John they left Navy too much time to score.  It turned out to be fifteen seconds too long as Navy started its final offensive drive from its 25 when Abey fired to Carmona in the end zone. Game not over!

TE Tyler Carmona gathers in the game-winning catch.

Not over til it’s over…

As Air Force lateraled the ball around on the final play, I felt like we were about to watch a historical play in the making.  Like Stanford-Cal, but instead Air Force would run over some exhausted Cadets from the stands still near the end zone who like the Mids pumped out the total amount of push-ups for the total score after each TD or FG.   Thanks to a tackle for what turned out to be only a six-yard gain, Navy triumphed, 48-45.  Niumatalolo pranced now along his sideline in front of his benches instead of pacing.  Exciting roller-coaster ride with a lot of twists and turns near the end.   Intense, fun, and exciting. Game 543  was a tremendous football game to be part of!

Navy’s post-game celebration begins!

 Point After Tailgating (PAT)

Before next Saturday, Navy’s got to do something to shore up its pass defense.  They had some early sacks, but Air Force came up with deception to offset any pressure and throw to wide-open receivers.  Like last year’s game against South Florida, Navy needs more quickness in the secondary to keep up with faster receivers.  Two big American Athletic Conference games come up over the next two weeks where the secondary will be tested and exposed big time if they don’t make some adjustments to their coverage.


Next week, Navy (5-0, 3-0), now ranked No. 24 in the AP poll, travels to Memphis (4-1, 1-1) to play the Tigers who like to throw the ball a lot.    Memphis just slammed UConn, 70-31, as QB Riley Ferguson completed 34 of 48 for 451 yards and seven TDs.  I think he is one of the most unorthodox QBs I’ve ever seen, but he gets the football quickly to his receivers.  Navy employs no tight coverage whatsoever.  They better learn to this week.  The week after, they will host Central Florida (4-0) rated No. 22 in the AP.  The next two games offer the Mids a chance to make a statement if they truly belong.

Air Force looks to climb out of the 1-4 record with three losses now to Top 25 teams (Navy, Michigan, San Diego State) against UNLV to try to start a streak to get back into bowl contention.  With Game 543 in the book, heads north this weekend to see No. 2 Clemson (6-0, 4-0) take on improving Syracuse (3-3,1-1) who will look to go to the air against the Tigers’ formidable defense.

As part of our pre-planned upstate double header, we plan to go to nearby Hamilton, NY on Saturday to watch a Patriot League game between Colgate (2-4, 0-1) and Fordham (1-5, 0-1) who were both expected to challenge for the Patriot League championship.  With dismal starts by both, we considered to find an alternative. However, based on a 12-noon start, our first time ever to see a Colgate home game, and a pretty even match-up, this may still be our best choice overall.  Plus, we’ve seen Fordham senior RB Chase Edmonds, who has some FCS career marks within sight, play his first three years for the Rams.  We might as well top off our own history by seeing him play in his fourth. Despite the struggles, this game should be competitive to the end.  That’s what we generally like to see when we pick our games before the season.

Despite this being my last of two Navy games in Annapolis this year because of conflicts with three Penn State games we will attend, we plan to see the Mids play at least two more times later this season.  We will be at the Temple game in Philly on Thursday, November 2, and again in Philly on December 9 for our sixth straight Army-Navy game.  There are possibilities to see them again in the AAC championship game if they win the West and host the East, and then there is the Military Bowl to be played in Annapolis the last week of December.  We plan to be a that one whether Navy is or not (AAC vs ACC).

Bennett Moehring converts this 24-yard field goal for Navy late in the game to take a 10-point lead.


Game 542: No. 1 James Madison defense scores and shuts down Delaware, 20-10

Game 542: No. 1 James Madison defense scores and shuts down Delaware, 20-10

Newark, DE – The No. 1 FCS James Madison University Dukes held host Delaware (2-2, 0-1) to 229 yards of total offense and scored a go-ahead TD in the second quarter to remain undefeated in a hard-fought 20-10 win in game 542 of our ongoing history.  The Dukes outscored four previous opponents 189-48 before this one.  UD HC Danny Rocco’s defense played solid throughout holding JMU to 347 yards and keeping the Dukes well below its 47.2 ppg scoring average.

JMU Defense held UD to 140 yards on the ground. Kani Kane (29) had 83 to lead the Blue Hens.


For, we enjoyed a fun tailgate at our game 542 with friends and family affiliated with the University of Delaware, and met several interesting fans in the Delaware Stadium Parking lot.  After the game, we had the pleasure of hosting Delaware RB Thomas Jefferson (4 carries for 11 yards) who came to visit with several of his former teachers and acquaintances from his high school, Passaic Tech, who had joined us for today’s game.  Thomas gave some sound advice to several young fans he met nearby on the way back to study at his dorm after the game.

Our Delaware tailgaters for the JMU game including two four-legged ones, Callie and Bailey.

Delaware intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble to stop the first two JMU drives of the game.  The second resulted in three points for the Fighting Blue Hens as Frank Raggo (Randolph, NJ) booted a 55-yard FG with the wind to his back to take a 3-0 lead.  He set the Delaware record for the longest FG in school history.  On the ensuing Duke drive, Thai Sharp (36 carries, 195 yards, one TD) broke loose to the UD six on a 59-yard jaunt.  He took in in from there to give James Madison the lead, 7-3.

Frank Raggo boots a 55-yard FG for the early 3-0 lead and a Delaware record.

Second period action…

In the second period, the Blue Hens started driving from their 44.  QB Joe Walker delivered a scoring strike to Jamie Jarmon on the left side of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown pass and a 10-7 lead.  JMU’s Harry O’Kelly’s punted later in the period to put UD back on their two.  The Hens drove out as far as to their 45, but an unsportsmanlike penalty set them back on their 30.  The next play proved to be the turning point of the game.  Walker threw a TD pass to the left flat which looked to be an incomplete pass, but JMU DE Andrew Ankrah smartly picked up the ball at the 23 and raced to the end zone for what turned out to be a touchdown on a fumbled lateral.  The referees confirmed the play, and the Dukes now led, 14-10.

WR Jamie Jarmon (6) about to haul in a 15-yard TD pass for the Fightin’ Blue Hens.

UD’s subsequent possession resulted in an interception by JMU S Raven Greene to turn the ball over to the offense starting from its six with 3:46 left in the half.  QB Bryan Schor, last season’s FCS Offensive Player of the Year, guided his team down to the UD 23.  With :01 left, PK Tyler Gray made good on a 45-yard FG to give James Madison a 17-10 lead at halftime of Game 542.

QB Bryan Schor (17) on the carry for the Dukes.

Neither team could score in the third on this windy day. UD’s first drive resulted in a lost fumble.  JMU drove for 9:35 on one possession eating up most of the clock before Gray’s FG attempt from 28 yards went wide right. In the fourth, both teams punted twice.  The defenses dominated.

A windy day at game 542 for!

Delaware HC Danny Rocco replaced Walker with J.P. Caruso to try to get a passing game going for the Blue Hens.  With 2:50 left, Gray put James Madison on the board once again to extend their lead 20-10 with a 48-yard FG.  Time would run out with UD at JMU’s 48.   No. 1 remained undefeated and Delaware dropped to 2-2, 0-1 with some work to do on the offensive side of the football.

Riley Stapleton with a six-yard reception for JMU.


Delaware travels to Long Island to meet Stony Brook (4-1, 3-0)  there for the first time in a Colonial Athletic Association contest.  JMU hosts Villanova (3-2, 1-1) for a crucial CAA match-up for both. head back to Annapolis for our final regular season game there as 4-0, 3-0 (AAC) Navy welcomes arch-rival Air Force (1-3, 01 MWC).  Both teams will be well-prepared to defend against the triple option since that’s what both run.  Watch for a big pass play or two to make a difference in this game.  Looking forward to this annual rivalry once again.

Points After Tailgating

Like many other college football venues,  Delaware Stadium now serves beer.  We ambled down at halftime of Game 542 to the Beer Garden in the NW corner of the stadium for some Dogfish Punkin’ Ale.  Pretty good!

Among our fellow tailgaters were Cousin Vickie Scarpa, history teacher at Passaic Tech, and along with fellow Tech teachers Jennifer and Maureen who know former Passaic Tech grad Thomas Jefferson from their teaching days.  Jennifer, an academic mentor to Thomas, and her daughter, Jasmine, wore No. 28 Delaware jerseys.  They come to UD for most of his games.  Also, Jim, a friend of Vickie’s’, joined us.  Like my quest to go to as many college games as possible,  Jim’s goal is to visit as many micro-breweries as possible.  He’s up to around 250.  When I mentioned our upcoming trip in October to see Louisville at Wake Forest, he highly recommended Foothills Brewery about five miles from the school.  We’ll have to check that out.

We also met JMU QB Bryan Schor’s high school football coach from Delaware Valley HS in Milford, PA and his wife.  They don’t live too far from us as Milford is just across the Delaware River from Sussex County where we live.  I had no idea last season’s FCS Player of the year lives not far from our area.

Despite the UD loss, we met with RB Thomas Jefferson and his mother and father outside the locker room after the game.  Thomas was disappointed of course with the loss, but he’s optimistic about the rest of the season knowing it’s still going to take some hard word to get the team moving back to its winning ways.  On the way back to our tailgate and to get a ride back to his dorm, he pulled out his thick “Neuro” book from his duffle bag to show us he had some studying to do for the rest of the weekend.  He’s definitely a dedicated scholar athlete and seems to have his priorities straight.

Meeting up with RB Thomas Jefferson after the game 542.

When my niece Kassie heard some young boys wondering who the player was near our post-game tailgate, she told them, “It’s Thomas Jefferson.”  The kids were astounded, “The running back!” They came over to meet him. Thomas shook their hands and gave them his words of wisdom which impressed us adults as well.  Basically, it was that you don’t have to be a super-star.  Be a teammate, but to be successful you have to work hard to be the best you can for your team.  By trying to be better than your teammates ahead of you, you’re basically helping the team.  And we got the feeling that this is his intention as he looks forward to the rest of the Blue Hen season.

We sent him away with a tray of sandwiches and other goodies from our tailgate.  He looked forward to some good eats and thanked us.  We enjoyed meeting him.  Good luck to the Blue Hens for the rest of the season, and we will be back to see him play again next year.  We’re certain he will work hard at making his team be the best that it can be.  We look forward to seeing his hard work pay off for him and the team.

Thomas Jefferson (28) for a short gain against JMU.


Game 541: Navy derails Cincinnati late comeback attempt to triumph, 42-32

Game 541: Navy derails Cincinnati late comeback attempt to triumph, 42-32

Annapolis – The Midshipman of Navy took what looked to be commanding lead after two series of play in Game 541 of’s continuing journey to see ‘em all.  In the end though, they had to stop a Cincinnati Bearcat comeback attempt late in the final period to defeat U of C, 42-32.  The Bearcats countered Navy’s strong, deceptive running game with a formidable attack through the air lanes to cut into the Mids lead several times in this exciting American Athletic Conference contest.  USNA rambled for 569 yards rushing, only three short of the current record.  Junior QB Zach Abey rushed 20 times for 128 yards and two TDs.  He threw the football only three times, but made one completion count for a score as they only totaled 53 yards passing.

Zach Abey pitches to SB John Brown for a gain around left end.

For, it was glorious day for our Game 541 where we introduced our new tailgate flag with both steady tailgate friends from the past along and with several new ones in the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium parking lot.  The “glorious” day pelted the east stands with intense sunshine sending several of our group going back for shade at the friendly confines of our tailgating area.  At halftime, several other fans required first aid from the Navy medical staff in the stadium as people suffered from the intense heat and sunshine primarily during the first half.

Look for our new tailgate flag wherever great games are played at a stadium near you!

Feeling the heat – off and on the field

Cincinnati (2-2, 0-1) cut Navy’s fast start of the first period down to 21-17 going into halftime sending many in the upper deck retreating back under the stands for shade and cold liquids.  With Navy’s Josh Burns finishing off the first drive in the early in the second minute of the second half with a 39-yard TD jaunt, his second of the day, Navy opened up a 28-17 lead.  Bearcat QB Hayden Moore (28 of 46, 381 yards, three TDs) led the Cats on a long 75-yard scoring drive of their own finishing with a five-yard pass to Khalil Lewis.

QB Hayden Moore for a gain up the middle on a TD drive.

Navy polished off its third period with a 74-yard scoring drive with Abey heading in from the one.   In the fourth, Navy repeated the feat with a 74-yard drive with Abey touching down from the one to lead 42-24 with 10:07 remaining on the clock in our Game 541.  Cincy refused to give up and continued to fight down to the bitter end.  The Bearcats scored on Moore’s third TD pass of the day with TE Tyler Cogswell taking it in over near the left pylon from the three.  Moore ran it in for a two-point conversion to put the ‘cats within 10.

TE Tyler Cogswell hauls in a touchdown pass for the Bearcats in Game 541.

Bearcats threaten late

The Bearcat defense tightened up finally and held the Mids for the first time to a three-and -out series.  Taking the punt at their 37, Moore first hit WR Thomas Geddis with a 27-yard pass play.  On third and 10 at the Navy 11, the Bearcats threatened to make the game interesting with another score and over two minutes left to play.  GGA Steve Ciesla and I had debated on Cincy going for an onsides on their last kickoff, but it would be for sure if they scored here.  Steve wondered aloud if the Bearcats should attempt a FG now and go for the TD if they could get the ball back.  The point became moot though as the Navy defense stepped it up this time.  CB Tyris Wooten came from the backside and sacked Moore behind the line stripping the ball out.  LB and co-captain DJ Palmore recovered it for the Mids at the 21.  The threat was put to rest and the Brigade of Midshipman started to anticipate a Commandant’s order to enjoy a night of “liberty” for those who qualified.  With the score final at 42-32, the celebration after our Game 541 began. Many Bearcats stood with respect to watch and listen to “Navy Blue and Gold.”   Though defeated, it’s probably an honor and a great memory for many Navy opponents to be part of that inspiring tradition win or lose.   For the Mids, this was their 15th straight regular season win at home.

Abey scores from the one in the third period.

Coming up…

The Mids travel to play Tulsa (1-3) at Skeller Stadium next week.  The Golden Hurricanes scored 66 and 51 points in consecutive weeks before New Mexico held them to 13 in a 16-13 loss.  They also rely mostly on their ground game, but not as much as the Mids.  They’ve rushed for 17 TDs and passed for only one.  The Bearcats return to the Queen City to host Marshall (2-1) who’s beaten two MAC teams and lost to NC State. takes its new flag to plant in Newark, Delaware where we’ll see Delaware’s top RB Thomas Jefferson go up against FCS No. 1 James Madison.  We expect to see the Fighting Blue Hens (2-1) improved under their first-year HC Danny Rocco.  Their lone loss came at the hands of No. 12 Virginia Tech. We also expect to see JMU as a very difficult opponent for UD.  They average scores of 47-12 versus their first four opponents including FBS East Carolina.

“Fight! Fight Fight! Fight for the Navy!”

Points after Tailgating

Navy displayed an awesome amount of fire power in its running game though two starters including co-captain DJ Bonner sat out with an injury.  Soph SB Malcolm Perry ran for 100 yards on 10 carries.  Last season, we remember him primarily as the plebe QB who was called down from the stands in the opener against Fordham when starter Tago Smith went down for the season with a foot injury.  He came in to play after second team QB Bill Worth came in to replace Smith.

Our new neighbor in section 127, Bob, a local fan, told us that the Naval Academy performed a study on the excessive amount of foot injuries that the team had incurred during recent seasons.  They had done analysis on the stadium turf, football shoes, equipment, weather conditions, etc.  The Mids incurred many foot injuries, but opponents playing on the same turf had not.  Bob said the primary variable that they had started to identify was possibly the shoes worn by all Midshipman as part of their working class uniform during the course of their days attending classes, marching, and just about doing anything but playing sports.  Players from other schools primarily wear sneakers, casual shoes, or even flip-flops during the entire course of their days.  We will have to look into this to find out more.

This game demonstrated how any opponent not familiar with the Mids’ deceiving offense can be in for a very long day.  First-year HC Luke Fickell reported after the game that he just didn’t have his team prepared well enough for that offense. However, Cincinnati showed how Navy’s secondary is susceptible to any opponent with a formidable passing attack.  Memphis will be a challenge to them in three weeks.  Against Air Force in two weeks, whichever team throws the best will win.

Toward the end, the Bearcat’s boat was taking on water. That was one way to beat the heat!

Several first time Guest Game analysts to Game 541, Mike Pitch and Bob Brauer, along with some of our experienced GGAs Frank Lorito and Vince Gallo called it quits at halftime surrendering to the blistering heat from the sun in our upper deck seats.  They went back to the comforts of tailgating where they could get a little shade and some cold drinks to keep cool.  Veteran GGAs Steve Ciesla and George Lazarides along with his brother Nick and nephew Nick stuck it out as the descending sun didn’t feel as treacherous in the second half.  We met back up with our friend Brian Donnelly and his girlfriend Laurie under the shade of the upper deck at the half.  Laurie saw three people attended to who were overcome by the heat of the day.  It was tough one.

George’s niece, Marina (perfect name for navy woman), a plebe who plays on Navy’s lacrosse team, scored a goal in the game we attended a short while in the morning against Towson at Rip Miller Field.  Also, Frank Lorito’s Cousin Nora and her husband Mike were on hand as their daughter who is also a plebe, will be member of the women’s tennis team.  We’ll have to watch the spring schedules for a spring road trip to see both teams play. We hope to see them all at future tailgates in Annapolis. They all enjoyed themselves at Game 541!

How can any true American disrespect this?