2001 season 2001 season

Fifteen years ago: We reviewed our 2001 season 15 years ago to get us hankering for our exciting 2016 season less than two weeks away!

Rather than analyze the remaining teams on our 2016 schedule that we haven’t previewed yet, we’d like to first take you back to some of our five to ten year anniversaries of seasons following up with our 2011 season memories with these from our 2001 season. We’ll share some great memories and for this season some significantly tragic ones off the field that impacted this particular season. The memories tie together with some of our plans for the upcoming season as our historical trek continues. It’s a trip back along our historical path of college football games 15 years ago to get ready for 2016 by remembering a small sampling over our 37 college football seasons spanning some of the 507 games we’ve attended before we start our new season.

On Sunday, August 26, 2001 we kicked off the 2001 season at Giants Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands with the 19th annual Kickoff Classic played in the venue that was leveled and replaced by MetLife Stadium (we liked the original, demolished stadium much better) in 2010. Preseason No. 10 Georgia Tech, off a 9-3, 6-2 record from the previous year, started the season looking forward to challenging powerful Florida State for the ACC championship at least. The Syracuse Orange, coming in at 6-5, 4-3 from the previous year, came to represent the late Big East filling in an obligational berth to fulfill the Classic’s requirement to be assure each major conference was represented within agreed to time constraints to be represented. The Orange weren’t expected to amount to much that season. Tech got off to a 10-0 lead by halftime, but the Orange finally came up with seven half way through the third period. The SU defense led by Senior DE Dwight Freeney held the Yellow Jackets to a FG late in the same stanza. Tech RB Joe Burns helped control the balance of the game keeping the ball on the ground in the final period eating the clock and taking the win back to Atlanta in a very uninspiring “classic”. The Tech season did not land them in the 2001 Top 25 as anticipated. They finished 8-5 including a loss to Florida State late in the season who only finished at 8-4. The Jackets played their final game in the now defunct Seattle Bowl where they defeated Stanford.   Surprising Maryland took the ACC with a 10-2, 7-1 record and a trip to the Orange Bowl where they fell to Florida. As for Syracuse, they were a surprise team in 2001 finishing 10-3, 6 -1 overall to finish the season ranked at No. 14. They lost the following week to Tennessee and late in the season to the eventual national champion (read further below), but they came up with a win in the bowl over Kansas State. The Orange and the Jackets play each other every few years now as members of the ACC in two different divisions. This year we will see the Orange back in the New Jersey Meadowlands at our Big Tailgate against Notre Dame on October 1st.

DE Dwight Freeney makes a stop vs. Georgia Tech in the 2001 Kickoff Classic.

DE Dwight Freeney makes a stop vs. Georgia Tech in the 2001 Kickoff Classic.

The following Thursday night, I took the family to the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field to see the Temple Owls host Navy. I won’t bore you with the details of Temples 45-26 win, but the highlights we remember with the kids (Alex, age 8 and Eric, age 6) came at halftime with some stunt bike riders putting on a show for the crowd. The next day we went for some thrills of our own on water rides at Dorney Park in Allentown, PA. 2001 season was a nondescript season for the Temple Owls finishing 4-7. That was a much bleaker season for the Navy football program who finished the season 0-10. We attended a close but sloppily played game by both teams in the Mids’ 23-17 loss when they played Rutgers Scarlet Knights, but for the Mids, the worst occurred as they fell to Army to end their pitiful season, 26-17 (we did not attend). The Rutgers game on October 20 was an embarrassment for both teams as Rutgers entered 1-5 on a five-game losing streak as did the Mids. Despite the win, the Scarlet Knights totaled 18 penalties which didn’t account for five that were declined or offset. HC Greg Schiano’s team also had two costly turnovers by Frosh QB Ryan Cubit in the second half that cut their 20-0 halftime lead late in the game to 20-17 before a 30-yard FG with 57 seconds left finished the scoring. More on RU’s ineptitude that season later. As for Temple and Navy, in 2016 they come off banner seasons with 10-4 and 11-2 records respectively. Both lost key players such as Temple LB Tyler Matakevich who was the American Athletic Defensive Player of the Year now with the Steelers, and Navy QB Keenan Reynolds who was voted fifth in the Heisman balloting and selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL draft. We look forward to seeing both squads play multiple times this season under who we think are two of the best head coaches in the business and for their respective programs – Temple’s Matt Rhule and Navy’s Ken Niumatatolo. Despite the graduation losses, we look for these teams to compete with everyone on their schedules. We will see the Temple Owls host the Cadets of Army on Sept. 2, South Florida on October 21, and then visit the UConn Huskies on November 4 (all Friday night games). As for Navy, we will attend four home games – Fordham on Sept. 3, UConn on Sept. 10, Houston on October 8, and Tulsa on November 12. We will attend Army -Navy for the 11th time (fifth in a row), in Baltimore on December 10. We’re rooting for both to play one another in the AAC championship game, if not this year, in the near future.  Recently, we added another game.  On Saturday, September 17, we will see the Rutgers Scarlet Knights under new HC Chris Ash play the New Mexico Lobos at 12 noon at The Birthplace of College Football in New Brunswick, NJ.

QB Keenan Reynolds (#19) graduated from USNA in 2016, but HC Ken Niumatalolo returns after turning down an opportunity to become HC at BYU after leading the Mids to an 11-2 record.

QB Keenan Reynolds (#19) graduated from USNA in 2016, but HC Ken Niumatalolo returns after turning down an opportunity to become HC at BYU after leading the Mids to an 11-2 record.

Our third game of 2001 season on Saturday, September 1, marked a significant list of “firsts” in the opener at the new Beaver Stadium in State College, PA between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the visiting Miami Hurricanes fresh off an 11-1 season including a 37-20 win over Florida in the previous season’s Sugar Bowl. Penn State was coming off an atypical 5-7 losing season, but had two big firsts to celebrate this evening in front of a national TV audience. The Beaver Stadium expansion was now complete and they filled it to capacity in front of 109,313 fans anxious to get the season started and turned around by defeating a strong Hurricane program. The next big thrill for everyone in the stadium occurred before the game when injured DB Adam Taliaferro took his first steps on the Beaver Stadium turf since his spinal column injury suffered almost a year before against Ohio State that originally left him paralyzed from the waist down. But with hard work, tenacity, and lot of good people around him, he recovered in time to walk back on the field in front of his team and a packed house on this emotional evening. As for the Miami Hurricanes, it was their first game ever under new HC Larry Coker who had been an assistant under former HC Butch Davis who left to coach in the pros. After finishing at No. 2 at the end of 2000, this would be the Hurricanes first win on their way to the 2001 national championship. QB Ken Dorsey would complete 20 of 27 for 344 yards and three TDs to Najeh Davenport and Jeremy Shockey while Clinton Portis ran for 164 yards on 17 carries. Willis McGahee rushed for 77 yards on 17 as well. On the defensive side, the Canes were stingy with the likes of LB Jonathan Vilma, S Ed Reed, and DE William Joseph on defense. Had I been watching this game on TV, I would have turned it off by halftime to watch Wisconsin vs. Oregon on another channel. It was a 33-7 blowout in the end. If you look at the score of the first ten Miami Hurricanes’ games of 2001, it was one of the closest scores of their season. They would finish 12-0 and defeat Nebraska in the Rose bowl, 37-24, for the National Championship. For the proud Penn State Nittany Lion program, the season was a struggle resulting in its second losing season in a row, the first time in the 36th year of Joe Paterno’s career there as head coach, and only his third overall. Many PSU fans started to question if the old coach was still up to the task of leading this program.   In the second game I attended at Beaver Stadium in 2001, the Lions faced their greatest Big Ten nemesis since they had joined the conference, Michigan. The Wolverines won five of eight against the Lions since they started play in conference since 1993. U of M triumphed at Happy Valley as QB John Navarre threw two TD passes and the defense shut out the Lions, 20-0, for the first home shut out in Happy Valley since Paterno started coaching in 1965. At 0-4,0-3, the loss marked the worst start ever in the history of Penn State football dating back 115 years. The season looked bleak. I had tickets to the Ohio State game in three weeks. I started to consider selling them to someone who might want to go the game, specifically an Ohio State fan. However, after the bye week, the Lions went on the road and surprised No. 14 Northwestern, 38-35. With the win, Paterno tied the career mark of Paul “Bear “Bryant” with the 323rd win of his career. Ohio State was coming to town with a 4-2 record under Jim Tressel. What the heck, I decided. Rather than sell the tickets and go to another game, I had a chance to see history. It didn’t look like that was going to happen as the Buckeyes took a 27-9 lead early in the third on and interception return by CB Derek Ross. PSU QB Zach Mills turned things around suddenly with a 69-yard TD jaunt as he hurdled one would-be tackler on his route. Mills used his arm for the last two scores firing a 26-yard pass to Tony Johnson just over the goal line and a 14-yard TD pass to Eric McCoo early in the fourth before the two defenses shut each other down until the Penn State Nittany Lions led at the final whistle, 29-27. Paterno was the all-time winningest coach and the celebration was on. Despite what you may think about what transpired at Penn State since, it was memorable moment for us having witnessed an historic game in college football that day.

Miami Hurricanes - 2001 National Champs

Miami Hurricanes – 2001 National Champs

September 8 marked another historic event in the annals of our history during our 2001 season. I contacted my good Auburn friend Charlie Murren whom I hadn’t attended an Auburn Tigers game with in 16 years. Not only was the opportunity then to add Ole Miss as the 67th team toward my goal to see ‘em all, but I figured that I would be attending the SEC debut of QB Eli Manning, son of Archie and brother of Peyton, so that if he ever amounted to anything I could say that I saw him play for the Rebels in his SEC debut. I remember that not only when I watch my favorite pro team, the Giants, play, but I certainly figured I called it right after he led them to two two NFL titles. Like the Ohio State-Penn State game I just reported on, things did not start well for Eli and his offense. They never crossed the 50 against the Tigers on their first ten possessions. An Auburn interception in the third period gave the Tigers a 20-0 lead over the Ole Miss Rebels. Eli displayed next what we’ve seen many times since since that point on. The Rebels actually were denied six points on the next possession as his heave into the end zone caught by Omar Rayford was called out of bounds. Replays on Sports Center all weekend showed Rayford had control in bounds, but in 2001, replay reviews were a thing of the future! Auburn got the ball back and led 27-0. Manning led Ole Miss to three consecutive 80-yard scoring drives including a 50 yard out pass to Rayford, but they fell short, 27-21 in and exciting finish. A few years later, his pass into the end zone would have been six more. Eli was making his mark early. It was fun to be there. My trip to visit Charlie and family and see Eli in his debut ended on a down note flying back home the next day as my flight returned to Atlanta shortly after take-off due to mechanical issues that got me home very late in the evening. Two days later, we were all upset and shocked by three devious air disasters none of us ever could have imagined.

When we aw Eli Manning in action in 2001 for Ole Miss, we figured two things; Eli's coming and so were instant replay reviews.

When we aw Eli Manning in action in 2001 for Ole Miss, we figured two things; Eli’s coming and so were instant replay reviews.

The weekend of September 15 was void of all sports here in the US as we mourned the losses of many people in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania as our country and our ways of life were attacked by a bunch of cowardly, hateful hijackers. Our lives have all changed since with sacrifices by many that went to war and new rules for air travel and precautions as the threats continue throughout the world today. It was very eerie the following weeks. My dentist attended the first NY Jets game at The Meadowlands a few weeks later and talked of how the entire stadium fell silent as the first jet overhead started its approach into nearby Newark Liberty Airport. The games scheduled for the weekend of September 15 were generally rescheduled late in the season depending on whether two teams could find an open weekend. I saw the effects around the country during the rest of my 2001 season. Games were marked by patriotic events and rallies to show that we were not going to give into fear and terrorism these people thought they could control us with. That isn’t happening – ever.

At the 2014 D3 Mass Maritime vs. SUNY Maritime game in Throggs Neck, NY, first responders and military were honored at the 9/11 game with the new Freedom Tower seen high above New York City a few miles away.

At the 2014 D3 Mass Maritime vs. SUNY Maritime game in Throggs Neck, NY, first responders and military were honored at the 9/11 game with the new Freedom Tower seen high above New York City a few miles away.

On September 22, Band Day at Delaware Stadium was marked by patriotic music and The Fighting Blue Hens carrying American flags as they raced on to the field before the game against Atlantic Ten Conference foe UMass who also brought their band along. You could cut the patriotism with a knife as they say that evening despite both teams entering with 0-2 records. The home team would win big that evening, 35-7, in what was the final season of long-time HC Harold “Tubby” Raymond’s illustrious career coming into this game with 296 wins. UMass would finish the 2001 season with a 3-8 record three season after winning the 1AA national championship under current HC Mark Whipple. We would see the Fighting Blue Hens in their final game of the season, and they will open our 2016 season with a Thursday night game for the third time in four years. This year we will see them host in-state rival Delaware State on Thursday, September 1, in what is now called ” The First State Bowl”.

Our 2016 season will open with the Delaware State Hornets who we will see play for only the second time.

Our 2016 season will open with the Delaware State Hornets who we will see play for only the second time.

In 2001, I stayed close to home on the last weekend of September taking my son Eric and nephew Ben (ages 6 and 7) to a night game at Princeton to see the Tigers host Ivy League foe Columbia. Both were 0-1 entering the weekend. Columbia took an early 3-0 lead, but it was all PU QB David Splithoff after that. In the first half he ran for two scores and in the third period he threw TD passes of 78 and 30 yards to build a 44-3 lead before a final Lion TD for a final score of 44-11. It wasn’t a competitive game (a rare occurrence with Columbia) but over the years, the Tigers play in many thrilling finishes in the Ivy league, win or lose. We usually like to get to at least one Ivy League game a season. Just a few days ago, we change our plans for September 17.  After we see the Rutgers Scarlet Knights take on the Lobos of New Mexico for a 12 noon kick off at High Point Solutions stadium, we plan to venture down to Princeton Stadium to catch the 5 pm Tiger opener when PU takes on Lafayette College in an FCS contest.   I appreciate now more than ever with all the growing FBS commercialism of college football, the experience to see teams playing football on ten consecutive weekends a year to determine one true league champion or co-champs, and that’s the end of it. The total focus is on winning football games – not rankings, commercial time-outs that create three and a half hour games, recruiting violations, juniors leaving for the pros, etc. However, we do hope for the day when the stuffy Ivy league presidents allow their championship football team to enter into the FCS playoffs. Final exams are supposedly the determining factor, but other Ivy League sports champs have access into their post season competitions. Maybe they’re right. Probably are. Damn, I wish they would try it though!     It may not be the best of college football, but most teams are competitive with one another. We enjoy seeing them play. Their games can be as fun to watch as any others, and they are only about winning – what college football should be about.

Our last Ivy League encounter was in 2014 when we saw the Brown Bruins defeat the Princeton Tigers, 27-16.

In our last Ivy League encounter in 2014 when we saw the Brown Bruins defeat the Princeton Tigers, 27-16.

The first travel experience after 9/11 during 2001 season was harrowing (read about it in Tales from the Tailgate) as I flew across the country in mid-October for my first PAC10 game where No. 7 UCLA Bruins and No. 10 Washington met at the Rose Bowl with identical 4-0 records.   The Huskie’s starting QB Cody Pickett was sidelined with an injury which didn’t bode well for the visitors, but UCLA’s offense got off to a quick start with a two TD runs and a returned fumble recovery for a 21-0 lead late in the first. Bruin RB Deshaun Foster exploded in the second half finishing the day with four TDs and a school rushing record of 301 yards for a school record in the 35-14 win over Washington. This year, we will see our second all PAC12 game when we go to Berkeley to see the Bears host Stanford on November 19.

November 2001 started with a game sitting atop Maryland’s Byrd Stadium looking out toward where I could see our nation’s Capitol Building in the distance reminding me of the devastation attempted there on 9/11. Below, the Maryland Terrapins took care of business hosting the Troy State Trojans as I added them as my 70th team toward my eventual goal to see ‘em all. In the first half, the 7-1 Terps raced out with 509 yards of offense to a 34-0 lead in the first half over Troy in their first season of FBS play. QB Shaun Hill passed for 228 yards and PK Nick Novak booted four FGs before Troy scored two late TDS for a 44-14 Maryland victory. Showed us though that you never know: while the Maryland offense dominated Troy, two Troy defenders eventually became household names later at the pro level – Junior DE Osi Umenyiora and Freshman DE Marcus Ware.

In another game where I was able to add another team toward my goal, a week later with extended family members we went to Storrs, Connecticut to see the UConn Hus host Utah State as my 71st team. The Huskies were in their second season of FBS play as an Independent and started Connecticut native Dan Orlovsky as a freshman as their starting QB. On a cold, snowy Saturday, the Aggies took advantage of the Huskies’ inexperience and led at half time, 28-10. It looked like another disappointing blow-out on hand to add Utah State as a new team. USU extended the lead to 38-10 in the third. However, Orlovsky threw a 34-yard TD pass to Wes Timko. The Husky D held the Aggies. Orlovsky threw another pass for a score. With five minutes left in the game, Orlovsky plunged over from the one to cut the Aggie lead, 38-31. USU’s RB Emmitt White removed an ice pack from his knee and came back in to help eat up the clock before UConn got the ball back for a last minute drive. The inexperience was in evidence though as Orlovsky’s low pass was intercepted by DT Jorge Tapia. The potential blow-out turned out to be a fun, competitive game in the end. We return to see the UConn Huskies play at Rentschler Stadium in East Hartford this season to seem host the Temple Owls on Friday, November 4 in an Eastern Divison American Athletic Conference game. It should be a good one.

In 2015, the Huskies hosted Navy. We'll see UConn visit the Midshipmen this season on September 10.

In 2015, the Huskies hosted Navy. We’ll see UConn visit the Midshipmen this season on September 10. As a Third Class Mid in 1975, UConn came to Navy-Marine Corps as a D2 program.  Their two fans in attendance draped a homemade sheet from the visitor’s side reading, “Navy sucks bilge water.” Navy football won that day,  55-7.  LOL!

On November 17, we attended the final regular season FCS game between Villanova and Delaware. It would be UD Head Coach Tubby Raymond’s final game. Eventual No. 19 Nova defeated the Blue Hens, 19-14. Raymond finished his career though with 300 wins over 36 years that included national championships in 1971, 1972, and 1979. The Wildcats finished 8-2, 7-1 while UD finished with a losing season of 4-6. Despite VU’s 8-2 finish, they did not make the 1AA playoffs, but we did. On 12/1, Eric and I attended the Hofstra-Lehigh game at Goodman Stadium in Bethlehem. In it, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks defeated Hofstra’s Flying Dutchman, 27-24, in an exciting game (Hofstra discontinued football since). The following week, LU fell to Furman. That same weekend, I happened to stayover from a business trip to Savannah, Georgia to attend the quarterfinal round between Appalachian State and Georgia Southern. What was of particular interest to me was that GSU HC Paul Johnson was coaching his final season with the Eagles where he ran the triple option. After the season, he would be leaving Statesboro, Georgia to become the head football coach at Navy in 2002. I got a great preview of what was to come for the struggling Navy football program. His Eagles won that day 38-24 to move on to the next round. Like Lehigh, they fell to Furman the following Saturday by a score of 24-17. Furman would fall to Montana in the finale, 13-6, for the 1AA championship. We love the FCS playoffs and will go to a game if one lands conveniently within driving distance to attend this season. We will see other FCS games this regular season including our previously mentioned opener on Sept. 1 between UD and Delaware State and the recently announced game featuring Princeton vs. Lafayette. In addition, we will see Patriot League contender Fordham on September 3 at Navy, and Lafayette at Bucknell in a Patriot League contest on November 21.

We witnessed seven Delaware wins under Tubby Raymond, and the we attended the ceremony after his retirement when the school named their playing filed after the coach who posted 300 wins for the Blue Hens.

Our final regular season game of 2001 season was the postponed game of 9/15 between the California Golden Bears and Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Former RU Head Coach Terry Shea used his California connections to set up a home and home with Cal before he was fired. Cal made the trip east for the game on Thanksgiving weekend with a 0-10 record as I looked to make them my 72nd team toward the goal to see ‘em all. Some family members and I were among the 18,111 that day to bask in the unusually warm, sunny day that time of year drinking lemonade in the stands to see the Bears challenge the 2-8 Scarlet Knight on their home field. Cal surrendered a school record allowing 421 points already that season. RU’s offense established the lowest scoring point total in school history – 109. Something had to give here. In Tales from the Tailgate, I referred to the action on the field as “a classic game of ineptitude.” In the third, RU closed the score trailing 17-10. In the final 19:14, Rutgers played horribly and California Golden Bears not much better. On a shanked 21-yard punt by RU, Cal at least got a field goal for a 20-10 lead. Rutgers’ sub QB Ted Trump tried to bring the Knights some new life, but threw an INT with 1:33 left. Cal sealed their only win of the season and their last game under lame-duck coach Tom Holmoe. They carried him out on their shoulders. We look forward to seeing the California Golden Bear’s final regular season game of 2016 when we fly the 3,000 miles to Berkeley to see them host Stanford. We may see someone get carried of on their team’s shoulders in this one, but not for avoiding a winless season. We expect this our 2016 season to be fantastic from beginning to end.

RB Christian McCaffery is one of the reasons we expect to see Stanford challenge for the College Football Playoff this year. We will see the Cardinal play at Notre Dame and at Cal in 2016.

RB Christian McCaffery is one of the reasons we expect to see Stanford challenge for the College Football Playoff this year. We will see the Cardinal play at Notre Dame and at Cal in 2016.









About Steveo

This website is dedicated to my unique and ongoing adventure to continue to see every major Division 1A (I despise the moniker "FBS") football team play in person at least once. I've seen all 124 teams in existence as of 2013 play and plan to attend games with the five newest editions in the next few years. This also records my ongoing adventures attending as many college football games as possible every season. I "officially" started this crazy goal in 1979. The upcoming 2014 season will be the 35th straight year of sharing this fun endeavor with others in person and through weekly reviews about each game I attend. Entering 2014, I have attended 459 NCAA football games at all levels. My book, Tales from the Tailgate: From the Fan who's seen 'em all! published in 2011, tells my story over 30 years of when I attended a game in person played by each D1A team for the first time. Now, I haven't attended a game at every major stadium on each campus (yet) because I'd probably be unemployed and definitely divorced by now. However, I'm proud to report that I remain gainfully employed and have been married to the same woman ("Saint Laurie") for almost 25 years. We have two kids that have recently ventured away from our home in Byram Township, NJ over the last few few years. Our daughter Alex is a junior at the University of South Carolina (Go Gamecocks!), and our son Eric is now enlisted in the United States Navy (Go Navy!). You will find that my site and my book focus on enjoying a passion for college football and great opportunities to have fun with friends and family around the country.

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