Five years ago: A look at our past before our exciting, upcoming 2016 season
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 past starting with today’s Salvo reviewing our memories of the Collegefootballfan.com 2011 season. We’ll share some great moments and memories that we’ll also tie to some of our plans for the upcoming season. It’s a fun way to get ready for our season by remembering back over 37 college football seasons spanning some of the 507 games we’ve attended entering this season.
We kicked off the Collegefootballseason.com 2011 season with a blow-out of Villanova by Temple, 42-7, on Thursday, September 1. Despite an inter-division game looking unattractive as the opener, the previous season started with the same two teams at “the Linc” in Philly with a last minute win by the Temple Owls in an exciting 31-24 finish. We attended last season’s Temple home opener in 2015 to witness their 27-10 upset over Penn State, their first win over the Nittany Lions since 1941. We’ll attend this season’s Owl opener on Friday, September 2 when they host the Cadets of Army. In 2011, we followed up two days later in 2011 to see LB Mike Groome from our Lenape Valley (NJ) Regional HS lead his Lehigh Mountain Hawks to their first win of many this particular season with a 49-24 win over the Monmouth University Hawks in Long Branch, NJ for our first trip there to see the up and coming FCS program. To finish off our first weekend, we went to the University of Maryland on Labor Day for a night game to watch The Terps under new HC Randy Edsall, formerly the HC coming from UCONN to replace Ralph Friedgen, host the Miami Hurricanes under new HC Al Golden, the former Temple Owl mentor. The Terps came away with a 32-24 win. The result was not indicative of the rest of either team’s season. Maryland won only one more game to finish 2-10 while Miami under probation finished 6-6. How well have these two done with these programs? Well, five years later neither coach will be leading these or any other FBS programs entering the 2016 season.
There was a new twist to my schedule planning process for my Collegefootballfan.com 2011 season. My son Eric was playing his junior season on the offensive line as a second teamer for the aforementioned Lenape Valley Patriot football team. So some Saturdays and Friday nights were prioritized by following this great high school football program instead. In general, the combined slates allowed me to enjoy both Eric’s schedule and my annual favorite pastime. On the particular weekend following Labor Day, Eric’s Saturday game limited my collegiate experience to a D3 Thursday night game. I drove up to Danbury, Connecticut to see two D3 programs play for the first time. SUNY Maritime clubbed Western Connecticut, 48-0. I came away with two impressions that still last: 1) The Colonial’s Stadium known as the Westside Athletic Complex was a neat little stadium; and 2) that WCSU was the most unprepared college football team I had seen at any level. They would finish the season winless for the second year in a row. Since then, a new coach and a new conference have righted the program. They’ve won 20 games over the past three years. As for SUNY Maritime, I got to see a home game of theirs two seasons ago. Their stadium sits under the Throggs Neck Bridge connecting The Bronx with Long island in New York City. We look forward to seeing them play again this year on a Friday night when they host their nearby maritime rival, the Merchant Marine Academy from Kings Point, NY. Should be fun and interesting to see a local, seafaring rivalry like this one.
One of the great thrills of the Collegefootballseason.com 2011 season was closely following the Lehigh University football program with a special rooting interest as I and close friends and family of Mike Groome, a senior coming off an all-conference season at linebacker his junior year, played great FCS football. We attended five Lehigh Mountain Hawk games that season including the opener at Monmouth, and we saw the team land five victories against good competition. Home at Goodman Stadium in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, they defeated Liberty of the Big South, 27-14, Yale of the Ivy league, 37-7, fellow Patriot League foe Holy Cross in their closest win of the season, 14-7, and their archrival Lafayette in the most played rivalry in college football history, 37-13. The intensity was brewing in the parking lot before that game played in front of a packed house. Regretfully two Saturdays later, I could not attend their second round FCS playoff game at Towson because of a previously scheduled overseas business meeting. The Mountain Hawks soared to a 40-38 win over the Tigers (still don’t know why they didn’t play this one at Goodman). The following weekend, they lost their second game of the season to eventual FCS champion North Dakota State, 24-0. It would be the first of five straight championships by the Bison since. It was a truly memorable season enjoyed by all of us who followed Lehigh that season. Lehigh (11-2) finished the season ranked No. 5 nationally in the FCS. We recommend the tailgating aspect at Lehigh as well. We especially had a great time with families and friends of the team after most games. In 2014, we attended the 150th edition of the Lafayette-Lehigh rivalry played at historic Yankee Stadium. The Leopards came away with that win, 27-7. There’s a lot to be said about the fun and excitement of following great FCS football. I highly recommend it for fun and low cost family entertainment.
Another twist to my scheduling during my Collegefootballfan.com 2011 season was to attend a few games at the University of South Carolina – Parents Weekend in particular. My daughter Alex was into her freshman season as a dyed in the wool Garnett and Black South Carolina Gamecock fan already. She and new roommates had their picture taken with fellow Frosh and DE Jadaveon Clowney at their big freshman welcoming party. Because of Eric’s football schedule, my wife, Saint Laurie, went to Columbia to be with Alex while I attended Eric’s high school game at home Friday night. On Saturday morning, he and I flew down Saturday morning and the women picked us up at the airport. Laurie, Eric, and I would drive back on Sunday after a brunch held at Alex’s sorority house. What I was truly excited about was that the Cocks were hosting one of my favorite teams and “partial” alma mater, the United States Naval Academy. I went into this game with somewhat mixed emotions seeing my daughter’s school to whom I was footing the out of state tuition bill against a team and a school I had rooted for since I was a Midshipman there from 1974-76 (buy a copy of my book Tales from the Tailgate to learn more). Though I would eventually transfer for other callings, I am still a big Navy football fan. I don’t think it really struck me that hard until that game that Saturday evening. I especially looked forward to seeing SC RB Marcus Lattimore play. The previous season in my first game at The Swamp in Florida, he impressed the hell out of me in a great Gamecock win. Not only was he strong, tough, and fast, but I don’t ever recall seeing a back use his blockers as effectively as he did. What was this future shoe-in NFL RB going to do against this Navy defense? Eric and I sat in the upper deck surrounded by South Carolina Gamecock fans. I wore my red Collegefootballfan.com #119 jersey and a Carolina Gamecock ball cap I had bought the day at the bookstore. I saw the Carolina spirit before the game. I could hear the cheering for the Gamecocks and how good they were and how they would beat up on this Navy team. Hell! I couldn’t take it anymore. I was rooting for Navy! How could I not? The Navy D stopped them, I stood up and cheered. Navy scored, I stood up and cheered. Navy led them going into the final period. I cheered as they reversed field. Navy shut down Lattimore for most of three quarters and led with over three-minute remaining in the third period. However, the SC defense finally caught on to Navy’s triple option that held the Mids to three three-and-outs in the final period. Lattimore eventually rushed for 246 yards on 37 carries with most of the yardage picked up in the second half. He scored the winning TD with 12:45 left. A pick of a Navy pass in the final minute sealed the Carolina victory. Eric just sat there quietly next to me the entire time. I didn’t make eye contact with anyone else or speak to any one nearby. They had their team and I had mine. I wasn’t going to challenge anyone, I just wanted my team to win. In the end, the Gamecocks came from behind to prevail over what was a defensively tough Navy football team. The Gamecocks won it, in an unexpected, close call, 24-21. I was exhausted for rooting for a Midshipman team that came up short but played much tougher than those Carolina fans could’ve imagined. Eric said nothing until he met up with his sister the next day. He said, “Alex, it was weird. Everyone was rooting for South Carolina in our section except for Dad. They were totally confused. Here he was wearing a Carolina baseball hat and a red jersey and he was rooting for Navy. No one said anything to him because they couldn’t figure it out.” Camouflage, I thought. Not that it was intended, but it helped. I had a great time cheering for Navy against South Carolina, and they almost pulled it off in that hostile environment. I didn’t know what would have happened if the Mids had won. I would have been happy, but I would just be sure not to piss off too many people nearby. I knew I was outnumbered. I probably just would have sat there until they all left. Later in the season, I got to join the Gamecock ranks, however. Our whole family went back down for Thanksgiving to be with Alex. We went to Georgia to have Thanksgiving dinner with our Auburn friends, Charlie and Lynda Murren and extended family and friends. On Saturday, we were back in Columbia for the big Clemson game. Both teams were ranked highly, and I rooted for the school I was investing my daughter’s future in and they triumphed over the visiting Clemson Tigers, 34-13. I blended in this time against the South Carolina Gamecock’s biggest rival and gloated that my team had won.
I got to see Navy football two more times during that year on consecutive weekends. On October 15, the Rutgers Scarlett Knights squeezed by them at the Birthplace of College Football, 21-20. Rutgers took the lead at 21-17 in the fourth on a 20-yard TD pass to Tim Wright. Navy then drove to the 15 but could not advance the ball further and settled for a 41-yard FG by Jon Teague. A Navy INT put the Mids at the RU 21, but again the Scarlet Knight defense held and Navy settled for a 34-yard FG, only this time it was blocked. Navy football fell to 2-4. A week later, we were down in Annapolis to see the Mids host East Carolina. Trailing 24-21 into the final period, backup QB Trey Miller subbing for starter Kriss Proctor injured in the first half tried to end the Navy losing streak. However, they could not deter ECU QB Dominique Davis who set NCAA records that day for consecutive pass completions – 36 straight over the course of two games and 26 straight during the first half of this game. The Navy D was weak against the pass. Davis completed 40 of 45 on the day with two TDs and 372 yards. Miller fired two TD passes in the final period to give USNA a 35-31 lead. After that, the Pirates sustained a drive resulting in a three-yard scoring run by Reggie Bullock. On Navy’s final drive, Miller looked like he had connected with his diving WR Matt Aiken who crossed the goal line with the ball in his hands before coming out after hitting the ground. The catch was called incomplete. Navy challenged the call, but it stood per Conference USA officials. With 18 ticks left, Teague came in to tie the game. His kick was high enough and long enough, but it hit the upright and dropped to the ground. Game over. It was the fifth straight loss for the Mids. Of the five, two were by three and two were by one. They’d lose another by three later to San Jose. Southern Miss and Notre Dame would clock them. Finishing 5-7, eight points in all made a difference in four games. It would be the first time in ten years that the Navy football program would not be going to a bowl game. We will attend five Navy games this season including our 11th Army-Navy game against the Cadets of Army, greatest rivalry in college football.
Collegefootballfan.com 2011 season was unique indeed and ended an era, sadly, for Collegefootballfan.com, something that was not planned for or that could even be imagined. Since 1982 when I made friends with my good buddy and Penn State grad John Massimilla, I had attended multiple Nittany Lion football games every year whether they be the played at Beaver Stadium (most were), on the road, at some neutral stadium, or at some bowl game. On average, I’d see three to four games a year mingled among many of the other venues I would plan to go to “see ‘em all”. This season was very different in that I attended only one Penn State game and it wasn’t by design. Their 13-3 win over Iowa wasn’t memorable, but for me it marked the end of an era that I wasn’t aware of at the time. The reality was that It would be the last time I attended a game coached by long-time Penn State Nittany Lion head coach, Joe Paterno. I had also planned to attend the Illinois game on October 29, but due to a very early, unexpected, heavy snow storm in the northeast that brought a foot of snow and crackling, falling, breaking trees and branches making driving and walking all over very treacherous. I refrained from the four-hour drive to State College due to the dangers and replaced my weekly, fall obsession with a local D3 game still challenging the weather. Before reminiscing about that, let me get back to Penn State.
Iowa was my only PSU game attended that season and the very last I would ever see “JoePa” ever coach. There were a lot of great, fun, exciting memories he gave me and other Penn State fans over the years. I attended my first PSU game in 1979 when they “visited” Syracuse at The Meadowlands. He more often than not seemed to do things with his best intentions done with class. Think what you will about Joe Paterno from the distance you can perceive him from now, but for so many years we’d attend those games and always wonder why Joe did this or Joe did that or what was Joe going to do. He built that program into what it was and had a lot to do with the growth and reputation of the great university in the middle of nowhere. He was Penn State despite what others with that school might say. He was an icon of the good things about college football. He was an icon among coaches. He was as proud of his teams’ successes in the class room and life after football as he was about achievements on the gridiron. I can only say now in the aftermath of the crimes that transpired, it’s still hard for me to believe that with all the good he did in public, I can’t believe or understand how he let these things happen under his watch without taking steps to prevent them from continuing, if he truly knew about them. I understand he was dedicated to his team, the school, the program, the players, the PSU students etc. He was “JoePa” for those reasons, but I’m at a loss that he could have let his love of these things blind him from such atrocities had he known about them. It’s all still such a sad enigma to me for him to have let something transpire as it did without doing the right thing. I can’t judge and it’s hard to for so many of us to envision this over the years having watched him seem to do many right things over the years. He wasn’t perfect. None of us are, but I have a hard time believing that he could have been so blinded by the love of the Penn State Nittany Lion football program not to stand up and do the right thing for kids being sexually assaulted. It just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s hard to write about this. Sorry for the kids who had to suffer through the ordeal of Jerry Sandusky. It’s still all so tragic and unbelievable to me. One individual is paying for his crimes. Maybe others should. It’s a shame. We’ll let the courts figure all this out. This season, we will be at State College to see Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan State Spartans try to get past Penn State as pre-season favorites in the Big Ten to get into this year’s CFP Championship.
In place of the PSU-Illinois cancellation, I drove about 35 miles back to Union, NJ near my old neighborhood in Elizabeth to see a D3 game between No. 18 Kean University and New Jersey Athletic Conference foe Rowan University. The two teams were tied for first in the conference with 5-1 records along with perennial conference power Montclair State. The Kean Cougars were 6-1 overall while the Profs of Rowan came in at 5-2. At least the substitute game I was able to get to had some “juice” to it though it was at the lowest level of intercollegiate football. The teams were fighting for a championship. I drove slowly on unplowed roads with fallen trees covered in ice across highways to get Kean Alumni Stadium to sit on snowy bleachers. During the game, a transformer exploded somewhere in the neighborhood near the campus shutting down power for many homes. The game was lightly attended by families and friends and a few Kean students who remained on campus for the weekend along with yours truly watching in a complete blanket of white. Kean led at the half 13-6 as both teams struggled on slippery footing. The kicking games struggled. No doubt, it was very sloppy game due to the elements. At halftime, I went to my car to take my wet rain gear off and turn the heater on in my car in the parking lot adjacent to the stadium. As I stepped out of the car to get ready to go back with some hesitation, a huge tree branch on an evergreen in front of my car snapped off and fell to the ground a few feet in front of my car. Was this worth it? The roads were going to be as bad on the way home as it had been to the game. Plows weren’t ready for all this snow and ice. I decided to call it a game and get home before more trees fell, power went off, and whatever else was going to happen. I was glad I did. Driving on ramps on to interstates were like driving though ice caves formed by bending trees that could snap at any minute. It turned out though that I did not miss a thing after I had left the game. The score stood as I had left it, 13-6, in favor of the Kean Cougars. They would go on to win their final two regular season games including their season finale over Montclair, 27-14, to win the NJAC championship outright. In the first round of the D3 playoffs, they defeated Christopher Newport of Virginia, 34-10. They fell in the second round in a high-scoring game at Salisbury State, 49-47. Evidently there was no snow on the ground at that game. Salisbury would fall a week later to Wisconsin Whitewater who went on the defeat Mt. Union, 13-10, for the D3 national championship in 2011. Kean finished the season 10-2 overall and ranked No. 10 in the D3 Top 25 for their highest final ranking ever. My back up game was a very good choice, but it couldn’t have happened had the weather not surprised us with an early surprise winter storm in 2011. This year, we will see these two teams play again only this year at Rowan in Glassboro, NJ. This year, we look forward to seeing former LVRHS football player and one of my former Little League baseball players, Matt Hill, play at NT for the Kean Cougars in his senior season. As for Penn State, the ride wouldn’t have been worth it as they also prevailed in a low-scoring contest over the Illini, 10-7, in what truly was Joe Paterno’s very last game on the sideline.
For an unusual Wednesday night game, I ventured down to Philly to see the Temple Owls host Miami of Ohio in a Mid-American game at the Linc. The MAC had contracted with ESPN to show their games during prime time, mid-week evenings to get more national exposure. They prevailed over the Red Hawks 24-21, under new HC Steve Addazio in a light drizzle most of the game. His offense converted three turnovers forced by the defense into 17 points. Seven sacks kept Red Hawk QB Zac Dysert under pressure most of the game despite throwing for 364 yards and three TDs. He led two long scoring drives finding WR Nick Harwell in the end zone for two scores, the final one with 3:55 left in the game. TU ran out the clock behind the ground game led by RB Matt Brown who ran for 123 yards and on 24 carries including the final Owl TD. The win ended a two-game losing streak for the Owls and was the first of four consecutive wins giving them a berth in the New Mexico Bowl where they triumphed over Wyoming, 37-14, to finish a successful season at 9-4. The airwaves on my way home after the Miami win were intense about the breaking news out of State College, Pennsylvania, a sad night after watching a good college football game. This year, we will see the Temple Owls visit UConn and host the South Florida Bulls in addition to their home opener against the Cadets of Army.
As stated before, the Collegefootballfan.com 2011 season coincided well with my son Eric’s high school football schedule. On Friday night, I headed up I-81 to Syracuse to see the Syracuse Orange host South Florida Bulls in a Big East game at the Carrier Dome to be back home on Saturday to attend a Lenape Valley playoff game. I remember a lot of drops by the Orange on catchable balls in this game despite QB Ryan Nassib completing 23 of 46 for 297 yards and two TDs. He was outshone that evening by South Florida’s B.J Daniels who threw for 254 and ran for 127. The Bulls won the game 37-17 and both teams finished their seasons with records of 5-7. On September 17, we will see these two square off again in the Carrier Dome. However, this is no longer a Big East Conference game as the conference has dissolved since. The Syracuse Orange now play in the ACC and the South Florida Bulls are members of the American Athletic Conference. We look forward to this being a much more competitive game with offenses that will be able to move the football up and down the field under Head Coach Willie Taggert of the Bulls and first-year HC Dino Babers for the Syracuse Orange. In addition, we will see the Orange clash with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame at The Meadowlands.
For the Collegefootballfan.com 2011 season, I planned three bowl games. Two were within driving distance and the other at the Orange Bowl in Miami. The first was great one played at cavernous RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. where the crowd of over 25,000 looked sparse. With his season over, Eric was able to join me. The Military Bowl turned out to be an exciting matchup between the 8-4 Toledo Rockets and 7-5 Falcons of Air Force. Long plays for TDs were the norm for this game between two top 25 scoring teams. Toledo led 42-35 with 5:01 left. Air Force scored a TD with 52 seconds left to close to one. The Air Force Falcons lined up to kick the extra point, but the holder ran the option to the short side of the field and his pitch out to the trailing kicker was low and went out of bounds to end the scoring for Toledo’s 42-41 thriller of a win.
Two days later, Eric and I were at Yankee Stadium for the Pinstripe Bowl between Rutgers Scarlett Knights and the Iowa State Cyclones. We sat in what are the right field bleachers for a baseball game, but it was the perfect sight line to see the clinching score of the game before it even happened right in front of us. The Scarlet Knights’ 6’ 6” WR Brandon Coleman split wide left near us at his own 14-yard line against t a 5’7” defender right in front of him one on one. I saw the touchdown before it happened as Coleman just out leaped the much shorter defender and outraced him 86 yards to extend the RU lead over the Cyclones, 27-13, with 5:47 left in the game. That made it the final score as Rutgers won its fifth straight bowl. They finished the season 9-4 and HC Greg Schiano left after the season to coach the Tampa bay Buccaneers. The final Iowa State Cyclone record was indicative of how saturated bowl season had become as they finished their season on a losing note to finish 6-7.
The Discover Orange Bowl was played on the fifth of January, 2012 on a Wednesday night. The bowl famous for its New Year Day conclusion of the holiday over the years was now an also-ran bowl because of the BCS format between the top two teams selected at the end of the season. Not only that but my Auburn pal Charlie Murren and I went to the game figuring this was warm weather Miami in January away from the cold weather farther north. Instead, we ended up shopping at K-Mark for extra layers of clothing we didn’t bring to ward off freezing, unexpected temperatures. Well the game started off pretty hot any way. The Clemson Tigers were knocking at the goal line looking to take back a 21-17 lead by the West Virginia Mountaineers when suddenly RB Andre Ellington was stripped of the ball on a dive play by LB Darwin Cook who took the ball and raced 99 yards toward the other goal line to instead extend WVU’s lead, 28-17. From then on, it was all WVU Mountaineers. Clemson QB Tajh Boyd fumbled and threw an interception. West Virginia capitalized both times and took a 49-20 led at the half. Mountaineer QB Geno Smith, the game MVP, passed for 401 yards, six TDs and ran for a 7-yarder himself (he did more in that game than he has in his entire NFL career thus far, kidding). In the end, WVU crushed the Tigers, 70-33. It was not only a record setting combined point total for the Orange Bowl, but the WVU Mountaineer’s 70 points turned out to be the highest point total in all of bowl history. Well we saw a different Clemson Tiger team last season as they defeated Oklahoma in the CFP semi-final in that same Orange Bowl venue. We would like to see Junior QB Deshaun Watson play for the Tigers one more time. Clemson’s not on our regular season schedule, but if they can win their division to play in the ACC championship, we have December 3rd marked on our calendar for a possible trip the Charlotte to see what he and the Tigers are doing to get back in this years’ “Football Four”.
Our Collegefootballfan.com 2011 season was spectacular although for that season for some major disappointments were laced among the highlights. We look forward to a lot more highs than lows in our upcoming 2016 season. Be sure to keep up with us throughout.
–Steve Koreivo, editor