Collegefootballfan.com 2017 Season in Review
New record of 27 games in our 39th year!
Welcome to Collegefootballfan.com’s 2017 Season in Review. Disappointingly, we finish neither in Atlanta (too expensive for our budget), nor in Frisco, Texas, where Mother Nature grounded Plan B with a major snow storm along the eastern seaboard cancelling our flight and any convenient options to Dallas on Friday January 5 to attend the FCS national championship game. She thwarted our plan to see at least two national champions play this year. She and the North Dakota State Bison did us in as the winner of five of the last six FCS championships defeated James Madison, 17-13. Had JMU taken the title for it second in a row by defeating the Bison, we’d have attained this distinction of seeing two since we’d seen JMU win two other games already in 2017. Clemson gave us a shot to enable us to claim that we’d seen three, but the Tigers’ demise to the Alabama Crimson Tide took away our unique possibility to see three title winners compete during the 2017 season.
Despite missing the chance to see at least one of two other national championship games in 2017, Collegefootballfan.com still set a new site record having attended 27 NCAA college football games in one season. In 2014, we attended 26. 2017 turned out to be great season once again for us, not only because of the action enjoyed on the field of play, but also because we had so many great times with good friends before, after, and during our games. In our Collegefootballfan.com 2017 Season in Review that follows, we summarize our first half of the 2017 season with memorable moments on and off the field of each game attended:
Hawaii 38 – UMass 35 The Rainbow Warriors won as QB Dru Brown threw a seven-yard TD pass to Metuisela ‘Unga with 48 seconds left in the game. Hawaii finished its season at 3-9. Mike Ford and his son Colby joined us in Amherst. We hope they will join us again early next season for UMass at BC.
Delaware Valley 24 – Wesley 19 – DelVal QB DaShaun Darden tossed two TD strikes and LB Nick Wright returned a fumble for a TD in the first half to take a 22-3 lead over the Wesley Wolverines. The Aggies held on for a big early season win as DelVal finished the regular season undefeated winning the Middle Atlantic States Conference title before losing to Brockport State in the D-3 quarterfinals, 31-28. They finished ranked No. 7 with a record of 12-1. Wesley won the New Jersey Athletic Conference championship undefeated, but finished at 10—2 overall also falling to Brockport State in the first round of D-3 play, 49-28. They finished ranked No. 12 in D-3 Nation. We attended this opener for both teams with fellow Juniata College alum Bill Reilly on the meticulously kept campus of Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Pa.
Villanova 38 – Lehigh 35 On this Saturday of Labor Day weekend, St. Laurie and I, Dan Donnelly and “his” Saint Laurie, along with Steve and Donna Ciesla geared up for unusually cold weather, but also for a heated battle between two preseason Top 25 FCS teams. Neither program lived up to their seasonal expectations due to injuries and upsets, but they played a game of epic proportions to start their respective seasons at Lehigh’s Goodman Stadium. Villanova took a 21-7 lead with QB Zach Bednarczyk, lost a few games later in the season, in the first half, but with 4:43 remaining in the game, Lehigh’ QB Brad Mayes fired his fourth TD to get within a field goal, but the Wildcats ran out the clock for an exciting, hard-fought victory. Both squads finished the 2017 season with only five wins each. However, the Patriot League struggled against non-conference foes all season and Lehigh’s 5-1 conference record earned them a spot in the FCS as Patriot League champs. In typical 2017 season style, Stony Brook blasted the Patriot in the opening round, 69-29. Lehigh remains one of our favorite FCS tailgate venues, and we’ll plan to attend more Mountain Hawk games there in the future.
Virginia Tech 31 – West Virginia 24 For our fourth and final game in four days over Labor Day weekend, we attended with VA Tech grad-fanatic Scott Benson who savored his alma mater’s proclaimed “surprising” victory over West Virginia at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. Preseason No. 21 VT and No. 21 WVU played to a cat-and-mouse final as well. Tech took three seven-point leads in the second half. The Mountaineers came back after the first two to tie up the score. Tavon McMillan’s three-yard TD run gave Tech a 31-24 lead with 6:30 left. The Hokies did not have the game in hand though until the Mountaineers misfired three straight incompletions at the Hokie fifteen as time expired. Virginia Tech finished at 9-4 and after falling to Oklahoma State in the Camping World Bowl, ranked at No. 22. WVU finished 7-6 after their loss to Utah in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Penn State 33 – Pitt 14 Penn State looked to avenge one of two regular season losses from a year ago and did so on this day dominating Pitt in the 98th renewal of this fractured rivalry, 33-14. PSU got off to a quick lead in the first at 14-0 and its defense kept Pitt in check all game long before RB Saquon Barkley scored twice in the second half. Marcus Allen’s tackle in the end zone for safety resulted in five points with Tyler Davis also putting up a 24-yard FG. The tailgating was good on a beautiful day. Great pulled pork mixed in with various concoctions enjoyed with PSU alum and stalwart John Massimilla and friends. The Panthers’ season ended at 5-7 with a key upset for the second year in a row as they knocked off No. 2 Miami, 24-14, in their final game of the season.
Temple 29 – UMass 21 Before heading to our first game ever at the University of Minnesota, we stopped at The Linc in Philly on the way to the airport the night before for this appetizer. It turned out to be a sloppy one at best. Temple looked to be a shell of the program it had been under former HC Matt Rhule who left for green, not greener, pastures at Baylor. UMass could have had a fighting chance to win this game if not for three missed field goals that kept them out of reach. Temple’s Isaiah Wright’s one-handed TD catch in the fourth put the Owls up 29-14. QB Andrew Ford led the Minutemen to within eight again with a TD run to cap a 76-yard drive. The U of M defense forced TU to a three-and-out, but their final drive stalled at Temple’s 38 as time expired. The Minutemen doubled their win total from the previous season as the finished at 4-8. We plan to see them play at Boston College on Labor Day weekend next season, and we may possibly see them play in one or two more games as we start piecing together our 2018 season.
Minnesota 34 – Middle Tennessee 3 We met up with cousin Anthony Cavalli, former Air Force Flight Surgeon who is working toward a degree in Physical Medicine at U of Minnesota Medical while he also serves there in residency. His status got us seats within the student section as I added the Gophers’ home venue for the first time. The Gophers ramped their lead up to 20-3 on DB Jacob Huff’s interception return for a TD late in the first half. The defense held the Blue Raiders in check all day long holding the visitors to 230 yards of total offense. RB Kobe McCrary rushed for 107 yards and three TDs to lead the Gophers to a 3-0 mark at that time. However, under HC P.J. Fleck in his first season after his 13-1 stint coming from Western Michigan after 2016, the Gophers tallied a final record of 5-7. Fans of Minnesota are still very optimistic for their future, and we will meet up again with Dave and Bob of the Gopher Tales club who we met later at Hopcats that evening. They plan to attend the Gophers game at Rutgers in 2019 as it is only one of two Big Ten venues they have not visited yet. Should be a great time. MTSU turned their season around to even out their record competing in Conference USA and defeated Arkansas State in the Raycom Camellia Media Bowl 35-30 for a 7-6 record.
Navy 42 – Cincinnati 32 For our traditional Boys’ Weekend at the Naval Academy for food, fun, football, and tailgating, many of our first-time attendees abandoned ship after half-time for cooler climes and liquid refreshment as the sun was blistering hot. Navy rambled for 569 yards on the ground against the Bearcats, three short of a school record. QB Zach Abey ran 20 times for 128 yards and one of his three passing attempts went for a TD. On the other side of the football, Bearcat QB Hayden Moore went to the air exposing the Mids pass defense completing 28 of 46 for 381 yards and three TDs. Cincy got to within 10 with 10:07 left to play, and drove deep into Navy territory where a sack of Hayden and a fumble recovery by Navy LB D.J. Palamore sealed Navy’s victory. Our post game celebration in the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium parking lot lasted into darkness for a good time recovering from the heat before heading back to our hotel around midnight. Other fans were receiving medical help in the shade of the stands during half-time. Despite the heat, it was great time and we plan to return do this again next season in Annapolis. Navy started off the season with its fourth straight win. Cincinnati under first-year HC Luke Steckel ended their season with a 4-8 record.
James Madison 20 – Delaware 10 Defending 2016 FCS champ and NO. 1 JMU held UD under first-year HC Danny Rocco to 239 yards of total offense. However, Delaware held the Dukes way below both their season averages for total yards and points per game (47.2 ppg) prior to the meeting. This was a hard-fought football game indicating that Rocco was starting to develop the Blue Hens back into a formidable FCS program. The Dukes took a 17-10 lead before the first half benefiting from two turnovers. JMU DE Andrew Ankrah made a heads-up play picking up a lateral others thought fell as an incomplete pass and returned it 23 yards for a TD to take a 14-10 lead. S Raven Greene picked off a UD pass at his six with 3:46 left. JMU drove for a field goal as time expired in the first half to lead, 17-10. Defenses dominated in the second half and strong winds impacted kicks with only JMU’s Tyler Gray converting on a 48-yarder, his second of two, to make the score final late in the game. UD’s Frank Raggo set a school record earlier with a 55-yard for an early 3-0 lead with the wind to his back. We had a great day tailgating with friends and family, many who came to see their former student of Passaic Tech (NJ) HS, Thomas Jefferson, play for the Fighting Blue Hens. He’s a great kid and has very nice parents. We want to try to get the Blue Hens on our schedule again next year. They fell short of getting an FCS playoff bid with their 7-4 record, but they seem to be headed in the right direction. We’d see JMU play on a bigger stage later in the season.
Navy 48 – Air Force 45 Navy hosted Air Force in the 50th meeting between the two academies, and as usual the two traditionally opened the first round among the three academies (Army included) for the coveted Commander-in -Chief’s Trophy for football supremacy in the annual round robin competition to collect the cherished hardware at The White House. Navy entered 4-0 while the Air Force came in at 1-3 against some good competition. Navy took a 28-7 lead in the first half, but as Cincinnati had done two weeks earlier, the Falcons of Air Force took advantage of Navy’s dismal secondary play. In front of a record crowd of 38,972 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Air Force QB Arion Worthman riddled Navy’s secondary for 257 yards and two TDs on only nine of 16 passes. He also ran for 139 and scored on two of his runs. Air Force outgained Navy on the day 621 to 557. The Mids rushed for 471 yards on the ground to outdistance the Falcons entering the final period leading 38-24. With 1:53 left, Worthman connected with Marcus Bennet badly beating the Mid secondary for a 51-yard scoring pass to take a 45-41 lead. However, they left too much time on the clock as Zach Abey tossed a 15-yard scoring strike to TE Tyler Carmona in the end zone to take back the lead with only 15 seconds in the balance. The game remained in question as Air Force attempted about 12 laterals on the subsequent kickoff return before the clock expired as the play was run. It was a thrilling, exciting victory for the Mids and all in attendance. John Massimilla, who attends just about every Penn State home game and more, said that despite not having any partiality to either team, he viewed this game as among his top five for excitement. As usual, our tailgate party at Navy-Marine Corps was outstanding. Disappointingly, this would be the last of my visits this season because three Navy home games conflicted with three must-see games for me up at Penn State. However, I would see Navy play three more times later in the season. For Air Force, it was an unusual down season for them. Though they started off at 1-4, they finished at 5-7. We doubt that they won’t improve upon that mark next season.
Syracuse 27 – Clemson 24 We traipsed up to Syracuse taking off Friday afternoon from work to see what No. 2, 6-0 Clemson looked like and to make it a double-header weekend by going over to see a Colgate home game for the first time the next day. The Carrier Dome crowd of 42,475 was pumped up for the Friday night game looking for the big upset. The Blue and Orange crowd rocked. Syracuse got off to a fast start scoring the first time they had the ball. An excessive celebration penalty gave Clemson good field position, and they retaliated with a score of their own to tie the score right away. The Orange and the Tigers went toe to toe all game as SU staked the lead three more times and Clemson came back to tie them each time. Orange QB Eric Dungey led his team offensively with 20 of 32 passes for 283 yards and three TDs. Defensively, DE Alton Robinson made several key stops and his hard hit on Clemson QB Kelly Bryan knocked him out of the game in the first half. At 5:19 into the final period, Cole Murphy booted a 30-yard FG for the Syracuse lead, 27-24. The Orange defense forced Clemson to punt on its next possession and Dabo Swinney’s team attempted a long pass that fell short on the fake punt to turn the ball over to the Orange. Clemson used its two remaining time-outs and SU converted third downs into first downs three times to eat up the clock. With 1:37 left, Syracuse set up in the Victory formation to run out the clock and pull off the biggest upset we ever witnessed as unranked Syracuse knocked off No. 2 Clemson. The Tigers rebounded after their only loss of the regular 2017 season. After a bye week the Saturday after, Bryant recovered from his injuries and played the rest to the season with the Tigers defeating Miami, 38-3, for the ACC championship to finish No. 1 overall for the College Football Playoffs. In the Sugar Bowl, they fell to eventual national champ Alabama, 24-6. After posting their 4-3 record after defeating Clemson, Syracuse dropped all five remaining games of their season by a combined score of 216 to 110. We caught them at the pinnacle of their season and Clemson at the rock bottom of theirs. We’re glad we got to this one as it will go down as Collegefootballfan.com’s biggest upset ever.
Colgate 36 – Fordham 12 This game definitely became our biggest disappointment of the season. Luckily, we had attended our upset of all upsets the night before through 545 games. In that game, we expected to see a blow-out. In this game, we scheduled it thinking it would be a shoot-out for a Patriot League playoff bid. Instead, Fordham came to Hamilton with only one win in five games and Colgate picked up only two among their first five. There was also a nostalgic angle to this game for me. The first college football game I ever attended was in 1966 as a kid when I saw Colgate beat Princeton, 7-0, at crowded Palmer Stadium on the Princeton campus. Since that day 51 years ago, I had seen Colgate play five or six times since, but I had never seen them play on their home field. This was supposed to be special. Also, we expected to see Fordham Senior RB Chase /Edmonds pursue career FCS records, but instead, we saw him held to 53 yards after seeing him put up some big numbers in previous games we’d seen him play since he was freshman for the Rams. Since HC Joe Moorhead left to take over as OC at Penn State, the Rams were in a tailspin under second year HC Andrew Breiner. Colgate took a 24-0 lead on the arm of frosh QB Grant Breneman who threw three TD passes. We saw his brother Adam play TE for UMass two games previously this season. Funny thing was that after this dull game, both teams, unlike Syracuse, played better through the end of the 2017 season. Well, Syracuse definitely played a superior schedule to say the least. Fordham won three of its last four including a win over co-Patriot League Champ Lehigh to finish at 4-7. Colgate won all its remaining games to finish 7-4 overall with a Patriot league record of 5-1 to share the Patriot League crown. However, its controversial, previous loss to Lehigh broke the tie-breaker sending the Mountain Hawks to the FCS playoffs where it lost to Stony Brook as previously mentioned. The best part of our day seeing Colgate host Fordham was meeting up with a few new friends who invited me to tailgate with them when I parked next to them I had a great time meeting avid Colgate fans Sam, Ray, and Bruce. We’ll look them up for future Colgate game we may attend.
Check back soon for our rehash of the balance of our great 2017 season. After that, we will do our 2018 schedule preview, “Super” memories , our 2018 pre-draft preview, our tribute to a departed friend who passed on in October, and other offseason updates in Steveo’s Salvos to keep our guns blasting about this great game of college football. For complete game coverage of all our games attended this past 2017 season, check out all our Game Reviews on this site.