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?

Game 540: Minnesota “Flecks’s” new found energy over Middle Tennessee, 34-3

Game 540: Minnesota “Flecks’s” new found energy over Middle Tennessee, 34-3

Minneapolis – Under new HC P.J. Fleck, the Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-0) dominated Middle Tennessee State of  ConferenceUSA, 34-3, in our Game 540, our first ever at the University of Minnesota.  The Gophers head into Big Ten play with a high, new energy level brought to Minneapolis by their new head coach who led Western Michigan last season to a 13-1 record, the MAC championship, and the school’s first bid ever to the Cotton Bowl.  Gopher fans anticipate great things from Fleck.  He’s brought new energy to the program and brought more optimism with only one season of recruiting for the Gophers under his belt.  The future begins now according to Gopher fans.

Head Coach P.J .Fleck, in gold shoes, keeps an eye on his Gophers during a timeout.

The Gophers shall rise again…

Guest Game Analyst (GGA) Anthony Cavalli and I met Dave and Bob, big-time Golden Gopher tailgaters, at a local bar, Hopcat, home of 80 beers on tap The die-hard, long-time Gopher fans confirmed that Fleck brings more to this program than any other new HC they remember that came to Minnesota over the years, even Lou Holtz. Dave’s still mad at him for taking all is Gopher recruits to Notre Dame after he announced his exodus from the Big Ten school who hasn’t played in The Rose Bowl since 1962.

Anthony, a resident physician and former Air Force Flight Surgeon studying Physical Medicine at the U of M Medical Center, attends Minnesota as both a student and works as a staff member.  He offered a unique experience forty years since our own college graduation.  We got to sit in the student section!  Great view! Revisited perspective (still going back to college full time if I ever hit the lottery).

Early Gopher drive watched from above with our fellow students.

The Gophers led 6-3 over the ConferenceUSA Blue Raiders (1-2) with only 6:02 in the first half.  Conor Rhoda’s 24-yard pass to Frosh WR Demetrius Douglas extended the Golden Gopher lead.  But the icing on the first half score occurred on the next MTSU possession when DB Jacob Huff picked off a John Urzua pass and returned it 67 yards to make the score 20-3 at the break.

“Minnesota Rouser”

Anthony has a great set-up to attend Golden Gopher games, and after this one he found out his college football experience in Minneapolis is about to get better.  When he moved to Minneapolis a year and a half ago, he moved into an apartment right along the Blue line Light Rail system.  I caught the train right at the airport to meet him at his local Light Line station.  From the same station, we hopped on the Green line to take it past US Bank Stadium, home of the Vikings, and got dropped off within a short walk to TCF Stadium (Capacity 50,800) for the 2:30 kickoff.  After buying a student and student guest ticket, we viewed the U of M band performance finishing with their great fight song, “Minnesota Rouser”.  I enjoyed a Summit Ale, a local brew, from the tap nearby, and Anthony insisted I had to try cheese curds, a staple of local Minneapolis cuisine.  It’s a good thing I only bought the eight-pack.  I could have eaten a lot more covered in the recommended Ranch dressing.

Professors? Hell no! We’re College students! Animal House...

Later, we met fired-up Gopher fans Dave and Bob around the corner from Anthony’s place at Hopcats, a growing Midwest chain. Weekly big-time tailgaters at all the home games, they extended Anthony an invitation to meet up with them in the parking lot before the Maryland game in two weeks.  In addition, we already made a point to meet up to tailgate back in Jersey when the Gophers visit Rutgers, the Birthplace of College football, in 2019.  It will be their first trip ever to RU, and we’ve already got the tailgate place for them and their Gopher Tales group to meet up with us.  We look forward to it already.  That date could possibly be in line to be our Game 600 – another celebration for sure.  Back to game 540…

In the third, LB Thomas Barber picked off another Ursua pass (19 for 34, 135 yards, 2 INTs).  Forty-four yards later, 240-lb RB Kobe McCrary (23 carries for 107, 3 TDs) ran through a gaping hole to his right to give Minnesota (Ski-U-Mah) a 27-3 lead.  The Golden Gophers held the Blue Raiders in check for the balance of the game holding MTSU to 230 offensive yards overall. McCrary scored again from the two to finalize the score, 34-7.  Granted, it was a dominant performance by the Gophers over a Sun Belt team in a rebuilding process, but it turned out to be a great intro for us to other Gopher games as this program should continue to thrive in The Big Ten under the energetic Fleck, a former Rutgers assistant under Greg Schiano.

Upcoming clashes…

As stated, the Gophers host Maryland (2-0) in two weeks after a bye week.  The Terrapins host UCF this Saturday.  Middle Tennessee returns to Murfreesboro to host Bowling Green (0-3). follows Game 540 with a Boys’ weekend trip to Annapolis to see Navy (2-0,1-0) host the Cincinnati Bearcats (2-1, 1-0) in an American Athletic Conference game.  Touring Annapolis, tailgating, and Cigar smoking to be enjoyed.  We look forward to returning.

Another great Minnesota tradition learned – Sunday morning Bloody Mary with a beer chaser!

Game 539: Temple takes advantage of UMass misses, 29-21

Game 539:  Temple takes advantage of UMass misses, 29-21

Philadelphia – On Friday night on Lincoln Financial Field, Temple (2-1) and UMass (0-4) both played poorly but down to the wire in Game 539 that could have been a completely different result had Minuteman PK Michael Schreiner converted on several key field goals.    In a sloppy game played by both teams and a Temple team that looks like it has taken a big step back from last year’s AAC championship performance, the Owls came out on top, 29-21.  The Owls looked a mere shell of themselves compared to the last few years due to key graduation losses and the departure of former HC Matt Rhule who left for Baylor. Schreiner missed a 24-yarder in Q1 that bounced off the left upright failing to tie the score.  He failed to do the same in Q2 from 41, and then he misfired on a 32-yarder in the final period that could have pulled UMass within five to have a chance to win down the stretch.  For, Game 539 disappointed us in that we had hoped to see two teams play better. Both have much room for improvement to have successful seasons.

Temple turnaround

Thirteen points in the final 1:04 of the first half gave the Owls a sudden nine-point lead to overcome a 10-7 advantage by the Minutemen.  QB Logan Marchi rolled right and hit Adonis Jennings down the sideline near the pylon for a 30-yard TD with 1:04 left.  A sack of QB Andrew Ford on the ensuing possession forced and recovered by TU’s DE Quincy Roche put the Owls on the UMass 18.  With :10 left in the half, Marchi (22 of 37, 248 yards, 3 TDs) threw 11 yards toward the back of the end zone where Keith Kirkwood made a leaping catch for the TD.  The PAT failed.  On the ensuing kickoff, for some reason return man Jessie Britt took a knee at this own seven.  Were the visitors giving up?    The Owls took a 16-7 lead into halftime.

Heavy traffic at rush hour along 95 South into Philly just left enough time to find cheap, convenient off stadium parking, time to buy a ticket from a local scalper at a competitive price, and the opportunity to buy one of these great Philly cheese steaks at The Linc with a cold 20 oz. can of beer for dinner, just in time to sit down for the 7 p.m.  kickoff.  Game 539 was planned to be  the first of two games this weekend.

 Not the Temple program we’ve grown to admire

Right away, Temple displayed poor tackling capabilities on defense and the offense looked very disorganized until Ryquell Armistead’s 56-yard run down the right sideline to the 15 that only netted a 25-yard FG by Austin Jones.  It brought the realization that the Notre Dame win over TU, with this performance along with the 16-13 win over Villanova by Temple, the previous week did not indicate a vast improvement by the Irish at this point in the young season.  We shall see as the Irish schedule starts to improve in the weeks ahead.  This Temple team did not resemble the same disciplined, well-organized program as seen against the likes of Penn State, Notre Dame, USF, and the Naval Academy we had witnessed the last two years under HC Matt Rhule.  Granted there are new players stepping in, but the team lacks Rhule’s influence of what we’ve seen in recent Temple performances.

PK Aaron Boumerhi, evidently relegated to kickoffs and long FGs, put the Owls up by 12 with a 52-yard FG in the third.  UMass showed signs of hanging on in its next possession as Ford, on third and eight, connected with Britt for a 20-yard TD to pull back within five.  The Minutemen evidently weren’t giving up, but taking a knee on the final kick off of the first half still didn’t make sense. Jones, Temple’s short-range FG kicker, connected on a 37-yarder to take a shaky lead into the final period, 22-14.  The Minutemen were a TD and two-point conversion away from tying the Owls.

Minutemen down to the last minute

UMass moved down field and looked to get within five, but Schreiner’s third miss seemed to take the wind out of the sails for the Minutemen offense.  The D held Temple to a three and out.  The Minutemen drove to the Temple 28 where they struggled, avoided a FG attempt, and gave the ball over on downs there at the TU 28.  The Owls then put together a 10-play drive finishing it with a 13-yard one-handed TD catch by Isaiah Wright for a 29-14 lead with 3:48 left.  Give the Minutemen credit.  They drove the length of the field starting from their 24.  Aided by two pass interference calls, Ford ran it in from the one to trail, 29-21.    The defense forced Temple to punt again after three downs, and though UMass put up a fight until the end, a sack of QB Ross Comis, a fumble, and another fumble recovery left UMass at the 38 of Temple as the game ended.  Final score, 29-21.

Too little too late for UMass.  Missed FGs proved not only to detract from scoring opportunities, but proved to be momentum killers.  Failing to get within striking distance or a chance to tie multiple times can challenge the entire team’s mental state and confidence.  HC Mark Whipple has to determine what to do next to bolster his squad’s confidence.  TE Adam Breneman was non-entity in this game with only three catches for 46 yards, but Andrew Ford found ways to keep his team competing until the end.

Coming up…

Next up for UMass, a trip to Tennessee (2-1), a last play loser at Florida on Saturday.  Neyland Stadium will be hornets’ nest for the struggling Minutemen.  Temple will have a short practice week before playing at South Florida (3-0) on Thursday night in Tampa.  Right after Game 539 for, we sacked out a local hotel to get up at 4 am to fly out of Philadelphia International.  We planned to leave on a 6 am fight to Minneapolis for our first home game to see the Minnesota Golden Gophers.  Read about this one on Tuesday morning!

Game 538: Nittany Lions feast on Pitt Panthers, 33-14

Game 538: Nittany Lions feast on Pitt Panthers, 33-14

State College, PA – In workman-like fashion, the No. 5 Penn State Nittany Lions (2-0) dominated traditional rival Pittsburgh (1-1) early on offense and throughout on defense to win Game 538 since 1979. This game became the 98th in the series which has been interrupted by more recent conference scheduling conflicts.  PSU lost one of its two regular season games last year in a defeat at Pittsburgh, 43-18.  The Lions looked to extract some revenge to start the 2017 season on a better foot with a win over its intrastate rival first played in 1893.

The Lions and Panthers tussled for the 98th time in’s Game 538 with the Lions coming out on top, 33-14.

Penn State performed with efficiency, not flashiness in this game. Despite the Panthers outgaining the Lions 342 to 312 in total offense, the Lions ran 52 offensive plays compared to the Panther’s 86.  Three turnovers halted Pitt drives. One resulted in an immediate touchdown. A safety netted five more points as the next possession yielded a FG drive.

Fast Start

PSU DB Grant Haley intercepted USC transfer Max Browne’s pass on the team’s first defensive series returning to the Pitt eight. Trace McSorely (15 for 18, 164 yards, # TDs, 1 Int) connected TE Mike Gesicki right away for 7-0 lead.  Before the first period expired, McSorely connected again with Gesicki for a 10-yard TD pass to lead, 14-0.  Late in Q2, Pitt put together a 15-play drive finished off by an Alex Kressman 28-yard FG to make the score 14-3 at halftime.

TE Mike Gesicki remains “virtually untouched” crossing the goal line for the second time in the first quarter.

Great weather prevailed in Central Pennsylvania while fans down in Florida faced devastation from Hurricane Irma (like those recovering in Texas, out thoughts and prayers are with them).  The renewed rivalry for which we hope the two schools will find a way to continue playing annually brought 109,898 to Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley.   Pulled pork prepared by Ty turned out to be the highlight of our pre-game tailgate feast accompanied by some of our favorite pregame concoctions and snacks.  The Lions continued to methodically feast on Panthers in the second half of our Game 538.

My Chambersburg friends, Aaron, John, Ty, Kyle, and Dewey had their game faces on and drinks in their hands at our pre-game tailgate.

DeAndre Tompkins returned a Pitt punt 14 yards to the Pitt 46.  McSorely tossed a pass to RB Saquon Barkley over the middle who swerved, dodged, and broke tackles into the end zone for a 21-3 Nittany Lion lead.  Pitt responded with a 24-yard FG by Kressman.  The Lions’ defense kept the Panthers from any quick, long gains.

In the final period, the Lions drove 78 yards with Barkley (14 carries, 88 yards, 1 TD) a legitimate Heisman candidate, putting up six more for the Nittanies with a two-yard TD run.  Pitt second team QB Ben DiNucci finished a scoring drive on the visitor’s next possession with a three-yard run and connected with Qaddree Ollison for two points to cut the score in half, 28-14.  The score was not indicative of the Lion dominance.  Penn State P Blake Gillikin’s punt put Pitt back on its four. Two plays later, S Marcus Allen downed WR Darrin Hall in the end zone after a catch for a safety.  PSU’s ensuing possession resulted in a Tyler Davis 24-yard FG.

PSU S Marcus Allen tackles Darrin Hall of Pitt for a safety in the final period that netted in five more points for the Lions.

High expectations for the Nittany Lions

Final score of 33-14 stirred happiness in Happy Valley, but many PSU faithful found the win to be somewhat unimpressive.  Many hold high expectations for the Nittany Lions this year.  Many expect more every week out to their Lions.  Some big challenges still lie ahead.  The Lions seem to be building up for them, looking to peak at the right time. We will be back on Oct. 21 for Michigan. The kick-off time for that contest has not been announced yet.

Lion DE Torrence Brown (19) puts the clamps on Pitt WR Quadree Henderson in first quarter.

Next Saturday Panthers of another species prowl into the Happy Valley.  Georgia State (0-1) comes to play the Lions for the first time.  James Franklin ran some satellite camps with them down in Atlanta to penetrate SEC recruiting territory.  He returns the favor with a big pay-out to host GSU.  Pitt hosts No. 9 Oklahoma State (2-0) at Heinz Field.  After Game 538, pulls a double-header weekend.  On Friday night, we stop in Philly to see UMASS (0-3) with TE Adam Breneman take on Temple at “the Linc”.  The Owls (1-1) just got by FCS Villanova last Saturday, 16-13.  They seem to still be in a transition mode with new HC Geoff Collins taking over for departed Matt Rhule who went to Baylor.  My concerns for his departure are coming to light, but it’s still early for both Rhule and for Temple.  The next morning, we fly to Minneapolis to see the Golden Gophers (2-0) under new HC P.J. Fleck formerly of Western Michigan play Middle Tennessee State (1-1) of the Sun Belt.  For, it will be only the second time we will see MTSU play.  Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium will be the 52nd of the FBS home venues we will attend a game at.

The denizens of the Happy Valley enjoyed a beautiful day at Beaver Stadium on Saturday.

Game 537: Hokies keep Mountaineers from climbing back, 31-24

Game 537: Hokies keep Mountaineers from climbing back, 31-24

Landover, Maryland – In the first meeting between No. 21 Virginia Tech and No. 22 West Virginia for the first time since 2005 to play for the Black Diamond Trophy, in our Game 537 VA Tech took three seven-point leads in the second half.   WVU struck back to even the score twice.  The third time was the charm though for VT as the old saying goes.  With 6:30 remaining in regulation, RB Travon McMillan put six up on the scoreboard with a three-yard TD run to take a 31-24 lead that would stand for the Hokies. However, the game was never in hand until WVU ran out of time at the Tech 15 after three passes fell incomplete near the end zone.  In front of a raucous crowd of 67,489 split about 50-50 between Mountaineer and Hokie fans, our first-time GGA Scott Bender, Hokie fan and alum, enjoyed his first Virginia Tech win in person since 2009,  sending him home as one Happy Hokie.

The teams battled throughout in front of the lively crowd and national televison audience.  Scott, who apologized that he generally exudes a “negative view” of his Hokies chances at winning games, stated that he gave the edge to the Mountaineers based on QB experience.  West Virginia’s Will Grier started for the first time since he left the Florida Gator program where he started six games in 2015.  Josh Jackson debuted for Tech this evening as a redshirt freshman.  Early in Q3, Mountaineer PK Mike Molina’s 34-yard FG tied the score at 10 apiece. After that, the two teams traded touchdown blows in game 537 for   Tech polished off a 71 -yard scoring drive with DeShawn McClease’s 12-yard run.  After Slye missed a 39-yard attempt for Tech, the Mountaineers drove 79 yards capped by Grier connecting with David Sills V (9 catches for 94 yards, 2 TDS that could’ve been 3) on a slant pattern at the 10 to tie at 17-17.  Evan Staley returned the ensuing kickoff 56 yards to the Mountaineer 32.  Josh Jackson tossed a 32-yard scoring strike to WR Cam Phillips right away to retake the Hokie lead, 24-17.

Final countdown

WVU QB Will Grier gains first down on late drive.

Going into the final period, WVU continued to drive from its twelve.  Grier hit Gary Jennings (13 catches, 189 yards, 1 TD) on a 60-yard scoring route to knot the score for the third time in the second half.  On Tech’s next series, Jackson (15 for 26, 235 yards, 1 TD) ran 48 yards on a draw play to the WVU two.  McMillan took it over for the 31-24 lead.  On its next defensive series, Tech held the Mountaineers to just five yard to force a punt.  They looked to ice the game with Slye’s 32-yard attempt, but it sailed wide right.  West Virginia looked now to tie the game with 1:55 left.  For the third time during this possession, Grier converted a first down with a run, this time on a third and seven to the Hokie 15.    His second of three incomplete passes went through the hands of a diving, “sure-handed” Sills in the end zone for what “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve” been a score-tying TD. The third pass fell incomplete and No. 21 defeated No. 22 in an exciting, charged-up football game.

A reception here by WVU’s David Sills V could have sent Game 537 into OT.

    Coming up…

GGA Scott Bender will not forget this one.  The Hokie win broke his personal losing streak.  If VA Tech represents the ACC in any of the three bowls we plan to see them compete in after the regular season, Scott may try to join us once again.  They return to Blacksburg on Saturday to host FCS Delaware.  WVU heads back to Morgantown to face East Carolina who fell 34-14 to defending FCS champ James Madison last weekend.  And after Game 537, travels to State College, PA for the first of three trips there this season to see No. 4 Penn State battle their old rival, Pitt.  We look forward to that one!

PATs (Points after Tailgating)

All Tech kickoffs went for touch-backs.  Of 17 punts combined between both squads, only two were returned for a net total of two yards. One went for a loss.  Neither team turned the ball over. Certainly not Beamer Ball!  The former Tech HC Frank Beamer was introduced before the game along with former WVU HC Don Nehlen.   We witnessed both men along the sidelines over the years in some memorable games.

Made good contact with a WVU fan we sat next to for a future tailgate party next time we get out to Morgantown!

Scott presided as the former President of the NJ Va Tech Alumni Association.  As his Engineering career takes off, it became time to hand off his duties to a more recent alum.  This year, they will be moving their alumni game day parties a to Vanderbilt’s Bar at the Wyndham Hotel in Florham Park, an old haunt near one of my former employers.

David Sills V was the 13-year old QB awarded a scholarship by A-hole Lane Kiffin at USC eight years ago.  Kiffin’s no longer at USC of course, and we are so glad that Navy rolled over him in his FAU debut last week, 42-19.   Sills played for his Dad at Eastern Christian in Wilmington, DE that his father also heavily funded.  He’s no longer QB, but he’s a junior and under consideration for the draft in 2018.

This week, Tech moved up to No. 18 in the AP.  WVU dropped out of the Top 25 receiving 70 points.  However, there are at least 11 more games for everybody left to play this season, and remember, just about everybody gets a bowl trophy now-a-days.


Game 536: No. 7 Villanova defeats unyielding No. 24 Lehigh, 38-35

Game 536: No. 7 Villanova defeats unyielding No. 24 Lehigh, 38-35

Bethlehem, PA – The Villanova Wildcats started the season opener for both FCS powers from its 33-yard line in Game 536 for Four plays later, QB Zach Bednarczyk (Wallington, NJ) fired a 13-yard scoring pass to TE Ryan Bell (Basking Ridge, NJ) for a quick 7-0 lead over host Lehigh.  They looked like the proverbial hot knife going through butter.  However, Lehigh fought back the entire game.  Costly mistakes cost the Mountain Hawks a winnable game against the tough Colonial Conference AA foe.  Villanova triumphed, 38-35, in an exciting game on a rare, cold, damp day that felt more like late October than early September.

Trailing 21-7 in the second period, Lehigh QB Brad Mayes fired a three-yard TD pass to Luke Christiano with 4:01 left to be played in the first 30 minutes.  Forcing ‘Nova to punt after a three and out, the Mountain Hawks engineered a drive to the defenders’ 13.  With the Hawks looking to tie the score or at least pull within four, the Wildcat defense forced RB Dom Bragalone to fumble.   FS Rob Rolle returned the loose ball to the LU 48.  The addition of a block in the back put the Cats at LU’s 33.  With 38 ticks left, RB Matt Gudzak (Tom River, NJ) raced all 33 yards on first down to pay dirt.   The sequence of two plays turned a potential tie into a 14-point lead for the visitors at halftime.

Exciting second half

Lehigh kept battling back within reach the entire second half of our Game 536.  Mayes (33 for 44, 406 yards, 4 TDs) connected with Christiano (Cranford, NJ) for a sixty-yard TD to start the second half scoring as quickly as Villanova did in the first half.  Within a minute, Bednarczyk (17 for 23, 209 yards, 2 TDs) hit WR Taurus Phillips on the right side for a 75-yard scoring pass play.  A 20-yard punt return by Quentin Jones put Lehigh in business at the ‘Nova 40. Mayes hooked up with WR Gatlin Casey for a 29-yard score to trail the Cats, 35-28, entering the final period.

PK Drew Kresge booted a 32-yard FG to extend the Villanova lead early in the fourth by ten.  Wildcat LB Ed Shockley (Millville, NJ) turned back a Lehigh run at the 42 on fourth and inches to terminate a potential Mountain Hawk scoring drive.   Lehigh FS Riley O’Neil knocked down a Bednarczyk on a fourth down to take back over from ‘Nova at the LU 21.  From there, Mayes led his offense on a scoring drive completing a three-yard TD pass to Casey this time at 4:43 left to close the score to 38-35.  The Cats proceeded to run out the clock on their last possession gaining necessary first downs to preserve their opening game win, 38-35.

Coming up…

Next Saturday, Lehigh heads down the Jersey shore to play Monmouth of the Big South, 31-12 winners over LU archrival Lafayette this weekend. Villanova goes to Lincoln Financial Field to face FBS rival Temple, losers to Notre Dame at South Bend in their opener. follows Game 536 with its fourth game in four days to see West Virginia and Virginia Tech tussle for the Black Diamond Trophy I Landover Maryland on Sunday night.  What a way to star our college football season!

Points after Game 536:

Tailgated with GGA’s Brian Donnelly (Towson) and his girlfriend Laurie and Steve and Donna Ciesla (Montclair State and Jersey City State) along with my wife, St. Laurie.  We enjoyed a fun afternoon despite the cooler than expected weather.  Lehigh’s Goodman Sports Campus presents one of the best FCS football settings anywhere.  Facilities for all Lehigh sports are well placed around the complex.  A fall baseball game took  place. Lacrosse, softball, soccer and field hockey fields and Stabler Arena for wrestling and basketball all fall within the very well kept complex.  A beautiful site, plenty of parking, competitive FCS football, a comfortable stadium with great sight lines, musical entertainment performed by the Marching 97, and affordable ticket prices and game day amenities make for a great day to enjoy college football.  Competitive visiting teams and no TV time-outs for most games create an atmosphere for entertaining collegiate football in beautiful surroundings on fall Saturdays in the Lehigh Valley.  If I had to make a choice to settle on a team to root for within 2-3 hours from home to follow one team (including Army, Rutgers, Princeton, and Lafayette among others) , Lehigh is the school I would follow.

The attendance for today’s game was 5,816.  Only for the Lafayette game are the 17,000 stadium seats full.  This year will be the 153rd edition, longest of any in all of college football.  We will look into future packages to get back to that game in the future.  Next year we will see Lehigh open its season in Annapolis against Navy, a conference rival in all other Patriot League sports outside of football.

Lehigh WRs Christiano and Troy Pelletier snagged 8 passes for 14 and 1 TD and 11 passes for 144 and 1 TD respectively.  Casey grabbed 5 for 64 yards and two TDS.  Gudzak carried the football for ‘Nova 13 times for 142 yards and two TDS.

Like our first game this season in Hawaii’s win over UMass, this one resulted in the same final score of 38-35.