Steveo’s Salvos – January 31, 2016

This is my least favorite time of the year regarding college football, and it’s not because there are no games being played right now – well, not on the playing fields any way. I understand that the game can’t be played without players, and the reality is that the game should be played for deserving, qualified, talented, young men who want to continue playing football beyond their high school years. However, the current recruiting process that comes to a climax this week is where all the bad stuff with college football starts, and it is a broken process which also has no end in sight. Ok, so listen to me gripe here first, but I do offer a unique solution in the end

Grown-ups put 18 year-olds on pedestals, coddling them, feeding on their mostly already inflated, misguided egos, and enticing them with overly-creative and underhanded ways to convince young, gullible teenagers to come to their schools just to play football. They sell the attributes of their respective universities often nowadays focusing on facilities the players will be able to “lounge” in. Should this be a priority? This should be at minimum a minor benefit as recruiters should primarily emphasize the value of the degrees these student-athletes should want to go to college for. Of course, the people these adults are selling their pitches to are high school kids who don’t understand this sale is for many others not entirely looking out for their best interests despite what is said or who says it. Most of it is for the benefit of the job and career security of adults coaching a game these youngsters will play for a few more years, for some into their mid-20s at best.

Also what we hear and read about is that a major part of the sell is demeans other schools whether facts be somewhat twisted or brazenly false. I’ve been a purchasing professional for 35 years in an industry that becomes more condense through mergers and acquisitions, and it’s rare that the sales emphasis is on the negatives of the competition. Hell, without competition, there’s no reason for any of us involved to have a career buying or selling. Of course, an 18-year old kid and even possibly his parents aren’t going to take this into consideration, but coaches should. They put their spin on everything with no other intent other than to steer some growing boy with significant athletic talent in their direction. There are no scruples in this game. Once they got him, they can lie to him later. And there’s not just the talk. There’s the offers beyond the scholarship money, the chance to play, and the education that’s supposed to give an 18-year old a great start in life. He could be part of the small percentage every year that gets drafted into the pros for a short period of time, or more likely be part of that vast majority who have to figure out what they will need to learn for a lifetime to put food on the table the rest of their lives while enhancing their brains and other talents for the good of others. I just watched the movie “Blind Side” on television the other night – the “true” story of how current Carolina Panther offensive lineman Michael Oher, about to play in the Super Bowl, successfully became a top draft choice in the NFL.

It’s really two stories. One is the story of how his adoptive family gives him a chance for a better life than what he initially had. He gets a better education and finds his latent talent to earn him a college football scholarship. The good aspects of the story is the love and attention from his adopted family to focus on school work and not just football to get him there though he struggled with the latter. The bad part is seeing the toothy grins from coaches like Nick Saban (then at LSU), Lou Holtz (then at South Carolina) , Houston Nutt (then at Arkansas), Tommy Tuberville (then at Auburn) Phil Fulmer (Tennessee), and Ed Orgeron of Ole Miss who eventually attained Oher’s services in 2005, meeting and observing Michael Oher. Saban promises the little brother “S.J.” to be able run out on the field in front of the LSU team in Death Valley before a game( the film ends with a frozen shot of the little guy leaping as he leads his stepbrother’s Rebel team on to the field at Ole Miss). Cute. In the past though, I’ve heard of siblings or even girlfriends being offered scholarships to schools to gain leverage to get a player to matriculate with them. Really? Instead of some truly deserving student? In the film, Oher’s stepmom, Leigh Anne, mentions that a certain Head Coach not named is out of consideration because her son was entertained at “a titty bar” during a recruiting trip. We’ve heard of things going way beyond that in the past like when Lane Kiffin was recruiting during his only season at Tennessee who went on self-imposed probation for his use of female students to recruit before he ran off to USC. Now Ole Miss, prior to Hugh Freeze becoming HC, is back under investigation for violations of NCAA recruiting policies. Funny, that’s when Orgeron was recruiting Oher. No doubt this player’s incentive was genuine to play at Oxford because as in the movie, the actor states, “That’s where my family went.” Probably the case for him, but what else was going on with others as it only shows him being questioned by an NCAA investigator. What about other recruits? Also, think about who Michael Oher will be blocking for next weekend. There were always rumors about Cam Newton’s Dad being overly involved in a proactive search during his son’s recruiting process before he played at Auburn for his only season in which he won the Heisman Trophy.

Today, there’s an article on about how Michigan’s assistant coach Chris Partridge defends the school’s actions in offering high school players scholarships and then pulling them when they get “better” players ready to commit after the school ‘s scholarship limit is reached. The former Paramus Catholic (NJ) High School HC who’s recruited five top notch recruits out of Jersey to Ann Arbor who is now the Linebacker Coach for Jim Harbaugh’s staff, explained kids decommit from their verbal commitments before the national signing day. So why shouldn’t the schools have that same option? There’s a reason there’s a weak point here. This process as I stated earlier should be for the benefit of the players. Should a school turn a kid away who committed to them early because the school has maxed out on their “quota”, and all of the sudden found that a more desirable recruit fell in their lap the last minute because they were eventually convinced much later in the process? This is wrong. There has to be some kind of rule in placed for this.

It’s a broken, corrupt system, and it stinks. In our free market system with legal limitations in some aspects or absence thereof in others since eventual letters of intent are how these commitments eventually become final, I don’t know if there is anything that can be done to restructure the entire process. The corruption is policed by those involved in the system. Violators just move on to the next school or into the safe haven of pro football depending on the extent of the violations. The self-policing “institutions of higher-learning” should have the resources to figure this out if they want to.

Even after the committal is made by both sides to where a player will matriculate, mistakes are admitted. Scholarship players get booted conveniently for one reason or another if they’re not contributing right away. Kids transfer because the competition for playing time finds them on the sidelines instead. Coaches will continue to recruit the next class of players to replace players on hand whether seniors or not, and they make the same promises to the next class as they did to the ones who they just landed. In addition, some programs offer classes like the one exposed at North Carolina to make sure that those underachieving academically can still get an “A” easily in order to assure playing three years of football once the staff identifies its “keepers”.

I’m still wondering why no school just doesn’t easily terminate these end-around plays with a solution I think needs to be tested. Just make revenue generating sports like football and basketball legitimate majors for the kids who want to apply to their school for these majors. Hell, the careers are so specialized in an industry so lucrative, and the players spend the majority of their time at school dedicated to just playing a sport, why not? It might cure some of the shenanigans that go on once the player who wants to major selects the school he wants to play for. Let the players apply and then let the schools select the 25 most qualified kids who want to come to play at their school and limit the number of offers to those. Let the players sweat it out to be accepted like every other student applying for acceptance at a school with their desired major. If they don’t get in, they wait to hear from the others they have interest in.

Until something is done to make this system more for the benefit of the kids and not the adults, however, this is the worst time of the year to me for college football. May all the players end up where they truly want to be, be part of the team for four years (ok, rules say you can leave after three), get an education that will prepare them for a lifetime, and make the most of it for the rest of their lives. I can only dream though, and I will continue to do so.

Steveo’s Salvos – January 20

Savoring the past season and already thinking about the next.  I see Coastal Carolina will be joining the SunBelt in 2017 to make it 130 FBS teams with Alabama-Birmingham rejoining ConferenceUSA that season. It will be a nice time of the year to take a discount flight direct to Myrtle Beach! Maybe St. Laurie will even go…We just can’t say enough about how happy we are for the Navy football program this year.  To top it all off, HC Ken Niumatalolo decided to stay after being wooed by Brigham Young University. Statistically, USNA finished on top in seven  categories in 2015 after finishing ranked at No. 18. As reported on, the Mids finished number one in the country in fourth down conversions (.923), fewest penalties per game (3.08), fewest penalty yards per game (26.08), fumbles recovered (15), fewest interceptions thrown (two), red zone offense (.948) and total turnovers lost (8).  Also team items of note include 45 percent of Navy’s offensive drives gained 50 or more yards, which was the highest percentage in the FBS.  Navy was one of only four schools in the country that scored points on 50 percent or more of their offensive possessions (joining Stanford, Western Kentucky and North Carolina). Navy finished second behind Western Kentucky in points per possession.  Very impressive.  Senior quarterback Keenan Reynolds finished second in the nation in rushing touchdowns (24) and fifth in the nation in scoring (11.1 points per game).  And he wasn’t invited to the Heisman Award ceremony.  It just seems very un-American to us.  We’re thinking about getting tickets for the full Navy home schedule next year, but we’re waiting on their final schedule to come out so we can see what conflicts there may be. Our wish list keeps growing..

Navy QB Keenan Reynolds (19) scores one of his record setting TDs versus South Florida.

Navy QB Keenan Reynolds (19) scores one of his record setting TDs versus South Florida.


Here’s some of the games on our wish list for next season: Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee at Bristol Speedway – we think it’s only right that should be part of the attempt at the record-setting, all-time attendance record at a college football game even if we do risk going blind with all that Tennessee Orange overwhelming our eyeballs…Syracuse vs. Notre Dame at MetLife Stadium in The Meadowlands is already a bus trip planned with our local Boonton Knights of Columbus on October 1 for the annual Big Tailgate. We already got our tickets.  Let me know if you’re interested…

I'm sorry, but too much Tennessee orange just hurts my eyes.

I’m sorry, but too much Tennessee orange just hurts my eyes.

We want to try to get Stanford at ND tickets so we can see Stanford’s Heisman candidate Christian McCaffrey go up against the Irish.  We haven’t been to South Bend since 2003. It’s time to go back…Ohio State goes back to Penn State on October 22. Let’s see what HC James Franklin will be able to do with a QB (Trace McSorley)  that is better suited for his system, whatever that is.  He will also have new offensive line coach, Matt Limegrover.  Herb Hand who left sure wasn’t brining any improvement to the Lions’ offensive line that’s needed an overhaul and a kick in the ass for a couple of years now…We are fitting FCS Marist on the schedule for the first time and D-3 Kean University once again.  Why?  LB Jimmy Braun of the Red Foxes and NG Matt Hill of the Cougars enter their senior seasons at the collegiate level.  Both played for our local Lenape Valley (NJ) Regional HS. I had the pleasure of coaching 6-2, 310-lb Matt in Little League Baseball and in Rec basketball back in his grade school days…USC at UCLA in the Rose Bowl is on the docket for next November 19.  It’s one of those must-see rivalries on the bucket list, and I should have enough FF miles stored up to get out there for nothing, so the time is right!…Two other teams we want to see next season are Clemson and Buffalo. Clemson to see another Heisman candidate, QB DeShaun Watson, play again after we saw him play against Oklahoma in their 37-17 Orange bowl win.  We’d like to get to experience a Tiger home game, but we’ll see them on the road if that doesn’t work out. Watson is worth the price of admission…    Buffalo because we are excited to see what second-year HC Lance Leipold will do with that program with some more of his recruits on his Bulls’ team.  We think the six-time champion D-3 HC at Wisconsin-Whitewater is going to do great things for SUNY Buffalo and some other program after turning things around there.

We plan to see the  USC Trojans play again next year.

We plan to see the USC Trojans play again next year.

Houston is already touted on some early pre-season polls in the Top Ten.  We will definitely get to Annapolis to see them face the Mids in Navy-Marine Corps for the biggest Navy home game of next year.  Of course, Navy season tickets or not, we will get to Army-Navy which is back in Baltimore this year…For bowls, we’re thinking Military, Belk, Music City, and Peach (CFP) if we can’t get to the championship in Florida (possible work conflict)… I am ready to start jumping all over the RU-tude rising at Rutgers again, but I’m going to hold off.  Reason: I went to see RU basketball play at the RAC for the first time in a few years this past Monday (Go Seton Hall!) with some friends who are grad school alum who try to show their spirit there once in a while.  You might have heard this, and it wasn’t pretty if you’re a Rutgers fan: final score – Purdue 107 RU 57. I criticize Rutgers football all the time, but basketball? It’s really embarrassing. No NCAA bid since 1991.  With all the talent that plays HS B-ball here, the state university can’t get just five top guys to go to that school no less 22 to play football.  Purdue had more rebounds (63)  than RU had points.  Purdue could have won the game if they hadn’t scored in the second half as they tallied 61 by halftime. They cleared their bench of third-string players in the first half.  We couldn’t believe the anemic defense played by these Knights.  Purdue always seemed to have four guys under the basket compared to none for Rutgers. We stayed until the end because we were so amazed how bad this was.  I also wanted to see PU get to the 100 point mark because they were making it look too easy.  The visitors did whatever they wanted to.  The Boilermakers came to the RAC ranked No. 22.  Thursday, No. 9 Iowa visits.  I’ll wait to unload on the football RU-tude a little longer…Stay tuned.

We'll see Notre Dame play another game on the East Coast next season when the play ACC foe Syracuse.

We’ll see Notre Dame play another game on the East Coast next season when they play ACC foe Syracuse.


Steveo’s Salvos – January 13, 2016

We don’t have to tell anybody else who watched Monday night, but GREAT GAME!  The line play was a great fight up front between both teams.  Heisman winner Derrick Henry still got his yards and got the big yardage on that first TD run.  But Clemson’s D-line still showed up to play hammering him most times he got the ball. And he took it.  Both teams played tough.  Clemson DE Kevin Dodd showed up to play!  Now he’s heading to the NFL. The Tide’s D-line was impenetrable in the middle  as expected holding Wayne Gallman to 45 yards.  Bama QB Jake Coker had his best day ever, and his TE O.J. Howard scored two long TDs after not scoring any all season long.  What can you say about Clemson’s QB Deshaun Watson?  He didn’t let that Bama Front Four stop him. He ran for 73 yards, but it seemed like most times when he needed the yards he got them, and he was firing that ball.  He never shows signs of being flustered.  Walk-on WR Hunter Renfrow made the early catches in the end zone  to start the scoring for the Tigers ( I don’t know, but I think I had a conversation with him at the Clemson-SC game in 2013 before the game. I was talking to this little guy who swore he was going to play for one of those team in couple of years. I looked at his picture on my Orange Bowl program and it could have been. If it was, I told him to think about D-3, but what do I know?). And give the entire Clemson offense kudos for not quitting!  Despite trailing by 12, they scored a touchdown with 12 seconds left after driving 68 yards in six plays and were ready to give it a great shot if they got the ball back with seconds left.  The onside kick was  a great devastating call on Saban’s part ( I called it right before it happened. I wanted to call Dabo on the phone!), and Bama executed it perfectly. I only have to say that I saw it done better once before.  In my first game toward this eventual goal “to see ’em all” back in 1979, the kicker from Rhode Island put a perfect spiral on the ball as the end caught it right over his left shoulder. Next play, the Rams scored from 41 yards out. Of course, Delaware dominated them, 42-14, on their way to the D2 Championship, but I digress. Fantastic!  The best two teams played their hearts out and played a tremendous game that will be remembered by college football fans for a long time. The only negatives I witnessed  were on O.J.  Howard’s two 50+ yard TDs. Granted, shutdown CB Mackensie Alexander had re-pulled his hammy and was out, and I don’t know if the coverage would have been different, but  I don’t understand why any safety would stand flat-footed (twice)  to watch a receiver speed past him down field. I remember my late high school football coach Joe Molitoris  always preaching to our safeties, “Play deeper than the deepest man!”  Maybe it sounds too simple against today’s complex passing strategies, but it still makes sense to me when you’re the safety. Nobody else is behind you is going to pick him because there’s no one else there! He’s going to get open and quickly once he’s past you.  Pass coverage nowadays drives me nuts.  Physical mistakes are bound to happen, but the mental ones are inexcusable with the amount of time these guys supposedly spend watching film. Common sense (and Joe Mol’s voice) tells me to play deeper than the deepest man if I’m back at safety.

I saw Clemson beat Oklahoma and I was impressed, but now I want to see if I can get down to Clemson for a first time trip to their “Death Valley” next season and see Watson and the Tigers play again.  Both teams are already favored to return to the CFP next year, but so was Ohio State the unanimous pick for this year. That didn’t happen, of course.   Though both teams will be re-focused, you just never know what may happen between injuries and stunning upsets. Otherwise, why play all these games?  Too bad the season seems to end so soon as usual, but what a great way to end a great season!  Wish I could have gone. Maybe next year.  This was a great season for all the fans, and it was special one for me having seen many great, memorable games and celebrating my 500th back on November 21st with so many good friends made over the years.   Look for more post-season notes and plans for next year here regularly. They’re already in the works. Add to your Favorite’s list.   Can’t wait for next season already. How about you?

Steveo’s Salvos – January 10, 2016, FBS Championship insight

Clemson vs. Alabama: This will be a battle up front between big, gifted, experienced lines. We saw Clemson defeat Oklahoma, 37-17, in the CapitalOne Orange Bowl. QB DeShaun Watson and RB Wayne Gallman took care of the ground game against the Sooners, and the defense kept OU’s high-scoring, balanced offense away from the end zone and allowed only 121 yards in the second half. Good play calling got receivers open in critical situations, and Watson got the ball to his targets who got loose one on one. Afterwards on TV, we saw Alabama ‘s defense manhandle Michigan State in the second half, but we were suspect of a Spartan team we saw get by 4-8 Rutgers with a decimated secondary earlier in the season, 31-24. We still question the validity of their record with a huge break against Michigan in their last minute win, and their win over Ohio State came into question based on the suspect Buckeye game plan. Right places at the right times.  Alabama shut down Sparty no doubt, but like previous high draft picks selected by Mel Kiper, Jr., we question Conner Cook’s premium draft value as well. He’s good amongst a lacking senior class of QBs at the FBS level. Bama is big up front defensively. So is Clemson, and when Shaque Lawson left with a leg injury, the front four for the Tigers were just as strong. Lawson will play, but if he’s limited, there shouldn’t be a significant drop-off as witnessed at the Orange Bowl last week. They can give Derrick Henry some fits running into the line, and if they can shut down that running game, which I think that they can neutralize the game in the trenches, it will put the pressure on Bama QB Jake Coker to pass against a gifted secondary led by Mackensie Alexander. This game will feature a slugfest in the trenches, but we’ll look for Watson’s capability to get free for some big plays once in a while to get Clemson some key gains.   This will give the Tigers an edge over the more one-dimensional Coker as the Tiger D will not get pushed around by Bama’s O-line. We look for this game to be close going into the final period with a couple of big plays by Clemson in the fourth to finally pull away and give the Tigers their first championship since 1981. No doubt, this should be a great game between two teams pretty evenly matched…

The Tigers walked the walk before defeating Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Will they be able to do the same against Alabama?

The Tigers walked the walk before defeating Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Will they be able to do the same against Alabama on Monday?

Finally, a message came from someone this past week about the values of football beyond the focus of everyone affiliated with the sport on the almighty dollar. And it came from someone whose career has been entrenched in the NFL for many years, though we saw Syracuse play when he was an assistant their early in his coaching career. His message about football is as profound today as when it was when we grew up loving this sport for the great game that it is. “In professional football, the goal is to win. We all know that. My contention is there’s a higher ground. There’s a greater purpose. That purpose is team. It is the team concept. Winning, losing, playing hard, playing well, doing it for each other, winning the right way is a very important thing to me and all our coaches…We try to develop the character of each man who walked through these doors. Character is what endures.” These are the words of former NY Giant Head Coach Tom Coughlin as he stepped down last Monday. Aside from the recent actions of his wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr (must’ve been a brain fart on Coughlin’s part at the age of 69), we believe he meant what he said. It’s a shame though that the main message we hear about today is about the money from the owners of NFL teams like Jerry Jones, about individual stats now touted in fantasy football leagues, to the excessive asset building of colleges to attract the top recruits (read about Clemson’s new facilities and even Rutgers’ plans), to the “elite” high school players propped up on pedestals to be catapulted into the world of big bucks and the promise of future financial rewards. It’s even starting to happen at the grade school level! The game goes beyond that for the vast majority of young , male athletes who join football teams and step on to a gridiron to primarily beat the other guys across the field. Well said Coach Coughlin. We’d like to see more of the focus on the sport turn that way, but it’s a lesson that falls on many deaf ears when side-swiped by the materialistic rewards that offer false promise and reward to a very small percentage of those who make it to the top of the football world for personal gains. The game of football always meant more than that to most that play…On our way back home after a pretty good bowl tour in 2015 (three out of four good games isn’t bad at all), we listened to the radio to hear Georgia beat Penn State in the Taxslayer Bowl, 24-17. What does it say when a team with a Head Coach with five years’ experience hired for his supposed superior head coaching capabilities gets beaten by a team being run by some remaining lame duck coordinators because the former HC was terminated and moved on?  James Franklin at Penn State espouses a great reputation for recruiting supposedly, but more Penn State fans are starting to question how well he can take that talent and form it into a team that can perform as one on the field. It didn’t sound like Franklin had a good game plan going into this game with four weeks to prep. And even when QB Christian Hackenberg left the game with a shoulder injury, we had always heard it would be different story when he got his wish to use his recruit Trace McSorley. They fashioned a comeback late thanks to a very good defense, but fell short. Their slow start was indicative that not a lot was done on offense to improve upon going into the TaxSlayer.  You can talk about recruiting capabilities all you want, but if you can’t come up with an effective game plan around the guys you have once you’ve got them, what difference does it make to recruit the best players? The games aren’t won because you won somebody’s poll saying you recruited a better class of players than the other guys did. That doesn’t mean you can rest on your perceived recruiting laurels. You’re supposed to build that talent into a team, train it, inspire it, and put it on the field with a better game plan than the other team. Recruiting is about one-third of what college coaching is about no matter how much time is dedicated to that aspect. With a full complement of scholarships available to him next year, the expectations for the Nittany Lions’ success are going to be much higher for Coach Franklin. And does he have to make it so evident that he doesn’t want to bolster the school’s non-conference schedule? Georgia happened to be a possibility and the agreement fell through. Let’s hope James Franklin will live up to his goal to get his players and to challenge for the Big Ten and beyond. With the recent loss of Defensive Coordinator Bob Shoop to Tennessee, the anticipated goals could be even tougher. We hope the future game plans will align with the talent they’ll be recruiting so the program will move back into contention for Big Ten titles, but with what we’ve seen on the field of play thus far, we’re not impressed. That doesn’t rest totally on the players…

Penn State will be looking to improve next season despite the departure of QB Christian Hackenberg (14) who will be leaving after having started for the Lions the past three seasons.

Penn State will be looking to improve on their 7-6 record next season despite the departure of QB Christian Hackenberg (14) who will be leaving after having started for the Lions the past three seasons.

This is a record for sure. After our bowl trip to attend the Military, Russell Athletic, Orange, and Outback Bowls where we saw games played among seven Top 25 teams, we’ve seen 14 Top 25 schools this year according to pre-bowl rankings including No. 1 Clemson heading into Monday night’s championship. As of today, along with the Tigers, we saw 3 Michigan State, 4 Oklahoma, 7 Ohio State, 8 Notre Dame, 9 Florida State, 10 North Carolina, 13 Northwestern, 14 Michigan, 17 Baylor, 21 Navy, 23 Tennessee, 24 Temple, and 25 USC. We expect to see a lot of these schools drop down a notch or more as only Ohio State, Michigan, Baylor, Navy, and Tennessee among the winners. Of course, Clemson will be No. 2 at worst after Monday night. USC and Temple will be gone. Toledo who defeated Temple in the Boca Raton Bowl will step up to take their spot in the Top 25. We’re interested to see if Navy will move up more than two spots with their 44-28 win over Pitt and Houston’s win over Florida State. The rest of the American Athletic, however, lost all six of their bowl games. Will 17 Baylor who beat 10 UNC, 49-38, at the RAB move past the Heels from that far down? They should. Tennessee will move up a few notches and Northwestern will probably show at No. 25 if they’re lucky, but maybe they will be out altogether after getting smoked by Tennessee, 45-6 at the Outback. With Iowa’s far fall from grace after being decimated by Stanford, 45-16, in their Rose Bowl loss, and seven other SEC schools who won bowls primed to step in, the Wildcats do not look as good as their 10-3 record now looks. Of course, they did beat Stanford in their season opener.   Over all, bowl teams that we saw play during the regular season went 6-9 during bowl season…Other bowl notes: We see that WR Seth Ryan of Summit (NJ) HS is on the Clemson roster. He’s Buffalo Bill HC Rex Ryan’s son. Must have been the player to be named later in the Sammy Watkins deal…Oklahoma had one Garden Stater on the roster as well, Soph DE Isaac Ijalana of Mt. Holly, NJ. We saw his brother Ben play OT for Villanova a few years ago before being drafted by the Baltimore Colts. He’s now with the New York Jets. Have a relative in the NFL? Ask Seth and Isaac, “You can go anywhere”…

For the second year in a row our season ended with Tennessee dominating a Big Ten team in a one-sided bowl game.

For the second year in a row our season ended with Tennessee dominating a Big Ten team in a one-sided bowl game. Iowa last season and Northwestern this season.

Is Appalachian State getting ready for some significant moves in the FBS? They defeated Ohio U. 31-29, in the Raycom Camellia Bowl to finish 11-2. We saw them defeat Georgia State last season for their second straight win among six victories in their final six games. A perennial 1AA title challenger under HC Jerry Moore which included the famous upset over Michigan at Ann Arbor. Under third-year HC Scott Satterfield, they only lost to No. 1 Clemson and Sun Belt Conference champ Arkansas State this season…Akron won their first bowl game in the FBS ever defeating Utah State, 23-21. Their futility in post-season play preceded them. In 1985, we saw them lose in the opening round of the 1AA playoff on a Thanksgiving weekend to Rhode Island, 38-28. It was right before they joined the FBS as a member of the Mid-American conference. They released their HC and replaced him with Jerry Faust, recently released from Notre Dame after an average, to say the least, record. It seemed to be a step down with the beleaguered Faust, and the Zips struggled to start winning games. Thirty years later, they finally won their first bowl game under HC Terry Bowden…Georgia Southern, another former FCS power, also won their first bowl game defeating Bowling Green in the Bowl, 58-27, in only their second season of FBS play in the SunBelt. Despite a 9-3 record a year ago, they were not allowed a bowl bid for some reason even though they went 8-0 to win the conference. That made no sense. Congrats to the Eagles…A lot of early bowl games were sparsely attended, but the worst had to be the Hawaii Bowl. Cincinnati went all the way out there to play San Diego State on Christmas Eve in front of a handful of fans and locals. How many are watching on Christmas Eve? They lost to San Diego State, 42-7. How depressing that looked. It must have been a long flight out and an even longer flight back. Merry Christmas! Hawaii must sound great as a bowl venue, but the more you think about it and when it’s played, it’s got to be tough on team coming from so far away. With such sparse interest, it’s a bowl game that can be replaced stateside…Washington State beat Miami, 20-14, in the Sun Bowl in El Paso. Only game we saw played in the snow!…How come SEC teams and PAC 12 teams don’t have any contracts to play one another in a bowl game? I guess they don’t like giving up their venues close to their fan base…Let’s hope the NCAA figures a way to schedule the two CFP games every year on New Year’s Day in the future. We all used to live for the big games to be played that day after a night of partying. They need to bring the excitement back to New Year’s Day instead of playing a bunch of meaningless games like they did this year. It was hard football to watch. The average score for the five games was 44.6 to 15.4. They were easy to turn off. None had any influence on the national championship like they used to. Regretfully, I saw TCU trailing Oregon, 28-0, in the second, and I said I’m not watching another one of “those” games. Darn!…North Dakota State won their fifth consecutive FCS Championship last Saturday over Jacksonville State, 37-10. QB Carson Wentz may be one of the best QBs available in this year’s draft. Wonder if Mel Kiper, Jr. is paying attention?

It was great to attend the Military Bowl wherE we saw Navy QB Keenan Reynolds tie and break several NCAA career scoring and rushing marks in the same game.

It was great to attend the Military Bowl where we saw Navy QB Keenan Reynolds (5) tie and break several NCAA career scoring and rushing marks in the same game.


Game 505: Baylor improvises to defeat UNC, 49-38

Baylor innovates offense to outpace North Carolina, 49-38, to capture Russell Athletic Bowl

Baylor players pray before kickoff.

Baylor players pray before kickoff.

Orlando, Florida (December 30, 2015) – Looking forward to a high-scoring affair in the matchup, I told people I didn’t know who was going to win, but based on what I did know, take the “over”.  With two starting QBs lost by Baylor during the season and not outscoring three of their last four opponents with an overwhelming offense that was decimated by the end of the season, the question was what would Bear HC Art Briles do to re-establish his scoring machine to outscore the high-flying Tar Heel offense.  What could he do to offset his two quarterbacks lost to season-ending injuries? What he did was unique. He improvised using a combination of less experienced QBs, his running backs, and a little used WR throughout the game to take snaps directly from center using their combined talents of speed and athleticism to rack up 645 yards on the ground and 756 overall for Russell Athletic Bowl records to outpace Carolina in an interesting and exciting contest, 49-38. Briles adapted brilliantly using the talent he had to offset the losses of QBs Seth Russell (concussion) and Jarrett Stidham (ankle).  For, we attended this game with first time Guest Game Analyst and cousin Anthony Cavalli, UCF grad and recent, former Flight Surgeon in the US Air Force. Looking to continue his medical career after the service, he had such a good time at the RAB Fanfest and at the game, he’s moved Baylor high on his list of medical schools to continue working at and learning.  He even bought a Baylor t-shirt!  It was his first time attending a college football game, and it will not be his last, he declared.

TE Brandon Fritts and UNC teammates celebrate first score of the Russell Athletic Bowl.

TE Brandon Fritts (82) and UNC teammates celebrate first score of the Russell Athletic Bowl.

UNC scored first utilizing a no-huddle offense as QB Marquise Williams (243 yards passing, three TD passes, two TD runs) tossed a TD pass to TE Brandon Fritts for an early 7-0 lead.  The Bears responded with a 75-yard scoring drive as Lynx Hawthorne, who carried the ball ten times during the season and only caught ten passes, took the direct snap from center for a 7-yard touchdown run.  On their next series, he caught a pass from QB Johnny Jefferson to get to the three.  This time RB Devin Chafin (161 rushing yards, one TD) took the snap from there to gain a 14-7 lead for the Bears who were getting the ball into many various offensive players’ hands.

Lynx Hawthorne (7) scores for Baylor.

Lynx Hawthorne (7) scores for Baylor.

In the second period, the Tar Heels started the scoring again with a 32-yard FG by Nick Weiler after a sack of Williams on a third and eight.  UNC forced Baylor to punt on the next series, but a roughing the kicker penalty kept the drive alive to the detriment of the No. 10 Tar Heels.  Behind center, Jefferson (299 yards, three TDs) took the snap at the eleven, dropped back to pass, and then ran the draw to put the Bears up, 21-10.  An interception by BU Safety Orion Stewart gave back the ball on their 33.  Down to the UNC 30, Jefferson went up the middle for another score now looking to blow the Tar Heels away.  However, with the help of two questionable calls, the Heels’ Williams ran a QB draw at the four to cut the lead back down, 28-17, before the half.

Game MVP Johnny Jefferson (5) sweeps right for the Bears.

Game MVP Johnny Jefferson (5) sweeps right for the Bears.

Anthony and I took an Uber ride to the Citrus Bowl Stadium from his house (and back after the game) about 12 miles away and entered the Fanfest adjacent to the stadium.  A few beers and a Jack Daniels bar stop were enjoyed before we went in and after a few warmups back at his place.  We ended up sitting on the Baylor side of the field and enjoyed sitting amongst some other fans we met from neither side but there to enjoy seeing a good game among the 30,418 in attendance.  On New Years’ Day, Michigan and Florida will meet here in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.  Anthony had such a good time at this one, he contemplated coming back on Friday if he is recovered from New Year’s Eve.  He thoroughly enjoyed attending his first college football game.  He follows the pros, but with my introduction and a promise that wherever his career move takes his (i.e. Nebraska, Michigan State, Minnesota…now Baylor?), our cousin Frank Scarpa and I plan to track him down and take him to another good game.  We all look forward to it!

Go Baylor Bears!

These cheerleaders had Anthony rooting for the  Baylor Bears!

North Carolina took the opening kickoff and brought the score closer as Williams finished the drive with a two-yard TD run off tackle to bring the Heels within four, 28-24.  They looked to take the lead after S Dominque Green intercepted QB Chris Johnson’s pass to start from their nine.  However, a targeting call (we thought another questionable one) and the ejection of Carolina WR Austin Proehl put UNC in a punting situation from their seven.  BU took over at its 39.  Briles’ offense got back down to business and RB Terrence Williams (97 yards, two TDs) dove over from the three to extend the lead for Baylor once again, 35-24.  Carolina seemed poised to come right back when Elijah Hood rushed 67 yards to the Baylor eight, but T.J. Logan fumbled it away into the end zone on the next play back and the Bears got the ball back out on the 20.  From there, Jefferson shook one tackler and raced past the Tar Heel secondary for an 80-yard touchdown run.  Every time we thought Baylor had put Carolina away, they would bounce back.  Before the third expired, Williams completed five consecutive passes with the final one to Bug Howard for a 27-yard scoring pass.  Baylor led going onto the final frame, 42-31.  Would either offense falter?

Elijah Hood of UNC picks up 30 yards on this play.

Elijah Hood (34) of UNC picks up 30 yards on this play.

The Bears continued on a drive into the fourth and Terrence Williams scored his second TD from the one to pull away once again, 49-31.  The Bears’ D forced a punt. The Heels dug in and halted a drive on their 36 to take back over on downs.  From there they went on a scoring drive culminating in a seven-yard TD pass to TE Kendrick Singleton with 2:20 left to play.  Carolina went for the onside kick, but Baylor handled it in the end and they ran out the clock for a high-scoring, exciting victory as No. 17 Baylor (10-3) defeated No. 10 North Carolina (11-3) in the Russell Athletic, 49-38.

Devin Chafin (22) turning the corner against the Tar Heels.

Devin Chafin (28) turning the corner against the Tar Heels.

It was a great win authored by one of the most resilient Head Coaches we’ve ever seen perform, Art Briles.  It’s a great testimony to witness his game day coaching skills to not totally defer entirely to his recruiting capabilities. Despite the loss of not only two QBs but his top runner and receiver as well, he took the talent he had and honed a game plan against a top-ranked opponent and made his offense work with the horses available. There were no excuses. Give him great credit.   After 505 college football games, this had to be the most innovative we’ve ever seen put together by any coach.  Tremendous! We were glad we could be in Orlando to see this one.

Though Carolina fell to Baylor, in the end, they didn't look bad.

Though Carolina fell to Baylor, in the end, they didn’t look bad.

Game 507: Tennessee dominates Northwestern in Outback, 45-6

Volunteers wear down Wildcats in Outback, 45-6

Tennessee mascot Smokey ran for more yards yesterday celebrating touchdowns than did the Northwestern offense.

Tennessee mascot Smokey ran for more yards yesterday celebrating touchdowns than did the Northwestern offense.

Tampa, Florida (January 1) – Like last season, ended a great season with a dominant victory by the Tennessee Vols in a bowl game.  Our season ended with a whimper again, and not a bang – similar to many of the bowl games played this season – as Tennessee (9-4) wore down the Northwestern (10-3) defense in the second half to triumph, 45-6.  At least the previous three bowls we attended since this past Monday were somewhat competitive relative to this one.  We picked this over Michigan vs. Florida in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl on this day in Orlando figuring the Wolverines would outmatch the Gators and they did, 41-7 (and we flew into Tampa so our early return flight out would be closer the next morning).  The difference this year was Tennessee got off to a slower start as the Northwestern defense held them in check early versus the flying start the Vols got off to against slow-footed Iowa last season in The Taxslayer Bowl.  In the third against Iowa, they led 45-7 until HC Butch Jones sat his starters, and Iowa scored three TDs after to make the final score “respectable” at 45-28.

The Wildcats' Justin Jackson's TD in the first quarter made the score 10-6.

The Wildcats’ Justin Jackson’s (24) TD in the first quarter made the score 10-6.

In this one, Northwestern’s defense started tough as UT led at halftime, 17-6.  But momentum was going the Vols way and in the second half the Wildcat offense made no adjustments while their punter, Hunter Niswander (7 for 34 yd. average), continued to punt the football with the nose of the ball pointing toward the ground giving it a backspin as if to keep it out of the end zone. In other words, all his punts were short and many rolled backwards when he had no reason to do that.  His coaches couldn’t see that?  Anyway, the offense and the punt unit kept their defense on the field too long and with bad field position throughout the entire game.  Tennessee eventually wore down a very good tackling defense on warm day in Tampa.  Final Result: 45-6.

Alvin Kamara scores from the 11 late in the first half.

Alvin Kamara scores from the 11 late in the first half for a 17-6 lead.

Again, it was a disappointing ending for a great season in which we got to celebrate our 500th college football game since 1979.  Come back and check out more “Steveo’s Salvoes” as we near the championship game and wrap up our season to plan for the next.  Happy New Year!

QB Joshua Dobbs rolls out to pass in the third period.

QB Joshua Dobbs rolls out to pass in the third period.

Key stats for this game:


QB Josh Dobbs 14 for 25 passing for 166 yards; 12 carries for 48 yards, 2 TDs

RB Jalen Hurd 24 carries for 130 yards

RB Alvin Kamara 11 carries for 53 yards and 1 TD, 3 catches for 19 yards

TE Alex Ellis 3 catches for 74 yards

Total yards 420


QB Clayton Thorson 8 for 20 passing, 57 yard, 2 INTs

RB Justin Jackson 14 carries for 74 yards, 1 TD

4 INTs thrown

Total yards 261

At least halftime was worth watching.

At least halftime was worth watching.

Game # 506: Clemson wins to meet Alabama for National Championship

Tigers lower boom on Sooners in second half to advance to FBS final, 37-17

Welcome to the CapitalOne Orange Bowl!

Welcome to the CapitalOne Orange Bowl!

Miami Lakes, Florida (December 31) – The No. 1 Clemson Tigers (14-0) trailed the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners 17-16 at the half, but the offense, led by QB and game MVP Deshaun Watson and RB Wayne Gallman, added two TDs in the third and one in the fourth that Oklahoma could not respond to against a staunch Tiger defense. Clemson held the Sooners to 121 yards in the second half to record a 37-17, CFP victory in the CapitalOne Orange Bowl. They will move on to the national championship game in Glendale, Arizona on January 11 to meet the No. 2 Crimson Tide of Alabama.  HC Dabo Swinney, a former walk-on at wide receiver for The Tide, has ten days to get his Tigers ready.  DE Shaq Lawson left the game early after a leg injury, but vowed to be ready for the biggest game of the 2015-16 season in all of college football coming up.

Clemson HC Dabo Swinney

Clemson HC Dabo Swinney

As a matter of fact, Lawson started the game on the first play with a sack of Sooner QB Baker Mayfield.  However, the Sooner offense recovered quickly and drove the length of the field with Semaje Perine finishing the opening drive with a one-yard plunge for a quick 7-0 Sooner lead.  After exchanging punts, Clemson took over from their 28.  Tiger PK Greg Huegel put three up on the board with a 26-yard FG.

Samaje Perine (32) picks up yardage on OU's game opening drive.

Samaje Perine (32) picks up yardage on OU’s game opening drive.

To start the second period, Clemson started from their four after an OU punt.  On the first play, Watson wove through the defense for a 46-yard advance to put the Tigers at midfield.  OU forced them into the punt formation, but Clemson pulled off a fake as P Andy Teasdall launched a pass down the left sideline to DT Christian Wilkins who was wide open to haul it in at the twelve.  Watson finished things off with a five-yard run to take a 10-7 lead.  The next Clemson possession started from the 19 and they got within Huegel’s range to convert on a 31-yard FG to lengthen their lead by six.  The Sooners kept pace though with a 23-yard FG of their own by Austin Seibert.  Huegel responded again with a 43-yard kick with 2:17 left in the first half.  OU came right back.  Mayfield’s 43-yard pass to Dede Westbrook put the Sooners at the 11. On an out pass to the left flat, TE Mark Andrews carried it in for a 17-16 Sooner lead.  With 1:34 left, Clemson threatened to score again before halftime, but a tipped pass in the end zone intended for Charone Peake was picked off by Sooner S Zack Sanchez.

Clemson QB Deshaun Watson (4) dashes 46 yards to midfield.

Clemson QB Deshaun Watson (4) dashes 46 yards to midfield.

Singer/songwriter John Fogarty of Creedence Clearwater Revival fame entertained at halftime for us “old schoolers”. His songs will outlive us all.  I sat next to some Nebraska Cornhusker fans rooting for the Sooners as we sat among many Clemson fans.  They came to Florida primarily for a wedding, and they were able to buy tickets to the game.  It was not a sell-out.  Of the 67,615 announced, 75% were wearing Clemson colors as the No. 1 seed gets placed in the closest venue for the CFP.  I purchased my tickets before it was announced who was in this game. Had it been the likes of Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, or a combination of the three, tickets may have been impossible had I waited.  I primarily attend these games to see an epic battle, and if I have a rooting interest liking or despising a particular team, I’ll get into it. I had no preference at this game, but I picked OU to win it.  The Husker fan next to me and I had some interesting conversations about college football, his farming, Florida, and other things.  As others have told me, he insisted I have to get to a Nebraska game in Lincoln!  It’s on my list. Of course, he said I should come out when they get better, but I figure if I do, the tickets will be even harder to get.  Like most Husker fans, he’s travelled well. He’s been to Penn State to see the Huskers visit there several times.  With ten minutes left in the game, his wife told him that their friends were waiting for them and they had to leave.  He argued there were ten minutes left in the game, but she was persistent.  He gave in.  I’m thankful that St. Laurie never did that to me.  It reminds me about the time we were at a game at West Point in a driving rainstorm.  I couldn’t leave. I was adding TCU to my quest to “see ‘em all” that day and it wouldn’t count unless I was there until the end.  When it was announced that cars should be moved from the South docks along the Hudson close to where we had parked, she went to rescue the car while Charlie, Dave, and I watched TCU finish off Army (Frank Scarpa was forced to go home by his wife who was pregnant at the time.  We gave him a pass that day). Of course, St. Laurie knew this was her quickest way out of the rain and into the car with the heater on.  The memories!  The story is in my book, Tales from the Tailgate.

Tailgating Miami-style.

Tailgating Miami-style.

Clemson started Q3 with the ball on their 25. Gallman (26 carries for 150 yards and two TDs) scored at the one to regain the lead to start the second half for the Tigers, 23-17.  A sack of Mayfield by DE Kevin Dodd forced OU to punt from the nine. Clemson came up empty though as Huegel missed a 47-yard FG. The Sooners drove to the 30 of Clemson, but on fourth and one on a direct snap to Perine, Clemson took over on downs.  The Tigers moved the ball to the 35.  There, Watson connected on an out pass to Hunter Renfro who shook one tackler and turned up field for a touchdown and a 30-17 Tiger lead.  Oklahoma’s next drive was turned around on an INT by LB B.J. Goodson.  The next OU possession went two yards in the opposite direction, and Clemson was at midfield to start the final period.

OU WR Sterling Shepard brought down with open field tackle in second half.

OU WR Sterling Shepard brought down with open field tackle in second half.

The Tigers put together a scoring drive with Gallman taking it over from a yard out to lead 37-17.  Oklahoma seemed to still have a shot to get back in with a quick score and some onside kicks.  They move quickly for 70 yards down to the five.  Mayfield dropped back and tried to fire a pass to a receiver running a corner pattern, but LB Ben Boulware, the game’s defensive MVP, leapt high on the air to pick the ball off with 7:32 remaining to regain possession and take away any chance for OU to mount a comeback.

Clemson held OU to 121 total yards of offense in the second half.

Clemson held OU to 121 total yards of offense in the second half.

The Tigers and Sooners (11-2) went at each other hard in the first half, but in the second, it was all Tigers.  They played well on both sides of the ball.  They played as the No. 1 had to to beat No. 4.  They play a balanced, deceptive offense and their defensive size up front and speed overall should match up well with Alabama.  Clemson heads to Glendale, Arizona for the FBS title.  Oklahoma goes home to follow up on recruiting its next class of players. We headed up I-75 enroute to Tampa for our final game of a great 2015 season and our 507th overall to watch Tennessee play Northwestern in the Outback Bowl.

HC Dabo Swinney seems to be waving goodbye to the Orange Bowl as he takes his team on to Glendale, Arizona to meet Alabama in the National Championship game.

HC Dabo Swinney seems to be waving goodbye to the Orange Bowl as he takes his team on to Glendale, Arizona to meet Alabama in the National Championship game.


Game 504: Navy defeats Pitt in Military Bowl, 44-28

Navy downs Pitt at a record-setting day at The Military Bowl, 44-28

Amputee Vet lands at Navy-Marine Corps before the Military Bowl.

Amputee Vet lands at Navy-Marine Corps before the Military Bowl.

Annapolis, Maryland (December 28, 2015) –  Pitt’s Quadree Henderson got the scoring started from the opening kickoff at The Military Bowl sponsored by Northrop Grumman with a 100-yard return for a touchdown, but it was all Navy after that for the next 45 minutes as the Mids won their first bowl as a member of the American Athletic Conference and third in three years, 44-28, for the first time ever in 135 years of Naval Academy football.  For Navy, the victory established team and individual career records for the No. 21 rated team in the CFP poll.  Navy’s final record of 11-2 overall set the USNA mark for most wins ever in a single season.  During the game, senior QB Keenan Reynolds broke two major career NCAA records with his 144 rushing yards and three TDs against a tough Pitt Panther defense that ranked 20th against the run.     Reynolds surpassed the mark set by Denard Robinson of Michigan for most career rushing yards by a QB finishing his career with 4,559 yards on the ground.  His three TDs beat the NCAA record of Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Nixon by one with his 88th.  After five bowl losses by AAC teams to start this bowl season, Navy gave their conference foes something to cheer about along with most of the 36,352 in attendance today at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.  Against Pitt coached by Pat Narduzzi, former DC at Michigan State, the 44 points exceeded all other opponents of Pitt’s 8-5 2015 season.

This young Pitt fan cruised in with the pride of the Panther fleet on his head, but it wasn't enough against Navy's overwhelming ground and air forces.

This young Pitt fan cruised in with the pride of the Panther fleet on his head, but it wasn’t enough against Navy’s overwhelming ground and air forces.

After Pitt’s opening score, Guest Game Analyst Brian Donnelly reminded the rest of us that South Florida had done the same thing earlier in the season at Annapolis when we attended that game won by the Mids, 29-17. This lead did not last as long as that one as Reynolds scored touchdowns on Navy’s first two drives from the one and from the five.  The second tied him with Nixon. The Mids dominated the first quarter of play in time of possession, 12:07 to 2:53.

Reynolds scores from the five to tie the NCAA career TD record with his 87th.

Reynolds scores from the five to tie the NCAA career TD record with his 87th.

In the second, Pitt’s first possession resulted in a FG attempt wide left by Chris Blewitt (always loved that name for a kicker). Their next drive was stopped on an INT by Safety Lorentez Barbour to start Navy from its 16.  The drive by the Mids resulted in an 11-yard TD pass from Reynolds to Tyler Carmona for a 21-7 lead.  Pitt’s next drive finished in the end zone with a pick by CB Brendon Clements to start Navy on its 15 before the half came to an end.

Good tailgating before the game that was played on a cold, windy, damp day. We agreed that we were all spoiled by the great weather we enjoyed all season long.   Brian, Navy Al, Jay, and Dave had the grill going when I got there after finding impromptu parking again at our favorite neighbors on Locust Road.  The parking lot at Navy-Marine Corps was half occupied by huge party tents and the pregame parade snarled traffic, so traffic was slower for the 2:30 kickoff and parking was tight.  The guys had wings, ribs, and chili warmed up when I got there to make the four-hour drive well worth it alone! Lots of Pitt fans showed up.  The stadium was packed. No game programs could be found before the game or during halftime.  Concession lines were long to say the least. A guy showed up late in the game as Jay pointed him out to me so I was able to add to my bowl collection with the last of two he still had.  I couldn’t go home without one. Brian saw one after the game on the floor of the men’s room but chickened out eventually.

Navy took the second half kick and finished with a 26-yard sweep option right for a touchdown by SB Desmond Brown.  The next USNA possession resulted in a 34-yard FG by Austin Grebe for a dominant 31-7 lead over the Panthers.  Pitt’s offense finally got on the board with a five-yard TD pass from Nate Peterman to RB Qadree Ollison. No harm done seemingly until Frosh DB Jordan Whitehead plucked a fumble out of the air by Navy FB Chris Swain (27 carries for 114 yards) and returned it 22 yards for a TD with 2:57 left in Q3.  Suddenly, Pitt was back in the game, 31-21. At the end of the period, it was announced that Reynolds had broken Denard Robinson’s QB rushing record.

FB Chris Swain (37) runs for a few of his 124 yards against Pitt.

FB Chris Swain (37) runs for a few of his 114 yards against Pitt.

In the fourth, SB Toneo Gulley finished off a 69-yard Navy drive with a 15-yard run to the right to give Navy a more comfortable 38-21 lead. But Pitt’s Ollison cut it to ten again with his 45-yard TD jaunt, 38-28.  Starting from their 25, Navy poised again to score at the Panthers’ nine.  Reynolds dropped back to pass and his receivers drew the Pitt secondary toward both sidelines, and with that, he tucked the ball and ran it right up the gut for a 44-28 lead and the NCAA scoring mark of 88 TDs and 530 career points.  The point after was blocked, and the Navy D stopped Pitt as it had done most of the day before running out the clock for their record-setting 11th victory of the Navy football season.  It was certainly a great one.


The Pitt band played their alma mater, and the Navy players finished off their fine tradition by leading fans, alumni, and a small contingent of fellow Mids (most were away on Christmas leave) in their alma mater, “Navy Blue and Gold”. It would be the last time singing it for 32 Navy seniors who will graduate from the Academy as the winningest team ever.  Keenan Reynolds was voted the game’s MVP accordingly and attributed his success to his teammates around him in a post-game interview.

Next year, Navy opens their season here with a plethora of new starters against Fordham. What works well in their favor, however, will be the return of their HC Ken Niumatalolo, who thankfully declined the offer from BYU to stay with a great, unique program that he has built and one he truly loves. We look forward to more great seasons of Navy football with him at “the helm”. However, before we see another Navy football game, we’ll see at least three more games as we fly out early tomorrow (Tuesday) morning on our way to the Russell Athletic Bowl to see Baylor and North Carolina light up the score board. Bears and Tar Heels – here we come!

It was an exciting season for Navy's 11-2 season and a bowl win. Looking forward the Navy's football future under HC Ken Niumatalolo.

It was an exciting season for Navy’s 11-2 finish and a third bowl win in four years. Looking forward the Navy’s football future under HC Ken Niumatalolo.

Steveo’s Salvos! Happy Bowl Season -December 27, 2015

Happy Bowl Season everybody!  Nineteen games have been played already and we at are just getting started  We will attend four pretty good, competitive, significant games during the next five days.  Seven of the eight teams we will see are ranked in the current Top 25.  Among other  teams that we saw play during the regular season, three have already won and three have already lost.  Seen some pretty good ones on TV and avoided the earlier ones we had no interest in.  As to be expected though there have been some good ones and some total blow-outs.  What we hate seeing, however, are all the empty seats at so many games.  Travel is expensive to warmer climes and in general during Christmas vacations.  The games are played during family oriented holidays when people like to finally spend times with their families, so it’s time to relax instead of travel. Some family members still have to work while kids or spouses have time off from school and work.  And generally day time television during weekdays stink!   If TV sponsors are willing to foot the bill, we now believe more than ever that every team should get an extra game.  However, let’s separate the good ones as “bowl” games from what the others really are – “consolation games”.  These games at least give everyone, not just the top rated teams,  a chance to get some extra practice and an additional game at the end of the season.  We’re contemplating sponsoring The Commode Bowl (much more positive than “Toilet”).   We’ve got some great sponsor ideas that work well during day time television.  The game would be played between the two teams with the fewest wins at the FBS level.  Hopefully both would finish 0-12 so one of them could be able to end the season with a victory.  Our slogan, “In the end, someone feels good after leaving the Commode Bowl”. I think if a school finishing the season at 0-12 played an opponent with the same record ,I think quite a few would tune in to see who would win.  Sounds like an offseason project for us… Among the teams that we saw during the regular season that have  won bowls so far this year, San Diego State last lost back on September 26 when we watched them lose to Penn State, 37-21.  They then ran the table in the Mountain West thereafter and clobbered Cincinnati 42-7 in Hawaii to finish 11-3…  Washington State beat Rutgers, 34-27 on our schedule and the went all the way to the Sun Bowl to beat Miami (F) 20-14, to finish 9-4. While we in the Northeast watched games on TV indoors as mild temps pervaded the outdoors, we watched snow fall on TV in El Paso, Texas…   Duke who lambasted Army, 44-3, during the regular season while we were at West Point,  won over Indiana, 44-41, in OT as a questionable call was made on the Hoosier’s FG attempt to tie it up on their last play.  I didn’t watch the game but heard there were “about a thousand people ” in attendance.  They would have had ten times that if the two schools were playing basketball instead over at Madison Square Garden instead of football Yankee Stadium, a horrible football venue…South Florida, Utah State, and Temple were the three teams we saw that lost their bowl games.  Most surprising to us was not that Temple lost to a very good Toledo team, but we were surprised to see their offense sputter to lose that game without much of a fight, 32-17. The Owls will lose all of their defense next year.  We are considering to see their opener next season on Labor Day weekend  against an improving Army team next season…Our first 2015 bowl game we will be attending this Monday will be Pitt (8-4) of the ACC playing No. 21 Navy (10-2)  at the Military Bowl sponsored by Northrop Grumman at Navy- Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.   The Mids won’t have the entire Brigade of Midshipmen there to support them as they are all away on Christmas leave.  Both teams lost to No. 8 Notre Dame this season and Pitt’s other losses were to No. 5 Iowa, No. 10 North Carolina, and aforementioned Miami.  Navy’s other loss was to No. 18 Houston.  So both teams have played but fallen to some top competition. Pitt HC Pat Narduzzi has improved the Panther defense and has had three weeks to prepare of Navy’s vaunted triple option averaging 319.2 rushing yards per game. Pitt allows 126.1 rushing yards per contest.  Navy QB Keenan Reynolds enters having  85 career touchdowns (all rushing) before joining the Navy’s Cyberspace Warfare program as an Ensign next spring.  Already the NCAA record holder for career rushing touchdowns, he needs two touchdowns to tie and three to break Kenneth Dixon’s (Louisiana Tech) record of 87 for NCAA career total touchdowns.  He needs just 81 yards rushing to set the career NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback held by Michigan’s Denard Robinson, who rushed for 4,495 yards in his career. He’ll have his work cut out for him against Pitt, but being the unselfish player that he is, he’ll be focusing on the win rather than his personal stats to be sure.  This game should be a memorable one and great one to start our 2015 whirlwind, five-day bowl tour!  Meeting Brian Donnelly, “Navy Al”, Jay, and some other fellow Navy fans for a tailgate…  The next day, we fly to Orlando to attend the Russell Athletic bowl in a great matchup between No. 10 North Carolina (11-2)  and No. 17 Baylor (9-3). The game kicks off at 5:30 pm.  UNC lost its first game of the season, 17-13, to South Carolina on some questionable play calls to get into the end zone for a win, and it lost its last game of the season to No. 1 Clemson, 45-37, on a game put out of reach on a questionable onside kick recovery by the officials for the ACC Championship. QB Marquise Williams has thrown for 2,829 yards and 17 TDs. Five receivers have 250 or more receiving yards as he spreads the field. He’s also run for 867 yards and 11 TDs.   RB Elijah Hood does the bulk of the groundwork for the Heels as he’s rushed for 1,345 yards and 17 scores.  The Baylor Bears, who we’ll see play for only the second time, were a top team most of the season under HC Art Briles until his QB corps dropped off along the way due to injuries. The Bears lost three of their last four to Oklahoma (before beating Oklahoma State) and losing their last two to TCU and Texas. We figure HC Briles has been working closely with third string QB Chris Johnson these last few weeks to get him up to par with QBs who have gone down to get him prepared to lead this high-powered passing offense.  Briles has always seemed to develop QBs since his days at Houston and seems to do it on the fly as his starters move on due to graduation or injury.  We expect his offense that averaged 48 ppg to come out firing.  The Heels only allowed 22.6 on defense.  With some ball control by Williams’ passing and Hood’s running , a key will be for them to keep the Bears’ offense off the field. I’m hoping to get Cousin Anthony Cavalli who just finished his Air Force career to join me as he’s back home in Orlando for the holidays… On Thursday,  I will be at the CapitalOne Orange Bowl to see No. 1 Clemson (13-0) and No. 4 Oklahoma (11-1) battle to get to the national championship game in Glendale, Arizona to meet the winner of No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Michigan State on January 11. QBs DeShaun Watson of Clemson and  Baker Mayfield of the Sooners should make this an exciting game.  We look forward to it. It doesn’t get better than this to see our first CFP in person. The last time Clemson won a national championship back in 1981, we saw them beat Maryland in their last game of the 1980 season before running the table the following year to win the national championship. We saw them start a 13-game winning streak to get there under HC Danny Ford.  We saw Oklahoma play in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona back in 2011, but it was a letdown seeing them play Big East champ UConn who was only 8-4 that year, and the Sooners with QB Sam Bradford clobbered the Huskies in a yawner, 48-20.  We also attended the Discover Orange Bowl in 2012 where Clemson started off competitively, but then fell in an onslaught to West Virginia on the short-end of a record breaking Orange Bowl score, 70-33.  We don’t expect a yawner this time for sure, and we don’t expect a blow-out by either team.  This one should be high-scoring and not decided until the last quarter.  We can’t wait for this encounter on New Year’s Eve. It’s only the third time we get to see OU play…The very next morning, we will be on our way to Tampa to finish off our fourth bowl game when we head up to Raymond James Stadium. No slouches here a day after the highly anticipated Playoff game.   We’ll see the No. 23 Tennessee Vols (8-4)  meet the No. 13 Northwestern Wildcats (10-2) .  Funny, we ended last season seeing the Vols hammer Iowa in the TaxSlayer, 45-28, after leading 45-7.  Hopefully the same won’t happen this year.  The Wildcats’ two losses were by wide margins to Iowa (40-10) and to Michigan (38-0).  Most of their wins were by close margins. Among UT’s four losses by seven points or less, one was by seven to Oklahoma in two OTs and one was to Alabama by only five. The Wildcats win close ones and UT loses close ones, but if Tennessee starts off like they did against Iowa last season, the result could be big for the Vols.  HC Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats will have to be at the top of their game to hold off Tennessee whose QB Josh Dobbs (2,125 passing yards for 15 TDs and 623 rushing yards for nine TDs) and RB Jalen Hurd (1,158 yards and 11 TDs) got off to fast starts last bowl season. Fitzgerald looks for his defense that only allowed 16.4 ppg to hold tightly against a Tennessee offense that scored 34. 3 ppg this season under HC Butch Jones.  This will be the fourth bowl game for us involving the Vols. In addition to last season’s TaxSlayer Bowl, we saw them defeat Wisconsin, 28-21, in the 1981 Garden State Bowl and we saw them fall in 2007 to Penn State, 20-10, in this same venue.  It will be their fourth Big Ten opponent among all the bowls we’ve seen them play in.  We predict that either UT will win big or lose this one close. Tennessee is already on our slate next year when they will meet Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 10 so we can help establish the record for the largest attendance ever at a college football game…Stay close to this site during our bowl season. We plan to have our game reviews to you pretty quickly though we are on the road this week.  Happy Bowling!  We think we have some great games to wrap up our 2015 season!


Steveo’s Salvos – December 21, 2015

Does this statement bother anybody else? : “Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has suspended All-American defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche for the Allstate Sugar Bowl matchup with Oklahoma State. The suspension will end Nkemdiche’s college career, as he announced that he will enter the NFL draft.” For one thing, crime evidently does pay. Secondly, pro football once again demonstrates disdain for the schools that develop their players. It rewards rather than supports the disciplinary problems that the colleges face with the players they attract to get them a shot at playing professional football. There are other points to be made here in depth as well, but in reality, the NFL is really starting to bore me with their indifference to everything except for making money…According to the all-American team this year, we’ll have seen an eyeful of some of the best talent anywhere in the nation by the time this season comes to an end. This includes players seen a year ago, during this regular season, and also while attending the upcoming bowl games we plan to see when we get back on the road for four great games next week. On offense, we’ll get to see Soph QB DeShaun Watson, one of this year’s top Heisman candidates, lead the Clemson Tigers against the Oklahoma Sooners in the Capital One Orange Bowl. RB Leonard Fournette of LSU ran for over 100 yards in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl we attended last season in a 31-28 loss to Notre Dame…

LSU Frosh RB Leonard Fournette (7) scored on a 100-yard kickoff return and on an 89-yard run in last year's Music City.

LSU Frosh RB Leonard Fournette (7) scored on a 100-yard kickoff return and on an 89-yard run in last year’s Music City.

Speaking of Notre Dame, OT Ronnie Stanley helped pave the way to ND’s 24-20 win we attended against Temple. We have two guys to keep an eye on when we see the Baylor Bears (9-3) play in the Russell Athletic Bowl when they will face a tough challenge against the North Carolina Tar Heels (11-2). WR Corey Coleman and OT Spencer Drago will be lining up on offense for the Bears who averaged 48 points per game. Their schedule early on was somewhat questionable, but we’ll see what they can do against UNC who averaged 40+ themselves on offense, but only allowed 22.6 per game over the course of the season. .. On defense, Clemson and Baylor come in with some All-Americans as well on the defensive line. Shaq Lawson is a stalwart for the Tigers and Andrew Billings is a key stopper for the Bears. S Jayron Kearse will be looking to stop the Sooners passing attack when we’re at Miami Lakes for the CFP opener… We saw the entire defensive front four of’s All-American team as Penn State’s Carl Nassib, winner of the Lombardi Trophy, and Joey Bosa of Ohio State, who we saw play this year and last against Michigan and Navy respectively, both made big plays from their DE positions this season. Temple LB Tyler Matakevitch, First-Team All-American, Nagurski and Bednarik award winner, and the AAC Defensive Player of the Year, led the Owls to their first win over Penn State since 1941 and kept the Notre Dame offense in check including an INT near his goal line in a hard fought loss when we saw him play this year. We think he’s going to make a name for himself at the next level. Florida State CB Jalen Ramsey had a good game against Syracuse when we saw the ‘Noles win up at The Carrier Dome last season. CB Desmond King starred for the much improved Iowa Hawkeyes this year, but when we saw his team play Tennessee in the Taxslayer Bowl last season, well, we couldn’t say that we were impressed by anyone on the Hawkeye team, but things changed this year evidently. Jeremy Cash, Safety at Duke, played in the Blue Devils’ drubbing of Army, 44-3, that we attended this season. We certainly got to see a great cross section of All-American talent this season at West Point…South Florida opened the bowl season among all the teams we saw play this season and got handed a 45-35 defeat against Western Kentucky (11-2) to finish 8-5. We’re looking forward to seeing probably the best bowl matchup (on TV) among the non-Power Five conferences on Tuesday night when Temple and Toledo meet in the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl. Don’t miss this one. Watch Matakevitch if you haven’t seen the Owls play this year. Junior RB Jahad Thomas is a key cog in the Owl running game…

The Owls swarmed the Lions defensively from the second period on when the defeated PSU for the first time in 74 years.

The Owls swarmed the Lions defensively from the second period on when they defeated PSU for the first time in 74 years.

Shepherd University fell to Northwest Missouri State in the D2 championship game, 35-7, nixing our chance to have seen two national championship teams this season. We had an eye out on this game for a while at a dinner in New York City at a restaurant on Eighth Avenue called the “Houndstooth Pub”. Auburn grad Carlie Miller who joined us was a little perplexed that it may be the fall Saturday hangout for local Crimson Tide alum. But no proof of that. Great food and service… We think Rutgers new head Coach Chris Ash is going to learn quickly that the media in the New York –New Jersey metropolitan area is going to be completely different than what he’s anticipated based on his limited experience as a HC and what he’s seen his former mentor, Urban Meyer, tolerate. The pressure pot is brewing already. The Newark Star Ledger alone has three beat writers covering Rutgers football every day, and they won’t be playing again until September 3 (at Washington). Ash is still coaching the Ohio State defense going into the Battle Frog (?) Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame while hiring his new staff, recruiting players, wooing New Jersey high school football coaches, moving his young family, and just getting the lay of the land while back and forth to Columbus and then on to Arizona for New Year’s Day. With no current Jersey connections and recruiting against the likes of Jim Harbaugh (who’s got four top Jersey schoolboy commitments already), Urban Meyer, James Franklin, Mark D’Antoni , and Matt Rhule of Temple (seriously) who has a roster full of Jersey and Pennsylvania kids, among others, he’s not only got his work cut out for him, but people in good old NJ are going to want to see results quickly. For 35 years since RU joined the ranks of the majors, people have said, “If Rutgers could keep all the best players in New Jersey coming to Rutgers, we’ll have a great team.” It hasn’t happened. Greg Schiano (former RU HC and Ash’s replacement to be at Ohio State as defensive coordinator) came closest in 2007. Even students not playing sports from New Jersey want to go someplace else to live and learn for four years. With a new head coach with no head coaching experience and a new AD with no football background (Chris Hobbs from Seton Hall), I don’t see much improvement coming to RU’s football program any time soon. The press is playing nice now, but if the results don’t come fast and furiously to compete among the Big Ten mainstays, they and the fans will all be asking why not. I already know the answers…

Rutgers played without suspended HC Kyle Flood against Michigan State and played a close game, losing 31-24.

Rutgers played without suspended HC Kyle Flood against Michigan State and played a close game, losing 31-24.

Mount Union returned to the Top of D3 for the 12th time after two years as runner-up. In the semifinal, they defeated six time champ and nemesis Wisconsin-Whitewater, 36-6. In the final, they defeated St. Thomas of Minnesota, 49-35. Congratulations to HC Vince Kehres and the Purple Raiders (15-0) who will most likely be in the D-3 hunt again next season…Former UW-Whitewater HC Lance Leipold, winner of six D-3 national championships there, finished his first season at Buffalo with a 5-7 record, 3-5 in the MAC. Not bad for a guy who had no time to recruit on the short notice he had to make things happen in upstate New York. Especially for a guy whose entire roster at UWW came primarily from just the “Cheesehead” state. We now look forward to what he can do more than ever. With more opportunity for recruiting and more offseason coaching to be done from his side, he’ll put the Bulls in the thick of the MAC race in short period of time. He had a good win over Ohio U, 41-7, and some tough losses against some solid conference foes like Bowling Green and Northern Illinois. His team was beaten the worst by Central Michigan. Overall, it shows that he prepares his team well and can coach a team effectively during a game. I think he’s going to do well here at UB and end up with something even more significant later on where his program to be will be challenging for the FBS championship.

We can't believe how the Iowa Hawkeyes improved so much after one season.  They had no speed when we saw Tennessee crush them in last season's TaxSlayer Bowl.

We can’t believe how the Iowa Hawkeyes improved so much after one season. They had no speed when we saw Tennessee crush them in last season’s TaxSlayer Bowl.