Our gala extravaganza planned for our 500th game celebration is coming along nicely as we got commitments for 61 attendees so far and more coming on board as the word is spreading. We have one full busload already committed to, so if you’ve got your invitation, and haven’t responded yet, let us know as soon as you can. That’s for November 21 when Rutgers meets Army at West Point. If anyone you know invites you to a wedding that weekend, tell them you already have plans…Thinking back, besides a few games missed for funerals attended over the years, there’s a few instances where our opportunity to reach 500 got delayed a little longer than it could have happened. Several come to mind. From 1987-1992, I watered down the schedules as I concentrated on my MBA while working full-time and my weekends had to be dedicated to studying and projects. I saw some quality games though during those years. Besides that though, there’s the 1999 Michigan at Penn State game when 4-year old Eric was sick in the hotel room all night and I sold our tickets the next morning and headed home missing our opportunity to see Tom Brady play collegiately that day in a close win over the Lions. The same rivalry was missed in 1995 when a freak November snow storm was too treacherous for the typical four hour drive. Another major snow storm fell on Salem, Virginia one year when we had planned to attend another in the series on national championship D-3 games between Mt. Union and Wisconsin-Whitewater. There was a time my Ford Escort died entering the New Jersey Turnpike on our way to see an FCS playoff game when Portland State was visiting Delaware. In 2008, another car mishap occurred when a bolt came loose in a tire well of my Malibu (that I still have) and locked up my wheels on the way to see Oregon State at Penn State. There was also an opportunity that fell through to see a Central Florida game when I was at a Friday wedding in Orlando and some other people from the wedding evidently didn’t think I seriously would’ve gone. It was a last minute shot, but that could have added to the current total. In 2012, I was totally under the weather and decided not to venture to D.C. though I had tickets for the Military Bowl between San Jose State and Bowling Green. There may be a few more, but these are the ones that definitely detracted from making this goal earlier. Just as well. We came up with a pretty good plan on a pretty good date as it is….It’s a great time of year for college sports as we enter “March Madness” with the invitations extended tonight for the “Big dance”. College baseball is already about a month along. Well, at least college baseball is well underway in the warmer climes as teams from the north head south on weekends and during spring breaks. The Major Leagues are just figuring out who amongst their pitching staffs have to sit out the year for Tommy John surgery. In the meantime, many football squads throughout the country are beginning to stir for spring practices. They’re putting on helmets and shoulder pads to get outside, shake off the cobwebs, do some hitting, and start sorting out who can do what after a few months of off-season conditioning in preparation for 2015. Among teams within driving distance from us who we generally see play each regular season, Princeton has been practicing for a couple of weeks during extremely cold temperatures and now heading to Japan where it will hold three more sessions to prepare for their spring game being played this weekend in Japan against the Japanese College football champs of 2015, the Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters. Penn State and Army will be holding intrasquad scrimmages on April 18. Rutgers will have their Scarlet and White game on Friday night, April 24, and Temple will be holding their Cherry-White game on April 25 at a place on their campus called Chodoff Field. It is unclear whether Navy is holding a scrimmage from the information on their website. Lafayette and Lehigh haven’t announced their intra-squad plans for their spring games yet. We plan to attend the Penn State and Rutgers spring games after enjoying our month of March Madness!…Navy HC Ken Niumatalolo’s messages to his team during offseason work outs are pretty blunt as USNA enters its first season in the American Athletic Conference. “We’re smaller than everybody else (we play)! We can’t let anybody play harder than us! Next drill! Get there! “And even more profound, “If you don’t do your job, we got zero chance to win!” You can hear it all on http://www.navysports.com. Navy’s generally been smaller than most teams it faces, but with a conference championship as a new goal, the effort to win will become even greater at the Naval Academy… We have just about everything in place for our 2015 schedule and avoiding temptations to go to more games available to us only to assure that the November 21 commitment is truly our 500th game. Our biggest question marks are how we will schedule our first three games over the Labor Day Weekend. Usually, we like to find a game on Thursday night as we did last season when we saw Texas A&M stomp South Carolina before seeing two games on the following Saturday. In Baltimore, Ohio state beat Navy to begin its quest for the national title. On the way home we saw an FCS contest where Central Connecticut defeated 2013 FCS runner-up Towson at Johnny Unitas Stadium. We are strongly considering starting our 2015 season where we kind of finished last as we visited Nashville on our way back from three bowl games in Florida. If we do, it may start with the Tennessee Volunteers who finished our season with a dominant win over Iowa in the Taxslayer Bowl. At LP Field where we watched Notre Dame defeat LSU on a last second field goal in the Franklin /American Mortgage Music City Bowl before we headed to the three bowls in Florida, the Vols will kick off their season against Bowling Green. However, we’re waiting to find out the exact time because across town that day, Vanderbilt will be hosting Western Kentucky in their season opener at Vanderbilt Stadium. If there is a day-night opportunity, we’d consider taking advantage as we love to visit Nashville. The Vandy-WKU game could be a pretty good match-up and it would be our first game ever hosted by the Commodores. It would be the second time for us to see the Hilltoppers who we ironically added to our history in 2009 when we saw them crushed by UT, 63-7, in our first game at Neyland Stadium. A second option is to see a Thursday night D-2 game when the East Stroudsburg Warriors host the LIU-CW Post Pioneers at ESU’s Eiler-Martin Stadium, a short drive from our headquarters. The following Saturday, Penn State will visit Temple at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. We hope to see an improved PSU and an improved Temple team go at it. In both these scenarios, we have a common third game to finish off our Labor Day weekend. That Monday night, our plan is to be at Blacksburg, Virginia where the VT Hokies will be hosting Ohio State at Lane Stadium in the season opener for both squads. Surely you remember that Tech was the lone blemish on the Buckeye schedule in 2014. We’ll also see who Urban Meyer starts at QB for his defending national champs among Braxton Miller, JT Barrett, or Cardale Jones. If for some reason this game can’t work out for us we could do Thursday night in Charlotte when North Carolina and South Carolina square off to open their seasons before heading out to Nashville. We’re keeping our options open until the game times shake out in Nashville, but no matter how we look at it, it should be a fun opening weekend for collegefootballfan’s 2015 season opening weekend…The following weekend, we already have Washington State at Rutgers penned in. Last season RU came back from a game played in Seattle with a 41-38 win. Though Mike Leach’s Cougars finished 3-9, 2-7 in the PAC 12, in typical Leach fashion, they led the nation in passing yardage with 477.7 yards per game scoring on 45 TD passes. They averaged 31.8 points on offense while allowing 38.6 on defense. Losses included a 38-31 defeat at the hands of No. 2 Oregon, and a 60-59 loss to the Cal Bears. Connor Halliday started the first nine games of the season at QB, but redshirt sophomore Luke Falk took over and impressed statistically with 1,859 passing yards, 13 TDs, and 7 INTs. Experienced receivers in River Cracraft and Dom Williams return. HC Mike Leach didn’t sit on his hands during the offseason as he sought to improve his coaching staff. He promoted his former record-setting QB at Texas Tech, Graham Harrell, from analyst to Wide receivers coach. Surely he’ll be training Falk and other QBs in the Mike Leach passing system. To shore up his defense, he hired former Missouri secondary coach Alex Grinch as his new Defensive coordinator and Safety Coach. We’ve seen Grinch’s secondary two of the last three seasons including wins over South Carolina and Minnesota (Citrus Bowl) this past season. His experience includes coaching with Chip Kelly at the University of New Hampshire and as a player playing for Mount Union where he played on three Division 3 National championship teams. WAZU will be an interesting team to watch in 2015. It will open its season at home against Portland State before visiting Rutgers at the Birthplace of College football on September 12.
Check out our link “Tales from the Tailgate” to read an updated excerpt of a favorite chapter in our book about our adventures on our quest to see every major college football team play at least once. The book covers the first 119 teams, but we’ve kept up seeing eight others that have joined the Football Bowl Subdivision since then. If you enjoy this particular tale, link on to the book on our Amazon.com website sand read reviews by other readers. As an avid college football fan, you’ll get a taste for what a great time we’ve had (and continue to have) attending college football games over time and all over the country. And after you read it, let us know what you think about it by adding your own review to the Amazon site. It makes for great reading in the offseason waiting for the action to start again next fall. It also makes a great gift for birthdays, graduations, and Father’s Day for any college football fan who would enjoy following this adventure while their favorite team gets ready for the 2015 season.
Collegefootballfan.com has announced its plan to host a tailgate celebration for its 500th college football game attended since this adventure started 36 years ago in September 1979. On November 21, our 500th game will be celebrated at West Point where the Black Knights of Army will host the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers University. This game was originally scheduled at Yankee Stadium, but recently the two schools worked it out with Yankee officials to moved the game to West Point, a venue where CFF.com has run several tailgate/bus trips in the past. The kickoff will be scheduled at 12 noon or 3:30 pm to be announced at later date. It will be a fitting match up as collegefootballfan.com has only seen Penn State and Navy play more games than these two football programs. Over the years, CFF.com has attended 53 Rutgers games and 47 Army games. From 1979 to 1988, CFF.com saw the two squads meet in The Meadowlands five times. RU won the first four handily by scores of 20-0, 24-3, 14-7, and 35-7. In 1988, the Black Knights defeated the Scarlet, 34-24, in what was CFF’s 100th game milestone.
Guests who have tailgated with CFF over the years have been extended invitations already. Friends, family, and fans met over the years attending 485 games in 32 states and in D.C. will be joining from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey among a growing list. One busload of tailgaters is sold out already and we are starting to fill a second. BBQ grilling will be managed by Francisco O’Shoe (aka Frankie Scarpa) who will be torn that day as he is both a Rutgers fan and an Army fan.
In addition, our 498th and 499th games will both be attended the previous weekend. On Friday, November 13, Collegefootballfan.com will attend its first game at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado where the Colorado Buffaloes will host PAC-12 foe USC, a highly-ranked pre-season team. Check back for more announcements to come pertaining to this game. The following day, CFF.com will attend its 499th game when we will attend an Air Force Academy home game for the first time in Colorado Springs where the Falcons host their Mountain West rivals, the Utah State Aggies. These games add to what should be a tremendous season to celebrate our 500th game since we started back in 1979. Check our 2015 schedule as we continue to plan for another great college football season.
Oregon will lose QB Marcus Mariota to graduation this year. Good luck in the NFL, Marcus! How do the Ducks replace him? They recruit Eastern Washington QB Vernon Adams, two time runner up for the FCS Walter Payton Award, to use another year of eligibility after three great years leading the FCS Eagles to three consecutive years into the FCS playoffs. Montana State HC Rob Ash (former HC at Juniata College, the Alma Mater, back in the early ‘80s), was interviewed on ESPN.com making the argument that the FCS should not be a minor league for the major football programs. We agree. However, we feel that this situation is going to get worse before it gets better. With the “Power Five” now wielding the big sticks such as monetary allowances, four year scholarships guaranteed, and better health insurance for their players, what’s going to prevent them from making offers to not only the best players in the FCS, but also to the best players in what we now call the mid-majors, or the “Other Five.” Maybe a Power Five school takes notice of some freshman or sophomore player active at that level that they may have underestimated or found that they didn’t have enough scholarships to offer to him at that time. While matriculating at a non-Power Five school, a particular student-athlete performs sensationally at the next level. What’s going to prevent the big program from foregoing an unproven high school entity and instead enticing a proven college caliber player from that Other Five or FCS school to come play for them? Sit out one year and red shirt and get two or three more years eligibility unless the transfer rules change to prevent this. The rich will be robbing from the poor and the chasm between the powers and the others widens. The playing field and the recruiting wars are weighing heavily on the side of the Power Five to do what they can to attract the best talent. I don’t see major obstacles in play yet preventing this from happening. It’s going to be a minor league system without the official designations like AAA, or AA, or A leagues like baseball uses to build their teams at the major league level, but that’s what could develop here if rules and harsh penalties aren’t put into place. It’s going to be a scramble filled with corruption and becoming nothing but a minor league system for the blind-folded NFL. The rich among the Power Five will get richer and those among the “other Five” will lose their best players. And you watch, the SEC will still be scheduling mid-majors and FCS programs every season at home to hand out a big pay check for a lop-sided win, another topic for another time. However, these could also become recruiting “try-outs”. It’s going to potentially ruin college football making it nothing but a minor league for the pro game if the NCAA doesn’t wake up to see who is truly reaping the benefits of their athletic programs. It’s already happening, but it’s going to get worse unless the NCAA figures how to offset the advantages of the Power Five …Interesting to me that the Big Ten is considering making a policy change that occurred back in 1972 when freshman became eligible to play at the varsity level. Most programs had freshman teams back in those days which played a limited number of games. The thinking now as it was purportedly back then was to ease players fresh out of high school into college life for a year before overwhelming them with the academic rigors of college studies. Call me facetious, but things have changed since 1972. One issue is that back then, students were basically expected to graduate in four years. However, we now have redshirting used as a strategy for sitting out a year to as a team building strategy. This allows athletes to earn degrees in five years instead of four. So did they just offer these kids more scholarship money and a monthly stipend for five years instead of four? Is every player going to now get a five year scholarship to sit out as a redshirt for one year to allow them to play four in total? Are they going to change the rule that a player has to be out of high school for three years before the NFL can draft him? The schools have to commit four or five years to the players, but do the players have to now reciprocate? We see the biggest impact leading to more television influence. Are we going to see the Michigan vs Ohio State freshman game on the Big Ten Network every year to get a glimpse of what that rivalry has in store for us fans in coming years? With commercials? Tuesday night football? Wednesday night football? Is this about more air time and more money? High school kids of today get more exposure on national TV than college teams of yesteryear ever got. Do we think that these freshman games will be played without any airtime? You’re kidding yourself if you think these games will not be played in front of television crews. People watch the NFL combine so I’m sure they’ll watch freshman games. This seems to be putting the pressure back on the players that they were supposedly taking off. At least there are plenty of sports journalism majors looking for opportunities to start new careers…. The American Athletic Conference announced its conference schedules for 2015. We planned to attend the Navy Homecoming announced for October 24th which officially tagged Tulane as the opponent now. No too excited about that matchup, but we have some time to weigh our options. We do look forward though to seeing Navy QB Keenan Reynolds continue to chase the record for rushing touchdowns in an NCAA career. He is currently the all-time leading NCAA QB in rushing TDs with 64. He is fourth in NCAA history in rushing TDs overall and will surpass all-time leader Montee Ball of Wisconsin if he tallies 14 during his upcoming senior season. That could be the weekend it happens…A game we are booked for really has us excited. On Friday, November 13, we will be at Colorado’s Folsom Field to see the Buffs host the USC Trojans. We’ll be talking to CU SID Dave Plati to get on the field with Ralphie again before the game. I will have to look into training at our local high school to see if I can actually “sprint” down the field without hurting or embarrassing myself. I would be “pumped” for the Buffs to pull the upset over the Trojans! The adrenalin will be pumping for sure. The first and only time I attended a CU game was against Colorado State at Invesco Field. I always wanted to get back out there to see a game at Folsom. On top of that, since it’s a Friday night game, we’re anxiously awaiting the Mountain West Conference schedules to come out to see which nearby conference member may host a game the next day. We figure among Air Force, Colorado State, and Wyoming, all within a few hours driving distance from Boulder, one of those will host our 499th game. If we have multiple choices, I might take a poll from our regulars to help us choose. Can’t wait!…Here’s a tough scheduling choice for us, but probably not for a lot of you. We are anticipating a chance to finally get to a major rivalry we’ve always wanted to attend, USC at Notre Dame on October 17. You’ll laugh, but an alternative option that came up on that date may steer us in another direction – the Charlotte 49ers at the Old Dominion Monarchs in Norfolk! What the heck am I thinking, you wonder? Well if you’ve followed us along time, you know our mantra is to see ‘em all! Charlotte is now officially an FBS team. Seeing them will keep us up to date seeing all 128 FBS teams by the end of the 2015 season. After seeing ODU blown out by a very good Marshall team last season to add the Monarchs as one of four new teams last season, this should be a much more competitive game. However, even more important, our son Eric, US Navy Petty Officer 3/c, is probably stationed in Norfolk for only a while longer, so it’s our chance to spend a weekend and go to a game with him down there. USC vs. ND is always a tough ticket and they will be playing every year between South Bend and LA forever, so there will always be other chances for us in the future. We’ll be kicking this around for a while…Here’s a coaching change of interest to us as we enjoy following the Ivy League. The Columbia Lions have been the traditional doormat of the Ancient Eight since…well, ancient history. Their last winning season was in 1996 when they finished 8-2, 5-2. The Lions finished their last two seasons winless. What to do? Timing is everything. Former University of Pennsylvania Head Coach Al Bagnoli “retired “ as HC of the Quakers at the end of 2014 and was assigned to be “Director of Special Projects “ at Penn. Big corporations give those titles to people with one foot out the door. Bagnoli coached U. of Penn for 23 seasons. Over that time, his teams won nine outright Ivy League titles (last in 2012), finished four seasons at 10-0, achieved an all-time record of 148-80 overall, and went 112-49 among the Ivies. Prior to that, he led D-3 Union College of New York to an 86-19 record over ten years. Columbia knocked once and Bagnoli moves to New York City to take over the beleaguered Lions and only promises to bring them “back to relevancy”, whenever that was. The 62-year old Bagnoli looks at this as fresh start and “a challenge.” We see it as one of the best stories this off season. His work is cut out for him. We’re looking to see how a class act like Bagnoli who’s been successful for so many years at this level will be able to do with one of the biggest challenges in college football – turning the Columbia Lions into winners.
We’re not big on the recruiting class rankings. Generally, the overall class cannot really be evaluated until their third season as a unit. Some will make immediate impacts, and others will never be heard from again. However, we have an interest this season to see how Penn State may improve its line play after a tough season for the O line this past season. They added some beef up front with some top northeastern talent. With a little insight from our friend Chris Schmouder of WVSL Radio 92.3 ESPN radio in Sunbury, PA, the top prospect looks to be Lackawanna JUCO transfer Paris Palmer who stands 6-7 290 lbs. A top five JUCO player recruited heavily by other Top 20 programs, he looks ready to step in to start for James Franklin and the Lions this fall. From Pittsburgh’s Baldwin HS in Pittsburgh comes 6-8 294 lb. OT sterling Jenkins. A work in progress, he could be a top player for two or three years, but the jury will be out to watch his development. Ryan Bates, graduating from Archbishop Wood in Warminster, PA, led his team to a 28-2 record during his prep years. At 6-5 275, he could be the center of the team’s future. He may end up red-shirting this year. NJ All-Stater Steven Gonzalez from Union City HS steps in at 6-4 320 lbs. He may go the red shirt route, but surely there are some evaluations to be made during the spring. Palmer and Jenkins are already enrolled in State College and we’ll hopefully get to see them in action on April 18 at the Penn State Blue-White game. In addition, former Stanford C Kevin Reihner, 6-4 295 lbs. and battle tested, will graduate from there in March and the Scranton, Pennsylvania native will have a year of eligibility to play for the Nittany Lions as a grad student. His experience will help determine what freshman linemen will benefit the team with a red shirt season for the long term. We’ll see if the Lions can redevelop their line to give them some renewed power and push during the upcoming season. We plan to see the Lions host Rutgers and San Diego State next September…Also in regards to recruiting, we were interested to see how new U. of Buffalo HC Lance Leipold would do on his first year recruiting at the FBS level after stepping up from D-3 Wisconsin-Whitewater where he won six national championships. He signed up 21 recruits including a couple of transfers from the University of Alabama-Birmingham that discontinued their football program after last season. Of interest to us is that there was not one UB recruit from the state of Wisconsin where most of Leipold’s former players came from. We’re interested to see what he can do to turn the Bulls, a Mid-American Conference team, around…Check out our new Stats and Highlights link in our header. It features the best teams seen, significant scores, and Heisman Trophy winners we’ve see over the years among other fun memories. And there will be more features added in the near future. We’ve built quite a history so far… We may call this our year of the rivalry. We’re targeting Army-Navy, Air Force-Navy, Notre Dame-USC, and Ohio State-Michigan. Our toughest call on our 2015 plan is figuring where to start. One option is to start where we basically left off in January – in Nashville which we love to visit! We have double-header potential: Bowling Green will play Tennessee, who we finished up with in the Taxslayer Bowl, at LP Stadium. Western Kentucky visits Vandy at Vanderbilt Stadium, a first for us if we go. We’re waiting to see if the starting times will allow us to do both or if one game may possibly move to Thursday night. Other options are under consideration, but Nashville could be calling us back!…Too bad we’re disciplining ourselves to be sure we reach game # 500 on November 21. We say that because Lafayette College, an hour drive from where we live, plays a great FCS home schedule that includes several 6 pm starts which could help us target some Saturday double header opportunities. Their home slate at Fisher Field includes CAA power William and Mary, Ivy rival Penn, 2014 Pat League champ Fordham, undefeated Ivy champ Harvard, Pat League runner-up Bucknell, and Colgate. The last one is on November 7. We will leave ourselves the option to see this Patriot League contest or the PL game eleven miles further west where Lehigh hosts Holy Cross. Hopefully one of these games will have a bearing on this year’s Patriot championship or FCS bid, and if not we’ll go see a more competitive game if something more interesting pops up locally that weekend…Interesting opener on Labor Day, 2015 – Ohio State at Virginia Tech, a big revenge match for the Buckeyes to open the season. What OSU QB will start, and how many of the three former, returning starting QBs will play? Maybe this game is another option to kick off our season if we can work out some kind of weekend DH… Speaking of VA Tech, we plan to see them in September 2016 when they play Tennessee at Bristol Motor Speedway in Kingsport, Tennessee to establish the attendance record at a college football game. The short oval, track venue holds 160,000 fans. We plan to be part of that record…Rutgers turned down former Paramus Catholic HS (NJ) HC Chris Partridge who applied for a coaching job there that included recruiting coordinator. Evidently Partridge was not too popular among many NJ high school coaches who played against him and recruited against him for top players in the state. So what happens next? New Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh, who got a late start in recruiting this season, hired him. I’m not sure if his plan is to focus on recruiting in New Jersey alone, but based on the rep he has among his former competitors, Harbaugh may not get what he bargained for. Last season, the Wolverines recruited Jabrill Peppers, the top recruit in the Garden state, and his fellow Paramus Catholic teammate, offensive lineman Juwann Bushell-Beatty. Both played for Partridge in high school. Peppers played DB in three games his freshman year. Funny how these things work out.
Collegefootballfan.com will be attending our 500th game since we started this journey back in 1979. Check back soon to find out our Big Tailgate party in 2015 in an upcoming Salvo!
Every year, prior to the Super Bowl, we like to give recognition to the former college players we saw in action over the years by bringing back memories of those players among the thousands that we’ve seen, who have made it to the pinnacle of the football world. We recognize them with the hope that most of the others we saw play over the years, no matter what level they played at, have taken their football experience and their academic opportunities, and made the most of their experience by being great fathers, great professionals in whatever career they’ve pursued, great leaders in their work and in their communities, and great contributors to our country and to humanity in general. To the ones that have not made the most of the opportunities they’ve been given, we’re sorry for you and for many others that you didn’t do the most with the great start you were given. You blew it! Shame on you.
Many players we’ve seen over the years dot the rosters of the Patriots and the Seahawks. Some standout, some we have records of, some were linemen who didn’t get the notoriety, some may have been underclassmen sitting on the bench at the time, and some just didn’t stand out the times we saw them play. We give recognition to those who remain in our fading memories, who were recognized in the press clippings we kept from many games we attended, or from the Reviews of each game we recorded in CFF.com that we maintain in our files. Congratulations to the Patriots and to the Seahawks. We hope for a great game, but in the end, we hope Pete Carroll, who found refuge in the NFL after violating the rules and integrity of college football, gets beat! Like we’d say when my son, Eric, played for Lenape Valley (NJ) Regional High School – Go Patriots!
New England Patriots:
WR Danny Amendola, Texas Tech – Caught 14 passes for 233 yards and a TD in TT’s 49-45 loss to Oklahoma State on September 27, 2007 when Cowboy HC Mike Gundy told the world after the game that “He was a man” and we recorded OSU as our 117th team to reach our Goal to see all 119 teams at that time. The story is in our book, Tales from the Tailgate.
LB Jon Casillas, Wisconsin – A native of New Brunswick, NJ (The Birthplace of College Football), we saw him play LB in his senior season in 2008 when his Badgers lost to a tough Big Ten foe, Michigan State, 25-24, at our first trip to East Lansing, Michigan.
DB Devin McCourty ’09, TE Tim Wright ’12, Logan Ryan ’12, Duron Herman ‘ 12, Rutgers – McCourty and his twin brother , Jason , who was drafted by the Titans, always played tough, tight defense for the Scarlet Knights. Devin earned all-Big East Honors his senior season at RU. Patriot HC Bill Belichick developed a preference for Rutgers players recruited by Greg Schiano and drafted three in 2013. In our annals of game history, it was Tim Wright who provides us with the most memorable play among these Patriots formerly on The Banks of the Old Raritan. In 2011 against Navy, Wright made a diving TD catch in the back of the end zone in the fourth quarter to give the Knights a 21-17 lead over visiting Navy. RU went on to win the game, 21-20. It just goes to show what an outstanding job of recruiting football talent to a laughing stock of college football HC Greg Schiano did for the Scarlet Knights’ program. While these three played there from 2009-2012, we saw the Knights lose to UNC in a close one, beat Navy by one, and lose to Louisville for the Big East title, 20-17, against QB Teddy Bridgewater.
DL Vince Wilfork, Miami (F) – In 2003, we attended the last Big East game in Miami history when they visited the Pitt Panthers at Heinz Field. The U won, 28-14. Wilfork, a sophomore, had at least one on the nine Hurricane sacks that night to keep the Panthers’ offense in check. The Canes finished 11-2 and defeated FSU in the Orange Bowl, 16-14, before joining them in the ACC a year later.
QB Tom Brady, Michigan – He was the one that got away. My four-year old son Eric and I drove up the night before the big game in mid-November 1999 when Michigan (7-2,5-2) would be visiting State College to meet Penn State (9-1,5-1) a week after their one-point loss to Minnesota. However, Eric was sick to his stomach all night long in our hotel and neither of us slept. I sold our tickets in the lobby the next morning, drove him back home, and never looked back. Years later when I wondered if I’d ever seen Brady play for Michigan, I realized we had our chance, but Eric blew it – all night long. Too bad.
TE Ron Gronkowski , Arizona – We didn’t see him play, but back in 1979 when we started this crazy and unique ordeal, his old man Gordon, a sophomore guard in’79, played for the Syracuse team we watched twice in the Meadowlands against WVU and Penn State. Two Orangemen assistants on HC Dick McPherson’s staff then were Tom Coughlin and Nick Saban. Future Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Monk and future NY Giant RB Joe Morris starred for the Orangemen.
Players from small colleges of note: we like to give credit to players from schools that rarely send players off after graduation to play on NFL rosters.
FB James Develin, Brown – he played on the defensive line there.
CB Butler Malcolm, West Alabama – rookie from a D-2 program
DL Zach Moore, Concordia (MN) – 6-6, 275 lb. rookie from a D-2 program
DE Michael Bennett, Texas A&M – Bennett played for A&M when we saw the Aggies fall to Penn State in the Valero Alamo Bowl in 2007, 24-17.
DB Marcus Burley, Delaware – Burley was a DB for the Blue Hens who we saw clobber URI in 2012 and who we saw defeat Lehigh and Georgia Southern in the 2010 FCS playoffs on their way to the FCS title game where they fell to Eastern Washington, 20-19.
QB B.J. Daniels, South Florida – We saw B.J. come in as a freshman against RU in 2009, and RU shut him down, 31-0, as we reported” the Bulls played more like an FBS newcomer coming into town to collect a big paycheck.” I reported that another fan called them “inept.” They weren’t as inept when I saw him later play at Syracuse. As a junior in 2011, he racked up 371 yards of total offense against a very bad Syracuse defense to win easily, 37-17. Both squads finished that day tied in the Big East at 1-4. SU DE Chandler Jones played but with little notoriety. Now he’s a starter on then NE Patriot defense. Daniels is a back-up for Russell Wilson.
OT Gary Gilliam, Penn State – We saw the PSU front line he was part of in 2013 protect Frosh QB Christian Hackenberg much better than 2014’s crew. The Lions beat Syracuse, Michigan, and Illinois when Gilliam played OL there in 2013. We especially want to mention that he caught a touchdown pass in the NFC championship against the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago on a tackle eligible call.
LB Bruce Irvin, West Virginia – In collegiate play, Irvin played on a defense that pulled off one of the most memorable plays we witnessed from a defensive perspective. In the 2011 Discover Card Orange Bowl, trailing 21-17 in the second quarter, Clemson looked to take a lead over WVU at the one-yard line. TB Andre Ellington took the hand off to attempt a plunge for the TD, but OLB Darwin Cook came off the end, stripped the ball, and raced 99 yards for a Mountaineer touchdown to extend his team’s lead, 28-17. It was all Mountaineers from there as QB Geno Smith led the WVU offense on three straight scoring drives before the half, and the Mountaineers totaled the most points in Orange Bowl history with a 70-33 rout.
QB Russell Wilson, NC State – In 2009, Wilson entered his sophomore season recognized as the best QB in the ACC. In the opener at home in Raleigh against South Carolina, his reputation took a step back. The Gamecocks outgained the Wolf pack, 256 yards to 133. Wilson completed 13 passes for 39 yards. He was sacked six times. Some questionable calls by officials and a dropped TD pass late in the game, set the Wolf pack down that day, 7-3. The result was one of the four lowest scores we ever witnessed. Of course, Wilson has definitely turned things around since that unlikely performance.
Players from small colleges of note: we like to give credit to players from schools that rarely send players off after graduation to play on NFL rosters.
QB Tarvarus Jackson, Alabama State – 9-year vet formerly with the Minnesota Vikings
WR Ricardo Lockette, Ft. Valley State – 4-year special team vet in his second stint with Seattle; D-2 200 meter dash champ
P Jon Ryan, Regina U – 9-year vet from school in Saskatchewan, Canada where he also played WR
WR Bryan Walters, Cornell – a free agent who was signed, cut, and re-signed by Seattle this season.
On our last blog, we congratulated Ohio State on winning the first College Football Payoff in history, but we’d be remiss in not recognizing the other three NCAA national football champions of 2014. We watched North Dakota State and Illinois State take it down to the wire on a nationally televised game for the FCS championship in Frisco, Texas on January 10. It was a thrilling win for the NDSU Bison who won their fourth consecutive title, its first under new HC Chris Klieman. With 37 seconds left, they overcame Illinois State who they once trailed by nine-points, to win on a five-yard TD run by QB Carson Wentz to finish the season No. 1 at 15-1. The Redbirds, also from the Missouri Valley Conference as are the Bison, defeated New Hampshire in Durham, NH in the semis to get there. Their QB Tre Roberson threw three TD passes and scored on a 58-yard TD run before Wentz led the Bison back to win. We had seen Roberson play in 2012 for Indiana in a win over UMass as we added the Minutemen to the FBS in a game played at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. Roberson ran for long TDs in that game also, but was later carted off the field suffering a leg injury that ended his season and his career at IU. It’s great to see that he’s made a successful recovery from that devastating injury. We attended the UNH second round win over Fordham. We enjoyed having the opportunity to attend an FCS playoff game this season. They’re as spirited as are the big schools, but of course in front of smaller crowds. However, these teams play as hard to win as do the larger football schools …
The Colorado State – Puebla Thunderwolves (14-1) defeated top-seeded Minnesota Mankato State Mavericks, 13-0, in the Division 2 national championship. The CSU-Puebla team has only been in existence for nine years. Of all the divisions, D-2 is the one we see the least as there are few D-2 schools in close proximity to us. Usually when we see this level, it’s at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania or at one of it Pennsylvania Athletic Conference foes. I do have a connection to this year’s championship game though! My freshman football HC at Boonton (NJ) HS, Ray Nazarro, played collegiately for Mankato State… Wisconsin Whitewater won its sixth D-3 Title, fifth in the last six years, in a 45-34 win over championship archrival Mt. Union. It was the ninth time in ten years the two had played one another in Salem, Virginia in the D-3 finals. The MU Purple Raiders won three of the first four meetings, but it’s the Warhawks who took the last five in this long-standing championship rivalry. We’ll see what the future holds for UW-W as Warhawks HC Larry Leipold left the program after The Stagg Bowl to take over as new HC at FBS Buffalo. We’ll see how the Hawks adapt under a new HC still to be named, and we are equally anxious to see what success Leipold can bring to the Bulls in the Mid-American Conference at the next level. It was another outstanding season for the Warhawks who finished 15-0!…Congratulations to Navy HC Ken Niumatalolo who was named ECAC Division I FBS Coach of the Year. His team finished 8-5 with wins over archrival Army, 17-10, and over San Diego State, 17-16, in the Poinsettia Bowl, the sixth bowl game the Mids have played in during Niumatalolo’s seven years as Head Coach. He is now the winningest HC in Navy football with a record of 57-35, and more importantly is, he is the first Navy HC to start his career 7-0 versus Army. His team held their own this season in their opening loss to eventual FBS champ Ohio State in Baltimore we attended, losing, 33-17. Next year Navy will enter uncharted waters as it joins a conference for the first time ever when it joins the Western Division of the 12-team American Athletic Conference. Going west was USNA’s choice as Texas is a hot bed of recruiting for the Mids. Navy will play at least one game each year in the Lone Star State against AAC foes Houston or SMU…
We are ecstatic that PSU was awarded back its 409 wins. The punishment to the program did not seem to fit the crime. There were criminal acts and possibly a cover up pertaining to a few individuals that did not impact the play on the team on the field of play. The football program didn’t deserve the punishment handed out, but the individuals who may have been involved will get their due process in a court of law where this should have begun in the first place…The new Power Five passed its first legislation to “prevent schools from removing scholarships based on athletic performance”. Fifteen voting athletes who are on the committee voted against the majority and we agree with them. Sometimes there are teammates who may get the scholarship but may not work hard enough or contribute to the team once they make it to this level. It’s probably a very subjective call, but we think this needs to be looked at more closely to determine a process to justify such a decision either way. Sometimes it’s fairly evident, but at other times coaching staffs can manipulate the system to make room for the next class of athletes they are recruiting. It’s a tough call to make when some opinions are legitimate and some are influenced…We’re starting to piece together next year’s schedule and trying to retain our flexibility to add the Charlotte 49ers as our newest and latest FBS member when they join ConferenceUSA next season. Our goal has been to get to see all 129 teams, but with the University of Alabama-Birmingham, UAB, abandoning football after this past season, I guess our target is now back to 128. Gotta get new hats again. “128” this time. The “129”s are now collectors’ items. In addition to UAB, D-3 schools Bridgeport University, Upsala College, Jersey City State, and D-1AA Boston University are schools we’ve seen play over the years that have dissolved their football programs since…Spring games we will attend to support our habit in the offseason will be at Penn State on Saturday, April 18, and at Rutgers on Friday night, April 24. Get this one though: Princeton’s spring game is on March 21. We won’t be going though. It’s at Kincho Stadium in Osaka, Japan! The Tigers spring game will be played against the Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters, Japanese Collegiate Nationals Champs of 2014 ( I didn’t know Japanese Universities played football. New goal?). The Tigers and Fighters played once before in 2001 as the Tigers defeated them in a spring game, 27-25…Waiting to see when Army announces their spring game this year to see how effective their triple option will be running under second year HC Jeff Moncken whom they won four games under in 2014…
We see FCS Lafayette College is bolstering their non-conference schedule a little bit this year. In addition to playing William and Mary at home this season after playing the Tribe in Williamsburg last season, they will be traveling to play Delaware, another CAA foe, the week after…I thought with my daughter graduating from South Carolina this spring, we wouldn’t see the Gamecocks play next season. However, I have their opener in Charlotte against the UNC Tar Heels penciled in as a potential opener again on Thursday night, September 3. Of course, it will depend on the convenience of attending another game within driving distance on Labor Day weekend…My scheduling for next season has to be done carefully as the 15th game of the season will be our 500th since our start back in 1979! I want it to be something special, affordable for a lot of friends I’ve made over these years, and a game convenient for as many as possible to attend. I’m piecing things together with an idea or two and have to do it on the 15th game next season. Cousin Frank Scarpa will be monitoring me to see that I don’t cheat by going to games and not reporting them! That will definitely be a challenge. Look for an announcement in February or March…Navy Long Snapper Joe Cardona was not only been invited to play in this year’s Senior Bowl, but he’s also been invited to attend the NFL combine in February. He’s been scouted as one of the best long snappers in college football. How is it possible to balance a Navy career with Sundays in pro football? Regarding the Senior Bowl won by his North team, 34-14, he was snapping for conversions made by PK Tom Obarski of D-2 Concordia University in St. Paul Minnesota. Listen to these credentials of the D-2 All-American: 27 for 27 PATs in 2014; 44 career FGs including conversions from 59 (longest in D2), 56, 56, 52, and 51 yards; 22 touchbacks on 53 kickoffs; 250 points; 230 punts; 38.0 yard punting average, 18 inside the 20, six over 50 yards, and only five touchbacks. Look for him somewhere next fall on Sundays. He missed one in the Senior Bowl but connected for a 49-yard FG at Ladd-Peebles Stadium…Looking at Big Ten slates in 2016 has us excited. They all add a ninth conference game and most play a team from the PAC 12. Not as many slouches as in the past. With some new coaching blood like Jim Harbaugh, James Frankin, and Paul Chryst in addition to Urban Meyer, Jerry Kill, and Marc D’Antoni among others, the conference should get even more competitive…Were glad to see that Wisconsin will be playing LSU at a neutral field to kick off the 2016 field like it did last year in Arlington, Texas, and it’ll be at Lambeau Field in Green Bay! That’s a must-see on our part!…Some teams looming for this year’s CFF slate: Washington State for our second time, up and coming Duke, USC (the west coast version), San Diego State hopefully accompanied by the greatest Aztec Fan of all time, Tom Ables, Colorado (hope to catch up with Ralphie again), and Air Force, not just once, but possibly twice. As you can see, we will add a little more Rocky Mountain and West Coast flavor than we’ve had in recent years. Look for our updates weekly…Next week – the Super Bowl participants we watched before they were pros.
Congratulations to the Ohio State Buckeyes (14-1) for their 42-20 victory over the now No. 2 Oregon Ducks (13-2) in the first ever College Football Playoff Championship. The OSU defensive line did an outstanding job shutting down the Duck attack led by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. Kudos to Urban Meyer and his coaching staff to effectively rotate defensive linemen in and out to avoid getting winded early as did Florida State in the Rose Bowl semi-final loss to Oregon. QB Cardale Jones showed he can be as cool as a cucumber under pressure. We’re anxious to see what he’ll be like when he gets even more experience down the road. Ezekial Elliot was outstanding at running back in the semi-final and the final. The offensive line was outstanding blocking up front. Overall it was great team effort by the Buckeyes that won the game despite four turnovers. How many teams could have gone all the way as they did with their third-string QB starting in the last three games of the season? It was the end to an exciting and successful season under the new playoff format. The Buckeyes look to be a force to be reckoned with again next season with so many young key players returning.
It was a fantastic season for Collegefootballfan.com as well. We attended a record 26 college football games in one season in 2014-2015. We attended five bowl games (two exciting finishes, a big upset, a very competitive game, and one clunker – four out of five isn’t bad). We attended an FCS quarterfinal game. The New Hampshire Wildcats (12-2) finished third in the nation at the FCS level. We attended our 10th Army-Navy game. We attended the longest ongoing rivalry in college football when we saw Lafayette play Lehigh for the 150th time when they met at Yankee Stadium to celebrate their special, historic game. I got to watch my Alma Mater , Juniata College, play a home game for the first time in 35 years back in Huntingdon, PA as HC Tim Launtz is turning that program back to what it once was. The night before, I saw Fordham defeat Bucknell at Christy Mathewson Stadium for my first time to decide the Patriot League Championship. With good friends Charlie and Lynda Murren, we attended a great game with them at their alma mater, Auburn, where the Tigers defeated my daughter’s school, South Carolina, 35-28. It was bitter sweet as our daughter, Alex, will graduate from South Carolina this spring, and her beloved Gamecocks let her senior class down finishing 7-6. We attended three SC games this season, and they lost all three!
We watched a total of 40 different NCAA football teams – 25 FBS schools, nine FCS, and six D-3 schools. We added the four newest teams to join the FBS – Old Dominion, Appalachian State, Georgia State, and Georgia Southern. We’ve seen every FBS team play at least once including the University of Alabama -Birmingham whose program folded this season (one downer). Though Georgia Southern got romped over by Navy, they finished a very respectable 9-3, best among the new FBS schools, and won the Sunbelt Conference. However, due to some asinine rule, they did not go to a bowl game giving way to several teams they manhandled. We attended games at seven new venues for us – five campus sites and two new bowl games. We saw defending champ Florida State defeat Syracuse with the 2013 Heisman winner Jameis Winston at QB. Good luck to him in his future if he doesn’t get his act together off the field. We watched Rutgers fall 13-10 in their Big Ten debut to Penn State. One of our former Little League Baseball players, LB Nick Rafferty, made the travel squad every game and lettered at RU as a red-shirt freshman this year. It was a thrill to see him on the team. PSU was eventually released from sanctions imposed by the Jerry Sandusky crimes as it struggled to a 6-6 finish. Hope is on the horizon, however, as the Lions played their best game of the season in an overtime win over Boston College in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. We look forward to the spring game and next season to be back out in State College drinking Evan Williams Honey Bourbon with John and Kelle Massimilla along with their friends and family. And in our first weekend of the season, we saw South Carolina blown away by Texas A&M because it played the worst defense we could ever remember seeing played at any level of college football. We knew the Gamecocks were headed for trouble. But two days later in Baltimore, we watched Navy give Ohio State, led by freshman QB J.T. Barrett, a pretty good game in a 33-17 Buckeye victory. Of course little did we know, it was OSU’s first step on the way to the 2014 National Championship. They became the 11th team in 35 years of us doing this that we would watch play in their Division 1 (now FBS) championship season.
Yes, it was a fantastic college football season for Collegefootballfan.com. In the end, we saw eight of the final Top 25 teams in the AP poll play this season:
1. Ohio State (14-1)
5. Florida State (13-1)
6. Michigan state (11-2)
8. Georgia Tech (11-3)
11. Mississippi State (10-3)
14. Missouri (11-3)
22. Auburn (8-5)
24. Marshall (13-1)
Please check us out regularly as we will continue to report on the comings and goings of this season and next. We will also be adding pages of history and other fun facts on some new pages to be published. Hopefully we can improve our site even more for your viewing and reading pleasure. We especially look forward to sharing our ideas for the upcoming season where plans are already underway to do something special for our 500th game to be attended in 2015. Party!
Also special thanks to Pete Spadora and his crew on WNER 1130 AM in Watertown, NY (and broadcasted in other markets as well). Pete hosted us on his show “Spadora on Sports” just about every other Saturday and let us talk about everything on our college football platter. He’s a great supporter and a great friend. He and his guys make this entire experience even more fun!
CFF.com Headquarters in New Jersey (January 10, 2015) – After a record 26 games attended in 2014-15 including five bowl games and an FCS playoff this season, we feel obligated to let our loyal readers know what we predict for this years’ first championship game to be determined in the first ever College Football Playoff. We’re going to say two things before we get started: 1. ) We didn’t expect either of these teams to win in the first found, but we were rooting for both of them. Secondly, we still advocate an eight -team playoff for the future that will include the five major conference champions, the best of the other five FBS college football conference champs, and two at large berths. We suggest that the opening round be played at the home field of the top four seeds to be played in mid-December. Just remember that you heard that suggested here first!
We think that Ohio State’s defensive front will offer a better challenge than Florida State’s did and that they will not be as winded as early in the game. We believe that DT Michael Bennett and DE Joey Bosa will add more pressure along with the rest of the front seven and not allow Marcus Mariota to control the ball as long as FSU did. He will also be without the services of WR Devon Allen who was injured on the opening kickoff last week nor WR Darren Carrington who had seven receptions for 165 yards and two TDS. He’s been suspended for marijuana use. Will Mariota’s lesser used wide-outs be as effective? We were not impressed by third-string OSU QB Cardale Jones last week until late in the game. With a one week lay off we expect him to play better than he did after the 59-0 defeat of Wisconsin. We were impressed by the offense around him including his offensive line and RB Ezekial Elliot (20 carries for 230 yards and two TDs). A common opponent between the two earlier in the season was Michigan State. The Spartans played Oregon in Eugene well late into the third period until the Ducks took over late to win, 46-27. The Buckeyes went to East Lansing later in the season and defeated the Spartans, 49-37. Revitalized OSU HC Urban Meyer has won national championships at Florida in the past. Both teams have depth. This will be a classic game. We predict the Buckeyes to win, 35-28. We’ll also lean a little this way hoping to be able to say that we’ve seen another FBS champion play during their championship season as we saw them defeat Navy in their opener this season, 34-17. It would be our 11th in our 35th season.