Game 532: Crimson Tide prevails over Washington Huskies in College Football Playoff, 24-7

Crimson Tide prevails over Washington Huskies in College Football Playoff, 24-7

Atlanta, GA – On a rainy day outside the covered Georgia Dome, the Alabama Crimson spotted Washington the first touchdown of the game and then its defense and effective special teams held the Huskies to their lowest total yardage and point total of the season.  Later in the game, a 99-yard drive would seal the 24-7 victory to advance them to the CFP Championship next Monday night in Tampa.  The Huskies’ defense stood basically toe-to-toe with The Tide offense through much of the game, but their west coast offense lacked the speed and arm strength needed to beat the Bama secondary deep.  The Crimson Tide had their game plan figured out and stuffed their offense which had averaged 44.4 points per game.   Two turnovers including the Crimson Tide’s 11th defensive TD of the season made the big difference early to start them rolling.  Alabama is big, strong, fast, talented, and well-coached, no doubt, putting them at the top of the heap among all 129 FBS schools.   Only Clemson remains in their path to a second straight championship.

     Both teams’ first possessions resulted in three and out drives. UW took over next from its 36.  The eighth play later resulted in a 16-yard over the shoulder catch by WR Dante Pettis in the end zone for a 7-0 Husky lead.  I turned to Guest Game analyst Charlie Murren (Auburn) and asked, “What did you think?”, after such an efficient looking drive. Charlie, respectful of his arch-rival’s head coach, dead-panned, “It’s early.”  Early enough.  Bama came right back with a 78-yard drive completed by Bo Scarborough’s 18-yard TD run.  Before the period ended at 7-7, CB Anthony Averett (Woodbury, NJ) forced a fumble from WR John Ross and DL Jonathan Allen recovered to take over on the Washington 40. 

Husky WR Dante Pettis hauls in the first quarter TD pass for an early 7-0 lead.

Husky WR Dante Pettis hauls in the first quarter TD pass for an early 7-0 lead.

    Five seconds into the second quarter, Adam Griffith kicked it through the uprights for a 41-yard FG and a 10-7 Crimson Tide lead.  Through the balance of the half, Crimson Tide P JK Scott kept the UW offense with their backs against the wall.  His long hang times gave the Tide great coverage starting their last three drives of the half at the nine, twenty, and four-yard lines.  After Scott’s third punt, the Huskies finally seemed to build a little steam getting out to their 32, but with 1:13 left, Jake Browning’s pass to the right flat under pressure was picked off by Bama LB Ryan Anderson.  He returned it to the end zone for a Tide 17-7 lead, deflating what little momentum the Huskies were starting to build on before halftime. 

The Crimson Tide defense held the Husky offense to a season low 194 yards at the Peach Bowl.

The Crimson Tide defense held the Husky offense to a season low 194 yards at the Peach Bowl.

     Through the too many typical time-outs we fans have to sit through during a college football game, in this one I observed the coaching interactions along both sidelines.  There were two distinctive, yet successful styles, observed along both sidelines.  Chris Peterson, who has turned the Husky program around since coming over from a very successful stint at Boise State, roams the sideline as his primary coordinators gathered with their respective charges to review strategies and situations. Peterson rarely ventured into these meetings.  On the Alabama sideline, several assistants would huddle with their respective squads during each break.  However, Saban seemed to have something to say to the entire team at some point during the breaks, or he would communicate something to a specific player each time before breaking from the huddle, in most cases before the other coaches were finished.  He had constant input, but it was generally to a specific player, evidently about something he saw, wanted to create an awareness about, or wanting to review a technique.

At the Georgia Dome, the Alabama twirling squad looked as if the were already dressed to head to the beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast.

At the Georgia Dome, the Alabama twirling squad looked as if the were already dressed to head to the beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast.

     In the third, Scott continued to impress with his punts (indoors today) pinning the Huskies deep in their territory.  Surely throughout the season, Scott may not have punted as often as many others, but with his impressive hang times, he looks like a likely candidate to help out some team playing on Sundays in the future.  Finally, the Husky offense got some breathing room at the end of the third. 

     They failed to score, but on third and three at the UW 48, Browning punted from his QB position for a successful coffin corner kick that rolled out at the two pinning the Tide with the worst field position they had all day.  In third and nine from the three, however, Bo Scarborough (19 carries for 180 yards and two TDs, Game MVP) picked up a first down with a 12-yard run.  Two plays later, he ran left, broke two tackles at the line of scrimmage, cut across field and toward the end zone evading would-be tacklers for a 68-yard TD run to give the Crimson Tide a comfortable 24-7 lead.  UW return man John Ross did what he did unsuccessfully during the entire game. He returned the kick back out to the 17 after fielding it in the end zone instead of settling for a touchback to start from the 25.  The teams exchanged punts, and then the Husky defense stopped Scarborough on a fourth and one for a three-yard loss to take control on downs.  Browning continued to throw on short passes and misfired short on his lone long attempt.  Bama’s coverage was as tight as could be, but Browning doesn’t seem to have the arm strength to throw the ball long.  On fourth and 17, DB Minkah Fitzpatrick (Old Bridge, NJ) intercepted Browning’s pass and took it out to the 28.  Two UW players were on the ground with injuries, supposedly in retaliation for some previous “cheap shots”. Two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were called against Alabama, but no one was ejected. 

Damien Harris (34) stopped for no gain to start the Crimson Tide's 99-yard drive.

Damien Harris (34) stopped for no gain to start the Crimson Tide’s 99-yard drive.

    The game ended with Alabama’s 14th win against no losses this season, their 26th in a row over two seasons.  The Crimson Tide will move on to play Clemson, a 31-0 victor over Ohio State in the other CFP semi-final, for a rematch of the 45-40 title game win last season. It should be a good one as Clemson HC Dabo Swinney uses Alabama, his alma mater, as a model for building his Tiger program.  I’m still looking for a ticket if you got one.

It's on to Tampa for the Crimson Tide.

It’s on to Tampa for the Crimson Tide.

Extra Points:  It’s amazing that a beautiful, 24-year old facility like the Georgia Dome is coming down.  There’s nothing wrong with it.  Charlie mentioned that this one went up for $400 million. The new one has a price of $1.5 billion. For what? Sky boxes?  Hello!  Big companies are cutting back on those kinds of entertainment expenses now.  They have too many other goodwill expenditures they have to reserve for the rest of society.  Those entertainment costs are long gone.  This was the last college football game to be played in the Dome.  The Falcons have at least one more playoff game there.  I wonder where all the tons of steel and concrete will be disposed of.

An Alabama fan seated next to me and I got to discuss several things including his insight on Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin’s eventual departure.  He said he could live with him or without him.  We agreed Nick Saban was smart to keep him under wraps, out of the media, and out of recruiting.  We also agreed that Florida Atlantic, the school he will be head coach of next year, will be on probation after next season.  In news heard today (Monday), we found out that we all saw Kiffin for the last time on the Alabama sideline.  He’s out as Saban decided he’s not satisfied with his latest performance as he’s probably trying to balance his new opportunity with his Bama job.   Saban won’t stand for that at this point.  Who can blame him?  Kiffin probably has to get busy finding hostesses to help with his recruiting process at FAU.  His replacement Steve Sarkisian , former fellow USC assistant coach with Kiffin, is on his way to Tuscaloosa to be OC for the CFP title game, a season ahead of schedule.  He may be familiar with Kiffin’s system, but of course not the personnel.  I’m sure Saban will be in all those offensive sideline huddles next Monday.  Kiffin, I can’t believe anybody would take that chance to see how he behaves.  Who at FAU is going to keep him under wraps?  He probably has the go-ahead to do whatever he wants. That’s scary.  I hope the administration there is not that ignorant.  Universities are supposed to be educators of higher learning.  I sometimes wonder about that.

Before the game, I got to visit the College Football Hall of Fame right around the corner from the Georgia Dome on Marietta Street.  It’s got some great memorabilia, historical info, and interactive opportunities for the fans.  Stop by when you go by the new stadium opening next year.  Alabama will play Florida State in the first college game there.

The wall of helmets when you first enter teh College Football Hall of Fame.

The wall of helmets when you first enter the College Football Hall of Fame.

 

Hey!  I have this program in my personal collection since I was at this game.  However,  I  couldn't find a program at yesterday's game.

Hey! I have this program in my personal collection since I was at this game. However, I couldn’t find a program at yesterday’s game.

Game 531: Tennessee beats inept Nebraska defense in the Music City Bowl, 38-24

Tennessee beats inept Nebraska defense in the Music City Bowl, 38-24

Nashville, TN – Tennessee Volunteer QB Joshua Dobbs ran for three TDs and threw for another to seal the final score in his team’s 38-24 win over Nebraska in the 2016 Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl.  He ran for 118 yards and completed 23 passes of 38 for 291 yards.  From my great seat at the 35-yard line in the club level of Nissan Stadium, I watched a Husker defense that missed many tackles, that had no concept of leverage containment to keep runners inside, and that couldn’t cover receivers.  Despite Dobbs’ numbers through the air, his receivers dropped many catchable passes as did Nebraska’s, especially early in the game.  This game was a confirmation of my feelings that though today’s players are bigger, stronger, and faster than those in years gone by, they lack basic skills, blocking and tackling technique, and football knowledge that their predecessors were superior in.  Are the coaches not coaching the same way at all levels as those did in the past, or are college players in particular just looking to make the big plays to be highlighted on Sports Center to get the big bucks (a la Jadaveon Clowney of “The Hit”) as opposed to using the skills coached to be fundamentally football sound to win the game?  Some of this is becoming more evident as players decide to sit out games to avoid injuries as opposed to continuing to contribute to the team that got them there.  This is supposed to be “team” sport.  Fantasy football be damned!  It’s screwing up my favorite game! What did General Patton say about “individuality”?

Husker DE Freedom Akinmoladun (91) sacks Josh Dobbs in scoreless first period of the Music City Bowl.

Husker DE Freedom Akinmoladun (91) sacks Josh Dobbs in scoreless first period of the Music City Bowl.

     Dobbs led his team to a 21-7 lead in the second period, following a scoreless first 15 minutes to start, with a 10-yard and a two-yard TD run following John Kelly’s 28-yard run down the left sideline.  Nebraska scored between Dobb’s two TDs on a 38-yard pass from Ryker Fyfe to Brandon Reilly (4 catches for 98 yards and two TDs). The last Vol drive covered 75 yards on nine plays in 1:27 with nine seconds left in the half.

An actual form tackle by a Nebraska defender in the first period.

An actual form tackle by a Nebraska defender in the first period.

    In the third, Aaron Medley’s FG of 46 yards seemed to surprise several UT fans nearby who were critical of his kickoffs that resulted in numerous out of bounds penalties allowing the other team to start from the 35.  Medley had done this twice already today.   Before the third period expired, Reilly would make his second TD reception to cut Tennessee’s lead, 24-14.

     In the last period, Dobbs broke out of the pocket at the Husker nine with several defenders trying to arm tackle him before he bolted to his left to take it in for another score.  The ensuing Cornhusker drive resulted in Drew Brown’s 45-yard FG.  The Nebraska kickoff unit caused Tyler Byrd to fumble and they took the ball back at Tennessee’s 31.  Fyfe now ran it in from the nine to close the score, 31-24, looking to possibly take this game down to the wire.  However, four plays later, Dobbs connected with WR Josh Malone who easily beat CB Joshua Kalu for a 59-yard scoring play.  Nebraska would hold the Tennessee offense in check with two three and outs for the balance of the game, but the last two Husker possessions ended with the Vols taking over on downs.  The first time finished at their 48 on a fourth and 35 following a16-yard sack by DL Jonathan Kongbo right before a nine-yard sack by DE Derek Barnett.   The final NU drive came to a halt after four straight incompletions from the 14.  Tennessee took a knee and celebrated their 38-24 victory.

Dobbs (11) breaks out of the pocket before running to his left for a nine-yard TD to put UT up by 14.

Dobbs (11) breaks out of the pocket before running to his left for a nine-yard TD to put UT up by 14.

     This was the third time in three years the Vols defeated a Big Ten opponent.   CFF.com attended all three (plans had been made to attend prior to knowing what teams would be playing) – this one, last year’s 45-7 win over Northwestern in The Outback, and their humbling 45-28 win over Iowa at the Taxslayer Bowl the year before that.  They should offer us tickets if they end up again in a bowl we pre-select to guarantee them a win unless it’s against Penn State.  We watched the Nittany Lions defeat them in the Outback in 2007, 20-10 (Wow! Ten years already).  We were rooting for the Lions, of course.  We also saw the Vols defeat Wisconsin in the short-lived Garden State Bowl, 28-21, in 1981 at The Meadowlands.  I still remember Tennessee’s Willie Gault streaking down the right sideline in front of me for a long kickoff return for a TD in that one.

     For Collegefootballfan.com, we’re on the road from Nashville to Atlanta early Saturday morning for the big one in the Chick-Fil-a Peach Bowl where No. 1 Alabama meets No. 4 Washington in the College Football Playoff Semi-final round.  Look for our update on this one late New Year’s Day.

 Happy New Year to all of you!

Don't worry! Collegefootballfan.com will keep coming back for teh cheerleaders!

Don’t worry. Collegefootballfan.com will keep coming back for the cheerleaders! Go Huskers!

Games 529 and 530: Wake Forest and Northwestern pull the upsets

Wake Forest upends heavily favored Temple in Military Bowl

This bowl is for all our Vets and active military!

This bowl is for all our Vets and active military!

Annapolis, Maryland – The unranked and young Demon Deacons of Wake Forest (7-6)  allowed  No. 23 Temple to score the first time it had the ball, but QB John Wolford led the offensive attack to a 31-7 lead into the third period while the defensive charge led by LB Thomas Brown with seven tackles, a sack, a key break-up, and a forced fumble held Temple (10-4) to -20 yards rushing to take home the exciting,  well-played victory, 34-26. Brown was chosen as the game’s MVP.  For collegefootballfan.com, this was our first of four bowl games in five days.  We stayed overnight in Delaware on the way up to New York City to drive early in the morning to attend the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium Wednesday.

Pre-game tailgate at MB boosting Dan from the Tailgate blog: Jason, Dave, Air Force Jay, Navy Al, Brian Donnelly, Wake Forest grad Jim Harton, and yours truly

Pre-game tailgate at MB boosting Dan from the Tailgate blog: Jason, Dave, Air Force Jay, Navy Al, Brian Donnelly, Wake Forest grad Jim Harton, and yours truly

Jahad Thomas (5) and Ryquell Armstead both ran for 918 yards this season. The Demon Deacon defense put a top to that allowing -20 yards rushing at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.

Jahad Thomas (5) and Ryquell Armstead both ran for 918 yards this season. The Demon Deacon defense put a stop to that allowing -20 yards rushing at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.

Deja vu’ at Yankee Stadium: Northwestern upends Pitt in the Pinstripe

New York – We saw our second upset within 24 hours as Northwestern (7-6) surprised No. 21 Pitt (8-5), again with good defense,  but also behind the running skills of RB Justin Jackson who impressed with 224 yards and three TDs to take game MVP honors.  It was a seesaw battle, one in which we expected to see Pitt’s James Conner have a big rushing day.  Instead, the Wildcats held him in check before he left the game with a head injury with only 32 yards and never to return.

Justin Jackson (21) fights for extra yards to keep a scoring drive alive.

Justin Jackson (21) fights for extra yards to keep a scoring drive alive.

As Guest Game Analyst Bob “Cat” Marcello (King’s College, PA) noted during the game, “Neither team (Panthers nor Wildcats) was dogging it.”  No pun intended by him, but I interpreted him that way. It was a great game on a cold afternoon that Cat sat through with a bad, head cold. He’s CFF.com’s MVP for this one while introducing us to Foley’s Bar on 33rd street in Manhattan between Penn Station and the D Line subway to Yankee Stadium.  The place is like a museum packed with sports memorabilia. You gotta check it out some time when you visit New York.

As Cat said, neither team was dogging it as Wildcat QB Thoroson threw this one down field.

As Cat said, neither team was dogging it as Wildcat QB Clayton Thorson threw this one down field.

At 6 AM  Thursday morning, we caught a flight for Nashville.  No live football for us on Wednesday, women’s college basketball instead. One of my former Little League players, Lindsey Sabo, the only girl I ever managed, plays point guard for D-3 Castleton State of Vermont. She and her Spartans just happened to be playing in The Music City Classic here this week. They fell to highly ranked Ohio Northern today and play  Marymount of Virginia in their second game tomorrow (Friday).  However, I’ll be at the Music City Bowl for Tennessee vs. Nebraska on Friday at the same time she and her Spartans are playing nearby. Hope they can finish on a positive note with a win to make their trip memorable.

That will be followed by an early morning drive to Atlanta on Saturday to meet up with my Auburn connections Charlie and Lynda Murren for the CFP semi-final Peach Bowl between No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Washington.  I predicted Temple and Pitt would both win by multiple touchdowns.  I’m going to predict the same for Alabama. Let’s see what happens!  Stay tuned for more insight and game action.

Pitt sideline action.

Pitt sideline action.

Happy Bowl season- four games in the next five days!

We’re off!  Off from work this week and off to four games in next five days during bowl season.  It’s a hectic schedule, but that’s why we are Collegefootballfan.com.  We’re loving it. Follow along.  It’s going to be great.

On Tuesday,  we head to Annapolis for the Military Bowl sponsored by Northrop-Grumman where American Athletic champion Temple (10-3) should most likely defeat Wake Forest (6-6).  What intrigues us most about these two teams are the dynamics of their coaching staffs.  We are really sorry to see Matt Rhule gone from Temple and now running Baylor.  We loved what he’s done with this Temple Owl program.  He’s recruited well from Pennsylvania and New Jersey where his players on the field get better every week.  He’s a good game coach who has his teams well prepared.  However, we think he’s stepping into a situation very similar to his predecessor Al Golden who left TU to go “clean up” the Miami Hurricane program decimated by off the field problems.  A northeast guy as opposed to having a background coaching in the great state of Texas, it seems that he has an uphill battle competing with  lot of well established recruiters in the Lone Star.  No doubt, we think he’s a great hands-on coach, but how well can he recruit the local players?  On the other hand, we ‘ve seen him develop his players.  Hopefully he will be able to do the same at Baylor.    Ed Foley, his TE and special teams coach serves now as the interim Temple HC while former Florida Gator DC Geoff Collins will take over after the bowl season.  RBs Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead who both have rushed for 918 yards each this season will give the Owls an effective one-two punch.  We also like the Demon Deacon’s HC Dave Clawson who’s had successful stints doing the same at Fordham and at Bowling Green.  It’s only his second year at Wake, but we think he’s got things going in the right direction there.  We  see TU winning by two TDs.

On Wednesday, we trek to the Bronx to see Pitt ( 8-4) take on Northwestern (6-6) at Yankee Stadium, probably the worst football venue we’ve ever watch football in.  It was built for baseball no doubt. Pitt under HC Pat Narduzzi, former Michigan State DC, is building momentum.  Wins against Clemson and Penn State this year indicated that the Panthers can play with anyone on any given day.  RB James Conner overcame health issues and rushed for 1,060 yards and 16 TDs this year.  Northwestern under HC Pat Fitzgerald did not have an impressive win among the six they had this year.  They came close against Ohio State losing 24-20.   We saw the Wildcats humbled in the Outback Bowl last bowl season by Tennessee, 45-7.  We hope they put up more of a fight, but we’ll see what happens.  We expect the Wildcats to hang in during the first half, but we expect to see the Panthers pull away by about threes cores in the second half.

After we get these two under our belt, we’ll be heading south to Nashville for the American Franklin Home Mortgage Music City Bowl on Friday where Tennessee (8-4) takes on a more formidable Big Ten foe this bowl season in Nebraska (9-3).  The next day, we’ll be on our way to Atlanta for our first Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl, our big one this year.  In the College Football Playoff, No. 1 Alabama (13-0) plays No. 4 Washington (12-1).  Bama HC Nick Saban gives Washington credit as being the toughest team The Crimson Tide will play this year.  He’s right about that.  Not a lot of people give the Huskies a chance against the rolling Tide.  However, we are particularly interested to see what trick plays UW’s HC Chris Peterson will have up his sleeve for this game.  When he was at Boise State, he pulled off some big bowl upsets over ton FBS programs with a fired up team and a few surprised on offense to keep his more established foes off balance.  Can he work that magic against Saban?  We’re sure he’s going to give the a try.  Will they work?  That may be a different story this bowl season, but the horses he has in QB Jake Browning, RB Myles Gaskin, and WR John Ross may be up for the task.  We’ll be there.

Check us out this week.  Happy Bowl Season!

 

Steveo’s Salvos – Bye week musings

Bye week musings

Our bye week – this weekend was the first after 15 straight Saturdays that Collegefootballfan.com did not attend at least one college football game.  We’ve attended 21 thus far and have four bowl games in five days the week after Christmas. And we are holding on to hope to attend the CFP on Monday, January 9 in Tampa.  I attended my company Christmas party Friday night which would have been the only opportunity to attend a game within driving distance this weekend past.  I missed for what I’ve been waiting to see happen for the first time in 12 years.  Neither Mount Union nor Wisconsin-Whitewater made it to Salem, Virginia.  Their monopoly of the title game took a sabbatical.  They met nine times over those 12 years.  This past Friday, Mary Hardin-Baylor tussled with Wisconsin-Oshkosh to terminate the “Purple reign” enjoyed by the Raiders and Warhawks.  MH-B took a 10-7 lead in the second quarter, and the score stood.   The Crusaders halted the Titans’ last possession with an INT with less than a minute left in the game at their 22.  Congratulations to the MHB Crusaders, 2016 D-3 National Football Champions…

Mount Union is one of two premier D3 football programs in recent years.

There was no color purple in this year’s D-3 championship as neither Mount Union (above) nor Wisconsin- Whitewater  made it to Salem, Virginia.

After staying at my friend George’s house after the Christmas party, the snow and ice mix the next morning caused my drive home to last three hours.  Typical Saturday in that respect despite my bye week.  Once I got home and had lunch, I was beat.  Not my typical weekend in the great tailgate outdoors, but playoff games and bowl games were heating up.  In weather, comparable to what I drove through Saturday morning, NW Missouri State defeated North Alabama in blinding snow storm out in Kansas City, 29-3.   For the Bearcats, it was their second D-2 championship in a row, third in the last four years, sixth D-2 title overall of the ten such championships they’ve played in…In the FCS, both semi-final games were intense.  Youngstown State (11-3), coached by former Nebraska HC Bo Pelini, defeated Eastern Washington on the last play of the game as TE Kevin Rader firmly caught the ball behind the back of a defender in the end zone to give the Penguins a 40-38 win over the Eagles.  In the other FCS semi-final,  the No. 4 James Madison Dukes went to Fargo, North Dakota and defeated the reigning five-time National Champs, the No.  1 North Dakota State Bison, at home in a 27-17 win to head to Frisco, Texas to play the YSU Penguins on January 7.  Another dynasty took a hit among the lower levels of NCAA football this year during my bye week.  Like Alabama at the FBS level, we don’t think, Mount Union and Wisconsin-Whitewater, despite their recent coaching changes, Northwest Missouri, nor North Dakota State, will be totally out of the championship contention in their respective division for years to come. Each level of college football seems to have their dominant programs for whatever reason…As for our non-FBS fortunes this past season, we did see one FCS team that made it into the playoffs.  Pioneer League champions, the San Diego Toreros, who we saw play Marist up in Poughkeepsie, NY, won their first-round game over Cal Poly, 35-21.  The NDSU Bison dominated them at home in the next round, 45-7. With our heavily-laden FBS slate this season, we didn’t see any D-2 games this season, and none of the other D-3 schools we watched in action this year made it among the 32 schools in the D-3 postseason….

The San Diego Toreros led by QB were the only team we watched at any level earn a playoff bid this season.

The San Diego Toreros led by QB Anthony Lawrence (#18) were the only team we watched at any level earn a playoff bid this season.

We read that the Idaho Vandals (8-4), playing in this Thursday’s Famous Idaho Potato bowl in Boise against Colorado State (7-5), will return to the FCS the year after next and play in the Big Sky conference.  Costs did them in playing in the Sun Belt Conference where most to the schools play in the southeast.  To go the Independent route would have been just as difficult playing in the little Kibbie Dome and attracting crowds and big name programs to help fill their coffers.  Our discontent is that they played Nevada in Reno back in 2007 when they made us whole by becoming team #s 118 and 119, allowing us to claim we’d finally “seen ‘em all!”  Coastal Carolina joins the FBS next season coming out of the FCS and will compete for the Sun Belt Championship in 2017.  We plan to work them into our schedule possibly the first weekend of next season when they’ll host the University of Massachusetts.  We predict that the Minutemen, trying to find a conference and struggling to find wins at the FBS level, is another such program that may consider returning to the FCS in the near future…Right before our bye week, the Delaware Fighting Blue Hens named their new HC in Danny Rocco, a former HC at Richmond and at Liberty University who built a 90-42 record.  He’d won 10 games in each of the last two seasons with the Richmond Spiders, and we’d seen his Liberty Flame team in an exciting game at Lehigh several years ago.  He’s a native of Huntingdon, PA, home of the Alma Mater, Juniata College.   Based on his background and penchant for developing winning FCS Programs, we think The Fighting Blue Hens got the right coach to do the job to get them back in contention for the Colonial Athletic Conference championship and to get them back into the FCS playoffs on a regular basis…Speaking of other former Blue Hen mentors, K.C. Keeler, who led UD to their last FCS Championship back in 2003, got blown out in this year’s FCS playoffs by national finalist JMU.  Winning the Southland Conference and defeating Chattanooga in the second round of the playoffs, 41-36, Keeler’s Beakats, with about 15 FBS transfers as usual on his roster, traveled up to Harrisonburg, Virginia with 12-0 record averaging 51.4 points per game.  The Dukes hammered the ‘kats, 65-7!  What the ???  Keeler could have used a bye week…Bowl action we saw on Saturday included Houston and New Mexico, two teams we saw in action this year.  San Diego State’s Donnell Pumphrey, who we saw held to 66 yards against Penn State in 2015, set the NCAA rushing record to break Ron Dayne’s mark while beating the Cougars, 34-10, in the Las Vegas Bowl.  We saw Houston, who beat both Oklahoma and Louisville this year, get upset at Navy, 46-40, in a game where they came in ranked No. 6.  New Mexico (8-4) defeated UTSA (6-6), playing in their first bowl game ever at the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, 23-20. We saw the Lobos fall victim to Rutgers in the Scarlet Knights’ only win over an FBS program this season, 37-28…More musings from bye week and other thoughts to come.

RB Daryl Chestnut breaks free on long scamper for the Lobos in the second period

RB Daryl Chestnut breaks free on long scamper for the New Mexico Lobos in the second period against 2-10 Rutgers this season.

 

Game 528: Army Cadets sink Navy to halt 14-game skid vs. Mids, 21-17

Army Cadets sink Navy to halt 14-game skid vs. Mids, 21-17

Baltimore – Army (7-5) ended its 14-game losing streak against Navy (9-4), 21-17, as Army QB Ahmad Bradshaw scored a nine-yard TD run capping off an 80-yard drive to overcome a fourth quarter deficit.  After kicking off to Navy, they forced a punt on a fourth and four from the Mids’ 40, an unexpected call by Navy after having seen so many gutsy calls this season.  The Army Cadets of West Point converted critical first downs before going into the victory formation to up their win total against Navy who leads the series now, 60-50-7.  In the final regular season of the 2016 season for all of college football, Collegefootballfan.com witnessed its 528th game of all time.  However, our 2016 season is far from over!

     Army took over the football on the 34 of the Naval Academy recovering a fumble on the Mids’ first possession of the game.  FB Andy Davidson gave Army the first lead on his two-yard TD run, and Blake Wilson converted the PAT for a 7-0 lead.  Navy’s third- string QB Zach Abey taking over for Will Worth, ECAC Player of the year whose season was curtailed by an ankle injury in the AAC Championship game against Temple, went to the air and was intercepted by CB Xavier Moss.  But the Mids stopped the Army Cadets with an INT by S Sean Williams. 

     In the second period, a shanked punt put the Army Cadets at Navy’s 46, and Davidson took it over again, this time from the one.  Before the period ended, Davison fumbled for Army, but Abey put air under the ball again and threw his second INT on the very next play.   Army held a halftime lead, 14-0.

     The weather was sunny but chilly to start the game, but as the sun set the wind picked up making it colder as the game continued.  Many fans began to leave M&T Bank Stadium already. On the big screen, President-elect Donald Trump was seen being interviewed by CBS’s Vern Lundquist and drew big cheers.  Vern was honored on the big board for his contributions to college football as this would be his final broadcast of a college football game.  We’ve always enjoyed his commentary on college sports.  Guest Game Analyst Frank Scarpa, an Army fan but Rutgers season ticket holder (trying to get him to come to his senses) , and I spent our pre-game at Pete’s Pour House on Mercer Street not far from the stadium and only paid $10 on Light Street to park for the day. It worked out great.  Tailgated after the game with Brain Donnelly and his brother Dan (Dan from the tailgate blog) and friends before we wrapped things up back at Peter’s before calling it a night.

     Army’s first possession of Q3 finished as did Navy’s with a lost fumble.  Abey (19 carries, 73 yards, two TDs) finished the 32-yard drive with a one-yard TD to quickly cut the score in half, 14-7.  Navy’s next possession resulted in Bennet Moehring’s 28-yard FG.  Davidson fumbled the ball away again later in the period, but the Mids could not capitalize.  The Army Cadets led heading into the final period still in the lead, 14-10. 

     Army punted early in the final period.  Navy started with great field position from its 47.  Two plays later, Abey zig-zagged down the field to give the Mids a lead, 17-14, with his 41-yard touchdown scamper.  The Brigade cheered ecstatically looking for a come from behind win with their decimated offense. The Army Cadets sat still and silent with 12:42 remaining in the game.  Army started from the 20.  Bradshaw guided his team effectively using Davidson on FB plunges and slotbacks Jordan Asberry, Donnell Woolfork, and Kell Walker on the option. With six minutes, left, Bradshaw ran a keeper from the nine to retake the lead for the Army Cadets, 21-17.    

     Navy’s next possession ended very unusually with 4:07 remaining, one timeout left, and a fourth and four from the 40.  HC Ken Niumatalolo elected to punt!  In many situations, this season, we watched the Navy offense convert first downs in more difficult situations and even in less critical ones.  However, under the circumstances against an Army offense that moved very efficiently down the field, we couldn’t understand why the AFCA Region 1 Head Coach of the Year elected to punt now with the possibility of never getting the ball back again.   It seemed like the only chance to win was to go for it.  But he punted. Army took over on its 23.  The Army Cadets converted two first downs, Navy took its final time-out, and Army stormed the field to win its first game against Navy in fifteen years.  Congratulations to Army.  They deserved to win this game.

      The Army Cadets will pay in the Heart of Texas Bowl on December 27 against North Texas State (5-7), a team they fell to earlier this season at West Point, 35-18.  Navy travels to Fort Wort, Texas on December 23 to battle Louisiana Tech (8-5), winners of Conference USA West.  To us with a very good season overall, we had hoped that the Mids would have gotten a shot to play a Power Five Conference opponent.  However, with the loss of key personnel at the end of this season, the Bulldogs may be comparable competition for the Mids at this point. 

      As for Collegefootballfan.com, we take a well-deserved bye week break this upcoming weekend after fifteen consecutive Saturdays of attending college football spanning 15 weeks of twenty-one college football games.  We look forward to putting up the Christmas tree, finishing up some work projects before the year is over, watching a few pro football games on TV, the company Christmas dinner party, catching up with a few friends, celebrating Christmas at home with St. Laurie and the kids, and visiting with extended family on Christmas Day and the day after to celebrate as well.  Then two days after, our very busy bowl schedule gets rolling.

    On December 27, we head back to Annapolis to the Military Bowl sponsored by Northrop-Grumman where Temple (10-3), champions of the American Athletic Conference we’ve seen play four times this year, face Wake Forest (6-6) of the ACC.  We’ve seen both of these teams play previously in this bowl game but in games played at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.  Navy-Marine Corps Memorial makes a much finer location to play a college bow game.

     The next day, we head back over to Yankee Stadium in The Bronx for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl where Pitt (8-4) of the ACC and Northwestern (6-6) of the Big Ten clash.  Last year, we watched both of these teams lose their respective bowl games.  Pitt fell to Navy, 44-28, in the Military Bowl.  The Northwestern Wildcats fell even harder to Tennessee in the Outback, 44-6.   

  We fly next morning to Nashville to have a good time in one of our favorite cities. The first day, we plan to attend a women’s college basketball game where one of my former Little League baseball players, Lindsey Sabo, starts as guard for the Castleton State Spartans (VT) against Ohio Northern in the Music City Classic.  They are currently 6-1 and Lindsey averages 9.7 ppg in her senior season.  That’ll be fun.  On Friday, December 30, I will attend the American Home Mortgage Music City Bowl, our fourth there ever.  Tennessee (8-4), 3-1 in bowl games we’ve seen them in, will go up against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  I expect the Huskers to play better against the Vols than did the Wildcats or the Iowa Hawkeyes when I saw these two bowls with the Vols winning both bowl games by a combined score of 99-34 versus these two Big Ten teams.  I did see Nebraska fall to Washington in the 2010 Holiday Bowl to Washington, 19-7.

    From Nashville on the morning of New Year’s Eve day, I drive down to Atlanta to meet up with Charlie and Lynda Murren to attend the 3 pm kick-off at the Chick-Fil-a Peach Bowl in the Georgia Dome for the first game that day for the CFP.   It will be first time at that venue for what will be the final college football game ever played there.  No. 1 Alabama will play No. 4 Washington.  Last time we saw Alabama play, it was in the Orange Bowl for the 2012 BCS Championship where we watched the soundly defeat Notre Dame for the title, 42-14.   However, we don’t intend to end our 2016 season in Atlanta.

    Somehow, I plan to get a ticket to the Championship game scheduled in Tampa on January 9.  If you know where I can get a reasonably priced ticket that someone can’t use, e-mail me at sjk_cff@hotmail.com.  We’ll get together and have a great time.  It should hopefully be game # 533 for collegefootballfan.com. 

   

 

      

Game 527: Temple Owls devastate Navy, 34-10, in American Athletic Championship

Temple Owls devastate Navy, 34-10, in American Athletic Championship

It was all Temple in the AAC championship this Saturday in Annapolis.

It was all Temple in the AAC championship this Saturday in Annapolis.

Annapolis, Maryland – The Temple Owls got off to a smoking, hot start scoring 21 points on their first three possessions and shut down the vaunted Navy triple option to defeat the No. 19 team on their home turf, 34-10.  The Owl defense held the Navy rushing attack to 168 yards well short of the average rushing yards of over 350 per game.  It was the first loss for the Naval Academy who had won 14 straight games on their home turf at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.  In the second period, standout Navy QB Bill Worth and SB and team captain Toneo Gulley both suffered injuries that ended their Navy football careers.

The Mids will play the final regular season game of the 2016 college football season next Saturday against archrival Army in Baltimore.   They will take the field with third string QB Zach Abey who stepped in to play for the first time this season to take over for Worth in this championship game.

Temple's defense looked well prepared to stop QB Bill Worth (15) to shut down Navy's triple option right from the start.

Temple’s defense looked well prepared to stop QB Bill Worth (15) to shut down Navy’s triple option right from the start.

The Temple Owls drove 75 yards for a 15-yard sweep left by Jahad Thomas for a touchdown the first time they had the ball.  Navy attempted to convert a first down on fourth and seven at the Owl 44 on their first series, but the Owls took over on downs from their 41.  A 23-yard TD pass from QB P.J. Walker (16 of 25 for 199 yards, 2 TDs) to WR Ventell Bryant who ran around a Navy defender put TU ahead 14-0.  Before the period ended, Temple slammed RB Darryl Bonner to the ground and recovered a fumble to start their next drive from their 30. Bonner suffered an injury and di not return to play.

Guest Game Analyst George Lazarides (Johns Hopkins) who had joined be for Navy opener when they hammered Fordham, 52-13, noted, “No pushups.”  He saw the plebes of the Brigade pump out 284 each that day after each Navy score.  The Mids in the stands didn’t have many opportunities to leave their seats on this day against the Eastern Division Champion Temple Owls of the AAC.

Temple Owls escort RB Jahad Thomas into the end zone for a 15-yard TD run to start the scoring for the TU victory.

Temple Owls escort RB Jahad Thomas into the end zone for a 15-yard TD run to start the scoring for the TU victory.

Walker connected with WR Kirk Kirkwood on a long pass to the left pylon of the end zone for a 59-yard touchdown pass.  The Owls were in command of the Navy, 21-0.  Two series later, Navy QB Bill worth left the game with what was reported to be a broken bone in his foot as did Gulley on the same play.  Neither would return.  Third team QB Zach Abey got pulled into service.   Could he do what Worth did in the first game of the season and pick up the offense after Tago Smith went down to a season-ending injury?  Abey led the Mids to a score on his first series as Bennett Moehring made good on a 27-yard FG to avert a shut-out, 21-3.  Later in the period, Abey’s pass was picked by CB Nate Hairston at the Temple Owls’ 49.  With 21 seconds remaining in the first half, PK Aaron Boumheri booted a 48-yard FG to give the Temple Cherry and White a 24-3 lead into halftime.

WR Ventell Bryant catches a pass and circles back around Navy defender for a 14-0 Temple Owl lead.

WR Ventell Bryant catches a pass and circles back around Navy defender for a 14-0 Temple Owl lead.

To start the second half, Navy’s defense was able to keep the Owls out of the end zone, but its dominating offense that 61 points the last three games was held in check very effectively by the TU defense.  They clogged up the middle for the FB dive. They hit the QB on every play, and their quickness on the outside shut down the pitch on the option.  Temple HC Matt Rhule and DC Phil Snow had their defense wall prepared.  They had adjusted well since their season-opening loss to Army that GGA and tailgater extraordinaire Brian Donnelly attended with us as well as today’s game (we’re still enjoying his Old Bay Spice chicken wings at our tailgates. They’re great!).  Army FB Andy Davison tore apart the middle of the TU defense.  Will this be any kind of an omen for next week’s Army-Navy clash?

Unlike Notre Dame Stadium, cameras at Navy-Marine Corps don't block the views of any paying customers. One of these years, the Mis should host the Irish here.

Unlike Notre Dame Stadium, cameras at Navy-Marine Corps don’t block the views of any paying customers. One of these years, the Mids should host the Irish here.

Navy showed a little life late in the third when a buck and spin move from the one (that my late high school HC Joe Molitoris would have been proud of after all those drills) by Abey finished off a 64-yard drive to give the Mids a glimmer of hope for a fourth quarter comeback trailing now, 24-10.  The ensuing Navy kick-off, however, went out of bounds to set TU up from their 35.  Boumerhi put up another three on the board with his 48-yard FG.  The next Navy drive turned over on downs, and the next resulted in a pick by TU DE Haason Reddick to give the Owls possession at Navy’s 34.  RB Ryquell Armstead finished the drive on the second play after the turnover with a 30-yard TD to seal the Temple 2016 AAC Championship, 34-10.  The Temple fans celebrated, and the teams met on the field to sing their respective alma maters with both bands.  The Brigade sang theirs for the first time in quite a while, something that they desperately want to avoid next weekend.

Navy QB Zach Abey (9) uses a buck and spin move to score Navy's only touchdown against the Owls.

Navy QB Zach Abey (9) uses a buck and spin move to score Navy’s only touchdown against the Owls.

The Temple Owls may end up playing its next game in Annapolis to the delight of many Temple fans living within driving distance.  Navy-Marine Corps hosts the Military Bowl sponsored by Northrop-Grumman when the ACC plays an ACC team.  Our guess is that TU would play Georgia Tech.  That would be interesting for a few reasons.  Tech is coached by former Navy HC Paul Johnson.  It would be a homecoming of sorts for him, and he would be bringing his triple option offense to Annapolis.  For Temple, that could be an advantage after having faced both Army and Navy this season who run the same offense that they’ve already been tested against.  They seem to have figured it out now. However, this may be taken into consideration by the bowl committee if GT is possibly a choice.  The ACC may want to offer a different team in their conference.

 

Next week, we follow Navy to Baltimore to battle Army for the 107th meeting between these two rivals.  Navy leads the series now 60-49-7.  The Mids have won the last 14 games in this series. For Collegefootballfan.com, it will be the 11th time since 1972 that we’ve been in attendance.  This will be our fifth consecutive in this series.  Navy HC Ken Niumatalolo will be giving Soph Zach Abey a lot of reps in practice this week as his new starter.  Against an improved Army team (6-5) under HC Jeff Monken, this game looked challenging already for the Mids to win their 15th in row in this historical rivalry, greatest college football rivalry in the nation.

This season, we attended five games played by the Mids winning four including the 46-40 upset win over No. 6 Houston.  We also watched Army play three times beating Temple in the opener before falling to Buffalo on the road and to Air Force at home.  We will be prepping for a typical frigid Army-Navy weather forecast according to the weather people.  Nothing new, although last year was a surprising seasonably warm game played in the 70s in balmy Philadelphia.  Historically, we always expect Army-Navy weekend to the coldest of any given year whether we go or not.  Last year the heavily-favored, bowl bound Mids got by the Cadets, 21-17.  This one is guaranteed to be just as close, but the win could go to either team.  We still say, “Go Navy!”

 

 

 

Game 526: Penn State Nittany Lions roar by Michigan State, 45-12, to take Big Ten Eastern crown

Penn State Nittany Lions roar by Michigan State, 45-12, to take Big Ten Eastern crown

State College, Pennsylvania – The No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions overcame four first half Michigan State field goals by Michael Geiger on all four Spartan first-half drives to down MSU, 45-12, to win the Big Ten Eastern Division. It was the case of a bend-but-don’t-break-defense as the Nittany Lions gave up a lot of yards but no touchdowns in the first half to stay within striking distance.  QB Trace McSorely threw for four long touchdowns in the second half to devastate the Spartans.  The Nittany Lions (10-2,8-1) tallied 35 unanswered points to overcome a 12-10 halftime lead taken by the Spartans (3-9,1-8) on a Geiger field goal right before time expired. They will meet Western champ Wisconsin in Indianapolis next week for the Big Ten title.   Collegefootballfan.com saw the Lions win impressively for the second time this season (attended the Ohio State game) and hopes things go right to impress the pollsters next week to vault the surprising Nittany Lions into the CFP Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl that we already plan to attend.

John, me, and Brian get primed for the Spartans.  We were joined by Evan and Tito, but Jeremiah could not be found on this particular day.

John, me, and Brian got primed for the Nittany Lions to beat the Spartans. We were joined for this game by Evan and Tito, but Jeremiah could not be found on this particular day.

Michigan State QBs Tyler O’Conner and Damion Terry combined for 24 of 45 passes for 219 yards on many short passes to wide open receivers throughout the first half.  Geiger converted on field goals of 28 and 36 yards to come away with a six-point lead at the end of the first period.

MSU QB Damion Terry (6) completed seven of twelve for 101 yards, but like O'Conner, he could not find his way to the end zone against the Lion defense.

MSU QB Damion Terry (6) completed seven of twelve for 101 yards, but like O’Conner, he could not find his way to the end zone against the Lion defense.

The Nittany Lions got on the board early in the second on Tyler Davis’s 35-yard FG.  Geiger countered right away with another from 33 yards out to keep the Spartans in the lead, 9-3.  PSU finally put up seven at the end of a 78-yard drive as Saquon Barkley (14 carries for 16 yards and one TD, left with a leg injury in the third) leaped over the line for one-yard plunge to give the Nittany Lions a 10-9 advantage.  But once again Geiger converted with ten seconds left with a 21-yard conversion to give Michigan State the lead at the half.

Saquon Barkley (26) takes it over the Spartan defense for the game's first touchdown.

Saquon Barkley (26) takes it over the Spartan defense for the game’s first touchdown.

There was great excitement as the Nittany Lion Faithful roared in the first half when word was passed that Ohio State defeated Michigan in double OT, 30-27.  A Michigan loss there and a Penn State win here would give the Lions the division title by virtue of its head to head 24-20 win over Ohio State.  Trailing only 12-10 at halftime, the Blue and White Faithful looked forward to the second half.  It wouldn’t take long for fans of Happy Valley to roar again.

MSU returned the second half kick out to their own 17.  On third down, DE Evan Schwab and DT Curtis Cothran sacked O’Connor for ten yards.  It indicated some adjustments were made at intermission and more pressure would finally be applied to the Spartan passing game.  Punting from their eight, Michigan State gave the Nittany Lions the ball with room to operate.

QB Trace McSorely got to work starting from his 48.  He connected with WR Chris Godwin down the left sideline for a 34-yard TD pass.  He followed up on his next series with a 45-yard TD pass to TE Mike Gesicki down the middle in the end zone for a 24-12 lead.  MSU started to drive, but O’Connor fumbled and CB Grant Haley recovered on the PSU 38 to put the ball back in McSorely’s hands.  He promptly put the ball into the awaiting hands of Godwin (five catches for 135 and two TDs) on the run for a 59-yard score to take a 31-12 lead into the final period.  In command now, the Nittany Lions now looked for style points to impress the pollsters.  Earlier in the season, Michigan defeated the Spartans 32-23 in East Lansing, and just the week before, Ohio State held them off for a 17-16 win also at the home of Sparty.

LT Ryan Bates (52) leads the charge for the Nittany Lion running game.

LT Ryan Bates (52) leads the charge for the Nittany Lion running game.

In the final period, HC James Franklin stuck with his starters though Barkley was nowhere to be seen.  The Lion defense halted MSU on fourth down to take over on the 42.  RB Andre Robinson carried the ball in from the six to pump up the lead to 38-12 with 6:33 remaining.  Robinson did more damage on a reception from McSorely (17 of 23, 374 yards, 4 TDs) and ran down the middle for a 40-yard touchdown to finalize the score, 45-12.  Fans were requested to remain in their seats for a “special presentation”.  What could that be?

Andre Robinsson (6) takes in a pass from McSorely on his way to a 40-yard touchdown.

RB Andre Robinson (6) takes in a pass from McSorely on his way to a 40-yard touchdown for PSU.

Associate Big Ten Commissioner Chad Hawley was on hand to present the Eastern Division Championship hardware to the Lions instead on Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney to the disappointment of many PSU fans, but I say win it all when he’s in Indianapolis next weekend.  We wondered if it had to be shipped over by helicopter from Columbus this afternoon after OSU defeated U of M.  HC James Franklin congratulated his players, his coaches, staff members, and the Penn State fans who supported the Lions of the field so intensively.  He urged them to buy their tickets and make their reservations out to Indianapolis.  It could be hard for the students coming back from Thanksgiving break and getting ready for finals.

The Nittany Lion hopes to bring many with him next weekend to face Wiscoisn for the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis.

The Nittany Lion hopes to bring many with him next weekend to face Wisconsin for the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis.

Traditional Penn State Guest Game Analyst and Alum John Massimilla and his son Brian, also a PSU alum,  are thinking about it.  We talked after the game that like many other PSU fans, we never imagined this happening.  I told John that I’m already booked next week as he knew, but if the Nittany Lions go to Tampa, count me in if he can come up with the tickets.   We never thought about this during last season’s spring game nor early this season after a 2-2 start.

CFF.com will forgo the trip to Indy (kickoff 8 pm EST).  We committed already to attend the American Athletic Championship if Navy would host it in Annapolis.  As anticipated, Navy won over SMU (but wow, 75-31!) to take the Western Division, and Temple defeated East Carolina, 37-10, to win the Eastern Division.  Temple’s tie-breaker with South Florida, both 7-1 in AAC play, was based on their head to head win we attended on October 20 when the Owls beat the Bulls at The Linc, 46-30. The game will kick off at 12 noon EST, and we will be there with the usual suspects for the first time in Naval Academy football history that the Mids will be playing for a conference championship.    So as not to confuse Sir Charles Barkley as depicted in the NCAA basketball commercials two seasons ago, we will be heading to Annapolis this weekend and not Indianapolis.  And we say, “Go Navy!”

Extra points:  Give HC James Franklin a lot of credit for not only revamping his coaching staff, but for letting them manage the aspects of their game.   This year’s two victories we’ve seen are indications that he’s learned to let his coaching staff do what they do best, and that is to let them coach the game.  We can see the improvement in that compared to a year ago.  John Pry, Associate HC, took over defensive coordinator duties after the departure of Tom Shoops to Tennessee after last season.  Joe Moorhead left after a successful stint at Fordham as HC to take over the as offensive coordinator and has put together a very effective, quick hitting offense.  QB Trace McSorely is on target to leave behind a few records at QB in State College.  New O-Line coach Mike Limegrover seems to have made some headway this year on improving a very-undermanned line.  Already, some younger players seemed to be adding some depth to the once beleaguered unit.  Tim Banks came in from Illinois and had previously coached with Franklin at Maryland.  The secondary continues to look strong with great depth among that group of players.    Franklin has kept most of the staff he brought with him from Vanderbilt intact.  You know these guys have to know what they’re doing.  The last two of three seasons under Franklin at Vanderbilt, they went 9-4 both seasons and won two bowls games.  I’m talking about Vanderbilt here.  James Franklin’s strength has always been recruiting.  If he lets these guys coach their positions the way they are, that will only bolster is recruiting prowess.  Over the weekend, they won over a five-star Florida commit who plays for The Hun School in Princeton, NJ.  The future is starting to look even brighter now in Happy Valley.  And the present looks better than anyone anticipated now, too.  Much more sooner than expected.  Way to go, James Franklin.

Note bottom photo. Current PSU HC James Franklin starred for ESU. Future NE Patriot OT Joe Andruzzi played for Southern Connecticut.

Note bottom photo. Current PSU HC James Franklin (9) graced the cover of the East Stroudsburg game program when we watched the Warriors host Southern Connecticut in 1994.

 

Game 525: Stanford Cardinal wins The Big Game over Cal Bears; McCaffery rambles for 284 rushing yards and three TDs

Stanford Cardinal wins The Big Game over Cal Bears; McCaffrey rambles for 284 rushing yards and three TDs

Berkeley, California – Stanford let Christian McCaffrey loose and he rushed for 284 yards and three TDs in the second half to lead the Stanford Cardinal to a 45-31 win at California Memorial Stadium in the traditional Big Game rivalry over Cal. It was Collegefootballfan.com’s first trip here and another great rivalry attended.  A constant cold, steady rain could not slow the Soph RB down as he ignited his team’s lead with a 90-yard touchdown run early in the second half.

Our first game at Caifornia Memorial Stadium.

Our first game at California Memorial Stadium.

For CFF.com, the cold, damp, dreary weather prevented us from heading down to San Jose afterward to see the SJSU Spartans host Air Force as we recently planned.  With clothing to dry out, a 4 a.m. wake up call to fly out, heavy traffic getting out, etc.am , I aborted the mission and glad I did.  Some other time maybe.  This game alone though was worth the entire effort.

inside

During the first half, California (4-7, 2-6) would take leads, but Stanford would retaliate right away.   On the very first Golden Bear play from scrimmage, QB Davis Webb (34 for 57, 393 yards, two TDs) connected with WR Chad Hansen on a slant pattern over the middle and he took it to the house for a 70-yard catch and run. With the help of a short kickoff to avoid McCaffrey from breaking off long returns, Stanford started with great field position any way.  Cal HC Sonny Dykes must have figured short kicks were better than long TD returns as he stayed with that special team strategy the entire game.  Two plays later, QB Keller Chryst ran a misdirection bootleg for a 16-yard TD run to tie it up, 7-7.

Cal QB Davis Webb rolls right looking for a receiver early against the Stanford Cardinal.

Cal QB Davis Webb looks for a receiver in the first half against the Stanford Cardinal.

In the second period, Bears RB Tre Watson, one of three very quick, mighty mites in the Cal backfield, scored on a seven-yard run.  The Stanford Cardinal responded immediately with another scoring drive. Chryst lofted a pass down the middle into the outstretched hands of his TE Dalton Schultz near the end zone for a nine-yard score.   Tied at 14-14, Cal’s Matt Anderson pushed a FG attempt wide right. As the half ended, Stanford Cardinal PK Conrad Ukropina delivered a 40-yard FG to take their first lead of the game, 17-14.

ILB Mustafa Branch stops a Cal RB near the goal line.

ILB Mustafa Branch stuffs a Cal RB near the goal line.

Wrapped in rain gear from head to foot, I decided not to leave my seat during halftime as I was going to be as dry and as comfortable as I was going to be.  I didn’t want to unravel.  Cal’s Marching Band is pretty good, and I give their student body with seats their on the 50-yard line behind their team (more schools should do this) credit for staying throughout this rivalry game despite the weather and the odds.

bears-entry

Halftime entertainment started with the students doing a card section with multi-colored placards, but damned if I could tell even on the video board directly in front to me what the messages were supposed to be.  One may have been a pizza with a lot of toppings at best.  Later, I thought maybe they tried to form a hallucinogenic dream considering the area’s history, but I doubt it.  The band did a tribute to the award-winning rock band “Queen”.  Pretty good – “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We are the Champions” were performed, although the latter was not indicative of how their football team would play in the second half.

Cal's student body card section let fly all the colored placards after their performance. It didn't look any more clear before this when they held up their "messages".

Cal’s student body card section let fly all their colored placards after their performance. It didn’t look any more clear before this when they held up their “messages”.

The third period started like the first, but with Cal punting first and the Stanford Cardinal getting the ball deep in its territory this time.  From the ten, the quick-footed, turn-on-a-dime McCaffrey hovered, looked for his blocking, darted left, and raced past one defender on the outside for a 90-yard TD.  Stanford extended the lead, 24-14.  It was the California Golden Bears chance now to retaliate.  Anderson got three back with his 43-yard FG. McCaffrey was on a roll now however,  and Stanford HC David Shaw set up his offense to take advantage.  He finished the next drive with an 11-yard TD run as he piled up the yards.  Before the period ended, Watson scored his second TD for the Bears who climbed back within range, 31-24, to end the third period.  Despite impressive numbers, Webb (34 of 57, 393 yards, two TDs), misfired often today.  It could have been the weather, but he missed on many passes to the flat in this West Coast style offense.

Christian McCaffrey (5) lets his blockers clear a path before he bolts for his 90-yard TD run.

Christian McCaffrey (5) lets his blockers clear a path before he bolts on his 90-yard TD run.

In the final period, McCaffrey finished off a drive with a one-yard TD run to go up 38-24, and the Stanford Cardinal seemingly put the game away to get “The Axe” as Chryst put air under the ball to find WR Trenton Irwin who made a nice over the shoulder catch in the end zone for a 30-yard TD reception to extend the lead to 45-24. With 3:01 remaining, the Bears tried to come back as “the Champions” their band alluded to at halftime.  Webb completed one of his long pass attempts of the day, and then he followed with a 16-yard TD pass to Hansen (7 catches for 114 yards, two TDs) who wrestled the ball away from a Stanford Cardinal defender to close the score, 45-31.  Their subsequent onsides kick attempt failed, and the Stanford Cardinal proceeded to run out the clock.

WR Irwin Trenton beats a defender to the end zone for his 30-yard touchdown catch.

Stanford Cardinal WR Irwin Trenton beats a defender to the end zone for his 30-yard touchdown catch.

The Stanford team stormed the field with the Axe for the seventh year in a row.  They rallied to sing their alma mater along with their fans in the south end zone where I also sat.  Special thanks to my great friend Karen Croft, Stanford Cardinal (nee Indian) legacy, alum, and fan who got me this ticket! As much as she’s Stanford through and through, she just refuses to set foot on the Cal-Berkeley campus.  We had a nice dinner together the night before at her favorite restaurant, Café Zoetrope.  I still have yet to see a game at Stanford, so we’ll have to get a date set up again in an upcoming season. Maybe San Jose State will be playing conveniently nearby for my sake as well to add another venue to my growing list.

The Stanford Cardina take back the Axe for teh seventh year in a row over Cal. They now lead in his rivalry with a record of 62-46-1.

The Stanford Cardinal take back the Axe for the seventh year in a row against Cal. They now lead in the 6th longest rivalry with a record of 62-46-1.

Stanford (8-3, 6-3) hosts Rice next Saturday in kind of a strange season finale after having just played in The Big Game.  Cal will host UCLA.  It’s generally a tradition for UCLA to finish up with USC, but when Notre Dame comes to play in L.A., thanks to Mrs. Knute Rockne, the Trojans finish their season against the Irish, so UCLA gets Cal to finish up.  Collegefootballfan.com heads to familiar territory next weekend when we see No. 8 Penn State (9-2, 7-1) host Michigan State (4-7, 1-7) who scared Ohio State Saturday in a 17-16 loss.

More good news for CFF.com, with Navy’s  66-31win over East Carolina Saturday, it looks like we’ll be heading back down to Annapolis or possibly Philly the week after next to see the Mids battle with Temple for the AAC Championship.  It doesn’t get better than this!  Another great season.  Now how about Penn State in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Day where we already plan to be?  With a win over Michigan State and a win over Wisconsin for the Big Ten Championship, why not?  They already beat Ohio State, and if the Buckeyes can take care of Michigan…

Cal WR Demetris Robertson (8) with a catch for a short gain.

Cal WR Demetris Robertson (8) with a catch for a short gain.

Extra points: Cal has three mighty mite backs as I referred to them –  Tre Watson (5′ 10″) , Khlafani Muhammed (5’9″), and Bug Rivera (5’8″) – all looking very short in stature compared to the Cardinal defenders. Muhammed may be the short in stature but he sure runs tough.  Taller tacklers seem to hurt themselves because he’s about chest high when they put a hit on him.

Dan Donnelly of Dan’s Tailgate blog suggested to go to Pappy’s Sports Bar on Telegraph nearby, but after I familiarized myself with the campus and with all the rain, the place was too crowded to catch up on other games before our 2:30 PT kickoff.  Jim Buckley, a Cal grad, suggested going to Top Dog on Bancroft for what he claims makes “the best hot dogs in the world”.  A small place with no seating, a soggy hot dog couldn’t cut it for me today.  Too bad they don’t sell in California Memorial Stadium. I bought two there.  After I ate one, I threw to other out because the first was so bad.  If you know me, I eat everything.

I had asked these guys and my Nevada connection Paul Andrew about the parking horrors there, and they all provided suggestions.  I saw signs for parking from $30 at the local high school a distance away to $90 closer to campus.  I got to a parking garage Jim suggested at about 10:30 am on Durant near Telegraph and lucked out. Jim told me for the Washington game, he paid $45.  I think someone there screwed up this weekend, and they had to make up for it.  When I first pulled in, the sign read “Event Parking – $4”.  Wow! How lucky was I? Well later when I walked by during my self-tour to a public restroom, that sign changed to $35.  OK, better than $45, I thought.  Somebody must have said something.  I was good when the automated system charged me only $16!  It’s these little things that help me keep affording to do this.

Running "bare"?

Running “bare”?

By the way, Paul Andrew’s father played football for Cal back in the 1950’s under Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf. Pappy’s record at Cal was 67-32-4 from 1947 to 1956. He guided the Golden Bears to three Rose Bowl from 1948-50.  He’s in the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame.  Beyond that, his former players organized “Pappy’s Boys” who still celebrate their successes today and help finance and support the current California Bear program in many ways, probably their greatest tribute to their former head coach.

A statue of Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf on The University of California campus.

A statue of former Head Coach Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf on The University of California campus.

Here’s my SEC gripe today. Next to last weekend of the season. Chattanooga?  Alabama A&M? West Carolina? Louisiana-Monroe? Austin Peay? Texas-San Antonio?  If not for the previous hurricane postponement of LSU at Florida, add Presbyterian and South Alabama to that list of generally-speaking cupcakes on the SEC schedules.  Every other conference is playing meaningful conference games this week. The Big 10 and Pac-12 even added one additional conference game this year to play a total of nine.  Why can’t the SEC do the same instead of scheduling opponents like these?  A supposed respite because of the big rivalries the following week? Bull!

It’s all about the money. Play a chump for a win to get that sixth win in case a particular team is on the borderline to get to a bowl.  They keep turning down the opportunity to play another team in their other, respective division. The problem is the SEC doesn’t like competition against the best including their over-rated foes in a conference that should be named “Alabama and everybody else”.   A loss to another “tough” conference foe for some may preclude them from getting another home game.  Oops! I meant bowl game, ha-ha! Who are they kidding?  It means more money, but the reality is that they’re cowards! Rivalry week means some will be facing Clemson, Florida State, and Georgia Tech this week. Let’s see how these turn out.  They wouldn’t play these either if not for traditions.

Cal cheerleaders kept their fellow students rocking throughout the game.

Cal’s cheerleaders kept their fellow students rocking throughout the course of the game despite the cool, rainy conditions even while trailing late.

 

Collegefootballfan.com week 11

Collegefootballfan.com Preview – Week 11

This Collegefootballfan.com week 11 is our first left coast weekend since bowl week of 2010.  My then 15-year old son Eric (now CPO 2/c, US Navy) and I flew to Arizona to attend the Holiday Bowl in San Diego and the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona. The games were disappointing.  In a very uneventful Holiday Bowl, Washington defeated Nebraska, 19-7.  My most vivid memory was how over-rated Husky QB Jake Locker was.  In the Fiesta, a mediocre Big East Champ, Connecticut, followed us out much to our chagrin.  The Oklahoma Sooners dominated them in a 48-20 ho-hum victory. Well, this time we’re in the San Francisco Bay area for “The Big Game” to add to our list of great rivalries attended, and as a last-minute bonus due to TV scheduling, we will attend a game at nearby San Jose State.

      Stanford (7-3, 5-3) visits Cal (4-6,2-5) at California Memorial Stadium.  We don’t expect this one to be dull.  We look for a high-scoring battle led by Christian McCaffery of the Cardinal to pick up a lot of yards rushing, receiving, and returning. He sat out the earlier Cardinal 17-10 win against Notre Dame we attended sidelined by an injury.  On the others side, we figure to see Cal QB Davis Webb continue to dominate the air waves. He’s thrown for 3,601 yards and 33 TDs this season.  

     To cap off Collegefootballfan.com Week 11 in San Jose, the Spartans (3-7,2-4) will host the Air Force Academy (7-3,3-3) in a Mountain West game.   It will be the second time in two weeks that we will see the Falcons play a game on the road. We saw them defeat Army, 31-12, to win the 2016 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. QB Arion Worthman is 2-0 filling in for injured Nate Romine as the Falcons got by Colorado State last week, 49-46. The triple option should effectively confuse the Spartan defenders already giving up 36 points per game.  This will be our second SJSU game. We saw them throttled by Fresno 45-7 in 2005. Not much has changed for the Spartans since though they has a few good seasons a few years back. 

   D3 playoffs start this week. Johns Hopkins got the No. 1 seed in the east.  Wisconsin-Whitewater, Mary Hardin Baylor of Texas, and St. Thomas of Minnesota are the top seeds in the other regions. Perennial power Mt. Union was ranked No. 1 all season long until John Carroll knocked them off in the season finale last week, 31-28. The Purple Raiders will visit Hobart in upstate New York Saturday.  If they win, they will most likely play at Johns Hopkins if the Blue Jays get by Randolph-Macon for an interesting second round match-up.

   The Saturday of December 17 is open for us.  We’ll be looking at opportunities to see James Madison possibly host a game that weekend. The D3 championship will be played in Salem, VA the night before, but we already have an obligation that night. S’am Houston State under former Delaware and Rowan HC K.C. Keeler is ranked No. 1 in the FCS.  As usual, he’s relying on about a dozen FBS cast-offs on his roster.

   With Houston’s devastating 36-10 win over Louisville last night, we better not see Houston ranked ahead of Navy! We saw the Mids run all over the Cougars which the Cardinals could not do with Lamar Jackson. Navy lost to rival Air Force and looked bad against USF in a 52-45 loss in Tampa. However, they beat Houston and the Cougars other loss is to SMU.  Navy needs to beat ECU this weekend to clinch the AAC West and then plays at SMU.  They win both then they should play Temple for the AAC championship. In the Armed Forces Services Bowl they will play a Big 12 team.  We hope the Big 12 has the guts to send Oklahoma to play Navy in Fort Worth.  If the Mids run the table, no excuse for them to be second fiddle to Houston in the poll.  They beat he vaunted Cougars head-on this season.

     Harvard, Princeton and Penn could wind up in a three-way tie for first place this weekend all with 6-1 records. No tie-breaker.  Only in the Ivy League.  We kind of like their uniqueness, but we wished they would go to the FCS playoffs.  This logjam would probably require a couple of coin flips. 

      Our Bowl season has fallen into place nicely. We got our tickets ordered for the New Era Pinstripe and Chik-Fil-A Peach Bowl for the CFP.  We’re figuring that Alabama will be “hosting” on New Year’s Eve, so we got out tix early.  The Music City and Military will also be committed to soon.  And somehow we’re going to find our way to Tampa on January 9. 

Stay tuned!  Man, this season goes too fast! Collegefootballfan.com Week 11 already.