Game 518: The Stanford Cardinal demoralize the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in 17-10 comeback

The Stanford Cardinal demoralize the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame  in 17-10 comeback

We met the Notre Dame Dance team at Notre Dame Stadium on Friday to start off a great weekend.

We met the Notre Dame Dance team at Notre Dame Stadium on Friday to start off a great weekend.

South Bend, Indiana – Stanford (4-2) spotted Notre Dame a 10-point lead at the half and came back with 17 points in the second with an amazing pick-six, a Notre Dame miscue, and a controversial fumble recovery right in front of our Field Level seats in Section 19 to demoralize the Fighting Irish and their stunned faithful, 17-10, for their third straight loss at home this season.  With a 2-5 record, tough games ahead, and a season on the decline, the Irish look to be a long shot for any bowl game at all after high expectations starting this season.  Unlike Ohio State reloading and back in the hunt for a CFP bid after an exodus of many key players in 2015, The Fighting Irish struggle under the same circumstances despite supposedly recruiting great classes like the Buckeyes do.  For, it was a fun, long weekend to be back in South Bend all the way up until the time we arrived at our game seats.  Our Guest Game Analyst (GGA) and fellow NJ K of C Polar Bear Plunger, Bill Serafin (Montclair State) was able to get us great field level seats on the field level in the south end zone.  However, Notre Dame, in its quest to maximize profits, blocks the views of $125 ticket holders with a permanent structure for the NBC-TV camera so everyone at home can watch better than we can for free.  No mention of an obstructed view on the tickets, but we found that out when we got there that we could only have a clear view of the field from about the near hash mark to the sideline to our left.  In 518 games attended in person, this was the highest priced ticket ever willingly paid for, but the worst sight line ever experienced in over 125 stadiums attended anywhere.  It certainly put a damper on our much-anticipated game.  Though we had high hopes when we bought our tickets that this would be a significant game among all games for the 2016 college football season, there was no issue for us about that to make the 650-mile one way trip, but for Notre Dame to charge any fan that much for those seats is an outrage! They should either replace the permanence of the TV camera with some other technology, block out the obstructed seats (about 10 or 12) from being sold, or reduce the cost by at least half and let the buyers know in advance that they are only going to get a good view of about half the field.  Enough about this, but “I call them as I see them”, or in this case, how I couldn’t see them!

"Great seats! Hey Buddy!"

“Great seats! Hey Buddy!”

Stanford took the opening kickoff and moved the ball downfield to get within field goal range.  PK Conrad Ukropina’s lifted high over our heads in section 19, but hit the left upright and fell to the ground for no score.  As the game went on, the Irish D looked better and they definitely tackled better than when we witnessed the 50-33 win over Syracuse in The Meadowlands two Saturdays earlier.  A fumble forced by Notre Dame’s Jonathan Bonner and recovered by Julian Love gave the Irish possession on their 26. Driving the ball to the Stanford eight, Kizer faked a handoff to the right and rambled around the left end for a Notre Dame score to lead, 7-0.

The Irish take the field in front of 80,000 with a 2-4 record!

The Fighting Irish take the field in front of 80,000 with a 2-4 record!

The Irish D played better than during the first five games of the season, but Heisman candidate Christian McCaffrey of Stanford was sidelined for this game with injuries.  We hope to see him back in the lineup when we take our longest trip of the season when we venture out to Cal-Berkeley to see him play against the Cal Bears in The Big Game.  Notre Dame took over from its 24 and converted a first down on fourth and one at Stanford’s 43.  The possession ended with a 29-yard FG by Justin Yoon to take a 10-0 lead.   The next Fighting Irish drive resulted in Kizer quick-kicking after a time-out on fourth down at the Stanford 37, and went into the end zone for a touchback.  The Cardinal mounted a drive until CB Cole Luke made a diving interception I front of Ryan Burns’ intended receiver for ND to let the clock expire on their own 18.

Kizer (14) was ineffective in the first half and was replaced by Malik Zaire for three possessions in the seocnd half.

Irish starting QB Kizer (14) was ineffective in the first half and was replaced by Malik Zaire for three possessions during  the second half.

The Band of the Fighting Irish performed at halftime. We enjoyed pregame festivities before the game after Mass in the Debartolo Arts Center.  We went to hear the Trumpets under The Dome at the Main Building where we could only hear but not see the trumpets in the packed hall, but I did get some great photos of art work featuring the life of Christopher Columbus to show my fellow brothers in our K of C back in Boonton, NJ.  Out in front of the Main Building, we listened to a short concert by the band and got in line along the walk way to see them prep and start off on their march to Notre Dame Stadium.  GGA’s Les Di Vite (Seton Hall) and Steve Ciesla (Juniata/Montclair State) enjoyed following the band to the gridiron battle playing “The Notre Dame Victory March” and “Hike! Hike! Hike!”  among other Fighting Irish tunes.  We had anticipated this weekend for several months before the season started.  We also had a great tailgate among other Irish fans in a lot close to the stadium run by our new friend, Greg, that was well organized.  He provided plenty of space to guests who wanted to set up for a spread-out tailgate or room for a simple one.  His signs read, “Closest spaces in the world to Notre Dame Stadium”. We found it along our walk to the Linebacker Lounge on Friday afternoon.  Great time!

The horn section of the band of teh Fighting Irish start up the "Victory March" on the way to Notre Dame Stadium.

The horn section of the Band of the Fighting Irish start up the “Victory March” on the way to Notre Dame Stadium.

ND received the opening kickoff, but Stanford reversed this advantage with DB Quenton Meeks’ INT.  I couldn’t see the catch from my blocked view, but Meeks ran the ball across the field from my right to left within our sight lines and took it down the left side for a 50-yard TD run that cut the Irish’s fragile lead, 10-7.  On Notre Dame’s next drive, from what I could see, Kizer (14 for 26, 154 yards, two INTs) over threw his intended receiver and the ball went into the waiting hands of Safety Dallas Lloyd.  Kizer’s passing acumen has slipped since we saw his great performance against Temple last season.  A hard sack of Burns by Jaron Jones resulted in a fumble recovery by the Irish.  Malik Zaire came in to replace the ineffective Kizer starting from the Irish 34.  Zaire, who hadn’t played much since the opener at Texas, looked rusty to say the least.  The result was a punt on fourth and 18 from the 26.  The next Irish drive started from its five and the result was worse than its last as the snap from center went through the end zone for a safety for the Cardinal, closing the score at 10-9.  Things were not going well for the Fighting Irish.

Stanford DL Solomaon Thomas made key stops thoughout the game.

Stanford DL Solomon Thomas made key stops throughout the game.

The ensuing Stanford possession took the game into the final period.  During this drive, a very nice usher came and took Steve and me to what he said were better seats.  They were. All the ushers nearby were very friendly to us.  This gentleman had previously come to our row and offered people to our right to move over into empty seats vacated in section 18 by “fans” who left at the end of Q3 with their Irish holding on to a one-point lead.  Supposedly, these seats had better sight lines according to the helpful usher.  When he had originally offered the gracious opportunity to the couple on my right, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, but firmly and politely asked, “That’s nice of you, but why don’t you get that camera out of the way so all of us here can see?” It sent him into action as I figured this was not the first time he was doing this.  I couldn’t have been the first one to complain about the obstructed view we had paid good money for.  He came back minutes later to escort Steve and me to row 16 in our section in bleacher seats with cushions on them no less.  The sight lines were much clearer view for sure.  A little later, he moved Bill and Les to some vacated seats lower and to their left to avoid the obstructed view with the cameraman’s butt in our way.  Little did Bill and Les know what they were about to see up close next!  On a second and six at the Notre Dame seven right in front of them, ND Safety Nico Fertitta made a jarring tackle of Stanford RB Bryce Love (23 carries for 129 yards) and knocked the ball loose before he crossed the goal line.  The ball bounced toward the end line.  Les saw Irish LB Nyles Morgan try to scoop it up instead of falling on it (“Steve, if that had been one of us back in high school, Coach Molitoris would have had us doing fumble drills all week long.”). The ball continued to roll instead, and Les, Bill and the entire front row swore an ND player recovered the ball, but by the time the twisted pile of bodies unraveled, Stanford WR J.J. Arcega Whiteside came up from under the pile with it for the Stanford score.  Bill said he thought that the Irish player with the ball may have had his leg out of bounds when he seemingly recovered it, but after further review, the call could not be disputed and the Cardinal had the 15-10 lead.  The Cardinal lined up for two to extend a seven-point lead.  All of Stanford’s pre-snap action indicated they were going right.  The Irish defense stacked up to that side before the snap from center.  Burns showed action right and promptly pitched left to Love who ran to that side unscathed for the seven-point lead.  Stanford now forced ND’s hand to score a TD and to go for the win if it did.  The Irish with Zaire under center went three and out.  Stanford’s next drive ate up clock but came to a stop after Burns’ pass to Michael Rector was broken up to require a punt from the 47.  The Fighting Irish started from their 25 and after two completions where the Stanford secondary kept the receivers in bounds to keep the clock running. The Irish called their final time-out with 41 seconds left to play.  With a fourth and one at the 16, Josh Adams picked up two for the first down.  On fourth and ten at the 14, DL Solomon Thomas forced Kizer to fumble and time had run out for Notre Dame.  The Irish fall to 2-5.  Unbelievable!  That’s as bad as Rutgers.

Irish DB Nicco Fertitta (28) jars ball loose from Bryce Love (20) before he crosses the goal line.

Irish DB Nicco Fertitta (28) jars ball loose from Bryce Love (20) before he crosses the goal line.

The beleaguered Fighting Irish have a bye next week to prepare for their next game in Florida against the Miami Hurricanes. Stanford (4-2, 2-2) will host an improving Colorado Buffalo team (5-2, 3-1) in a key PAC 12 contest. has a double-header weekend planned.  On Friday night, Temple (4-3, 2-1) will host South Florida (6-1, 3-0) at The Linc in a key battle for the lead in the AAC East.  Then on Saturday evening, we will be in State College, Pennsylvania for the first time this season where Penn State (4-2, 2-1) will host No. 2 Ohio State (6-0, 3-0) in a White-out where they always give the Buckeyes a tough time.

Irish, Cardinal, refs, and fans sort out who has the ball in the south end zone.

Fighting Irish, the Cardinal, refs, and fans sort out who has the ball in the south end zone.

Extra points: DL Solomon Thomas impressed us with his line play early in Saturday’s game. He finished the day leading in tackles with 12, ten of which were solo.

We had a great time at the Linebacker Lounge on Friday night right next to the Notre Dame Campus.

Pass breakup by Irish late in the game.

Pass breakup by Irish late in the game.

Game 517: Mids storm past No. 6 Houston, 46-40

Mids storm past No. 6 Houston, 46-40

Annapolis, Maryland – In a steady rain storm, the Midshipman of the U. S Naval Academy (4-1, 3-0) rushed for 306 yards against the Houston Cougar defense that allowed an average of 42 yards per game and turned three turnovers by Heisman candidate Greg Ward Jr. into 17 points to upset the No. 6 ranked team, 46-40.  It was the first time since 1984 that the Mids had beaten a Top Ten program and one that visited Navy-Marine Corp Stadium.  They had last defeated then-No. 2 South Carolina. Navy QB Will Worth completed three of five passes for 76 yards and two TDs and rushed 32 times for 115 yards and a TD.

LB Josiah Powell intercepted two Ward passes and returned one for a 34-yard TD in the third period to give the Mids a two-TD lead, 34-20.  It was thrilling game to attend as we watched the Brigade of Midshipman storm the field to celebrate the Mids’ victory that catapults them into first place alone atop the Western Division of the American Athletic Conference with a 3-0 record.

Gene Ward Jr. fires a pass.

Cougar QB Gene Ward Jr. fires a pass.

A week after their first loss of the season to archrival Air Force, the Mids looked lethargic to start the game.  After their three and out series, Houston drove right down the field 70 yards in five plays with Ward (32 of 50, 359 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs) throwing a 32-yard scoring strike to WR Steven Dunbar in the end zone for a quick lead.  On the ensuing kick off, the Mids got the spark they needed early as Dishan Romine returned the kick 85 yards to the Cougars 12-yard line. The momentum built as FB Chris High took it in around the right side to tie it up right away.  The Mids attempted an onsides kick and Houston started at the Navy 47 and took a 10-7 lead on Ty Cummings 39-yard FG.  Navy countered with another drive resulting in Bennet Moehring’s 24-yard FG to keep pace with the Cougars.

Much to the surprise of this week’s Guest Game Analyst Vince Gallo and me, Navy HC Ken Niumatalolo called for another onsides kick.  The result was the same as the previous attempt.  Houston started at the 44 and Cummings converted a 36-yard boot for a 13-10 lead early in the second period.  We wondered why Niumatalolo spotted six points by giving the No. 6 Cougars great field position on two consecutive kickoffs. Navy’s defense holding them to only two FGs was big against a highly potent offense run by Ward.

Navy's defense held Houston to 125 yards on the ground.

Navy’s defense held Houston’s high-powered offense to 125 yards on the ground.

Seven rushing plays and 71 yards later, Worth took it over for a two-yard TD and a Navy lead.  The Cougars had problems trying to stop Navy’s option, but we figured they would figure it out eventually.   When Houston started its next drive, they came out throwing. Ward completed three straight passes for 13, 30, and 11 yards to wide open receivers before he ran out of the pocket for nine. On the next play, he fired a 19-yard scoring pass to Dillon Birden to retake the lead.  Navy, however, was not backing down.  LB Josiah Powell, wearing jersey # 58 in honor of injured teammate and captain Dan Gonzales, intercepted Ward’s tipped pass to put USNA on their 37.

The Mids lost nine yards on three plays, but a roughing the kicker call put the them back in control of the ball at the Houston 43.  As time expired to end the half, Moehring converted a 38-yard FG to knot the score.  Vince and I skipped the halftime entertainment to drip-dry with all the other sopping wet fans in the upper deck under the stands during the intermission.

USNA's Bennett Moehring nailed a 40-yard FG as the first half came to an end.

USNA’s Bennett Moehring nailed a 38-yarder as the first half came to and end and a 40-yard FG here .


It was a different tailgate Saturday under the rainy conditions.  We set up a canopy to stay dry before the game.  We made sandwiches and drank beers while Brian Donnelly had his famous Old Bay wings on the grill.  Vince, attending his first Navy game and visiting Annapolis for the first time, picked up a couple of huge complimentary garbage bags entering our gate.  They were much needed and with rain gear we brought kept us comfortably dry for most of the game.  It rained during most of the game, but the lack of wind made the conditions bearable.  Once again, parachute jumpers and a flyover had to be cancelled.  We found our row one upper deck seats flooded by a couple of inches of water as the downspouts were obviously clogged.  We moved back two rows to sit among the many vacated no-show seats but close enough to hear grumbling and shell-shocked Houston fans throughout the game who filled the rows behind us.

The game was a sell-out.  Too bad so many missed a fantastic game against the first Top Ten team to come to Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in a long time.  Like those among our tailgaters including “Navy Al”, we didn’t expect to see a competitive game based on Navy’s previous loss and Houston’s early season successes. The third quarter was especially worth seeing.

Our undercover tailgate kept us dry and well fed before we sat in teh rain inside Navy-Marine Corps.

Our undercover tailgate kept us dry and well fed before we sat in the rain inside Navy-Marine Corps.

A sack of Ward during the first Houston possession resulted in a fumble recovered by DT Patrick Forrestal.  Navy’s triple-option offense got right to work at Houston’s 41.  Five consecutive runs set up a 17-yard TD pass from Worth (3 of 5, 76 yards, 2 TDs; 32 carries for 115 yards, 1 TD) to Darryl Bonner to put Navy up, 27-20.  One minute and one second later, Powell cut in front of Ward’s intended receiver, broke a tackle, and romped 34 yards for another six to give Navy a two-touchdown cushion.  The No. 6 team who beat Oklahoma in its season opener drove 91 yards with Ward bringing it across the goal line from eight yards away.  To fend off the Cougar comeback, Worth went to the air to complete their next 80-yard drive as he connected 34 yards to Brandon Colon.  He crossed the goal line as he caught he ball to once again to extend the Navy lead by 14 points.  However, neither team was about to give up.

QB Will Worth finds a seam on an option play through teh Houston defense for some of his 115 rushing yards.

Navy QB Will Worth (15) finds a seam on an option play through the Houston defense for some of his 115 rushing yards.

Houston drove to the Navy 13 as the third period ended.  Birden took it over from the two to close the gap once again, but LB D.J. Palmore blocked the PAT to make the score 41-33.  Vince noted, “That was big.” He was right.  The next Navy drive was halted on fourth down at the Houston 16.  The Midshipman defense forced a Cougar punt from their 18, but another special team play contributed to USNA’s margin as the ball sailed way over the punter’s head on the snap – two more points for Navy and the ball back with a 43-33 lead.

Houston attempted an onsides kick from the 20 and Navy recovered to start at the U of H 30, but they only got three as Moehring converted from 40 with 4:38 left to play.  Houston drove 70 yards and on a fourth and twelve, Ward (17 carries, 94 yards, 1 TD) fired a 17-yard TD pass to Chance Allen to draw back within six.  Houston’s ensuing onsides kick rolled past the Navy hands team where Jarid Ryan jumped on it for the Mids on the 49. USNA punted with :09 left. Nine seconds later, despite all the no-shows, it was the biggest victory celebrations Navy-Marine Corps Stadium hosted in a long time.  Navy triumphed, 46-40.  Great game!  We will be back for more excitement when Navy hosts Tulsa on November 12.

Celebration for the Navy Victory! The Superintendent subsequently called off classes for teh entire Brigae on Tuesday.

Celebration for the Navy Victory! The Superintendent subsequently called off classes for the entire Brigade on Tuesday.

Navy’s next game scheduled originally for Thursday night at East Carolina is now postponed until November 19 due to flooding from Hurricane Matthew in the Greenville area.  Their next game is now on October 22 at home against Memphis (4-1, 1-0).  Houston (4-1, 2-1), now ranked at No. 13, tries to get back on track next week at home against Tulsa (4-1, 1-0). Don’t believe the media nay-sayers who say Houston can’t make it back to a major bowl game again this year.  On November 17, the Cougars host No. 7 Louisville. The Cougars lost to UConn last season and went on to beat Florida State in the Peach Bowl for a 14-1 season in 2015.  Of course, if Navy can run the table… heads to South Bend, Indiana for the first time since September 6, 2003 where we will see a disappointing Notre Dame (2-4) host disappointing Stanford (3-2) whose Heisman candidate, Christian McCaffery, is a little “banged up” according to HC David Shaw.  We can still hope for a competitive game and a good time at Notre Dame Stadium.

Indepencence Day?

Independence Day over Navy-Marine Corps Stadium as the game and rain came to an end ?

Extra points: Navy is now ranked No. 25 in this week’s AP poll.  The Coaches poll has their heads up their butts again as those guys vote for their own conference foes to bolster their schedule for future considerations. Stupid poll where no one who votes watches any teams but their own and the next one on their schedule.

Houston never did figure out how to stop Navy’s triple option as they allowed 306 rushing yards during the game.

Navy captured every American Athletic Conference Player of the Week award. Worth was named Offensive Player of the week for his performance.  Powell garnered Defense with his two INTs, three tackles, and a score extending TD return.  Moehring captured Special Teams Player of the week with 14 points.  We say Dishan Romine gets “Spark of the Week” with his kick-off return to the Houston 12 that really got the Mids going after an offensive three and out and a Houston TD.  Navy showed no life before that. It was what they needed. If not for that return, we envision the outcome many of us were regretfully expecting.  In addition, HC Ken Niumatalolo received Honors as the Dodd Trophy Coach of the Week.  All the awards were well deserved.

The refs were horrible missing several calls against Houston in critical situations and misplacing a spot later in the game in the wrong direction against Navy. Navy overcame the first missed calls, but came up short on a first down following the second.

We did see Houston play Navy once before back on December 14, 1980 in the Garden State Bowl on a cold, blustery day at Giants Stadium in The Meadowlands.  Houston under HC Bill Yeoman, a West Point grad, beat up on Navy, 35-0.  We discovered a favorite hang-out for years to come right after the game – Charlie’s Corner (Krajewski’s) in Secaucus

Vince and I did the Federal House for dinner and the Annapolis Cigar Factory after.  The Annapolis dock was closed down for the annual boat show.  At the “Fed”, we met a young woman whose boyfriend is a Navy grad and currently a pilot but has never attended a Navy football game.  We convinced her and her friends to get to a game soon.

Vince is convinced he’ll be back again. He thought the town of Annapolis was great and may plan a weekend there with his wife, Jill.  I’m sure he won’t turn down an opportunity to come and tailgate at a future game as well.

A “Boyz weekend” is being planned for November 12 against Tulsa for a noon kick-off. We’ll have to improvise on our Saturday morning schedule so we may enjoy some traditional festivities on Sunday morning.

Parting shot : "The Navy Blue and Gold!"

Game 516: Notre Dame defeats Syracuse in “pinball”, 50-33

Notre Dame defeats Syracuse in “pinball”, 50-33

East Rutherford, NJ – The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame and the Syracuse Orange scored 60 points in the first half combined with scoring resembling play on a pinball machine rather than on a gridiron as the Irish (2-3) defeated the Orange by a final score of 50-33.  Tacklers bounced off ball carriers and plays went for long yards as the scoreboard lit up early and often.  Not until the second half of play did the defenses settle down to resemble more of a football game than a pinball contest as defenders finally started to wrap and make tackles.  Fighting Irish QB DeShone Kizer passed for 471 yards, three TDs, one INT while completing 23 of 35.  For, the game at MetLife Stadium was dubbed our Big Tailgate for this season as our busload of 55 tailgaters plus enjoyed food, drink, and revelry in the parking lot before and after our game sponsored by the Boonton (NJ) Knights of Columbus.  We raised over $800 in this fundraiser raised for Special Olympics and other charities!

Kizer scores

Kizer scores from three yards out for the Irish.

Kizer struck easily on the first play from scrimmage connecting with WR Equanimeous St. Brown (four catches for 182 yards and two TDS) for a 79 yard score.  Syracuse soph QB Eric Dungey (31 of 51 passing for 363 yards, two TDs passing, and three TDs rushing) equaled the task taking in in from the three capping 75-ard TD drive.  However, the extra point was blocked and Luke Cole returned it for Notre Dame to take a 9-6 lead.  Kizer and St. Brown hooked up again for a 67-yard scoring pass. The Orange retaliated three plays later as Dungey connected with Amba Etta-Tawo, the nation’s leader in receiving yards, for a 72-yard scoring play to pull back within range, 16-13.  As our crowd overlooking the turf sat in bewilderment laughing at the score piling up against two feeble defenses and predicting that the scoring was on a record-setting pace, Notre Dame’s C.J. Sanders fielded the ensuing kickoff and returned it 93 yards for a TD.  It was getting ridiculous.  This has to be a result of the new watered down tackling rule limitations during practices.  It’s only going to get worse.  Tackling skills and toughness are being replaced by needed safety and speed.  Someday the only football that will be played will be via virtual reality.  With 10:06 left in the first, someone pulled the plug on the pinball machine, the predecessor of computer games.

Orange QB Eric Dungey scores one of his three touchdowns on the ground against Notre Dame.

Orange QB Eric Dungey scores one of his three touchdowns on the ground against Notre Dame.

SU completed a 79-yard drive with a one-yard run by Dungey.  The Irish racked up 71 yards before Kizer took it over from the three. A 31-yard field goal by Justin Yoon and 14-yard pass to Ervin Phillips by Dungey set up by Brisly Estime’s 74-yard punt return closed out the first half scoring to keep it close at 33-27 in favor of the Irish.  SU’s band performed at halftime while I went down four escalators to find the game program to add to my collection.  The announced attendance was 62, 794 – no way!  There were more empty seats than full ones.  Either the Irish fans stayed away because of overcast weather which would be a shame as precipitation held off the entire afternoon, or they stayed away because the Irish are only 2-3 for no hopes of a title shot.  Either way, the spirit of the Irish seems to be waning.  Maybe attendance is down due to people staying at home more often to watch games on TV.  That certainly stinks too since the televised games cause those of us attending to sit through too many TV time-outs.

Syracuse cheerleaders had much to cheer about during teh first half though their team trailed 33-27.

Syracuse cheerleaders had much to cheer about during the first half though their team trailed 33-27.

In the third period, the Irish defense held the Orange in check.  On the other hand, the Irish scored two long TDs against HC Dino Babers’ defense that starts one freshman, six sophs and no seniors.  Kizer threw a 54-yard TD pass to Kevin Stepherson, and Dexter Williams scored on a 59-yard run.

A Yoon FG of 39 yards and a Dungey five a-yard TD scamper finalized the score at 50-33 in favor of the Irish.   Next week, the Fighting Irish travel to Raleigh, NC to play the NC State Wolf Pack.  The week after, travels to South Bend to see the Irish play Stanford who lost big to Washington, 44-6, Friday night.  Syracuse travels to Wake Forest who fell to NC State on Saturday, 33-16. heads back to Annapolis this Saturday to watch 3-1 Navy who fell to Air Force, 28-14, to see them face No. 6 Houston with QB Greg Ward, Jr., a legitimate Heisman trophy candidate in the running with Louisville’s Lamar Jackson who he will face later this season.

Our tailgaters enjoyed the parking lot party under cloueyd but rainless skies in East Rutherford.

Our tailgaters enjoyed the parking lot party under cloudy but rainless skies in East Rutherford. Week 5

Well, we sold out our full busload for our Annual Big Tailgate this Saturday selling all 55 tickets for Syracuse vs. Notre Dame at MetLife Stadium here in the swamps of Jersey. We expected to see a Fighting Irish team coming in ranked among the Top Ten. We also expected to see an improved Syracuse team under former Bowling Green HC Dino Babers offer the Notre Dame defense a challenge. We erred big-time on the first expectation, but look dead on regarding the second. This game could turn-out to be a high-scoring shoot-out like the 38-35 Irish loss to Duke, the 36-28 loss to Michigan State, and the 50-47 OT loss to Texas. The Irish (1-3) can put points on the board with DeShone Kizer at QB, but its defense can’t stop anybody (Ok -Nevada, 39-10). He’s completed 62.1% of his passes for 1,096 yards, 11 TDs, and three INTs. However, 33.5 ppg against the defense is probably not going to improve too much against the Orange. Led by improved QB Eric Dungey under Babers’ tutelage, he’s completed 65% of his passes for 1,397 yards, nine TDs and 3 INT. His favorite WR Amba Etta-Tawo leads the nation with 706 receiving yards. He has five TD receptions. Last Sunday, HC Brian Kelly fired his defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder and replaced him with defensive analyst Greg Hudson. Hard to believe that improvement has taken a drastic turn over the last few days, but we’ll be there to see if the Irish get a little more fired up to start turning their poor start into at least a winning season…

DeShone Kizer should get the protection he needs this Saturday to put up some big numbers against Syracuse.  The Irish will need them.

DeShone Kizer should get the protection he needs this Saturday to put up some big numbers against Syracuse. The Irish will need them.

In addition to Etta-Tawo, we have or will see many of the top players leading in the nation in major statistical categories after four weeks of play in the FBS. No. 2 Ohio State’s DBs Malik Hooker and Marshon Lattimore both lead the nation in INTs tied with others for three. We will see them against struggling Penn State (2-2) on October 22. Cal QB Davis Webb currently leads in passing yards with 1,837. His favorite target, Chad Henson, is ranked right behind Etta-Tawo for second with 656 yards. We will see the Cal Bears (2-2) clash with their rival No. 7 Stanford (3-0) in The Big Game on November 19 in Berkeley. The FBS’s leading rusher is our friend Tom Ables’ favorite RB, San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey. He leads with 599 yards and ran for 1,653 last year when we saw him and the Aztecs fall to Penn State, 37-21 . A key to that victory was the Lions shutting him down holding Pumphrey to only 56 yards and a TD on 18 carries. As far as team rushing, Army (3-1) leads all 130 FBS teams averaging 374.8 Yards per game. We saw them defeat Temple and fall to Buffalo. On November 5 we will see the play again when they host Air Force in their Commander in Chief Trophy game. Air Force ranks No. 5 in the nation in rushing…

Army FB Andy Dickinson rambles through the Owl defense for a few tough yards.

Army FB Andy Dickinson rambles through the Owl defense for a few tough yards.

Here’s our predictions for this week’s big games: Memphis (3-0) visits Ole Miss (2-2). Last season with Paxton Lynch at QB, the Tigers upset the Rebels, 37-24. The Memphis record is deceiving and new QB Riley Ferguson hasn’t been challenged yet. At The Grove a year after the upset, Hugh Freeze’s team will be up to win this one…Louisville at Clemson. As much as we like Deshaun Watson, we think Lamar Jackson is just going to continue to run rampant against the Clemson Tiger defense…Stanford and Washington meet Friday night. Washington has played Stanford tight the last four years. HC Chris Peterson has the Huskies on the rise. However, we think this is Stanford’s year with all the key pieces in place under HC David Shaw. QB Ryan Burns is developing into another good Cardinal QB, and Christian McCaffery is ready to explode. We’re going with Stanford…Wisconsin has big win over LSU on a “neutral” site and a big win at Michigan State last week. Can they do it at Michigan this week? We don’t think so although we’re hoping they can. Michigan plays its fifth straight home game and has Rutgers next week. All their focus is on Wisconsin (no pun intended).   The Wolverines will settle for nothing less than a showdown against Ohio State on November 26…

This is where U of M is focused this season.

This is where U of M is focused this season.

Here’s one we have great interest in. Navy (3-0) at Air Force (3-0). They will be playing in the first go around for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy played for between them and Army annually. These two have won it over the last 19 years between each other. As Navy HC Ken Niumatatolo pointed out earlier this week, this is the first time the two Academies enter this game both undefeated. This is big! Both teams won their previous game by a touchdown and Navy had last week off to get ready to go out to Colorado Springs. Both excel at the triple option and Air Force leads Navy in rushing yards, but wins over Abilene Christian and Georgia State were dominant which they should have been. Both teams know how to defend against the triple option as well as anybody since they run it every day themselves. Navy can throw the ball when it has to with QB Will Wentworth when necessary. Our hopes are with Navy because we’re hoping to see the Brigade fired up in Annapolis the week after when No. 6 Houston comes to town. Could be another math-up of undefeateds if Navy wins and Houston defeats UConn next Thursday. The Huskies were the one team to knockoff UH in 2015.   We say, Go Navy! In a close battel with their second biggest rival…

Navy and Air Force battled it out last season in Annapolis with Navy finishing on top in their 11-2 season.

Navy and Air Force battled it out last season in Annapolis with Navy finishing on top in their 11-2 season.

Speaking of the US Navy, our friend Tom Ables will be with his San Diego state Aztecs when they meet South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama this Saturday. Thrilled to be with his Aztecs on the road once again, this trip is a special treat for Tom now attending at least over 780 Aztec games since he started doing this in 1946. That was that year that Tom was decommissioned from the Navy after WWII to become a civilian and a student at San Diego State after being stationed on the battleship USS Alabama. Now a floating museum in Mobile Bay, Tom is excited that he is going to be able to go on board and relive some fond memories he had as a crew member aboard his old ship. Tom is a proud and happy Navy veteran looking forward to a great weekend. We’re very happy for him. Congratulations, Tom, and thank you and all your shipmates for serving our country!

Tom Ables is still going strong into the 2016 season after catching up with him at Beaver Stadium last season.

Tom Ables is still going strong into the 2016 season after catching up with him at Beaver Stadium last season.


Game 515:  Winless Buffalo upends undefeated Army in OT, 23-20

Winless Buffalo upends undefeated Army in OT, 23-20

Amherst, NY – The Buffalo Bulls (1-2) overcame a 20-6 deficit entering the third quarter to defeat the Black Knights of Army (3-1) by tying the game in regulation with 2:28 left on QB Tyree Jackson’s second TD of the game, and PK Adam Mitcheson made up for an earlier missed extra point by booting a 33-yard FG in the first OT for the Bulls’ first win of the season, 23-20.  Despite 396 rushing yards by Army, the Bulls D turned back the dreaded Army triple option back on several fourth down conversion attempts, and during the final period, Jackson converted three pass completions to TE Mason Shreck to convert critical downs to keep two drives alive for 14 points.  The game featured two burgeoning FBS programs we expect to see improve over the next few years into more competitive programs due to the credit of their head coaches, Jeff Monken of Army and Lance Leipold of Buffalo, who respectively took these lean programs over three and two years ago.  It was an exciting, hard-fought game attended with two first-time Guest Game Analysts, Bill Knab (Fredonia State) and his fiancé Liz (Univ. of Rhode Island), who recently returned to the Buffalo area where they are enjoying retirement.

Bulls TE Mason Shreck makes one of his critical first down catches on Saturday night against army.

Bulls’ TE Mason Shreck (85) makes one of his critical first down catches on Saturday night against Army.

Army’s triple option offense baffled the Bulls at the start as the Cadets drove 71 yards the first time they possessed the ball.  RB Jordan Ashberry ran around the right end on a 15-yard option play to put the Black Knights up, 7-0.

Entering the second period, Army was on the move starting from their 16.  RB Tyler Campbell converted a run on fourth and two to the Bulls’ seven where PK Blake Wilson eventually nailed a 21-yard FG to extend the Army lead, 10-0.  The end of the half finished with Army QB Ahmad Bradshaw lofting a long, high pass near the end zone that was intercepted by UB CB Brendan Williams on the one-yard line where Buffalo would run out the clock.

Army stops UB RB Jordan Johnson near the goal line early in the third period.

Army stops UB RB Jordan Johnson (2) near the goal line early in the third period.

At the half, a female fan fell far short of the goal in a field long punt, pass, and kick contest.  A male UB student fielded three “punts” fired from a machine successfully to win free stuff for all the UB students.  The UB marching band, dubbed The Thunder of the East Marching Band, performed at halftime honoring the Military and all Veterans playing the music of all five major branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.  A fireworks display followed, and Bill, Liz, and I all hoped that we’d see both squads, especially Buffalo, start lighting things up to make this game more interesting.

Fireworks during halftime had us wanting more during the second half of play to come.

Fireworks during halftime had us wanting more during the second half of play to come.

Buffalo’s defense got things going early in the third period as they forced a fumble with LB Ishmael Hargrove recovering at the Cadet 23.  The turnover resulted in a one-yard TD plunge by Jackson following a key completion to TE Mason Shreck to gain a first down on third and six to the seven.  Buffalo still trailed 10-6 as Mitcheson’s point-after attempt fell to the ground after hitting the right upright.  Army seemed to be on the move again for a long drive until DE Brandon Crawford dropped Campbell for a seven-yard loss at the UB 33.  Army settled for Wilson’s 33-yard FG and took a 13-7 lead.  The Black Knight offense got going again late in the third and drove 62 yards ending with Bradshaw (22 carries for 126 yards, 1 TD) scoring on a five-yard TD run.  The Black Knights led 20-6 seemingly in control entering the final period.  In the fourth, we would find out that Bradshaw still can’t pass if his life depended on it as we witnessed last season (3 of 8 for 38 yards, I INT) as he was way off mark on several critical passing attempts, and Jackson found a reliable receiver in his TE Mason Shreck (five catches, 58 yards) as his wideouts let several long passes on their marks slip through their fingers on several occasions.

Ahmad Bradshaw (17) carried the ball in from the five to put Army up 20-6 at the end of the third.

Ahmad Bradshaw (17) carried the ball in from the five to put Army up 20-6 at the end of the third.

Starting the fourth, both defenses stopped the opposing offense on a fourth down attempt to maintain possession.  On a sideline route, Jackson connected with Marcus McGill on a short pass to the left sideline and ran it all the way to the Army 17.  On fourth and one at the eight, he completed his pass to sure-handed Shreck at the six for a first down.  Next, he fired a pass to the back left corner of the end zone where he connected with his diving WR Kamathi Holsey for a score to cut Army’s lead, 20-13.   Buffalo forced Army to punt next from its 29.  Taking over from his 38, Jackson completed a critical pass to Shreck on fourth and nine to the Army 40 where the big TE fought to get the extra yard to which Bill noted, “Great second effort!”  After another incompletion through a receiver’s finger tips, Jackson connected with his now go-to guy Shreck for a first down at Army’s eight.  With 2:28 left, Jackson went over from the one and Mitcheson’s PAT tied it, 20-20.  Army returned the ensuing kick-off out to their 38 with the goal of getting into FG range.  On third and four at UB’s 42, Bradshaw misfired badly to an open receiver.  Kell Walker’s run got them to their 31. With second and eight at the 17, Lance Leipold used all three of the Bulls’ remaining time-outs to “ice” Wilson.   Wilson made an attempt for a 31-yard FG, but it went wide left exposing the West Point kicking game as yet another soft spot in the Army offense.  The icing worked.  The game went into over-time.

Bulls RB Jonathan Hawkins takes a handoff for a short gain in the second period.

Bulls RB Jonathan Hawkins takes a handoff for a short gain in the second period.

UB won the toss and went on defense to start.  A holding call on the first play from scrimmage set them back at the 40.   Bradshaw completed two short passes that put them in a fourth and eleven at the 26. The best the Cadets could do was attempt a 43-yard FG well out of Wilson’s range.  Wide right!  Buffalo took over.  Jackson ran it down to the 11.  Mitcheson’s kick went through for the 23-20 Bull win and the and the remaining students among the 19,217 in attendance tonight (Bill figured most of the student section had left for the local bars when down 20-6) celebrated a hard-fought come from behind with their school mascot, Victor E. Bull!  The Bulls and Cadets both played hard throughout, and we expect to see both programs continue to win more and more games the next few season under their very good coaching staffs.

UB mascot Victor E. Bull anticipated celebrating with his fans for the first time this season before the game against Army.

UB mascot Victor E. Bull anticipated celebrating with his fans for the first time this season before the game against Army.

Next week, UB heads to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts to play their final non-conference game before entering Mid-American Conference play when they meet winless Boston College.  Army has a bye next Saturday before heading to Durham, NC to meet Duke.  Last season, we saw the Blue d/evils hand army their worst defeat of the season, 44-3.  This game will be a true barometer of Army’s improvement since last year.  We’ve seen enough that we have altered our plans on November 5 and will instead attend the Army vs. Air Force game on that day in West Point.  Next Saturday, will hold its Big Tailgate with a busload of friends and the Boonton Knights of Columbus when we see disappointing Notre Dame (1-3) play Syracuse (2-2) in MetLife Stadium.  Bill and Liz planned a DH weekend to see their beloved Buffalo Bills host Arizona the next afternoon after our Saturday night at the University of Buffalo Stadium.  Their Bills won, 33-16.

Liz and Bill were happy to see thier Buffalo Bulls and Bills win over this weekend!

Liz and Bill were happy to see their Buffalo Bulls and Bills win over this weekend!


Extra points:  LB Andrew King led Army in tackling with 12 stops.  For Buffalo, LBs Jarrett Franklin led with 17 tackles and his fellow LB Khalil Hodge racked up 16.

QB Chris Carter saw a series of action for Army.  With a week off, maybe he will take more reps during practice and see some more action against Duke.

Onward and upward are the hopes of the Bulls' fans getting ready to start Mid-American Conference games two weeks from now.

Onward and upward are the hopes of the Bulls’ fans getting ready to start Mid-American Conference games two weeks from now. Week 4

Army at Buffalo

We are in Amherst. New York today to see a match-up between programs under fairly new competent coaching staffs. One is already making significant progress.  The other is s work in process. Army under third-year Head Coach Jeff Moncken is a surprising 3-0.  Their defense is looking solid and their offense is coming around with FB Andy Davidson powering yardage up the middle to give the option a basis to get the yardage around the ends.  Buffalo (0-2) is under HC Lance Leipold in his second season here in Amherst.  Leipold, who led Wisconsin-Whitewater to six national championships at the D3 level, led the Bulls to a 5-7 season a year ago.  Still working on building his roster, he is a year or some from getting things turned around for this MAC program.  Army has the momentum coming in today, but the Bulls will be looking to build with a tough chore ahead of them to stop Army’s running game in their home game tonight. Kickoff is at 7 pm.

Army surprised Temple in this year's opener as Andy Davidson (40) provide power running on the dive play to improve Army's option play.

Army surprised Temple in this year’s opener as Andy Davidson (40) provide power running on the dive play to improve Army’s option play.

Game # 514: Rutgers overcomes 21-point deficit to avoid New Mexico upset, 37-28

Rutgers overcomes 21-point deficit to avoid New Mexico upset, 37-28

New Brunswick, NJ: “The Birthplace” – The Scarlet Knights of Rutgers (2-1) fell behind 21-0 in the first period to the New Mexico Lobos (1-2), but three seconds left in the period, QB Chris Laviano connected with WR Juwan Harris for a 75-yard TD pass to cut the lead.  The Knights would score the next 24 points of the game before the Lobos would score again, and then walk-on PK David Bonagura would add two FGs late to give RU the final points to seal the victory.  They overcame a 21-point deficit to avoid a New Mexico upset bid, 37-28.

WR Janarion Grant’s early fumble resulted in New Mexico’s first score, but his diverse contributions later would be keys to the Scarlet Knights’ win.  Guest Game Analyst Frank Scarpa, RU fan and grad, was very happy with the result, but contemplating the Knights’ future starting Big Ten play next week.

RB Tyrone Owens of New Mexico gets the Lobos some running room early in the first period.

RB Tyrone Owens of New Mexico gets the Lobos some running room early in the first period.

New Mexico’s first punt of the game was mishandled by Grant and gave them possession at the Rutgers 17.  RB Daryl Chestnut (41 rushes for 114 yards) ran the ball in for a 19-yard TD.  Two offensive series later, QB Austin Apodaca who platooned with Lamar Jordan at the position every other series, threw a 37-yard TD strike to WR Patrick Reed.  On their next possession, Jordan sped 52 yards on an option from the pistol formation for the Lobos third score of the first 15 minutes looking like they were going to turn this game into a laugher with a 21-0 lead. On his run near the sideline, RU safety Anthony Cioffi gave Jordan a shove which did not knock him out of bounds, but instead propelled him up the field for the score.  During various plays during the game, Frank and I spoke about our dislike for the option run from the pistol formation –  a back three yards behind the QB in the shotgun.  The pitches to the deep backs risk more losses more than gains because of the depth of the play compared to the triple option that Navy runs from right under center.  Ten seconds later in the frame, Laviano connected with Juwan Harris with a pass directly down the middle for a 75-yard TD pass to close the first quarter scoring at 21-7.

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 Lobos in the second period.

Rutgers’ first series of the second resulted in a well-executed play with Laviano sprinting to his right and pitching back to Grant on a fake reverse.  Grant looked into the end zone and tossed a spiral into the end zone to WR Andre Patton for a 21-yard TD pass.  The Scarlet Knight defense forced another punt after a three and out series.  Eighty yards later, RU fired by UNM on a dive play up the middle by Robert Martin (21 carries for 169 yards) who went virtually untouched for the score.  The momentum was now with the home team with 39,680 fans in attendance.  Late in the period, New Mexico punted from its 35.  Grant fielded the low kick on a bounce, started left, and then cut down the right sideline for a 69-yard touchdown return with 1:04 left and a Scarlet Knight 28-21 lead.  Apodaca came out throwing the ball with a drive starting from his 34, but his typical floater of a pass was intercepted by DB K.J. Gray at the ten where RU took a knee on the final play of the half. Frank noted that SUNY QB Tom Wright we’d seen in the D-3 clash the evening before had much better arm strength than did the New Mexico QB.  After and early morning tailgate consisting mostly of Bloody Mary’s and peach crumb cake, I went out into the concession area and got us my favorite stadium food anywhere – two Premio Italian sausage sandwiches with peppers and onions, a perfect lunch at halftime.

This young Rutgers fan was just emotionally drained after watching his Scarlet Knights overcome their 21-0 deficit in the second period.

This young Rutgers fan was just emotionally drained after watching his Scarlet Knights overcome their 21-0 deficit in the second period.

Rutgers recovered a UNM fumble in the third period which we could not believe was reviewed having seen so many evident calls delayed to be replayed.  The turnover resulted in a 40-yard FG by Bonagura to put the Knights up by ten, 31-21.  Neither team scored again in the third, and Los Lobos were in business at the the RU 39 when the period ended.

From 22 yards out, RB Richard McQuarley took the dive handoff through the middle and went unscathed for a New Mexico TD to bring the Lobs back to within three with 12:12 left to play.  Rutgers next drove to the 28, intentionally took a delay to punt at the 33 as HC Chris Ash decided to forgo a FG or first down attempt.  The call worked perfectly as Dacoven Bailey downed the punt putting the Lobos on their one.  Rutgers got the ball back on their 35 with Zach Allen replacing an ineffective Laviano (11 of 27 passing for 152 yards, 1 TD) at QB.  Stopping RU around the Lobo 30 for a fourth down and six, UNM S Lee Crosby pulled the bonehead play of the season thus far with an unsportsmanlike penalty by running up behind Janarion Grand and belting him from behind well after the play was over.  Lobo HC Bob Davie deservedly chewed him out and pulled him out of the game for such a stupid, bonehead penalty after a big stop for his defense.   We wonder how far down the depth chart Crosby falls after this.  His idiocy gave RU new life, and Bonagura drilled a 33yard FG to go up six, 34-28.  An ensuing New Mexico punt from the eight was returned by Grant (7 punt returns for 112 yards) to the New Mexico 16.  With 3:05 left, Bonagura converted a 28-yard FG to seal the game against the fading Lobos behind now by nine points.  New Mexico, however, drove deep into RU territory with over one-minute left.  The attempt to get back within six to try to win with the benefit of an ensuing, recovered onsides kick, but the dream went away as Jason Sanders 33-yard attempt went wide left. Final score:  Rutgers 37 New Mexico 28.  It was a great come from behind win for the home team, but how many more wins will they enjoy this season?

Most of the action this afternoon at our end of the stadium was performed by the RU Dance Team.

Most of the action this afternoon at our end of the stadium was performed by the RU Dance Team.

Next Saturday at noon, RU opens Big Ten play against Iowa coming off a 23-21 loss to FCS five time defending champ North Dakota State.  New Mexico hosts San Jose State. had plans to go to Princeton after this game to see the Tigers host the Lafayette Leopards in their season opener at 5 pm, but the traffic out of The Birthplace and good games on tap on the tube this evening changed that plan.  Princeton won, 35-31.  Next Saturday, we shuffle off to Buffalo to see improving 3-0 Army play the Buffalo Bulls (1-2).

Extra points: Two defensive linemen led RU in tackles.  Julian Pinnix-Odrick had 12 with 5 solos, and Darius Hamilton garnered ten with five solos also.

"U-rah! U-rah! Rutgers Rah!"

“U-rah! U-rah! Rutgers, Rah!”

Game # 513: SUNY Maritime Privateers sail past the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, 20-16

SUNY Maritime Privateers sailed past the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, 20-16

Throggs Neck, NY – On the banks of the Long Island Sound in Throggs Neck in New York City on the State University of New York Maritime campus, it was a beautiful, cool, clear evening looking out toward the Freedom Tower in Manhattan as the SUNY Privateers celebrated Heroes Appreciation Day.  Many of the graduates from both schools go on to serve in the US Military.  In a game that intensified as the game played out into the fourth quarter, the SUNY Maritime Privateers sailed past the U.S. Merchant Marine academy, 20-16.


Honoring America’s heroes before the coin toss at SUNY Maritime.

After the pregame festivities, the USMMA Mariners forced a punt on three and out and took over from their 33.  From there, they drove the length of the field as QB Robert Moore (32 carries for 142 yards) scored a three-yard run to give the visitors from Kings Point an early 7-0 lead.  Early in the second period, SUNY lit up the scoreboard with a 26-yard FG by Matt Murphy.  Late in the second period, Moore’s fumbled pitch was recovered by MLB Paul Lamarca at the Merchant Maine 18.  Four plays later, Murphy converted again from 32 to close the first half scoring and to cut the lead down to 7-6 in favor of the Merchant Marine Academy going into the halftime intermission.

The Privateers (in white) opening drive.

The Privateers (in white) opening drive.

On the first series of the second half, USMMA drove the length of the field 68 yards to put up another six points with Wiley Martin’s four-yard TD plunge.  A bad snap on the point after negated the extra point and the Mariners were up, 13-6.  On their next possession, the Privateers converted twice on fourth downs starting from their 28 to get to the King’s Point 19.  Strong-armed QB Tom Wright tossed the ball deep into the back of the end zone in the right corner to WR Christian Castle for a 19-yard scoring strike to even things up, 13-13.  The SUNY Privateers next forced the Merchant Marines to punt from their ten and took over with good field position before entering the final period at the USMMA 47.

SUNY picks up yards on its third period scoring drive

SUNY picks up yards on its third period scoring drive

On third and seven at the Mariners’ 11-yard line, Wright (21 for 26, 173 yards, two TDs passing) zipped another pass to WR Brett McKinney for six points and 20-13 Privateer lead. The Mariners responded with a drive to the Privateer 11 where they had to settle for Erik Swayne’s 28-yard GB with 11:07 remaining in the game.  The Mariner defense held SUNY Maritime to a three and out.  Their next offensive series was halted by the stingy Privateers at the 38 of SUNY where they took over on downs.  However, the home team Privateers gained no yardage and punted back.  With 1:46 remaining, Moore (1 of 5 for 17 passing yards) was intercepted by CB Brian Price.  Game over and the SUNY Privateers (2-1) celebrated their second win of the season, 20-16.

The Privateers' defense rose to the occasion late in the game to preserve the win.

The Privateers’ defense rose to the occasion late in the game to preserve the win.

It was a quick game completed in about two hours and 30 minutes.  Two linebackers led both teams with many tackles.  Merchant Marine MLB Josh Woodburn tallied 14 tackles including 12 solos.  For the Privateers, OLB Eric Wallace garnered 17, nine of which were solo.  Guest Game Analyst Frank Scarpa and I had pizza from the Third Avenue Pizza concession stand in the parking lot near the bleachers. They fired up the stove oven to 900 degrees. Pizzas baked in less than two minutes, but our opinion was that they should pull them out a little quicker as the pizzas we and others had were slightly over-charred, but they still tasted pretty good.

All USMMA players displayed the Stars and Stripes during the game.

All USMMA players displayed their Stars and Stripes during the game.

The Privateers are off next week before starting Eastern Collegiate Football Conference play at home against Husson of Maine on October 1.  The Mariners (1-1) also start conference play in the Liberty League next week when they play home against Rochester. headed back to Jimmy’s in Haledon, NJ for wings and to catch up on other Friday night games.  The next morning, we were heading to The Birthplace of College Football to see Frank’s favorite team, Rutgers, host the Lobos of New Mexico.

A beautiful, clear night to gaze on The Freedom Tower next to Old Glory.

A beautiful, clear night to gaze on The Freedom Tower in the distance next to Old Glory from the bleachers at SUNY Maritime. Week 3 Week 3

Big week of great matchups between ranked teams in nonconference games this week in Week 3.  We are looking for this to happen:  Louisville over Florida State as the Cardinals QB Lamar Jackson is hot and FSU’s defense is not.  LU’s defense is tough; Ole Miss over Alabama as the Rebels rolled back the Tide the last two years and the Hotty Toddies will be fired up before this game coming from in The Grove; the Irish over Michigan State on DeShone Kizer’s arm; Ohio State over Oklahoma based on Urban Myer outcoaching Bob Stoops; Stanford beats up USC after a week off and McCaffrey running wild; Oregon over Nebraska with a lot of points…

The Buckeye's will be looking to hammer Oklahoma this Saturday.

The Buckeye’s will be looking to hammer Oklahoma this Saturday.

We settle for New Mexico (1-1) at Rutgers (1-1) looking for the Lobos to edge the Scarlet Knights out because RU will be over confident.  Bob Davie has an experienced defense returning and RU is still trying to figure out what they got in Week 3. And in all fairness, Chris Ash is learning how to be a head coach on the job.   They struggled in the first half to 14-14 draw with FCS Howard last week. WR Janarion Grant might not be enough to get the Scarlet Knights on the board if they don’t get off to a quicker star this week.  They can’t take UNM lightly …

Rutgers may need a Knight in shining armor upon a noble steed to compete with the Lobos this Saturday.

Rutgers may need a Knight in shining armor upon a noble steed to compete with the Lobos this Saturday.

Our Army at Buffalo kick off is scheduled for 7 pm on Oct. 24…Penn State’s offense got rolling last week late in their 42- 39 loss to Pitt until some questionable play-calling finished off a potential rally. We look for them to battle a tough Temple team coached by former Lion LB Matt Rhule in another tight one as Temple will not be intimidated and will continue to improve. PSU will be looking for revenge.  Temple hopes to get all-Conference RB Jahad Thomas back on to the field.  The Nittany Lion offense has to get clicking early…We’re interested seeing No. 25 Miami visit Appalachian State who almost pulled the opening weekend upset of Tennessee before falling in OT.  Miami is trying to climb back into significance under former Georgia HC Mark Richt, but ASU is an up and coming team under Scott Satterfield and is just looking for an opportunity like this to make a statement that the Sun Belt is a conference to be reckoned with in the future. They finished 11-2 last season.   I think they will come out on top…

The Appy State - up and coming since we saw them destroy Georgia State two years ago, 44-0.

 Appy State – up and coming since we saw them destroy Georgia State two years ago, 44-0.

What’s with Houston HC Tom Herman giving a peck on the cheek to all his big, hairy Houston Cougar players before game?   Ugh!  Give me a break! This is football.  There is no kissing in football!…The Alma Mater, D3 Juniata College, has gotten off to a flying start at 2-0 and face the Gettysburg Bullets this Saturday in Week 3. They took a 42-21 decision over Dickinson last Saturday. QB Hank Coyne threw 13-of-23 for 280 yards and three touchdowns. RB David Vidovic added a pair of scores and 59 yards rushing. Juniata picked off three passes.  Great start by HC Tim Launtz and his team…Mount Union (1-0) is at No. 1 in D3 with Wisconsin Whitewater (2-0) ranked No. 2.  Delaware Valley made a statement with a win over Wesley in its opener to step in at No. 14, and George Lazarides’ alma mater, Johns Hopkin’s, is No. 12… North Dakota State (2-0) is No. 1 in the FCS followed by the Richmond Spiders.  Fordham (1-1) is one game off the Top 25 after a big win over Elizabeth City State last week. They are off this week before hosting Ivy power Penn. Delaware (2-0) heads to play Wake Forest…

Delaware steps up to take on an ACC team this week.

Delaware steps up to take on an ACC team this week.

Among the Ivy openers, returning co-champ Dartmouth has the greatest challenge hosting in-state rival New Hampshire (1-1).  I Week 3, we will tack on the Princeton Tigers game after the Rutgers game Saturday to see them play Lafayette (1-1), a team they knocked off last year, 40-7.  QB Joe Lovett returns to lead the Tigers after tying for the League led in TDs last season with 10…This Saturday the Arizona Wildcats will wear uniforms that will remember and honor the U.S.S. Arizona and its crew, which was bombed in the Pearl Harbor attack 75 years ago.  They host Hawaii. Their jerseys and helmets will display decals and patches commemorating the battleship. Players’ jersey back nameplates will feature the ship’s hull number, helmets will display U.S.S. Arizona’s battle cry, “At ’em Arizona”, and the “A” on their helmets’ sides will be that of the ship’s team’s logo worn by players on the ship now a Memorial site at Pearl Harbor. A nice tribute to the memory of that fatal day.  The Army-Navy game will be played three days after the actual anniversary. Surely there will be a tribute at the game that we will be at to see in Baltimore on December 10.



Game 512: Navy stop at one-yard line with six seconds tops UConn, 28-24

Navy stop at one-yard line with six seconds tops UConn, 28-24

Nobody at this game knelt for the Flag.

Nobody at this game knelt before the Flag.

Annapolis – UConn used its final time-out after Bryce Sherriffs completed a pass to Hergy Mayala who caught the pass and landed on his butt out of bounds at the Navy one with 17 seconds remaining.  Then, Bob Diaco’s UConn staff sent RB Ron Johnson up the middle where he was met by a Navy stop by the heart of the defensive interior who turned him away for no gain before the final six seconds ran down, and Navy (2-0) defeated the UConn Huskies, 28-24, in an exciting American Athletic Conference finish.

Navy FB Chris High nears UConn goal line in first half.

Navy FB Chris High carries the ball in from the six for the Mids’ first score.

The Midshipman were in total command of the Huskies late in the second period 21-0 before UConn blocked a low 32-yard FG attempt by Bennett Moehring.  Prior to that miss, Navy chewed up yardage and the clock throughout the first two periods and looked like they would sail on to an easy victory.  The Mids scored on their first two possessions driving 96 yards with FB Chris High scoring from the six in the first, and they followed with an 80-yard drive finished off by QB Will Worth plunging over from the one with 10:55 left in the second.  Navy’s next possession covered 55 yards to the UConn one where the Huskies halted their drive and took over on downs.  However, on the very next play, UConn’s Shirreffs fumbled the ball on a tackle by strong safety Alohi Gilman who also recovered the ball in the end zone for the third Navy score to build the lead, 21-0.  On the ensuing kickoff, Navy caused another fumble and Gilman recovered the ball once again to put USNA at the Huskies’ 22 before Moehring’s attempt was blocked.  With ten tackles, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries and his touchdown, Gilman was named AAC Defensive Player of the Week.  After the block, however, the complexion of the game changed drastically.

UConn QB Brant Shirreffs and the rest of the Huskies' running game were held in check by Navy early in the game.

UConn QB Bryant Shirreffs (4) and the rest of the Huskies’ running game were held in check by Navy early in the game.

UConn opted away from its preferred running game and took to the air waves.  Each time Sherriffs dropped back to pass, Navy blitzed from deep in their secondary, but to no avail. Instead, Sherriffs (23 of 26 for 239 yards, no INTs) hit receivers wide open before much pressure could be applied.  With 1:10 left in the half, Shirreffs connected with WR Noel Thomas for a touchdown on a 34-yard slant pass before the Navy Drum and Bugle Corps presented its halftime presentation to the Navy crowd for the second Saturday in a row.  St. Laurie and I went for some shade under the upper deck of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial and some cold drinks heavy with ice to get out of the sweltering 90 degree temps and bright sunshine.

Shirreffs connected with WR Noel Thomas (5) on this slant pass to put UConn on the scoreboard for the first time.

Shirreffs connected with WR Noel Thomas (5) on this slant pass to put UConn on the scoreboard for the first time.

UConn’s defense adjusted and seemed to have some answers for Navy’s triple option when the second half began.  Not surprising since UConn HC Bob Diaco had faced Navy over the years as the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame.  They forced the Mids to a three and out on their next possession.  A completion on a fourth and five to TE Tyler Davis set up a three-yard score by RB Ron Johnson to put the Huskies within reach, 21-14.  Navy started to churn out the yardage once again starting from their 25 and seemingly ready to score again at the Husky seven when DT Mikal Myers knocked the ball loose from Chis High and CB Jamar Summers (East Orange HS, NJ) scooped up the ball and raced 93 yards the other way to tie the game at 21-all.

QB Will Worth (15) led Navy on long drives all day long.

QB Will Worth (15) led Navy on long drives all day.

In the final period, Navy punted away and Sherriffs continued to make progress through the air. Navy held their formidable running attack to only 90 yards in this game.  Navy held UConn to a 38-yard FG by Bobby Puyols that gave UConn its sudden first lead of the game, 24-21.  Both teams punted after their subsequent series.  UConn’s punt from its nine was returned by Calvin Cass for 26 yards to the UConn 17.  The Brigade of Midshipman directly across the field from us waved a flag and chanted its famous last words of US Navy officer James Lawrence in a battle during The War of 1812, “Don’t give up the ship!  Don’t give up the ship!”  With 3:08 remaining, Worth (19 carries for 44 yards and two TDs, and 6 of 8 passing for 130 yards) righted his team’s ship with another one-yard plunge to put Navy back in the lead, 28-24. Even St. Laurie noted, “They may have left too much time for UConn to score again.”  Her words seemed prophetic and UConn moved the ball at will.  The Huskies moved down field from the 20 to Navy’s 23 with :45 left.  It didn’t look good for the Navy.  Mayala caught the ball on the seat of his pants literally to stop the clock before Diaco called a play during his last time-out. The Navy stop of Johnson’s run seemed to bewilder UConn, and the Husky offense slowly unraveled with no clue as to what they should do next.  Navy watched the clock run down to “00:00” and the celebration at 2-0 began.

Navy Plebes celebrated with fans after their fourth long drive of the game and then cheered for their defense to stop the Huskies.

Navy Plebes celebrated with fans after their fourth long drive of the game and then cheered for their defense to stop the Huskies.

The Mids in the stands got Liberty call for their spirit in the last second win.  It was a nail-biter for Navy as it won its twelfth consecutive game at Navy-Marine Corp.  Its next game will probably be one of the greatest home challenges ever there when Houston, currently ranked No. 6 in the nation, comes calling.  We’re not sure when the last time a team ranked that high came to play Navy in Annapolis.  With a potent passing attack led by Heisman candidate Greg Ward, Jr, the Mids’ pass defense will need to improve a lot to stop the Cougars based on how they struggled to stop a run-oriented UConn passing attack.  We’ll be there for that one, and the Brigade will be fired up if they can get by Tulane in New Orleans, another run-oriented team next week and against archrival and option-oriented Air Force on October 1 out in Colorado Springs.

The Huskies (1-1) host Virginia next week at “The Rent” in East Hartford.  We will see them play there later this season when they host Temple. has three games in our plans for next weekend starting with a confrontation between two other sea-faring programs on Friday night.  The Mariners of the US Merchant Marine Academy (1-0) of Kings Point, NY will travel a few miles east to Throggs Neck to do “battle under the bridge” against the Mariners of SUNY Maritime (1-1) in a local, D3 rivalry that we look forward to.  The USMMA defeated The Coast Guard Academy last week. SUNY Maritime defeated Maine Maritime in their opener and fell 28-24 to Mass Maritime last week. It seems like a D3 round robin for all the maritime schools. Maybe they can get Christopher Newport U in Virginia into some of this action or possibly the guys from “Wicked Tuna!”  On Saturday, we will be at the noon kickoff between Rutgers (1-1) and New Mexico (1-1) at the Birthplace of College Football.  Rutgers thinks they already have this game won (“RU-tude”),  so we know that they will struggle at the very least.  It will be our second time seeing the Lobos play.  We saw then defeat Missouri in 2005.   At least we’ll have Bloody Mary’s and Crumb cake in our fabulous Jersey breakfast tradition, but I’ll probably miss out on Frank’s award-winning BBQ after the game.  I’m planning to head down the road to Princeton for the 5 pm Tiger opener against Lafayette College (1-1).  If this works out as planned, we’ll have already attended eight games over the first three weeks of the college football season. We hope to see a few more like last week’s game in Annapolis.

Navy cheerleaders.

Navy cheerleaders.

Extra points: Great tailgate with Brian, Navy Al, his buddy Dave even though he’s an Alabama and Army fan, and Air Force Jay.  Between a platter St. Laurie and I brought, pizzas that Jay brought, and BBQ Al brought prepared by his son who’s a professional chef, we had a lot to eat.  We were joined by a work colleague of mine, Dave and his son Nathaniel who’s five and attended his first football game.  Later, we tailgated after the game with Dennis and Tracy who are planning to retire in Delaware next year.  St. Laurie and I had a good time with them closing down the Navy parking lot.

Navy CB Tyris Wooten, like Gilman, also had 10 tackles for the Mids. Husky LB Matt Walsh led his team with 12 tackles followed by FS Obi Melifonwu who had 10.

Navy WR Jamir Tillman had four catches for 75 yards. For the few times you get to see him make a play, you can tell he’s an outstanding receiver and would be a cog in anybody’s passing offense.  We look for him to come up with some big catches when Navy needs them later this season.  Noel Thomas had 11 caches for 116 yards for UConn including his 34-yard TD.