“Steve-o’s Salvos!” February 26, 2015

Oregon will lose QB Marcus Mariota to graduation this year. Good luck in the NFL, Marcus! How do the Ducks replace him? They recruit Eastern Washington QB Vernon Adams, two time runner up for the FCS Walter Payton Award, to use another year of eligibility after three great years leading the FCS Eagles to three consecutive years into the FCS playoffs. Montana State HC Rob Ash (former HC at Juniata College, the Alma Mater, back in the early ‘80s), was interviewed on ESPN.com making the argument that the FCS should not be a minor league for the major football programs. We agree. However, we feel that this situation is going to get worse before it gets better. With the “Power Five” now wielding the big sticks such as monetary allowances, four year scholarships guaranteed, and better health insurance for their players, what’s going to prevent them from making offers to not only the best players in the FCS, but also to the best players in what we now call the mid-majors, or the “Other Five.” Maybe a Power Five school takes notice of some freshman or sophomore player active at that level that they may have underestimated or found that they didn’t have enough scholarships to offer to him at that time. While matriculating at a non-Power Five school, a particular student-athlete performs sensationally at the next level. What’s going to prevent the big program from foregoing an unproven high school entity and instead enticing a proven college caliber player from that Other Five or FCS school to come play for them? Sit out one year and red shirt and get two or three more years eligibility unless the transfer rules change to prevent this. The rich will be robbing from the poor and the chasm between the powers and the others widens. The playing field and the recruiting wars are weighing heavily on the side of the Power Five to do what they can to attract the best talent. I don’t see major obstacles in play yet preventing this from happening. It’s going to be a minor league system without the official designations like AAA, or AA, or A leagues like baseball uses to build their teams at the major league level, but that’s what could develop here if rules and harsh penalties aren’t put into place. It’s going to be a scramble filled with corruption and becoming nothing but a minor league system for the blind-folded NFL. The rich among the Power Five will get richer and those among the “other Five” will lose their best players. And you watch, the SEC will still be scheduling mid-majors and FCS programs every season at home to hand out a big pay check for a lop-sided win, another topic for another time. However, these could also become recruiting “try-outs”. It’s going to potentially ruin college football making it nothing but a minor league for the pro game if the NCAA doesn’t wake up to see who is truly reaping the benefits of their athletic programs. It’s already happening, but it’s going to get worse unless the NCAA figures how to offset the advantages of the Power Five …Interesting to me that the Big Ten is considering making a policy change that occurred back in 1972 when freshman became eligible to play at the varsity level. Most programs had freshman teams back in those days which played a limited number of games. The thinking now as it was purportedly back then was to ease players fresh out of high school into college life for a year before overwhelming them with the academic rigors of college studies. Call me facetious, but things have changed since 1972. One issue is that back then, students were basically expected to graduate in four years. However, we now have redshirting used as a strategy for sitting out a year to as a team building strategy. This allows athletes to earn degrees in five years instead of four. So did they just offer these kids more scholarship money and a monthly stipend for five years instead of four?  Is every player going to now get a five year scholarship to sit out as a redshirt for one year to allow them to play four in total? Are they going to change the rule that a player has to be out of high school for three years before the NFL can draft him? The schools have to commit four or five years to the players, but do the players have to now reciprocate? We see the biggest impact leading to more television influence. Are we going to see the Michigan vs Ohio State freshman game on the Big Ten Network every year to get a glimpse of what that rivalry has in store for us fans in coming years? With commercials? Tuesday night football? Wednesday night football? Is this about more air time and more money? High school kids of today get more exposure on national TV than college teams of yesteryear ever got. Do we think that these freshman games will be played without any airtime? You’re kidding yourself if you think these games will not be played in front of television crews. People watch the NFL combine so I’m sure they’ll watch freshman games. This seems to be putting the pressure back on the players that they were supposedly taking off. At least there are plenty of sports journalism majors looking for opportunities to start new careers…. The American Athletic Conference announced its conference schedules for 2015. We planned to attend the Navy Homecoming announced for October 24th which officially tagged Tulane as the opponent now. No too excited about that matchup, but we have some time to weigh our options. We do look forward though to seeing Navy QB Keenan Reynolds continue to chase the record for rushing touchdowns in an NCAA career. He is currently the all-time leading NCAA QB in rushing TDs with 64. He is fourth in NCAA history in rushing TDs overall and will surpass all-time leader Montee Ball of Wisconsin if he tallies 14 during his upcoming senior season. That could be the weekend it happens…A game we are booked for really has us excited. On Friday, November 13, we will be at Colorado’s Folsom Field to see the Buffs host the USC Trojans. We’ll be talking to CU SID Dave Plati to get on the field with Ralphie again before the game. I will have to look into training at our local high school to see if I can actually “sprint” down the field without hurting or embarrassing myself. I would be “pumped” for the Buffs to pull the upset over the Trojans! The adrenalin will be pumping for sure. The first and only time I attended a CU game was against Colorado State at Invesco Field. I always wanted to get back out there to see a game at Folsom.  On top of that, since it’s a Friday night game, we’re anxiously awaiting the Mountain West Conference schedules to come out to see which nearby conference member may host a game the next day. We figure among Air Force, Colorado State, and Wyoming, all within a few hours driving distance from Boulder, one of those will host our 499th game. If we have multiple choices, I might take a poll from our regulars to help us choose. Can’t wait!…Here’s a tough scheduling choice for us, but probably not for a lot of you. We are anticipating a chance to finally get to a major rivalry we’ve always wanted to attend, USC at Notre Dame on October 17. You’ll laugh, but an alternative option that came up on that date may steer us in another direction – the Charlotte 49ers at the Old Dominion Monarchs in Norfolk! What the heck am I thinking, you wonder? Well if you’ve followed us along time, you know our mantra is to see ‘em all! Charlotte is now officially an FBS team. Seeing them will keep us up to date seeing all 128 FBS teams by the end of the 2015 season. After seeing ODU blown out by a very good Marshall team last season to add the Monarchs as one of four new teams last season, this should be a much more competitive game. However, even more important, our son Eric, US Navy Petty Officer 3/c, is probably stationed in Norfolk for only a while longer, so it’s our chance to spend a weekend and go to a game with him down there. USC vs. ND is always a tough ticket and they will be playing every year between South Bend and LA forever, so there will always be other chances for us in the future. We’ll be kicking this around for a while…Here’s a coaching change of interest to us as we enjoy following the Ivy League. The Columbia Lions have been the traditional doormat of the Ancient Eight since…well, ancient history. Their last winning season was in 1996 when they finished 8-2, 5-2. The Lions finished their last two seasons winless. What to do? Timing is everything. Former University of Pennsylvania Head Coach Al Bagnoli “retired “ as HC of the Quakers at the end of 2014 and was assigned to be “Director of Special Projects “ at Penn. Big corporations give those titles to people with one foot out the door. Bagnoli coached U. of Penn for 23 seasons. Over that time, his teams won nine outright Ivy League titles (last in 2012), finished four seasons at 10-0, achieved an all-time record of 148-80 overall, and went 112-49 among the Ivies. Prior to that, he led D-3 Union College of New York to an 86-19 record over ten years. Columbia knocked once and Bagnoli moves to New York City to take over the beleaguered Lions and only promises to bring them “back to relevancy”, whenever that was. The 62-year old Bagnoli looks at this as fresh start and “a challenge.” We see it as one of the best stories this off season. His work is cut out for him. We’re looking to see how a class act like Bagnoli who’s been successful for so many years at this level will be able to do with one of the biggest challenges in college football – turning the Columbia Lions into winners.

“Steveo’s Salvos!” February 11, 2015

We’re not big on the recruiting class rankings. Generally, the overall class cannot really be evaluated until their third season as a unit. Some will make immediate impacts, and others will never be heard from again. However, we have an interest this season to see how Penn State may improve its line play after a tough season for the O line this past season. They added some beef up front with some top northeastern talent. With a little insight from our friend Chris Schmouder of WVSL Radio 92.3 ESPN radio in Sunbury, PA, the top prospect looks to be Lackawanna JUCO transfer Paris Palmer who stands 6-7 290 lbs. A top five JUCO player recruited heavily by other Top 20 programs, he looks ready to step in to start for James Franklin and the Lions this fall. From Pittsburgh’s Baldwin HS in Pittsburgh comes 6-8 294 lb. OT sterling Jenkins. A work in progress, he could be a top player for two or three years, but the jury will be out to watch his development. Ryan Bates, graduating from Archbishop Wood in Warminster, PA, led his team to a 28-2 record during his prep years. At 6-5 275, he could be the center of the team’s future. He may end up red-shirting this year. NJ All-Stater Steven Gonzalez from Union City HS steps in at 6-4 320 lbs. He may go the red shirt route, but surely there are some evaluations to be made during the spring. Palmer and Jenkins are already enrolled in State College and we’ll hopefully get to see them in action on April 18 at the Penn State Blue-White game. In addition, former Stanford C Kevin Reihner, 6-4 295 lbs. and battle tested, will graduate from there in March and the Scranton, Pennsylvania native will have a year of eligibility to play for the Nittany Lions as a grad student. His experience will help determine what freshman linemen will benefit the team with a red shirt season for the long term. We’ll see if the Lions can redevelop their line to give them some renewed power and push during the upcoming season. We plan to see the Lions host Rutgers and San Diego State next September…Also in regards to recruiting, we were interested to see how new U. of Buffalo HC Lance Leipold would do on his first year recruiting at the FBS level after stepping up from D-3 Wisconsin-Whitewater where he won six national championships. He signed up 21 recruits including a couple of transfers from the University of Alabama-Birmingham that discontinued their football program after last season. Of interest to us is that there was not one UB recruit from the state of Wisconsin where most of Leipold’s former players came from. We’re interested to see what he can do to turn the Bulls, a Mid-American Conference team, around…Check out our new Stats and Highlights link in our header. It features the best teams seen, significant scores, and Heisman Trophy winners we’ve see over the years among other fun memories.  And there will be more features added in the near future.  We’ve built quite a history so far… We may call this our year of the rivalry. We’re targeting Army-Navy, Air Force-Navy, Notre Dame-USC, and Ohio State-Michigan. Our toughest call on our 2015 plan is figuring where to start. One option is to start where we basically left off in January – in Nashville which we love to visit! We have double-header potential: Bowling Green will play Tennessee, who we finished up with in the Taxslayer Bowl, at LP Stadium. Western Kentucky visits Vandy at Vanderbilt Stadium, a first for us if we go. We’re waiting to see if the starting times will allow us to do both or if one game may possibly move to Thursday night. Other options are under consideration, but Nashville could be calling us back!…Too bad we’re disciplining ourselves to be sure we reach game # 500 on November 21. We say that because Lafayette College, an hour drive from where we live, plays a great FCS home schedule that includes several 6 pm starts which could help us target some Saturday double header opportunities. Their home slate at Fisher Field includes CAA power William and Mary, Ivy rival Penn, 2014 Pat League champ Fordham, undefeated Ivy champ Harvard, Pat League runner-up Bucknell, and Colgate. The last one is on November 7. We will leave ourselves the option to see this Patriot League contest or the PL game eleven miles further west where Lehigh hosts Holy Cross. Hopefully one of these games will have a bearing on this year’s Patriot championship or FCS bid, and if not we’ll go see a more competitive game if something more interesting pops up locally that weekend…Interesting opener on Labor Day, 2015 – Ohio State at Virginia Tech, a big revenge match for the Buckeyes to open the season. What OSU QB will start, and how many of the three former, returning starting QBs will play? Maybe this game is another option to kick off our season if we can work out some kind of weekend DH… Speaking of VA Tech, we plan to see them in September 2016 when they play Tennessee at Bristol Motor Speedway in Kingsport, Tennessee to establish the attendance record at a college football game. The short oval, track venue holds 160,000 fans. We plan to be part of that record…Rutgers turned down former Paramus Catholic HS (NJ) HC Chris Partridge who applied for a coaching job there that included recruiting coordinator. Evidently Partridge was not too popular among many NJ high school coaches who played against him and recruited against him for top players in the state. So what happens next? New Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh, who got a late start in recruiting this season, hired him. I’m not sure if his plan is to focus on recruiting in New Jersey alone, but based on the rep he has among his former competitors, Harbaugh may not get what he bargained for. Last season, the Wolverines recruited Jabrill Peppers, the top recruit in the Garden state, and his fellow Paramus Catholic teammate, offensive lineman Juwann Bushell-Beatty. Both played for Partridge in high school. Peppers played DB in three games his freshman year. Funny how these things work out.

Super Memories

Every year, prior to the Super Bowl, we like to give recognition to the former college players we saw in action over the years by bringing back memories of those players among the thousands that we’ve seen, who have made it to the pinnacle of the football world. We recognize them with the hope that most of the others we saw play over the years, no matter what level they played at, have taken their football experience and their academic opportunities, and made the most of their experience by being great fathers, great professionals in whatever career they’ve pursued, great leaders in their work and in their communities, and great contributors to our country and to humanity in general. To the ones that have not made the most of the opportunities they’ve been given, we’re sorry for you and for many others that you didn’t do the most with the great start you were given. You blew it! Shame on you.

Many players we’ve seen over the years dot the rosters of the Patriots and the Seahawks. Some standout, some we have records of, some were linemen who didn’t get the notoriety, some may have been underclassmen sitting on the bench at the time, and some just didn’t stand out the times we saw them play. We give recognition to those who remain in our fading memories, who were recognized in the press clippings we kept from many games we attended, or from the Reviews of each game we recorded in CFF.com that we maintain in our files. Congratulations to the Patriots and to the Seahawks. We hope for a great game, but in the end, we hope Pete Carroll, who found refuge in the NFL after violating the rules and integrity of college football, gets beat! Like we’d say when my son, Eric, played for Lenape Valley (NJ) Regional High School – Go Patriots!

New England Patriots:

WR Danny Amendola, Texas Tech – Caught 14 passes for 233 yards and a TD in TT’s 49-45 loss to Oklahoma State on September 27, 2007 when Cowboy HC Mike Gundy told the world after the game that “He was a man” and we recorded OSU as our 117th team to reach our Goal to see all 119 teams at that time. The story is in our book, Tales from the Tailgate.

LB Jon Casillas, Wisconsin – A native of New Brunswick, NJ (The Birthplace of College Football), we saw him play LB in his senior season in 2008 when his Badgers lost to a tough Big Ten foe, Michigan State, 25-24, at our first trip to East Lansing, Michigan.

DB Devin McCourty ’09, TE Tim Wright ’12, Logan Ryan ’12, Duron Herman ‘ 12, Rutgers – McCourty and his twin brother , Jason , who was drafted by the Titans, always played tough, tight defense for the Scarlet Knights. Devin earned all-Big East Honors his senior season at RU. Patriot HC Bill Belichick developed a preference for Rutgers players recruited  by Greg Schiano and drafted three in 2013. In our annals of game history, it was Tim Wright who provides us with the most memorable play among these Patriots formerly on The Banks of the Old Raritan. In 2011 against Navy, Wright made a diving TD catch in the back of the end zone in the fourth quarter to give the Knights a 21-17 lead over visiting Navy. RU went on to win the game, 21-20. It just goes to show what an outstanding job of recruiting football talent to a laughing stock of college football HC Greg Schiano did for the Scarlet Knights’ program. While these three played there from 2009-2012, we saw the Knights lose to UNC in a close one, beat Navy by one, and lose to Louisville for the Big East title, 20-17, against QB Teddy Bridgewater.

DL Vince Wilfork, Miami (F) – In 2003, we attended the last Big East game in Miami history when they visited the Pitt Panthers at Heinz Field. The U won, 28-14. Wilfork, a sophomore, had at least one on the nine Hurricane sacks that night to keep the Panthers’ offense in check. The Canes finished 11-2 and defeated FSU in the Orange Bowl, 16-14, before joining them in the ACC a year later.

QB Tom Brady, Michigan – He was the one that got away. My four-year old son Eric and I drove up the night before the big game in mid-November 1999 when Michigan (7-2,5-2) would be visiting State College to meet Penn State (9-1,5-1) a week after their one-point loss to Minnesota. However, Eric was sick to his stomach all night long in our hotel and neither of us slept. I sold our tickets in the lobby the next morning, drove him back home, and never looked back. Years later when I wondered if I’d ever seen Brady play for Michigan, I realized we had our chance, but Eric blew it – all night long. Too bad.

TE Ron Gronkowski , Arizona – We didn’t see him play, but back in 1979 when we started this crazy and unique ordeal, his old man Gordon, a sophomore guard in’79,  played for the Syracuse team we watched twice in the Meadowlands against WVU and Penn State. Two Orangemen assistants on HC Dick McPherson’s staff then were Tom Coughlin and Nick Saban.  Future Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Monk and future NY Giant RB Joe Morris starred for the Orangemen.

Players from small colleges of note: we like to give credit to players from schools that rarely send players off after graduation to play on NFL rosters.

FB James Develin, Brown – he played on the defensive line there.

CB Butler Malcolm, West Alabama – rookie from a D-2 program

DL Zach Moore, Concordia (MN) – 6-6, 275 lb. rookie from a D-2 program

Seattle Seahawks:

DE Michael Bennett, Texas A&M – Bennett played for A&M when we saw the Aggies fall to Penn State in the Valero Alamo Bowl in 2007, 24-17.

DB Marcus Burley, Delaware – Burley was a DB for the Blue Hens who we saw clobber URI in 2012 and who we saw defeat Lehigh and Georgia Southern in the 2010 FCS playoffs on their way to the FCS title game where they fell to Eastern Washington, 20-19.

QB B.J. Daniels, South Florida – We saw B.J. come in as a freshman against RU in 2009, and RU shut him down, 31-0, as we reported” the Bulls played more like an FBS newcomer coming into town to collect a big paycheck.” I reported that another fan called them “inept.” They weren’t as inept when I saw him later play at Syracuse. As a junior in 2011, he racked up 371 yards of total offense against a very bad Syracuse defense to win easily, 37-17. Both squads finished that day tied in the Big East at 1-4. SU DE Chandler Jones played but with little notoriety. Now he’s a starter on then NE Patriot defense. Daniels is a back-up for Russell Wilson.

OT Gary Gilliam, Penn State – We saw the PSU front line he was part of in 2013 protect Frosh QB Christian Hackenberg much better than 2014’s crew. The Lions beat Syracuse, Michigan, and Illinois when Gilliam played OL there in 2013. We especially want to mention that he caught a touchdown pass in the NFC championship against the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago on a tackle eligible call.

LB Bruce Irvin, West Virginia – In collegiate play, Irvin played on a defense that pulled off one of the most memorable plays we witnessed from a defensive perspective. In the 2011 Discover Card Orange Bowl, trailing 21-17 in the second quarter, Clemson looked to take a lead over WVU at the one-yard line. TB Andre Ellington took the hand off to attempt a plunge for the TD, but OLB Darwin Cook came off the end, stripped the ball, and raced 99 yards for a Mountaineer touchdown to extend his team’s lead, 28-17. It was all Mountaineers from there as QB Geno Smith led the WVU offense on three straight scoring drives before the half, and the Mountaineers totaled the most points in Orange Bowl history with a 70-33 rout.

QB Russell Wilson, NC State – In 2009, Wilson entered his sophomore season recognized as the best QB in the ACC. In the opener at home in Raleigh against South Carolina, his reputation took a step back. The Gamecocks outgained the Wolf pack, 256 yards to 133. Wilson completed 13 passes for 39 yards. He was sacked six times. Some questionable calls by officials and a dropped TD pass late in the game, set the Wolf pack down that day, 7-3. The result was one of the four lowest scores we ever witnessed. Of course, Wilson has definitely turned things around since that unlikely performance.

Players from small colleges of note: we like to give credit to players from schools that rarely send players off after graduation to play on NFL rosters.

QB Tarvarus Jackson, Alabama State – 9-year vet formerly with the Minnesota Vikings

WR Ricardo Lockette, Ft. Valley State – 4-year special team vet in his second stint with Seattle; D-2 200 meter dash champ

P Jon Ryan, Regina U – 9-year vet from school in Saskatchewan, Canada where he also played WR

WR Bryan Walters, Cornell – a free agent who was signed, cut, and re-signed by Seattle this season.

 

“Steve-o’s Salvos!” January 24, 2015

On our last blog, we congratulated Ohio State on winning the first College Football Payoff in history, but we’d be remiss in not recognizing the other three NCAA national football champions of 2014. We watched North Dakota State and Illinois State take it down to the wire on a nationally televised game for the FCS championship in Frisco, Texas on January 10. It was a thrilling win for the NDSU Bison who won their fourth consecutive title, its first under new HC Chris Klieman. With 37 seconds left, they overcame Illinois State who they once trailed by nine-points, to win on a five-yard TD run by QB Carson Wentz to finish the season No. 1 at 15-1. The Redbirds, also from the Missouri Valley Conference as are the Bison, defeated New Hampshire in Durham, NH in the semis to get there. Their QB Tre Roberson threw three TD passes and scored on a 58-yard TD run before Wentz led the Bison back to win. We had seen Roberson play in 2012 for Indiana in a win over UMass as we added the Minutemen to the FBS in a game played at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. Roberson ran for long TDs in that game also, but was later carted off the field suffering a leg injury that ended his season and his career at IU. It’s great to see that he’s made a successful recovery from that devastating injury. We attended the UNH second round win over Fordham. We enjoyed having the opportunity to attend an FCS playoff game this season. They’re as spirited as are the big schools, but of course in front of smaller crowds. However, these teams play as hard to win as do the larger football schools …

New Hampshire Wildcats sack Fordham QB Mike Nebrich in FCS playoff action.

New Hampshire Wildcats sack Fordham QB Mike Nebrich in FCS playoff action.

The Colorado State – Puebla Thunderwolves (14-1) defeated top-seeded Minnesota Mankato State Mavericks, 13-0, in the Division 2 national championship. The CSU-Puebla team has only been in existence for nine years. Of all the divisions, D-2 is the one we see the least as there are few D-2 schools in close proximity to us. Usually when we see this level, it’s at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania or at one of it Pennsylvania Athletic Conference foes. I do have a connection to this year’s championship game though! My freshman football HC at Boonton (NJ) HS, Ray Nazarro, played collegiately for Mankato State… Wisconsin Whitewater won its sixth D-3 Title, fifth in the last six years, in a 45-34 win over championship archrival Mt. Union. It was the ninth time in ten years the two had played one another in Salem, Virginia in the D-3 finals. The MU Purple Raiders won three of the first four meetings, but it’s the Warhawks who took the last five in this long-standing championship rivalry. We’ll see what the future holds for UW-W as Warhawks HC Larry Leipold left the program after The Stagg Bowl to take over as new HC at FBS Buffalo. We’ll see how the Hawks adapt under a new HC still to be named, and we are equally anxious to see what success Leipold can bring to the Bulls in the Mid-American Conference at the next level. It was another outstanding season for the Warhawks who finished 15-0!…Congratulations to Navy HC Ken Niumatalolo who was named ECAC Division I FBS Coach of the Year. His team finished 8-5 with wins over archrival Army, 17-10, and over San Diego State, 17-16, in the Poinsettia Bowl, the sixth bowl game the Mids have played in during Niumatalolo’s seven years as Head Coach. He is now the winningest HC in Navy football with a record of 57-35, and more importantly is, he is the first Navy HC to start his career 7-0 versus Army. His team held their own this season in their opening loss to eventual FBS champ Ohio State in Baltimore we attended, losing, 33-17. Next year Navy will enter uncharted waters as it joins a conference for the first time ever when it joins the Western Division of the 12-team American Athletic Conference. Going west was USNA’s choice as Texas is a hot bed of recruiting for the Mids. Navy will play at least one game each year in the Lone Star State against AAC foes Houston or SMU…

Navy's triple-option challenged Ohio State in the 2015 opener for both schools, but Ohio State's offense led by QB J.T. Barrett picked up late in the game to get the Buckeyes a 33-17 win.

Navy’s triple-option challenged Ohio State in the 2015 opener for both schools, but Ohio State’s offense led by QB J.T. Barrett picked up late in the game to get the Buckeyes a 33-17 win.

We are ecstatic that PSU was awarded back its 409 wins. The punishment to the program did not seem to fit the crime. There were criminal acts and possibly a cover up pertaining to a few individuals that did not impact the play on the team on the field of play. The football program didn’t deserve the punishment handed out, but the individuals who may have been involved will get their due process in a court of law where this should have begun in the first place…The new Power Five passed its first legislation to “prevent schools from removing scholarships based on athletic performance”. Fifteen voting athletes who are on the committee voted against the majority and we agree with them. Sometimes there are teammates who may get the scholarship but may not work hard enough or contribute to the team once they make it to this level. It’s probably a very subjective call, but we think this needs to be looked at more closely to determine a process to justify such a decision either way. Sometimes it’s fairly evident, but at other times coaching staffs can manipulate the system to make room for the next class of athletes they are recruiting. It’s a tough call to make when some opinions are legitimate and some are influenced…We’re starting to piece together next year’s schedule and trying to retain our flexibility to add the Charlotte 49ers as our newest and latest FBS member when they join ConferenceUSA next season. Our goal has been to get to see all 129 teams, but with the University of Alabama-Birmingham, UAB, abandoning football after this past season, I guess our target is now back to 128. Gotta get new hats again. “128” this time. The “129”s are now collectors’ items. In addition to UAB, D-3 schools Bridgeport University, Upsala College, Jersey City State, and D-1AA Boston University are schools we’ve seen play over the years that have dissolved their football programs since…Spring games we will attend to support our habit in the offseason will be at Penn State on Saturday, April 18, and at Rutgers on Friday night, April 24. Get this one though: Princeton’s spring game is on March 21. We won’t be going though. It’s at Kincho Stadium in Osaka, Japan! The Tigers spring game will be played against the Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters, Japanese Collegiate Nationals Champs of 2014 ( I didn’t know Japanese Universities played football. New goal?). The Tigers and Fighters played once before in 2001 as the Tigers defeated them in a spring game, 27-25…Waiting to see when Army announces their spring game this year to see how effective their triple option will be running under second year HC Jeff Moncken whom they won four games under in 2014…

A sign of spring - Penn State's Blue-White game.

A sign of spring – Penn State’s Blue-White game.

We see FCS Lafayette College is bolstering their non-conference schedule a little bit this year. In addition to playing William and Mary at home this season after playing the Tribe in Williamsburg last season, they will be traveling to play Delaware, another CAA foe, the week after…I thought with my daughter graduating from South Carolina this spring, we wouldn’t see the Gamecocks play next season. However, I have their opener in Charlotte against the UNC Tar Heels penciled in as a potential opener again on Thursday night, September 3. Of course, it will depend on the convenience of attending another game within driving distance on Labor Day weekend…My scheduling for next season has to be done carefully as the 15th game of the season will be our 500th since our start back in 1979! I want it to be something special, affordable for a lot of friends I’ve made over these years, and a game convenient for as many as possible to attend. I’m piecing things together with an idea or two and have to do it on the 15th game next season. Cousin Frank Scarpa will be monitoring me to see that I don’t cheat by going to games and not reporting them!   That will definitely be a challenge. Look for an announcement in February or March…Navy Long Snapper Joe Cardona was not only been invited to play in this year’s Senior Bowl, but he’s also been invited to attend the NFL combine in February. He’s been scouted as one of the best long snappers in college football. How is it possible to balance a Navy career with Sundays in pro football? Regarding the Senior Bowl won by his North team, 34-14, he was snapping for conversions made by PK Tom Obarski of D-2 Concordia University in St. Paul Minnesota. Listen to these credentials of the D-2 All-American: 27 for 27 PATs in 2014; 44 career FGs including conversions from 59 (longest in D2), 56, 56, 52, and 51 yards; 22 touchbacks on 53 kickoffs; 250 points; 230 punts; 38.0 yard punting average, 18 inside the 20, six over 50 yards, and only five touchbacks. Look for him somewhere next fall on Sundays. He missed one in the Senior Bowl but connected for a 49-yard FG at Ladd-Peebles Stadium…Looking at Big Ten slates in 2016 has us excited. They all add a ninth conference game and most play a team from the PAC 12. Not as many slouches as in the past. With some new coaching blood like Jim Harbaugh, James Frankin, and Paul Chryst in addition to Urban Meyer, Jerry Kill,  and Marc D’Antoni among others, the conference should get even more competitive…Were glad to see that Wisconsin will be playing LSU at a neutral field to kick off the 2016 field like it did last year in Arlington, Texas, and it’ll be at Lambeau Field in Green Bay! That’s a must-see on our part!…Some teams looming for this year’s CFF slate: Washington State for our second time, up and coming Duke, USC (the west coast version), San Diego State hopefully accompanied by the greatest Aztec Fan of all time, Tom Ables, Colorado (hope to catch up with Ralphie again), and Air Force, not just once, but possibly twice. As you can see, we will add a little more Rocky Mountain and West Coast flavor than we’ve had in recent years. Look for our updates weekly…Next week – the Super Bowl participants we watched before they were pros.

Pillars of College Football - the monument to the "Seven Blocks of Granite" on the Fordham University campus visited by CFF.com for the first time in 2015.

Pillars of College Football – the monument to the “Seven Blocks of Granite” on the Fordham University campus visited by CFF.com for the first time in 2015.

Congratulations to No. 1 Ohio State, first-ever CFP Champs!

" Le Regiment"

” Le Regiment”

Congratulations to the Ohio State Buckeyes (14-1)  for their 42-20 victory over the now No. 2 Oregon Ducks (13-2) in the first ever College Football Playoff Championship.  The OSU defensive line did an outstanding job shutting down the Duck attack led by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.  Kudos to Urban Meyer and his coaching staff to effectively rotate defensive linemen in and out to avoid getting winded early as did Florida State in the Rose Bowl semi-final loss to Oregon.  QB Cardale Jones showed he can be as cool as a cucumber under pressure.  We’re anxious to see what he’ll be like when he gets even more experience down the road.  Ezekial Elliot was outstanding at running back in the semi-final and the final.  The offensive line was outstanding blocking up front. Overall it was great team effort by the Buckeyes that won the game despite four turnovers.  How many teams could have gone all the way as they did with their third-string QB starting in the last three games of the season?   It was the end to an exciting and successful season under the new playoff format. The Buckeyes look to be a force to be reckoned with again next season with so many young key players returning.

Wildcat RB Nico Steriti scored another TD in last week's Wildcat win over UT Chattanooga.

New Hampshire Wildcat RB Nico Steriti had a great game against Fordham in the FCS playoffs.

It was a fantastic season for Collegefootballfan.com as well.  We attended a record 26 college football games in one season in 2014-2015.  We attended five bowl games (two exciting finishes, a big upset, a very competitive game, and one clunker – four out of five isn’t bad).  We attended an FCS quarterfinal game. The New Hampshire Wildcats (12-2) finished third in the nation at the FCS level.  We attended our 10th Army-Navy game. We attended the longest ongoing rivalry in college football when we saw Lafayette play Lehigh for the 150th time when they met at Yankee Stadium to celebrate their special, historic game. I got to watch my Alma Mater , Juniata College, play a home game for the first time in 35 years back in Huntingdon, PA as HC Tim Launtz is turning that program back to what it once was.  The night before, I saw Fordham defeat Bucknell at Christy Mathewson Stadium for my first time to decide the Patriot League Championship. With good friends Charlie and Lynda Murren, we attended a great game with them at their alma mater, Auburn, where the Tigers defeated my daughter’s school, South Carolina, 35-28.  It was bitter sweet as our daughter, Alex, will graduate from South Carolina this spring, and her beloved Gamecocks let her senior class down finishing 7-6.  We attended three SC games this season, and they lost all three!

 

The Syracuse Dance Team performed brilliantly during the game for the Homecoming crowd.

The Syracuse Dance Team performed brilliantly during the game for the Homecoming crowd against then No. 1 Florida State.

We watched a total of 40 different NCAA football teams – 25 FBS schools, nine FCS, and six D-3 schools.  We added the four newest teams to join the FBS – Old Dominion, Appalachian State, Georgia State, and Georgia Southern. We’ve seen every FBS team play at least once including the University of Alabama -Birmingham whose program folded this season (one downer). Though Georgia Southern got romped over by Navy, they finished a very respectable 9-3, best among the new FBS schools, and won the Sunbelt Conference.  However, due to some asinine rule, they did not go to a bowl game giving way to several teams they manhandled.  We attended games at seven new venues for us – five campus sites and two new bowl games.  We saw defending champ Florida State defeat Syracuse with the 2013 Heisman winner Jameis Winston at QB.  Good luck to him in his future if he doesn’t get his act together off the field. We watched Rutgers fall 13-10 in their Big Ten debut to Penn State. One of our former Little League Baseball players, LB Nick Rafferty, made the travel squad every game and lettered at RU as a red-shirt freshman this year. It was a thrill to see him on the team.  PSU was eventually released from sanctions imposed by the Jerry Sandusky crimes as it struggled to a 6-6 finish. Hope is on the horizon, however, as the Lions played their best game of the season in an overtime win over Boston College in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.  We look forward to the spring game and next season to be back out in State College drinking Evan Williams Honey Bourbon with John and Kelle Massimilla along with their friends and family.  And in our first weekend of the season, we saw South Carolina blown away by Texas A&M because it played the worst defense we could ever remember seeing played at any level of college football.  We knew the Gamecocks were headed for trouble.  But two days later in Baltimore, we watched Navy give Ohio State, led by freshman QB J.T. Barrett, a pretty good game in  a 33-17 Buckeye victory.  Of course little did we know, it was OSU’s first step on the way to the 2014 National Championship.  They became the 11th team in 35 years of us doing this that we would watch play in their Division 1 (now FBS) championship season.

OSU defense in early season action against the Naval Academy.

OSU defense in early season action against the Naval Academy.

Yes, it was a fantastic college football season for Collegefootballfan.com.  In the end, we saw eight of the final Top 25 teams in the AP poll play this season:

1. Ohio State (14-1)

5. Florida State (13-1)

6. Michigan state (11-2)

8. Georgia Tech  (11-3)

11. Mississippi State (10-3)

14. Missouri  (11-3)

22. Auburn (8-5)

24. Marshall (13-1)

We liked the speed, power, and toughness displayed by Marshall FB  Devon Johnson (47) when we saw him play against ODU. He finishes 6th in rushing with 1,636 yards and 17 TDs this season.

We liked the speed, power, and toughness displayed by Marshall FB Devon Johnson (47) when we saw him play against ODU. He finishes 6th in rushing with 1,636 yards and 17 TDs this season.

 

Please check us out regularly as we will continue to report on the comings and goings of this season and next.  We will also be adding pages of history and other fun facts on some new pages to be published. Hopefully we can improve our site even more for your viewing and reading pleasure.   We especially  look forward to sharing our ideas for the upcoming season where plans are already underway to do something special for our 500th game to be attended in 2015.  Party!

Also special thanks to Pete Spadora and his crew on WNER 1130 AM in Watertown, NY (and broadcasted in other markets as well).  Pete hosted us on his show “Spadora on Sports” just about every other Saturday and let us talk about everything on our college football platter.  He’s a great supporter and a great friend.  He and his guys make this entire experience even more fun!

CFF.com predicts the first College Football Playoff Championship

CFF.com Headquarters in New Jersey (January 10, 2015) – After a record 26 games attended in 2014-15 including five bowl games and an FCS playoff this season, we feel obligated to let our loyal readers know what we predict for this years’ first championship game to be determined in the first ever College Football Playoff.  We’re going to say two things before we get started: 1. ) We didn’t expect either of these teams to win in the first found, but we were rooting for both of them.  Secondly, we still advocate an eight -team playoff for the future that will include the five major conference champions, the best of the other five FBS college football conference champs, and two at large berths.  We suggest that the opening round be played at the home field of the top four seeds to be played in mid-December.  Just remember that you heard that suggested here first!

We think that Ohio State’s defensive front will offer a better challenge than Florida State’s did and that they will not be as winded as early in the game.  We believe that DT Michael Bennett and DE Joey Bosa will add more pressure along with the rest of the front seven and not allow Marcus Mariota to control the ball as long as FSU did. He will also be without the services of WR Devon Allen who was injured on the opening kickoff last week nor WR Darren Carrington who had seven receptions for 165 yards and two TDS.  He’s been suspended for marijuana use.  Will Mariota’s lesser used wide-outs be as effective?   We were not impressed by third-string OSU QB Cardale Jones last week until late in the game.  With a one week lay off we expect him to play better than he did after the 59-0 defeat of Wisconsin. We were impressed by the offense around him including his offensive line and RB Ezekial Elliot (20 carries for 230 yards and two TDs).  A common opponent between the two earlier in the season was Michigan State.  The Spartans played Oregon in Eugene well late into the third period until the Ducks took over late to win, 46-27.  The Buckeyes went to East Lansing later in the season and defeated the Spartans, 49-37. Revitalized OSU HC Urban Meyer has won national championships at Florida in the past.  Both teams have depth.   This will be a classic game.  We predict the Buckeyes to win, 35-28.  We’ll also lean a little this way hoping to be able to say that we’ve seen another FBS champion play during their championship season as we saw them defeat Navy in their opener this season, 34-17.  It would be our 11th in our 35th season.

Buckeye defense led by Joey Bosa  (97) stooped Navy at the goal line in the season opener for both teams.

Buckeye defense led by Joey Bosa (97) stopped Navy at the goal line in the season opener for both teams.

Spadora on Sports , Live! 10:20 am EST Saturday

spadora2011

 

Click here to hear us live with Pete Spadora on “Spadora on Sports”  on WNER 1130 at 10:20 am EST Saturday morning. Go to his web site and click on “Tune in now”. Season summary and College Football Playoff championship interview.

Tennessee “slays” inept Iowa

 

 

Maybe if the Hawkeyes were coached to run without holing hands, they could run faster!

Maybe if the Hawkeyes were coached to run without holding hands, they could run faster!

Jacksonville, Florida (January 2, 2015) – The Tennessee Volunteers (7-6) came to the TaxSlayer Bowl (formerly “Gator”) at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville jacked-up to play. The slow-footed, Iowa Hawkeyes (7-6) were out-muscled, out-hustled, and out -coached to a 45-28 Tennessee Vol victory. They played like jack____! And don’t let this final score fool you! Tennessee had a 28-0 lead early in the second quarter after their fourth possession of the game. Eventually the Vols had a 42-7 lead before they emptied their benches to get everybody a chance to play in Tennessee’s first bowl win since 2007. We can’t even say that the Vols drew first blood as Hawkeye DB Desmond King ran into his HC Kirk Ferentz along the sideline and put a bloody gash over his right eye. For Collegefootballfan.com it was disappointing finale – a clunker of a game – to finish our season in which we attended the most games ever, 26, including four bowl games right before this one which were generally well-played and competitive. By the end of the third, we’d see enough. The Hawkeyes didn’t show up despite their final three touchdowns to give the score some undeserved respectability. We had waited too long to see them make us think they were interested in playing a football game as it was. What a letdown for me and the Iowa fans who were far outnumbered by people clad in bright orange get-ups.

Jalen Hurd knifes through the Iowa defense for a first period touchdown.

Jalen Hurd (1) knifes through the Iowa defense for a first period touchdown.

Jalen Hurd (16 carries for 122 yards, 2 TDs) finished the first Vol drive with a three-yard touchdown run. He finished the second with a 29-yard TD scamper. Next time UT had the ball, RB Marlin Lane threw 49-yard option pass to Vic Wharton for a 21-0 lead to end the first period.

To start the second, Vol QB and eventual game MVP Joshua Hobbs got into the act with an eight-yard run. He finished the day with16 of 21 passing for 129 yards and one TD to go along with 76 rushing yards and two TDs. Then low and without a hold, FB Mack Weisman tripped into the end zone by the nose of the football to put the Hawkeyes on the board. Dobbs threw a TD pass to Von Pearson for a 35-7 lead at intermission.

QB Joshua Dobbs dashes between blockers for a big gain.

QB Joshua Dobbs dashes between blockers for a big gain.

At halftime, I started to plan my move out to beat the traffic, but I held out as long as I could. I had no other plans then to have dinner, watch another game on TV, write down some notes about my four bowl game stories, and pack up for my trip back to NJ the next day. Of course, I really looked forward to spending the day in Nashville again on my way back and meeting up with HS classmate Paul Kleim and his wife Carolyn. Now Tennessee farmers, this Jersey boy was looking forward to meeting up with them to show them around Nashville before catching an evening flight back home. I could use a few Bloody Marys, some Apple Piehole, and beers along with some good old country and western (and we enjoyed them all. And more!).

Ahhhh!...Halftime!

Ahhhh! What a relief…Halftime!

Dobbs scored on an 11-yard run in the third for a 42-7 lead.   The third period ended. I knew who was taking home the trophy in the first quarter. My season was ending on a whimper and not a bang. I was out of there. Tennessee won, 45-28. I heard all about it at the local Applebee’s that night. I had beaten the crowd in, but 20 minutes later, the bartender Bud and I and the waitresses were about the only ones not wearing Orange! There were a few humbled Hawkeye fans, too.

Congrats to Tennessee. But can your band please learn to play something other than “Rocky Top!”

This is what it looked like at Applebee's after the game.

This is what it looked like at Applebee’s after the game.

I have to start planning now for September 3, 2015. What teams will be kicking off the season that Thursday night? Can I combine a trip to see a game on Friday and Saturday and maybe Monday, Labor Day? When will all the schedules be out? Next year is game #500 for me. Who? What? Where? When? Tickets? Got to plan a big tailgate for that one. So let the real fun begin – again!

Look for more stuff on the upcoming CFP game and beyond. We don’t stop talking college football because the games are done. Click here to hear us on Saturday morning with Pete Spadora on “Spadora on Sports!” on WNER in Watertown, NY.  Time to be announced in a day or so.

The US Marine Corps Ceremonial band from Paris Island, SC performed before the game. They could have put up a better fight than the Hawkeyes had they played in the game instead.

The US Marine Corps Ceremonial band from Paris Island, SC performed before the game. They could have put up a better fight than the Hawkeyes had they played in the game instead.

No. 16 Tigers devour No. 25 Gophers with solid defense and late surge

 

Minnesota's David Cobb (27) gained 1,595 yards during the season and scored 13 TDS.  Mizzou held him to 81 yards and no scores at the BWW Citrus Bowl.

Minnesota’s David Cobb (27) gained 1,595 yards during the season and scored 13 TDS. Mizzou held him to 81 yards and no scores at the BWW Citrus Bowl.

Orlando, Florida (January 1, 2015) – Missouri (11-3) led Minnesota (8-5), 19-17, heading into the final period of play. The Tiger defense had held Gopher RB David Cobb well under his 128.8 ypg rushing average (21 carries for 81 yards) to stay in front in a close, low scoring game. In the final period, it was the Mizzou running game that sealed the victory in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.  Russell Hansbrough (15 carries for 114 yards) broke through the middle of the Minnesota defense for a 78-yard touchdown run and Marcus Murphy’s 69-yard run (12 carries for 157 yards) on their next possession set up a seven-yard TD pass from Marty Mauk to WR Bud Sasser that finished off the Gophers for their 33-17 win. In the end it was defensive end Markus Golden who won game MVP honors with ten tackles including 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and four tackles for losses.   For CFF.com, we had a later start than anticipated as our 5:30 am wakeup call in Miami did not come through.  We started our drive to Orlando an hour and a half later than expected, but we made it on time and it was well worth the trip as we’d received press credentials to cover the game from press row, a great experience put on by a very hospitable bowl committee. As you can imagine, they provided all the Buffalo Wild Wings we could eat!

Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel, MVP DE Markus Golden, and WR Bud Sasser (2 TDs) spoke at the post-game press conference.

Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel, MVP DE Markus Golden, and WR Bud Sasser (2 TDs) spoke at the post-game press conference.

Following a Minnesota interception of a Marty Mauk pass on the first possession of the game, a fumble caused on a sack by Golden and fellow DE and All-American Shane Ray only resulted in a second pass interception by Minnesota. CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun’s pick in the end zone started the Golden Gophers from their 20. They took it the length of the field with Rodrick Williams posting the first score of the game with a 20-yard run.

In the second period, the Tigers finally got on the scoreboard with Andrew Baggett’s 21-yard FG. After taking over on the next punt from their 33, the Tigers drove down the field culminating with a second score as Maty Mauk (12 for 19 for 97 yards, 2 INTs, 2 TDs) tossed a 25-yard TD pass to WR Bud Sasser with 1:04 left in the half. With time-outs still in his back pocket, Minnesota HC Jerry Kill displayed no sense of urgency to get into scoring position again before the half. A few short passes took them only 11 yards as time expired. That’s the way the half ended, 10-7. I snapped a few pictures from my front seat in press row, and it was time to go back to the buffet to get some more wings. The two teams seemed to be sparring with one another during the first half still feeling each other out. Missouri HC of 14 years, Gary Pinkel, went back to the locker room and planned to come out swinging.

The Tigers' Marcus Murphy tallied 157 rushing yards on the day including 69-yard jaunt that set up the final score of the game.

The Tigers’ Marcus Murphy (6) tallied 157 rushing yards on the day including 69-yard jaunt that set up the final score of the game.

Mizzou’s PK Andrew Baggett launched a perfectly placed floater on the kickoff near the right sideline where Ian Simon recovered it at the Minnesota 47 against the unsuspecting Gophers. The eventual result was a 33-yard FG by Baggett for a 13-7 Missouri lead. Minnesota didn’t take that lying down. It seemed to light a spark back in the offense. From their 46, QB Mitch Leidner (21 of 31, 258 yards, 1 TD) connected with TE Maxx Williams along the left sideline. He charged up field, hurdled one would-be tackler and dove past another into the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown to give the Gophers a 14-13 lead. Could this be the spark the Golden Gophers needed? The defense forced the Tigers to punt after a three and out, but a fumble of the punt by Marcus Jones put the Tigers back in business at the Minnesota 34.   A roughing the passer call moved the ball another 15 yards before Mauk scrambled and took it through the middle of the Minnesota defense for an 18-yard scoring run putting DB Derrick Wells flat on his back in the end zone. He had to be helped off the field. The two-point conversion was intercepted by Boddy-Calhoun who was stopped up field. Jalen Myrick returned the kickoff 57 yards to Missouri’s 43. The big return resulted in a Ryan Santoso FG from 33 yards away. The Tigers took the 19-17 lead into the final period before they broke off the big runs to extend their lead and then seal the victory, 33-17. It was a competitive game for the most part, but the Tigers found the holes to get past the tiring Gopher line to put them away for a fruitful victory in the Citrus bowl.

Sasser (21) beats his defender to the corner for a seven-yard TD pass to make the score, 33-17.

Sasser (21) beats his defender to the corner for a seven-yard TD pass to make the score, 33-17.

Extra points: We can’t thank the Florida Citrus Sports Communications group enough for all their hospitality, support, and ongoing communications before and during our visit to Orlando for the game. It was first class all the way. With our tight schedule attending four games in four days, they did a great job keeping us informed of what was going on and how to get credentials and where to be, etc.  Our favorite piece of pre-game information: Minnesota bested Missouri at the luncheon on New Year’s Eve held at a local Orlando Buffalo Wild Wings. The Gophers prevailed 2,760 wings devoured to 2,070 by the Tigers. Watch out for gophers hanging near the hen house!

The victors pose with new hardware for their trophy case and the Buffalo Wild wings mascot.

The victors pose with new hardware for their trophy case and the Buffalo Wild Wings’ mascot.

“SEC! SEC! SEC!” was the post-game chant by the victorious Tiger fans. At first as I stood on the field near the podium, I couldn’t figure out why they thought it made any sense to celebrate being in the SEC. I didn’t understand where they were coming from. The Tigers kind of deserved a chant to celebrate their own success. To heck with the rest of the conference. They’ve had the same coach for 14 years now, they’ve won 23 games in two years for the first time ever, they won the SEC East two years in a row, they have been quite successful bringing in recruits they initially recruited to play Big 12 football…THEN it hit me! Had they stayed in the Big Twelve as they’d played in for years, they probably couldn’t have been as successful. A&M hasn’t done badly since their transition from there either. Maybe more teams should join the SEC to turn their programs around. There must be something to this: two titles in three years. It didn’t take them long to enjoy the spoils of this move.

Missouri's Golden Girls do a victory dance after the final score.

Missouri’s Golden Girls do a victory dance after the final score.