Rutgers outlasts Army at Collegefootballfan.com’s 500th game, 31-21
West Point, NY – Rutgers (4-7) jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead, but Army fought back to close it to 24-14 by halftime, and the Scarlet Knights held off the Black Knights along the Banks of the Hudson during the second half to win it, 31-21. Along the banks of historic West Point, Collegefootball.com and about 120 guests celebrated the 500th NCAA college football game we’ve attended since we started keeping count of all the games starting back in September of 1979. It was a gala celebration on a “too beautiful to be asked for” November Saturday.. The game was played between two teams that have struggled all season, but our crowd among the 30,113 enjoyed the festivities and gathering of friends in the magnificent setting.
Surprisingly, Army (2-9) on a fourth and one at RU’s 25 attempted a field goal on its first series and Rutgers recovered at the 40. I say surprising because Army’s triple option brethren, namely Navy and Air Force, would have considered this as fourth down territory and gone for the first down to play for a touchdown. Rutgers drove 60 yards after the block and Paul James ran it in from seven yards for the Scarlet Knight lead. Two series later, James (18 carries, 116 yards, 3 TDs) went in from the one. Army needed an answer to avoid what looked could be a blow out. Even the Corp of Cadets seemed to have lost interest in the contest on the field. I have to say that I’ve been disappointed in the spirit shown by the Corps this season – no organized cheering, chanting, singing, pride, or genuine spirit displayed whatsoever. Granted the team is not very competitive (yet), but we used to see even the top brass get out in front of the Corps to lead cheers. They used to have a head cheerleader on a microphone rousting the Corps at critical times. The spirit that Army always had even when their teams struggled in the past like this one has seems completely non-existent. They need to get that back. And I don’t mean just when they play Navy despite the underdog role they will be playing on December 12.
Led by third string QB, Freshman Chris Carter (20 carries, 111 yards, 1 TD/ 4 of 6 passes, 1 TD, 1 INT), the Cadets hacked away at the Scarlet Knight defense until RB Aaron Kemper broke through the middle for a 38-yard TD run to give the Black Knights a boost. The Scarlet Knights put together a subsequent scoring drive as QB Chris Laviano used his two RBs James and Robert Martin (17 carries, 99 yards, 1 TD) efficiently with runs and short passes until the latter rushed the final five yards to extend Rutgers lead, 21-7. The Black Knights needed to pull that dagger out and fight back. Carter gave his Knights a needed jolt as he ran 45 yards on Army’s next possession to get to RU’s 35. The option plays chipped away at the RU defense and on fourth and goal at the one, Carter got the Army back to within seven, 21-14, with 1:08 remaining. RU QB Chris Laviano (13 of 21 passing for 105 yards) passed for short gains using the clock well enough to set up Kyle Federico for a 40-yard FG as time in the first half expired and Rutgers enjoyed a 24-14 lead at the half.
As the second half was coming to a close, the shadows formed by the pre box over us made our seat section in the upper deck ( U-14) somewhat chillier. Our friends and fans joining us from SEC country had a difficult time not being used to that. Al lot of the crowd overall seemed to disperse after halftime because of the chill had headed to sunnier spots in Michie Stadium or even back out to tailgate. The U.S. Army band and Rutgers Marching Band combined at halftime for a musical tribute. As the game would draw to an end, once again drastically drawn out by lengthy commercial time-outs killing momentum and interest for many in the stands, it seemed like by the end of the game it would be a small contingent of our tailgate party, the beleaguered Corps of Cadets and the Rutgers band as among the last in the stands remaining.
Rutgers started after the second half kickoff from their 32 where James got them off to a quick start with a 54-yard jaunt to the Army 14. He took it in for his third TD of the day from the one to extend the Scarlet’s lead, 31-14. Army’s team did not give up despite the uninspiring spirit of the Corps. Army later forced Rutgers to punt. On a play worthy of Sport Center’s Top Ten plays of the day which I predicted and became true at Number Five, Army WR Edgar Poe hauled in a pass from behind his defender’s helmet, turned up field, stiff-armed his would be tackler who tried to force him out of bounds, and fought his way down field to keep his feet in bounds for a 65-yard TD. Of course, TV had to stop to review what was clearly a touchdown for several minutes before confirming. That process is also abusing the game for the spectators. Army closed the gap to 31-21 with a quarter left to play. They seemed ready to make a game of it.
Army’s defense forced Rutgers to punt from their 26 to hopefully get good field position to try for another scoring drive, but a roughing the kicker penalty kept the Scarlet offense on the field. RU’s eventual punt later went for a touchback before taking time of the clock, and the Army offense started from the 20. Carter had his offense clicking getting down to RU’s 21. On second down to change things up from the triple option, Carter threw a pass over the middle and into the end zone where RU’s converted RB Josh Hicks made the move to safety to help the depleted Scarlet Knight secondary and out fought the Black Knight receiver for the football for an interception in the end zone to kill the Army rally. With 7:20 remaining, Army took over and effectively ran the ball and eventually ran out the clock. HC Jeff Moncken’s futile time-outs toward the end event seemed to rankle the Corps of Cadets who didn’t seem to want to agonize there any longer. RU took a knee at the 29 as time expired and our 500th game was recorded in the books with a Scarlet Knight victory over the Black Knights, 31-21. Our remaining stalwarts in the cold shadows of Michie gathered afterward an walked up and down hills on the beautiful campus as the sun began to set to get back to our tailgate. It didn’t take us much longer than had we waited to get on school buses to take us back instead.
Rutgers (4-7, 1-6) next hosts Maryland (2-9, 0-7) to finish off an unspectacular season to say the least, and yet they still hope to attain a bowl bid with a win and a losing record. This bowl system stinks. Don’t ever let a team measure its competence by saying how may bowl teams were on its schedule. Being a bowl team is no longer the mark of competence. As for Army, it has three weeks to practice for No. 15 Navy on December 12 while the Mids play for the American Athletic Conference West Championship this Friday at Houston. If the Mids triumph, they will be hosting Temple or South Florida in their quest to represent the Conference of Five champs to play in one of the Big Six Bowl games. And if it does, don’t think the Midshipman will be looking past Army. They may want to beat them more than ever for the 15th straight time. As for CFF.com, we thought Game # 501 would be between Toledo (9-1, 6-1) and Western Michigan ( 6-5, 5-2) for a Mid-American head knocker until we found out that this game is now on at noon instead of a night game as we anticipated. Instead, we’ll go right into the fire as game # 501 will be a bloodbath with some if its luster was lost after Ohio State fell to Michigan State on Saturday, 17-14. Game No. 501 will be one of the most intense rivalries we’ll be attending when No 12 Michigan (9-2, 6-1) hosts No. 8 Ohio State (10-1, 6-1). If Penn State upsets division leader Michigan State in East Lansing on Saturday; these two will be playing for the Big Ten Eastern division title. If not, we may see one of them on New Year’s Day in Florida. What a crazy football season! Urban Meyer coaching against Jim Harbaugh? It’s going get crazier this weekend! What a way to start our second 500 games!
Extra Points: Special thanks to our two Lakeland Bus Drivers this weekend, Sean and Marvin. Nice guys who did a great job for us! Sean even came back to the hotel to bring back a phone one of our friends left on the bus.
The West Point parking attendants we very accommodating giving us some extra space alongside our two buses to set up tables and coolers for our tailgating experience. They also had extra buses come to pick us up in time to get us to Michie Stadium for the pre-game ceremonies which are great to see. Cousin Vickie Scarpa provided two excellent banners made by her students at Passaic Tech High School in Wayne, NJ. One depicting our gala 500 celebration which I’m going to present to our Knights of Columbus Council 1954 in Boonton, NJ to celebrate the game played between Knights and as a Knights of Columbus fundraiser. The other one was for signatures to commemorate the event as a keepsake for yours truly. It was great day (Thank the Lord for the great weather at West Point in November)! Thanks to everyone who brought great stuff to eat and special thanks to Grill Master Frank Scarpa who barbequed the pork and re-heated it at the game for spectacular sandwiches. It was all enjoyed by everyone as it was finished before we went to the game. Everyone there that attended had a great time meeting with others – friends old and new, tailgating, attending the game, watching the pre-game festivities, seeing some of West Point as some of us walked back overlooking the Hudson River after the game, tailgating some more after, the bus rides to and from, hanging around the bar at the Hilton that evening. Bob Jones, a friend of about 20 years, a fellow Penn State fan, and a former Slippery Rock mascot when he attended SRU, presented me with trophy of sorts found by his mother who got it when she thought of me specifically when she saw it. Tremendous! See below. It was a fantastic celebration with a lot of fun that brought back memories and started some fantastic new ones!
One of my cousins, David Schember, a big fan of pro football, was a little confused about my celebration. In a conversation with Sharon Klein –Duggan, he called me over to settle a debate. He thought he was there to celebrate the 500th game played by Rutgers! He even told his boss, an RU grad, that that was why he was going to the game this weekend. He now knows why he never received a response back for his text he sent him. He couldn’t believe it was for MY 500th game. I told him to check out this web site. I hope he does.
The Knights of Columbus had such a great time. They already suggested doing Syracuse versus Notre Dame at the Meadowland next fall .- a venue reminiscent of huge tailgate parties we held back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Sounds like a plan!
We ran 50/50s on both buses for tips for our great bus drivers and for a K of C contribution. Thanks to Les and Don Di Vite for collecting on Bus 1 and to Bob ‘”Cat” Marcello and my cousin Kathy Graper for doing the same on Bus 2. It went very well. Kim Reigel (the most worthy Pitt alum I know because she at least married Darryl, fellow Juniata alum) was the winner on our bus as my wife, known as St. Laurie, Patron Saint of College football fans picked out the winning ticket on our bus. Afterward, we raffled off prizes on both buses including Collegefootballfan.com baseball caps, copies of my book, and a few CDs my daughter Alex helped organize and burned entitled, “Collegefootballfan.com’s Favorite Fight songs!”
Those who gathered at the Hilton/Hampton bar in Parsippany, NJ where many stayed over for the evening after such a great day, watched games, and saw the football season unravel as five undefeated teams fell. Like I said, it’s been a crazy season, and it’s going to get crazier! We are thrilled to have a front row seat of sorts to all this madness and I realize it no longer waits until March. I don’t know if it’s totally by design, but most of the conferences seem to have saves their best game for last except for the SEC. Come on! Alabama versus Charleston Southern, Auburn versus Idaho, Florida over Florida Atlantic in a squeaker, Kentucky over Charlotte, and South Carolina losing to the Citadel (thanks for the memories Steve Spurrier)? Those are supposed to e early season opponents to get the team ready for the tough games a the end. These seem like patsy games to get these teams over the hump if a winning record is out of reach. They might learn something from Rutgers. Winning seasons don’t matter anymore if you want to get to a bowl game. So you might as well pick on somebody your own size.