Brown smashes Ivy record as Princeton smashes Brown

Princeton, NJ (Oct. 18) – Brown QB Marcus Fuller attempted 71 passes to smash an Ivy League record, but that record was the result of futility as the third-ranked FCS Princeton rushing defense smashed the Bruins right from the start to hold Brown to -7 yards on 15 carries. They would carry the Tigers (3-2, 2-0) to a 27-16 victory in front of 5,807 fans including about 30 at our annual Big Tailgate held this year at Princeton Stadium. Our group surprisingly watched back-up Princeton QB Connor Michelsen replace last year’s Ivy League Player of the Year, Quinn Epperly, who sat out with an injury, throw for 367 yards and two touchdowns. He led his Tigers to four consecutive scores on their first four possessions to take a daunting 24-0 lead early in the second period. The Tiger defense bent but didn’t break as they checked the Brown offense in the red zone forcing three FGs and intercepting a pass in the end zone despite 454 passing yards and a late TD pass by Fuller (29 for 71, 1 TD). On a beautiful sunny, fall, day where our Big Tailgate got to bask by the Princeton observatory before the game, many got a taste of Ivy League football for the first time. The tailgating was fun eating, drinking, and talking to both new and old friends, but most came away with mixed reviews of what they got to watch during the game. Most found it a unique football experience to say the least.

PK Nolan Bieck finished the first Princeton possession with a 26-yard FG. On the Tigers’ second possession, they kept Brown (2-3, 0-2) off balance with the no-huddle offense. RB Will Powers (13 rushes for 69 yards, 1 TD), for whose father Will Powers Field at Princeton Stadium is named, swept nine yards around right end for a 10-0 PU lead. After a Brown three-and-out, Michelsen tossed a 49-yard TD pass to WR Matt Costello (8 catches, 121 yards, 2 TDs). At the end of Q1, Princeton was rolling along again after another BU three-and-out. The drive resulted in another pass from Michelsen to Costello for a 17-yard score and a 24-0 lead early in the second.

Tiger RB Will Powers sweeps right for a 9-ayrd TD and a 24-0 Princeton lead.

Tiger RB Will Powers sweeps right for a 9-yard TD and a 24-0 Princeton lead.

Brown took to the air consistently after that. A 70-yard completion to WR Troy Doles (six catches for 200 yards) brought Brown to the PU seven. An illegal block pushed them back on a supposed scoring play, but the Bruins had to settle for Grant Zenne’s 28-yard FG instead. An interception of a Michelsen pass by FS Zach Gillen gave BU possession from the 32. A 42-yard pass to Doles put Brown in the red zone once again at the 16. Three incomplete passes forced Zenne’s second FG from 33 yards to trail, 24-6. That’s the way the scoring ended in the first half. We were entertained by the combined Ivy League bands of both schools. It seems like the Tigers and the Bruins have one of the more amicable halftime relationships among the Ivies.

Princeton and Brown bands play nicely together at halftime.

Princeton and Brown bands play nicely together at halftime.

PU relinquished the ball (Ivy “speak”) after three plays to start the second half. On a fourth and four at Princeton’s 16, a completion to RB Brian Strachan put Brown on PU’s doorstep at the one. A one-yard loss and two incompletions later, Zenne converted again for his third FG, 24-9. PU started a 60-yard drive later in the period, and Bieck added a 19-yard FG to give Princeton a 27-9 lead before moving into the final period.

Fuller continued his air assault on just about every play. From the Brown 20, the Bruins made it to the PU 14. His next pass into the end zone got picked by DB Andrew Frisby. Again BU took possession from their own 15, and moved down to the Tiger 20 with the aid of a confusing “targeting” call for which Tiger leading tackler LB Rohan Hylton was ejected. Fuller finally brought his team through the red zone with a 20-yard TD pass the Strachan (10 catches, 146 yards, 1 TD). With 6:13 left, I expected to possibly see a two-point conversion to get within ten to give Brown a chance for a TD and FG to at least go for a tie, but HC Phil Estes fresh off his 100th win at Brown, opted for one for a 27-16 score. Several of us anticipated an onside kick next. GGA Paul Fraley’s jaw dropped when we watched Brown’s kickoff sail down field. It looked like Brown was going down without a fight and they did. Without a chance to take possession to score quickly or to prevent the Tigers from consuming more clock, that’s where the score eventually settled, 27-16.

Brown aired the ball out often as Princeton stifled their running game.

Brown aired the ball out often as Princeton stifled their running game.

Next week, Princeton will tangle with Harvard, also 2-0 among the Ivies, at home next week. We wait to hear if Quinn Epperly will return, but Michelsen, also a senior, looks quite capable to get things done on offense. The Tiger defense may have to buckle down on its pass defense. Brown will host Cornell (0-5,0-2) back in Providence, Rhode Island. steps back out of the Ivy and into the SEC where we will see No. 5 Auburn host a disappointing South Carolina team at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday for a 7:30 pm kickoff.


Extra Points: GGA Bob Marcello noted that when the FG net went up, there must have been lot of “concern” that the one spectator in the end zone might run away with the ball! Reality is though that the game was nationally televised on NBC Sports Regional, and the All State “Good Hands” net had to go up as it was prepaid advertising. Even at this level, it’s all about the money.

GGA Bob Marcello claimed that the only reason the "Good Hands" net went up in the end zone was so that  this guy wouldn't run away with the ball!

GGA Bob Marcello claimed that the only reason the “Good Hands” net went up in the end zone was so that this guy wouldn’t run away with the football!

I think this was the second time we watched this particular FCS officiating crew. Like the URI at Fordham game, I could tell since the largest person on the field was the Umpire who lines up behind the defensive line. In the Princeton Athletic New Program, the Umpire is listed as Robert Kinter. He must have played on somebody’s line at one time.

This game as mentioned was televised by NBC Regional Sports TV (SNY in the New York market). A good thing – not many TV timeouts. St. Laurie was pleased, and noted no one wore red the few times the game was held up for commercial breaks. However, the game was slowed by all those Brown incompletions (42). Bad thing – only 5,807 showed up to watch in person. Those few watching on TV probably changed stations before the first period was over and watched something else. Charlie Roberts and I attended a Thursday night game in 2006 between Brown and Princeton that was also televised. The crowd seemed much bigger, Princeton won, and the Tigers went on finish 9-1 for a share of the Ivy League title. We saw four Princeton games that year during a very exciting season for the Tigers.

Entering the game, Princeton’s defense allowed 78 yards per game rushing. Brown RB Andrew Coker led Brown in rushing coming in with 70 yards per game. Today, he had seven carries for 14 yards. Unofficially, PU now allows only 12.5 rushing yards per game. The subtitle in the Game Program read: “The six-week Ivy League sprint starts this afternoon for two physical, run-first squads.” Could’ve fooled us – 367 passing yards to 454! Rushing : 118 to -7.

Connor Michelsen aptly stepped in at quarterback for Princeton throwing for 367 yards and two TDs.

Connor Michelsen aptly stepped in at quarterback for Princeton throwing for 367 yards and two TDs.

Will Powers scored a touchdown in his fourth consecutive game. It was Princeton’s sixth straight home win. Costello doubled his total of TD catches for this season with four, and he’s now fifth all-time in career receptions at Princeton with 132 snags. Bieck has now converted 12 consecutive FGs. All these Princeton steaks will need to continue to get the Tigers this year’s Ivy title starting with the Harvard game at home next week. They defeated Harvard the last two seasons in a 39-34 comeback win after trailing 34-10 in 2012, and then Quinn Epperly threw six TD passes a year ago for a 51-48 triple overtime win. There’s a lot on the line in next weeks’ premiere Ivy League game. This will be available on ESPN3.

After the 27-9 lead, someone said, “No more Bruins’ games.” It wasn’t our Boonton K of C Grand Knight Ed Mainardi. Not only is he a Brown graduate, but he told us he was a team manager for his alma mater in the late 70s when they started to turn things around there.

GGAs Kevin McCormick and Steve Hopkins reminisced about their first Princeton game at Palmer Stadium many years ago. For each, it was on a Boy Scout trip out of Boonton. As we talked about it more, it turned out it was the same trip I had taken with my Rockaway Valley grammar school in 1966 when we all saw Colgate defeat Princeton, 7-0. Evidently it was big promotional Kids’ day of some sort at Princeton.

We had some long distance tailgaters join us this year.  Lew Fowler returned from a business trip in Germany the day before, and had his daughters join us from Maryland.  Also, Boonton HS alum and classmate Paul Kleim came up for the weekend from Tennessee and was able to join us for this year’s Tailgate.  It was great to have them all join us for the trip to Princeton this year! I mentioned to all that next year I will try to come up with something special to celebrate the 500th game of

Family, friends, and fans who attended this year's Big Tailgate at Princeton.

Family, friends, and fans who attended this year’s Big Tailgate at Princeton. week in review #7

Good thing but kind of funny – polls don’t mean anything anymore in college football. So why publish them?  No poll is going to matter between now and until the new 13-person College Football Playoff Committee selects the Final Four teams to meet on January 1. So vote as you like. Bitch, moan, or cheer about where your team sits in the all the polls you peruse every week. But why care? They don’t matter! Any way- here are the teams on our schedule still in the Associated PressTop 25 – No. 2 Florida State, No. 5 Auburn, No. 8 Michigan State, No. 13 Ohio State, No. 21 Texas A&M, and No. 25 Marshall. This only tells us that we’re going to see some of the best teams in the nation during the regular season. So watch and enjoy every game as it comes along. Then watch who the committee selects when they’re all finished. Let’s just hope they pick the best four. We know there is going to be controversy. We’re still hoping for eight in the next few years…

Texas A&M put a hurtin' on South Carolina in our opener. The Aggies are still in the Top 25. As for the Gamecocks...

Texas A&M put a hurtin’ on South Carolina in our opener. The Aggies are still in the Top 25. As for the Gamecocks…

We already got December 6 penciled in for a playoff game when 24 teams will be vying for the FCS championship which has been settled successfully on the gridiron since 1978. No. 4 Villanova Wildcats and No. 5 New Hampshire Wildcats, both members of the Colonial Athletic Conference, won’t play each other during the regular season. Both seem to have the roads ahead of them paved to the FCS playoffs. If both are among the top eight FCS schools at the end of the regular season, each will get a bye on Thanksgiving weekend and host a second round game on December 6. We’re hoping a game works out for us at UNH in Durham, NH. We’ve never been to a game there before. That would be great – playoff game in cold New Hampshire on a Saturday December afternoon…OK so Mississippi State is now No. 1 and Ole Miss in No.3 in the AP poll. Ok, answer me this. How do we know how these teams stack up against the other Power 5 conferences? State beat Southern Miss, UAB, and South Alabama. Its remaining non-con is against FCS UT Martin. Ole Miss beat Boise, Louisiana – Lafayette, and Memphis. Next non-con up for them is D-2 Presbyterian. There are probably 50 teams among the Power 65 that could go undefeated if they played any combination of these four. We’ll even give MSU credit for playing South Alabama on the road, an unusual road trip for the SEC. So how do these wins prove these teams belong where they are? Just because they avoided anybody they might risk losing to? I don’t understand…Our Big Tailgate is Brown at Princeton this week. Both teams are 2-2. PU’s offense is superior with 153 points and senior QB Quinn Epperly, last year’s Player of the Year in the Ivy League, has accounted for 800 yards and four TDs through the air and 196 yards and eight TDs rushing. Brown’s defense has allowed less than 20 ppg, but we expect Princeton to be very ready after falling at Colgate in a 31-30 comeback loss against a traditional non-conference rivalry for both. Brown comes off the 100th career win for Bruin HC Phil Estes in a double over- time win over Holy Cross, 27-24. In their other win, 20-13 over Rhode Island the week before, the Bears held URI to three rushing yards. We saw the Rams get slammed by Fordham this year, 52-7. URI is pathetic. The Tigers should roll this weekend. Any money made this weekend at our bus/tailgate party goes to the Boonton (NJ) Knights of Columbus who raise funds to support charities such as Wounded Warriors, the Special Olympics, rides for a local kids’ park, their upcoming Thanksgiving food drive, and a Christmas drive for the local people in need…

URI's feeble running game in action against Fordham earlier this season.

URI’s feeble running game in action against Fordham earlier this season.

Fordham (5-1) favored to win the Patriot League sits at No. 13 in the FCS poll. Several Ram players are among the leaders in individual offensive stats in the FCS. QB Mike Nebrich leads the nation in passing yards with 2,304. RB Chase Edmonds checks in at No.2 in rushing yards with 1,011. WR Tebucky Jones is fifth in the nation with 689 receiving yards while his teammate Sam Ajala is No. 10 with 624. Look for the Rams among the 24 in the playoffs this season barring any surprising upset in the Patriot League. However, remember their lone loss was 50-7 to No. 4 Villanova…No 150 between Lafayette and Lehigh is losing a lot of luster as Lehigh is 0-5 after losing its Patriot League opener to Bucknell, 45-24…We used to call the D-3 championship The Mount Union Invitational. Well, as the UW-Whitewater Warhawks have won five of the last six national championships played in Salem, VA; it’s now the UW-W Invitational. The top four all with undefeated records are the Warhawks, Mary Hardin-Baylor, Mt. Union, and Wesley of Delaware who is 6-0. The top three are all 5-0…QB Rakeem Cato of No. 25 Marshall (6-0) who we watched throw for two scores in his team’s 52-14 win over Old Dominion two weeks ago, threw for three more last week in the Thundering Herd’s win over Middle Tennessee, looks to tie Russell Wilson’s record of 38 straight games with a touchdown pass against Florida International this weekend. After that, he has five more regular season games to go and a bowl game now that the Herd is already eligible…Marshall FB Devon Johnson is 10th in the nation in rushing with 814 yards and eleven TDs. Marshall is the best untested team in the nation. I look forward to seeing who they will match up with in a bowl. Among the five bowls C-USA has a contract with, the only Power Five conference match-up is with a Big Ten school in the Heart of Dallas Bowl unless they gain the 12th spot in the CFP…

The Marshall line who lead the charge for Cato and Johnson have The Herd at 6-0.

The Marshall line who lead the charge for Cato and Johnson have The Herd at 6-0.

We thought Penn State’s offensive line looked bad during the spring game. The certainly didn’t get any better since as was clearly the case against a struggling Michigan team last weekend in a feeble 18-13 loss…We give Rutgers HC Kyle Flood a lot of credit for trying to adjust the attitude in New Brunswick. We referred constantly to the “RU-tude” in the past as the mentality there always had RU focusing on kickoff classics, conference titles, and major bowl bids before ever playing a down of football every year. Teams were going to roll over for them supposedly only because they were Rutgers. There’s development of pride and confidence, but the program had no basis for this way of thinking. Flood caught on. His mantra has consistently been ”one game at a time” this season. Aside from the 13-10 loss to Penn State, it seems to be working, but now the competition will be somewhat improve starting at Ohio State this week followed by Nebraska in Lincoln the week after. We’ll see if refocusing each week will continue to win games as they play some of this year’s better teams in the conference during the last six weeks…Among the four new FBS schools we have on our schedule this season, Old Dominion who we saw already, is 3-4. Georgia Southern is 5-2 and 4-0 in the Sunbelt Conference. You remember that they defeated the Florida Gators last season when they were an FCS school. Their HC Jeff Moncken left GSU and is now HC at Army. What they’ve done so far is pretty impressive for a first year FBS entry. Their losses were to NC State, 24-23, and to Georgia Tech, 42-38. We will see them visit Navy on November 15. Not only are the visiting Eagles pretty formidable, but to their advantage, they run the same triple option as Navy. They will be very familiar with how to stop it, but Georgia Tech ran the same against them under former Navy HC Paul Johnson. This will be a challenging game for Navy and GSU. For the Mids it could be a critical game to achieve bowl eligibility.

We will be back in Annapolis with the goats and Brigade to see navy host a good Georgia Southern Eagle team.

We will be back in Annapolis with the goats and Brigade to see Navy host a good Georgia Southern Eagle team.

The other two teams, Georgia State and Appalachian State are both 1-5 and winless in the Sunbelt. Perfect! This will be an important game for both teams to possibly get their first conference win we see them play in Boone on November 1. We will never forget 2003 when we saw 0-6 UL Monroe defeat 0-6 UL Lafayette, 45-42 in an exciting struggle. This game will mean as much to these two teams who are now members of the same conference. Georgia State averages 27 ppg and allows 41.7. The ASU Mountaineers score 30.5 per game and allow 34.8. We expect to see a lot of points scored by both teams that day! Welcome to the FBS No. 126 and No. 127.

More Syracuse Dance team.

More Syracuse Dance team.


Syracuse miscues help lift now No. 2 Florida State

Syracuse, NY (October 11) – Florida State (6-0, 4-0) came to the Carrier Come ranked No. 1 in the nation, and the next day after beating a Syracuse team (2-4, 0-2), 38-20, led by two inexperienced college QBs, dropped to No. 2 in the AP poll on Sunday behind Mississippi State, winners over No. 5 Auburn, 38-20. FSU led throughout the game, but the Orange were as much at fault for beating themselves as the Seminoles were responsible for outplaying them. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston (our 17th seen perform in the annals of our history) had an impressive day statistically (30 of 36 for 317 yards and 3 TDs), but at least three dropped passes in early key situations, a dropped INT on an FSU scoring drive, and a few questionable calls and non-calls by the officiating crew, put the struggling Orange at a somewhat self-inflicted disadvantage. Had a few of these plays worked out favorably for Syracuse, this game would have been much more competitive. A few specific plays made a significant difference in the final outcome between No. 1 and a 2-4 underdog with inexperienced back-ups playing in key positions for the first time. The play-calling by new offensive coordinator Tim Lester seemed effective. Had the execution been better, he and HC Scott Schafer would look like geniuses. Guest Game Analyst Roy McDonald (a Syracuse dad) noted that if SU executed properly, “we’d see a significant chink in Florida State’s armor.”

Roberto Aguayo caps first quarter scoring for Seminoles, 10-0.

Roberto Aguayo boots extra point for Seminoles in first period.

Florida State looked like they were prepared to roll to a romp as anticipated by the odds makers as they drove 70 yard on eight plays with Mario Pender taking the ball 12 yards off right tackle for a quick 7-0 lead. Austin Wilson led the Orange on to the turf under the Dome to start the game. Runs by Prince-Tyson Gulley (16 for 80 yards) and two pass completions moved the Orange to the FSU 19, but a pass into tight coverage was picked by DB Jalen Ramsey to start the next Seminole possession from the 39. The turnover resulted in an extended 10-0 lead as Roberto Aguayo booted a 34-yard FG for the visitors.

Syracuse’s next possession had freshman AJ Long replacing Wilson under center. Cole Murphy converted a 21-yard FG to cut the score to 10-3. SU moved the ball surprisingly well against the top-ranked Noles. A few dropped passes off the hands of open receivers did not bode well for the Orange. The same could be said on defense as a ball thrown right to FS Durell Eskidge covering deep bounced right off his chest that would have terminated FSU’s next drive to give SU possession. Instead, the Noles continued down field and finished in the end zone as Winston connected with Pender on a crossing pattern for a three-yard TD pass and a growing 17-3 lead. It was a very poor defensive series for Syracuse. FSU’s next series after a punt resulted in Pender fumble recovered by NT John Raymon at FSU’s 16. Two incomplete passes called for a 32-yard FG. Murphy’s conversion cut the lead, 17-6. The Noles put together a drive consisting of five pass completions and an SU interference call with All-American TE Nick O’Leary (8 catches, 93 yards, one TD) at the end of a 21-yard TD pass with 4:38 left in Q2. SU did not wilt. Wilson returned to call signals. RB Adonis Ameen-Moore shouldered most of the workload to place the Orange at the six with a fourth and goal. HC Scott Schafer bargained his team needed more than just another FG. Lester called the right play, but the pass to Steve Ishmael, a freshman, was dropped in the end zone. Roy and I noted it was the fourth drop (including the INT) by SU that was making a significant difference in the first half. FSU took a 24-6 lead into the locker room.

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.

My GGA and I trekked to the far end of The Carrier Dome during halftime to meet with Isaac Alford who does the SU Blog for “Spadora on Sports”, our radio affiliate on Watertown, NY’s WNER 1130 AM. Isaac came out of the press box to meet with us as he’d interviewed me in the past in Pete’s absence. A native of Darlington, SC and an Army vet, we had a good talk. Roy and I talked with Isaac about our impression of SU shooting themselves in the foot during the first half and hoped for the Orange to play better in the second half. It was great to meet up with him. We’ll talk more in the future.

Isaac Alford, Syracuse Sports blogger for Spadora on Sports , and I caught up during halftime.

Isaac Alford, Syracuse Sports blogger for Spadora on Sports , and I caught up during halftime.

SU feebly started the second half with a three and out. On the other hand, FSU put together a touchdown drive with Winston firing to WR Jesus Wilson for a seven-yard TD. With AJ Long at QB, a 35-yard pass to Gulley that got to the 27 set up a 22-yard TD pass to Ishmael ( 3 catches, 93 yards, 2 TDs – could have been 3). Late in the third, Nate Andrews picked off a pass forced by Long (16 for 27, 167 yards, 2 INTs, 2 TDs) at FSU’s eight-yard line. Roy made his comment about SU’s lack of execution on some critical plays. SU’s passing stats would have been bolstered if not for some key drops.

Early in the fourth and 92 yards later, RB Dalvin Cook (23 carries for 122 yards, 1 TD) ran left for a seven-yard score and a 38-13 lead. Austin Wilson (5 for 9, 89 yards, 1 INT) returned at QB. Though Long played well overall, it seemed strange to us that Austin had been pulled after the initial series of the game as he moved the team well starting at QB for the first time. We would like to have seen what he could have done had he developed a rhythm with his offense. He’s a sophomore as Long is a freshman, and he’s bigger at 6-3, 210 lbs. On this next series, however, he suffered a head injury and Long had to come back in. He capped off this drive with a 35-yard scoring pass to Ishmael on a crossing pattern to make the score somewhat respectable despite the odds, 38-20. For the remaining 10:37, neither team mounted a serious scoring threat. Roy and I came away unimpressed with FSU believing had it not been for a few key miscues by the underdogs manned at several key positions by inexperienced players, the outcome may have been at least closer. When Mississippi State knocked off Auburn later that day, the pollsters evidently felt the same way.

Jameis Winston releases under pressure.

Jameis Winston releases under pressure.

Next week, now No. 2 Florida State will host No. 5 Notre Dame at 8 pm. The Irish won a close game, 50-43 over North Carolina who score a lot but is 127th in the nation for points allowed. This will be an interesting game. Syracuse travels to Wake Forest who has an identical 2-4, 0-2 record with the Orange. tackles the Ivies for the only time this season where Princeton (2-2, 1-0) hosts Brown (2-2, 0-1). We’re looking forward to our Big Tailgate. Tickets still available. Email me at for more info if you would like to attend.

Extra Points: It was Homecoming for Syracuse in front of an announced crowd of 43,293 fans, but there were a lot of empty seats in the Dome. How many schools have the No. 1 team in the nation on the docket as their Homecoming foe? I thought you’re supposed to invite somebody you can dominate from beginning to end so you can have a happy celebration afterward.

It was a little over a three-hour drive up to Syracuse for us. We tailgated before and after the game at the Skytop parking area. The bus trip to and from the Carrier Dome was run pretty smoothly. At the Dome bus stop we met up with Roy’s son Miles who’s majoring in Electrical Engineering. He couldn’t join us today at the game. Miles played on my Little League baseball teams over the years. He ran cross country in high school and now and avid runner. He’s already got tickets for the NCAA eastern regional finals to be played at the Carrier Dome during March Madness. Good planning on his part. I told Roy if he ever wants to go up to a Syracuse b-ball game at The Dome to let me know. I’ve never been. Next season, the football team hosts LSU. We will take that one into consideration.

Florida State has three players from Sussex County, NJ where we are headquartered: back-up QB Sean McGuire who filled in for Winston during the Clemson game hails from Sparta but played high school ball at Seton Hall Prep; Freshman TE Ryan Izzo who played for Pope John HS in Sparta is a Highland Lakes resident; and second team OG Chad Mavety, a junior, is also a Sparta resident. Many people at a party I attended with friends in Stanhope last night asked if I’d seen Sean play. Many know him as he once lived in Byram Twp. where I live.

More action from the Syracuse Dance Team:



Kelly, Jocelyn, and Alex (my daughter) , roommates and all seniors at South Carolina model our new hats.

Kelly, Jocelyn, and Alex (my daughter) , roommates and all seniors at South Carolina, model our new hats.

Catch us this Saturday at 10:30 am on “Spadora on Sports” on WNER AM 1130 in Watertown, NY and Pete’s other affiliates. Click here to listen in. We’ll be on our way to Syracuse to talk to him about Upstate New York’s FBS team hosting No. 1 Florida State…


”The Case for…Teaching Talent” by Michael Rosenberg in Sports Illustrated (October 6,2014) hit the nail on the head about all the preseason hype given to recruiting high school athletes that we think is blown out of proportion. No matter what the perception of the pedigrees are about a class of high school “stars” a college program accumulates, the success of the team cannot be attributed to perceived reputation alone. Without the continuous development of each individual’s talent, work ethic, dedication, and mental toughness regarding the game, and the molding of those individuals into a team by the coaching staff, success will elude even the most respected programs. Rosenberg’s prime example – beleaguered Michigan. And the 2-4, 0-2 Wolverines are favored over Penn State (4-1, 1-1) at home this weekend…


We’re heading to Syracuse this weekend to see The Orange (2-3) host No. 1 Florida State (5-0). When we bought these tickets last summer, we figured we’d get to see a highly-ranked Seminole team, and we thought that maybe, just maybe, the home team might have a chance for an upset so we could say we were there. With SU starting QB Terrell Hunt now out with a leg injury and other key players out due to injuries, an upset would take a miracle. Not that many would give the Orange a chance to begin with. Even WR Rashad Greene will play for the Noles after recovering from a concussion a week ago. We’re hoping that SU will possibly hang at least in into the third, but that’s asking a lot with a freshman starting at QB and HC Scott Schafer handing over play-calling responsibilities to Tim Lester for the first time. It could be a real fire drill for the Orange. After last Saturday, we’ve seen eight of ten visitors win thus far this season. This should be number nine…Last time to the Carrier Dome for us was in 2011 when we saw USF defeat Syracuse, 37-17. The last time we saw FSU was in the 1997 Sugar Bowl when they fell to Florida for the National Championship, 52-20…Due to a business trip, we missed Thursday night’s D2 opportunity as No. 9 West Chester State defeated Kutztown in a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference game, 29-7… With South Carolina now 3-3, 2-3 and mathematically out of contention for the SEC East, Spurrier can now focus on winning the game he’s been looking forward to since January – Clemson. He’s been sparring in the press with Dabo Swinney since last New Year’s Day. We’re still going to see the Gamecocks play at No. 2 Auburn on October 25…

QB Maty Mauk of Missouri fires under pressure from Gamecocks in their 21-20 win.

QB Maty Mauk of Missouri looks down field  under pressure from Gamecocks in the Tigers’ 21-20 win.

Just in, this evening: Georgia’s RB Todd Gurley, leading the SEC in rushing, has been indefinitely suspended and will miss this Saturday’s critical SEC East game when the No. 13 Bulldogs (4-4, 2-1) visit No. 23 Missouri (4-1, 1-0). How selfish can Gurley be? He signed memorabilia including jerseys for $8-$25 that have official authentication. He gets suspended. The Bulldogs lose their rushing leader. If found guilty, he’ll probably never play for Georgia again and he’ll make himself available to the pros. The NFL will draft him, and he’ll make millions. The sports vendor will make thousands. The school, the team, and the fans that supported him get “the bird”. It’s an example of another social issue that the NFL has to step up to, and in this case it is their fault directly. They abuse the college game as their de facto minor league system. The school gets players like this with no true commitment to anyone but themselves to eventually make money in the NFL. Period. The NFL has to stand up as it should have to Terrelle Pryor and say, if you can’t play by college football’s rules, you can’t play for us. A least they can say, Gurley’s ineligible to be drafted for say, three years. Maybe, this will stop this lack of commitment to the schools that help develop their skills and professional potential until the rules possibly change…FCS, 3-time defending camp North Dakota State (5-0, 1-0) trailed Western Illinois (2-4,0-2) going into the final period Saturday trailing, 10-3. QB John Crockett threw for one TD and ran for another in the final period to give the Bison a 17-10 win…Navy (2-4) gets a breather this week against FCS VMI (1-5,0-3), but the following three games will probably make or break their chance for bowl eligibility. San Jose State, No. 6 Notre Dame (at Fedex Field), and Georgia Southern (4-2) come meet the Mids the following three weeks. We’ll be at the GSU game. And even if they survive bowl eligibility through that stretch, there’s no guaranteed win this year against an improved Army team (2-3) after 12 straight USNA wins in that series…Rutgers (5-1,1-1) also gets breather this weekend, literally, as they have a bye week, but it’s time for them to take a deep breath as well. They travel to No. 15 Ohio State (4-1, 1-0) the following week. After that awaits a game in Lincoln, Nebraska, then Wisconsin, Indiana, at Michigan State, and at Maryland…

Marching Scarlet Knights

Marching Scarlet Knights marching on

If things go according to our plan for the rest of our season, we’re on target to attend 25 games. That will put us at 484 meaning our 16th game in 2015 will be our 500th. We’ll have to plan something special…Tickets still available for our Big Tailgate when Princeton hosts Brown the week after next.

Marshall mangles Monarchs

Norfolk, VA (October 4) – accomplished two significant milestones last weekend. We added Old Dominion University, a first-year FBS member, as our 125th team and added Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium at our 49th FBS venue, the 123rd overall. St. Laurie and I also got to spend the weekend and the game with our son, Eric, a Seaman in the US Navy now stationed at Norfolk Naval Base. All that was great! However, as far as seeing a quality FBS football game as we had hoped for, our expectations fell far short . We watched many more exciting games later that evening on TV. My goal to see ‘em all still means we have to take the good, along with the bad and the ugly, and this was definitely the ugly.

Marshall (5-0, 1-0) manhandled the ODU Monarchs from beginning to end, 56-14. expected to see a shootout based on the scoring prowess of both teams as did some U of M fans sitting in front of us, but instead The Thundering Herd, who will probably finish unbeaten and win Conference-USA, demonstrated that it was just too powerful overall for the new FBS Monarchs (3-3,1-2). Not only is Marshall superior in experience, quickness, and size, but evidently their coaching is superior, too. ODU never wavered from their original strategy, the same offense, the same formations, and never adjusted anything even after the Herd was out to a 28-0 lead in Q1 before the Monarchs put up seven with 36 ticks left. At that point, Eric asked a similar question he had asked when he was much younger, “How long are we going to stay for this one?” ODU neither solved nor challenged the Marshall defense until late in the game when Marshall put their subs out in the final period as they led, 56-7.

The ODU Dance team started pre-game festivities while wearing pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The ODU Dance team started pre-game festivities while wearing pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.


After ODU shanked a punt on its first possession, QB Rakeem Cato used Marshall’s most powerful weapon, FB Devon Johnson, to run up the middle for 35 yards and polished off the 59-yard drive with a two-yard TD run. Johnson (20 carries for 198 yards and three TDs) is the best FB we’ve seen anywhere in a long time. Marshall fans told us, “Watch him. He’s a horse.” A plow horse for sure he is. He banged, punished, pulled, crushed, and carried defenders multiple times with second and third efforts. He never let up. We were impressed. We will watch for this junior to be playing for somebody on Sundays in the next few years. Leading 7-0, U of M took over on downs on their 29. This time, Remi Watson, a smaller speed back (13 carries for 102 yards, two TDs) stepped in for Johnson as the primary Herd weapon. His ten-yard TD run punctuated the next Herd drive for a 14-0 lead.   Vaunted Monarch QB Taylor Heinecke, with impressive stats coming in, showed no “zip” on his passes. He was more of a shot-putter than a thrower. He tended to “push” his passes. The next ODU drive ended quickly on a push with an INT by CB Darryl Roberts. Johnson converted an eight-yard TD run for a sudden 21-0 runaway already. The Monarch’s next punt was from their 16, and Marshall’s Brandon Byrd recovered it in the end zone after a block to extend the lead to 28-0 with 5:21 left in the first period. The Monarchs showed a glimmer of hope despite a three and out after its next series. A pick by S Christian Byrum gave possession to ODU at its 42. While the INT had to be reviewed for confirmation, The Thundering Herd players looked bored along the sideline during the prolonged delay. The attitude resulted in an Old Dominion score as Heinecke threw a 21-yard out pass to Zach Pascal resulting in a 21-yard score.

Marshall's hard-running FB Devon Johnson ran for 198 yards and three TDs against ODU.

Marshall’s hard-running FB Devon Johnson (47) ran for 198 yards and three TDs against ODU.

Heinecke had the second worst day of his four-year career finishing 10 for 25 with an INT for a mere 85 yards. The host team played with the same four wide-out spread on every play in the second period and more of the same resulted as The Herd took a 42-7 lead into the halftime break. Rakeem Cato threw his first TD of the game marking his 37th consecutive game with a TD pass to bring him to within one to tie the NCAA mark of 38 set by former NC State/Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson now of the Seattle Seahawks. He next connected with WR Tommy Schuler (nine catches, 81 yards, one TD) on a short pass, and one missed tackle later, he sped off for a 42-yard touchdown. Cato (18 for 23, 198 yards, two TDs) threw for a second score before the half ended as WR Deon-Tay McManus leaped to secure the ball from behind the defenders head in the end zone.

WR Deon Tay McManus scores the final TD of the fist half to give the Herd a 42-7 lead.

WR Deon Tay McManus (16) scores the final TD of the fist half to give the Herd a 42-7 lead.

Based on previous results, website info, and statistics leading into this game, we expected a seesaw battle between Cato and Heinecke. However, not only based on the different levels of talent around both, Heinecke demonstrated an inferior arm and a slow release. Beyond that, however,  ODU’s offense never adapted to give Marshall a different look. Every play featured four wide receivers and one running back. Marshall applied pressure consistently. Despite 131 rushing yards by OD’s Ray Lawry (Woolwich, NJ, Kingsway Regional), the Herd defense generally put the stops to him, or once Heinecke faked the read option, he was pressured and sacked five times. It wasn’t pretty. It was pretty futile. The ODU coaches never brought receivers in tighter, sent anyone in motion, went to a two-back set, nor did anything differently to challenge or confuse The Thundering Herd defense. It was an effort in futility running the same offense and same plays to think something was eventually going to work in ODU’s favor. Marshall’s defensive front was bigger and quicker to begin with. We were very disappointed in ODU HC Buddy Wilder’s lack of flexibility to give his charges any sense of hope by trying something different.

At halftime, I told Eric and St. Laurie that we’d stay until the end of Q3. They questioned why? Though I try to stay to the end of a game the first time I add a new team, I thought back to Louisiana Tech at Penn State back in 2000 when Eric was five-years old. We left on a scorching hot day under the sun in State College when PSU would win, 67-7. I couldn’t take the torture of the heat along with a bored wife and two distraught kids who wanted to go back to the hotel and jump into the pool. I agreed before the bitter end that this was enough torture for all of us. However, when we left to hop back into our minivan, it had a flat. The chapter in Tales from the Tailgate is titled, “Watch a Blow-out, fix a flat.”  Watching their dad fix a flat was more entertaining than the game had been as the kids sucked down Juicy Juices and sucked on ice pops. Today’s action on the field was just as one-sided and even more monotonous.

In Q3, Johnson started off with a 46-yard run through the line and finished with a seven yard TD run. I said to Eric, “This is like watching the varsity scrimmage the JVs.” He quickly responded, “More like the varsity against the freshman.” He was right. Watson scored his second TD with 5:32 left in the third on Marshall’s second series of the half. That was it. The heck with waiting for the third period to end. I checked off Old Dominion as my 125th team. Most of the ODU fans were already gone. Eric has a pickup truck now and did the driving. We found a Buffalo Wild Wings in Virginia Beach and caught up on more interesting action on all their big screens. We didn’t miss much after we let as Marshall put in second teamers, water boys, some tough looking female cheerleaders, and some Alumni they pulled out of the stands according to Laurie (not really). Final: Marshall 56 ODU 14.

ODU looking good before the onslaught.

ODU looking good before the onslaught.

Next week, the Monarchs head to UTEP in El Paso for its next C-USA game to try to get to 4-3, 2-2 overall. They just may. They feel that they’ve played the three toughest C-USA foes already on their schedule. They defeated defending champ Rice, 45-42, lost to Middle Tennessee last week, 41-28, and will try to put this devastating loss to Marshall, the favorite, behind them. Two more wins make them bowl eligible. What a shame. Six out of 12 and they call that success nowadays. We can no longer discern between desrving bowl teams and mediocre efforts. When it comes to bowl games,  we feel even more sorry for Marshall when it comes to their potential bowl options. That’s a good football team, but they’re overall schedule probably will preclude them from a College Football Playoff bid. They will likely finish 13-0 with the C-USA title. Their non-conference slate is finished with lackluster wins over Miami (O), Akron, and Ohio U. The balance of their slate is all C-USA , and no one looks ready to challenge them. We’d love to see them play a good Power Five team. HC Doc Holliday’s team will probably have to settle for a lesser bowl with a low Power Five team. Next up for them is a home game against Middle Tennessee. For us, we will head to Syracuse for a noon time kickoff against Florida State that will be the upset of the new millennium if the Orange can pull this off. Our intent is to be there in case in does happen (with starting QB Terrell Hunt out, we’re not expecting much of anything). Maybe the ‘Noles will be looking past the Orange to Notre Dame the week after, but we don’t see that as being too big a distraction this weekend.

Extra points: S.B. Ballard Stadium holds 22,000. It’s been sold out for every game since the Monarchs started this program five years ago. It’s a nice campus and the program is still developing an identity. However, limited parking relegates tailgating to season ticket holders who have reserved parking spaces. The rest of us and visitors from the other schools park in local, campus, parking garages (for no charge) where alcohol and grills are prohibited. With the noon start, no local hangouts opened until 11:30 and we found only two – a sports bar in the Springhill Suites on Hampton Blvd, and a possible go-go bar nearby. St. Laurie wasn’t interested to try that option and Eric is still underage to go in and check it out.

No out of town scores were available during the game. I hate that. We sat in the end zone next to the student section. A video board for plays, stats, and messages sat to our left and we could only see the steel frame in the back. For spirit sections, ticket holders are encouraged to wear blue or white in their respective sections on the ticket to “stripe the stadium”. White stood out more than blue on this sun-drenched day in southern Virginia. Of course, Marshall interrupted in their green.

We got to view the ODU band and cheering squad performance up close in a quad before the game. We saw a first – a bearded twirler!

Another first for us.

Another first for us.

Next season, we will possibly go back to Ballard with a different game plan as Eric will most likely still be stationed there. If ODU hosts Charlotte, who will be added to C-USA as the latest addition to the FBS in 2015 as team # 129, we will try to make that happen. We’ll go for what we’ll anticipate as a more even match-up than what we saw this year. Charlotte 49ers vs. ODU Monarchs. We also enjoyed our short stay at a hotel on Virginia Beach. We know a little bit more about the area now to plan ahead. Maybe we can spend an extra day or two next season.

Sunday morning surf on Virginia Beach.

Sunday morning surf on Virginia Beach. Week in Review # 5


Marshall Thundering Herd

Marshall Thundering Herd

ODU Monarchs

ODU Monarchs


Of the nine games we’ve attended thus far, it looks like a new record for a CFF season already. Seven of nine visiting teams have won games thus far. We can’t remember the last time that many visiting teams won during one season. South Carolina, who came into this season with an 18-game home winning streak, lost two of those we attended. Only D-3 SUNY Maritime (who defeated Mass Maritime, 31-30) and Fordham with a dominant 50-7 win over Rhode Island took advantage of their guests. All five FBS visitors (OK, so Ohio State played Navy at a neutral site, but it was in Baltimore) we watched won. The next two visiting teams we will see, Marshall (-17 odds) at ODU and No. 1 Florida State at Syracuse, will be heavy favorites. We will be rooting for the heavy underdog at the Carrier Dome…Teams on our schedule this season remaining in the FBS Top 25 include No. 1 FSU, No. 5 Auburn, No. 6 Texas A&M (finally challenged last week by Arkansas last week in a 35-28 OT win), No. 10 Michigan State, No. 20 Ohio State, and No. 24 Missouri. SC dropped out this week with 61 votes, upcoming 4-0 Marshall received 40, and Maryland (3-1) got 5. No. 1 FCS squad and three-time defending FCS champ North Dakota State garnered 3 FBS votes. They probably deserve more…Some of the luster is already off this year’s 150th meeting between Lehigh and Lafayette on November 22. The longest rivalry in college football will be played at historic Yankee Stadium. Unless the two start off hot and start rolling Patriot League competition in the next few weeks, the historic game will be the only marble they’ll be playing for. Usually one or both has an FCS playoff bid on the line. Lehigh has started the season 0-4. Next up for them is surprising League foe Bucknell (4-0) though their slate has not been too demanding. Lafayette is 2-2 and runs into heavy preseason Patriot favorite No. 19 Fordham (3-1) in The Bronx this Saturday night. It looks like they will only be playing for a piece of history, but you know what? That’s going to make for a great game between two fired up long-time FCS rivals focused on beating one another – badly…lehlaf150logo

The Power Five announced new player benefits today: Scholarships for full cost of tuition, guaranteed multi-year scholarships, Long term health care and insurance for former players, and lifetime scholarship guarantees to finish degrees beyond four years…This weekend’s game for us between Marshall (4-0, 0-0) and Old Dominion ( 3-2,1-1) will be a key, if not exciting, Conference USA game. ODU comes off their first home loss in two years after losing to Middle Tennessee last week, 41-28. They may have been looking forward to the visit from The Thundering Herd. The QB matchup will be the key. Marshall’s Rakeem Cato has a QB ranking of 161.7 (ranked 24th) and is 31st in passing yards with 1163, but he’s only played in four games. The Monarch’s Taylor Heinecke has a 144.7 QB ranking for 42nd and is sixth in the nation with 1,534 passing yards. Both QBs enter with 14 TD passes. We’ll see how both will perform in a game where victory probably rests in the strengths and accuracy of their arms. Both can run the ball when they have to as well…

ODU QB Taylor Heinecke will fire away this Saturday for Old Dominion.

ODU QB Taylor Heinecke will fire away this Saturday for Old Dominion.

Tough week last week. Most of our favorites lost – Penn State, Navy, South Carolina (ok, my daughter’s), Lehigh, and the alma mater, Juniata…Wish we could have been at the Yale Bowl for the 100th anniversary game last weekend. Yale (2-0) beat Army (1-3) in OT, 49-43, in front of 34,142 fans. Army has an efficient triple option offense now with Jeff Moncken as HC, but they have a tough time stopping the run. Army had 386 yards on the ground and 597 total on offense. Yale ran for 325 but outgained them overall with 625 yards. This year’s Army-Navy game could result in a basketball score…The Mids (2-3) visit Air Force (3-1) for the first round of The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy this weekend. The Trophy is probably more up in the air among all three academies than it’s been in a long time…The Florida State vs. Syracuse game we will attend at the Carrier Dome on October 11 will kick off at noon (Go Orange!)…Syracuse

No. 18 BYU is undefeated, but even if it goes undefeated, the Cougars may not get the 12th spot for the non-Power Five entry in the College Football Playoff because the balance of its schedule is just void of any significant challenges this year. They beat Virginia and Texas, and they will probably be the best wins they garner all season. East Carolina is 3-1. Wins over Virginia Tech and North Carolina will look good on their resume. Cincinnati will be a key AAC game for them. Their 33-23 loss at South Carolina can’t hurt significantly but it may not look as good as the season continues. If Marshall runs the C-USA table which it should, they could have a shot. A win this weekend will be good, but a loss would hurt badly. There’s just not a game on their schedule that will impress the bowl selection committee if they win. Only if both BYU and ECU falter before the end of the season, the Herd will possibly jump in the CFP with a probable 13-0 record…Speaking of Bowl season, we are weighing the possibility of five games among these: the Military or New Era Pinstripe on December 27; The Franklin American Mortgage Music City or Belk on December 30; The Chick-Fil-A Peach or CapitalOne Orange on December 31; The Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus or Outback on January 1; and the Taxslayer on January 2. I haven’t told St. Laurie yet…Still tickets available for our Big Tailgate on October 18 when at Princeton (1-1) when they host Brown (0-2). E-mail me at to get your tickets. Our next interview with “Spadora on Sports” on WNER  will be at 10:30 am on October 11 when we head up to Syracuse.


Tigers claw back from deficit to upset Gamecocks with late rally, 21-20

Columbia, SC (September 27) – South Carolina’s Dylan Thompson fired a touchdown strike to WR Pharaoh Cooper who made a great grab as he was hit hard by Missouri defenders at the goal line for a 23-yard scoring play. Elliot Fry’s extra point gave USC the lead with 7:29 left to play, 20-7. The Gamecock lead looked comfortable the way the game had transpired since early in the first period. The Gamecock defense played its best game of the season thus far, and after Russell Hansborough’s 18-yard TD on Missouri’s first possession of the game, SC held the Tigers in check on their next eleven possessions forcing them to punt ten times and to take a knee before the first half expired. By game’s end, Mizzou totaled 280 offensive yards and QB Maty Mauk, who tossed 14 TD passes in four previous games, tallied none against the Carolina defense. At the 7:29 mark of the final period, his passing total for the day was mere 65 yards. The Cocks seemed to have the game in hand. The defense had finally risen to support the offense which struggled at times during the game with dropped passes and inopportune penalties. After the game, however, even Gamecock HC Steve Spurrier had to second-guess himself why he didn’t consider going for the two-point conversion after Cooper’s touchdown.

The Tigers turned the tables on Carolina in the time remaining to avenge last season’s double overtime loss to SC that jarred the Tigers out of first place in the SEC East. From his own32, Mauk (12 for 34, 136 yards) hit WR Bud Sasser for a 41-yard pass to the Carolina 27. In the next play, he connected with WR Wesley Leftwich to get to the Gamecock one. On the next play, Hansborough (10-45, 3 TDs) started to sweep left, then cut back against the grain around the unprotected right to cut the USC lead, 20-14, with Andrew Baggett’s point after. The drive consumed only 36 seconds. Mizzou’s defense forced Carolina to punt next holding them to no yards on three plays. Marcus Murphy returned the punt 22 yards to set the Tigers up from their 49. Nine plays later, the Tigers snapped the ball on a fourth and goal at the SC one. With the line stacked against him, the 5’ 9” Hansborough took drove the ball through with legs churning on a dive up the middle with 1:36 left to knot it up, and Baggett’s PAT made the difference. Four subsequent plays by the Gamecocks went nowhere and Mizzou had the ball at the USC 40 when time expired. The Tigers (4-1, 1-0) took the win, 21-20, in front of 83,493 at Williams-Brice Stadium on Carolina’s Parents Weekend 2014.

Under there somewhere is Russell Hansborough for Mizzou's winning score.

Under there somewhere is Russell Hansborough for Mizzou’s winning score.

It was a hardfought game and unexpectedly dominated by the defenses although Carolina’s offense shot themselves in the foot with several key dropped passes. The Cocks (3-2, 2-2), the only Power Five conference member with four conference games already under its belt, have a tough road ahead of it to challenge for the SEC East, but there’s still time ahead as the Tigers, 1-0 in conference play, still have Georgia at home in their next game on October 11 followed by visits to Florida and Texas A&M later in the season. SC defeated UGA earlier, 38-35. South Carolina travels to 3-1, 1-0 Kentucky next week who fell to the Gamecocks in a close one at last year’s Parents Weekend, 35-28. We will see the Cocks play again at Auburn on October 25 in what could be a key game for the success of their season if Mizzou and UGA tumble to fall in behind them. travels to Old Dominion in Norfolk, Virginia for the first time as we welcome the Monarchs as our 125th FBS team in their inaugural season at this level. It should be an interesting match up with two pass-oriented teams going at it. Taylor Heinecke leads the passing attack for the Monarchs, (3-2,0-1 C-USA), against undefeated conference foe Marshall (4-0) led by QB Rakeem Cato who is closing in on Russell Wilson’s NCAA record on 38 consecutive games with a TD pass. It will be our first trip to Foreman Field and our Guest Game Analyst will be our son Eric Koreivo, now enlisted in the US Navy and stationed at nearby Norfolk Naval Base.

Extra points: Mizzou’s first TD came after they stopped Carolina’s first drive on a fourth and short at the 33. Baggett missed a 47-yard FG wide right, and SC came back with Fry’s 33-yard FG. RB Mike Davis (22 carries for 104 yards, 1 TD) finished the first half scoring with his 17-yard TD run starting to his left and ending up to his right in the end zone to give Carolina a 10-7 half time lead.

ESPN’s Game Day presented by Home Depot broadcast at 9 am at the crowded SC Horseshoe in the middle of the campus as students camped out the night before to get up close to the stage for the entertainment which included the day’s guest picker, Kenny Chesney. Big screens were in the background for the more distant views of us later arrivals to watch regular hosts Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, and Heisman winner Desmond Howard, but some trees in The Shoe needed trimming to enable us to see the full screen. I guess there is now a greater sensitivity toward trees in the SEC since the dastardly act down at Toomer’s Crossing at Auburn. Features shown on the broadcast and transmitted to the big screens included stories about Michigan’s recent foibles and the lives of SEC Coaches’ wives among other topics (hard to hear in the back). The crowd would pay some attention, carry on their own conversations, and wait for the broadcast of the Game Day hosts to come back on screen so they could catch a glimpse of themselves. Signs and banners would go up and the crowd would become more vocal and performing again to catch their 15 seconds of fame. The Washington State University flag was there as usual. North Dakota State is in the mix as well and we saw a brown and white Lehigh banner. There were many original signs, but the best I saw was held by an SC coed that read, “The real USC, the real Carolina, and the real Columbia” – digs establishing South Carolina as the “real” as opposed to the University of Southern California, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Missouri located in Columbia, Missouri. Chesney performed “American Kid” in front of the stage during the broadcast. Only Herbstreit was brave enough to select Missouri to win in front of the hometown Carolina crowd. Now wonder why they work within a screened in stage, kind of like the Blues Brothers at the old country music venue in their movie. Corso wore the “Cocky” mascot head to select the Gamecocks to win it, and guest picker Chesney chose them also not to hurt record sales in Carolina. He’s a Tennessee fan. Probably would have picked the Tigers if this was broadcast back in Branson, Missouri. You can check out my pick on any replay of “Pete Spadora on Sports” broadcast from Saturday by listening to the replay on the I-95 radio website this week. The interview was done live while I walked far away from the loud noise at the Game Day broadcast.

ESPN's Game Day live and on the big screen at Carolina's Horseshoe.

ESPN’s Game Day live and on the big screen at Carolina’s Horseshoe.

One feature focused on Spurrier and his witticisms from the previous week about the weak play of his team in their 48-34 win against Vanderbilt. His best line – “Two kickoff returns for touchdowns is like two holes-in-one in one round (of golf).”

Maty Mauk’s success in the final 7:29 of play came on long pass attempts. Earlier attempts were more of the short variety that Texas A&M used to gain big yards in the opener of the season against SC courtesy of wide open receivers and many missed tackles. Others had similar success, but The Gamecocks covered and made tackles in those situations in this game. The long coverage seemed to catch the Gamecock secondary off guard late in the game once they had stopped the short passing game.

Alex's roommate Kelly partied before the brawl with the Tigers. Note the stuffed Gamecock on the table in back.  That's what Corso probably really held during the Game Day Broadcast.

Alex’s roommate Kelly partied before the brawl with the Tigers. Note the stuffed Gamecock on the table in back. That’s what Corso probably really held during the Game Day Broadcast.

Our post game tailgate was a downer as could be understood for all the South Carolina faithful who had gathered for our final Parents Weekend tailgate. All our daughters are seniors. Our daughter Alex, her friends and their families, and especially Eleanor’s grandfather Jerry, a long time Gamecock season ticket holder, were particularly distraught. The girls were in shock. I felt bad for them as they’d been looking for a great senior season. They had enjoyed three previous years finishing with eleven wins in each. This year is off to a bad start, so they are genuinely dismayed that their last year may not be as memorable as the others. Tough times lie ahead, but they are hoping their team is going to pull together for the balance of the season. It’s not over by any means. Jerry just couldn’t talk about the game. When someone asked what he thought what Spurrier might be saying to his players, he just said didn’t want to even think about it. The grill didn’t even get fired back up for a post-game party. There was no joy in Columbia. Our friend Darlene and her daughter Courtney didn’t even stick around to go to Sonic with us like we did last year! Things have to fall in place going forward for the Gamecocks to get back into the SEC East hunt (or as Spurrier also stated in another post-Vanderbilt interview, “or whatever we’re still in a hunt for.”). Things have to unravel properly for the Cocks to have a chance, but the team is really going to have to step up and play better in all aspects consistently if they want a shot to get back into the SEC race with a great effort starting at Kentucky next weekend.

I reminded my daughter Alex, that when I brought her and her brother Eric to a Navy game for the first time back in 2000, we watched Toledo beat the Midshipman, 35-14. On that day on October 28, the Head Coach for Toledo was Gary Pinkel, who now is HC at Mizzou in his 13th year. Fourteen years later, he stuck around to beat Alex’s team.

Bird's eye view of one of the famed South Carolina Cockabooses from the mezzanine of Williams-Brice Stadium.

Bird’s eye view of one of the famed South Carolina Cockabooses from the mezzanine of Williams-Brice Stadium. Week in Review #4

Our take on Jameis Winston: as we said before, we predict that this kid is a catastrophe waiting to happen. If he hasn’t learned anything from the recent punishments dished out by the NFL for anti-social behaviors, will he ever … Continue reading

Rutgers domination along both fronts holds off Navy, 31-24

Annapolis, MD (Sept. 20, 2014) – Navy QB Keenan Reynolds fired the last shot of the game against their second Big Ten opponent this season to try to send the Mids into overtime or for a last second win, but it was a misfire as WR Jamir Tillman caught his pass out of bounds beyond the end zone, and Rutgers (3-1) held on to win against Navy, 31-24. It may have been a costly win for RU as leading RB Paul James suffered a knee injury in the second period and left on crutches after gaining 96 yards on his first seven carries. Reports came out on Monday that he suffered a torn ACL and is lost for the season. The result of the game was clearly won by the Scarlet Knights along both fronts. The offensive line dominated opening up holes to amass 284 yards, RU’s most since the 2007 International Bowl, in rushing. Defensively, the front seven thwarted Navy’s triple option rushing attack averaging 403 yards per game limiting them to 171 yards on 43 carries. What kept Navy in the game was a surprising passing game. Had Navy HC Ken Niumatalolo opened it up earlier and a little more often, his team may have put more points on the board against a suspect RU secondary. However, early misfires may have prompted him to stay on the ground longer than desired, but as the game went on, Reynold’s passes became more effective.

Navy (2-2) scored on its first possession after recovering a James’ fumble at the RU 25, and Reynolds (19 carries for 25 yards , two TDs/ 12 of 26 passing for 231 yards, 1 TD) ran in the first score from the one. The score remained 7-0 when Navy’s Nick Sloan went wide with a 40-yard FG attempt that could have extended the Navy lead, and at that point, the momentum seemed to shift to the Knights. On a fourth and two, James broke through a hole in the right side and raced down field for a 38-yard TD to tie the game, 7-7. Late in the period, Reynolds fumbled and put RU at Navy’s 36.

Rutgers QB Gary Nova follows his line into the end zone from the one for a touchdown.

Rutgers QB Gary Nova follows his line into the end zone from the one for a touchdown.

Kyle Federico did for RU what Sloan couldn’t do for Navy and put three on the board for a 20-yard FG to put the Knights in the lead, 10-7. On Rutgers’ next drive, James left the game for good, but Justin Goodwin (Madison, NJ) and Desmon Peoples (19 carries for 82 yards) stepped up effectively. QB Gary Nova (11 of 14 passing, 151 yards, two rushing TDs) plunged in from the one for 17-7 Scarlet Knight lead. Navy came right back with a 75-yard drive ending with Reynolds’ seven-yard TD run to narrow the gap. However, Rutgers’ o-line continued to dominate Navy’s defensive front and drove 91 yards. With: 27 left in the half, Goodwin (26 carries for 104 yards, 1 TD) took it over from the three for a 24-14 halftime lead. Under an intense sun the entire first half, we spent the intermission in the shade of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on the Gold side, where St. Laurie and I met with GGA Steve Ciesla who sat with Frank Scarpa who stayed in the bleachers commiserating with fellow RU fans.

Navy’s opening drive was highlighted by a 53 yard pass to Tillman down to the 27. Sloan converted with a 35-yard FG to close to 24-17. Rutgers started from its 37 with the aid of a 15-yard illegal block by the defense – never saw an illegal block called against a team without the ball. From there, Rutgers controlled the line of scrimmage and Nova took it in from the one once again to end the third period scoring for their 31-17 lead.

Keenan Reynolds attempts a pitch, but RU held Navy to a season-low of 171 yards on 43 carries.

Keenan Reynolds attempts a pitch, but RU held Navy to a season-low of 171 yards on 43 carries.

In the final period with 5:20 remaining, the Mids finished off a 75-yard scoring drive with a rare TD pass. WR Brenan Dudeck was left wide open in the end zone for a 14-yard TD reception. On RU’s ensuing possession, the Mids’ defense stopped the Knights in a third and one to force a rare three and out. They took over from the 26 with 3:12 left. Blue and Gold got down to the Scarlet 16, but sacks by second team safety Andre Hunt and DE Kemoko Turay put Navy back to the 36 with a fourth and 20 from where Reynolds took his final shot into the end zone that went for naught to end the Navy threat. Exciting finish! Unusual stats for both teams that learned a lot going into the balance of their seasons. RU can run the ball to keep mistake-prone QB Nova from forcing INTs. Can they continue to do it against better run defenses than Navy’s however without Paul James? It knows it can stop the run, but Rutgers still needs to shore up its secondary. Navy needs to sharpen up its passing game with some play action to take advantage of its run game to utilize its passing game more consistently which can be effective if needed.

Rutgers returns to High Point Solutions Stadium to finish its non-conference slate against Tulane (1-3) on Saturday at noon. Navy welcomes high-scoring Western Kentucky (1-2) now of Conference USA to Annapolis for a 3:30 kick off. Last year, the Hilltoppers defeated USNA, 19-7. heads to Columbia, SC for our final Parents weekend there and for ESPN Game Day as the No. 13 Gamecocks (3-1, 0-1) host Missouri’s Tigers (3-1) in an SEC game kick off at 7 pm.

Extra points: With Rutgers win over Navy, the respective records of both teams are 24-30 and 21-33. They are tied for second in appearances with 54.  RU is second in wins with 24. Navy is first in losses with 33. With Navy’s admission into the American Athletic Conference next season, the teams are not scheduled to meet any time in the near future due to conference scheduling obligations.

Rutgers Mom Patty Rafferty and Navy Mom St. Laurie Koreivo pose together in front of Navy's Tecumseh in T-Court before the game.

Rutgers Mom Patty Rafferty and Navy Mom St. Laurie Koreivo pose together in front of Navy’s Tecumseh in T-Court before the game.

It was a special weekend for us in Annapolis this weekend. Nick Rafferty, second team LB for Rutgers has been friends with our son Eric since kindergarten. Nicks’ father Frank and I coached both boys in Little League baseball for ten years. For Lenape Valley (NJ) High School, Nick played RB and Eric started at offensive tackle their senior year and finished with an 8-2 record. Frank and his wife Patty, who is responsible for making my “119” jersey that adorns the cover of “Tales from the Tailgate”, joined St. Laurie and me for the weekend to tailgate, go to the game, and tour Annapolis. Long time Guest Game analysts Steve Ciesla and Frank Scarpa joined us as well. Nick called Eric, now stationed at Norfolk Naval Base as an ITN, to offer him a will-call ticket to the game. Eric had no duty this weekend and was able to join us on Saturday. We didn’t expect to see him again until we visit him in two weeks down at Norfolk. He wore his Navy t-shirt and sat with Frank and Patty in the Rutgers parent section. He cheered for the Navy (would’ve cheered for Nick had he gotten into the game), and people around him wondered how he got his ticket. He told him that he’s a friend of Nick’s and that he’s an enlisted Navy guy, but not a Midshipman. He accepted defeat with grace in the end. We enjoyed tailgating, the weekend, and a post- game meeting with Nick before the RU team headed back home by bus. At LVRHS their senior year, Nick and Eric and the rest of the Patriots fell to Madison High School featuring Justin Goodwin (now in the RU backfield) in a one –point loss featured on MSG Varsity TV. A last second FG went wide for LVR to miss the chance to beat Madison, a top 20 team in the state, that evening. Nick’s RU roommate, Safety Andre Hunt, who came off the bench, made a critical sack of Keenan Reynolds on Navy’s final drive.

For breakfast on Sunday, we went to Chick and Ruth’s on Main Street an Annapolis for the first time. We had to wait outside for about 15 minutes, but it was worth it. It was featured on “Man vs. Food.” We’ll go back again. Try it when you get down there. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


Week #3: Penn State’s final drive spoils Rutgers Big 1G debut, 13-10;Fordham Rams blast Rhode Island Rams, 57-7;The College of New Jersey outlasts FDU-Florham, 17-13

Penn State’s final drive spoils Rutgers Big 1G debut, 13-10 The Birthplace of College Football, NJ – In a hard fought game in front of a record crowd of 53,744 at High Point Solutions Stadium between Penn State (3-0, 1-0), … Continue reading