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The Goal - See 'em all!
Florida Atlantic Edges North Texas,17-16;
CFF adds #s 113 and 114
Denton, TX – FS Taheem Acevedo of Florida Atlantic (4-7,3-5) came up with two big INTS against the Mean Green (Black?) of North Texas (3-8,2-4) to thwart scoring opportunities in both halves to hold the home team in check for a close 17-16 Sun Belt win. Both teams had rushers with 100+ yards, but both defenses were bent but did not break as the Owls scored their final points with :16 left in Q2. North Texas was held to two FGs in the second half. For two teams with identical 3-7 records coming in, CFF could not have asked for a better match-up between two teams with no bowl hopes this year. It beats going to see NTSU get blown out 56-7 by the Texas Longhorns, or seeing FAU get destroyed, 54-6, by Clemson just for the sake of seeing new teams to add to our Goal while possibly visiting a new venue we'd like to see. Our strategy pays off to see teams of equal talent play in competitive games, and we've done it this way this to get our total toward The Goal up to 114 teams (remember we saw 0-6 LA-Monroe beat 0-6 LA-Lafayette, 45-42)! We hope to add our final five next year starting with Kansas State (#115) at Fresno. We'll add newcomer Western Kentucky (#120) after they get through their transition period in 2009.
Not exactly sure of where I was going from Dallas, I got to Fouts Field mid-way through the first period just as the Mean Green in black uniforms with green helmets scored on a three-yard TD run by Frosh RB Evan Robertson (27 rushes for 201 yards). Walking into NTSU's stadium and seeing all the mass of empty, aluminum bleacher seats, the scene was reminiscent of our trip last year to see Ohio U. visit Buffalo in Amherst, NY, although this was a night game and much cooler than that late September afternoon vividly remembered. We wondered then how Ohio's Head Coach Frank Solich adjusted to coaching in such confines after his career at Nebraska! One wondered as well how FAU Head Coach Howard Schellenberger weathered this change over the years after glory days at places like Oklahoma, Miami (F.) , and Louisville. A second impression was what the SMU guys warned me about - that screeching eagle cry is annoying! After TDs, on defensive third downs, on offensive third downs, after big plays, whatever, the screech and the two bell gongs can be put to rest, especially with such a small crowd (9,806) to get any kind of reaction from. After the first NTSU score, the Owl responded with a scoring drive of their own as PK Warley Leroy booted a 24-yard FG to close the score, 7-3. As the quarter expired, some real head-knocking was going on along the sideline as FAU's Owl mascot mixed it up with NTSU's Eagle. The Owl literally knocked the Eagle's head off exposing the small head of some embarrassed college kid. The Eagle eventually had to retaliate where at first the best he could do was turn the Owl's head in an Omen-like style. He eventually got it off, and before a cockfight escalated, "cooler heads" intervened. We moved seats at the end of Q1 from the SW corner to the NW corner of Fouts to get a better view of the Mean Green's Dance Team. performing in front of the band. Let me tell you it was a great move on our part for a much better view!
North Texas attempted a long pass into the end zone on its next drive, but Acevedo made a leaping catch there on the overthrow to stop the threat and give FAU possession back on its own twenty. The possession only resulted in a punt to the Eagle ten. Robertson did some damage again with a 45-yard jaunt off left tackle to the FAU forty. On third down, FAU stopped The Mean Green at the twenty-two, but DE Josh Jenkins lay motionless after the play. Both teams were removed from the field as medical staffs from both teams worked together to strap him to a solid stretcher to immobilize his body and lift him to an ambulance that was brought in. He raised his right forearm before going in. We plan to check on his status over the weekend (hope he's ok). When play resumed, PK Denis Hopovac booted a 39-yard FG to lift North Texas to a 10-3 lead. FAU preceded to drive to the NTSU 27 where on fourth and ten, QB Rusty Smith's pass fell incomplete and the Eagles took back over on downs. However, FAU's drive was not in vain. SS Kris Bartels stepped in front of Dan Meager's next pass and rambled thirty-nine yards for an FAU TD. Leroy's extra point knotted the score, 10-10. A sack of Meager on his team's next possession by DT Josh Pinnick forced a fumble recovered by DE Robert St.Clair at the North Texas fourteen. With :16 left in the half, RB Charles Pierre (28 rushes for 116 yards) took it in from one and Leroy added the PAT for a 17-10 FAU lead. The Mean Green's cannon blasted loudly to end the half. Mean Green? Black uniforms? Eagles? Eagle cries? Bells? Cannons? It seemed like this school doesn't know what it wants to be!
The NTSU band put on a true show of half-time precision. It's interesting to note that NTSU Head Coach Darrel Dickey was fired this week and will coach the team through the end of the season. The south end zone is decorated with four championship Sun Belt banners from 2001-2004 when he coached under less stressful times. The team went on to bowl games in each of those years. With a Sun belt record of 34-21, his overall record of 42-63 just won't cut the mustard any more. The school, as well as this conference, is looking for better days ahead to challenge schools out of this lowest of the D1A conferences. As a consequence this past week, a booster offered $1MM to the school to name the new athletic facility after Dickey with an ultimatum that if they didn't, the money would instead go to the school's music department to be used by the One O'clock Lab Band! The booster named Jim McIngvale is known as "Mattress Mack", known for his crazy bedding commercials on local TV - sort of like a "Crazy Eddie" of northeast fame. McIngvale states that the commitment was made two years ago and that he believed the firing of Dickey was harsh since the coach suffered a heart attack back on October 12. The school will honor his wish as it needs the money to improve its athletic facilities.
On their first possession of Q3, the Mean Green drove all the way from its own ten to the FAU two, but on third and goal, the Eagles were stopped for a four-yard loss. The Green settled for a 23-yard Hopovac FG to close the gap, 17-13, in favor of the Owls. Both teams combined for only three possessions the entire period as FAU lined up to punt to start the fourth. FAU replaced Rusty Smith with Sean Clayton at QB.
North Texas countered on its next possession replacing Meager with Soph Matt Phillips. During this drive, WR Johnny Quinn tied and then set the North Texas all-time receiving record with his 182nd and 183rd receptions, quite a few for a team that primarily thrived over the years on its ground game. Robertson appropriately followed to prove that point with a beautiful 42-yard run darting quickly back and forth across the field till he was dropped at the Owl seven. On the subsequent play, FAU dropped him for a three-yard loss. Unable to progress as the Owl defense was stingy, North Texas settled for a 27-yard FG by Hopovac to get within one, 17-16, as 12:01 remained. After an exchange of punts, FAU found itself with a third and eleven from its own thirty-four, but an intentional grounding call forced them to punt from their own fourteen. NTSU started with 3:56 in good field position from its own forty-seven. On fourth and three at FAU's forty, Robertson ran five yards for a first down to keep a potential winning , scoring drive alive. On the very next play, Phillips started right with play action, and then reversed field to his left, looked for an open man, and attempted a short, weak pass to the flat where Acevedo jumped in front to make a pick to stop the Mean Green drive in its tracks to seal the one point lead for the Owls with 1:12 remaining. The clock expired, the band played, we took one last look at NTSU's very fine Dance Team, and left the cold, dark, stadium as they switched off the lights for a fireworks show that we didn't need to stay for. It was too cold now, and we had to finally catch the Ohio State-Michigan highlights back at the local hotel.
On a day when most of football nation eyed #1 Ohio State's exciting 41-38 victory over #2 Michigan, Collegefootballfan.com was thrilled to have attended two close, hard-fought football games not particularly played by the best, but played by other athletes giving their best! That's what college football is supposed to be about. Some day, we hope to get to an Ohio State - Michigan game where there always seems to be something big at stake, but at these two venues in Texas on a November afternoon and evening, we are elated to have seen two competitive games to add three more teams to get to our Goal to see 'em all! Seeing good competition on the playing field and meeting some other college football fans in different parts of the country make it all very worthwhile!
Darrel Dickey will lead the Mean Green for the last time next week at UL-Monroe (2-8, 1-4). FAU visits winless rival Florida International (0-10, 0-5) under also fired Head Coach Don Strock. We saw that coming! The Panthers are winless, out of control as exposed in the melee versus Miami, and when we saw them earlier this year in a 14-10 loss to Maryland, we thought Strock's clock management was very poor, especially for a former NFL QB, even if he did stand on the sideline most of those games. In addition, his team didn't seem like it wanted to be there. With all that talent down there in FLA, the right coach can make that one of the best teams in the Sun Belt! FAU should end the season 5-7. Their first four losses of the season were trouncings at the hands of Clemson, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and South Carolina (combined scores of 192-20!). FAU and the Sun Belt in general would all do college football a big favor if they would take some smaller pay checks to play teams in the MAC, the WAC, C-USA, along with Duke, Temple, and Army (see Arkansas State). They could get a few more non-conference wins and let these other so-called "power houses" start playing each other instead of a bunch of patsies each year! CFF.com drops to D-III this week to see some play-off competition as perennial power Rowan (8-2) from Glassboro, NJ travels to meet the 11-0 Wilkes Colonels in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Happy Thanksgiving to all our College Football Fans!
Extra points: Didn't like NTSU's all black uniforms with green helmets. It turned out that these uniforms were picked especially by the players for this game. Maybe they were mourning the firing of their coach. The green and black just doesn't do it ,guys. They were ugly. On the other hand, the Dance Team with green and whit jackets with tight black pants looked particularly great! Put heavy snow green and black snow suits on them and they'd still look great. When they show close up shots on TV of some of these other female teams and cheerleaders, few compare to these girls!
A TV time-out was announced during the beginning of the second half. Not only did we wonder who was broadcasting, but who was watching. OSU-Michigan was still on when this started. Every 1A game needs TV when you think about it, just for replays!
Robertson picked up 108 of his 201 yards in the first half. Jamario Thomas who led the NATION in rushing two years ago, played behind him. Some Eagle fans nearby are hoping WR Johnny Quinn will get picked up by the Cowboys. Hey, we hope that somebody comes along to push Terrell Owens out of football all together. Speaking of Cowboys, quite a few fans flew down with us on our flight from Newark. Luckily they weren't on return flight as we left while the Cowboy game against Indianapolis was being played. If they want to root for the Cowboys, I say they should go live in Dallas where they belong!
We'll be interested to see who will fill in new coaching voids at North Texas (how about Mean Joe Green, an alum) and FIU as the schools and the conference seem to want to shake their weak conference reputation.
North Texas played both other schools we saw play this day. On consecutive weeks, the beat SMU, 24-6, and lost to Tulsa, 28-3.