College Football Hall of Fame Moving South; Coaches for a Cure

Anyone who knows me well has seen my ticket books. Despite being unorganized in many aspects of my life, I am very meticulous when it comes to saving tickets from sporting events I have attended.

In Book 1 (I am now filling up my fourth book), there is an admission ticket from my visit to the College Football Hall of Fame. It was only $3, since I was a child and my dad apparently used his AAA card. It is dated Friday, September 4, 1998.

The College Football Hall of Fame is located in South Bend, Indiana, but is moving to Atlanta in 2011. The move doesn’t affect me too much. Yes, I had a better chance of returning if it stayed in South Bend, as I visit the city every few years for a Michigan-Notre Dame football game. I’ve never visited Atlanta.

I was 12 years old at the time of my visit and I remember enjoying the museum, which I attended with my dad and at least one of my brothers. It didn’t blow me away — many of the exhibits were of players far too old for me to really care about — but it was fun.

I recall kicking an extra point on the regulation-sized goalposts on a field just outside the main building. I think there was a room which simulated being inside Michigan Stadium on gameday, with a fast-forward video of the stands filling up and the band taking the field. That was cool.

The thought behind the move is that it will increase exposure for the HOF and attract more visitors. There are more people in Atlanta, plus Atlanta has more to offer than South Bend, so that makes sense. Will it ever be a huge draw, though? I’m not certain.

The baseball Hall is still the cream of the HOF crop as far as I’m concerned, though I haven’t been to enough Halls of Fame to justify that statement. If you disagree, feel free to let me know in the comments section.

Rival Coaches Agree

Purdue’s head coach Danny Hope has had some choice words for Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez this past week. USC’s Pete Carroll probably isn’t too fond of his former assistant right now, Washington’s Steve Sarkisian. But coaches across America will be in support of a common goal this weekend: curing Muscular Dystrophy.

Members of the American Football Coaches Association will be sporting a patch on their sleeves in an effort to raise awareness for the terrible disease.

Go to http://www.CoachtoCureMD.org for more information and to help support the cause!

Excessive Celebration or Excessive Penalization in College Football?

As you may have read, I was at the Michigan-Notre Dame game. Midway through the fourth quarter, immediately after ND had taken a one-point lead, the Irish scored a two-point conversion on a well-executed trick play. Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen faked a pass before handing off behind his back to running back Armando Allen. Clausen was taken to the turf by several Michigan defenders, but of course he didn’t have the ball. Allen ran untouched into the endzone.

Once it was clear that ND was going to score, I shifted my eyes back to Clausen. He was sitting on the grass, shaking his legs and arms as if he were riding a horse, or something. I don’t know. It was weird. But it was certainly celebratory and when I heard a referee announce an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Irish, I certainly thought it was for that.

It wasn’t until later that night that I learned Allen was the one who was penalized. I was surprised. Then I read about, and eventually saw a picture of, the act that drew the flag.

Allen had taken a step or two past the back of the endzone, looked up at the crowd, and put his pointer finger in front of his lips, the universal symbol for “be quiet.”

I highly doubt this was premeditated, and it only lasted for a second or two. Yet it drew a flag anyway. This is not the first questionable unsportsmanlike penalty call I have seen in this young season and certainly not the most egregious. It’s just one example from a game I attended.

Before every season, in addition to an updated rulebook, officials release a statement outlining certain calls they will be on the lookout for in the upcoming season.

One of the items the officials noted for the 2009 season was unsportsmanlike penalties. The NCAA Football Rules Committee included this in the statement it released in February:

“After reviewing a number of plays involving unsportsmanlike conduct, the committee is firm in its support of the unsportsmanlike conduct rules as they currently are written and officiated. Many of these fouls deal with players who inappropriately draw attention to themselves in a pre-meditated, excessive or prolonged manner.

I wholeheartedly disagree with that statement, which in my opinion is a gross exaggeration. To say that many of the unsportsmanlike penalties are assessed to players who act in the manner described is simply untrue.

Was Allen’s “crowd shush” premeditated? Excessive? Prolonged? Excessive is the only aspect of the rule he may have broken, but I don’t think he did.

Surely you recall Jake Locker, who just led the Washington Huskies to a win over USC last Saturday, scoring a last-second touchdown against BYU last year. He tossed the ball over his shoulder in excitement, drawing a flag and forcing his team to attempt a longer-than-usual extra point, which was blocked. Washington lost by one.

Then there’s this from the rulebook, which will also get you a flag: “An unopposed ball carrier obviously altering stride as he approaches the opponent’s goal line or diving into the end zone.” If I were writing the rules, I wouldn’t include that, but at least I understand it. It’s obvious taunting.

The thing is, in that Michigan-ND game I attended, Irish receiver Golden Tate, known for his showboating more so than his teammate, Allen, caught a pass near the sideline, shook his defender to the ground around the 10-yard line, and trotted sideways into the endzone, holding the ball away from his body with one hand. No flags were thrown.

Now I’m not complaining that Tate’s actions didn’t draw a penalty. But the rulebook states it should have been called.

Much like pass interference and holding, unsportsmanlike fouls are open to some interpretation by the refs. I have no problem with them exercising their judgment — they’re just not doing a good job of that.

I’ve heard the NFL referred to as the No Fun League. While the NFL rulebook might restrict players off the field, often fining them for seemingly harmless behavior, they are free to celebrate on the field far more than college players.

I’m not saying college players need to be pulling cellphones out of the goalposts. That’s premeditated and stupid. But they should be allowed to celebrate after they’ve made a good play. A chest pounding, a call for fans to get loud (or quiet down), a flexing of the bicep — these are natural displays of emotion, not penalty-worthy offenses.

So officials, please let the kids have some fun. If they aren’t delaying the game or taunting the opponent, what’s the harm in a little celebration?

Michigan Beats Notre Dame 38-34 in Thriller at the Big House

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan football is back.

After the worst season in school history in 2008, the Wolverines are 3-0. For an alum like myself, it feels good.

The blowout victory over Western Michigan in the season opener was great — regardless of the quality of the opponent, it showed that the offense was at least competent this year. It showed that the defensive players seemed more aware of their assignments, even if they were sloppy at times. And most importantly, and this can’t be stressed enough after last season, it showed that Michigan has dangerous and effective quarterbacks.

That’s right, it took all of one week for true freshman quarterback Tate Forcier to win over the Maize and Blue faithful. He dazzled in his debut, throwing three touchdown passes and no interceptions.

One week later, he’d announce himself to the rest of the country.

Playing at home against then-No. 18 Notre Dame, Forcier led Michigan to a thrilling 38-34 win, taking the team down the field and throwing a touchdown pass with just 11 seconds left.

The win was Michigan’s biggest since Lloyd Carr’s final game, when the Wolverines sent out the longtime coach with an improbable bowl win over Florida. (Yes, there was the wild, come-from-behind win against Wisconsin last season, when Michigan erased a 19-point halftime deficit to win 27-25. But remember, Michigan went 3-9 last year. In the end, none of the games were “big.”)

Against the Irish, the Big House was rockin’ when Darryl Stonum took a kickoff 94 yards for a score to give the Maize and Blue a 14-3 first quarter lead; it was shaking when Forcier broke an Irish defender’s ankles en route to a 31-yard rushing TD in the fourth; and the stadium, new luxury boxes and all, almost crumbled when the freshman phenom found Greg Mathews in the endzone in the game’s final moments.

Michigan fans hope for a safety as Notre Dame prepares for a snap in the third quarter. Note the luxury suites that are still under construction.

Remember earlier I said that Michigan now has dangerous and effective quarterbacks. Forcier’s great play may have overshadowed the Wolverines’ other true freshman signal-caller, speedster Denard Robinson.

In the opener, Robinson was electric. He ran 11 times for 74 yards, including a jaw-dropping 43-yard touchdown run. He didn’t see the field much against Notre Dame, but rushed for two more TDs against Eastern Michigan in a 45-17 win last week. He hasn’t gotten a chance to throw the ball too much yet, but it’s clear he has all the tools to be a star.

Is Michigan primed for a BCS bowl? Certainly not. Penn State and Ohio State are still a cut above the Wolverines, though Michigan does draw both those schools at home this season, so stealing a victory isn’t out of the question.

There’s no sense in looking even that far ahead though. A less-than-stellar Indiana team comes to the Big House this Saturday before Michigan and its many freshmen make their first road trip of the season, travelling to East Lansing to take on Michigan State on October 3.

Given the way it has begun, as long as expectations don’t get unreasonably high midway through the season, 2009 will likely be viewed as a success, a step in the right direction in Rich Rodriguez’s second season in Ann Arbor.

In the meantime, as the crowd chanted following the victory over Notre Dame: It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine.

Michigan fans go wild as the players meet in the middle of the field to celebrate the win over Notre Dame.

Virginia Techs Amazing 16-15 Comeback Win Over Nebraska and How I Missed It

The following post was written by Robert Miller.

BLACKSBURG, Va. — A stunning turn of events at the end of the game…and I missed it!

My two and half year old daughter and I attended our first Virginia Tech home game today. What’s more, it was her first college football game so I wanted to make sure it was a positive experience. We took a shuttle bus from our apartment to the game. I had predetermined that we would leave the game once it was uncompetitive so that we would not be stuck in a long line to get on the returning shuttle bus. This line of thinking was based on numerous experiences at Notre Dame where the post-game shuttle bus lines are so long that walking two miles back is faster than waiting for the shuttle.

Prior to today, my college football experience consisted of 20+ Notre Dame games in South Bend including a Nebraska overtime loss, two ND games at the Big House in Michigan, one ND game at Giants Stadium, and a Navy game at Boston College.

Without question, Lane Stadium today was the most energized stadium I had ever experienced at the opening of a game. The following video was taken prior to the teams taking the field and includes Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blaring on the loud speakers. Needless to say, Hokie fans were jacked up.

Virginia Tech started with a bang by taking the kickoff deep into Nebraska territory and then quickly scoring a TD to make it 7-0. Virginia Tech’s subsequent field goal in the second quarter came on a drive anchored by a 46 yard run by Ryan Williams. However, discount that big run by Williams and the Hokie offense was ineffective the entire game; that is until the end when it mattered most.

Despite the game-winning drive, the real story of the game was Virginia Tech’s defense. The Hokies held Nebraska to five field goals, keeping the Cornhuskers out of the endzone despite their two trips inside the ten yard line. The following picture was taken in the second quarter and shows how close Nebraska came to scoring before eventually settling for a field goal.
Virginia Tech’s defense was looking tired by the end of the third quarter. They let up some big plays but never let Nebraska into the end zone. Roy Helu Jr.’s 169 yards rushing were impressive but the Cornhuskers did not have a passing game to complement him. Quarterback Zac Lee’s inconsistent play — including numerous errant passes to wide open receivers — cost his team the game. Lee’s best pass was a TD toss that was called back on a holding penalty. The following picture was taken on that key drive in the third quarter where Tech’s defense held Nebraska to yet another field goal.
Fast forward to the end of the fourth quarter — with about two minutes to go Virginia Tech fails to convert on a fourth and nine. Despite Tech’s three remaining timeouts, I heavily weighted Tech’s stagnant offense and let visions of long shuttle bus lines cloud my judgment.

My daughter and I left the game with two minutes to go.

Subsequently, we spent thirty minutes looking for our shuttle bus only to discover that it was not going to leave until 15 minutes after the game. Meanwhile, I could hear the excitement in the stadium, including two thunderous explosions from the crowd — one after an 81-yard Tyrod Taylor pass to the Nebraska three yard line and another after an 11-yard TD pass to Dyrell Roberts — both of which took place directly in front our end zone seats!

My excitement for Tech quickly turned to frustration because instead of wandering aimlessly around the stadium, we could have been experiencing one of the greatest finishes ever!

Needless to say, I will not make the same mistake next week when Tech plays the U at home. My biggest disappointment is not capturing pictures and videos of the final moments to share with you on this blog.

Virginia Tech’s victory over a Nebraska team with a stout defense and a strong running game should boost the ACC’s standing amongst BCS conferences. In addition, Tech will be on the fast track to the ACC title game if it can beat Miami next weekend. Nebraska, on the other hand, is likely to regret all of the missed opportunities it had in the red zone but should experience success in the Big 12 North.

–Robert Miller

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College Football – Virginia Tech defeats Marshall 52-10

The following post was written by Robert Miller.

Looking to rebound after a tough loss against Alabama last week, the Virginia Tech Hokies were expected to dominate against the Marshall Thundering Herd. In particular, red shirt freshman Ryan Williams was expected to perform well after gaining 71 yards and scoring two touchdowns against Alabama’s stout defense.

Marshall was forced to punt on six of its seven first half drives and struggled to put together a long, multi-play drive. Marshall finally broke through Tech’s defense on its sixth drive when Darius Marshall ran 61 yards for a touchdown. Throughout the first half, Tech’s defense maintained pressure on Marshall’s QB Anderson and locked up the Thundering Herd running backs.

Virginia Tech punted on its first drive that included Tyrod Taylor missing on two deep passes. However, Taylor got the offense going with a 46 yard run on their second drive. Unfortunately for Tech, Taylor’s accurate but soft pass into the end zone was intercepted by a diving DeQuan Bembry of Marshall.

Virginia Tech broke the scoreless tie on its third drive when it scored on the first play from scrimmage with an electric 57 yard TD run from Ryan Williams. Virgina Tech scored again on its fourth drive that was anchored by Tyrod Taylor throwing accurate passes, running the option, and handing the ball off to Josh Oglesby and Williams. Williams finished the drive with a four yard TD run.
Tech broke the game wide open when Jayron Hosley ran a punt back 64 yards untouched for a touchdown; to make it 21-0. After being forced to punt, Taylor completed a 43 yard pass to Danny Coale and Williams subsequently punched it in with a 28 yard TD run. Tech finished the half up 35-7 after a final drive that included a successful fourth down attempt and a 21 yard TD pass to Dyrell Roberts. With the game in hand, I turned my eye to the Notre Dame vs. Michigan game.

In sum, Virginia Tech’s passing game started slowly but established a rhythm by the end of the first half. Tech’s option and running games consistently found holes in Marshall’s defense. Specifically, Ryan Williams tore up Marshall’s defense with 164 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Tech needs to continue improving its passing game so that other teams are unable to apply extra attention to its running game. Nebraska is sure to key in on Williams and force Taylor to throw it more than he had to against Marshall. Finally, Tech’s defense and special teams look ready to go against the Cornhuskers.

–Robert Miller

Brett Favre Signs with Minnesota Vikings

I’ve had a lot of coaches in my life, as I played a variety of sports through high school. Some were good, and some were really bad. The Minnesota Vikings coach, Brad Childress, is probably a lot like those really bad ones.

I’ve had a lot of teammates in my life, too, and just like the coaches, some were good and some were bad. Brett Favre is probably a lot like those really bad ones who got away with anything.

Childress couldn’t be a bad coach if Favre wasn’t a bad teammate. And Favre couldn’t be a bad teammate — at least not in the particular way he is a bad teammate — if he wasn’t viewed as a great player.

You follow?

Throughout my organized sports days, the worst coaches, in my opinion, were the ones who held different standards for the star players. And I don’t mean that they demanded more of them in practice or in games. I mean that if the star didn’t show up for practice he’d still start in the next game.

The best coaches, on the other hand, didn’t care if you were the star or the last guy on the bench — if you missed practice, or broke a team rule, or whatever, you were punished accordingly.

This obviously is not the type of coach Childress is. Or the type of organization the Vikings are. And Brett Favre is definitely the star player who can get away with murder.

Because by sitting out all of training camp and signing with the Vikings just today, he is setting a horrible example for young athletes. Regardless of what he might tell the media, Favre’s behavior speaks for itself. He didn’t want to do the hard part of the NFL (training camp); just the fun part (games). I guess Favre doesn’t even care for preseason games either, since he waited until Minnesota had played one of those, too.

The strange thing is, Favre is no longer an elite player. From everything I’ve heard and read, Tavaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels are pretty awful, but as a Jets fan, I can tell you Favre has little to offer to an NFL team at this point in his career. And at $12 million, it’s not like you’re getting him at a good price.

But I’m not looking at the Vikings decision as a bad business one, even though it was. I don’t care that Favre isn’t a top-tier quarterback anymore. And it doesn’t concern me that the legacy Favre started to ruin last year is now completely destroyed.

What bothers me is that for the second straight season, the rules don’t apply to Favre. Are there worse guys in the NFL? Of course. Look at the Eagles, Browns, or most any other team if you want to find them. But few are as treacherous, selfish, or arrogant.

So shame on you, Brett.

But even more shame on you, Vikings, for making exceptions for a perceived star.

David Wright Suffers Concussion

Well, that’s the last of ’em.

With David Wright suffering a concussion after being hit in the helmet by a fastball in this afternoon’s game against the San Francisco Giants, it became official: Every one of the New York Mets’ star hitters have gone down with an injury.

Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, and Jose Reyes have already missed most of the season (in addition to pitchers such as JJ Putz, John Maine, and Billy Wagner). Wright, the face of the franchise, was the sole survivor.

But earlier today at Citi Field, Wright took an 0-2 pitch off the left side of his head, sending his helmet flying and his body to the ground. He was clearly dazed as the Mets trainers helped him to his feet and into the clubhouse.

It has since been reported that Wright suffered a concussion, the severity of which is not yet fully known. But it doesn’t matter if it’s mild, serious, or somewhere in between.

Wright needs to be shut down for the remainder of the season.

It might be a hard pill for Mets executives to swallow. After all, if ace Johan Santana wasn’t pitching, Wright was the only reason to show up at Citi Field this season. Unless, of course, you love overpriced pulled pork sandwiches.

Despite the strange season Wright is having–105 strikeouts and only eight home runs–he was unquestionably the top player on the team, leading the healthy players with a .324 average, 55 RBI, 74 runs, and 24 stolen bases.

Wright has carried the offense for nearly the entire season, and his numbers must be analyzed knowing that he’s had little protection in the lineup.

The Met offense has been lackluster with Wright; one can only imagine how bad it will be without him. But a glance at the standings will tell you that sitting Wright for the rest of the season is inconsequential. The Mets sit in fourth place in the division, 12 back of the leader. There are seven teams and 10 games between them and the top spot in the Wild Card.

In other words, the Mets won’t have to worry about the last regular season game ending in heartbreak for the third straight season. They are all but mathematically eliminated from the postseason.

Therefore, what are the pros to Wright returning in 2009? Other than ticket sales, there are none. Ryan Church, now with the Atlanta Braves, had a concussion last season, and the Mets badly mishandled the situation, allowing Church to fly cross-country and do some light running way too soon after the injury.

The Mets medical staff is already viewed as a joke, as seemingly minor injuries have turned into months and months of missed time. One minute a guy is coming out of a game with leg cramps. Four days later he’s on the DL.

The team and the training staff has a chance to make the correct decision this time, though, by keeping Wright out of action for the rest of the season. After all, there are only seven weeks left.

Mets fans can only hope nobody else goes down in that time.

One man's writing in one place.