Tuesday, November 17, 2020

High On A Hilltop

As mentioned in my last write up, I booked a trip to head to Columbia, MO, for the UGA v. Mizzou game on 11/14. As is par for the course for 2020, I was thrown a curve ball three days before the 14th by reading that the game was cancelled due to the not-so-freaking-novel Rona virus! What is a caged tailgate animal to do when a situation deteriorates like this? Correct – I adapted, overcame, adjusted and landed at the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers home game against Southern Miss in Bowling Green, KY. Of course, Bowling Green being a little over an hour from Nashville afforded me time to take in the beautiful musical sounds, sights and of course top-notch vittles (and a spirit or two) throughout the weekend. 

Welcome to western Kentucky University!

 As my luck turned for the better, I was connected with the famous Topper Tailgate crew at WKY who are allowed to continue the tradition of tailgating in the RV lot. Mason and Karla Hamilton and their adorable eight-year-old daughter, Kirbee, were our main hosts. I also spent time with two other core members of Topper Tailgate: Brian and Mark. Mark was the person primarily responsible for bringing tailgating to WKU many low tides ago. I was regaled with great stories of the evolution of the program from the now FCS to the FBS D1 Al. The Toppers served an assortment of soups and chilis, deer salami, and a full bar accompanied with flavored moonshine! Corn hole boards were set up, kids played, adults shared stories and for a while, we all forgot about the misery that 2020 has brought us. At the conclusion of the tailgate, the whole crowd gathered to toast their Toppers with a shot of Fireball mixed with Big Red Soda. I must admit, it was so good I insisted on partaking in a second one. The whole experience was the first sense of normalcy that I have felt throughout the 2020 season. The small rv lot we tailgated in was the only place that tailgating was allowed on campus. In many ways, the experience was surreal, but it was also amazing for me to get back on my tailgate horse again. 

Brian & Mason showing great hospitality

Mark, Brian, Karla and Mason

A "Topper" Shot@

Planting the flag on another great tailgate!
 The usual fall Saturday of charcoal grills wafting charred protein smells, music, big screen tvs, loud laughter, tailgate games and large gatherings were absent throughout the campus, save for our small lot. The pre -game pageantry, game day traditions and normal senses you would experience were only found in our little nook. Yet, this is probably one of the few places nation-wide that allows any kind of tailgating. This was my 2020 tailgate and game day experience. And as the nation inexplicably locks down again for a virus with a 99%+ survival rate, this will most likely be my one an only live game day experience of the year.

Western Kentucky plays in Conference USA, and the Hilltoppers are in the midst of a mediocre season. Thirty some years ago the Toppers were coached by the father of Jim and John Harbaugh, Jack. They play in Houchen Industries – L.T. Smith Stadium which was built in 1968 and has a normal capacity of 22,000, making it one of the smallest in Division 1A Football. However, in the season of Rona, only a few thousand tickets were sold to ensure good government-mandated compliance. Now there is an oxymoron for you! The marching band was actually the sitting band, but they belted out some spirited numbers. The mascot Big Red and the cheerleaders did their part to provide a true game day atmosphere. My seat was on the 30-yard line in the upper deck of the stadium. It is rumored that each seat is accompanied with a flask of Deep Eddies lemon flavored vodka. But I digress, as of course I would not have partaken if this was true. The game was a hard-hitting, defensive affair with the Toppers racing out to a 10-0 halftime lead. Southern Miss made a game of it by putting up a touchdown of their own in the 4th set for a final score of 10-7 in the Toppers’ favor. 

The Harbaugh name is much revered in Bowling Green

My view

Around the country – With so many games cancelled this week, 15 to be exact, there were only a few games of note to cover. But let us not forget last weekend when Notre Dame knocked off #1 Clemson, and Penn State got shellacked by the Terrapins (see what I did there again?). MACtion and the PAC 12 both also got underway and the top teams seem to be materializing. This weekend we saw Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Indiana, and Liberty continue their undefeated seasons. Florida continues to impress as they rolled over a much-improved Arkansas squad. USC had luck on their side for the second week in a row as they engineered another come-from-behind victory. Notre Dame beat the Catholics from Boston and won a sizeable bet that involved a nice haul of lobsters. 

The DFT Top 10 at this point is as follows: 1. Alabama 2. Notre Dame 3. Ohio State 4. Clemson 5. BYU 6. Texas A&M 7. Florida 8. Cincinnati 9. Oklahoma State 10. Coastal Carolina It is my poll, so I don’t care what you think!

– This rendition of the Beebs is bestowed upon Pookah Williams, the star running back and best player at the University of Kansas. After Kansas sputtered to a dismal start of the season going 0-5, Pookah decided to abandon his Jayhawk brothers and quit the team to protect himself and prepare for the NFL draft. Look, I understand the risking the injury thing, but the optics on this glare of selfish entitledness and the attitude that you are too good for your team. Just remember Pooka Shells, no one would even know who you were had the University of Kansas not taken a risk on you and offered you a full scholarship. You owe it to your school and your teammates to finish out the season and be a man about it. Well, you may have lost the respect of the Rock Chalk Jayhawk nation, but at least you get some new Bieber bling. 

Ginger – To all the Veterans who have served our country honorably, we salute you! 

The Casty – This week the award goes to its namesake Craig Castelein for blowing me off in his hometown of Nashville this weekend. I will mail your hardware to you. 

What’s next? – No clue with so many games getting cancelled. I feel fortunate to have been able to attend the one game I did this weekend. In a normal season, I would be running on fumes with over a dozen or more games under my belt by this time. With the new lockdowns and my first grandson on the way mid-December, it will be even tougher to get away for a game. Until then, happy homegating and tailgating for those of you who still can!

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Bye Bye OctRona

I hope everyone is doing well and thriving during the most unusual fall of our lifetime. So, let’s pick up where we left off at the end of September. DFT has been grounded through the first two months of the season. The majority of my Saturdays have been spent here at DFT World Headquarters watching my teams play along with countless other random games. I am unabashedly a college football polygamist as I announced last year, and you all will have to accept it. I am still strongly considering going to the Missouri game in Columbia against UGA to complete my quest of the SEC venues.

Let’s check in on what has happened since the end of September. The Big Ten and Mountain West rejoined the living the past two weekends. Sticking in the Big Ten, Rutgers under the return of Greg Schiano got a big upset win over Sparty in week one as did Indiana over Penn State. Harbaugh continues to lose games he must win by losing to the same aforementioned “Little Brother” Sparty in Michigan’s second game. Minnesota, after a great 2019 campaign, has a leaky boat as they rowed out to an 0-2 start, while the surprise may be Nerdwestern at 2-0. Ohio State won both of their games convincingly and Wisconsin canceled a game due to the Rona. In the Mountain West, San Jose State plays their home games at the Bedrock construction site under the supervision of one Frederick Flintstone. Boise has looked dominant using a different starting QB and RB in each of their first two games. Local Danville Boy Jake Haener had an outstanding second game as the starter for Fresneck State.

Fred rebuilding Spartan Stadium

Around the Rest of the Country – In the SEC, Alabama continues to dominate the action. The Pirate at Mississippi State and Sling Blade at LSU have stumbled badly most of the season. UGA has a great defense but poor QB play will keep them out of the elite status this year. Bet they miss Justin Fields now. Speaking of which, next Saturday UGA plays Florida in Jacksonville at the world's largest outdoor cocktail party.

The ACC is a two-team race with Clemson remaining perfect, although they were tested by a pesky Boston College this past weekend, and Notre Dame being part of the club for this season. We thought Miami and North Carolina would present a challenge to Clemson, but that has not been the case with UNC dropping their second game on Saturday and Miami getting obliterated earlier by Clemson. Clemson and Notre Dame will square off in South Bend this coming Saturday. Clemson will be without starting QB Sunshine Lawrence cuz [of the Rona, so we will see what both squads are made of.

The Big 12 has no clear front runner now as all teams have at least one loss after OK State dropped one in OT to Texas on Saturday. After a rocky start, Oklahoma seems to have their mojo on both sides of the ball and racked up three straight wins against Texas, TCU and TTU. Texas coach Tom Hermann continues to annoy people and win Bieber accolades. The rest of the conference has much parity with the exception of Kansas who is just plain awful.

In the Group of Five outside of the Mountain West, Cincinnati and BYU continue to impress with solid wins and undefeated seasons so far. Let’s not go to sleep on Coastal Carolina either. The Chanticleers are annihilating their competition on the teal turf and are sitting at 6-0 atop the Sun Belt Conference today. This could be the year where a Cinderella crashes the four-team ball along with Bama, TOSU  and Clemson who stand out amongst the rest.

Next week, the PAC 12 will commence a seven-game season, and the MAC will begin a six-game slate. Welcome back to the party fellas! Aside from UCAN’T, I mean UCONN, all D1 AA schools will be playing.


– This month the Bieber goes to ESPN Gameday personality Pat MacAfee. Why? He annoys the hell out of me and many other DFTers. Here is a former punter that would have you think he locked horns in the trenches with the big boys where in reality he probably made less than five tackles during his NFL career. Simply put, this guy tries far too hard to be a zany, maniacal guy to add some spice to a show that is losing its luster. However, his fabrication of trying to be Lord Humongous from Mad Max is akin to believing Jeffrey Dahmer is a Vegan. If that is what he is serving, we ain’t eating it! Enjoy your Bieber award you wild and crazy guy ... not.

Lord Humongous

Ginger – A salute to all the programs that have played a full schedule this year and braved the Rona. You have provided an outlet for many a fan to watch and even attend the game we love while being smart about it. Yes, the Rona is real. But for those in good health, you give us the option to attend these games in person and forget about the nightmare year this has been. Although it is not the same as a packed stadium with a raucous student section, you have presented us with some sense of normalcy. For that we thank you and bestow the prestigious Ginger award upon you.

The Casty – A new award lower than Bieber that stays in Danville, goes to DFT Diehard Alan Campbell for blowing off the Danville DFT gang and watching premier league soccer instead of viewing college football. Stand that trophy up proudly young man.

Next Up – Hopefully, DFT will finally get to a live game this year at Missouri on 11/14 when the Tigers host the Dawgs. Probably bar gating as I hear there is no on-campus tailgating.

For now, Happy Homegating!





Monday, September 28, 2020

September In The Reaerview Mirror


To say the least it has been a strange opening month of college football 2020. Let’s begin with the alleged postponement of the season by four of the conferences, including the Big ten and PAC 12 (more on this later). Those that did kick off starting Labor Day weekend have played in front of empty seats or at best 25% capacity. Little to no tailgating nationwide and games being cancelled mid to late week when teams come down with sick players or a number of whom have been in contact with sick people. We have seen a number of star players opt out for the season and then some boomerang back on bended knee. And yes, “Lil Man” Tate Martell has transferred once again because he seems relegated to being a third stringer wherever he goes and he has daddy issues.

So where are we now? Well at this point last year I had already been to six college games, 3 High School and 1 NFL. This year, big goose eggs so far. Most Saturdays have been spent at DFT World HQ with a few select diehards watching games, having adult beverages and partaking in my new bad habit of smoking cigars at the firepit. The SEC finally got off the mat this past weekend for their conference only schedule. The ACC, Big 12, American Athletic Conference, Sun Belt Conference, Conference USA and a few Independents have been playing sporadically since Labor Day. Just this past week the Big Ten, PAC 12, Mountain West and MAC conferences all announced they would start up on varying dates beginning on 10/24 with six – eight in conference games only.

This week – We saw my beloved Oklahoma Sooners throw one up to an inferior team in Kansas State as they are prone to do each year. However, this Sooner team is just too young and inexperienced this year to challenge for a coveted spot in the college football playoffs. Last year’s champ the LSU Tigers saw their dreams die on their home turf of Tiger Stadium as they were upset by Mike “The Pirate” Leach and his Mississippi State Bulldogs. In Lubbock, TX, the Texas Tech Red Raiders took the Texas Longhorns into OT before ultimately succumbing to them, after the teams scored a combined 119 points. The Miami Hurricanes now led by QB D’erik King put a shellacking on the dysfunctional Florida State CrimiNoles in what was the ABC game of the week. Alabama rolled over Mizou and Baylor delivered a severe blow to Les Miles and the basketball school from Lawrence, KS. The undermanned VA Tech Hokies defended their palace in Blacksburg against the invading Wolf Pack from NC State. It was actually a good old-fashioned ass kicking is what it was.

Young Cristian Luciano(R) enjoying his first Baylor game
Son of Army buddy Buck Oxendine on a recruiting trip to my Alma Matter, Frostburg State

Bieber – None other than Little Man Tate Martell. Tate first burst onto the scene three years ago on Netflix’s acclaimed documentary QB1 as the brash, cocky quarterback at high school powerhouse Bishop Gorman from Las Vegas. After high school he went to play for Urban Meyer at Ohio State. He redshirted his first year, didn’t sniff the turf his second year and did the hardship transfer his third year to Miami who had a bad QB situation. Surely he would step in and play and be the cause de celeb in South Beach, right?  Wrong he rode pine last year and was relegated to third string to start the season this year. So once again our protagonist does a stage left exit from Miami to destination unknown. I can only think that his Dad was in his ear giving him all this good advice he has been getting. Along with the good advice, he gets September’s Bieber hardware. Props to the Martell clan.

Oompha Loompa Martell

Ginger -
Graduate transfer QB KJ Costello who was mediocre at best at Stanford, made the jump to Stark Vegas, MS this year to play for the aforementioned Mike “The Pirate Leach, also in his first year there. KJ in his first SEC game walks into one of the most formidable stadiums in the country, home of the reigning National Champions the LSU Tigers. What does he do? He light’s up a young but athletic Tiger Defense for an SEC record 623 yards while leading his Bulldogs to an epic upset. It was rumored that the Pirate, also known as a QB whisperer, had been whispering his shallow musings into KJ’s ears the past month. The results speak for themselves. For this badass feat, KJ Costello is the winner of September’s Ginger award.

LSU does not want more cowbell!

Next up
- There is talk that a few of us may go to Columbia, MO on the weekend of 10/17 to witness the Mizou Tigers battle the Commodores of Vanderbilt. This is unconfirmed at this point though. A big part of me feels that I will be cheating the schools that I visit for the fist time if I go this year and not during a normal year. Nonetheless, I am getting stir crazy and really need to get my fix in.

Happy Homegating!


Sunday, August 30, 2020

2020 Season Primer


Usually by this time each year I have already sent out my annual “welcome back DFT Nation” blog post with a flavor of optimism. However, with the uncertainty facing the season, and more so our country, I have been lacking proper motivation to begin this ritual. Rona, the burning of our cities, hurricanes, fires, murder hornets … I think I hear the first four trumpets of the revelation. However, this  blog has never been about politics and has been a place where all of us can escape our differences and focus on college football and tailgating. This year, I promise it will remain as such, unlike ESPN which insists on being a voice for political discourse. This makes it hard for many of us to truly enjoy the game we love.

I originally had a lineup of 12 road games, including a trip to Ireland for Notre Dame v. Navy and a few local games for a total of 15 games. I was also looking forward to watching our local high school football team play and my daughter cheer them on for her senior year. Well, that isn’t happening in Cali this fall . So, I am faced with a very skinnied down DFT lineup this fall. Two Power Five conferences (Big Ten & PAC 12) and two Group of Five Conferences (Mountain West and the MAC) have all canceled their seasons. We are also uncertain of how many fans can attend the games of the schools who, at this point, have decided to play. More importantly, tailgating may be off the table at many schools. Here is a link with the latest information on this subject.

Where does all this leave me? In addition to a plethora of backyard tailgates for some marquis games, I am planning on finishing off the SEC and the Big 12 this year with games at Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State. Additionally, North Dakota State is hosting Central Arkansas on 10/3, and I plan to attend and tailgate. If the country is still in tact in December, I will make my pilgrimage back to the city of brotherly love for the pageantry of the Army Navy game. I will post my schedule when things firm up but for now, it is very fluid.

Off-Season Ginger – goes to my brother Chuck who we lost in May after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. Chuck was a Marine combat veteran and an avid Notre Dame fan. He was one of the first followers of this blog 13 seasons ago and always encouraged my writing about the sport we both loved. Your fight and ability to stay positive was an inspiration to all who knew you. We will win one for the Gipper this fall in your honor big bro and hoist one up at a tailgate. Simply put, you showed us how to ride tall in the saddle this past year and face whatever was thrown at you. 

The Donnelly Six with Chuck on the far right
                          The Donnelly Six with our big Leprechaun Chuck on the far right.

Off-Season Bieber - Rona. You screwed up college football for all of us, you invisible virus! No other words needed here.

Next Week – We will be watching games and barbecuing in my backyard on Saturday evening. The first FCS game was played last night, and the first FBS game will be this Thursday night.

Happy Tailgating!