Monday, November 17, 2014

Week 12 - Good things do come in small packages

Most of my weekends from Labor Day through the second week of January are spent sampling the best that College Football has to offer at the Division 1 A level. And yes, I am on a quest to go to as many of these venues for a game as is humanly possible while keeping Mrs. Tailgate happy. Even so, there is so much more to College Football than just the big name programs of the Power five conferences with mammoth stadiums. Two years ago, while spending Championship week in Miami for the Notre Dame – Alabama game I was given an offer I could not refuse. My host that week and College buddy Terry ”Family Guy” Kernan-Warner told me I needed to come to one of his Son’s games at Division III Hampden Sydney College in Farmville, VA. His son Joey, AKA Stewie Griffin was a starting wide receiver on the team and they had a great game day environment. My last Division III game took place 30 years ago at my Alma Matter Frostburg State. I can’t say I really remember much about that day but there are pictures that prove I attended. Joey had also spent the week with us in Miami and so I interviewed, lie detector tested, roid tested, psych evaled, and water boarded the young man to deem if he was worthy enough for me to burn a precious hall pass on. He was as he passed with flying colors and I followed through on my commitment to watch him play before he graduated. It turns out I waited until the last possible chance as this weekend would be his last home game as a graduating Senior.
Our host for the weekend Terry Kernan
On this beautiful cool late autumn afternoon in Southern Virginia, HSC would be hosting their Arch Rival in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC), Randolph Macon. The Rivalry is simply referred to as “The Game” as it is the oldest small school rivalry in the South. The first game was played in 1893 and HSC leads the series 61-48-11. For those of you not from the East Coast, Division III schools are extremely prevalent and make up the majority of colleges in these here parts. Hampden Sydney was established in 1775 and is the tenth oldest college in The United States of America.  It is an all boy’s school during the week but you would never know that on the weekends! As it was described to me, it is a school where ten generations of men in one family attended HSC just like Lt. Dan’s family in Forest Gump. It is their destiny:

The Kernan/Warner family rented a cabin in Farmville, VA for the weekend to allow us to get the full Hamden Sydney experience. We met up Friday night at the local watering hole and bbq joint Fishin Pig with Terry and his wife Mary Susan, their daughter Bridgette and Mary Susan’s parents Denny “Victor Maitland of Beverly Hills Cop” Warner and Lulu. Along for the trip was my personal Governor, Mrs. Tailgate herself. After sampling local fare and libations, we proceeded to the cabin by the lake. Wasn’t that a name of a horror flick where bad things happened to all the occupants? We pre gamed for Saturday around the fire pit telling lies and truths alike for hours until the wise went in and the fools stayed out and froze.

Victor Denny Maitland


                 The Cabin by the lake

 We awoke Saturday AM to Denny’s (not the restaurant) “hangover frittata scramble” and Lulu’s ”transitioning” coffee. Most of us were as good as new after that intake and ready to get over to campus to start the festivities. We would be connecting at the Tailgate with more friends and family members of the Kernan- Warner clan including “Chris “Yamo Be There” McDaniel, another Frostburg mentor/corrupter of mine. I had few expectations of what the game day experience would be at this hallowed Southern Campus. Within minutes my impression was that this was a smaller version of Ole Miss in every aspect. Our Tailgate was established in an area analogous to The Grove in Oxford, MS.  Tents and BBQ’s taking up every square inch of available real estate. HSC Schwagg being worn by all and fancy meals and libations being served to those in need. Player’s parents and former players surrounded us and many stories were shared of past and current players and of the rivalry with Randolph Macon. The young men wore their blue blazers, bow ties, and salmon colored pants.  Corn cob pipes and cigars were as common as a red solo cup. The ladies were dressed in a manner that exuded class and charm. The rich southern tradition and culture were evident with every turn of the head. The campus can be described as classic southern architecture spread out on 1200 acres (one for every student) of tree laden landscape with plenty of open spaces intertwined. Our southern tailgate consisted of BBQ brisket and pulled pork from Fishin Pig and homemade chili. All this protein pared nicely with vintage Zing Zang Bloody Marys.

Denny Warner, Dan and Chris McDaniel

Close up of Chris McDaniel belting out Yamo Be There for us
The fellas pre gaming

The Crew at Hampden Sydney with the new banner
Bubba McEnerney and the ladies.

Family Guy and Dan with their personal Governors.
 Just prior to game time, the Players filed down a hill through the tailgate lot for their Tiger Walk to the stadium. Parents and fans formed a human corridor to pass through as well wishes and slaps on shoulder pads were offered.

Lewis C Everett stadium and the surrounding hillsides were packed with an estimated 12,000 spectators. This is the norm for this rivalry game as the crowd was about 40% larger than most Hampden Sydney home games. HSC coming in with a 7-2 resume needed a win to guarantee themselves a post season playoff spot. Randolph Macon suffering through an off year entered the contest with a 4-5 record. From the onset, it appeared as though the RMC Yellow Jackets and their fans were fired up and ready to embrace the role of underdog for the day. As it has been well documented, it does not matter what your record is when you step on the field for a rivalry game, anything can happen. RMC had two first quarter drives ending in missed field goal opportunities. The HSC Tigers struggled to string a complete drive together throughout the first half. Just before halftime, Randolph Macon QB Zac Naccarato punched one in from 3 yards out to put RMC ahead 7-0 going into the locker room.

The beautiful setting at Everett Stadium

The Tigers take the field.

That #5 is going to score me a TD!
RMC extended their lead midway through the third set on a 28 yard run by the human wrecking ball John Byrd. Byrd would end the day with close to 150 yards rushing. HSC seemed to shake off their yips and mounted a beautiful drive capped off by an amazing catch by none other than Joey Kernan on a pass by QB Nash Nance. Denny sitting next to me in the stands told the man in front of us that that was his grandson that just scored. The man looked at me and I said “well that is my nephew too” (since I only have daughters). Unfortunately RMC would score another Byrd TD and a field goal while the Tigers would add only 3 more points. Final score Randolph Macon 24, Hampden Sydney 10. The yellow Jackets would win that battle but the war was won by Hampden Sydney as they were notified fifteen minutes later that they would still win the conference and advance to the playoffs. This would be the quintessential definition of bittersweet.

RMC is awarded "The Game" Ball tropy
Dan and the Kernan boys Terry Jr and Joey.

Joey Kernan and his fan club.

All Gonzaga Prep of DC Alumni
We headed back to the Tailgate area to recap the game, tell more lies and catch up on other action round the country. All in all this experience far exceeded any expectations I had as I was blown away by the entire game day environment at Hampden Sydney. I experienced a better experience here than I have at many NCAA Division 1A schools without a doubt.

Around the Country – Many upsets took place this weekend with one so painful I can’t even mention it. Did I tell you I now despise the color purple? What happened to the natural order of the universe and the way things are supposed to be anyway?  A week after the ASU Sun Devils annihilated my unspoken team, they go down in their own flames in Corvallis to the OSU Beavers. The Georgia Bulldogs hunted down War Eagle 34 -9 but in the process lost the best back in the nation Todd Gurley to a torn ACL. The Tailgate wishes you a speedy recovery young man because I still need your John Hancock in exchange for a few Jacksons. Brett Curly Bilema get’s his first SEC win as Boss Hog of the Razorbacks with Arkansas knocking off LSU. Curly’ s old team not only upset Nebraska but rolled the Huskers in cheese and smoked them out of Camp Randall with a 59 -24 thrashing. During that game, Wisconsin Badger RB Melvin Gordon broke the NCAA FBS rushing record racking up 408 yards. I hear they are still doing the Jump Around in Madison today in celebration. Georgia Tech upset Clemson and Mizzou upstages the Kenny Thrilless Aggies. My #2 made the six hour road trip to Lubbock Texas with her new Bestie to watch OU regain its mojo and trump the Red Raiders of Texas Tech. It is good to know I have an heir apparent. It was reported that Jameis tanked the first half again so his High School buddy could win some more money in the FSU game against the U. In the second half as usual, Point Shaving Winston lead the Noles to another come from behind victory. I will be at the BC – FSU game next Saturday. I am now placing a bet with my Life Savings that BC will be ahead at halftime. Thanks for the Tip Mr. Crab Legs.
Bieber Award – Perfect Segue since we are talking about Florida State; This past week, young Jameis was scheduled to appear at an FSU disciplinary hearing regarding the alleged rape charges from 2012. Now we all know that the Tallahassee Po Po are honorable folks (wink wink) and would never turn a blind eye to criminal activity by a Nole Super Star. However, we expected the FSU Administration to be just a tad bit more stand up in situations like these. I have three daughters. This alleged crime is a serious matter to me and 90+% of the non - dead beat dads in the country. However, the Nole Admin decided it was more important that they postpone the hearing until after the regular season so Jameis could concentrate on winning the ACC crown and bringing home the bacon for the school. This has gotten so ridiculous that the FSU circus is reminiscent of the glory days of the professional boxing world when it was run by crooks and shysters (no, not our elected officials in DC ). The outcome of winning the ACC is still undetermined, but was is a fact is that you, the FSU Administration are this week’s Bieber Award winner for your heinous cowardly sleazy non action.

Next Week – This will end my seven straight away game gauntlet as I finish up in Tallahassee with the famous Eagle Tailgaters of Boston College.
Happy Tailgating!

> vs Randolph Macon.— Dan Donnelly (@Dantailgater) November">">November 15, 2014

The Alabama Al crew representing DFT in Tuscaloosa at ESPN Gameday

#2 and her OU Crew at TTU!

These boys did a Navy/Maryland double header