Sunday, November 26, 2017

Week 13 - Welcome To The Hotel California

As part of our family get away to sunny San Diego and the Hotel Del Coronado for Thanksgiving weekend, I ensured that our priorities were in check. The kids drove off to Disney for the day on Friday while I expressed my love for the birthday girl, AKA Mrs. Tailgate with a trip to the San Diego State game. The Aztecs were hosting the New Mexico Lobos out of the ABQ and Breaking Bad hood. Both teams are long time members of the Mountain West Conference. Aztec football has been played since 1967 at Qualcomm stadium, formerly known as The Murph and was shared with the Chargers until they moved to LA this year. It was also originally constructed as a baseball stadium and was home to the Padres until they relocated downtown to their new digs a decade ago. Qualcomm has been the host site for three Super Bowls and is the venue for the Holiday Bowl and now defunct Poinsettia Bowl. The stadium sits five miles from campus and is not known for having great student support. Given that this was Thanksgiving break, students would not be a big part of this game regardless. The stadium holds 70,000 but a typical Aztec’s game will have around 30,000 fans. As we walked around the empty cavernous concourses and stairwells, it dawned on me that a triple homicide would go unnoticed here. I am hopeful that San Diego State will someday soon build an on campus cathedral to provide a true college football atmosphere. Although, rumor has it, if a new stadium is to be built, it will still be off campus. 

A little history involving self and SDSU: In the summer of ‘83, I came out from Maryland to stay with my sister who was a student there. I joined the SDSU summer sevens rugby team and had a blast. I worked out on campus daily and rode a moped all over San Diego like Lloyd Christmas and even considered transferring. Best move I never made as Frostburg had bigger plans for me! The birthday gal and I started our day with breakfast in a cup at McGregor’s sports bar along with chicken wings and fried raviolis. McGregor’s is only a mere few steps from the stadium parking lot. As is typical, I was nursing another mysterious knee injury and it took us 30 minutes as a hobbling DFT was passed by numerous Walmart hoverrounds and cane assisted seniors.

The Aztecs are coached by Rocky Long who happens to also be the former long time coach of their opponent on this day. Under Coach Long, the Aztecs have been relevant in the Mountain West title chase for the past seven seasons. They have also produced several outstanding running backs during his tenure, NFLers Ronnie Hillman and Donnell Pumphrey.  Current stud Rashad Penny leads the nation in rushing and is well on his way to a pro career. On the other side of the coin, the Lobos are coached by former Notre Dame head man Bob Davies who has run into some Bieber Karma as of late. Since he announced he was so proud of his players for taking a knee during the anthem in their game versus Air Force, the Lobos have not won again. In fact, they are having an outright disastrous season.

The stadium was empty on the sunny side with the exception of about 500 brave fans, as most folks crowded the shady half. 28,000 fans paid for a ticket on this unseasonably warm late November afternoon. I have to give high marks to the Aztec Marching Band as they were very noticeable throughout the afternoon. We even got a private concert after the game outside of the stadium. San Diego state behind the brilliant running of Rashad Penny and a stout Defense held the Lobos scoreless in the first half while the Aztec Offense scored two TDs. New Mexico showed some life in the 3rd quarter by kicking a field goal and scoring a touchdown to tighten up the scoring delta. However, Rashad Penny would run for 200 yards while topping the 2,000 yard mark on the season, while leading the hometown team to a 35-10 victory. Back to Coronado Island we went to continue the birthday celebration and at her insistence, we watched the night games.

Is there a better way to say happy birthday?
Around the Country
Saturday, my Sooner daughter and I found our way to an Oklahoma watch bar, The 710 Beach Club in Pacific Beach. There, we were joined by 200 other OU fans to watch the Sooners and Baker Magic shred the Mountaineers 59-31. Great chicken wings, Labatt’s blue and wait for it….. yes Fireball. We also saw the #1 ranked Crimson Tide get rolled by their bitter in state rival Auburn in The Iron Bowl. Bama was not the only top four team to lose on the weekend, as Miami would be upset by lowly Pitt on Friday in a shocker, creating mass playoff chaos. Also on Friday in the War on I 4, the UCF Golden Knights bested USF in one of the most exciting games of the year. I sincerely hope Coach Scott Frost does not leave until after their bowl game. In The Game, Urban outdueled Harbaugh in the Big House keeping the TOSU win streak alive against the maize and blue. Stanford eliminated any hopes The Irish had for a playoff spot by showing them too much Love, as in Bryce Love running all over them in the fourth quarter for a convincing Stanford win. Clemson cut down the Gamecocks in the Palmetto Bowl in Columbia assuring them of this week’s number 1 ranking. Washington dominated their in-state foe Wazzou in the Apple Cup knocking the Cougs out from the PAC 12 title game. In the Mountain West, Fresno upset Boise setting up a rematch next week for the conference championship.  And yes, I am happy to announce that Frostburg thoroughly dominated Washington & Jefferson in the second round of the D3 playoffs. For their reward they get to play Mount Union in the quarters. Too many coaches have moved or been removed, hired or fired over the past few days to comment yet as the dust is nowhere near being settled. A few surprises and many that were expected.

The Iorio clan at Notre Dame, PAC 12 John and new Bestie, Brian, Laurie and Steve O at the Maryland debacle.

My evil daughters enlightening me to day drinking at the 710 Beach Club. Bartender is a walking advertisement!
Bieber- I take a lot of heat from my OU hating friends on supporting Baker Mayfield despite his lapses in judgement. Regardless of what he did, he is a competitor with a heart that has perhaps never been seen in college football. He is a teammate’s teammate and the ultimate warrior. That being said he will not get the Bieber, nor will he ever get it. Instead I want to award it to a long overdue candidate before he abandons his team for good to prepare for the draft. This week’s Bieber was solidified as Josh “Jay Cutler” Rosen once again quit on his team as he was getting “wuffed up by dose big buwwies”. His shirt was torn by a player from Cal on a normal football play. He used that as an excuse to once again fake concussion symptoms and quit on his team. This has been a pattern since he arrived in Westwood as he only cares about himself. He is not a leader. He is not a teammate. He is not worthy of a top draft pick. Look no further than Jay Cutler or Jeff George for what you will get with Prince Rosen. He is only concerned with his own well being. He is uncoachable as well, as this was first pointed out by Trent Dilfer five years ago at the Elite 11 QB camp. He has a very high opinion of himself even though he led UCLA to three years of mediocrity resulting in his coach getting fired. Yes, he has a big arm and can show signs of brilliance, but not consistency, tenacity or esprit de corps. For these unforgivable attributes, he now not only earns this week’s Bieber but has been granted by special vote, entry into the Bieber Hall of Fame. In fact, there is discussion on the DFT Board of starting a new award called the Rosen given to players that exert selfish one-way behavior.

Next Week – We will be watching the conference Championships from DFT HQ. Next live game will be in two weeks as Army takes on Navy in Philadelphia for the greatest rivalry game in college football.

Happy Tailgating!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Week 12 - Cupcake Saturday

The Causeway Classic

The Causeway Classic has been played 64 consecutive years between UC Davis and Sacramento State in the FCS, D1 AA level of college football. The genesis of the name is due to a causeway that connects the town of Davis to the city of Sacramento, thus the name of this rivalry.  Davis holds a large lead in the series 45-19, however it is the type of rivalry that brings out all the spirit and festiveness one would expect in college football from two teams within the same area code. This year’s rendition would be played at Hornet Stadium on the campus of Sacramento State. Hornet Stadium was constructed in 1969 and has a seating capacity of 21,000. With the track around the playing surface, it gives the appearance of a large high school stadium. I was joined by one of the Dons of Danville, Dave Quilici for the 90 mile trek up the road. We enjoyed another postcard perfect California Saturday afternoon with a 2:00 PM kickoff and a 12:00 expedited tailgate. 

The atmosphere outside the stadium during the two hour block allocated for sanctioned tailgating was vibrant and spirited. The home green and yellow and the away blue and gold tents lined the parking lots outside of Hornet Stadium. A live band belted out tunes. Meats were grilled and spirits swilled.  Despite the limited time and ample rules on tailgating (I thought of giving the Sac State Administration the Bieber for their politburo like tailgate rules, see Link: ). We did the literal “tailgate thing “ by lowering the tailgate on my F150 and putting a cooler of refreshments and a bag of pretzels on it. We were joined by one of #2’s old friends who is a student at Sac State and tolerated us seasoned vets. As far as chow goes, we waited to hit the food trucks inside the stadium where we had mac n cheese and bacon slider burgers.

UC Davis is now coached by former Boise State and Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins. Davis has climbed back into respectability under his guidance. They have several notable alumni including former Jets QB Kenny O’Brien, Bo Eason and current UW coach Chris Petersen. Sac State is also experiencing one of their strongest seasons in years. Notable Alumni for the Hornets include Joh Gesek who played in two Super Bowls and current 49er McLeod Bethel -Thompson. This year’s victor would have an outside shot at an invitation to the FCS playoffs (it turns out they did not get the invite).
Sights and sounds of The Causeway Classic

The game was one of the most exciting matches I attended all year. The first half belonged to Sac State behind the arm and feet of UNLV transfer QB Kevin Thomson. Thomson’s precision passing and ability to run were reminiscent of Baker Mayfield, sans the crotch grabbing. The Hornets inspired by their largest crowd of the year, raced out to a 17-7 first quarter lead. In addition to Thomson’s contributions, the Hornet run game was stout as three backs shared the load and were equally successful. By halftime, Sac State held a 38-14 advantage. Speaking of halftime, we were treated to performances by both bands with UC Davis doing a tribute to Led Zeppelin. Their clarinet player killed it! The UC Davis Aggies started clawing their way back into the game by winning the third quarter and narrowing the gap to 52 -34. The Davis pass and run game was in full force as the momentum clearly shifted in their favor. In the fourth quarter, the Aggies would score two more touchdowns to pull within 5 points. Star wide receiver Keelan Doss would lead the way with 13 catches for 173 yards. With less than 2 minutes remaining and possession of the ball, the Aggies had a chance to take the lead. However, it was not to be as the Hornet Defense made a critical stop on fourth down and held on for a 52-47 win and the (916) bragging rights.

Around the country – while many of the power five conference schools scheduled guarantee games or faced lesser opponents, there were several games of note that took place: College Gameday found itself back in Mad Town as the Badgers hosted the Meechigan Wolverines. The Badgers remain perfect on the season defeating the Wolverines 24 -10 under the guidance of their outstanding coach Paul Chryst. Notre Dame squeaked by Navy in rainy/windy South Bend 24-17. The biggest upset of the day took place in Stillwater as “Ancient Bill” Snyder and the K-State Catz knocked off the OK State Cow Pokes. Virginia gave Miami everything they could handle for all but the last few minutes of the game as the Canes pulled away and won at Hard Rock. In The Rivalry, Lehigh topped Lafayette and in the process won the Patriot League in the FCS. Yale beat Harvard in The Game and won the outright Ivy League crown for the first time since 1980. Columbia finished their finest season in decades by beating Cornell and finishing 8-2. Out west in The Big Game Stanford prevailed over Cal to keep their Pac 12 North title hopes alive. In the most colorful game to watch on TV, Sam Darnold and the USC Trojans scored more points than Josh “Cutler” Rosen  and UCLA resulting in the firing of Coach Jim Mora.  Oh, and I would be remiss without mentioning that my Frostburg State Bobcats dismantled Wittenberg 35-7 in the first round of the Division 3 playoffs. Next week they play Washington & Jefferson. 
Navy fans at Penn. Mooch Byom and gang in Mad Town.

Joltin Joe Rogers in Knoxville. The Ingrams in Bloomington.

#2 and friends at Camp Randall. Frostburg pride!

The Desimones and friends at The Big Game.

Bieber – Tennessee State Criminal Justice Major Latrelle Lee may get an opportunity to use his future degree sooner as opposed to later. During the middle of the Tigers game versus SEMU last week, apparently Lee was agitated that the “get back coach”, TJ Greenstone told him to move away from the sideline as he was too close to the playing field. Lee opted not to comply with the command and proceeded to punch Coach Greenstone twice in the head knocking him down. Greenstone did not fight back, although he looks like he could have if Lee was not a student. So, for Mister Lee’s actions he gets the triple whammy: 1. Kicked off the team 2. Kicked out of school. 3. Faces potential felony charges. However, wait for it…….he does get to brag to his future cell mates that he has a new trophy in the image of a troubled pop star from Canada. 

Next Week – We will be celebrating Mrs. Tailgates 29th birthday at none other than a college football game at San Diego State as the Aztecs take on the New Mexico Lobos! I have not forgotten the kneeling Biebers from UNM as promised earlier this season.

Happy Tailgating & Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Week 11 - Nothing Could B Finer

The boyz from Seneca Valley in front of the "Boose"

My most sincere apologies for not publishing an article last week. As I have articulated in the past, when I take a week off or go to a stadium that I have been to multiple times, it is difficult to captivate my audience.  That being said, if you sent pictures to me last week they will make today’s write up. Nuff said! By way of Big Ben and the River Thames, I made a most circuitous trip to Columbia, South Carolina for my annual Tailgate with my high school buddies. We all graduated from Seneca Valley in Germantown, MD in 1981. Five years later, two other kids graduated from the same school and attended the University of South Carolina. There they met a guy named Darius and formed a band called Hootie and the Blowfish. And the rest is history as they say. They became famous, while we remained notorious. We rented a sizeable crib in Columbia through Rent Like A Champion (Airbnb for college football towns) for seven eternal teenagers and one off spring. The reason for us descending on Columbia is that the Gamecocks would be hosting the Florida Gators on Saturday afternoon. Friday night, we ventured into the Five Points area of Columbia for chow and a few adult beverages at Pawley’s Front Porch. It is always appropriate to absorb the vibe of the host town and contribute to the local economy. The evening ended early for most of us as Tailgate O’clock was set for 9 AM on Saturday and a 12 o’clock kickoff.

We were hosted by my longtime friends from Frostburg, John and Diane Deutchki. Their tailgate spot was right across the street from the stadium in the Gamecock fairgrounds. Our hostess “Fireball” Diane made up some bodacious pulled pork sammies, mouth-watering brisket, artery clogging deviled eggs, and delicious shrimp. Homemade bacon infused potato salad was provided by cousin Bobby, and many other treats and homemade desserts were in abundance as well. Diane and John went beyond the call of duty in taking great care of us wandering tailgaters. We mixed up a batch of Bloody Mary’s to warm the bones on this chilly but clear fall morn. Of course, libations including Real Man beer and Fireball were served. 

Now that is a lady!
We were treated to a visit to one of the famous 22 Cockabooses that sit behind the stadium. In the early 90s, a developer got the idea to buy and renovate 22 train cabooses and place them on a defunct track next to the stadium and sell them. The initial price was just a few thousand dollars each and they now sell for an average of $300k. They have become legendary in the SEC as a big-time game day tradition that is unique beyond words. The rigs are “tricked out” inside and outside. It is the type of place that millennials will want to take selfies in front of and Snap or Insta them like we did. The gracious owner of the one we were invited to was Gamecock superfan Doug Forbes. All 22 cars are uniquely decorated, and all painted in Gamecock Garnet and black. This is what is referred to as “Railgating”.

The Cockaboose Railgate
This was my first visit to see the University of South Carolina play at home. Their venue is the venerable Williams Brice stadium situated just off campus. WB or the “Cockpit” was built in 1934 and has a capacity of 80,000+. I can remember watching games on TV in the 1980s and being enamored with the spiraling stairwells in each corner of the end zone. Sometimes it is the simple things like a cool structural feature that draws me to a stadium. South Carolina joined the SEC in the early 1990s and saw only spots of success per SEC standards until Steve Spurrier showed up. “The Ole Ball Coach” has been gone now for two years, but he developed a positive winning attitude for Gamecock Nation (even though he quit mid-season on the team and earned a prestigious Bieber). Notable players from “this USC” include George Rogers, Sterling Sharpe, Alshon Jefferey and Jadaveon Clowney. 

2001 A Space Odyssey ritual
The Gamecock tradition prior to the start of the game is another must experience in person scene. The theme to 2001 A Space Odyssey plays in anticipation as the Cocks prepare to enter onto the field from the tunnel. The fans are rocking and ecstatic, and towels were waving feverishly just as the crescendo of the song peaks, the Cocks run onto the turf and fireworks explode. 

“The Mighty Sound of the Southeast Marching Band” has 400 members and played constantly throughout the game keeping the crowd engaged. Additionally, they put on a great halftime tribute show to first responders. The sound of the Gamecock Rooster cackling over the loud speaker was heard throughout the match when SC did something positive. What’s not to like about a place when you can call 80,000 people a bunch of Cocks and not get your arse whipped! 

The Gamecocks, in the midst of a resurgent season with a chance to make a decent bowl were expected to handle their business on the field against the disappointing Gators. Florida was entering their second week since firing Coach Jim McElwane. We hope coach Mac is doing well in “WitSec” and has stopped receiving those death threats. The Gamecocks grabbed control of the momentum early despite their QB Jake Bentley playing like an Edsel and throwing the ball to the Blue and Orange 3 times for completions. The Cocks would nonetheless race out to a 14-0 first quarter lead. However, the scrappy Gators were chomping at the bit for some glory of their own as they put up 13 in the second quarter to SC’s 7 for a 20 – 13 halftime score. The men in garnet and black would put 7 more on the board in the third and hold a 28-13 lead well into the fourth. We decided the game was well in hand and headed back out to the tailgate lot only to hear that Florida scored and it was now a one possession game. We caught the last few minutes on a big screen in the lot to watch the Cocks hang on for the victory. Back to the crib for all the games and leftovers from the tailgate. 

Enjoy the brief video of the day:

Around the country
I hate to admit it, but it looks like the U is back along with this new “Turnover Chain” bling thing they do. The Canes thoroughly dominated my Irish to the thrill of their bandwagon riding fans who are now showing up after a 15-year hiatus. Alabama had to give it everything they could muster to squeak by Mississippi State in Stark Vegas as they pulled away with a 7-point win late in the game. Georgia “got the dawg crap beat out of em” by Gus Malzhan and the Auburn Tigers at Jordan Hare ruining their chances for a perfect season. UGA QB Jake Fromm State Farm wishes he was just wearing his khakis. Oklahoma’s Defense finally arrived on game day as the Sooners kept TCU’s Offense in check while Baker “Magic Man” Mayfield kept doing his thing leading his boys to another victory and into the top 4. Oklahoma State rebounded with a narrow win over Iowa State in a high scoring shootout in Ames. The other Ohio State showed up and delivered a walloping to Michigan State who were more black and blue then they were green and white. Staying in the Big Ten, Wisconsin remains perfect after beating their first ranked opponent of the year. Bryce showed some Love on his bad ankle and kept Stanford relevant leading the Tree to an upset win over UW on Friday night, all but eliminating the PAC 12 from playoff contention. On this hallowed Veterans Day weekend both Army and Navy were victorious, and Air Force put up a valiant fight but came up a little short. Thank you to all the Veterans for your service! Speaking of Navy, long time loyal DFTer and brother Brian Donnelly proposed to his girlfriend Laurie at the Tailgate before the Navy game. Nothing quite says romance like chicken wings, cold beer and oh by the way will ya marry me?! Congrats Brian and Laurie. Also, a big shout out to my alma mater Frostburg State for earning a playoff birth for the first time ever in the DIII championship series. They will play Wittenberg in Ohio next Saturday. Go Bobcats!

The newly engaged first couple of Navy Tailgating!

Eagle Tailgaters in wicked cold Bawstun Saturday

The Griffins experiencing the Stanford upset of UW
My three stooges at OU v TCU

Kim Milling rolling Toomers after the UGA win

The Flash Gordon Clan at Happy Valley for OSU v Rutgers

The Donnelly girls and #2's roomies at the OU TCU Match. Dad's weekend, no Dad!!

PAC 12 John and Daughter at CU v USC. Two Monte Vista grads meet up
 Bieber – This week’s high praise goes to none other than the Official Review. Before there was such a thing as an official’s review, we as fans had wished there was one as we witnessed so many wrong calls made by referees. This is a case of “careful what you wish for”. Not only do the reviews take way too long and ruin the momentum of a game, they are using them on almost every play it seems. Games used to rarely exceed three hours. The average game this year seems to be at least four. We might as well not have referees if every play is going to be over scrutinized and kill the pace of a game. My recommendation would be to limit any replay booth activity to 30 seconds. Anything past that, it reverts to the referee’s call. If a ref can’t make the right call, then they need find some people that can. The refs are getting lazy knowing they don’t have to be perfect because the replay booth can amend a bad call if they make one. So, for all the fans like me that are frustrated with what these reviews have become, we now entrust you officials with the all-powerful Bieber trophy!

Last week's pics
The Rabagos at Cal Poly Homecoming
Voytek, Wiggins and friends at Army v AFA game
The Addicks Clan at Clemson game
Me and my little Cheerio at the last JV football game of the year
Next week – We will travel east on I -80 for the Causeway classic between UC Davis and Sacramento State.

Happy Tailgating!