Friday, December 02, 2016
That doesn't mean that I've totally tuned out the college football landscape, though.
Starting tonight, there's some terrific games on TV and online streaming that I'll be watching, both at the FCS and the FBS level. Happily, the FCS Round of 16 games are not all going up against each other like last week, so the opportunity is there to catch one or more of those games - and you can bet that I will be.
Below the flip, starting with the MAC championship game tonight, are my picks for games to watch, and - why not? - some picks as to who I think will win.
(Yes, it includes Penn State. Stop asking.)
Thursday, December 01, 2016
It was at Fisher Field, and I had just spent my first game ever in the press box.
I had gone into that press box hoping to cover an expected Lehigh victory over Lafayette, the final crowning glory to yet another Lehigh football season.
I barely knew what I was doing, how I should act, or how to set up a computer in the press box. But there I was, taking notes for a "game diary" for a national website called I-AA.org.
I had proven my bona fides for writing by penning a very long, very detailed summary of the Lehigh/Colgate game a few weeks prior. That game, a Lehigh victory that went down to the wire, was sort-of a precursor to the type of coverage I do now during Lehigh games in terms of tweeting, except rather than tweet it out instantly to followers, I would write all the observations down, shuffle them up, edit them, and put them in a thousand-word article. (Trust me when I say it made sense at the time.)
But Lehigh did not beat Lafayette in 2004.
Instead, fourth year head coach Frank Tavani's team would dominate the Mountain Hawks on both lines of scrimmage to secure a well-deserved 24-10 victory, and in so doing punched their first-ever ticket to the I-AA Playoffs.
It was in this environment where I would first ask a question of Frank Tavani, that year a finalist for the Eddie Robinson award for the best head coach in I-AA football.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
If the players were pixels, with easy-to-read sliders with their statistics on them.
Then the FCS playoffs would be easy. You'd plug in the teams, they'd hit each other virtually on the screen, and there would be a result, quantifying the relative strengths and weaknesses of each team. A representative score would come out, and there would be one side bursting with victory, and the other in agony in defeat.
There would be bitterness, some teeth-gnashing, but at least you'd have figured out that the teams gave it their best shot.
But real life is not a video game. Sometimes, star players go hunting, and come down with an illness. It keeps them out of practice, and on the day of the big game, they're not 100%, or even 75%. Sometimes, foot injuries do not heal, as much as you wish that they would.
And then a team like Lehigh travels up to New Hampshire, not able to put their absolute best foot forward.
Not that it's an excuse - injuries, and all sorts of other things, happen during a football season. New Hampshire exposed what may have actually been weaknesses hiding in plain sight for this Lehigh team, exposing the soft white underbelly of the Mountain Hawks - the ability to stop an elite running game.
But it was heartbreaking to have Lehigh not be able to put their absolute best foot forward, to not be able to go down with two of their four team captains at full strength.
Instead, all that Lehigh fans got to see were tiny glimpses of the team they had gotten to know so well over the last couple of months, sandwiched around a lot of evidence on how much better the Mountain Hawks need to be in order to compete for a national championship.
Saturday, November 26, 2016
With sophomore QB Brad Mayes in for senior QB Nick Shafnisky, who was unable to start due to an undisclosed illness, a pass that bounced off the hands of senior WR Derek Knott instead bounced into the hands of New Hampshire's first team all-CAA CB Casey DeAndrade.
Six plays later, the New Hampshire offense converted that turnover into the very first touchdown of the day for the Wildcats, the first of many on a defense that clearly missed senior LB Colton Caslow, who got hurt in the second half against Lafayette last weekend.
Four different New Hampshire players scored a grand total of six rushing touchdowns, two coming from RB Dalton Crossan, two coming from his backup, RB Trevon Bryant, one from the third-string, RB Evan Gray, and one on a scramble from QB Adam Riese.
All in all, the Wildcats racked up 364 yards rushing on the Brown and White, rushing to a 36-7 lead on the Mountain Hawks and coasting to a 64-21 victory. In the ultimate twist of irony, Lehigh got beat in the way they had beaten so many opponents in their nine game regular-season winning streak - with UNH jumping to a big lead and never really taking their foot off the gas.
For whatever reason, you didn't make the trip to Durham, New Hampshire. You've popped your popcorn, iced your Yuenglings, and put the meatballs in the crockpot - and then you panic.
How do I watch the game? What is ESPN3? Can I watch it on my TV? Do I need to subscribe to something? WHAT DO I DO???
Never fear. LFN's here to help.
You heard right.
One of my FCS Playoff pet peeves (especially in the first round) is that, for some reason, ESPN (who owns the TV contract for all rounds of the FCS playoffs) and the NCAA do not space out all the games in fixed time slots.
If ESPN and the NCAA wanted to generate excitement about the playoffs, it would be fairly easy to space out every game with a kickoff every hour (Noon, 1:00 PM, 2:00 PM, etc.) all the way up to 8:00 PM. That way, hardcore FCS football fans can watch part of every single game, with at least one game getting to crunch time every hour from about 2:30 PM on. It would be compelling theater.
But ESPN and the NCAA, for some reason, choose not to do this, and indeed this year, ESPN has five FCS playoff games kicking off at 2:00 PM, one kicking off at 3:00 PM, and a couple of stragglers kicking off at 5:00 PM and 7:00 PM, respectively.
Why? There is literally no good reason for this. ESPN is causing hardcore FCS football fans to watch less FCS football. I'd love to be able to catch Weber State/Chattanooga, but it's on at the exact same time as Lehigh/UNH, so my chance of catching that game live is below zero.
Had Lehigh/UNH kicked off at Noon, and had Weber State/Chattanooga kicked off at 3:00 PM, suddenly I would have watched more ESPN3. Foolishly, I thought that was also in ESPN's (and the NCAA's) best interest that I am writing about and talking about more FCS playoff games all day.
Friday, November 25, 2016
And then, you need to go back to the narrative from last year.
But first, let's start with last week, where the Wildcats were not only battling their Rival Maine in the "Battle for the Brice/Cowell Musket", they were battling to keep their playoff dreams alive.
The Wildcats, who had qualified for the FCS playoffs for twelve consecutive years, had fallen behind their bitter Rivals Maine, 14-7 at halftime.
With both teams at 6-4. it must have had the feel of a playoff game as well as a Rivalry game. The winner would likely have a good shot at a playoff game; the loser would likely be out.
And the starter, sophomore QB Trevor Knight, was out of the game with a foot injury. The backup, senior QB Adam Riese, would have to be the trigger guy to rally the Wildcats to the win.