Thursday, December 16, 2004

Fiction: I-A Playoff Results, 12/16/2004

Outback Bowl
In Tampa. the Hawkeyes of Iowa dominated a Pitt team 31-7 that really reflected Iowa's strong finish to the year. Pitt QB Tyler Palko was running for his life all day, going 19-40 with a fumble and two interceptions. Hawkeye QB Drew Tate on the other hand passed for 300 yards, with a pair of TDs to MVP Ed Hinkel. Hinkel ended the day with 11 receptions for 186 yards as well.

The Hawkeye faithful who made the trip got their money's worth in a stadium with 45,000 strong, and will be looking forward to next week's matchup.

Alamo Bowl
In a sold-out Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, TX, the WAC representative Boise St. put a major scare into USC, but ultimately lost a shootout 42-34 to the Trojans. QB Jared Zabransky surprised the Trojans on the first play of the game with a bomb to WR Drisan James, and took a 21-10 lead into the half against a stunned USC squad.

After recieving the kickoff in the second half, however, USC's QB Matt Leinart and RB Reggie Bush came out determined to score, and they did with Bush's 46 yard TD scamper the third play from scrimmage, cutting the lead. The Broncos' 3-and-out then led to Leinart's big TD pass to WR Dwayne Jarrett., putting the Trojans up 24-21.

The Broncos' weren't done, however. On the next drive, set up by big a big rush by Zabransky, RB Jon Helmandollar punched it in to give the Broncos' a short-lived lead, 28-24. Then Reggie Bush returned the following kick for a TD, putting momentum in USC's court going into the 4th quarter, 31-28.

Zabransky then lost a key fumble at the 20, but the Broncos' defense held firm, holding the Trojans to a field goal, making the score 34-28. Then Zabransky and Helmandollar did it again, this time Zabransky rolling out to punch it in and go ahead 35-34 with six minutes to play.

Leinart then showed why he's the Heisman winner, leading the Trojans down the field, chewing up 5 minutes, converting 3 third-down conversions. With 3rd and goal on the 15, he calmly threw a tight spiral to WR Dwayne Jarrett for his second TD on the game to give USC a lead with 20 seconds to play.

Zabransky's hail-mary pass was batted down, and the Trojans escaped the Alamo with a win. Bush got the Alamo Bowl MVP with 2 TDs and 192 all-purpose yards.

Second-Round Matchup
USC will face Iowa in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas on December 24th. With all of USC's fans only across the state, Cotton Bowl officials are optimistic about a sellout - and another great game.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Fiction: I-A Playoff Results, 12/15/2004

New Orleans Bowl
Memphis demolished North Texas, 42-11, in a game that wasn't even that close. Played in the Superdome in front of a modest crowd of 26,000 fans or so, RB DeAngelo Williams powered for 212 yards and 3 TDs, giving him the New Orleans Bowl MVP Trophy.

Continental Tire Bowl
A sold-out Bank of America stadium witnessed a thriller as lower-ranked Georgia upset the Hokies of Virginia Tech 25-19 in triple overtime.

Fans throughout the south will need some serious valium after this nailbiter.

In this battle of the south, the score was 13-6 in favor of the Bulldogs with 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Then Tech Brian Randall finally broke a 24-yard run to the outside, putting Tech in the red zone. Taking no chances, six plays later, RB Cedric Humes powered in on 3rd-and-goal to knot the game up at 13 with 3 minutes left. Bulldog QB David Greene led a 3-and-out, leaving the Georgia defense to hold onto the win. Driving to the 30 yard line, a 47 yard Brandon Pace field goal fell short.

Virginia Tech and Georgia showed the real hearts of champions as both lines held firm in the first two overtimes, forcing 4 made field goals. Bank of America stadium set a new record for loudness as Tech and Bulldog crazies launched primal screams at both kickers, but both prevailed.

The Bulldogs struck first in OT, following a Greene TD pass to WR Fred Gibson. QB D.J. Shockley tried to run the option for the 2-point conversion but was stuffed at the line by the Tech "D". Then it was up the Bulldog line to hold Randall and the Tech defense. After getting first and goal at the 10, the first play was an incompletion. Second down was a huge sack setting up a third and 16. A draw play made it 4th and 9, as both sets of delerious fans made things wild down on the field. Randall's pass was batted down in the end zone, and the Bulldogs made the first-ever I-A playoff game a memorable one, as they advance.

Quentin Moses, with 4 sacks, 3 knockdowns and an interception, was the MVP.

Insight Bowl
Another sellout crowd saw Cal dispose of Miami of Florida 34-21 at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, Arizona. In this game, it was the Golden Bears fans who did most of the cheering as Cal, led by Bowl MVP J.J. Arrington, scored 21 second-quarter points and never really looked back.

Arrington rushed for TDs of 1, 5, and 20 yards in the second quarter, one of which was spurred by a fumble by QB Brock Berlin, setting up the Bears on the Miami 24. A Tyrone Moss 4 yard explosion through the middle cut the lead to 21-14, but the Bears, led by an impressive passing display by QB Aaron Rodgers, drove the length of the field to set up a Tom Schneider FG at the half to extend their lead to 10.

In the 3rd quarter, Arrington really took over as the Bears drove the length of the field chewing up 8 minutes off the clock, punching it in to extend their lead. Throw in a key Moss fumble at midfield, which the Bears turned into points, and the game was pretty much over. A Brock Berlin TD pass to WR Roscoe Parrish made the score respectable at the end.

Second-Round Matchup
In the second round, Georgia and Cal will play in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida at 3:00PM on December 24th. Gator Bowl officials were a little disappointed that the Hurricanes couldn't pull off the upset to play a "home game" for their fans, but are happy that Georgia fans will be able to make their second trip in as many weeks for postseason football.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Lehigh Football Nation Players of the Year

Press Release
On Thursday, December 9th, the fan blog Lehigh Football Nation announced their awards of outstanding achievement to members of the Lehigh Football team. The awards are: Top Offensive Hawk, Top Defensive Hawk, Top Special Teams Hawk, and Player of the Year.

Top Offensive Hawk: The 2004 Top Offensive Hawk award goes to junior QB Mark Borda. In a year where he had to battle for the starting job in August, Mark left little doubt that he was "the man" after accumulating three Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week honors and eight Lehigh Football Nation game balls, as well as getting on the second team All Patriot League Offense and Sports Network's Walter Payton award "watch list". With 24 TD throws, 1 rushing TD and only 6 interceptions on the year, Mark compiled a 62% completion rate to go with his 150.8 QB rating on the year.

Mark also brought a quiet confidence to the offense this year, epitomized by the come-from-behind performace against Yale. Down at the half 21-10, Mark led the offense in the second half to 20 big points, including a 1 yard QB keeper for a TD that put Lehigh up for good late in the 4th quarter.

Congratulations Mark!

Top Defensive Hawk: The 2004 Top Defensive Hawk award goes to senior OLB Anthony Graziani. Another player who wasn't a lock to make the opening-day roster, "Graz" week after week was the linchpin of the defense and the tackles leader on the year with 111 on the season. In addition, "Graz" got 7 1/2 tackles for loss, 4 1/2 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 1 fumble recovery. For his efforts, he received eight Lehigh Football Nation game balls on the year, one Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week honor, and a first-team spot on the All Patriot League defense.

On a defense which was a great, spirited, solid group of 11 players, "Graz" in 2004 really stood out in the biggest games of the year. Against Colgate, he logged 18 tackles and a huge interception. Against Lafayette, he logged 14 tackles. Against James Madison, he logged 10 tackles.

On the field, he is clearly a leader and shows great pursuit from sideline to sideline. We're happy to recognize him as Top Defensive Hawk. Congratulations "Graz"!

Top Special Teams Hawk: The 2004 Special Teams Hawk award goes to senior P Kyle Keating. Some players who lose a QB battle either don't play their best or quit the team over a bruised ego. Not Kyle. He went out there and had a phenomenal year punting the ball, and was an important weapon for Lehigh game in and game out. For his efforts, he gathered five Lehigh Football Nation game balls, and a first-team All Patriot League specialist slot.

Statisitcally, he could have had the best season ever for a Lehigh punter. The fact he averaged 38 yards per punt was only part of his great value to the 2004 Lehigh Mountain Hawks. He only had 2 touchbacks, while 16 of his 53 punts were placed inside the 20.

Emblematic of Kyle's great composure and skill came in the Georgetown game. A high snap sailed over his head, and instead of losing his cool, he tracked down the ball, eluded two defenders, and managed to still loft a punt 7 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. I won't speak for Kyle, but it's the best 7 yard punt that I've ever seen.

Congratulations Kyle!

Lehigh Football Nation Player of the Year: The 2004 Player of the Year award goes to sophomore RB Eric Rath. Entering 2004, Lehigh had the shoes of Jermaine Pugh to fill at running back. Eric returned to the team this year after taking the year off, and came back to the Mountain Hawks with a "bang", amassing 1,328 all-purpose yards and 13 TDs. For his efforts, he receved eight Lehigh Football Nation game balls, and a spot on the second team All Patriot League offensive squad.

Rath very very narrowly gets player of the year in 2004 because he has shown guts. It's almost a cliche to say that a player has guts, but it's hard not to invoke it in his case. Every game he has played hurt or banged up. Four or five times this year, during the course of the game, he has had to be helped to the sideline, only to return on the next series. Not only that - he'd find himself playing on special teams, returning kicks in the same game. I keep thinking that if all our linebackers were injured, Eric would be first in line volunteering to play 60 minutes as middle linebacker.

To do that and play every game is remarkable in and of itself. The fact he did that and was still an integral part of the offense by gaining 1,300 all-purpose yards is really remarkable. His intensity was on display in the biggest games of the year, against James Madison (131 all-purpose yards, 1 TD) and Colgate (124 all-purpose yards, 1 TD). For that, his toughness to play to injury all year, and his ability to stand up for the team when he hasn't had the best of days makes him Lehigh Football Nation's Player of the Year.

Congratulations to Eric!


Two for Two
Incredible, but true. I somehow managed to pick both games right this weekend. Mind you, I has James Madison scoring 20 points, and Sam Houston St. scoring 44, but considering my pathetic playoff picking record, I will gladly take it.

Congratulations to James Madison and Montana, who now will play Friday for the I-AA Championship in Chattanooga, TN.

(If only Lehigh had stopped the Dukes on 7th and goal...)

I'll go ahead and pick the I-AA Championship game now. James Madison does the unthinkable, and gets a national championship. Rascati, Hines, and company will bowl over the Montana front four, without any way to stop them. Montana QB Ochs rallies for 2 late TDs to keep it close, but the Dukes cap off a memorable year by getting the championship.

James Madison 27, Montana 24

This week: Find out the winner of the I-AA Championship Game, And My Mock I-AA Playoff results.
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