The regulars here at the North End Zone (or the NEZ, as the kids know it) are only human. So we like when one of our relative unknowns drops by. Here’s Steve (file photo on the right) to give us a run down of the past year in college football.
At a press conference, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy responded fiercely to the media after an article was written criticizing one of his players. Supposedly, the article mentions the quarterback sitting on the sideline smiling after being pulled from a game due to mistakes made. In addition to the reportedly lax attitude the player had, he also was supposedly seen being fed food from his mother around the stadium before the game began. In response, Gundy attacked the media by ranting that the article was garbage and that a player should not be criticized when he didn’t do anything wrong. Gundy surprisingly received applause at the end of the conference. While standing behind and defending his player was noble, the true effect of what Gundy was getting across was overlooked by many in place of his screaming and absurd phrases. If you don’t think this story should make the top 10, don’t come after me. I’m not a man…I’m not 40.
#9—LSU survives two marathon losses…and gets a trip to the Big Easy
This article isn’t really supposed to be opposing or supporting the BCS system (Corey, I’ll leave that for you to handle). LSU was ranked #1 or #2 all season, depending on which of the one million polls you look at to determine the nation’s best team. Then the Tigers rolled into Lexington, and fell to Andre Woodson’s Kentucky squad…but it took three overtimes. Due to the top-ranked curse this season, LSU climbed back to #2, before falling on Black Friday at home to Darren McFadden and Arkansas. That took 3 OT’s as well, even with LSU playing horrendous red zone defense. But thanks to Missouri’s and West Virginia’s shortcomings to end the season, the Bayou Bengals still made the National Championship. Say what you will about who is the best team in the country, but LSU deserves a shot after losing twice from 6 OT’s.
#8—Colt Brennan breaks record, Heisman voters’ guts
Thank god this guy got rid of his N Sync hairdo. Brennan had center stage on Black Friday against Boise State. That night, Brennan broke BYU’s Ty Detmer’s all-time TD passing mark, and in the process, clinched the WAC title with a win over the Broncos (how lucrative). A week later, Hawaii capped its perfect season with a victory over Washington. However, Brennan and the Warriors never really played anybody all season (I wish VT could play San Jose State every year). In the season where there was never a Heisman front runner, Brennan finished third—not second—in the Heisman voting, even with the new TD record playing a part in the voters’ minds. So here’s how the rest of Brennan’s career will go: he’ll lose a close game to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, become a late first- or early second-round draft pick, get drafted by the Eagles, play for a while and suck, then ride the bench and slowly phase out of the NFL. In other words, Ty Detmer reincarnated.
#7—Navy ends 44-game skid
Much to the chagrin of Gally, the Midshipmen ended a 44-game losing streak by edging out Notre Dame in triple OT. The last time Navy beat Notre Dame, you ask? 1963, when Roger Staubach QB’d Navy before leading America’s Team to a Super Bowl title. In its worst season in history, Notre Dame was still picked by many to beat their traditional military rivals. Hey, at least the Irish won the Texas Instruments Academic Bowl with season-ending wins over Duke and Stanford.
#6—God, I really hate Matt Ryan
As a Hokie, this was harder to watch than the back-to-back collapses to Pittsburgh in 2002 and 2003. The Hokies scored on a TD pass in the second quarter, as Glennon hooked up with Eddie Royal on the 8-yard score. Jud Dunlevy added to the lead with a 44-yard field goal in the third quarter. Aside from those two scores, the game was ugly, as both teams struggled to move the ball effectively in the torrential downpour. That is, until the fourth quarter, when Matt Ryan connected on a 16-yard TD pass to Rich Gunnell to cut the lead to 10-7. VT knew the onside kick was coming from the Eagles, and they couldn’t recover. BC went back to work, moved the ball well against the Hokies’ prevent defense, and finally took the game away from the Blacksburg faithful when Ryan threw a 24-yard TD to wide-open Andre Callender. Never have I heard Lane Stadium so quiet. More people speak during the National Anthem then they were at that moment. In a little over two minutes, BC took the momentum, the lead, and the game to keep its undefeated streak alive for the time being.
#5—Revenge is a dish best served cold
BC looked like it had never left Lane Stadium early on in the ACC Championship. Jamie Silva returned a fumble 51 yards for the game’s first score. VT would later respond with a Glennon TD pass to Josh Morgan. But it was Special Teams—as always—that helped VT stay in this game. The Hokies blocked a field goal early on, and blocked a PAT after Ryan scampered for a 14-yard score. Brandon Flowers, who played arguably the best season for any of Tech’s defensive players, returned the block for two points. Glennon hit Josh Hyman late in the third to tie it at 16, and then hit Eddie Royal in the fourth to give VT the lead. Ryan and the Eagles were driving late for a tie, but Xavier Adibi’s pick six sealed the win. The Hokies had won their second ACC title in their four year existence in the conference, while BC finished the season poorly, losing three games and settling for a sub par bowl.
#4—Mizzou and Kansas have football teams?
Kudos to Missouri and Kansas. In one season, we saw Missouri ranked #1 and Kansas ranked #2. Kansas was largely the bigger story for much of the season since KU was unranked until the second-to-last week of the season. However, the Jayhawks never really challenged themselves during the season, having no games against Texas or Oklahoma. Believe it or not, College Gameday was live from Kansas City to see Missouri and Kansas go at it, with a trip to the Big 12 Championship on the line. Missouri won the game, only to see its BCS chances crumble the next week in San Antonio with a loss to the Sooners. Mizzou is now the team on the outside looking in, while KU gets an at-large bid to play the Hokies in Miami. Still, great stories this year for two VERY surprising teams in the Midwest.
#3—Jim Harbaugh makes the news after 12 years??
USC had a 35-game home winning streak. The lowly Stanford Cardinal were 1-3. Jim Harbaugh, who is most famous for being one Hail Mary away from Super Bowl XXX, walked into the Coliseum as the Cardinal coach. The Trojans looked sluggish the week before, escaping Seattle with a close win over Washington. Again, USC let Stanford hang around throughout the game, and could never close the door completely. Finally, with 49 seconds left, Tavida Pritchard tossed a 10-TD pass to Mark Bradford, on fourth down. The extra point was the difference as Stanford shocked USC with the upset win. The loss shook up the Trojans as they later lost to a then-impressive Oregon team, and while they ended the season strong and earned a trip back to the Rose Bowl, they never fully recovered to their former National Champion form.
#2—“We Are United” on center stage
Forget everything about sports. The events that unfolded on April 16 in Blacksburg were atrocious, unforgettable, and heartbreaking. Cho Sueng-Hui shot and killed 32 students and faculty, including my good friend Ryan “Stack” Clark, before taking his own life. VT students, hopefuls, and alumni all banded together and consoled one another. VT Coach Frank Beamer added his sympathy and vowed that the Hokies would be ready for its season opener against East Carolina. The Hokies came out slow, and trailed at one point 7-3. But Victor Harris’ INT for a TD was the turning point as Virginia Tech opened the season with a 17-7 win. An emotional tribute was shown on the big screen at Lane Stadium, honoring the 32 victims. Three months later, VT won the ACC title, which was a tribute to the 32 Hokies who represented our great college as best as anyone could.
#1—AA > A
If you’re a Hokie, you want to put #2 above as the top story. However, strictly from a college football aspect, you cannot overlook the game that ended shortly after the VT-ECU game. This game inspired my first article on this site. Appalachian State QB Armanti Edwards was phenomenal the Mountaineers walked into the Big House, held off over 100,000 Big Ten fans, and stunned Michigan 34-32. Never has the college football world witnessed such an improbable upset. The final play when ASU blocked the Wolverines’ potential game-winning field goal was played time and time again throughout the season, and will continue to remind us that every game on the schedule counts, whether it’s against an arch conference rival, or a small Division 1-AA school from the mountains of Boone, NC.
This has been the best college football season I can remember. Everything that could happen, did happen. Now, we are on the doorsteps of the Bowl season, which is loaded with intriguing games, especially the BCS series. And before the collegiate level switches gears to prepare for March Madness, 30+ games are waiting to be played for many schools, while one school wants one more opportunity to give something back to the amazing and courageous 32 who gave so much.