Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rhody kill


Here's what transpired Thursday...

4:00 p.m.: Waiting at New Haven Register office for O'Rourke, who is giving me a ride to the Runway. He is late.

4:20: O'Rourke arrives. He says he is running late because he stopped for a haircut. Suddenly he's Sam Malone. He assures me he remembered to tip the shampoo girl.

5:20: We pull into the Rentschler Field parking lot. The good news is traffic isn't too bad on the side streets, though we're still over two hours frim kickoff. There's also a ton of tailgaters who appear to have been there for hours and having a great time. The bad news: Some of the runways are now off limits for parking. Again, it's early and the traffic isn't bad yet. But I wonder how big a problem congestion will become on game days once the shopping centers are built.

5:30: I hobble across the parking lot to the press entrance.The friendly gentleman at the door inspecting bags tells me this season he will be searching for dynamite, frankincense and myrrh. He's joking. He then asks me who I think will win tonight's game. Unfortunately, he isn't joking.

5:35: I sit down at my seat in the press box and get my first look at the field. It looks magnificent. A year ago, thanks to a Rolling Stones concert, half the field resembled the unpaved streets of Tombstone, Ariz. circa 1876. All that was missing was Wyatt Earp and a tumbleweed rolling by in the wind. Not today. It's bright and plush green.

6:15: Got a press release from Madison Square Garden (which manages Rentschler Field) that says a team of three Husky dogs will be "mushing" along 1-84 between the Hartford Civic Center and Rentschler. What a great idea! I wonder aloud if the dog sled will lead the football team onto the field for UConn's official entrance, like Georgia Tech does with it's Ramblin' Wreck car or Chief Osceola planting the flaming spear at Florida State. I honestly can't wait to see this. Then I read the email again. Turns out the dogs are just sculptures, part of some art collection, and are on display underneath the big scoreboard. So much for what would have been the coolest entrance in college football.

6:40: Journey's "Any Way You Want It" is playing over the stadium PA. So what? So let's dance!

7:10: Here's a list of teams scouting tonight's game, according to the press box seating chart. The Indianapolis Colts, Cincinnati Bengals, St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals and Albany Stampede. Yes, the Arena Football League employs scouts. I had no idea.

7:25: My prediction for tonight: UConn 56, Rhode Island 0. O'Rourke guessed 45-10. No one in the stadium except the guy checking bags at the press entrance thinks the Rams have a chance.

7:31: Some guy has a microphone at the 50-yard line and is ordering the crowd to follow along with him while he directs some sort of chant. He's like the annoying announcer who yells into the mic non-stop during games on "Streetball". If this lasts much longer, everyone over age 30 will be cancelling their season tickets on the spot.

7:34: The guy finally stops yelling at everyone and the cool opera song from "Apocolypse Now" cranks up. UConn players burst out onto the field through a cloud of smoke. Pretty neat stuff. They should still look into the dog sled idea.

7:36: We're about to kick off and there must be 10,000 empty seats. Unacceptable. Where is everyone?

7:37: Rhody surprise onside kick to start the game. Rams recover. Wow. A great call by coach Tim Stowers.

7:38: First play for URI is a pass completion for 18 yards. Dare I say upset? Not yet.

7:40: On the next three plays the Rams botch an option pitch, mess up a handoff, and are flagged for a big penalty to make it 3rd-and-17. One down later, a 51-yard field goal attempt comes up about 25 yards short. That's more like it.

7:44: Terry Caulley breaks off a 39-yard gain on the first UConn play from scrimmage, and looks darn good doing it. OK, it's only URI, but if Caulley can do this even a few times this season it will be great news.

7:46: Looks like Larry Taylor is fine after knee surgery. He just caught a 24-yard touchdown pass (first of his career) from D.J. Hernandez. Three plays, 66 yards in 1:15 for UConn's first score. Hear that sound? It's the wind being sucked from the URI bench.

7:55: Ugh. Apparently, they're still blasting the opening riff to "Welcome to the Jungle" on EVERY third down when UConn is on defense this season. We used to warm up to this song before high school basketball games, when it was still a new tune. Did I mention I graduated in 1989?

7:57: Yep. Larry Taylor is back. He just juked his way to a 35-yard punt return like nothing ever happened. His presence on special teams is immeasurable.

8:04: Start spreadin' the Nuzie....Matt Nuzie blasts a 41-yard field goal that would have been good from 55 yards. It's 10-0 UConn.

8:14: Rhody running back Jimmy Hughes is wide open down field, but drops a sure 44-yard touchdown pass. That won't happen against Division I-A opponents.

8:17: End of first quarter. UConn runs a between-quarter contest where a fan tries to catch 80-yard bombs out of a pitching machine. The kid they selected has no chance -- or coordination. Probably a good thing. Anyone who catches one of these footballs might get planted in the Rentschler turf like Jimmy Hoffa.

8:21: LT breaks off a long run, dancing though the line untouched before he's knocked out of bounds 52 yards later. When he's on, he's so much fun to watch.


8:23: After two goal line stops, UConn goes for it on 4th down. Touchdown, Terry Caulley. O'Rourke, unafraid to admit he watched "Celebrity Duets" on FOX the other night, points out Caulley looks just like the guy who played Carlton Banks on "The Fresh Prince of Bel Aire". I think his name was Alfonso Ribero. It's 17-0 UConn.

Carlton and Caulley
8:31: Another URI punt. I'm literally on the edge of my seat whenever LT is about to handle the rock. He makes something out of nothing again, and scampers for 15 yards.
8:37: Nice scramble by D.J., who has the Rhody tacklers crashing into each other like a Three Stooges skit before taking it in for an 18-yard touchdown. Tremendous run. Still, after last season's injury fest you can't help but hold your beath everytime a UConn QB takes off. Make it 24-0.

8:39: We're midway through the second quarter, and there appears to be only about 3 or 4 thousand empty seats. The stadium has filled in nicely since opening kickoff. It's not filled to capacity, but it's still a pretty great (and loud) crowd.

8:47: Rhode Island gets on the board. Derek Cassidy tosses a 25-yard wounded duck that's hauled in in the end zone by Nick Del Grosso. None of the UConn DBs went for the ball. There goes my shutout prediction.

8:52: Brandon Young gets behind the Rams defense and catches a 61-yard TD pass from D. J. There wasn't a defender within 20 yards of Young the whole play. 31-7. UConn has scored on every possession. Can they break 60?

9:02: With 11 seconds left in the half, we finally get to see punter Chris Pavasaris. No one picks up the Rhode Island player flying around the corner, and he stuffs the punt. Despite the score, not the best way to end the half. Is it possible for Randy Edsall to be upset ahead 24 points at halftime? Maybe.

9:29: We're underway in the second half, and they're steadily filing out of the Runway. Hard to blame them considering the opponent, and tomorrow is a work day, but at least stick around through the end of the third quarter.

9:33: Acrobatic interception by Darius Butler, a solid pick to be all-Big East this season.

9:37: Tonight's announced attendance: 36, 227. Number currently in the stands: 23,227 and dropping fast.

9:40: Four hours since we arrived and the smell in the press box is getting rather pungent. Maybe serving chili to the media isn't such a good idea.

9:41: O'Rourke is now rubbing his stomach with a pained look on his face. Serves him right. He devoured three cookies in about 15 seconds not long after we arrived. I may have to write the game story after all.

9:55: Lou Allen scores on a short run. Guard Matt Applebaum, who was pulling on the play, absolutely buries the poor sap he's blocking from Rhody. This guy's body outline may be permanantly imprinted in the end zone. It's 38-7 late in the third.

10:03: End of the 3rd. The stands are now half empty. I'm also running out of steam with this diary. I've been here five hours, written over 2,000 words and my knee feels like it was bashed by a sledgehammer. Probably a good time to end.

I'm heading down to the field for a bit, and will post a late update with some player comments for those interested. Check out O'Rourke's stories in the Register tomorrow.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Jared - Vernon/Storrs said...

The clouds of smoke they ran through were 4 FIRE EXTINGUISHERS!!!!! (sat next to the player tunnel the whole game and saw it) I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to spray those at someone unless they are on fire....

September 01, 2006 12:22 AM 
Blogger Waquoit said...

You are right, a husky dogsled should lead the team on to the field. How can we make this happen?

September 01, 2006 10:48 AM 
Anonymous E said...

RED TAG PARKING AT RENTSCHLER IS SLOW INEFFICIENT AND A LONG WAY AWAY FOR $75.
PERHAPS A MILE AWAY FOR MANY.
AS A SEASON TICKET HOLDER I FEEL DISSED.

I ALSO FEEL RIPPED OFF BY THE THREE YEAR PACKAGE HANDED TO ME.
BECAUSE THE TICKET OFFICE APPLIES GREATER WEIGHT TO THE TRANSACTION WITH MORE SEATS, IRRESPECTIVE OF THE PER SEAT DONATION, TWOSIE AND THREESIE SEAT PURCHASERS GOT PUSHED UPSTAIRS. I SEE SEATS ONLINE FOR 32.50 AND NO NEED TO PUT $1,000 OR MORE A YEAR INTO 'THE CLUB', AND THEY ARE FIVE ROWS UP FROM ME, SO LET US SEE, THIS IS COLLEGE FOOTBAL, AND I DID GO TO COLLEGE, AND THE MATH WORKS OUT TO $200 PER YEAR PER ROW, AND THE PART I NEED HELP WITH IS WHAT IS THE MARGINAL BENEFIT TO ME OF MAKING THESE DONATIONS? FIVE ROWS?

AND THE OTHER QUESTION, WHY ARE THE SEATS EMPTYING DURING THE THIRD QUARTER?
BECAUSE OF POLICIES THAT PRODUCE CONDITIONS AS DESCRIBED ABOVE AND IT IS ON TV.

September 02, 2006 6:25 PM 

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