Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The first-annual Runway Awards.

Congrats to Donald Brown and Rhema Fuller, named second-team All-Big East today.

Since its postseason awards time, I figured what better time to unveil the first annual Runway Awards column. "The Runnies". .. or "The Runs", which may be more appropriate considering the author, is all done in good fun and should in no way be taken seriously. It's a look back at a season on the beat of the UConn football team. So let's get the show started.

Best campus: Indiana. Limestone buildings, green grass, lots of trees, people everywhere. It's exactly what I dreamed a college campus would be like when I was sound asleep in high school.

Most mysterious campus: South Florida. I never did find it, and I'm not sure it actually exists.

Least impressive campus: Syracuse. The campus kind of reminded me of a well-known tool manufacturing plant in New Britain. Of course, it was a rainy, gloomy November morning the day I was there.

Dullest coach: Jim Leavitt. Insurance seminars are more entertaining than a Leavitt press conference.

Sunniest coach: Jim Grobe. Listening to Grobe talk about playing UConn back in September, you'd think he was preparing to play the 1972 Dolphins.

Best player interview: Desi Cullen. The Kentucky Hammer gets more laughs in a 10-minute interview than Dane Cook during his entire "Tourgasm" series on HBO. Wait. That's not hard to do. But you get the point.

Worst player interview: Steve Slaton. The anti-Desi Cullen. Talking to Slaton was like interviewing someone just coming out of a heavy anesthetic...except Slaton had less to say.

Best press box: Syracuse. Instead of being 500 feet above the action, the Carrier Dome press box is set about 20 rows from the field. Incredible view to watch a game.

Worst press box: Indiana. Stripped down to the icy, cement walls. Like watching a game from a cellblock. Ironic that the least impressive campus had the best press box and the best campus had the worst press box.

Best college stadium: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville. Everything is new and the atmosphere is fantastic. Loved the Cards Walk and the Louisville mascot parachutting into the stadium. Way too nice to be named after a national restaurant that serves crappy pizza. Raymond James Stadium in Tampa is nice, too. But it's an NFL stadium with no atmosphere for USF games.

Most excited fans: Rutgers. They were beside themselves in Piscataway for the Sunday night game against least until Donald Brown got them to quiet down by nearly leading the Huskies to the upset.

Best meal on the road: The buffalo wings I got at the Louisville Downtown Marriott restaurant were perhaps the best I've ever had. Mild but tasty and sprinkled with real bleu cheese. Mmmmmmm. The Connecticut media raved about the Dinosaur Grille in Syracuse, which reminded me of the Hungry Heifer restaurant that Norm Peterson loved so much on Cheers. It was pretty darn good considering I got about 6 pounds of ribs for $6.95. I also reccomend the Texas Roadhouse (I think that was the name) in Bloomington, Ind., which also got The Day of New London's Chuck Banning seal of approval.

Best player: West Virginia's Pat White. Apologies to Ray Rice, Steve Slaton and Brian Brohm, all of whom could be playing in the NFL. But White did it all against UConn. Nice to see he was recognized as the Big East's offensive player of the year despite being far behind the aforementioned three in the publicity machine.

Best freshman: Tie. UConn's Donald Brown and South Florida's Matt Grothe. Brown is something special. Imagine what he'll do with an experienced, healthy offensive line. I couldn't believe how Grothe handles himself as a freshman. Poised. In control. Tough. He was carried off with a foot injury against UConn, and the stadium went dead silent. Minutes later, Grothe was back in there running and throwing like nothing happened despite being in pain.

Toughest player: UConn's Donta Moore. Moore, a junior linebacker, broke his arm in the first half against Navy. He was back in the game by the second half. Played the final eight games in a balloon-sized cast. Not since the Rams' Jack Youngblood told trainers to tape up his broken leg because he wasn't coming out of the game has a player shown this level of toughness.

Worst coaching performance: Mark Dantonio at Cincinnati was in line to win the best coaching performance this season. That is until he left his team in a lurch to accept the job at Michigan State. I have no problem with him moving on if it's the best thing for him and his family. But couldn't the announcement have waited a few weeks? You'd think he owed it to the team to stick around long enough to coach them in their bowl game. What would coach Dantonio have thought if his star player decided to leave the team cold right before its biggest game to concentrate on training for the NFL Combine?

Best coaching performance: Greg Schiano. What I liked more than the incredible turnaround the program has made over the last three years is his commitment to the school and his players. He told Miami thanks, but no thanks: we have a lot more to accomplish here. Says a lot about the Big East that a coach would rather stay than go to almighty Miami. Rich Rodriguez should take note. Honorable mention to Jim Leavitt. Dull quote. Great coach.

Best game: So many to choose from, which speaks volumes about the quality of the conference this season. But it has to be the Louisville-Rutgers game. National ESPN audience on Thursday night. Rutgers Stadium in delirium. Louisville takes a 25-7 first half lead only to see the Scarlet Knights come storming back and win on a last-minute field goal for the biggest win in 140 years of football. Awesome.

Most mediocre football prognosticator: Myself. I went 4-5 last week to finish the season at 67-70-6. I guess that wasn't so bad considering I was usually better than most of the readers who entered their picks each weeks. Thanks to everyone for playing. I will have a bowl contest posted in the next couple of days.

Special thanks to everyone for taking an interest in the Runway blog. Since the blog was launched back in early August we've had over 28,000 visitors. Thanks to everyone who took the time to email, leave a comment or contribute to mailbags over the course of the season. I appreciated all the feedback, positive and negative. I'll keep updating the blog throughout the winter with any news that sprouts up, but expect things to heat up once again with spring practice in March. Thanks again to everyone. I've had a blast.


Anonymous Alan Goodwin said...

Nice job on this blog. I really appreciate your efforts. Go Huskies!

December 06, 2006 10:09 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank You a great season of UCONN football updates and insight...I have to admit I receive more info from the Runway then my son who's on the team. Great Job!

December 06, 2006 11:07 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The SU campus is very impressive if you catch it on one of the 10 sunny days of the year. Seriously, the weather is always gloomy. I spent four years living in it.

SU '03

December 12, 2006 12:06 AM 

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