Saturday, November 17, 2007

Great day for college football in Connecticut

Here in the press box at the Runway as players warm up before the final home game. It's a great day for college football in the state of Connecticut. They're expecting 70,000 at the Yale Bowl for The Game, 40,000 here (though by early looks, it might be a lot fewer) and another 4,000 or so for Southern Connecticut State's opening round game of the Division II playoffs against Bryant. So in that spirit, a few comments about each.


Did the Police have a surprise concert at the Runway last night? The field looks horrific once again. OK, three straight games in the rain probably didn't help the cause. And the fall freeze each night isn't going to allow much to grow. But still, the grass is chewed up between the hash marks for the length of the field.

Steve Brouse is out (at least according to Joe official word up here yet. But I trust my paisan) which throws a crimp into the Huskies red zone offense. Brouse is also an solid blocker. Martin Bedard will start.

No bowl reps here today. In fact, there's a smattering of media here today. At least compared with the three previous games.

Depth chart cards are on orange cardboard today. Guess they're trying to make Syracuse feel welcome.


Once every two years, the traffic backs up from the Yale Bowl all the way past my house in Orange, which is just off Route 34 about 3 miles down the road. When I was covering Yale football, it took me all of about 2 minutes to get to the bowl. The first year I covered The Game, it took me an hour to get there.

If you've never experienced Ivy League football, you're missing out. Be it Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth (Brown, not so much...not a fan of their stadium). There's no better way to spend a fall afternoon in New England. The Game is more of a hassle because it's always packed. But it's always exciting. Best football game I've ever seen live, bar none, was Yale's come-from-behind win over Harvard in 1999 to clinch a share of the Ivy title. Yale's quarterback threw something like 55 times in the second half, and receiver Eric Johnson (now the starting tight end for the New Orleans Saints) caught 21 passes for over 250 yards, including an incredible snatch of a tipped pass in the end zone for the winning touchdown. It went down in Yale lore as "The Catch". The bowl was packed to the rafters, and the place was going bonkers the entire second half. It was so loud, I thought the concrete foundation might crumble.

I complain all the time about the inexplicable and hypocritical decison of the Ivy League presidents banning football teams from competing in the Division I-AA playoffs when every other sport can play for a national title. I'll leave that alone.

Yale tailback Mike MacLeod, a New Britain resident and just a junior, could start for just about anyone in the country. He will not only play in the NFL, but just may have a lengthy and productive career. Just so you know.


Southern is the best college football team in the state that no one knows about. Even tiny Trinity gets more publicity than the Owls. But coach Rich Cavanaugh has quietly built a Division II power in New Haven. SCSU is making its third straight appearance in the D-II playoffs, and while it might not get very far this season, there's potential to win a national title in the next three seasons.

SCSU has produced plenty of NFL coaching talent (Kevin Gilbride, Chris Palmer), and Cavanaugh, who is always at UConn spring practices picking up tips, has pumped out his share of NFL players. Scott Mersereau, Joe Andruzzi, Jacques Cesaire (starting DL for the San Diego Chargers) all came from SCSU. The next guy with a shot -- tailback Jarom Freeman. He's the guy who ran for a Division II record 418 yards against Bryant two weeks ago. The kid is just a sophomore, but all accounts are he's the real deal. Not sure if he's NFL caliber, since I haven't had a chance to watch him yet, but he alone makes the Owls a dangerous team in the playoffs.

Random SCSU note: Dan Lauria, an actor best known for his role as the father on The Wonder Years, played football at Southern. Actor Tony Amendola also went to Southern. He's stars on Stargate-SG1 and has been on every TV show imaginable. My best reference is the guy who played Sal Bass/Rushdie on an episode of Seinfeld.


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