This afternoon, a post hit the Rivals Board for Rutgers Athletics that was a history of one person’s experiences from 1969 to the present. For those who truly enjoy Rutgers Sports, it is a long, but worthwhile read. I am linking to the thread in which it appeared here. I am also reprinting it in my blog for future reference. What else can I say? It captures the essence of one man’s experience and is worth sharing to the larger world.
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|10,000th Post – Reflections and Reminiscing – Warning – VERY Long||Reply|
So … I have posted 10,000 times – this being that 10,000th post … I am astounded. And unlike posters like RTW, few of my posts are short, so I cannot even imagine how many WORDS I have posted. It frankly scares me. Am I that obsessed? Obviously the answer is YES. Anyway, as one line in my signature says, “If one word can suffice, then 10,000 certainly can.” It would be a terrible waste of my reputation for this 10,000th post not to reflect that reputation, eh?
[sidebar – this post, though interminable, is less then 10,000 words … about 5700 words]
I thought I would use this post to reflect on my experiences with Rutgers Athletics … to reminisce about earliest memories, favorite memories, least favorite memories, etc. And to perhaps reflect on experiences here, on this website. SO, if you do not want to read about a LONG ride, then get off this horse now – I warn you in advance, this will be an epic post, even for me. Also, therefore, please forgive me in advance.
As a review, I am NOT a graduate of Rutgers – neither undergraduate or graduate schools. My father, however, is a loyal alumnus, class of 1947 (friendly with Frank Burns, amongst other old-timers). My father has been a season ticket holder in football and basketball since the 1950’s. I have been going with him to both football and basketball games since 1968 or 1969, and shared the season-ticket holdings for the last 10-15 years.
Memories By Decade (I have witnessed parts of FIVE decades of RU Athletics):
1960’s: My only memory of RU athletics in the 1960’s was being allowed to attend the RU-Princeton 1969, Centennial football game. My older brother, older sister and I all were frantically competing to attend that game – my Dad had 3 tickets at the time. Somehow, he was able to come up with 5 tickets, and we all got to go – the whole family. What an amazing first memory!
1970’s: Oh, so many memories, almost all positive … too bad it was 30 years ago from where most of my most positive memories come.
1970’s Football: Oh, those great mid-1970’s teams! Nate Toran was my favorite – the best and most feared pass rusher in the country, I thought. Obviously, the 1976 season was the best experience … Undefeated, unscored upon and uninvited was the mantra. Oh, RU was not really unscored upon. But I seem to remember RU was #1 in the nation in scoring defense, #1 in Rushing defense, and #1 in total defense that season. And that Thanksgiving finale against RU’s fierce rival, an always tough Colgate … WOW! Truthfully, RU did not deserve to win that game, but somehow, with several very odd referee calls and some strange bounces, they pulled it off. I also have great memories of the road win at Tenneseee – listening on the radio (1978?).
1970’s basketball: MUCH stronger memories of this sport and era than even football: Basketball was MY sport (still is). I have such fond memories of Gene Armstead, Steve Kaplan, Vinnie Roundtree (one of my all time favorites) and John Somogyi, amongst others, BEFORE RU played big time hoops (and yes, RU WAS big time in the middle to late 1970’s). Those players of the early 1970’s were the beginning of RU building itself up, pre-Phil Sellers. That was the era of 6’4” PF’s (Roundtree and Sellers), slow white Jewish guys who could SHOOT (Kaplan, and later Kleinbaum).
And then came Phil Sellers. For those of you who never saw Sellers play, you just cannot imagine the impact he had on RU athletics, not just basketball. Sellers was just a different breed. Dick Vitale recruited Sellers to RU – but left before he could coach him, because Vitale did not get the head coaching job preceding the 1972-73 season (Tom Young did). I have never heard how Vitale REALLY got Sellers to RU – it seemed improbable at the time. Sellers was a top 25 player – in the nation. In fact, many would argue coming out of high school Sellers was one of the 10 best players in the country, and under normal circumstances would NEVER have even considered RU. But there he was, in the 1st year true freshmen could play varsity. And he was just something else. RU has NEVER had a player so skilled AND so unbelievably DETERMIEND to win. Sellers was simply the most intense player, the most determined player, to EVER where a Rutgers uniform. Period – not even close. And he had a NY City street attitude that was … fierce, to say the least. Off the court, I have met him, and he is a great guy. But on the court … if someone tried to stop him from getting a rebound, a basket, or a loose ball … BEWARE. Opponents were quiet simply SCARED to play Sellers. Despite being listed at 6’6”, but really being 6’4”, Sellers was amazingly intimidating. I remember as a sophomore, Sellers and RU were playing a nationally ranked USC, at USC. So I listened on the radio (I was 13 years old, and had the radio under my covers, as the game did not even start until well after my bedtime). RU did lose, but maybe by 82-82, I think – a very close game. Sellers had 43 points, I think – and almost single-handedly carried RU to a major upset. I remember the USC coach was interviewed after the game, and said something like, “That Sellers – the best player we faced this year. I still am not sure what I just saw, I just know I never want to face him ever again.” NOW, I know he was just complimenting an opposing player who had a great performance. But THEN, I had never heard an opposing coach talk about an RU player like that. I had goosebumps listening to that, and still do when I remember it.
1975-76 … the most thrilling, exciting, dramatic sports fan experience of my life (the 2006 football season comes a close second). That undefeated basketball season was amazing. I hope we get another chance to experience it. RU was a AFST, exciting, 94 feet, pressing team with GREAT team defense. In addition to the returning great players: Sellers, Dabney, Jordan and Copeland, RU added this skinny, yet athletic, 6’9” center as a true freshman – James Bailey. Recruiting back then was more art than science (though still dirty) – and the :guru” business and the AAU scene was hardly existent. But as soon as you saw Bailey on the court, you KNEW he was going to be GREAT … not just good, but GREAT. Bailey came off the bench the 1st 5 games, and I remember telling my Dad at the time, even after the 1st exhibition game, that if Bailey as not starting over Mike Palko after 5 games then Tom Young had to be fired. Bailey started the 6th game, and provided a great shot-blocking safety valve for RU’s suffocating pressing defense. It was that defense that fueled RU’s fast break and high scoring. That season, RU scored 100 or more points 11 times in 33 games, and between 90 and 99 points another 14 times. RU scored under 80 pints just FOUR times – 2 times against Princeton. My high notes of that season? At least 8 times of the 11 times RU scored 100 points, the team worked to get Jeff Kleinbaum, a reserve, to score the 100th point – though he may have scored the 100th point every time – it sure seems like that looking back. Jordan’s quick hands on defense … Bailey’s shot-blocking … Copeland’s soaring dunks … Dabney’s slashing drives and maniac defense … and Sellers – demanding, angry, perfectionist, taking charges, getting every key rebound, scoring when RU NEEDED to score, WILLING RU to an undefeated regular season. From a pure statistical standpoint, Sellers was better his prior 3 seasons. But he and Bailey were the primary reasons RU was undefeated.
Then … That final game against St. Bonaventure … the pressure was unreal, 25-0, an entire season waiting for this moment … St. Bonaventure was a solid team, but hardly the best team RU played that season (Purdue was way better, and Princeton was also way better, as was Georgia Tech). But the Bonnies would not give in, and the game was a close game all game. I thought it would be an easy game, but it was not. What I do remember the most was the sheer NOISE. RU’s home court was at the Barn. The Barn had seats on 3 sides: At each end, and across from the benches. The team’s benches and the scoring table were lined up along a very tall wooden wall that slid open and shut. Behind that wall was a swimming pool. Why do I mention this? Because the fan cheers and screams echoed off that hollow wall, with echoes magnified by the empty space and WATER behind that wooden wall. Also, the seats were all bleacher seats (adding to the echoing quality), and there was a balcony around the bleachers on all 3 sides (we sat in the 2nd row of the balcony at mid-court). At times, in the balcony, it felt like you were literally hanging over the court, and could intercept high passes along the sideline – that is how close to the court all 2200 or 2600 fans (the capacity) were. And in the last 5-6 minutes of the game, as RU actually had to come back from trailing the Bonnies, and then took the lead, and kept that narrow lead, with every basket by RU, the RU crowd erupted with the loudest noise (the only crowd noise for RU that came close was the ’89 A-10 finals against Penn State) … and most memorably, after nearly every RU basket down the stretch the game had to be STOPPED … to sweep the floor. You see, the noise was so loud and reverberating that the vibrations shook loose paint from the ceiling and the paint chips had to be swept from the court floor. I kid you not!
The ECAC Final against St. Johns in a packed MSG was so exciting also – but anti-climactic in a way, though it preserved RU’s undefeated season (RU, for some reason, did not play St. Johns during that regular season, but ST. Johns was a very, very good team, as usual – RU beat ST. Johns by 3). I remember listening to the RU Princeton game on the radio in the 2nd round of the NCAA – and Princeton actually outplayed RU, and truthfully deserved to win. I remember being in tears after RU fouled the Princeton player (Malloy?) at the end, leading by just 1 point. He was a 90% FT shooter, getting 2 FT’s with less than 20 seconds left, I think. But I also remember SCREAMING in my room when he amazingly missed BOTH FT’s, and RU therefore preserved its 1 point margin. The Final Four was also anti-climactic, as Michigan killed RU, as RU played its worst game of the season.
I also remember the great RU teams of the late 1970’s, led by Jammin’ James Bailey, the best player in the country in his Junior season in my opinion. And he was at least a 1st team All American his Juniro and Senior seasons. Again, like Sellers, Bailey had the better year in his Junior season (130 dunks by bailey ALONE in the ’77-’78 season). In his Junior season, I remember that St. Johns, after being dominated by RU, was put against Louiscville – know in that ’77-’78 season as the Doctors of Dunk. Carnesseca was asked about the intimidation of Louisville’s dunks, and he just laughed uncontrollably (I saw that interview). He said something like, “What did they have, 70, 80 dunks this year, as a team? Heck, we played James Bailey, and he had 130 dunks all by himself this year.” I remember when Cincy had a pre-season All American center, I think his name was Jim Miller – he was something like 6’10” and 260 pounds. Bailey, as a sophomore, just completely dismantled him. Bailey was one of the 1st college centers who was tall AND quick AND mobile AND strong, all at once. That is common now, but back then it was very unusual. I remember the 1978 NIT (RU SHOULD have made the NCAA, but was robbed. But that NIT matched up a Junior Larry Bird and his strong Indiana St. team, AT Rutgers, for an exciting 1-point win by RU (Bird scored a lot, and RU’s scoring star was actually Abdel Anderson). But the ’78-’79 season was a great season – and should have led to another Final Four team, but for Tom Young’s coaching blunder (one of my most bitter memories). But that season included one of the most memorable games in Rutgers history, a stirring 97-96 Triple OT win over Ohio State in the Holiday Festival. James bailey scored 36 points, facing off against the great Kelvin Ransey (38 points) and Herb Williams (26 points). And at the end of regulation and each OT it was Ransey and Bailey exchanging key baskets, with Bailey hitting the final game winner on a 12-foot baseline jumper.
But the NCAA … oh my goodness … RU beat Georgetown in the 1st round, and met St. Johns in the rond fo 16. RU had beaten St. Johns twice that season already – and no RU fan thought that RU would have any chance of losing. RU was simply better across the board, at nearly every position. RU was riding a 9-game winning streak, and was on a roll, clicking on all cylinders. I think Penn had already had its big upset, and the winner of the RU-St. Johns game would face Penn for the right to go to the Final Four. As importantly as anything else, St. Johns best player was Wayne McCoy, its center. And McCoy had been dominated for years by Bailey. A loss was simply not … going … to … happen. Or so we thought. And in fact, the game unfolded pretty much as all RU fans expected: RU led almost the entire game, opening up an 11 point lead with about 11 minutes left … and Bailey drew McCoy’s 4th foul. Carnesseca had to sit McCoy, and every RU fan I knew thought the game was REALLY over. Except … inexplicably, with an 11-point lead, 11 minutes left, and St. John’s best player on the bench … Tom Young had RU freeze and slow down the game!!!!!!! I remember SCREAMING for RU to stop slowing the game down, to put a HAMMER in St. Johns — and screaming, and screaming. But instead of RU running its regular offense, and stamping ion St. Johns, they slowed the game down, allowing St. Johns to crawl back into the game, and gain momentum, and to gradually close the gap, even with McCoy on the bench – which let Carensseca not have to bring back McCoy and his 4 fouls until there were 40-5 minutes left … by then RU had lost all its momentum, and St. Johns eventually pulled out a 2 point win, 67-65. By far and away RU’s most devastating loss, even worse than the ’76 loss to Michigan, since you could argue Michigan was better than RU – but not St. Johns. And there is absolutely no doubt RU would have beaten Penn, though St. Johns did not – RU was just a bad match up for Penn, much worse a match up than St. Johns was. RU would probably have lost to Michigan St., and Magic Johnson, which was a great team, But that would have been an interesting game – at least RU had a 1st team All American to put up against Michigan State’s Magic Johnson (though they would not have covered each other – Abdel Anderson would surely have covered Johnson, and he was a great defensive player).
But what a great run RU had in the late ‘70’s. Other than the marring loss to St. Johns and the deflating loss to Michigan, both in the NCAA’s, RU had a great run.
I remember the numerous failed attempts to form an Eastern football league – and the missed opportunities to join the Bog east. Most of us fans knew RU should have joined the Big east when invited: The teams that did join were all our natural rivals, St. Johns, Georgetown, Syracuse, Boston College and Villanova. And make no mistake: The Big East wanted RU, as RU was the best basketball program in the east, right up there with St. Johns (people forget that from 1973-1979 RU was consistently BETTER than Syracuse, BC, Georgetown, and as good or better than St. Johns). RU’ collective record from the ’73-74 season, through the 1978-79 season against Pitt (5-1), BC (2-0), Syracuse (4-1), Georgetown (2-1), St. Johns (6-2), Nova (2-2), UConn (5-2) and WVU (6-2), the best teams in the East, was: 32-11. RU beat EVRTY in the East regularly, except Nova- who held its own with RU. St. Johns had the better national reputation, but RU almost ALWAYS beat them. Sigh … what might have been.
1980’s: What a wasteland for Rutgers Athletics, though there were a few bright spots. But a lot of downers also.
The firing of Frank Burns, one of the great RU football coaches, and a true gentleman, a man who has personified everything GOOD about RU Athletics in his life and career.
The HIRING of Littlepage … ugh. True, Tom Young was a lazy recruiter, and let the RU hoops program slide from a semi-regular NCAA participant to a mediocre Atlantic 10 program. But Littlepage? I have a close friend who was and is a Penn graduate and fan. The day Littlepage was hired my friend called me gleefully, thanking me over and over again for having RU take Littlepage off Penn’s hands. Those who think RU’s basketball program is poor now have NO IDEA WHAT IT WAS LIKE UNDER LITTLEPAGE. Despite Eric Riggins’ magnificent scoring one season, one season as a fan you went into the arena each game KNOWING RU had no chance to win. Even the last 2 seasons here in the 2000’s RU has often been competitive. I just want to highlight how bad it really was – remembering RU was playing in a relatively weak conference. Under Littlepage, in 3 seasons, RU lost 63 games and won just 23 (record of 23-63). But that was not the only measure of misery. Of those 63 games, RU lost 42 … FORTY-TWO, but 10 points or more (and another 9 by 9 points or more). Think about it … HALF of the games RU played under Littlepage were double digit losses, and 2/3 of RU’s losses were 10 points or more – and 85% were by 9 points or MORE. That is 2/3 of RU’s overall games under Littlepage were not even CLOSE to a win. Additionally, of the 42 double digit losses under Littlepage, 32 (THIRTY-TWO) were by 15 points or more … think about it … HALF of RU’s losses under Littlepage were by 15 points or more. Of the 42 losses that were by 10 points or more, NINETEEN (19) were by TWENTY (20!!!) or more points … I am almost speechless, still, thinking about this. Under Littlepage, 20% of ALL games he coached were losses by more than 20 points, and almost 40% were by 15 points or more! Littlepage coached the RU team to THREE double digit losing streaks: 1 straight losses in his 1st season, 12 straight losses (and a 2-12 start) in his 2nd season, and SIXTEEN (16!!) straight losses in his 3rd season – and a 3-19 start to the season.
The tenure of Dick Anderson as head coach of the football team: Sure there were bright spots (the tie with Florida, a couple of other upsets, and some close games), but Anderson was just never able to get RU over the hump.
1980’s Positive memories:
RU Women’s hoops under Therea Grentz. In particular the Susan Wicks teams. RU won a national championship in 1982 with June Olkowski leading the way. The RU women outdrew the RU men during the Littlepage years. And Wicks was the best or 2nd best player in the country for at least her final 2 seasons (only Cheryl Miller could compete – and I thought Wicks was better). Regular NCAA appearances, All Americans, and the legacy remains – check out how many COACHES came from those teams, for example.
The best “loss” in RU Football history: the near defeat of Alabama at the Meadowlands. I was AT that game, and Alabama was something like a 30 point or 40 point favorite. RU outplayed Alabama by a fair margin, and Burns, a great coach, made a HUGE coaching blunder that probably cost RU the tie. When RU scored to make the game 17-12, he kicked the extra point instead of going for 2 points. Had the score been 17-14, RU plays the last 6-8 minutes very differently. RU got the ball back trailing 17-13 with maybe 6 minutes to go, and someone had a GREAT punt return to put RU inside the Alabama 40 yard-line. RU had a GREAT FG kicker at the time (was it Fakcinelli? Startzell? I cannot remember). If RU had been down 3, almost certainly RU would have run the ball the 1st 2 downs, putting RU in FG position, almost certainly (the RU FG kicker certainly had range to 50-yards, and RU only needed 3-4 yards gained to get there). Instead, RU passed on 1st down – and either had a penalty, or a sack – and somewhere in that series of downs there WAS a sack – and it was like a 150-yard loss sack (the QB did not get rid of the ball, but scrambled BACKWARDS, in his only real error of the game). And that was the game. The Alabama fans ()and there were tens of thousands of them at the game) felt like the losers coming out of the stadium, and the RU fans like the winners – every single Alabama fan I met after the game were also VERY gracious – they knew they got lucky.
The 1988-89 RU basketball team under Bob Wenzel. The team started poorly, and struggled through the 1st half of the season. RU was 5-8 after 13 games, and 6-10 after 16 games. There were no indications of anything special – none. RUI then won 4 of 5 games, including 2 crucial close wins over Penn St. and @Duquesne. They lost to WVU in a 2 point home loss heartbreaker … and then won 5 in a row to finish the season strong. The way it worked back then was that the A-10 Final would be at the home court of the highest seeded remaining team. RU had little chance of hosting, it was thought, since though seeded 3rd, the A-10 had 2 relatively dominant teams: Temple and WVU. But in the Semis, Penn State (4th or 5th seeded) upset WVU, and RU upset Temple, resulting in a Penn St.- RU Final … AT RUTGERS. And what a game … the most exciting game in terms of crowd NOISE and crowd EXCITEMENT and involvement in a game since the 1976 finale against St. Bonaventure. From start to finish, in a see-saw game, the crowd was on its feet and screaming at every play. But the best plays were Tom Savages slashing drive from the wing that led to a “savage” dunk in the face of a Penn St. player (truly a “facial”), and Rick Dadika’s crucial DEEP three-point shots late in the game – and I mean DEEP (one was at least 25 feet away, and the next was a step or two deeper). They seemed like back to back shots, though I o not believe they were. But they WERE back breakers for Penn St. And RU was off to the NCAA!
1990’s: Another decade of few positive memories … a dullness starts setting in – went to all football home games, and many home basketball games, and enjoyed doing so, but at times all the losses are emotionally tiring.
The worst memories? Hard to even think about them. But, some included:
The Terry Shea years in football: Sure, there were glimmers of hope. But unfortunately, his start was so inauspicious, and his public relations cluelessness was rivaled only by Gary Waters’ inexplicable public statements. With 1 year exception, 5 years of misery, thin teams, fights on the internet … brutal. Terry Shea was a very nice man, and clearly is an OUTSTANDING QB and offensive ASSISTANT coach. But as a head coach in NJ … not so much, eh? I do remember he started with an extremely bare cupboard (though most did not want to hear that) – I think he only inherited 46 players from Graber. But he contributed to that by taking several weeks vacation before he started in the middle of recruiting season, and only brought in 11 new players that for first season.
The end of the Graber Years were also pretty bad, though people sometimes forget that. Graber was also a brilliant football mind, actually – still is. But he so lacked discipline that not only were his PLAYERS getting into trouble off the field, and flunking out at alarming rates, but even his coaches were having problems (anyone remember Coach Jeter getting caught in a New Brunswick crack house?). And towards the end, he was just playing out his strong. His last season he had supposedly built the team to finally get to a bowl game. He had 20 5th year Seniors, and I think 11 players from that team went on the play in the NFL … but the team went just 4-7. Bye-bye.
Kevin Bannon’s embarrassing fall from grace. Bannon had his dream job, and boy could he recruit! But he could not retain players, and in the end, though I did not think it a huge deal at first, the “naked free throws” incident snowballed into a burden that doomed him. That and the endless transfers of his own players.
1990’s GOOD Memories: There actually were some of these, despite the doldrums, especially some individual stories. Examples include:
The start of the decade was exciting for RU basketball. Two NIT’s and 1 NCAA appearance in the 1st 3 seasons – led by transfers, sure, but still exciting.
Damon Santiago’s and Eric Clark’s Senior seasons – separate years, but each came out of nowhere to shine, thrilling RU fans.
Joining the Big east – 1st in football, and then in basketball.
Geoff Billet: Who can forget the all he gave to RU? And that running shot against Georgetown in the Big East Tournament to give RU a HUGE win in the BET.
Rob Hodgson and his toughness.
The rousing RU comeback win, 50-49, at homecoming, over Virginia Tech. What a game! Just amazingly exciting. Of course, many of us thought after that win that RU would begin to fulfill the so-called promise RU supposedly had. Not so much.
Thunder and Lightening in football: Presley and Willis, and their talent and often wonderful performances.
Marco Battaglia – he was simply a spectacular college player, and his game against Penn St. was probably the best game EVEER by an RU receiver … Kenny Britt and Ti Underwood notwithstanding (it was not ONLY because of the stats, but HOW he physically bludgeoned the Penn St. defense, like Kellen Winslow versus Miami).
2000’s Memories: Much more current for most people, of course, and heightened by the proliferation the internet and this and other message boards. And therefore, I will spend less time on these. And only on the most memorable GOOD memories, in no particular order:
Gary Waters’ 3rd season coaching the Men’s hoops team – and its NIT Final Four run. Sure, it was just the NIT. But we fans were so starved for ANY post season, that after a lackluster 1st round showing, the fans slowly got on board until 12,000 RU fans jammed the trains and nearly filled MSG for one of the most exciting games of the last 20 years for U, a thrilling victory over Iowa St. (?). And then, 16,000 rabid RU fans came back a couple of days later to watch a close loss to Michigan.
Also, in basketball, the sharpshooting of Douby – who had some of the most dominant individual games an RU player has had since the days of Bailey and Sellers.
The hiring of Greg Schiano and the slow and painful rebirth of RU football … his recruiting classes were exciting … to RU fans at least. The on-field progress was slow, often painful, and many questioned some very strange on-field coaching decisions (many coaching blunders in the first few seasons). But Schiano never lost his optimism, and never blamed his players or the team.
The thrilling win over Michigan State … but deflated by the inexplicable loss to UNH the following week.
Brian Leonard … his amazing “Leonard Leaps” Who can forget that his “leap” and 82-yard TD run against Illinois, on the road, was the NATIONAL Play of the Week … even though RU somehow found a way to lose a game in which they dominated.
The win over … was it ARMY (?), to get RU bowl-eligible for the 1st time in decades.
The thrilling, high scoring, loss to Arizona St. in RU’s 1st bowl in 27 years – a loss, but the beginning of the last 3-year stretch.
Brian Leonard’s announcement at halftime of a basketball game that he was coming back for his Senior season.
The entire 2006 season, with all its highs and occasional lows. Devraun Thompson’s 4th down goal line stop @UNC to stop a TD and turn the ball back to RU. Ray Rice’s grinding 200-yard plus rushing game versus UNC. The last minute interception to stop UNC from driving for the winning TD. Who can forget the win against USF, with the knockdown with little time remaining of a 2-point conversion that would have tied the game. Who can forget Ray Rice’s HUGE run from the RU 10-yard line, after an undefeated Pitt had seemingly taken the momentum back, needing just ONE more stop to take the lead … followed by another big run by Rice, and RU went in and scored to end the Pitt threat.
And of course … the fabulous Louisville game … #3 ranked and undefeated UL … @Rutgers … the Empire State Building lit up in Scarlet … national TV on ESPN … a jammin’ stadium … facing one of the best offenses in the country. And UL showed it in the 1st 1 and ½ quarters, running up a 25-7 lead. But then RU’s defense just took over, and completely smothered UL, and its fine QB Brohm. Ray Rice ran like a madman, clawing out yards – including a crucial 17-yard TD run on a quick-wide pitch to pull RU to within 25-14. Teel, maligned all season, did not have a GREAT game – but did complete JUST enough passes and big plays to move the ball. The true frosh Britt making a leaping, in stride catch of a slightly high pass and romped 60-some yards to the UL 6-yard line. It deserves another mention: RU’s defense harassing and rattling Brian Brohm so badly, he and his brother, UL’s QB coach, practically came to blows on the sidelines (remember THAT?). The final drive, with 2 key completions by Teel, and then a FANTASTIC screen to leonard – with a GREAT carckback block from a receiver to spring Leonard, for a 25-yard gain. The 2 HARD runs by Rice – or 3? Then Ito’s FG … attempt … that MISSED … but the UL DB being offsides. Do-over, 5 yards closer … YES!!! FG is GOOD, and Ito with that look up at the camera – and his #1 gesture at the camera. And thenj RU actually KICKED THE KICKOFF TO ALLOW IT TO BE RETURNED … and it almost went all the way, but was stopped barely in UL territory. And fittingly, the game ending on a SACK of Brohm … and the field filling with scarlet fans.
We will try to forget the lousy performance against Cincy the next week, where the receivers dropped 8 passes (3 of them certain TD’s), and the defense’s complete inability to make tackles.
Fast forward to the WVU game, @WVU – if RU wins, it wins the Big East and is Orange Bowl bo8nd. Alas, RU could not pull it off, despite Pat White getting hurt. But what an exciting game: Triple OT, and a dropped pass by Campbell in the end-zone that led to a FG instead of a TD near the end, that would have forced WVU to score a TD to tie the game and send it to OT, rather than just a FG.
But the, RU’s first bowl victory … it almost did not matter who it was against, or where it was. But it did not hurt that RU dominated a Big 12 team – even if it was a mediocre one.
Followed by a disappointing overall 2007 season- though the season was all Ray Rice, all the time, with Rice vying for the Heisman award, rushing for more than 2000 yards, and ending with a record performance in the International Bowl – RU’s 3rd straight bowl and 2nd straight bowl win. Though Underwood, Teel and Britt all had record breaking seasons in their own ways also.
And even this past season – yes, disappointing, a real struggle to start, for many reason. But then, a lucky, squeaker win over UConn … and then everything clicked against a team we all love to beat: Pitt. It was like the lights suddenly went on. Just enough rushing by Brooks and Martinek. But the last 7 games was all about Teel and Britt (though with an occasional sprinkling of the TE and an occasional WR supporting role). Teel to Britt became the mantra, and nobody could stop them when the rhythm finally clicked. And another, 4th, straight bowl game, and 3rd straight bowl victory.
And of course, all the exciting womens games, players and seasons – a run the the Final 16, the Final 8 and the FINALS. Pointer, Carson, Pondexter, Prince … I am missing several really good players, I know (running out of steam). And … the entire Don Imus situation, and the grace with which the young ladies, Rutgers student athletes, handled themselves, under national media glare that was just WAITING for them to mess up, you KNOW … but instead quietly, and with grace supreme, humiliated Imus and embarassed the networks to fire Imus. For several weeks, the BEST a college university could offer was shining bright!
Thank you for listening to my reminiscing. And thanks to all who made it to the end of this lengthy post.