Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Worst 31-0 Win Ever

Suppose your favorite college football team was opening the season at home. There was a lot of hope. There was a lot of hype. You were said to have a strong defense and the best returning quarterback in the conference. You had a genius coach, a great leader who had brought your program to the level it currently enjoys. And you had a packed, modern stadium with a lot of atmosphere.

Now, suppose, in this opening game, near the end of the first half, your team was winning just 3-0.

My team met that description on Thursday night. My team is Rutgers.

Must've been playing somebody tough, right? Virginia Tech, perhaps? If you had guessed that, you would have had the right State... but that's about it.

It was Norfolk State. This would be like the Yankees being just 1-0 ahead of the Lakewood BlueClaws after 4. Or Arsenal with a scoreless draw at halftime of an FA Cup game against United. Not Manchester, not West Ham, not Newcastle, not even Sheffield... Colchester United.

In 2007, Rutgers played Norfolk State at home -- like this one, basically a revenue boost for the visiting "historically black college" with the awesome band but not the football team, or the uniforms, to match -- and led only 3-0 after the 1st quarter, but scored 6 touchdowns in the 2nd to take a 45-0 halftime lead that eventually became a 59-0 win.

This time... a late San San Te field goal gave RU a 6-0 halftime lead. A couple of NSU special-teams foulups were gifts to the Scarlet Knights, and the RU defense was, unlike the offense, as good as advertised. Final score, Rutgers 31, Norfolk State 0.

RU Coach Greg Schiano usually has short hair. Makes it tough to pull your hair when your team doesn't play to its potential.

Norfolk State knew it had no chance... except, only 3 points down after 28 minutes, they had a chance. It vanished, but that's hardly their own fault.

The next game is a week from today, Saturday, September 11 (please, don't play ominous music), in Miami against Florida International. Shouldn't be too much trouble, right?

Then, 2 weeks later, North Carolina at home. They just had 15 players declared ineligible. That's what happens when you have Butch Davis as your head coach, as the University of Miami found out when he nearly wrecked that program. Still, Carolina should be a good test for Rutgers. Then a home game against Tulane, and the Raritanners should be 4-0 going into an ESPN Friday night game at home against Connecticut, who will be loaded for bear after losing that heartbreaker to Rutgers in East Hartford last season.

*

The Yankees beat the pesky Toronto Blue Jays yesterday, 7-3, and again today, 7-5. Ivan Nova struggled yesterday, but the bats bailed him out. I suspect he'll get another chance, because, today, Javier Vazquez was awful again. But, he, too, was bailed out by the Yankee offense.

The Mets lost today, and lost last night, to the Chicago Cubs. The night before, they won, but Steve "Schmoozer" Somers on WFAN provided me with a moment that had me turning Colorado Rockies purple with laughter.

Somers: "Jason is calling from Staten Island! Hello, Jason." (Not sure if the guy's name was actually Jason. I think it was, so I'm listing him as "Jason" here.)

Jason: "Oh, Schmooze... "

Like the weight of the world is on his Flushing Heathen shoulders. He then goes on about how the Mets are more than one trade, more than one free agent signing, away from respectability.

Jason: "Schmooze, what are we going to do?"

Somers: "Suffer."

The Schmoozer didn't miss a beat, didn't bat an eye. "Suffer." The Schmoozer is a Met fan. He knows.

As he so often says, to the rhythm of Ernest Lawrence Thayer's "Casey at the Bat":

Oh, somewhere in this favored land
the sun is shining bright!
And somewhere bands are playing!
And somewhere hearts are light!
And somewhere men are laughing!
And somewhere children shout!
But there is no joy in Metville!
Mr. Met has struck out!

Oh, sure, blame the mascot!

The Yankees' Magic Number to win the AL East is 26 -- and the Baltimore Orioles, at this writing, are smacking the Tampa Bay Rays around, 8-2, so it will likely be down to 25. The Boston Red Sox lost the first game of a rain-forced doubleheader today, and are tied in the nightcap. Their Tragic Number to be eliminated from the AL Wild Card race is down to 21. The Mets' Tragic Number to be eliminated from the NL Wild Card race is down to 16.

*

I was in Philadelphia last night, finally completing my circuit of all 3 local ballparks, having gotten to both Yankee Stadium II and Citi Field in May. The Phillies had a 7:05 start against the Milwaukee Brewers, who I hadn't seen live since I was actually in Milwaukee in 1999, to see County Stadium before it closed.

Citizens Bank Park is right across from Lincoln Financial Field, home to both the Eagles and Temple University, which was playing "crosstown" rival Villanova in a 5:00 start. While a big rivalry in basketball, in football it's 2 teams that, not that long ago, were Division I-AA. They're trying to build it up by making it a "trophy rivalry," awarding the Mayor's Cup to the winner. (The rest of the Big 5 are Penn, which is in the Ivy League and therefore still I-AA; LaSalle, which in 2007 canceled its football program for the 2nd time; and St. Joseph's, which also doesn't have a football team.)

They had a wild-and-woolly game last season, and if I had already been to a Phils' home game this year, I might've taken that one in instead. I would've gotten my money's worth, as it was a back-and-forth affair that ended 25-24 to Temple, on Brandon McManus' 43-yard field goal with 3 seconds left. A crowd of 32,193 was at the 68,532-seat Linc.

Instead, I saw Cole Hamels do some serious dealing. He took a no-hitter into the 5th, but this game was very frustrating. The Phils scored on a groundout in the 2nd, and that was it, including a bases-loaded-nobody-out failure to score in the 5th. Jose Contreras lives: He pitched a scoreless 8th. Ryan Madson went 3-up-3-down in the 9th, and the Phils won, 1-0. The Phils got just 4 hits, the Brewers 3.

One of the Brewers' coaches is former Yankee second baseman and third-base coach, and former Met manager, Willie Randolph. Could he be the next Brewer manager? He might do better in Milwaukee than he did in Flushing. Then again, he won't have Omar Minaya as his general manager, bringing a team that's half-overrated and half-terminally sucky.

A crowd of 44,570 filled Citizens Bank Park, which is still my favorite of the post-Camden Yards "new" ballparks. The views are still great. The food is still great. The fans, contrary to Philadelphians when they watch pro football and hockey, usually show passion but keep their venom to themselves.

The only time the big Liberty Bell rang and lit up was for the win, and the late Harry Kalas' version of "High Hopes" was played. It was always a silly song, not worthy of its most famous performer, Frank Sinatra (even if he did rejigger the words for John F. Kennedy's 1960 campaign). It's no "Theme From 'New York, New York,'" like at Yankee Stadium (also a Sinatra song), or even "New York State of Mind," the Mets using Billy Joel's song even though BJ is a Yankee Fan. Still, it's a better send-the-fans-home song than "Dirty Water" in Boston.

Now, where's that rubber tree plant I had in the corner of the room?

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