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The Open Date

All in all, it was not a bad Open Date. A weekend when Virginia Tech was playing no football found me spending a Saturday in my recliner watching football on television rather than in a stadium. If one had to choose a weekend to observe football as it is played in the rest of the country, this was the choice.

It was a Saturday of spectacular games, jam-packed with thrilling finishes. There are times when we are reminded of why we so love this game of college football and this was one of those times. From noon rain in Boston to the late-night crisp autumn air of Hooville, there was just great game after great game. It was not a bad change of pace.

The weekend’s crown jewel, of course, was the barnburner between USC and Notre Dame. What a game. The echoes were awoken before they decided to hit the snooze button on the last play of the game. However, it was a doze unlike the REM sleep produced during the years of Tyrone Willingham and Bob Davie. Charlie Weis has them believing again in South Bend.

It was amusing to hear all of those fired Irish coaches turned ESPN talking heads whining about the supposed illegality of the last play. You think playing the Trojans with Pac 10 refs is bad? Try using SEC ones.

It seems the Notre Dame fans were not altogether thrilled with the game’s outcome. After the Davie and Willingham years, one would think they would have become accustomed to losses. It was reported that the Irish faithful reacted with boos, f-bombs directed at the Trojans and the ever-popular ‘obscene gestures.’ NBC did not show us whether Touchdown Jesus elected not to signal Leinart’s final score and instead raise His middle finger.

There was another game being played at the same time USC and Notre Dame were smashing Nielsen ratings for Irish football. If more than a handful of people were watching WVU knock off Louisville in OT, it was because they did not have access to NBC. Those ratings will do wonders for Li’l E marketability.

The Cousins and the Cards staged their league battle in front of quite a few empty Mountaineer Field seats. The hill folk didn’t seem to be quite as enthused for this game that carried huge BCS implications as they did a couple of weeks ago against the school that left them behind. So much for Louisville being the football savior of the New Li’l E. The Cousins obviously did not consider them couchworthy.

Speaking of the Li’l E, commercials during the Wake-Fredo slugfest afforded the opportunity to check out Rutgers blasting Syracuse. I’m sure Little Johnny threw his can of hair spray at his television while pondering that instead of having the country’s third-ranked team in his league, a very important one now that Florida State has gone down, he could have had the 1-5 bunch that loses by thirty at home to the old BE’s perennial doormat. I’m sure the Orangepersons had that New York market locked up while getting pounded by good old RUTSgers. Temple might have been templed, but their spirit lives on in upstate New York.

Speaking of Temple, for some reason Miami’s game against the Owls was televised. The audience was no doubt huge as Larry Coker pulled his starters after the First Quarter while holding a 27-0 lead. The MAC is getting a real gem in Woeful Temple University.

Day 9 of continuous rain in Boston found thousands of Fredo fans electing to stay home and work on their arks rather than attending Wake-BC. This was not exactly Tech fans filling Lane Stadium during Hurricane Isabelle. Those not on hand missed a pretty good comeback by the Eagles, as Tom O’Brien’s physical team eventually wore down Jim Grobe’s finesse one. Old-guard ACC teams not only have to adjust to the blinding speed possessed by Tech and Miami, but now the Big-10 style power game favored by Fredo. This is quite the football conference Little Johnny Swofford and Dr. Casteen have put together.

That the ACC is now quite the football conference was on display in the evening’s final game at Wayles Harrison Field in Scott Stadium at the Carl Smith Football Complex attached to Mr. Jefferson’s University. The Hoos showed that the league is a little more than a four-team one.

It had been a rough couple of weeks for algroh. The innate weirdness of the Great NFL Legend had caused scorn and ridicule to be heaped upon him by everybody from the media covering the Hoos to the Hoo Lawyer. The backs of algroh, this team and perhaps his entire program were pressed firmly against a pergola.

Needless to say, the Hoos responded and in a big way in their once-a-decade defeat of Florida State. This Hokie has to tip his maroon hat to algroh and the Hoos. They had to have a win and they got it. Craig ‘Tubby on my mind’ Littlepage won’t be having to pass around a wine bucket or a Jefferson Cup at the Tech game to raise the funds to buy out algroh’s fat contract just yet. I bet the Hoos can’t wait until 2015.

Florida State contributed mightily to their own downfall. The officials will be skipping the mall walking this week, having already logged miles going up and down the field stepping off personal foul penalties against the Noles. Chuck Amato comes by it honestly.

Despite the surfeit of FSU penalties, the main difference between the two teams was that one had a senior quarterback, the other a freshman. There are few advantages in football bigger than being able to field an experienced senior quarterback. Weatherford will eventually become a very good one, but he ain’t yet.

Marques Hagans was magnificent. He is a guy who from his Tidewater high school days on has spent much of his time laboring in the shadows cast by guys named Bryan Randall and Marcus Vick. He finally had the stage to himself and turned in an outstanding effort, rising above personal injury to practically will the Hoos to the win. No matter the color of the uniform or the rivalry, you have to admire what Hagans accomplished and feel good for him. Now, Hagans, just don’t repeat it against Tech.

With algroh finally getting a big win, one that is likely to become very important in his overall scheme of things, that two-man spotlight on ACC underachieving coaches has become more focused. The glare on Chuck Amato is bright.

Sports columnists at North Carolina papers had looked on enviously the last couple of weeks as their Virginia brethren gleefully bashed algroh. Following State’s disgraceful performance at home Thursday night against Clemson, they had their chance and they pounced. Tudor, Rawlings and Hardin were tougher on Amato than Tommy Bowden had been.

A bad situation was made worse when Pack AD Lee Fowler released an ill-conceived ‘Please support Chuck. I know I do, at least for a while longer’ open letter on State’s Web site. Pandering to the lunatic fringe of his school’s fan base is only going to empower them and make things worse.

The message board loons are not the ones who have shelled out the big bucks to build State’s state-of-the-art football facilities or have laid out for the prime seats. The folks who have also seem a bit peeved and stupid Internet pleadings are not likely to mollify them. Amato’s act is beginning to wear thin. From the losing ACC record that includes two in a row to Carolina to the constant staff turnover that caused an offense to be installed totally unsuited for the existing personnel that had been recruited for a completely different one to Chuckie’s sartorial choices, Amato has problems.

They are bigger than any crazed posts by rabid message board loons. There are some alumni and friends of NC State who have grown very weary of Chuckie’s antics and they express themselves in ways other than foaming at the keyboard. Amato can only diffuse the mounting criticism the same way as did algroh, by winning some big games. That Gator Bowl win over Notre Dame was a relatively long time ago and was engineered by a quarterback who is no longer around. Things have not gone well since.

Week 8 of the season will find Frank Beamer taking his Tech team and fat new contract to the ACC’s Battery Park at Maryland. The Hokies will encounter a team of Terps that have now won three in a row and are probably still a bit miffed at the way things went last year in Lane. Things are going to get tougher for Tech, beginning Thursday night.

The Hoos and the Heels will square off Saturday in Kenan Stadium. Somewhere Doc Ryan is posting his annual message board claim that this is the ACC’s true rivalry, not any secondary and insignificant ones between the two great ‘U ofs’ and despicable Yankees or land-grant rednecks. Enjoy, Doc.

Miami will host Georgia Tech Saturday afternoon. It will be interesting to see how the Canes’ brutal schedule of Directional Florida, Duke and Temple has prepared them for a Jackets team that can cause them a little trouble, maybe.

Duke will host what is likely to be a very angry Florida State. Last week, early in the Fourth Quarter as Georgia Tech completed burying the Devils like a Mafia victim in a New Jersey landfill, Duke radio voice Bob Harris began describing on the air what he considers the unparalleled beauty of Duke’s Gothic campus. Maybe this week as the Noles bulldoze the Devils he can talk about renovations underway in downtown Durham.

NC State travels to Wake for the ‘You better not lose this one, Chuckie’ game against the Deacons. Fredo and Clemson get the week off, the Eagles to get all-everything Kiwanuka healthy, Clem to scrimmage Temple.

Tech’s Thursday night game at Maryland means that I will drag myself out of my recliner to head to College Park Wednesday morning to watch the Hokies and Terps and interact with that charming Maryland fan base. The Open Date has me recharged and ready once again for serious tailgating and football-watching. There is a down side, however. Due to the travel, there will be no more columns posted this week. Sorry.

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