Postscripts: Week 1


Postscripts is my weekly wrap of the week that was on the road and in college football. Look for my travel news and notes here each Thursday, along with some of my opinions about what’s happening in the college game we all love. – Matthew Postins

Lehigh’s Matt Butler making sure that Villanova quarterback Zach Bednarczyk is down.

I didn’t mean to do it, but I ended up seeing three Patriot League teams in Week 1. With that first trip of the year I like to catch several games. I also like to go north to get out of the Texas heat for a bit. The Northeast was more than accommodating. My day at Lehigh was spent in 60-degree weather. Gimme that all year long.

I ended up going to four stadiums I had never been to — Rentschler Field (UConn), Michie Stadium (Army West Point), Goodman Stadium (Lehigh) and FedEx Field (Washington Redskins). The last venue was the only game that didn’t involve an FCS opponent. Otherwise, I caught three new FCS teams in person — Holy Cross, Fordham and Lehigh — that all play in the Patriot League.

That was not planned, of course. That was just how it worked out. And to think they moved that UConn game in the summer or else I never would have gone to it.

I’m not sure I saw enough to tell you who the Patriot League favorite should be. Lehigh won the title last year and would seem to have enough talent to do it again. Plus, their opener came against CAA power Villanova, a potential playoff team, and the Mountain Hawks only lost by 3. Still, Holy Cross held its own with UConn until Huskies head coach Randy Edsall smartened up and put in senior QB Bryant Shirreffs, whom he had benched for David Pindell. Army West Point drilled Fordham from the start, but they have RB Chase Edmonds and he’ll give defenses fits. I can’t really judge Fordham’s defense based on its performance against Army. The triple option is an absolute nightmare to defend and no one runs it better than Army, especially when the quarterback is an experienced one like Ahmad Bradshaw. The unit was completely overmatched, but I tend to think the Rams will get better on that side of the ball.

I think the Patriot League race will be a close one this year and I suspect all three will have a say in determining who wins.

UConn’s Jamar Summers leads the Huskies onto the field.

My adventures in media. A quick look at the weird stuff that happened to me as I covered these games this week:

I picked up my parking pass for the UConn game at a Dunkin’ Donuts near Rentschler Field. I’m not kidding. One of the PR guys drove out and handed out the parking passes and everything. Believe it or not, it’s not the strangest place I’ve picked up a press pass. The strangest was a gas station near Bowers Stadium at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. There was no PR guy. I had to ask the guy behind the counter for my pass.

I wore my gray SFA Angry Axe hat to the UConn game and at least three people though I was with Holy Cross. Does an axe look like a crusader to you?

Walking around West Point is not for the out of shape. After the Cadet Walk, I thought I would take a stroll around campus. It lasted an hour. Great views of the Hudson River. Terribly steep hills. I’ve never been happier to sit down in a press box.

Number of bag checks at Army? Three.

There are places where my GPS suddenly went wonky. One of those places was Peekskill, New York, home of the fictional Eastfield School from “The Facts of Life.” A quick search of Peekskill did not turn up Blair Warner, or else you wouldn’t be reading this.

Understand that the Lehigh football stadium is NOT on campus. I didn’t quite get that. Like West Point, it was a hilly drive to get to Goodman Stadium. But it’s worth it.

While I’m not one to usually complain about press food because it’s free, let’s talk FedEx Field for a sec. The pre-game meal was barbecue pork sliders, cole slaw and drinks. That’s it. For a stadium run by an NFL team that’s awful. Juxtapose that against the AlabamaUSC game I covered at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, last year. First, they brought the food to the photographers. Second, it was a full spread of salad, steak, vegetables and rolls for pregame, along with hot dogs and hamburgers at halftime. Plus, AT&T didn’t lock up the drinks in the photographers’ area. At FedEx if you wanted a drink without having to trek to the press box you had to BUY one out of the vending machines at field level. The sad thing is I think that’s a Moneyball situation for the FedEx Field employees, but I can’t be sure.

That is why Jerry Jones is Jerry Jones and why Daniel Snyder is Daniel Snyder. Rant over.

My post-trip quick notes. We have plenty of content coming at College Football America and RoadTripSports.com from our Week 1 travels. Boy we had a doozy of a schedule, too. But for me, here are my quick notes on the four stadiums I visited last week:

UConn: The Huskies violate my rule about stadiums not being on campus, as it’s in East Hartford. But they’ve developed a sweet facility that has a great history behind it. Rentschler Field was at one time the home of Pratt and Whitney Aircraft, which built engines for planes flown by Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart and James Doolittle. The stadium is now called Pratt and Whitney Stadium in honor of the area’s history.

There’s only one Army West Point … and only one Michie Stadium.

Army West Point. Believe the hype. Put it on your “I have to go there at least once” list. It’s not easy to get to, but the location is incredible and the traditions are aplenty. Michie Stadium is a gem and the football experience is easygoing, considering you’re in one of the most secure stadiums in the world.

Lehigh. Another stadium that isn’t easy to get to, and it also violates my off-campus stadium rule. But you’re going to love that grass berm seating in the end zone and the cheerleaders ringing that victory bell every time the Mountain Hawks score. The surrounding scenery is tremendous.

FedEx Field. I hate judging NFL stadiums by college games, so I won’t. I’ll just say that for a day, Virginia Tech and West Virginia made the place their own. It was rowdy, loud and packed. The best atmosphere of the weekend.

Other stadiums I visited. When I’m on a multi-day trip like the one I was on last week I’ll hit other stadiums in my spare time to take photos and shoot video for galleries to be used in the yearbook and on our Facebook page, facebook.com/roadtripsports.fans. Here’s where I dropped in during my travels in Week 1 (in order) — Princeton, Sacred Heart, Yale, Trinity (CT), Southern Connecticut State, New Haven, Lafayette, Villanova, Penn, Delaware and Johns Hopkins. Keep an eye out for those galleries soon. Plus, you’ll find our video stadium galleries on our YouTube pages, RoadTripSports and College Football America.

Stadium counts. With Rentschler Field and Michie Stadium I’m now up to 39 FBS stadiums where I’ve seen a game. I feel small compared to Kendall Webb, our publisher, who has seen a game at 108 FBS stadiums. I saw no new FBS teams, so I’m still at 27 FBS teams that I have yet to see in person (out of 130, now that Coastal Carolina is FBS). With Holy Cross, Fordham and Lehigh I’ve now seen 35 current FCS teams.

Penn State’s Saquon Barkley

Heisman candidate of the week. Boy, it could be so many players this week. But I’ll focus on the running back that I feel has the best chance to win the award in 2017, Penn State’s Saquon Barkley. He rode roughshod over Akron, rushing for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 52-0 Nittany Lion victory. He also caught 3 passes for 54 yards. September is full of opportunity for Barkley to put his head down and have a full head of steam heading into Big Ten play.

As a public service, I won’t offer a Heisman Top 5 until after Week 4 of the season. Frankly, there’s no reason to do so when the season is one week old.

Hot seat coach of the week. Sometimes it’s just too easy. Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin was already in hot water after three straight 8-5 seasons (and, when you think about it, being in the SEC, that’s not so bad). But the Aggies were up by 34 before vomiting it all away during UCLA’s epic comeback and it ticked off Aggie fans so much that one of the members of the Aggie Board of Regents went to Facebook to vent. By the way, he’s a no vote on a Sumlin contract extension, in case you were wondering.

If you’re a regent you should know better than that. That’s really low-class stuff.

Hot coaching name of the week. Who is the head coach at Howard? Oh yeah, it’s former Virginia head coach Mike London, that’s who. He injected himself and his Bison into the national spotlight by beating UNLV on Saturday. It’s the biggest upset in NCAA history, based on the point spread (UNLV was a 45-point favorite). As for London’s resume, this is certainly a boost. He’s bound to get noticed at the next American Football Coaches Association convention.

The injury that changed the complexion of the college football season. Florida State QB Deondre Francois injured his leg during the opener against Alabama as it was caught underneath his body and an Alabama defender. The news, as expected, has Francois out for the season. Regardless of who replaces Francois, the door is now ajar for another team to seriously challenge in the ACC and it even has ramifications for other leagues, notably the Big 12, the one conference most believed was the odd conference out in the College Football Playoff coming into this season. I could see the ACC beating up on each other, finishing with a two-loss champion and a one-loss Big 12 champ leapfrogging them into the CFP.

A special thanks. Each week College Football America Yearbook is on the road covering college football games, and we couldn’t do it without the cooperation of the sports information directors that work for those schools. We had a huge schedule for opening weekend, and we just wanted to thank the following SID departments for their graciousness and help in doing what we do — Minnesota, UConn, Florida Atlantic, Army West Point, Wisconsin, Lehigh, Notre Dame, Miami (FL), Florida Tech and West Virginia. And a special thanks to the young lady at the West Virginia-Virginia Tech game who worked for nearly 30 minutes to get my credential issue straightened out.

By the time you read this we’ll be ready for Week 2. But just a reminder — our staff has already seen games in 15 different states.

Our work on other sites. The great thing about what we do with College Football America is that it enables us to support other partners that we work with, such as the American Football Coaches Association, CowboysHQ.com and HeartlandCollegeSports.com. Our photos are used in the AFCA newsletters and publications on a regular basis. I cover the Dallas Cowboys for CowboysHQ and I am putting together scouting pieces on potential 2018 draft picks. I also cover the Big 12 for HCS. Below you’ll find links to some of our work with those entities in the past week.

Where I’ll be this week. On Saturday I’ll be in Fayetteville, Arkansas, to see the TCU Horned Frogs face the Arkansas Razorbacks. It’s my first visit to Reynolds Stadium and I’ve heard great things about it from our publisher, Kendall Webb. Last year’s matchup in Fort Worth went to overtime. I expect another great game.

We’ll see you on the road.

Matthew Postins is the editor-in-chief of the College Football America Yearbook. Catch up with him on Twitter at @PostinsPostcard.


 

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