Saturday's are for Football too!
Ok, yes I know that is a little extreme, although I have watched college football for several years now, I can safely say this is the most engaged I’ve become with the sport.
The interactions on twitter with you guys has also made it great fun and seeing so many NFL fans beginning to watch games is really great to see.
I was far too excited to have some meaningful football in my life, that I looked forward to week 0 a little too much. Don’t get me wrong it didn’t disappoint, Illinois winning a tight game over Nebraska in the early game, followed by Zach Charbonnet only being stopped by the lack of field left in front of him once he ran through the end zone for the third time, really got me pumped heading into week 1.
Week 1 started for me Thursday evening, the usual do I, don’t I stay up for the game us UK fans experience. I followed UCF last year for my website and was really eager to see how Gus Malzahn and this talented group started against a very good program in Boise State. I went for it, just to end up waiting for a 3 hour delay caused by thunderstorms to pass. Lets just say I saw only the 1st quarter before I finally had to give in to sleep. Albeit 2 hours.
So my wife knew I wanted to watch as much of the college slate as I could on Saturday. To try to make it a little fun for the family, I bought a feast for the BBQ to attempt a UK garden tailgate, or gardengate as I later called it with some games for the kids.
It all started whilst my youngest was taking her usual nap, a few chores completed and keeping my son happy whilst College Gameday was in the background. I decided to focus my attention on Colegate @ Boston College, why that game I hear you cry? Well back in the spring a fantastic writer and podcaster Oliver Hodgkinson @ojhodgkinson tipped me off that Boston College had some serious talent on offence. He wasn’t half wrong, following some spring highlights I went and watched some tape from 2020 and was left impressed with Phil Jurkovic and Zay Flowers in particular. Both are certainly on my radar, so I was keen to see them play. Fair to say they both performed very well as expected. I did also have Tulane @ Oklahoma in the background but with prepping and grilling the food on the BBQ, I was more dipping in and out.
Food all eaten, kids down for bed. It was time for my current team of the year Iowa State. I was excited to see Hall, Purdy, Kolar, Hutchinson and McDonald IV all in action. After last season and now with them getting the recognition, I was expecting a fairly dominant performance. It’s fair to say this was possibly the least eventful game of the weekend for me. I watched it all though and despite it lacking the fireworks of some other games, I did get to admire two good defensive displays.
My double devices meant I also watched Alabama @ Miami, I needed to see no more than an hour of that game before I was satisfied there wasn’t much more I needed to see. Bryce Young was far too good for his first game, they have not only reloaded at the skills positions but have an even stronger defence backing them up. So I now flipped between Rice @ Arkansas and West Virginia @ Maryland. Two polar opposite games, Arkansas after going 7-0 got stuck in neutral, whilst Rice kept changing quarterbacks and still managed to take the lead. The second half eventually saw Arkansas step it up, takong control of the game. I mostly only saw the 1st quarter in Maryland but an eventful quarter with strong defensive moments, Taulia Tagovailoa throwing the ball all over the field leading the team to a touchdown, just for West Virginia to take a kickoff return to the 2 yard line, to be punched in on the very next play. That was thoroughly the best quarter of football I saw.
So we are now entering the small hours of the morning. It’s my Florida Gators time to take the stage. What will this team look like without Trask, Pitts and Toney. Will Emory Jones stun the world?
Well the first couple of drives despite not looking the smoothest quickly wound up with Florida taking an easy 14-0 lead. The run game was rocking and Jones looked more than fine. From there onwards, Jones seemed to give us fans more reasons for concern with a poor interception in the red zone, followed by a strange 4th down on the goal line decision that saw another possession turnover. Luckily the Gators defensive line looks legit and overall the defence with the help of turnovers shutout FAU for 3 and half quarters. Oh and yes, backup quarterback Richardson ran for 160 yards on 7 carries. He hurdled players, run through players, out ran players in what has to be one of the best displays of using your legs I've seen.
Whilst in the meantime I had now 3 games on the go. Florida being one, LSU @ UCLA being another and Montana @ Washington being the 3rd.
I’d been calling UCLA to win that game all week, so it was a no brainer that I watched that. Zach Charbonnet is fast becoming one of my favourite backs, which was also a big draw for me. Now Montana @ Washington is a strange choice right? Outside The Huddle superfan and contributor to our website David Burgess has been telling me all about Montana for months. He then wrote an article for the site called What’s the difference between FBS & FCS? It is a great article that really made me appreciate the FCS and helped me drop the snobbery factor I probably had about it. There was an additional purpose for me wanting to watch the game (Although I will keep that to myself at this stage, hopefully something might come from this at a later date.) Washington came out and started their first 2 drives fairly competently, looking good for their 7-0 lead.
As the game headed into the second quarter I was finding myself on the edge of my seat on every play. Xavier Harris ripped off a long run for the Grizzlies which eventually led them to a field goal. Overall the Montana offence was struggling to get anything much going against a stout Washington defence. The Montana defence was also putting up an equally strong display. Heading into the second quarter they were getting more and more pressure up front and even when Washington was able to make a catch the Montana linebackers and defensive backs were all over them.
As the game headed deep into the third quarter, it was quickly apparent that Montana’s defence was not going to let Washington have their way with them. I was messaging David throughout the game just as it headed into the third quarter we both just wanted one drive, just one moment for the Montana offence to make this a real game. It was almost as if it was scripted, just like that we were treated to exactly what we hoped. Humphrey made a couple of nice plays, followed by efficient runs by Harris. Humphrey then ran up the middle to stun the Washington crowd into complete silence and take the lead 10-7.
I hadn’t been this animated for a game since the Super Bowl but the pure passion and determination shown by Montana was delightful to watch. Now every play was so important and every play the defence showed up, when they needed to tackle, boy did they tackle. When they got them on a 3rd down situation, they matched up man to man and forced incompletion after incompletion. The offence played it’s part too, with the confidence of the touchdown drive they were starting to move the chains. They had to settle for a chip shot field goal with 3 mins left to extend their lead to 13-7 but it only needed one drive, maybe one play to take it all away from them.
That defence just wouldn’t let up, the defensive line bombarded Morris and with the pressure came more incompletions. They couldn’t convert 3rd downs all game and after another failure, it was desperation time. Once again the defence stood firm, forced a turnover on downs and left the offence on the edge of a field goal. It felt like that was the game, the offence did their best to run the clock and use up Washington’s final timeouts. Washington held firm leaving the Grizzlies with a 50 yard field goal to wrap up the game.
It was up and looked good all the way, that was because from behind the posts it was heading straight through the middle, but in heartbreaking fashion it fell just short.
No timeouts left but still 1:12 on the clock, due to the missed field goal they got to start on the 32. Surely now given one more chance, seed 20 Washington will find a way? They quickly found themselves on 4th and 10 after 3 straight incompletions. This time Morris manages to complete a pass over the middle for 25 yards. Still a minute left on the clock, now in Montana territory another incompletion quickly follows. I’m sitting here a bundle of nerves and neither of these are my team!
Morris under pressure again, like he was for most the game manages to just buy himself some time to make a throw into tight coverage, it’s caught but it’s been caught by Montana’s Marcus Welnel and just like that the game is finally won. The joy of all the Montana players absolutely reminded me of all those giant killing moments in the FA Cup.
That game really topped off what was an incredible, 14 hours filled with college football. Multiple times throughout the day/night I found myself flicking through different games and reading updates and sitting there thinking how great is this?
I absolutely love the NFL and NFL Redzone is an incredible product due to the fast paced action across the different games. This felt like that on a more epic, crazy scale. All I could ever wish for, is an NFL Redzone type product for college football. It’s the only way of somehow trying to keep up with most the drama across so many live games.
It’s not the first time I’ve watched multiple games, but it probably was the first time I was let loose to put most of my focus and awareness on it all and it is so fun. I can only imagine what it would be like being in America from 12 noon getting to experience this. That is the only downfall to trying to watch the sport in the UK. I went to bed at 4:30am and my kids were up by 7:30am.
Would I do it again though? Damn right I would.