September 21, 2006

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LONGSHOTS: Football Friday canít stack up to Saturday
by Dave Long

Iíve never been a Friday Night Lights kind of football fan. Where I come from football was played on Saturday afternoon when the whole town turned out to watch. Not sure who came up with the idea to play on Friday night, but, with all due respect, I donít get it. Especially when it gets cold in November. Thereís no more glorious spectating experience for me than watching football outside on a beautiful fall afternoon. In the pros, that means Sunday, not Monday or Sunday night, and for college or high school it means Saturday.

Just such a weekend is here three weeks into September. Thereís the first big high school game when the commissionerís pick to win it all, 3-0 Pinkerton, squares off with 2-0 Salem. On Sunday night, the Patriots get a crack at the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year when struggling Denver comes to Foxboro. And then there is the best pure football experience this state offers when UNH travels to Hanover to face Dartmouth.

The U of course is worth the price of admission. They are led by one of the most prolific passing attacks in the nation. After beating Stony Brook 62-7 last week and Northwestern the week before they are ranked number one in the country in I-AA. On paper this doesnít look to be a classic in the making. But who knows, maybe itíll wind up like 2001 when a wild 42-38 UNH win wasnít decided until Ryan (had a great) Day hit Brian Mallette with a TD pass in the final minute. But if it doesnít, thatís not why I say itís the best football experience in New Hampshire.

First, even though the Green havenít won in a few decades, itís a pride game where players and alumni donít want to lose. And then there is Memorial Field, a gem that reeks of the yesteryear of college football. Tradition abounds, thereís real ivy on the brick walls, the grass smells great and when the foliage is in bloom there are few prettier spots in this state than high up on the visitors side of the field. The only thing missing are guys walking around in raccoon coats and straw hats. Now, granted, no one besides Magic Johnson lives in the past more than me, but youíve got to trust me on this. If you have nothing pressing to do on Saturday, get on I-89 around 10 a.m. and go to that game. You wonít be sorry. Iíll be there shooting the breeze with one and all and probably covering an array of other football topics that include the following:

With all the chatter about this being the time to get a new stadium for the U, hereís the question I have before laying down $30 million on a new stadium. What makes anyone think the ticket demand is going to stay as high after Ricky Santos and David (having a) Ball leave the (old) building? They built the hockey arena after about two decades of demonstrated overflow demand at Snively. I hope it does remain high, but that is the first pertinent question in the debate.

The second is could they spend $30 million in a better way?

How come Ballís pursuit of Jerry Riceís all-time touchdown record by a receiver isnít getting the same attention Joe Dudek did when he wound up on the cover of Sports Illustrated with Rick Reillyís vote for the Heisman Trophy when he broke Walter Paytonís touchdown record?

Speaking of the Heisman, wanna bet Brady Quinn left it laying on the turf in South Bend when Michigan hammered the Irish? Not even the hype that comes with playing for ND can save him after a national TV audience was watching when two of his first three games came up duds. Next.

Nice to see Trinity get that 17-8 win over Goffstown. But after losing 27 straight, youíve got to wonder why they still play in Division I. Iím sure itís a pride thing for alums and others, but wouldnít it be more fun for the kids to play against schools their own size? The games are for the kids, right?

The biggest football loss in 2006 is not ABCís Monday Night Football. Itís Prime Time with Chris Berman and Tom Jackson. Not only was it the best highlight show, but with three or four laugh-out-loud moments per week it also may have been the funniest.

Throw in the fact that West Wing went off the air too and I lost my two favorite shows.

Now weíve got nails-on-the-chalkboard Sterling Sharpe and the NBC crew doing the highlights. And will somebody please tell his brother Shannon to take the marbles out of his mouth? Who hired that guy?

I know promising Stephen Goskowski was perfect until he had a kick blocked last weekend. But, while this may be harsh, since it could have iced the game he got an F in his first Adam Vinatieri moment.

Hereís what I like so far: the Patriots run defense and running game. Hereís what I donít like: the tackling in the secondary has been atrocious and its coverage, up and down. Hereís what Iím not sure about: is the ordinary play by Tom Brady due to new wide receivers or is he just playing badly?

Does Corey Dillon look washed up to you?

By the way, in the 2001 game Dartmouth ran up 558 yards in total offense and the U went for 642. Dartmouth QB Greg Smith threw for 416, while Ryan Day threw for 249 and ran for another 109. Anything close to that Saturday would be fine with me.

Day of course wonít be there. Heíll be on the sidelines with Temple as they try to get a win at West Michigan after losing to Louisville and Minnesota in back-to-back games by identical 62-0 scores. Ouch.

And one final word. If your couch potato inclinations generally rule, thereís only one game where top 25 teams meet all weekend. And after seeing #25 Penn State get annihilated by ND two weeks ago, only the ULís John Tucker and maybe John Huffnagle would think PSU is going to take Ohio State University. Especially after seeing the Irish similarly crushed at home by Michigan.

Enjoy the football weekend, everyone.

Dave Long can be heard on Sports Night with Dave Long nightly from 6 to 7 p.m. on 610 WGIR-AM


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