The Martin Chronicles: Football 2015

Posted at 12:01 pm on 08/31/2015
Old Whitey Heads North for Another Football Campaign



Repeating the migratory patterns of Septembers past, we return to the stadiums of our youth to reconnect with dreams broken and realized. It’s the college football reunion, version 2015.


BUDDY MARTIN



It is the same every year, but different. Repeating the migratory patterns of Septembers past, we return to the stadiums of our youth to reconnect with dreams broken and realized. It’s the college football reunion, version 2015.

Opening day or night always reminds me how much I love the game.

There was a time when mingling among your colleagues in the press box was like mixing with royalty. When you’re a cub sports writer and you roam among the lions of sports journalism, it is like walking through Cooperstown and hearing the statues speak.

In those days you could hear the wind sweeping the cups along the aisles of then-Florida Field as dark fell on an empty stadium, accompanied by the lonely sound of the last two or three typewriters clacking. In that solitude, a struggling young sports writer carved out his future, seeking words that could somehow set him apart from the others. None of it was as good or as enlightening as he thought it was then, but maybe it was the best that he had to offer.

On Saturday I will aim my eight-year-old SUV, Old Whitey, north on U.S. 441 toward Gainesville and head toward Ben Hill Griffin Stadium where I have been watching and covering Florida Gator football for more seasons than I can remember. Old Whitey, now with 155,000 miles logged, has been all over the SEC map, save Columbia, MO, and College Station, Texas, because the Tigers and the Aggies weren’t in the league when we first began the trek together. So driver and car have about the same mileage on them. Old Whitey could migrate to Gainesville himself on autopilot.

As I normally do several times a season, I’ll pull over just north of Ocala to pick up some fresh boiled peanuts at Seiler’s Farm Produce because they are the best in the universe. My late sister and I started that routine decades ago, and the fact that Seiler's honors friends and former customers who have passed away by posting their names on a wall allows those memories to continue.

Ironically, the man who started the tradition and pioneered the roadside sale of boiled peanuts will no longer be there. Charlie Seiler, 81, who always remembered others, died in August, but we won’t forget you Charlie — ever.

On the way to Gainesville, I always enjoy the scenery of the less-traveled road, off the interstate, buzzing by the shimmering green rolling hills of horse country, cruising through Orange Lake and slowing down to drink in the beauty of the steep descending landscape from high atop the hill just outside historic McIntosh for a stunning view. It’s a piece of land I have coveted for more than 40 years and I have always promised my friends I would purchase it when I hit the lottery. From there I could stare across the Orange Lake at the tiny cabin where the great Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings hacked out the Pulitzer Prize-winning book "The Yearling" in 1938.

My schoolmate and former business partner always said it wasn’t the game that was so much fun, “It’s GOING to the game.” Sadly, Gordon, that’s not the case anymore. Tailgating in the heat of early September for a meaningless 7:30 game against a second-rate team like New Mexico State has very little to offer except the beginning of the Jim McElwain era.

Especially when you can sit home in front of a big HDTV and bring the game into your air-conditioned den and watch:

Louisville-Auburn at 3:30
Arizona State-Texas A&M at 7
Wisconsin-Alabama at 8

To quote Dickens, these are the best of times and the worst of times. Newspapers are mere artifacts and sports writers have gone digital, if not just gone, period.

Other than the missing colleagues and the stifling heat of early September, however, the college football experience is splendid as ever. And we will welcome it.

Long-suffering Gator fans will welcome the change even more.

*     *     *

We’re not going to classify this as a “hot seat,” because they are among the best coaches in football. At the same time, if you listen to talk radio/TV and read the online fan sites, these four coaching icons are often the targets of criticism and barbs.

Can they win a championship? Have they lost their touch? Is it time for him to retire? Yet, amazingly, these four will go down as four of the best coaches in SEC history. Together they have won nearly 600 games among them.

Coach/Career record/Last year

1. Les Miles, LSU, 103-29/8-5
2. Mark Richt, Georgia/136-48/10-3
3. Steve Spurrier, S Carolina/226-85-2/7-6
4. Nick Saban, Alabama/182-59-1/12-2

By the way, in November, which coach has the better record? Richt is 40-13. Saban 23-9. Miles 28-11. And Spurrier 22-14.

It’s hard for me to understand why these Hall of Fame coaches are not more appreciated. You want appreciation? Take a look at the records of some of these current coaches:

Coach&School/Career/Last Season

Al Golden, Miami/55-56/6-7
Randy Edsall, Maryland/94-100/7-6
Paul Rhoads, Iowa St/29-46/2-10
Ron Turner, Fla Intl/47-80/4-8
Bob Davie, NMSt/11-26/46-51
Willie Taggart, USF/22-38/4-8
Paul Petrino, Idaho/2-21/1-10
Trent Miles, GaSt 21-59/1-11
Kevin Wilson, Ind/14-34/4-8
Darrell Hazell, Purdue/20-30/3-9
Dan McCarney, NTxSt/78-112/4-8

    *     *

I thought it was a pretty good stat when it came crawling across the bottom of my screen. When I learned that Spurrier only needed 16 more wins to become the first coach in FBS history to win 100 games at two schools, I wasn’t the only one surprised — so was the Head Ball Coach.

“Did you know that?” Spurrier asked. No I did not, I said, but I had read it at the same time he did.

Naturally I had to ask Spurrier what it meant and whether it was a goal that would give him incentive to hang around South Carolina for a few more seasons (although I’m pretty sure he already had planned to do so).

“Pretty neat,” he said. “If I could do that, it would be better than winning the Heisman Trophy.”

Huh?

“Yep, they name a new Heisman winner ever year,” he said. “But nobody has ever won 100 games at two schools.”

First up will be North Carolina Thursday in Charlotte. South Carolina is favored by a field goal, which would give Spurrier No. 85.

*     *     *

The kind of stuff that gives head coach Urban Meyer gray hair: Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott filed for trademarks to use his nicknames Zeke and Eze on merchandise as well as a trademark on the restaurant name "Zeke's Crop Top Bar and Grill.”

Despite missing four players on a one-game suspension, including star defensive end Joey Bosa, plus losing WR Noah Brown for the year with a broken leg, Ohio State is a 14-point favorite at Virginia Tech on Labor Day Night. And the Buckeyes are the 7-2 choice to win the national championship.

Word of warning to Meyer’s team: Triple Crown winner American Pharoah was a prohibitive 1-5 favorite to win Travers Stakes Saturday, but was upset at the wire by Keen Ice.

*     *     *

The decision of Virginia Tech and Cincinnati to fine players out of their Cost of Attendance stipend was the worst idea since the Edsel and New Coca-Cola combined. Glad to see it has gone away. And throw away the key.

*    *     *

What we knew all along was true with Will Muschamp at the Florida helm came out in the words of transferred quarterback Jeff Driskell the other day.

“At times, we were asked to play conservatively and control the time of possession,” said Driskell of Mushchamp's failed offense. “I don't think it was a lack of talent. At times, it was lack of executing plays and at times it was lack of play-calling. There were times when we just wanted to punt the ball and get (the opponent) inside their 10-yard line.”

Any old Gators out there who ever heard of Bob Woodruff or saw his offense will feel the pain in the déjà vu.


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