Sunday, November 12, 2006

Thursday Knight Lights (Fri. 11/10)


By shattering Louisville's bid for a first undefeated season since 1925 (a memorable 1925 season which was highlighted by consecutive shutout wins over Hanover, Kentucky Wesleyan, Transylvania and Rose Poly) Rutgers is in position for its first unbeaten season since 1976 -- an unforgettable 11-0 season of '76, highlighted by a 34-0 victory over Louisville almost exactly 30 years to the day of the comeback from the 25-7 deficit for the 28-25 win last night.
The victory, naturally, will be forever known as "Pandemonium In Piscataway," although it would be wise not to downplay the "Pride In Parsippany & Pequannock."
And the bedlam in Bayonne.
And the celebration in Seacaucus
And the hysteria in Hackensack and Hoboken.
And the euphoria in Union and Ewing (except for those households in the Garden State area last night which opted to spend some Q.T. with TBS' broadcast of "Jersey Girl," starring that no-talent tool named Ben Affleck and that cardboard cutout, Liv Tyler)
Just as with the Louisville victory over West Virginia on a much-anticipated Thurs. niter one week earlier, the hometown fans were orderly and civil, forsaking a popular ritual of torching sofas, shattering store-front windows and overturning cars.

While the Jersey Jublilation might peter out in a few weeks, at least now we have more insight re: the Garden State than that list of 10 things that most of us non-Jersey, non-girls knew about the state.
Before last night, all we knew about Jersey was:
1) The Miracle of the Meadowlands (starring Joe Pisarcik, Larry Csonka's hip and Herman Edwards)
2) Jimmy Hoffa's body is buried somewhere under the parking lot of Giants Stadium
3) Martin Brodeur minding the net for any of the three Stanley Cup runs by the New Jersey Devils
4) The Hindenberg disaster at Lakehurst ("Oh, the humanity!")
5) The Toms River Little League World Series champion of 1998 kicking plenty of Little League ass
6) Sinatra, Springsteen and Bon Jovi hailing from Jersey
7) We didn't own any of those artists' albums/CDs
8) Princeton's handful of NCAA championship lacrosse teams
9) That gal who we dated during our college days -- that brunette from Leonia, NJ ... the one who took our breath away
10) A certain taxi driver named Travis Bickle waiting for the Senator and then using the alias "Henry Krinkle" and a phony address -- 345 Hopper Avenue in Fair Lawn, New Jersey -- when giving his personal info to that Secret Service agent

With the victory, Rutgers/Piscataway -- the birthplace of college football (so reads the sign) -- is part of the college football landscape once again.
In fact, before Thurs., the Scarlet Knights' premiere matchup of this season was when the team played Howard University of Baltimore.
Actually, the only angle there was it was the perfect set-up for us wisecrackers to crack wise with, "That Rutgers-Howard game is probably the all-time favorite matchup for actor Rutger Hauer. In fact, if you asked him right now, Rutger Hauer would say he LOVES Rutgers-Howard."

That's the way it always was with Rutgers, pre-Greg Schiano, the Jersey boy/miracle worker who's in his sixth year of cleaning up the mess left behind by five years of neglect from Terry Shea, who was, obviously, keeping the seat warm while he awaited his next college/NFL opportunity.
In the final two years of the Shea Era ('96-'00), the Miami Hurricanes beat the Knights, 55-0 and 64-6.
In the first game of the Schiano Era ('01), the Knights beat Buffalo in their season opener, then were drubbed, 61-0, by Miami (before getting rocked, 50-0, by Virginia Tech the following week).

A month-and-a-half after that wipeout by VPI, Rutgers was mauled in Morgantown by WVU, 80-7.

Unfortunately for Rutgers, that seems to be the way that the New Big East chain of command shakes out. Going into last Thurs., the buzz was about undefeated West Virginia vs. undefeated Louisville -- but when the dust settled after Louisville's 44-34 win, the "Meltdowneers" became the forgotten team at ESPN (and beyond).
No one's talking about West Virginia any more.
Just as no one's going to talk about the team which Rutgers beat last night ... meaning that no one need check his/her pronunciation guide as he/she battles the inner-conflict of, "Is it pronounced 'loo-eee-vill' or 'luu-ull-vull'?."
Some of us avoid the controversy by simply referring to it as "Lousyville."
Either way, the team/the city has been removed from the equation.
Rutgers is now the hot bandwagon item.
The Meltdowneers and Lousyville ... GameDay says, "Shhhhhhhh ... not relevant."

Hold yer horses, Rutgers. Yer days are numbered because the circle of life dictates that if A) The 'Nals beat the 'Neers and B) The Knights beat 'Nals, then C) The 'Neers beat Knights (as they've done 23 times in 26 previous meetings since the teams began playing every year since 1980).
With a WVU win over visiting Rutgers on Dec. 2, the Disney Channel's ESPN operation won't feel guilty about putting a different spin on the same ol' tired questions: "What did USC's John David Booty think of West Virginia's win over Rutgers? Is the SEC a super conference or a super-duper conference? Doesn't Brady Quinn have lovely eyes and delicate cheekbones?"

While Lousyville was "Piss-Poor in Piscataway," the hearts of the Bluegrass Staters are likely NOT filled with anguish and despair.
Probably more with scorn, once the 25-7 lead went down the drain.
The grumblings are: "We shoulda sent Pitino instead of Petrino."

Life can be difficult on the road. For one thing, as the visiting team, the Cards couldn't deck themselves out in all-black shirts and all-black pants. So, they were wearing white shirts and red trousers when placekicker Jeremy Ito -- a.k.a "The Judge" -- nailed the winning kick.
Wait ... "The Judge"as a nickname for Ito? Wasn't "Ito" the name of the Hollywood judge who kept O.J. out of the California gas chamber?
Why couldn't the name "Ito" stand as a tribute to the actor (Robert Ito) who played "Sam" in all those great "Quincy" episodes?

Well, in a few weeks (after West Virginia topples Rutgers from its perch), it won't hardly matter.
At that time, people will remember New Jersey as the state which gave us that priceless Kodak moment last Sat. when Princeton's running back Rob Todesco's momentum was seemingly stopped on a fourth-and-goal play, but before the play was whistled dead, Todesco flipped the ball backwards -- to QB Jeff Terrell, who was only standing around.
That is, until he took Todesco's lateral and scored the game-deciding TD in the Tigers' 31-30 victory over Penn.

If you saw it live (as some of us did), the play will go down as one of the greatest ever.
Jersey ball ... it's neat, but it has no business diverting our attention from Ohio vs. USC for all the marbles.
Unless it's Ohio State vs. Michigan: The Rematch.

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