Workout notes Treadmill run; started easy; 5.5 mph (at 0.5 elevation after .25) and increased speed by 0.1 mph every 0.5 miles; finished at 51:20 for 5 miles.
Travel notes: do I really want to drive back to Illinois today?
Football rant Yes, I enjoyed the Music City Bowl; I am glad that I went. It was an exciting game with 60K fans present.
Tears rolling from a young quarterback’s eyes. A Gatorade bath for the head coach. Players sprinting onto the field as a last-second field goal sneaks inside the uprights.
Notre Dame knows it won the Music City Bowl, right?
But the reaction coming from the Irish after Notre Dame’s 31-28 upset of LSU is more than telling. It’s proof that Brian Kelly managed to salvage a disappointing 2014 season as the Irish set the stage for 2015, when Notre Dame should be among the preseason contenders for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
PLAYOFF CONTENDERS? Are you kidding me?
Yeah, it WAS an exciting win…over a fellow 7-5 club. Sure, ND played Florida State tough and LSU played Alabama tough.
But….let’s just say that I’d put this year’s LSU and ND teams in the mix with other teams I’ve seen: Minnesota, Iowa and Louisiana Tech and perhaps just a notch above Illinois and Penn State. Remember that Penn State took Ohio State to overtime, and Illinois blew out Northwestern, a team that beat ND at home and lit them up for 40 points in regulation.
Let ND earn a top 10…heck, even a top 25 ranking first before we start talking “playoff contender.”
Yes, I know: this game was between a 7-5 program and an 8-4 one; Notre Dame had gotten beat by Northwestern (a team that Illinois blew out) and drummed 49-14 by USC. LSU lost 17-0 to Arkansas.
And yes, after seeing this game and after seeing the Heart of Dallas Bowl, I’d have to pick Louisiana Tech to beat either of these teams, THIS SEASON at this time of the year.
Nevertheless, I took the trip because, well, it seemed like fun. My experience can be found here.
Short and sweet If someone told me that LSU would have a 100 yard kick return, and 89 yard touchdown run and a 75 yard touchdown pass, I’d say “LSU blowout”. But while Notre Dame didn’t have nearly as many long plays (they did have one), they had a lot of long drives. And LSU made some key mistakes: they botched a fake field goal attempt (players ran into each other allowing the defense to recover…BUT..), a botched hand off which lead to a fumble and a blocked field goal (low kick). Notre Dame played mostly error free and THAT was the difference.
Total yards were close: 449 yards for ND to 436 for LSU (the kick off return TD kept LSU’s numbers a bit lower than they would have been); ND punted 4 times and LSU 3. However LSU only punted once in the first half and Notre Dame, not at all.
My vantage point:
The game: how it played out.
Notre Dame got the opening kick off and drove it 66 yards for a touchdown. They mixed short passes and some running plays which featured tricky ball handling. The backup quarterback (who is a good runner) started and played most of the games, save some “passing down/series” plays.
A short outside “screen like” pass completed the drive.
ND used this formation: they had two running backs line up in an I formation behind the tight end; they often ran power to that side.
This drive took 7:56! LSU got it and punted it.
ND got the ball and drove it 58 yards to the LSU 20; they failed on 4’th and 1 at the 20 (no thought of a field goal attempt).
But only 2:41 was left in the first quarter.
No mind: LSU drove it 76 yards, all on the ground, for a touchdown just prior to the quarter expiring. A key play was a tricky 24 yard reverse in which a wide receiver was hidden behind the line..
In the second quarter, ND drove it 75 yards for a touchdown; this drive featured the usual starting quarterback. However, the other quarterback (the runner) took it in.
14-7 Notre Dame, but don’t blink: 100 yard kick off return; I saw the hole opening up and said “oh-oh”. ND put the subsequent kicks deep in the end zone.
Then came ND’s turn to drive. They used a short field and the “throwing quarterback” to mix passing and running; the passer made a nice pass on a key third down, but got blasted by the LSU defense in the process.
The running quarterback took over and got it in.
6:12 was left; now it was LSU’s turn to drive.
LSU drove it to the ND 2, mostly on running (one 17 yard pass). But on 4’th and goal from the 2, LSU lined up for a field goal. I screamed “WATCH THE FAKE”..which…LSU did.
But the kicker ran into a blocker which delayed him a bit; there was a crash near the goal line and it appeared to me that the runner got the ball to the goal line. But replay was inconclusive (where was the knee? was it down?) and so the on the field call stood.
LSU got the ball at the 25 (kick off out of the end zone). BAM. 75 yard touchdown on the first play; it was just a simple crossing pattern.
LSU forced ND’s first punt (after ND drove to the LSU 40) and momentum appeared to shift.
LSU drove to the ND 44 but then botched a hand off; ND recovered.
But the ND offense got stuffed and so had to punt it back; but the ball was at the LSU 11.
Then on the first play from scrimmage, the LSU line blew open a huge hole…I said “oh no” and it was an 89 yard touchdown run.
I thought: “oh no…it is all the other way”.
But ND answered the bell; they started at the 33 and ran 3 good runs; then broke a 50 yard touchdown run of their own. 28-28 with only 1:59 left in a wild 3’rd quarter.
ND got a sack on the next possession and forced a punt; it was short and ND had the ball on their own 48. But a holding call and a fumble (which ND recovered) wasted the field position; the LSU defense forced a punt.
LSU got the ball on their 19 moved it as the quarter expired.
But after a nice drive (mostly running, but a nifty 21 yard pass too) LSU had it 4’th and 2 at the 23 and a low field goal attempt was blocked.
Just under 12 minutes remained at the teams exchanged punts; ND got the ball at their own 15 with 5:41 left in the game.
Then came the key drive: ND used both quarterbacks on this drive, starting with the runner (who hit a play action pass); the passer made 3 completions in a row (4 total) to get to the LSU 22 with 42 seconds to go. A keeper by the running quarterback got it to the 14 and LSU had to use a time out. Then a “set the ball at the good hash mark for the kicker” run took it down to 4 seconds, at which point LSU called two “ice the kicker” time outs.
No worries; the much maligned kicker made the kick from 32 yards out…
(photos: stills from ESPN, most from the ND football website).
I’ll talk about the game itself a bit later; yes, the game was exciting and generated some controversy.
What I did: I drove from Peoria, IL because…well, I wanted to see the game and I had the time to do so. I got a cheap ticket (43 dollars, which included *all* fees, download, etc.) in the loge section (lower part of the upper deck; row F, section 432.) I stayed 40 miles out of town in Clarksville (Comfort Inn; 72 dollars, which includes a complete breakfast and a treadmill/exercise room, which I used).
Note: if you drive, check the traffic conditions. I-24 is under construction and near I-65, one it narrows to 2 lanes and 1 lane was cut due to construction…AND it merges with I-65 soon after. So the “40 minutes by mapquest” took 70 minutes in reality. No worries, as I had planned to arrive by 11, so I was still there in plenty of time for the 2 pm kickoff.
I bought an 11 dollar parking pass in advance and was able to park about 1 mile to the entrance to LP field. That isn’t much of a walk for me.
I had planned on eating at one of the downtown restaurants prior to getting to the stadium, but, due to my arriving 30 minutes later than plan, the wait times were in the 45 minute range. So I said the heck with it and walked to the stadium.
The stadium had some choices in the end zone restaurants. I can also recommend the game program. Yes, it is 10 dollars (twice what the Rams or Illinois programs cost), BUT there is very little “filler” in it. Included is a color photo of each player, a mini synopsis of each previous Music City Bowl AND a synopsis of each game for each team during the 2014 season, complete with a photo and key facts about the game. I am STILL reading the program and will read it over the next few days.
After the game, I ate at a tasty, modestly priced Italian restaurant named Caesar’s on 6’th street. That allowed for some of the traffic to dissipate prior to my leaving downtown.
Some of the sights
(all photos are here)
One of the closed off streets:
Replica of Fort Nashborough on the Cumberland River. In the second photo, you can see LP stadium through the gate.
LP Stadium from downtown Nashville, across the Cumberland River.
Cumberland River. In the distance, you can see one of the pedestrian bridges that leads to the stadium.
During game day, they block some of the road to allow you to walk across the bridge to get to the stadium. Here is a view of the river from the bridge.
Inside LP Stadium.
Downtown Nashville from the concourse outside of the upper deck; I was sitting in the loge section (343, Row F)
Prior to the game: you can see the Notre Dame band playing for the crowd. This area of the stadium has a couple of “sort of fast food, sort of barbecue” stands and tables to eat.
Some Little League football teams got to line up before the game.
At this point, 27 seconds were left in the first half; Notre Dame was up 21-14 and LSU had the ball at the ND 5. LSU was to come up empty; more about this in my next post.
Notre Dame band at the half.
LSU band at the half.
Victorious Notre Dame players singing the school song after the game.
This photo is from the Music City Bowl Twitter feed: this shows some of the 60K fans at the game.
I can recommend this bowl game; great stadium, plenty to do and if you are willing to walk a bit and stay a bit away from downtown, it doesn’t have to be that expensive. But be prepared to dress to stay warm; it was high 30’s, low 40’s with a breeze.
Some left early because they got cold. I wore a thermal shirt, long shirt, high tech running jacket, windbreaker with a hood and ND sweat shirt on top. Bottom: fleece jeans and thermal underwear. I also wore a stocking hat (Illinois), mittens, wool socks and boots; that kept me toasty, though I had to walk without the jacket as I got a bit sweaty during the mile walk (with featured some minor inclines/hills).
Workout notes: easy 4 mile treadmill run; ok, the first 2 were easy (21 minutes) and last two: 8:57, 4:25, 2:10, then .125 at 9:05, .125 at 8:57. Call it 17:45 for the final 2 miles. I did this at elevation 1 for a bit extra.
Body weight: 183.0 prior to running.
It looks as if I’ll have a clear, sunny day. So I’ll layer: fleece lined jeans, long underwear, boots, wool socks, etc. I’ll drive into town early and arrive at 11 am for the 2 pm kick-off and perhaps walk a bit and grab some lunch prior to taking in the sights.
Bowl notes: the Big 12 laid some eggs yesterday. At least West Virginia looked like a bowl team prior to going down to Texas A&M. But Oklahoma continued their free all (40-6 loss to Clemson?) and Texas, as expected, lost to an improving Arkansas team 31-7. I think that Arkansas is a year ahead of Texas in their rebuilding mode; they played some good ball toward the end of their season whereas Texas…won a few games and then got bombed 48-10 by TCU.
untimed 10K run (hilly Cornstalk course) then mini-weights:
pull ups (5 sets of 10)
military presses: 2 sets of 12 x 50 seated (supported), 10 x 40 standing.
rotator cuff (full set)
2 sets of 10 x 70 dumbbell bench
1 set of 7 x 135 incline.
The pull ups were fine (super set with the military) but the run before took something out of me.
Then I got a quick lunch with Barbara and then drove to Nashville (or close; 35 miles away).
Tomorrow: 41 F but sunny. I’ll bundle up (long underwear, etc) and get in a quick run on the treadmill first.
Workout note: 4 miles on the hotel treadmill (21:05, 41:04 ) just prior to leaving Dallas earlier this morning; it was a 650 mile drive. Whew!
We are in Marion, IL right now.
Driving through Little Rock, Arkansas, we heard an announcement for the UALR Trojan basketball team: “The Trojans are just off a win over Bradley and….” and this was said with pride.
This is the same Bradley team that local fans know is struggling…yet the reputation remains.
The day came up sort of gray, drizzly (at times) but a pleasant 60 F. Attendance: 31,297 was announced. Note: the place holds 92K but they had much of the upper deck blocked off as well as some lower deck sections.
Though the event was ok, the security at the stadium was down right weird. They asked me to “move along” after I took the end zone photo; I had been standing there too long. Mind you, it was an hour until the game started!
The stands are close to the field and we had a great view of the game. Our area had backs to the benches, but leg room: a bit sparse.
Picky comment: though the nachos were good, they didn’t have a top for the drinks.
The game itself
It there is anything that showed how the game went, it was this: (this happened when Illinois had cut the lead to 21-18 in the 4’th quarter:
DALLAS — Illinois defensive end Jihad Ward scooped up a Louisiana Tech fumble and rumbled toward the end zone as the Illini trailed by only three points. But the big man turned it over as he rumbled down the field and gave the Bulldogs the ball back on their own 16-yard line.
A 70-yard pass play from Louisiana Tech set up a two-yard touchdown.
That strange sequence in the fourth quarter summed up Illinois.
For every pleasant play that teases things are turning around, something dreadful happens.
Yes, Illinois out gained Tech 451-361, but hurt themselves with two missed field goals, a missed extra point and threw an interception which was run back for a touchdown (though it appeared that the Illinois receiver was held by a different defender prior to the interception.
Illinois also gave up an 80 yard pass play for a touchdown, the 70 yard pass play to set up a touchdown, a 28 yard run for a touch down (to ice the game) and a 16 yard touchdown run.
The teams started off by exchanging punts, then Illinois had to punt again.
Then came Tech’s first touchdown drive.
Illinois responded by a nice field goal drive, sparked by a nifty reverse for 50 yards. But a big sack drove Illinois back and they had to settle for 3.
No worried: Tech hit an 80 yard touchdown pass. You could see the receiver break wide open behind the defense; it reminded me of the Purdue game all over.
Illinois drove it but then had to settle for a field goal attempt: no good from 42 yards. Note: both kickers missed 3 times (combined) at this end.
Illinois held, then got the ball near mid field and took advantage. The touchdown put it at 14-9, but the extra point hit the upright.
Illinois held again, got the ball back but then threw a pick-6; it appeared that the receiver was held prior to the interception (by another defender) but I didn’t have a great view of it.
But once again, Illinois got the ball back in good field position, stalled…and missed a field goal. It was 21-9 at the half.
But Illinois has been a good second half team, and it appeared that this would be the case again. Illinois forced a punt, then the teams exchanged punts, and the Illini put together a nice drive mostly on medium passes. Two runs punched it in; Illinois went for 2 and didn’t make it. 21-15 and the game was getting closer.
Tech put together a good drive, but then they missed a field goal. Illinois got the ball back and the drive continued into the 4’th quarter.
a 43 yard field goal put the Illini down 21-18 and it appeared that momentum had shifted.
Then came the important sequence of events.
Tech drove it to mid field and then was sacked and fumbled. The Illinois defensive end picked up the ball and ran it inside the Tech 20, only to fumble it right back at the Tech 16.
A couple of plays later, Tech hits a 70 yard bomb to the Illini 3; they run it in to take a 28-18 lead with 6:15 to go.
Illinois goes nowhere and has to punt. Tech then seals the deal with a drive capped by a 28 yard touchdown run. Illinois burned its time outs during that drive…then came a “garbage time” drive which ended on downs at the Tech 16; Tech then took a knee to end the game.
Note at 1:10: on that 70 yard pass, Illinois had a DEFENSIVE END attempting to cover a very fast back. Are you kidding me?
I find it interesting that Houston Bates, the end who graduated from Illinois and played his final year of eligibility at La. Tech. looked like an All America against us. I’d love to know what he thought of the coaching he got at La. Tech vs. what he had at Illinois.
I had the sense that Illinois was very badly out-coached in this game.
1980: Garden State Bowl (Navy lost to Houston 35-0)
1986 Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M 36 Auburn 16
1987 Cotton Bowl: Ohio State 28 Texas A&M 12
1988 Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M 35 Notre Dame 10
1989 Cotton Bowl: ULCA 17 Arkansas 3
1990 Cotton Bowl: Tennessee 31 Arkansas 27
1991 Cotton Bowl: Miami 46 Texas 3
1995 Cotton Bowl: USC 55 Texas Tech 14
1998 Cotton Bowl: UCLA 28 Texas A&M 23
2000 Alamo Bowl: Nebraska 66 Northwestern 17
2012 Go Daddy Bowl: Northern Illinois 38 Arkansas State 20
2013 Armed Forces Bowl: Navy 24 Middle Tennessee State 6
2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl: Louisiana Tech 35 Illinois 18
I note that they are very restrictive as far as what you can take in; more so than Illinois Memorial and the Jones Dome.
I got in a 5 mile walk; to the course, then 14:27/12:57 (short), 13:22/ 13:39/ plus 1:30 correction, then back to the hotel. I went the opposite direction so I could see the length of the Katy trail; there was some cute spandex there. 🙂
But alas, I am now too slow to walk and still catch most slower runners, unless I really, really gun it. Then again…*I* am one of the slower runners (when I run). Hey, I still enjoyed the walk and got a decent work out.
Now to the game. Now, the smaller bowls don’t draw all that well at the gate; this one might draw 25-30K. I did see some Illinois fans (1 couple) at the hotel. But:
That’s because even though ticket demand is relatively low for lesser bowls, millions of viewers keep watching, even if it’s the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., a game that drew just 20,256 fans last week but attracted an average television audience of 1,114,000, according to ESPN.
Last season, schools and conferences again struggled to sell their bowl ticket allotments and were required to pay for a record $23.8 million in unsold tickets, according to NCAA financial records. Many bowl games in recent years also have tried to offload tickets on discount sites such as Groupon.
But on television, bowl games are a sure thing, having drawn much larger audiences than other sports programming, not to mention other content on other channels. And that’s what really matters these days.
“Fans are voting with their remotes and with their eyeballs,” said Ilan Ben-Hanan, ESPN’s vice president for programming and acquisitions. “I take issue with the notion of judging what’s a good idea based on how many people are in the stands. There are a lot of sports out there that would kill to have tens of thousands of people in the stands.”
Only one bowl game last year drew fewer than 1.2 million viewers on average, according to Nielsen. That’s better than the 1.1 million who watched an opening day baseball game last year between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Nationally broadcast regular season baseball games in 2012 and 2013 averaged about 680,000 viewers.
But we’ll be there.
Yes, for the second time in my life, I got a “senior citizen” portion at a restaurant. Why? Well, the portion is smaller…and …PLENTY FOR ME.
I am only 55 years old and my tummy is shrinking; I just can’t eat as much as I used to. Evidently, that isn’t so strange, neither is my craving better food.
Oh..and my run; 5 miles in 48 minutes (9:36 mpm) No, it wasn’t “hard” but it was a steady effort and “would have” been 6 miles (or 10K) 15 years ago. I got many smiles and nods from other runners, but part of the reason is that I was wearing my very visible “Cornbelt 24 hour run” t-shirt.
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