It was All Saints Day in Minneapolis on Saturday.
St. Thomas and St. John’s played for the 87th time in a rivalry that began in 1901. The game, which is played for the “Holy Grail,” had to have officials from both screaming “Holy cow!” when the box office receipts were added up.
A crowd of 37,355 showed up to see the first football game at Target Field, more than doubling the NCAA Division III record for largest crowd which was set last season when Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Wisconsin Whitewater had 17,535 in attendance.
Saturday’s crowd size topped attendance at 20 of the 40 bowl games last season. But Bowl officials shouldn’t weep. The Minnesota Twins, who play at Target Field, have had only one bigger crowd this season. The Twins average only 25,364 fans despite current holding a wild-card playoff spot.
“With the buzz around town and the buzz on campus, that’s the only thing people are talking about,” St. John’s coach Gary Fasching told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune this week.
Again, the Twins currently hold a playoff spot.
As for the game, St. Thomas held on for a 20-17 victory, giving the Tommies a four-game winning streak in the series. St. John’s lead the series, 51-35-1, including a 16-6 victory in 1901. That game featured I.A. O’Shaughnessy, who was expelled from St. John’s after it was learned that he and some friends skipped a religious service to drink beer in the woods.
St. John’s loss was, well, St. John’s loss. O’Shaughnessy struck it rich in oil and funded several projects at St. Thomas, including the Tommies’ 5,000-seat Shaughnessy Stadium.
Go Big Pink (Slip)
Nebraska fans are cranky. It must be football season.
It has been 20 years since Tom Osborne walked off the field the last time as coach. Four coaches have followed him, three have been fired and Mike Riley’s days may be numbered.
The first domino fell this week. Athletic director Shawn Eichorst, who hired Riley, was fired.
It was hardly a victory that would get Cornhuskers fans to storm the field. Rutgers was hit with a two-year probation this week by the NCAA, which said that former coach Kyle Flood took a “casual approach” to NCAA rules. Now the Scarlet Knights merely seem to take a casual approach to football, going 3-13 since Chris Ash replaced Flood.
Still, Ash could outlast Riley.
Osborne won 255 games in 25 seasons. His successors — Frank Solich, Bill Callahan, Bo Pelini and Riley — have combined for 169 wins in 20 seasons. Nebraska would have to average 17 victories over the next five seasons to match Osborne’s 25-year total.
If Riley can guarantee that, he’d keep the job.
Neither patsy nor pastry
Usually, SEC stands for Some Easy Cupcakes. But on Saturday, two Southeastern Conference teams almost bit off more than they could chew.
South Carolina needed a frantic last-minute drive to setup Parker White’s 31-yard field goal with four seconds left to escape with a 17-16 victory over Louisiana Tech. Down the road, Tennessee slipped past Massachusetts, 17-13, but only after a Minutemen drive stalled at the Volunteer 45 with four minutes left.
The winning coaches assessed their victories a bit differently.
South Carolina’s Will Muschamp spun it left, said “Louisiana Tech is a good football team. They will win Conference USA.”
Tennessee’s Butch Jones spun it right, said the win was “just flat-out unacceptable.”
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin is fighting to retain his job. It seemed like everyone was against him Saturday. Besides facing Arkansas, Sumlin had to contend with a game official
Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond bolted for what appeared to be an 89-yard touchdown run, side-stepping an Arkansas player at the 10-yard line, in the second quarter. However, the referee ruled that Mond had stepped out of bonds at the 10.
Replays clearly showed that Mond had stayed in bounds. The call cost the Aggies four points as they had to settle for a field goal.
The mucky-mucks back at Southeastern Conference headquarters offered a “gee, sorry” statement before the game ended. But they also pointed out that the play was not reviewable.
The Aggies nearly needed those four points. They rallied, converting twice on fourth down, to get a game-tying field goal with four seconds left. Texas A&M then pulled the game out in overtime when Mond tossed a 10-yard touchdown pass Christian Kirk and Armani Watts intercepted a pass in the end zone to preserve a 50-43 victory.
A calm Sumlin addressed the disputed play post-game, saying “It’s a little difficult to understand. … My question [to referees] was we do continue play on fumbles, so when the whistle blows and the ball comes out, it’s a reviewable play. When the ball is blown dead for stepping out of bounds, it was not reviewable. That was the frustration I had at the time.”
Would “frustrated” have been Sumlin’s word of choice had the Razorbacks won?
A real spitfire
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher had nothing but praise for North Carolina State defensive lineman Bradley Chubb following Saturday’s 27-21 loss to the Wolfpack.
“He kept playing and competing,” Fisher said. “I told you, he’s a competitor now. He’s a competitor.”
Chubb kept on competing post-game, as he was seen spitting on the Florida State logo at midfield.
Chubb told reporters, “I always spit when I’m playing football. I don’t remember doing that. It wasn’t intentional at all.”
Nathan Rourke, Canadian born and raised, appears to have ended the Ohio University quarterback controversy. He has completed 30 of 48 passes and thrown four touchdown passes the past two weeks, putting Quinton Maxwell on the bench.
Rourke engineered a 42-30 victory over Kansas — technically a Power Five conference school — last week and threw two touchdown passes in Saturday’s 27-20 double-overtime win over Eastern Michigan.
He may be the best Canadian import since Labatt’s.
Hey Rocky …
Louisville’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson was upstaged by a furball playing football Saturday.
Jackson threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, setting the Louisville record for combined touchdowns with 88. But the star of the day was a squirrel who made a mad 40-yard dash, causing the Cardinals’ game against Kent State to be delayed in the second quarter. The exhausted rodent crossed the goal line, then laid down.
He accomplished more than any Kent State player did in the 42-3 loss. He found the end zone.