- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Washington Times’ Navy beat writer, Corey Masisak, kept a running diary of his Saturday going from Baltimore to College Park and back home to Virginia. It started a bit too early for his liking.

7:35 a.m. - Ugh, that’s an early wake up call for some of us in this “profession.” Today my good friend and fellow college football writer Patrick Stevens and I will be taking in an area doubleheader - Notre Dame and Navy in Baltimore at noon and Florida State-Maryland in College Park at 7 p.m. Who else remembers when having Notre Dame and Florida State playing in games about an hour from each other would have been a big deal?

For the record, this will be my second double header and here’s hoping there is a little better football than the first go round. In 2001, I had the pleasure of witnessing Georgia Tech’s 70-7 squeaker against the Mids and then Maryland’s 50-3 nail-biter with Eastern Michigan — a combined score of 120-10.

9:19 a.m. - On my way to Pat’s house only to find a road with flooding issues. That’s probably not a good start to the day.

9:43 a.m. - So Pat and I are en route to M&T; Bank Stadium and our first attempt to get on I-695 is blocked by police. About that ominous start …

10:05 a.m. - Traffic is pushed into one lane and halted on the I-95 off ramp. My first thought is ‘President Bush?’ Nope. We are stopped for a police escort of the Brigade of Midshipmen. A cavalcade of buses 37 strong (plus one marked SPARE) passed us — slightly more impressive than your local high school bringing a couple busloads of fans behind the team and band with them. This of course led to Pat’s Count von Count imitation - ‘17 buses, bwah, hah, hah … 18 buses, bwah, hah, hah.’

11:30 a.m. - It certainly appeared that most of those “general college football enthusiasts” who scooped up the remaining tickets were wearing Notre Dame apparel in the parking lots. Something tells me Navy could play this game on an aircraft carrier and the Irish faithful would figure out a way to comprise half the crowd. Lots of No. 10 and No. 83 jerseys, but good ol’ No. 3 might have outnumbered them all 3-to-1. Who knew Ron Pawlus was still so popular!

12:29 p.m. - Navy’s defense holds the Fighting Quinns to a field goal and the offense marches the ball inside the 10-yard line. Victor Abiamiri sacks Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada (there is already a movement amongst the media to call him Kaipo on every reference) to end the drive and the Mids botch a 32-yard field goal. And with Abiamiri’s name called for the first time, so come the first round of Xbox jokes. Probably won’t be the last either.

12:48 p.m. - Notre Dame is up 10-0 after one. The Mids forced a 3rd and 18, but Quinn eluded the rush, moved to his left and lofted a near-perfect pass for a 36-yard touchdown pass. He is pretty good.

1:57 p.m. - Navy has had little trouble moving the ball during the first half, but Notre Dame has had even less and the Irish lead 24-14 at the half. The halftime break was good for a) Crabcakes! and b) Discussing John Bunting’s successor. I think North Carolina would be crazy not to consider Paul Johnson, because he would fit there on many levels. And if Johnson wanted a new challenge at a BCS school, then Chapel Hill is pretty much the perfect place. There are plenty of valid reasons for him to stay in Annapolis though and maybe the Tar Heel brass has other ideas. The bottom line is he could win there.

3:13 p.m. - Well, Navy’s offense stagnated a bit and Notre Dame kept rolling. That’s 43 straight for the Irish. It seems pretty clear that Charlie Weis has drilled it into his kids to stay patient because the only way Navy is stopping them is if they make mistakes and get greedy. And after two games against the Mids, Weis’ offense has yet to make any mistakes. It’s off to the locker room for quotes and then Pat will navigate the Baltimore-Washington traffic en route to College Park while I craft my game story in the passenger seat (writing after a game in the car will be a first). Is ‘we got into a car accident’ a viable excuse for missing deadline? Here’s hoping the ride goes a bit smoother than this morning.

5:20 p.m. - Before going to Byrd Stadium we decided to stop at Comcast Center to try and catch the end of the Maryland basketball scrimmage. Alas, we arrived moments too late, but it was an interesting scene at the Cable Box. Plenty of famous faces like Lefty Driesell and John Lucas in the house as well as potential recruits. Just a hunch, but I bet this guy was there. Players and coaches were taking photos and signing autographs, but I was too shy to ask Will Bowers to sign my press pass.

5:39 p.m. - Now, the drive from Ballmore to CP was pretty smooth, but getting from Comcast to Byrd was another matter. Pedestrians crossing the road with little semblance of fear or regard for safety is part of the culture at this campus, but mix in some alcohol, the testosterone buildup before a football game and more alcohol and it is pretty much unorganized chaos.

One particularly daring and inebriated fellow caused this exchange:

Pat: I think we might need to chopblock this guy.

Me: An illegal block in the back? 15 yards for clipping perhaps?

Pat: Laughter, followed by some unprintable stuff

Me: You know, there is enough road ahead that I like our chances on 1st and 25. The penalty might be worth it.

Pat: 15 yards or 15-to-life, what’s the difference?

7:04 p.m. - We’re almost ready to get under way. It is another Black Out at Byrd. I wasn’t a big fan of this last year, in part because of my lifelong allegiances to Happy Valley and White Outs at Beaver Stadium. But it is growing on me a little. The black unis certainly look better than Florida State’s all-black wardrobe from last week.

This night could be about validation for either team. A win for the Terps and suddenly there could be more at stake this season than just scratching out a mediocre bowl invite - although a trip to the Smurf Turf in Boise would have been welcomed. Florida State needs to plug some holes in the dam or it could be fixing to get downright steamy in Tallahassee.

7:17 p.m. - FSU starting quarterback Drew Weatherford is a late scratch because of ankle tendonitis. Xavier Lee, a sophomore from Daytona Beach, comes out of the bullpen. “Professor Xavier” Lee is quickly shot down and after I offer “Student Teacher” Lee, Pat’s “T.A.” Lee is accepted. We haven’t seen the kid throw a pass and he’s already had three nicknames.

7:27 - The Terps take advantage of a fumble and a pass interference call on 3rd down and move out to a 7-0 lead. I cannot emphasize enough how much the black shoes and knee-high black socks make the look for the Terps. Click-clack.

7:55 p.m. - It is the end of the first quarter and the Terps are up 10-7. This Maryland offense looks a little sharper than it did last week against N.C. State. The play-calling is also a bit more imaginative. But since when do teams rip off long runs on reverses against the Florida State defense?

8:07 p.m. - OK, the Terps are imposing their will on the Noles. It is 17-7 after a couple of nifty catches from Darrius Heyward-Bay. I know Florida State has had trouble on offense the past couple years, but this defense looks, well, ordinary at best.

8:32 p.m. - How bad is it getting for the mighty ‘Noles? Twenty-three of Maryland’s last 24 plays have started in FSU territory. They’ve been playing on the same side of the field for past half hour. It is 20-7 Terps and it could be actually be much worse.

8:42 p.m. - Ah ha! Bobby’s son/offensive coordinator/Seminoles-fan whipping boy realizes 6-foot-6 WR Greg Carr made the trip and Lee, who certainly has a rocket arm but has been locking on to guys too much finds him a couple of times. Florida State is getting seriously outplayed, but it is only 20-14.

8:50 p.m. - FRESE MAGIC! The Lady Terps are honored at halftime after winning a national title last season. Pat and I had a laugh about when Brenda Frese (then Oldfield, which I had pretty much forgotten even though I covered the press conference) was hired. We both thought College Park was her last stepping stone before the big gig. Here’s what Pat wrote that day.

There are always interesting people around the press box. I just ran into Nick Novak and should have asked him for a loan now that he’s back in the NFL. While I was catching up with a former classmate, Ron Franklin (that’s best play-by-play man in the sport Ron Franklin) and former Colorado coach Gary Barnett, who was there as a radio analyst, were catching up right beside us. No tasteless jokes about Barnett’s demise here. After all, not only was Katie a girl, she was terrible. I’m guessing Barnett will not be on first-year coach Dan Hawkins’ X-Mas card list. The Buffs dropped another tough one today. Kansas being a tough one if you are say, Louisiana-Monroe … not Colorado.

9:46 p.m. - Florida State keeps doing typical stupid Florida State stuff — senseless penalty after penalty and the Seminoles are still within six at 27-21. I sense a bit if uneasiness — the Terps could be three scores right now.

9:54 p.m. - Wow, another long punt return by Danny Oquendo and the Terps could seal this one up. Oquendo, Heyward-Bey and Isiah Williams look like they could be a pretty scary trio some day. For what it is worth, my money is on the cousin of Southeast Jerome, Josh Portis, being the guy throwing to them next year. I want to see what Ralph draws up in the dirt for that kid.

10:02 p.m. - So much for closing it out. The Terps failed to score and Florida State comes right back with a field goal. Mr. Lee is starting to have himself a ballgame. He’s rough around the edges, but it looks like there is a whole lot of potential in there.

10:37 p.m. - Lee drives the Seminoles to the brink of a tie or the lead, but an intentional grounding penalty killed the drive and the Terps blocked the field goal (Can we call it Short Middle I?) to seal the deal. There is plenty of tomahawk-chopping in jest right now as the final seconds tick away.

10:40 p.m. - Um, the students rush the field and there are black shirts and jerseys everywhere. But I am missing something, or did they just rush the field after their team beat the last place team in the division? It is a big win for the now bowl-eligible Terps, but it has only been two seasons of slightly below average-ness. This might have been a bit much.

2:03, er, 1:03 a.m. - Finally I am back home in the Commonwealth (If it wasn’t already a long day, because of the carpool situation Pat and I went back to his place in Glen Burnie and I picked up my car and drove home to Alexandria). God Bless the extra hour of sleep.

Papa Bowden’s post-game press conference was kind of interesting. When someone asked him why one guy started, Bowden’s response was, ‘Did he play?’ Hopefully the Seminoles fans who want him to retire didn’t hear that.

So what did we learn today?

Navy is going to be OK with Kaipo at the helm. The Mids have played two of the best teams in the country (Rutgers’ defense and Ray Rice are good enough to knock off one of those other Big East unbeatens, if not both) in the past two games. There is no need to panic; 9-3 still looks like a distinct possibility.

Pat still isn’t sure what to make of the Terps, and I agree with him. They are better than the past two teams, but how much? A win against mighty Florida State should be a statement, but those Noles weren’t so mighty. Maryland is 3-1 in the ACC with the other three Atlantic Division contenders (BC, Clemson and Wake) on the horizon as well as a home date with not so mighty anymore Miami. It will be a defining stretch.

Who knows, maybe I’ll get to see the Mids and Terps on the same day again this year. Like on Dec. 30 in the Mieneke Car Care Bowl where they can battle for Charlotte Supremacy, a title Lord Groh’s Wahoos once owned with pride.

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