Yesterday, September first marked the beginning of my favorite six months of the year. The weather starts to get cooler, there are multiple holidays to look forward to, and football is finally back! That’s right, football is now here and I mean real football not NFL preseason where you get to see your favorite players for a series or a Hawaii and Cal college game that had to be exported out of the country to get viewers but football that we actually care about. Typically the first weekend of college football isn’t all that exciting and really draws viewers based on the fact that we’re just so ready to watch football that we’ll watch anything rather than the quality of said games, the most boring of which tend to be the opening games on Thursday night but ladies and gentleman that was not the case this year. Not only does this opening weekend have the best lineup in history, a couple of the Thursday games were not only watchable past the first quarter but were genuinely exciting.
The game I most wanted to see yesterday was the South Carolina/Vanderbilt matchup because out of all the games I thought that one would be the closest and most interesting and it did not disappoint, however a game that was expected to be a blowout turned out to be the must see action of the night. Appalachian State traveled to Tennessee to face the number nine ranked Volunteers team with conference winning expectations and the most talented team they’ve had in a long time. The game started at six thirty and I turned it on fully expecting to change the channel over to the SC/Vandy game when it came on at seven but I ended up sticking around for the whole thing. Although I now live in the state of Tennessee my allegiance still lies with the Crimson Tide of Alabama and even though I knew it was highly unlikely I was strongly hoping that App State could muster up out of themselves whatever had helped them upset Michigan nine years ago and do the same thing to UT.
Appalachian State got the ball first and the nationally televised audience was treated to their high powered offense going three and out and having to punt the ball. It was fun to dream of an upset but that clearly was not going to happen. Then the mighty mountaineers punted the football and to my surprise and delight the return man for the Vols dropped it and it was recovered by the kicking team. I actually did a fist pump and let out and audible woo, which I was only a little ashamed about given the fact that I didn’t care about either of these teams. After the turnover App State was able to drive for a touchdown. It was thrilling to see the despair on the face of Tennessee fans and that was a treat enjoyed most of the game as the Volunteers never once led during any of the four quarters. Even though the Mountaineers scored again and didn’t trail at any point in regulation it never really felt like they were actually going to win the game. They might have thrown the ball down field four times the whole game with only one of them being caught and another intercepted. It’s tough to win a game that way but they put up a fight and almost did it.
At the end of regulation the game was tied 13-13 so we headed to overtime. What more could I ask for? The very first football game I watch of the season and I get an overtime, one of the most exciting aspects of a college game in my opinion. Tennessee had the ball first and they just could not be stopped. On a third and goal their quarterback Josh Dobbs tried running in for the score but was stopped short, hit squarely in the chest by a tree of a defender. The impact caused him to drop the ball. I once again involuntarily wooed because Tennessee was not only not going to get the touchdown, they weren’t going to even get a field goal. The loose ball rolled into the end zone where it was pounced on by an App State player before it got away from him and was recovered due to valiant effort by the Vols running back. Touchdown Tennessee. I think it’s completely stupid that you can fumble the ball into the end zone and get a touchdown and feel strongly that a rule should be in place to prevent that from happening however no such rule currently exists. Tennessee scored fair and square. My hopes were not very high when App State got their chance to answer with a score. The Vols had all the momentum and their defense stepped up and stopped the mountaineers to end the game and start the season 1-0. Tennessee had flashes of being a good football team but for the most part looked thoroughly mediocre but none of that matters today. The only thing that matters is they did what they had to do in order to get the win so their championship hopes are still alive.
After the conclusion of that game I turned it over to the SC/Vandy game I had originally intended to watch and that game was deadlocked in a 10-10 tie with four minutes left in the fourth quarter. After falling behind by ten points South Carolina had come back and had the ball with a little more than three minutes left in the game. Two exciting finishes on the first Thursday of college football? Here we go. The Gamecocks of South Carolina have a kicker with a very strong leg and were a few yards out of his field goal range on third down. They just needed a short run, something they had been capable of doing most of the night and that would set up a fourth down field goal attempt to take the lead with under a minute left to play in the game. Then they did one of the things you absolutely cannot do in that situation and they lost yardage. Out came the kicker for South Carolina to attempt a fifty-five yard field goal to win the game. Expectations generally aren’t that high for college kickers. Earlier in the night the App State guy missed two kicks including and extra point so I have to say I didn’t think there was anyway this guy could make it from fifty-five. The kicker had the wind at his back but I don’t think he would have needed it as he kicked one of the straightest most beautiful field goals I’ve ever seen and South Carolina won the game.
I woke up yesterday excited, not because I thought the football games would be incredibly interesting but because I was just happy football was back at all. I want to thank the members of Tennessee and Appalachian State for giving me a potential upset that kept me glued to the TV screen for almost four hours and I would also like to thank the members of Vanderbilt and South Carolina. Thank you for waiting until I tuned in for the excitement of a final drive leading to a game winning field goal. While these were great games Saturday’s match ups are going to be even better and I can’t wait. If the first night is any indication of how the 2016 football season is going to be, we’re going to have a fun year!