Monday, September 22, 2008

We just witnessed a miracle and I want you to [TV edit] acknowledge it!

I was a sophomore in high school the first time I figured my procrastination had done me in. I had a research paper due in English class on a Wednesday, and as that week began I realized I was completely screwed. The research wasn’t done, the writing wasn’t done and none of it was close to done. And worst of all, there was no way to keep this from my mom, who had to decipher my chicken scratchings and type the paper for me on a typewriter (click the links, kids, so you can appreciate how good you’ve got it).

I staved her off for a while on Tuesday, but it was getting to be the time of night where I could no longer tell her it was coming soon. Pretty soon she’d realize it wasn’t done and pretty soon she’d realize she’d be up all night first helping me finish the paper and then typing it. And it would get ugly. Real ugly. Ugly as in my dad’s going to tell me he’s disappointed I’m making my mom cry ugly.

Then the news came: Power outage at the school. No school Wednesday.

I felt a sense of abject relief I never knew possible. There was no way out, yet I’d escaped. I was headed for certain doom, yet Clarence and Miriam apparently took time out from saving buses full of bickering, Christmas caroling kids to spare me a big fat F and a summer-long grounding. I was lost in the middle of the desert and I magically found a Comfort Inn.

I mention this nearly 20-year-old memory not to upset my mother but because I figure the Flying Dutchmen felt a similar sense of pardoned-at-11:59-p.m. relief right around 4 pm Saturday, when Rhode Island kicker Louis Feinstein pulled a John Carney (the one with the Saints, not the 76-year-old man who keeps nailing field goals for the Giants) and replaced Hofstra’s Brian Hanly as the sickest man in America by missing a PAT that would have given the Rams a one-point lead with less than a minute to play.

Of course, maybe the Dutchmen would have won anyway thanks to quarterback Cory Christopher, who, for the second straight week, directed an Elway-esque length-of-the-field march to put Hofstra in position to win the game. This time, walk-on kicker Roger Williams booted a 38-yard field goal with three seconds left and then made the game-ending tackle on the subsequent kickoff to end a frightfully good Cal-Stanford impersonation—albeit without the band on the field—at the Hofstra 20-yard-line to seal a thrilling 23-20 win.

However it happened—a Jules-esque miracle or an Elway-esque drive—it had to happen, because after 59 minutes and 13 seconds Saturday, it was abundantly clear that Hofstra could not afford to lose to Rhode Island. Losing to Albany seven days earlier was disappointing because the Flying Dutchmen should be long past the days of losing to a non-scholarship program (sorry…one-scholarship program).

But a loss Saturday would have been demoralizing because it would have been the most obvious sign yet that it’s just not meant to be this season. Sure, it’s easy for those of us over here to say stuff like that, and football coaches thrive on getting their players to forget the past and ignore the long-term view in favor of focusing only on the next game on the schedule.

Still, to lose that game in the last minute would have been crushing. For much of Saturday, it looked as if Hofstra had completely rebuilt itself in the seven days following the Albany upset. Rhode Island racked up 43 points and 517 yards the week before, yet a defense that had trouble wrapping up Albany’s Dave McCarty quieted the Rams following a quick first score (it’s rare you can truthfully use the phrase “before the fans even settled into their seats,” but the Rams drove 73 yards in 97 seconds and were up 7-0 as my wife and I were still filing in), forced three turnovers and, at one point, held them to one first down or less on seven straight drives.

The Flying Dutchmen dominated the Rams in just about every offensive category, including total yards (476-341) and time of possession (37:22-22:58), rushing yards (211-93) and first downs (25-15). Hofstra held the ball for at least nine minutes in each of the last three quarters.

A month ago, Christopher was slotted for backup duty and Brock Jackolski was headed for a redshirt, but they once again proved eminently qualified for their starring roles by combining for 531 all-purpose yards.

Even the special teams emerged, albeit after halftime: The struggling Hanly, who missed a PAT and a field goal before suggesting to Dave Cohen at intermission that he be benched in favor of Williams, threw a perfect touchdown pass to Ottis Lewis off a fake field goal attempt early in the third quarter.

Alas, that was called back due to penalty, and as the fourth quarter progressed it appeared as if Hofstra would be done in by ill-timed mistakes and failures to capitalize. Jackolski’s 64-yard run gave the Dutchmen, up 17-14, a first down at the one with less than six minutes left. But Hofstra gained no yardage on first or second down and Christopher was sacked on third down, forcing the Dutchmen to use their last timeout (they called three timeouts in a span of three minutes in the fourth) and to send Williams out to kick a 33-yard field goal.

A personal foul on the kickoff gave Rhode Island a first down at its 46, and Anthony Ferrer rambled 21 yards on fourth-and-one to give the Rams a first down at the one with 51 seconds left. He scored on the next play, setting up the Miracle on FieldTurf.

Never mind how crushing it would have been to lose on a day when Hofstra did so much right. It would have been soul-sucking, too, to lose on a Homecoming straight out of central casting. Back in my day, Homecoming was played in monsoons (anyone else remember how Homecoming ’95 was nearly postponed because of torrential rain and lightning?) and in front of sparse crowds.

So I didn’t recognize what we saw at Hofstra Saturday: Brilliant skies, folks tapping kegs, tailgating and playing touch football in the parking lots and several thousand fans actually standing, screaming and hugging one another in the game’s final seconds. Who are you and what have you done with my apathetic Hofstra?

I long ago gave up on the idea that Hofstra could ever build a fan base on the momentum generated by its sports teams. But still…it was nice to see. And it’s a lot easier to lure a giant chunk of the 6,107 who showed up Saturday—and that was a legitimate number—back to the Stadium in five weeks fresh off a dramatic win rather than an agonizing loss.

As for the football team itself: The schedule is still brutal—the Dutchmen, who visit Stony Brook Friday, still have to face five of the top 12 teams in the current I-AA poll, including top-ranked James Madison Oct. 4—and who knows what kind of shape Hofstra will be in by the time it hosts Delaware Oct. 25. But a last-minute power outage—pardon me, miracle—means the worst-case scenario isn’t as bad as it looked a week ago.

Jerry Beach can be reached at


Cake Sitter said...

"The Rams drove 73 yards in 97 seconds and were up 7-0 as my wife and I were still filing in" … What's with this late-arriving crowd business, Beach? Or were you hiding in the bathroom and Marvin forget to tell Jules and Vince?

Cake Sitter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cake Sitter said...

Ah, the typewriter. Insert the blank sheet of paper into the top of the blog first, then start typing. Otherwise, it will come out like Creed Thoughts.