Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fifteen years ago this week (and last week and the week before that, too)

Wayne Chrebet would have a lot more people to talk to than just me and two guys from Newsday by the fall of 1995.

One of the things I planned to do this fall was to take a look back at the 1994 Flying Dutchmen football season by recapping the games as they unfolded 15 years ago. I thought it would be a cool way to kind of measure how the momentum built that season, from a pre-season in which Joe Gardi expressed quiet confidence to a perfect September to an October in which the unbeaten Dutchmen surged into the national rankings and into the playoff picture before a heartbreaking loss to Towson and, finally, a November that began with long-shot playoff hopes and ended with the unforgettable tie at Delaware.

Of course, me being me, here it is, mid-to-late September, and that feature has yet to debut. But today’s the day! Hey give me some credit. At least it’s not November yet.

It was 15 years ago today the Dutchmen beat Fordham, 30-20, at what was then called Hofstra Stadium, so we’ll start with that game and also recap the first two games of the ’94 season. I’ll add quotes to note and other random memories of the games when I have them, which should be for every contest except the season opener at Butler, when the Dutchmen were pounding Butler while I was pounding beers and dodging the cops busting underage drinkers at Bogart’s. That’s actually true, by the way. Ask Sully Ray.

Sept. 17, 1994: Hofstra 30, Fordham 20

The Dutchmen started slowly in their home opener but finished with a flurry in improving to 3-0. WR Wayne Chrebet led the way with 205 yards receiving and four TD catches, the first of which was a 42-yarder that tied the game at 7-7 late in the second quarter and the last of which was an 85-yard strike that buried the Rams in the fourth quarter. Chrebet’s other scores went for four yards and 60 yards. Kharon Brown made his first collegiate start at QB in place of an injured Carlos Garay and threw for 380 yards. RB Haywood Cromartie rushed 28 times for 133 yards. On defense, Pat Shanahan recovered a fumble that led to the Dutchmen’s second TD late in the first half.

Quotable: “I really feel that we were looking beyond Fordham. I mean, we had something like 580 yards [actually 548] in total offense. If we put that many yards on the board, we should win by something like 80-0.”—Joe Gardi

Other random memories: I remember waiting outside the locker room for Chrebet, who peeked his head out, saw three reporters waiting for him, grinned and said “Oh man.” Who knew he’d be greeting far larger throngs of reporters a year later?

Next game: Sept. 24 at Lafayette

Sept. 10, 1994: Hofstra 45, Bucknell 21

QB Carlos Garay accounted for more than 300 yards in total offense, but the story of the day was the Dutchmen defense, which forced six turnovers. Herve Damas returned a fumble 13 yards for a TD and the Dutchmen mounted scoring drives after three other turnovers. Safety Pat Clark had two interceptions, increasing his season total to five after just two games, and Marcellus Payne also recovered a fumble. Garay threw for 208 yards and one TD—a 33-yarder to Wayne Chrebet—and also rushed for 106 yards and another score. WR Michael Wright and RB Haywood Cromartie (136 yards rushing) had TD runs.

Quotable: “Forcing turnovers and converting them is a sign of a good team. It’s nice to see us putting points on the board after opponent’s turnovers.”—Joe Gardi

Other random memories: As I wrote when the Dutchmen faced Bucknell last October, this was my first Hofstra road trip and I passed the time on the spirit support bus by listening to a Cheap Trick tape on my Walkman. Sigh. I am so old. I also continue to regret not getting one of the “Hammer Hofstra” buttons that Bucknell was handing out to fans as they entered the game.

Sept. 3, 1994: Hofstra 41, Butler 0

WR Michael Wright scored three TDs—two rushing and one receiving—and the Dutchmen recorded the program’s first road shutout of the Division I-AA era in blanking Butler. Wright caught an 11-yard TD pass from Carlos Garay, who was making his first start since Sept. 19, 1992 against James Madison, and made his only two carries count by rushing 13 yards and 36 yards for scores.

Quotable: “So far this year, I’m very excited about our offense. We’ve moved the ball in practice this year as well as we have in the last five years. We’ll score a lot of touchdowns.”—Joe Gardi previewing the Dutchmen in the week prior to the Butler game

“We’re not thinking of anything but winning. We’re not making predictions, but we know we can be a good football team.”—Gardi

Other random memories: Have I mentioned beer?

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