29 August 2014

My college football season kicks off with Buffalo vs. Duquesne Saturday on ESPN3

Most of you know me for calling soccer games or working in soccer, but this weekend I'll be stepping away to call college football for ESPN3. I am a big fan of several sports, and this is a chance to call one of them!

Sept. 1, 2012 - My CFB debut.
Football, Yardley-Style
Two years ago was my first experience calling college football (although I had called high school games in Texas, which occasionally has more fans than some college teams), and it was awesome. Over the course of the 2012 season, I called nine games, most with former Florida State offensive lineman Forrest Conoly, ranging from an opening-day game between two first-year FBS programs to the FCS quarterfinals featuring North Dakota State, then en route to the second of its three consecutive (and counting) national championships.

The rhythm of flying to a different college city each week, learning the teams and the context of their seasons, trying to take in some of the local culture, and then calling three-and-a-half hours of intensity, was exactly what I was looking for, and it made me want college football to be part of my portfolio going forward.

It didn't happen last year, in part because I missed the first three weeks of the season while traveling and moving to New York, and in part because there are fewer games covered by ESPN3 in reasonable travel distance of my new home.

Always nice to see your name listed near Brent Musberger's.
This year, however, I'm back on the schedule, at least for one week: I'll be calling Buffalo vs. Duquesne on Saturday at 3:30 pm ET on ESPN3! I've got a new partner for this one, 15-year NFL veteran Vonnie Holliday, and I can't wait to get started.

This Week's Game
As so many early-season games are, this one appears a bit of a mismatch. Buffalo went to a bowl game last year, while Duquesne is an FCS team offering only 35 scholarships. But Buffalo lost three of the best players in its history -- No. 5 NFL draft pick Khalil Mack, who's kind of impressive, tailback Branden Oliver and top receiving option Alex Neutz. In their last game against an FCS opponent in September 2013, the Bulls needed five (yes, that's right, five!) overtimes to beat Stony Brook.

Duquesne is coming off a season in which the Dukes were, in their minds, less than seven minutes away from winning the Northeast Conference outright and earning a bid to the FCS tournament. Having missed three field goals, they ultimately fell to Sacred Heart 10-0, so when the teams tied for the NEC title, Sacred Heart got the automatic bid. For the Dukes, this year is about winning that conference title outright and getting to the dance. Winning the opener may be highly unlikely, but they will not be short on motivation or effort, and I'm looking forward to seeing what both teams bring into their respective 2014 campaigns.

Both the Bulls and Dukes have hometown-hero quarterbacks, with Buffalo's Joe Licata (pronouncd li-COT-uh) the leader of an effort to build sustained success at Buffalo, historically not a great market for college football but one that led the MAC in attendance last year. Dillon Buechel has skills rarely seen by a program used to building on Steelers-style football: defense and the punishing rushers of western Pennsylvania. Buechel (pronounced BEE-kul) was one of the top 20 freshmen in the FCS last year.

Having watched video and studied flash cards all week, I'll be flying to Buffalo on Friday and checking out UB Stadium before calling Saturday's game. Give it a look if you've got some time -- Vonnie's 6-foot-5, so I'll be the short one this time!

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