02 September 2014

Football opening day in photos -- Aug. 30

I have the fortune to cover multiple sports, and each is interesting and exciting in its own way. Saturday meant the beginning of college football season for most FBS and FCS schools, including the two whose games I called, Buffalo (FBS) and Duquesne (FCS).

It was the in-game broadcast debut of 15-year NFL veteran Vonnie Holliday, who was fun to work with both ahead of time and during the game itself. Here's to many more opportunities for Vonnie and, possibly, for us to work together!

On Friday, after flying in from our respective homes, we met up with our producer at UB Stadium to attend Buffalo's walkthrough. You don't always get a lot out of walkthroughs, but we certainly learned plenty from this one. We learned about a change in the starting offensive line, watched Buffalo work on avoiding bouncing punts, and met nose tackle Kristjan Sokoli, whose family gradually moved to North Jersey from Albania during his childhood.

We also got a look at the Buffalo facilities, including a wall that highlighted the school's all-time leaders in various football categories. That included their most famous football alum, Khalil Mack, who was the No. 5 pick in this year's draft (by the Raiders), and who - as it turned out - came to the game on Saturday.

On game day, we arrived early (around 12:45 for a 3:30 game) to test equipment and rehearse some of the elements of our show. Our broadcast position was a little cramped, but we certainly couldn't complain about the vantage point!

We detoured down to the field to meet Duquesne head coach Jerry Schmitt, who had been very helpful earlier in the week when we talked on a conference call, and - of course - to take a selfie!

After planning to pre-record our opening segment, we wound up doing it live, but I think it ended up being very competitive with our rehearsals, so we were proud of handling that situation well.

Once the game began, Buffalo got off to a good start, but the weather wouldn't cooperate: We had a lightning delay midway through the first quarter. Thankfully we were NOT called on to kill time for the entire 40-minute delay, so we recharged just like the teams did.

After Buffalo controlled most of the first half, a turnover late in the second quarter (when Buffalo's return man failed to avoid a bouncing punt -- remember the walkthrough!?) put Duquesne back in the game. The Dukes, playing an FBS opponent for the first time, promptly dominated the third quarter and actually took a 28-24 lead early in the fourth quarter, much to our surprise.

Buffalo eventually pulled away for the win, however, using a go-ahead touchdown and a clock-eating drive to do so by a 38-28 score. That left Vonnie and I to wrap things up in a post-game segment, and we didn't get back to the hotel until after 9 p.m., not at all what we expected with a 3:30 kickoff!

All in all, a fun opening weekend for both of us. No football for me this weekend (Sept. 6), as I'll be attending a wedding, and I have a lot of weekends tied up with soccer this fall, but I hope to get some more football games under my belt as well!

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