Friday, January 7, 2011

College Football Season Reaches Finish Line

E-Mail Ricky Hazel

I had intended to write a blog entry a while back, but the New Orleans crud has had a hold of me for better than three weeks now. There is nothing like going to a bowl game and getting sick, especially when the illness carries over for weeks.

But, being at home under a blanket with cough drops and a box of tissues gave me a chance to watch just about every bowl game. Obviously, Troy's victory over Ohio in New Orleans was a high point to bowl season, but there have been other great games as well.

I can't help but offer congratulations to FIU for their last-second victory over Toledo in the Little Caesars Bowl. I don't think there is any doubt that game was one of the two or three most exciting of the entire bowl season, right there with TCU's Rose Bowl victory and, in a strange way, UNC's overtime win over Tennessee.

There are still four games left to play, including the big one on Monday. After that is all-star season. According to one website I found, there are seven all-star games this year, one of which was played on Dec. 18 in Atlanta, pitting players from the HBCU schools.

The other games start tonight with the Cactus Bowl in Kingsville, Texas, for Division II players.

The East-West Shrine game is Jan. 22 in Orlando, followed by the Eastham Energy All-Star Game in Tempe, Ariz., on Jan 23. That game will be televised by Fox Sports Arizona for those interested in seeing a pair of Trojans play. Defensive end Mario Addison and running back DuJuan Harris will take part in that game at Sun Devils Stadium on the campus of Arizona State.

The big game is the Senior Bowl in Mobile on Jan. 29. That game will be televised by the NFL Network, which will also televise many of the practices and other events leading up to the game. Troy's Jerrel Jernigan will play in the game this year, adding to the long list of Trojans who have played in the game recently.

I'll be there for that one as well, handling game statistics for the fourth straight year.

The last two games are the Dixie Gridiron Classic in St. George, Utah, and the NFLPA All-Star Game, also known as Texas vs. The Nation, in San Antonio. Both games are set for Feb. 5. The NFLPA game will be televised by CBS College Sports.

On the subject of bowls, the Sun Belt came close to taking the Capital One Bowl Challenge, but fell short last night when Middle Tennessee lost to Miami, Ohio. Former Troy Assistant Media Relations Director Jim Stephan now works at Miami and apologized for costing the Sun Belt the trophy, which went to the Mountain West Conference with a 4-1 record.

If you didn't see it, Troy punter Will Goggans received some national attention following the New Orleans Bowl because of his beard. CBS Sports said in a Tweet that his facial growth was the greatest beard in the history of American sports. He also got some attention on ESPN's Page2 blog. You can read that here.

Also, in the days after the Trojans' bowl victory, the Sun Belt Conference announced its list of top players, moments and plays of the first decade of football in the league. Troy was very well represented on the Tenth Anniversary All-Sun Belt team, with Jernigan and Dion Small on offense, DeMarcus Ware, Boris Lee and Leodis McKelvin on defense and coach Larry Blakeney as the Most Outstanding Head Coach.

Troy had two of the top 10 moments in league history with "The Miracle in Murfreesboro" in 2006 and the win over Missouri in 2004. Plays from those games also made the list of top 10 plays of the decade. Of course, Junior Louissaint's rumbling TD run against Missouri was on the list, and was joined by Smokey Hampton's 19-yard catch on fourth down when he landed on his head late in the win over MTSU, setting up the winning TD pass from Omar Haugabook to Gary Banks.

Of course, football season never really ends. January is all about recruiting which is something I an barred from talking about by NCAA rules. The Trojans did bring in six mid-term signees to start the semester. You can read about those guys in a story published by The Dothan Eagle on Dec. 27.

Drew Champlin, who covers the Trojans for The Eagle, also does a great job of covering recruiting, and everything else Troy. You can keep up with the ins and outs on his blog.

As of now, nothing is finalized yet with regard to spring practice, but I'll let you know when it is.

For me, the focus right now is squarely on baseball. The Trojans open the 2011 season just six weeks from today. I spent some time with head coach Bobby Pierce earlier this week and will be placing several stories on in the weeks leading up to the opener against High Point.

Of course, basketball is in full swing, but all of the spring sports will be getting cranked up in the coming weeks. Indoor track opens this weekend and the tennis teams will start play next week. Golf and rodeo will follow in early February with softball and baseball joining in.

Saturday, Feb. 19, is a date we all have circled on our calendar. On that day, both basketball teams will play at home against Arkansas State, baseball will play a double-header against High Point and softball will be in the second day of a weekend tournament at the Troy Softball Complex.

Any and all volunteers for help that weekend will gladly be accepted!

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