Monday, June 27, 2016

The Best 20 Games of the Last 20 Years - Part III (6-10)

After an interesting 11-20, we crack the Top 10 this week.

Now as I stated at the start of this ranking, not all of the best games in the last 20 years were wins. In fact, some of them were losses that showed how far the Hobart Statesmen had come as a program. Three of those games start off the Top 10, dating back to 2005, but for #10 we'll start in 2006:

Hobart 18 Rowan 20 (11/8/06) - The Profs were once tabbed the "Beast of the East" given their many playoff runs back then. The Statesmen were road underdogs in this first round playoff game but they went toe to toe with Rowan the entire contest. The Statesmen were easily dispatched in the 2004 playoffs by a score of 14-45 by the Profs, so many assumed this rematch would be more of the same. To the contrary, Hobart actually led with under a minute to go in the game but the Profs were able to convert a FG with nine seconds remaining to hang on to win. While disappointing, this game showed that Hobart could have beaten the "Beast".

Hobart 14 Delaware Valley 21 (11/26/05) - The last time Hobart faced the MAC champs in the second round of the NCAA playoffs, they lost decisively. This game was a different story. The score was deadlocked at 0-0 until the fourth quarter when Del Val broke the stalemate and took a 14-0 lead. To the Statesmen's credit they battled back, scoring two quick TDs to tie the game with 4:51 remaining. Del Val would retake the lead with 1:30 left, but QB Shawn Mizro would rally the Statesmen and drive Hobart to the Aggies 19 yard line with 15 seconds remaining. A couple of close calls in the end zone meant that the Statesmen came up short, but it took a desperate effort by the Del Val defense to hang on and win this hard fought game.

Hobart 28 Wesley 35 (11/19/11) - A lot of Hobart fans were upset by drawing #7 Wesley in this first round NCAA matchup. Saint John Fisher, who the Statesmen destroyed in September, arguably got a better draw and seed in this tourney. To Hobart's credit, they came to play, with backup QB Kelly Olney leading the way. If the Statesmen only had a reliable place kicker they would have won this game as they were stuffed on fourth and goal three times by the Wolverine defense. While it counted as a loss, the Statesmen's play in this game served notice to the nation that Hobart was in for a big season in 2012.

Hobart 20 RPI 17 (11/8/08) - RPI came into this game undefeated and ranked in the Top 20 behind the high scoring Jimmy Robertson led Engineers offense. The Statesmen defense got Hobart on the board first when LB Justin Hager blocked a RPI punt and LB Ryan Robinson returned it 32 yards for the TD. Hager would block another Engineer kick (this time a FG attempt) as time expired in the first half. Hobart would lose starting QB Rich Doyle to injury mid way through the fourth quarter with the score tied at 10. A relatively unknown QB Doug Vella came off the bench and drove the Statesmen offense to the Engineers red zone. He'd convert three huge first downs until he ultimately found WR Andy Schettine for a one yard score with 6:12 remaining in the game. The drive covered a total of 18 plays, 84 yards and 7:33 off the clock. Robertson would respond however and tied the game with a 50 yard bomb with 2:34 remaining. Vella would drive the team 53 yards in nine plays to set up a game winning 37 yd FG for then FY PK Conor Callahan. The kick split the up rights as time expired giving Hobart the upset victory!

Hobart 35 Wittenberg 10 (11/24/12) - The Statesmen finally broke the second round barrier and punched their ticket to the program's first ever Elite 8 appearance with a dominant win over the NCAC Champs. Although Hobart was the higher seed and host, many picked the 13th ranked Tigers to win this game and some social media posts by Wittenberg on Friday night probably added fuel to the fire for the Statesmen. Although it was 7-3 Hobart at the half, the Statesmen ran away with the game scoring four TDs in the second half. The one-two punch of RBs Steven Webb and Bobby Dougherty combined for 39 carries, 216 yards and two TDs. At the time this was arguably the biggest win in program history.

Next week I'll cover off the Top 5 best games, in my opinion anyway. I'm sure you may already know which ones may be on that list.

Thanks for reading and go 'Bart!

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Best 20 Games of the Last 20 Years - Part II (15-11)

Hobart 25 Bridgewater State 0 (11/18/00) - The Statesmen and Bears were deadlocked at 0-0 until LB Everton McLean returned a Bridgewater State fumble 32 yards for a TD with only 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Hobart would then rattle off three more TDs in the fourth to claim the first ever NCAA playoff victory in school history!

Hobart 41 Union 35 2 OT (10/9/10) - There weren't a lot of positives in the 2010 season, but this game saw then back up QB Nick Strang have a record setting day. Strang tied the school record of five TD passes (he added the game winning rushing TD also) and his 498 total yards was a single game record as well. Although Strang would be lost for the remainder of the season due to a bout of mononucleosis, this great game was a sign for good things to come in 2011 and 2012.

Hobart 56 RPI 48 3 OT (9/24/05) - The longest game in Hobart College history was this insane regular season shootout. The Statesmen were ranked #23 at the time and heavily favored but then FY QB Jimmy Robertson of RPI had a great day and showed signs of the type of player he would be over his excellent career. RB Doug Blackowski scored the would be game winner in the first half of the 3OT and then the Statesmen defense took over. They forced four Robertson incompletions to win the game. Both QBs threw for five TDs and the teams combined for over 1,000 yards of total offense.

Hobart 33 Lycoming 15 (11/22/08) - This game was interesting in that Hobart needed two long FGs in their final two games to get into the playoffs. QB Rich Doyle basically played with a separated shoulder to rescue the season with a sloppy 10-7 win against a three win Rochester squad the week before. Doug Vella started that game at QB but got the hook after struggling. It was an entirely different Statesmen team that took the field this Saturday on a snow covered Boswell Field. Hobart dominated the MAC champs and used that momentum to go toe to toe with #1 Mount Union the following week (for the first half anyway).

Hobart 19 SLU 17 (11/7/15) - Hobart needed a last second (and somewhat controversial) WR Cooper Merrill receiving TD to upset the ranked Saint Lawrence Saints. The pass by Merrill was ruled a dual possession which, by rule, goes to the offense. The Saints were favored and hoped to claim their first LL title and playoff berth since 2010 on the Statesmen's home field. Hobart hasn't played the role of spoiler or underdog much in the last 20 years, but this was definitely one of the most memorable times they did.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Best 20 Games of the Last 20 Years - Part I (16-20)

Attending your 20th college reunion gives you a great opportunity to look back and reflect on what's happened since you graduated. I did plenty waxing nostalgic over that reunion weekend as a LOT happens over 20 years! I obviously had many happy moments (and some sad ones too) over that time, but this blog is about Hobart College Football so given that, I decided to try and come up with my Top 20 games of the last 20 seasons.

There have been over 200 games played since 1996 so I had to really think hard about how to categorize and ultimately rank them. To be fair, my "methodology" isn't really all that "scientific" by any stretch of the imagination - I just hope it causes some discussion in the comments below or online.

A couple of the things you'll probably notice is that I placed an emphasis on Championship games, either conference or NCAA playoffs. There was also a "premium" placed on how close the final score was and whether games ended on the final play. Also, and this may go without saying, but pretty much all the games on the list were victories. Yes, I did include some losses, three to be precise, but they showed that the Statesmen program was gaining on the top D3FB colleges in the country.

You'll probably also notice I listed some non-competitive games. These were sort of "statements" made and had weight given when and how they happened.

Overall I had a lot of fun compiling this list. I'll be curious to see what you think.

Here goes:

Hobart 31 Dickinson 28 (9/9/06) - QB Shawn Mizro capped an 80 yard drive in only 1:39 when he found WR Ryan LiDrazzah from 12 yards out for what would be the game winning TD with 1:06 remaining. A truly back and forth affair there were eight lead changes in this season opening thriller. Unfortunately Hobart doesn't officially recognize the victory any more because of a self imposed NCAA issue. If you forgot about that I wrote about it in this blog post back at the start of 2011.

Hobart 36 RPI 35 (11/16/96) - I remember seeing this game in person and it was a lot of fun. WR Glenn Choi scored his first career TD in his final game and FS Tony Aguilar had a 68 yard INT return for a TD. Hobart kind of let RPI back into this one, but it had a happy ending. Coach Cragg elected to go for two and TE Nico Karagosian hauled in a pass from QB Greg Helmer to give Hobart the "W" and finish the season at .500.

Hobart 13 Union 12 (9/23/00) - Before he was DC of one of the arguably all-time best defense the Statesmen ever had, Scott Yoder played WR for Hobart. In this game, Coach Yoder caught a four yard pass from QB Dan Birdsall to give Hobart the lead with 2:43 left in the game. The Statesmen had been shutout by Union since 7:58 in the first quarter. This was a rare win over Union, who were a much more powerful program than the one we've seen in recent years. The victory began a winning streak that took Hobart all the way to their first ever NCAA playoff appearance.

Hobart 56 Saint John Fisher 20 (9/24/11) - This was just an old fashioned, butt whipping of a highly regarded Cardinals team. Hobart was considered a huge underdog and I didn't even pick them to win in my pregame write up. OL Jarrid Blades mentioned this to me when I had him on "In The HuddLLe" later that season. Needless to say QB Nick Strang's five TD pass day (three of which were caught by WR Garth Muratori) put the nation on notice that even though Hobart struggled in 2010, this year would be completely different.

Hobart 19 Ithaca 0 (10/28/00) - This was a huge win for the Statesmen back then in that it was first victory over the Bombers in a couple of decades. LB Matt Daley punctuated the Hobart defense's dominant performance with a 24 yard fumble return for a TD.

That's the first five with the next set coming next week.

Thanks for reading and Go 'Bart!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Reunion Weekend

Last weekend I attended my 20th Reunion up at Hobart and William Smith. It was a beautiful weekend and HWS really put on a great line up of events. I caught up with Coach Drach and others in the Athletics department.

On the way up the idea of chronicling the best 20 games from the last 20 seasons popped into my head, so be on the look out for that in the coming weeks as the summer is usually a quiet period - at least until preseason camp opens in mid-August.

Thanks for reading and be on the look for a 20 year retrospective soon!

Go Bart!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Friday, May 20, 2016

Coach Cragg Announces 2016 Captains, Spring Ball and SAA Drive Updates

Hobart College Statesmen HC Mike Cragg sent out his monthly update to alumni, fans and friends of the Statesmen Football family earlier today.

The biggest news was the announcement of these six student athletes being named Captains for the upcoming 2016 season:

A solid mix of offensive and defensive stalwarts, each Captain is a rising SR, save for JR QB Shane Sweeney. Cragg's update included the following overview of these great Statesmen by saying:

"Patrick O’Connell – Senior offensive lineman from Walkersville, Md. Pat is a three-year letterman and two-time All-Liberty League selection. An economics major, he is also a CoSIDA Academic All-District selection.

Nick Testani – Senior offensive lineman from Pittsford, N.Y. Nick is a three-year letterman and a first team All-Liberty League selection in 2015. He is an international studies major and a two-time member of the Liberty League All-Academic Team.

Shane Sweeney – Junior quarterback from Geneva, N.Y. Shane led the Liberty League in passing efficiency (148.3) and set a Hobart single game record with six touchdown passes against Rochester during the last week of the season. He is an American studies major and psychology minor.

Matt Cragg – Senior free safety from Corry, Pa. Matt is a three-year letterman and two-year starter. He is the quarterback of our defense and a key contributor on special teams.

James Hedger – Senior defensive end from Rochester, N.Y. He is a three-year letterman and a two-year starter. James had his best year as a Statesman in 2015 with 2.5 sacks and 3.5 TFL. He is a tireless worker who constantly motivates those around him.

Marcus Jemison – Senior outside linebacker from Nyack, N.Y. Marcus is a two-time All-East selection and a two-time first team All-Liberty League selection. He is a dynamic playmaker who contributes in all aspects of the game. He performed extremely well in his junior combine for several professional scouts this spring."

Coach also recapped the Spring game which ended in a 21-21 tie and was ultimately decided by a game of paintball (the defense won).

In other news, Hobart Football hopes you will help them win the "Day of Donors" on Monday, May 23. You can learn about this contest, hosted by the HWS Athletic Departments and Associations, by clicking this link. 

The key to winning the contest isn't the amount of money raised but the number of donors so make sure you call and help out!

Thanks again for reading and go 'Bart!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Yoder and Hornets Creating a Buzz for 2017

Yesterday marked the 191st commencement ceremony for Hobart College (the 105th for our WS sisters) and a great class of Statesmen (and Herons) earned their degrees and head out into the "real world." Given the conclusion of the 2015-16 academic (and athletic) calendar, it's time to officially close the books on this offseason and start looking to the fall and the upcoming preseason.

Now although I did review the 2016 schedule earlier in the offseason, a look ahead pointed out an interesting development. According to it would appear as though for alum and former DC Scott Yoder '01 will be returning to Geneva with his Shenandoah Hornets to take on Hobart in 2017 (note to HWSSID - it's Doah, not Dowa). The game is slated to be on Saturday night, September 16th or Week 3 of the 2017 season.

Statesmen fans will recall that Yoder punched his ticket to the HC job at SU after leading one of the best defensive units in all of D3FB to the Elite 8 as part of the 2012 team's historic 12-1 season. Since moving himself and his family down to Winchester, VA in 2013, Coach Yoder has earned an 12-18 record as he rebuilds the Hornets' program. He's taken his lumps in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC), but has successfully upset some of the traditional power teams like Bridgewater and Washington & Lee in prior seasons.

Now while this is a great add to the 2017 schedule, it doesn't absolve the issue facing the Statesmen and fellow Liberty League teams after this fall. As previously reported here and elsewhere, programs like WPI, Springfield and the USMMA are leaving the LL after this season. Although Ithaca will help the LL once they join officially in 2017, the league will still need at least one new member to hang onto the NCAA AQ after the 2018 season.

Although one program was supposedly ready to join earlier this year, no announcement was ever made, either because the "deal fell through" or it's simply premature given the extended time table. Either way, Hobart and all the LL teams will lose three games in 2017 so it's good to see that friends like Coach Yoder have been able to help Hobart keep schedules closer to 10 games (I hope we never see a repeat of 2011 / the 8 game season) in future seasons.

Overall this is a positive development for both squads in that it allows a favorite Statesman to come home and it'll provide Hobart a long, playoff style road trip into relatively new territory down into Southern Northern VA in 2018.

That's all the news I have for now. Congratulations to the Classes of 2016 and go 'Bart!