We were looking forward to this last home game of the season against Syracuse. We've become particularly big fans of Brian Leonard and Clark Harris, and thought it would be great to come see them along with the other seniors play their last home game at RU. My kids met Leonard and Harris last year at the Rutgers Junior Camp and they've been great role models for them. Anyway, we were meeting Matt O'Connell, Scott Erney, Nick Tomlin along with some of Scott's buddies on an Easton Ave. lot and then driving over in Nick's Suburban to tailgate. We shared some old stories, threw the ball around, had a few beverages and then headed into the stadium. On the way we bumped into one of my old roommates, Mike Bouchard, who had this awesome barbeque set up right on the corner of Sutphen Rd. leading into the stadium (thanks to another old roommate, Doug "Koko" Kokoskie!). We hung out for a few minutes and agreed to stop by afterwards, so we continued on to Will Call were we had tickets waiting for us. This sort of "homecoming" for us continued as we bumped into Dan McHarris, another old roommate and former RU player whose promising career was cut short by two reconstructive knee surgeries. Dan and I go way back, playing high school football together and winning a state championship our senior year at Toms River South.
Finally, making it into the stadium, shortly after kickoff, we hear the cannon fire! RU was up, 7-0! We think to ourselves, is it going to be this easy? Well, we get to our seats settle in for a minute and then on 3rd and long, Courtney Greene picks one off and the stadium erupts! Teel comes in and on first down throws a great pass to Kenny Britt for a nice 40-yard, or so, TD! Maybe it is going to be this easy? RU, leading 14-0 only half way into the first quarter? I know Syracuse is down this year, but this was impressive. I don't think Syracuse had a first down in the whole quarter. Although both teams traded a few punts in the second quarter, you just felt that RU was in control and was not going to let this one get away. Teel threw for another touchdown to Britt with a few minutes left in the half to put us up 21-0.
In the second half, we went back to the basics with Rice and Leonard grinding it out, 6-, 7-, 8-yards a clip, and the crowd enjoying every minute of it. Leonard scores his first touchdown of the game down at our end and the fans go nuts! As I've heard some refer to it, the "love fest" began! Chants of "Brian Leonard, Brian Leonard" resonating the stadium as we all knew he was one point away from breaking the RU scoring record. Soon after, you see the big screen show the WVU-USF score, USF leading 21-12! Another big cheer from the fans! Syracuse starts to move the ball a little but nothing real threatening. Then Ito kicks a FG early in the fourth quarter, which was nice to see him get back to form. RU up 31-0, well into the 4th we can put this one to bed. We decide to head out and finish catching up with old friends and listen to the post-game on the radio. We get back to the truck in time to hear the call from Chris Carlin on Leonard's last TD in the last few seconds of the game. My only regret was not to stay in the stadium to see Brian score the record setting score and see him "lead the band". But, we did get to see him afterwards. We stopped back at Mike Bouchard's barbeque/tailgate as promised and we hung out for awhile. It was about five o'clock and we saw a group of guys walking toward us it was Brian Leonard and, what seemed like, a few relatives or friends from his hometown. Brian was surrounded by fans and signed autographs (including my kids RU hat and Leonard jersey!). Brian must have stayed around for at least a half an hour as the crowd moved into the adjacent parking area. He is truly a class act and a great role model for any kid.
I look forward to next weekend's game against WVU. Although RU may have lost focus against Cincy, you would have to agree they've regained it and these players are probably the most focused and determined group of players we have seen in a long time. An Orange or Rose Bowl invite is at stake, otherwise they'll be somewhere in Texas for a bowl (it seems the Gator committee is not interested which is very disappointing imagine thinking OK will draw better than RU in a Florida bowl game?). Each player will have to be at the top of their game. We know WVU is "beatable" but it will be tough at their place. They're not Syracuse or Pitt or USF, or even Louisville .it will not be easy. Regardless of the outcome, let's keep it all in perspective, 11-1 or 10-2 these are good times if you are a Scarlet Knight fan!