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  1. I was reading this, picturing it, and was in my office crying from trying not to laugh. I've had dogs like Tubby. Worth the read, particularly if you're dog lover. Mark Schlabach ESPN Senior Writer Last week, a black cat captivated the country by running onto the field during a Monday Night Football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants. It also was a big topic of conversation among my family and friends, and even Washington State coach Mike Leach, who texted, called or tweeted memories of the infamous day in 1997 when my chocolate Labrador retriever made his own dash for glory at Georgia's Sanford Stadium during a game against Kentucky. That dog arrived in my life as a 20-pound bundle of fur and fury on Sunday, March 17, 1996. He was a graduation gift from my then-girlfriend, whose parents had purchased the dog from a breeder in Savannah, Georgia. I was living in the Sigma Nu fraternity house at the University of Georgia -- a crumbling, white French chateau-style house on the outskirts of campus and a not-so-suitable place to raise and train a dog. It was the day after the Bulldogs basketball team upset No. 4 seed Purdue 76-69 to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. My friends and I were watching games when my girlfriend brought the puppy into the room. When the dog vanished a while later -- it wouldn't be the last time he went missing -- I found him licking water off the shower floors. My friends and I had spent much of the previous hour trying to come up with a name for the dog. Someone suggested Tubby in honor of Tubby Smith, Georgia's first-year basketball coach, and when we found the dog in the bathroom the name seemed fitting. At that moment, I had no idea how adventurous my life with Tubby would be. After winter quarter ended in 1996, I finally graduated (in five-plus years) and took a reporting job with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I moved in with two friends in a house not far from the UGA campus. Fortunately, the landlord allowed pets and there was a big fenced-in backyard for Tubby. Apparently, the yard wasn't big enough. Whenever I left for work, Tubby spent the day trying to escape. When he figured out how to jump over the fence, I attached chicken wire to the top to make it taller. When he dug under the fence, I placed stumps, railroad ties and cinder blocks along the perimeter to make it Tubby-proof. Alas, nothing seemed to work. One night, when I assumed Tubby was in the backyard, I got a call from a man at Dunkin Donuts a couple of miles away. Tubby had his favorite spots all over Athens -- Waffle House, Taco Stand and Locos, a sandwich and wings joint a few blocks from our house, to name a few. One time, Tubby vanished for about 10 days. I thought he was gone for good. When I came home from covering a basketball game, he was sitting in a recliner wagging his tail. I had four different roommates during those four years I lived in that three-bedroom house on West Cloverhurst Avenue, and I'm pretty sure none of them was particularly fond of Tubby. Don't get me wrong, he was a friendly and lovable dog, but he was always looking for trouble and destroyed everything. Tubby's roommates describe living with him: Jeff Cass: Tubby simply could not be contained. He was spirited and loved to push the envelope. Jesse Baker: He chewed up everything -- wallets, hats, Frisbees, Birkenstocks and money. I'd never seen a dog eat cold, hard cash. Dan Fuller: Tubby's tail was a dangerous weapon. Nothing was safe -- beer bottles, glasses, spit bottles, everything. His tail ruined quite a few rugs. Baker: We had to keep everything on a fireplace mantle -- 6 feet up -- to keep it away from Tubby or he'd get to it. It wasn't a question of if, but when, Tubby would destroy whatever was left out. Steven Tomlinson: Tubby was an awful influence on my Great Dane, Jackson. Whenever Tubby slipped out the front door or out of the backyard, he encouraged Jackson to follow him. Of course, Jackson was dumb enough to follow him. Cass: Sometimes, when we were watching a football game or playing cards, the phone would ring and Schlabach would vanish. He'd come back a few minutes later with Tubby, who had been hanging at the Varsity, somewhere downtown or at a sorority house with the ladies. Adam Grason Jesse and Steven worked as bartenders at Locos. They often came home late and had pizza delivered to the house. As soon as they went to bed, Tubby nudged the refrigerator open with his nose and dragged the pizza box into the backyard. Most mornings, I'd wake up and survey what he had for a midnight snack. Finally, after Tubby pulled a few uncooked steaks into the backyard, we came up with a solution: We secured the refrigerator door with Velcro. Baker: Obviously, having to Velcro the refrigerator shut was a first. He was the only animal I've ever known that seemed so dull, yet was smart enough to open a refrigerator. Cass: Tubby had a rather sophisticated palate for a dog. It didn't matter if it was leftover pizza, chicken wings, sushi or lasagna. If it was inside the fridge when he opened it, it was coming out. Baker: Eggs were the worst things he'd get into, for obvious reasons. Cass: I remember him eating a garbage can full of leftovers from a huge low-country boil we had. He ate the corn, potatoes, shrimp and sausage. I'm pretty sure he even ate the onions. He had quite an appetite. Baker: At least he typically left our beer alone. Tubby's favorite thing in the world was chasing tennis balls. He wanted to play fetch every minute of every day. I'd sit on the back steps of our house and throw balls to him for hours. I'm pretty sure it's why the rotator cuff in my right shoulder hurts like hell when I throw today. One time, while I was driving past the YMCA -- with Tubby hanging out the back window of my beat-up Volvo -- he saw tennis courts. Going about 25 mph, he jumped out of my car's window, landed on four paws, dodged traffic and somehow made it to the courts. Whenever we had friends over to watch games or have a barbecue in the backyard, Tubby tried to coerce someone into throwing a ball with him. He always seemed to find at least one victim. When he brought the ball back, he didn't just drop it. You had to yank it out of his mouth -- he wouldn't surrender until he was certain it was adequately covered in slobber and dirt. Heather Schlabach (my wife): Playing fetch with him was the worst because he slobbered like a St. Bernard. Fuller: You could always tell who had been one of Tubby's victims because of the round stains on their shorts or pants. He liked to tag everyone with his mark. It was almost like a badge of honor. Heather Schlabach: He didn't have a mean bone in his body, but he was so mischievous. The dog was always in trouble. In July 1997, I took a vacation to England, where my then-girlfriend, Erin Cranman (now Witkow), was studying abroad. While I was overseas, Tubby spent three weeks at obedience school. It was long overdue. Tubby was nearly 2 years old and it seemed like maybe the window had closed in getting him properly trained. Thankfully, the dog trainer was confident he could correct Tubby's behavior. When I returned to Athens and picked Tubby up, the trainer looked at me and shook his head. "I did the best I could," the trainer said. "He's the most hardheaded dog I've ever worked with." "Tell me about it," I replied. Not much was expected of Georgia's football team in 1997. The Bulldogs were 5-6 in coach Jim Donnan's first season in 1996. They lost to Southern Mississippi 11-7 at home in Donnan's debut and were drubbed 47-7 by Florida in Jacksonville, Florida. Things were much better the next season. The Bulldogs were 5-1 and ranked No. 16 in the country heading into an Oct. 25, 1997, game against Kentucky at Sanford Stadium. I don't remember much about that morning. It was cool and rainy and not a great day for a football game. I do remember being excited about a date that night with a girl, Heather Hodges, who would eventually become my wife. It was a nationally televised game on CBS. The Wildcats weren't great; they had a 4-3 record but had beaten Alabama for the first time in 75 years. Kentucky coach Hal Mumme and offensive coordinator Mike Leach had installed the Air Raid offense, and Tim Couch led Division I in passing and total offense. When I left my house a few hours before the 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff, I made sure the back door was locked. It was rainy and muddy, and I didn't want Tubby making paw tracks all over the hardwood floors. I'm not completely sure how Tubby escaped the house. I can only guess he likely pulled the heavy, wooden front door open with his mouth. He had done it a few times before. It was an older home and the latch didn't always catch. I'm pretty sure we'd lost the key to the deadbolt several months earlier. A neighbor told me he saw Tubby leave the front yard and follow fans to the game. Adam Grason Once the game kicked off, it was pretty uneventful. I was sitting in my seat in the press box, working on a notebook and story for the early editions of the AJC. With about four minutes left in the first quarter, however, Tubby made his Sanford Stadium debut. Michael Adams, the then-UGA president, told me later he watched my dog follow the Redcoat Marching Band into the stadium through the gate near the east end zone. Once Tubby was inside, he somehow found a gap in the chain-link fence behind the famed hedges and ran to the middle of the field -- almost immediately after Georgia safety Kirby Smart intercepted a pass. When the crowd started cheering, I looked up from my laptop in the press box and saw the dog standing at midfield. Immediately, I knew it was mine -- and I could feel the blood drain from my face. I was helpless. I turned to one of my editors, Plott Brice, who lived in Athens. He knew Tubby and immediately realized it was my dog. Plott chuckled and shook his head in disbelief. I found Claude Felton, Georgia's longtime sports information director, in the back of the press box. He was on a walkie-talkie, telling someone, "We need to find out who owns that dog." I grinned and said, "It's mine." Claude told whoever was on the other end, "Hold on a minute." For about four or five minutes, Tubby eluded security guards, football players and coaches who were trying to catch him. The crowd cheered as he ran down the sideline before he finally ran off the field through the east gate, where an officer from Athens-Clarke County Animal Control intercepted him. Fuller: I was watching the game on TV with a few friends when we noticed a chocolate lab break onto the field. Immediately, I thought to myself there was only one dog in Athens I knew that could pull off that stunt. The late Larry Munson, Georgia's legendary radio play-by-play announcer, is famously known for heralding the arrival of Herschel Walker by exclaiming "My God, a freshman!" In this game, he broadcast Tubby's star-making performance live across the school's radio network. Somebody's chocolate lab is out there... I wonder who released him. Baker: I was bartending at Locos. I immediately told everyone at the bar it was Tubby. Folks didn't believe it, but I knew right away. Tomlinson: Tubby had an ankle-breaking, head-fake move, and I'd seen it hundreds of times when I was chasing him in the backyard. As soon as he made the move, I said, "That's Tubby." Fuller: I had my doubts until the camera gave a close-up shot of the lab's face. When I saw that one upper lip semi-curled under his teeth, with that unmistaken devious grin, there was no doubt it was Tubby. I'd seen that look before when he stole my steak off the grill. He keeps breaking out into the Kentucky secondary. He runs by an official. I can't believe I'm doing the play-by-play of the dog. Tony Barnhart, former AJC columnist, now an analyst with the SEC Network: Mark looked down on the field. Then he looked up at the television monitors. Then he looked back down on the field and said: "Tubby! That's my dog." And away he went, like a nervous parent looking for his kid at Disney World. He won't let 'em touch him. He's right in front of the Dawgs' bench right now. He has stopped the game completely. Matt Stinchcomb, SEC Network analyst, then a Georgia offensive tackle: I'd never seen Uga [Georgia's English bulldog mascot] look that jealous. He doesn't ever get to run on the field without a leash. Get the best of ESPN sent to your inbox The ESPN Daily delivers the biggest sports news and moments every weekday. Privacy PolicyRead the Latest Sonny Seiler, Uga's owner: Tubby's appearance excited Uga a bit. He was barking and wasn't happy that there was another dog on his field. He was confused, to say the least. Sonny Dykes, head coach at SMU, then a Kentucky grad assistant: You would compare it to a streaker who the security guys are trying to tackle, except it was a dog. Stinchcomb: I loved it. I got plenty of rest while Tubby made the rounds. Somebody needs to get a hold of the dog's collar. He belongs to somebody. We're trying to treat him with kindness and love by bending down and talking to him but he says, "No way." Mike Leach, Washington State head coach, then Kentucky's offensive coordinator: The dog didn't have great straight-line speed, but he could make you miss, and he made a lot of people miss that day. Stinchcomb: He would have made a pretty good punt returner. Baker: The dog was fast with amazing hip turn. It looked exactly like my failed attempts in our backyard to regain whatever he had pulled out of the refrigerator. Chris Hatcher, head coach at Samford, then a Kentucky graduate assistant: It was such a long stoppage of play, and it was a long time for Leach to come up with thoughts in his head. Smart, UGA head coach, then a Georgia safety: Kentucky broke a record for the number of passes at Sanford Stadium that day. They threw it over and over and over. It made for a long game. Then the dog added to it. It was a world-record length for a game. Leach: There were some fast people chasing him between world-class athletes from the University of Georgia and University of Kentucky. It took them a while to catch him. It's not like they just went out there and grabbed him by the collar. That dog played chase with about 100 new friends for a while. He's off the playing field, but we don't know if he's gonna stay. Now he breaks, streaking down to the far end zone. Yeah! They got him out. Hatcher: For that entire defensive series after they finally got the dog off the field, I listened to Leach telling stories about dogs and pirates. Thank goodness we finally got the ball back. After a couple of fans -- Fuller said he was lured off the field with a hot dog -- and the animal control officer finally corralled Tubby, he was taken to the Athens Clarke-County Shelter, where he stayed until Monday morning. As soon as I picked him up, I took him to my veterinarian, where he was groomed -- and neutered. About a month later, I appeared in front of the honorable Vickie Carter in the Municipal Court of Athens-Clarke County. If I recall correctly, I had citations for not having my dog on a leash, public nuisance and something else. A good friend, Billy Healan III, was an attorney and took my case pro bono. All these years later, he still calls Tubby his most famous client. Adam Grason When Judge Carter asked if there were any witnesses, I responded, "About 86,117." Fortunately, she dismissed the charges. Tubby wasn't a criminal. "I remember you asking me if we should plead temporary insanity, but I didn't think we could sell that to the judge," Healan said. "We were relieved but a little surprised with the acquittal. I believe the judge considered the fact that Tubby had already served a day in confinement and had an otherwise spotless record. I would like to say that Tubby was remorseful, but that would be a lie. I believe he would have done it again if he had gotten the chance." Tubby's run became part of local lore. I get asked about Tubby all the time. Earlier this year, as part of our CFB150 project, I told the story in a video that ran on College GameDay and I was covering Georgia's game against Notre Dame at Sanford Stadium that night, and as I was walking to the field in the fourth quarter, several UGA fans screamed to me, "Where's your dog?!" "It was one of the funniest things I've ever seen in a football stadium. I've told my wife about that dog for 20 years," Dykes said. "I don't think she believed me. I saw it on TV and was like, 'Look! See, I was here!' She said, 'OK, maybe you were telling the truth.'" The day after his famous escape, Tubby's photo was on the front page of the AJC sports section, with an article from Barnhart explaining how my dog ended up on the field. Video of the episode was shown on SportsCenter, and Tubby's run was CNN's Play of the Day. In 2004, I left Georgia to take a job at the Washington Post. Tubby was already showing signs of hip dysplasia, and my veterinarian worried the cold weather would make things worse. After Heather and I were married and had kids, our neighbors Dick Crooks and Kiki Pollard were semi-retired and fortunately liked to walk Tubby and our other dog, Shelby, a King Charles spaniel. With two toddlers and a job that required quite a bit of travel, I worried I wouldn't have time to give them proper attention. I didn't want to break them up either. Our neighbors were kind enough to adopt them. A few years later, after I'd taken a job with ESPN and moved back to Georgia, our old neighbors called and told me they were going to have to put Tubby down. The dog who became unforgettable for his escapability struggled to run anymore. One of his hind legs kicked out to the side because the hip dysplasia was so severe. I knew I had to go see him one last time. When I arrived at their house to tell Tubby goodbye, he was lying in the front yard. I'm pretty sure he didn't forget me, either. He limped up to the porch to see me. I sat on the front steps to rub his ears, and he promptly dropped a slobber-covered tennis ball in my lap.
  2. Even if USC wants to replace Will Muschamp as head football coach this year, the school may not be able to afford the $19 million buyout in his contract, several trustees told The State. “I personally don’t think the university can buy out a contract such as his,” said Trustee Egerton Burroughs. “My job right now is to keep tuition down and hopefully reduce tuition.” To be clear, none of the six trustees who spoke to The State on the record would say whether Muschamp should be fired. Instead, they said that decision should be made by either Athletic Director Ray Tanner or President Robert Caslen. USC board Chair John Von Lehe thinks USC could afford to pay Muschamp’s buyout should Tanner recommend his firing. “We could afford to get a new coach if Ray (Tanner) thinks that’s the right move,” Von Lehe said. However, “a sum of $18.5 million is not taken lightly,” Von Lehe said. Von Lehe noted that other Southeastern Conference coaches also have a buyout “in this range.” Tanner told The State for a previous article that Muschamp’s buyout is similar to other SEC schools. Speculation on whether Muschamp would be coaching the Gamecocks next year grew after the team’s 20-15 loss to Appalachian State of the Sun Belt Conference on Saturday, dropping the Gamecocks’ season record to 4-6. Other losses have come against North Carolina, 24-20; Missouri, 34-14; and Tennessee, 41-21. Despite those losses against games in which USC was favored, the Gamecocks topped the then No. 3 ranked Georgia Bulldogs 20-17 in double-overtime. “I’m very disappointed in this loss. I’m very disappointed in the whole season,” said Trustee Eddie Floyd. Asked if the university could afford to pay Muschamp’s buyout, Floyd said, “I don’t think it’s impossible, but I think it’s unlikely that we could afford it.” Hall of Fame USC football player and Trustee Chuck Allen said the multi-million dollar buyout is “a byproduct of exorbitant coaches salaries which exist in today’s market. They are problematic.” Having such a high buyout could be a lesson for the board of trustees in future athletic hires, said Trustee Charles Williams. “If I had to do it over again I would never have a buyout like this again,” said Williams, who agreed with Burroughs that USC can’t afford to buy out Muschamp. USC would pay Muschamp’s buyout over the life of the contract, which runs through the end of 2024. Tanner, USC’s athletic director, said a payout such as Muschamp’s would be mitigated somewhat if he were fired and found another job. The amount Muschamp is paid at his new job would be deducted from USC’s payout. The payouts would come in monthly installments. Assuming the contract is not renegotiated, this is what South Carolina would owe Muschamp each year, were he fired. Dec. 2019: $275,000 Jan. 1, 2020-Dec. 31, 2020: $3.45 million Jan. 1, 2021-Dec. 31, 2021: $3.6 million Jan. 1, 2022-Dec. 31, 2022: $3.75 million Jan. 1, 2023-Dec. 31, 2023: $3.9 millon Jan. 1, 2024-Dec. 31, 2024: 4.05 million On the surface, it may seem like USC is sitting on enormous amounts of money. USC has a $1.6 billion budget; the board of trustees recently approved borrowing $240 million to build an 1,800-bed campus dorm complex facility, and in one day this spring, USC raised more than $4 million, according to previous articles from The State and USC’s website. However, most of that money is already earmarked for other expenses such as teacher salaries, scholarships, research, new buildings, maintenance, student services and more, according to the school’s 2018-2019 budget.
  3. It was an SEC crew. Lee Hedrick started in 2017 with the SEC.
  4. All speculation on money. No inside info, just gaming through. I personally think they go after Norvell. Don't know about if CGM burned bridges or what is in their PTBs heads, but I just don't know if the money is going to work for Arky and CGM. They owe Morris 10 million, and I think they're paying Bret the Thumb 11 mill (although, they've stopped paying him in a dispute over whether his new job with NE Patriots means they don't owe him and have asked him to repay 4.2M - I imagine that is going to go to court and probably not going to be resolved until after a new coach is hired). Depends on whether AU will waive Gus's buyout or negotiate Arky paying for it via a new Arky contract for Gus. It's a million a year for each year remaining on the contract if he leaves willingly. Granted, if the AU PTB have already decided they want him gone, losing out on 5 million (for the 5 years remaining after this year - maybe 6, depending on when the trigger date is) is better than losing out on roughly 30M (depending on assistant buyouts and trigger date).
  5. Frankly, I thought the guy was gonna get fired at halftime yesterday. I mean, I didn't reach the conclusion at halftime, I literally thought be was not coming back out for the second half.
  6. Didn't Fleck sign an extension last week? Wonder what that new buyout looks like.
  7. Long read, but worth it. Five years ago this month, on a cold, windy and wet Saturday, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest faced off in a regular-season ACC game. That November 2014 matchup included 18 punts, five missed field goals, four turnovers, one ubiquitous social media meme and exactly zero points at the end of regulation. The game, which Wake Forest eventually won 6-3 in double overtime, marked a historic moment. It was the first game between power conference teams to finish scoreless after 60 minutes since 1983 (Oregon-Oregon State's 0-0 tie) and the only FBS game in the past 14 years without points in regulation. This weekend, they'll play again for the first time since that game when No. 19 Wake visits Virginia Tech (3:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network). The Demon Deacons have a chance to improve to 8-1, and the Hokies, fresh off a near-upset of Notre Dame, can control their own destiny in the chaotic ACC Coastal division. There is far more on the line this time around, but there's virtually no way this season's game will come close to matching the drama, heartache and utter ridiculousness of their previous meeting. It was, arguably, the worst football game ever played, and for those who suffered through it, it still resonates five years later. This is their story. 'Probably the worst offense I've seen in my life' DAVE GOREN, Wake Forest sideline reporter: The thing that stands out is that nothing stands out. BILL ROTH, Virginia Tech play-by-play voice, 1988-2015: That was not a football game. That was a tragicomedy. FRANK BEAMER, Virginia Tech head coach, 1987-2015: I remember their coach said we probably set offensive football back 20 years that night. [Actual quote from Wake Forest's Dave Clawson: "We put offensive football back 100 years."] DAVE CLAWSON, Wake Forest head coach: During offseason workouts and spring football, we'd scrimmage and struggle to make a first down against our defense. We knew we were in trouble before the season started. We went into it saying we had to slow it down, snap the ball with one second. It's third-and-8, we're going to run the ball and punt it. BRANDON CHUBB, Wake Forest LB, 2012-15: Fans want a shootout and touchdowns and exciting plays, and I understand that, but being in the state that Wake Forest was at the time -- rebuilding with new coaches and a lot of young players -- it was kind of a testament to the defensive staff. GOREN: That was probably the worst offense I've seen in my life. CLAWSON: We didn't have a quarterback. The two quarterbacks we inherited transferred to lower levels and neither played quarterback at that level. One guy, Kevin Souza, went to Winston-Salem State and they made him a receiver. The other guy [Tyler Cameron] became The Bachelor. [Cameron was a contestant on "The Bachelor" in 2019.] John Wolford came in and as a true freshman won the QB job with no competition. BEAMER: I just remember we didn't have exceptional talent. Michael [Brewer] was a very solid quarterback, very accurate thrower. We just had an average team on offense at the time. DAVE ARCHER, Raycom color analyst: Virginia Tech was loaded at receiver with Cam Phillips and Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges. They started the year beating Ohio State at Ohio State, lit them up. ROTH: I talk about that Ohio State game a lot -- that might have been Frank's greatest win with the team he had. That 2014 Ohio State team was dogged throughout the season for the loss to a mediocre Virginia Tech team in Week 2, but it squeezed into the first College Football Playoff as the No. 4 seed, upset Alabama and then beat Oregon for a national championship. CLAWSON: By the transitive property, we were the de facto national champions. MATT JAMES, Wake Forest WR, 2010-14: We should get a plaque or something for that. Amongst ourselves, that's something we talked about. But it goes to show any given Saturday you can win a football game. CAM SERIGNE, Wake Forest TE, 2013-17: You best believe we were talking about that in the locker room. That's all we had at that point. Wake Forest's motorcycle mishap an ominous start Before Wake Forest home games, the Demon Deacons mascot rides a motorcycle across the field to get the fans excited for kickoff. Before the 2014 game against Virginia Tech, the motorcycle refused to start. HOUSTON CLARK, Wake Forest mascot, Class of 2015: Sometimes that would happen. There's two we use. This was the main one. I was like, "I'm not a motorcycle guy," so I couldn't help. It's awkward because that's a big part of what we do. But it played into the game itself because it was just not a very exciting game. ANTONIO FORD, Wake Forest OL, 2010-14: I remember looking at ESPN and you guys said it was probably one of the worst games in college history. BUD FOSTER, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator: I've tried to forget about as many of those tough losses as I can, but some of those games tend to stick with you. LAUREN BROWNLOW, ACC commentator for WRAL-TV: I've watched a lot of bad games over the years, but I don't think I can think of another one that compares to this in just how perfectly bad it was. It was amazingly terrible in every way, so to me, it's still a work of art. A.J. HUGHES, Virginia Tech punter, 2012-15: That just wasn't a fun game. Nothing went our way, but then they'd miss a field goal, and then we couldn't convert a third down and here we are punting again. I played every game for four years, and that one is probably one of the worst. The first nine drives of the game included eight punts and a Wake Forest interception, but the Deacons finally sustained a drive -- seven plays, 31 yards -- that got them into field goal range. Wake Forest's Mike Weaver was a redshirt freshman kicker. He came on to attempt a 42-yarder. It was the first of four kicks he would miss in regulation. RYAN JANVION, Wake Forest safety, 2012-16: Weaver was hurt when he first came into college, and we didn't really believe he was hurt. He was terrible. He was missing extra points. He'd gotten a scholarship off a video. So naturally we were skeptical. Did you just finesse your way into a scholarship at Wake Forest off a YouTube video? But he ended up being an amazing kicker. MIKE WEAVER, Wake Forest kicker, 2013-17: It was kind of raining beforehand, so I just had to do my job and stay calm. I'd never kicked in rain before. I knew the ball would be wet so the hold had to be good, but I just had to do the same thing. I was kicking well in warm-ups and I was confident. SERIGNE: Brutal. I just remember we got in the red zone 100 different times and came away with nothing. Did we kick 10 field goals that day? JAMES: When Mike missed the first kick, it was uncharacteristic. He misses the second kick, and I've dropped multiple balls in a game before, so I know how it is. You've just got to show him love and know they'll come around. Then he missed the third kick. WEAVER: Clawson said, "I know some coaches would bench you, but we're sticking with you through this. We're confident in you and we know you can make these kicks." ROTH: You go back to the studio for halftime highlights and there weren't any. It was a sponsored segment, and I remember our producer saying, "We need a highlight." And I was like, "Here's a fabulous high, spiral punt sailing through the sky, and look at the remarkable poise on that fair catch!" CHUBB: [Wake Forest defensive coordinator Mike Elko] at halftime was saying, "If they don't score, they can't win," and we took it literally. FOSTER: We just felt like there's no way they can win if they can't score. The problem was we weren't scoring either. MICHAEL BREWER, Virginia Tech QB, 2014-15: Wake Forest had a really good game plan defensively. They had several blitzes dialed up, and we were changing protections, and every time, they'd know exactly what the protection was. They did a great job of scouting us. And it was just a really weird football game. KEN EKANEM, Virginia Tech DE, 2013-16: I was on punt team too. It got to a point where you wouldn't even take off your helmet. I was pretty much on call the whole time. ROTH: By the middle of the third quarter, it became almost comical because no one could score. It was maddening. The teams would get in range and then turn it over. It's like if you went to a concert and the band just warmed up for two hours. JOEY SLYE, Virginia Tech kicker, 2014-17: I remember just watching the game from the sideline thinking, "I feel like we scored." But we never did. EKANEM: It seemed like every time we watched the offense go on the field, there was some mishap. It was mind-boggling. A second half to forget The second half was a flurry of ineptitude. Weaver missed a 42-yard field goal, but Virginia Tech was offside. He followed it up by missing a 37-yarder on his second try. Virginia Tech drove close to the Wake Forest red zone and fumbled, and then Brewer threw an interception on the Hokies' next possession. Finally, Weaver had a shot to win it in the final seconds, lining up for a 37-yard kick. WEAVER: Our stadium, you never really had to play the wind, no matter how windy it was. I'd always tell my punter, the wind is so bad today, but every time I tried to play the wind, I'd either push it or pull it, so I just went down the center. Even in warm-ups, I was just down the center and the ball was going right where I wanted them to. So the first two, I went right down the middle and pulled them both left. For the game winner, I was on the left hash, and I was playing the wind. I was like, "I have to obviously aim for the right upright because the wind is still pulling left." So I did that, but the wind had no effect and I pushed it wide right. ROTH: People were crying tears of joy because Wake had gotten into field goal range at the end of regulation to put us all out of our misery. And then Weaver misses. Frank Beamer's lasting image If there is a lasting legacy of the game, it's the image broadcast on Raycom's feed going into a commercial break after Weaver's miss. The score flashed on the screen beneath Beamer, arms aloft in a state of sheer joy. BEAMER: Well, we didn't lose. We still had a chance to win. EKANEM: That picture should just be embroidered onto that game. Raycom Sports SERIGNE: That meme of Beamer celebrating cracks me up every time I see it. That was 0-0 and funny, but man it felt pretty great to us. I see it all the time. I laugh. The context for people -- everyone else remembers that being an awful game and laugh, but I'm like, dude, I remember that being a great day. CHUBB: Frank Beamer is a legendary coach. To see the joy and excitement of a legendary coach who you think so highly of, celebrating 0-0 going into overtime -- it speaks volumes of how that game was played. Overtime wasn't much better In two overtime periods, Wake and Virginia Tech combined to run 18 plays that totaled nine yards. Slye and Weaver traded field goals in the first OT, and Virginia Tech got the ball to start the second period. SLYE: Brewer got sacked. Instead of throwing the ball, we took a big sack, which pushed the kick back to 53. BREWER: Yeah. I don't have a whole lot to say about that play. That's still a tough one. SLYE: Back then, I could hit from 60. I was hitting from 55 or 60 during warmups. I remember, though, a lot of my field goals that year I was pulling left. HUGHES: Joey has a huge leg. The distance was never a question. It was definitely windy, but I always thought he could kick through any bit of wind. We had the confidence in him. WEAVER: It was a deep one and he had the leg on it, but he pulled it left. I'm sure he tried to judge the wind too. Right now, yes, I feel bad for any kicker. But during the game, absolutely not. I was ecstatic. Looking back I feel bad because he had the leg on it, but during the game, no. Wake's final drive went for 4 yards, leaving Weaver with one more try from 39 yards out to win it. WEAVER: I didn't really believe it. I stood there and watched it go through. It hadn't registered with me yet that it was good. But my punter jumped up as soon as I hit it. CLARK: I watched the video of it the other day. At the end of it, another one of my mascot friends was in the background, jumping up and down as the field goal went through. It's fun to think back that, there he is going nuts. GOREN: I had Mike Weaver on postgame. Typically, if you ask me five years later what player you had on after the game, I wouldn't remember. But I definitely remembered Mike. We talked about redemption. I remember he had a smile on his face. As much as probably any player I've covered in my career, certainly in my 31 Wake teams I've covered, he was as hard on himself as anyone I can remember. And after he got done with me, he was probably still ticked at himself for the three he missed. ROTH: We talked with Bud after the game, and he was like, "What the f--- are we supposed to do?" Bud was really upset because he thought they had a really good game plan. Harvey Haddix once threw a no-hitter, but the Pirates lost and he never got credit for it. FOSTER: If you'd have told us at that hotel that morning that we'd only give up six points, I would have taken it. You hang around this game long enough and you'll see just about everything. I just wish I could unsee that final score. JANVION: It was incredible. People were taking pictures. We dumped the cooler on the coach. Clawson basically said, "Yeah, we all know it was messy, but we did it, so friggin' enjoy it." That's one thing I think he did a great job of is celebrating the small victories. CHUBB: I remember posting on my Instagram us celebrating in the locker room, and I actually deleted it later that night. I was like, damn, I'm celebrating a 6-3 win on a 3-7 team. All my friends at Georgia Tech and South Carolina are laughing. But we celebrated like a bowl win. Emotions were high. Remembering the 'Wakeyleaks' scandal Of the myriad twists and turns and ugliness of the game, one of the darkest details didn't emerge until two years later, when Wake Forest found one of its play sheets left on the field after Louisville's practice. An investigation uncovered that a Wake broadcaster and former assistant coach had been providing opposing coaches with the Deacons' game plan. An assistant at Virginia Tech was among those provided with details. CLAWSON: You look at the film, and you present some things you haven't presented before, and they're calling them out. We just thought they'd stolen signals. After the game, you're having all these internal debates about trying to signal different, people are getting this. Then you find out later it was something else. Those things were tough to stomach a year later. JAMES: I just felt bad for our staff because you know how hard they work and the time they spend away from their family. That's a low blow. I feel bad for Clawson, and you wonder what it would look like if everything had been even. GOREN: I've not seen or heard what, if anything, they used in that game. But you'll always ask that question. But the amazing thing is that Wake was able to win the game despite that. BROWNLOW: I think it enhances the game that they knew what was going to happen and still couldn't win. And the thing is, that line was so bad, you didn't need to know. A lasting legacy Beamer retired after the 2015 season, and Ford, Phillips and Hodges were part of an explosive offense that returned the Hokies to the ACC championship game a year later. Wake's early struggles under Clawson paid long-term dividends too. The Deacons have clinched a fourth consecutive bowl berth this season. The 6-3 double-OT game certainly wasn't the turning point for either program, but it's a game that has stuck with the players, coaches and fans who were involved. FORD: I don't really think about it until my wife brings it up. She was in the band, so she saw that game. She'll be like, "Remember when you guys didn't score on Virginia Tech?" BEAMER: People say it wasn't good, but the defense was really good, and the kicking game did make some plays. We've been in those types of games before and we won a lot of them. BREWER: Games like that, it leaves a bitter taste all these years later because you feel like nine out of 10 times -- 10 out of 10 times -- you feel like you'd win. And we found a way to lose that day. CLAWSON: Wolford got better but the story is how much better we got around him. It gave us a unique opportunity on offense to grow the thing from the ground up. We weren't losing pieces every year. There was a large portion of those guys that got to play together for three or four years. It was a negative when we got here but it ended up a positive. SERIGNE: As you're building that culture and you're in that time where you've worked so hard and grinding so hard and not seeing the results -- that little glimpse, even if it was a 6-3 sloppy win, you get that feeling of a win and it's addicting and you want to find a way to get back and get more of those. We kept trying to build off that. CLARK: I feel like it plays into the bigger story of being a Wake fan. It's that thing where we're just going for a big upset, and we don't really care how we get it. At multiple times we blew it, and somehow we're still in it. It's bad for the playbook or the stats, but hey, we'll take it.
  8. Good article on managing fanbase expectations, both from an AD communication standpoint and from just general keeping things calm and realistic. There but for the grace of God go we. Link Bob Stoops did Florida State fans — and the school’s administration — a huge favor on Tuesday. Hours after a flurry of Internet activity and even a report from a local television affiliate that Stoops was on the brink of accepting the Seminoles’ suddenly open coaching job, Stoops told ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit he’s “not a candidate” to replace Willie Taggart, who was fired on Sunday. Look at the bright side, Florida State fans: Better to have your hopes and dreams dashed now than sometime the first week in December when your school disappoints you by hiring someone who, well, isn’t Bob Stoops. If only everyone in the coaching search business was so smart. As the coaching carousel begins to unfold over the next month with firings and rumors and leverage plays that will fuel new contracts, here’s some free advice to any athletics director or school president with an opening: Be up front about who you’re *not* going to hire. Yes, that means you, Southern California. Though it’s a little bit premature for USC, given that it hasn’t quite gotten around to actually firing Clay Helton yet, the first thing school president Carol Folt should do is tell her fan base the same thing that has been communicated behind the scenes: She doesn’t want Urban Meyer to be the next coach there. That was the impression multiple candidates who were part of the school’s recent athletics director search were left with, according to two people with knowledge of the process, who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because the conversations were supposed to remain private. And if that’s indeed the case, it would benefit both Folt and new athletics director Mike Bohn (who hasn’t been officially announced but is expected to formally accept the job in the coming days) to set that expectation right away for the hundreds of thousands of USC fans who have spent this fall dreaming about Meyer coming out of the Fox broadcast booth and bringing their program back to prominence. Hey, if it’s not going to happen, it’s not going to happen. Why wait to make that clear to the fans, some of whom are prone to be let down if it’s anyone but Meyer? The problem is, too many people in college sports are taught to value secrecy over managing expectations when it comes to hiring coaches. Just consider what happened at Tennessee two years ago. From the moment Butch Jones was fired on Nov. 12, and even to some degree before that, the Tennessee fan base had been infatuated with the idea of Jon Gruden coaching the Vols. Beyond some circumstantial connections to the University of Tennessee — Gruden had met his wife, a Tennessee alum, while he was a graduate assistant there briefly in the mid-1980s — there was little public indication he actually wanted the job. And behind the scenes, then-athletics director John Currie knew the truth: Gruden wasn’t interested, even though he wasn’t saying that publicly. But in the absence of any public comment about Gruden from either side — Currie, like most of his colleagues in the world of athletics administration, went silent during the search — speculation grew rampant. Fans started getting excited about the possibility, convinced it could really happen. It wasn’t just message board stuff, either — some traditional media outlets added fuel to the fire. It got so out of control that even former Vols quarterback Josh Dobbs texted Currie during the search asking if the Gruden rumors were legitimate. “Geez even you?” Currie replied. Had Currie sent that message in a public way, he could have saved himself a whole lot of chaos that followed. Maybe he could have held a press conference to acknowledge the speculation and tell fans directly that the school had received word Gruden wasn’t interested. Or he could have leaked it to every major national and local media outlet as an anonymous source. It doesn’t really matter. The bottom line is, a significant part of the Tennessee fan base thought it was getting Gruden until word began leaking out on the morning of Nov. 26 that it was on the verge of hiring Greg Schiano. And, of course, the reality was so far off from the expectation that fans freaked out, setting a series of events in motion that led to Schiano’s offer being pulled and Currie being fired a few days later. Would the reaction have been different if the Gruden conversation had ended before it really gained steam? Maybe not entirely, but if fans knew from the start that the actual candidate pool was fairly underwhelming — Tennessee, of course, ended up hiring a first-time college head coach in Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt — the whole process would be easier to stomach. That should be a lesson for Florida State and USC, because as great as those jobs can be, there aren’t many coaches who have a track record of winning at the highest level and even fewer who would be willing to leave their current jobs. You’re not getting Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney or Lincoln Riley. You’re probably not getting Brian Kelly out of Notre Dame to start over somewhere else. The only other active college coaches who’ve made the College Football Playoff are Georgia’s Kirby Smart, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher (when he was at Florida State), Washington’s Chris Petersen and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio. Maybe Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, who came within seconds of winning the national title in 2013, would be willing to leave — but that’s only because he’s already worn out his welcome with a lot of the fans there. Penn State’s James Franklin would be great at either job, but those schools better be ready to pony up big, big money to make it happen. Once you get past that group, however, there’s a huge drop-off to assistants or Group of Five coaches like Memphis’ Mike Norvell, who might be great moving up to a blue blood job or might not. We just don’t know. But at least that’s the kind of coach Florida State and USC fans should now expect, moreso than Urban Meyer or Bob Stoops. And making that clear on the front end will save a lot of heartache later on.
  9. Not counting the top 10 - who would you put ahead of us? Which of the 12-25 do you think is markedly better? The offense is middle of the pack, but the defense would throttle any one of those teams.
  10. Likewise, but I don't ever remember an instance, so no worries. WDE!
  11. And it was super noticable, too, particularly because the big games in the beginning of the season were pulling that average up. And not all those 54K were staying for the blowouts.
  12. I think that's actually what has me so sad, man. I'll crack a drink open with you no matter what, but I hope it's with a "cheers" or a "here, cry into this," but dammit, I won't accept fatalism. Don't make me flip the lights on and off yelling FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT. You're good people, your opinions are not dumb or unworthy, you're passionate and care about Auburn, and therefore I say to you, sir: War Damn Eagle.
  13. Sorry, still not used to that yet. I'm not a big basketball fan, but I loved last year. Can't watch it at the house, though, my wife hates the SQEEEKSQUEEKSQUEEK noises.
  14. So, before the playoff, the only thing we played for was being in the top 2 or the season was a waste? And before the BCS, it...just didn't matter at all? Undefeated or fire everyone? Like, I understand wanting to win and want to be in the playoff, but - no offense, and not an attack - this is an incredibly short-sighted take. 10-2 with beating your two biggest rivals is a season that for 145 of the 150 years of CFB would have led to ticker-tape parades and girls throwing their undergarments at you in the Waffle House. (scattered, smothered, covered, and laced, I guess) I look forward to football for MONTHS. I honestly can't understand a point of view where winning more than 90% of your games is an unenjoyable failure of a season. We may end up 8-4, might end up 9-3, outside shot at 10-2. Whether or not the coach needs to go - and that's clearly open to debate - that's an objectively successful season. That's something to play for, and thinking differently is a terrible disservice to the team, the school, and the players. Is it as successful as we want? no, I HAAAAAAATE losing (as my parents, who I watch every game with, or my wife, who has to deal with me moping and cussing), but it's not a failure either. Some of you folks act like we're in the middle of 2012. It's absolutely baffling (outside of the coach firing thing, even). It's Auburn, its the fall, it's football time, we only get 3 or 4 more games before the long winter where we have to cling to whispers of where high school boys are going to go visit, followed by in-depth analysis of a scrimmage that we watch like junkies hoping the shakes don't start up before Fall practice. Heck, we've all been driven to drink anyway, might as well try to enjoy it a little bit, man.
  15. A cautionary tale on many levels. Will be interesting to see who they get. Going to be interesting to see who they CAN get, and how short a leash they're going to be on. FSU is about to be in a world of hurt. Good name recognition, but at this point that's about all it has going for it. Fisher left a mess, Taggart was in the middle of...uh...rearranging the rubble. Going to be a few more years of transition. My guess is they go after Josh Heupel.