NGSC Sports

Music City Bowl Recap

In a year full of happenings in college football, a game was played in Nashville Tuesday. The 17th Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl was a complete success and the game was pretty good too.

It started with the Official Welcome party at the General Jackson Showboat and Hard Rock Cafe. There were plenty of festivities for the student-athletes and coaches alike. It was an event for the sponsors and partners of the game to kick off the next few days in Nashville.

On Friday, the Franklin American Mortgage Coaches Luncheon was held at The Wildhorse Saloon. It was a chance for fans to interact with the coaches and players. There was a Q & A session with the two head coaches. It was good to see fans from all over having such a good time in this city.

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Later, I attended the Joint Coaches News Conference, where I asked coach Kelly about the four game losing streak to end the season and what adjustments he made for this game. He said that it more about personnel than anything else. He talked about why he was playing both of his quarterbacks and how he would like to use them. I then asked coach Miles about his impression on the season Leonard Fournette had and how he could be used in this game. He said that Fournette needed some time to adapt to the college game. He talekd of how he was a strong young man that fit their system at LSU. He said that he planned to get some useful carries from him. Well, we all know how that turned out.

That afternoon, it was the World Hot Chicken Eating Championship. This was a chance for the contestants to try some of the hottest chicken in the world, Nashville style.┬áMore than that, it was another gathering for a “sporting event” that just keeps getting more popular. Hey, we all have to eat, so might as well compete at that too.

The Battle of the Bands began in earnest with fans ready for all they could get. The tradition of battling bands is a big thing here in Nashville. The fans gathered around and listened to all the great music from the bands. It was the perfect party atmosphere in a city known for music. Oh yeah, the cheerleaders put in some real work too. They held up in the chilly weather and cheered until the were numb.

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Oh yes, there was also a game to be played between LSU and Notre Dame. The first adjustment coach Kelly made was to name Matt Zaire as his starting QB. All the kid did was show poise for a young man making his first career start. Senior Everett Golson would also see time in this game as well. The first question would be about how Zaire came out to start the game. As the first quarter wore on, it was clear that he was ready. He ran 22 times for 96 yards and was 12-15 for 96 more passing. He threw for a touchdown, ran for another and it got him the MVP for the game. It was evident early that his style posed a problem for the Tigers as Notre Dame held the ball for most of the first half. Zaire’s ability to run the ball and improvise enough was critical in the Irish win.

The Irish defense was also up to the task as they allowed just 17 first downs. The stayed fresh the whole game as ND won the time of possession battle by a whopping 37 to 23 margin. Another big play for this unit was a blocked field goal from 40 yards that would have put LSU ahead. The most critical moment in the game, in my opinion, was the final offensive series for LSU. If the Irish were to win this one, they would have to make a defensive stand. At the 9:49 mark, LSU got the ball at their 20. Everyone knew who was getting the ball, but he came up limp after an 8-yard run. They were able to get the first down, but after Anthony Jennings ran for two yards on third and three, it was decision time. It is in these situations that Les Miles is known for a little trickery. The vibe in the building was that he would definitely go for it, but the punt team immediately took the field. From there, it was all downhill, almost literally, for ND. Zaire would complete a key pass to Amir Carlisle and Golson would come in and hit William Fuller for 14 yards on 2nd and 15. A few more huge passes from Golson and the scene was set.

Les Miles told me at the press conference that he planned to get some useful carries from freshman Leonard Fournette. What he got was the biggest game of this young man’s career. He would carry the ball just 11 times for 143 yards and two touchdowns. One of those carries was a highlight run for 89 yards to put LSU ahead 28-21 in the third quarter. On top of his impressive ground game, he added an unbelievable 100-yard kickoff return to send the crowd of over 60,000 into a frenzy. He would end up with 13 touches for a total of 264 yards.

The problem on offense was the inability of Anthony Jennings to generate anything for his team. He was totally ineffective and his only highlight of the game was a 75-yard scoring pass to John Diarse. That touchdown pass was really made courtesy of an Irish defense that fell asleep on the play. Now the Tigers, in my opinion, were shorted when a fake field goal that was run into the end zone was called off. Replay shows that the ball had crossed the plane of the goal line before holder, Brad Kragthorpe, went down.

On the final drive, the Irish ended the game like they started it. They controlled the line of scrimmage and marched the ball down the field. After Golson’s last play of his career, an incomplete pass to Chris Brown, Zaire ran for eight and then no gain to set up the game winner. Kicker Kyle Brindza took a moment from 32 yards and settled into the scene that was set. It was about 30 degrees in Nashville sometime around 6pm central time. I stood on the field on the Irish sidelines and you could here a pin drop as the kick sailed in the air. In the next two seconds, mayhem erupted on the ND sideline. Joy and jubilation to a hard season’s end was all around.

The celebration on the field ensued and we, the media, went to work. I talked to some of the players and coaches and fans as well. They talked about how difficult the end of the year was and how good this win felt. LSU players had already cleared the field and the celebration continued for some time.

As I left LP field, I took the time to look all around me to see the faces of the people. To see how much all these folks enjoyed their time in my great city. LSU fans, as well as Irish fans gathered around the fence that would give them a view of the players as they left the building. It was then I got into a conversation with one of my sports heroes. I talked with him about his playing days and thanked him for all the good memories. We talked a bit about how it is to be a star and be in such demand in public. It was 10 of the most fun minutes I had spent in the last two days. As I looked for my car, I turned to say thanks and goodbye to a man that has given so many of us great memories. What a way to end two of the best days I have had in a long time. To be able to turn to the Admiral, David Robinson and say thank you again for the memories.

So another Music City Bowl comes to an end in a week that will be the best December Nashville’s economy has ever seen. Some of the fans said they would go back home, while others said they would bring in the new year in this city. It was a great experience and a heck of a game too. The festivities will be remembered until next year when we return to LP Field for the 2015 Music City Bowl. I will be there, will you?

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