My Dad grew up a Baltimore Colt fan, and while as he went through college and started a family he probably lost his “die-hard” tag, to this day he still has a Baltimore Colt trash can in his garage. To this day I think he probably likes Fidel Castro a bit more than Robert Irsay, who moved the Colts to Indianapolis when I was three years old. While when it came to professional football I grew up rooting on the burgundy and gold, I also spent a lot of Saturday afternoons at Byrd Stadium with my Dad and his college buddies. While those are great memories with my father, there was always a certain bitterness that I sensed from him towards the entire football establishment. As I got older (and more and more infatuated with sports), I realized that his team was taken from him by a drunk hack of an owner.
Unfortunately, Irsay was probably well ahead of his time in that the reason he moved the team was due to the fact that the city wouldn’t build him a state-of-the-art stadium with luxury suites. (10-15 years later, it would become commonplace for teams in all sports to hold cities hostage if they balked on a stadium deal.) That aside, my Dad and I went to yesterday’s Maryland Terrapin season opener against Navy at M & T Bank Stadium. It was his first time attending a game at the stadium that’s become the home of Baltimore football. Our seats were on the club level at the 50-yd line (a friend of my Dad’s that came with us bought them off some guy on the street for half price). He was absolutely stunned when he entered the stadium and saw what a great place it was. I don’t think he would ever admitt it, but I think he was somewhat moved by all of the pictures and murals on the walls of the concourse depicting the old Baltimore Colts. Furthermore he was very impressed with the fact that on the Ravens ring of honor they had a banner that said “Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts.”
The game itself was a great defensive battle. The Terps scored on their first two drives of the game (without even having to put the ball in the air), which had me wondering if they might run Navy out of the stadium. However the Mids battled back to tie it at 14 in the third quarter. It was fairly obvious to me that Jamarr Robinson doesn’t have the confidence of Ralph Friedgen. Robinson had six pass attempts in the entire game, completing two for 11 yards. That’s almost unheard of in contemporary college football. The one time he did take a shot down the field the pass was picked off. Midway through the third quarter Ralph Friedgen appeared to lose confidence in Robinson, as he inserted Danny O’Brien in at QB, however that was short lived. Speaking for myself, I’d love to see Maryland with a more balanced attack offensively. In all seriousness, they might not win another game this season if they can’t get downfield through the air.
Defensively the Terps seemed to struggle with Navy’s triple-threat option between the 20’s. When the Mids got inside the red zone the Terrapin defense tightened, and was solid. The Terps got strong efforts from Adrian Moten and Kenny Tate. Moten caused Navy QB Ricky Dobbs to fumble in the third quarter when he “supermaned” over the line to tackle him inside the five yard line. On Navy’s final drive of the game, Moten also got flagged for what I think was a bogus facemask penalty after the Terps had stopped Dobbs on third and eight. Replays appeared to show Moten’s hand brushing across Dobbs’ helmet; definitely what I would call a ticky-tack penalty, especially in the fourth quarter. Furthermore, the officials seemed to let both teams play for the entire game, but started throwing laundry out on the field in the last 15 minutes. To make that call at such a critical juncture of the game is…ticky-tack as I put it. With the Terps having kicked a go-ahead field goal, Maryland led 17-14 on that last drive. Dobbs drove the ball down to the one, where Navy had it fourth and goal with thirty seconds left. Conventional wisdom says you kick a field goal; Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo wanted to win it outright at that moment, so he went for the TD. Long story short, Kenny Tate stopped Dobbs short of the goal line, giving Maryland the victory in one of the best football games I’ve ever seen. While I’m ecstatic that Maryland won, Niumatalolo’s decision should not be second guessed. Going for it on fourth and goal was one of the gutsiest calls I’ve ever seen a coach make, and he should be applauded for trying to win it as opposed to settling.
Overall, it was a great day for football, but more importantly for me I’m glad that I got to be there with my Dad. While he’d shrug it off now as being overly sentimental, I know that the Baltimore Colts meant a lot to him when he was younger, and those memories still resonate with him to this day. To be able to attend a game with him in the stadium that is now the Colts’ legacy was very special. However the real winner was the state of Maryland, who can boast both the Mids and the Terps as great programs.