Thursday, February 9, 2012

Reflections & The Golden Ticket 2/9/12

I sit here and wonder what it is going to be like without football. The bowl games are over and the Super Bowl just passed me by. The Spring game is too far away and I don't want to even thing about how far away the start of the 2012 season is. I think I would like to be a bear right now. I can go into hibernation and wake up and football is here again! That would be sweet! 2011 was such an awesome season. I would of never in my wildest dreams imagined our season would of finished like it did. I have so many great memories from the Spring game to the final whistle. My reflections of the season will start with the Southern Miss game. I guess water was the word of the day! Since this game was a 9:00 CST start, I thought for sure the rain would give us a break before kickoff. I was wrong as we got hammered with around 10" of rain. I got to do two firsts at the opening game of the season. I had to make a trip to Walmart and buy new drawers since I did not pack any. Hanging loose was not on my agenda and tailgate in our hotel room.
When we arrived at the stadium and saw the field I had to look twice. It looked like there was a lake on the field. How are they going to play this game? I watched Matt take warm ups and they had him kicking out of large bodies of water. It looked like an explosion shot out of a sand trap. This is going to be interesting! The game started on time with multiple ponds all over the field. I will call this game the game of missed opportunities. We get the ball on their 14 yard line and go for it on 4th and 1 instead of taking the 3 points. You guessed it, Southern Miss takes possession of the ball. Then with 3 minutes left in the first half, 4th and 18 on their 34 yard line we decide with 7 seconds left on the play clock to send in the FG team. You can't do that with 7 seconds. We get slapped with a delay of game penalty and the punting team comes on. We played a great game overall, but with the final score Southern Miss 19 to 17 we left too many missed opportunities on the field.
I still believe you have to take points when they are there to be taken. In this game they could of changed th outcome of the game. One cool memory for me was watching Matt come out during half and nail 2 FG's from 51 and 56 yards each. This is where the FG would of been before the penalty and after. You can not tell me Matt is not focused and mentally tough. Our first home game was against Central Arkansas. This meant family and the first tailgate of the season. I got a new flat top griddle during the off season and breakfast and lunch would be cooked the old school way. This game was a game of wild plays, long bombs and two defenses who did not want to be on the field. I got to witness my first OT game and La Tech wins 48 to 42. It was not supposed to happen this way, but a win is a win! Our defense made an incredible block of their FG attempt in OT. This opened up the door for us to take it either way. Our next game was against U of H. We had lots of family come in for this game. I was looking forward to this game the most.
A top 25 team coming to Ruston was where it was at. Fajitas were on the grill and game time was here. We pulled all stops out in the first 3 quarters with a fake FD that led to a TD and Matt connecting on a 47 yard FG into the wind. Tech goes into the 4th quarter with a 34 - 14 lead. Then the circus brought in a roller coaster and we go from the top to the bottom as CK leads U of H to 21 unanswered points and defeats Tech 35 - 34. Oh the highs and lows are very painful. Onward to Cow Bell University we go. Mississippi State was our next opponent. Anytime you plat an SEC team it is going to be a tough game. We go back in forth in this game. The offensive play calling is suspect towards the end of the game. We go to our 2nd OT game of the season and the Cow Bells win 26 - 20. Matt connects on FG's of 43 and 28 yards. Another game of missed opportunities. Looking back at our season after 4 games we could really be 4 - 0 instead of 1 - 3. The Hula girls come to town next.
The team will be sporting their red uniforms. This game got ugly early with each team having a PAT blocked and then the 22 minute referee fiasco that completely changed the game. Tech was never in this game as the skirts win easily 44 - 26. Next we head to the potato state to take on the Vandals. My brother made his way over from Portland to attended the game. Tech dominated the game with a strong defense and an incredible punting exhibition. Matt connected on another FG as Tech wins 24 - 11. This was an awesome road win and we really needed it. We travel to take on the Blue Aggies next. I had to follow the game on game tracker as I was traveling back to Dallas from New Orleans. Tech was up 7 - 0 when I boarded the plane and when I landed we were down 14 - 17. As I made my way from the airport to the house, Tech scored a TD and a FG and held on to beat Utah State 24 - 17. Wow! 2 wins in a row and 2 wins back to back on the road.
San Jose State comes to Ruston next. The excitement is in the air with the possibility of winning 3 straight games. Frito pies and chili dogs were on the tailgate menu for this cool crisp day. Tech started out slow, but came on strong to close the first half out at 24 - 14. Each team scored 2 TD's in the 2nd half and Tech wins it's 3rd straight WAC game and is in good position to challenge for the WAC title. Matt had another FG in this game. Off to the west coast we go to take on the fake Bulldogs for Fresno. Fresno is a tough place to win at. Tech starts off early and often as Tech goes into half up 34 -7. I think I was pretty numb at that point as normal teams don't do this to Fresno State. We gave up a couple of late TD's and roll on to victory 41 - 21. That is 4 straight wins and 3 straight road wins. Matt made 3 FG's during the game. Next up we travel to Oxford for an out of conference game against Ole Miss. We had about 20 people going to the game. We got to test drive some BBQ in Memphis and tailgate in the Grove. It was a chilly and very windy day.
No matter who they are, all SEC teams are tough especially at home. With a TD and couple of missed FG's by both teams Matt comes in with no time on the clock and nails a 43 yard FG into the same nasty wind to send Tech into the half with a 10 - 7 lead. Can I say it was a major momentum shift? Tech scores 2 more TD's and Matt connects on another FG into the same crazy wind and Tech wins 27 -7. At this point I am thinking we have something very special going on and I know we still have more football to go. Can you believe that is 5 wins in a row and 4 on the road. We have also become bowl eligible. Oh My! Off we go to Reno to tackle the Wolf Pack. Nevada is always tough to play at home. Nevada scores first and goes into half up 7 - 0. We exchange a couple of FG's as Matt connects from 29 yards out. Nevada scores another TD and FG and goes into the 4th quarter up 20 - 3. Midway through the 4th quarter Tech runs off 3 straight TD's and with 51 seconds left we are up on Nevada 24 - 21.
The defense holds strong and Tech wins 24 - 21 and a possible share of the WAC Championship. This is pretty exciting as we have now won 6 straight games and 5 straight on the road. New Mexico State is next on our schedule. A lot of family and friends would be in town as we celebrate Thanksgiving. Gumbo was the tailgate food for this game. We started cooking early as we knew the wind and rain would hit just a little after noon. Mother Nature did not fail us as she was right on time. With a constant down pour the Tech offense exploded for a 23 - 0 halftime lead. You sort of had this feeling that good things were getting ready to happen. Matt made a 33 yard FG in the first half. The second half was no different as we blew out New Mexico State with a 44 - 0 win. With a Nevada loss to Utah State that made us the outright WAC Champion and on top of that the Poinsettia Bowl selected us to play in their bowl in San Diego. I told you we got the GOLDEN TICKET!
Can you believe this? Being on the field in the rain celebrating with Matt and all of the players, family and fans is something I will never forget. Watching Matt hold the WAC Championship trophy and that big smile brought tears to my eyes. When you work hard and believe, you can accomplish anything you want! What an awesome season and it was so special to spend it with all of our family and friends! Matt Nelson you Rock! San Diego here we come! We made our plans for San Diego and we are ready to go. The team would arrive San Diego on Saturday, December 17th, Janet & I, John & Carol (mom & dad), Meggie & Papaw (Janet's mom & dad), Cathy, Wes, Parker & Peyton (my sister and her family) and David & Barbara (Janet's aunt & uncle) all made our way to San Diego on December 18th. The game was on December 21st so we would have plenty of time to visit with Matt and explore San Diego. We all arrived around the same time. We were staying at the team hotel which was very close to the airport.
Before we went to the hotel we found a Trader Joe's and loaded up with snacks and adult beverages. Their 2 Buck Chuck is pretty good stuff. One of the other things we found were these Kettle Corn cookies. If I did not have to share them I would have eaten the whole bag. Darn those things were good. Matt had practice today and then the team went to the zoo. After he returned from the zoo we were already at the hotel. He was sporting his new warm ups and his new Nike shoes. He said they got other shirts, sweat shirt, a watch, a gift card to Best Buy and they get to keep their jersey. I thought that was pretty sweet. He said he was going to use his gift card to buy a Keurig single cup coffee maker and a Kindle Fire. What a great reward for an awesome season. Matt had free time from 4:30PM to 1:00AM so a few of us went to the hospital to visit with Vince Cano and see how he was doing. His gall bladder had flared up and he had surgery earlier that day. I think Vince was pretty excited that Matt came to visit and check on his good buddy. We visited with Vince for about an hour and then headed out to get something to eat.
We were looking for a diner and we found one called Brian's. Once we got seated and got our menu we soon discovered that we were in a very friendly diner. We decided to wing it and the food was actually pretty good. The entertainment was not so good! We made our way back to the hotel and visited with Matt before it was lights out for me. It was awesome getting to spend a little time with Matt during this awesome event.  Monday we went to watch practice. It was really cool getting up close and watching the team go through various plays. After practice was over the team went to Sea World and we headed to Hodad's in Ocean Beach. If you watch Diners, Drive-ins and Dives you will recognize this place as one of Guy's favorites. It is a hole in the wall that serves awesome burgers. I was so stoked we did this and the food was outstanding! We made our way back to the hotel and caught up with Matt. He wanted to run out to Torrey Pines and look around. We looked around the pro shop and the had an observation deck that you could see several hole and the pacific ocean in the background.
It was pretty awesome! We made it back to the hotel and caught up with the rest of the family and we all went to dinner. It was cool getting everyone together and celebrating this time with Matt. Tuesday morning we caught the bus from the hotel and went to the USS Midway. Both teams would be there along with the bands. The bands had a battle of the bands and it was so loud on the 2nd deck of the carrier. Shortly after that both teams arrived and then the line formed to get our food and find a seat. It was so crowded. Both teams had players speak along with the head coaches. It was really well done! After everything was done the team left and we toured the flight deck. This thing was huge! What an awesome experience! Matt had special teams meeting this afternoon so we were just going to take it easy back at the hotel. My dad had some friends in San Diego so we went to dinner with them. We had some great Italian food. We caught up with Matt for just a minute when we returned. He had to be in his room by 10:00PM.
It is game day! It is time to get my game face on. We started early this morning with a quick drive to Point Loma to visit the Carrillo National Monument and the historic lighthouse. The views were breathtaking. Then we made our way to the Coronado Brewery for our pre-game lunch with the rest of the family. The beer was good and cold and the food was awesome. I will visit this place again. There happened to be a liquor store right next door. We loaded up our ice chest with Alaskan Amber and headed to Jack Murphy Stadium. (Qualcomm Stadium) After paying $20 to park we headed as close to the stadium as we could and got to park on the 2nd row. We were also very close to where the La Tech fans would enter the stadium. After a few adult beverages and chill time we ran in to Mr. Harper, his wife and daughter. Shortly after that Mr. Rust found us and then it was back to the adult beverages. All of the family went into the stadium to see the team warm up. Mr. Rust and I celebrated this awesome ride as this was his last game to have a Dawg in the fight.
This would be Dusty's last game an he was so proud of Dusty's accomplishments at Tech. We made our way into the stadium. It was awesome! Janet had given Mr. Rust her ticket so he could sit by me during the game. We don't sit well together during the games. The pre game was awesome and I am ready for some football. TCU kicks off and Tech runs off 5 plays and punts. TCU sputters as well and punts the ball back to Tech. Tech drives the ball down to the TCU 4 yard line and Matt comes in and drills a 23 yard FG. Hoo Ya! That was pretty. The first quarter comes to an end with Tech up 3 - 0. TCU starts the 2nd quarter off with a 25 yard FG and we are tied at 3 - 3. Tech marches down the field and scores a quick TD and the PAT is good. Tech is up 10 -3. TCU sputters again and punts the ball. Tech drives down and sets up Matt for a 43 yard FD and he killed the ball as it just sailed left of the posts. I felt so bad. He made such a good connection on the ball. TCU takes over and still has to punt the ball back to us. CC drives the team down the field and throws an INT. TCU take the ball and ponds it in for a TD. We are tied at 10 - 10 as the half ends. Both teams have had their share of mistakes, but we are still in this game. TCU takes the ball to start the 3rd quarter and drives down and scores. Tech takes the ball and marches down the field and HL scampers 2 yards and scores.
The PAT is good and we are all tied at 17 -17. We exchange punts and then CC finds MW for a 61 yard bomb. The PAT is good and we are up 24 -17. I can smell a victory. Let's do this! The 3rd quarter comes to an end with Tech in the lead. The 4th quarter starts with a long drive by TCU and we are tied at 24. Tech goes 4 and out and TCU throws a 42 yard bomb with 6 minutes to go in the game. TCU now leads 31 - 24. We still have time. Tech takes the ball and runs 3 plays and we have to punt. TCU takes the ball at the 3:33 mark and runs out the clock. Oh we were so close! I am still proud of our performance. We hung very tough with a top 15 program and the winner of last years Rose Bowl. I would say our program is on the right track. We made our way over to the buses to see Matt. This was going to be quite a task as the TSA was right there making the players and coaches go through a make shift security line. I guess they were going right to the plane and they had to take off before 11:00PM due to a noise law/curfew.
If they did not make it they would have to wait until tomorrow. Matt finally made his way through security and I got a big hug. I told him I was very proud of him and to enjoy the moment. He told me that the FG he missed was one the best foot to ball contacts he has made. The ball just drifted left. We said our goodbyes and made our way back to the car. We celebrated our awesome season with a few more adult beverages. Mr. Rust made his way back over to our tailgate area. We gave him a big hug. I am not sure how I will feel when Matt plays his last game at Tech. I have on more year to go and I really don't want to think about it. We headed back to the hotel and grabbed some food before calling it a night. We were a little slow in the morning. We had an early afternoon flight back to North Dallas. All I can say is WOW! What a ride! What a performance by this team this year. This group of guys fought hard and they fought hard for each other. I am so proud of all of them.I know Matt did not have the season he wanted. Kicking is a funny game! Matt will grow from this. I think his senior season will be his best.
He is mentally sound and is leg strong. He will be working with his kicking instructor during the spring and over the summer. He will refine the little things he needs to do so that he is ready for the season. He also has his mentors CB, JS and MS who have been there for Matt whenever he has had a need. We are so grateful for them! We are very proud of Matt being selected to the 2nd team All WAC and to the 1st tam All WAC Academic team. These are awesome accomplishments! Matt has also been approved by the Dean for graduate school and will be taking concurrent classes towards his MBA. Matt will graduate with a finance degree this summer and should complete his MBA at the end of the Spring in 2013. This will be an awesome accomplishment in 4 years! We are so proud of you Matt. I need to take a moment and thank everyone all of the support we have had over the past year. We are so blessed to have such amazing family and friends. We have made so many new friends at Tech and we thank you for all of your support! So many of us who would not normally get together very often have been brought together by this awesome game they call football.
We can not thank you enough! Again we are very blessed! From Dad to Matt: Where do I begin? You have taken me places that I have never dreamed of going. You have made me laugh and you have made me cry. You are such an amazing person and your will and determination gives me hope that I one day will understand how to live life to the fullest. Your commitment to your lord, your family, your coaches and most importantly to your teams is so amazing! Thanks for the memories, the guidance, the phone calls, the love and for just being you. I can't wait to see what you bring to the table next season. I love you man! I will leave my reflections of this season here. Thanks so much to those who have followed my journey. I am so blessed to be able to capture these moments and share them with you. I want to send out special prayers to the Duplessis family and the La Tech family. We were saddened by the loss of Tyrone. Things like this make us ask why? Why Lord did this happen? Even though God has a plan for us it is still tough to swallow. Matt was very upset when he found out and then realized that he needed to be there for his teammates and make sure they were all ok.
Tyrone and Matt came in with the same recruiting class and they were pretty close. CD asked Matt to be there when the family arrived and even though he did not know what to say when he first saw Mr. Duplessis he knew that a hug would say the right thing. Matt along with some coaches and players spent some time with the family before they departed the field house that evening. Matt said he was going to New Orleans for the funeral. He wants to be there for Tyrone. Tyrone thanks for the memories! RIP #22 on 2/2/12. My next blog will happen during Spring camp and during the Spring game. It is such a blast to follow Matt Nelson through his eyes and the Bulldog team! I might not say the right things, but I write from the bottom of my heart and what my feelings are during that time.I don't intend to hurt anyone's feelings, but I am very passionate about La Tech Football. Thank you so much to Mr. Tom Morris with La Tech Sport Pix for allowing me to use some of his photos for this blog. Thanks to Matt Lange for uses of the #22 avatar, May your Football Season be filled with many Football Victories, Sunny Smiles, Sandy Dreams and Travel Your Way! Until or paths cross again, have a blessed week! College Football Dad!