Last week, my wife and I traveled to Tupelo, Miss., to visit our younger son, Chris, and his family. The weekend there provided the ol' coach with a number of football joys and disappointments.
On Friday, my granddaughter introduced me to her boyfriend, a starting offensive lineman for Tupelo High. I went to Tupelo's game that night and was excited to see the Golden Wave defeat the Columbus Falcons as her boyfriend played extremely well. As I watched the game, a wondrous thought came to my mind: I would like to see Beaufort High play Tupelo in front of the roughly 6,000 people who were at the Golden Wave's game.
My happy mood continued Saturday morning when my son's computer provided me with news of Beaufort High's 34-0 win over West Ashley. I truly hope coach Mark Clifford, whom I coached at Clemson, wins the state championship this year in his seventh year of being the Eagles' head coach.
But the Internet delivered a couple of doses of disappointment, too.
Whale Branch had lost to Allendale-Fairfax, 34-22. After coaching the Warriors' quarterbacks during preseason, I was hopeful that coach Rob D'Amato's squad would be undefeated in their first season.
I also saw that Battery Creek had lost to Wade Hampton, 66-6. The disappointment felt like a heart attack after I had spent time helping coach the Dolphins' QBs three practices leading up to that game. Coach Carlos Cave's challenge after losing so many good players to the new Whale Branch program is one the biggest challenges I've ever witnessed in high school football.
Saturday's college games provided more joys and disappointments.
One of my all-time favorite college coaches, Joe Paterno, guided his Penn State Nittany Lions past Temple. I would love to see Joe Pa win another national championship like he did in 1986 when my son, Mike, played at Penn State. In addition to being a great coach, Joe Paterno is like a father or grandfather to his players.
I was also happy to see Columbia University had defeated Towson, although the ol' coach had never heard of Towson football (and I thought I knew all football schools). Columbia is coached by Norries Wilson, who was an offensive tackle when I was working at Minnesota. Thanks, Norries, for eliminating my disappointment.
Anthony Jones, whom I coached at my alma mater, Wichita State, provided more joy when his Alabama A&M Bulldogs defeated Southern University. I'm hoping AJ's team wins the SWAC so I won't have to sue him for breaking my heart. (I'm joking, AJ!)
Saturday evening, the Ole Miss Rebels defeated Fresno State. The game brought back memories when I coached at Ole Miss in 1992. The Rebels went 9-2 and won the Liberty Bowl against Air Force that season, and one on my most wonderful coaching experiences was meeting and talking with Air Force players at a dinner before the bowl game.
But Saturday's games weren't all happy ones for me.
It punched my heart when Louisiana-Lafayette, coached by Ricky Bustle -- whom I also coached at Clemson -- lost to Middle Tennessee. Another big disappointment came as I watched the South Carolina Gamecocks lead Auburn going into the fourth quarter and then give up 14 points to provide the Tigers with an important SEC win.
From this ol' coach's perspective, it disappoints me that USC head coach Steve Spurrier, a Heisman Trophy-winning QB, hasn't created a Heisman Trophy Gamecock QB. Knowing his background from the time I first met him while coaching in the USFL in 1982, I always thought he would create a Heisman Trophy QB winner as he coached in college.
I have my fingers crossed that the Beaufort County high schools and my favorite college teams won't create any more disappointments for the ol' coach this weekend.