Trip Report: Youngstown Liberty Leopards v. Howland Tigers

One of the most convenient things about Youngstown, Ohio, is the fact that it resides directly next to I-80. I-80, you may realize, is the route taken from Ann Arbor to State College. How perfect, then, that Youngstown Liberty Leopards, who boast two Michigan commits on their football team, had a home game at their stadium (from which you can literally see I-80), on the night before Michigan’s game at Penn State?

Being the enterprising Michigan fans/bloggers/general creeps that we are, Paul and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take in a game starring Fitzgerald Toussaint and Isaiah Bell. Want to hear more? Well, read on…

The game began at 7, but we arrived shortly after 6. The stadium was your general high school type, with a set of aluminum bleachers for both the home and away fans. We were among the first people there, so we tested out the camera, looked around, and practiced signing our names with the last name “Toussaint.” During warmups, Fitzgerald Toussaint was one of the team captains. In fact, throughout the night, he seemed to be a real leader of his team.

By the time the game began, we were pumped and ready to see Fitz destroy all comers. Essentially, the story of the night is that this never happened. Toussaint had some opportunities to make plays, but a couple of his teammates (including Julius Ferrell – who didn’t look much like a D-1 prospect, though the knee brace he was wearing may have had something to do with it) got the better opportunities, as Howland’s defense was keying on Fitz all night. He ended the game with 124 yards rushing on 30 carries, including a 5 yard sack on a halfback pass. His long run of the night was 21 yards. He was thrown to once and it was intercepted.

Isaiah Bell was also a starter on offense, at one of the wide receiver positions. He was thrown to 3 times, with 1 reception (on a screen) for four yards. The other two passes, using the UFR metric, would be classified as a 0 (bounced to him) and a 1.

Bell was also one of Liberty’s safeties, playing free in the middle of what appeared to be a cover-3 system most of the game. It was clear that, despite his size, Isaiah’s job was to play centerfield and let absolutely nobody by him. He was hesistant in run support, but I think that was a schematic choice, rather than a criticism of him. He finished the game with 5 tackles, though he left during the fourth quarter with an ankle injury (he could put almost no weight on his left leg).

So with a couple of big-time players in the mix for Liberty, how did they manage to lose this game? There are a couple of main reasons. First things first, Howland was determined to stop Fitzgerald Toussaint, no matter the cost. This hurt them when he motioned to the slot and another running back ran up the gut for a long touchdown. This selling out would have hindered their ability to win even more had Liberty’s QB not been something approaching awful. I didn’t keep stats on him, but he was something like 3/15 with 2 or 3 picks. Yikes. Not good. Howland also avoided Bell and Toussaint on special teams. Those two were the deep men on punts and kickoffs. All the kickoffs were squibbed, and only one punt made it to the returners (a Toussaint 18 yard return was negated by a block in the back).
In terms of playing style and projections, Fitz appeared to me to be much more of an inside runner than expected. Like every high schooler, he has work to do in the weight room, but he should be just fine once he gets to college. Though Bell has athleticism, he also has a pretty strong build. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was able to stay at safety in college, and be a big hitter. However, it is more likely that he adds bulk and becomes a linebacker. As you can see, he has big thighs, and a frame that might be conducive to putting on more weight.

Posted under Football

Vignettes of Penn State Part I

I couldn’t figure out a larger frame for these stories, so we are going to make them into a collection. There may be some things I forget, so bear with me. I’m still trying to recover.

On the Necessity of Shirts:
I will try not be too specific in order to protect the guilty. We stayed at a chapter of my fraternity at Penn State. It was started up there in 2001 and is now starting to become cemented on campus. Well, on that Friday night we got into State College around midnight with 30 rack purchased in Ohio. We were obviously too sober for the scene when we arrived. The level of inebriation was completely appropriate for the occasion, except for one gentleman.

This gentleman was one of the original founder of the chapter. He had to be at 25, but likely older. Tim, our mutual friend Nate and I were talking with a few of the brothers in the kitchen when this gentleman walked up the stairs from the basement we could immediately tell it was going to get interesting. He was wearing jeans and boxers and that was it. We all know the term OMG Shirtless, this was the opposite, so LOL Shirtless or maybe OMFG Shirtless. When both nipples and navel point to the ground, you should wear a shirt.

He seemed completely confused as to why Michigan fans would be in State College. He seemed fairly confused about everything else. After babbling on about getting special forces troops to kick our (meaning Michigan I believe) Marines’ asses, he set out trying to explain the new shirt sweeping Penn State this year. The conversation went something like this:

  • Drunkard: On the front it says “Make Michigan our Bichigan.”
  • Tim: uh… OK.
  • Drunkard: Bichigan. You know, like bitch again.
  • Paul: yes… bitch. OK.
  • Drunkard: Bichigan. Do you get it? Like bitch again… get it?
  • All Three of Us in Unison: Yes! We went to Michigan. We get it
  • Drunkard turns around and walks away

He would later find his shirt and disappear into the night. I assume he made it to wherever he was heading. This was clearly not his first rodeo.

On the Dichotomy of Fans:
Before the game, we were walking around State College and campus decked out in our Michigan gear. We were going to see our friend play Penn State’s club tennis team, so we were walking down Curtin street by the Creamery (I think). As we were approaching the street, a car slowed down and the passenger leaned out the window and yelled “FUCK MICHIGAN! FUCK YOU GUYS.” A middle aged woman walking toward us turned around looking horrified and said “I can’t believe people would say things like that.” She did not acknowledge our existence.

We were walking down Beaver St. (I think) and on either side of there are tall apartment buildings with balconies. We saw a group of kids on an 8th floor balcony having a good amount of fun. Tim and I have been to State College before and are a little wary drunk Penn State students. Well, they started yelling at us when we crossed the street, and by the time we got near to the balcony on of the kids up there poured some vodka. This surprised me. I could understand throwing empty cans or something, but wasting perfectly bad alcohol on us? That’s just lame.

We were walking around trying to find a bar to watch the game. We went into the Saloon, and once we got inside of a bar, the fans were all friendly and good sports. One woman gave us a drink recommendation (a Bong Water Monkey Boy FWIW); I talked with another fan about how Rodriguez will work out in the long run (more logically than some conversations I’ve had with Michigan fans). Sure we were ribbed and there were some friendly barbs thrown, but it was in the spirit of college football.

I don’t mind people making fun of Michigan or me by proxy. That’s what makes college football great. Be creative and not threatening. Everyone is there to enjoy two programs going up against each other and two fan bases coming together. Have fun and enjoy it.

Photo: On Penn State Signs
The text of the sign:


Used for improved livestock breeding. Was made feasible for dairy cattle by the work of Prof. John Almquist, who, beginning in 1944 in the Borland Lab, perfected the use of antibiotics to preserve semen and developed commercial methods of using it. His internationally acclaimed research increased food production and breeding efficiency worldwide.

That’s all I have for right now. One or more parts will be coming throughout the week.

Posted under Football

What a Difference 2 Years Makes: Penn State

Posting may be light this weekend, as the VB crew is on the road to see its team get killed in State College. Hopefully I’ll be able to get something up Saturday night, but I guarantee nothing, and I fully expect to have to hold FNL until monday.

Speaking of Friday Night Lights, by the time you read this, it is highly likely that we are in Youngstown to see Fitzgerald Toussaint, Isaiah Bell, and the rest of the Liberty Leopards as they face off against Warren Howland. Full report, of course, included when we get around to posting early next week.

We’ll be back as soon as possible, and in the meantime, Go Blue!

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from a ridiculously long post I’ve been working on for OSU week. Since the PSU portion of the story is both very long and relevant to this week’s game, I’ve decided to post it as a standalone.

October 14, 2006 provided a roadtrip opportunity. We left for State College on Thursday night, so Danny could visit his girlfriend, a freshman at Penn State. By the time we got there, it was nearly midnight, so we dropped off Danny and his friend, then Paul and I explored the campus a bit, and paid way too much for one night in a hotel.

The next day, we were completely free from responsibility. We explored the town, bought Penn State gear (I’m an avid collector of any and all college merchandise), went for a ride on the Nittany Lion (a phrase which here means “sat on a stationary statue”), and generally took in the Penn State experience. It is at this time that I should probably recommend against going to an away game 40+ hours before it starts unless you have something or someone to see there, or are 21.

That night, Paternoville was certainly an experience itself, and the atmosphere among the student body was awesome. Of course, a friendly PSU fan offered me a paper plate to tape over the Michigan decal on the back of my car, to avoid getting all my windows broken. After failing to find a random couch to stay on (are there even house parties at Penn State?), we found a parking lot that didn’t seem to be a towing threat, tilted the seats in my car back, and slept. When we woke up the next morning, we found my passenger seat permanently reclined. This was a bad omen.

Fortunately for us, Penn State’s media relations office had furnished us with a parking pass. Unfortunately for us, their instructions on reaching the parking lot were something short of “subpar.” After finally dealing with myriad parking lot attendants, we left the car in the Black Lot and trudged back to the dorms. Once there, we snagged something to eat in a food court (all the while managing to avoid being stabbed by Chris Baker) and camped out on a couple of couches in a common room. As I drifted in and out of consciousness, catching up on sleep from the previous night, the games that we watched are kind of hazy. I remember seeing Indiana shock Iowa, diminishing the importance of our tilt against the Hawkeyes the following week. Whatever, I guess it would be that much easier to focus on tonight’s game.

As we left the commons area, I stripped off my Penn State sweatshirt, under which I had been wearing a maize Michigan shirt all along (take that, punks!). After revealing to the unwitting Nittany Lions all around me that I had been nothing more than a mole from the beginning, I became the recipient of all sorts of “friendly trash talk,” a phrase which here means “death threats.” On the death march back to my car, one thing really struck me: the Penn State fans had no doubt that they would win this game. Perhaps it’s just a difference between the fan bases, but I think the general tailgating attitude in Ann Arbor is mortal fear (or this year, resignation), especially when facing a more-highly ranked team that didn’t get housed by Notre Dame (Zing!). If I could extract that excitement from their fan base without getting the “threatening asshole” factor, I would certainly love to inject it into Michigan fans. There was no sense of entitlement, just excitement leading to confidence.

After changing into Official Media Costumes and arriving at the empty stadium, I took some time to snap a few glamour shots of the Beav. Beaver may be one of the most minor league hockey-like venues in the conference (of course, it doesn’t hold a candle to Sparty’s eye lasers), but the facility itself is nothing short of impressive. I’m not one for electronic music, especially when said music is “Zombie Nation,” and the pump-up videos on the board were bordering on brutally cheesy, but there are certainly aspects of the game experience that are redeeming. The inside of the stadium (you know, the part that doesn’t look like an erector set) is certainly one of them.

The students started to filter in before the rest of the fans. This took place two hours before the game started. Every single one was wearing white. Are you taking notes Michigan students? Be more like that. Always. The white-out was in full force. Like I had been weeks earlier against Notre Dame, I was on the sidelines. This time, I knew I wasn’t alone. Mike, Adrian, and Alan were definitely there. Steve Breaston may have been the unsung hero of the game (as he was for much of the 2006 season). Though the defense played well, I managed to hear a spirited Ron English rip into them at halftime. They responded.

The details have faded with time, but I remember the sense of elation once more, as the visiting fan section celebrated following the win. Danny was equal parts confused and excited. After Notre Dame, I couldn’t stop smiling for a week. Again, I was ecstatic on the drive home. This time, it was too long, and I was too tired to smile the whole way.

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Northwestern Photo Gallery

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Artis Chambers Debacle ends well for Wolverines


Not really a surprising result, but a relief nonetheless. The Big Ten title is still in reach for Michigan.

The Northwestern roadtrip photo gallery will maybe be coming tonight, though there weren’t that many great pictures.

Posted under Recruiting

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I am going to Northwestern this afternoon for the game tomorrow. Expect fun updates with lots of pictures and stuff. I will probably make fun of nerds to almost the degree that I do it when I’m in Ann Arbor (zing!).

Posted under Misc.


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