American Football – Match Report
11th February 2010
On Sunday 7th February, the 2010 Nottingham Varsity Series kicked off at the Harvey Hadden Stadium with the American Football event, and of course the URN Sports Team (part of it anyway) was there to witness it. Last year’s series had been won by 7.5 points to 5.5 by Uni and we were looking to get off to a good start in our attempt to retain the trophy.
Excitement had been brewing for this new event to the series, and this could be seen by the packed stadium, the intrigue of the sport attracting many supporters, both from Uni and Trent, perhaps helped by the fact that Super Bowl 44 was due to take place in Miami that very night. This was the first year that the respective Nottingham Universities were fielding separate teams, with both the Nottingham Outlaws (Uni) and the Nottingham Renegedes (Trent) splitting from one single team last year. The setup at the Harvey Hadden Stadium was excellent, with immaculately kitted out referees officiating, and a helpful loud speaker system giving the packed crowd updates of how play was progressing for those who were new to the game.
With the atmosphere building, and each player being introduced to the crowd individually, we were ready for kick off. The Outlaws received the kick off and quickly made progress up towards the Renegades’ territory. For those unfamiliar with the sport, essentially each side has 4 ‘downs’ in which to advance the football 10 yards by either throwing the ball or running. If they fail to do this, or a pass is intercepted, the ball is turned over to the other side. The pattern of play, which was to persist for most of the match, soon emerged, with the offensive side seemingly unwilling to throw long passes for fear of interception and additionally the conditions of the pitch were conducive to the running game. It was the Renegades however who took first blood in the match, with Linebacker Alex Fodor intercepting a pass from Uni’s Quarterback Simon Denning to run in the first score of the game, and the additional point was successfully added. The response from the Outlaws was swift, taking advantage of a Trent fumble to gain good field position and the next play culminated in a successful Touchdown from Uni, however they opted for the 2 point conversion, which was unsuccessful, and as a consequence Trent led 7-6 at the end of the first quarter.
The atmosphere continued to build in the second quarter, with numerous amusing chants arising from both sets of supporters. The game itself remained fairly error strewn, with few completed passes and main yardage gained through sticking with a running game. Possession continually changed hands and the game was very stop-start, which has always been a main criticism of the sport generally. With half time approaching and the cheerleaders beginning their warm up routines in typically American style, Trent extended their lead with another successful interception by Ashley Mullin, the Defensive Back, off a Denning pass and the score was now 14-6 to Trent, after the successful conversion. The biggest hit of the game by Trent’s Chris Smith had the crowd wincing, but that was virtually the last action of the first half, at which point the score remained 14-6 to the Renegades.
With the action on the pitch not quite being edge-of-your-seat material, it was then the cheerleaders’ turn to try and inject some life into proceedings with their well rehearsed dances. Nottingham Trent Tigers kicked off the half-time entertainment with what has to be said a well rehearsed and synchronised dance, followed by Nottingham Uni Knights, who weren’t helped by a musical mix-up, but failed to deliver something close to the show The Who would put on later that evening in Miami.
With half-time over the teams came back out. To be honest, they never actually left the field (it would seem that whilst the Harvey Hadden Stadium looks like a quality venue, it was lacking a set of dressing rooms to keep the players warm). Talking to some spectators at half-time, it seemed that people were enjoying the occasion- many experiencing American football for the first time- but they just wanted to see the crowd pleasing throws, rushes and touchdowns. Unfortunately, there was no score; but what was lacking in score Uni were making up for in unforced errors. Time and time again the Uni offense would make decent ground only to find themselves back where they started due to false starts, rendering the clever plays they were trying pointless. Trent did have their best period of offense in this 3rd quarter, but largely the game was stuck around the middle of the pitch, with neither team making significant ground through strong defensive plays.
There were to be no more scores in the final quarter either but what was clear to see was the effort from Uni which wasn’t reflected in the score line. Finally there were some sustained drives produced by Denning and the Uni offensive line, finally there were some big throws and it paid off, leading to a fruitful combination between the Quarterback and Wide Receiver Kabeer Paliwalla. Yet again however, much to the audience’s frustration, needless errors from Uni forced them to suffer with yardage penalties that completely negated their plays. One particular moment saw Paliwalla take a superb catch from a tremendous Denning throw resulting in a gain of the best part of 40 yards, but another false start forced The Outlaws back 15-yards into a much less threatening position.
The game ended with Uni pushing for that elusive touchdown inside the Trent 10-yard line, a result of a well worked turn-over by Uni’s defensive unit. This brought the Uni offense back into play, but unfortunately, despite trying everything in the book (fakes, dummies, rushed and passes) Uni couldn’t quite break the Trent scrimmage line.
Overall, it was a fair game of football with the score-line of 14-6 to Trent not a true reflection of Uni’s dominance. Trent’s offense seemed largely redundant throughout the 60 minutes, their scores a result of two interceptions, which whilst obviously frustrating for Uni’s fans, did show Uni’s intention and experimentation to mix things up, go for the big plays and please the fans. Regrettably, it didn’t quite pay off, but Uni can hold their heads high as the better team, in a day that was a very enjoyable experience for most. Trent lead the series 1-0, with ice hockey next up on Monday 15th February.
FINAL SCORE: TRENT WIN 14-6
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