Thursday night the storm of all storms rolled in – complete with light show and windstorm. I’m sure the Ball State fans were a little edgy having been completely spoiled by the 78 degree sunshine and surf they’d been savoring all week – not to mention the outstanding St. Petersburg hospitality slathered on top! No worries – everyone awoke to sunshine and plenty of wind. Perfect football tailgating weather! People were shelling on the beach at 7:30 a.m. – me included. I am an avid sheller – so I had been fighting the temptation to run off during events and scour the seashore.
Around mid day – it was time to hit Tropicana Field and help set up the Social media tent at the Tailgating Extravaganza where KK and Christie did a great job of creating online buzz! Booths were being set up, bands warming up, fans showing up – it was exciting even before everything got cranking. I hooked up with my fantastic camera dude Sterling and we headed off into the sea of tailgates and barbecue smoke signals drawing us in. Lot’s of grills were fired up and games involving drinks, but the game of the day seemed to be cornhole – every row of vehicles had at least one or two toss zones set up. Whatever happened to actually throwing the football in the parking lot – I used to love doing that with friends. The main thing is everyone was having a blast! After grabbing some great crowd reactions, we were swept away to the ESPN trailer for an exclusive tour and interview with the game day producer. As the crew stepped out for lunch I felt special as we got a VIP view of what goes on behind the scenes of a major television sports production. Steve talked about having 11 total cameras around the stadium and the break down of who communicates with who to push what buttons. It’s complicated – but ESPN has this stuff down to a science!
Next, I asked where we could hunt down the game day announcers and we were off to the press box suites. Microphone in hand – I set out to find Desmond Howard and Andre Ware who were analysts for the bowl. Found them in the lounge not lounging but checking stats, discussing scenarios – being the professionals you see on air every weekend! I had previously met Desmond, but both guys were incredibly kind and engaging. We even talked some boxing, recapping the recent Marquez vs. Pacquiao fight – as both are avid fans and I want them reading my column, Sonee’s Florida Sports Report! Desmond and Andre gave me their time for interviews and then they were shuffled off for last minute preparations.
Time to eat – Green Beans, Mac n’ Cheese, Pulled Pork, Chicken Breast, Cornbread, Cookies – YUM~
It was now time to do my pre-game on-field segment so we headed down to the sidelines and I did my thing. Yes, everyone from the stands is staring at you and people around you listening in, you just have to stay focused on what you’re saying and doing. Sometimes it takes a couple of takes but you relax and …just do it!
Special Forces Army men rappelled from the top rings of the Trop down to the field with the coin and the game ball- it was amazing! Go Army!
Executive Director Brett Dulaney was cooling strolling the sidelines, seeing all his awesome and dedicated work that he and his staff have done come together. He gives me a big sly smile and a “good job, Sonee” and keeps moving. Game time was electric. Bands were playing, cheerleaders dancing, teams bursting onto the field, fans screaming. Everything that we know as college football at it’s best.
UCF, led by QB Blake Bortles, who threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, gained a 38-17 victory over Ball State in the Beef `O’ Brady’s Bowl. Bortles also deservedly received the games MVP honors. The Knights’ loss to Tulsa in the Conference USA title game kept them close to home for the postseason. Instead of heading to the Liberty Bowl for the second time in three years, they came 100 miles up the road to beautiful St. Petersburg for the the second time, having loss to Rutgers by three TDs in 2009.
Bortles was having none of that in 2012 and was on fire for four quarters straight, throwing two of his lasers to Latavius Murray, who also scored on a 2-yard run to help the Knights (10-4) build a 21-point halftime lead and maintain that lead until the clock ran out. In their final game as a member of Conference USA, next year going Big East, Bortles had a 6-yard TD run and threw for 272 yards to become UCF’s first 3,000-yard passer since 2002. He also led the Knights in rushing with a career-best 80 yards on nine carries and completed 22 of 33 passes without an interception, and his three TD passes were a career-best and tied the Beef `O’ Brady’s Bowl record.
Cardinals QB Keith Wenning could not get his engine going all night, though he did throw a 7- yarder to Willie Snead in the second and late in the 4th with 5 minutes to go. Jahwan Edwards rushed for 89 yards on 14 carries for Ball State. Snead had seven receptions for 78 yards. An ominous sign came when the Knights held the ball for nearly 13 minutes of the opening quarter, stockpiling a 159-15 advantage in total yardage.
At the end of the day – UCF looked and played more dominant than Ball State and were on a clear mission. We wish both teams success next year Wenning was 22 of 34 for 217 yards and two TDs for Ball State, which had a six-game winning streak snapped before an announced crowd of 21,759. and into the future. A special thank you to coach Lembo and O’Leary for your interview time during bowl week and on game day and your players and personnel. Thank you again to Brett, Blake and Carlos from the bowl, Kelly, Eric and Monica at CEA, Sterling, Sara and Patrick from Tampa Digital, the staff at the Sirata and Jack and the gang from Trifecta!
It was a bittersweet moment packing my bags and leaving the gorgeous Sirata Resort, but all good things must come to an end. I have been truly blessed by this experience. I am a better sportscaster and ultimately a better person because I glean whatever I can from life’s opportunities. It has been my pleasure being your 2012 Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl Game Host. I was able to make some great contacts with ESPN and beyond. Look for me on the sidelines, ringside, trackside or courtside of your favorite broadcast soon! Stay connected by following me on Twitter, Facebook and my weekly sports column, Sonee’s FloridaSports Report!
- Let the FUN Begin!
- Brave souls and Battling Bands
- Lights, Cameras, Plenty of Press!
- Sonee Thompson the Winner of the 2012 Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl Talent Tryouts!
- Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Renews Sponsorship With St. Petersburg Bowl