published Monday, September 3rd, 2012

David Paschall: Month of coverage in 3 days

Tennessee junior quarterback Tyler Bray greets fans after the Vols' 35-21 win over North Carolina State at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Tennessee junior quarterback Tyler Bray greets fans after the Vols' 35-21 win over North Carolina State at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Photo by Patrick Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

As an Auburn University sophomore in the autumn of 1986, I once skipped a football trip to Mississippi State to focus on my studies.

Just kidding, of course.

Actually, I convinced a carload that a night game in Starkville should be preceded by an afternoon showdown between Alabama and Penn State. We didn't have tickets for the game in Tuscaloosa, but the scalpers did not have supply-and-demand on their side that day, so the five of us watched D.J. Dozier run through the Crimson Tide before moving on to see Pat Dye's beloved Tigers annihilate Rockey Felker's Bulldogs.

Taking in two games made that a very memorable Saturday, and Labor Day weekend 2012 won't be forgotten any time soon.

Four games that were played in a 52-hour stretch, a feat made possible by Chattanooga's location and by Vanderbilt-South Carolina being held Thursday night and Tennessee-N.C. State on Friday night. It was hardly a 9-to-5 job, as bedtime was 2 a.m. for three straight nights.

A look back:


5:38 — As the anticipation builds for the opener of the 2012 college football season, an announcement is made in the Vanderbilt press box that there is no functioning water, not even in the restrooms. Glad I bypassed guzzling prune juice on the way up Interstate 24.

7:17 — South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney tallies his first sack of the season. Probably the first of many.

9:38 — A pass early in the fourth quarter from South Carolina's Connor Shaw is caught by Justice Cunningham, whose helmet goes flying after a hard hit by Andre Hal. Vanderbilt is flagged for a personal foul, and the Gamecocks soon go in for the touchdown and a 17-13 victory.

10:35 — In between swats of an annoying bug flying around his head in the postgame interview room, Vandy coach James Franklin says, "We had an opportunity to get a signature win here, and we didn't get it done."


11:31 a.m. — My wife is perusing Fairyland Elementary's suggested supply list at the Walmart in Lookout Valley -- we folks in Walker County are a bit late to the classroom this year. Our two older children are loading up on pencils, folders and notebooks, but our 2-year-old is throwing a temper tantrum because he doesn't have a haul like big brother and sister. This is my lone family time in this quest.

2 p.m. — The "Tennessee coverage team" has convened at the Times Free Press, consisting of UT beat writer Patrick Brown, columnist Mark Wiedmer, photographer Patrick Smith, myself and Da'Rick Rogers. OK, I might have made that last one up.

6:25 — Roughly an hour before kickoff between Tennessee and N.C. State, former Vols basketball coach Bruce Pearl spots some familiar faces in the Georgia Dome's media area while clinging to a bottle of Coors Light. A smiling Pearl holds up his beverage and says, "You guys can't do this up there, can you?" Pearl would pose for at least two dozen pictures with admiring fans before and during the game.

6:48 — Free Chick-fil-A sandwiches in the press box! I better keep it at two.

8:36 — Following a first quarter that lasts 66 minutes, Tennessee's big-play potential is evident as the Vols have taken a 22-7 lead.

11:33 — The Volunteers have prevailed 35-21, and Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is giving a reporter across the room a hard time for saying that Marlin Lane had an 8-yard touchdown run when it was Raijon Neal. A lady sitting directly behind me bursts into laughter and thoroughly enjoys the dressing down. I turn around, and it's Barbara Dooley.

12:05 a.m. — As I transcribe a postgame interview with Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, I look up from my press box seat and see workers spraying over "Tennessee" and "NC State" in the Dome end zones. There are giant stencils lying on the field for "Auburn" and "Clemson," who are 17 hours away from their kickoff.

1:19 — At a stop light before turning on I-75 in Atlanta, Wiedmer gets caught up talking about an interview he once had with Charles Barkley. He fails to notice the turn signal, keeping us at the intersection a little longer.


6:46 a.m. — I awake when a friend texts me about tickets to the Georgia game. I get a call an hour later from another friend wanting to talk about Tennessee. The season definitely has started.

10:38 — Georgia's Sanford Stadium is surrounded by thousands of eager Bulldogs fans, as well as a handful of Buffalo fans who seem split on whether to wear Bulls or Bills jerseys.

12:39 p.m. — Todd Gurley has his first touchdown, the Bulldogs have taken a 7-0 lead and the humidity is making it hard to stay awake.

12:48 — Buffalo just pulled within 7-6. I'm awake.

2:07 — It's halftime. Georgia is leading 24-16, and my fellow writers are joking that this is the best game I've seen all weekend.

3:51 — Georgia has won 45-23, and I'm racing down to do interviews when a Bulldogs fan exclaims, "I'm not worried about Todd Gurley. I'm worried about our defense."

5:50 — I'm leaving Athens, and I realize there is no chance I will make Auburn-Clemson in Atlanta by kickoff.


7:23 — I am not too late, and as I exit my car and start heading for the elevator in the parking deck next to the Georgia Dome, this gargantuan human says, "Can you help me get to the pass gate?" Of course I can help Cam Newton.

9:10 — Clemson and Auburn are exchanging field goals in the third quarter when Phillip Marshall, who was covering Auburn before I was a student there, says, "David, have you seen the Ole Miss score?" Sure enough, the Rebels are losing 20-14 to Central Arkansas, but they would eventually regroup and roll.

11:15 — Auburn defenders Corey Lemonier and Daren Bates are a little bewildered in postgame interviews after Clemson tailback Andre Ellington rushed for 228 yards and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd broke about a billion tackles in the fourth quarter.

12:09 a.m. — It's my 45th birthday, and I'm stuck in Atlanta traffic. Just what I always wanted.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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jomo11 said...

Sounds like fun ! And you call it work. I envy you guys when I'm sitting at my desk in a nice office and have to depend on the whims of Investors and the markets. . . . . . You, Weeds, Brown and Frierson have great jobs that some of us live vicariously through you. . . Keep it up, we love it

September 3, 2012 at 1:15 a.m.
Stewwie said...

Wow, what an incredible weekend! Nice recap of events. Sounds like it was a lot of fun.

September 3, 2012 at 11:43 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Definitely a cool story. As luck would have it, I might have a simular experience this October here in Texas. On Tuesday, October 16th, UNT takes on in-conference opponent Louisiana-Lafayette in Denton (the "Cleveland" of Dallas that's home to the "UTC" of Dallas if that helps with a mental picture). The following Thursday, October 18th, has SMU vs. Houston here in Big D as well.

Saturday will be at home watching the Mocs via online streaming.

September 3, 2012 at 1:39 p.m.
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