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November 18th - Cork Bowl's first decade came to a close on Saturday in dramatic fashion once again as the Bushdogs held off a furious late charge from the Gophers for a 126-112 victory. For the third consecutive season, the game remained undecided into the closing seconds. The past three matchups have been decided by a total of only five touchdowns, and Cork Bowl 2K was no different.
"Whew. That's about all I have to say," remarked an exhausted Patrick Cork following the game. "We had a lead late and did everything we could to just hang on to it. If one or two plays go the other way, the outcome would have been in their favor."
After two abnormally warm games, Saturday's conditions were more traditional with temperatures hovering around 35 degrees with a stiff breeze from the southwest. The Gophers began going into the wind with the ball to start the game and marched down the field after back to back completions from quarterback Reggie Truitt. However, on first and goal, Truitt tried to force a pass into rookie Steve Sanders and the ball was deflected into the air and intercepted by Chris Cork in the endzone. Cork's 11th career interception led to a fourth-and-goal touchdown pass from Willy Truitt to Patrick Cork for an early 7-0 lead.The Gophers fired back on their second possession as Reggie found Kevin Ryan for a short score to tie the game at 7. After the Bushdogs were unable to pick up a first down, Kevin Ryan took his turn under center and hooked up with Greg Howard for a score and the first Gophers lead at 7-14. The Bushdogs defense would step up following a Willy to Josh Williamson touchdown as they held on 4th and long and scored on the next play with a Willy to Ryan Tomlinson hook up. On the ensuing drive, Willy Truitt picked off brother Reggie and returned it to the five yard line where he ran it in himself to give the Bushdogs a 28-14 advantage to end the first quarter of play.
Career receptions leader Patrick Cork had just one reception in the first period, but the Bushdogs had a 28-14 lead thanks to a very balanced offense. Willy Truitt completed seven passes to four different receivers in the quarter with Williamson, Tomlinson, and Patrick each having a touchdown.
The second quarter began with Kevin hooking up with the rookie Sanders for a fancy run-after-the-catch score to cut the lead to 28-21, but the Bushdogs fired right back on Chris Cork's first touchdown catch to take a 35-21 lead. The first five scores for the 'Dogs were made by each of the five players including a Willy Truitt rushing touchdown. "We made it a goal to get everyone involved early in the game," commented quarterback Willy Truitt. "That puts pressure on each of their defenders and keeps all of your receivers in the game." A big point in the game followed as rookie Steve Sanders made his first appearance at quarterback. Sanders immediately led the Gophers to a score finding Greg Howard open in the middle of the field to cut the lead to 35-28. Once again, the Bushdogs offense stalled and the Gophers took over deep in Bushdog territory. With the ball on the one yard line, a near certain score turned into a wasted opportunity as Kevin Ryan was sacked by Patrick on third down and Reggie's fourth down pass was dropped in the endzone allowing the 'Dogs to escape. On the next drive, Ryan Tomlinson was stopped inside the one yard line by Josh Helton on third and goal, and the Bushdogs failed to convert on fourth down. Reggie soon found Kevin Ryan for another score to tie the game at 35. On the first play of the next drive, Reggie Truitt nearly intercepted Willy's deep pass, but the ball tipped off his fingertips right into the hands of Patrick Cork and the Bushdogs had a 42-35 advantage. Kevin Ryan found Sanders on a short fourth down pass and Sanders would stretch across the goal line for a big score to tie the score at 42. Again, the Bushdogs would try to attack deep down the field, but Willy's pass was intercepted this time by Reggie and Reggie later found Greg Howard on the sideline for a score and the first Gopher lead since early in the game at 42-49. With just 1:00 left in the half, Willy pounded the ball down the field to Patrick as he completed three balls to his favorite target capped off by a short touchdown catch to end the half with the score 49-49.
The first half was full of missed opportunities for both teams as each squad was stopped inside the three yard line on one occasion, not to mention several turnovers on downs. Patrick Cork led all receivers with 7 first half catches including three touchdowns and Gophers receiver Greg Howard had 6 receptions and 3 touchdowns. Willy Truitt completed 19 of 34 passes for the Bushdogs. Kevin Ryan was 6-for-12 with 3 scores and Reggie Truitt was just 9-of-20 with a pair of interceptions in the half. The most effective quarterback for the Gophers, the rookie Sanders, was not used after his touchdown march in which he was 2-for-2 with a touchdown.
"The first half was one of the slower ones I remember," remarked Patrick. "Neither offense had much of a rhythm and that kept the scoring low. The wind was pretty brutal too and it took away any chance of putting the ball down the field for quick scores."
The Bushdogs had possession to start the third quarter traveling with the wind behind them and used a hurry-up offense to march down and score on a pass from Willy to Chris Cork. Reggie Truitt found Kevin Ryan to tie the game at 56 and then the Gophers really brought the defensive pressure. Being blitzed heavily, Willy threw a deep ball up for grabs and Chris Cork out jumped Sanders deep down the field for a big first down. Ryan Tomlinson caught his second touchdown pass of the game on the next play and the Bushdogs led 63-56. On the next possession, Patrick Cork forced a fumble on the rookie Sanders and recovered it himself deep in Gopher territory. The 'Dogs struck quickly as Willy found Chris in the corner of the endzone on the first play for a 70-56 lead. Two plays later, Willy Truitt dove in front of a Reggie Truitt pass and picked it off near midfield. Once again, the Bushdogs went right for the score as Willy found Patrick in the corner this time on the first play and the lead was suddenly 77-56. The Gophers remained calm and Reggie Truitt made a nice run after the catch on a Kevin Ryan pass and scored to cut the lead to 77-63. The Gophers defense stiffened and stopped Willy Truitt's run on fourth down and Kevin Ryan hit Greg Howard for a touchdown to shave the lead to 77-70. To slow down the blitz of the Gophers, the Bushdogs continued with the no-huddle offense and scored on a dump off pass to Patrick for the 84-70 advantage. The Gophers would drive again, but Sanders was stripped of the ball at the one yard line by Patrick Cork who once again recovered the fumble himself for the second time in the quarter. On the first play after the turnover, the Bushdogs continued to attack as Willy hit Josh Williamson with a beautiful deep ball down the middle for a touchdown and a 91-70 lead after three quarters.
Turnovers plagued the Gophers in the third quarter as Reggie threw one interception and Sanders fumbled twice. The Bushdogs converted all three of the turnovers into immediate points scornig on the first play from scrimmage each time. The hurry-up offense of the Bushdogs put some major points on the board as they outscored the Gophers 42-21 in the period thanks to a very effective offense. Willy Truitt was 10-14 in the quarter and threw 6 touchdown passes and the Gophers trailed by 21 points with 25 minutes to play.
With Kevin Ryan back at quarterback, the Gophers converted on fourth and 10, but then missed another scoring opportunity as the fourth down pass tipped off the hands of Sanders in the endzone. The Bushdogs stayed with the no huddle offense on the next possession, and escaped trouble again as Sanders just missed intercepting a deep slant from Willy. Later in the drive, Willy was forced out of the pocket and with Greg Howard hanging onto his legs he launched a pass into the endzone. Patrick Cork made a diving grab for a huge score that pushed the lead to a seemingly insurmountable 98-70 with just over 18 minutes to play. "We thought we had them finished off at that point," added Patrick. "To come back from four scores in Cork Bowl is very tough especially with less than a quarter to do it."
With Kevin Ryan running the hurry up offense for the Gophers, Steve Sanders made a big 4th down catch which later resulted in a Greg Howard touchdown and the score was 98-77. With tremendous pressure being put on by the Gophers, Willy Truitt had no time to find receivers and the 'Dogs turned the ball over on downs. Again, Sanders made a big catch on 4th and goal for the score and the lead was down to 14 at 98-84. More pressure came from the Gophers defense with blitzers coming from every direction and on fourth and long, Chris Cork was tackled just short of the first down marker giving the ball back to the Gophers. The Bushdog defense continued to force fourth down plays for the Gophers, but once again Reggie Truitt was able to just cross the goal line on 4th and long and the game was suddenly 98-91. In desperate need of a touchdown, Willy went back to Patrick on the next drive on short patterns in an attempt to slow down the Gopher blitz. Patrick's third catch of the drive resulted in a score as he broke it down the sideline for the touchdown and pushed the lead to 105-91. With 6 minutes remaining, Reggie found Kevin Ryan for a long completion down the field, but his next pass was underthrown toward the sidelines and Josh Williamson made a remarkable diving interception near the goal line. Williamson alertly scrambled to his feet and returned it all the way to the five yard line of the Gophers where Willy found Chris Cork for the touchdown and the lead was 112-91. Desperate for quick scores, Reggie found Greg Howard again in the corner for the score to cut the lead to 112-98, but only 3 minutes were left on the clock. With the Bushdogs only needing to hold onto the ball and pick up a first down and run some clock, Steve Sanders made his biggest play of the game for the Gophers. The very next play from scrimmage, Sanders jumped a quick slant route by Chris Cork and picked off Willy Truitt's pass at the 10 and rumbled into the endzone for an enormous defensive touchdown that brought the Gophers deficit to 112-105. Willy, however, led his team down the field on a must-score drive and capped it off with his second rushing touchdown of the game with 1:30 left. Another fast drive from the Gophers finished with a Reggie to Greg touchdown, but they still trailed 119-112 and had only one timeout left. Two short completions and a Willy Truitt run put the Bushdogs three yards short of the first down with 7 seconds left on the clock and the Gophers out of timeouts. With an all-out blitz in his face, Willy dumped the ball to Williamson over the middle on the fourth and short and he scampered into the endzone as time ran out for the 126-112 Bushdog win.
"I can't remember a game where the momentum switched so fast and so often," said Commentator Tony Cork. " Each time it looked like the Gophers were done, they would make a huge play and stay in the game." Turnovers were the underlying difference in the game as the Bushdogs turned the ball over twice compared to 6 giveaways for the Gophers. "In the second half we were very aggressive after we got turnovers," added Patrick. "All four times they turned the ball over we scored on the very next play. That can demoralize a team, but they never gave in and kept the pressure on us as well." Although the Gophers recorded only one sack in the game, their relentess pressure on Willy Truitt forced numerous turnovers on downs, especially late in the game. Another reason the Gophers were able to hang around was their remarkable efficiency on fourth down. In the fourth quarter alone, the Gophers converted on 6 fourth down plays to either keep drives alive or finish them with scores.
Willy Truitt and Patrick Cork shared MVP honors for the Bushdogs with Truitt having one of his most productive games at quarterback. He was 44-for-71 with 16 touchdowns and threw just 2 interceptions. "With the pressure he was under all day, those numbers are outstanding," added Tony Cork. Truitt also had a pair of big interceptions on defense as well. Patrick responded after a one-catch first quarter to get 11 receptions in the second half and finished with 18 on the day including a record-tying 7 touchdowns. Patrick tallied 10 tackles and his two forced fumbles (and recoveries) on Sanders also helped thwart Gopher scoring opportunities. Josh Williamson tied a career high with 10 catches and a big fourth quarter interception. Chris Cork ended with 9 catches and 4 TD's, and had the opening-drive interception, but could have had more. On a couple of occasions, the Gophers had 4th down and Chris could have intercepted the pass, but decided to just knock it down and take the field position. "I'm not about the stats, I'm about the team," remarked Cork. Ryan Tomlinson ended his two-season slump with 7 receptions and a pair of touchdowns. Donning the "Flat Rock 2" jersey from injured Kirby Newell, Tomlinson didn't exactly play Newell-like, but his 7 catch game was his best performance since his rookie year in 1997.
Greg Howard had a huge fourth quarter for the Gophers and finished with a career-high 12 catches and 7 touchdowns. Howard was the main blitzer on defense as well and tallied 9 tackles and one sack. "Greg played inspired football today," remarked color commentator Kirby Newell. "He kept his team in the game with his defensive pressure and made some big catches throughout." The rookie Steve Sanders had a rookie-like performance showing flashes of brilliance as he caught 15 passes for three scores and had the big interception return late in the game. However, two fumbles and several dropped passes will haunt Sanders for the next 12 months. The two-headed quarterback for the Gophers was inconsistent, but fairly productive. Kevin Ryan was 22-for-40 with 8 touchdowns and no interceptions while Reggie Truitt was 16-35 with 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Reggie had a huge day on defense with 14 tackles and one interception.
The big question from the Bushdogs was the disappearance of Sanders at the quarterback spot. "To me, he was by far the most effective quarterback they had," added Patrick. "Two passes and a touchdown, and he didn't throw another pass. We wouldn't have been able to blitz him and the way Reggie and Greg performed at the receiver spot, they could have done some major damage with the Colonel under center, but..."
"You can't ask for much more than a game that intense and that close," added Commissioner Cork. "Although there aren't many individual moments that really stand out, there was plenty of excitement."
**The following is the summary of Cork Bowl 10 from famed sports writer "The Scoop" - Remember that any views and opinions expressed by "The Scoop" do not necessarily coincide with those of Cork Bowl. They are much like the views of Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z - mostly confusing with an occasional good point**
Well the game was ugly, but intense. The wind seemed to be a major factor and the sportsmanship was good. Now let's get to the main points:
Most Valuable Player: This could go to Willy Truitt or Patrick Cork easily and most people would give it to one of these guys since they were on the winning team. However, as much as it pains me to do it, I'm going to give the award to Greg Howard because he really kept his team alive offensively and by putting pressure on Willy.
Least Valuable Player: There were so many candidates! My vote has to go to Josh Helton. He had a sophomore slump to say the least. My question to Helton is this: If you dress like a girl (a.k.a. the tights) how can you not expect to play like a girl?
Play of the Game: There really wasn't any one play that stood out, but I'd have to give it to the play when Willy was wrapped up by Greg and Willy managed to throw the ball deep into the endzone where Patrick Cork dove and made a great catch.
Best Comment by Announcer: When Tony Cork went out onto the field: "There's an idiot on the field!"
Game Changing Play: Colonel Sanders and his fumble on the 2 yard line that would have tied the game up. Of course, he is a rookie.
Rookie of the Year: Hands down this award goes to the Colonel. He adds so much excitement and is just such a competitor. The fact that he was the only rookie made this an easy choice though. Sanders is the Chris Weinke of Cork Bowl lore by making his first appearance at the age of 25. Does anyone know if he played minor league ball?
KEYS TO THE GAME (from "the Scoop")
Key #1 - Time and time again it has been proven that a 2 quarterback system doesn't work. This Cork Bowl proved it again as Reggie Truitt (aka Ryan Leaf) and Kevin Ryan (aka Moses Moreno) could not get the job done. I'm still questioning why the Colonel (aka Jim Harbaugh) didn't play the QB position.
Key #2 - Pressure, pressure, pressure. The only thing that kept the Gophers in the game (except for Key #4). The Gophers may have laid a blueprint for how to stop Willy Truitt in the future.
Key #3 - When the Bushdogs stopped going deep and started working the short passing game. The wind was just too strong to go deep and it took the Bushdogs a half to figure it out!
Key #4 - Stamina. The Gophers stayed close due to the fact that they were in better shape. The Bushdogs wore down. It was obvious to me that Kentucky Fried Chicken is a good energy source as evidenced by the Colonel's unbelievable ability to keep motoring the entire game.
Key #5 -The biggest key to the game is right here. Colonel Sanders and Josh Helton's pregame meal. As much as the KFC was good for the stamina it was bad for the hands. These two players (not to mention Kevin Ryan) dropped so many balls. I can't help but think that the greasy chicken was the cause of the drops. If you're gonna eat KFC before the game, make sure and wash your hands after you're done!!!
Overall, a great game that wasn't over until the last 20 seconds. You really can't ask for much more. Of course the absence of Kirby Newell was very noticeable. He adds trash talk and the ability to run people over -- 2 things that were sorely missed in Cork Bowl 10. I don't know about all of you, but I can't wait until next year!
Listen up fans, Colonel Sanders will be a force next year. He has all of the tools. It was obvious that he didn't know what he was up against this year, but I'm expecting big things from him next year. Sanders, this is just a little info for you. They put the moist towelette in the KFC box for a reason. Use it next year!!!
Bowl 10 Stats
**Cork Bowl 10 News & Comments (click here to read player comments and reactions)
INJURY REPORT AS OF 11-15-00
BUSHDOGS - Chris Cork - strained neck (probable); Patrick Cork - strained knee ligament (questionable); Ryan Tomlinson - bruised right big toe (probable); Willy Truitt - multiple bloodblisters on forefinger of throwing hand (expected to start); Josh Williamson - 3 stress fractures in left femur, 2 in the distal portion of right tibia and avulsion fracture of the pelvis (probable)
GOPHERS - Kevin Ryan - court appearance with possible community service (questionable)
|Chris Cork||6'2||170||10||||||Steve Sanders||6'0||175||R|
|Patrick Cork||5'11||145||10||||||Reggie Truitt||5'10||155||7|
|Willy Truitt||5'9||140||6||||||Greg Howard||5'9||155||5|
|Josh Williamson||5'8||155||6||||||Kevin Ryan||5'10||170||6|
|Ryan Tomlinson||6'0||150||4||||||Josh Helton||6'0||140||2|
A near rematch from a year ago, Cork Bowl 10 will be without one of the Cork Bowl greats from the first 10 years of the game. 6-year veteran Kirby Newell will miss his first Cork Bowl since he began his career in 1994 after suffering a foot injury several weeks ago. Newell has faked injuries for each of the past 6 seasons, but this is no cry of wolf. Newell is without a doubt a Cork Bowl superstar and has a 4-2 record as a player, but his absence will not overshadow the conclusion of the first decade of Cork Bowl. "Although Kirby has helped revolutionize this great game, we have to go on with the show," commented Commissioner Patrick Cork. "We believe the individual we have chosen to take his place will fill his shoes and add some new life to the Cork Bowl family. He is no Kirby Newell, but who is?"
That individual is Steve Sanders from Indianapolis, Indiana. Sanders (age 25), the roommate of Cork Bowl superstar Chris Cork, is not well known by even the most avid Cork Bowl followers. Rumor has it that Sanders was a high school football great when younger, although no game film has been seen. Sanders has a load of pressure on his shoulders as he must lead the Gophers offensively and defensively. Last year, veterans Reggie Truitt and Kevin Ryan shared equal time under center at the quarterback position with both players having impressive numbers. Although many teams have not used a multi-quarterback offense, the idea is one that has been productive as it keeps the players fresh and forces the defense to adjust continuously the different offensive looks.
Truitt has been one of the most versatile players in Cork Bowl history as he ranks second on the all-time passing list as well as in the top five in receptions and tackles. Recent reports on Ryan, once the league bruiser, reveal that he has lost in upwards of 25 pounds from last year's playing weight and may not look to use his size as an advantage as he did in the past. Ryan has had success over the middle in the past and usually makes the most of each catch by punishing defenders after the catch, but with the new sleek look, he could be a totally different player. Greg Howard and Josh Helton will round out the Gophers squad. Howard has improved consistently over the past several years and has turned himself into a big play threat and a solid defender. Howard must continue his development towards becoming a top-tier Cork Bowl player if his team wants a chance to win. Helton is returning for his second season after a solid 6 reception game last season.
As for the Brazilian Bushdogs, the only change is the addition of Josh Williamson. The core unit returns from last year's thrilling championship team led once again by the Cork Brothers. For the third straight season, Chris and Patrick will look to lead their team to a Cork Bowl trophy. Chris ranks third on the all-time reception list and has a huge lead on the all-time interception list with 10. He is one of only two players (brother Patrick) to appear in all 10 Cork Bowls. With excellent hands and a nose for the endzone, Chris is extremely effective near the goal line. Brother Patrick has become a true possession receiver and ranks first on the all-time receptions list. Patrick is the only player in history to win back-to-back MVP awards which included a breakout game in '98 when he caught a record 24 passes. He will look to extend his receptions lead with the help from quarterback Willy Truitt. Truitt is Cork Bowl's leader in all major passing statistics, and with the Cork Brothers split wide, his stats can only improve. Josh Williamson has switched teams from last year and will bring his quickness and strength to aid a questionable Bushdog defense. Williamson has excelled in recent years as a defender ranking first on the all-time sacks list and is the only player to have multiple sacks in the same game ('98). Ryan Tomlinson will look to add another championship ring to his trophy case as he will try to rebound from a sub-par '99 game. Tomlinson was very ill last season and blames the illness on his poor play.
* 133-226 - final score from last year's game won by the Weasels
* Patrick Cork - 88 career receptions (#1); 29 touchdowns (#1); 55 tackles (#2); record 24 receptions in 1998; 17.5 recpetions per game over past four seasons; 1/2 trees crashed into over past 2 years
*Chris Cork - 73 career receptions (#3); 23 touchdowns; 49 tackles (#3); 10 interceptions (#1); 4.7 one-handed catches per game over last 4 seasons
*Willy Truitt - 138 completions (#1); 57 touchdown passes (#1); 10 rushing touchdowns (#1)
*Josh Williamson - 28 career receptions (#4); 12 touchdowns; 29 tackles; 3 sacks (#1)
*Ryan Tomlinson - 19 career receptions (#8); 6 touchdowns; 6 tackles in three seasons
*Reggie Truitt - 119 completions (#2); 51 touchdown passes
(#2); 23 career receptions (#6); 8 touchdown receptions; 46 tackles
*Greg Howard - 28 career receptions (#4); 15 touchdowns; career high 6 touchdowns in '99; 4 straight seasons of flexing muscles in pregame
*Kevin Ryan - 23 career receptions (#6); 11 touchdowns; 4 straight Cork Bowl losses
*Josh Helton - 6 catches and 3 touchdowns in '99 debut
*Steve Sanders - sneaky speed, league knows little of football potential
a look at the history and rules of Cork Bowl
Take a glance at Cork Bowl 9
Check all of the info from Cork Bowl 8
Check out the scoring summary and stats for Cork Bowl 8
Check out the Cork Bowl 7 stats
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Check out the Cork Bowl 5 stats
Check out the Cork Bowl 4 stats
Check out the Cork Bowl 2 stats
Check out the career Cork Bowl stats from 1992-2000 (**updated 11-25-00)