The Long, Quiet Autumn

Presbyterian defensive coordinator Tommy Spangler (in black) makes some recommendations. (Monte Dutton photo)

Presbyterian defensive coordinator Tommy Spangler (in black) makes some recommendations during a game earlier this season. (Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, October 31, 2015, 2:23 p.m.

I’m looking live at Crocker Field, on which Presbyterian College plays football, but I’d have to stand up to see most of Bailey Memorial Stadium, from which fans watch the Blue Hose in action. Today is rife with opportunity for, while PC is just 1-6, 0-2 in Big South play, the Bulldogs are 2-5 and 1-2.

Monte Dutton

Monte Dutton

So there is hope this cool, overcast day. As an almost lifelong resident of this town, I think it possible that Hope is the single word that best describes Presbyterian College, probably in general but most definitely in athletics.

The second quarter is in its infancy, and neither team has scored. Presbyterian’s Darrell Bridges limped off the field. He had rushed for 817 yards entering this game, which was 50.8 percent of the Blue Hose’ total offense this year.

In other words, this isn’t good news.

The home of the Blue Hose football team.  (Monte Dutton photo)

The home of the Blue Hose football team. (Monte Dutton photo)

But … darned if the Blue Hose didn’t score a touchdown, and a freshman from Orange Park, Florida, named Quahlin Patterson looked just fine in spite of the fact that his 25-yard run that set up that touchdown was only his sixth carry of the season and almost as many yards as the first five combined.

But now Gardner-Webb has scored, too, and my consciousness has streamed clear to 7-7, and there are still more than four minutes to go in the half.

It’s 7-7 at halftime. It seems like it’s always 7-7 at halftime. On TV, it seems like the halftime score is always 28-28. The Blue Hose are throwbacks. Not delightful throwbacks. They were delightful last year. This year they’re just throwbacks. Like canvas Chucks. Eight tracks. Pong before beer was involved.

This year’s Blue Hose are merthiolate on a skinned knee. It stings to watch.

Pregame at Presbyterian College. (Monte Dutton photo)

Pregame at Presbyterian College. (Monte Dutton photo)

Gardner-Webb just scored to take a 14-7 lead. The Blue Hose defender had Mike Estes covered. He just misjudged the pop-up and might have thought the infield fly rule was in effect. Instead, the 33-yard touchdown pass rule was in effect.

Now it’s time for that Fighting Blue Hose Spirit. Calls are often made for it. Bridges is on the sidelines. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he is on crutches.

At the end of the third quarter, Presbyterian has 182 yards of offense. Gardner-Webb has 126. Somewhere Baylor has that combined total in the first quarter, or if not Baylor, then someone in the PAC-12. Washington State, perhaps.

The Blue Hose offense is named Sue. Johnny Cash gave them that name, then he said goodbye, because he knew they’d have to get tough or die, and it’s that name that’s helped to make them strong. As proof, the Blue Hose’ Brett Norton just kicked a 28-yard field goal, and the Bulldogs’ edge has been trimmed to four at 14-10.

Bill or George. Anything but Sue!

There’s most of a quarter left.

Darrell Bridges (10) against Campbell earlier this season. (Monte Dutton photo)

Darrell Bridges (10) against Campbell earlier this season. (Monte Dutton photo)

A year ago was such a miracle. The Blue Hose went 6-5. Three of the losses were to bowl-bound Northern Illinois, Ole Miss and North Carolina State. The other two were nationally ranked FCS (Football Championship Subdivision, which is doubly confusing now that the FBS also has a championship) schools.

This year all the teams Presbyterian crept upon as thieves in the night have added extra security. The seconds are chipping away, and the team that lost by three two weeks ago and seven three weeks ago – last week was a much-appreciated battle with the Fighting Dates of Open – is about to lose by four.

For a while, defeats are moral victories. Then they become amoral. Finally are they immoral. They become abominations.

Final score: Gardner-Webb (3-5, 2-2) 14, Presbyterian (1-7, 0-5) 10. Thirteen yards of offense in the fourth quarter. Disparage the Blue Hose if you must, but they are remarkably consistent.

(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)

(Graphic courtesy of Meredieth Pritchard)

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

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About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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