by David Hershorin

Saturday September 14, 2002
Florida State vs. Maryland - ESPN at 7:45pm
Coverage Team: Ron Franklin, Mike Gottfried, Adrian Karsten
The games on ESPN at 7:45pm each Saturday seem to be establishing a trend of overproduction. The pitfalls of these broadcasts seem to revolve around trying to cover too many other games, which overburdens the announcers. Many problems become directly traceable to this factor - the announcers just can't call a great game with all the distractions. Most of the replay problems (in non-penalty situations) come from the producers trying to run excessive updates. A possible fumble at 4:30 in the first was never re-approached - instead, we got an update on the Alabama/North Texas game. Gee, I'd rather see a replay myself…oh well. This happens endlessly as the network tries to be 'college football central'. The game at hand suffers. Penalty replays are a major problem each week, too. Each and every call must be replayed/scrutinized…a game full of college kids pivots on little (any) mistakes. Some they breakdown, some they don't. So by making these points clear, you know how much some of us suffer when the game we watch isn't in sharp focus. The booth was on, seeing most action and conveying it efficiently. The booth's dilemma was their FSU-heavy comments. Maryland didn't have many highlights. But still, give 'em some airtime, they deserve it too. Once it was 30-0, I pretty much took this one off my radar. Some keen insights render these guys a B. The production's inability to focus on the game, though, isn't offset by quality cut-aways. The truck needs to get it in gear…a C is generous for lofty primetime expectations.

Penn State vs. Nebraska - ABC at 8:00pm
Coverage Team: Brad Nessler, Bob Griese, Lynn Swann
These guys prove my point from earlier…if you focus on the game you are showing, it makes for better coverage, period. ABC (which should teach sister ESPN) isn't trying to spread itself too thin. A few updates a half enabled this booth to get into the nuances needed for a great broadcast. Some of their insights…how PSU should avoid the option on this team especially (Nebraska practices against it perennially)… knew PSU QB Mills' 21 rushing yds at halftime outweighed the impact of his 207 passing yds…relayed Paterno's "franchise" tag for Mills before the highlight package ensued to prove his point. If you read this weekly, you know of my love for Griese's competent approach - he is the prototypical color man. He was more laid back than usual, letting the action speak for itself. The great camera work made this broadcast seamless - Happy Valley looked beautiful cutting away for each break. Also, play-action/fakes never fooled these cameramen. It made for the most consistent broadcast of the school year. Unfortunately, the 33-7 mark never allowed for possible perfection (as we all knew Nebraska ain't coming back, and there's nothing the chatter can do to change that). An A- earned for both parts, production and banter.

Louisville vs. Colorado State - ESPN2 at 9:30pm
Coverage Team: Jeff Hullinger, Todd Christiansen, Heather Cox
This commentating crew was modestly glib, embellishing when needed and backing off the same. Insights include identifying CSU RB Sapp' s goal line fumble before (timely) replay was cued, accurately labeling a second quarter Louisville lateral before even the Cardinals could figure it out, and noticing Van Pelt's lack of running ominously one play before his first carry. One faux pas occurred at 4:45 of the first. A penalty flag thrown stuck in the facemask of a Cardinal lineman. The entire announcing team had a good laugh at this, obviously insensitive to eye injuries often incurred. But for the most part, these guys held their own well. Statistics readily displayed helped compliment good replays, even of penalties. A B+ gives these guys the incentive to reach their potential, which seems to be higher than what we saw. A big thumbs up none the less.
The biggest problem I have with ESPN2 has to do with their cut-away style. They send it back to the broadcast center and we see highlights of something that just happened. The follow up then is a box-score graphic of an entirely different game, without introducing it first. By the time they do talk about the on-screen score, I have realized I shouldn't be listening to this part of the broadcast unless I like confusion. This brings down an unfortunately good production flow that informs and entertains. B- is buoyed by an otherwise great effort.