Many people think BTN studio host, Dave Revsine, has a college football fan’s dream job. Not me. The ESPN transplant indeed has a fun job, but as a diehard Wildcat fan, I simply couldn’t do what he does. Within moments of heartbreaking, soul crushing losses, there he is, unflappable as ever delivering highlights, commentary and running the three ring circus that his the entertaining and insightful commentary from sidekicks Howard Griffith and Gerry Dinardo. I’d be despondent in those situations. Conversely, after a last second win there is no hint of hyperbole or fist pumping from the Wildcat alum. What fun is that? Dave is one of the best in the business as his preparation is borderline legendary. We asked him to stop by during this busy bowl season to answer a few questions. Let’s get in to it…
LTP: You and I chat every August after your bus tour and you are usually good about grounding my overzealous expectations that have been fermented by an off-season of obsessing about the ‘Cats. Aside from the obvious Venric Mark storyline, which unit were you and the BTN crew most astonished about on a week in week out basis based on what you saw in Kenosha?
DR: Well – as you said – the Venric story was amazing. I recall saying to Paul Kennedy – NU SID – “that’s not going to work” in a mildly dismissive tone. I was convinced he’d get broken in half. Shows what I know.
I’d say the offensive line would probably be next on the list of surprises. After watching that group get steamrolled consistently last year and seeing some of the inexperience this year, I thought that would be a trouble spot as well. Has obviously turned out to be a strength.
In general, I’d say we (I’m lumping Howard and Gerry in here too) really underestimated NU after seeing them in Kenosha. As always, they held a lot if guys out the day we were there, which may have contributed. But the bottom line is we simply got it wrong. I thought this was a group that would be fortunate to get to a bowl.
LTP: Gameday. Give us an idea of what it is like when the cameras aren’t rolling on gameday behind the scenes. Let’s say it is a week in September when all 12 schools are playing. Do you divide and conquer? Are you watching on one superwall? How much trash talk goes on between you guys?
DR: Those September days are tough in terms of really assessing every team. I empathize with Gerry and Howard. They are put in a spot where they have to make an evaluation on each team that will jibe with the conclusions of a fan who intently watched every play. That’s hard to do. They often do divide up the games on days like that for halftime comments – but they do try to watch every team – as they need to make observations on everyone later in the day.
Truth be told, we’re all happy when non-conference is over. It’s definitely easier at that point. Plus, Mase (ed: Glen Mason) is there, so the workload gets distributed a bit more as well.
As for the set-up, we have a green room that is just off the studio. It has six flat screen TV’s mounted on the wall with a number of couches and chairs set up along the periphery. We watch the games in there on Saturdays.
There is one position that has a microphone hook up. I sit there and do the in game “cut-ins” from the green room. This is when the announcers throw back to Chicago to get updates on every game. We have a stage manger in there who quiets everyone down when we’re going to cut in. I have a producer in the control room who’s telling me what highlight we’re going to show and which audience we’re showing it to. I have a chart of who’s announcing every game (gets confusing when we have 4 or 5 games going on at once) so I can refer to them by name.
We have all of our meetings in there too. Whatever producer is in charge of the next show will come in at some point to talk to the analysts to get a sense of what they’re thinking in terms of analysis tapes. In other words, Mase might say, “I want to focus on Venric Mark for Northwestern” – and the associate producer whose job it is to cut that tape will go over plays with him that he or she is going to include.
The green room is a blast on Saturdays. We definitely have fun. As I hope you’ve gathered from watching, we all get along quite well. So, the day basically consists of sitting around watching football with a bunch of guys that I really like. It’s good that we like each other too – because it would be miserable if we didn’t. On Saturdays that include night games, we’re there about 17 hours – usually arrive around 7 am and leave at midnight.
LTP: Let’s talk turning point. You know my answer on this one, but I’d be curious to get your take. Pick ONE play, ONE moment this season for NU that you’ll look back at and say that was a pivotal turning point for the program?
DR: I’d have to say the game-winning TD against Syracuse. Lose that one and you’re already trying to dig out of a hole.
LTP: There might not be one guy better equipped to answer the question that isn’t on the coaches payroll in Evanston. What’s your 2013 perspective for NU based on their incredible amount of returning players not named left side of the OL? With a schedule including Sonny Dykes at Cal, Syracuse at home and a conference slate that is brutal (OSU, Mich, MSU, MN at home, Wisky, Neb, Iowa, Indiana road), how do you handicap expectations in Evanston?
DR: Well – I’d qualify this by saying you might be overestimating my insight. Remember, I’ve only seen one more practice than the average fan has – and I’ve probably watched the games less intently than they have due to the nature of my job.
I’d agree that the schedule is much tougher. But I’d also say “have a little faith.” NU has been in every game this year. There’s no reason they won’t be able to have similar success next season. I don’t look at any I those games and say “no chance.”
Based on my one day in Kenosha, I would say that the talent level is getting better and better. There were some physically impressive young guys on that roster.
So – I’d say another season along the lines of this one is realistic.
LTP: What evolution do you see for the Colter/Mark vs Siemian dual QB thing next year?
DR: The one thing I’d like to see is more deception – not necessarily trick plays, but just enough variety to keep the defense guessing. I think they need to use Colter’s versatility even more. Line him up at RB and let him run a run/pass option sweep (or at WR and bring him on a similarly designed reverse). I thought it got very predictable there for a while – Colter was going to run, Siemian was going to pass. The further they can get from those obvious tendencies (even if it’s just a few times a game) the tougher they are to defend.
LTP: What will it take for either Kain or Venric to get legit Heisman consideration by the start of B1G play when we host Ohio State?
DR: I think it starts in the bowl game – get a win. That makes you a Top 25 team heading into the season.
After that, you need to publicize them a bit over the summer. Then, you need them to get off to solid starts – perhaps an early punt return TD for Venric or a 3 pass TD 2 rush TD type of day from Colter vs Cal. Still – as we saw this year – the Heisman is won during the season. I think the lesson lately in a world where every game is televised, is that the hype matters less than it used to.
LTP: Give us you favorite NU play this year. Also, your favorite moment. Your pick to click in the Gator Bowl? Name not on our radar to watch in 2013 for NU?
DR: There was no Drake Dunsmore one-handed catch vs. PSU or Colter dive for the pylon against Nebraska this year.
I think I’d just pick that seemingly weekly image of Venric Mark running free in the secondary. To me, this year was about establishing the run game, and that was the best example.
Pick to click in the Gator Bowl would be Vitale. I think he got better and better as the year went on. He’s a guy who can really help keep a defense honest.
Name for next year would be Stephen Buckley. I know Fitz is really high on him. Thinks he can be another threat along the lines of Mark.
LTP: Thanks a ton Dave. We appreciate the time and effort and we look forward to you keeping your emotions in check after the ‘Cats finally break the streak!
Kudos to Connor M. and his posse of fans who staked out a tailgate yesterday morning at 6:30 am in terrible weather as a way to sendoff the ‘Cats who departed for Jacksonville. Fitz, Morty, Dave Eanet and others came over and thanked them for their support. They were there from 6:30 am to 7:30 am and hope to start a fan tradition by doing so. Wow.
LTP Bowl Mania
I got lucky with the Central Michigan win over Western Kentucky last night and am now six for eight on my picks for a total of 25 points. I’m way behind the leaderboard, but I have enough PPR to actually be a contender. Tonight is a big night as there are three games on the slate and I have San Jose State, Cincinnati and Baylor on my board. As for the leaderboard, JuggleItUp is still atop the LTP leaderboard with 162 points, while FireCarmody is in second at 155 and Scuzz Model rounds out the top three with 140 points. Tonight will be a big night, so check back in the morning!