On a day where massive offensive linemen highlighted the field, a defensive end emerged victorious in the EA Sports NCAA Football 11 for Xbox 360 competition. Redshirt freshman defensive end C.J. Olaniyan stomped center Ty Howle in the final, 28-6, to win the coveted championship belt.
“I'm not real familiar with that, this is my first year,” Olaniyan said when told of the belt. “But if they give me a belt, I'll take it.”
While the tournament is highly competitive, all involved are sure to point out that the real focus is to raise awareness for Uplifting Athletes' cause -- the fight against kidney cancer. The event is held each year in conjunction with Global Rare Disease Day.
“I'm trying to get as involved as I can, so this means a lot to me,” Olaniyan said.
Added offensive lineman Eric Shrive, “We got a decent turnout here at Damon's. I think this will grow bigger over the years. We'll see where we can take this.”
Shrive was exhibit “A” that bigger is not always better when it comes to video game competitions. A late replacement who admittedly is not a video game buff, the 6-foot-6, 300-pounder was paired with 5-7, 164-pound receiver Devon Smith in the first round. Smith entered as one of the pre-tourney favorites.
The score was tied 14-14 in the second quarter -- to the surprise of nearly everyone on hand -- before Smith dropped the hammer to win 45-14.
“It's all for fun,” Shrive said with a smile.
The action really heated up in the second round. Each of the semifinal matchups was a clash of offense vs. defense, with Smith taking on Olaniyan and center Ty Howle going head to head with DT Brandon Ware.
In the first matchup, Smith realized he had a couple of problems.
“I thought I was good playing Shrive,” he said. “But I guess Shrive wasn't that good.”
There was one other small point: “The key to the game was playing defense. That's just what I couldn't do. (Olaniyan) played defense and played offense.”
Watching the action unfold, quarterback Rob Bolden couldn't quite figure out how Olaniyan was getting it done.
“C.J., he hasn't thrown a pass the whole tournament,” Bolden said. “He keeps using the same dude (to carry the ball). But somehow he keeps managing to break tackles and score a bunch of touchdowns.”
Olaniyan and his ground-oriented attack beat Smith spread offense, 20-7.
In the other semi, Howle beat Ware, 21-15. But Ware, who said, “I really thought I was gonna win, because I play this all the time,” felt Howle got a bit of an assist.
“I kept getting clipping penalties called against me,” Ware said. “Every time I got a first down, I got another penalty.”
Ware also joked that, “To get beat by an offensive lineman, it's not going to sit well with me.”
Then he added on a serious note, “Whoever wins, it's still for a good cause.”
Olaniyan faced Howle in the final. And if ever a case was made for why centers don't call plays for an offense, this was it. Howle may be an Academic All-Big Ten pick, but his bold move vs. Olaniyan backfired.
Trailing 21-6 late in the second quarter and operating from inside his own 30-yard line, Howle went for it on fourth down. Even before the ball was snapped, Olaniyan announced that he intended to intercept the pass.
He did exactly that, and scored soon after for a 28-6 lead that resulted in the whitewash rule being implemented.
“At first, because I haven't played the game in a while, I thought I was gonna struggle,” Olaniyan said. “But when I got on the sticks (the controller) it all came natural to me.”
Penn State Uplifting Athletes will hold its ninth annual Lift for Life Challenge July 8 at Holuba Hall. To date, PSU UA has raised nearly $500,000 for the Kidney Cancer Association.
For more on how you can help, check out the organizations website.
Brandon Ware 24, Nate Cadogan 21
Ty Howle 14, Mike Fuhrman 13
C.J. Olaniyan 36, Adam Gress 14
Devon Smith 45, Eric Shrive 14
Ty Howle 21, Brandon Ware 15
C.J. Olaniyan 20, Devon Smith 7
C.J. Olaniyan 28, Ty Howle 6
Ware vs. Cadogan in the first round.