College Fans, Beware The Man in the Bottle

Lyn Scarbrough

September 18, 2018 at 10:07 pm.

Sep 15, 2018; Syracuse, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange quarterback Eric Dungey (2) passes the ball against the Florida State Seminoles during the first quarter at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 15, 2018; Syracuse, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange quarterback Eric Dungey (2) passes the ball against the Florida State Seminoles during the first quarter at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Arthur Castle needed help. His antique business was floundering near financial disaster and he needed a miracle. He turned to a poor elderly woman and an old wine bottle.

Few will remember Arthur Castle, the main character in Episode 38 of The Twilight Zone, which first aired on my birthday in 1960. The show’s title … The Man in the Bottle.

There was a genie in the bottle that Arthur got from the old lady. The spirit inside warned that wishes have consequences. But, the struggling businessman so badly wanted riches (he asked for a million dollars) and power (he asked to be the leader of a powerful country where he could not be voted out of office).

So, Arthur got his wish. He was transformed into German dictator Adolph Hitler in the final days of World War II, hiding in his underground bunker with a vial of cyanide.

His wishes were granted, but the results were not at all what Arthur needed.

As college football scores came in on Saturday, Arthur Castle came to mind.

Syracuse 30, Florida State 7 … Fresno State 38, UCLA 14 … North Texas 44, Arkansas 17 … Troy 24, Nebraska 19 … Arizona 62, Southern Utah 31.

Arthur, did your genie somehow find its way to Tallahassee, Los Angeles, Fayetteville, Lincoln and Tuscon? Critical fans in all those places demanded instant improvement. But from the look of things so far, they may have gotten the ghost of Rod Serling instead.

After the 2017 season, those teams were all floundering.

Jimbo Fisher wasn’t run out of Tallassee, but if things had stayed the same, he might have been. The Seminoles started the season ranked No. 3, lost five Atlantic Coast Conference games including a 35-3 humiliation to Boston College, then had to ask Louisiana-Monroe to reschedule a cancelled game to even win six and qualify for a bowl.

When Fisher left for College Station, many ‘Noles fans breathed a sigh of relief and turned to Willie Taggert, first-year head coach at Oregon who grew up in Bradenton, Fla., as a Florida State fan.

UCLA was beaten by Memphis, lost by more than 20 points each to Washington, Utah and Stanford, and lost for the third consecutive time to cross-town rival USC. After their bowl loss, the Bruins finished 6-7. Head coach Jim Mora was fired in November, replaced by Chip Kelley, veteran head coach from Oregon, the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers.

Bret Bielema had never been a great fit at Arkansas and Razorback fans were fed up. After giving up 48 to South Carolina and Missouri, 50 to Texas A&M and 52 to Auburn, the Hog Call went out to Chad Morris, who had just completed his third season at SMU … with a 14-22 overall record.

In Lincoln, where national championships were the norm 20 years ago, Mike Riley was shown the door after a 4-8 record. The Cornhuskers turned to Scott Frost, their sixth head coach in those two decades. As the ‘Huskers’ quarterback, Frost led Nebraska to the 1997 national championship, then 20 years later as the head coach, he led UCF to another “national championship.”

And in Tuscon, the Wildcats limped to another five-loss season, then lost to Purdue in the Foster Farms Bowl. So, Arizona fired Rich Rodriquez after a six-year Pac-12 record of 24-30 … and hired Kevin Sumlin, who had just been fired by Texas A&M a few weeks earlier.

All five programs changed coaches looking for a quick fix.

And, they all have something else in common … the results.

During their long history, that quintet of teams has a combined 3,324 wins.

This year, they have three.

Florida State … Lost by 21 at home to Virginia Tech and was massacred by Syracuse, 30-7. In between, outplayed at home by FCS Samford, only taking the lead in the closing minutes. In 90 minutes of football so far, the Seminoles have had the lead for just 3:49.

UCLA … Blew a 10-point lead at home in a loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats, blown out by Oklahoma giving up 49 points. Even worse, blitzed by Fresno State, 38-14, never having the lead, again at home.

Arkansas … Defeated winless Eastern Illinois in the season opener, scoring 55 points. (Since then, Indiana State also scored 55 on the Panthers, and Illinois State scored 48). Then, the Hogs were outscored 25-0 down the stretch by winless Colorado State in a 34-27 loss. It got worse, if that’s possible, on Saturday, as they were steamrolled by North Texas of C-USA, 44-17 at home, trailing at one point by 34.

Nebraska … Lost to Colorado at home on a last-minute touchdown pass, before losing on Saturday to Troy of the Sun Belt Conference. The Cornhuskers never had the lead against the Trojans and lost their sixth consecutive home game, as well as its sixth game in row overall. Think about that … Nebraska has lost six straight. Thank goodness for the thunderstorm that caused cancellation of the season opener against Akron (the Zips won at Northwestern on Saturday) or that probably would be seven in a row.

Arizona … Dynamic quarterback Khalil Tate, led by offensive guru Sumlin, was going to make the Wildcats a contender. The first game was an upset loss at home to Brigham Young. In the second game, a 45-18 loss, Arizona trailed 38-0 before finally scoring against Houston, another place where Sumlin coached. (The Cougars then gave up 63 in a loss to Texas Tech on Saturday.) The Wildcats finally did win one, 62-31, over winless Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds of the FCS Big Sky Conference had already lost at home to North Alabama and gave up 48 to Oregon State.

The lesson to be learned from all of this?

Serling probably said it best at the end of Episode 38:

“A word to the wise … to the curio seekers, to the antique buffs, to everyone who would try to coax out a miracle from unlikely places, check that bottle you’re taking back for a two-cent deposit. The genie you save might be your own.”

Serling might have added disgruntled, critical football fan bases to the list of those being warned.

Be careful if you’re approached by a poor elderly woman and beware of the man in a bottle.

You might get what you wish for.

Just ask Arthur Castle.