BY CHRIS RAMBO
Yesterday’s SEC Championship Game, in which top-ranked LSU rallied to blow away No.14 Georgia 42-10, was the last SEC game of the year for CBS and their superb broadcast team of Verne Lundquist (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (color analyst), and Tracy Wolfson. With the exception of a three-year stay at TNT in the mid-1990s Lundquist has been with CBS since 1982 and is one of the most versatile and widely respected men in the business. He has broadcasted everything from NFL football, to college basketball, to golf, and even figure skating. Danielson has been at Lundquist’s side for SEC games since 2006, prior to which he was Brent Musberger’s color man for seven years at ABC. Wolfson is now in her seventh season working the sidelines for CBS.
The team’s experience and overall chemistry was apparent throughout the evening, as the whole telecast flowed very smoothly. Although, at age 71, he’s slipped a bit lately, Lundquist still does a good job at describing the action. He stays away from overused clichés and does a nice job at matching the intensity of his call with that of the game. He also knows that a TV announcer’s best moments often come when he or she says nothing at all and simply lets the viewer soak in the atmosphere. A good example from yesterday’s game occurred as the end of the first quarter. Fourteen-point underdog Georgia had just dominated the first 15 minutes and was in front 10-0. As the quarter wound to a close the CBS cameras went to an extended shot of the Georgia fans cheering wildly while a fired up Bulldog bench urged them to get even louder. Throughout the whole prolonged sequence, neither Lundquist nor Danielson said a word, resulting in a picture that communicated the story of the 1st quarter far better than any words. As mentioned earlier, Lundquist seems to be slipping these last couple of years, and there were a few signs of this yesterday, as he was occasionally slow to spot flags as well as choppy at times heading into breaks.
Danielson, overall, did a very nice job. His analysis was almost completely free of mindless chatter and focused exclusively on x’s and o’s. He did a good job at instantly identifying the key aspect of a play and breaking it down in a timely manner so Lundquist could describe what was happening next. I can’t think of many instances where Danielson spilled over into the next play. Also, because he had already broadcast several LSU and Georgia games this season, Danielson was aware of many little nuances in both schools schemes and also very familiar with many players strengths and weaknesses. He was spot on most of the game with calling out package and personnel changes.
In the 4th quarter, with LSU fully in control, Lundquist and Danielson diverged slightly from the action to discuss the BCS situation. It was widely believed going into the game that LSU—win or lose—had already secured a rematch with Alabama in the national title game. With the Tigers cruising, attention shifted to whether the No.2 Crimson Tide deserved a chance to avenge their loss to LSU or whether No.3 Oklahoma State should jump them in the polls. Danielson spent considerable time on the subject, running through the offensive and defensive statistics for both squads, and expressing his displeasure with the current BCS system. Danielson has been criticized—justifiably—in the past for being over the top in his praise of the SEC, but he did not seem to be too out-of-line here, although it was clear he thought Alabama was superior to Oklahoma State. I give the team credit for holding off on the BCS talk until the game was out of reach. There was a mention, for the sake of context, during the pre-game remarks, but after that the focus of Lundquist and Danielson was squarely on the game at hand. That is the way it should be (and the way it isn’t for a couple of teams at ESPN).
Wolfson did a good job working the sidelines, quickly gathering injury information and providing some interesting behind the scenes stories. One moment that stood out came early in the third quarter after LSU had smacked Georgia for two quick touchdowns to move in front 21-10. Wolfson described Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham as flinging his clipboard down and desperately imploring his players to regain their first-half intensity. Momentum was squarely with the Tigers, and Wolfson’s image perfectly captured where the game stood.
Overall, despite a few minor flaws, the CBS team is, in my opinion, the most enjoyable in college football. Too bad we won’t see them do any more big games until next season.