Loflin goes with sentimental favorite | NevadaAppeal.com

Loflin goes with sentimental favorite

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

Loflin goes with sentimental favorite

Dave Price

So, who is going to Super Bowl XXXVIII? The New England Patriots may be a 7-point pick to beat the Carolina Panthers next Sunday, Feb. 1, but Jeff Loflin says he’s going against the odds.

Loflin, the director of operations at the Carson Station and two-time champion of the Pro Picks Challenge, likes the Panthers to cover on the points and he likes their chances to win the game outright.

“I’m picking Carolina to beat New England,” he said. “I really like Carolina, especially on the points, and even though these are two defensive teams, I really like the over (38 points) on that.”

Loflin is impressed with what he’s seen during the playoffs.

“They’re playing really good right now and they’re getting New England out of the cold in Houston,” Loflin said. “Stephan Davis is going to be healthy and running well, and that’s going to make a difference because he’s a horse. They actually have two great running backs in Davis and (DeShaun) Foster; they have (wide receiver Steve) Smith on the outside and he’s as fast as anyone, and they have a great defense. If they don’t get outcoached, and Bill Belichick is a great coach, I think Carolina can do it.”

By the way, there happens to be another factor behind his reasoning.

“Being from Carolina myself, there’s a little sentimentality involved,” said Loflin, who attended East Carolina in Greenville.

It’s a safe bet that this Super Bowl is a big deal in Carolina.

“They like their football,” Loflin said. “My brother lives right outside of Winston-Salem and I called him up to see if there was a chance of getting Super Bowl tickets. He told me, and that was right after the games Sunday night, tickets were already going for $2,000 apiece. That didn’t include travel or lodging, that was just for the ticket.”

Football is certainly a passion for Loflin, who played one season at East Carolina – “then I decided it would be better to just have fun” – and has followed the sport closely during the 30 years he and his family have lived in Carson City and eight years before that at Lake Tahoe.

“I love it,” said Loflin, who finished the 2003 Pro Picks Challenge with a 147-109 record. “I’m involved with three fantasy leagues, so I follow all of the players and all of the teams pretty closely. I was in a fantasy league up at the lake in the early ’70s; in fact, the league is still going and we have five original members.”

Loflin expects to see a good Super Bowl, following a trend of close games in the playoffs – three of which have been decided in overtime.

“If you look at past Super Bowls, they tend to be blowouts, but I think this might be different. I think it’ll be a real good game,” he said.

It’s a safe bet very few fans took notice back in August when Jake Delhomme was competing to play quarterback for the Panthers. He didn’t even beat out 38-year-old Rodney Peete for the starting job. Before that, he’d spent five seasons as a backup for the New Orleans Saints, and before that, he’d been a backup to Kurt Warner playing with NFL Europe’s franchise in Amsterdam.

Some local fans – and they would have to be true die-hards – may recall that Delhomme was on the Southwestern Louisiana (now known as Louisiana-Lafayette) team that lost its 1995 season opener to the Nevada Wolf Pack 38-14 at Mackay Stadium. Delhomme threw for 2,761 yards and 20 TDs during his junior season in 1995. And he finished his collegiate career with 9,216 yards passing and two Big West Conference championships – yet he still went undrafted.

Delhomme, 28, finally got his break on opening day this season when Peete struggled and the Panthers were down 17-0 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Delhomme started the second half and finished with a touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl on a fourth-and-11 play to give Carolina a 24-23 victory.

In all, the product of Breaux Bridge, La. – known as the “Crawfish Capital of the World – has led Carolina in eight game-winning drives either in regulation or overtime.

Obviously, Delhomme and the Panthers aren’t folks who should be counted out.

Dave Price is a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal