While trying to catch up on my magazine reading...
For Boston area sports fans, last Sunday was one hell of a day. It ended up being called Miracle Sunday and Comeback Sunday, but whatever the name you choose to call it, thanks to two stunning comebacks, it was truly a fun day!
The day started off with the afternoon late game matchup of the Patriots hosting the Saints.
Now I'm not suggesting anyone out there reading this doesn't already know what happened given the ad nauseum talk and replay of the days events, but it does feel good to write about it even a week after the events.
I was a bit depressed by all the fans leaving the stadium when all appeared lost after the Tom Brady interception. However, I can understand the desire to get a jump on traffic. I haven't ever been to Foxboro for a Pats game (I haven't hit the lottery as you might've guessed.) But I've heard the horror stories of the traffic on Route 1 after the game lets out.
Of course, I'm feeling slightly superior to those fans who left though. See, when Brady threw that pick, I too felt the game was over. But unlike those who bolted for the exits, I kept the TV channel right where it was. And my reward for staying with the game to what was looking to be "the bitter end" was seeing Brady getting a third "last chance opportunity" and hitting Kenbrell Thompkins with 5 seconds left for the winning touchdown.
It was a hell of a pass and Thompkins displaying good hands and the presence of mind to get both feet down in bounds had fans everywhere cheering his name instead of cursing it as has been the case in weeks past.
Of course nothing is perfect and the Patriots lost three players to injury during the course of the game. Jerod Mayo is out for the season, while Danny Amendola got knocked out and Dan Connolly got a head injury as well. The continuing pile up of injuries keeps the chorus of talking heads talking about when the personnel losses will finally come back to kill the Patriots chances to win, but all that didn't matter at this moment in the game:
The capper to the Patriots game was Bill Belichick's quote to start the postgame press conference: “Well, I’m sorry you had to rewrite some of those [game] stories at the end.”
After taking a break from sports to do watch other things on TV, I caught Game 2 of the ALCS with the Red Sox and Tigers. After getting shut down in Game 1 by Tigers pitching, I don't think the Sox or their fans figured to see it happen again in Game 2. And that's still taking into account that Max Scherzer was starting the second game.
But that is what happened as the Boston lineup could hardly get anything going against Detroit once again.
That is of course until the 8th inning when David Ortiz once again earned that unofficial but entirely accurate title of "best clutch hitter in baseball". When that first pitch to Ortiz got swatted into the Red Sox bullpen for a game tying grand slam, the sleepy Fenway Park crowd (and yours truly) went absolutely barking stars!
That crazy fervor went up even more when Boston nailed a walk off single to win Game 2 6-5 and salvage a split of the two games in Boston. They needed to do that after dropping Game 1, because if they'd gone to Detroit down 0-2, I really think the tone of the series would've been such that the only way Boston would be heading back to Fenway would be to clean out their lockers.
I'll tell you though, watching Big Papi swing the stick and tag that ball was beautiful, don't you think?
As for the rest of the ALCS, you can imagine how great it was to see the Red Sox take the first game in Detroit in a 1-0 classic performance. It is going to cost a lot of money if Boston hopes to keep Mike Napoli next season. His homer and an amazing performance from starter John Lackey in outdueling Justin Verlander had the tense fingernail biting game keeping everyone glued to every pitch.
Then there was the big win for the Tigers in Game 4. The less said about that the better for Red Sox fans. But the Tigers did a hell of a job getting to Jake Peavy for 5 runs to quickly take control of the game.
And then Game 5 saw the Red Sox solve Anibal Sanchez early and hang on to win 4-3 to head back to Boston with a 3-2 lead.
As you might imagine, I was writing this piece up ahead of time so there wasn't time to include my thoughts about Game 6. When I stopped writing, it was 2-1 Tigers heading into the 7th inning. I was swearing quite vociferously at the TV / Red Sox. I was cursing the lineage of whatshisname who walked the bases loaded, cursing Brandon Workman for dropping the ball when he tried to bare hand it to make a play and I was cursing every one on the Tigers for not laying down and dying so MY Red Sox could win the game.
And in the bottom of the 7th inning, I was screaming in joy as the Red Sox worked the bases loaded. And then came The Flyin' Hawaiian!
Not bad for a guy that everyone (including me) thought was done after his season last year in L.A. But instead he served as a catalyst to change the culture in the clubhouse and now has hit one of the most important home runs in Boston Red Sox history.
And don't let us forget the shutdown relief pitching we are getting from Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and the lights out Koji Uehara. Those guys have been awesome and it showed again last night.
I am by no means getting ahead of things, but this team reminds me of the loose yet intense guys we saw back in 2004. The games are on the edge of your seat nail biters filled with huge and timely plays at the plate and in the field.
The Red Sox are in the World Series. Somehow, the world seems a little brighter this Sunday morning.
I was out running errands during the early part of the first games yesterday. But I stopped in at the 99 restaurant to have some lunch and saw some of the South Carolina-Tennessee game. Tennessee led 3-0 when I left but I've been saying that they stink, even after giving Georgia all they could handle two weeks ago. But once I got home, I watched the rest of the game as the Volunteers got their first "signature" win under Butch Jones and pulled the 23-21 upset on a field goal as time expired.
You gotta give Tennessee credit, they really busted their butts today and with an assist by some stupid decisions by Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier, got the big win. Of course I can be momentarily happy for them to get the monkey off their back. But next week they play Alabama and I'll be rooting for them to stink all over again.
One game that is making all sorts of news this week is one that ended up not being played. The situation at Grambling State has reached epically bad proportions. Earlier in the week, players boycotted a practice after they'd walked out of a meeting with the school administration. This was due in part to their unhappiness with the firing of coach Doug Williams, the hiring of George Ragsdale as interim coach and a number of other issues.
After they boycotted a second practice, Ragsdale was fired as coach. The players initially had voted to play today's game against Jackson State, but the school forfeited the game when none of the players showed up to the buses that were to transport them to the game. (the busing to games is another of the issues raised by players).
It is an utter shame what is being done at the school made famous by coach Eddie Robinson (pictured below).
I haven't really written much about Division 3 college football because in all honesty I don't really follow it. Heck, I usually don't even read about it when they have coverage in the papers of the area teams.
But I thought I'd mention the Mass Maritime Buccaneers. The team is located about 10-15 minutes from where I live and on the roster is a guy named E.J. Bennett. He's from my town and I had the pleasure of coaching him in basketball. He's been a pretty good receiver for the team and is currently a junior.
In last week's 54-53 victory over Western Connecticut, he caught 7 passes for 83 yards including a 33 yard TD reception. Through the first 5 games, he has 36 catches for 422 yards and 6 TDs.
The Buccaneers had their sixth game yesterday on the road against Westfield State. They trailed 27-7 but rallied to tie the game. But WSU scored 10 points to close out the game and win 37-27. Mass Maritime is 3-3 on the season with a 1-3 conference record. But E.J. had a huge day in the loss. He caught 15 passes (two shy of his own record of 17) for a school record 274 receiving yards and 3 TDs. His last TD was a 68 yard scoring strike.
Alabama - The Crimson Tide started the game off being just unstoppable against Arkansas. Ten minutes into the game and Alabama was up 14-0.
A.J. McCarron went 6-7 on the first drive and capped it off with a TD pass to Jalston Fowler. A bad punt from Arkansas gave Bama great field position and they marched unbelievably fast down towards the end zone where Kenyan Drake ran it in for the second TD.
Things slowed down for a bit after that, but Kenyan Drake blew open the game with a 46 yard TD run with 9:03 left in the second quarter. The surgically precise dissection of the Razorbacks continued with a McCarron to Amari Cooper 30 yard TD pass and a 28-0 halftime lead.
In the second half, it was more of the same as McCarron hit O.J. Howard with a 17 yard TD as Alabama's offense just kept grinding away at what seems like a defense unable to defend themselves.
T.J. Yeldon got into the action with a 24 yard run to make it 42-0 and Alabama was really looking like a juggernaut.
The bench got a bunch of playing time after that. Blake Sims went in at QB and led them to a field goal on his first series (helped largely by a roughing the punter penalty on Arkansas).
Add in an 80 yard TD run from Derrick Henry (he had 110 to lead the team on the night) in the fourth quarter and the 52-0 blowout was complete.
The ground game accounted for 350 out of the 530 total yards on the night. The defense held Arkansas to 256 yards of total offense while garnering 2 interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Domination thy name last night was Alabama. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was cleared to play and he keyed the early going for the defense with a interception (pictured below).
In other Saturday action that caught my eye:
Georgia saw their season and conference title hopes take another big hit as Vanderbilt upset them 31-27. It seems that whatever the Bulldogs had to rebuild their season after the opening game lost has once again disappeared and they are now an also-ran yet again. And the defense has fallen apart. This is the second straight game where Georgia lost after holding a 13 point lead.
In continuing their surprising and continuously effective season, Missouri stomped all over the Florida Gators 36-17 to run their record to 7-0. And keep in mind that while Florida's offense hasn't been firing on all cylinders at times this year, the Tigers won with their backup QB starting in place of injured passer James Franklin.
The Michigan-Indiana game saw the two teams confused about whether they were playing football or basketball. The Wolverines won 63-47! The stat guys must've had a field day trying to keep up with QB Devin Gardner (pictured below). He was 21-29 for 502 yards and 2 TDs. He also ran for 81 yards and 3 TDs.
But it didn't stop there for the Wolverines. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (pictured below) ran for 152 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Not to be outdone, receiver Jeremy Gallon (pictured below) caught 14 passes for (and this is not a typo) 369 yards and two touchdowns.
Another shootout game was Texas A&M-Auburn. Auburn pulled off the 45-41 upset at College Station behind the power running of Tre Mason (178 yards 1 TD) and the combined passing and running performance of QB Nick Marshall. He threw for 236 yards and 2 TDS and also ran for 100 yards and 2 TDS.
Despite the loss, Johnny Manziel had a stat game to make most QBs jealous. He threw for 454 yards and 4 TDS. He added 48 yards on the ground with another TD. Receiver Mike Evans was in beast mode once again. He caught 11 passes for 287 yards and 4 TDs. It appears college teams that call the state of Alabama home can't cover him to save their lives. They win the games but look ridiculous trying to stop him from catching passes.
Meanwhile, Auburn is really looking pretty good and the Iron Bowl against "my" Crimson Tide is going to be a heck of an interesting game this year.
When you think of video game football, I think the real life equivalent this season has to be Baylor. They put another ridiculous beating on a team yesterday. This week's victim was Iowa State and they lost to the Bears 71-7 and managed just 173 yards of total offense.
Oh and in a day of upsets, Ole Miss blew a 24-14 lead but got a 41 yard field goal with 2 seconds left to knock of #6 LSU 27-24.
LSU QB Zach Mettenberger had a very bad game overall with three picks, two of which were in the end zone.
The big power matchup of the week was the primetime game between #5 Florida State and #3 Clemson. And the sizzle for that game fizzled as the Seminoles just annihilated Tajh Boyd 51-14.
Clemson "Clemson'd" themselves once again as FSU quarterback Jameis Winston (pictured below) threw for 444 yards and 3 TDs. He also ran for a score as well.
I was busy watching the Alabama game and the Red Sox so I didn't see any of this game but you don't have to sit through four quarters to understand what happened. All you have to do is look at the scoreboard. There is no way to spin a 51-14 final score.
And Jameis Winston certainly has to be seen as a candidate for the Heisman Trophy. The guy is just killing it out there.
Finally! I had a 2-0 week last Sunday in my fantasy football leagues. I play to have some fun and all, but of course I want to do well. And this was the first week where I went undefeated. Here's hoping that it is the start of a trend and not just a one week aberration.
While there is a full slate of games in the NFL today, no game has had more pregame hype than the Denver Broncos visit to Indianapolis. The return of Peyton Manning to play against the Colts was a big enough story all by itself, but it blew up into comically epic proportions when Colts owner Jim Irsay opened his ignorant yap and took his place alongside his father (for moving the team out of Baltimore in the middle of the night) as a tool of the first order. He made some comments in an interview with a USA Today reporter.
I read the interview and while much of what he said was factually correct, it came off as him being a bit of a dick. And that's why the backlash against him (including comments from Denver coach John Fox) was so fierce. Irsay comes off as if he's ungrateful for what Peyton Manning brought to Indy in the first place. The Colts would be nowhere near the level they are if Manning hadn't won all those regular season games Irsay kind of backhand dismisses. And while he may have won only 1 Super Bowl with Manning, that's one more than he would've won in those years without him.
I realize it will never happen but it would be nice if megalomaniacal owners just learned to keep their mouths shut. If for no other reason than it would be a refreshing change of pace.
One game that didn't make that blog post because it was played yesterday afternoon was the Upper Cape football team beating the Avon/Holbrook team 42-6.
It has been a slow week for me this week, so there is no music or book news to share with you. But I did get confirmation that I was approved for a press pass to cover the Rhode Island Comic-Con on Saturday November 2nd. I'll write an article about my "Day at the Con" once I attend. You can check out the show's website at http://www.ricomiccon.com
I know that I'll be excited to meet one guest in particular. Catherine Mary Stewart from the 1984 sci-fi film The Last Starfighter. My inner child from when I was 13 was so in love with her and wished I could be the guy she ran (flew?) off to outer space with.
TV - The season premiere of The Walking Dead last Sunday was called "30 Days without an Accident". I've heard some negative talk about the premiere but I have to say that I really enjoyed it. By the way, I'm not doing the episode recaps this year so don't be waiting around looking for those links.
Oh and the folks who put together those Honest Trailers on Youtube have done one up for The Walking Dead. You can check it out below.
Oh, and there was a pretty good story about a waitress in New Hampshire that picked up the check for two National Guard members during the government shutdown. The story went viral and it was picked up by The Ellen Degeneres Show. Check the link to see what happened!
On November 23rd, the 50th anniversary celebration episode of Doctor Who called "The Day of the Doctor" will premiere. The first trailer for the special is now online.
Comic Books - Next weekend (October 26th and 27th), participating comic shops throughout the land will be taking part in Halloween Comicfest 2013. Much like Free Comic Book Day, special Halloween themed comics will be available at shops for the kids...for FREE!
Speaking of comics, the third issue of the comic series SIDEKICK came out last week. And on the letters page I was quite happily surprised to find my letter of comment about the first issue had been printed.
I'm a huge fan of the writer J. Michael Straczynski and his response to my letter made my day.
The first part is a quote from my letter, the rest is his response:
JMS: "...set the bar high for someone falling so low." Best turn of phrase I've heard this week. Knock it off, you're showing me up here."
I thought that was pretty darn cool of him to say.
This week, the submissions are from two LSU fans (myself included), one Texas fan, one Oklahoma fan, one Michigan fan (new participant), and one Notre Dame fan. All the contributors from last week have returned.
Oregon edged Clemson on the last ballot, which also kept Alabama from being perfect. It will be interesting to see what happens if Clemson wins on Saturday. If you were wondering, Texas’s only points come from the two Big X(II) participants. The Missouri/Georgia game caused the most movement, as Missouri shot up 14 spots and Georgia fell 12. The Bulldogs did not appear at all in two of the rankings. Stanford only fell 7 spots, and Oklahoma only fell 8 spots. Auburn’s jump into the top 25 was a bit of a mystery. We’ll see how well they can defend their position against Johnny Football and the Aggies, who fell three spots after a lackluster performance at Ole Miss. Baylor made a significant jump (9 spots) despite a relatively unspectacular win over Kansas St. Virginia Tech also moved up considerably (8 spots) after beating an unranked Pitt team, also by 10. Washington and Michigan both fell dramatically after losses.
Many of you probably know where to find my other blogs (such as more detailed rankings discussion) by now, but if you need specific directions, let me know. The above is my first purely mathematical ranking.
Out of rankings: (8) Washington, (23) Florida, (25) N’western
Many of you probably know where to find my other blogs (such as more detailed rankings discussion) by now, but if you need specific directions, let me know. The above is my first purely mathematical ranking.
While forewarning everyone that this is a shorter version than usual this week...
MORE IDIOCY FROM A FORMER PLAYER
A couple months back I had linked an article about an ex-player of mine that got arrested for drugs. The story was made more sensational because two women were also arrested and one of them had her 10 year old daughter in the car at the time of the drug deal.
Well, the ex-player of mine obviously hasn't learned his lesson because he got arrested again. I know that I played no part in his life decisions but it galls you to know that someone you had a hand in coaching learned nothing of what you tried to teach either on the court or simply by example.
Minnesota - The Golden Gophers lead off the college football recap for the second week in a row. But once again it isn't due to anything they did on the field.
No, it is because Jerry Kill made news again this week. After suffering his 5th game day epileptic seizure before last week's game at Michigan, the coach announced he is temporarily stepping away from his coaching duties to focus on the treatment and management of his epilepsy.
This is a good thing because the seizures were becoming a big distraction to the whole team. You always hope for the health of the person but it seems that this last seizure finally got through to the coach that he needs to address things more thoroughly if he hopes to continue coaching.
Boston College - I suppose I should've known better but I allowed my hopes to rise as I watched the Boston College Eagles play #3 Clemson this afternoon. And play is definitely what they did for the 3 plus quarters.
With Clemson unable to hold on to the ball in the first half and not really able to mount much in the way of offense, the Eagles held a 14-10 lead in the fourth quarter. But the Tigers scored a TD to go ahead and on the next possession, BC quarterback Chase Rettig displayed an unbelievable lack of presence of mind as he fumbled the ball as he was getting sacked deep in BC territory. Clemson scooped up the ball and ran it into the end zone to go up 24-14 and effectively cap off the game.
There was time left in the game, but it wasn't to be as the score held up and BC's lack of overall ability to stop Clemson when it mattered most came back to bite them in the tailfeathers.
It ruined what had been a really good game for the Eagles. The defense did bend in giving up 496 yards in total offense but it didn't break until midway through the fourth quarter. They held that high powered Tajh Boyd led offense to just 3 points in the first half.
Chase Rettig hooked up with receiver Alex Amidon for a beautiful 69 yard TD pass that put BC up 14-10 in the third quarter. Rettig finished with 192 yards passing, 121 of which were completions to Amidon.
Andre Williams ran for 70 yards on the day, but it was Myles Willis (pictured below) who had the best run of the day for the Eagles with a 38 yard TD dash.
The Eagles are trying to compete and while they are falling short against the best parts of their schedule, I think it is to the credit of coach Steve Addazio that they are in these games at all. You can see his enthusiasm on the sideline and even from a distance, it is infectious.
Alabama - The first half of the Alabama game against Kentucky saw two lost fumbles by the Crimson Tide in the first quarter.
But then came absolute domination by Alabama in the second quarter. The Wildcats must not have known what hit them as they went to the lockerroom for halftime down 24-0. And the thing of it was, it was just Bama being Bama. There isn't anything particularly flashy about what they were doing to Kentucky in the first half.
On the final score of the half, there was a false start penalty called on one of the linemen and Nick Saban just went ballistic on the guy. Before the ESPN cameras cut away from the tongue lashing, I found myself glad I wasn't much of a lip-reader.
In the second half, the Alabama defense "slacked off" a bit and gave up a touchdown to Kentucky. But that was pretty much it as the Crimson Tide rolled their way to a 48-7 victory.
A.J. McCarron (pictured below) threw for 359 yards and a TD while running backs T.J. Yeldon (124 yards, 2 TDs) and Kenyan Drake (106 yards, 2 TDs) helped control the game on the ground.
The defense held Kentucky to just 170 total yards of offense, including just 76 passing yards.
In other news, the early games yesterday featured a couple of stunning results but before we get to that, there was the 50-25 victory by Army over Eastern Michigan. Beyond the Army-Navy game, I usually don't pay much attention to the service academies during football season unless they happen to play one of my teams. But I saw the highlight package info on TV that running back Terry Baggett (pictured below) had one heck of a day for himself. He ran 18 times for a school record 304 yards and 4 TDs.
The game that has occupied the thoughts of a lot of people on the two blog sites I am a part of was the Red River Shootout between Texas and Oklahoma. It was largely assumed that given the questions surrounding the Longhorns and coach Mack Brown's status that Oklahoma would steamroll those in the burnt orange uniforms.
But you know what they say about assuming.
I caught the second half of the game and Texas just absolutely owned this game. They won 36-20, but other than a pick six INT for the Sooners, there really wasn't much in the way of competition for Texas over the last 30 minutes.
The win will quiet the cries for Brown's dismissal or resignation for a few days and it gives the seniors their first win over Oklahoma. So it is a good night for those deep in the heart of...
Just when you thought Georgia was going to round the bend and take their spot among the "true" title contenders in the SEC, they run into a fired up Missouri team and fall flat. The Tigers, though ranked, pulled off a big upset 41-26 and improved to 6-0 on the season.
It didn't come easy though. They were up by 18 points in the 1st half on Georgia but the Bulldogs pulled to within 28-26 before Missouri pulled away for good.
Wide receiver L'Damian Washington (pictured below) was huge for Missouri with 7 catches for 115 yards and 2 TDs.
The biggest question surrounding Missouri now will be the status of quarterback James Franklin (pictured below). He left the game with a shoulder injury. The early reports are that it is a separated shoulder (his throwing shoulder) and coach Gary Pinkel has said he'll be out for a while. Later reports have it being as much as 6 weeks, if not more. (ESPN is reporting this morning that he's out for the year.)
In a battle of winless teams, UMass got their first win of the season by knocking off Miami (OH) 17-10.
Baylor beating Kansas State wasn't a huge surprise, but the fact that the Bears managed to put just 35 points on the board was a big surprise considering how explosive Baylor has been in previous weeks.
Another upset on the day was the 35-6 Wisconsin win over #19 Northwestern.
Penn State had a 21-10 lead but blew that, then rallied to force OT against #18 Michigan. But that wasn't the end of things as the game went into four overtimes before Bill Belton ran for a 2 yard TD as the Nittany Lions upset the Wolverines. They were aided by a pass interference penalty in that fourth OT on the play before the TD.
Of course, the biggest numerical upset on the day was the Utah 27-21 defeat of #5 Stanford.
BOSTON RED SOX
So I watched Game 1 of the ALCS last night, trading off during commercials with the Alabama football game.
And it was an intense game to say the least. Unfortunately for me and other Red Sox fans, the game was a mostly one sided affair as Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez (pictured below) completely dominated the Red Sox lineup for 6 innings. He gave up no hits and struck out 12 in such a fashion that it looked like a Little League team against him.
Making things even worse was that four relievers for the Tigers combined to hold the Red Sox to just one hit (a ninth inning single by Daniel Nava). The Tigers bullpen struck out 5 more batters for a total of 17 on the night. It looked like a Little League team trotting to the plate to face the Tigers.
Despite their inability to get a hit in support of Jon Lester (pictured below), the Red Sox actually had a few chances to score runs thanks to walks and wild pitches. But they left 8 men on base and just could not find any groove. Lester pitched 6 1/3 innings and scattered 6 hits. He pitched pretty good, but it wasn't enough.
The Red Sox will now have to regroup fast as they play the Tigers again tonight. They suddenly find themselves in a desperate situation. They have to win Game 2 or they are going to be heading to Detroit with a huge hole to dig themselves out of.
It was masterful performance by Sanchez to shut down Boston. Now the Red Sox need to come up with something a bit different to knock Detroit off their game and even the series.
Congratulations go out to the Minnesota Lynx. They swept the Atlanta Dream to win the 2013 championship. It was their second win in three years. I was sort of rooting for them to win because I like coach Cheryl Reeve from her days with the Detroit Shock.
Once again, I went 1-1 in my two fantasy leagues last week. I'm a model of mediocrity it would seem.
You can also check out the official lyric video for the new Place Vendome song "Power of Music":
TV - For those who enjoy The Walking Dead, this is just a reminder that the season premiere of both the TV show and the after show Talking Dead are on AMC tonight starting at 9pm!
Books - I finished two pretty good books this week. The first was a dark twisty thriller called The Wicked Girls. The author, Alex Marwood, crafts a tale about two British women who murdered a child when they were 11 and then fast forwards 25 years to learn more about what happened to them. She manages to make you feel both repulsed and sympathetic towards the two main characters which is a neat trick considering the crime.
The other book is the David Baldacci spy/political thriller The Hit. It is the second story to feature government hit man Will Robie. He's assigned to track down Jessica Reel, another government assassin when she goes rogue and kills her handler and others. But things aren't quite what they seem and Robie is left to figure things out for himself.