While putting the finishing touches on preparations for the Christmas Eve / Christmas Day festivities...
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I saw a hilarious Christmas related comic strip this week that kind of fit me perfectly:
New England Patriots - The Patriots wrapped up another AFC East division championship last Sunday with their 41-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins. At 11-3, they are in control of their own playoff destiny and are looking to win out to seal home field advantage through said postseason play.
The game didn't initially start out to be a study in offensive fireworks for the Patriots. In fact, it was Miami that opened things up on the first drive of the game with a 50 yard pass play on the first play from scrimmage. But the Pats defense stiffened up after that and forced Miami to settle for a field goal attempt. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, this was when the Pats got their first big play of the afternoon. Jamie Collins blocked the attempt and Kyle Arrington scooped up the ball and ran it back 62 yards for a 7-0 lead.
Despite that big play, the first half seemed like it was played in an almost neutral gear. The Patriots scored another touchdown and Miami put up a couple of field goals. But with 5 seconds left in the half, the Dolphins made things VERY interesting when QB Ryan Tanneyhill hit Mike Wallace for a spectacular 32 yard TD strike. While they had to go to replay to confirm the catch, there was no doubt that it was a legal catch. The TD sent the teams into the halftime break with the Patriots up just 14-13 and momentum clearly in favor of the Dolphins.
I don't know what the Bill Belichick and his coaching staff said and did during halftime but when the third quarter started, all that supposed momentum Miami had going for them just about instantly evaporated. In all, the Patriots put a 24-0 beatdown on the Dolphins in the third quarter and turned the game from a tight "what's going to happen" contest into a complete laffer.
I guess that's what happens when you are a student at the...
Tom Brady ended up passing for 287 yards and 2 TDs on the day. He got picked off once, but the most talked about play was early in the 3rd quarter when he had a 17 yard scramble that ended with a fiery reaction from the QB and lit a fire under the rest of the team.
The run game managed to balance things out with the passing game this week. On the ground, the Patriots racked up 108 yards. While LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen had TD runs, it was thought to be forgotten Jonas Gray (shown below) that led the team with 62 of those yards.
The Dolphins managed to shut out Rob Gronkowski (shown first) during the first half. The tight end finished up the day with just 3 catches in all, but he racked up 96 yards and score on those three balls. Julian Edelman (shown 2nd) had 7 catches for 88 yards and the other TD through the air.
While the majority of the highlights came from the offensive side of the ball, let's not forget the contributions of the defense to the victory over Miami. The run defense held Miami to just 76 total yards.
Not only that, but the defense harassed Tanneyhill all day long. While he had a lot of passing yards on the day, given how the Dolphins played from behind and couldn't run the ball worth a damn, it was still a pretty good day for the "D". They sacked Tanneyhill four times, including 1.5 sacks by Chandler Jones (see below 1st), a sack each for Rob Ninkovich and Sealver Siliga. Dont'a Hightower (see below 2nd) managed to get credit for 1/2 a sack as well.
The Patriots also picked off Tanneyhill twice, once by Patrick Chung and then by Duron Harmon (see below).
With a big lead and no real comeback rally by the Dolphins, the Patriots cruised through the fourth quarter adding a field goal for the final margin of victory. The win sets up the Patriots for big things headed into the playoffs if they can win out the rest of the regular season. After the way the season started with iffy offensive production, it is nice to be in the driver's seat in the AFC. Now the team just needs to finish the job and seal up the next two games.
It's always easier said than done, but here's hoping for the best...and with the Patriots clicking like they are, the best is always possible.
In other NFL related news, I read an article on SI.com this week about former Philadelphia Eagles player Danny Watkins. He was another one of those can't miss first round draft picks who ended up being tagged with the "BUST" label. You can learn more about him and why he never met expectations HERE.
BOSTON RED SOX
There were a few deals made on Friday that changed the makeup of the roster. The Red Sox brought back reliever Craig Breslow on a 1 year deal. Then late night on Friday, they traded oft-injured Will Middlebrooks to San Diego for catcher Ryan Hanigan.
Hanigan will be the backup catcher and serve as a mentor to Christian Vazquez. While it was probably a necessary trade to get rid of Middlebrooks, the deal also became necessary when David Ross signed a 2 year deal with the Chicago Cubs on Friday. I liked Ross. I know his bat wasn't there last season but he was a pretty good guy behind the plate and everything I ever read about him says that he was good guy in the locker room as well.
Mount Saint Joseph - After playing in her team's Tuesday night game against the College of Wooster (she scored the first basket of the game and MSJ won 66-65), Lauren Hill officially retired from basketball. The decision was made so that the school didn't have to apply for special permission from the NCAA for Hill to keep playing as she has stopped taking classes at the school. Her coach announced that she'll stay on as an honorary coach as she continues to raise money for cancer research. You can read more her final game appearance in this article.
The USA Today newspaper had a profile on Hill that appeared in Wednesday's edition. You can read that HERE.
Catholic University - The Cardinals split their two games before the Christmas break. They beat Gwynedd Mercy 65-55 and then lost to Lebanon Valley 76-54. The team is now 5-4 on the season. My ex-player Amber didn't play in the first game. Against Lebanon Valley, she saw 2 minutes of court time and had a personal foul on the stat line.
Last Sunday saw the remaining five college teams that I follow in action, and in what I'm sure is a statistical oddity for my rooting interests, all five of them ended up winning on that day. Here's what happened:
Hartford - The Hawks beat Sacred Heart 68-63 to improve to 5-6 on the season. Cherelle Moore (pictured below) led the team with 20 points.
Shanise Bultron (photo below) had an interesting game for herself. She scored 12 points in the first 4 minutes of the game, then scored one more point the rest of the way to finish with 13 points. She had 5 rebounds, a career high 5 assists as well. She also turned the ball over five times.
Amber Bepko had 12 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals while Deanna Mayza hit for 11 points, then added 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
You can see highlights from the game below.
Missouri State - The Bears picked up their second win of the season (now 2-7) with a strong 68-58 victory over IUPUI.
Kenzie Williams (pictured below) led the way on offense with 29 points. Tyonna Snow saw her first game action of the season after being out with an injury. She had 17 points and 4 steals.
Later in the week, Williams was named the MVC Player of the Week, the third time she's won that award.
On Friday night, the Bears faced off against Arkansas State. While Kenzie Williams had 20 points and Hillary Chvatal added 13 points and 12 rebounds, Missouri State lost 78-62. Tyonna Snow scored 10 points but led the team with 6 turnovers.
In fact, turnovers played a huge role in the game. The Bears turned it over 23 times in the game and Arkansas State converted those into 35 points. They shot 59.6% for the game which offset Missouri State having a 36-24 edge in rebounds.
The team is now 2-8 on the season.
Tennessee LADY VOLS - Tennessee found themselves in a struggle when they played Rutgers on the road. They trailed deep into the second half but eventually pulled ahead and came away with a 55-45 victory. As strange as it is to stay about Tennessee, the win was their first road victory over a ranked opponent in more than a year. They outrebounded Rutgers 54-42.
Ariel Massengale (pictured below 1st) scored 13 points top the scoring chart for the Lady Vols. Jasmine Jones (pictured 2nd) had 12 points and 6 boards, but turned the ball over 6 times. Isabelle Harrison (pictured 3rd) had herself a double double with 11 points and 13 boards.
The Lady Vols next survived a nailbiter over Wichita State 54-51. In order to win, they had to overcome 18 turnovers.
Isabelle Harrison scored 14 points and grabbed 9 rebounds while Alexa Middleton (pictured below 1st) added 10 points. Cierra Burdick (pictured 2nd) also scored 10 points. She added a career high 17 rebounds. Burdick also turned the ball over 5 times.
Yesterday afternoon, the Lady Vols stunned Stanford 59-40 and raised their record to 9-2. Ariel Massengale (shown 1st) came off the bench to lead Tennessee with 18 points. Bashaara Graves had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Isabelle Harrison (shown 2nd) added 10 points of her own along with 7 rebounds.
(All photos from Tennessee game galleries, except last one from Yahoo)
Boston College Men - The Eagles debuted their new gold uniforms (see below) in their Sunday matchup against Binghamton.
The game also saw the returns of Eddie Odio and Lonnie Jackson to action. They'd both been out with injuries.
As for the on court action, the BC ended up improving to 6-3 for the season after picking up a 63-49 win. Dimitri Batten (pictured 1st) scored 18 points to lead BC. Aaron Brown added 16 points and Olivier Hanlan (pictured 2nd) had 14 points.
(Photos from BC game galleries)
You can see highlights from the game below.
Boston College Women - The women's team was the 2nd half of the home doubleheader with the men's team and they ended up with a 64-58 victory over New Hampshire. The Eagles built the lead up to 13 points in the 2nd half but UNH rallied to cut the deficit to just 3 points with 1:25. The most telling factor on defense for BC was holding their opponents to just 1-13 from three point range.
BC managed to lock things down the rest of the way as they upped their record to 6-4. Ashley Kelsick (shown below 1st) led the Eagles with 14 points. Kelly Hughes (shown 2nd) scored 12 points and grabbed 9 boards to go with 4 assists and 2 steals (3 turnovers). Nicole Boudreau added 11 points.
(Photos from BC game galleries)
You can see videos of game highlights and post game comments from Hughes and coach Erik Johnson below.
The bowl preparations are underway so there is nothing to report in terms of games. This week, I bring you coaching news.
Wisconsin - Despite AD Barry Alvarez trying to spin things as if the decision hadn't already been made, the Badgers made what was reported last week and hired Pitt coach Paul Chryst as their new head coach.
Nebraska - I don't think you will see Nebraska and ex-coach Bo Pelini breaking bread any time soon. Pelini got hired as the new coach at Youngstown State but after that happened, reports about a meeting he had with his Cornhusker players after being fired hit the wires. He apparently verbally and profanely blasted the school administrators and the athletic director. Not content with being his verbal punching bag, the school fired back. You can read this article to learn more.
Boston College - In what I consider a great move, BC has agreed to a six year contract extension with coach Steve Addazio. The new deal runs through 2020. While it might be foolhardy to believe he'll actually be the coach until the end of the deal, this gives Boston College a sense of stability with their football program. In his two years in charge, he's brought BC football back to respectability with a pair of 7 win seasons and 2 bowl games.
Addazio seems to be developing a nice base of talent and if he can get some solid QB play once Tyler Murphy is gone, maybe...just maybe, he can make BC a threat in the ACC again.
Boston Celtics - Due to time constraints this week, there will be no separate The Celtics Report post. Instead I'll try to be relatively brief in talking about the week that was in Celtics-Land. The first bit of news is that the team has released Vitor Faverani, who never recovered enough from his knee surgery to get back on the court in any meaningful way.
In regards to the Rajon Rondo (with Dwight Powell thrown in) trade, I am not happy about it because it is a sure sign that the team has given up on the season in my mind. Especially since there are reports that the team is also shopping Jeff Green. At this point, I'm a couple of injuries away from getting a phone call.
I know that the team wasn't going anywhere this season, but the trade leaves the team just one step above what the 76ers are doing. It isn't deliberate tanking like Philly, but it is darn close. And I say this realizing that the Celtics are actually on a three game winning streak after winning their first post-Rondo game on Friday night.
But before we go into that game, lets go back to Boston's 105-87 win over those deliberately tanking 76ers. Kelly Olynyk found a magic touch for this game (or just took advantage of the barely there defensive effort) and scored a career high 30 points to go with 9 rebounds. Avery Bradley had 15 points while both Jeff Green and Brandon Bass added 14 points. Evan Turner hit for 12 points and dished out 6 assists.
It was Bass scoring 18 points and Green's 16 points that helped power the Celtics to a 109-92 win over the Orlando Magic. Jared Sullinger added 16 points and Olynyk had 15 points and 6 boards. Tyler Zeller finished with 10 points and 7 boards. It will go down as the last game in a Celtics uniform for Rajon Rondo. He scored 13 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and had 15 assists (6 turnovers).
Friday's 114-98 win over Minnesota was keyed by 21 points and 8 rebounds from Kelly Olynyk (see below). Jeff Green scored 18 points and had 7 rebounds. Jared Sullinger had a double double with 14 points and 10 boards. Avery Bradley and Tyler Zeller also had 14 points in the game. Evan Turner finished with 10 points.
The Celtics find themselves in the Marcus Smart era now, assuming Smart can actually stay healthy for a long enough period to fully take over as the point guard. They've quietly fashioned another three game win streak and stand at 10-14.
The questions surrounding the team still resonate as much as they did before the Rondo trade but all the problems the team has will be magnified that much more should they really hit the skids.
Sacramento Kings - The Kings organization set themselves up for a lot of heat this past week when they first coach Michael Malone after less than two years. While the team was an abysmal 28-54 in his first season, you can't blame him entirely for the mess that he was handed for a roster of players. The fact that the team was an improved 11-13 at the time of his firing showed he'd helped improve their fortunes.
But the big problem for the coach was that his philosphy differed with team ownership and management. They wanted to see an uptempo pace to the way the team played and stuck him with players he didn't want.
It was a horrible way to treat a coach and when they lost DeMarcus Cousins to illness, the team went into a tailspin. Ownership used this bad spot of play to fire Malone and put Tyrone Corbin in as interim coach. You can check out the this Yahoo! Sports article to get the full breakdown on the "doomed partnership" between Malone and the Kings.
HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
Girls Soccer - The local paper announced their girls soccer all-stars and my former players Brianna and Paige got mentioned. Brianna was named as an All-Star and Paige got an honorable mention.
Girls Volleyball - The All-Star announcements saw Raelyn get an honorable mention.
Football - Josh got an honorable mention in the All-Star announcements for his efforts on the field for the Wareham football team.
Girls Winter Track - In a dual meet that featured ORR, Wareham and Fairhaven, the ORR team beat Wareham 63-23. My ex-player Rachel won the 1000M event in that matchup with a time of 3:28.7.
Wareham lost the matchup against Fairhaven 43.5-42.5. My ex-player Paige won the 1000M in 3:30.7 and took the mile event in 6:08.1.
Basketball Round Up:
Bristol-Plymouth Girls Varsity - On Friday night, Savahna's team beat Blue Hills 52-49 to pick up their first win of the season (1-1). She didn't play in the game though.
Sturgis East Girls Varsity - The first game of the season was against Falmouth Academy and the Storm ended up dropping the opener to them 60-41. Isabella didn't score in the game.
ORR Boys Varsity - The Bulldogs opened their season with two dominating wins. They annihilated Case 94-45. Raekwon (pictured below #12) had 6 points in that game. On Friday night, they played Appponequet and blew them out 69-50 with Raekwon scoring 7 points.
Wareham Boys Varsity - Wareham picked up two wins in their first two games. They opened up with a 68-55 victory over GNB Voc-Tech and then Thursday night, they held the top scorer for Sandwich to just 5 points by employing a diamond and one defense. They gritted out a 62-59 win. Josh didn't score in either game.
You can read a season preview about the team HERE.
On Saturday afternoon, they dropped a 64-63 decision to Bishop Stang. Josh didn't score in the game for Wareham. But my former player Jake had 10 points for Bishop Stang (2-0). Wareham drops to 2-1 on the season.
Wareham Girls Varsity - The girls lost to GNB Voc-Tech 56-37 earlier in the week. In that game, Tieyanna scored 11 points, Gabby and Erica had 3 points and Kali finished with 2 points. On Friday, they played Barnstable but lost 61-50. Gabby had a good game on an individual level with 13 points, Tieyanna also scored 13 points while Erica added 2 points.
Below you can see some game action photos of my ex-players from the team's season opening loss to Bishop Stang.
First up is Gabby and the first pic is just amazing as it captures her focus and intensity as she prepares to shoot a foul shot.
Gabby driving to the lane
Gabby on defense:
Below is a couple of shots apiece of Kali (1st) and Tieyanna:
(all photos by the Wareham Courier's sports editor Adam K. Ellis)
Upper Cape Girls JV - The JV team has a 3-0 record after two wins at the start of this past week. They beat Cape Cod Tech 25-11 on Monday night. Laurina didn't play in the game (she had to work), while Ann Marie started at point guard and scored 2 points. Against Sacred Heart on Tuesday, the jayvees won 31-14. Laurina played but I don't have any info on any stats. Ann Marie again started at point and scored 2 points.
Upper Cape Girls Varsity - The Rams are also 3-0 but it came with a bit more of a challenge than they would've liked. In their Monday game against Cape Cod Tech, the game was a 64-27 blowout. Michaela was 1-8 from the floor and 1-2 from the foul line for 3 points. She had 2 assists and 4 steals plus 4 rebounds. She committed 3 turnovers and 1 foul. After the game I talked to her and said that she was rushing her shots, not setting them up or squaring to the basket. She agreed with what I had to say.
But Tuesday's game against Sacred Heart revealed the flaws Upper Cape has working against it even when they are winning games. The Rams led 17-4 after the first quarter and 19-9 at halftime. They scored the first 9 points in the third quarter to lead 28-9. But then Sacred Heart essentially punched Upper Cape in the mouth. All game long they'd played up on them defensively but now their pressure really paid off as they forced one turnover after another. Upper Cape was discombobulated, played bad defense themselves and couldn't hit a shot to save their lives. The third quarter ended 32-23 in Upper Cape's favor.
It wasn't a pretty game, but the Saints kept coming. In the fourth quarter, they cut the lead down to 37-33 and the Rams FINALLY called a timeout. It broke the momentum and Upper Cape ended up escaping 41-35. But when faced with a team that didn't back down away from them, you could see Upper Cape had trouble adjusting their game. And the body language was terrible from their team leaders. They got burnt badly on a couple of out of bounds plays that Sacred Heart ran, they couldn't hit free throws and they had more than the 16 turnovers I actually caught sight of. There were no picks set to get the guards free of their defenders.
I hope that during practice the team gets their act together. And I hope someone teaches their post players how to hit those 2 foot bunny shots she gets so many of in the course of the game. In the three games, she probably could've had about 30 extra points if she would hit those shots.
Michaela was 1-6 from the floor and 1-4 from the foul line for three points. She had 6 rebounds and forced 3 jump ball calls. She turned the ball over twice.
Food - It was a last minute kind of thing, but I went out to dinner with my friends Brian and Chad on Wednesday. We went to The Boston Tavern in Middleboro, Mass. I enjoyed it. We started off with some chicken tenders and onion rings for appetizers. The tenders were huge and the honey BBQ sauce (on the side) was just the right touch. The onion rings were flaky with the breading and delicious.
For the main course, I ended up going with their Tavern Burger. I was going to be a little more adventurous in what I had to eat but since it was my first time at the place, I went with a safer choice. Instead of my usual French fries, I went with the mashed potatoes. I'm not normally a fan of the skin left in style of mashed potatoes, but these were actually quite good.
It is a place that I would definitely go back to for another meal.
Comics - The full list of both Gold and Silver level sponsor books for the 2015 Free Comic Book Day can be seen HERE.
TV - A couple of shows finished their series runs this past week. White Collar ended with a final episode that tied things up neatly enough, but I wasn't overjoyed by how things ended. I guess it makes sense given the characters and their motivations, but I just felt there should've been something MORE.
HBO's The Newsroom wrapped up its three season run that gave us an idea of where all the character either did end up or would end up. It wasn't all that heavy on dramatics but there was a fantastic musical turn by series star Jeff Bridges in the midst of the episode. He performed a version of the Tom T. Hall song "That's How I Got To Memphis". I had never heard the song before but it was done so beautifully that I wish his version would get released.
You can see it below.
And it looks like there will not be any more 24, if this article on Kiefer Sutherland on TVGuide.com is the final word on things.
You can check out the first trailer for the 3rd season of the BBC America science fiction show Orphan Black below.
Movies - With Sony and movie theaters caving in to terrorist threats should they screen the movie The Interview, I guess it was only a matter of time before some creatively insane though hilariously funny person on the Internet would come up with the following:
Music - I stil can't release my best of lists yet, but the Classic Rock Bottom message board's Top Ten Albums is being released. I'm part of the voting body for these and the albums list is being done in a day by day countdown fashion. This is the overall tally of everyone's votes, not just mine. However, I was asked to write the summary for #9 on our list, Accept's Blind Rage. You can check out what I had to say HERE. Oh and the majority of the Classic Rock Bottom Awards have been announced. You can check out that list HERE.
There's a couple of videos out I thought you might want to check out. There's a lyric video for the title track to the upcoming Black Star Riders album The Killer Instinct.
Tesla guitarist Frank Hannon has a new solo album called World Peace. You can check out the song "Born Free" below.
Christmas - I know that most everyone is going to be busy with the conclusion of the holiday season this week. I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
By the way, if you have a book lover in your life, wouldn't this make a great themed Christmas tree?
Here's my favorite Christmas song for your listening enjoyment.
After an eight year hiatus, it’s a pleasure to be back and have a regular weekly writing gig! For my first post as a Saturday Feature on You Gab Sports—and given the season—I thought I’d revive one of my old holiday blogging traditions, and create my fantasy Christmas list: the (tongue in cheek) things I’d most like to see this holiday season. So let’s assume I’ve been good this year (no small leap, that) and cut right to the chase: here’s my 2014 list for the man in red.
CHIIIIIEEEEEFFFFSSSSS!!! I’m a lifelong Chiefs fan, and nobody has enjoyed the Chiefs renaissance more than me. But with improvement comes higher expectation and frustration. I know it’s only season two of the Andy Reid era, but I LONG for some professional consistency. How can you pound the Patriots by 27 (it wasn’t that close), and lose by 16 to Tennessee (it wasn’t that close)? How can you lose to Oakland at all? How can you run the ball all day long on whomever you want, and when you get inside the five you call the most listless and uncreative series of rollouts and non-descript pass plays? And darn it, I LIKE Andy Reid, but I wish he were more decisive in the red zone, and I wish he didn’t look like a four year old about to wet his pants when it gets to the last two minutes of every game. I know, I know…it’s just nice to be relevant again. But relevance is relative.
Indiana basketball. Again, I’m a lifer. I know they’re just kids, etc., etc. But the incident earlier this year: when sophomore Devin Davis and freshman Emmett Holt were out after midnight and drinking, and the latter hit the former with his car…putting Davis in the hospital with a head injury...c'mon man. This behavior is out of bounds in my book virtually any time for college athletes. But this was the night before the first intra-squad scrimmage. The first time you—as a freshman—are going to wear the jersey of one of the most storied basketball programs in college history in front of your home court fans…and you’re out getting drunk? Underage? Driving? That’s stupid in any scenario…but do you understand what a privilege it is to have your talent, and to get this honor? Unfortunately this has not been an isolated incident; I’m certain it’s not reality, but it feels like this group of Indiana players has had more “character issues” in the past nine months than in the collective history of IU basketball. I wish this team had more respect for its school, its fans, and the opportunity they have. I’m hopeful this has been a learning experience and that they get it now. I also wish IU basketball were more relevant, but as you know relevance is relative.
College football playoffs. Why is it that football at every level—from pee wee to high school to every level of college except FBS—can figure out how to have playoffs and a meaningful championship, but they can’t get it done for FBS? Mind you, the NCAA (an entity that could be a whole wish-list rant unto itself) does this at every other level of football it plays, save FBS. Today (Saturday, Dec 20th) at 4 pm Minnesota State Mankato takes on Colorado State Pueblo for the Division II championship; they’ve played four games each after the regular season to get there. So you can’t figure it out for the FBS? A couple more games? Don’t use more practice as an excuse—the bowl teams are practicing anyway. And don’t tell me school work; first off, most of them are off school for the holidays at that point…and as I’ve heard somewhere before the bowl teams are practicing anyway. Figure it out you idiots. Gimme a real FBS playoff already.
College football playoffs, part two. Please tell me this talk of a super conference is lunacy. Please tell me you’re not going to take the 64 best teams in college football and create NFL, Jr. Don’t you get that the upset—Appalachian State beating Michigan, Boise State beating Oklahoma, Florida Atlantic beating anybody—is what makes sport interesting? What keeps it alive and fun for both fan and player? If you think this approach works, ask the state of Indiana how their high school basketball tournament is doing since they retooled to “class basketball” after the 1996-1997 season. How’s it going now that the Milan High School’s of the world are beating Versailles and Osgood and Montezuma, and don’t get the chance to take out Muncie Central for the most storied state championship in sport history? (Author’s note: these small schools don’t exist anymore and Muncie Central is irrelevant—and much smaller itself—but I’m making a point…) Never mind, I'll tell you: this former iconic American sporting event is now dead, irrelevant; (do I need to talk about relevance again?) and "Basketball State Champ!" signs are more common across the state of Indiana than corn stalks. Do me a favor college football powers, and check out David and Goliath in the Bible. The ultimate upset. Today you’d have David squaring off against the Philistine’s best rockslinger in the under 125 pound class; and Goliath would be battling the number three ranked Sumerians, or maybe Alabama. Drop this super conference ridiculousness and let’s exchange this “gift” for socks, or maybe a tie.
Accountability. At every level. Kids in school, parents at home. Parents at little league. Little league coaches. Cops on the street. People on the street interacting with cops. Idiots who think looting or setting fires or blocking traffic is a sensible form of protest. Race baiters who think it’s ok to use the same flaw you’re criticizing to create issues where oftentimes they aren’t. Congress in general. Come to think of it I’d pretty readily give up numbers 1 through 4 of the list above for a healthy dose of accountability across the board. Unfortunately it’s right up there withWorld Peace on the likelihood scale…
Toys. C’mon this list can’t be all serious-like. We all know how it is to open that beautifully wrapped package to find underwear or a sweater, for cryin’ out loud. How ‘bout a GI Joe? The USMC version, with the scar under his right eye and the silver suit and the Mercury Space Capsule—still my single favorite Christmas present ever, back in 1968. Or Hot Wheels? Or Barbie? (that’s a nod to my female demographic out there…not for me personally) Maybe even a sled if you have snow, or a bike or wagon if you don’t. Christmas. Toys. Make it happen Santa.
So there you have it, The Hoov’s Christmas Wish List 2014. I’d add one more thing: that each of you have a joyous holiday with the ones you love, or in whatever way that makes you happy; and an appreciation for whatever you can be thankful for, big or small. Put a smile on your face and enjoy the season! For my part, I’m thankful to Jeff Thomas for thinking of me for this Saturday feature spot on You Gab…it’s great to be back! Happy Holidays!
Run for your life Johnny Football! Manziel bombs against the Bengals
Greetings from the Hoodwood where the locals are hoping for another Fantasy Football title.
NFL: Manziels Big Flop
The hype was palpable. Johnny Football was going to get his first start in the NFL, the much ballyhooed 2012 Heisman winner and first round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns was going to get take the stage and possibly shine against a vunerable Cincy squad that had suffered a painful 4th quarter collapse against the Steelers. But the Bengals came out running and the Browns came out…flat. Far from being inspired by their crazy crowd, Manziel looked scared. He looked tentative. The Bengals seemed to be everywhere on defense and Manziel was getting beat on like a rag doll. Manziel finished a pathetic 10-18 for only 80 yards. 80! Manziel and the Browns only had the ball 38 plays and barely 20 minutes as the Browns were hammered 30-0 to be formally eliminated from the divisional and for all intents and purposes the AFC playoff race. Manziel said he was “humbled” by his performance. You think about it, Manziel had been chirping to get the start and when Brian Hoyer finally played his way out of the starting position, the natives figured Manziel was going to be ready to step in. Instead, Manziel looked confused, unprepared. He threw two interceptions and was sacked three times and his QBR? 1.0 That’s it…it wasn’t like his counterpart Andy Dalton was that much better but he didn’t really need to be. He had the redoubtable running of Jeremy Hill who ran for 148 yards which was more yards by himself than the Browns had in the entire game. Manziel may look back at this inauspicious start of his career and laugh. I doubt that though.
NFL: Reseed the playoffs?
Here we go again, the whining commences because the NFC South is the bastard child of the NFL this year. Remember when the NFC West champ won the division with a 7-9 record? That team was the Seattle Seahawks they won the division and hosted a playoff game while the NFC South had three teams win 10 games or better and the Tampa Bay Bucs with the New York Giants both won 10 games and were on the outside looking in. This year it’s the reverse. The NFC South is the weak team and there is a chance that a team with a worse than .500 ledger will win the division. Commence the whining, reseed the playoffs. Now this has quieted some as the chances that the Cowboys might win the NFC East, but there will likely be a team that will win at least 10 games and miss the playoffs. Now who will it be? Detroit? Green Bay? Philly? Seattle? Dallas? Keep in mind that Arizona has already taken one playoff spot off the table. There are five teams but only four spots left. Someone is going to be left out in the cold and the crying will commence. Lets be clear the playoffs don’t need to be reseeded, you don’t need to add an extra team. The playoffs are fine the way it is. This isn’t every one gets a trophy. Some teams are going to get left out, you have to have a division winner and that winner hosts a playoff game as reward. Yeah the NFC South is weak but the game is cyclical.
Six Divisional Titles in a Row for the Pats
Is Peyton getting the noodle arm?
The end of the Jets-Titans game was a madhouse
The Pacers were up on the Lake Show at one time 53-19
Kobe passes MJ and his sycophants go nuts, I say big deal
Damn, Jay Cutler is that bad…
The Bandits win in the GMFL Playoffs and are going to the title game.
While chuckling at the pretty accurate description of me in the pic below...
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
The game may have lacked offensive explosiveness but after Tom Brady and the Patriots spent the first three quarters of the game suffering under the pressure of the San Diego Chargers defense, it was nice to see them get things going in the fourth quarter. The resiliency of the offense in that fourth quarter helped the Patriots come back and beat San Diego 23-14.
Brady (pictured below 1st) ended up with 317 passing yards for the game. He had 2 TD passes. While he was sacked one time, you can generally overlook that. What you can't overlook is how the one interception he threw (picked off by Manti T'eo, pictured below 2nd) was another one of those gawdawful-what-the-hell-was-he-thinking variety picks. He had nothing on the throw and if any Patriot player had caught that ball it would've been an early Christmas miracle.
Stephen Gostkowski kicked three field goals in the game while Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski supplied the touchdown scores. Edelman caught 8 passes for 141 yards including the career long 69 yard catch and run for the score (see below 1st). Gronkowski also caught 8 passes for 87 yards and his TD (see below 2nd).
The run game was once again relatively ineffective. That is, when the Patriots bothered to use it at all. They totaled just 87 yards on the ground for the game. Thankfully the Patriots defense stepped up big time. They held the Chargers to just 53 total rushing yards.
Akeem Ayers picked off Chargers QB Phillip Rivers. The "D" also sacked Rivers 4 times. Jamie Collins picked up 2 of those sacks while Rob Ninkovich (see below) had one.
The Patriots play the Dolphins today and with a win can wrap up the AFC East division. Despite their struggles with the Chargers, I think the win demonstrated that they can play a tough, tight game and come out on top when everyone is working together.
In other NFL news, Greg Bedard had a piece on TheMMQB.com about the New Orleans Saints and their lack of leadership and professionalism. You can check out the piece via this link.
For anyone worried about the career prospects for now ex-Florida coach Will Muschamp, I think you can hold off on the charity telethon for a bit. According to an article on SI.com, he's been hired as the new defensive coordinator at Auburn. He's the fourth guy to hold the job in the last five years.
Army-Navy Game - Despite a rather game effort from Army, the Navy came out on top in the Army-Navy game for the 13th straight year. Led by quarterback Keenan Reynolds (see below far right) the Midshipmen won 17-10. He had 1 passing TD and ran for another score with his 100 yards rushing.
Congratulations to the Midshipmen!
Bowl Games - The full list of this year's bowl matchups can be viewed HERE.
While I will be interested in the semi-final bowl games that lead to the matchup, particularly the Alabama-Ohio State game, there really isn't a whole heck of a lot of games that scream out for me to watch them. Sure, I'll probably watch a game here and there as I happen to come across them. But besides the title playoff games, the only game that instantly draws me in is the Boston College-Penn State matchup in the Pinstripe Bowl on December 27th (ESPN, 4:30 pm).
There are some games featuring teams that have a storyline that might interest some people though.
In the Las Vegas Bowl, will Colorado State rebound after being jilted by coach Jim McElwain for the Florida job?
The Independence Bowl has Miami and South Carolina. Both teams are a disappointing 6-6 going into the game and will be looking for any little kind of bright light to point to for this season, particularly South Carolina who started off the season with some very high hopes.
The Holiday Bowl features Nebraska, and you have to wonder how they'll play after firing Bo Pelini.
The Outback Bowl has Wisconsin which is a topic I'll address below.
Wisconsin - The coaching situation at Wisconsin took a weird turn this week. After just two years in charge, Gary Andersen stepped down as head coach in order to take the job at Oregon State. That's like going from the penthouse to the outhouse in terms of support and facilities. The move surprised everyone.
Rumors of Andersen's disatisfaction with pay packages for his assistants and unhappiness with the admissions policies in place at Wisconsin have popped up but there's been nothing confirmed.
The Badgers still have the Outback Bowl to play, so I think it is another example of a coach not finishing the job before leaving for the next one. As always that irks the hell out of me.
Stranger still is that Wisconsin AD (and former football coach) Barry Alvarez is going to coach the team during the bowl game. this is the second time in 3 years he's done this. The looming shadow of Alvarez was another rumor that popped up this week as well. My question about this move is why does Alvarez need to coach the team. You mean to tell me one of the coordinators, coaches who've actually been with the team all season long can't step up to coach the team on the 1 game interim basis? Alvarez was quoted saying that the seniors on the team asked him to coach the game. If that's true, is it an indictment of how the players feel about the leftover coaches or are they really that fond of Alvarez?
Meanwhile, on Friday came reports that the school will hire Pitt coach Paul Chryst (shown below) as their new coach sometime after December 17th. You can read more details about that HERE. He was the Badgers offensive coordinator from 2005-2011 so he does have good ties to the school. It would also seem that he understands how things work there too.
Whatever happens, after losing to coaches in the space of three years, the Badgers had better hope they get this hire right. Otherwise, people are really going to start asking questions if coaches keep leaving what is considered a high profile job for new posts that are clearly a step down.
A lot of the teams I root for played during the course of the week and don't have another game scheduled until later this afternoon. You can read what I had to say about those games that were played in my latest Mid Week College Basketball Update. Five of the six teams I've been writing about so far this season will play their next game this afternoon.
Boston College Men - The Eagles played Maine on Thursday night and ended up coming away with an 85-74 victory to improve to 5-3 on the season. Aaron Brown (shown below) led the team in scoring with 21 points.
The surprising contributions from Dennis Clifford (pic below) were a huge factor in powering Boston College to the win. While he's been working hard, his offense has been a work in progress. But against Maine, his struggles seemed to clear up as he poured in a career high 19 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. He also blocked 3 shots. If he can become a consistent offensive threat, it gives BC yet another scoring option and they become that much more dangerous.
Patrick Heckmann (shown below 1st) scored 13 points and had 4 steals, while Dimitri Batten finished with 12 points. Olivier Hanlan (shown below 2nd) had 10 points and 6 assists.
Looking at the box score, another component of the win was the Eagles outscoring Maine 30-8 in the points off turnovers category.
(all pics from BC game photo galleries)
Here's the video highlights:
You can read my latest Celtics Report blog post HERE.
For my take on the moves the Red Sox made to shore up their pitching rotation, you can checkout my blog post HERE.
When Bret Lawrie was traded from the Toronto Blue Jays, the reaction of one of his young fans set Youtube ablaze. It appears there was a somewhat happy ending to the story though. Read it HERE.
Former Chicago White Sox outfielder Mark Gilbert became the first ex-player to be named an ambassador for the United State. You can learn more about him HERE.
HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
Check out this story on the Sports Illustrated High School Athlete of the Month for December, New Hampshire soccer player Kate Marshall.
Bristol-Plymouth Girls Varsity - B-P ended up losing to Diman Voke by 10 points (48-38) in their season opener. I was told they were ahead for much of the first half but had poor shooting and picked up lots of fouls.
Wareham Girls Varsity - I went to the third and final scrimmage for Wareham this past Wednesday. They were up against Upper Cape and while Wareham didn't look particularly good, they were a lot better than Upper Cape. They played four quarters and Wareham won two of them while tying the other two. When I first got to the gym, I dropped off some Boston College women's basketball tickets I picked up for one of my ex-players to her father. I also gave the father of another player the letter of recommendation his daughter asked me to write for her National Honor Society application thing.
In the scrimmage, Gabby drained a couple more three pointers. There's six girls on the varsity that I coached in the past. Gabby, Erica, Kali, Tieyanna, Brianna and Kiara.
The Vikings went on the road to play Bishop Stang in their season opener but fell flat, losing 56-29. Tieyanna led the Vikings with 12 points. But the team's poor shooting and 27 turnovers were key factors cited in their big loss. The starting five for Wareham featured 4 players that I had a hand in coaching at some point during their youth league days. Gabby had 3 points in the game, while Brianna had 2 points and Kali added 6.
By the way, here's a team candid photo I totally stole from Gabby's FB page.
Upper Cape Girls JV - It was a rough and tumble kind of game against South Shore Voke Tech. The game was full of uncalled physical play that should've resulted in lots of fouls (on both sides). But Upper Cape came away with a 27-8 victory to start their season off right. I've got two players on the team. Laurina started and served as captain. She was the point guard when she was in the game. She was 1-2 from the floor for 2 points. She forced a jump ball call, had an assist, an offensive rebound and a steal to go with 2 turnovers. Ann Marie started as well. She was 2-7 from the floor for 4 points. She missed two foul shots as well. She had an assist, 4 steals and a defensive rebound. She also committed 4 turnovers and a foul.
Upper Cape Girls Varsity - After watching Upper Cape scrimmage on Wednesday and look absolutely awful against Wareham, I had no idea what to expect. But since South Shore Voke Tech is not a good team, I guess the final score of 68-12 in favor of Upper Cape shouldn't have been much of a surprise. The game was a blowout from the start as the Rams were up 19-3 after the first quarter and just kept rolling.
It's actually hard to decipher how the team looked on a technical basis given they were playing a team so clearly inferior. But all the defensive lapses they had in the Wareham scrimmage were held to a minimum and the team worked together in passing the ball and getting it to the open player.
Michaela had an off game to start her season. She was 1-12 from the floor for 2 points. She had 4 steals and 2 rebounds to go with a turnover and a foul.
EX-PLAYER LEGAL NEWS
While all my ex-players still in high school are making a good showing for themselves by staying involved in athletics and not being arrested, there's news on a couple of my former players who have been IN court instead of ON one.
One of the four ex-players charged in connection with a murder here in town saw his charges reduced and got out on personal recognizance. I'm sure one can guess that he's making a deal and that's why he's suddenly out of prison. You can read more HERE.
Another of my ex-players, Eric, got arrested in connection with a robbery of a local restaurant. This is a new charge for him but he's no stranger to run-ins with the law. That story is HERE.
As always, I'm left shaking my head at the inherent stupidity these former players of mine continue to show in their decision making.
It's been 15 years since the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Hush" was broadcast. TVGuide.com ran an oral history article on the episode this week. You can check it out HERE.
Movies - I picked up Guardians of the Galaxy on DVD this week. I loved the movie in the theater and watching it again was a thrill ride. It will be featured on my Best of 2014 movie list that I will be writing up soon.
In the meantime, you can check out the Honest Trailer for the movie below, it is rather funny.
Grantland.com had an oral history article on the making of the film Boogie Nights. It is an entertaining and extremely long piece. You can check it out HERE.
Books - I finished reading the Janet Evanovich / Lee Goldberg novel The Chase this week. It's the second book in the Kate O'Hare / Nick Fox series that teams up an FBI agent with thief to take down other bad guys. While the premise is clearly something akin to the TV show White Collar, this has a bit more of an international thriller vibe (although retaining the more lighthearted feel of Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series).
I really enjoyed the book a lot this time around and can't wait for the third book The Job to make its way to paperback.
Comics - Free Comic Book Day is almost six months away, but the Gold Sponsor level books that will be available on the first Saturday in May 2015 have been announced. You can see the list HERE.
Music - The new U.D.O. album Decadent is due out in the US on February 3rd. The official video for the song has been released and you can see it below.
The new group Revolution Saints features Night Ranger bassist Jack Blades, ex-Whitesnake guitarist Doug Aldrich and Journey drummer Deen Castronovo. Their self-titled debut album is due out February 24th. But you can see the video for the song "Turn Back Time" below.
My 2015 Calendar - I know it is a bit old fashioned given how most people use the calendar feature on their phones nowadays, but I always use REAL calendars. Usually I grab one up from the local pizza place, or from Dunkin Donuts. Or I take one of the few that we get from my job. But this year, I picked up one for the TV show Firefly so I'll "Keep Flyin'" with them all year long.
This is what the Louisiana state championship trophies look like, can't get it to show up: https://theknightswhosay.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/lhsaa-trophy.gif
I hope filing it under ncaa is ok.
I haven’t written about high school sports since high school, but I had to comment about the high school I went to winning its first state championship since 1960. Hopefully it’s an interesting story. Some may know or be able to figure out the school, but I’ll avoid mentioning names.
What made it even stranger is that in watching the clips posted online (I subscribed to nola.com’s YouTube channel mostly for LSU content a while back), I saw a familiar face. It was the coach who had left my school in 1996. I honestly thought I was imagining things until I heard his name. He didn’t look much older either.
I’ll just call him Coach M. Since he left for a rival school, he wasn’t exactly my favorite person at the time. He did not do particularly well at that other school and had gone into other lines of work, although he had returned briefly to my school as an assistant at some point between the two stints. I would find out this was his first season back as head coach.
The administrators who were there while I was a student were all gone, so I guess that helped lessen any misgivings as well. Still, I’m sure some were skeptical he could just pick up where he had left off as a head coach. An NFL situation I thought of was Art Shell’s ill-fated return to the Raiders. Unlike Shell, however, it seems that Coach M had really kept up with the game.
I also compared it to Jim Mora (Sr.), who also left the Saints rather suddenly when I was in high school, coming back to the Saints and at least going to the Super Bowl in his first season.
Mora presided over a lot of improvement in New Orleans but was not able to win a playoff game with the Saints (although the Saints did have a first-round bye one season).
Coach M had won playoff games but had come up short on at least a couple of occasions in the semifinals. I mentioned the prior state championship had been in 1960. That was before the Saints even came into existence.
One difference is in recent years, the Saints did better than had ever done before. They won a few playoff games, won the Super Bowl one season, and made the conference championship in yet another season. But I’m pretty sure my junior year (two seasons after Coach M left) was the last time my high school had made the state semifinals. So I guess that all helps you imagine why it was so surreal.
After a bit of an upset in the quarterfinals (#6 over #3 on the road), it looked like it might be another year where they made it to the semifinals and fell short, which happened three times while I was there.
The last two games were remarkable too. In the last few seasons, my high school played really well against a rival school from the same district but ultimately came up short in both the regular season and the playoffs. That school was seeded #2 and had won the previous two state championships, as well as the district championships, and was undefeated. Somehow my school had them on the defensive all right, and my school prevailed,
In the finals, my school played a school that had 26 state titles. That school also did not exist in 1960. To be fair, it is a smaller school, so it wasn’t in the same classification in most of those years.
It was a low-scoring game with a lot of turnovers, but it seemed that the school that was used to state championships would pull it out when that school took a 14-7 lead into halftime (after a long drive to end that half) and still led 14-10 after the third quarter.
A number of second-half drives by both teams had stalled (or ended in turnovers) right outside of field-goal range, and obviously one ended in field-goal range. The other team got as close as the 25-yard line, but apparently that wasn’t quite a comfortable enough distance.
The player of the game was a running back, so the success my school had was mostly on the ground. But somehow with about 9 minutes to play, they drew up and completed a long touchdown pass of 45 yards. The team only had 112 yards of passing the entire game, including that play, against 217 rushing yards.
A combination of running down the clock and good defense took care of the rest of the game.
Normally you get more used to things like this after you find out, but due to the result, it’s only gotten more surreal since seeing that video. What adds to it is I ran (without much success) on the cross-country team in high school, and when I graduated we had never won a state championship in that sport. This was not the cross-country team’s first state title since I graduated; but it still adds to my feeling of disbelief to know my school holds what I consider the two biggest state titles of the fall, both of which seemed so elusive 10-20 years ago.