Sunday, August 31, 2008

Games Four & Five: Alabama/Clemson & Illinois/Missouri

Both of these games were played at the same time in neutral site stadiums close to the campuses of both schools. The certainly both had Bowl like atmospheres to them, even more so for the Alabama/Clemson game.

The Alabama win did kick off several minutes before the Midwest matchup and it seemed as if I watched more of that game. Although, I was flipping back and forth after each play. Anyhow, here are some thoughts I had during the watching.....

....Whether you like Nick Saban or not, and I'm not sure I do, you've got to believe to that the Tide are going to be much better this year. Again they've got an experienced quarterback who seemed to be very much improved.

....Speaking of improved quarterbacks. I thought Juice Williams was pretty darn good in that game. Of course his receivers helped him out quite a bit. Apparently, Williams worked with Donovan McNabb in the offseason. Makes you wonder why Andrew Robinson didn't do the same.

....I thought Clemson might have been a bit overrated coming in. And it's easy to say that now. I still think the Tigers might be the best team in the ACC, but from what I saw out of Wake Forest on Thursday, it might be tough to beat them. It certainly wasn't the best of days for the ACC on Saturday.

....Tide freshman receiver Julio Jones looks the part of the bigtime recruit he was. He caught 4 passes for 28 yards -- including one for a score. He's got a big frame and pretty decent speed. I think we'll be hearing his name for awhile.

....Just because 'Bama won this opener, don't expect the Tide to roll to the top of the SEC. The conference is still very deep and 'Bama still has a lot of work to do. But its obvious the foundation has been laid - and nobody iwll have an easy time with the Tide this year or in the future.

....Jeremy Maclin left the game with Illinois late with an injury. He's a key part of the Tigers attack and they need him. He did return to the sidelines on crutches and with ice on his ankle. It's probably not serious, but I'm guessing we don't see him Saturday against SEMO State.

....Chase Daniel is still my pick for the Heisman (and Lee Corso's for that matter). He threw for 323 yards and three scores in the win. A nice night against a decent Illini defense to start the season. He also ran for 46 yards. He makes the right decisions in their offense and is poised to have a huge year.

....Hard to believe that Illinois/Missouri was the matchup of the day. But that is what we have gotten to in the college football world. Most teams playing I-AA schools early, because the stadiums remained packed and they want to avoid an early loss like Clemson or Illinois suffered. Those losses probably take them out of consideration for a BCS bowl, unless they win their conference and get the automatic. Even worse however, might have been the fate of teams like Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech, who played pretty decent football teams and lost, but will be punished for it all year long in the rankings, while teams who beat up on Coastal Carolina and Chattanooga and the like will be rewarded. Doesn't seem right, does it?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Opener Observations

Let's be honest if you are an Orange fan, there wasn't too much to be optimistic about after the opener at Northwestern. It wasn't exactly a blowout. Syracuse actually led for a large portion of the first half, and led early on in the second half, but Northwestern definitely had control of the game for most of it.

So here was a lot of what I saw....

....The running backs look solid. I was more impressed with Delone Carter and Curtis Brinkley than I was with Doug Hogue. Still I thought Hogue was more impressive this year than he was last. I still think he's a linebacker playing running back, but he has some potential.

....Andrew Robinson was not very good. I heard early in camp that he wasn't throwing the ball very well. He looked like it today. There are several reasons that the Orange doesn't throw the ball down the field. Lack of a true deep threat, and the fact that the line might not provide the time, but the biggest reason might be that Robinson can't make those throws. He looks awful trying to do it. I expected a lot more from him.

....The wide receivers were serviceable. But when they're running bubble screens and five-yard slants, they aren't going to look dynamic. Each of the starters had a drop or two. Bruce Williams had a great block on the Brinkley touchdown run. It was good to see eight different receivers, but we need to do more after the catch. Davis led the group with four catches, and I still contend that he will be the Orange's best receiver. But we'll see how that develops. Still only 103 yards on 14 completions and 28 attempts. Those averages are not nearly enough. And that is why you end up with only 11 first downs.

....I think there was a lot of optimism that the offense would be much improved. Well I saw no signs of the end results being any different. Essentially the offense scored 10 points (7 that were directly set up by the defense) and gave up 9. Also, keep in mind that this Northwestern defense wasn't viewed as the second coming of the Steel Curtain coming in.

....The debut of Mitch Browning debut as offensive coordinator didn't do much for me. We were definitely able to run the ball more effectively. But without the long run for the three top runners we carried the ball 27 times for 51 yards or approximately 2 yards per carry. That includes the sacks and there were only two, but even without them its not more than 2.5 yards per tote. We need to get better here. If you think that Northwestern was concerned about our offense, I don't believe it. They quickly adjusted to press the receivers up front and Fitzgerald was so conservative from just inside midfield that it was obvious he never expected us to be able to score.

....Defensively, I thought the tackling was poor. Very poor in fact. I think the outside coverage was decent, but I think once Northwestern realized that we'd put a linebacker on whomever they put in the slot, they didn't really worry about the outside. Bacher didn't throw the ball very well, in my opinion. Still they got 215 yards through the air.

....Up front, we weren't in the backfield very much. I recall two good tackles in the backfield from Art Jones. The strip from Jared Kimmel and Anthony Perkins making a nice stop on one play. Officially, Giruzzi got a sack and they gave McKinnon 1.5 TFL's splitting the one with Kimmel. Vincenzo was active and had nine tackles and the fumble recovery.

....I think teams will once again be able to run the ball against us. And probably run it very effectively. Northwestern hung 269 yards on the board. That is way too many. It allowed them to control things and had Bacher been effective early, it might have been over early.

...The linebackers made a lot of tackles, but Mike Mele was the guy that Northwestern attacked in the pass coverage. We never adjusted. Shame on the coaches for continuing to allow Mele to get beaten all over the field. He looked awful, but some of the blame must goto the coaching staff for not finding a way to somehow protect him.

Syracuse Northwestern Live Blog

Let's Go Orange!

The Syracuse football team kicks off its historic 2008-09 football season in Evanston Illinois versus Northwestern.

11:49 Syracuse and Northwestern getting ready in Suburban Chicago - and we're anxiously awaiting the kick on ESPN2
11:58 If you are around stop by and share your views on the Orange or the Wildcats for that matter as they kick off the season
12:00 It will be interesting to see how the Orange and new offensive coordinator Mitch Browning fare today
12:02 Pam Ward and Ray Bentley in the booth for the Orange opener - but you've got me on my couch. The first look at the new SU unis (Pitt fans laughed at me the other night, when we talked about the ever changing SU jerseys
) and I like it
12:02 Cuse gets the kick

12:03 Let's Go Orange and see how this Syracuse Spread (as I'm calling it) works

12:04 Brinkley gets the first call - and it looks a lot like the same on a toss left for 2
12:04 Lavar Lobdell wideopen off the play action for a first down. That is exciting

12:05 Boonah on a big run
12:05 Nice block from Fiammetta - the Orange on the move
12:06 Big third down play

12:07 Donte Davis on the catch for first down yardage. I think Donte can have a big year
12:08 Brinkley becoming a work horse here - interestingly enough Hogue came in on the third down play - and he might be re-entering here as the Orange faces another
12:09 Hogue is in there just short of the first down on the reception - Shadle on for a field goal, I would assume 36 yard attempt
12:09 Where did the rest of Shadle go?

12:09 But I like the new Patrick - he bangs it through and the Orange leads 3-0
12:11 We expected a better offense - and Boonah looks recovered. Hogue ran hard after the catch - which came on a bubble screen. And both Lobdell and Davis provided seperation when called upon

12:12 Now our first look at the defense, I'm scared

12:12 Penn State has scored on Coastal Carolina and Pitt notches a TD against Bowling Green
12:13 Walk on kicker Nico Rebul had to make the tackle after a good kick

12:13 NW out to the 40
12:14 a missed tackle after the catch as NW truly operates a spread formation
12:14 Sutton carries for the first down
12:15 and NW goes hurry up and Syracuse wasn't ready - amazing
12:15 AJ Brown makes the pick as the Orange came on the blitz

12:15 The blitz never really got there but it might have affected how Bacher was thinking
12:17 Daniel Bailey carries on a reverse on second down for not much and the Orange faces a 3rd and semi long 7
12:17 lousy pass from ARob on third down and the Orange will be forced to punt
12:18 great kick from Long but it rolls into the end zone for 72 yards and just trickles in

12:18 but NW will have to work the full field when they get the ball back

12:22 A big run for Sutton on second down and this defense is really struggling
12:22 Northwestern into Syracuse territory

12:23 A screen pass was well defended but poorly tackled - Where have we seen that before?
12:23 Vicenzo Giruzzi makes a nice play to break up a third down pass
12:24 Ryan Howard is our punt returner - he makes the fair catch on the punt and the Orange takes over
12:25 Backed up a bit now - looks like they'll start at the 13 - I'd like to see some more play-action this drive - and maybe more of a spread look
12:26 or maybe that isn't coming
12:27 Hogue gets his first carry for about 10 right up the middle through a good hole
12:29 nice carry on a third and long and hogue ran hard for the first down
12:30 The Orange has to throw it down the field, as NW is anticipating these little bubble screens
12:31 The last one went for a loss to Daniel Bailey - and now its third and 11 and the Orange calls timeout
12:33 Nobody open down field and ARob had to check off to Hogue and he's short of the first down, so Long will have to punt
12:33 Not as strong a punt, but NW starts from the 23

12:34 The Orange has to tackle better -its becoming a problem early
12:35 Peterman was open down the middle but Bacher missed him - a good pass might have been six, there was no safety home
12:36 Mike Holmes makes a good hit on third down, but a good spot gives NW a first down as the first quarter ends

12:37 Syracuse leads 3-0
12:40 Another missed tackle but a hold is going to make it 1-20

12:41 Good tackle that time by McKinnon to limit the yac - in fact its a loss of 2
12:42 NW got some yardage on 2nd down, but its third and 8 now
12:43 Syracuse came with the blitz and it forces an incompletion Bacher had to get rid of it and it forces the punt
12:43 Nice job by the Wildcats on special teams and the Orange starts from the shadow of the goalposts at the 3

12:44 Delone Carter's first carry results in a fumble - I think he was down, but the Orange recovers
12:45 This is going to be a safety as Robinson grounds the ball - Ward says his arm was hit but I'm not so sure

12:46 first breakdown by the offensive line
Robinson is arguing - but my guess is it isn't going to matter - truly I think the call was right, but we haven't seen a replay yet
it's 3-2
12:48 The replay came - and it shows what I thought - its the correct call
12:49 kick goes out of bounds, that's a sweet 30 yard penalty and NW has it at midfield
12:51 Two Omar Conteh runs and an incomplete pass forces the NW punt team back on the field
12:51 Fitzgerald seems content to play field position for now and Howard fair catches at the 8
12:52 need to do something offensively here and show they are here to play
12:52 There's the play action and Fiammetta open for a first down
12:53 Donte Davis open on a slant for 8 - this looks promising
12:53 here's DC3 for a big gain of 32 - assuming he disn't step out
Welcome Back
12:55 big 3rd and 3

12:55 Carter lost yardage
12:56 so this promising drive leads to a 4th and 3 and Shadle is back out there from 51 bet we punt
12:56 nope skinny Shadle hit the upright with plenty on distance
1:00 two missed tackles lets Brewer get the first down
1:02 another failed third down for NW - and let's hope Fitzgerald keeps being conservative, the punt team is out there
1:02 NW 1-5 on third down
1:02 punt bounces dead left after the punter dropped the snap and goes out of bounds
1:04 first drop of the season as Davis drops it
then an out to Williams is nearly picked - now its 3rd and 10
1:05 ARob 8-14 now
1:05 Not the best punt, but a decent roll and its downed at the NW45
1:07 A quick run by Sutton and then another for Bacher, and NW is back in SU territory
and Sutton is down to the 17 or so - breaking more tackles
1:07 make it the 14 but procedure backs them up to the 19 and makes it 1-15

1:08 Art Jones in the backfield on that play - he's been fairly quiet but he asserts himself there
1:09 Nobody covered Jeremy Ebert on the third and long and NW is on the board

1:10 broken coverage on the blitz and now its 9-3

1:10 3:20 left before the half, Syracuse needs to refocus and try to get something going before the intermission
1:10 Remember NW gets the ball after the break - so SU has to be aggressive here

1:13 it was just a zone blitz and blown coverage
1:13 Max gives us decent field position at the 33 - better than inside the 10
1:13 let's see what we can do
1:15 That was a pathetic offensive series when we needed something more
1:16 and there is time left for NW to go for the jugular - and they do just that and call timeout
1:18 NW could score here before the half and to start the second half and it would be all over

1:18 we just called Timeout

1:19 if they get a first down Gross should fire Robinson on the way to the locker room

1:21 there's the first down

1:21 they were willing to goto the locker room up only 9-3 and now we've given them a chance to blow this wide open
1:22 It will be 23-3 before 2:00

1:23 ok they screwed up on third down again and Howard returned his first punt
1:24 There is Ernie Davis
1:24 should we really have Jim Brown as a spokesperson
1:24 [Be Right Back Countdown] 10 minutes
1:36 A little halftime analysis
1:36 You can't be disappointed with the defensive points allowed
1:36 but the tackling has been shaky - and the pressure has been non-existent
1:37 some inefficiency from NW on third down has kept the Orange in this
1:38 However....that defense has led to the Orange having poor field position

1:39 Somebody needs to teach Jesse Palmer how to tie a tie - or just tie it for him

1:39 I was pleased with the way the Orange ran the ball - it was fairly efficient and got several big runs

1:39 B
1:40 oth Brinkley and Carter had a long runs - but there are still too many 2 yard runs
1:41 All this talk about things being different this year - and I haven't really seen anything that didn't look very much like what we've run in the past
1:41 Seriously
1:41 I'm hoping we open things up a bit more in the second half
1:42 and I'm hoping ARob looks more like a second-year starting QB then he exhibited the first half
1:42 and I'd like to see one or two passes down the field
1:43 Both Davis and Lobdell - who were concerns to drop a few balls this year - did just that late in the half, and Bruce Williams isn't going to be anything more than a possession receiver, but we knew that
1:44 But we've got to get some guys down the field, so those bubbles to open field runners like Bailey and Hogue actually give them some open field to run in

1:46 NW does have 242 yards of offense - and a 100 yard rusher already - so even though the points are only 9 (and 2 on the safety) its hard to get excited about what the defense did that half
1:46 But we'll have to rely on them to get us the ball back after the start of the second half

1:47 They are underway as the kick went through the end zone

1:47 Big play as Giruzzi recovers a fumble inside the 10

1:48 Kimmel forced it in the backfield

1:48 Boonah on the pitch inside the five
1:49 Fiammetta gets it to about the two
1:50 Boonah breaks away and gets into the end zone -- all of a sudden we're in the lead - well we need the extra point
1:50 no problem
1:50 all of a sudden, I'm getting a better feeling
1:51 I always talk about teams not taking advantage of the half they controlled - maybe that is what happened to NW and its going to bite them
1:51 Certainly they could have led by more than 6 at the half
1:53 don't forget to give Bruce Williams some credit on that play - his block allowed Brinkley to get to the corner - after he was dead to rights in the backfield
1:53 [Poll] Can the Orange hold on? View
1:54 Now the defense needs to make a play again
1:55 There's Derrell Smith on the tackle
1:55 NW gets a first down, but McKinnon made a big hit
1:56 big third down play coming up here
1:56 need a stop
1:57 nice screen play from NW and the big guy Art Jones runs Sutton down from behind - great play
1:57 but NW is in SU territory
1:58 Another first down for NW
1:59 pressure and Kevyn Scott got beat across the field, and NW is to the 11

1:59 need to hold them to a FG attempt here
2:00 Mike Holmes really does a good job tackling from the CB slot
2:00 huge third down here
2:01 McKinnon got called for PI
2:01 think it was a good call actually - but not sure he'd have caught it

2:02 touchdown Bacher on the option run, but there is a flag and its a hold on NW
2:02 maybe a bit of a makeup on the PI call
2:03 Sutton scores on a little flat route, he beats Mele and now NW is on the board and back in the lead
2:03 A key drive for them
2:04 they kick the extra point and its 16-10

2:04 let's see how our offense responds
2:07 That wasn't Suter was it
2:08 here's a little spread look and we jumped on offense, Chavers
2:08 1-15
2:09 so much for the spread
2:09 Robinson had time for a moment, waited and then got sacked
2:09 this is going downhill fast
2:10 3-25 bet we run

2:10 nope Brinkley on a two yard pass over the middle, he ran into the umpire and gained 9
2:10 punt and we need a good one
2:11 not the best and NW has good field position
2:17 good job on that 3rd and long by the SU defense, good coverage and Bacher tried to run for it, but Smith made the tackle
2:17 Should we get excited when we start with the ball outside the 15?

2:17 If so, get excited now
2:18 1-10 at the 16
2:18 actually I think we were at the 20 - but no gain for Hogue
2:18 it is the 15

2:19 ARob runs the option for 5 - now its 3rd and 5 and we need to move the sticks
2:19 ARob made a terrible throw and NW picked it off and ran it back for a TD
2:20 it's 23-10 - and just about done
2:21 he had a wide open receiver down the field and threw it underneath

2:21 and didn't throw it well
2:22 another fine pass from ARob
2:23 throw the ball down the field
2:23 Nice catch and run by Donte Davis - 18 yard pickup
2:23 out near midfield
2:25 cheap call
2:25 Bartholomew was looking the other way
2:26 now its 3rd and 22 after the penalty and an incompletion
2:26 I think we just got the queen of all makeup calls
2:27 so now we're even
2:27 end of 3 - the Orange trails 23-10 and is across midfield -
2:31 ARob just throws it away since it was a hold

2:31 Chavers still stinks - can't Meldrum play?
2:32 not a bad run for Delone - got back some of the yardage
2:32 if the option is just going to be a quarterback run, its never going to run - very disappointed in the play of ARob today
2:33 3rd and 15 - and we have to burn a TO to save a delay of game
2:34 if we gain yardage here and don't get the first, we have to think about going for it
2:34 of course we didn't get the first - Sales made the catch for 8 - but we'll punt
2:35 so we gain about 20 yards by booting it through the end zone
2:38 Art Jones just made another play - he's good
2:38 NW is really picking on whoever lines up against Mike Mele
2:39 Terrelle Pryor scored
2:39 that's for Ohio State
2:39 Another catch in front of Mele
2:40 he's having a rough half
2:41 NW is driving for the score to complete things
2:42 BTW Pitt (the most overrated team in the country) trails Bowling Green 20-17 as they start the fourth quarter
2:43 There must have been something major there, about six flags spotted it
2:43 its a good think it took away a touchdown
2:44 But Conteh just ran through a big hole and its first and goal - we don't have a way to stop this
2:45 Josh Brooks behind Mike Mele for the touchdown
2:46 so its 30-10 - and we've got 11 more games to look forward to
2:47 I guess if Virginia Tech ended up losing to East Carolina - I could feel better about it all
2:48 but I doubt this is going to happen
2:48 Tech leads by 2 (the two they got for running a blocked XP back) with 3:36 left
2:49 at least if we keep giving up points, Max gets to run kickoffs back
2:55 ARob looks horrible
2:56 his ineffieciency is the biggest disappointment of the day

2:56 Or did I already say that

2:57 Next week's opponent Akron lost at Wisconsin 38-17
2:57 I think we'll be a 2-point favorite
2:58 maybe
2:58 ECU just blocked a punt and returned it for a TD - they lead
2:59 and I think they have the ball back
3:00 Bowling Green leads 20-17 and has the ball at the Pitt 11
3:01 ECU does have the ball with less than 1 minute to play
3:02 Bowling Green scored and leads Pitt 27-17 with 12 minutes left
3:02 Pitt may be the only team in the country that needs a new coach more than we do
3:02 but at least they are not getting torched at Northwestern
3:03 it's a final - ECU has beaten Tech
3:04 at least there is some good in today
3:04 and shockingly Syracuse misses two more tackles
3:06 This was another underprepared Syracuse team - getting slaughtered
3:06 The Daryl Gross Era in Syracuse history continues
3:06 I'm going to see if Pitt can rally, but I'm done here

Game Two: SMU @ Rice

I just finished watching the Conference USA game from last night....and I had the following thoughts and observations....

....maybe we just ought to give Chase Clement the Heisman Trophy right now. The senior signal caller threw six touchdown passes (including four by halftime). He was the perfect example in my mind of how an experienced signal caller makes a college team.

....that Syracuse Spread thing might work out pretty well.

....because there is no way you can tell me that SMU or Rice has more talent and better personnel then the Orange has. They combined to score 83 points.

....Of course, maybe it had something to do with the personnel that the two teams were putting on defense.

....I don't expect Nick Provo to be as versatile as Rice TE James Casey was, but I do expect the Orange to use the TE/HB/FB in a lot of similar situations. And I think Provo can be very succesful in that role.

....I hate the shirts that June Jones and his coaching staff were wearing on the SMU sidelines. I guess it was some sort of effort to combine a golf shirt with the classic Hawaiian shirt that Jones had been wearing the last few years. You're in Texas now.

....Can the Owls become a player in Conference USA this year? I think maybe they can. But still its one of those things where maybe SMU is just that bad.

....Of course, when it was 13-0 Ponies, you had to think that June Jones was a miracle worker. But things went south in a hurry.

....I loved the enthusiasm of the Rice crowd, and particularly the student section. I wonder if it's like that everygame or just for ESPN broadcast Friday night games. Nice job, but I'm still not a fan of the thundersticks. But if that is what you have to do, you have to do it.

....I'll be interested to see how Rice fares next week at Memphis.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ready or Not....The Season starts tomorrow

Greg Robinson keeps insisting that he likes this team and that it's time to show something, to get out there and show something.

Unfortunately, I don't have any confidence in Greg Robinson. I mean like none, zero, zilch. As a result, I've never been less excited about the start of a Syracuse football season, since I started to care way back in 1991. No I'm not Paul Pasquoloni, but I do long for the days of Coach P, but I did arrive on campus the same time P took over the coaching duties. And truly, I don't lay the blame on the program being as bad as it is on GRob (certainly he hasn't helped matters) but put that blame squarely on Daryl Gross and Nancy Cantor's shoulders.

But anyhow, I promised myself, I wouldn't write about the Orange until I wouldn't rant about all that is bad. And now the season starts tomorrow, and well here are my 10 predictions for the season.

1). The offense is going to be different than what we saw the last three years. So I'm calling it the Syracuse Spread. And I think it will have a lot of similarities to the spread offense. I certainly don't expect to see Andrew Robinson running around like Pat White, or slinging it from sideline to sideline like Colt Brennan, but I expect we will spread the field and run from a lot of spread like formations.

2) So that brings us to the running backs. I think this might the position with the most depth. And I think at times we'll see all three running backs, and maybe even think all three running backs are the right guy for the job. For now, I think Boonah Brinkley gets the most work, but that may change it Delone Carter is healthy. Personally, I'd still like to see Doug Hogue at linebacker where he could be a force, but I think he'll be more than adequate a few times this year.

3) The receiving corps will surprise some people if Donte Davis stays healthy. Obviously, based on past history there is no guarantee there. But if he is healthy I think that even though the loss of Mike Williams will be large, this group can do a good job in this spread like offense.

4) I'm extremely concerned about the defense as a whole. I think there is definitely talent on this side of the ball, but a lot of it is young under experienced talent. Art Jones is a monster and will anchor everything up front, but I'm concerned about the rest of the front line. I think the linebacking group could be excellent in time. But I also think it will make its share of mistakes. And the secondary makes me believe that opposing quarterbacks will salivate everytime they get to the line of scrimmage.

5) I expect that South Florida and West Virginia will battle for the Big East crown. I think that Louisville will be the big surprise in the conference, and I think Pitt will be the big disappointment.

6) Meanwhile, I think 3-9 is the record for the Orange this year. I am predicting wins over Penn State, Northeastern and Notre Dame. That might actually be enough to give me some very satisfying moments as an Orange fan.

7) I don't believe the reports that the Offensive line is any better. I think the coaching staff (as the previous one did) with the addition of Mitch Browning, might do a better job at playcalling towards the unit's strength, but it won't be enough to cover the holes that the line has. Still, I think there is some young talent on this line, and maybe someday this group will be a cohesive unit. Just don't see it happening this year.

8) The Dome crowds will be an all-time low. Even with two September wins, one over the fierce Penn State rival, the season will be all but over by the time the team returns after that October road trip and it will be empty.

9) Northwestern 37, Syracuse 31

10) Part of that 3-9 might be some improvement against some of the more quality opponents. I expect more close games, and the defensive unit to get better as the season wears on. There likely could be some promise by the end of the season. That could make getting rid of Greg Robinson a tough decision. (and why it should have been done last year). But ultimately it will be done, and the Orange will have a new coach by Christmas. I only wish, we'd have a new AD.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Are you Ready?

College football underway on this Thursday evening. I think the best game of the night is Wake Forest at Baylor, and they'll start in a few minutes. But right now Vanderbilt and Miami (Oh) have kicked it off over on ESPNU. The Commodores just drove to take the lead 7-3.

I love college football. Obviously, I'm a big fan of the Orange. And I'm still willing to admit it. And on this Thursday night, I hold out that the Orange finds a way to win six games this year. Not sure it really can happen, but I'm a fan, so I'm willing to hope and see if we can't turn this around.

But when I'm watching college football this year, I'll be telling you what I'm thinking. Call me crazy, but I think I can watch 100 games this year. So we start with a live blog from Waco (or really my living room) and the Deacons and Bears in the matchup between Wake Forest and Baylor.

8:06PM - Still waiting for Baylor and Wake to kick. NC State in South Carolina territory after an interception. But the Gamecocks have held for now.

8:08PM - I really think that South Carolina is one of the most overrated teams entering the season. After a disappointing season last year, they are somehow a Top 25 team in a lot of people's minds this year. Just doesn't make sense yet. NC State did go for it on fourth down as I thought they might, but didn't get. So USC gets the ball back. But I'm back to the Baylor/Wake game.

8:10PM - How bout that, Baylor has never lost to Wake Forest. That may change. Kirby Freeman transfer from Miami going to start for Baylor and new head coach Art Briles under center.

8:14PM - No luck for Freeman and the Bears on their first possession. A quick short completion and then two incompletions - plus a shanked punt. Wake is in good shape here.

8:17PM - Wake ends up getting a field goal out of that - after picking up one first down. Nothing really impressive but the Deacs will certainly take the three points.

8:22PM - Another three and out for Baylor. Not many open receivers for Freeman as they try to establish Art Briles spread offense. Speaking of spread offense, we're calling whatever Syracuse runs this year, the Syracuse Spread. We have a feeling that it might have some real serious spread looks embedded in what the Orange is doing. Many people think the spread must involve a running quarterback. That isn't the case, and I believe that Syracuse is going to try to spread the field and establish the run and short passing game that way.

8:27PM - I'm trying to figure out why there is a flag next to Baylor's name on the FSN scoreboard. If you know why, let me know.

8:33PM - I don't like instant replay. But I thought they should have at least taken another look at that Demon Deacon touchdown. Riley Skinner just engineered a nice scoring drive for the Deacs and this game is getting very close to being over. It's still early, but Baylor hasn't shown much of a way to attack the good Wake Forest defense, and Skinner was very precise on that drive and he had open receivers to play pitch and catch with.

8:41PM - Baylor got its first first down, but then committed its first turnover as Freeman was picked off. Wake Forest now has the ball back in Baylor territory. A big third down connection from Skinner to Marshall Williams (who now has at least 3 catches) has given the Deacs a first down and kept the drive alive.

8:48PM - The first quater has ended, Wake is in on the march. I'm even more convinced right now that Jim Grobe is one of the, if not the top coach in the country. Let's be honest, Baylor was one of the worst teams in the country last year, but Wake has gone on the road, and put a hurtin on them early. This looks like a team that could contend in the ACC again this year. But its going to take some time for Art Briles to turn it around.

8:52PM - There's the touchdown for Wake, and they take a 17-0 lead with the conversion. Another strong drive and Pendergrass finishes it with a short drive. Riley Skinner continues to impress as the quarterback. As a third-year starter you'd expect that, and he's proving my belief that quarterbacks with experience are a key to success in college football.

Friday, August 08, 2008

On the Road Again

Headed away for a few days - actually a few more than a few. So I don't know how much I'll be posting. For the record, I am not off to Beijing. But do root for Ryoki Tani of Japan in the Women's Judo 48K tonight, tomorrow morning or whenever it is. She's my random selection in the fantasy game. I also have American Jason Turner in the 10M Air Pistol competition. Bring one home for the US. My full team alos includes Hiayang Huang and Elvira Wood who will be playing with sabres, so be careful and then Yeooul Kim of South Korea, who is my underdog in the women's 10M Air Pistol.

Do you think the US athletes picked Lopez Lomong to carry the flag because of his connection to Dafar, so a statement could be made against China? Or do you think it was done simply to honor Lomong for everything he's acheived in getting to the Games?

Another US boxer is out of the competition. The US team which was hoping to rebound after a dismal performance in Athens has now lost two competitors. Unfortunate already.

Don't forget if you want to watch the Olympics tonight and not the opening ceremonies, the equestrian events begin on around 6:30 EST and there is live badminton, basketball, weightlifting, shooting, judo, and all sorts of good stuff later on.

Speaking of basketball, Mount Saint Mary's Dita Krumberga is part of the Latvian women's team that starts with Russia tomorrow morning. Good Luck.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Following Up

If you grew up playing soccer in this country, today is a good day. The US won its first game at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing 1-0 over Japan. Stuart Holden, of the Houston Dynamo, scored the goal just after intermission. With Holland and Nigeria tying in the other game in the group, it means the US needs to win only one more of its two games in group play to advance to the knockout round. The US was far from flawless today, but the win was a fair result. Although I'm sure the Japanese could argue that a draw might have been the just result.

NBC's coverage was once again solid, although I didn't like Bill Patrick in the studio. Maybe he just didn't like the 5AM start time, but he seemed uninterested and almost presented the "what am I doing here for something as lowly as soccer attitude". Still, being able to watch the streaming video (live) and the full feed replays on has been a great way to get started in these games. I'm on vacation until the 19th, I don't know if that will allow me more time to watch these games or less. We'll see.

By the way, I've just about given up on NBC's Olympic on the Go. With the full replays available online of just about everything just far, I can't see the use. Especially when the turnaround time has been suspect.

I don't know how things are going to turn out for Lou Montanez and the Orioles. But I told you about a month ago, the Orioles needed to take a look at him down the stretch. They are doing just that. He homered in his first at-bat, and was 2-for-4 yesterday in Anaheim.

Trying to come up with the most likely of Oriole rotations for 2009 isn't easy. Wherever you go after the start it has to begin with Jeremy Guthrie. From there, Daniel Cabrera and Garrett Olson seem like the most likely. I really think the Orioles are going to give Hayden Penn the month on September and through the All-Star break next year to earn more innings. So that is four, but where does the fifth come from? Troy Patton coming back from injury, one of the prospects from AA (Bergesen, Hernandez or a very young Chris Tillman). Or do they convert James Johnson (rather move him back to that role) and try to have someone take his slot in the pen (Radhames Liz or Chris Ray or even Randor Bierd or Sarfate). Or do they simply get Chris Waters some more opportunity? Or does Liz get one more chance? I can't imagine it would be Sarfate. I guess you could say the Birds have options, I just wish they were all named Guthrie.

Tyrell Harris is apparently turning a few heads in camp for the Orange. Not a lot of surprise in these parts that a player from McDevitt, who wasn't exactly the most talked about player ends up making the impact sooner.

The one positive I will take out of camp thus far is that Daniel Bailey was moved to Wide Receiver. That must mean that the Orange feels good about Doug Hogue, Delone Carter and Curtis Brinkley, which can only mean they are all pretty healthy. So keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Officially Day -2 of the Olympics

It seemed to fit for the US women's soccer. They got behind 2 in the first five minutes and never recovered against 2000 gold medalist Norway.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the US was pretty sloppy at the back in allowing both goals. Goalkeeper Hope Solo lost, snapping a streak of 55 international games without a loss. Credit must be given to Norway for its effort, but the US seemed to a lack a creative element in the game's offensive third. The Norwegians snapped a 10-game winless streak against the Americans.

I just finished watching the game via TIVO, and it certainly wasn't worth taping.

However, let's remember that 8 of the 12 participants advance to the knockout phase of the tournament and the US is far from eliminated. In fact, many would probably still consider them the favorite. But there is a definite cause for concern at the moment.

Meanwhile, the rest of my Olympic Expericence on Day -2 of the Games involved watching the Germany and Brazil on the live internet feed (or at least the last 25 minutes of it) that ended in a 0-0 draw. Furthermore, I saw North Korea score its first Olympic goal versus Nigeria in its 1-0 opening round game. Again that came on the live internet feed.

I was impressed with NBC's coverage, both on the internet and the NBC online stuff. Still its hard to imagine Matt Vasgergian has come all the way from doing Syracuse Chiefs baseball. He should have taken Joel Moranis with him.

I'm still waiting for NBC Olympics on the Go to have the download available for the women's soccer game that finished somewhere around 12 hours ago. It's supposed to available shortly after completion. We're still waiting for the definition on shortly.

Catching Up

I guess that's what the US Women's Olympic Soccer team spent its first game in the Olympics trying to do. They were pretty sloppy at the back to start the game and it cost them.

Chris Waters made quite the major league debut last night. After all those innings in the minors, and he really didn't seem like a likely callup. But maybe he can provide the Orioles some needed innings. I don't think they thought eight scoreless ones, but he certainly was good last night. I recall chatting with AA-New Hampshire play-by-play man Mike Murphy early in the year and asking about all the young O's arms at Bowie. And he wanted to talk about Waters. Told me he reminded him of Jamie Moyer. And maybe he could give the Orioles something at some point. He might have been half joking, but Murph is a prodigy this morning.

I'm sure you all noticed the Big East media poll. And as no surprise the Orange was eighth. But just how bad is it? Oh so bad that of the 24 media members that voted on the poll, not a single one had the Orange out of last place. Not a single one. That would be none. That is really bad. The Vegas over/under is 2.5, it almost seems like 3 should be easy. I mean Northeastern and Akron are on the schedule. All they have to do is win one more game. I'm almost thinking there is no way at this point.

Chris Tillman was real good his last outing. Some might have been starting to get a bit worried about him. But remember he's 20 - youngest pitcher in AA, and he's never had good ERA numbers. This is clearly the best he's pitched, and his innings count is increasing. He's at least a year away in my view, but might get a chance next spring. But I really think, if he's going to pitch in the majors next year, it should be in the bullpen, and truly its probably better to let him pitch at AAA-Norfolk and build up the innings.

Give NBC some credit for the way it's handling the online streaming video of the Olympics. I realize most people probably don't care and don't want to watch it anyhow, but it gives those that want to watch lesser known sports (or at least less popular) the opportunity to watch them live. NBC is saying everyone can create their own Olympic Experience. I did a little when I woke up this morning. I watched the end to Brazil and Germany's bore draw. I then saw Korea score early against Nigeria, while I had the USA game on MSNBC. I'm reserving judgment on NBC's Olympics on the Go - downloadable coverage, because thus far, I haven't been impressed. But the streaming video this morning was top notch. We'll see how it goes when they have action from more than one sport, but the initial work was quality.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Judah and Clottey Live Blog

ROUND ONE: Zab Judah showing more in round one from Las Vegas as Joshua Clottey seems to really be feeling out Judah more in the first. It will be interesting to see if he gets more aggressive. But that went to Judah on pure aggressiveness, in a fairly boring round.

ROUND TWO: Clottey a little bit more active here at the start of the second, but Judah just hit him with a decent combination there. Clottey tries to get to Judah's body without a lot of success. Clottey seems to be thinking Judah can't hurt him and hoping that Judah will tire himself out. The Judah jab still the most effective punch. Again I score that round for Judah.

ROUND THREE: Judah continues to be busier as they start Round three, and a combination that was blocked by Clottey at least drew raves from the audience. Clottey is being very patient, but he's digging a hole on the scorecard that is going to be tough to recover from. He's fighting as if he's going to be able to knock him out later. We'll see. This round is a bit closer. But I still think Judah won it.

ROUND FOUR: There are few more punches being thrown in this round. Clottey is starting to get some punches in to the body. Clottey complains about a low blow. Clottey is landing a few punches upstairs now as well. He seems to be taking control of things a little here. Clottey is hitting him hard, just landed a big uppercut and Judah is bleeding from the nose. Give Judah some credit for punching back but the round was definitely Clottey's.

ROUND FIVE: Again a low blow from Judah, he's warned this time. Clottey works the body after a Judah combo. Judah is working the body as well now, he's doing some good things. But Clottey is definitely throwing the better, cleaner punches right now. He just landed a few to the body that may have bothered Judah some. Clottey letting Judah know that his punches don't bother him. Round five to Clottey.

ROUND SIX: Judah a bit of a resurgence here midway through the sixth round. But Clottey is still coming forward, and now another low blow and they give Clottey time to regroup. Clottey landed a good straight right and then Judah countered. I'm going to have to give the round to Judah for some good punching and have him ahead 4-2, but I could see it even at this point.

ROUND SEVEN: Judah is really working hard to the body but it doesn't seem to bother Clottey too much. But he's digging that right hand into the body. Still Clottey has slowed a little, but he might have hurt Judah some. But the left uppercut from Judah was nice right there. A big right hand from Clottey near the end of the round, might be what the judges remember. I'll go with Clottey at that point.

ROUND EIGHT: Judah is still working hard defensively, but Clottey continues to come forward. Judah using the jab well now. Clottey got inside a little bit there. Judah needs to pick up the pace again. Perhaps he is tiring. A big combination from Judah as he backed Clottey up against the ropes. A lot might have been blocked but it was near the end of the round and might have stolen it. We'll stay with Clottey and call it even at this point.

ROUND NINE: Cut along Judah's right eye. I'm not sure it came from a punch. And it is ruled by a clash of heads. Accidental. It looks nasty. It could goto the cards as a result, and the ringside doctor says he can't see. And Clottey thinks he has won as the fight has been stopped.

DECISION: The ninth round lasted a minute maybe less, but it will be scored. Therefore, I have to give that to Clottey, even though he didn't do much either. For me that means Clottey wins 86-85. I think the cards will come in close to that. But it looks like now on the replays that a punch opened the cut. But still it goes to cards. Clottey just now realizing it goes to the cards. 86-85, 87-84, 86-85 all to Joshua Clottey.

As it turns out, I think Clottey was the deserving winner, I think the cut came from a punch so Clottey should have won by TKO. But based on the referee's decision that it was an accidental butt that caused it, it went to the cards and ultimately I think it was obvious that Clottey won the abbreviated ninth round. That actually gave him the win and eliminated the draw.

A decent fight, and Clottey might get a rematch with Margarito. Hard to imagine anyone beating Margarito, but Clottey's counterpunching style might be a tough match for Margarito.