Archives for posts with tag: football

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

The University of Maryland owned the week in a way many schools would rather not. After a summer-long investigation into the death of student athlete Jordan McNair, the Board of Regents announced Tuesday that despite the fact that yes, there was dysfunction within the athletic department and football program.  Only nobody would be held responsible for the death of a 19-year old student athlete in the College Park sun.

They recommended reinstatement for coach DJ Durkin as well as Athletic Director Damon Evans.  “Nothing to see here, anyone.”   Status Quo Post-Investigation.  “Thanks for coming…we’re fine, thanks.  How are you?”  The response went over as well as one would expect…even with University President Wallace Loh announcing his retirement at to take effect at the end of the academic year.  Handling situations has never been the school’s strong suit…but even with the lowered level of expectations that the University is given, this seemed bewildering, tone-deaf and disastrous.  The resignation of James T. Brady two days after the recommendation only served to underscore that.

There was no way DJ Durkin could return to coach this team.  Not after the death of a player.  Not after the investigation into the program especially not after he had been separated from this team (due to administrative leave) for almost three months and two thirds of the regular season. He couldn’t transition back to normalcy, and it will be years and at least one new head coaching regime before this program gets back on the track they may have been on or thought they were on when Jordan McNair died.

There will no doubt be more fallout…as Athletic Director Damon Evans is on far from secure ground.  The hiring process for the next head coach will be filled with ridiculous expectations (Frank Reich is likely NOT leaving the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts to come to College Park), second-guessing and the customary misdirection that any coaching search at Maryland has been known for delivering.  If it’s anything like previous regime changes, expect a few current players to transfer once the dust settles.

Somewhere in the midst of assigning responsibility and finding the right course of action, McNair’s 115 teammates have scraped their way to a 5-3 start–meaning they’re one victory shy of reaching bowl eligibility.  I’ve long thought that there are way too many bowls–with the mediocrity of a .500 season propped up with cupcake wins getting rewarded to the point where postseason play is an entitlement instead of an achievement.  If the Terps get to six wins this month, they’ll be one of the exceptions.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange enter November bowl-eligible.  That’s happened just once since the end of the Paul Pasqualoni era…and that 6-2 start saw three November losses in four games.   SU starts the month with a trip to Wake Forest and the team will be wearing “all-white” to mimic snow falling in the south.  Of course, snow melts in warm-weather climates.  But that’s merely an accounting note.

 

Friday-

#23 Virginia (6-2, 4-1 ACC) vs. Pitt (4-4, 3-1), 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)-

Don’t look now, but the Cavaliers enter November atop the ACC Coastal Division.  While getting to the top of the standings to begin college football’s “Closing Month” is one thing,  Virginia is the only original Coastal school that has yet to play in the ACC Championship Game.  The Panthers are somewhat offensively-challenged this fall, with senior runningback Qadree Ollison (795 yards and seven touchdowns rushing) the lone bright spot this fall.  He’s coming off of a 149-yard performance against Duke.  UVa quarterback Bryce Perkins is coming off a 217-yard passing, 112-yard rushing effort against North Carolina.  He’s also been dynamite at moving the chains–the Cavaliers rank second in the ACC (47.7%) on third down.  Pitt’s defense?  Second to last at getting off of the field this season.  Kippy & Buffy move the chains and much more during their tailgate by going with a 2015 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cold Creek Cabernet Sauvignon:  “the aromas are bright, with notes of cherry, plum, vanilla and baking spice. The fruit flavors are plump, with plenty of barrel accents. The tannins come off as quite dry, leading to a sweet vanilla-filled finish. The oak is at the fore.” 

Cavaliers come the fore of the Coastal Division with a 30-14 victory. 

 

Maryland (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten) vs. Michigan State (5-3, 3-2), noon (ESPN2)-

As if anyone is focused on the nuts and bolts of this matchup, we’ll do our darnedest to keep this game-related.  Both schools are in contention but are longshots in the East Division race….and while the Terps boast the second-best running game in the conference (with a league-leading 6.3 yards per carry) the Spartans bring the stingiest run defense (2.7 yards per carry and 77.4 yards per game) to College Park.  They also bring a freshman quarterback named Rocky Lombardi who threw for 318 yards in his first career start (second-year starter Brian Lewerke was out with a shoulder injury).  They’ll need to pass effectively as the Spartans manage just 3.1 yards per carry this fall…and if there’s one thing the Terps don’t do well defensively its rush the passer (12 sacks rank 13th in the Big Ten).  Win or lose, this is going to be one intriguing afternoon.

Terrapins triumph 24-20.

 

Navy (2-6, 1-3 AAC) at Cincinnati (7-1, 3-1), 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)-

The midseason gauntlet continues for coach Ken Niumatalolo’s team as they face the number one defense in the American Athletic Conference (I still want to add “of America”–it’s the “Dodgeball” guy in me).  The Bearcats are tops in the league against the run and are the stingiest on third down while being one of four teams in a top-heavy East Division that could advance to the conference championship.  The bright spot for the Mids this fall has been ball security:  they rank second in the AAC and are 13th nationally at +7 through eight games.  They’re also the least-penalized team in the league while Cincinnati has drawn the most flags (an average of eight for 81.2 yards per game).  They may do the little things better than the Bearcats, but Cincy does the big things much better–and that will come up huge.

Midshipmen continue to meander in a 35-21 loss.

 

Virginia Tech (4-3, 3-1 ACC) vs #24 Boston College (6-2, 3-1), 3:45 p.m. (ACC Network)-

Could the Hokies actually miss a bowl this fall?  The “easy” Coastal Division games against Duke and North Carolina are in their rearview mirror and a suddenly slippery schedule awaits with their remaining foes a combined 12-5 in conference play.  Defensive coordinator Bud Foster has made the most out of an inexperienced unit, but in each defeat they’ve been exposed:  495 yards passing allowed against Old Dominion, three touchdowns of 30+ yards in the Notre Dame game, and 465 yards on the ground given up to Georgia Tech.  This week they face a healthy AJ Dillon (134 yards per game at 5.8 per carry) who’s looking to atone for last year’s 10-carries-for-35-yards performance in Chesnut Hill.  Keeping quarterback Ryan Willis upright will be a key:  BC leads the ACC with 28 sacks over eight games.  Getting him possessions will be just as important:  they had the ball 10 times in the loss to the Yellowjackets after averaging 13.7 drives over their first six games this fall.

Hokies hold on, 20-19. 

 

Howard falls to Florida A&M, Richmond beats Villanova, James Madison beats New Hampshire, Towson tops Maine.

Last Week: 6-3.

Overall: 49-25.

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PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

Despite the weather getting cooler as October approaches, it’s most certainly getting hot at more than a few locales in college football. The Coaching Hot Seat fires up again with there already being a pair of casualties.  Thanks LSU, for jettisoning Les Miles last weekend (there goes my title, lead sentence and big chunk of the first paragraph from my rough draft).   But let the record show that in the SEC West, all coaching seats begin rather lukewarm upon the new administration’s arrival.  FIU has also made a coaching change, replacing Ron Turner with Ron Cooper.  This was a shock to many following the program who thought that the coaches name was Ron Cooper to begin with.  They could name Ronald McDonald the interim coach and it still wouldn’t register on the national scale.

This year the seats in the area are rather cool;  that’s what usually happens when you make changes at Maryland, Virginia and Virginia Tech.  Looking around the expanded area…one sees a little heat up in Happy Valley surrounding Penn State’s James Franklin.  The Nittany Lions are 2-2 to start the season and 16-14 in his tenure…with alumni-embarrassing losses to Pitt and Temple (for shame!).  He’s also 6-11 in the Big Ten…and while Ohio State is playing on another level the State College faithful have to be rankled by defeats to Northwestern and Illinois.  Not to mention a loss to Maryland at home for the first time ever.  Athletic Director Sandy Barbour gave Franklin the “vote of confidence” this week after the team was crushed by #4 Michigan 49-10.  Each of their next three opponents are 3-0 (but let the record show Ohio State’s 3-0 is a lot different than Maryland’s 3-0) and the Nittany Lions’ remaining foes boast a composite 21-6 record.  Rutgers can’t come soon enough.  In the ACC, Boston College’s Steve Addazio has presided over an offense that can’t get out of its own way as the Eagles have dropped 10 straight conference games.  Thankfully Buffalo and UConn are sprinkled in between the Clemsons and Florida States.  Nationally the hot spots are at the usual locales- USC appears to be self-destructing under Clay Helton (did they really send 8 players out for a punt?) while the natives are restless at Auburn (Gus Malzahn began his tenure 19-3 but is 11-12 since).  Both of those schools are more than happy to jettison regimes when things go south…much to the delight of UCLA and Alabama.

Alma Mater Update- no hot seat in Central New York this year as Dino Babers is putting together a program that will contend with the Clemsons and Florida States of the world.  Did I just write that?  That is what a win at UConn will do for my orange-colored glasses.  This week SU faces a 1-3 Notre Dame team that allowed 38 points to Duke at home.  Granted, it’s a neutral site game in the Meadowlands…but one just hopes for a little semi-home cooking.  For those in the DC Metro area, you can get Sal’s Birdland Sassy Sauce at most Wegman’s.

Virginia (1-3) at Duke (2-2, 0-1 ACC), 12:30 p.m. Saturday (ACC Network)- UVa has lost 18 straight road games…dating back to November 2012.  But that is Cavaliers past. Cavaliers present is all about third down:  they rank 13th in the ACC at moving the chains while the defense is last in the conference at getting off the field.  The Blue Devils aren’t much better, ranking 12th in third down efficiency and last in the conference in red zone offense.  Duke is fresh off an upset win at Notre Dame, but the Blue Devils leading rusher Jela Duncan (5.6 yards per carry and 78 yards per game) is on the shelf thanks to a leg injury.  ACC play means Kippy & Buffy move on to reds, and Virginia has some very interesting choices.  This week they open a bottle of Ankida Ridge 2014 Pinot Noir: “a luscious, round mouthfeel lingers with a long-lasting finish of floral notes and white peppercorn”.  Break out the Cantal cheese with Ritz crackers.  Cavaliers come up short, 39-30.

Maryland (3-0) vs Purdue (2-1), 3:30 p.m Saturday (Big Ten Network)- after four weeks away from College Park, the Terps hold homecoming and their conference opener on the same afternoon.  Quarterback Perry Hills and his injured shoulder is listed as probable by coach D.J. Durkin- but the running game is the major reason this team is unbeaten:  Maryland ranks 2nd in the Big Ten in rushing and leads the conference in yards per carry.  The Boilermakers have had issues stopping the run and the pass this fall.  Defensively the challenge is containing David Blough and the second ranked passing game in the Big Ten; the Boilermakers also convert a league-best 59% of third downs.  One huge test for a secondary now minus safety Denzel Conyers (ACL, out for season).  All eyes on junior Josh Woods who makes his first career start.  Could turnovers tell the tale?  Maryland is +5 on the season while Purdue is a Big Ten worst -6.  Terrapins triumph, 36-24.

Navy (3-0) at Air Force (3-0), 3:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network)- the Midshipmen have owned this rivalry as of late, taking 10 of the last 13 meetings.  But it’s a different world in Colorado Springs:  the Falcons have beaten the Mids in two of their last three meetings out west…and none of Navy’s wins there since 1978 have come by more than a touchdown. Expect another close contest between schools that, despite defending our skies and seas, get things done on the ground.  Both average over 300 yards per game rushing:  Air Force’s attack ranks 2nd in FBS while Navy’s is 5th.  Will Worth may be the wildcard this year- the senior QB is a better passer than his Air Force counterpart Nate Romine.  Midshipmen come up short, 34-31.

Howard loses at Norfolk State, Georgetown falls to Harvard, James Madison defeats Delaware, Richmond tops Towson, William & Mary falls at New Hampshire, Morgan State defeats Delaware State.

Last Week: 5-2.

Overall: 30-5.  Can we survive college football’s “moving month”?

Just like the janitor who masqueraded as “The Phantom” in that Scooby Doo mystery, the Nats were this close to scaring away the rest of the NL East from the warehouse (underneath the division was a diamond mine, believe it or not) area and selling off 2015.  Philadelphia?  The Fightin’ Phils became the Fire Sale Phils by jettisoning Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and Ben Revere.  Miami?  the Marlins have been playing for 2016 since May…although some think they’re actually playing for 2017.  Atlanta?  The Braves new world is now 11 games under .500 after getting swept by the Phillies.  All the Nats needed was for the Mets to revert to form after a surprising start. But just like kidnapping Daphne is no way to get rid of the Mystery Machine gang, the Nationals took a sluggish lineup and shaky bullpen into Queens last weekend and the ill-fitting Phantom mask came off.  Two walk-off losses and one rough hiccup by Jordan Zimmermann (3 HR allowed in 5 pitches) later, we have a virtual tie for first place in the NL East.  Matt Williams and company would have gotten away with the division, if it weren’t for those meddling Mets and their pitching.  Be ready for a scrappy final two months (nothing good happens when Scrappy is in the equation).

Dealing at the Deadline– the Nats were looking for a bridge to closer Drew Storen and couldn’t find a setup man for the right price.  Instead they made Storen the bridge and brought in Jonathan Papelbon.  The closer with crazy eyes had 17 saves for the Phillies in limited opportunities…but brings a stellar postseason record to DC.  As long as Storen is cool with being moved out of a role he’s earned for the third time in four years…and Doug Fister gets used to pitching with #33 on his back as opposed to #58.  I hope he got something cool from Papelbon to change numbers…

The Boys are Back in Town– one reason why the Nats stood pat on adding a bat before the deadline was the knowledge that they had multiple players coming off the disabled list.  Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth rejoined the Nats Tuesday in Miami.  While the duo is currently hitting .205 (9-44 with 2 walks and 14 strikeouts) since their return, one would imagine each would eventually find their pre-injury groove.  Now all they need is Span and Strasburg to return…

Dissecting the Division– the Mets after losing 18 of their last 21 home games to the Nats find themselves percentage points out of first place.  The team that won’t go away is staying in the conversation thanks to a pitching staff that ranks 3rd in the Majors in ERA and 1st in Quality Starts.  Now that they’ve added a big bat in Yoesnis Cespedes, watch out world!  This week the Mets head to the sunshine state for series against Miami and Tampa Bay.  The Marlins and Rays are both entering that “thank goodness for NFL Training Camps” mode to their seasons, as both are under .500 entering the dog days of summer.

Division of Rings– only one quartet out of the six in MLB can claim that every team has won the World Series…the AL Central.  Now, only one team (Chicago White Sox-2005) can boast a title in the last 20 years and Cleveland boasts the longest drought in the AL…but this has to be something to hang your hats on, right?  Kansas City (1985) owns the best record in the American League, and pulled off a few at the wire deals to bolster an already-strong roster (just imagine how many All-Stars they’d have now!).  Minnesota (1991) is in the middle of the Wildcard mix -owning a 1-game lead over the Orioles for the 2nd WC spot.  Detroit (1984), the White Sox (don’t forget 1917 either) and Cleveland (1948) are all on the outside looking in.  Watch Major League, boys and girls...

Last Week’s Heroes– Bryce Harper belted two homers in Miami Wednesday to take the NL lead with 29 round-trippers…while hitting .348 with a team-high 8 runs scored.  Anthony Rendon in his first full week off the DL batted .292 with 7 runs scored.  Max Scherzer provided another stellar start, scattering 3 hits while striking out 6 over 7 scoreless innings in a matinee against the Marlins.  In a world where starters rack up no-decisions with numbing regularity, Scherzer has 19 decisions in 21 starts.  That is what an Ace does…

Last Week’s Humbled– Wilson Ramos went hitless in 11 at-bats…and is batting .083 since the All Star Break with no walks and 13 strikeouts.  This from a guy who was hitting 4th and 5th for much of the first half of the season.  Ian Desmond also had a rough week (.130, one walk and 11 strikeouts) after hitting .478 the week before.  Thank goodness the Nats are healthy enough that these guys are hitting 6th and 7th… instead of 2nd and 4th.  Jordan Zimmermann went 0-2 last week…suffering a stretch Sunday where he allowed 3 homers over a 5 pitch span (the 4th pitch yielded a single).  Ouch…

Game to Watch– Max Scherzer pitches Tuesday against the team that drafted him…Arizona.  The Diamondbacks trot out Patrick Corbin, who won his last start while striking out 10 in the outing before that.  Get some popcorn…

Game to Miss– Saturday Doug Fister pitches against Colorado’s Yohan Flande.  While I was able to muster excitement for the Fister-Wistler duel, Fister-Flande just doesn’t carry the same mustard (the 29 year old is making his third start of the season after being a bullpen mainstay before the All Star Break).  Even the “58 meets 58” angle is lost thanks to Fister switching to #33.  It’s the final month before football season.  Enjoy a Saturday at Chateau O’Brien off Exit 18 on I-66.  Say hi to the best pourer in Northern Virginia, Irrational Marc (not to be confused with Winesnob Marc).