Archives for posts with tag: FOX

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

I come here not to praise Beverly Hills, 90210.  Nor bury it.  The show gave me endless hours of entertainment during the 1990’s as I went from socially awkward college student to underachieving professional over a ten-year span.  The program gave me plenty of laughs, with some of the humor actually being intentional and served as an interesting bookend to a decade where I learned, made mistakes, grew and didn’t grow from those mistakes, and developed the legendary Big Bob’s Buffalo Burrito while working for Shorty’s Mexican Roadhouse in Litchfield, NH. (for those who aren’t curious:  fajita chicken, buffalo wing sauce and bleu cheese on the inside, wing sauce on the outside, fries with a ramekin of bleu cheese on the side).

It’s been a long time since “Nine-Oh” (what a few of us called it back in the day when it was airing new shows on FOX while simultaneously re-running from 4 to 6 p.m. on FX) was on.  And now it’s back. Kind of. In a way. This summer’s reboot isn’t just about the further adventures of Brandon Walsh (last we heard he was working in Washington reporting on everything for a paper like the Post) and Kelly Taylor (I’m bracing for the trauma the character will endure this time).  There was the reboot on FOX last decade that had a few appearances from original cast members (Jennie Garth, Shannen Doherty and Tori Spelling each made appearances) but dealt with new characters for the most part.  This edition will feature the original cast, like “Dallas” on TNT earlier this decade.   Only it‘s going to pull the curtain back and let the audience reconnect with the actors as actors.  Because not only have I not cared for the last 20 years wondering about how Steve Sanders turned out, but I also have given little or no thought in to what Ian Ziering is up to.  I’m sure he’s a great guy;  I’ve just moved on.

I guess you could say that when “Nine-Oh” was on, I loved watching it not because it was good (and there were more than a few ambitious attempts at quality drama), but I enjoyed watching it because it could be unbelievably bad.  There were plenty of highs and lows and I enjoyed every minute of it, even when show was running on fumes over the last few seasons (some say the final year and a half while others claim the last four seasons were unwatchable).  When I find a TV show to lock into, I’m there until the bitter end.  And the end is usually bitter, from “How I Met Your Mother” to “24” to “Dallas” to “Happy Days”.  But for a while it was fun to escape from my troubles and trials at the time to slip into a booth at the Peach Pit and see what the cool kids of West Beverly (later California University and beyond) were up to.  Am I excited for this reboot?  Certainly not. Will I watch it?  Probably, while simultaneously laughing at myself for doing so.

 

Nine Ohs: Five Must See Episodes-

“Spring Dance”- Season One.  After being rebranded from “Beverly Hills High School” in the pilot stage (the guy who played Ferris Bueller’s dad was the original Jim Walsh) and a message-heavy first season that included very special episodes about teen suicide (Matthew Perry in a guest spot), bulimia, teen alcoholism, and having a pool party in Palm Springs, the kids go all-out for the Prom.  Breakout star Dylan McKay (played by the late Luke Perry-who was truly the straw that stirred the drink on this show) and goody-two-shoes Brenda Walsh decide to have sex in the hotel where the Prom is being held.  Characters squabble over teen stuff while Andrea imagines going on a killing spree.  David Silver dances up a storm and at the end everybody’s happy to be friends.  I think this was repeated at the end of “Mean Girls”-although I could be wrong.

“The Next 50 Years”- Season Two.  Rumor has it actor Douglas Emerson (who played awkward freshman Scott Scanlon) had just purchased a Saab when he was told his character was going to be “transitioned” from main to recurring cast.  While the show caught fire by airing a summer season, Scott was shipped off to Oklahoma where he returned wearing a cowboy hat and had a gun fixation.  During a “very special” episode that fall, Scanlon shot himself while twirling a gun after his birthday party (yes- that was the script).  The kids deal with grief as only a TV show clique can.  Major props to Brian Austin Green in this episode as David Silver, who ditched his best friend to hang out with the cool kids that fall.

“Something in the Air”- Season Three.  Wouldn’t you know it, Donna Martin (played by Tori Spelling) didn’t anything the day of the Senior Prom so she could fit into her dress.  And wouldn’t you know she was given champagne at a pregame party hosted by David Silver’s dad (more on that later).  And wouldn’t you know she’d get caught drunk by the Principal and suspended from school.  Thank goodness for Brandon Walsh and the gang who staged a walkout from final exams and chanted “Donna Martin Graduates” at Donna’s hearing with the School Board.  And wouldn’t you know it, Donna gets reinstated and all is back to normal.  I want to say something just like this happened in Bethesda a few years ago.

“What I Did on My Summer Vacation and Other Stories”- Season Five.  How do you replace one of your lead actors?  After a freshman year at “California University” where the entire gang attended yet dealt with different storylines (from Steve Sanders joining the KEG house to Andrea becoming a mother), Shannen Doherty left the show and the producers replaced the actress with Tiffani-Amber Thiessen as Valerie Malone, a seemingly sweet girl from Buffalo but deep down a schemer extraordinaire.  Valerie’s addition gave the show a much-needed shot in the arm.  She’d provide a great counterpoint to Kelly Taylor and the rest of the gang over the next three seasons.  Much better than Ted McGinley.

“One Wedding and a Funeral”- Season Six.  Luke Perry had one foot out the door after five years at the Peach Pit, and he brought it in his final storyline where Dylan pursued the man who seemingly killed his father (in a twist nobody asked for Jack McKay turned up alive in season ten) only to fall in love for the mobster’s daughter.  They get married after a whirlwind courtship.  Daddy mobster orders a hit on the groom and in a twist you could see coming two episodes away it’s Dylan’s wife who gets shot instead.  Regardless, a gripping exit for Dylan and Perry.  Sadly the spotlight distracted one from multiple  developments on the show:  from abusive boyfriend Ray Pruit sticking around to somehow we’re supposed to buy Steve and Clare as a couple, Kelly’s new bad-news boyfriend, Valerie’s latest schemes backfiring, and how does Brandon basically walk on the school paper and become editor within a week?  Once the sideburns left the zip code, Nine-Oh! became Nine…oh.

 

And there were still three and a half seasons remaining!  This is when I would skip weeks at a time and watch again only to grimace.  But never fear, there were other “standard” shows:

Walsh Open House for the Holidays- poor Jim and Cindy Walsh.  In the early seasons, it always seemed like their home became a gathering for Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations;  you know, the kind of things you want to share with your immediate family and not a homeless guy your son met on the beach (actual episode).  Lessons were learned, and hugs were handed out after at least one explosion at the table (not to mention David Silver’s mom cooking the turkey upside-down).  We laughed, cried and left the episode thankful our real-life friends observed holiday boundaries.

Recycled Roadtrips- nothing like leaving town to find yourself during a tough time at the holidays.  In season two, Steve bolted to find his real mother and while the ending was bittersweet the episode “A Walsh Family Christmas” (Steve was I think the only one who didn’t crash Jim and Cindy’s) served its purpose.  Cue up season three’s “Wild Horses”, where Dylan departs after being accused of cheating on his SAT’s only to learn some life lesson.  Naturally as the first-billed actor, Jason Priestley’s Brandon Walsh gets TWO episodes in season four (“Radar Love”/”Emily”) after he’s blackmailed into helping a college basketball cheat because it appears as though he’s having an affair with a professor’s wife.

Breaking Bad in Beverly- 90210 was notorious for adding characters who would seem nice at first, only to have them go off the rails at the end of the actor’s contract.  Emily Valentine going from “cool biker girl” to “the kid who almost lit a homecoming float on fire” set the standard, followed by:  Ray Pruit’s arc from sensitive blue-collar guitarist to abusive boyfriend, Joe Bradley (sensitive quarterback wasn’t a fan of Donna showing skin in a music video), Colin (artistic boyfriend of Kelly gets her hooked on drugs), Susan Keats (Andrea 2.0 dates Brandon and leaves him to work in the White House), Mark Reese (TV station manager loses it after not getting a Fellowship and Kelly), etc.

Redundant Recasts- what made the addition of Valerie Malone awesome was that she wasn’t a carbon copy of Brenda Walsh.  Not so in future recasts.  Dylan leaves?  Let’s add Vincent Young as trust fund-rebel Noah.  Valerie departs?  Cue up Vanessa Marcil as Gina Kincaid, Donna’s cousin (eventual half-sister) who’s sweet figure skating front is betrayed by, yes, deviousness scheming.  Brandon bolts for a newspaper job in DC? Let’s cast Daniel Cosgrove and make him Brandonesque nice-guy lawyer Matt Durning.  Durning also had a season ten flameout after a roadtrip while crashing at least one holiday celebration so he could check most of the boxes.

Poor Parent Appears-  just when you thought the kids had issues (and they did), let’s look at the rogues gallery of parents.  Let’s see;  Dylan’s dad was an embezzling felon, David’s father cheated on each of his wives while his mom cooked turkey upside-down on Thanksgiving, Kelly’s mom was an addict who wound up marrying David’s dad while her father was arrested for embezzlement, Steve’s dad was hilariously obnoxious (played deliciously by the late Jed Allan), and Donna’s mom was snobbily pretentious when not cheating on Dr. Martin (but not after his first heart attack). A parent would show up in the first five minutes of an episode and you’d just know there would be a very bad life decision made by the bottom of the hour.  Poor Jim and Cindy Walsh-they move from Minnesota and suddenly they find themselves in this peer group?

 

We all know that “Beverly Hills, 90210” spun off “Melrose Place” which begat the short-lived “Models, Inc.”…but I’m surprised-especially with FOX TV’s lack of sustainable programming in the 90’s-there weren’t more spinoffs from the mother ship.  Programs I would have definitely watched:

“Duke the Bookie”- remember season three when Brandon developed a gambling problem?  He was about to get his legs broken before Nat stepped in to save the day?  I’m kind of bummed we didn’t learn more about Duke-who could have been repurposed into a widower with three kids who’s trying to raise a family on his own while still meting out punishment and running numbers.

“Valentine’s Days”- after she almost lit the homecoming float on fire, Emily Valentine sought psychiatric care.  And was cured in time to rekindle her romance with Brandon two years later before leaving to study Oceanography.  Wouldn’t you want to follow her further adventures at sea?  The potential romantic entanglements with fellow students, crew members and natives?  It’s like “That Girl”–only on the ocean.

“Teasley’s Times”- one felt for West Beverly Vice Principal Mrs. Teasley.  So much better at her job than Richard Belding at Bayside, yet minimal character development outside of getting to attend David and Donna’s wedding in the series finale.  Why not use that appearance as a springboard to running a school?

“Bradley’s Boys”- Donna’s season six boyfriend Joe Bradley stopped playing football because of his heart condition and became a small-town high school coach to pave the way for Donna and David to reunite.  “Friday Night Lights” proved that clear eyes and full storylines can’t lose.

 

Saturday’s marquee matchup saw #19 Texas upset the Big 12 applecart by outscoring #7 Oklahoma 48-45 after a game filled with plenty of thrill and spills–and chills.  The notoriously slow-starting Longhorns jumped out to a 24-10 second quarter lead and led 45-24 after three periods…before the Sooners stormed back to tie things up with under three minutes left.  But Kyler Murray and company left too much time on the clock and Texas was able to kick a field goal with nine seconds left.  Calling this rollercoaster ride next to the Texas State Fair was FOX’s Gus Johnson…an announcer known for high-energy calls of big plays in clutch situations.  He might not be everybody’s cup of tea-or more appropriately given his energy, double espresso-but nobody makes the mundane plays more interesting and nobody makes the big plays more sublime.

 

Alma Mater Update- those of a certain age also recall the last time the Orange started 4-0 they dropped two straight games.  Saturday’s overtime loss at Pitt was unfortunate; while we know SU isn’t in the same class as Clemson, a win at a sub-500 ACC foe like the Panthers shouldn’t be too much to ask for.  They host North Carolina in two weeks.

 

Maryland (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) in its 42-21 loss to Michigan scored more points against the Wolverines than they had in the last three years combined, but the Terps were unable to contain the Wolverines after holding them in check for the first quarter.  Terrapin Triumphs: Tyrrell Pigrome came off the bench to lead the team with 63 rushing yards, including a 42 yard scamper and the game’s final touchown.  Tre Watson tallied 10 tackles to pace the defense.  Ty Johnson returned a kickoff 98 yards for the touchdown that gave the Terps their only lead of the day.  Terrapin Troubles: the offense stalled early and often, gaining just 47 yards in the first half.  The defense allowed the Wolverines to move the chains on 9-of-13 third downs…as Michigan scored five of the last six times they had the ball (the final possession of the day being the exception).  Penalties continue to be a problem, with 12 flags for 107 yards.  Next:  Saturday at home against 1-5 Rutgers (noon kickoff).

 

Navy (2-3) went west to face Air Force, and things went south after the Midshipmen took an early 7-0 lead.  The 35-7 loss was the their biggest defeat in the series since 2002 (Paul Johnson’s first year).  Midshipman Medals:  not a lot of good to thumb through.  Pete Tanuvsa made 11 tackles to pace the defense.  Owen White averaged 48.7 yards per punt…and he had plenty of practice with a career-high seven punts.  Midshipman Miscues:  the offense went three and out five times in seven first half possessions…and converted just 2 of 13 third downs.  Navy quarterbacks completed 3 of 12 passes.  Next:  Saturday at home against 3-3 Temple (3:30 p.m. kickoff).

 

#24 Virginia Tech (3-2) held Notre Dame to minus-three rushing yards in the first half, but on the Fighting Irish’s second offensive play of the second half Dexter Williams broke for a 97-yard touchdown that turned a one-point game at intermission into a 45-23 rout.  Hokie Highlights:  Ryan Willis threw for 309 yards while Damon Hazelton tallied 12 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.  Reggie Floyd recorded seven tackles and an interception.  Hokie Humblings:  two turnovers-one of which was returned for a Notre Dame touchdown.  The defense gave up big plays–in addition to the 97-yard TD, the secondary coughed up passes of 40 and 56 yards.  Next:  Saturday at 1-3 North Carolina (7 p.m. gametime).

 

 

 

Maryland is in its fourth Big Ten season, meaning every fourth-year senior attending the school (I know not everybody gets out in four–aka “seven years of college down the drain”) has known no other conference.  But there’s still an ACC feel to the university on gamedays–as the men’s and women’s crowds are robust and the football crowds are lacking.   Instead of a “blackout”, whiteout” or a “gold rush” it appears as there have been “gray ghost” games–where the fans are disguised as stadium seats.

Attendance this fall has averaged 37,636–which ranks 13th in the Big Ten, just ahead of Northwestern.  One could point to the small stadium size as Maryland Stadium is the third-smallest in the conference, but when grading for percentage of capacity the Terps’ 72.7% is only ahead of Illinois.  Since its inaugural season of 2014, the school has gone from 10th to 12th to 13th in putting people in the seats.   No longer having ACC rivals like Virginia on the slate can’t help as there’s a generation of fans who now feel a disconnect and can’t really get motivated for the likes of Northwestern and Purdue.  And for the opponents with big fan bases like Ohio State and Michigan, College Park becomes “Ann Arbor South” or “Columbus East”.  Last Saturday against the Wolverines there was a flood of Maize and Blue in the stands.  One could even hear UCF fans shout “Knight” during the National Anthem when they came to College Park in September.  Brace yourselves, because Penn State fans will likely be holding a “white-out” of their own at Maryland Stadium next Saturday.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange need a win over Louisville to stay in contention for a bowl game.  Yes, the Cardinals that are currently carving their way through the back end of a schedule after early stumbles.  Last year Lamar Jackson led Louisville to 62 points at the Carrier Dome–and he’s found that groove again this fall.  Meanwhile, there’s basketball.

 

Virginia (6-4, 3-3 ACC) at #2 Miami (9-0, 6-0), noon (ABC).  The Cavaliers November gauntlet continues with the resurrected Hurricanes:  how will their 11th best in the ACC run defense hold up against Travis Homer (146 yards rushing against Notre Dame and a 6.7 yards per carry average for the season)?  UVa quarterback Kurt Benkert has thrown an interception in four straight games- he’ll be facing a Hurricane secondary that leads the conference with 16 picks.  Kippy & Buffy pick a red blend for the tailgate, and against the “Convicts” school of the Catholics & Convicts what better to enjoy than a 2016 bottle of The Prisoner: “enticing aromas of Bing cherry, dark chocolate, clove, and roasted fig. Persistent flavors of ripe raspberry, boysenberry, pomegranate, and vanilla linger harmoniously.”  Cavaliers win the tailgate but lose the game, 38-15.

 

Virginia Tech (7-3, 3-3 ACC) vs Pitt (4-6, 2-4), 12:20 p.m. (ACC Network).  The Hokies need to get right before their annual Commonwealth clash with Virginia.  Quarterback Josh Jackson hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since before Halloween-he’ll face a rather accommodating Panthers defense that allows the most passing yards in the ACC.   Despite allowing 28 points in each of the last two weeks, the Hokies defense remains first against the pass and in points allowed as well as in getting off of the field on third down.  They’ll be tested on the ground as Darrin Hall is averaging 162 yards over his last three games.  Hokies make it happen, 28-16.

 

Navy (6-3) at #9 Notre Dame (8-2), 3:30 p.m. (NBC).  This isn’t the walkover it used to be:  The Mids have won four of the last ten meetings and came within a touchdown on two other occasions.  The Fighting Irish can still secure a New Year’s Day bowl berth with wins this weekend and at Stanford, while Navy appears to be bound for the Military Bowl in Annapolis–leave it the USNA to save the government money in travel expenses.  Navy’s had a pair of quarterbacks run for over 200 yards this fall, but both Zach Abey (shoulder) and Malcolm Perry (ankle) are questionable for Saturday–potentially placing Garret Lewis in the driver’s seat of the option offense.  The junior has 46 total yards rushing this fall.  Midshipmen come up short, 44-17.

 

Maryland (4-6, 2-5) at Michigan State (7-3, 5-2), 4 p.m., (FOX).  The Terps need a win to keep their bowl hopes alive, while the Spartans are smarting after a 48-3 loss to Ohio State.  MSU’s offense may be middle of the road (seventh in the 14-school Big Ten in rushing, passing and total yardage), but Maryland’s defense has been roadkill over the last two months-allowing 31+ points in six league games while coughing up 38+ twice in non-conference play.  Quarterback Max Bortenschlager (still not specified if it’s a shoulder, head or hangnail injury) remains a question mark for the Terps;  and while Ryan Brand played better as the Michigan game progressed there’s something to be said about instability (even injury-induced) at the game’s most important position.  Terrapins tumble, 31-17.

Howard makes Mike London the MEAC Coach of the year with a victory at Hampton, Georgetown ends its autumn by falling to Colgate, Richmond edges William & Mary, Towson tops Rhode Island, James Madison escapes upset at Elon…and enters the FCS Playoffs as the #1 seed.
Last Week: 6-2.

Overall: 64-23.

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

CBS and FOX have shared the sports broadcasting stage for almost 25 years…as the upstart network actually replace the old guard when they outbid  them for the NFC package in 1993.  While fears of having Homer Simpson giving scores or the cast of “Beverly Hills, 90210” in the announcing booth with Summerall & Madden never came to fruition, FOX has experimented and brought how sports are presented on TV into this century.  And while CBS has kept pace, the old “Tiffany Network” still represents tradition.  Case in point- Saturday’s college schedule saw two thrilling games.  The team of Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson announced the nationally televised Florida-Tennessee tilt while the high-octane duo of Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt called the USC-Texas game.  Both games provided plenty of thrills and chills…and the Nessler-Danielson duo presented a national game with a finishing crescendo while Johnson-Klatt gave viewers a high-wire act with multiple exclamation points.  How do you like your eggs?  Evenly cooked with the right accents on the right parts?  Or flame-broiled with every twist and turn highlighted beyond belief?  Thank goodness there’s room for both approaches…and the games are good enough that both are needed.

In other news:  while I stated that Saturday was the perfect day for chores/apple-picking/antiquing, many will refer to the fantastic finish of Florida-Tennessee.  And that’s exactly what was fantastic:  a fourth quarter where 37 of the game’s 46 points were scored.  Before that?  Two teams that were conscious objectors to sustained offense…and proof that the SEC East may the least again this year (despite multiple hot messes in Alabama’s fiefdom).  And what is it with the Vols and crazy endings?  Seven of the school’s nine losses since the 2014 season ended have been one-possession affairs.

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange bounce back from a loss to directional Middle Tennessee to rout Central Michigan 48-17.  Eric Dungey threw for 279 yards while running for 105 more…while the defense pitched a shutout in the second half.  The 2-1 start now means instead of emotionally checking out on the 2017 season, we’re in for the duration.  The trip to nationally-ranked LSU.  The five-game gauntlet against ACC foes that are currently 11-2.  The looming November 25th game against Boston College when a trip to a fourth-tier bowl hangs in the balance.  Break out the wings…

 

#16 Virginia Tech (3-0) looked like it was doomed to repeat its traditional September stumble when they fell behind East Carolina 17-7 in the first quarter…only to score the games final 57 points in a 64-17 win.  Gone are the ghosts of Pirates past…as coach Justin Fuente’s team is 3-0 for the first time since 2011.  Hokie Highlights:  Josh Jackson threw for 372 yards and five touchdowns-while finding Cam Phillips for 14 catches, 189 yards and three scores.   Travon McMillan (72 yards on 11 carries) led a ground game that gained a season-high 287 yards.  The defense tallied three takeaways while holding ECU to 4 of 15 on third down.  Joey Slye made all three of his field goal attempts…and special teams blocked a Pirates’ attempt.  Hokie Humblings:  hold on, we have to find an issue with something in a 64-17 rout?  Tough room.  Next:  Saturday against 2-1 Old Dominion.

 

Virginia (2-1) equaled its victory total from 2016 by crushing Connecticut 38-18 after scoring the game’s first 31 points.  Let the record show that this is a Huskies team still finding its feet under first-year coach Randy Edsall.  And while previous years have seen September promise evaporate in the blink of an eye (or an interception returned for a TD), there have been enough positive signs over the first three games that the next nine games won’t be a disaster.  We think.  Cavalier Congrats:  Kurt Benkert threw for a school-record 455 yards while three of his receivers (Olamide Zaccheus, Doni Dowling and Andre Levrone) reached the century mark.  The running game averaged 5.5 yards per carry behind Jordan Ellis (95 yards on 20 carries) and the offense converted 7 of 12 third downs.  Micah Kiser tallied 15 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery for a defense that notched two takeaways in the first half and pitched a shutout for the game’s first 44 minutes.  Lester Coleman punted just once but posted a 51-yarder.  Cavalier Concerns:  two more explosive plays allowed by the defense for scores-this week a 30-yard run and a 60-yard pass.  UVa was fortunate to recover all three of its fumbles against the Huskies.  Nine penalties for 109 yards will give the coaches plenty of “teaching moments” in film review.  Next:  Friday at 2-1 Boise State.

Can’t trust that night.  Monday, Monday…gives the Skins a fright.  I’ll give the estate of John Phillips a reprieve by not going through an entire set of lyrics that focuses on the Monday night misery experienced by the Burgundy and Gold over the years.  But let the record show that this team is 2-15 in Monday night games at Fed Ex Field.  Not ideal by any stretch of the imagination…and instead of being able to celebrate the raising of the 2015 NFC East banner (okay, so there wasn’t really a ceremony) the Skins wake up 0-1 with more questions than answers.

Captain Kirk- the Franchise-Tagged one completed 30 of 43 passes…but many were in check-down mode.  Instead of stretching the field or challenging the Steeler secondary, we saw the classic short stuff that pads the stats while infuriating the faithful at the same exact time.  The Original Series episode most resembling Cousins’ week one performance?  “Gamesters of Triskelion”, where they do gladiator stuff and the episode at first glance appears to be better than it actually is.

The Tragedy of Robert III- well, fans of a Stuartesque restoration on the shores of Lake Erie were given a rude awakening.  They saw the former face of the Redskins franchise complete 12 of 26 passes for 190 yards and an interception against a Philadelphia defense that ranked 28th in the league against the pass last year.  Unfortunately as has been the case with the House of Griffin, the phrase “adding injury to insult” isn’t just cute wordplay–it’s reality.  RG3 broke a bone in his non-throwing shoulder taking a hit against the Eagles.  Instead of focusing on if he’d keep his starting job by the time the Browns came to Fed Ex Field, Robert III is headed to IR with no return in sight until Halloween…if then.  “A shoulder! A shoulder!  My kingdom for a shoulder!”

Running aground- Fifty-five yards on just twelve carries!  No runs on third and short or any third down at all!  If Alfred Morris were still here, he’d be like Zack Morris wondering why the latest episode had no scenes at the Max.  Matt Jones gained 24 yards on 7 carries and reportedly made the wrong read on an early 4-yard loss.  The second-year pro has the central casting look of an NFL runningback, but is not proving himself so far this season.  Plan B is the oft-injured Chris Thompson.  Can they bring back Wilbur Jackson?

Rating the Receivers- everybody got fed Monday night, with the firm of Reed, Garcon & Jackson combining for 19 catches.  DeSean Jackson showed why he’s a game-breaker with a 33-yard grab standing out in his 6 reception, 102 yard performance.  Jermaine Crowder even got into the act as a junior associate with 6 catches.  Problem was, Jackson was the only receiver to catch more than one pass and average more than 10 yards per reception. 

Third and Checkdown Time- the good news is Kirk Cousins completed 7 of 10 passes on the money down.  The bad news is that all 7 were of the short variety…and only 3 saw the receiver reach the magic marker.  Jordan Reed was the security blanket, catching all 4 passes thrown his way for 36 yards and one conversion.  All ten third down attempts were pass plays…with Kirk & company converting 1 of 2 short-yardage (1 to 3 yards needed) plays, 0-2 mid-yardage (4 to 6 needed) and 2 of 6 long-yardage (7+) situations.  That over half of your third downs were long yardage says a lot about the offense’s inability to do the right thing on first and second downs.

Getting gashed- last year the Skins ranked 26th in the league in stopping the run and allowed a 2nd-worst in the NFL 4.8 yards per carry.  Monday saw more of the same with DeAngelo Williams ripping off 143 yards on 26 carries.  Much was made on social media of the Steeler runningback leaving a 75-cent tip at Ledo’s Pizza over the weekend.  Let the record show that it is not cool to stiff your waitstaff…but it is also not cool for a server to make a tip (or lack thereof) public.  After further examination, it was revealed that not only was the server fired but that Williams ordered salads and pasta.  At Ledo’s Pizza.  He probably also gets the Western Omelet at IHOP…

Mason Nation- major shout-out to linebacker Mason Foster, who can order the oatmeal at IHOP for all I care after tallying 14 tackles against the Steelers.  Or the Chicken Christopher at Mortons.  Or the hamburger at Union Oyster House.

Situation Norman- thank goodness they brought in Josh Norman to cover the likes of the Antonio Browns of the NFL.  Except for Monday night…when Brown tore through the Redskin secondary like a blowtorch through butter to the tune of 8 catches for 126 yards, two touchdowns and one massive endzone gyration that merited not just a penalty but a spot on “Dancing With the Stars”.  While it was uncomfortable watching Bashaud Breeland get turned inside out (he did make an early interception while tallying 9 tackles), with every catch one thought “where was Josh?”.  Especially when the $75 million dollar price tag and FOX pregame segments are involved.  The team threw out the “scheme” talk of Norman taking one side of the field…much like if the Nationals only had closer Mark Melancon pitch to right-handers.  While it’s not like this is a defense that doesn’t have a slew of potential leaks, but not to make the adjustment seems short-sighted.  One cannot wait to see where Dez Bryant lines up in week two…

Flying Flags- nine penalties for 55 yards…with two on special teams and seven on offense.  Five false starts (wondering what sort of drills we’ll see in Ashburn this week) and two holds.  Kory Lichtensteiger was flagged for two false starts while Trent Williams was tagged for a false start and a hold.  Most costly penalty?  Actually the sequence that saw a Vernon Davis hold wipe out a 10-yard Matt Jones run…turning a 1st & 10 at the Pittsburgh 32 into a 1st & 20 at the Washington 48.  Tack on a Trent Williams false start before the next snap and the Skins were 1st & 25 at their own 43.  They’d wind up turning the ball over on downs…missing the marker by one yard after coughing up 15 via infractions.  Pittsburgh would take the ball 67 yards on 14 plays to score just before halftime and the Skins would never be within a touchdown again.

Dissecting the Division- so Philadelphia and the New York Giants, despite making coaching changes, stand atop the NFC East?  The Giants 20-19 win over Dallas gives them the divisional record (1-0) tiebreaker and first place in the standings this week.  Philadelphia’s win over Division III Cleveland (I still believe they don’t give out scholarships with the Browns) allows the Eagles to embrace all that is Carson Wentz.  Dallas is in last place because of their 0-1 division record.  But that can all change Sunday.

The only thing cooler the midseason premiere of a current program is the series premiere at midseason.  This weekly installment will try to be a primer for the upcoming weekend…not to be confused with the early in the week appearance of the Beltway Basketball Bonanza.  Could this technically be a spinoff?  I only hope it’s as well received as Sheriff Lobo.

Saturday:

NOON–Virginia Tech (8-6, 1-1 ACC) hosts Boston College (4-11, 0-2) as the Hokies try to move past a 20-point loss to #2 Syracuse.  Thank goodness the Eagles are the worst team in the conference (the only to post a losing non-conference record).  With wins over FIU, Philadelphia, Sacred Heart and Washington.  How did they beat a 10-6 Huskies team?  But before the Cassell Coliseum gets too confident, this VT club lost two of three to wrap up non-league play…and got crushed on the glass by SU 41-25.

2PM–American (7-7, 3-0 Patriot) visits Colgate (6-8, 0-3).  Who would have thought the Eagles would be tied for first three games into conference play?  All three wins by double figures?  Sophomore swingman Jesse Reed looks like he’s made the leap and is one of four players averaging double figures for AU…but the key for Mike Brennan’s team is that they’ve held all three league opponents to under 35% shooting.  Colgate has yet to shoot under 44% in Patriot League play despite three straight losses.

2:30PM–George Washington (12-3, 0-1 A-10) entertains Rhode Island (9-7, 0-1) with both teams coming off tough losses in their league openers:  GW by four at LaSalle and the Rams by one against St. Louis.  URI boasts an all-name duo in Xavier Mumford (16ppg) and Biggie Minnis (50% from 3pt range).  The Colonials can ill afford an 0-2 conference start with VCU dropping by the district before GW goes on a two game roadtrip.

5PM–Virginia (11-4, 2-0 ACC) visits NC State (11-4, 1-1) in a “are you for real” matchup.  The Cavaliers and Wolfpack reside in the second tier of the conference…and a victory will solidify either as an up-and-comer worthy of any preseason hype while a defeat puts them back in the middle class that only a 15-team league can provide.  After holding Florida State to 31% shooting and Wake Forest to 35% shooting, can UVa contain a TJ Warren (23ppg, 8rpg)–a sophomore who looks like he’s made the leap?  And what is the deal with Cavalier center Mike Tobey (9-29FG with 8PF in his last four games)?

7PM–Georgetown (10-4, 2-1 Big East) at Butler (10-5, 0-3).  The Bulldogs have the recent NCAA success…but Brad Stevens now coaches the Boston Celtics and their top three scorers from last season will not be suiting up Saturday.  The Hoyas try to bounce back a tough loss at Providence (7 missed free throws and 15 turnovers contributing to a double-digit defeat)…although it was nice to see Mikael Hopkins score in double figures for the first time in over a month.  An isolated incident or a trend?  Kellen Dunham (19ppg, 43% from 3pt range) plays the Bryce Cotton role (the PC guard notched 20pts and 7ast in an 18 pt win over Gtown) for Butler…can the Hoyas contain the Bulldog sophomore?  And is this a Gus Johnson game?

8PM–George Mason (7-8, 0-1 A-10) hosts St. Joseph’s (9-5, 0-1) with the Patriots facing a similar situation as GW:  they play #19 UMass before a two game roadtrip and 0-4 could be a distinct possibility when they host the Colonials January 25th.  The Hawks’ Langston Galloway (17 ppg, 44% from  3pt range) score 18 against the Minutemen…Mason looks to prove their 19 turnovers at VCU were the exception and not the rule.

Sunday:

8PM–Maryland (10-6, 2-1 ACC) visits Florida State (10-4, 1-1)…the Terps lost by 20 at Pitt Tuesday in a game where they allowed the Panthers to hit 6 of 10 from three-point range and 53% from the field.  Seth Allen (a season high 26 minutes) is getting back to pre-injury speed…but the Terps desperately need more than 6 points and 3 rebounds over 28 minutes from pivotmen Charles Mitchell and Shaquille Cleare.  FSU is led by the streaky Ian Miller (14ppg, but has shot 6-11, 1-10, 4-11, 2-8 and 6-12 over the last five games) outside and Okaro White inside (3 double doubles in non-conference play but 5-15 shooting in ACC games).

I grew up an hour north of Boston.  I’ve covered the Marathon.  My sister was on the same block as the explosions yesterday…and my cousin’s wife was at the finish line with her 1 and 3 year old until a half hour before the blasts.  One reason why I fell into sports journalism is that it’s fun…aka the toy department… and I can try to be mildly amusing when talking about Toronto playing Tampa Bay by saying “You can call them Rays, you can call them Jays”.  Again, the focus is more on mild than amusing.  But one can’t be sarcastic about train accidents, trials or war.  I’m the comedic relief.  It’s tough when the nasty world invades my own…I was covering Otto Porter Jr’s announcement he was headed to the NBA when the Marathon went from sporting spectacle to a day of disaster.  I scrambled to reach my sister and although she was safe she was understandably shaken.  I’ve heard her happy and sad over the years–but never in terror…and as a big brother that shook the hell out of me.  I feel for the victims.  I’m happy friends and family are safe.  And I hope justice comes in finding who’s responsible for this.  Now it’s time for another press conference (Maryland’s Alex Len going pro)…and afternoon drive updates on WTOP, where I try to be mildly amusing.  To paraphrase Lorne Michaels and Rudy Guiliani, “Can I be funny?”–“Why start now?”.

Miami makes everything go down better– Seems as thought all the Nationals needed was a trip to South Beach to cure their recent ills…getting swept by Atlanta. It’s a long season, but it’s never good to be broomed at home by one of your division rivals.  Bullpen issues (13th in the National League in OBP, 14th SLG, 3rd in blown saves) catching injuries (Ramos on the shelf in a strange sense of deja vu) and the inability to beat playoff teams (1-5 against teams that made the 2013 postseason) have to temper whatever Nattitude was as full steam after the opening series sweep of the AAA Miami Marlins.  I almost want to downgrade the Marlins to a minor league city like “Dade County Dipsy Doodles” until they get their act together.  And with another three-spot against this mess of a franchise, the Marlins may be the worst thing for this club right now–giving the Nats false confidence when they still have a ways to go to get back to last year’s level.  If you win, so what– these are the Marlins.  And when you can’t beat the worst team in the league like Tuesday night, what are you to do?  A key early stretch is on the horizon–from April 22nd to May 2nd the Nats play 11 games against St. Louis, Cincinnati and Atlanta.  Brace yourselves.

Capital Blossoms– last week I compared the Capitals to the Cherry Blossoms in DC… blooming in early April before becoming an afterthought by mid-May.  Now they have been on a tear as of late… but how much of that is a byproduct of being in the softest division of the NHL (let the record show they are 14-3 against the Southeast Division)? Can this team compete effectively over a seven game series against a legitimately good team?  Tuesday’s 5-1 thumping of Toronto was the 10th out of division win for the team this season (10-14-2) in 26 games…how tired were the Maple Leafs after last night’s 2-0 win over New Jersey?  In a season that’s given us plenty of schedule quirks (like consecutive nights in Winnipeg)… the Caps have started a five game stretch against teams from Canada.  But more importantly they play their final three games at home–including a duel with second place Winnipeg Tuesday April 23rd (Jets trail the Caps by 4 points with 5 games remaining).  Eight straight wins… is there any room left on the bandwagon?

Moving Days– Sophomores Otto Porter, Jr. and Alex Len declare for the NBA one day apart while Georgetown and Maryland wish them well.  Coach John Thompson III wasn’t shocked:  “We weren’t caught off guard…we expected Otto to move on after this year.”  Coach Mark Turgeon knew it was time:  “Alex has been a pro since he set foot on campus…the way the practices, the way he takes care of himself”.  While the Hoyas and Terps would be much better next winter with Porter and Len, the lure of first round guaranteed money was too good to pass up.  Even if the 7-foot-1 Len turns out to be a project.  Even if Porter has trouble finding minutes or an ideal position for his skill set.  Each coach heralds their respective sophomore’s work ethic…which is a huge key in making the transition from college to pro basketball.  One hopes they find their way to solid organizations with non-cancerous locker rooms where they can learn, grow and thrive.

Masters– Ah, yes. Tiger’s drop and a 14 year old’s tardiness overshadowed the best weekend for an Australian since George Lazenby landed the role of James Bond.  Tiger tailed off after being in the hunt for most of the first two rounds. Was there golf karma in taking the longer drop? The US Open will be the fifth anniversary of Tiger’s most recent Major championship. Jack Nicklaus’ longest gap during his run?  He had two “droughts”– just under three years (1967-70) and just over five years (1980 PGA-1986 Masters).  One feels it’s only a matter of time before Woods wins another and with conditioning what it is now there appears to be a larger window for him to win 4 or 5 more– but for every Lee Trevino that wins a PGA at 45, there’s a Tom Watson who stops winning majors at 33.  Oh– and congratulations to Adam Scott for winning the tournament.

Standing Pat–  Broadcast legend Pat Summerall passes away at 82.  The voice of the NFL on CBS and FOX called 16 Super Bowls for the two networks over four decades.  His booming voice dominated game opens (check them out on youtube)… and his economy of words made him the perfect complement to John Madden.  In 1981, Summerall and Vin Scully were competing for the #1 play-by-play job at CBS and while Scully painted better word pictures, Summerall didn’t bring the easel as much as set the stage for Madden’s “BOOM’s” and the telestrator.  He said more in five words than most said in fifteen.  I fell for the NFL of Summerall/Madden.  And he made announcing something a 13 year old want to dream about doing.