Archives for posts with tag: sports

Four NL East titles in six years is a good thing…even with the unfortunate October endings that have plagued the Washington Nationals this decade. Ryan Zimmerman still has the phantom pains from 100+ loss campaigns where contending was a pipe dream and instead of a magic number a tragic number was posted some times as soon as August.  So even though DC is more than hungry for a champion–or even a team that plays for the championship–let’s enjoy the process as the team is once again favored to win its (albeit not awesome) division and has more than a few players who will potentially factor in the MVP and Cy Young races.

One Sweet Sweep- not only did the Nats take all three from Cincinnati, the Reds did not lead at all during the series.  Dominant pitching and timely hitting set the table for the weekend as the club did plenty of little things and more than a few big things right.  It’s only three games, I know.  But while a team can’t win the division in April, it can definitely lose its way.

O’s Woes- after a thrilling extra inning walkoff win (which is becoming the rule instead of the exception at Camden Yards) the Birds dropped two straight to Minnesota- an expected Wildcard contender.  Kevin Gausman looked bad in coughing up 6 runs over 4 innings while the Chris Davis leading off experiment has the top of the O’s order an 0-for-12.  And the bullpen almost gave away the opener.  But it’s still really early.

Last Week’s Heroes- Adam Eaton hit 8-for-13 with 2 homers and 5 RBI (do you think he was ready for 2018?)…while Bryce Harper not only homered twice but also got the job done with a pair of sac-flies.  Max Scherzer struck out 10 over 6 scoreless innings in the season opener while Sean Doolittle notched a pair of saves.

Last Week’s Humbled- relievers Enny Romero and Sammy Solis had less than ideal opening weekends, each allowing two earned runs while recording a pair of outs.  Ryan Zimmerman and Michael A Taylor both hit .125 against the Reds, but  Zim’s groundout Friday led to the first run of the season and Taylor used a bunt and a stolen base to generate an insurance run.  Once again, it’s only three games.

Game to Watch- there’s nothing quite like the home opener.  Even when it’s a week into the season.  Stephen Strasburg starts Thursday against the New York Mets in a matchup of the last two teams to win the division.

Game to Miss- sadly the Atlanta rebuild makes matchups against the Braves less than desirable.  With apologies to Tanner Roark, Monday night will be all about the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Championship Game as Villanova takes on Michigan.  One shining moment, indeed…

 

 

 

Advertisements

So much for “Gotta win five to stay alive”.  So much for going through tiebreakers after week fifteen while hoping Carolina would come back to earth.  The Redskins made December almost meaningless for the sixth time in nine years by losing 38-14 at Dallas.  It wasn’t just a bad loss; it was a defeat that exposed this team and roster.  The 2018 season in theory begins now.

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged one completed 26 of 37 passes for 251 yards and 2 touchdowns while tossing a pair of interceptions (one in the red zone) and losing a fumble.  He was also sacked four times behind an offensive line held together by duct tape and paper clips.  Episode Equivalent:  “Spock’s Brain”- a disaster on the scoreboard despite Kirk’s best efforts.  He didn’t write the script where aliens came on board the Enterprise and hijacked Spock’s brain–only to have Dr. McCoy re-insert said organ later in the hour.

Running Aground- it was bound to happen sooner or later.  The recently resurgent running game managed just 56 yards on 19 carries against the Cowboys-with Samaje Perine being held to 38 yards on 12 tries.  Perine will be the third runningback in four years to lead coach Jay Gruden’s team in rushing.  Meanwhile, the guy who was replaced by the guy who was replaced by the guy Perine replaced as the #1 back fared nicely for the Cowboys.  Alfred Morris ran for 127 yards against his former team.  Ouch.

Ryan the Receiver- it’s something when Ryan Grant is your leading receiver. You cannot make the postseason when Mr. August is your top target in December.

Third Down the Drain- the stat sheet says they converted 6 of 14 third downs…but the offense didn’t move the chains until they were down 17.  Cousins completed 7 of 11 passes for 4 conversions while getting sacked once and scrambling for the marker once.  Ryan Grant was the top target (3 conversions on 3 catches and 4 passes thrown to) while recent pickup Byron Marshall also caught 3 of 4 passes on third down but was short each time.  Marshall also ran for a late first down on 3rd & 1.  Yardage: 3-for-4 on short-yardage, 2-for-4 on 3rd and 4 through 3rd and 6, 1-for-6 on 3rd and long.

Zach Meets Mr. Morris- you don’t mess with Preston’s Perspective’s pop-culture references.  Earlier this year we saw the Vikings come to FedEx Field with former kicker Kai Forbath…and showed no mercy (I’ll let you know when he’s had enough).  This past week we saw Mr. Morris blast through the Redskins defense like it was an ATV race at the Malibu Sands.  Alfred gained 80 of his 127 yards after halftime…and the Cowboys converted 7 of their last 10 third downs (and 4 of 5 in the second half).  Not an ideal day for the defense that now ranks 22nd against the run and allows the third most points in the league.

Kicking and Screaming- NO longer shall we use the term “Special Teams” regarding the kicking game that fumbled a punt and allowed a punt return for a touchdown.  Nick Rose connected on both of his extra points and Tress Way averaged 42.6 yards per punt, so they’ve got that going for them.

Flying Flags- SEVEN penalties for 43 yards.  And if you’re counting that’s 24 over the last three games.  Two infractions were rather costly:  a pass interference on Kendall Fuller turned a 3rd & 1 into a 1st & 10 and the Cowboys would score two plays later…while a pass intereference against Bashaud Breeland (he had another PI declined) set up a 1st and goal at the 1.  Then there was that “12 men on the field” flag where there may have been 14 on the field for the Skins.  Not what you need in the fourth quarter on the road.

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia’s loss to Seattle means the Eagles won’t clinch the NFC East just yet–but at 10-2 they need only one more victory or a Cowboys loss to wrap up the division.  Philly does slip behind Minnesota into the #2 seed (Vikings have a better common opponents record).  Dallas moves a game ahead of the Skins for second (and owns the head to head tiebreaker) and is in 10th place of the NFC, two games out of the wildcard.  The Burgundy and Gold remain in 11th place thanks to a better conference record than Arizona;  a loss to the Chargers plus victories by Seattle and Carolina make the elimination official.  The NY Giants drop behind San Francisco into dead last of the conference…and are one more loss plus a Redskins win away from securing the NFC East cellar one year after making the playoffs.

Interconference Connection, Dominant Divisions & More- the NFC owns a 28-20 lead, meaning they’d have to go 3-12-1 in order to lose the Conference contest.  Cleveland and Cincinnati are playing five of those remaining 16 games so I’m going to say that might not happen.  The NFC South is a combined 28-20…while the AFC West has withered away to 21-27 over the last month.  The NFC East?  Tied for fifth with 23 wins.

Home for the Holidays- joining previously eliminated Cleveland, San Francisco and the New York Giants this week is Chicago.  The Bears lost 15-14 to the Niners as their former kicker Robbie Gould kicked five field goals before  replacing Dr. Houseman as Chief of Staff and purchasing Kellerman’s where his first act was firing Johnny Castle.  Sweet revenge, indeed.

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday growing up…where to this day even the bad ones are better than most.  As college football’s regular season winds down, the local table is bountiful:  James Madison’s unbeaten season is the turkey at the center of the table.  The Dukes have gone 11-0 as defending FCS champs and begin their tournament run next weekend as the number one seed.  The dressing/stuffing (I believe one is elected, the other is appointed) is Navy and Virginia Tech being pleasantly surprised with the success of first year quarterbacks Zach Abey and Josh Jackson.  Maryland’s injury issues are the mashed potatoes that no matter how much you eat, there’s still more on your plate.  Virginia’s best season since 2011 is the pumpkin pie with whipped cream after the Cavaliers have been stuck with mincemeat for the last few Novembers (which in the right hands is awesome, and in the wrong ones tastes like cigarrette ash and shoelaces).

 

Alma Mater Update- the Orange wrap up the 2017 campaign with a game against Boston College.  The completely rational fans who wanted to lock up Dino Babers with a 50-year contract now want to fire the coach pronto.  Year two of the rebuild went as much as one would expect…as SU now moves on completely to hoops.  Wasn’t it cool to see Jimmy Boeheim hit a three for Cornell earlier this month?  I hear his dad had a special nose-pick prepared just for the moment.  The fact that Tommy DeVito was able to redshirt makes this fall a winning one.  No pressure, kid.  Just the hopes and dreams of Central New York plus Jersey Boys and Goodfellas fans looking for a college football outlet.

 

Friday-

Navy (6-4, 4-3 AAC) at Houston (6-4, 4-3), noon (ESPN).  The two previous West Division winners battle for second place in the division after recent stumbles (Mids began the year 5-0 while the Cougars started 4-1).  Zach Abey leads the conference’s best ground game (360.5 yards per game) into the teeth of the second best run defense in the AAC.  Houston’s played multiple quarterbacks this fall- sophomore D’Eriq King looked great against East Carolina and so-so against Tulane.  The second worst-kept secret in the conference is that the Cougars allow a ton of yards through the air.  The worst-kept secret is that Navy passes the ball just over nine times per game.  Midshipmen fall, 34-23.

 

Virginia Tech (8-3, 4-3 ACC) at Virginia (6-5, 3-4), 8 p.m. (ESPN).  It may have been mentioned once or twice this fall that the Cavaliers haven’t beaten the Hokies since 2003.  That means that not only has no “fourth-year” student (because they don’t have “seniors” at Virginia because one is always learning) at UVa seen the Cavs beat Virginia Tech, nobody they went to school with went to school with anyone who went to school with anyone who was a student when Al Groh’s team topped Frank Beamer’s bunch 35-21.  That Hokie team ended the season with five losses in seven games…and this year’s edition has struggled in the final month of the season with two defeats and a near-disaster against Pitt.  Cavaliers QB Kurt Benkert is coming off of his highest rated game of the season, but the Hokies are the best in the ACC at getting off of the field on third down. Kippy & Buffy wrap up their regular season of tailgating with a Chateau O’Brien 2012 Limited Harvest Tannat:  “full bodied, dense & concentrated – with black fruit flavors & a silky smooth finish”Cavaliers finish their first winning season in seven years with a silky-smooth 27-23 victory.

 

Saturday-

Maryland (4-7, 2-6 Big Ten) vs #10 Penn State (9-2, 6-2), 3:30 (Big Ten Network).  The Terps wrap up a season that began with the bang of an upset win at Texas by looking to send their seniors out in style.  Unlike the last three Novembers, they won’t be finishing the season against Rutgers–instead it’s longtime nemesis Penn State.  Forget the 2014 win in Happy Valley–the Nittany Lions are 37-2-1 in the series and last lost in College Park when JFK was President.  Can a Terrapins defense that ranks 12th in the Big Ten against the run and 13th against the pass contain the one-two punch of dual threat quarterback Trace McSorley and dual threat runningback Saquon Barkley?  Offensively the focus will be DJ Moore early and often (he has 72 of the team’s 154 receptions)…and that might not be enough to keep pace.  Terrapins tumble, 45-17.

 

Last Week: 8-1.

Overall: 72-24.

Don’t worry.  The Skins’ trip through the NFC Gauntlet is almost complete.  Two games against the sad-sack NY Giants bookend a cakewalk that features three other teams with losing records and the fourth is a Dallas squad minus Ezekiel Elliott.  The 38-30 loss to Minnesota was merely a speedbump on their way to a 10-6 finish.  Yes, they have to play the South-leading Saints next, but after that it’s nothing but smooth sailing for the Burgundy and Gold.  Unless–the Skins are really a pretender that’s on their way to a sub-500 finish for the sixth time in nine years.

Captain Kirk- the Face of the Franchise completed 26 of 45 passes for 327 yards and a touchdown while adding a pair of TD runs.  He did throw an interception that allowed the Vikings to take a double-digit lead late in the first half.  But with receivers slipping and minimal support from his backs, Cousins was still an onside kick away from being in position to tie up NFC North leaders.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent- “A Piece of the Action”, where Kirk and Spock beam down to a planet that’s mimicked the 1920’s Prohibition Ganster era.  Plenty to like (especially the card game “fizzbin”) but at the end you realize you were looking for a better sixty minutes to spend your time.

Running on Fumes- the ground game was held to under 100 yards for the fifth straight week.  The firm of Perine, Thompson & Kelley resembled Lionel Hutz “I Can’t Believe it’s a Law Firm!” as the trio tallied 71 yards on 22 tries.  Now Kelley goes on injured reserve and the Skins ink Byron Russell from Philadelphia’s practice squad;  the former Oregon Duck was the first player in program history to notch a 1,000-yard rushing season AND a 1,000-yard receiving season in his collegiate career.

Third Down and Out- the Skins converted 5-of-14 money downs, with Cousins completing 7 of 10 passes (and four conversions) while running for a first down and getting sacked (an early incompletion to Vernon Davis was wiped out thanks to a roughing the passer penalty).  Chris Thompson (in addition to making one catch on three targets that moved the marker) carried twice on 3rd & 1…getting stuffed once while getting the yardage once.  Jamison Crowder was the top target- getting four throws, catching three and converting two.  Yardage breakdown:  4-of-5 on short-yardage (including 2-of-3 on the ground), 2-for-2 on medium yardage and 0-for-7 on 3rd & 7+.

Zach Brown Band- sometimes even when the album has ten tracks (or tackles), the product doesn’t work.  The Skins allowed touchdowns on five of the first six times they took to the field…or 35 points on the first 32 plays from scrimmage en route to a season-high 38 points allowed.  The pass rush failed to get a sack.  While DJ Swearinger tallied two interceptions in the second half, Case Keenum completed over 70% of his passes and averaged over ten yards per attempt.

Third Down and Up- the Vikings converted 8-of-12 attempts while only facing three third downs in the first half.  Keenum completed 7-of-10 passes with each completion resulting in a conversion…while also scrambling for a yard on 3rd & 8 late in the game.  Keenum found Adam Thielen for three first downs while connecting with Stefon Diggs twice.  Yardage breakdown:  3-for-3 on short-yardage, 5-for-5 on medium yardage and 0-for-4 on 3rd & 7+ yards neeeded.

Special Situations- Tress way booted his only punt of the day for 52 yards (you mean the Skins punted just once and still lost?).  Nick Rose connected on all three extra point attempts and on field goals of 21, 28 and 55 yards.  And then he attempted that onside kick…that didn’t go ten yards.  Meanwhile, on the other sideline Cobra Kai Forbath did his best “Johnny Lawrence at the 10-year reunion” impression–booting a 53-yarder while making all five extra point attempts.  Didn’t gloat about how he turned okay after attending Duke while Daniel LaRusso surely got popped for sneaking a bonsai tree into the US and did hard time.  I’m sure Johnny even got a wink from Ali at the reunion (she’s now happily married to Bobby, the sensitive Cobra Kai guy).

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia increased its lead without playing a game.  The Eagles had their bye week and at 8-1 own the best mark in the division, conference and league.  Dallas (5-4) stays in second place after their loss to Atlanta, while dropping to 10th place in the NFC.  Third place remains in the 4-5 Redskins grasp;  a better conference record gives them 11th place in the NFC over Arizona.  The Giants are in last place of the NFC East and are the 15th place team in the conference.  The only thing keeping NY out of dead last? San Francisco hasn’t had their bye week yet…and this weekend they will.

Conference Call- the NFC took a 24-16 lead with 24 games remaining in the inter-conference clash.  All four AFC Divisions have losing records against their NFC quartets.  When did it become 1995 again?  The NFC South owns the best record at 22-15 while the AFC North is a Browns-induced 14-22.  The NFC East?  Fourth best at 18-18.

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

Let’s get this out of the way to start:  the Heisman Trophy process is far from an exact science.  Technically it’s for the “best player in college football”, when in reality it’s intended for the “best quarterback/runningback on a nationally contending team”.  Which is much better than it used to be–until they started handing this award to sophomores and freshman (thank you Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel), it was the “best upperclassman quarterback/runningback on a nationally contending team” honor.  This year’s field has had many favorites who have either played their way out of contention (USC’s Sam Darnold) or watched their team suck the life out of their campaign (reigning winner Lamar Jackson at Louisville).  Enter Baker Mayfield.  The Oklahoma quarterback is completing 71% of his passes for 31 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions.  In his three biggest games of the year he’s thrown for 333, 386 and 598 yards.  And he’s got the Sooners on the cusp of a trip the College Football Playoff.  Sorry, Bryce Love at Stanford.  Prepare the pose, Mr. Mayfield.

 

Alma Mater Update- whenever we get to Heisman time I think not of the trophy Ernie Davis won in 1961, but the two others that should have come to SU.  Jim Brown in 1956 and Donnie McPherson in 1987.  Look up the years they had.  Another reason to love Notre Dame.  Heismans that weren’t is a nice distraction from allowing 64 points (and 43 in the second half) to Wake Forest.  The window is almost closed on a Pinstripe Bowl banner, and hopefully we’ll get another strong recruiting class of players who can rush, cover and tackle to bolster a struggling D next year.  Time for hoops.

 

Maryland (4-6, 2-5 Big Ten) lost to Michigan 35-10.  The Wolverines put the game away with three touchdowns over a four-minute span in the second quarter. Despite outplaying their foes in the second half and outgaining them on the afternoon, the Terps find themselves on the precipice of postseason elimination.  Terrapin Triumphs: DJ Moore achieved a rare feat:  completing a pass, making a catch, punting the ball and making a tackle.  Quarterback Ryan Brand played well for a former fifth string walk-on in his first collegiate start against the #2 defense in the nation.  Josh Woods tallied 10 tackles.  Terrapin Troubles:  a blocked punt and a failed fake punt gave the Wolverines short fields that they turned into TD’S.  The defense allowed 30+ points for the sixth straight game and eighth time in ten games this fall.  Next: Saturday at 4 p.m. against 7-3 Michigan State.

 

Virginia Tech (7-3, 3-3 ACC) lost for the second straight week, this time slipping at Georgia Tech 28-22.  Two weeks ago we were wondering just how good this team actually was–and now we know they’re a middle of the pack team in the ACC’s weaker division.  Hokie Highlights:  Eric Kumah caught a career-high 6 passes for 82 yards.  Josh Jackson turned in a turnover-free game.  Greg Stroman continues to make impact plays, returning an interception for a touchdown.  Hokie Humblings:  the running game averaged less than 3 yards per carry…and the offense converted just 4 of 15 third downs.  The defense coughed up a 60-yard touchdown pass and an 80-yard scoring strike.  Next: Saturday at 12:20 p.m. vs 4-6 Pitt.

 

Virginia (6-4, 3-3 ACC) lost at Louisville 38-21 as defending Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson ripped through them for 195 yards passing and three touchdowns while adding 147 yards rushing and another score.  Just to further underscore that the statue is not perfect, Jackson’s technically having a better year than 2016 but because his Cardinals can’t defend a ham sandwich he’s a Heisman afterthought.  Cavalier Congrats:  they began and ended the first half with touchdown drives.  Andre Levrone caught 6 passes for 92 yards.  Quin Blanding to the surprise of nobody led the team in tackles again with nine stops.  Cavalier Concerns: after the opening possession, UVa gained 40 total yards on their next 22 plays from scrimmage.  The running game was held to 63 yards on 28 tries–no way to keep Lamar Jackson off the field.  Eight penalties for 73 yards on the road is not helpful either.  Next:  Saturday at noon against 9-0 Miami.

 

Navy (6-3, 4-3 AAC) snapped a three-game losing streak by outslugging SMU 43-40.  A JR Osborn field goal at the final gun qualified the Mids for bowl eligibility–and sent the Mustangs home with visions a ground game that put the Pony Express to shame.  Midshipmen Medals:  backup quarterback Malcolm Perry rushed for 282 yards and four touchdowns while the team tallied 559 yards on the ground.  Micah Thomas led the defense with eight tackles, an interception and half of a sack.  Owen White averaged 43 yards per punt.  Midshipmen Miscues:  two turnovers didn’t help things, and the defense that returned six starters has now allowed 30+ points in its last four games.  Next: Saturday at 3:30 p.m at 8-2 Notre Dame.

I don’t gamble.  Yes, I circle my picks every Sunday morning (this week I went 8-8 against the spread, reason #246 why I don’t gamble) but I rarely put cash down on an NFL game (plus, it’s illegal in these parts).  Monday night was reason #247 why I don’t put dollars on a sporting event:  with under a minute to play the Redskins were down 20-17 and if you had the Burgundy & Gold +7 or the under of 48.5 you were in great shape.  Even with a Skins field goal at :47 life was okay.  Even with a Chiefs FG at :04 it wasn’t the end of the world.  The world did end when the Redskins ran an offensive play drawn up in my backyard…and instead of being able to run around an oak tree they lost the ball and the Chiefs returned it for a score that covered the spread and scored the over.  As time expired.  THAT IS WHY WE DON’T GAMBLE.  

The 29-20 loss drops the Skins to 2-2 on the season and if they had RPI in the NFL they’d be in great shape:  the combined record of their four foes is 12-4.  Plenty of good and bad to chew on during the bye week.

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One completed 14-of-24 passes for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions or sacks.  Many will point to his third down pass that Josh Doctson couldn’t quite hang on to…but I will focus on Kirk making things happen with his feet on multiple occasions.  Much like when Captain Kirk thought he was the chief “KIROK” on the episode “The Paradise Syndrome”, Cousins did his darnedest to save the Burgundy and Gold planet from destruction.

Running in Circles- Cousins was the team’s leading rusher for the second time in four games…and through some sort of coincidence the Skins are 0-2 in those games.  The tailback trio of Samaje Perine, Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley combined for 73 yards on 3.8 per carry.  Not awful like against the Eagles, but definitely not awesome like the last two weeks.

Receiving Review- Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson combined to catch 5 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown, but those watching will remind everyone about the passes they didn’t catch:  Doctson’s grab would’ve resulted in a go-ahead TD and Pryor has developed a rep for not making catches between the numbers.  Jordan Reed returned to the lineup and made 3 receptions for 21 yards:  while his 14 catches on the season are tied for the team lead the TE is averaging 7.5 yards per catch.  On the other end of the spectrum from the young injured player is the healthy veteran-and Vernon Davis made 2 grabs for 89 yards while helping set up the Skins’ lone second half touchdown.

Third and Lost- after converting three of their first four money downs, the Skins failed to move the chains on six of their final seven attempts.  Kirk Cousins completed 3-of-8 passes for two conversions while scrambling for another first down…and his top target was Jordan Reed (completing 1-for-3 passes with one conversion).  Rob Kelley moved the sticks on his lone third down carry of the night.  Yardage Breakdown:  1-for-6 on 3rd & short, 0-for-1 on 3rd & mid-range (4 to 6 yards needed) and 3-for-4 on 3rd & long.

Defensive Dynamics- if it seemed as though the secondary was falling apart, it kind of was.  Josh Norman was just one player to depart due to injury (ribs)…and for a while I was confusing Stefan McClure with Troy McClure (“you might remember me from such situations as “The Shattered Secondary” and “Here Comes the Kickoff Team!”).  Zach Brown led the team with nine tackles while Martell Spaight added eight stops.

Third Down Blues in the Land of Red- the Chiefs converted 8-of-13 money downs…including 4-for-4 on the ground and short-yardage.  The bright spot?  Six of the 13 attempts came from 7+ yards…so at least the D was doing its job on 1st and 2nd down.

Special Situations- Dustin Hopkins converted both field goal attempts (with a long of 40) while Tress Way averaged 42.3 yards per punt (landing two inside the 20 as opposed to one touchback).  No punt or kickoff returns made for a quiet evening.

Flying Flags- the Skins were whistled for 44 yards on seven penalties.  All on the defense.  Five resulted in first downs for the Chiefs and three came on a last-minute drive that ended in a missed KC field goal.  Most costly?  Second quarter…a Neutral Zone Infraction by Preston Smith (he had two other flags declined Monday night) turned a 3rd & 8 into a 3rd & 3 at midfield the Chiefs would convert.  They’d go on to score their first TD of the game on that drive…and crawl back into the game.

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia’s win at San Diego keeps the Eagles in first place while Dallas takes second thanks to the NFC East tiebreaker (1-0 to 0-1) with Washington.  The Redskins are one of six 2-2 teams in the conference…and currently rank 12th.  The New York Giants continue to find ways to lose…and at 0-4 are 15th due to a better strength of schedule than 0-4 San Francisco.

Conference Call- the NFC owns a 10-7 lead in the early interconference contest.  The NFC South is the early division to beat at 10-5 while the AFC North is a depressing 6-10.  The NFC East?  A 7-9 made possible by the Giants’ rough start.

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.