Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cavs Edge Tigers in ACC Contest

While a loss is disappointing, I actually was a bit encouraged by Clemson's 65-61 defeat at the hands of the Virginia Cavaliers tonight and took a lot of positive things away.

The game started with little stoppage and lots of makes by both teams.  More importantly, when subs were made, the young guys came to play tonight and actually looked good in the middle part of the first half, especially McDaniels.  I was encouraged by how they played defense and think they will eventually find their offensive rhythm with time.  Taking a 30-26 lead into the half, the Tigers were outplaying and outhustling the Cavs, who came into the game at 17-3 and having lost their three games by very small margins.

In the second half, the Cavs went on a big run and went ahead 50-39, but Clemson fought back and made it a game.  An Andre Young three-pointer in the closing seconds would have tied it and possibly sent it, but it did not fall and the Tigers walked away with a loss.  The loss of Milton Jennings hurt, but don't tell the guys tonight who played pretty well.  These guys scored 61 points against the best defense in the ACC and one of the best in the country.  I know 61 isn't a lot, but when teams are averaging about 50/game against you, 61 seems like a ton.  And for a team that already struggles to score like Clemson, I'm encouraged by what I see.  I know this year has been frustrating in general after 3 straight NCAA tournament appearances, but I'm liking the young talent and hoping for a good recruiting class.  I also am hoping for a miracle run in the ACC tournament to capture the ACC Championship crown, but that may be a bit farfetched.

Ace's Hawks Thoughts

Let me start off by saying thank you to Billy for letting me speak my opinion on this wonderful sports blog he has going. I am an avid reader and enjoy hearing Billy’s perspective. I should also note that I don’t believe that I am the best writer or the biggest Chicago Blackhawks fan but I feel like I can give some solid input.

The Chicago Blackhawks came into the All Star break posting a 29-15-6 record, good enough for 63 points and a tie for 3rd place in the Central Division. The Hawks are coming off their first losing month of the season and looked to rest up and prepare for the second half of the season. But before we get ahead of ourselves let’s take a look back on how we got to this point and grade (the teacher in me is coming out) the Men of Four Feathers.

(GP, G, A, PTS, +/-)

Patrick Kane
(50  11  30  41  9)

Patrick Kane started off the season hot but has cooled off since the dreaded circus trip. He handles the puck very well and is a straight up playmaker on the ice. He finds his linemates on every inch of the ice and can really turn it on and take it up a notch, when he wants to. Looking over some statistics I found it interesting that him and Patrick Sharp have taken the same amount of shots but Kane posts a 7.0 shot percentage to Sharp’s 12.7%. Lets look for Kaner to start off the season hot and have a great second half of the season.

Final Grade- B

Jonathan Toews
(49  27  23  50  17)

The Captain has been everything and more through the first half of the season. He came into the break sharing second for the most goals with 27 (18.2% shooting percetange), just five behind the leader, Steven Stamkos. Captain Serious does more to help his team than just score points. He is always in the right place and wins the majority of his faceoffs. He suffered a wrist injury at the end of the break but will be in the lineup against the Canucks tonight.

Final Grade- A

Patrick Sharp
(42  20  20  40  18)

Sharpy has had his ups and downs during the first half of the season but may be the Blackhawks best pure shooter. He has just turned 30 and also welcomed his first child into the world. Sharp injured his wrist a couple weeks ago, which has left a big void at the center position for the Hawks. He is back skating and lets hope for a 100% healthy return soon.

Final Grade- B+

Marion Hossa
(49  20  33  53  24)

Marion Hossa has been the best player with an Indian Head on his chest. Hossa has quietly gone about his business and leads the Hawks in assists and points with 33 and 53 respectively. He also holds a very impressive +/- rating with a 24. He has been very valuable on the power play and penalty kill as well. As we can see a healthy Marion Hossa can be very dangerous and can get close to the century mark in points.

Final Grade- A+

Viktor Stalberg
(47  14  15  29  7)

Stalberg has to be the biggest surprise in a Blackhawks uniform this year. Although he might not be averaging the same amount of points as a Toews or Hossa he has been very consistent. He has had a couple solid point streaks and has notched 5 game winners. Stalberg has come up big with Sharp out and is on pace for his best season in his short NHL career. Look for him to continue to produce if he stays on the top line.

Final Grade- B+

Dave Bolland
(46  15  11  26  -2)

Bolland, or as I like to call him, The Rat has been in and out of the lineup because of injury. Bolland is not the flashiest player but he knows his role. Coach Quenneville rolls him out against the opponent’s top line every night and plays as a shutdown center. His +/- should be taken for what it’s worth because of this.  He has also tallied three short-handed goals, which leads the team. If the rat can stay healthy he will continue to play a big factor in piling up some W’s.

Final Grade-  B-

Andrew Brunette
(50  9  10  19  -10)

Perhaps I expected too much from Brunette since he was the man who was suppose to replace Andrew Ladd. I was a very big Ladd fan and I have not seen the same out of Brunette.  On the plus side, Brunette is very good along the boards and his hard play can lead to some goals. The time off could be beneficial for this veteran and hopefully he can get back to the way he has playing in October and Novemeber.

Final Grade- C+

Michael Frolik
(47  5  8  13  -6)

Frolik has been cold all season but the expectations have not been high. Frolik can’t buy a goal as of late but lets hope he can get one that will boost his confidence.

Final Grade- D+

Daniel Carcillo
(28  2  9  11  10)

Before his injury Carcillo added some muscle to the team. Yet he continued to plunge due to his poor decision-making.

Final Grade- Incomplete

Marcus Kruger
(40  3  8  11  -2)

After just playing 7 games for the Blackhawks last year, the 21-year-old center has dressed 40 times for the Hawks. He doesn’t put up great numbers but he is still young and is learning the NHL game. He missed 9 games with a concussion and hopefully that is not a reoccurring theme.

Final Grade- C

Bryan Bickell
(41  4  5  9  -7)

With Shaw (which we will get to soon) making a strong case during his stint up in the NHL, Bickell’s roster spot could be in jeopardy when Sharp returns. Bickell just doesn’t add much to the team and could be spending his time in Rockford very soon.

Final Grade- D

Jamal Mayers
(50  3  6  9  0)

Mayers is your typical intimidator but he does play smart. He provides protection for the younger/smaller guys.

Final Grade- B

Jimmy Hayes
(13  4  3  7  -1)

Recently sent back down to AHL since the arrival of newly acquired Brendan Morrison. Hayes lit the lamp 4 times in his short stint and was flying around the ice. Look for him to be a good Blackhawk in the future.
Final Grade- Incomplete

Andrew Shaw
(11  5  2  7  1)

Shaw’s NHL debut started with a bang and was one leg shy of the Gordie Howe Hat Trick (Goal, Assist, Fight). He dropped the gloves on his second shift and later dented the twine. He has been a spark plug for this team despite his small frame. The sample size is not big enough to assign him a grade but hopefully he can keep this up.

Final Grade- Incomplete

Ben Smith
13 2 0 2 -5

Ever since his electric performance in the playoffs last year Smith hasn’t lived up to his expectations. He is a raw talent and look for him to try to learn the game in the AHL.

Final Grade- Incomplete

(GP, G, A, PTS, +/-)

Duncan Keith
(47  3  24  27  14)

Keith has not been the same since winning the Norris Trophy just two years ago but he continues to be the backbone of the Blackhawks defensive corps. He gets his teammates involved and has been playing solid in the defensive zone.

Final Grade- B+

Nick Leddy
(50  2  23  25  -6)

Leddy has turned into a top four defensemen this year. His experience last year proves to be valuable and is second for point production for the defensemen behind Keith. He was supposed to fill shoes, err skates of Brian Campbell. He handles the puck well and moves the puck on the powerplay. His play has dipped the last month but should start playing like he did in the beginning of the year.

Final Grade-B

46 3 15 18 13

Seabs’ production has dipped in the offensive categories but he is a very good compliment to Keith. This pair continues to be a top pair throughout the NHL. Seabrook plays solid as a rock and as long as he continues to play good defense I will be content.

Final Grade- B-

(50  1  9  10  7)

Hjalmarsson is a middle of the road defensemen and does just enough to be an average player. Not good but not horrible.

Final Grade- C

(47  5  8  13  2)

Montador was brought in to be a third pairing defensemen and has done quite fine in that role. He is better than most 5th/6th defensemen but doesn’t do much other than that. Knows his role and does his job.

Final Grade- B-

(35  0  7  7  -3)

Not much here. Veteran who does his job and I’m sure is a great piece in the locker room.

Final Grade- C

(20  0  1  1  0)

Scott is a goon and I feel like the hot blonde from the Shoot the Puck between intermissions could be just as effective.

Final Grade- F

(GP W L GAA SV%) GAA=Goals against average

Corey Crawford
(36  18  12  2.86  .902)

I would like to see the Crawford from last year going in the playoffs and from October. Since then, his GAA is up and his save percentage is down. Coach Q still gives Crawford the nod for the number 1 goaltender spot but he needs to start playing better.

Final Grade- C

Ray Emery
(18  11  3  2.57  .907)

Ray Emery has been a pleasant surprise this season. He is a solid backup, which leaves us fans not worrying so much when Craw is not playing too well.

Final Grade- B

Well that is all I have to add. Grades were given based on the roles the players are playing. Lets start the season off right with a win against the Vancouver Canucks tonight.

Guest Blogger of the Week-Tim "Ace" Grant

In picking my guest blogger of the week, I thought hard about what I wanted for this week's blog.  I realized that something was missing.  Chicago Blackhawks hockey has not been discussed on this blog  yet because I have not watched very much hockey this year.  I feel I would be doing a disservice to my blog readers if I wrote something on the Hawks because it wouldn't be genuine and necessarily accurate.  I found the perfect guy who can fill that void and give us a midseason report on Chicago's hockey team, winners of the 2010 Stanley Cup.  Meet Tim "Ace" Grant.

Ace is a Rolling Meadows High School '08 grad and quite the sports junkie himself.  I have only known him for a short years, but if you are looking for a guy to talk Blackhawks hockey or sports with, he's your man.  My most memorable experiences with him have been at "Grant's Aunts", Arlington Lakes Golf Course, and most significantly IU Homecoming weekend, in which we had a blast as Chef Grant made a delicious breakfast followed by a memorable tailgate experience that will live in the lore of all-time great tailgates by Hoosier football fans.  Ace is also not too shabby on the golf course, as he scraps his way around the links.  So, without further ado, take it away Ace.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Trinity Baseball Preview

Here's a preview I did of my school's baseball team a few months back.

The Trojan baseball team hopes to carry over momentum from a strong finish to the Spring ’11 campaign as it finishes up the fall, spends the winter preparing for the season, and finally begins play in March.

The Trojans start the 2011-2012 school year with a bright future following a remarkable run in the CCAC conference tournament last season.  The Trojans managed to knock off CCAC perennial powerhouses Robert Morris University, Olivet Nazarene University, and Judson University in consecutive days at Oil City Stadium in Whiting, Ind. before falling to Saint Francis University in the championship game in May.  While the coaching staff and players fondly remember these events, they take with them the experience gained from that monumental week in Trojan baseball lore.  These Trojans, along with the new incoming talent, want to get back there and beyond that.

Coach Luke Cassis, in his second year as head baseball coach after serving as an interim coach last year, feels there is a good nucleus of returning players this year that tasted success last year.

“They experienced it.  They want to get back.  They are already a step ahead,” he said. 

Cassis also said this fall he has already seen good play and never questions whether or not the guys are playing hard.  The team typically practices 5-6 days a week, with intersquad games taking place on given dates as well.

While the team has not sat down and established a set of goals, Cassis feels the goal for now is to simply keep getting better.  He feels the pitching staff success will hinge on perfecting the philosophy of throwing strikes and attacking the zone, while he is confident the offense has a lot of guys who can get the job done. 
Junior Paul Grotelueschen ( Kottweiler-Schwanden, Germany)  feels the team is composed of a good group of guys with a good leader in Coach Cassis.  He looks forward to the Spring and being able to play baseball with his brother Drew, guys he played with last year, and the new crop of talent.

“I really like the way coach manages practices and has a philosophy of growing men of character and of baseball talent,” Grotelueschen said. 

Senior Jeremy Schwartzentruber (Kitchener, ON) likes how the team is meshing, which he feels can only help in the Spring season.  He is going into his final year with confidence that the Trojans can have a good season.

The fall season will tentatively end Oct. 15, but conditioning and weight training will begin in November and continue as indoor practices begin to start up.  The team will also grow through study hall and small group sessions as well as with a community service project with the Bannockburn Pumpkin Festival.  Cassis says being a Christ-centered program is a point that cannot be emphasized enough. 

Practice will intensify as the season nears and the Trojans will begin their season in Missouri beginning on March 3rd, 2012 with a doubleheader at Baker University.  Following this doubleheader, the Trojans will travel around Missouri, playing in Kansas City, central Missouri, and finally St. Louis.    The Trojans then open at home against Dominican University on March 14th.

 The Trojans open conference play on the road at Calumet College of St. Joseph on March 20th.  

Jennings Suspended Indefinitely

This picture just about sums up everything I feel about Clemson's Milton Jennings, and probably is about how he feels right now.  Jennings was suspended Monday for failure to comply with the team's academic standards, according to head coach Brad Brownell.  He did not travel with the team for Tuesday's game at Virginia.  This is yet another disappointing development in the Jennings saga.  If you've read any of my previous Clemson posts, you know this is just the nail in the coffin on my opinion of him as a player and now student.

The team's academic standards, unless Brownell is a crazy person when it comes to academic, in my mind has to mean at the strictest a 2.5 gpa.  That is a high number and it may even be a 2.0 and probably is, but Jennings obviously has been doing stuff that is not worthy of praise.  He was a five star recruit coming in and probably thought he was one day going to be drafted and never have to worry about grades.  Now that he's realized he's not the stud player they need him to be, it can be easy to let the effort in the classroom slip.

As someone who was a four-year baseball starter in college, I understand the plight of student-athletes, but I still got my work done because I did not want to hurt the team.  Let's just hope this is a lesson that Jennings will not take lightly.  His 8.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game will be missed because Clemson is so young and inexperienced and a bit thin up front.  I just wish he would grow into the player that was expected of him and not this mediocre guy who was wasting his talent and now not using his brains in the classroom.  Let's see if his absence is felt against the Cavaliers of Virginia University tomorrow.


Just came across this again for some reason, and it never ceases to give me the chills.  Just watch and enjoy.

Royal Stumble: Royal Rumble Fails to Live up to Hype

Before I get bashed to heavily by those who will say wrestling is not a sport, let me explain to you why I like it and why it should get a little more respect than it does.  First off, these guys are professional athletes, trained at what they do to perform in front of large groups of people.  I respect what UFC guys do and they are vicious suckers, but the WWE seems to draw me in more. Sure they don't hit three-pointers or throw touchdowns passes, but they work very hard at what they do.  Secondly, this is a form of entertainment.  Just as people watch football for entertainment, wrestling is watched by a lot of people and is well-liked.  Finally, wrestling is a business just like many of the "regular" sports that people love.  People lose jobs, get raises, are hired, and suspended just like all sports.  I will say that wrestling is not like baseball, football, basketball, etc, but it does deserve more respect than it gets because real injuries happen.  Yes, much of it is scripted and fake, but its not like a body slam or a choke slam isn't a real thing happening.  Moving on, let me say that I was very disappointed with last night's Royal Rumble event in St. Louis.

The three man cage match between heavyweight champion Daniel Bryan and challengers Mark Henry and the Big Show was lackluster at best.  The first match of the night is always a bit longer, and this was no exception.  The problem with this match is clearly that Bryan is a tiny man in comparison to these giants, thus creating a problem with ring chemistry.  It is hard for a 500 pound man and a 190 pound man to do moves on each other; it just doesn't work right.  Bryan's game is built on agility, kicks, submission holds, and aggressive, whereas those two mammoths base their strengths off of their size and ability to overpower you.  Don't even get me started on the ending, which was pretty silly.  Bryan dangled on the side of the cage as the Big Show held on to him.  Bryan easily could have just let go and won, but he had to play it out so long and finally fall from the Big Show's grasp to inevitable victory.  Pretty lame ending if you ask me.

Other matches included the Glamazon's title redemption, Brodus Clay beating McIntrye, and the Kane-Cena match.  The Kane-Cena match was dumb because of a double count-out, but I guess they did this to continue the rivalry.  If one had won, they wouldn't have a story line for future shows, so they had to end it like this and also see Kane brutalize Cena and Zack Ryder again, who looked absolutely ridiculous in a wheelchair acting all helpless.  It's just frustrating to see this same post-match plot over and over again where there is a double count-out and one guy just ends up beating the living out of the other guy.  It's so predictable and boring some of the time.  The other two matches in this paragraph I won't even discuss because I was too busy eating my buffalo wings to really care at all.  I just saw Brodus Clay's sloppy figure dance around and nearly cause me to lose my appetite.

Looking at CM Punk and Dolph match, the whole Lauranitis thing is just annoying to me because he looked gross in a ref's uniform and all this nonsense stuff about him doing a bad job is just pointless and doesn't really accomplish anything.  Regarding the match, there were many pins that could have been counted if not for the hapless ref being knocked out.  WWE referees, if they truly weren't acting and were actually hurt, would possibly be the weakest creatures in all of humanity.  They get barely touched by these guys and they fall over and act like they were just punched out.  The match itself was all right, but I don't really like either guy enough to care.

Finally, the Royal Rumble match, where 30 superstars aim for a shot at glory at Wrestlemania.  I did enjoy the Mankind and Santino cobra vs sock, Road Dogg and Hacksaw Jim Duggan turning back the clock, and Kofi Kingston's freakish walking handstand back to safety, but other than that I wasn't too thrilled with the Royal Rumble.  Guys just sit in corners or act like they are trying so hard to get someone over the ropes.  My friends and I were also holding out hope that maybe we'd see the likes of Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker make an appearance, but it was not meant to be I guess.  The final four came down to Sheamus, Orton, Jericho, and the Big Show.  The Big Show went first, followed surprisingly by Orton, who was knocked out in his hometown by Jericho.  Jericho and Sheamus were the final two, and I was in no way expecting Jericho could lose, but Sheamus kicked him out of the ring and onto the ground for the victory.  But this finish left me confused because it didn't really make sense for Wrestlemania implications.  Who will he face?  Daniel Bryan? I'm not sure that's a great headliner at Wrestlemania.  At least if Jericho or Orton had won, you feel they would be equipped to battle CM Punk.  I feel like one of those has to win Elimination Chamber now.  I feel like they should have let Sheamus or someone win Elimination Chamber because the Royal Rumble is supposed to be one of the best PPV's of the year.  You want the best possible guy to win it, and Orton or Jericho would have fit that bill.  Sheamus is good, but his pasty white body on the screen pointing up at the Wrestlemania sign wasn't exactly a glorious sight to behold.

Well there you have it.  Let me know what you think of my analysis and how you feel about WWE wrestling in general.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Bulls Fall Just Short at the Heat

I must admit something before I start writing about this game.  As you know, I was down on the NBA coming into today.  I dissed the aloof fans, overpaid divas, and everything about the NBA earlier in the week as I praised college basketball for all the enjoyment it brought today.  However, I was able to watch two games today-the OSU-Michigan game and the entire Bulls-Heat game, and I must say my outlook may have changed a little bit.  I realized I do not hate the NBA as I witnessed a great game between two great teams down in Miami.  My care for the NBA can, in fact, be salvaged, and I can certainly continue to hate the Heat in this Bulls-Heat rivalry.  Now to the game:

In every quarter, the Heat came out blazing, going on crazy runs capped off by thunderous dunks and Bulls' timeouts.  LBJ's dunk over Lucas was just ridiculous, so much so that when I saw it in real time the first time I didn't quite know what had happened.  The Bulls, known for their defense, weren't quite the same without Deng's efforts on Lebron as he went off for 35 today.  The problem wasn't necessarily Ronnie Brewer, but the fact that Lebron was making easy and difficult shots.  Something I was bothered by throughout the day, though, was the lack of help defense once they got in the lane.  When Lebron got into the lane, I was irked mainly at Boozer for his slow motion defense and total lack of help defense.  It seems like everyone buys into the defense except for him at times.  I liked what Taj brought to the table today and Noah was feisty on the defensive end with some blocks, but Boozer is a sitting duck out there and it's doing enough or anything at all on defense.

I was impressed by the Bulls' ability to come back in every single quarter in impressive fashion.  While Rose only finished 11-28 from the field, he was absolutely ridiculous in some situations to keep them in it and made some amazing attacks and finishes at the rim.  His 34-6-6 line was great, but he received little help in the way of scoring from the rest of the team.  Hamilton shot poorly and made some key turnovers, Boozer was just clueless, shooting jumpers early in the shot clock as usual, and Noah did contribute nicely.  But you can't beat the Heat without your glue in Deng and without ever really leading in the game.  The Bulls did well to battle, but it's not like they deserved to win.  You knew Rose would be jinxed with the screen saying he hadn't missed a fourth quarter free throw all year.  He goes and misses a pair, but that happens.  LBJ was a choke artist as usual late, but it didn't end up costing the Heat as they managed to escape.  I'm encouraged though because the Bulls did this without Deng and didn't play near their best.  In my estimation, the Heat played a good game and still barely escaped with victory.  So at full strength and playing better, I see the Bulls winning against the Heat and asserting themselves as the best in the Eastern Conference.

I'm glad I could talk some Bulls here and get back into an NBA mood.  It was a very exciting game to watch and showed me that the NBA can be exciting even with a logjammed schedule.

Rock Solid-Robert Rock Wins at Abu Dhabi

Much to my dismay, the hatless wonder Robert Rock won at Abu Dhabi, posting a 2-under 70 to win by one shot over Rory McIlroy.   I was able to watch most of the round as I braved it out and stayed up until about 6:30 a.m.  Tiger Woods finished two back at 11 under for the tournament in a very frustrating day where he only hit 2 fairway and 5/18 greens in regulation. In my estimation, it was a miracle he was able to shoot even par and hang around as well as he did considering the positions he left himself in.  His drives consistently found less than desirable lies, and his approach shots, even from the middle of the fairway, were suspect and errant.  He was missing greens because he also flag hunted too much with pins that were tucked on the right edge.  He simply couldn't get up-and-down on some of them because he short sided himself.  He started out well with two early birdies, but struggled to find any rhythm after that.  Rock deserves credit for sticking it out and hitting some remarkable shots under pressure on the back nine.  

I'm a little encouraged by Tiger's third place finish, but still pretty upset with his inability to close it out.  This was Robert Rock that got the best of him, not Lee Westwood or Luke Donald.  Hopefully Tiger plays like the first three rounds in the future and starts to win some tournaments before The Masters.

Kyle Stanley sits at -20 with a four shot lead now in the Farmer's Insurance Open.  Unless he falters, he will pick up a nice win.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Woods, Rock at -11 Through Three Rounds at Abu Dhabi, Stanley Up Five at Farmer's Insurance Open

Tiger Woods posted another great round on Saturday, a bogey-free 66 to put him at -11 through three rounds and have a share of the lead with the hatless wonder Robert Rock.  Rock looks like a goof with his hair flopping in the wind, and I just wonder what good reason he could have for wanting to go hatless on the course.  This is not important, though, so let's look at what Tiger has done to this point.  He has played great and hit the ball well.  His putting is starting to come around.  His confidence and swagger out there has come back.  He doesn't appear to be just one of the guys out there battling.  He is Tiger Woods and it is good to see him playing well.  I will be sure to be tuned in early Sunday morning to watch the final round and see Tiger in his Sunday red ready to take down Robert Rock and whoever may challenge him.  Guys like Molinari and McIlroy are only two back, but they may have to shot 65 or 66 to have a chance with the way Tiger is playing.

In other news, Kyle Stanley seized a five-stroke lead in California by shooting a steady 68 following his first two rounds of 62-68.  At 18-under, he has a five-shot lead.  Stanley, the Clemson product (hence why I like him), hits it a country mile and has a bright future on this tour and may be the best second year player on tour.  Let's see if he can finish the deal tomorrow.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Abu Dhabi Round Two-Woods and McIlroy Lurk Two Back

I will get to Tiger and Rory in a second, but I must say I am impressed with some of the young faces up near the top of the leaderboard, especially young Dane Thorbjorn Olesen, who apparently didn't get the memo that some of the world's finest players were breathing down his neck the whole day.  Despite bogeying his last hole, Olesen sits at 7-under 137, with a 1-shot lead over Maybin and Manassero.  Lurking two back are some big names including Woods, McIlroy, Karlsson, Lawrie, and Rock.  Three back are the likes of Garcia, Harrington, and Schwartzel.  Had it not been for a rules violation on McIlroy's part, he would be tied for the lead.  McIlroy had a mental lapse and cleared away sand from near his ball by using his hand, resulting in a two-stroke boneheaded gaffe.  However, he only stands two back.  Woods looked better on the greens today and continued his ball striking prowess out there.

I will not be long-winded and cut it short right here.  With 36 holes to play, a lot of the big names are in prime position to contend, and even names like Donald and Westwood aren't totally out of the picture if they have great weekends.  It'll be interesting to watch as I will be tuned in with live streaming online to catch these last 36 holes of golf.  The course is beautiful, and we will see how tournament officials set it up for the weekend and if any players can go low.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Abu Dhabi Round One

I want to make my allegiance clear so you are not confused as I begin to talk about the start to Tiger Woods' golf season.  I love Tiger Woods the golfer.  Most people who know anything about me know I love watching him succeed on the golf course, shaping shots on Sunday at The Masters or winning the U.S. Open on one leg.  While he done amazing things that I admire on the golf course, I do not condone his off the course behavior.  I know he's made a lot of mistakes and those are well-documented, but I simply want to see this stud of a golfer get back on the right track on the golf course in 2012.  There have been flashes of greatness in the past year or so, including a win in his own event, but him and swing coach Sean Foley have yet to put it all together to produce the consistent winning he was so used to over the years.  I simply want to hear the roar from him and fans that can not be matched by other players out there.  I am willing to bet that at least 60% of the people who let out a loud roar for Tiger's last win at the Chevron claim they do not like him anymore.  But when it comes down to it, they get caught up in the moment and the electricity Tiger brings to a big putt he drains.

Tiger opened his 2012 campaign late Wednesday night (or early Thursday morning United Arab Emirates time) among a very top-heavy field which included Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Martin Kaymer, and Sergio Garcia among others.  A bogey-free 70 that had the look of a 66 or 67 if he get get a few more putts to fall, but I was encouraged by this start.  I feel almost certain that he will make the cut and silence those who would love to see him miss the cut and continuously question his play.  Let's remember what Tiger has done in the past when it comes to swing changes.  Once he ditched Harmon for Haney, it took some time to get adjusted to a whole new philosophy of golf swing.  Heck, I used to swing the club with a baseball grip and switched to interlock, and that took me a whole year of getting adjusted to.  Just imagine what it's like for a professional of Tiger's caliber to overhaul his entire swing, from address to takeaway to downswing to point of contact to finish.  It's like starting over in school again.  Yes, we have given Tiger that time, and 2012 is his year to start proving that these changes are going to work.  Tiger is a perfectionist and wants everything to work in unison, but I still think he has to play with instinct and the natural ability he has.  He can learn all he wants from Foley, but once he has that ingrained in his DNA, he must play without thinking too much.  He is hitting the ball great, but I feel he isn't putting with enough instinct and feel.

McIlroy opened with a 67 to take the lead after the first round despite the fact that Woods struck the ball better.  The telling stat of the day, however, was McIlroy's 25 putts compared to Tiger's 34 putts.  Nine strokes right there is huge.  Analyzing it, this means McIlroy took 42 shots to get to the greens while Woods only took 36.  McIlroy was 9 strokes better on putts while Woods was 6 better regarding ballstriking.  It just goes to show just how important putting is.

I'm curious to see how this all plays out in round two and if Tiger can get the flatstick working for him.

Rogers and Aguilar Named to ALL-NCCAA Football Team

A very short write-up I did today for some football awards for Trinity International University players.

Juniors Dominique Rogers and Vincent Aguilar received recognition for their play in the 2011 season, as Rogers was named to first team ALL-NCCAA Football Team defense and Aguilar received special mention for defense.

Rogers, a junior defensive back from Plano, Texas, played in nine games for the Trojans’ football team in 2011.  In those games, he recorded 28 total tackles, 6 pass break-ups, 2 tackles for loss 1 forced fumble, and an impressive team-leading 5 interceptions.
Aguilar, a junior from Ontario, California, played in six games for the Trojans in 2011.  The defense end recorded a team-high 6 sacks, 26 total tackles, 9 tackles for loss, and 1 forced fumble.  Aguilar was also named NAIA Defensive Player of the Week earlier in the year for his effort against Concordia (Mich.) in a 13-10 home win on Sept. 10.  In the game, he recorded 12 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 2 pass break ups, and an astounding 5 sacks.

The Trojans will continue to work hard this spring semester and into the summer in preparation for their season opener on Aug. 25 at home against Trinity Bible College.  

Ray Lewis

Pardon my hiatus from the blogging world these past few days.  I caught a horrible case of food poisoning and I'll save the graphic details for imagination, but let's just say it wasn't pretty.  I am still on empty energy-wise, but the stomach is feeling a lot better and finally got a good night's sleep last night.  With that said, I stumbled upon this video via someone's Facebook yesterday, and I can't get enough of it.  I've always had a ton of respect for Ray Lewis the player and leader, but this elevated him to new heights in my mind.  He first sticks up for his kicker Billy Cundiff and defends him.  He had the right to be extremely ticked off as his career is winding down and they missed a golden opportunity to make it to his second Super Bowl, but he always seems to take the high route and do what is right but doing so in a manner that is full of passion and authenticity.  He then goes on to talk about how hard the team worked and fought this year.  He knows the loss is hard, but he knows everyone gave it their all and there can only be one Super Bowl winner.  The most striking bit of it for me was how he talks to and about Joe Flacco.  The passion in his voice when he tells Flacco he played his a** off and to never drop his head after a loss gave me the chills.  He then related this to the outside world by saying there are bigger problems in the world and they should also make an effort to make somebody smile.  What I love about this is just how unscripted it is.  Lewis just has a way of doing this and if I were in the NFL, I'd absolutely love to be his teammate and play alongside a guy like this. I was reading a comment from someone that said "Patrick Willis-take note" and I think this is especially true.  Willis is a great player and has a similar team to that of Lewis, and if he embraces leadership like Ray Lewis does, he will be remembered as a great one as well.  I know Lewis is at the tail end of his career, but I can't wait to see him finish out these years with that same passion.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Michigan-Purdue Game: The Epitome of Why I Love College Basketball

As I watched the Michigan-Purdue game, I realized just why I love college basketball.  I am an Indiana Hoosiers fan who just casually watched the game with my rib dinner in front of me.  I didn't have a rooting interesting, but the final 10 minutes of that game were very exciting.  The teams traded baskets and it made for a great basketball game.  Tirico and Dakich were great on the call, as Tirico brought his energy to an  already frenetic Mackey Arena.  I must remind you, this was not Duke-UNC at Cameron Indoor Stadium or in Chapel Hill.  This was simply a great Big Ten basketball game that game down to the closing seconds.  The crowd was extremely loud there, and this is something I will feel the NBA simply doesn't have.  These players play in front of their peers, parents, and alumni as opposed to NBA guys who play in front of fans who seem aloof at best.  NBA arenas are a joke compared to the crowd noise in college basketball.  NBA arenas need the dumb jumbotron to try to produce any breath of energy, while the college arenas are buzzing with hissing fans complaining about calls and having real pride for their team and school.

I also just feel NBA players are overpaid and many of them seem disinterested.  I do believe they are very skilled, but this year I am watching a lot more college basketball.  While there are plenty of superstars in the NBA, they aren't captivating my attention even in a shorter 66 game season where every game isn't of premium importance.  These college games like tonight are important.  Michigan, at 15-5, was off to its best start under coach John Beilein, while Purdue really needed a marquee win to begin building an NCAA tournament resume.

These are just a couple of my thoughts regarding this matter.  Let me know if you are in my camp or if you have a differing view.

Prince to Motown

In a somewhat shocking development, Prince Fielder has agreed in principle to a 9-year/$210 million deal with the Detroit Tigers.  I say shocking because the Tigers were rarely talked about as contenders in the Fielder sweepstakes.  My hometown Cubs, the Rangers, Nationals, and Mariners were some of the teams pursuing Fielder, but never did I hear the Tigers mentioned.  The Tigers know will have probably the most potent heart of the order in the game as Fielder will join fellow heavyweight Miguel Cabrera in the middle of the order.  I just heard Cabrera will move back to third base and wants to do so to pave the way for Fielder.  Additionally, with the loss of Victor Martinez to a torn ACL, they may seek out help for the DH spot, possibly trying to land a Johnny Damon or someone of that caliber that can produce at a decent enough clip.  With Pujols with the Angels and Fielder now with the Tigers, the National League has lost two sluggers in a very short span of time.  While the Cardinals did win the World Series last year, it makes you wonder if an NL team has enough firepower to do that.  The Phillies are aging but still have a lot of great bats, so only time will tell.

Let's take a little look at the Tigers and what they will look like with Fielder on the team.  They will be significantly better offensively even though V Mart will be out.  Avila was the all-star starter last year and could continue to blossom, and they also have some nice young players who will continue to grow.  Verlander is an absolute stud, but I think one of the other starters will have to win 16+ games at least to make them great.  They are the clear-cut frontrunners in that division, but you have to play 162 games.  Last year, we saw epic collapses late from the Braves and Red Sox, and the Tigers have been known to collapse in the past.  Will Prince Fielder give this team the killer instinct they need?

Finally, I wanted to address this one last issue.  Do you think Prince Fielder signed with the Tigers to spite his estranged father, former Detroit Tigers player Cecil Fielder?  Maybe he wanted to stick it to his dad and become the king of Motown....Let me know what you think in my poll.

My Background With the Game of Golf (beginning-high school)

I haven't written anything about golf yet, but I plan on doing so in the near future, so I just wanted to begin to lay out my path to how I came to loving the game.

Now my friends and anyone who knows just a little bit about me know how much I love the game of golf.  I didn't start playing until I was 13 years old or so, but I immediately fell in love with the game.  I played as often as I could, and as high school rolled around, my  friends and I all were going to try out for the golf team.    Then came the big meltdown, Van de Velde esque in nature and shattering my confidence.  In the final round of tryouts, I completely blew up and missed making the team.  Let's just say I made a 13 on my first hole of the day and it only got slightly better as the round went on.  That day haunted me for nearly a year and made me determined to work my tail off in order to make the team the next year.  And I did just that.  Now, I still had an erratic swing with a baseball grip on the club, and I didn't always know where the ball was going.  But I had done it and was happy to be a part of the team.

I finally converted over to a conventional interlock grip going into my junior year, and my scores continued to go down as a result.  I wasn't a mainstay in the starting lineup because we had a very good team, but I weazled my way into a few meets here and there, including one at Inverness where the greens were practically like trampolines.  I shot 82 at a course in Glenview to qualify for Inverness, and it could have been about a 77 in my estimation if I had just held it together a little better.  I shot 45-46-91 that day at Inverness.  It was not great on paper, but I showed that I could at least make bogeys on a difficult course and hold my own in a pressure-packed situation.

The biggest meet of my life was my junior year in the sectional at St. Andrews in West Chicago.  Our #1 Kevin Wittmeyer was out with mono, and there was one open slot in the lineup.  It was between my brother and I for that final spot.  Coach Martindale picked me and off I went to practice rounds and final to play in the meet with a chance at our team qualifying for state.  I had the jitters on the range all morning.  I just couldn't seem to shake the pressure knowing that three other players and a spotter would be watching my every move.

The first hole i played was #10, which I made bogey on and that was quite all right with me.  From that point on, though, things took a turn for the worse as I accidently played the wrong ball on a par five, resulting in a two-stroke penalty to give me an 8.  Then I made a 7 on a par 3, and I finished off my first nine by dunking three balls into the water and making a 10.  Following that, I made an 8 on my 11th hole of the day.  I righted the ship a little bit down the stretch, but the big numbers killed me.  I didn't expect my score to count unless I played out of my mind that day, but the pressure clearly got to me.

My senior year was full of more improvement and I hit the ball more solidly than I had ever before.  My distances on my irons were great (8-iron about 155-160 yds at the time), and I was hitting high, drawing 5-woods 250 yards on some occasions.  Despite these accomplishments, it was hard for me to crack the lineup regularly because I couldn't consistently shoot 39 or 40 (9 holes), which would warrant me a spot in the lineup.  Whenever I had the chance to make an impression, it'd always be a 42, 43, or 44 instead.  While I did get some meet action, it was not significant and I did not play in the big meets either.

I say all this to show you how my early career in golf went.  I will lay out more background in future posts, including how I came to start watching golf and how my passion for that is now unwavering.  I will also talk about my play since graduating high schools, including some of the cooler courses I've played and how I've become a smarter player.

Swinging the driver at a course in Arizona

An Inspirational Quote From a Legend and Implications with Belichick/Coughlin

"Coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their player and motivate."-Vince Lombardi 

While I should not be up at this obscene hour, I decided to hunt around for some inspirational quotes with the Super Bowl right around the corner.  I choose this one because I thought it could tie in well to the two remaining coaches in the NFL playoffs-Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin.  Both these men seem like not the most fun guys to play for, but somehow they find ways to get it done.  Yes, they are great schemers and always are trying to get the personnel that best fits their philosophy, but plenty of coaches are capable of that.  Like the quote says, outlining plays only gets you so far.  What makes Belichick and Coughlin both so unique is their ability to reach players despite their rough and tumble style.  Belichick will barely ever throw the media a bone, sticking to his script of stock, boring answers.  But he finds a way every year to motivate Brady and the rest of his players.  What the media doesn't see at practice is what makes him great.  The players want to play well for him, whether that be out of fear or they simply respect a man who is at the top of his profession.  On the flip side, Coughlin is all about routine and rules, but his players have obviously responded and he has gotten them to buy in.  He has been on the hot seat many times, but he always seems to save himself with these remarkable runs on the road in the playoffs. His players are motivated and always seem to click at the right time.  He is able to do this and should be considered an elite coach.

 These are just a couple of thoughts, any feedback on the quotes or my thoughts is welcome.

Illinois-Arizona game

A little late night post to get your juices flowing for March Madness.  If this doesn't give you the chills, I don't know what will...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Nets at Bulls - Too fast, too strong, too good

First and foremost, I’d like to send a shout out to the man himself, my brother, and fellow sports fanatic William Daniel Smith, Bill, Billy, Bane, Fresh, Salami Slab, Bub (we're all Bub's!?), whichever you prefer. Lovin what he’s doing here with the blog, providing us with some ‘above average’ sports commentary. From IU/Depaul coverage, to NFL playoff predictions and postgame analysis, to sensitive subjects such as today’s Paterno piece, it’s clear that Bill’s got something impressive going on here. Keep up the hard work bro, your daily blogs are starting to gain some traction. 

Anyways, enough of the brotherly love, let’s talk Bulls basketball and what I took from tonight’s riveting battle with the lowly, deflated NJ Nets. The Nets (5-12) came into the UC on the tail end of back-to-back-to-back games, all the while holding a not so impressive 3-7 record on the road this season, just might be a recipe for a loss (I think so). To make matters worse, NJ would be playing the game without rookie standout MarShon Brooks (15.4 PPG) who had to sit due to a sore left achilles. Not to count the Nets out prior to tip but let’s count the Nets out prior to tip.

Well, typing that last paragraph was a bit depressing, but wait I'm not a Nets fan. Cool if we change the mood? Cool. The Bulls came into tonight’s matchup atop the league with a 15-3 record, would be getting back the MVP, and just don’t lose at the UC (7-0). If that’s not enough to get excited about how about fast forward to the first quarter of tonight’s game where fans were treated to a rare first quarter sighting of the White Mamba, SICK! Oh yeah, how about Derrick Rose putting Deron Williams on his face with a gross crossover in the first few minutes of the first quarter (anyone else catch that, whoa), proving that four games off and a single toe can’t put a damper on the MVP.

Anyways, I'll sum up the first quarter in a brief manner: Ronnie Brewer can't miss (9 points on 4-5 shooting), Rip Hamilton becomes the 120th player in league history to record 15,000 points (congrats, an awesome accomplishment for such a humble player), and Mehmet Okur ice cold shooting which was actually pretty funny to watch, the guy wouldn't stop shooting!

The second quarter opened with a 'Splash!', that's slang for a Kyle Korver three. As the quarter progressed fans got to watch Scal and Asik work down low against some noticeably worn out NJ defenders. Watching Scal finish in such a graceful manner going from the left baseline to the right, all the while in the air, was just unreal and brought Stacey King to his feet, MAMBA! Back to back break outs, capped by DRose finishing at the rim, sent the Bulls into the half with a 59-43 win.

This 16 point lead never diminished throughout the third quarter which was all about Rip Hamilton. Coming off screens, running his already tired defenders to death, burying midrange jumpers, and making some killer assists, Rip surpassed 20 points midway into the quarter. What a difference this guy makes in the lineup by the way, giving the Bulls another scoring threat and ultimately stabilizing the offense with his cool, calm, and collected demeanor, love it. Who else looked good? Joakim Noah. Coming off an ankle sprain, and a less than great start to the season, Joakim really showed some life tonight on both ends of the court. Was great to see that energy back, giving the Bulls that extra edge on the glass even showing us that he can still find a way to put the ball in the hoop. Bulls led 85-68 after the third quarter, 15 points away from Big Macs.

Big Macs! (yipeeee, stuff face!) The Bulls capped the game with a fourth quarter highlighted by continued dominance on the offensive glass and hustle plays. Things got a little chippy late as Larry Owens/Sean Williams and Rip Hamilton got into a small scuffle. Shoot, I guess I'd be a little upset too, can't be that fun watchin Rip drop buckets and dimes on you all night long. Mehmet Okur makes a shot, it's about time haha!. Bulls win 110-95, as all 5 starters and Asik score in double figures. Extending their record to 8-0 at the UC, boy it's fun watchin our Bulls at home.

Overall, I liked what I saw tonight. The Bulls didn't play down to a lesser teams level, the MVP looked dang good, the Bulls got it done with the two D's (defense and depth), 16-3 record, Rip 'rippin' it up, and great effort by the bigs. Heck, get Scal a Big Mac! I'm out, thanks for the invite to the blog Bill, c'mon shooter!    -MS

Guest Blogger of the Week

It was suggested to me that I maybe incorporate some guest contributors to Smitty's Sports Blog.  While I want this blog to be mine, I also want a wealth of knowledge on the world of sports and thought it may be a good idea to have a guest blogger of the week.  For this first entry, it will be none other than my brother, Matthew Ryan Smith.  Matt is a senior business major at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.  He was admitted to the Kelley School of Business, a difficult task to accomplish.  Maintaining a good GPA, Matt has done well at IU and also found opportunities elsewhere.  He is a Southwestern Company book salesman by trade in the summer.  He spent two summers in Texas going door-to-door selling educational textbooks and material.  The first summer was spent mostly in the Waco area while he spent summer of 2011 in the Victoria area.  I grew up playing and watching sports with him and feel he is well-equipped to handle this task of a blog entry regarding the Chicago Bulls tonight.  He has watched more Bulls basketball than I have this year, so I'm willing to give him a shot at the big time so to speak.  He will watch the game tonight and give us some insights and what he took away from the Bulls-Nets at the United Center.  So, without further ado, take it away Little Smitty.

AFC/NFC Championship Thoughts

Photo Courtesy of Yahoo Sports
Photo Courtesy of USA Today

Now I'll bet my life on it that not one person on this planet, if given the option to pick two goats, one from each title game that helped cost their teams chances at the Super Bowl, picked the unlikely duo of Billy Cundiff and Kyle Williams.  These two players shoulder a lot of the blame today whether it is fair or not.  And in my estimation, they do deserve a lot of the blame.  However, I still cannot believe people would be sick enough to go as far as to make threats on the lives of these players.  It sickens me to think that people are that "loyal" to their team that they would even say that these two players deserve death just for making an error on a football field.  It is a game, people, remember that.  Now with that off of my chest, let's take a look at each game and how they played out the way they did.  While I did not have a chance to make formal predictions on here before the games, I did have the Patriots and Giants winning these games (pat on the back).

Let's start with the Patriots/Ravens game first.  The Ravens gameplanned perfectly to hold Brady in check as he was held without a touchdown pass.  They mixed up their defenses perfectly to throw Brady off, and he never looked comfortable all day.  They did do some nice things on the ground, as BGE was able to find the end zone on a very nice run where he used his blockers very well.  Brady threw two picks, but it could have easily been four if not for a couple of fortunate penalties that negated the interceptions.  Overall, the offense did not play well, but the defense actually looked decent as Wilfork played one heck of a game once again.  He stuffed run gaps and allowed himself and others to get pressure on Flacco and force him into tough throws.  Sterling Moore was the unheralded hero for the Pats, breaking up the pass that Lee Evans had in his hands that would have won the game.  I'll call it a great play by Moore and also a goat play for Evans as you simply have to secure that ball with a chance to get to the Super Bowl.  I thought Flacco and Boldin played well, as they were dynamite on that final drive as Boldin was able to rack up yardage on some very nice throws by Flacco.  It came down to Cundiff, and sitting there on my couch I just had a hunch he would choke.  Kickers not doing their jobs is something that frustrates me beyond belief as my friends know.  And as the ball sailed wide left, I was not surprised at all.  To me, it seemed like Cundiff was too casual in getting out there and I thought maybe Harbaugh would use his final timeout to give him more time to set up.  If he missed following a timeout, people may say they iced their own kicker, but I think that school of thought is nonsense.  He needed more time to set up for a chip shot like that.  If it was a 50-yard field goal, that may be a different story, but this particular chip shot could have been a make if Cundiff had more time to settle in.  And with all this said, the Patriots advance to the Super Bowl where Tom Brady will start his fifth one.  He is 3-1 in Super Bowls and is looking to add a fourth title to his already outstanding career.  They didn't play well, but they got it done.  The lasting image from that game for me will be the stunned look on Torrey Smith's face after the missed field goal.  He is only a rookie and will have plenty of chances to get back, but I do feel for Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, and the older guys.  Yes, they have a ring, but this may be one of their last chances to get another one.

Regarding the 49ers/Giants game, it was a battle in the slop out in San Fran, and two key blunders by Kyle Williams ended up costing the Niners a chance at the Super Bowl.  The defensive lines for both teams played outstanding, getting constant pressure on Smith and Manning.  I thought the Giants defense did a wonderful job minus two big plays to Vernon Davis.  If they want to be in the Super Bowl, the Niners must address the wide receiver position in the draft or free agency.  Davis is a beast, but he's a tight end.  Crabtree, for all the hype, is average at best.  And outside of that, what else do they really have in the passing game?  They went 13-3 without many weapons to catch the ball, so just imagine how good they can be if they have an impact player or two they get this offseason.  Eli now may have to be considered elite simply for his will in big road playoff games.  They are always on the road and always find a way to do the unthinkable.  Tom Coughlin went from hot seat to star coach in a short time as his methods continue to work in the postseason.  Victor Cruz is no fluke.  I bashed him during the season (mainly because he would tear it up and wasn't on my abysmal fantasy team), but he looks like he will be a rock solid player for the forseeable future in this league.  I love Hakeem Nicks, and while he was held relatively quiet, I could see him having an impact similar to Plaxico Burress in the Super Bowl three years ago.

 The Giants found a way again, and we will have a rematch.  And while it is a rematch on paper, I see it hardly as a rematch because the makeup of these two teams is different than when they met three years ago.  The Patriots have a pretty poor defense that relies on the offense, mainly Welker and the stud tight ends, to put up tons of points.  The Giants, while similar in philosophy to past years, now have Nicks and Cruz as their star wide receivers and seem to like to throw the ball all over the place despite still have Jacobs and Bradshaw on the ground.  Manning threw it 58 times in the slop, which shows that they have ultimate faith in him.  While I do not think he will throw it that many times at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy, I think he can eclipse 40 for sure.

With two weeks until the Super Bowl, let the predictions and thoughts flood in.  Comment here and we will dialogue about the big game coming up.

Death of Joe Paterno

I can't tell you what it was or why it struck such a cord with me, but the death of Joe Paterno on Sunday morning around 9:25 a.m. really hit me hard.  Now, I am not a Penn State University alumni, current student, or resident of State College, Pennsylvania.  Additionally, I am not a PSU football fan or even necessarily a supporter of Joe Paterno the coach.  But something about this story hit me hard.  To see a guy with so much success at the college level come to his death like this is just tragic (for lack of a better word).  Paterno invested his life into Penn State, and the community loved him and he loved the school with all of his heart.  I read an interesting fact yesterday that his name was still in the phone book in State College and you could call his home phone.  He was just a regular guy in that sense.  

It saddened me to see a guy with so much accomplishment and so much good done in his life essentially lose all of that in two short months.  The whole Sandusky fiasco is tragic and whatnot, but to see this man saying he wishes he could have done more to prevent what happened years ago just gives me the chills.  When I heard of his death, it gave me the chills and I nearly shed a tear.  The Paternos just lost a father, the rock of their family who they spent countless hours with them at home and on the field.  I don't want to look at the implications of his legacy right now because I feel that it is too soon and inappropriate to talk about that right now.  I think people just need to mourn the loss and remember all the good he did for that university.  People claim there was this evil other side of Paterno who was too loyal to those closest to them in order to protect them, but his former players and those who knew him best swear by his character and leadership.  

I listened to an interview done yesterday by Shane Conlan, a former All-American linebacker for PSU in the mid 1980's and a member of the team who beat Miami in the National Championship.  In this interview, Conlan just conveyed a deep sense of sorrow for the loss and he had last spoken to Paterno about two months back.  Conlan said Joe remembered his parents' names.  Now that may not seem like a big deal, but to Conlan and myself that really hit hard because Conlan went on to express just how remarkable that was considering all the players who had played for him.  Paterno asked him about his family and kids most importantly and did not even talk about himself at all.  This really caused me to sympathize with this loss to the sports world because it showed Paterno really cared about his players and wanted the best for them in molding them into men.  I also heard Tom Rinaldi on the radio, and he expressed the mood as very somber around State College.  Thousands came out yesterday to see his statue, and Rinaldi said that the name Jerry Sandusky had not been mentioned once among those who he had spoken to.  This showed me that at least humanity was being remembered here rather than dwelling on the scandal that has rocked State College in recent months.  Former and current students and their families came out to pay their respects to Joe, it is was heartwarming for me to see those pictures even though I have no true connection to Penn State.  

I plan on listening to more interviews from former players and people who knew him best to get an even better take on what they think about the passing of an icon.  After gathering that information, I will probably write another piece on this matter.  I deeply sympathize with the Paterno family on their loss, and my prayers are with them as they try to make sense of this all.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Clemson Thoughts

I'm pleased with the effort today as they are up 15 with about seven minutes to play.  They are playing great defense and Andre Young is really taking charge as a leader in this game.  This would be an encouraging win and hopefully a confidence builder for the rest of the ACC schedule.  I was thinking about this today as this frustrating season has gone on for the Tigers.  Brownell has barely had a chance to recruit.  Sure he has some freshman of his this year, but he hasn't really recruited because he was plugged in pretty late after Purnell left to go to DePaul.  He did a great job last year as they were a tournament team, but barely any of these current guys are guys he recruited.  I'm sure he has a system and philosophy of how he recruits and what types of players he looks for, but that hasn't been implemented yet because they were Purnell's guys.  Who really knows if Booker, Jennings, Young, etc are guys that really fit into what he wants to do.  We'll see if they hold on today, but that's just a bit of a thought to dwell on.  I look forward to see his recruiting class for next year and hope the Tigers can get rolling soon.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Final TIU Football Game

This is a story I wrote for my school's football team on their final game of the 2011 football season.

Trojans Triumph Over Warriors in Finale

Forest City, IA—In the final game of the season, the Trojan football team emerged with a dramatic 21-17 win on the road over the Waldorf College Warriors on Saturday afternoon. 

The Trojans were able to get on the board first in the game on a five-yard touchdown run by Donnie Irving (FR Arlington, TX) to go up 7-0.  The Trojans were able to get the ball back as Thomas Denne (SR San Jose, CA) forced and recovered a fumble.  However, the Trojan drive would stall out on a missed 46-yard field goal.  The following drive, Warriors receiver James Loydd would catch a 39-yard touchdown from quarterback Ryan Young to tie the game up at 7-7.

Neither team would score in the second quarter  until the Warriors were able to convert on a 28-yard field goal just before the end of the first half to take a 10-7 lead into halftime.

The Trojans offense methodically plodded down the field to start the third quarter as it went on a 16-play, 70-yard drive capped off by a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Morgan Hall (JR Fresno, CA) to Nigel Pinson (JR Chicago, IL) in a key third down situation.  An extra point by Jason Owens (SR Chicago, IL) gave the Trojans a 14-10 lead following this drive that took 9:44 off the clock to start the half. 

Loydd would strike again for the Warriors as he would take the ensuing kickoff 80 yards to the end zone for a touchdown to put the Warriors back on top 17-14.  Four of the next five drives for the Trojan offense would end in turnovers, two of those being interceptions and two fumbles.  However, the defense would hold strong, including forcing a fumble recovered by Ernie Escarcega (JR Tuscon, AZ).

The Warriors would punt the ball back to the Trojans with 4:07 remaining in the game.  The Trojans would have to go 65 yards to take the lead, and they delivered just that, taking nine plays to score as Hall found Jonathan Salgado (SR Riverside, CA) for a five-yard touchdown with just 1:02 to play.  An Owens extra point would put the Trojans ahead 21-17.

The defense would hold one more time, forcing a turnover on downs.  The Trojans were able to kneel for the victory.  The win moved the team to 2-8 on the year as the Trojans finished the season in exciting fashion.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Daily Herald article

Here's a sample of the work I did for the Daily Herald last month.

Fremd eludes Palatine
By Billy Smith
Trailing by 1 point with less than 20 seconds left in the game, Fremd junior guard Bernie Williams grabbed a crucial offensive rebound and dished it to Haley Gorecki.
The poised Vikings freshman laid it in with 12.2 seconds left for a thrilling 42-41 win at Palatine on Friday night.
The Vikings (7-0, 2-0), who were led by Gorecki (game-high 16 points) and Jessi Wiedemann (9 points), had to match the Pirates shot-for-shot throughout the Mid-Suburban West cross-town battle.
“She (Haley) doesn’t play like a freshman,” Fremd coach Dave Yates said. “We expected their best shot and they gave it to us.”
The Pirates (6-3, 1-1) came out hot in the first half, making 11 of their 15 shot attempts from the floor.
But they also turned it over 9 times as the Vikings played a high-pressure man-to-man defense and then switched in and out of a 2-1-2 half-court trap and a 1-2-2 defense.
“We were prepared for that and it took a few possessions to get used to, but I thought the girls handled it well,” Pirates coach Leslie Schock said. “(Fremd guard Ashley) McConnell is one of the best on-the-ball defenders I’ve ever seen.”
Gorecki scored 10 of her 16 points in the second quarter to keep the Vikings even with the Pirates 24-24 at halftime.
The third quarter went back-and-forth, with neither team seizing a lead of more than 3 points.
Fremd led 36-34 going into the final period.
That’s when Pirates point guard Nia Pappas (team-high 14 points) took over, scoring two key baskets to put the Pirates up 41-38 with 59 seconds to play.
However, the Pirates went 0-for-4 from the free-throw line in bonus and double bonus situations in the final minute.
The Vikings drew to within a point on a pair of free throws by Wiedemann and took the lead following 2 missed free throws and Gorecki’s basket.
The Vikings’ defense clamped down and the Pirates were unable to attempt a shot to win the game.
“We learn something new about ourselves every game,” Wiedemann said.
“It was definitely a team effort,” Gorecki said. “Next time we see them, we will have to be ready to play.”

Hoosier Disappointment

Now I'll admit I could not watch the game last night, seeing the final score and reading the story made me sick. I thought back to the past three years of Indiana basketball and just how bad they were.  Now the way I see it, this Indiana team is very similar/nearly the same makeup as last year's team plus Cody Zeller.  If you think about it, it's true because he is really the only freshman making an impact for IU (with a great recruiting class coming in next year, might I add).  So this particular team has been bred in the past with a losing demeanor because that's all they did.  Sure, they got Zeller and he's made a huge impact, but he's never been in the grind of a Big Ten schedule where no road win can be taken for granted.  Take Wednesday as an example of that as the Hoosiers squandered a big lead and even a three point lead in the final 35 seconds of the game.    It makes me wonder about this team and believe they may have been playing over their heads a bit earlier in the season when they beat UK and OSU.  They really need to right the ship coming up at Penn State.  It is just frustrating because once you turn a corner with your program, you should not look back or let anything get in the way.  The losses to Minnesota and Nebraska are a clear case of how this team may not be ready to be serious contenders to make a run deep in the tournament.  I hope they prove me wrong over the coming weeks, but they definitely have some work to do and I have faith that Tom Crean can send his guys a message.