Posted on: March 26, 2011 2:35 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2011 3:38 pm

Better luck next year, Florida Panthers

What's to blame: There simply isn't enough skill in Florida. The Panthers can't score, they don't do an incredibly good job of stopping others from scoring, either. It's a young team full of players that were in the minors at some point this season. Plus, there was no busier team at the deadline than Florida, which vetted itself of most all of its valued talent. Oh, and they're the Florida Panthers.

What's not to blame: It's hard to find much on this side, but the goaltending hasn't been abysmal. Tomas Vokoun, streaky as he is, isn't the reason the 'Cats are done, nor is his backup Scott Clemmensen. Head coach Pete DeBoer belongs on this list, as well. He might take the fall for three straight posteseason-less seasons, but it's hard to blame a guy directing a team that has no talent. 

Biggest offseason step to recovery: Because of the rash of trades and contracts coming off the budget, Florida is going to have a ton of money to spend. And they'll have to make a decision in goal. But neither is what's most important; it's the draft. That's where GM Dale Tallon needs to build this organization, and he'll have plenty of picks with which to work again.

Draft need: They desperately need a scorer, a guy that can put 30-plus in the net. The Panthers will be in the running for the top pick again, so perhaps fortune can strike and they'll have the pick of the litter. They have gone defense the last two years (Dmitry Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson) so it's time to think offensive.

Reason for hope: Tallon going into a second full season at the helm. He has a history of drafting well, so Panthers fans, the ones that are left, can believe in that. Also, there were some nice surprises among newcomers, starting with Mike Santorelli and flashes from rookie Evgeny Dadonov.

When will they see the playoffs again: The 10-year wait will last a couple more seasons. The realistic target has to be after two more years. Florida does have the makeup of a good blue line moving forward, so the challenge will be getting scorers. And honestly, despite the cash, Florida will have a very hard time attracting players. So at this point, it's a waiting game to see the development of the youngsters.

Posted on: March 1, 2011 1:37 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2011 1:45 pm

The greatest game on Earth

Oh college football how I love thee, let me count the ways.

There are great games all over the globe, but if there are any better than the college pigskin, I haven't seen it. And I've seen a lot of them.

No, I'm not talking football here, I'm talking college football. As everybody knows, they are different animals. In this guy's book, it's no comparison.

There are the obvious differences. The two levels have different rules. Let's start there, shall we?

One foot vs. two feet for a catch: This is one that a lot of NFL supporters point to as to why that version is superior. Nobody is disputing the players are, in fact, superior at that level. Of course that's the case. It's the best of the best from college. But the one-foot in college makes all the sense in the world, as we just alluded to, the players are not as skilled. Yet. Some can make the two-foot catch regularly, some can't. It fits the skill level and, quite frankly, makes for a more exciting brand. It makes it that much more common to see big pass plays stand. How that's a negative is beyond me.

Pass interference: This is perhaps the biggest source of contention. I whole-heartedly support college's take on this. In no way should a pass intereference call be penalized 45 yards, or however far downfield it is. NFL fans argue that without the harsh penalty, DBs that are beat will just tackle guys running by. Riddle me this: Why don't we see that in college? The answer is because it won't happen. Players are too competitive and in the moment. Moreover, where is the justification for this disparity at the pro level: You can throw a punch at a guy or clip somebody and your team only receives a 15-yard penalty, but if your DB touches a guy's arm a half-second early, the penalty can result in a lot more. Something seems incredibly imbalanced.

Wider hashes: The college game's wider hash marks can open the field more. It gives offenses a wider berth with which to work in some cases, which can lead to more entertaining play calls and just play in general. Plus, the wider angles justifies and offsets the bigger uprights compared to the NFL. Chip shot field goals aren't as much as a given thanks to sharper lines.

There are numerous other rule disparities, but these are some of the biggest. However, what really sets the game apart are the "intangibles."

There is the much ballyhooed pomp and circumstance surround the schools. Full of long-standing traditions that connect the generations, the college game has that much greater of an attachment with such rituals. From The Most Exciting 25 Seconds of College Football to Toomer's Corner and from running through the smoke to the Sooner Schooner. Or there's Hail to the Victors after every touchdown, Fight on! following big plays or Script Ohio pregame. The list goes on and on.

What does the NFL have? The Terrible Towel, cheesehead and Hail to the Redskins? No comparison. Half of those videos above should give you chills.

There's a connection everywhere to colleges. There are only seven states that don't have D-I teams while all the rest have teams at lower levels. No matter where you are, there's a school that is representing you. That's a connection not everybody can share with the pros.

Then there's the variety of college. Because of the inferiority of rosters as a whole, offenses are much more varied and unique. There are so many styles to watch. From the triple option to the spread option and everything in between, it isn't a follow the leader game like the NFL tends to be. It makese sense why the NFL is largely uniform in offensive style, because it's the best way to beat skilled personnel, but that doesn't diminish the plethora of looks college presents.

Lastly, how can you top a college football Saturday? Sure, with the advent of NFL Sunday Ticket, fans anywhere can watch their favorite NFL team play, but you're also playing for it. For the most part, your local area will get one, maybe two games at a time. On Saturday, however, you have a veritable smorgasbord to choose from at any time. It is a regular occurence in my house to have three or four games on at a time utilizing two televsions and two computers in one room. Let's see: a helping of 12 or 13 games on a Sunday or that many by the 3:30 kickoff spot on Saturday? (That's rhetorical in case you couldn't tell.)

I don't try to pretend I'm not a fan. I am. I love my alma mater (University of Miami) unabashedly. Quite frankly, there is no way to grow an undying love for the sport without being immersed as a fan. For that I will never apologize. Because I root for my alma mater does not mean I can't look at it harshly. In fact, it's easier to. More often than not, the harshest critics come from within. All that my connection to my school means is that I know it better than the rest. That's it.

Oh, and how can I forget the best thing of all about college compared to the NFL? The words "labor" and "stoppage" aren't in the vocabulary.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 2, 2010 4:19 am

The U is back ... to being attractive, at least

Four years ago, Miami couldn't buy a coach. Figuratively and literally.

Miami was turned down at every turn, from former 'Canes coaches like Greg Schiano to alums like Mark Richt. Eventually they had to go to the man they knew wouldn't say no: life-long Hurricane Randy Shannon.

Four years later, things have a much different feel. The U might not be back, but the appeal seems like it is.

Miami so far was, from all indications, throwing bookoo bucks at the hottest coaching candidate in the game ... NFL or college. Although the 'Canes were pretty much rebuked by Jon Gruden, it signaled an important and meaningful change. First of all, it shows Miami is serious about getting a top-notch coach. Secondly, it helps to ease an old concern for coaches about the job: they have money to pay and are willing to spend it.

The school is in a better financial state than the last search, and it's evident. Ironically, that's partly due to Miami not spending in the past. The lack of success -- per Miami standards -- has roused boosters to contribute to the effort. Plus, school president Donna Shalala launched a fundraising campaing -- the Sprint for Miami Athletics -- that targeted $75 million. Mission accomplished. The goal was to help remove one of the old stigmas about the job, the one that says the facilities are poor. Just recently, the school announced plans for a $13 million reconstruction of the athletic center, upgrading it to a level to compete with other major programs. In addition, the university boasts a renovated baseball stadium and new fieldhouse for basketball.

Plus, they don't have the burden of paying off a pair of former coaches. At the time of the last search, there was a large buyout owed to Larry Coker while the school was still paying fired basketball coach Perry Clark. There wasn't much cash to go around.

Point is, Miami got the money and has invested in getting on par with the competition. A quality coach would be the next step in that department.

Also adding to the appeal is the fact that Miami's cupboard isn't bare. When Shannon took over from Coker, the program was clearly headed in a decline and didn't have the talent needed to win. The dearth of first-round picks at the end of Coker's time and beginning of Shannon's demonstrates that. The school's celebrated first-round draft streak has come to a screeching halt. Well the talent is back. There are a couple of possible first-round picks that could be in the upcoming draft and a few more second-round quality guys. There's the star that every program coveted anchoring the offensive line in mega recruit Seantrel Henderson. There are playmakers to tantalize every offensive engineer.

This is what doomed in Shannon. Everybody could see the talent was there to win, but he couldn't do it. Now other coaches will see it, too.

There's also no cleanup necessary. Shannon is leaving the program from an academic and behaviorial standpoint in pristine condition. There's no arguing that. In this day and age, one arrest in a four year tenure is unheard of.

Add these once-lacking factors to the ones that the school already possesses. Remember the first rule of real estate: location, location, location! There's the championship pedigree and exposure, too.

Yes, things are different this time. The questions aren't out there anymore about if Miami is a top job anymore. Last time it wasn't. Now, it's back to being one. The 'Canes are getting their seat back at the adult table as far as appeal goes. On the field is another matter, but they are banking on being able to get the right guy this time to take care of that.

It has the dough to buy a coach, and it doesn't seem it will have as hard of a time getting the chance to throw a sales pitch.

Of course, if the search becomes a sequence of denial, we reserve the right to retract.
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: August 5, 2010 6:21 pm
Edited on: August 10, 2010 6:05 am

C-USA: Q&A with East Carolina's Ruffin McNeill

It's been a successful run for East Carolina, including back-to-back Conference USA titles. But gone is coach Skip Holtz, moving up to the Big East and USF.

Taking his place is former Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill, who led the Red Raiders to a bowl win after Mike Leach's dismissal. McNeill returns to ECU where he was a defensive back to continue sailing the Pirates' ship in the right direction.

I got ahold of Coach Ruffin for a quick Q&A about how things are going and here's what he had to say. What does it mean for you to take over at your alma mater as your first head coaching job?

Ruffin: Well, it's an honor, as I mentioned on numerous occassions. I don't think it's my right, but it's a privilege and an honor. A chance to first come back to my alma mater, a place I was able to attend and graduate and be a part of some successful programs. It's also a place where my wife attended and got her Master's degree, my brother got his undergraduate degree, my sister-in-law got her undergrad, my brother-in-law ... so we have a family history here. Secondly, I have a chance to come back to Eastern North Carolina as I'm an Eastern North Carolina boy, I'm from Wilmington, so I grew up in this area. And then coming back to my home state is really second to none. I mentioned the first day that it's a destination job. Well it is. I'm able to come home and I'm able to be a part of a great program and a great university that has benefitted my family beyond the numbers and it's been priceless in my estimation. So the transition has been relatively easy, correct?

Ruffin: The transition has been really great. I tell ya, it starts with a couple of factors. 1) The administration has been fantastic. The second, which you always have to remember, are the players. The players have made the transtion for myself and my staff unbelievable. They have had ... I use the term big eyes and big ears. They've been ready, sitting, waiting on go, listening to what we want and demand and they've been doing exactly what we want them to. So that's been an added plus. The support, the Pirate Nation, our support people in the community and through the state also have done a great job of making this transition as smooth as possible. For me personally I've had a chance, this is my 25th college season I'm starting up right now, 30 years total, but five at the high school level, but this is my 25th Fall campaign. I've had a chance to be in various situations with different head coaches and come into new programs, programs that were down, programs that were up. So I've been blessed to have that experience to get ready, prepare and I look forward to what we got coming here in the next four to five weeks of preparation. Speaking of previous stops, what did you learn from the end of your time at Texas Tech, including coaching in the bowl game?

Ruffin: Well it was the most challenge time of my coaching career. And, if you can relate to this, it was one of the most rewarding times of my coaching career. I was very fortunate, working for Coach Leach, to do head coaching duties, as far as media, interviews, head coaching responsibilites off campus for Coach Leach while I was there. So I think that helped in my preparation. A part of the learning philosophy from my dad, who was a coach, was as an assistant prepare to be a coordinator. As a coordinator prepare to become a head coach. You don't wait until it happens. So I was able to prepare mentally for that, and then when I got to Texas Tech I had some physical chances to prepare. The last two weeks there were really a whirlwind, challenging. But it was fun at the same time because we were ready for it and that experience I think I can fall back on. I know it's only one game, but that week was full of media and how to relate, which I had practiced, and how to communicate and also deal with some adversity. So I had a chance to deal with adversity and success all at one time in the multitudes. And we were able to win the football game, which makes it great. But after the game I wasn't able to get a job with Texas Tech, but right around the corner East Carolina calls, Skip takes the job at South Florida, then I'm able to come, interview and get this job. So it's like a storybook, well not really a storybook, it's more of a God's plan in my mind. There are certain things that are man's plan, and there are certain things that are God's plan. This is definitely a God plan and a God wink on me. Sounds like it was a kind of crash course for you.

Ruffin: Yeah, it was! It was a crash course like "OK, you ready? Go!" From the head coach, the administrative duties to the media requests, to handling the media bfore the game, during the week, before the game and after the game ... it was a crash course. Really the experience was very, very beneficial. So now you've moved to ECU and you have a lot of changes that have to take place with this team. First I want to ask about the offense. You are bringing Lincoln Riley with you as offensive coordinator. How do you expect that transition to the air raid offense to go?

Ruffin: Lincoln and I worked together. I was able to observe Lincoln in a number of different experiences there at Texas Tech. When I took over the job there -- when I was asked to take over the job there, let me rephrase that -- there was no doubt in my mind who I wanted to call plays. I had watched Lincoln, I knew he understood what we wanted and what I would want offensively. So the first day I took over Lincoln was called in, I said "Lincoln I want you to do this" and he ran with it. He did a great, fantastic job. The installation of the offense, its schemes and thoughts, we introduced in the Spring, which allows us 15 days, then the kids have to do it on their own over the summer. We'll see how much they did. And about this offense, the skill positions, it's really exciting for them because they get the chance to toss the ball around, catch it and those type of things. So I'm sure they enjoyed it this summer and the excitement was there from the skill positions. Since we arrived on campus, Lincoln and his offensive staff have done a great job of installing the protections up front from the offensive line as well as the route running and audibles from quarterback to receiver and receiver back to quarterback. It's still a process, it's not a finished product yet. We have 28 days here in Fall camp and we have to dive into it. Each rep is precious. Each day is precious. So we have to take advantage of each rep, each day we have to keep improving on installing the concept. But I think the kids are ready and willing to learn. As a matter of fact, I know they are. I think it will be exciting here. There will be some bumps and bruises because it is new to them, the speed of it will be new to them. That will be the difference. I want to get as many plays in a game as we can. We are shooting for 100 plays a game if possible, but that's a tough deal. We want to get a lot of plays in and I think that excites the kids. At quarterback, the most important position on the offensive side, you had Patrick Pinkney there, obviously now he's gone. So what is the quarterback situation looking like? You have to open a new offense. Is it a benefit to have a new quarterback?

Ruffin: The most important position is the offensive line, those five guys. Fair enough.

Ruffin: The most important thing is solidifying that group up there because they have to work as a fist, as a hand. So we have a good group we're working with. We have to solidify the right tackle position. We have two guys vying for that. The quarterback, as you mention, is very important. We have four guys we'll have to do some quick evaluations on. Brad Wornick from the Spring, Rio Johnson from the Spring. Those two guys, Brad being the most consistent out of that group from the Spring. Josh Jordan was in the mix, but he's moved to what we call the Big H position, or the Y. So he can be used as a fullback/runningback type or in a receiver, tight end spot. He asked to be moved to help the football team. We had two guys come in, Dominique Davis and Shane Carden, freshmen from Houston. So we have four quarterbacks right now in camp. It's hard to get four quarterbacks ready to go, so our evaluations will have to be quick and precise and decide on the guy that's most consistent, a guy that understands when and where to go with the football and we'll make that decision here pretty quickly. But, it has not been made yet. So we have four guys right now vying for that, and I'm sure Lincoln's evaluation methods, and I've had the chance to be around offense for ten years now and sort of know what it needs, what it takes. I'll be involved in that, too. On the defensive side, this is a team that only returns two starters, an entirely new front seven. How much are you going to be involved with the defense. Obviously you have a defensive coordinator there, too, but with your background on the defensive side, how much do you anticipate being involved?

Ruffin: I'll just be involved from an outside point of view. I have a lot of confidence in Brian Mitchell, he'll be a guy that is noticed very quickly in his coaching ability, motivational techniques and ability to be a really, really good play caller. The staff of John Wiley, who won three national championships as a coordinator at Appalachian State, I think his record speaks for itself. He's my associate head coach and linebackers coach. Marc Yellock, a really great football player here who's been coaching, Chris Bland, and Duane Price just joined our staff. He's a veteran coach who has coached high school football in Texas, been a part of Conference USA at Tulane and with us at Texas Tech. We have more than enough mental and physical capabilities in that room to get it done. You mention, we did lose a great group of players over there, only two returning starters. So we have to have some guys that are willing and waiting and ready to grasp their opportunity, but they have to get used to playing a number of plays. Those guys that we lost played a high number of plays. There will be some bumps and bruises again and a learning curve for those guys, so the staff and I as a head coach, I have to be patient. Our fans may not be as patient, but I have to stay patient. The talent's there, the experience is something you just have to get from blowing the whistle and getting the game under way. I see nothing but upside for that group. Those guys that left did a great job here. And some things I think that people forget, we lost the bodies, but the thing is replacing the leadership. So we have to form that leadership. One of my main concerns during the Fall camp is shoring up the leadership positions and responsibilities. Lastly, what do you see for this team? Back-to-back conference titles under Skip Holtz, as I said, a lot of turnover, so what are your expectations for your first season at ECU?

Ruffin: Well, the first thing is that it's a team that has had some great success. Skip and his staff did a great job. The 28 guys that we lost and one junior that declared early are heavy hits. That's well documented and I can't just wipe that out of my mind, you know that. But at the same time, the winning attitude and expectations are still within the team, which as a staff, it's one of the hardest things to get the team to believe in themselves. Well, this team does believe in themselves. They're used to playing games that "mean something," that have meaningful results and consequences. That's something you get from being around a winning program. So I look at that as a major, major plus. The new guys, the inexperience will be the new thing you have to get used to, but the winning experience overrides that. I will be looking to make sure we are focused from week to week. Understanding there's one game each week, not looking ahead, just focusing on the task at hand and making sure we get better as a football team and as a program each week. Playing as hard as we possibly can, being fundamentally sound, week in and week out and really working on the execution of our offensive, defensive and special teams schemes.
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: August 3, 2010 8:21 pm

Getting onboard the Tebow brandwagon

If you’re like a lot of football fans, you’re likely rooting against Tim Tebow. It’s ok, I used to be one of you. But not anymore.

Everybody has their own reason(s). Undoubtedly you might have become nauseated by the constant coverage over the past four years, telling you how great a person Tebow is. Just ask Tom Brennaman. Or perhaps your favorite school had to compete with Tebow’s Gators over the last four years. That’s where I fit. As a University of Miami alumnus, I don’t root for anything Gators out of principle.

That’s about to change. And it should for the rest of you Tebow haters, too.

With news recently of Tim Tebow’s endorsement deal with Jockey, you should be encouraged. Because this could be a step in the transformation of the future athlete.

Knuckleheads have taken over sports, football and basketball have been especially inflicted. And what can be done to stop it? Sicking Roger Goodell on everybody isn’t the answer, I guarantee you that.

Instead, if you’re the commish, you hope for Tebow’s success. You hope for more endorsements to come his way, for ESPN to shove him down your throats while creating legions of fans. You hope his brand goes to levels LeBron James could only dream of.

Because maybe, just maybe, some young, impressionable athletes could come to the realization. If you want to become a true superstar that transcends sports, the route is to be more like Tim Tebow and less like Lawrence Taylor.

Tebow is well on his way to reaching this level. He’s already a household name from his Florida days and his reputation in the Christian community. But if he can have the biggest brand in sports, then we might be onto something here.

Obviously there’s a major if in play. It’s largely dependent on if Tim Tebow becomes a star in this league, a regular Pro-Bowler. Some level of success is required, too. But he has already proven that his brand is strong without proving a thing at the NFL level with this Jockey endorsement and the fact that his jersey is already the highest selling in the league.

And you can bet there will be more endorsements and Super Bowl commercials to come. This was only the start.

And hopefully it was only the start of a trend in professional athletes and the way they carry themselves.

Category: NFL
Posted on: June 3, 2010 7:52 am
Edited on: June 3, 2010 7:59 am

Baseball can make this right, sort of

Armando Galarraga deserves more. He deserves more than a sorry, no matter how sincere it might be.

That's not enough. Not for what he achieved last night.

First of all, I'm calling on all fans to remember this just as you would Roy Halladay's and Dallas Braden's perfect games this season. Legacies last as long as the record books.

Armando Galarraga. height=

But more than that, this game should forever be unofficially known as the one and only 28-out perfect game in baseball history. Maybe, if anybody could suck it up the way Galarraga did with so much class and find their sense of humor, he could even be given some sort of mock plaque to honor the achievement. Whatever fits.

But nothing is not enough.

MLB should do what it can to fix this, too. Of course it can't do what everybody knows should be done, and that's overrule the call, erase Trevor Crowe's fourth at-bat of the night, and declare it the 21st perfect game in history. Unfortunately, that's not even an option, there's no precedent for it.

But there is something baseball can do to make it better, if not perfect.

Jim Joyce came forward and admitted what we all saw, that he was wrong. With that step out of the way, Bud Selig can come in without crossing one of his umpires.

Since we already ruled out overruling the umpire's call as impossible, I say you overrule what you can, and that's the official scoring of the play. Rule it an error.

That's right, make a mistake as blatant as Joyce's and call it an error. Give it to Miguel Cabrera, if you want. Maybe even Galarraga, after all, he did snowcone the ball in his mit. Hey, that sure looked like a juggle to me! (See how easy that is?)

So the result is not a perfect game, the coup-de-grace of single-game achievements in baseball. What it is, though, is a no-hitter.

Does it completely fix the solution? Absolutely not, as we said it's far from perfect for Wednesday's Mr. Perfect. But being able to mark it down in the books as an official no-hitter is better than a swift kick in the butt.

Then when baseball gets around to doing it on the home run records, you would have a record to put an asterisk next to, but this one denoting good, not bad. An asterisk next to Galarraga's no-hitter.

He earned that.

Category: MLB
Posted on: February 28, 2010 2:20 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2010 7:22 am

Curling: Sweeping across the nation

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. -- A Saturday night in South Florida and the line is long, with hopefuls arriving seeking entrance. Sounds pretty typical for these club-going parts.

But it's not. Not at all.

You see, these people are waiting for an instructional class on curling, a sport that has seen tremendous growth with the coverage in the Olympic Games.

Curling view. height=

The Florida Panthers and their practice facility, Incredible Ice, decided to begin teaching curling and have been met with a response even they couldn't have anticipated, with booked class after booked class lined up for the next few weeks.

The tremendous reaction has led the facility to begin organizing a league competition for those that are interested. Right now, the plan is only for eight teams of five players each (one alternate) and there are some mixed expectations for league demand.

"I'll be ecstatic if we get 40 people," instructor Mark Watson said.

"Oh yeah, I think we are going to get a lot of people," fellow instructor Matt Redmond guessed.

Either way, it's the making of a future curling club. In South Florida.

"Curling now is divided up into nine regions throughout the USA. We are in what is known as the GNCC, which is the Grand National Curling Club. It runs the whole East Coast from the Northeast all the way down," Vice President and General Manager of Incredible Ice Jeff Campbol said. "There are 40 clubs now, we are not one, but we will become a club, hopefully by the fall we will have a club. It will be known as the Panthers Curling Club."

Tonight's class, some 50 people strong with others sitting above the ice spectating, began with a little instructional session in a conference room.

"First off, remember the obvious, folks. The ice is slippery," Campol began. True enough, and it drew some laughs. But that warning wouldn't make it much easier to actually stay upright.

When Watson asked who had been watching some of the curling in the Olympics, not a hand in the room stayed down. "Well we're not going to look like that tonight," Watson quipped.

After some safety instructions and a quick video, it was time to hit the ice. Literally, for many folks. One thing that doesn't come across very well on television (among many others) is how difficult it can be to stay upright with a slider on. It's a Teflon slip-on below your shoe that makes it incredibly hard to stay standing.

Curling action. height=

The thing that strikes you the most upon actually getting on the ice is how long the course is. It looks relatively short on television, but it's not. The playing surface is over 145 feet long. To help imagine, it essentially runs from defensive zone face-off circle to defensive zone face-off circle down the length of the hockey rink.

Upon the instructions on how to slide, the people in the class were already gaining an understanding of what they were getting into.

"It really makes you appreciate what the Olympians are doing," one student said.

"I wish I could have done this before watching the Olympics, it would have really helped me understand how hard it is," another said.

After some trial runs, it was time for the real fun -- the games. And everybody playing took it up with the zeal of those having a great time.


"LET IT GO!!!"

Voices echoed across the rink.

The instructional section began at 10:30. And yet, the games continued until 1:30 in the morning. About the only thing bringing an end to the night were some yawns. Oh, and the promise of a frosty beverage waiting in the bar upstairs for post-game social hour, maybe the best tradition in curling. Can you imagine football players meeting immediately after the match and having some beers together? Perhaps the only sport that has a comparable tradition is golf, which also traces its roots to Scotland. Those Scots know how to have fun.

The plan is continue to have these Saturday night sessions at the facility for the foreseeable future. And why not? The interest continues to be immense, with waiting lists three or four pages long just to get in.

"It's really like a cult sport," Redmond said.

When it's catching this well even in the Sun Belt, it's hard to argue.
Category: Olympic Games
Tags: Curling
Posted on: September 18, 2009 12:18 am
Edited on: September 18, 2009 10:47 am

Are foes running down Jackets' option?

MIAMI -- It's time to ask the question. Again.

It was asked last season. Then Paul Johnson made everybody look silly for even asking.

"LSU beats us so therefore the offense is null and void ...," Johnson said sarcastically before the season. "You guys keep telling me it won't work.”

But now it is starting to look silly.

Will the triple option work in the ACC?

It did last season. Georgia Tech's new version of the old-school offense ran through the conference like a buzz saw, making Jonathan Dwyer the ACC Player of the Year and an instant Heisman candidate.

But now, the second time through, you have to wonder.

Anthony Allen. LSU was seemingly the first to crack the code, shutting down the Ramblin' Wreck in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Since then, the offense has been, well, a wreck.

Just look at the first two conference games this season. Sure, the Jackets put 30 points on Clemson, but 14 of those came on special teams. For three quarters of that game, Clemson dominated play and got back in the game.

Then there's Miami. The same defense Tech demolished last season, rushing for an embarrassing 471 yards. That's also the same defense that was carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey by Christian Ponder and Florida State on Labor Day.

What a difference a year makes.

The Hurricanes held Georgia Tech to only 95 yards rushing, 400 yards less in the difference of one season. It was the lowest rushing output by Georgia Tech since October of 2008.

"The coaches were really on us about tackling, tackling, tackling," Hurricanes cornerback Brandon Harris said. "They are going to grind, grind, grind you."

Grind? They certainly didn't tonight. A 2.4 rushing average just put them in a bind.

"Main point of emphasis, take Dwyer out and the rest comes crumbling down," Harris said.

Did the Jackets miss Dwyer, who didn't play after halftime with a shoulder issue? Perhaps. He is the main back. But even when he was in, you couldn't call him effective. Five carries for 8 yards was all he racked up.

"I think we -- as an offense -- should apologize to Yellow Jacket Nation," center Sean Bedford said, "because we've been talking all year about how much better we’re going to be on offense, how we're going to execute and how you haven't seen anything yet. We haven't done that to this point."

The Jackets defense certainly didn't help the cause much, if at all.

"We didn't have the ball very much," Johnson said. "We got beat in all facets, some worse than others, obviously."

That's certainly part of it. Tech became the second team this year Miami has lit up for at least 30 points.

"I thought we were ready to play, but obviously we [weren't]," Johnson said.

The best drives of the night came on the opening possession of each half. For the rest of the game, Georgia Tech had next to nothing.

This was all with possessions routinely starting near mid-field thanks to Miami's horrific -- I don't think that word adequately describes the unit -- kickoff coverage team.

Of course, the penalties didn't help the cause either. A block in the back here, a false start there. Not a recommended strategy to move the ball the way you want.

But give some credit to Miami, too. A lot. The 'Canes shut down the offense, playing perfect, assignment football. Tech had some success hitting the edges early, but teams like Miami have too much speed to allow for that all game.

"Coaches made sure we were ready," Miami linebacker Colin McCarthy said. "Just playing our assignments and make them pass it."

Ah yes, the pass. The last thing Georgia Tech wants to do. Obviously passing isn't one of the three options, but when you fall down, sometimes it needs to be. Has to be. And for Georgia Tech, it flat out isn't much of an option.

So, mission accomplished for the Hurricanes. The Yellow Jackets actually had more yards through the air (133) than on the ground (95). Much of that came late, when the game was not much in question.

Johnson put it best.

"We're not as good as we'd like to be."

So we return to the question at hand. Can this offense work in a power league where the players are bigger, faster and stronger?

Despite three consecutive games of minimal production, the jury is still out. While it doesn't look promising after a rough night in Miami, it's too early to judge. You have to let a coach get his real stamp on a program with his own players. Remember, Johnson is still working largely with players he didn't recruit. If he's able to find a quarterback who can be a true dual threat, just maybe the Jackets will be able to take the next step. Until then, they might have to figure something out.

"It's disappointing, but we're in the same exact position as last year, when we had a chance to win the division," Johnson reminded. "It's a long year."

With the offensive struggles right now and the brutal part of the schedule only part-way through, it could be really long.


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