Monday, November 30, 2009

Moosed and Goosed

They say there's no such thing as an ugly win (and by they, I mean my father). Well, they are wrong, because wins like the Eagles' 27-24 mockery of a game qualify as ugly, no matter the outcome. And that win yesterday was far from pretty. I think Spencer summed it up best:

List of scores of games that were so fucking awful, you had to be the biggest masochist in the world:
• Miami 14, Buffalo 31
• Seattle 27, St. Louis 17
• Washington 24, Philly 27
• KC 14, SD 43
• Jacksonville 3, SF 20

I can only assume he meant biggest masochist in the world to have watched them. Well, I'm a dedicated, life-long Eagles fan — so yeah, definitely a masochist.

This game was so incredibly painful to watch from the very moment it began. As in right from the opening kickoff. Immediately, Andy Reid and the Eagles wasted no time giving fans another case of indigestion they thought they had gotten rid of on Friday. Against the Washington Redskins — a team that had not scored an offensive touchdown in the first half in the past three games, a team that was coming off a six-point performance against the Cowboys, a team that has the fourth worst scoring offense, better than only the Rams, Browns and Raiders, a team that is struggling mightily to put it mildly on offense — the Eagles decided to start the game by attempting an onside kick. They did not recover it. No, instead the ball hit off of Joe Mays before it went 10 yards, then Quinton Ganther of the Skins not only recovered the onside attempt, but returned it 25 yards. The penalty for illegal touching tacked on another five, and the Redskins were handed the ball at the Philadelphia 19 for the very first drive.

Unsurprisingly, the Skins scored on four plays to go up 7-0. Because they only had to go 19 yards. Of all the teams in the league to try to catch off-guard with an onside kick on the opening kickoff, doing it against the Redskins makes the least sense. Washington has not been able to put together long drives all season, so the smart thing to do, no, the right thing to do is to kick it deep and make the Redskins have to put together a long 70- to 80-yard drive to score. Chances are that with their anemic offense, they wouldn't, and the Eagles wouldn't be in a hole. Instead, genius Andy Reid decided it would be a good idea give a struggling offense a shot in the arm by giving it the ball in great field position on the very first drive. It was a ludicrous decision by a ludicrous man.

Even more insane was the commentary by everyone's favorite dynamic duo Moose and Goose. Immediately when David Akers struck the ball, my dad and I looked at each other and said, "What the hell are they doing?" You know why? Because that onside kick was one of the dumbest calls considering the opponent ever. In the history of football. Scratch that, in the history of sports. In my opinion, it blew Belichick-gate against the Colts out of the water. There is no defending that onside kick against that team. None. But that didn't stop Daryl Johnston from proclaiming it a great call, a call that caught the Redskins by surprise, a call that was the right one and there but simply not executed. Hey, Moose … wrong, wroNG, WRONG! Washington wasn't caught off-guard, even if most of the up men were pedaling back, because they recovered the god damn kick. If they were so surprised, there wouldn't have been anyone there to recover it. And seeing as Ganther never even moved and the ball went right to him so perfectly that he could return it 25 yards, I'd say it made the call that much worse. Perhaps some of the Skins were surprised, but not the one who the ball was kicked toward. And if it was such a great call, how would it be possible for the guy who recovered it for the other team to return it 25 yards? You've lost your god damn mind.

The play wasn't "properly executed" according to Moose. Just because it could have been recovered by Philadelphia if the Eagles had executed it perfectly — which can be said for any call ever in the history of sports, no matter how mind-numbingly retarded the call is — doesn't mean it was a great call. The Eagles didn't execute. Instead, they gave the ball to a struggling offense at the 19 yard line and spotted them a 7-0 lead in an important divisional game. It was an idiotic decision. Yet all game long, Moose kept referring to it as a great call that wasn't executed, and the more Johnston kept saying it, the more it convinced his butt buddy Goose that it was a good call.

More like …

The game didn't get much better from there. Yes, the Eagles took the lead by scoring on their next two drives, the second highlighted by a 35-yard touchdown pass by Donovan McNabb to a completely uncovered DeSean Jackson (try to figure that one out), but the Eagles couldn't put away Washington to save their lives. They committed costly penalty after costly penalty, couldn't get off the field defensively, continuously giving up first downs to a horrific Washington offense on third and longs, and were seemingly sleep-walking through most of the game. After going up 10-7, they allowed the Skins to build up a 24-16 lead before finally turning it on in the fourth quarter.

Really, it's hard to take away many positives from the game. All I can really say is offensively, thank god for LeSean McCoy and Jason Avant; defensively, praise jebus for Trent Cole and Asante Samuel. Without those four guys, and a steady Donovan McNabb, the Eagles would have not only lost but would have been embarrassed yesterday.

On defense, the interior linemen got absolutely no push, Juqua Parker was invisible, the linebackers looked slow and out of position, and the secondary looked vulnerable. They were especially atrocious on third downs, allowing Washington to go 8-17, and at one point 8 of 12. It was sad. Luckily for Philadelphia, Asante made two excellent, key interceptions by breaking on the ball as only he can, and Trent Cole was a beast all game long. In fact, it's safe to say Cole was the best player on the field yesterday. Imagine if that guy had a little help on the other side.

Offensively, the Eagles sputtered terribly to begin the second half, going three and out on their first three possessions of the half, and then turning it over on a pick on their fourth. The normally reliable Brent Celek starting dropping everything in sight, and turns out he may have torn ligaments in his hand. Adding insult (and injury) to injury, DeSean Jackson left with a concussion, though the Fox crew didn't feel obligated to inform us of what Jackson's injury was. I guess Goose's "sideline reporting" was sidetracked from all the nonsense he was spewing about that great onside kick call. Just what the Eagles need — more major injuries to key players.

Good thing Jason Avant and LeSean McCoy were there to carry the load. Avant, a player I used to cringe about when I heard his name due to his catch/no-catch against Penn State in 2005 that helped extend the drive that ruined Penn State's undefeated season, has developed into a serious threat at wide receiver. He unquestionably has the best hands on the team, and there is no better Eagle at snatching the ball in traffic. The ridiculous catches he makes on a weekly basis are beginning to become the thing of legend, and I honestly don't think there are many more reliable, underrated third receivers in the NFL.

Seriously, his foot was out, Mike Hart fumbled, Lloyd Carr somehow was given time back on the clock and that final touchdown was Alan Zemaitis' fault no matter what anyone says ever (I'm not bitter, honestly).

For a Michigan man, he ain't half bad. And LeSean McCoy, another player who went to a college I despise, has certainly proven his worth this season. With Brian Westbrook on the shelf, McCoy has flourished for the Eagles as the lead running back. He was effective again yesterday, picking up 76 yards on 17 carries and four catches for 25 yards. Plus, he made the play of the game, somehow managing to stay on his feet on the two-point conversion that tied the game at 24 with 7:24 left to go. I honestly don't know how he managed to stay up on that shovel pass without even putting his hand down to regain his balance. It was remarkable.

David Akers came through huge as well, going a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals including the game-winner from 32 yards out with less than two minutes to go, and the Eagles got a stop when they needed it, but that was one ugly win with two imbeciles trying way too hard to defend a moronic call by Andy Reid. But a win is a win, as they say, even if it looks like Rosie O'Donnell. Somehow, this inconsistent, maddening team that is riddled with injuries sits at 7-4 and leads the NFC wild card. The NFL is crazy like that sometimes.

Speaking of crazy, have you all seen what Vince Young and Chris Johnson are doing in Tennessee these days? If not, you're really missing out. After starting the season a shocking 0-6, Jeff Fisher pulled the pride of Penn State Kerry Collins in favor of Vince Young, and Chris Johnson, the best running back in all the land this season, proclaimed the Titans were going to win 10 straight. Don't look now, but after defeating the Arizona Cardinals 20-17 yesterday, the Titans are now 5-6, halfway to the 10 straight predicted by Johnson. And they're doing it all behind Johnson and Young.

If you didn't see highlights of the game yesterday, you missed out. VY had a career game, throwing for 387 yards on 27-43 passing and a score, which came in the final two minutes, capping off an improbable, impossible 99-yard game-winning drive, and Johnson, who leads the NFL in rushing with 1,396 yards — 276 yards more than second-place Steven Jackson — added 154 and a score on the ground himself. Good god were those two impressive.

These two are making the rest of the league look stupid, and the duo of Chris Johnson and Vince Young have turned an 0-6 team that was at the bottom of the standings to the hottest, most dangerous team in football. I don't even think the likes of Indy, New England, Minnesota or New Orleans want anything to do with Tennessee right now, at least not during this streak.

Vince is here to stay, ladies and gentlemen. And Adrian, watch your back. There may be a new No. 1 fantasy pick at running back in 2010 by the name of Chris Johnson. Don't sleep on Tennessee. Not with Vince under center and Chris Johnson running all over the league.

BallHype: hype it up!

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Black Friday expense I didn't ask for

I just recieved my season ticket renewal package in the mail today. And that package noted a $2/seat price increase across the board for every ticket. Exhorbitant? No, but significant enough. After selling out 73 games and playing 1 short of the maximum home playoff games, the phillies felt they could bring in more revenue. Even in this economy, blah blah blah. They also raised prices rather significantly before last year($3-$5 in places I believe).

After losing the World Series, the team is asking for its paying customers to pay even more. I figure they can, considering the quality product they're putting on the field. So I have a simple ask for the direction of the 6-7 mil that they will make from this price hike: extend Cliff Lee.

It will take 3x that amount a year to do so, but it's a start. This run can't go on forever, but having a proven workhorse like Lee at the top of the rotation will allow Ruben to fill in around him each year and keep the staff competitive. Hopefully Cole removes his head out of his ass, Drabek can step in and do what he's supposed to do, and Blanton/whomever fill out the back. Thats solid and should provide a foundation for winning while we still have the core in the lineup.

My mind has been elsewhere the last few days so I don't have too much to say on them signing Juan Castro, although as his agent said, "Who doesn't like Juan Castro?" 3rd base will be interesting though. Apparently they've alienated Pedro Feliz, so I wouldn't count on him as a safety net if Ruben fails to sign his intended target. Personally I would have given Pete Happy one more year. He's too solid defensively and led the NL in RBI's from the 7 hole. Yes he blew in the playoffs, but his performance in game 4 of the WS would have been legendary if the Lidge/Johnny Damon thing went another way.

We'll see. Today, the Phillies told me my tickets cost more. My response is, that is fine, but spend my money wisely. 73 sellouts aint gonna happen every year unless you continue to put the product on the field.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ask and You Shall Receive

I called for more Jrue Holiday, and more Jrue we shall get. Unfortunately, that's because Louis Williams has a broken jaw and will be out for a considerable amount of time.

Make no mistake about it, I didn't want Holiday to get more minutes at the expense of Lou Will's health. Williams is an integral part of this team and a guy who has played very well in a handful of games this season. I'm guessing it's going to be difficult to enjoy the turkey tomorrow with a broken jaw. Here's to a speedy recovery for Lou Will.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for things like the 50 best NBA slam dunks, which was brought to my attention courtesy of Skeets. While the list excludes some dunks I would have included and ranks them in odd fashion, nonetheless, it's always awesome to watch some insane dunks, such as the following that made the list:

There are a ton more. Go check them all out. And for the record, I think the Pippen over Ewing dunk is the most memorable in-game dunk of my childhood. I vividly remember watching it happen live, and the fact it took place in the playoffs makes it all the more impressive.

I'm definitely thankful for awesome, thunderous dunks.

BallHype: hype it up!

The Jrueth Will Set You Free

The Philadelphia 76ers are not a good team. No one expected them to be among the elite, and it is still very early in the season for a young team with a new head coach. But the facts are the facts, and the Sixers currently sit at 5-9, sitting squarely at 11th place in the Eastern Conference. It's safe to assume the Sixers expected a little better than that. This is to say the Sixers aren't a team that will be competing for a championship anytime soon. The playoffs, sure, but this is a squad that should be putting its most talented players out on the floor and letting them develop together. I'm not sure Eddie Jordan realizes that.

Here's what I mean by that. Earlier this month, I pleaded with Jordan to give everyone more Jrue Holiday. Holiday was coming off his best performance as a pro, a game against the Suns where he went 3 of 5 from the field, 2 of 3 from three, scoring 8 points and adding three rebounds, two assists and two steals in just 15 minutes. He played hounding defense and showed great maturity for a 19-year-old rookie. And he proved he can score a little bit too. It was evident that he still has a ways to go to put it all together and reach his potential as an NBA point guard, but his abilities clearly shone through. Jrue can ball.

Since then, Holiday's minutes have been few and far between. On occasion, Jordan has given the first-round pick some decent run, but for the most part, he's been buried on the bench. Holiday is averaging just 7 minutes and 35 seconds of time per game. That's just not enough, not for your first-round pick, not for the guy pegged as the future starting point guard. And he's been buried on the bench for what? To develop Lou Williams at the point? Listen, I like Louis Williams a lot as a basketball player. He's a rare scoring talent with lethal speed who is a nightmare in the open court to defend. He's instant offense. But Lou Will is not a starting point guard in the NBA. He's just not. He's probably not even a point guard of any kind. Or a starter for that matter. Williams thrived the past two seasons as a dynamic scorer off the bench, a difficult-to-guard sixth man. That's what he is in this league. Not a starter, especially at point. Not with his decision-making, and not with his complete lack of defense.

Holiday, on the other hand, looks like he has what it takes to become a solid starter at point down the line. He's an aggressive, tenacious on-the-ball defender, selfless passer and a player who looks like he knows what's going on even though he's just a 19-year-old rookie. He was an uber-recruit and considered top 10 talent in mock drafts for a reason.

That's not to say Holiday should be starting ahead of Louis Williams right now. Not at all. Williams is a veteran and a calming influence, even at his young age, and Jrue still has plenty to learn. But he's not doing the team or himself any good by sitting on the bench for all but 7-8 minutes a game. Especially on a team that has no reason not to play him. And every time Holiday is in the game, he hustles his butt off, plays sound basketball and looks a little more confident each and every time out there. Yet he can't get off the bench.

Take last night's game for example. The Sixers were taking on the lowly Wizards, and they weren't doing a good job. There was no life in the team, and the Sixers fell behind by 14 points in the fourth quarter to the team with the third worst record in the conference. Holiday was not out there for a single minute in the first three quarters. Not a one. Against the Wizards, in a game in which the starters showed absolutely no emotion or energy. But Eddie wouldn't put him in. Explain that one to me.

Finally, with just 9 minutes and 40 seconds left and the Sixers trailing by double digits, Jordan finally relented and put the team's first-round pick in. All Holiday did was come in and grab an offensive board, hit a three, then hit another three, then nab another rebound, notch an assist, haul in another offensive board, followed by one on the defensive end, followed by a steal that he turned into three points with his third trey of the game, then another steal, another offensive board and a bucket on a tip-in, a block, yet another offensive rebound, and wouldn't you know it, the Sixers got back to within three, then two, then one. And the Sixers had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but Louis Williams couldn't nail the shot.

Jrue Holiday played the final 9 minutes and 40 seconds of the game, his only time on the floor all night, and the Sixers turned what was once a 14-point deficit into a chance to win. Sadly, they lost 108-107, but the fact that they even had a chance to steal this one was because of Holiday. In that 9:40 of time, Holiday scored 11 points on 4-6 shooting, 3-5 from three, nabbed six boards (four offensive), notched an assist and added two steals and a block for good measure. The Sixers were a +10 when he was on the floor. And for the only time on the night, the Sixers looked like they gave a shit when he entered the game. Explain to me again why he wasn't on the floor earlier?

Look, the Sixers aren't going to make any real noise in the immediate future, no matter how much this team gels in the coming months and no matter how much healthier, comfortable and effective Elton Brand does or does not get. This is a team that should be looking a few years down the line, when guys like Thaddeus Young, Marreese Speights, Jason Smith and yes, Jrue Holiday mature and develop to the point where they can truly be dangerous alongside Andre Iguodala and whoever else is still around by then. This is the time to get the rookie point guard out there and let him learn on the job, gain valuable minutes and experience against other NBA point guards to serve himself and the team down the line. It's not the time to bury him on the bench, make him question his decision to go pro after just one season at UCLA just so he can watch as Louis Williams and company lead the Sixers to a .357 winning percentage.

You drafted Jrue Holiday for a reason, and it wasn't to idly sit by and watch from the bench. You drafted him to be the future point guard of the Philadelphia 76ers. Give him the chance to prove himself. In his limited minutes this season, he's earned it.

BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Jared Odrick is a Beast

Ladies and gentlemen, something is going on here with sports voters getting things right for once in their lives and frankly, it's getting scary. Instead of horribly screwing things up per usual, the baseball voters correctly picked Joe Mauer as AL MVP, Zack Greinke as AL CY Young winner and Tim Lincecum as NL Cy Young winner — all correct. Now the Big Ten voters have gone and properly named Jared Odrick the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, despite ridiculously uninformed sour grapes from Michigan State fans, who clearly display they know as much about football as I do about women.

While players like Adrian Clayborn, Brandon Graham, O'Brien Schofield, Greg Jones and even his own teammates Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee are all fine, talented players who will be making their living on Sundays, Odrick has been the best defensive player on the best defense (statistically, I'd argue Ohio State's defense is better as a whole) all season long. Hell, he's been the best player on Penn State for two years now. And what people like Pete Rossman, who authored this travesty of a post, fail to realize is just how incredibly dominate Odrick has been and how important he is to the Penn State defense.

Unlike Graham and Clayborn, two scary good players, Odrick is a defensive tackle, not an end. Therefore, each and every play, Odrick had very little choice but to face double teams. I'm not saying Graham and Clayborn did not, because they most assuredly did, but being on the outside, they have the advantage of going wide and avoiding extra blockers much more easily than an interior lineman such as Odrick. Yet Odrick still disrupted an insane amount of plays in the backfield, got to the quarterback and proved he was an unblockable force. His combination of size and speed was unmatched at defensive tackle, and I'd be surprised if he isn't the first defensive lineman in the Big Ten drafted. He's that good.

The true testament to Odrick is the way he has made the players around him better. Yes, Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman are studs in their own right, but they get to maximize their ability because Odrick does such a tremendous job eating up blockers, allowing Bowman and Lee to use their incredible speed and instincts to make plays. And his value was even more evident this season when both Bowman and Lee were out for considerable amounts of time dealing with injuries. The defense didn't miss a beat with the likes of Nathan Stupar, Bani Gbadyu and Chris Colasanti filling in — and none of those guys will ever be mistaken for Bowman or Lee. Hell, he even made Josh Hull, one of the worst players I've ever seen, look decent at times. Trust me, that's an incredibly tough thing to do.

The shocking thing to me is that the voters got this one right. Much like Mr. Rossman, people tend to heap praise on the players who get gaudy sack numbers and have almost running back speed. That's why a guy like Aaron Maybin, who wasn't even half the player Odrick is, jumped up the draft charts and into the top 10. But this year, the voters ignored mere stats and truly looked at the players. And defensively, there was none better than Odrick. He's equally adept at putting pressure on the quarterback as he is at stuffing the run. His motor is so high and his conditioning so good that he rarely has to take a play off. And he can handle a double team, even against the better linemen, which will do him well on Sundays. Odrick has not only been the best player on the Penn State defense, not only the best player on Penn State period, but he has clearly been the best defensive player in the entire conference. It's nice to see him vindicated for his hard work and tremendous play.

In a senior class that was void of a ton of talent, Odrick is the one Penn Stater I will miss the most. More than Daryll Clark. More than Dennis Landolt. More than Sean Lee. I'm sad to see him go, but I'm happy to see him take home the hardware he most definitely earned. And I'll be thrilled to watch him in NFL next season. I just hope he doesn't get drafted by a team I hate.

Obviously, with winning the award, Odrick was named First Team All-Big Ten. He was one of six Nittany Lions named to the first team. Joining him were Daryll Clark, Dennis Landolt, Evan Royster, Stefen Wisniewski and Navorro Bowman. Now, I have a problem with three people in particular on this list. First off, Daryll Clark is a fluke fraud who has never once played well against a good team. He should not be first team. Then again, looking at the Big Ten quarterbacks, he certainly put up the best numbers and he's better than Ricky Stanzi or Terrelle Pryor. Still, perhaps Mike Kafka of Northwestern or Kirk Cousins of Michigan State would have been better choices. Then there are Landolt and Wisniewski. Listen, Landolt did a decent job last season, and Wisniewski was awesome at guard in 2008. But in 2009, these two were on a terrible line that should not have a single player on the first team. Landolt was probably the best offensive lineman for Penn State all season, but he wasn't great. And Wisniewski gave it the old college try, but the guy isn't a center. He's a guard, and he needs to get back there. He had more than a subpar season, and it's a joke he was named first team. Conversely, Royster and Bowman were locks, and both deserved first team recognition.

Three Penn Staters were named to the second team. Josh Boone definitely deserved it. He was the only player on the Penn State special teams worth a damn, and if he figures out a way to get the punts off a little quicker, he may make it to the NFL one day. Maybe. Sean Lee also is the right fit here. When he played, he was his usual awesome self. The problem is, he was limited to time on the field with injuries, so while he is definitely first team talent, he didn't quite deserve it. Second team is appropriate. Then there is Josh Hull. He shouldn't even be on the Penn State roster, let alone making the All-Big Ten second team. I've given him plenty of abuse over the past two seasons, so I'll spare it simply by saying I can't wait for him to graduate. That selection makes me sick.

But all I have to do is look at Jared Odrick's name on that Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award and everything is all right. Congrats, Jared. You'll be missed.

BallHype: hype it up!

Little Man Syndrome

I am not a tall a human being, so I certainly know what little man syndrome is all about. Something about being shorter than most everyone else helps build a little rage inside that tends to explode on occasion. Some may say I've been guilty of such a thing as recently as this past weekend, but I digress.

Point is, I understand that sometimes a smaller guy just has to take out his frustration on someone, and that has certainly been the case with the Flyers. Since starting out the month of November by winning six of their first seven games, the Flyers have struggled on their recent west coast trip. After beginning the road trip with a 3-2 victory in LA, the Flyers have now lost three straight: a 6-3 loss at San Jose Friday, a 3-1 loss in Phoenix Saturday and last night's 5-4 loss against the Avalanche. In that time, the Flyers have suffered injuries to key contributors Darroll Powe and Blair Betts, not to mention Simon Gagne already being on the shelf, and last night, Kimmo Timonen was not on the ice during the Flyers' 3rd period comeback that fell just short despite two goals apiece by Jeff Carter and Danny Briere.

Well, all that frustration has been boiling over, and the little guys have been taking matters into their own hands. First, it was Danny Briere showing some anger and fight Saturday in his little tussle with Marc-Edouard Vlasic:

Then last night, after the Flyers had valiantly come back from an early 2-0 hole in the first period to tie it, only to see Colorado answer with three straight goals in the second to go up 5-2, a second comeback was sparked after Claude Giroux gave Marek Svatos the business:

Giroux's fight ignited the Flyers, who were terribly outplayed in the second period. From there, it was all Philadelphia, scoring two goals to pull within one, but it was too little too late. Now the Flyers have dropped three in a row and suffered some key injuries to boot. The frustration is clearly boiling over, and the little guys have had just about enough. Don't be surprised to see Jared Ross drop the gloves tomorrow night the way things are going.

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, November 23, 2009

I Love the Drake (and Running the Football)

Forgive me for my lack of excitement over the weekend, but given Penn State's two home losses to Iowa and Ohio State, not to mention the Eagles continuing to make the same old mistakes, I just couldn't get myself too worked up over the games against Michigan State and the Bears, even though both had enormous implications for postseason play.

Penn State, despite its weaker than weak schedule, two home losses and overall underwhelming performance in 2009, was still in the BCS bowl discussion, and with a 42-14 victory, the Nittany Lions will probably (and wrongfully) be in one. And the Eagles, of course, sat at 5-4 heading into last night's game, just on the outskirts of the NFC playoff picture thanks to victories by the Cowboys and Giants earlier in the day. With the 24-20 victory, the Eagles moved back into the wild card lead, displacing the Giants, whom they already beat.

And yet, I really couldn't get into the games all that much. I watched, sure. And I watched with my usual critical eye, but I just couldn't put too much emotion into either game. These teams have broken me to the point of truly not allowing them to dictate my mood. Been that kind of season I guess. That approach seemed warranted after Penn State played a lackluster first half, putting up no points against a porous Michigan State defense in the first quarter and going into halftime tied 7-7.

However, the game turned on the first drive of the second half. Stephfon Green took the opening kickoff 37 yards to the Penn State 46, and three plays later, Philadelphia's own Curtis Drake made the play that put the Nittany Lions ahead for good. The freshman from West Catholic took a backward swing pass from Daryll Clark, and the high school quarterback faked as though he was going to run, stopped and fired one to the end zone. That's where Andrew Quarless, despite being double teamed, leaped up and snagged the pass for a touchdown, his second TD grab of the game. I love the Drake.

Between the last game against Indiana and then again yesterday, Drake has displayed his versatility and speed, proving he'll be a big asset to Penn State in the years to come. Against Indiana, he touched the ball three times, gaining 60 yards. That's 20 yards per touch. The highlight was his 26-yard gain on a reverse, where he really showcased his first-rate speed. And Saturday, he was at it again, gaining 18 yards on his only run of the game, hauling in two passes for 22 yards and posting a perfect quarterback rating, hitting Quarless in the end zone from 14 yards out.

From there, it was all Penn State. They rattled off four touchdowns in the third quarter and made it five in a row to go up 42-7 before the Spartans scored once more to end the game. After a subpar first half, Penn State came out and steamrolled Michigan State in the second, led by Evan Royster's 114 yards rushing and 8.8 yards per carry. In his three years at Penn State, the Nittany Lions are undefeated when Royster rushes for 100 yards or more. That's not a coincidence.

Daryll Clark and Graham Zug also had very nice games, though Clark was pretty bad in the first half and Zug inexplicably dropped an easy touchdown pass. Still, their numbers were impressive. Clark finished the game 19 of 27 passing for 310 yards and four touchdowns. Zug caught two of those TDs, nabbing four passes in all for 99 yards. And Quarless did the rest of the heavy lifting, scoring the first two TDs for Penn State and finishing with four catches for 62 yards.

Defensively, pretty much everyone played tremendously, with the exception of Josh Hull, who was burnt in coverage numerous times, because he sucks. But everyone else looked pretty good, especially Navorro Bowman, who was flying all over the field. And Nick Sukay even hauled in a pick, showing he's not useless back there.

Now, unjustly, Penn State will probably be playing in a BCS bowl. And they may be going to one in place of Iowa — you know, the team that beat Penn State in Beaver Stadium. Even despite the fact that Penn State has beaten such powerhouses as Akron, Syracuse, Temple (bowl eligible!), Eastern Illinois and Indiana. Their other wins came against Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Northwestern and Michigan State, all teams that are mediocre or worse. The only two quality opponents Penn State faced were Iowa and Ohio State. They lost to both of them. At home. That's a résumé that should disqualify any team from BCS contention. Yet all the computers and the pollsters and the bowl people see is a 10-2 record for a Penn State team that has a huge following and a fanbase that travels well to bowl games. In others, all they see is money. And that's why this average Penn State team is going to go to a BCS bowl. And that's wrong, especially if they get a BCS bid at the expense of an Iowa team that came in to Happy Valley and soundly defeated them. This is all coming from a diehard Penn State fan and alum.

But hey, at least Penn State wrapped up a disappointing 2009 season with a victory and a 10-2 record. I know there are a ton of programs that would be dying to finish 10-2.

Then there was last night's game in Chicago. From the start, it looked like the Eagles may be in for an easy night. On their first two drives, the Eagles went right down the field, doing a very nice job of balancing the pass and the run. On the opening possession, the Eagles went 68 yards in 8 plays to get to the Chicago 7. Of those eight plays, four of them were runs, an even 4:4 run/pass ratio. The Eagles stalled at the 7 and had to kick of field goal.

The defense followed up by stopping the Bears, and on the second drive, the Eagles took over on their own 24. They they proceeded to march 76 yards right down the field, capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass from Donovan to Jason Avant. The drive consisted of 8 plays and a penalty. The Eagles ran on four of those 8 plays again, for a 4:4 run/pass ratio. One was a McNabb scramble, so the Birds actually called 3 runs and 5 passes, but still, good ratio. They were up 10-0 and moving the ball at will, keeping Chicago off-balance by mixing up the play-calling.

Then the Eagles stopped running. Completely. And the Bears inched back into it behind the foot of Robbie Gould, better known as the player whose agent/lawyer sent me a cease and desist letter. Stupid Gould, who again could not hit a field goal if the goal posts were 50 yards apart at Penn State, made four field goals from 45, 28, 28 and 49 yards. I hate Robbie Gould.

But I hate Andy and Marty and their stupid play calling even more. After moving down the field with ease and putting up 10 points on their first two drives by balancing the run and pass evenly, the Eagles then went pass-happy again. On their third drive, the plays went like this: run, pass, penalty, pass, pass, pass, sack, punt. That's one run and five passes for 0 points. Following another Gould field goal, the Eagles went sack, pass, pass, run, run, interception. Four passes, two runs, 0 points. The next drive went just one play, when McNabb hit DeSean Jackson, who then fumbled and was recovered by Penn Stater Anthony Adams. After another Robbie Gould field goal made it 10-9 with 13 seconds left, LeSean McCoy did get a rush to end the half. That hardly counts.

So to recap, the Eagles ran the ball 8 times and passed the ball 8 times in the first two series and scored 10 points, building a 10-0 lead. Then they stopped running altogether, and a 10-0 lead turned into a 10-9 lead at halftime. Naturally, any smart coach would look at what worked and what didn't in that first half, then look at themselves in the mirror and conclude they had to get back to the run. But not Andy and Marty. No. Let's pass, pass, pass.

On their first possession of the 2nd half, the Eagles went incomplete pass, 5-yard penalty, pass, incomplete pass, punt. A three and out, no runs whatsoever. Sav Rocca, who should be cut today, punted the ball 16 yards, giving Chicago great field position. After another Gould field goal, the score was 12-10 Bears. The Eagles actually went back to the run, gaining 7 yards on first down with McCoy, then committing another dumb penalty, then gaining 10 yards on a swing pass that technically was a lateral to DeSean for a first down. They they gained 6 yards on a run by McCoy. That's three runs for 23 yards, over 7 yards per carry. Then McNabb got sacked, followed by a completion to Maclin short of the first down. Tough break, but they were running effectively and moved the ball a little bit before having to punt.

After the defense got a stop, the Eagles scored on the second play on a 48-yard bomb by McNabb to DeSean. Why? Because the Eagles got back to the run on the previous possession, forcing the Bears to respect the run and bring more guys in the box. That allowed DeSean to break free in the secondary, using his great speed, and McNabb hit him for the TD to regain the lead, 17-12.

Shocking how that works. On their only other scoring drive, the one that won the game, the drive breakdown went like this: run, pass, run, pass, run, pass, pass, run, pass, pass, run. That's 5 runs and 6 passes, resulting in a touchdown. What do you know? That final run was the 10-yard touchdown by LeSean McCoy that put the Eagles up 24-20 following a blocked field goal on a 48-yard attempt by Gould. That block felt so good for me. Nothing like seeing the dejected face of Robbie Gould. And then to punch it in the end zone to take the lead, well, that was the icing on the cake.

Of course, the game wasn't simply if you run the ball you will win. Jay Cutler was terrible yet again, helping out the Eagles by missing three completely wide open receivers for what surely would have been touchdowns. And the defense, despite getting the big stop at the end when it needed it, couldn't generate consistent pressure, even against a suspect Chicago line, Sean McDermott can't dial up a blitz that works to save his life, no one can tackle, and Chris Gocong completely sucks at football. Seriously, when Jeremiah Trotter has an infinitely better game than you at linebacker, that's a problem. For my money, Gocong was the worst player on the field for either team, getting beat badly for a touchdown, overrunning nearly every one of the few plays he actually was in position to make, and flat-out sucking. He's not a football player. Just isn't. At least not a linebacker. Stand-up defensive end, maybe. But linebacker, no.

Having said that, there were plenty of positives from this game too. For starters, they won, to improve to 6-4 on the season. Trent Cole was a beast, Sheldon played well despite being hurt and most of the D didn't make many mistakes. Even Dimitri Patterson played reasonably well, especially when that pussy Asante left the game. Seriously, Asante, you're getting paid huge bucks. Get out on the field. Hell, even Macho Harris did a decent job in coverage. It helps that the Bears don't really have any real wide receivers, but still.

Offensively, McNabb was sharp, completing 72 percent of his passes, and the Eagles proved they could run the ball, gaining 157 yards on the ground. The __Seans each had excellent games, as LeSean gained 99 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown while DeSean nabbed 8 catches for 107 and a score. Of course, it would help if these two secured the ball better, as both fumbled. Gotta hold on to that thing.

It was an important victory for the course of the season, and maybe after watching the game tape, Andy and Marty will realize just how scary good this offense can be when they stay balanced, though I doubt it. If they stick to running the ball, given how well LeSean has played this year, it will open things up even more for the explosive receivers. DeSean is a stud, Maclin looks more and more like the first-rounder he was each and every week, Celek is a bona-fide Pro Bowl candidate and Jason Avant is as reliable as slot receivers come. If you force teams to respect the run the way the Bears had to last night, the passing game will become even more efficient and explosive. It's not rocket science, though at times you'd think it was given the play-calling. If you run, the wins will come.

Oh, and Tim Shaw is on the Bears. He made two great special teams plays, one an enormous hit. Who knew he was still alive, let alone in the NFL? That makes for three Penn Staters on the Bears (Anthony Adams, Robbie Gould, Tim Shaw) and even a Temple Owl (Jason McKie). Good to see those guys are earning paychecks in the NFL. (Well, good for everyone except Robbie Gould. Fuck Robbie Gould. He doesn't deserve shit.)

BallHype: hype it up!

Friday, November 20, 2009

UNC is 'Big'

Ever since the NCAA basketball schedules were set, I've been looking forward to watching North Carolina take on Ohio State in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament, particularly to see the development of Ed Davis and get a glimpse of freshman John Henson. Immediately upon laying eyes on the Tar Heels, one thing stands out above the rest: This team is big.

UNC right now has six legitimate talented players in their rotation with power forward/center size: senior Deon Thompson, sophomores Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller, and freshmen David and Travis Wear and John Henson. Add in senior leader Marcus Ginyard, who goes around 6'6" and Will Graves (also 6'6"), and this team clearly has an abundance of size and skill in the frontcourt.

And believe it or not, from what I saw last night the 2009-10 version of the Tar Heels reflects Tom Hanks' character in the movie "Big." In the movie, Josh Baskin, whom Hanks played, wishes to break from what he's known his whole life and become big. His wish is granted, as he awakens the next morning in the body of a full-grown adult. He's excited, thrilled and freaked out about his new body, and for a long while, he's extremely awkward and trying to find his way in his transformed, bigger body.

This is not unlike this Tar Heels squad. For the past three seasons, North Carolina — despite always having good size — was dominated by tremendous guard play, led by the smallest man on the floor most nights, Ty Lawson. And Wayne Ellington provided more excellent guard play, to combine with Tyler Hansbrough for an efficient, lethal team.

The team wished to win a national championship, and that wish was granted. But the next day (this season), UNC woke up in an entirely new body. The familiarity of Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green was gone. A transformation has taken place, from a guard-oriented team to one dominated by the frontcourt. With all the talent and newfound size on the front line, the Tar Heels were ranked No. 4 nationally, as people were excited, thrilled and a bit freaked out. But just as Hanks struggled to adjust initially, so too are these Tar Heels.

Yes, they won the game last night 77-73 to remain unbeaten in the early going, but this team is clearly awkward and still finding itself. The new body isn't quite as familiar and efficient as the old one just yet, which is understandable when you lose the top four players from the year before. At times, UNC looked dominant, building an 18-point lead. But turnovers and shoddy guard play, not to mention more missed free throws, allowed Ohio State to creep back into it and forced the Tar Heels to really turn it on the final minutes to prevent blowing what was once an enormous lead.

North Carolina is no longer a team with the most reliable backcourt in America. In fact, their guards are the biggest weakness. Lawson and Ellington were two players who took care of the basketball, ran the team incredibly well, and could score and create shots for themselves or others routinely. This year's backcourt is not there yet, evident by the team's 20 turnovers a game average, and the 19 last night that kept them on such a pace. Sophomore Larry Drew II and freshman Dexter Strickland are clearly still trying to adjust to the college game, and they don't resemble Lawson in the least. Last night, it was evident that neither could generate their own shot when they had too, at least not yet, and the Tar Heels don't seem to have that guy on the team. The size is plentiful, but this team will be a work in progress, just like it was a work in progress for Josh Baskin to get used to being big. The Tar Heels must do the same thing … learn to adjust their game and style to fit their new, big body.

At the end of the movie, Josh realizes that he wasn't quite ready to be big and wanted to return to his old form. He wanted that familiarity back. Hopefully the Tar Heels can be successful this season the way Josh was in his job at the toy company, and just like in "Big," the Tar Heels will go back to resembling a squad that more closely reflects their old self, with the arrival of Harrison Barnes and Reggie Bullock to reload the backcourt, giving Roy Williams the opportunity to get back to his up-tempo, push, push, push style.

In the meantime, UNC will have to adjust and adapt in its new body, and find a way to make it work, just as Josh did until he returned to form.

BallHype: hype it up!

It's Friday, Time to Dance

The Sixers play the Memphis Grizzlies tonight, and the Eagles play the Chicago Bears Sunday night. In honor to Philadelphia teams taking on the Grizzlies and the Bears, time to dance to this ridiculous Grizzly Bear remix, featuring Clipse:

Wamp, wamp.

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Rise of Brandon Jennings

Site favorite Brandon Jenning's journey to the NBA:

BallHype: hype it up!

The Best Bucket that Didn't Count You'll See All Year


BallHype: hype it up!

I Think You're Gonna Die

I really don't think I have much to say today. Due to some work-related obligations, I didn't watch a single second of the Sixers' 86-84 victory over the Bobcats or the Flyers' 3-2 win against the Kings, though apparently Elton Brand was a beast, scoring 19 points with 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and 6 blocks. Good to see he's still alive. And Brian Boucher recorded his first victory since returning to the Flyers, stopping 37 shots in just his second start of the year. Remember the time he did this:

I do, because I was there, in Jersey, for that playoff game and witnessed that save — the greatest save I've ever seen in my life. The Flyers won 4-2 behind goals from Mark Recchi, Keith Jones, Rich Tocchet and Simon Gagne, and 27 saves by Boucher, including the gem above. The win gave the Flyers a 2-1 series lead, and as we were walking across the bridge from the arena to the parking lot at the Meadowlands, there were glorious Flyers chants and a huge, giant of a man in a Flyers jersey with the custom name "Hot Tub" on the back. Everyone kept yelling, "Hey, Hot Tub!" It was great. And if you didn't know any better, you'd think the game took place on south Broad, because the whole place was packed with Flyers fans.

The Flyers won the next game to go up a commanding 3-1 in the series, but sadly, as we all know, they couldn't win another game. New Jersey won the next two to tie the series up. Eric Lindros, who had been out due to a concussion, returned for the battle in game 6. He played tremendously in that game. Too bad his teammates didn't. All they seemed to do was stand around and watch Lindros pick up like nothing had happened. Meanwhile, the Devils were winning. And then, early in game 7, Scott Stevens effectively ended Lindros' Flyers career, and ended the Flyers' season.

When I saw the hit, I actually thought Lindros was dead. He certainly looked like it. It was a scary scene to be sure. That took all the wind out of the Flyers' sails, and Jersey pounced on the downtrodden Flyers. The Devils won three straight to head to the Stanley Cup Finals and eventually hoisted the Cup, and it was a devastating defeat. Up 3-1 to the hated Devils, and they still couldn't get the job done.

To be honest, I'm not sure how I got sidetracked like this. When I began this post, I had no intentions of saying much of anything, as stated above. But as I checked out the box score from the Flyers game last night and saw Boucher record the win, it struck a nerve and brought me back to 2000. Anyway, my original intention was to talk about how I have a kickball game tonight and post the video from Billy Madison, hence the title. So here's the video:

I'm out. I think.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

SEPTA's at It Again Links

I'm sure the SEPTA strike negatively affected thousands upon thousands of people here in Philadelphia. I am not one of them. In the two weeks or so that SEPTA was on strike, I made the short drive from my house to work, parked a few blocks away and walked in. I never had to worry about waiting around for trains, people jumping in front of trains and delaying everyone, weather delays, general ineptitude of the SEPTA workers, other passengers, overcrowded cars, etc. It was a nice break. So nice, in fact, that all last week, despite the end of the strike, I still drove in to work.

Well, this week I've decided to save on gas and return to SEPTA. It didn't take long for me to remember why I hate it so. Today, on my ride in to work, the car was crowded beyond belief when it came to the stop where I get on. I crammed in, and then, when we hit 2nd Street, the car stopped … and sat and sat and sat with the doors open. After about 8 minutes, an announcement came on that everyone must get off the train — there was a huge delay. So everyone got off, people were told to head upstairs to catch a bus, and everyone was pissed off. Apparently, someone got sick on one of the cars and SEPTA was waiting for emergency relief to come and take care of said person. I have no idea the severity.

Getting out of the platform was taking forever because an entire train, which was packed to the gils, was attempting to squeeze through and up the stairs. Then, after most people made their way upstairs, the conductor came out and started waving people back on and announcing that the train was open. Luckily I had not exited and made it back on the train. In the mad scramble, people were running back and holding open the train doors. This made the conductor angry, because he wanted to close them and get moving, after he was the one who made everyone get off. Then, for the remainder of the stops, he made obnoxious announcements warning everyone to let people off, don't hold open the doors, stand behind the yellow line, effectively yelling at everyone that was simply trying to get to work or school in an agitated voice. He was giving off an awful lot of attitude for a guy who caused this whole mess and was making everyone late. What an asshole. And when he got to each stop, he waited to open the doors for a full minute each time, scolding the people waiting to get on to get behind the yellow line and let people off. The guy was a real jerkoff. It took my over a half hour to get to the Broad Street Line, a 7-minute trip. Fuck SEPTA and fuck that conductor. I hope he gets hit by a SEPTA bus. And dies. For real.

Let's link …

-Jason Williams, from retired last season to starting point guard of the defending Eastern Conference champs:

-Great, hilarious, sarcastic article by Bob Ford that's making the rounds, suggesting the Eagles sign Allen Iverson as a wildcat quarterback, mocking Andy Reid and the Eagles. Read it.

-The best of Bo Jackson, via the jerks:

-Penn State is jacking up ticket prices and instituting seat lease fees, and expensive ones at that. Good chance my days as a season ticket holder are over, at least in the immediate future.

-Allen Iverson to the Lakers? Just shoot me now. Seriously.

-Kobe is not human:

-I'm not nearly as high on Monta Ellis as the majority of people are, but I'd have to say, this potential trade would be fantastic … maybe, because it would hamstring the Sixers even more cap-wise:

1. Philadelphia: Monta Ellis for Samuel Dalembert
Like any trade, both teams needs to be willing to part with something. And that’s definitely the case here. The Sixers are in desperate need of another guard, and one that can score, while the Warriors could use an athletic big man in Dalembert.

-Jason Maxiell is frightening:

-Meet Tarik Black, who is officially headed to Memphis:

-On second thought, Kobe is just a copy cat:

-Bad news for Nova fans: Scottie Reynolds is on the cover of SI, meaning an injury or terrible season is imminent:

-New Jersey native and Penn guy Mark DeRosa may become a Phillie sooner or later. I say do it, preferably as a super utility guy.

-The best thing you'll read about Brendan Shanahan's retirement all day, with a video tribute to boot:

-I don't know much about D.C. sports radio and the Washington Post, but apparently some guy named Mike Wise and Tony Kornheiser are in a pissing match. The interesting part, LaVar Arrington, a partner of Mike Wise, put in his two cents, and I have to say, LaVar comes across as a guy you'd love to go to war with:

Anyhow, LaVar Arrington came on air after the break, and attempted to burn some of that earth himself.

"Now I know Tony, I'm cool with Tony Kornheiser, but when you come at us, you're coming at all of us, and I just want to give a quick translation for Mike Wise, all right?" LaVar began. "Mike Wise put it in such a great way, and very gentle and very delicate, but what he really wanted to say was, Tony, you were intimidated from the time Mike got here. Mike has that killer charm and sly, dry, very cunning, very deliberate wit about him, almost like what they say about you. And he's younger, he's probably better looker than you, he's taller than you, people listen to what he has to say, he's doing all these TV spots, he's doing all these radio spots, and oh yes, he's still writing for The Post. And he's blowing up.

"Look, all the ratings are coming here, all the ratings are going from there and coming here. And he's a very decent man, he's a good man, and yeah we pick on each other, but we'll be darned if we let anybody else pick on us. So what I'm saying to you is, don't be so jealous where the jealousy kind of spills over into what you say and what you do....

"And last time I checked, you're not from Washington, D.C., either. And you know what, it doesn't take you being here for five years to be able to be a reporter of things that you see....

"I'd be remiss if I moved forward to our show and I didn't jump out there and just put my two cents in there. Because you know what, Mike didn't have to say anything to you. Mike is a better person than that, but maybe I'm not. I'll jump in there and I'll be the one that jumps out at you, because that was inappropriate....For you to be a role model and attack somebody that you've been a role model to, that kind of speaks volumes of where you are. And I'll leave it alone at that."

I really want that guy to become Penn State's lead recruiter.

On the docket tonight, we have the Sixers hosting Larry Brown's new-look Bobcats, with Stephen Jackson in town, at 7, and the Flyers take on the Kings out in L.A. at 10:30, if you can stay up that late. And fuck SEPTA. Seriously.

BallHype: hype it up!

Your Free Throws Ain't Free

For the second consecutive season, ESPN did the most awesomest thing in the history of awesome by broadcasting college basketball for 24 straight hours beginning at midnight on Monday night/technically Tuesday morning for the college basketball tip-off. Sadly, I didn't get to watch most of the games because I work … and there was one game I really, really wanted to see more than the rest: Temple at No. 19 Georgetown.

Unfortunately, the game started at 4. I work until 5. So I missed the entire first half. From what I hear, I didn't miss much (the score was 19-13 in favor of the Hoyas at halftime). But I did make it home in time to watch the final 6 minutes and 36 seconds. From what I saw, Temple certainly won't be a pushover this season, even with the loss of leading scoring Dionte Christmas.

Now that Christmas, Semaj Inge and Sergio Olmos are gone, this team belongs to Ryan Brooks and Lavoy Allen, and they'll be expected to carry the load all season long for the Owls. Unfortunately yesterday, Brooks struggled in an ugly game, going 2-14 from the field, 1-9 from three and posting just 6 points. But Lavoy Allen, in the time I saw, was the best player on the floor for Temple and arguably as good as anyone Georgetown threw out there, super sophomore Greg Monroe included. Allen led the Owls with 12 points on 5-10 from the field, nabbed a game-high 14 rebounds (8 of them offensive) and added three assists and two steals to boot, including one late in the second half on a great denial of Monroe, working around him and snatching the entry pass.

Even more impressively, Allen was tasked with guarding Monroe in the final 6-plus minutes, and I can only assume the game, and locked him down (with the exception of the game-winner). Monroe struggled mightily, scoring just 11 points on 4-10 shooting, and Allen beat him on the glass too, with his 14 boards to Monroe's 9.

Sadly, Allen struggled in one area, and it was the area that cost Temple the game. They lost a heartbreaker 46-45 for one reason and one reason only: free throws. Allen, who had an otherwise superb game, went just 2-5 from the line, missing two crucial ones late in the second half. With the game tied, Allen got position underneath, nabbed an offensive board, put the ball up and in to give the Owls a 44-42 lead, and was fouled. But he missed the free throw. Then, a couple possessions later, Allen made that steal against Monroe and was fouled. He missed the front end of a one-and-one, again failing to extend the lead and put the Hoyas away, and that would be a common theme for Temple in the final minutes:

After a Hoya miss, Jefferson was fouled going to the basket. The freshman missed the first, but connected on the second to make it 45-42 with 2:21 on the clock.

Two free throws by Wright cut the margin to one, 45-44, The teams then swapped turnovers before the Owls missed two treys, one by Brooks and one by Williams. Wright then missed from long-range with the long rebound finding its way to Ramone Moore heading down court. The sophomore guard pulled up with 23.7 seconds to play and was fouled.

With a chance to push the lead further, Moore missed from the line, the Owls' fourth missed free throw over the final four-and-a-half minutes.

After another empty trip to the line, Georgetown got the ball to Monroe going to the basket, and the sophomore who had not even reached double digits to that point, hit what turned out to be the game-winner with less than 7 seconds to play. Temple had one last chance, but they certainly didn't execute. Luis Guzman took the inbound and raced down court, running right into two Georgetown defenders, who tied him up. The possession arrow was in Georgetown's favor, and the game was basically over when Monroe was fouled with .3 seconds left on the inbound pass.

I have a feeling Temple will be doing nothing but shooting free throws for the next week at practice. At least they should be. Well, maybe just shooting in general. Looking at the box score, that was one of the most horrifying basketball games ever. Neither team could score to save their lives. Temple shot a pathetic 18-56 (32.1 percent) from the field and an even worse 3-23 from three (13 percent). Georgetown didn't fair much better, going 15-42 from the field (35.7 percent) and 3-18 from three (16.7 percent). And as bad those numbers are, you can call the shooting a push. Where Temple lost the game was at the line. The Owls went an embarrassing 6-13 from the line (46.2 percent), missing a ridiculous amount of crucial ones down the stretch. Conversely, Georgetown made more free throws than they missed, though they hardly lit it up: 13-19 (68.4 percent). That was the difference in the game.

I have to tell you, nothing bothers me more in basketball than missed free throws. Sure, everyone misses one every now and then, so I don't expect teams to be perfect, but in my opinion, there's no excuse for a team to shoot below 70 percent from the line. None. Foul shots are easy. They really are. I don't care what anyone says, no matter what the excuses may be: tired legs, pressure, blah, blah, blah. Every single free throw is exactly the same — same distance, same size/weight ball, same 10-foot net. Making free throws is repetition. There is no one guarding you. The shot is always the same. You should be able to make the vast majority of them with ease. I can go to a court right now, having not picked up a basketball since the summer, and make 7 out of 10. I have no doubt about this. And if I can do it, people who play and practice basketball every single day should be able to do it. Seriously, make your damn free throws.

Secondly, I know time was limited for Temple on that final possession, but the way he was playing, I think Fran Dunphy had to draw up a play to find a way to get Lavoy Allen the ball. He was the best player on the floor and was easily having the best shooting game. Instead, he put the ball in Guzman's hands and whether it was the designed play or not, put the final attempt in his hands too. Guzman got denied, and he finished the game with 0 points on 0-3 from the field. The senior point guard had a fine game besides that — 5 rebounds, 6 assists, just 2 turnovers, a steal in 36 minutes — but he should not have had the ball in his hands to decide the game. In fact, you have to question why Juan Fernandez, who has a much better and more reliable shot than Guzman, wasn't in the game. And why you wouldn't put the game in the hands of the leaders, either Allen or even Brooks, despite his struggles. All I know is I had no confidence Guzman would get the job done, and that proved to be warranted.

Certainly, there's a lot of positives to take away from the game. Temple stayed right there with the 19th-ranked Hoyas on their home floor, the team played tremendous defense, and Allen showed he's ready to lead. But that was a winnable game. Actually, it wasn't just a winnable game, it was a game the Owls should have won. They held a lead late, played great defense and made mostly the right decisions. They simply couldn't hit their free throws and didn't let their best players decide it in the end.

Thankfully, this is just the second game of the season, so there's plenty of time to work on correcting the mistakes Temple made and to work in the younger guys on the team. It just sucks as a fan that they had a golden opportunity to top the ranked Hoyas on their own floor and couldn't finish the job. Still, I'm pumped that college basketball is back.

BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Omar? Yes, Please

Damn you, Todd Zolecki. Damn you right to hell. Why would you do this to me:

Names to watch to replace Bruntlett are John McDonald, Omar Vizquel, Jamey Carroll, Ronnie Belliard and Juan Uribe.

Dammit. Why would you get my hopes up like that? Everyone knows that Omar Vizquel is one of my favorite players ever. Now you're floating around his name as a possible replacement to take over Eric Bruntlett's job as the utility infielder? Don't toy with me like that.

For starters, Vizquel would be an insanely huge upgrade over Bruntlett it's not even funny, even at age 42. Vizquel can still pick it with the best of them, even if his range isn't what it once was, and his bat is miles upon miles ahead of Bruntlett's. Last season, in 62 games for Texas, he batted .266 with a .316 OBP, 47 hits, 7 doubles, 2 triples, a homer, 14 RBIs, 17 runs and 4 steals. Those aren't the most impressive numbers in the world, but very solid for a veteran bench player who can also field shortstop, second and even third. And compared to Bruntlett last season, Vizquel looks like Babe Ruth. Bruntlett batted a measly .171 with a .224 OBP, 18 hits, 7 doubles, 0 triples, 0 homers, 7 RBIS, 15 runs and 2 steals in 72 games, most of which he didn't even get at-bats, just pinch-ran, because he can't hit worth a lick. Plus, even in his advanced age, Vizquel is better in the field than Bruntlett. This would be a huge upgrade.

I certainly don't know if the Phils are actually looking at Omar, but if they are, I'd be thrilled if they got him. Growing up, there was nothing more beautiful to watch than seeing Vizquel and Roberto Alomar — the greatest defensive double play combo I've ever seen — turn majestic double plays. These two were artists, and for my money, there's never been a better defensive shortstop this side of Ozzie Smith. The guy was incredible, getting to every ball humanly possible, throwing perfect strikes and making some of the most athletic plays ever seen at shortstop. If watching Omar Vizquel field didn't get you excited, you hate baseball. Simple as that. And bringing him to Philadelphia would give us the chance to watch him at his craft, even in a lesser state, on days that Jimmy Rollins — an incredible fielder in his own right and certainly a superior one than Vizquel at this stage — needs a rest. Plus, imagine the magic he and Rollins could perform when Chase needs an off day, putting Omar at second. Just picturing the possibilities gets me excited.

But chances are, the Phils won't get Omar Vizquel. He's up there in age, and you'd have to think they have their radar on a guy like Mark DeRosa, a younger player and better hitter than Vizquel. And that is why I'm angry at Todd Zolecki. There's no reason to toss out Omar's name and get me all excited about the possibility of him becoming a Phillie. Damn you, Todd. Damn you.

BallHype: hype it up!

Razor Sharp

It's no secret that I did not want the Flyers to sign Ray Emery. Not even a little bit.

With his checkered past and the Flyers' troubles in the net, I certainly didn't want them to take a chance on a crazy man, especially with the calm, cool and collected Marty Biron manning the post over the past few seasons. Sure, Marty wasn't spectacular and wouldn't carry you on his shoulders, but he was solid and steady … and not crazy. At least I knew what to expect from Biron. Emery, on the other hand? No one knew.

I'm happy to say that so far this season, I've been dead wrong. The Flyers clearly did their homework on Emery, and the former Ottawa goaltender who came to Philadelphia via Russia is proving he still has the talent and athleticism to dominate the league. Through the first 17 games, the Flyers are 11-5-1. Emery has started between the pipes in 16 of those games, and thus far, he's posted an 11-4 record with a 2.22 goals against average and .923 save percentage, plus one shutout to boot. In the last 7 games alone, the Flyers are 6-1, in large part because of the play of Emery. In those games, he's surrendered 1, 2, 2, 1, 1, 3 and 2 goals, good for an excellent 1.71 goals against average.

And last night may have been Emery's best game to date. Against the hated Devils, a team that notoriously has given the Flyers fits over the years, Emery stopped 33 of 35 shots in a 3-2 Flyers victory, good for a .943 save percentage and first star of the game. And the second goal he gave up with just one second left on a mad scramble, making his night all the more impressive.

He, along with an inspired performance by Scott Hartnell, was the main reason the Flyers were able to top the Devils and snap their hated rival's 9-game road winning streak to begin the season, preventing New Jersey from tying Buffalo's record of 10 straight road victories to start a season. In the first period, especially early on, the Devils were dominating the play. They were outworking the Flyers and generating plenty more chances. But they couldn't find the back of the net, because Emery was on top of his game, smothering every shot, anticipating every play and flashing his quick glove routinely. No matter how great the scoring opportunity, the Devils couldn't get one by Emery. He was in one of those zones, seeing the puck almost before the shot was even taken. It was something to marvel.

With Emery holding down the fort, the Flyers struck first when Martin Brodeur made the first mistake, turning the puck over to Arron Asham, who flipped the puck to Claude Giroux, who in turn made a perfect backhand pass to Darroll Powe for the tick-tac-toe goal. On the other end, Emery stopped all 14 shots the Devils fired, and the Flyers never looked back.

Just 44 seconds into the 2nd, the Flyers made it 2-0 on a power play goal by Hartnell, who was creating chances and giving the Devils fits all night. It was perhaps the best all-around game I've seen Hartnell play as a Flyer, and that includes his two hat tricks from last year and anything else he's done.

Last season, Hartnell developed a terrible habit of committing untimely and stupid penalties, hurting the Flyers plenty of times by putting them a man down. Sometimes it was a lazy play, other times an undisciplined one. Either way, he committed far too many penalties for a player of his caliber, and it drove me mad. For all the good he did scoring goals and setting up Jeff Carter for his breakout season, he did plenty of stupid things to offset that. So far this season, he's cut down on those stupid mistakes, dumb penalties, and just gone out and played hockey. And last night was his best game yet. Not only did he stay out of the box and score a goal, but he sparked the Flyers in the first period when it was evident they were being outworked. He busted his tail all game long and played better than any other skater on the ice. And he created chance after chance, evident by his team-high 6 shots on net. It was nice to see him use that head buried beneath all that hair.

For good measure, rookie James van Riemsdyk, who's simply been superb so far, scored what turned out to be the game-winner in the 3rd, beating a distraught Brodeur. In a weird twist of fate, it was Brodeur left searching for answers and looking visibly upset, while the Flyers' netminder, Ray Emery, was calm, cool, collected and dominant last night. I could get used to that sight.

If the defense can continue its improved play — and you'd have to think they will with the addition of Chris Pronger — and Emery and Hartnell can remain consistent and play the way they did last night, this team certainly has a chance to do some great things. I'll admit it, I was wrong about Emery. Clearly, his banishment to Russia seems to have helped him mature and correct his ways, and he's playing like a motivated, talented goalie out to prove to the NHL that his early success in Ottawa was no fluke. So far, he's been razor sharp, and the Flyers just may have found the goaltender they've been searching for.

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Goodbye, Brunts

No one seemed to notice today in our post-Eagles furor, but the Phils took Eric Bruntlett off of the 40-man roster today (per Murph of the Daily News, at least where I first saw it). His career in Philadelphia is over by all indications.

Could the guy hit a lick? Not really. However, his picture is on my fucking wall. Sliding into home plate under a weakly flipped ball from Evan Longoria off the bat of Carlos Ruiz. Matt Stairs arms in the air in front of him. Which happened to be the winning, walk-off run in game 3 of the World Series.

And oh yeah, you may remember game 5 of that series, something about a rain delay and a celebration. Also won by a single run. Scored by Eric Bruntlett.

Did he even get a hit to get on base in either game? No. He was hit by a pitch in game 3 and pinch-ran for Pat Burrell in game 5 after The Bat's last sweet swing in a Phillies uniform. Regardless, the guy scored two of the most important runs in team history.

So I will remember Eric Bruntlett not for the offensive ineptitude, the groans when he replaced Burrell in the late innings of a game, not the often So Taguchi-esque "I'm going to soil myself" look on his face. I will remember him for scoring two of the biggest runs ever in Phillies team history, runs that led to them being crowned WFC's.

So, bearded one, good luck in the rest of your career, and your picture ain't coming down from my wall, in some room somewhere, for the rest of my life. And that triple play against the Mets wasn't too shabby either. Farewell and thank you, Eric Bruntlett.

BallHype: hype it up!