December 31, 2009
Cue Charlton Heston circa 1968: Those damn, dirty yellow rags!
Not the (in)famous Terrible Towels. Penalty flags. Lots of them. Thrown at the visiting Baltimore Ravens. Often, and worse – late. Very late.
The Steelers’ season long crunch time woes were masked by the Baltimore Ravens’ ill-timed sloppiness as two fourth quarter touchdowns were nullified by penalties in a 23-20 Ravens loss at hostile Heinz Field.
With a game winning 38 yard field goal by kicker Jeff Reed with 5:25 remaining under his black hat, Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin held to the tried and true NFL mantra of “no apologies, no excuses” in his post-game, insisting that while the Steelers had “made their bed” with a nearly even, and therefore very uneven 8-7 record, he “likes they way they (the Steelers) are lying in it.”
Raven’s coach Jim Harbaugh did his best to stay positive as well, trying to steer clear of the penalty disparity (Ravens 11-113 yards, Steelers 4-20) in his post-game. But his venom was unmistakable.
When specifically pressed on Willis McGahee’s 32 TD-run that was wiped off the books by a holding call on Ravens wide receiver Kelley Washington, Harbaugh came as clean as a wallet-conscious NFL coach can.
“I think that call was very late,” Harbaugh seethed. “It didn’t seem like it affected the play.”
Add to this the illegal block in the back called on Terrell Suggs’ that wiped out Domonique Foxworth’s interception/TD return of consistently inconsistent Ben Roethlisberger (17 for 33, 259 yards).
Then throw in cornerback Frank Walker’s illegal contact penalty that spared the Steelers from another late game implosion, stripping Baltimore of any chance at last second heroics with good field position - and Harbaugh would have every reason to rip the Zebras and/or his team.
But to his credit, Harbaugh more or less stuck to the high road. “You can go to penalties if you want, you can put your finger on whatever you want, but we’re going to Oakland to play our hearts out.”
As well they should. Despite the loss, the Ravens still control their own destiny. A win against the ever- reeling Raiders would land Baltimore in a wild-card berth, while the Steelers still need help from a slew of teams (count the Jets, Broncos and Texans among them) to get to the postseason.
Tomlin stuck fast to his rah-rah message in the face of the twisted playoff math. “We’re going out to control the things we can control, which is to play winning football,” said Tomlin.
As the Fat Man sang once or twice when visiting the Three Rivers: “Wave That Flag” Coach. “Wave it wide and high.”
December 31, 2009
San Diego 42 Tennessee 17
The game was never a contest from the start and the Titans season is now over. Eliminated from the playoffs, Tennessee looks towards other goals. First off was Christmas night, a game versus a Chargers team that had won nine straight games. The Titans needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive but could not deliver. Vince Young has taken this team from 0-6 to 7-7 and back in the playoff talk. The problem was they ran into a San Diego team playing December ball like no other in the league. They have not lost in December since 2006 for a total of 18 straight. Phillip Rivers picked the Titans defense apart going 21-27 for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He is playing just as well as any of the top quarterbacks in the league. On the other side of the ball it was Tennessee playing like they did while they were going 0-6. Young had his worst game since he took over going 8-21 for only 89 yards with two picks. He also had a key fumble when he was sliding for a first down. The one bright spot continues to be Chris Johnson and his ability to get yards. He ran for 142 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown and needs only 128 to get to 2,000. He would have probably gone over 200 on Christmas night if the Chargers didn’t have such a big lead. So next week is the last game of the season and they will play to get Johnson to 2,000 and possibly, if he can get 234 yards, pass Eric Dickerson’s mark of 2,105 yards. They are also playing for a .500 but a good point needs to be mentioned. If the Titans lose to Seattle next week they would get better positioning in next year’s draft and would play a better schedule. Now no one wants to play to lose but just thought I would mention that.
New York Jets 29 Indianapolis 15
See this is why I have a problem with pulling players at years end. If you are going to do it why let your key players play into the third period? I can see playing them a series or two or maybe even a quarter. Not only that they did it in their home finale of the season. Way to treat your fans to a good game. So with the score 15-10 Jim Caldwell decided to pull Peyton Manning in favor of Curtis Painter and it bombed. Painter was greeted rather rudely and was hit often. He even fumbled on his second series that turned into a touchdown for the Jets. So perfection is gone and what is the point to the Colts. Let us remember that the ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl. It doesn’t matter if you win all your games or go 8-8. Still as a fan you would have wanted to see how it would have panned out next week had they won this game? The loss helped the Jets and hurt the Ravens making the last week of the season one to remember. So the main guys will rest next week in preparation for the playoffs. The media and the fans will second guess the decision for weeks to come but if Indy can win the big one it wont matter. If they don’t win it all it will be questioned into next season. They better hope that the likes of Austin Collie and other young players are not hurting their rhythm by not playing with Manning too much.
Houston 27 Miami 20
This is why they play the game as they say. When the season began the Texans had aspirations of a playoff berth for the first time in franchise history. As the season progressed things began to slowly unravel. They lost key games and kept making the mistake that have hurt them in years past. As the season has come to a close they are playing the brand of football they had hoped to play all year. On this day they looked great jumping out to a 27-0 lead as Matt Schaub had two quick scoring passes and Arian Foster chipped in with a 17-yard run. Kicker Kris Brown also had two field goals in the first half for 27-3 lead. They had to hold off a Dolphin 20-point rally but still looked like a team ready to make its first postseason appearance. Foster looked good running for 97 yards and Andre Johnson had five catches for 71 yards and a score. The defense held Miami to just 60 yards on the ground with Ricky Williams getting just 35. On the other side of the coin they did allow Chad Henne to go 35-55 for 322 yards too. So now they play to win next week and wait for the help they need. They have played hard and coach Gary Kubiak knows what’s at stake and the team is playing like it too. Let’s see if they can accomplish their goal and what they will do if they get there.
New England 34 Jacksonville 7
Another team in search of the postseason with jobs on the line is the Jags. On Sunday things did not go as planned when Tom Brady and Randy Moss put on a show that all but eliminated Jacksonville from playoff contention. They saw Brady go a near perfect 23-26 for 267 yards and four touchdowns. Moss had a huge day with three touchdowns on four catches. Maurice Jones-Drew failed to get 100 yards again getting just 63 on 18 carries. They managed just 275 yards of offense and David Garrard was picked off twice. When they had any kind of drive it was killed, as they were 4-11 on third down efficiency. They made Wes Welker look like one of the best receivers in the league as he caught 13 passes for 138 yards and leads the league with 122 catches. They failed to get to Brady and remain one the worst teams in the league as far as sacking the opposing quarterback is concerned. So they will need to win next week and get a lot of help or its lost season. If they do not make the playoffs changes will be needed and most of the time it starts with the head coach.
December 31, 2009
Atlanta 31 Buffalo 3
Now that the playoffs are not possible the Falcons decided to play for wins and pride. On Sunday they manhandled the Bills from the start. On the first play from scrimmage Matt Ryan hit Roddy White from 42 yards out to make it 7-0. The Bills would never be in the game from that point on. They managed just 187 total yards with only 40 coming via the run. Ryan finished 18-35 for 250 yards and three touchdowns. White had another scoring catch to close the scoring and finished with 139 yards on eight catches. The running tandem of Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood combined for 28 carries for 120 yards and the defense is playing the way they had hoped they would all year. They held the Bills to 11 first downs and 2-10 in third down efficiency. They forced three turnovers and 10 penalties for 60 yards and two sacks. Next week they go to Tampa Bay to try and finish the year with a winning record.
Tampa Bay 20 New Orleans 17
The last fourth of this season has been really hard on the Saints. They started off so strong but have been exposed in the last month. The defense is the first thing that needs to be addressed and fast. They are finding ways to keep drives alive by allowing the big play, like the 77-yard punt return by Michael Spurlock to tie the game late in the fourth. They gave up 439 yards total yards to the Bucs. Tampa Bay was 7-12 on third downs and had the ball for 36 minutes. Not too bad for a team that started so bad. It was to the point where people were asking if head coach Raheem Morris could survive more than one year. New Orleans actually lead 17-0 and it was still 17-3 at the half. It would not be enough as Drew Brees was held under 300 yards passing and the Bucs defense came up big when they needed to. They took advantage of an injury to Saints running back Pierre Thomas and shut down the run game in the second half. Josh Freeman continued his evolution going 21-31 for 271 yards with no touchdowns and two picks. He did make a big play in the overtime that kept the winning drive alive. So Tampa continues to look like they are improving with each week and the Saints keep looking more vulnerable game after game. They and some fans thought they had won the game in regulation but Garrett Hartley missed a field goal from 37 yards out with five seconds left in the game. So Tampa moves on to finish the year next week looking to next year and the improvements they need to make. On a last note Morris may have saved his job with the team’s play in the last month or so.
Carolina 41 New York Giants 9
It was the last game at the Meadowlands and it hit home for me personally. I grew up going to that stadium and was looking to see the Gmen go out with a win. Unfortunately the Panthers had other plans. They came in with many questions in a season that had gone south. So, with not much to play for, they decided to show up and show out. Matt Moore had an effective day going 15-20 for 171 yards and three touchdowns. On top of that Jonathan Stewart ran all over the Giants defense to the tune of 206 yards on 28 carries and a score. The Panthers were 10-15 on third downs and had 416 total yards. They ran for 247 and forced four turnovers. The defense held the Giants to 60 yards rushing 27 minutes in time of possession. It was an ugly way for New York to go out as they showed no heart and little emotion. Eli Manning was 29-43 for 296 yards but he was playing from behind all day. It was 24-0 at the half and 34-3 by the end of the third. It was Carolina’s third win in their last four games and just like in Tampa that may have saved their coaches job for sure now.
December 30, 2009
#10) 2001: The Giants’ NFC Championship Game Rout
It had been a full decade since the Giants had appeared in a Super Bowl, and after missing the playoffs the previous two years, head coach Jim Fassel guaranteed that his 7-4 team (at the time) after two home losses, would make the playoffs. The Giants responded by winning their final five regular season games to clinch the NFC’s top seed. However, many thought that the Giants wouldn’t be able to slow down the high-powered, second-seeded Minnesota Vikings in the 200 NFC championship game, on January 14, 2001. Although the Giants would get blown out by Baltimore, 34-7, in Super Bowl XXXV, they not only reached that game by slowing down Minnesota, but they completely shut the Vikings down, and shut them out. In a game they could have won 80-0 if they wanted to, the Giants completely dominated Minnesota on both sides of the ball in a 41-0 thrashing, after leading 34-0 at halftime. Vikings’ star wide receiver Randy Moss called it “the worst defeat in his life.” Though, stay tuned for later in the list for one that might have been tougher for Moss to swallow, even if the score was a lot closer.
#9) 2009: The Knicks Slowly Returning To Relevance
After the Knicks achieved much success in the 1990’s, but finished that decade the same way they completed the 1980’s –- without an NBA title — former Knicks’ head coach Jeff Van Gundy could see the Knicks’ impending decline coming well in advance. With the Knicks still over .500 (10-9), just 19 games into the 2000-2001 NBA season, Van Gundy resigned on December 8, 2001. The Knicks proved Van Gundy’s prophecy correct, going 22-43 after Van Gundy stepped aside, to finish that season 32-50 while failing to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in 24 seasons. From that point, the Knicks, despite being the most highly valued NBA franchise financially, have remained irrelevant in the NBA. However, as the decade winds down, there appear to be real signs that the Knicks might finally be turning the corner back on the road to relevance and respectability –- which would be great for both city which houses basketball’s mecca, and for the NBA, which has always considered New York its biggest market. On April 2, 2008, the Donnie Walsh era began, and the Knicks have since been pointed in a better direction. By no means has Walsh made all of the perfect moves since he’s joined the Knicks, and he certainly has plenty of work still cut out for him. But, with the firing of former GM and head coach Isaiah Thomas, and the hiring of current Knicks’ head coach Mike D’Antoni, Walsh has given the Knicks something they had lacked since the 1990’s –- an actual working blueprint for restoring success to the franchise. Walsh was been able to effectively clear cap space to possibly bring in top free agents, while developing a young core of supporting talent. While about half of the current team will likely not be part of the team next season, there are still several players on one of the NBA’s youngest rosters who will be part of the future and who have given reason for hope. With those players contributing significantly after a 1-9 start (tying the worst in franchise history) en route to a 3-14 mark through November, the Knicks are 9-5 in the final month of the decade, with one very winnable game left New Jersey before 2010. And, they’re no longer simply trying to outscore teams under D’Antoni, as they’ve returned to their 1990’s roots, holding teams under 100 points in their past 11 games, while compiling a 7-4 record during that stretch.
December 28, 2009
Just a few short weeks ago, all the talk was that there were two teams who could go undefeated in the regular season and possibly all the way to Super Bowl XLIV. First the New Orleans Saints fell victim and now the 14-1 Indianapolis Colts, too, will not threaten the ‘72 Miami Dolphins. Mercury Morris and the boys can enjoy their champagne once again courtesy of the New York Jets 29-15 upset win on the road.
Speaking of the Saints (13-2), they have now lost two in a row in the dome after the hapless Tampa Bay Bucs (3-12) came back from a 17-0 hole to win 20-17 in overtime. Also in the NFC, the New York Giants – after coming out of the gate 5-0 – all but put their postseason hopes to rest with a putrid 41-9 pasting at the hands of the carolina Panthers. This occurred in their final game at Giants Stadium, with the grand opening of the still yet-unnamed new Meadowlands stadium opening up in 2010. The Panthers (7-8) have been out of the playoff picture for quite some time while the Giants dropped to 8-7 and left their rabid fanbase wondering what happened.
In Indianapolis, possible MVP candidate Peyton Manning was pulled from the game in the third quarter with the Colts nursing a five-point advantage. Back-up Curtis Painter was not effective and allowed the Jets to get right back into the game.
Not only did Gang Green do the unthinkable after dropping a heartbreaker last week to the Atlanta Falcons, but actually control their own destiny if they can defeat the Cincinnati Bengals (10-5) at home next Sunday night. The Jets (8-7) needed a lot of help heading onto the day and by the time they kicked off at 4:15, much had broke their way.
Miami (7-8) dropped a 27-20 decision at home to the Houston Texans (8-7) while the Steelers (8-7) took care of the Baltimore Ravens (8-7), 23-20, in the Steel City. All of this activity coupled with Jacksonville losing and falling to 7-8, the Jets slid up into one of the wild card spots in the AFC. Denver (8-7) lost by a late field goal in Philadelphia after a big comeback, but still can get in at 8-7 with tiebreakers.
December 27, 2009
They came to their second home Wednesday. The professionals who train at the Morris Park Boxing Gym, the prospects preparing for the upcoming Golden Gloves tournament, and the kids who live in the community, stunned to see their gym destroyed by a fire earlier in the day that also left two families homeless.
“We will rebuild and get it back,” said a solemn Aaron Davis, the former Golden Gloves champion from the Bronx who later went on to become a successful professional fighter and welterweight champion. Davis, about a year ago became a partner with owner Dex Pejcinovic a 40-year old business man who one time trained at the same gym.
Then, when Davis and Pejcinovic were at Morris Park, the gym was always busy. But it was never as immaculate, spacious, and busy as they made it over the last year. The Morris Park Boxing Gym became one of the busiest and most popular training spots in the Bronx and New York City for an aspiring pro fighter.
Now all the work and effort that Davis and Pejcinovic put in has been destroyed. Reportedly an electrical problem in the front of the gym caused the fire early Wednesday morning that gutted the entire gym. Authorities are investigating, and like other fires of this sort there is talk about something more than an electrical fault that has left kids in the community and fighters looking for another gym.
The gym, once owned by prominent Morris Park attorney and now boxing promoter Joe Deguardia has been a cornerstone of the Van Nest community off White Plains Road since 1977. The trials and tribulations of former pro Luis Resto, accused and later prosecuted for using tainted gloves in a bout came from there.
So was the cat that professional welterweight Frankie Figueroa used to chase in the basement of the gym when he lived there. The name “El Gato” became a mainstay with Figueroa from those days he lived and trained at the Morris Park Boxing Gym, The gym also was a second home for former light heavyweight champion Lou Del Valle.
“Just a bad time of year for this to happen,” said Davis the other day. “It’s sad to see.” Over 70 fighters, pro and amateur belong to the gym, not counting the many youngsters that Davis and other trainers gave their time to daily. “We took care of every kid who came in and wanted a chance,” said Davis who is temporality taking as many as he can to John’s Gym located in the Hub at 149th Street and Third Avenue,
All of the equipment and belongings of the fighters were destroyed in the fire. Davis managed to salvage a few pairs of boxing gloves. The downstairs basement which was renovated with lockers and a weight room were not damaged and there were no injuries reported as the gym was vacant when the fire started around 7am
Said longtime trainer Victor Pena, a Bronx resident who has six fighters entered in the upcoming Golden Gloves Tournament, “It’s a loss for all of us, especially for the kids in the community who made this gym their second home.”
e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com
December 27, 2009
Dallas 24 New Orleans 17
Now that the Saints have gotten the perfect record thing out of the way maybe they can get back to playing football. The last month has seen this team struggle with a few teams and they have been exposed on defense as well. This past Saturday the Cowboys had aspirations of beating the Saints. Granted, it was a long shot but they still had a chance. Players like Tony Romo said that if the Boys played their game they could win. Well it appears that the rest of the world didn’t believe when Dallas did and they came out smoking. They put pressure on Drew Brees from the start of the game and ended up sacking him four times while forcing two fumbles that Brees lost. He was hit on many occasions and for three quarters could not put his team in the end zone. Dallas struck immediately in the first when Romo hit Miles Austin for a 49-yard touchdown to make it 7-0. At halftime is was 14-3 and when Marion Barber ran it in from two in the third the game looked lost to the Saints. In the fourth it became a different story as Brees began to move his team and finally hit pay dirt when Mike Bell scored from one-yard out. Now it was 24-10 with just over 12 minutes to go. When Lance Moore pulled in a Brees pass to make it 24-17 the Saints were back in it. Dallas got the ball back and looked to go three and out when Romo hooked up with Austin for a huge 32-yard gain and the first down. After moving the ball 74 yards on 10 plays the Cowboys set up for a 24-yard chip shot by Nick Folk to extend the lead to 10. Somehow it hit the upright and the Saints got the ball back with a chance to tie or win the game. So here were the Saints with the ball and a little more than two minutes to go. The ball was at their 20 and Brees proceeded to move the ball down the field. Just like that DeMarcus Ware stepped in and stripped Brees for the second time of the day and that was that. New Orleans was no longer undefeated and they could now look to the bigger challenge of finishing with the number one seed in the NFC. 19-0 is good, but more than that, they want finish strong in December and January to get to the Super Bowl.
Atlanta 10 New York Jets 7
The Falcons came into this game with nothing to play for and for about 58 minutes they played just like that. The Jets defense pushed them around and dominated for most of the game. The Falcons did get on the scoreboard first when Matt Bryant hit a 24-yard field goal to make it 3-0 in the first. That would all the offense Atlanta cold muster as they punted seven times after that and missed a field goal later. They finished with 238 yards of offense and 73 of those came on the final drive. Matt Ryan returned at quarterback and was just 16-34 for 152 yards and one touchdown. The running game was ineffective as Michael Turner hurt himself again and Jason Snelling could not get off. Atlanta had only 12 first downs and they were just 7-18 on third down efficiency. Still as the saying goes you have to play the full 60 minutes, the Jets did not, and the Falcons did. With 4:27 left in the game the Falcons got the ball with one last shot at putting a dent in the Jets playoff aspirations. On a third and five from their own 32 Ryan hit Jerius Norwood for nine yards and the first down. On another third down play Ryan got another first down when he hit Roddy White for 16 yards and a face mask penalty on the Jets moved the ball to the New York 27. One last third down from the six and this time it failed when Ryan’s pass to Tony Gonzalez fell short. The Falcons took a timeout to discuss their options while the Jets knew all they had to do was get a stop and remain one game behind the Patriots in the AFC East. They decided to go for it and lined up in the shotgun again. They threw the same pass to Gonzalez again and this time he caught it in the end zone for the lead with 1:38 left in the game. The Jets took over but Mark Sanchez was intercepted for the third time on the game and Atlanta pulled out the victory. They were able to win the game and put the Jets playoff hopes in jeopardy. This is how you play football when you are out of the playoff hunt. Stay hungry and play with pride.
Tampa Bay 24 Seattle 7
Near the end of the game the stands were about empty, but some very irritated fans stayed to watch their team tank another game. The Bucs had just put a whipping on their team to win just their second game of the year. Josh Freeman bounced back from two horrible games to throw two touchdown passes while going 16-26 for 205 yards. Derrick Ward and Cadillac Williams each ran for a touchdown and Connor Barth kicked three field goals as Tampa Bay won on the road for the first time since last year. The Tampa defense recorded a sack; four interceptions and a lost fumble to the hapless Seahawks. Williams and Ward combined for 31 carries for 133 yards and Kellen Winslow chipped in with 93 yards on six receptions. Their record is now 2-12 but the team has been playing inspired football even when they are losing. It has been a rough season but some of the players feel like the team is headed in the right direction. Head coach Raheem Morris is in his first year and we will see if he makes it to a second. One thing is for sure with Freeman, Williams and Ward the team has a future to build on. They also have player s like Winslow and a kicker that is sure fire. Now let’s see how they put those pieces together for the final two games of the year. Granted they are at New Orleans and then at home for the finale against the Falcons. Still there is room for learning and working towards next year.
Carolina 26 Minnesota 7
Once again no one knows what Panther team will show up but if this one would show up every week they would be in the playoff running now. With no reason to play except to play the game itself, the Panthers stuck to Brett Favre and the Vikings in dominating fashion. They scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and sent the Vikings reeling. Matt Moore had a career day going 21-33 for 299 yards and his first three-touchdown game of his career. Jonathan Stewart ran all over the Viking defense for 109 yards on 25 carries and a rushing touchdown. He also had a touchdown catch from two-yards out to cap the scoring. The Panther defense was fantastic harassing Favre repeatedly and sacking him four times. Julius Peppers was in Favre face all night to the point where head coach Brad Childress thought of removing his star quarterback for safety purposes. Favre got angry and the two had a heated discussion. It was all for naught as the Panthers came out firing in the fourth as Steve Smith pulled in a 42-yard pass for the score to make it 12-7. Smith finished the game with nine catches for 157 yards and the Carolina defense held the Vikings to 10 first downs, 237 total yards and 1-10 on third down conversions. It was a dominating performance for sure but the Panthers need a lot of help. They have no answer to the question for the quarterback of the future. Sure Moore is 4-2 but he is still unproven. The defense will undergo an overhaul and there is still the question about the future of coach John Fox. Still for one Sunday things were right in Carolina and they will take that any day.
December 24, 2009
NEW YORK – It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
If anyone figured to beat St. John’s in the annual Holiday Festival, it figured to be Hofstra, which defeated the Red Storm in the Festival title game in 2006, the fourth consecutive time that St. John’s had lost to its cross-town rival.
But, on Sunday, the Red Storm rallied from five points down with just under seven minutes remaining to beat the Pride by twelve, and reach the 2009 Holiday Festival championship game on Monday night.
So, finally getting by the local area nemesis of the current decade (before Sunday, St. John’s was 2-5 against Hofstra this decade after going 19-0 against the Pride previously), playing an Ivy League representative like Cornell figured to be a matchup that would yield St. John’s, appearing in the tournament for the 44th time, its 15th Festival title — especially against a Cornell team which had never won that tournament, and hadn’t played in it since 1970.
Not so fast.
That Ivy League school not only has its superior academic reputation, but it can teach a Big East team like St. John’s a few lessons on the basketball court as well.
Such as the values of ball movement, finding teammates, shooting the ball efficiently, possessing a balanced inside-outside offensive attack, solid defense, and being well-coached.
It also doesn’t hurt to get off on the right Foote… yes, that’s with a capital “F” and a silent “e,” as in Jeff Foote, Cornell’s very tough-to-deal-with, 7-foot, 245-pound senior center who was named the 2009 Holiday Festival Most Valuable Player.
At least for one night, Foote, along with several others, helped make the Big Red (9-2) better than the Red Storm (9-2), in Cornell’s 71-66 comeback win at Madison Square Garden.
At first glance, some of the numbers in this game could be deceiving, but a deeper look shows how much better the Cornell offense operated versus how much St. John’s struggled to achieve the same offensive output from the field.
Each team made 24 field goals, and each sank 11 three-pointers.
However, Cornell was much more efficient, dishing out 18 assists while shooting a blistering 57 percent (24-for-42) from the field, including 61 percent (11 of 18) from three-point range.
In contrast, St. John’s shot 42 percent (24 of 57) from the floor, going 44 percent (11 of 25) from beyond the arc.
Behind junior guard Dwight Hardy’s 13 points early on, the Red Storm made 7 of its first 9 three-pointers while jumping out to a 33-22 lead with 5:36left in the first half. Hardy wouldn’t score again until late in the second half, finishing the game with a team-high 19 points.
Meanwhile, Foote (19 points, 8-10 fg, 11 rebounds, 5 blocks) scored 6 points during a 9-3 Cornell run to close the first half, pulling the Big Red to within 36-31 at halftime.
From that point on, St. John’s couldn’t shake Cornell, and at a few points in the second half, the fairly small yet loud contingent of Big Red supporters made the quarter-filled Garden sound more like a Cornell home game on St. John’s own floor.
Behind the continued inside threat of Foote and hot perimeter shooting of 6-foot-7 senior Jon Jaques (game-high 20 points, 7-8 fg, 5-6 3-pt fg), Cornell built a 57-51 lead on a beautiful up-and-under reverse layup by Foote with 7:35 left in the game.
St. John’s wouldn’t go away, and the Red Storm tied the game at 60-60, but Foote’s basket with 2:26 left put Cornell ahead to stay, 62-60.
Jaques’ right wing three-pointer after some nice ball movement by Cornell, gave the Big Red a 67-62 lead 31.4 seconds remaining.
A right-corner trey by Hardy pulled St. John’s to within 69-66 with 15.5 seconds left, but free throws sealed the first ever Holiday Festival championship for Cornell.
Foote, who averaged 17.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.5 blocks in the two-day tournament, almost couldn’t believe he was named the MVP.
“It’s surreal,” he said. “I have only been MVP once before and it was a high school tournament. To be MVP on this stage is unreal. It was extra nice [at Madison Square Garden]. My brother got to see me and my parents were watching on TV, so [that] made it all worth it.”
In terms of the larger picture, the win, Cornell’s seventh straight victory this season, was a huge one for its program, as it snapped a 40-year, 46-game drought against Big East opponents, and drew high praise from St. John’s coach Norm Roberts, who said, “Give them a lot of credit. They made some huge shots. They’re a good basketball team, without a doubt, [a potentially tough] NCAA tournament team,” which Roberts added “could beat [almost] any team in the country” when it’s playing as well as it did against St. John’s on Monday night.
“This is a huge step for our program,” Cornell head coach Steve Donahue said. “Here’s a team that’s on a roll [St. John’s came in 9-1 with its only loss at Duke] and we play them at their place, at Madison Square Garden, in a very prestigious tournament, in front of a lot of alums. It’s a huge step, I feel great for [our players]. To win in this venue, in this environment, is awesome.”
A word of caution to anyone else which might lie in the way of Cornell taking further steps, such as a potential weak three or four seed who might draw Cornell on that 13 or 14 line come March.
December 23, 2009
Tennessee 27 Miami 24
It was a cold day in Nashville as the game began and the Titans started the same, as Vince Young’s first pass, on the first play of day was picked off. It set off a chorus of boos from the crowd that knew how important this game was. These were two teams playing for the playoffs and the Dolphins had been on a roll lately. Miami stood at 7-6 and Tennessee at 6-7 with the loser falling another notch in the wild-card race. So on the possession set up by the interception, the Dolphins were able to get a field goal for a 3-0 lead. Now it was time for Young to make up for that mistake. The thing that has been so noticeable about Young has been the improvement in his decision-making. Last year and before he would quickly throw the ball away or run when it was not beneficial to his team. He was unable to find the consistency to keep defenses honest. This year he was put in a situation unlike he ever faced in his life on the football field. He had to prove himself and earn the trust of those around him. So the Titans found themselves needing to win out and needing Young to continue his evolution into an NFL quarterback. What he showed on this Sunday was just that as he made some of the prettiest throws of his career. He hit Justin Gage on touchdown passes of 22 and 21 yards that were unlike any he has ever thrown. His third touchdown pass was another beauty to Nate Washington but the 24-6 lead from that play would not hold up. Now critics will come up with reasons as to why they let the Fins back in the game, but it was simply because they took their foot off the gas pedal. They got complacent with the lead and let Miami back in and tie the score when Ricky Williams ran in the two-point conversion. So it was 24-24 and the Titans got the ball back but had to punt it after a three-and-out. Punter Brett Kern came in did his job putting the ball on the two-yard line with little time for the Dolphins to get down the field. What they did was run the ball so they could run out the clock. At that point the Titans had three time outs and the fans let the boos fly as Fisher allowed the clock to run. He said it was a gut feeling of his not to use the timeouts. Lucky for him he was right or the media would have eaten him alive this week. In the game Chris Johnson’s pursuit of 2,000 yards took a hit as he once again had a tough second half. Last week he had 16 carries for 30 yards and this week had 15 for 33 in the second half. Teams are keying hard on him now but he said that he might have a 200 or 300-yard game left in him. He will have to average 135 yards per in the last two to get to that elusive mark (2,000) and needs 376 yards to pass Eric Dickerson’s NFL mark of 2,105 yards. He wound up with 104 yards on 29 carries. He will continue to get the ball in the last two games so hang on for the ride. In the game the Titans lost the heart and soul of their defense when Keith Bullock hurt his knee and he must now have season ending surgery. Also gone for the year is LB David Thornton, as he will go under the knife for a shoulder problem he has had. So there are two more games left and Tennessee needs a lot of help from other teams. They must also win out as well. One thing ought to be a sure thing and that would be votes for Jeff Fisher for coach of the year. No matter how the season ends you have to give credit to this coach and team for coming out of a 0-6 hole to .500 after week 15.
Indianapolis 35 Jacksonville 31
Even when it looks like the Colts are going down in defeat, they find a way to win. Peyton Manning continued to stake his claim for MVP as he went 23-30 for 308 yards and four touchdowns. He started early on this night as he hit Dallas Clark and Austin Collie in the second quarter for a 21-17 halftime lead. It was a first half that also saw Maurice Jones-Drew score twice, when he caught one from nine yards out and ran another in from three in that second quarter. The teams had traded scores in the first half and the theme would continue in the second. Jacksonville was sharp as was QB David Garrard and they came out and scored at the 8:32 mark of the third to take the lead back. Just like the sun rising is a sure thing so is Manning as he directed his team down the field and hit Clark again for a 27-yard touchdown. That made it 28-24 and it looked like that would all the Jags could handle. Well they forgot to tell Jacksonville and they answered the Colts right back when Mike Thomas pulled in a 13-yard pass from Garrard to make it 31-28 Jags with 47 seconds left in the third. Jacksonville just wishes there was that much time left in the game because a whole quarter is too much time for Manning to do damage. So the fourth quarter got underway and two teams that had not punted in the first half punted five times. No one could get the advantage until Manning finally put the dagger in the Jags when he hit Reggie Wayne down the left sideline for 65-yards and the winning score. So now the Colts are 14-0 and the only undefeated team in the league after the Saints lost to Dallas. Manning now has thrown for 4,000 yards or more in a season 10 times. The closest one to him is the great Dan Marino with six. As for the Jags, well they have now lost control of their destiny and will need help to get into the postseason. At 7-7 they find themselves in the pack with other 7-7 teams. Jones-Drew finished with 110 yards on 27 carries and Garrard was 23-40 for 223 yards, three scores and a pick. They are still in it but have to hit the road for their last two games of the year. They will first go to New England where the Pats are fighting for their division crown and playoff positioning. Then they finish at Cleveland against a Browns team that has been playing inspired ball and just come off two of the best single-game performances in NFL history. Kick returner Josh Cribbs returned two kicks for touchdowns and running back Jerome Harrison ran for the third best total in history with 286 yards and three touchdowns. The Colts finish by hosting the Jets and then going to Buffalo so their chances at 16-0 look good.
Houston 16 St. Louis 13
In a season that has basically gone bad the Texans found a way to keep the Rams in the game. They drove down the field at times but had to settle for three Kris Brown field goals and one touchdown pass from Matt Schaub. Though they had to struggle, Schaub had 367 yards passing giving him eight games with at least 300 yards and his fifth game with at least 350. Andre Johnson had another great game with nine catches for 196 yards but became the second player in the last 10 years to have that many yards and not catch a touchdown pass. The running game on the other hand was anemic gaining just 52 yards total and they were 5-14 on third down. They lost two fumbles as well but the defense did hold the Rams to 237 total yards. So no Houston is at 7-7 and they go to Miami next week in a key battle of 7-7 teams. They finish the season at home but that will be a tall task as the will be hosting the Patriots. There is still shot at the playoffs but hopes are dimming. In the next few weeks we will also get a clearer picture on the fate of head coach Gary Kubiak.
December 20, 2009
Five young, professional boxers continued their undefeated professional careers in the ring at B.B. King’s Blues Club and Grill during the latest edition of DiBella Entertainment’s Broadway Boxing on Wednesday evening, December 16. Each of the young pugilists displayed the skills acquired during an impressive amateur career. Although most of the bouts were short in duration, they were filled with action. Lou DiBella is a promoter who is known for giving local, young prospects an opportunity for exposure and advancement. Each of the five victors took advantage of the opportunity given to him on Wednesday.
The opening encounter was a four round junior welterweight clash between Christian Martinez (2-0, 2 KO’s) of New York City and Gabriel Morris of Toledo, Ohio (1-5-1). Referee David Fiields stopped the slaughter after 58 seconds of the first round after Morris had been knocked to the campus three times. The three knockdown rule gave Martinez had second TKO win, both at B.B. King’s.
Two Latino featherweights faced one another in the second bout. Luis”Orlanditio” DelValle (8-0, 6 KO’s) of Bayamon, Puerto Rico claimed the win over Noe Lopez, Jr. (5-5, 4 KO’s), a native of Sonora, Mexico after the end of the second round. The ringside physician, after checking on an of Santiago, Cuba. injury to the left hand of Lopez, advised the referee to halt the bout. Overjoyed fans chanted “Tito” after the close of action, Del Valle like Martinez was very comfortable in the venue as it was his fourth pro fight at King’s.
Another local favorite Gabriel Bracero (8-0) of Sunset Park, Brooklyn followed the pattern of his past pro fights by gaining a victory but not stopping his opponent. The 28 year-old never fights far from home. All of his bouts took place in New York City. Bracero’s opponent, Carl McNickels (6-3, 6 KO’s) does not fear a challenge. He traveled to Manhattan from Gulfport, MS to face a New York City fighter, and has fought an undefeated boxer in his last four bouts. McNickels dropped to the canvas in the third, but opened a cut over the left eye of Bracero. The votes of the judges at the end of the six-round junior welterweight bout was one-sided, 60-53, 59-54, and 58-55.
Heavyweight Tor Hamer (10-0, 8 KO’s) is making an effort to move into the rankings and represented the United States in a weight class that had been dominated by Americans in the past. The Penn State graduate had no difficulty with Mazur Ali (6-5, 3 KO’s) of Egypt. After receiving a body shor to the stomach, Ali spit out his mouthpiece and leaned over the ropes. The referee stopped the bout at 1:38 of the opening round. Mazur was a late replacement for Dominic Jenkins. At the pre-fight physical examination, a fracture was discovered in Jenkins’s skull, and he was forbidden to box. Promoter DiBella was incensed by Ali’s ring demeanor. He said to reporters, “If you don’t want to fight, don’t come.”
The headline bout featured one of the most heralded amateur boxers in recent years, Guillermo “El Chacal” Rigondeaux (4-0, 3 KO’s) of Cuba. The 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games gold medalist for Cuba defected to the United States in the early part of 2009, after being taken off the Cuban National team prior to the 2008 Olympics. He has since begun a professional boxing career. The 29 year-old Cuban like Hamer was fighting a last minute replacement, Lante Addy (6-5-1, 4 KO’s) of Ghana. Addy’s record may look better than it is because his last five bouts were fought in the U.S. In all five of the bouts (four losses and a draw) his opponents were undefeated. Each of those five bouts, including the one on Wednesday went the distance. Rigondeaux floored Addy in the first round. Neither was again in trouble in a lackluster and one-sided encounter. The crowd jeered the lack of action in rounds two and four. Both were in excellent condition to last eight rounds. The score of the judges were: 79-72, 80-71, and 80-71.