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Chapter 8: Just a regular Joe

Posted on 19 January 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

“That’s just Joe being Joe! Joe is always gonna be Joe.”

– Ray Lewis (Nov. 2012)

 

 

 

 

THE TALLEST BUILDINGS IN THE skyline over downtown Philadelphia are vividly clear over the gridiron at Audubon High School. Not too far from this small town in New Jersey in the distance you can see the Comcast Center and One Liberty Place tower over Central City in the City of Brotherly Love. The white cement structure that serves as bleachers behind a tiny brick school façade can almost be confused for something from a movie set in 1950s Americana.

It was a field of dreams for Joe Flacco, but not necessarily a field of victories. Hop on the internet and take a look at the picture of his wife snapping him a bottle of champagne as if it were a football as part of their wedding album. She’s the center. His groomsmen are the linemen. Then you will understand this field and this scene. This is the place where Joe Flacco led the Audubon Green Wave to a 4-6 finish in his 2002 senior football season.

“We stunk,” says Flacco of his tiny high school with less than 100 in each graduating class. “It was a small school, and we were never really good, but we loved playing here. Football here was always fun because it was always with your friends and the kids you grew up with from the neighborhood.”

To understand and to fully appreciate Joe Flacco, you need to visit Audubon, New Jersey and see his view of the world as a Super Bowl MVP and Baltimore sports hero, where for months after the win storefronts still had homemade posters and window stickers celebrating their unlikely hometown champion.

“Where I live and where I’m from it’s right in the middle of the middle of all hardcore Philly sports fans,” Flacco said. “Philadelphia is in Pennsylvania, but the Jersey side is the heart of the fan base for all of the teams. It’s all Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, and Sixers here. It’s always been like that, and it’ll always be like that. I’ve been around crazy, passionate, vocal fans all my life.”

These Philadelphia natives are the same fans who are famous for once booing Santa Claus. Toughness kinda came with the turf for Joe Flacco.

His hometown doesn’t look quite like a scene from Rocky, like the west side of the Delaware River or Highlandtown in Baltimore with traditional East Coast row homes and narrow, one-way streets. It’s more like something from a John Mellencamp song, like “Small Town” or “Pink Houses.” It’s more Main Street USA with the very apparent stability of blue-collar family life and small ranch-style homes separated by modest yards, and picket fences. If it were Baltimore, it’d be Parkville or Catonsville – just closer to downtown.

Audubon High School is exactly six miles from the front gates of Lincoln Financial Field, where Flacco had his own rocky homecoming vs. the Eagles in a Ravens 24-23 loss in Week 2 of the 2012 season, his only chance in five years as Baltimore Ravens quarterback to play a regular season game just a long jog from his hometown.

In Audubon, Flacco is, well, just a regular Joe for the most part.

“It’s almost like a different life because I grew up around here. I’ve always been around here, and I hope it stays like this,” he said. “It’s my home. It’s where I want to be, close to my family. All of my family is here.”

Flacco’s ascension to Super Bowl MVP and World Champion reads straight from the library of the Horatio Alger catalog.

Son of a mortgage banker Steve Flacco and his wife, Karen, who were high school sweethearts, Joe is the oldest of six children – five boys and a girl. Flacco played three sports and loved all of them as long as he can remember. Despite his dad being just 5-foot-10, Joe went through a surprising and dramatic growth spurt in high school, sprouting more than six inches. His unusually strong arm caught the eye of a handful of college

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Chapter 7: How to find a franchise quarterback

Posted on 18 January 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

“You can always look at how the guys play. You just look at the tape. But at the combine you find out what kind of people they are. What’s important to them? How important is football to them? How important is their family to them? If we get those two things right, we’ll be right most of the time.”

 – John Harbaugh (March 2008)

 

 

 

 

 

AN NFL SCOUT’S LIFE EXISTS with the perpetual hope that every time he shows up on a campus to watch a kid run, or gets on a plane to fly to a college town to see a game in the fall, or fires up his iPad to watch film, he wants to believe he’s about to find the next player who will help his team win the Super Bowl.

It’s the eternal quest for any NFL scout – find the next Pro Bowl player who can become a Hall of Famer. Or, at the very least, find a player who can help you win every year for the next decade.

By the time Baltimore Ravens area scouts Andy Weidl and Joe Douglas got in their cars and made the one hour drive north up Interstate 95 from Owings Mills to Newark, Delaware on November 10, 2007, Joe Flacco wasn’t a secret to the college scouting world. And he certainly was no stranger to Douglas, who joined the team in 2000 and is known to all in the Ravens organization as “Big Joe D,” whose job it was to scout the Northeast for the team from 2003 through 2008. Douglas was made famous during the Ravens’ summer of 2001 filming of “Hard Knocks” on HBO as “The Turk,” the lowly scout who has the duty of summoning players from the locker room to the office of the head coach where “Coach wants to see you, bring your playbook” means you’ll be leaving the campus and chasing your NFL dream elsewhere.

Incidentally, UrbanDictionary.com defines “turk” as “someone who is extremely brave.” Joe Douglas spent six months talking Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta and Joe Hortiz into drafting a Division 1-AA quarterback from Delaware in the first round of the NFL draft.

Douglas, by any measurement, is as brave as Joe Flacco is fearless.

By 2007, Douglas had moved up the ranks of the scouting system and was making that fateful Saturday a “quarterback doubleheader” – a rare chance to see two teams in one day, both with targets who could be the next quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens. The afternoon game in Newark featured the Delaware Blue Hens hosting the Richmond Spiders in a Division I-AA matchup. The nightcap on the docket was Boston College visiting the Maryland Terps in College Park and Douglas would be joined by longtime Ravens scouts Eric DeCosta and Joe Hortiz, whom he’d meet at the I-95 Park and Ride near Catonsville so they could travel together to Byrd Stadium. Their target that evening was visiting Eagles quarterback Matt Ryan, who many thought would be the first quarterback – if not the first player – taken in the April 2008 draft.

Incidentally, Douglas was rooting hard for Richmond that afternoon and not out of disdain for Flacco or Delaware. Douglas was the starting left tackle for the Spiders from 1995-1998 and had been through many battles with the Blue Hens on the field. He was also quite familiar with many of the coaches and players in this contest. Even when he didn’t attend Richmond games – and it was rare to see his alma mater in person because NFL scouts don’t scout a lot of I-AA football games unless there’s a specific prospect they want to evaluate – his father would give him weekly Spiders reports from stands.

It was Douglas’ dad, Joel Douglas, who first told Big Joe D about Joe Flacco a year earlier after seeing the 2006 matchup in Richmond.

“He went to the game with my uncle and he called me up and said, ‘I don’t know who that Delaware quarterback was, but Richmond couldn’t stop him,’” Douglas said of a day when Flacco, then a junior who was making his seventh start for the Blue Hens, went 31-of-45 for 305 yards and a pair of TD passes in a come-from-behind 28-24 win over the Spiders. “Honestly, I was more mad that Richmond blew the lead than I was concerned about who Delaware’s junior quarterback was that day.”

The NFL scouting calendar begins in May after the draft. DeCosta and Hortiz enlist the entire organization to target potential candidates to scout for the following year. By August, the scouts plan their entire schedule for the fall, trying to chunk as many practices, games, campus visits and interviews as possible into the schedule while also trying to see the Ravens play some games at home and away. As an NFL scout, this is the most important time of

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Ravens build more offensive depth with fifth-round picks

Posted on 02 May 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — General manager Ozzie Newsome continued an offensive-minded 2015 draft in the fifth round with the selections of Delaware tight end Nick Boyle and Tennessee guard Robert Myers.

The 171st overall selection, Boyle was the second tight end drafted by the Ravens after they took Minnesota’s Maxx Williams with their second-round pick. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound lacks speed, but he possesses sound hands and will be counted on to primarily be a blocking tight end.

The selection of Boyle reinforces the idea that the Ravens can’t count on the return of veteran Dennis Pitta, who is still recovering from a second right hip dislocation and fracture suffered last September. Boyle caught 101 passes for 984 yards and 12 touchdowns in his four years with the Blue Hens.

Myers gives the Ravens depth on the interior line where standout guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele are both set to become free agents at the end of the 2015 season. A Senior Bowl participant, the 6-foot-5, 330-pound lineman was a three-year starter at Tennessee State and was a favorite of Ravens offensive line coach Juan Castillo in the pre-draft evaluation process.

With Boyle and Myers both being taken in the fifth round, the Ravens drafted a total of three FCS-level prospects after selecting Texas Southern cornerback Tray Walker in the fourth round.

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Thyrl, Ryan envision Ravens going O-Line in first round

Posted on 08 May 2014 by Ryan Chell

Thyrl Nelson’s 

1st rd (17)- Taylor Lewan, OT-Michigan

Analysis: The Ravens retained their left tackle in Eugene Monroe in the off-season, but the belief is that the Ravens would run to the podium to draft Michigan OT Taylor Lewan. The belief is that he could be off the board well before Baltimore drafts, but he is a guy that has been called a “beast” by members of his Wolverine coaching staff and would start immediately at right tackle with the hopes that one day he would be the dominant left tackle of the future for the Ravens.

2nd rd (48)-Jimmie Ward, FS-Northern Illinois

Analysis: A 3-time all-MAC selection and 2013 All-American, the clear-cut 2nd FS on the board behind Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama. In 2013, he led Northern Illinois in tackles (95), interceptions (7) and pass deflections (12).  Taking Ward or another free safety would allow 2013 1st rd-pick Matt Elam to return to his more natural strong safety position and would likely relegate free agent acquisition Darian Stewart to backup duty or create a nice training camp battle.

3rd rd (79)-Jarvis Landry, WR-LSU

Analysis: Landry, who has made it known that he’s a Ravens fan, would become the first ever LSU Tiger to be drafted by the Baltimore Ravens. Leaving after his junior year, he and Odell Beckham combined to be one of the better dynamic duos in a receiving corps. He finished 2013 with 77 receptions, 1,193 yards and 10 TDs. Has the ability to go up and get a ball, but is only listed at 5’11.

3rd rd (99)-Tre Mason, RB-Auburn

Analysis: Thyrl Nelson expects that the Ravens will take a RB that could be a fit in Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme. Tre Mason, 5’8-207, has the build of a Ray Rice and ran in a similar offense at Auburn. A physical back with a hidden burst of speed as well.

4th rd (134)-Antonio Richardson, OT-Tennessee

Analysis: While the Ravens draft Taylor Lewan and immediately put him in the starting lineup, the Ravens like to take tackles on occasion to develop  and have a project to work on. It’s tough to not immediately start a 6’6, 336-lb tackle, but his game might be raw at the NFL level.

4th rd (138)-Zach Kerr, DT-Delaware

Analysis: The Ravens have gone down to the FCS level the last couple years to find players that might not be getting some attention from other NFL teams. Most of these players were capable of starting at the FBS level, but just weren’t getting the playing time or lost tight competitions. The Ravens are all too familiar with the University of Delaware having reached out there to draft both their quarterback, Joe Flacco and center, Gino Gradkowski. Zack Kerr, who transferred out of Maryland after Ralph Friedgen’s departure, would be expected to be a key piece in replacing Arthur Jones, who left in free agency to the Indianapolis Colts.

5th rd (175)-Tajh Boyd, QB-Clemson

Analysis: Boyd, a three-year starter for Clemson and ACC Player of the Year in 2012, has fallen down the draft boards. Or isn’t the hyped-up QB this year. He holds school records in touchdowns (107) and passing yards in 11,904, and would be a better backup option for Joe Flacco than Tyrod Taylor due to his skills as a passer. Taylor, a 6th-rd pick of the Ravens in 2011, is entering the final year of his deal and may have fallen out of favor with the coaching staff.

6th rd (194)-Chris Davis, CB/KR-Auburn

Analysis: Nelson has the Ravens taking not only a CB, but a KR here as well. If Asa Jackson and Jacoby Jones are expected to be bigger parts of the defense and offense respectively, the Ravens would like to have other options on special teams to return the ball. Would be interesting though for the Ravens to take two Auburn players with a GM in Ozzie Newsome hailing from their Iron Brown rivals in Alabama.

Ryan’s Picks

1st rd (17)-Zack Martin, OG-OT, Notre Dame

Analysis-Reportedly, the Ravens-especially offensive line coach Juan Castillo-love Zack Martin. They love him so much-they didn’t bring him in for a visit to Owings Mills because they didn’t want to telegraph their interest in Martin-a three-year starter on the Irish offensive line. There also may be a bigger possibility that Martin is available to the Ravens at 17 as opposed to Lewan. He could be a candidate to start immediately at right tackle for the Ravens, or play left guard and swing Kelechi Osemele out to RT.

2nd rd (48)-Jimmie Ward, FS-Northern Illinois

Analysis: I agree with Thyrl that the Ravens agree they can wait and address their free safety need later in the draft. If they do pass on Clinton-Dix with the first selection, they likely will see where the market lies and circle in on Jimmie Ward quickly-maybe being forced to move up and get him.

3rd rd (79)-Martavis Bryant, WR-Clemson

Analysis-Everyone talks about Clemson WR Sammy Watkins, but junior WR Martavis Bryant, who visited Owings Mills, brings size and sure hands to the NFL level. He stands at 6’4, 211 and would pair with Marlon Brown in becoming another potential red zone target for Joe Flacco.

3rd rd (99)-Keith McGill, CB-Utah

Analysis: Like death and taxes, the Ravens drafting a CB is a given. Utah CB Keith McGill would be called upon to fill the void left by Corey Graham in free agency. Standing at 6’3, 214 lb,  he’s a more physical corner back that would pair nicely and allow CB Lardarius Webb to move inside and play the slot receiver in nickel situations. Missed the 2012 season with a shoulder injury but returned to have 12 pass breakups in 2013.

4th rd (134)-CJ Fiedorowicz; TE-Iowa

Analysis: With the Ravens need to get bigger, Iowa TE CJ Fiedorowicz stands at 6’6, 265 lb and could be an intriguing weapon for Joe Flacco to throw the ball to down the field and in the end zone. Familar with the Ravens coaching style having played under former Ravens assistant Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, he would be a nice pairing with Dennis Pitta, free agent acquisition Owen Daniels, and H-back Kyle Juszczyk. Numbers were not as impressive in the Hawkeye offense due to the ball-control tempo ran at Iowa.

4th rd (138)-Ka’Deem Carey, RB-Arizona

Analysis: Much like with Thyrl’s projection with Tre Mason, Ka’Deem Carey has the same size as Ray Rice. Could either take over for Rice or be the next Ray Rice in this offense. Had back-to-back 1800-yard seasons for the Wildcats with 41 TDs.

5th rd (175)-Preston Brown, ILB-Louisville

Analysis: Provides the Ravens with some depth at the inside linebacker after the loss of Jameel McClain to free agency. Arthur Brown and Daryl Smith will likely start for the Ravens but need backups in the team’s 3-4 scheme.

6th rd (194)-Keith Wenning, QB-Ball State

Analysis: Wenning, a four-year starter at Ball State, holds the Cardinals passing records for touchdowns (92), and set a school record for touchdowns in a season with 35 in 2013. Came to Owings Mills on an official visit, and the only MAC QBs to finish with more passing yards in their careers were Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich. Likely would spell the end of the Tyrod Taylor era in Baltimore.

 

If you missed our explanations of the projected picks, check the BuyaToyota.com Audio Vault!

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Towson uses big second half comeback to top Delaware

Posted on 22 March 2014 by WNST Staff

TOWSON, Md. – Towson Lacrosse (7-2, 1-0 Colonial Athletic Association (CAA)) held Delaware (5-4, 0-2 CAA) scoreless for over 30 minutes en route to an 11-8 comeback win over the Hens on Saturday evening at Unitas Stadium.

After Delaware ended the first quarter with a 5-1 lead, the Hens increased their advantage to 8-4 just 1:18 before halftime on an unassisted goal from Beau Jones. But that was UD’s last tally of the evening as Towson outscored Delaware 7-0 over the final two periods.

Eight Tigers scored in the victory. Junior co-captain Greg Cuccinello, freshman Ryan Drenner and sophomore Ben McCarty each tallied two goals. Junior Justin Mabus posted a career-high five points on one goal and a career-best four assists. Steve DeLargy and Jeff Heath each had two goals for UD.

“All credit goes to Delaware; they came out firing at the start,” said Head Coach Shawn Nadelen. “We weren’t as focused as we should have been. Obviously it was a huge, huge turnaround for our guys in the second half and I couldn’t be more pleased and proud of our team.”

Towson started the game flat, while Delaware came out charging. The Hens scored the first five goals of the game before Mabus found the back of the net at 4:49 in the first quarter. He assisted senior Thomas DeNapoli’s extra-man goal at the start of the second quarter when UD was called for pushing.

Delaware stayed out in front of the Tigers, extending its lead to 7-2 on a goal from Tom Holland at 6:33 in the second frame. Drenner and Cuccinello scored back-to-back goals at 4:23 and 3:14, respectively, before Jones posted UD’s last goal of the night.

During the break Towson shook off its lethargy and stepped up its defense, limiting the Blue Hens to six total shots in the second half.

“I don’t think we shot that well,” said Cuccinello, of the first half. “What really got us going in the second half was being a man down [after a team penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct] and getting the stop. As an offense, we draw a lot of confidence from our defense. We kept getting stop after stop. We knew that if we kept shooting, they’d fall eventually.”

Freshman Joe Seider, McCarty and Cuccinello each scored in the third quarter before senior Max Siskindevened the game at 8-8 at 1:54 in the third. Siskind picked up an uncontrolled Delaware save and scored falling down from point-blank range. It was his team-leading fourth EMO goal of the season. McCarty notched the game winner at 10:25 in the fourth.

Next up, Towson travels to Hofstra on Saturday, March 29 for a 7 p.m. face-off.

NOTES: Towson is now 10-3 all time in CAA season openers … Towson and Delaware have now played six straight times in the Tigers’ CAA opener and Towson has a 5-2 overall record against the Hens in league openers … 32 games between TU and UD have been decided by three goals or less … Towson is 20-12 in those match ups.

COLLEGE MEN’S LACROSSE: Delaware 8, Towson 11
Delaware (5-4, 0-1 CAA) 5-3-0-0/8
Towson (7-2, 1-0 CAA)   1-3-4-3/11

GOALS: TOW – Cuccinello 2, Drenner 2, McCarty 2, Mabus, DeNapoli, Seider, Siskind, Grimaldi; UD – DeLargy 2, Heath 2, Kean, Kormondy, Jones, Holland. ASSISTS: TOW – Mabus 4, Cuccinello 2, Drenner; UD – DeLargy, Finigan, Keane, Kormondy, Martinelli. SAVES: TOW – T White (3, 60:00, 8 GA); UD – C Peaks (4, 60:00, 11 GA). SHOTS: TOW – 41; UD – 20. GROUND BALLS: TOW – 27; UD – 21. FACE-OFFS: TOW – 8-21; UD – 13-21. EMO: TOW – 2-4; UD – 1-3. CAUSED TURNOVERS: TOW – 5; UD – 2. ATT: 1076.

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Towson looks for sixth straight win Saturday against Delaware

Posted on 21 March 2014 by WNST Staff

TOWSON, Md. – Towson Lacrosse (6-2) will try to protect a five-game win streak when the Tigers end a three-game homestand with Delaware (5-3, 0-1 Colonial Athletic Association (CAA)) on Saturday, March 22 at 7 p.m.

Road Closure
Due to a construction project, Osler Drive will be closed on Saturday evening. Fans are advised to take an alternate route. From Charles Street:  divert at Emerson and route through West Village, reconnecting at Osler and to the stadium.

Coming from York Road Bypass, fan should continue south on York Road to Cross Campus and to Osler to approach the stadium.

Opening Face-Off

Towson’s 2013 CAA title defense begins Saturday against the Blue Hens. Towson extended its win streak to five games with a 10-8 win over UMBC on March 18 at home. Three Tigers scored two goals apiece en route to the win. Delaware lost its Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) opener to Hofstra, 11-9.

Updating the Tigers
The Tigers outlasted beltway rival UMBC on Tuesday, March 18 by the score of 10-8. The game was tied seven times. Seniors Max Siskind, Devin Grimaldi and Thomas DeNapoli each scored two goals. Junior Justin Mabus had two assists. Sophomore goalkeeper Tyler White made 12 saves on the day.

Scouting the Blue Hens
Delaware, whose win streak was the team’s longest since the 2010 season, jumped out to a 6-3 lead early in the second quarter, but the Pride scored six unanswered goals over the span of the second and third periods to take control and win their fourth straight game. A goal by Mike Malave with 9:58 left in the third quarter broke a 6-6 tie and put Hofstra up for good.

Towson-Delaware Series History
This is one of Towson’s oldest series. Starting in just the third season the Tigers had a program, the teams have met 54 times in the last 52 years. Towson has won six of the last nine meetings. Thirty-one have been decided by three goals or less; the Tigers are 19-12 in those games. Of the 31 matchups decided by three goals or fewer, 13 have been one-goal margins of defeat. Delaware holds the edge in those games, 7-6.

Last Time Out vs. Delaware: March 22, 2013 (Towson 7, Delaware 6 (ot))
Andrew Hodgson and Ben McCarty teamed up on the game-winning goal in overtime as Towson men’s lacrosse defeated Delaware, 7-6, at Delaware Stadium. For just the second time all season, Towson scored first and took a 2-1 lead into the second quarter. However Delaware scored five straight goals to take a 6-3 lead midway through the third quarter. The Tigers scored back-to-back goals in the fourth to trim the Hens’ lead to 6-5 with 8:09 remaining in the game and got last-minute heroics from Greg Cuccinello, who scored with 2.6 seconds left in regulation on a dribbler to send the game into overtime. Hodgson buried a high-low shot past the Delaware keeper from 13 yards out for the game winner with 1:45 showing on the clock in overtime.

Let’s Get It Started
The Tigers are 9-3 all-time in Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) season openers. Towson joined the CAA in 2002 and celebrated with an 18-4 win over Delaware. The Tigers and the Blue Hens have met six times in Towson’s CAA openers; the Tigers are 4-2 in those games. Tonight’s contest is the fifth-straight time Towson and UD have faced off in the Tigers’ league opener.

Next Up

The Tigers play the first of back-to-back road games when they take on the Hofstra Pride on Saturday, March 29 at 7 p.m.

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Jerrelle Benimon Voted CAA Player of the Year for the second consecutive year, led the nation in rebounding and double/doubles.

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CAA Tournament Tips Off Tonight In Baltimore

Posted on 07 March 2014 by Robert Canady

After having to miss last year’s Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tournament due to low APR scores under a previous administration, the Towson University basketball team will finally get to take the floor in postseason action this weekend.

First Mariner Arena Will Host the CAA Tournament For Three Years Beginning Tonight.

The Tigers finished the season with a Division 1 school record 22-9 (13-3 CAA) campaign.  That was good enough for second place in the league and the No. 2 seed in the tournament which begins tonight at First Mariner Arena in downtown Baltimore.

James Madison University the defending CAA champions will be the Tigers opponent  in the first round game played at 6:00 PM tomorrow night, as the third game in the four game slate.  The Dukes lost a lot of players from that Championship team, but bring in a very talented young group, that played the Tigers tough in the two conference games this year, before ultimately losing both contests.

Below is a look at the matchups for the first round game tonight and the quarterfinal matchups that take place tomorrow, the teams CAA record is in parenthesis.

First Round:  #8 Hofstra  9-22 (5-11) vs. #9 UNCW 9-22 (3-13) Friday night at 7:00 PM

Hofstra swept the regular season series between the two teams, winning 69-64 in Wilmington, and 61-52 at home.   The Pride are led by graduate student transfer Zeke Upshaw who was selected to the All CAA 2nd team at last night’s awards banquet.  He was second in the league in scoring at 19.6 points per game.

UNCW, lost its first 10 conference games before finally breaking through with a surprise win against Towson in Wilmington on February 10th.  The Seahawks started using a five man substitution plan during that game.  In doing so they finished the last six games of the season with a 3-3 record.  Junior Cedric Williams is the leading scorer for UNCW putting in 11 points per game.

Quarterfinals

Saturday 12:00 PM #1 Delaware 22-9 (14-2) vs. Hofstra/UNCW winner 

The Blue Hens come into the tournament off the most successful regular season ever for a Delaware basketball team.  As a result Head Coach Monte Ross was voted CAA Coach Of The Year.  Delaware started the conference season 11-0 before losing to Towson 78-63 at SECU Arena in February.   Devon Saddler  a senior leads a dynamic scoring attack  with 20.2 points per game.  Baltimore native Davon Usher a graduate student transfer from Mississippi Valley State added 19.4 points per game, good enough for third in the CAA.   Jarvis Threatt missed six games due to a suspension which did not allow him to qualify for league leaders but he averaged 17.9 points a game.

In addition  junior Kyle Anderson  (11.1) and  senior Carl Baptiste (10.9) gave the Blue Hens five players scoring in double figures.

Devon Saddler A First Team All CAA Selection-courtsey of CollegeChalkTalk

Saturday 2:30 PM #4 Drexel 16-13 (8-8) vs. #5 Northeastern  10-20 (7-9)

Drexel battled injuries all season long, at one point having four starters miss multiple games.  The biggest injury came in the pre-season when junior guard Damion Lee a pre-season favorite to be 1st team all CAA tore an ACL that would cause him to miss the entire year.

Despite the injuries, the Dragons predicted to finish second in the CAA polls were able to secure a No. 4 seed.   Drexel  is led by first team All CAA guard Frantz Massenat a senior who led the team in scoring (17.4) and the CAA in assist with 4.8 assist per game.

Northeastern features all CAA Defensive Player of the Year Scott Eatherton, who battled the Tigers Jerrelle Benimon most of the year for the nations lead in double/doubles before finishing second to Benimon in that category with 18. Eatherton put up 15.5 points and grabbed 10.1 rebounds per game for the Huskies.

The two teams split the season series.

Saturday 6:00 PM #2 Towson 22-9 (13-3) vs. #7 James Madison 11-19 (6-10)

We’ve already talked about the matchup earlier, so I’ll just add some of the awards the Tigers picked up at the dinner last night.

Jerrelle Benimon: CAA Player of the Year, First Team ALL CAA, All CAA Defensive Team

Marcus Damas: All CAA Third Team

Rafriel Guthrie: All CAA Third Team

Timajh Parker-Rivera: CAA All Academic Team, CAA Dean Ehlers Leadership Award

Coach Pat Skerry was also one of only three coaches that received votes for Coach of the Year,  along with Tony Shaver of William & Mary and Ross.

Jerrelle Benimon Voted CAA Player of the Year for the second consecutive year, led the nation in rebounding and double/doubles.

Saturday 8:30 PM #3 William & Mary 18-11 (10-6) vs. #6 College of Charleston 14-17 (6-10)

The Tribe spent a good part of the year either tied or just one game behind Towson for second place in the CAA before going 3-3 in its final six games.  However, two of those losses came at the hands of Towson. The Tigers defeated the Tribe 85-70 on the 15th of February, and closed out the regular season with a thrilling 70-68 win at SECU last Saturday.

William and Mary is led by First Team All CAA Guard Marcus Thornton, who finished 5th in the CAA with 18.6 points per game, and led all CAA players with 85 three-pointers on the season. The Tribe also feature the Rookie of the Year for the CAA in freshman Omar Prewitt.

College of Charleston is a newcomer to the CAA this year and found  the quality of the teams in the CAA was much deeper than the Southern Conference in which it left after last season.

The Cougars are led by senior Willis Hall (12.2) and they allowed the fewest points scored per game at 62.5 of any team in the conference.

The quarterfinals are sure to produce a lot of what the regular season featured, close games that come down to the last few possessions, and possibly overtimes.  While Delaware and Towson are the decided favorites, and a lot of people would consider a Tigers/Blue Hens finals matchup a marquee event on Monday night, there are seven other teams that feel they are very capable of ruining the hopes of either the No.1 or No. 2 seed.

 

 

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Player Of The Year Candidate Benimon outplayed UD Candidate Saddler on Monday night.-Photo Credit Towson Athletics

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What A Difference Two Years And An Arena Can Make

Posted on 19 February 2014 by Robert Canady

Two years ago during the 2011-12 season, I covered many of Towson’s basketball games, meaning I witnessed  a loss almost every night.   I had a courtside view along with one other faithful reporter Mat Schlissel of TowsonTigers.com.  Many nights it was just the two of us who watched  from press row at a cold and lifeless Towson Center, as a team with only four scholarship players finished 1-31.  Also some nights we weren’t outnumbered by too many fans in the stands either.  A fact that isn’t lost on Head Coach Pat Skerry,  saying, “Two years ago we weren’t giving away seats, we were giving away sections.”

The Tigers are a commanding 13-1 in their new home SECU Arena

Fast forward two years, to this past Monday night.  Mat and I  still had seats next to each other.  However, this time those seats were in the beautiful new SECU Arena.  And, we had been bumped from our courtside seats in favor of the national television crew from NBCSports Network.   Also this time we were only two of 29 media members covering the game.

Still more differences, this time a crowd of over 4000 packed the new home of the Tigers with an energy that I have not witnessed in three seasons covering the team.  Most importantly among those 4,000 fans were the Towson students.   In those games at the Towson Center many nights, there was hardly what you could call a student section.   For most of this year, the students have been out in force, filling both sections under each basket, along with the energy generating Towson pep band.   Season ticket holders, alumni and just plain fans often take their cue from the student section.  If the students are into it, they naturally join along.

The excitement was in large part due to the opponent.  The University of Delaware came in with an unblemished 11-0 record in Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) play.  The Blue Hens occupied the first place spot that Towson had been picked for in the preseason poll.  In the first matchup of the season in Newark last month, Delaware had a similar type crowd on hand and beat the Tigers 83-76 taking control of the 1st place in the league.

To see where the Towson program has come In less than two years is remarkable.  It began with the arrival of  Skerry in the spring of 2011.  He found himself with a shorthanded team during his first season, yet it didn’t affect his approach to each game.   The Tigers played hard, they just didn’t have the talent.  Well they had talent, but it was sitting on the bench in the form of transfers Jerrelle Benimon and Mike Burwell.

When Benimon and Burwell along with JUCO transfer Rafriel Guthrie became eligible to play last year, the Tigers turned in the well documented record breaking season in which they set an NCAA record for biggest turnaround by finishing 18-13.  However, the joy of that success was tempered a bit as the Tigers knew going into the season they would not be eligible for any post-season play, due to APR issues prior to Skerry’s arrival.

This year came with many expectations, Benimon was voted the pre-season Player of the Year in the conference, and as mentioned the Tigers were voted the pre-season favorite to win the league.  They had gone from being the hunter to the hunted, and as Skerry has referenced a few times this year, they wouldn’t be able to sneak up on anyone this season.

So after 11 conference games the scene was set for Monday night, a win by Delaware would have clinched the CAA title for them and assured them not only of the No. 1 seed when the tournament starts in Baltimore in just over two weeks, but also assured them of a NIT bid should they fail to win the conference tournament.

With the win the Tigers still have an outside shot at winning the regular season title, should Delaware lose at  least two of its remaining four games.   While the regular season title may still be a long shot for Towson, the win did a couple of things that should bring even more excitement to the tournament.

Most importantly it can be argued, the Tigers regained some of their swagger in the league.  Two losses to the Blue Hens might have taken some of the anticipation out of the tournament.  The Tigers didn’t just win, they dominated Delaware in all phases of the game, and showed the form that garnered them the pre-season ranking.

Should the Tigers and Blue Hens meet in the tournament, it will most likely come in the final, as it stands now they will go in as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds.    So there would be the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament on the line.  With the game being played in Baltimore at First Mariner Arena, Towson should be able to have the largest fan support of the nine teams.   However, the Delaware fan base travels very well, and will no doubt have several bus loads of students and fans make the just over one hour drive from Newark.

Player Of The Year Candidate Benimon outplayed UD Candidate Saddler on Monday night.-Photo Credit Towson Athletics

Both teams have valid player of the year candidates, Towson with Benimon and  Delaware with its all time leading scorer Devon Saddler.  The two schools are a natural rival.   In addition to being the closest in proximity of any CAA schools, the two have very successful football programs and have had some classic matchups on the football field.

Both teams have some work to do the final ten days of the regular season to avoid any slip-ups and both coaches will tell you the next game is the only one they are worried about.   The next game for Towson is Thursday night in Boston as they face Northeastern.   Skerry showed he is not looking past this game, “I told the team (in the locker room after the Delaware game) I like to leave them with little pleasantries.  But nobody in this room has beaten Northeastern, so we’ve got a major game there Thursday.”

Towson stays on the road after the Northeastern game to play at Hofstra on Saturday.  They return home only long enough to do laundry attend a class or two and head to James Madison for the penultimate game on Wednesday the 25th.

The regular season will close out against William and Mary on Saturday March 1st at SECU, and I know this, Mat and I will be sitting side by side, again in the upper concourse to make room for another TV crew, a fact that neither of us mind as we think back to those cold nights in an empty Towson Center, and realize how far this program and team has come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Towson hosts Delaware Monday for showdown of top CAA teams

Posted on 16 February 2014 by WNST Staff

TOP TWO TEAMS IN THE CAA SQUARE OFF ON MONDAY AS TOWON HOSTS DELAWARE
Tigers looking to give Blue Hens first CAA loss when the squads meet inside SECU Arena

TOWSON, Md. – The top two teams in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) are set to meet on Monday night as Towson hosts rival Delaware inside SECU Arena at 7 p.m.

The game can be seen live nationally on the NBC Sports Network with Mike Corey and Ron Thompson on the call. Fans can also listen to the game on the Towson Sports Network (TSN) with Spiro Morekas and Vince Angotti calling the action.

Delaware, which has won 13 straight games, is 19-7 overall and first-place in the CAA with a perfect 11-0 league record. Towson (17-9, 8-3 CAA) took control of second-place in the conference standings with an 85-70 win at William & Mary on Saturday.

The Blue Hens and the Tigers met earlier this season in Newark, Del. with UD pulling out an 83-76 win on its home floor.

Tiger senior Jerrelle Benimon scored 29 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in the first meeting between the squads. Benimon is currently tied for first in the nation in rebounds per game (11.6) and double-doubles (17).

Benimon was aided by the stellar play of classmate Mike Burwell in Towson’s win at William & Mary on Saturday. Burwell hit five three-pointers en route to scoring a career-high 23 points. The guard has scored in double figures in four of his last six games.

Delaware’s last loss came against St. Bonaventure on December 30. The Blue Hens boast the CAA’s top scoring offense at 80.3 points per game, led by senior Devon Saddler, who averages 20.4 points per game. Classmate Davon Usher averages 19.4 points per game overall and is leading the CAA by averaging 22.6 points per game in league contests.

Monday will be the 72nd all-time meeting between Towson and Delaware. The Blue Hens will pass Loyola as the Tigers most commonly played opponent of all-time. Delaware leads the all-time series 42-29 but Towson has won two of the last three meetings.

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 10 February 2014 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Tennis-ATP Tour U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships (Friday 8pm Saturday 6pm Sunday 4pm from Memphis live on Tennis Channel); Women’s College Basketball: Maryland @ Duke (Monday 7pm from Durham, NC live on ESPN2); Soccer: Russia @ Team USA Women (Wednesday 7:30pm from Atlanta live on USSoccer.com)

10. Top Shelf Comedy Tour feat. Bruce Bruce/Earthquake/Gary Owen (Saturday 8pm Baltimore Arena); Ralphie May (Thursday-Saturday Magooby’s Joke House); Katt Williams (Saturday & Sunday 8pm D.A.R. Constitution Hall); Godfrey (Thursday-Saturday Baltimore Comedy Factory); Sex At The Zoo (Friday 6pm Maryland Zoo); Cecily Strong/Mike O’Brien (Sunday 8pm Stevenson University); Baltimore Winter Restaurant Week (Friday-Monday throughout Charm City); RoboCop (Wednesday) and “About Last Night (Friday) out in theaters

I apparently made a mistake and included Cecily Strong last week instead of this week. “Oh no, more Cecily Strong in T10BD? That’s terrible” said no one in response.

O’Brien has actually had some nice highlights in his first year as a player as well.

9. Kanye West (Friday 8pm Baltimore Arena); JJ Grey & Mofro (Wednesday 8pm Rams Head Live); Johnny Winter Band (Saturday 8pm Sunday 7pm Rams Head on Stage); Rebelution (Thursday 9pm Fillmore Silver Spring), Umprhey’s McGee (Saturday & Sunday 8pm Fillmore Silver Spring); Dru Hill (Thursday 8pm Howard Theatre); Delta Rae (Saturday 7pm 9:30 Club); Eddie From Ohio (Friday-Sunday 7:30pm Birchmere); Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (Tuesday 7pm Lincoln Theatre), Jennifer Nettles (Friday 7pm Lincoln Theatre), Bob Weir & Ratdog (Monday 6:30pm Lincoln Theatre); Lake Street Drive (Wednesday 7pm The Hamilton); Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds (Saturday 7:30pm Carroll Arts Center); Eric Church “The Outsiders” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

Dru Hill was so much more important to my childhood than I should ever admit.

Delta Rae is freaking wonderful. Here’s a night I saw them at Rams Head Live and FELL IN STINKING LOVE.

You might not be familiar with Lake Street Dive. But perhaps you’ve seen this wonderful video.

I saw Sister Sparrow in Brooklyn during Super Bowl week. They played Led Zeppelin IV in its’ entirety. I’m certainly glad they did.

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