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Terps quarterback O’Brien playing well beyond years

Posted on 30 October 2010 by Luke Jones

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — If you glanced up at the scoreboard Saturday evening, you might have wondered how Ralph Friedgen and the Terps managed to schedule Morgan State for a second time this season.

Maryland (6-2, 3-1 ACC) dominated all facets of the game in a 62-14 victory over a Wake Forest team (2-6, 1-4 ACC) that looked more like an FCS school than an ACC rival. The win makes the Terps bowl-eligible for the first time since 2008 — and after the first 10-loss season in the history of the program.

A soft schedule makes it difficult to figure out how improved the Terps really are — though a 48-point victory over a conference opponent will raise a few eyebrows at least — but the next four weeks will provide a clearer picture with the Terps taking on two teams currently ranked in the Top 25. We have to acknowledge the Terps, at the very least, are winning all the games they’re supposed to, a concept Maryland has struggled with in recent seasons.

Special teams play and and a emphasis on taking better care of the football have been major factors in the turnaround, but there’s no questioning one area in which the Terps have improved dramatically.

The quarterback position, with Danny O’Brien under center.

“He’s very intelligent,” Friedgen said. “He’s like a sponge, wanting to soak up experiences. He doesn’t get rattled if he makes a mistake, which is really quite a quality in a redshirt freshman. I think he’s going to continue to get better. I really do.”

Despite junior Jamarr Robinson beginning the season as the starter, the redshirt freshman O’Brien has seized control of the job more emphatically than any quarterback in College Park since early in the Friedgen era with Shaun Hill and Scott McBrien. He plays the opposite of what you expect from a freshman quarterback, taking care of the football (only three interceptions) and completing the throws the defense gives him (13 touchdowns).

Those three interceptions came in the fourth quarter at Clemson after the Terps had fallen hopelessly behind, eventually falling 31-7 in Death Valley. It was a rare time in which O’Brien looked the part of a freshman quarterback trying to force throws and making mistakes.

Entering Saturday’s game, O’Brien already held the freshman record for touchdown passes (nine) and added to that mark Saturday with four touchdown strikes despite being replaced by Robinson halfway through the third quarter with the game getting out of hand quickly in the second half. It was the most in one game by a Maryland quarterback since Joel Statham — one of several quarterbacks to frustrate the fan base over the last seven years — threw four at Duke on Sept. 25, 2004.

O’Brien finished the day completing 13 of 20 passes for 168 yards with the four passing scores to Torrey Smith, Quintin McCree, Haroon Brown, and LaQuan Williams. The young quarterback completed passes to eight different receivers in what’s becoming a trademark in his performances, diversifying the passing game and using a talented receiving unit that has been underutilized in recent years.

“Just getting into the flow of a game quicker and quicker every week,” O’Brien said. “I’m starting to [play with] more of a rhythm. I’m really confident just because I have playmakers all around me and a line that’s protecting me, so it makes my job pretty easy.”

To say O’Brien has played beyond his years is an understatement, but his performance is not as surprising to those who have watched him closely, especially Friedgen, who considered burning his redshirt eligibility late last season but decided against it. Offensive coordinator James Franklin immediately saw the potential in O’Brien by watching him practice a year ago, often looking like the best quarterback on the field.

Interestingly enough, I first watched O’Brien play in a scrimmage at Byrd Stadium in August 2009. For my money, he was the best quarterback on the field. Better than Chris Turner and Robinson despite having only walked on campus a few weeks earlier.

“He really hasn’t exceeded my expectations,” said offensive coordinator James Franklin. “I had very, very high expectations for him and our entire offense and our team. He’s accurate, he’s got good athleticism. He’s got a lot of the ingredients that we looked for when we recruited him, and all those things have held true.”

The freshman oozes confidence and efficiency for a Maryland offense that was plagued by the turnovers of Chris Turner and Robinson a year ago. The Terps offense now stands at plus-10 in turnover margin after Maryland committed an appalling 24 turnovers in 12 games last season.

That growing conviction has even radiated during his conversations with Friedgen, who shared how certain O’Brien was about beating Wake Forest, the college team he cheered for  growing up in Kernersville, N.C.

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Purple Reign reincarnated, the life and times of Ray Lewis this week at WNST.net

Posted on 23 October 2010 by Nestor Aparicio

It’s been 10 years since the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV and since I wrote “Purple Reign: Diary of a Raven Maniac.” With the upcoming three-part series that I’m writing in regard to the past, present and future of the most legendary purple bird of them all, Ray Lewis, I’m presenting an excerpt from my April 2001 book as a prelude to all things Ray Lewis.

With all of the fanfare about Sunday’s 2000 reunion, it’s made me misty-eyed for all purple memories and what a special group of people the Ravens of Baltimore have brought to town as local heroes. It’s been a wonderful weekend of reconnecting with 20 of the 53 Ravens here at WNST.net. for all of our hosts. We hope you enjoy the weekend programming that is 100% Ravens Super Bowl memories on AM 1570 and you can also visit the Toyota Audio Vault here at WNST.net.

This is a long piece from Chapter 4 and it was entitled: “THE ORIGINAL BIRDS AND THE MEAN MACHINE” and also featured an extensive profile of Jonathan Ogden. Here is the original, unedited, unaltered piece on the Ray Lewis that I knew in the early days and where we were in April 2001:

There is no way anyone would have dared predict the greatness of Lewis five years ago coming out of the University of Miami as a very undersized junior linebacker. 
Twenty-three different franchises passed on the future Hall of Famer on that day in April 1996, including the Ravens when they selected Ogden. Now, with 20/20 hindsight and the clarity of a Super Bowl championship and MVP trophy, he would have easily been the first player taken in the draft.

His true impact on every game since the Ravens’ inception has been very clear to only one segment of the population: the fans who watch the Ravens play every week. And up until the 2000 playoffs, that made up a very small segment of NFL fans. The lowly Ravens, with their lack of identity, wins and major-market appeal, were about as far down the food chain as could be found in the league. The Ravens had never even sniffed a Monday Night Football appearance.

Ask around to folks in the organization and to the football minds on the inside and they’ll tell you that Ray Lewis has never played a bad football game. In five full seasons spanning 84 games, Lewis has missed two games after dislocating his elbow early in the 1998 season.

There were a handful of games when Lewis had an “off game” and still managed 12 tackles.

From the moment he took the field in the first game of franchise history, Sept. 1, 1996 against the Oakland Raiders at Memorial Stadium, Lewis has been a dominant player in the league, a guy who never takes a down off. But so very few had actually seen him play. Baltimore was not a preferred destination for media or scouts or front office types prior to the 2000 season.

I can very vividly remember the first time I met Ray Lewis.

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Terps continue hot streak, destroy Miami 81-59

Posted on 26 January 2010 by Luke Jones

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Maryland’s homestand began against Longwood last Tuesday, and if you only paid attention to the final scores, you’d think the Terps had played the lowly Lancers in a three-game set instead of conference opponents NC State and Miami in the last two.

The Terps continued their early dominance in the ACC with a convincing 81-59 win over Miami at the Comcast Center on Tuesday night. Maryland (14-5, 4-1 ACC) raced out to a 14-4 lead in the first seven minutes of the game and never let the last-place Hurricanes weather the storm as four Terps reached double-digit scoring for the third game in a row.

A trademark of last season was the Terps’ inability to hold second-half leads against ACC opponents, but this year’s squad has tightened its grip on opponents instead of letting them sneak their way back into contests.

“This year we’ve done a great job of coming out and starting games strong and finishing games the same way,” said sophomore Sean Mosley. “It’s just the mindset that we have this year that we can’t lose a game when we’re up by 20 points. We’ve just been coming out and playing hard for 40 minutes.”

Greivis Vasquez and Landon Milbourne led the way with 16 points apiece while Mosley and Eric Hayes each contributed 10 in the blowout victory. While Vasquez has been the top—and sometimes only—scoring threat for Maryland over his four-year career, the improved balance exhibited by the Terps has led to four conference victories by a combined 71 points.

“You have to be able to play off each other,” head coach Gary Williams said about his team’s balanced attack on both ends of the floor against Miami.

Defensively, the Terps forced 14 Miami turnovers in the first half and held Dwayne Collins, the Hurricanes’ leading scorer, to a meager five points and three field goal attempts for the game. Freshman Jordan Williams continues to be the difference maker in the paint, freeing Milbourne to play to his strengths further away from the basket.

The Terps’ senior leadership and experience has led to the improved defensive effort. Whether it’s the improved team rebounding or simply diving on the floor for loose balls in the paint, the defense has played with confidence and enthusiasm.

“We are trying to believe that our defense is what is responsible for our ability to run our offense and get good shots,” Gary Williams said. “I think the aggressiveness on the defensive end of the court funnels into the offensive part of the game.”

Needless to say, the Terps are feeling good about themselves and rightfully so. While Maryland hasn’t exactly played the best the ACC has to offer, it’s beating the teams it should beat—and convincingly.

Despite finding his team in first place, Gary Williams is quick to point out how early it is in the conference schedule—and how quickly things can change for the worse.

“We have to go on the road for two games [against Clemson and Florida State]. We’ll see where we are [after that].”

Indeed.

You only have to think back to November to find a similar quote from the Maryland coach following a blowout over New Hampshire and a 3-0 start. The No. 21 Terps then went to Hawaii and dropped two games to power-conference teams (Cincinnati and Wisconsin) in the Maui Invitational and limped home with only a win over Division II Chaminade to their credit. The effort in Maui lacked a pulse as the Terps appeared disinterested in the opportunity to make a statement.

Sunday’s game at Clemson will help clarify the picture of just how good this team really is. Though clearly not a must-win, a victory at Littlejohn would emphatically put the Terps in the conference championship discussion—or as much as you can be after six games. A loss wouldn’t kill their momentum by any stretch, but the lingering doubts of whether the Terps can beat tougher opponents would remain.

Maryland is certainly looking the part of a serious force to be reckoned with in the ACC, beating up on the bottom-feeders of the conference.

Now the Terps can show it on the road against one of the perceived big boys.

– After a 24-point win over NC State and a 22-point victory over Miami, the Terps have earned back-to-back 20-plus point wins over ACC schools for the first time since February 2003 when they defeated North Carolina (96-56) and Clemson (91-52).

– The 4-1 start is Maryland’s best conference start since opening 6-1 in the 2002-03 season.

– Miami came into the game averaging 75.7 points per game on 47.5 percent shooting, but the Terps held the Hurricanes to 59 points and 38.3 percent shooting. Maryland has held its last four opponents to under 40 percent shooting.

– Vasquez moved into sixth place on Maryland’s career scoring list, passing Lonny Baxter, who had 1,858 in his career.

– The Terps have outscored their opponents in the paint over the last four games by a combined 180-76. Maryland held a 42-20 advantage in the win over Miami.

– Maryland has now outrebounded its opponent in seven of its last eight games.

Check out the final stats right here and the live blog below.

_______________________________

8:56 p.m. — This one is over. You HAVE to be happy with this one. Maryland wins, and it was never close.

Final score: Maryland 81, Miami 59

Back in a bit with the post-game wrap.

8:54 p.m. — McGowan with the airball. That pretty much sums up the entire evening for Miami tonight.

8:53 p.m. — Levent turns it over but hustles down the floor to affect the shot on the other end.

1:05 remaining in this one. I THINK it’s safe to say this one is over.

8:51 p.m. — And here comes Ersin Levent. Maryland has been so good lately it feels like these guys are becoming a part of the regular rotation.

8:49 p.m. — David Pearman is at the score table and is set to check in, replacing Vasquez to a big ovation. Another fine night by the Maryland leader.

8:47 p.m. — We’ve reached the final media timeout of the night as plenty of Maryland faithful are heading to the exits. Can’t say I blame them one bit.

Maryland leads 79-52 with 3:39 remaining.

8:45 p.m. — Vasquez finds Bowie on a very nice cut for the easy two.

Bowie picks up the foul on the other end, and Jordan Williams exits to a big hand. Another fine performance from the freshman forward.

8:43 p.m. — Hayes and Mosley exit the floor to a nice ovation. You would think their nights are done with a 29-point lead and 4:45 remaining in this one.

8:40 p.m. — The Terps have four players in double figures with Milbourne leading the way with 17, Vasquez with 16, and Hayes and Mosley each with 10. It marks the third game in a row that at least four players have posted double-digit scoring numbers. Very impressive, but let’s not kid ourselves: Longwood, NC State, and Miami aren’t exactly Kentucky, Texas, and Syracuse.

8:37 p.m. — Maryland is up by 32 points. What is there to say other than Maryland is looking very good, and Miami looks very bad.

8:35 p.m. — With the Terps trying to hold on to a 28-point lead, I couldn’t help but notice Clemson is struggling against Boston College, down nine point with 10 minutes to go.

It looks as though the Terps are getting the Tigers at the right time as they’ve strugged over the last couple games.

8:32 p.m. — We’ve reached another media timeout as this one cannot end soon enough for the Terps. They lead Miami, 71-43, with 9:13 remaining.

8:28 p.m. — I have to ask the question at this point. How in the you know what did Miami beat Wake Forest a few weeks ago? This is downright UGLY.

8:24 p.m. — Former Terp and national champion Byron Mouton is in attendance tonight. He has to be liking what he sees out of the Terrapins this evening.

8:23 p.m. — Tucker with the nice give to Gregory who goes up for the dunk but is fouled by Julian Gamble. Gregory hits both, and the lead is now 26 points.

Unbelievable.

8:21 p.m. — Bowie takes it inside and is fouled by Collins. Count the basket! The Canes’ leading scorer just picked up his third foul.

The Canes could sure use Jack McClinton right now, couldn’t they?

8:20 p.m. — Very nice drive by Scott on that one. However, Bowie hits a rare triple for the Terps.

Why not?

8:18 p.m. — Scott tries to drive the lane, but Mosley knocks it away. Following a Reggie Johnson miss on an easy putback attempt, Mosley drills the triple. Everything is working tonight for the Terrapins as the lead is up to 21, matching their biggest of the night.

8:14 p.m. — Mosley drives and scores, hitting the deck hard, but he’s alright.

We’ve reached the first media timeout of the second half with Maryland holding a very comfortable 55-37 lead over the Canes.

8:13 p.m. — Dews fouls Mosley, and the sophomore will go to the line for two. He hits 1-of-2 and has five points on the night.

Following a Williams block, Milbourne hits the jumper from the elbow to give him 15 points on the night. It may not be flashy, but he’s having a tremendous evening.

8:11 p.m. — Slow start to the second half as both teams have exchanged misses on their first two possessions down the floor.

DeQuan Jones hits the first bucket of the second half to cut the lead to 15 points.

Williams answers with the shot in the paint. It cannot be understated how impressive this kid is and how much better the Terps are because of it.

8:06 p.m. — We’re just a couple minutes away from the start of the second half.

The Hurricanes turned it over a whopping 14 times in the first half despite shooting 50 percent from the field. The Maryland defense was just relentless in the first half.

7:52 p.m. — Cliff Tucker picks up the cheap foul to send Dews to the line for a 1-and-1. Dews hits them both, and the Terps will have a final shot. Bowie misses the 3-pointer. I guess not EVERYTHING went right for the Terps in the first half, but it’s pretty darn close.

Maryland leads Miami at the break, 48-31.

7:50 p.m. — Milbourne’s shot is rejected underneath, and Gary Williams will use a 30-second timeout with 35.9 seconds remaining in the half.

Following the timeout, Vasquez calls the foul as he caught McGowan in the air and forced up a shot to draw the trip to the line. The senior drains both freebies to push the lead back up to 19 points.

7:48 p.m. — Hayes picks up the cheap foul off the long rebound to Scott on the free throw miss. Scott hits them both to cut the Maryland lead to 18 points with 1:30 remaining.

Bowie finds Williams inside and the freshman is fouled by McGowan, sending him to the line for two. It’s clear how much more confidence Gary Williams and the Terps have in the freshman’s offensive game. He hits 1-of-2 freebies.

7:45 p.m. — Collins is completely out of sync in this one as he just got called for the walk. Williams and Gregory have done a fine job defending the senior, making him look like the underclassmen in the battle.

7:44 p.m. — Milbourne hits the jumper from the elbow, giving him 11 for the game to lead the Terps.

On the other end, the Terps cannot grab the board, leading to a second-chance opportunity for Collins and he’s fouled. The Canes’ leading scorer misses both free throws. This is just ugly for Miami.

7:40 p.m. — Very unselfish play by Vasquez who could have easily taken an off-balanced shot in the paint but he kicks it out to Milbourne for the wide-open triple.

Following a Dews basket on the other end, Vasquez hits a 3-pointer of his own as everything seems to be clicking for the Terps in the first half tonight.

An airball will send us into the final media timeout of the first half. Maryland is really working over the Hurricanes in this one, 41-24 with 3:33 to go before the break.

7:38 p.m. — The Terps are bringing a very balanced approach to tonight’s first half, mixing the perimeter shots with looks inside. The half-court offense is looking so much better than it did early in the season, but again, we’ll need to see the same effort against the tougher opponents the ACC has to offer.

7:36 p.m. — Mosley just ABUSED Thomas with that defensive work, leading to a foul and a trip to the line for the Baltimore sophomore. He hits 1-of-2, but that was quite the defensive play.

Grant hits the 3-ball for the Canes to cut the lead to 11.

7:32 p.m. — James Padgett checks into the game as Bowie throws up a wild shot, but Maryland controls the offensive rebound. Vasquez with the feed to Williams and the big man scores plus the foul. You could tell the senior from Caracas was happy with that play.

Williams drains the freebie to complete the three-point play. Maryland is now up by 15 points.

7:29 p.m. — Mosley is such a fun player to watch. Though listed at 6-foot-4, you’ll find a tough time finding anyone that believes he’s actually that height when you stand right next to him. He plays much bigger than what he is.

The three-point play gives Maryland a 29-17 lead. We’ve reached an official timeout with 7:38 remaining.

7:27 p.m. — The Canes beat the press and find Dews for a wide-open triple.

On the other end, Bowie drives the lane and sticks the layup. Nice to see the aggressive drive from the reserve guard.

7:25 p.m. — Gregory hits the jumper in the lane to give the Terps an eight-point lead. The junior really seems to be finding his role in the rotation over the last few games. Getting more production from Gregory will be a major plus for the Terps moving forward in the conference.

7:23 p.m. — Hayes drains the triple, giving him eight points to lead the Terps in the first 10 minutes of the game.

However, Collins gets on the scoreboard with the dunk for the Canes.

7:21 p.m. — We’ve reached the under-12 media timeout with Maryland continuing to hold a lead over Miami, 17-12, with 11:07 remaining in the first half.

7:19 p.m. — Thomas is fouled by Milbourne on the 3-point attempt. The Terps have done a much better job defending the outside shot this year, but we’ve seen way too much of that over the last couple seasons. The senior forward hits all three shots from the line.

7:18 p.m. — Adrian Thomas drives the lane and is fouled by Hayes, sending the forward to the line for two. Thomas hits them both.

On the other end, Milbourne hits the one-hander in the lane. He has six points already.

Thomas answers with the 3-pointer, but Hayes hits one of his own for the Terps. The pace is really starting to pick up in this one.

7:15 p.m. — Dino Gregory has checked in and forces Collins to take an off-balanced fadeway that’s short. It leads to a Vasquez bucket, and the senior forces the turnover and scores again on the dunk. Timeout, Frank Haith. Miami is just reeling right now, already down 12-2 less than seven minutes into the game.

7:12 p.m. — Collins having all kinds of problems against Williams in the low post as the freshman ties him up.

We’ve reached the first media timeout with 14:43 remaining in the half. Maryland is out to a 8-2 lead over the struggling Canes.

7:10 p.m. — Vasquez drives the lane and is called for the player-control foul. Maryland is using the press early but not with the full intensity we’ve seen at times this year.

DeQuan Jones hits the first bucket of the game for the Canes as they went the first four minutes of the game without a point.

Hayes answers immediately at the other end.

7:08 p.m. — Collins has just checked into the game for the Canes. His time on the bench was short-lived.

Collins is subsequently called for the carry. Miami looking downright anemic on the offensive end right now.

7:06 p.m. — Just a great start for the Terps defensively, forcing a 35-second violation.

Milbourne misses the baseline jumper, but Jordan Williams is right there to clean it up and put it in. We’re seeing that more and more from the freshman big man.

4-0, Maryland.

7:04 p.m. — Maryland comes out playing man-to-man, forcing a miss on the inside off the Canes’ first possession.

Milbourne hits a soft jumper to get the Terps on the board. That shot is just pretty when he has it going.

7:02 p.m. — Miami will go with the black unis while the Terps wear the gold duds again. Milbourne will face off against Reggie Johnson to get this one underway.

I’m a bit surprised to see Dwayne Collins coming off the bench. Perhaps Haith is trying to change his team’s fortunes–or misfortunes–of the last couple weeks.

6:50 p.m. — Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Miami
G Durand Scott
G Malcolm Grant
G James Dews
F Cyrus McGowan
C Reggie Johnson

Maryland
G Eric Hayes
G Greivis Vasquez
G Sean Mosley
F Landon Milbourne
F Jordan Williams

6:40 p.m. — Maryland will again go with the gold uniforms against the Hurricanes tonight. After the dominating performance against the Wolfpack on Saturday night, it’s hard to argue with the wardrobe choice.

6:30 p.m. — Greetings from the Comcast Center in College Park as the first-place Maryland Terrapins (13-5, 3-1 ACC) prepare to close out a three-game homestand against Miami (15-4, 1-4 ACC) at 7 p.m.

Maryland is riding high, winners of five of its last six, and is clearly playing its best basketball of the season. The Terps find themselves in a first-place tie with Virginia atop the conference after an impressive 88-64 victory over NC State on Saturday evening in Gary Williams’ 1,000th career game.

Four Terps posted double figures in scoring (Greivis Vasquez leading the way with 19) against the Wolfpack as Maryland held NC State to 36 percent shooting and an anemic 27.8 percent in the second half.

While Maryland finds itself at the top of the ACC through the quarter pole, Miami is going in the other direction in last place with a 1-4 record. The Hurricanes have lost three in a row, their most recent loss coming against Boston College last Tuesday night. While three Canes average double-figure scoring—senior forward Dwayne Collins leading the way at 12.7 ppg—coach Frank Haith is still searching for that “go-to” scorer to replace Miami standout and Baltimore product Jack McClinton who graduated last season.

The ACC has not done Miami any favors in the early part of the ACC schedule as the Canes played three of its first four conference games on the road and now begins another stretch of three of four away from the BankUnited Center. Needless to say, it’s a dubious task and Miami has struggled mightily since getting off to a 14-1 start, albeit against a very soft non-conference schedule.

It goes without saying that Miami is a very desperate team right now, and Terps fans know all too well the difficulty Maryland has had against the Canes in recent years. The schools split a pair of games last season, but Miami has still won four of the past five meetings against the Terps. With a tough battle looming at hostile Littlejohn Coliseum on Sunday night, Maryland cannot afford to overlook the struggling Hurricanes.

Tonight’s game will be televised on ESPNU with Rob Stone, Jon Barry, and Drew Barry calling the action.

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Another successful Puck Bus and postgame Browns stains

Posted on 07 November 2008 by Nestor Aparicio

Red hats off to our 57 hockey enthusiasts who ventured down to the Verizon Center last night and “Rocked The Red” for the Caps-Hurricanes game. And, wow, what an ending!

Alexander Semin scored on an amazing pass from Alex Ovechkin and the Caps stole a 3-2 win with less than 11 seconds remaining in regulation, beating goalie Cam Ward and turning the rink into a joyous celebration.

We had kids, families, moms, dads and most surprisingly, MANY people who had never been to a hockey game before. We watched “Slap Shot,” gave away autographed pucks, ate Captain Harvey’s yummy sandwiches and brownies and talked “old time” hockey.

I suppose I’m a little spoiled having had hockey here in Baltimore most of my childhood. It’s been almost 15 years since we lost the puck, so I guess there really are a LOT of people who have never experienced the joy of hockey live. It’s kinda cool watching a kid see live hockey for the first time.

Many folks asked me if we’d be doing more “Puck Bus” trips this season. Given the quick sellout of our trip last night, I think we’ll be offering a multi-game “season ticket” for a Baltimore hockey fan club, which we’ll be starting here at WNST.net.

Stay tuned for more details…

But rest assured: After 17 years, I’m not done pimping the puck!

****
So, I got home last night just in time to watch the Browns’ most recent meltdown.

There were four minutes left in the game and the Broncos had the ball near midfield and were locked down at 4th and 1. They ran a draw, got a first down and I told my wife: “They’re the Browns. They’ll screw this up,” not realizing they had a 13-point lead earlier in the game.

Of course, the Browns defense caved in, allowing the game-winning score after watching Broncos quarterback Jay Cutlet scamper 20 yards on a draw play.

I don’t know what’s more of an embarrassment: the way the team plays or the way their fans behave.

They’ve now blown two-touchdown leads at home TWICE in the last four days!

I noticed that Phil Savage signed a major extension last year, so I doubt that he’ll be the one going out the door but Romeo Crennel has become public enemy No. 1 in Cleveland and I can’t think of a worse place to be a head coach than in Cleveland, where the fans boo the home team on first down in the first quarter virtually every week.

Sure, the football hasn’t been pretty. But I’ve said it for years – the Browns fans are the worst enemy of their own team, mercilessly booing and crushing their team in their own stadium year after year.

Given their two-game advantage over the Browns and the possibility of an emergence of the Broncos, it might’ve been better for the Ravens if the Browns would’ve won last night. With the 5-3 start for the purple, I’ve officially opened “scoreboard watching” season in my condo.

Heck, if it helps the Ravens, I’ll root for the Steelers or the Redskins or the Colts at this point.

I just want this team to get to the playoffs. A major step is this weekend, locking down a sixth victory and a road win deep in the heart of Texas.

I’m off to Houston on Sunday morning – we’re doing a “same day down and back” trip.

We’ll have the videos and blogs up on Sunday.

We’re striving to be YOUR place for Baltimore sports every day here at WNST.net.

Feel free to feed back with your comments here on my blog.

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Caps Face Hurricanes plus Hershey/NHL News

Posted on 06 November 2008 by Ed Frankovic

Caps Host Hurricanes

On Thursday night at the Verizon Center the Washington Capitals will finally play a division opponent for the first time since the season opener in Atlanta when they host the Carolina Hurricanes, who currently lead the Southeast Division with 16 points in 12 games (the Caps have 12 points in 11 games going 5-4-2 so far).

Last week I talked about the optimism that the Caps organization should be feeling after the first nine games of the season given some of the adversity they had faced to that point. After a 1-1-1 stretch in which the team has only scored one goal total in the last two games, plus the fact that the team hasn’t scored more than one goal in four of the last six games, there has to be some concern about the recent lack of offense. Even the return of Alexander Ovechkin to the lineup on Tuesday night in Ottawa after a two game absence wasn’t enough for the Caps.

The Caps typically play their best when they are going north and south in transition and are able to use their team speed. Lately it seems that Washington has not been able to get this type of game going and I’m sure some of it falls on the Caps (see a lack of effort at times or poor execution) and some of it can be attributed to other teams changing the way they play Washington by trying to limit their space and ability to move the puck up the ice quickly (can you say trap?).

However, the Hurricanes have not exactly been defensive stalwarts this season having given up 36 goals in 12 games and allowed over 30 shots in a game in eight of the 12 games they’ve played this year. Therefore, I would expect the Caps to be able to generate some scoring chances on Thursday night. Whether they can put them past Michael Leighton or Cam Ward of Carolina remains to be seen.

On the defensive side of the ice the Caps gave up a season high 44 shots to the Senators on Tuesday night and fortunately goalie Brent Johnson was outstanding and managed to hold the fort long enough for Washington to get a point in an overtime loss. The Caps were shorthanded five times, including almost two minutes in which they were down two men, but managed to kill off all five of those penalties so they should be pleased with the penalty killing efforts. In hockey, if you give up 44 shots in a game on a consistent basis you will most likely lose those games so Washington must tighten up. Overall the effort on Tuesday in Ottawa was better but it is still not at the level needed to win hockey games. This game on Thursday night against a division rival is an important one and has the potential for Washington to regain some confidence and start some momentum. Johnson’s play on Tuesday has earned him the start in net on Thursday against Carolina.

Hershey Bears News

I have some big news on the future coverage of the Caps farm team, the Hershey Bears, going forward. Starting next week readers of this blog will find a new weekly section on the Bears that will be written by John Walton, the Senior Manager of Communications for Hershey. I am delighted to be able to bring hockey fans some insight on how the Caps prospects are progressing in their quest to reach the NHL from a credible source who will be watching each Bears game. As many of you already know, Hershey has a very good team with several potential future Caps, including defensemen Karl Alzner, playing in the AHL this year. I hope to get to some Bears games myself this year but barring that at least we will get some good info on the team on a weekly basis. Look for the Bears updates to appear in my upcoming Tuesday hockey blogs.

NHL News

Big loss for the New Jersey Devils finding out that goalie Martin Brodeur is out for three to four months due to elbow surgery. This is a major blow to that team and I think they will be hard pressed to make the playoffs despite the fact that former backup and now starting goalie Kevin Weekes stopped 24 of 27 Tampa Bay Lightning shots to prevail, 4-3, in a shootout Wednesday night.

The San Jose Sharks lead the overall NHL standings at this point with 22 points going 11-2 to start the season. New coach Todd McLellan has energized this team and forward Patrick Marleau is off to a very good start now that he is free from the wrath of former coach Ron Wilson. Marleau leads the team with six goals and seven assists in the 13 games they’ve played. The Sharks are getting scoring from multiple lines and have six players with 10 or more points. San Jose is 7-0 at home so far this season.

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Ovechkin Scores Two in Caps Win

Posted on 26 September 2008 by Ed Frankovic

Caps Sweep Home and Home with Carolina

Alexander Ovechkin had two goals, including one on a penalty shot, and an added an assist as the Washington Capitals defeated Carolina, 5-2, before 13,266 at the Verizon Center on Thursday night in the Caps preseason home opener. Despite the fact that this was a preseason game the Great #8 didn’t fail to entertain adding numerous body checks, several of which were on Carolina defensemen Dennis Seidenberg, to go along with his three point night. The win completed a home and home preseason sweep of the Hurricanes by the Caps (Washington won 4-1 on Wednesday night in Raleigh).

The Caps came out slow giving up 15 shots in the first period, including two power play goals, as the Hurricanes raced to a 2-0 lead. The Carolina goals were the result of some big rebounds given up by rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth but after that he shut the door and made 24 saves on the night.

“I thought [Neuvirth] was a little shaky at the beginning and then just settled right in…the other team worked really hard and its difficult sometimes, there isn’t a lot of Carolina Hurricanes on the forward list out there…so they’re working hard and we’re taking it easy a bit because human nature says we don’t even know half of their guys…but we stayed the course and eventually played a little better as the game went on,” said Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau.

The #1 star of the game was given to Christopher Bourque, son of Hall of Fame defensemen Ray Bourque, who had a goal and an assist but was a big factor in the first four Caps goals (it was his pass that set up Ovechkin’s initial near breakaway that led to the penalty shot that tied the game at two in the second period). Bourque, who is 22 years old and was taken in the 2nd round of the 2004 NHL entry draft by the Caps, is improving.

“I thought he was good…the little guy looks like he found that step and I’ve asked him to find that extra step and he looks pretty quick…one thing about Chris is he’s always competed hard his whole life and he does that and I thought he was very solid tonight,” said Boudreau about Bourque.

Michal Nylander, with two goals, also turned in a strong game coming off missing the second half of last season and the playoffs due to shoulder surgery. Washington needs a good year from Nylander, especially when they are paying him $5M for this season. When asked about #92’s shoulder and if there are any doubts about him being recovered Boudreau said, “No, it’s good….Nyles should have gotten one of [Viktor Kozlov’s] assists last night so in my mind he has four points in two games…you know he had 89 points or something the year before he got hurt..he’s got a lot of pride and is fighting his way saying I’m gonna show everyone how good I am again.”

There was more encouraging news on the night as team captain Chris Clark played 14:29 of ice time providing two assists and got into a scrap with Canes defensemen Tim Conboy in the third period. Clark missed almost all of last season with numerous injuries.

“It was fun, a little bit of everything tonight, some checking…everything was there for me tonight to test,” said Clark on the game and then on the fight with Conboy he added, “you have to get into one eventually so we’ll start now.”

I asked Chris Clark about the heightened expectations this team will face and if as a leader he is talking to the team about what to expect, especially given that he has experience going to the Stanley Cup Finals as a member of the 2004 Calgary Flames team that lost to Tampa Bay in Game 7.

“We pretty much have our whole team back and we didn’t win the last game of last year but it feels like it since the season ended up on such a high note. The guys are trying to remember that run and thought about it all summer so it is something we are just trying to continue,” started Clark, “There is a lot of expectation, you know it is great, we haven’t had that the last three years here.  It is something and it is fun because we have to live up to those expectations…we have the team to do it…once the season starts, once the grind gets going, guys will figure it out. You know we have a lot of guys who have won, Feds (Sergei Fedorov) has won two cups, so he is the guy who should be talking about it but it is something definitely that will be coming up later on.”

Despite the fact that Carolina fielded a mostly minor league roster tonight the Caps appear to be off and running. The team is fun to watch because of its offensive minded and up tempo philosophy.

Other Notes: Defensemen Mike Green logged 25:51 of ice time and had 1 assist in the game. Tom Poti played 20:14 of ice time that included a great defensive shift where the Caps killed all 73 seconds of a two man advantage for Carolina. Caps Goalie Darren Machesney stopped the only three shots he faced in the third period but got the win since Washington scored three times in the final period. Boyd Gordon was 11-6 on faceoffs for Washington. Ovechkin had four official hits and eight shots on goal. Despite being outshot 15-9 in the first period Washington outshot Carolina 30-29 overall. The Caps play their next three preseason games on the road: Saturday at Boston, Monday at New Jersey, and Wednesday at Philadelphia. The Hershey Bears, Washington’s AHL farm team, opens training camp on Friday (September 26th).

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Harbaugh and Hockey

Posted on 13 September 2008 by Ed Frankovic

Harbaugh Making a Stand?

So I caught some sports news tonight on Comcast and John Harbaugh stormed off from the media to end his daily press conference this afternoon out at 1 Winning Drive. It appears that the constant questions about who is playing and who is hurt are getting to our new head coach. In Harbaugh’s defense he has been consistent in not answering these questions at all and has stated so to members of the media, from what I’ve seen and heard. Personally, I think it is a GREAT decision by Harbaugh to keep mum on injuries and anything pertaining to who is playing where and how much. Giving out that information can hurt your competitive advantage. So I say kudos to Harbaugh for standing his ground and not discussing injuries or playing time or anything strategic ahead of time because it can help the Ravens against their upcoming opponents. I rarely see Bill Belichick discussing injuries and that has worked for New England as well (of course some guy named Brady doesn’t hurt to have on your side either). So as fans of the team are you okay with Harbaugh not discussing these things? Can you live with the lack of information and uncertainty on various players in a football crazed town? I certainly am and have no problem with him drawing a line in the sand with the local press. After all, he is getting paid to win games, not be nice with the media, right Mr. Bisciotti?

Hockey Talk and Season Coming Soon

To all of you hockey starved fans out there, hang in there, training camp starts up next week with the first part of each teams’ camps focused on the rookies and young prospects. The veterans start skating officially later next week (although many Caps are in town skating at Kettler Iceplex daily already, and in case you hadn’t heard Nicklas Backstrom sprained his ankle Thursday and will likely miss at least some of camp). If you have access to the NHL network they are showing many of the NHL rookie games this week each night so tune in to get your first look at some future NHLers. Also, the Caps rookies will be playing the Flyers rookies at 3pm at Kettler Iceplex on Thursday, September 18th. I plan on attending and providing some information on how the young guys are developing as well as any info I can pick up about the big club. The Caps open their regular season Friday, October 10 in Atlanta and are home the next night against the Chicago Blackhawks at 7pm. I expect the Caps to have lots of sellouts this year so get your tickets while you can.

Other hockey tidbits: The Blackhawks have traded former Caps forward Robert Lang to the Montreal Canadiens for a second round draft pick in the 2010 draft…Tampa Bay forward Vincent Lecavalier, who hurt his shoulder in the last Lightning game against the Caps last season, says he will miss the first four Tampa preseason games but will return for the final two games…Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes signed a seven year, $58M deal with the club on Thursday, September 11.

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With Much Anticipated Return!!

Posted on 09 September 2008 by stevenlink

Well it’s been a while since I blogged last and I apologize greatly to all the devoted fans of this blog (as tumbleweeds come tussling by).  A lot has happened in the World of Sports in the past few weeks and unfortunately I cannot cover it all but I’ll do the best I can.

Let me first get this thought out there about the Orioles: The season was a lot of fun for the most part.  This team exceeded a lot of expectations that were set at the beginning of the season for them.  The unfortunate part is that they are no longer exceeding those expectations and we are in September and the Orioles decided to slump again like they always do.  Everyone knows that the reason for this is their pitching…again.  The Brian Matusz #1 draft pick keeps looking better and better as does the rotation of the Bowie Baysox.  And on that note, congratulations to the Baysox for their historic season of winning their division.  It is a shame that they lost in the playoffs but it was pretty bush-league how the Akron Aeros placed Travis Hafner in their lineup.  I mean it’s fair having an All-Star slugger conduct his rehab stint during a playoff right?  But I digress…Andy MacPhail’s philosophy of pitching first for organization truly is the best way to rehabilitate this floundering franchise.

In regards to the Ravens’ game Sunday all I can say is, well, I was wrong.  I’ll admit that I was one of those persons who felt the Ravens had no chance winning that game against the Bengals.  But really, was I really that crazy for making that call?  You have Carson Palmer, Chad John-oh I mean Ocho Cinco, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh against a secondary that was beat up last year by this team, and on top of that, Ed Reed was a game-time decision and Wacko Flacco wasn’t overly impressive during the pre-season.

But the Ravens defense was simply phenomenal Sunday.   They decided to leave the hammer at home and instead brought the sledge to bust the Bungals offense with.  They were so dominant that T.J. Houshmandzadeh decided to invest in the Kleenex Tissue Company on Monday because of all the crying and complaining he did on the field.  My only problem with our defense yesterday was when Samari Rolle decided to try his best impersonation of Brett Favre and chucked the ball into the sidelines after his “fumble” recovery.  I mean really guys??  Did we not learn anything from last year and the delay of game penalties??  His reaction to that play was uncalled for.

The Ravens offense looked pretty good as well.  Ray Rice and Le’Ron McLain ran very well but Lorenzo Neal was the real hero with the way he created those running lanes for those two backs.  Todd Heap showed how rusty he was with his fumble and dropped touchdown.  But the rookie QB Joe Flacco really stole the show with his performance.  I thought he’d act like a deer in the headlights out there but again I was proven wrong.  He showed poise and confidence as he was able to adjust to blitzing linebackers or charging defensive linemen.  His block on Mark Clayton’s touchdown run was the play of the game to me.  Hopefully he can build on this experience and maybe, just maybe we finally have the start of a real quarterback here in Baltimore.  And if it takes me having to be wrong for this to happen…then I never want to be right.

Yesterday it was announced Tom Brady is done for the rest of this season.  The shouts of despair and sadness you hear is not only from New England, but also from all of those Fantasy Football players who decided to draft Tom Brady with their first round pick instead of that running back they knew they should have gone with instead.  The news about Tom is horrible.  No one wants to see such a great football player get injured, especially the injury that he was dealt.  So here it is, my Question to You – Do you think the Patriots are still Super Bowl contenders without Tom Brady behind center?  I don’t think they are Super Bowl contenders anymore because of this injury.  However, I do think this team will still make the playoffs.  They still have a ton of talent and the Belichick x-factor to win a lot of football games.   This team just won’t win games by 30 points this year like they did last.

Quick note on “Football Night in America” on NBC before the Sunday night football game, could it be more unprofessional?  I mean you had Tiki Barber with his rude comments, Jerome Bettis with his gushing about the Steelers, and of course Keith Olbermann…enough said.  It was like I was watching a bunch of frat boys discuss last night’s party and their take on what happened.   And what is the deal with Bob Costas?  Is he trying to reassemble the early 1990’s Sportscenter crew?  Is Craig Kilborn the next addition to his cast?  I know that Olbermann and Patrick are good friends, but NBC should get Olbermann off of the show the same way they got him off of the election coverage.  Bob, you disappoint me.

It’s no secret that I am a huge University of Miami Hurricane fan, and it was no secret of my feelings towards Urban Meyer, the head coach of the University of Florida football team, on Saturday night.  His decision to continue to pass the ball into the endzone with 1:00 minute left and kicking a field goal to end the game after the Canes stopped his team.  That action was completely uncalled for and disrespectful.  The Canes played great against a much more experienced and skilled team being down only 9-3 going into the 4th Quarter.  But their young and inexperienced team fell apart in that last quarter and were behind 23-3 when the Gators were still passing for that last touchdown.  Do you think it was a coincidence that even with the field goal the Gators were able to make their 21 point spread?  I don’t…And the excessive celebration call made during the BYU v. Washington game against Washington’s QB Locker was horrible and the fact it resulted in the Washington’s loss was even more of a kick in the jewels.

If you didn’t hear by now Maryland lost to Mid Tennessee State this past weekend.  That’s right folks, it wasn’t Tennessee or even Memphis who beat the Terps, but Mid Tennessee State.  To reiterate, it was not a team from the SEC or Conference USA, but rather the Sun Belt Conference.  The 24-14 loss was a complete embarrassment.  There was no reason for this loss.  This has been an underachieving program for the past 3-4 years.  My Take on this situation is that if the Terps do not make a legitimate run at a prestigious bowl this season then Ralph Freidgan should be let go.  There are no more excuses for him.  The ACC is one of the weaker conferences in the NCAA now (just take a look at the Top 25 poll and see how many ACC teams are represented there as one piece of evidence).  His team has underachieved ever since he had his own recruits took over this team with the exception of the 2006 season.  He has had recruiting scandals to recruiting losses from here in our own state to neighboring schools that should not happen.  I like Ralph, I think he has done so much for this program and putting it back on the map, but he needs to right the ship before Maryland Athletic Director finally sets him out to sea.  And if you were wondering who I think the AD should look at Skip Holtz, the head coach of ECU, to take over at Maryland.  I think his style of play and the players on the Terps’ roster would be a great fit.

And finally, for all of you European Premier League Soccer fans out there, I was told you can’t miss Saturday night’s game (noon game here) between Chelsea and Manchester City.  Manchester City spent 32 Million Pounds (converting to the dollar that would be like 1 billion dollars…sarcasm people) to acquire Brazilian striker Robinho.  Let’s not forget that in European Soccer the money spent is not going to the player but rather to the player’s previous team, Real Madrid.  Apparently the concept of the indentured servant is still alive and well in Europe…Also there is the Ohio State v. USC game Saturday.  I know all of my Notre Dame friends will be upset with this remark but I’m rooting for USC to smear the Buckeyes across the field for this game.

Well I hope my much anticipated return was well received.  I’m done for now but I’ll be sure to be back at the next chance I get.  Sayonara B-more.

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