Archive for October, 2006

Notre Dame vs. Navy; A Running Diary
October 28, 2006

11:58 AM

This running diary starts with a confession. I’ve never before attended a Navy football game. Shameful as that may be, it’s tough to get to Annapolis for a 1:00 kickoff then return to the station for a 6:00 broadcast. The logistics just don’t work. But a noon kickoff in Baltimore, and now we’re in business.

Let’s set the scene at M&T Bank Stadium. After a cold, rainy Friday we are blessed with a surprisingly balmy Saturday. A Saturday dominated by Irish fans. Walking in to the stadium they outnumber Navy fans 4 to 1. There may be no greater nationwide fan base than that of Notre Dame. However, as with any group of fans this rule remains. If you’re more than 30 years old, don’t bring a sign to the game unless it says Fire Matt Millen (that’s appropriate at any event). The guy in his mid 50’s with the homemade Go Irish placard just needs to stop.

As for the game itself, can you think of a more one sided series that remains a rivalry than Notre Dame & Navy? The Irish own an NCAA record 42 game win streak over the Midshipmen yet every year it’s a big deal.

A 43rd straight appears imminent. 11th ranked Notre Dame (6-1) possesses enough first round talent to give the Oakland Raiders a good game while Navy (5-2) comes to a season ending injury. Brady Quinn starts at QB for the Irish. Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku Enhada starts at QB for Navy. They both wear number 10 but the similarities end there.

12:11 PM

I don’t know how the 50,000 Notre Dame fans in attendance will cheer against Navy today. Watching the Midshipmen in uniform on the field for the flyover and national anthem reminds us that they have bigger things going than a football game. When Navy sprinted onto the field, carrying the American flag chills and goose bumps engulfed the press box.

12:17 PM

Notre Dame’s first possession reminded me of the movie Rudy. Remember when the tutor screached during the final game when Rudy took the field “he’s so little” change he to they and refer to the entire Navy team compared to the Irish and that’s how it looks. But credit the Mids they got tough in the red zone, forcing Notre Dame to a 40 yard field goal from Carl Gioia. 3-0 Irish

12:31 PM

Navy may be little, but the Mids are also very, very fast. Reggie Campbell leading Navy back down the field with 23 of 63 yards rushing to respond to the Irish score. However, Matt Harmon missed a 32 yard field goal that would have tied. Former Gilman star Victor Abiamiri sacked Kaipo-Noa on 3rd down in the red zone forcing the field goal attempt. More on the Gilman connection to come. 3-0 Irish

12:45 PM

Brady Quinn helps his Heisman candidacy again. On 3rd and 18 from the Navy 36 Quinn lofts a perfect pass to David Grimes. Quinn is now 5-8, 102 yds, and a TD. Now it seemed that Grimes might have interfered with the Navy defender, instead interference is called on the Mids. TD Notre Dame with 1:32 left in the first quarter. 10-0 Irish. And it really does feel like a home game for Notre Dame. The stadium completely erupted with the score.

1:00 PM

Navy responds as you’d hope a group of men that will one day fight for our country would. 9 plays, 80 yards including a 4th down conversion at their own 29 by penalty. Kaipo-Noa scores on a QB keeper from the one. A writer for IrishEyes.com just commented to me how much fun it is to watch the option. When done properly, it sure is. I doubt however that Charlie Weis right now agrees. 10-7 Notre Dame 2nd quarter, 11:30 remaining.

1:11 PM

If Notre Dame fails to score 50 points today it’s only because Navy runs enough clock with its own possessions. The Irish can do what they want on offense. Travis Thomas just ripped off a 16 yard touchdown and I don’t think he was touched. Notre Dame seems dead set on establishing the run after last week’s dismal effort of just 41 yards against UCLA. 8:00 left in the 2nd quarter, 17-7 Notre Dame.

1:25 PM

What a debut. The Mids roar right back, marching (and when you say marching with Navy it means a little more) right through the Irish defense. 13 plays, 65 yards and again it’s Kaipo-Noa finding the end zone. The first start of his career one not only he’ll never forget, one he wants to remember. A one yard touchdown puts the Mids within a field goal (I hope for Matt Harmon’s sake it doesn’t come down to a 3 point loss) Notre Dame 17-143 with 2:38 to play in the first half.

1:34 PM

The shootout lives on. Notre Dame responds, 6 plays 80 yards in about 3.4 seconds. Quinn again went deep, threw a perfect ball even though Rhema McKnight was thoroughly covered by Keenan Little. That’s knowing your personnel. In a one on one battle between those two, serious advantage McKnight. Quinn also had a 12 yard scramble on the play. He looks every bit like an NFL quarterback. Oakland Raider fans are now hoping to lose out and grab Quinn number one overall. Still in the 2nd quarter, 24-14 Notre Dame.

2:05 PM

The 3rd quarter’s just underway, still 24-14 Irish. I spent a few minutes at halftime talking with Ravens director of college scouting Eric DeCosta. On Irish receiver Jeff Samardzija “he’s sneaky fast. I think he’ll run in the high 4.4’s (40 yard dash) and be a very good vertical receiver in the NFL. The question is whether or not he’ll play baseball instead of football.” And on Brady Quinn, “he’s big, strong, and fast although this isn’t a great game to judge him because of Navy’s physical limitations. The questions are his accuracy and decision making under pressure against really good teams.”

2:15 PM

Back to the Gilman connection. A pair of former Greyhounds, Victor Abiamiri and Ambrose Wooden play defense for the Irish. Returning to Baltimore is not doubt a thrill for them, but even more so for the current Gilman team. I talked with Greyhound head coach Biff Poggi this week and he could hardly contain his excitment about today’s game. He even had his game with Loyola moved to Friday to ensure he and his team could watch. “We’ve never gotten to see them play in person so this is awesome.” Made even more awesome by the fact that on Friday Gilman knocked off Loyola, likely locking up the MIAA A crown.

2:39 PM

Did I mention the Irish scored again? Sorry, Brady Quinn on a 19 yard scramble. Although the word scramble implies something out of control. That does no justice to his galloping touchdown. He directed traffic as if it was a designed QB draw and Notre Dame now leads 31-14 as the 3rd quarter winds down. Quinn’s stats so far, 14-19 passing, 249 yds, 2 td passing and one rushing.

2:56 PM

Okay, I don’t think they’ll hit 50 but, with 9:36 left in the game the Irish now lead 38-14. That’s 21 unanswered points and the certainty of a 43rd consecutive win over Navy. Brady Quinn with another TD pass to McKnight. Quinn is now 19th all time with career passing TD’s. The fans have started to tile out. Unfortunately not the drunk ones. Several Irish constituents have found it fun to bang on the press box glass with each Notre Dame first down. The game started out so regal with the fly-over and Navy Glee Club beautifully performing the Star Spangled Banner. And now wobbling fans are drooling out the Notre Dame fight song. So on that note, I’m headed down to the press conference area. Hope you enjoyed the diary and feel free to send some feed back. E-mail me at gilbertsarena@thewbalchannel.com.

If cheatin’s wrong, I don’t want to be right
October 23, 2006

e-mail Pete

Kenny Rogers had a foreign substance on his pitching hand. Some sort of brown substance that looked an awful lot like a pine tar mixture was captured by the FOX TV cameras in Game Two. So what. That’s the message from baseball anyway.

But in the World Series, in the age of mega media, at first the indifference from the game of baseball feels like a big deal. ESPN tells us so. The outrage from pundits nationwide called for Rogers’ suspension. In other sports the words would fly and the penalties to follow.

But baseball has never much cared about cheating. You’re considered a crafty veteran if you can steal signs. And it took an act of Congress to get a real steroids policy. Gaylord Perry, although a known cheater, still managed to earn a place in Cooperstown. For more on the best cheaters in baseball, take a look at this list compiled at espn.com. My favorite is John McGraw. Now that’s cheating. None of this sneaking some pine tar on the hand. He’d spike your mother for an extra base.

And baseball is right not to make much of cheating. Right in that the sport has never been more popular. Another season, another attendance record for MLB (yes, at stadiums other than Oriole Park fans are flocking). The television ratings remain strong, enough so that the mighty NFL won’t go head to head with the World Series. There was no Sunday Night Football on October 22nd. Instead a triple header of Heroes reruns found its way to NBC. Since circumventing the rules is a sport itself, and the fans don’t really care, why would the league cater to the media for something at this point that could never be proven? That’s bad business, and with a multi-billion dollar TV contract just signed, big business wins out.

Billick’s All In
October 17, 2006

Dealt a pair of tens in Texas Hold ‘Em, and low in chips, Brian Billick makes the smart move. He goes all in. Why not, if your job is on the line and the guy you’ve entrusted to help secure it leaves you shaking your head, you fire him. Even if he is one of your best friends. And then you go the only guy you trust to get the job done…..yourself..

Notice the wording though… (yes, I’m quoting myself)

“the only guy you trust to get the job done”

Billick trusts himself. But shoould he? Throughout his tenure filled with offensive inadequacies, the only constant?? Billick. Different coordinators, different quarterbacks, different schemes, same Brian Billick. Granted, he only called plays during his first season with the Ravens but it’s hard to believe eveyone else that came to Baltimore forgot how to score points upon arrival.

But firing oneself hardly helps the personal finances so Billick’s betting on himself. The offensive woes though are more than calling plays. Communication within the staff and with the players proved poor with Fassel. Exactly what the gameplan was nobody seemed to know.

And what gets a little scary, if the Ravens struggle with clock management late in halves, and they do, what will it be like now that he’s focused on calling plays too?

Hey, it can’t get any worse on offense (although we thought that last year and statistically it did) so the change might work. Brian Billick’s been called an offensive genious. Now we’ll get to see firsthand.

Terps Travails
October 8, 2006

The Terps showed something yesterday. Much more than they had in any of their four non-conference games. Building a 23-14 lead in the 4th quarter against a good Georgia Tech team proves the talent exists to succeed. But it likely won’t this year.

From the head coach down to the trainers the belief that something bad is about to happen, that feeling almost feels palpable. The Terps end up with first and goal at the seven with less than a minute to play. A chance to take back the lead Tech had built to 27-23. Even then it was “what will go wrong”. Two running plays to net two yards kicked off the set of downs. Then 3rd and 4th downs, Sam Hollenbach went back to pass when the Jackets backup pass rusher, Michael Johnson treated Stephon Heyer like a turnstile and just crushed Sam. Now I like Hollenbach. The kid, like Kyle Boller is tough enough. But he too was waiting for something to go wrong, and it did. Back to back plays in which he was given no chance to succeed left his ribs aching and the Terrapins to ponder the prospects of another long ACC season.

I talked to Sun reporter Heather Dinich about the Terps in the preseason and I asked her which was more likely; the Maryland football team going to a bowl game or the basketball team back to the NCAA Tourney. Without a hesitation in the conversation she backed Gary’s bunch. At the time I though that strange. It’s easier to make a bowl game than the NCAA Tourney. Math alone tells you that. There are slightly more than 100 division 1-A football teams, and about 50 spots open for bowls. In basketball, more than 300 teams battle for 65 openings.

But she believed wholeheartedly that Ralph’s team was not ready to return to glory, lacking the leadership neccessary to compete in the ACC. Watching Maryland more than a quarter way through the season and she looks pretty smart.