Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sports Chowdah Update, Intercep-ticon Edition- Last Second Calls in Seattle, Baltimore Cause Stir; Mighty MAC has 'Big' Weekend; Northeastern Sweeps All New England V-Ball Tourney

ESPN.com Photo

NFL- Three weeks into the regular NFL season and I've apparently made little to no mention to the fact that the league is operating with replacement referees due to an NFL lockout. Rather naiively, I thought it was a non-issue that would be quietly resolved before anything substantial could take place.

However, after Monday night's game it looks as though I was wrong on both counts. The nationally televised game from the Emerald City pitted the host Seattle Seahawks against the Green Bay Packers.

It was a low-scoring affair, and Seattle's defense punished Green Bay QB Aaron Walker by saking him 8 times in the first half. Despite the relentless harrassment of Rogers, the Packers were leading 12-7 late in the 4th and pinned deep in their own territory with less to two minutes to go. After going three and out, Green Bay was forced to punt from their own 4 yard line. The ensuing kick gave the Seahawks the ball at mid-field with 46 seconds to go in the 4th quarter.

Seahawks rookie QB Russel Wilson got the ball as far as the Packers 24 yard line as the clock ticked down. As time expired, Wilson threw a Hail Mary pass to WR Golden Tate in the end zone where the ball was momentrally lost among a sea of defenders and when everybody hit the ground, one official was signalling touchdown while another had signalled interception & touchback [shown above- NANESB!].

A further review of the replay showed that Packer's safety MD Jennings had snatched the ball out of the air as Tate was pushing off, but the touchdown call was upheld and after 10 minutes, the Packers were summoned out of the locker room for the point-after attempt to seal the Seahawk's controversial 14-12 win over Green Bay.

Before the game had even technically ended, the replacement officials game-deciding call had prompted fans, coaches, players and sports columnists to demand the NFL bring the ongoing lockout with the original officials to a close. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach John Gruden and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young- both working as commentators for ESPN- voiced their displeasure with the in-game officiating right away both in-game and on the Monday Night Football postgame shows.

There is still a considerable gap between the NFL and the locked out referees over the issue of salary, but the call to close out Monday Night's game could prove to be the catalyst to take it off the back burner. Reportedly some of the replacement officials used by the NFL this season had been dismissed by the Lingerie Football League [a league which by rights I should probably know more about but am only marginally aware that it even exists- NANESB!] earlier this year.

It's also worth pointing out that the call on the field by the replacement referees was subject to review by NFL replay officials who weren't replacements. Earlier in the game there had been a number of penalties that kept what would turn out to be scoring drives alive.

The replacement officials issue will no doubt be revisited countless times before Thursday night's game between the Browns and Ravens.

Nick Wass/ AP Photo

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS- Should Monday Night's game proved to have been uneventful, the sports media would no doubt still be discussing New England's Sunday Night Game against the Baltimore Ravens and the officiating that was done there.

Sunday night's game between two perennial division leaders would be the Patriots' first prime-time contest of the 2012 campaign. After the Patriors got out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, the Ravens came back to briefly take the lead in the 2nd thanks to two lengthy, sustained drives led by QB Joe Flacco to give Baltimore a 14-13 lead with less than two minutes to go in the opening half. However, after getting the ball back on their own 19 with 1:41 left in the 2nd quarter, New England hit paydirt on a short Brady pass to WR Julian Edelman with 2 seconds left to make it 20-14 at the half.

The Ravens opened up the second half by re-taking the lead on a three and a half minute drive that was capped by a short TD rub by RB Ray Rice to make it 21-20. The Patriots replied in kind, taking nearly 5 minutes off the clock as they marched down the field thanks mostly to relatively short passes by Brady or short runs by RB Danny Woodhead who was finally able to punch it in from the Ravens three yard line and give the Patriots the 27-21 lead. Although the Patriots would make a return trip to the Ravens end zone on their next posession, they would have to settle for a short Gostkowski FG to make it 30-21. The score would remain that way until the 4:01 mark of the 4th when the Ravens managed to punch it in for a TD after starting off on their own 8 yard line, making it a 28-30 Patriots lead.

New England would get the ball back and advance as far as midfield before Brady was sacked and the Patriots had to punt right around the 2 minute warning. With just under a minute to go in the game, Patriots CB Devin McCourty was called for a pass-interference penalty, giving the Ravens the ball inside the Patriots 10 yard line with the clock ticking. After calling one timeout in an attempt to freeze Ravens rookie kicker Justin Tucker [his first kick DID unambiguously split the uprights, too- NANESB!], Tucker's next kick soared over the right upright and was ruled good, giving Baltimore the 31-30 win as time expired.

Unsurprisingly, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was unsatisfied with both the officiating and result of the game, leading him to track down an official and grab him while asking for a review of whether or not Tucker's kick was good. Much was made of the on-field confrontation until Monday Night's 'Touchdeception' in Seattle. Both Belichick or Ravens head coach John Harbaugh had made clear their displeasure with the officiating from the replacement referees during Sunday night's game as well. Belichick can reportedly expect a fine and some sort of reprimand from the league this week.

Sporting a rare losing record, the Pats will travel to Orchard Park, NY next Sunday to take on the 2-1 Buffalo Bills- their first AFC East matchup of the 2012 season. The game gets underway at 1:00 PM ET and will be televised on CBS.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NFL- Although there was one overtime game in week 1, Week 3 of the NFL season featured no less than three contests that went to overtime. The Tennesee Titans made a key stop on 4th and 1 to get their first win of the season- a 44-41 victory over the Detroit Lions at Nashville on Sunday. The Miami Dolphins scored late in the 4th to tie the game up at 20-20 before the Jets would get the Game winning FG with just over 6 minutes remaining in OT. And the Kansas City Chiefs stunned New Orleans by scoring 11 unanswered points in the 4th quarter to climb out of a 24-13 hole to beat the Saints on a 31 yard Ryan Succop FG with 6 and a half minutes to go.

This has been the first time there has been two or more overtimes since the NFL modified the rules for OT. Beginning this season, there will be no more sudden death overtime- each team will have at least one posession. If a team scores on their opening posession, the other team will have the opportunity to match or beat that score. If neither team has managed to score, then the next team to score will win [unless the clock runs out, meaning the game will end in a tie- NANESB!] making it 'sudden death' of sorts.

Charlie Niebergall/AP Photo
NCAA FOOTBALL- Saturday turned out to be a good day for much of the supposedly lowly Mid America Conference. The Central Michigan Chippewas pulled off what was easily the biggest upset of the day. Trailing the Iowa Hawkeyes 23-31 with less than a minute to go at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, the Chippewas managed to score nine unanswered points in the final 50 seconds- including a 13 yard TD pass from QB Ryan Radcliff to WR Titus Davis followed by a 47 yard FG from David Harman with 3 seconds left to give Central Michigan the narrow win over the Hawkeyes. Prior to the game, the Hawkeyes had been favored to win by as much as two touchdowns.

The Chippewas wouldn't be the only MAC team from Michigan to take down a favored oppoenent on Saturday. The narrowly-favored UConn Huskies fell to the Western Michigan Broncos thanks to a 4th quarter sack and strip of Huskies QB Chandler Whitmer. The loose ball was picked up by Broncos LB Desmond Bozeman and returned all the way for a TD to make it a 30-17 lead for Western Michigan.

The visiting Huskies would score a late TD with just 1:15 left in regulation, but UConn would fall to Western Michigan by a 30-24 final.

Over in DeKalb County, IL the Northern Illinois Huskies staged a come-from-behind win over the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas opened up the 4th quarter by running back a Jordan Lynch interception for 54 yards for a touchdown and a 23-13 lead over the Huskies. However, Northern Illinois would go on to score 17 unanswered points and pin the Jayhawks deep in their own end to close out the game and 30-23 win.

Of course, not all the games went so swimmingly for teams in the MAC on Saturday. While Eastern Michigan managed to keep the Michigan State Spartans out of the end zone for the first half and headed into the locker room with a 7-3 lead, the Spartnas scored 20 unanswered points in the second half to cruise to a 23-7 win over the Eagles. Meanwhile, in Knoxville, TN, the Akron Zips looked like they were too much for the Tennesee Volunteers to handle for most of Saturday night's contest, heading into the locker rooms tied 23-23 at the half before the Vols pulled away in the 4th quarter to make it a 47-26 final.

The UMass Minutemen's debut in MAC intraconference play was a little less noteworthy. They travelled to Oxford, OH to take on the Miami of Ohio Redhawks. While the final score was a bit more respectable than losing their first three games by a composite 145-19, the Minutemen still remain winless after their latest trip to the Midwest, falling to the Redhawks by a final of 16-27. This upcoming weekend, the Minutemen will host the undefeated Ohio Bobcats at Foxbourough. The Bobcats are currently favored in by as much as 24 points.

In fact, all three New England FBS teams will be playing at home this upcoming weekend. 2-2 UConn will host the 1-2 Buffalo Bulls at noon eastern time in East Hartford while Boston College comes off their weekend off to host the Clemson Tigers in ACC play. Kickoff in Chestnut Hill gets underway at 3:30 ET.

Georgia Tech Yellowjackets Librero/Defensive Specialist Nicki Meyer- Photo via Georgia Tech Volleyball on Facebook
NCAA VOLLEYBALL- After an all-New England tournament hosted at Northeastern earlier this month, most of the participating schools- UConn, Boston College, Northeastern and Harvard- began intraconference play in earnest [altho BC already has a win over Maryland from the Spring Hill Suites at Arundel Mills Invitational earlier this month- NANESB!].

Although Boston College dropped the first two contests to Northeastern and UConn, they managed to salvage a win in the New England Volleyball Challenge Tournament over Harvard on the final day.

The Eagles opened up ACC play against the Georgia Tech in Atlanta last Friday, challenging the Yellowjackets early but ultimately getting swept in 3 straight sets. BC Outisde Hitter Katty Workman- who had already garnered Freshman of the Week honors from the ACC had 13 kills in the losing effort for Boston while Ramblin' Wreck Librero Nicki Meyer (daughter of Ohio State Buckeyes head football coach Urban Meyer) was uncharachteristically quiet as Senior Bailey Hunter had 9 kills, leading the Yellowjackets. The Eagles then travelled to Clemson the following day, only to once again get swept, leaving them with a 7-8 record and 1-2 in ACC play.

This weekend, the lady Eagles will play host to Virginia (5-8) and Virginia Tech (9-4)at Chestnut Hill.

Meanwhile, the Northeastern Huskies managed to sweep the New England Volleyball Challenge Tournament defeating Harvard, Boston College and UConn before going on to face opponents from the Colonial Athletic Association. The 12-3 Huskies are 1-0 in CAA play (defeating Hofstra immediately after the New England Challenge Tournament) and will host UNC Wilmington and William & Mary at Solomon Court in Boston this upcoming weekend. Currently, only the 14-3 Towson Tigers sport a better record in CAA Volleyball.

UConn came away from the New England Classic with a 2-1 record and has gone 3-0 since then, defeating Sacred Heart, Villanova and Georgetown. Their overall record is 11-6, good for 3rd overall in the Big East behind Seton Hall and St John's- their upcoming opponent this weekend, as it turns out.

MLB- While nobody in the American League has clinched a playoff berth yet, at least two Division pennant winners came through this weekend.

Over on the West Coast, the San Francisco Giants secured the NL West pennant after taking two out of three from the San Diego Padres while the Cincinnati Reds secured the NL Central title after shutting out the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-0 at the Great American Ballpark- their only win in the 3 game weekend series against LA.

There will be no less than two playoff teams coming from the NL East as the Washington Nationals- sporting the best record in the league with 93 wins- are four games up on the Atlanta Braves who still aren't mathematically eliminated frmo winning the NL East pennant. The worst case scenario for the Braves currently is thet they'll secure the next-to-last playoff spot.

With just under a week to go in the regular season, the St Louis Cardinals currently hold the lead for the final NL Wild Card berth. With eight games to go for each team, the LA Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers are 4 and a half games behind St Louis.

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