Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Belated Sports Chowdah Update- UMASS Zips It Up For 1st FBS Win; Bills Just About Due For Patriots; Tigers Land Big Game Hunter;

Minutemen LB Jovan Santos Knox seen celebrating a game-clinching turnover late in the 4th quarter that sealed Massachusetts first-ever FBS win AP Photo/Akron Beacon Journal, Phil Masturzo
UMASS FOOTBAL- First and foremost, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the UMass Minutemen for their first-ever FBS win on Saturday afternoon.

The win came at Akron's InfoCision Stadium on Saturday, November 10th [take notes- this may show up as a trivia question at some point in the future- NANESB! and actually gives the 1-9 Minutemen a better intra-conference record than the Akron Zips who are currently 1-10 and winless against MAC opponents.

Thanks to a trio of Blake Lucas FGs and a TD pass from QB Mike Wegzyn to RB Alan Williams, UMass took a 15-0 lead heading into halftime. But Akron got on the board in the second half and made it a one TD game with a rushing touchdown from RB Jawon Chisolm with 9:55 to go in the 3rd.

The Minutemen looked as though they had the game as good as put away when the Zips were pinned deep in their own end zone and with 6:11 to go in regulation, Umass safety Joe Colton picked off Zips QB Dalton Williams, giving the Minutemen the ball on Akron 1 yard line. Wegzyn then ran it in to make it a 22-7 game with 4:44 remaining, but the Zips weren't done yet.

Akron responded to what should've been a knockout blow by the Minutemen by starting off with the ball on their own 24 with just under 4 minutes to go and moving it downfield in 1:10 to hit paydirt when Williams connected with WR Marquelo Suel for a 19 yard TD pass to make it a 22-14 game with 2:40 remaining.

After a touchback, the Minutemen went three and out and burned a mere 30 seconds off of the play clock, deciding to punt on 4th and 1 from their own 34 with just under 2 minutes to go.

The Zips got the ball as far as mid-field, but UMass DL Ryan Delaire evaded an Akron blocker and lunged at Williams, knocking the ball free before it was scooped up by fellow DL Kevin Byrne with 1:28 to go. That sealed the 22-14 win for Massachusetts, causing the UMass sideline to erupt in celebration and dump a cooler of Gatorade on head coach Charley Molnar.

With two games remaining in the season, the Minutemen will see if they can try and keep their newfound winning streak intact against the 3-7 Buffalo Bulls this Saturday at Foxborough. Kickoff is a 3:00 ET

BOSTON COLLEGE FOOTBALL- Of course, all eyes were on a different Bay State football program on Saturday night as Boston College and #4 Notre Dame faced off in the 'Holy War'.

Although the undefeated Fighting Irish had survived a late scare against the Pitt Panthers the week before, hanging on to win by a 29-26 final in triple OT. However, there was no such drama against Boston College in Saturday's prime-time, nationally televised matchup from Chestnut Hill.

While much of the first half was a fairly tight defensive battle with the Irish taking a 7-0 lead on an Everett Golson TD in the first half and a Nate Freese FG to make it 7-3 early in the 2nd, the Irish started with the ball on their own 13 yard line with just over 9:03 to go and methodically marched the ball down the field before hitting paydirt with 45 seconds left to go in the half to give the Irish a 14-3 lead.

It would be all they needed as the only offense Boston College could muster was another Nate Freese FG in the second half. Notre Dame goes on to win by a final of 21-6 and will face another ACC team- Wake Forest- this weekend while Boston College will play host to the 4-6 Virginia Tech Hokies at Chestnut Hill this Saturday at 12:30 PM ET.

ELSEWHERE IN NCAA FOOTBALL- All eyes were on Chestnut Hill Saturday night in part because of an earlier contest in the SEC that whittled down the ranks of the undefeated.

In their first year as an SEC team, 7-2 Texas A&M marched into Tuscaloosa and shocked #1 Alabama by hanging on to win by a final of 29-24 on Saturday. The loss knocked Alabama down to #4 in the standings while the Irish leapfrogged past the Crimson Tide to take #3 in the AP Top rankings.

The Oregon Ducks in the Pac 12 and Kansas State Wildcats of the Big 12 also remain undefeated, earning them the #1 and #2 spots in the AP poll [Ohio State is undefeated, but is bowl-ineligible due to NCAA sanctions from Jim Tressel's final year there- NANESB!]. Besides a matchup against Wake Forest, Norte Dame closes out the regular season with a matchup against the #18 ranked USC Trojans at the Collesium on November 24th. Notre Dame also would be playing one fewer game than either Oregon, Kansas State or Alabama since the Pac 12 and SEC also have a conference championship game as well. Oregon's remaining games will be a road game against #13 Stanford and a rivalry weekend game against the #16 Oregon State Beavers as well as (in all likelyhood) the Pac 12 title game.

Alabama's two remaining games are against the 1-9 FCS Western Carolina and Auburn as well as a likely appearence in the SEC title game. With the last Big 12 Championship game taking place in 2010, Kansas State's final two games will be against Baylor and #15 Texas.

COLONIAL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL- With woeful performances by Boston College, UMass and to a lesser extent, UConn, pretty much the only shot for a New England football team to be playing well into December is if they did well in the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision (FCS)- formerly known as Division I-AA.

With a few exceptions, most of the FCS schools in New England play in the Colonial Athletic Association [with the notable exepctions of UMass, who moved on to the FBS and Northeastern, who discontinued their Football program- NANESB!]. The Colonial was very well represented in the FCS playoffs last season with New Hampshire, Maine, Towson, Old Dominion and James Madison earning berths (although none of them would advance to the final four).

Although Old Dominion leads the Colonial with a 9-1 record, New Hampshire is a close second with an 8-2 record with one game to go against Towson. However, it's also worth pointing out that New Hampshire's two losses were against Minnesota and none other than Old Dominion back in September. After coming off a 28-25 win against William & Mary earlier this month, the UNH Wildcats could bolster their chances for a return to the FCS Championship bracket with a win over Towson this weekend [they actually qualified last season with three losses- NANESB!].

AP Photo/Elise Amendola

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS- Well it sure was messy, but it will go down as a win for the Patriots.

After getting out to an early 10-0 lead in the first quarter against the Bills at Foxbourough on Sunday, but Buffalo came roaring back in the second and after heading into the halftime with New England clinging to a 24-17 lead. Although it appeared as though the Patriots would start to pull away in the 3rd, the Bills and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick would not go away, cutting a ten point lead to 34-31 with just under 8 minutes to go. With just over 2 minutes in the 4th, Gostkowski added to the Patriots lead, making it a 37-31 game with Buffalo getting the ball back on their own 20.

Although Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick managed to put together a quick drive that jeapordized the Patriots' lead, the game was sealed when Safety Devin McCourty picked him off in the end zone with 23 seconds remaining in the 4th, preserving the 37-31 lead for New England.

Tom Brady went 23 for 28 with 237 yards and 2 TDs while Buffalo's Fitzpatrick was 27-40 with 337 yards, 2 TDs and was sacked three times along with a fumble and an interception.

Buffalo will continue facing off against the AFC East with a Thursday night game against the Miami Dolphins while the Patriots will host the Indianapolis Colts for the first time in the post-Peyton Manning era on Sunday afternoon with a 4:25 ET kickoff. The game will be televised on CBS.

MLB- The Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins are reportedly on the cusp of a blockbuster deal that would send shortstop Jose Reyes and starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson north of the border in exchange for shortstop Yunel Escobar, catcher Jeff Mathis, pitcher Henderson Alvarez and prospects Adeiny Hechavarria, Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSclafani and Jason Marisnick.

Although the Marlins had made waves with a number of free-agent signings and the hiring of the mercurial Ozzy Guillen as manager last offseason in order to christen their new ballpark, Miami finished dead last in the NL East with their worst record since 1999.

Closer Heath Bell was traded to Arizona in late October and within days, the Marlins dismissed Guillen as manager even though they still owe him $7.5 million over the next three seasons. Earlier this season, Guillen had prompted a considerable backlash from Miami's Cuban community over laudatory remarks about Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in an interview. In fact, the Marlins brand new ballpark is located at the periphery of the Little Havana neighborhood.

The Reyes/Buehrle/Johnson trade is expected to free up nearly $190 million in salary for the Marlins, but has already triggered an angry backlash from fans accusing the front office of reverting to the 'fire sale' days of the 1990s where the ownership would quickly dismantle a championship-caliber team while the more talented players could fetch a premium price in transactions with other MLB teams.

The reported deal is still subject to approval from MLB comissioner Bud Selig, but analysts say that there is little reason for him to overturn the deal between the Marlins and Blue Jays.

DETROIT TIGERS- The Tigers and outfielder Torii Hunter have reportedly agreed to terms on a two year contract. The 37 year old outfielder returns to the AL Central after signing a 2 year, $26 million contract on Wednesday, according to USA Today.

This past season, Torii Hunter was batting .313 with 16 HR and 92 RBI for the Angels. Since his 1997 debut with the Minnesota Twins, Hunter has a career batting average of .277 with 297 HR and 1143 RBI. In 2008, Hunter left the Twins as a free agent and signed with the Anaheim Angels.

BOSTON RED SOX- WEEI is reporting that the Red Sox have reached a 2 year $6.2 million deal with former Atlanta Braves catcher David Ross. In 62 games with Atlanta last season, Ross hit .256 with 9HR and 23 RBI.

In an interview, Red Sox GM Ben Cherrington said that he expects Boston to have one of the highest payrolls in MLB starting next season. An August deal sent outfielder Carl Crawford, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, starting pitcher Josh Beckett and infielder Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers- LA is expected to absorb more than $260 million owed they players after the 2012 season while Boston has just $45 million in garunteed salary starting in 2013- meaning they have more money to pursue free agents or use for contract extensions with players already on the roster like David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Andrew Bailey.
BC Sophmore Kellie Barnum setting up against Virgnia. John Quackenbos photo via Palasadian Post
NCAA VOLLEYBALL- Well, the Eagles volleyball team has been looking for a win ever since last month's road trip against Duke and Wake Forest. Since then, Boston College has gone 0-10 with three games remaining in the regular season, including #24 Miami in Coral Gables and #11 Florida State in Talahassee before wrapping up the regular season against Maryland at Chestnut Hill.

The Eagles also announced the signing of National Letters of Intent by three highly touted prep volleyball players Jackie Bowman, Madisen Lydon and Anna Skold.

Kevin Ahearn/Huntington News photo
Meanwhile, across town the Northeastern Huskies are getting ready to wrap up their regular season and start with the Colonial Athletic Association. Although they had their 9-game winning streak broken by Delaware [before losing to Towson, who has yet to lose to a CAA opponent this season- NANESB!], the Huskies won three out of their remaining four games and will begin the CAA tournament against James Madison.

The Huskies are currently in second place behind Townson and hold a 20-6 season record, going 9-3 against other Colonial teams.

Stephen Slade/UConn photo
Down in the Nutmeg state, while the UConn Huskies didn't have quite as good a regular season as Noertheastern did, their 10-5 in-conference rerord (19-11 overall) was enough for them to earn an invite to the Big East Volleyball tournament-finishing in 4th place behind Louisville, Marquette and Notre Dame.

Friday night's Big East tournament opener in Milwakee will feature a rematch between UConn and the Cincinnati Bearcats.Cincinnati won 3 sets to two in Storrs during the October 12th matchup.

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