Monday, December 19, 2011

Mile High Sports Chowdah Update- Cure For Tebowmania Found; Parlez Vous Perdant? B's Knock off Habs for 5th Straight Win; UL-Lafayette all the Rage

NFL: Q- What's the difference between Tim Tebow and Barack Obama?

A- One is a phony Messiah who fooled a bunch of people after some convincing performances in Denver. The other plays football for the Broncos.

Marc Piscotty/Getty Images
New England came into Mile High Stadium this week looking to clinch the AFC East and snap the Broncos 6-game winning streak on Sunday, which for awhile was looking like a tall order after barely holding off the Washington Redskins last week. Even before Tebow-mania, recent history hadn't been particularly kind to the Patriots at Mile High.

Starting at their own 20, the Broncos methodically marched down the field on the game's opening possession and hit paydirt when QB Tim Tebow rushed into the end zone from the Pats 9 yard line, although the point-after was blocked and returned as far as mid field before the play was blown dead- making it a 6-0 contest.

New England responded in kind, with a quick drive that saw Pats QB Tom Brady connect with TE Aaron Hernandez for a 46 yard catch and carry (most of those yards coming after Hernandez shed some tacklers and started running laterally to pick up some blockers) before Brady completed a 33 yard pass to WR Chad Ochocinco for #85's first TD pass of the season. Gostkowski's PAT was good and New England took a 7-6 lead.

Denver responded to New England's quick, efficient 2:25 scoring drive with an even quicker one of their own, starting from their own 18. Two minutes and 18 seconds later, Broncos RB Lance Ball rushed 32 yards for paydirt and the Broncos went for the pont-after to make it a 13-7 contest. The Patriots would do nothing when they got the ball back (they did get a 1st down thanks to a Denver penalty, but nothing came of it).

The Broncos started on their own 29 and get the ball as far as the Patriots 8 yard line before settling for a short Matt Prater FG to take a 16-7 lead. Curiously, after scoring so swiftly and with such ease to open up the game, that would be the last time the Broncos would find the end zone or split the uprights until the 4th quarter. New England would close the gap to 14-16 on the following drive after Wes Welker was ruled down at the 1 instead of in the end zone on a 19 yard pass from Brady, but Brady was able to connect with Hernandez for paydirt.

On the Broncos next possession, Lance Ball fumbled on the first play and Pats LB Rob Ninkovitch recovered it at the Denver 19 yard line. Althought they got the ball as tantalizingly close as the Broncos 3, they decided to play it relatively safe and opted for a short Gostkowski FG instead of trying to punch it in on 4th down, with New England taking the lead for the first time on Sunday by a 17-16 score.

Denver's next possession would be even more disastrous after Tebow was sacked and Pats DE Mark Anderson came up with the ball. With the short field, New England was able to move inside the Denver red zone and punch it in to make it a 24-16 New England lead.

After Denver's first three and out of the day, New England got the ball back with 40 seconds left in the half. That also turned out to be a 3 and out and with 14 seconds left in the half, Zoltan Mesko punted to Broncos return man Quan Cosby, who fumbled the punt with Dance Fletcher recovering for New England at the Broncos own 17 yard line with 3 seconds remaining. With no time to run a play, the Pats trotted out Gostkowski for a fairly short FG attempt which split the uprights as time expired in the first half, making it a 27-16 game at halftime.

After a halftime show that included a monkey riding a border collie (no- seriously!)the second half was seemingly all New England, with Tebow getting sacked and the Pats adding to their lead on a Danny Woodhead TD run to pad the lead to 34-16. Although Tebow would rush for another TD in the 4th, it was a case of too little too late. New England would get a 4th quarter TD of their own when Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis punched it in on 3rd and goal with 4 minutes and 10 seconds left to put the game away 41-23.

The Broncos haven't lost since October 30th against the Detroit Lions, but even with Sunday's loss, still retain first place in the AFC West.

Their sixth consecutive win, coupled with the New York Jets loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, means that New England clinches their 3rd straight AFC East title and ninth since the 2001 season.

New England will next host Miami on Christmas Eve (day) at 1:00 PM on CBS.

OTHER PATRIOTS NEWS: DE Aaron Carter will require season-ending surgery on his leg. Carter injured his leg in Sunday's contest against the Broncos and had to leave the field on a cart.

OTHER NFL NEWS: In a fairly surprising development that had members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins popping corks, the defending Superbowl Champion Green Bay Packers were handed their first loss of the season by the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

This loss was Green Bay's first regular season (or postseason) loss since December 19, 2010 in Foxborough, MA against the Patriots- nearly a year ago to the day [Altho' there was no Aaron Rogers starting for the Packers that night- NANESB!].

Sunday also marked Romeo Crennel's coaching debut in Kansas City after the Chiefs fired head coach Todd Haley.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: On the flip side of the win/loss ratio, the Indianapolis Colts won their first game of the season on Sunday, defeating the Tennessee Titans by a final of 13-27.

The win actually would put them in jeopardy of losing out on what many are calling 'The Andrew Luck Sweepstakes' [Assuming the #1 overall draft spot in the NFL goes to the Stanford QB- NANESB!], as they are now only a game behind the St Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings.

NHL: What was billed as a clash of the titans for first place on Saturday in the Eastern Conference it turned out it wasn't much of a battle.

The Bruins jumped all over Philly early and often, roughing up the Atlantic Conference-leading Flyers 4-0 by the first intermission before adding two more- one in the 2nd and one in the 3rd. Tim Thomas turned aside all 31 shots he faced on Saturday afternoon in Boston's very convincing 6-0 win.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
For Monday night's game, the Bruins returned to the Garden to face Original 6 archrival Montreal. Over the weekend, the Canadiens fired head coach Jacques Martin and replaced him with interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth. Even though its on an interim basis, the decision to hire a coach who doesn't speak French has met with some backlash from some sectors in Quebec, including the provincial Minister of Culture.

However, on Monday night the Bruins opened up the scoring with a goal from Benoit Pouliot at the 12:13 mark of the 1st before the Habs got the equalizer off the stick of Tomas Plekanec not even a minute later to make it 1-1 heading into the 1st intermission.

Early in the second, David Krejci would break the deadlock to make it 2-1 and later in the 3rd, the Bruins would get the insurance goal from Brad Marchand to make the score 3-1. As it turns out, the Bruins would need that insurance goal as Erik Cole got a late tally for the Habs with less than 3 minutes to go to make it a 1-goal game. However, the Bruins would hold on to win their 5th in a row, with two out of their last three wins coming against opponents in the Northeast Division.

Tim Thomas stopped 33 of 35 shots faced while Montreal's Carey Price made 28 saves on the 31 shots he faced Monday Night. Neither team scored on the power play, with the Bruins failing to capitalize on a double-minor earlier in the game.

Boston will have most of the week off, not playing again until December 23rd [Christmas eve eve? NANESB!] at home against the Florida Panthers. The puck drops at 7 PM and the game will be televised on NESN.

OTHER BRUINS NEWS: Bruins F Milan Lucic received a 1-game suspension for his hit on Philadelphia Flyers C Zac Rinaldo, despite reports citing Rinaldo himself as saying the hit wasn't deserving of additional punishment. Lucic also forfeits more than $22,000 in wages for the hit.

NCAA FOOTBALL: The Bowl season got underway Saturday starting with the 2011 Gildan New Mexico Bowl, where Temple rolled over Wyoming by a 37-15 final [reportedly ratings were down on that one and the organizers were trying to line up a new sponsor from the area- NANESB!].

Later on in the day was the Famous Idaho Potatoes Bowl from Boise, ID. The Utah State Aggies led for most of the game in that one, but trailing 17-23 and with less than 20 seconds to go, Ohio Bobcats QB Tyler Tettleton ran the ball in for the game-tying TD and the point-after attempt was good (not always a given, particularly in the NCAA) to give the Bobcats the 24-23 victory and their first-ever Bowl win.

To cap off Saturday's slate of bowl games was the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl from the Superdome between the San Diego State Aztecs and Louisiana-Lafayette in what was almost literally a home game for the Ragin' Cajuns.

This was Lafayette's first bowl appearance since getting promoted to Division 1 football (now FBS). After entering the 4th quarter trailing 17-26, the Aztecs managed to put together some consistent drives and keep the Ragin' Cajuns out of the end zone before taking a 30-29 lead thanks to an 11 yard reception by Colin Lockett with 53 seconds remaining in the game.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Starting from their own 18 and with 35 seconds remaining, the Ragin' Cajuns got the ball as far as the Aztecs 38 yard line before San Diego State committed a 5 yard offsides penalty with 4 seconds left on the clock. This would put the Ragin' Cajuns a 1st down and more importantly 5 more yards for Lafayette Kicker Brett Baer to split the uprights and give the Ragin' Cajuns their first ever FBS Bowl win by a final of 32-30.

Bowl Week continues with the Beef O'Brady Bowl from St Petersburg, FL featuring Florida International and Marshall on Tuesday night, the Poinsettia Bowl from San Diego between Louisiana Tech and #16 Texas Christian on Wednesday followed by the MAACO bowl from Las Vegas which pits 6-6 Arizona State against #8 Boise State Thursday night.

Photo: San Antonio Express-News, MICHAEL MILLER
NCAA VOLLEYBALL: First of all, I have to thank the NBA owners and players association for their labor dispute.

Why is that, Fenway? you might be asking- and with good reason. Under normal circumstances, the NBA season would've gotten underway in late October. Instead, with the protracted labor dispute there were no games for various regional sports networks such as Fox Sports West or Comcast New England to televise. So what other sport played on the hardwood was televised instead? NCAA Women's volleyball.

Although I've long considered volleyball a fast-paced and involving sport, the fact that there are so many attractive young women playing the game for any number of schools is further incentive to watch- not just the proverbial cherry on top- more like another sundae on top. [Let's see.....if given the choice of professional floppers, loudmouths and thugs versus fit, attractive college-aged women nimbly jumping around in short-shorts patting each other on the tucchus every five minutes- guess which one I'll be dedicating the majority of my time to?- NANESB!]

Sad to say, despite volleyball being invented in New England, schools from New England don't really fare too well in the NCAA Division 1 Volleyball tournament. This year, out of all the schools in New England, only Sacred Heart and Yale qualified for the 2011 Volleyball tournament and neither one of them advanced very far.

This is not due to cold weather neccesarily- Penn State and a number of schools from the midwest show up in the NCAA Finals on a fairly regular basis. In fact, Penn State holds the most Women's Volleyball Titles in the NCAA.

TOM REEL/©2011 San Antonio Express-News
This year was no different, as the Illini advanced to their first ever Divison 1 Women's Volleyball match, pitted against UCLA for the title at San Antionio's Alamodome. For it's part, UCLA hasn't won a title in 20 years, although it did make a few Finals appearences in in the 1990s.

After getting off to a 1-0 lead, the Bruins found themselves knotted up 1-1 after the Illini went on a tear in the second set, but UCLA rallied late to take the 2-1 lead and went on to win the final set from there by a 3-1 final.

The win is UCLA's fourth volleyball title, putting them third all-time behind Penn State (5 titles) and Stamford (six titles). Interestingly, UCLA upended Penn State in this year's semifinals.

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