Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Night Sports Chowdah for Dec 5th- March on the Penguins; Pats Barely Avoid Indy Trap; Colonial Football's Maine Event; Spartan/Badgers Redux

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
NHL: The Bruins winning ways continue as the calendar flips over from November to December, with Boston beating the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Garden for Game 2 of the home and away series over the weekend.

The Bruins won by a 4-1 final with Tukka Rask turning aside 21 of the 22 shots he faced from the team that drafted him on Saturday night. Currently the Bruins are 4-0 against the Maple Leafs and won't be seeing them again until March 2012.

Saturday's win was a preamble to an important matchup on Monday night that would pit the Bruins against the top team in the Eastern Conference- the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were in the lineup for the Pens on Monday and had gone 5-1-1 since Crosby's return.

After a scoreless 1st period, Greg Campbell got the Bruins got on the board with a goal at about the 3 minute mark in the 2nd period, beating Marc Andre Fleury.

However, shortly after taking the 1-0 lead, the Bruins would find themselves having to kill a 5-on-3 penalty for 50 seconds- a power play that Pittsburgh ultimately was unable to cash in on.

Benoit Pouliot would then score for the Bruins to give them a 2-0 lead, but late in the second, the Pens would have another 2-man advantage as Pouliot went to the bin for goaltender interference and Rich Peverly would get two minutes for hooking. Once again, the Bruins were able to successfully kill both penalties, shutting out the Pens 2-0 and heading into the 3rd period with a power play on a Jordan Staal interference penalty.

The Pittsburgh penalty would lead to Boston's 3rd goal of the night, this time off the stick of Tyler Seguin. The Pens would end Thomas' shutout bid with about 11 minutes to go in the 3rd period, but Boston would go on to win by the 3-1 final. Tim Thomas stopped a season-high 45 of 46 shots, Thomas' 10th consecutive win between the pipes. The Bruins went 1 of 5 on the power play for the night as well.

Monday night's win pulls the Bruins to within one point of the Eastern Conference leaders- which at this time is still the Penguins.

From Pittsburgh, the Bruins will be heading to Manitoba for the first time December 1995 to take on the Winnipeg Jets. This will be Boston's first-ever visit to the MTS Centre. Currently, Winnipeg has an 11-11-4 record and is riding a 2 game win streak.

MLB: Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine's departure from ESPN created an opening on that network's Baseball Tonight program. Within days, that opening was filled by Valentine's Red Sox predecessor, Terry Francona.

ESPN announced on Monday that Francona would be joining the network as a baseball analyst for Baseball Tonight, Sunday Night Baseball as well as contributing to shows on the ESPN radio network and

NCAA FOOTBALL: Well, the Army/Navy game notwithstanding, the regular season pretty much wrapped up this weekend with various championship games and a few belated 'rivalry' games.

Championship weekend kicked off with the inaugural PAC-12 championship game on Friday night, pitting #Oregon against UCLA. This one was pretty much all Oregon as the Ducks blew UCLA out of the water by a 49-31 final.

In a much closer but more overlooked contest on Friday night, Northern Illinois rallied late, scoring 23 unanswered points in the second half to win the Mid-America Conference Title Game by beating the Ohio Bobcats 23-20.

Things got off to a pretty turbulent start on Saturday, with Southern Mississippi upsetting #7 Houston in the Conference USA championship, upending the Cougars by a 49-28 final.

After trailing for most of the first half, the #1 LSU Tigers came back strong in the second half and ran roughshod over the #12 Georgia Bulldogs, winning that one by a 42-10 margin.

Over in the ACC title game, the Clemson were matched up against the #5 Virginia Tech Hokies after the Tigers lost three out of their last four contests (including a 37-13 drubbing by NC State and a 34-13 beating from in-state rival South Carolina). After a 10-10 tie at halftime, Clemson went on to score 28 unanswered points against the Hokies to runa away with the ACC Title.

The closest Championship contest on Saturday afternoon was no doubt the inaugural Big 10 Championship Game, which was pitted Wisconsin against Michigan State. This was a rematch of a regular season game that saw the Spartans win on an improbable Hail Mary from QB Kirk Cousins as time expired back in October.

Although the Badgers got out to an early 21-7 lead in the 1st at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, the Spartans came right back on two TD Passes from Cousins and another TD from RB LeVeon Bell to make it 29-21 Spartans at the half.

With the Spartans leading 39-34 in the 4th, the Badgers got to start from their own 36 after a good return. The Badgers started a 10-play drive, including converting on a 4th down and 6 to take the 42-39 lead (the 2 point conversion was good).

After a 3 and out by the Spartans, the Badgers would get the ball back with just under 3 minutes left and bleed away the clock, getting a pivotal first down on a Michigan State penalty. Badgers win the first-ever Big 10 football title game by a 42-39 final, avenging the earlier loss to Michigan State.

AP Photo
ELSEWHERE IN NCAA FOOTBALL: It wasn't Championship Saturday everywhere, though. There were still some regular season games to be played in the Big East, Mountain West, Big 12 and Western Athletic Conference.

UConn was playing for bowl eligibility while the Cincinnati Bearcats were positioning themselves for a share of the Big East title in the regular season finale on Saturday afternoon.

The Bearcats took advantage of some early UConn errors to get out to an early 14-0 lead thanks to fumbles and interceptions by Huskies QB Johnny McEntee. It would be a 28-6 halftime lead for the Bearcats at the half, with Uconn getting on the board thanks to two David Teggart FGs.

UConn would start to make a game of it in the 2nd half, ultimately closing the gap to 35-27 thanks to a pair of Teggart FGs in the 3rd and two TD passes from McEntee in the 4th, but Cincinnati would go on to win by the 35-27 final.

This leaves UConn with a 5-7 record meaning that just one year after going to the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona, UConn Football will be staying put for Bowl season. This also sets up a curious scenario where Cincinnati, West Virginia and Louisville are all co-titleholders in the Big East.

AP Photo
NCAA FOOTBALL- FCS: The FCS championship got underway in late November, and heading into the weekend, two New England schools from the Colonial conference were still very much in the hunt.

At first, the Maine Black Bears looked like they had a tall task of taking on the Appalachian State Mountaineers on the road in Boone, NC. However, after taking a 13-6 lead into the half, the Black Bears broke the game wide open in the second half, with RB Pushuan Brown's 31 yard TD run serving as the exclamation point in Maine's 34-12 win over Perennial FCS/Division I-aa favorite App State.

The victory eliminates the Mountaineers and sets up a showdown with the Georgia Southern Eagles in Statesboro, GA at 2 PM ET on Saturday. Georgia Southern had already beaten the Old Dominion Monarchs (another CAA team) to advance and face the winner of Maine/App State.

ELSEWHERE IN THE FCS: The Montana State Bobcats survived a late scare from the UNH Wildcats in Bozeman, MT on Saturday. Montana State's Darius Hones intercepted a pass from UNH's Mark Becker at the Bobcat 3 yard line. A shanked punt then gave the Wildcats the ball back with 17 seconds remaining in the 4th, Becker connected with WR Justin Mello to make it a 26-25 game with 7 seconds to go in regulation. However, instead of tying the game up on the point after, Mike MacArthur's kick clanged off the upright, allowing Montana State to squeak by.

This sets up a meeting between the Bobcats and Sam Houston State university in Huntsville, TX this weekend.

NFL: Altough they got out to an early 31-3 lead over Indianapolis, the Patriots ended up sneaking by the hard-luck Colts on Sunday. With no Manning in sight, Indy nevertheless managed to put up 21 unanswered points in the 2nd half, including two TD passes from current Colts QB Dan Orlovsky to WR Pierre Garcon. Still, New England managed to hang on for the 31-24 win.

Tom Brady went 29-38 with 289 yards and 2 TDs while Orlovsky went 30 for 37 with 353 yards, 2 TDs and an interception.
Boston Hearld Photo
An interesting side note to Sunday's game was that injured Colts QB Peyton Manning showed up at Gilette Stadium before the game and briefly chatted with rival QB Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick before talking with fans and some of the minutemen in period cosutmes along the sidelines.
“I signed a tons of autographs for Patriots fans before the game and they couldn’t had been nicer,” Manning said. “They were all wishing me a healthy recovery and missed seeing me out there and I really do appreciate that. I’ve been getting a lot of support from my Colts fans and people across the country. But when it comes from fans of probably your biggest rival, and I’m sure some of them have probably said stuff that wasn’t so nice over the years, I thought it was pretty classy.”
[I could've told you that, Peyton- but then again, I'm incredibly biased- NANESB!]

Of course, anybody in Foxbourough on Sunday could see for themselves that the Colts/Patriots rivalry had lost much of its luster without the Colts MVP quarterback.

The Patriots have one more NFC East opponent in the regular season- the 4-8 Washington Redskin, who they'll take on this Sunday at 1 PM ET on CBS.

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