Friday, November 30, 2007
November 30, 2007
Tucker getting pub
Browns secondary coach Mel Tucker was named by the Sporting News as a potential candidate to be the next head coach at Washington State. There doesn't seem to be much to it at this point, though Tucker is held in high regard as a rising star in the coaching ranks. Browns sources said nobody from the university has contacted them.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
BY RICK PLUMLEE
November 28, 2007
After taking Kansas to its best record in school history, Mark Mangino was named by his Big 12 peers as the league's coach of the year Tuesday.
KU finished the regular season 11-1 in Mangino's sixth year, losing in the finale to Missouri on Saturday.
"I feel privileged to be recognized by my peers," Mangino said. "This honor is really a reflection of our entire coaching staff and we are all very appreciative."
Mangino and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel split the award in voting by the Associated Press, also announced Tuesday.
November 27, 2007
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Virginia started the year with a performance that only fueled speculation on Al Groh's future at his alma mater. The Cavaliers spent the rest of the season making their coach look pretty good.
Groh's team bounced back from a humbling loss to Wyoming to win seven straight games, carrying the Cavaliers to the brink of a division championship. Now, with his team heading to a bowl game for the fifth time in six seasons, Groh was named the Atlantic Coast Conference coach of the year Tuesday.
"Our team has been built on we, us and ours. When we won, we all did it," Groh said. "When a coach is cited, it's because the team had a great season. So this is our team trophy."
Groh earned 38 of 71 votes in voting from members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association to win the honor for the second time. Boston College's Jeff Jagodzinski, whose team won the Atlantic Division title and reached as high as No. 2 nationally in his first season, finished second with 22 votes.
For winning the coaching award, Groh will collect a $25,000 bonus under terms of the six-year contract he signed with Virginia in 2005. The school also has exercised an option to add a year onto his contract.
Virginia (9-3, 6-2 ACC) fell just short of winning the league's Coastal Division title, falling to Virginia Tech to close the regular season and send the Hokies to the league championship game. It was Virginia's best season since the Cavaliers went 9-5 with six league wins in 2002, a performance that netted Groh's other ACC top-coach honor.
Groh's past two teams had gone 12-12, and got off to a rough start this year by managing just 100 yards in a 23-3 loss at Wyoming. But Virginia beat Duke 24-13 the following week, starting a seven-game run that showed a remarkable knack for winning the close ones.
"Most teams have a tough moment during the season. Ours just came right away," Groh said. "I guess maybe the players evaluated things and after that first performance they saw they better pick up the slack for the head coach."
Along the way, Virginia beat Middle Tennessee 23-21 on a field goal with 8 seconds left. Then came a 17-16 win over Connecticut on a field goal with about 3 minutes left. The following week, reserve running back Mikell Simpson -- who had just six offensive touches coming in -- ran for the winning touchdown with 16 seconds left in an 18-17 win at Maryland.
The Cavaliers also beat Wake Forest 17-16 when Simpson scored a touchdown with 2:18 left and the Demon Deacons' Sam Swank missed a field goal in the final seconds.
It's added up to a memorable run for Groh, who arrived at Virginia before the 2001 season and remains steadfast in crediting his players and assistant coaches for the team's success.
"The greatest thing about the players was their sense of resolve and how we really just turned inward and depended upon our resolve to try to make our goals happen," he said. "We realized it was all up to us.
"We certainly got the results we were looking for as far as being everything as a team that we could be."
Five things to watch during Packers-Cowboys
November 27, 2007
The five little big things I am most excited to see:
3. Aaron Kampman the madman. The Packers' stud is leading the NFL in sacks with 11.0 (Ware is tied for seventh with 9.0), and I can see him making a run at 20 if he nails the risk-taker Romo a couple of times. You often hear about players' "motors." Well, Kampman is a motor guy and then some.
By Tim Schmitt
November 22, 2007
Sure the Sabres have slipped and the Bills are still battling with mediocrity. But once again there’s plenty to be thankful for this year in the sports world, even if last Sunday left us smarting.
Set the remote on your ample belly for a second and join me in what may have to become an annual tradition — a nod to the sports gods for what they’ve bestowed upon us:
• DONTE WHITNER: Nobody means more to the Bills than the former first-rounder from Ohio State. He’s tough, smart and never quits.
Whitner was still fighting even when the Bills were getting walloped by the Pats on Sunday. He was knocking guys out of bounds with the same verve he’d display in a playoff game.
It’s hard to say that it bothers him when the Bills lose as much as that buddy of yours from Newfane with the shrine in his basement, but he gets it. Losing is contagious. The Bills have had the bug for ages.
And Whitner just wants to get well again.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
November 26, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
KU's Mangino, Virginia's Groh top list of best coaching jobs
By Bruce Feldman
November 19, 2007
In the Year of the Stunner, we have plenty of candidates for coach of the year honors. This week's top 10 list best coaching jobs:
1. Mark Mangino, Kansas: It's OK to take shots at the Jayhawks' nonconference schedule, but you have to be impressed by a program with virtually no preseason hype. They haven't had any of those clunker performances that always seem to snag teams when they finally find themselves in the spotlight. KU is a legit threat to play for the national title -- not bad for a program predicted to finish fourth in the Big 12's other division. On top of that, Mangino's team has battled despite its coach being firmly on the hot seat going into the season. Behind rising star Todd Reesing, a guy virtually everyone else except Mangino passed on, KU is a team that doesn't beat itself and makes plays whenever the opportunity is there. (Mangino also shifted former starting QB Kerry Meier into a hybrid position that has been a nice boost to the offensive package.) Mangino's staff deserves more credit for mining talent out of Texas and Oklahoma to build this program. They don't have a signature win yet, but they do deserve a lot of praise for avoiding all of the pitfalls that have caught everyone else this season.
2. Ron Zook, Illinois: The Zooker is punch line no more. He and his staff loaded up on big-time recruits in the past three years and the Illini are now reaping the benefits. Lost in all of that is how pivotal it is for a young team that had been down so far to learn how to win. Thanks to an outstanding ground game and a formidable defense, Illinois turned in one of the most impressive wins of the season, going to Columbus and taking down the unbeaten Buckeyes. Illinois is set to go from 2-10 to a New Year's Day bowl, which is an amazing turn. In fact, things have turned so fast, Zook might even get a shot at his old school, the mighty Florida Gators in a New Year's Day bowl.
3. Al Groh, Virginia: Talk about dead man walking, Groh seemed like a lock to get canned after his team opened the season losing to Wyoming. However, the Bill Parcells disciple never lost his team, and the Cavaliers kept plugging away, finding an offensive identity and letting a fierce defensive front control games. The result is UVA has won more tight games than any team in college football history. Even if Virginia doesn't beat Va. Tech, there's no denying Groh has had a wonderful season for the surprising Cavaliers.
November 7, 2007
By Len Pasquarelli
Mark Tauscher, Green Bay Packers
Reasoning: It's definitely a down season for right tackles around the league, and that helps Tauscher's cause some, but he remains a steady player and a stalwart strongside presence. Green Bay doesn't run the ball well but ranks No. 5 in the league in total offense, and Tauscher protects better than most right tackles.
November 19, 2007
Special Teams Player of the Week
Miami WR/PR Ted Ginn Jr. Nice weekend for current and former Buckeyes. After Ohio State's annual win over Michigan Saturday, Ginn was Miami's total offense in the Dolphins' 17-7 loss in Philadelphia, weaving and dashing through the Eagles for an 87-yard touchdown on a punt return.
Monday, November 19, 2007
November 17, 2007
Mary Kay Cabot
Just when Browns starting left defensive end Shaun Smith was starting to come on strong at his new position, he suffered a knee injury during Thursday's practice and is questionable for Sunday's game in Baltimore.
Smith was idle during Friday's practice and missed a television appearance Thursday night because he wasn't supposed to put weight on the knee.
The injury had the Browns scrambling Friday to reshuffle its injury-plagued line once again - at a time when both Smith and new nose tackle Ethan Kelley were beginning to make their mark.
Friday, November 16, 2007
November 15, 2007
K Phil Dawson is enjoying a solid season, going 13-for-15 on field goal tries, including 9-for-9 inside 40 yards. One of his two misses was on a 52-yard attempt in the last minute Sunday at Pittsburgh, but Dawson said he hit the kick as well as he’d ever hit one. He was done in by kicking into the open end of Heinz Field, and the ball landed just short of the crossbar.
Posted by NC Sports on Friday, November 16, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
November 14, 2007
From Tom O'Brien to Martin Iti and other sports figures with nothing in common ...
After beating the Carolina blue and white Saturday, N.C. State football coach Tom O'Brien celebrated by walking to a downtown Raleigh pub and drinking a black and tan.
A black and tan is a mixture of two beers, one of them dark, usually Guinness. The best way to describe the result is this: If you're sitting at a bar, and somebody orders a black and tan, you probably will, too.
I think O'Brien, who is in his first season, will be the ACC's next great football coach. After opening the season with five losses in six games, his team has won four straight, the last of them against North Carolina.
He didn't panic during the slow start. There's a confidence about him. It was as if he knew what he did would work. His players saw that, and they believed, too.
Compare this team with last season's. Instead of being disciplined by officials, N.C. State is disciplined. Practices are shorter, meetings more infrequent. The night before a game they might talk for five minutes. And nobody worries about O'Brien bolting to Arkansas.
He knows his role. O'Brien wore conventional adult clothing to his coach's show before the first nine games. Before the North Carolina game, he wore a Wolfpack red blazer.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Conference call: A look at the coaches of the year
November 11, 2007
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
•Coach of the year: Mark Mangino, Kansas. The Jayhawks haven’t had a season like this since the 19th century. With a home victory over Iowa State on Saturday they’ll do no worse than tie for first in the division, and they’ve never been higher than fourth place in 11 previous Big 12 seasons. Mangino is a leading candidate for national coach of the year.
•Coach of the year: Al Groh, Virginia. After the Cavaliers fell at Wyoming opening the season, it got ugly for Groh. Since then, Virginia has won eight of nine and set up the Nov. 24 showdown against Virginia Tech to determine the league’s Coastal Conference champion.
•Coach of the year: Todd Graham, Tulsa. The Golden Hurricanes returned only 10 starters in Graham’s first year, but they became the division and league favorite Saturday by throttling Houston 56-7.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Friday, November 09, 2007
November 8, 2007
By Jim Corbett
ESPN analyst Floyd Reese says for Defensive MVP he likes Patriot linebacker Mike Vrabel, who has 8 ½ sacks and two touchdowns as a red-zone tight end.
“He’s making a ton of plays,” Reese says. “He’s not only preventing points, he’s scoring them.”
Settled into position, LB is better than ever
By Mike Reiss
November 7, 2007
FOXBOROUGH - Safety Rodney Harrison didn't know much about linebacker Mike Vrabel before signing with the Patriots five seasons ago, but he's come to appreciate playing alongside him.
"He's the consummate pro, probably the smartest football player I've ever been around," Harrison said. "People underestimate him. I just don't think he gets the credit he deserves."
While credit might sometimes escape Vrabel, opposing quarterbacks have not.
At a time when some might believe he'd be slowing down, Vrabel, now in his 11th season, is enjoying a career year. His 8 1/2 sacks already have him one shy of his career high, and they lead all NFL linebackers this season.
The 32-year-old Vrabel also has been a force playing the run as an outside linebacker in the Patriots' 3-4 defense. Coaches have credited him with 47 tackles, third-most on the team, and even when he hasn't made stops, he's been strong in securing the edge and forcing running plays back inside, a crucial part of the job.
"He's such an integral part of our defense, and he's a leader," Harrison said. "I look up to a guy like that."
Thursday, November 08, 2007
OU mentor again being considered for national honors
November 7, 2007
NORMAN, Okla. - Oklahoma head football coach Bob Stoops is among 16 that have been named to the watch list for the Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year Award. The announcement was made by the awards committee of the American Heart Association.
Stoops, now in his ninth season with the Sooners, again has his program ranked among the top five nationally. It's an impressive feat considering the fact that OU is operating under a redshirt freshman quarterback and has started just seven seniors during the 2007 season.
Despite that, OU is 8-1 overall, and is leading the Big 12 South with a 4-1 mark.
Stoops has fashioned a record of 94-20 at Oklahoma, including a 52-2 standard at home. His teams have been ranked in 127 weeks and have played for the national championship three times.
Under its current head coach, OU has played in eight bowls, including the Sugar, Orange, Fiesta and Rose.
Stoops has been named the consensus Big 12 Coach of the Year three times and has won a total of 10 national coach of the year citations, including the Bryant Award in 2000.
November 7, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
By Mike Spofford
November 1, 2007
Aaron Kampman's most recent sack describes the All-Pro defensive end, and newly anointed NFC Defensive Player of the Month, to a T.
In the fourth quarter of Monday night's game in Denver, the Broncos handed the ball on an end-around to receiver Brandon Marshall, who was looking to throw as he approached the right sideline.
Kampman had a chance to get him about 10 to 12 yards behind the line of scrimmage, but the shifty Marshall (far more mobile than most actual quarterbacks) made him miss. Kampman got up and took another dive at him, but Marshall eluded him again.
Then, with nowhere to throw the ball, Marshall took off for the middle of the field to try to gain some yardage running, and Kampman, motor still going, ran him down from behind and tackled him for a 3-yard loss.
Kampman said he's never had to work so hard for one sack in his life. "That probably takes the cake," he said. But the thing about Kampman is he'd work that hard for every sack if that's what it took.
"He's extremely consistent in everything he does, as far as his productivity on the field and as far as the way he attacks his profession," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "He works at his fundamentals all the time, and he really doesn't have a weakness in his game."
The sack of Marshall was Kampman's third of the night, fifth in his last two games, and eighth on the season, all while seeing more tight ends staying in to help block him or running backs chip him coming out of the backfield after he posted 15 1/2 sacks and earned his first Pro Bowl bid last year.
Kampman battled some nagging rib and side injuries that kept him from performing his best in the first few games this season. But in Denver, the fourth three-sack game of his career came on the heels of an absolutely dominant performance before the bye week against the Redskins, helping to win the NFC's monthly award.
In that game Washington's backup right tackle, Stephon Heyer, was no match for Kampman, who repeatedly pushed Heyer into the backfield to collapse the pocket. Kampman also tied a career-high with 11 tackles and took over on the last two defensive series of the game, recording a tackle for loss, two sacks, and a fourth-down tackle 6 yards short of a first down to preserve a 17-14 victory.
Kampman couldn't say if that was the best game of his career - "I've never really been able to point to one and say, 'Wow, that was it,'" he said - but it has to rank right up there. His two other 11-tackle performances, in 2006 vs. New England and in 2004 vs. the New York Giants, both came in defeats, and his three sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in a dynamite outing against New Orleans last year also came in a loss, which is probably why he doesn't concern himself with remembering them.
But that's Kampman. He's not motivated by statistics, personal glory, or even the opposing competition necessarily. This week he'll be taking the same field as Kansas City's Jared Allen, the reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Month. Both defensive ends have eight sacks this season, tied for second in the NFL, one behind Philadelphia's Trent Cole.
Trying to outdo, or out-sack, Allen on Sunday would be a phony motivating factor to Kampman.
"Those are external things that can mess with your head, so why think about them?" he said. "You stay internal, you do what you do, you worry about yourself, and then at the end if you want to look at stats, you look at stats. I think those things are more traps than actual real solid things that can be motivation."
What motivates Kampman is trying to maximize on his God-given abilities, which everyone around the league is discovering are far greater than first thought, when he was a fifth-round draft choice in 2002 out of Iowa, the 14th defensive end taken that year.
"He's got a blue-collar approach in the weight room," McCarthy said. "He takes great care of his body. He's definitely one of the players that will think or look outside the box for different training techniques to improve himself."
Those different techniques generally involve a medicine ball, twisting and rotating his body in difficult and sometimes awkward stances and having to channel enough strength to thrust the heavy ball away from his body.
It's how Kampman has packed as much leverage and torque into his 270-pound frame as he possibly can, refining technique and adding explosion while simulating the movements to beat a blocker.
"Usually when we think of training we think of weight room stuff and free weights, and that's all very important and foundational," Kampman said. "But to take it to the next step, there aren't a lot of times (on the field) I'm going to be lying on my back bench-pressing. That's still a good exercise, but having said that, if I can do something to simulate how I'm going to actually be contorted and twisted while I'm pass rushing, or while I'm engaged with an offensive linemen, that really helps."
Kampman has improved his sack total every year he's been in the league, beginning with one-half sack as a rookie in 2002 to the 15 1/2 last year. With eight sacks through seven games in 2007, Kampman is on pace to set yet another career-high.
But it's not as though he's worried about that. Going back to the third sack in the Denver game, Kampman didn't even realize at the time the play on Marshall was a sack. He thought he just finally managed to make the tackle.
And it's probably his lack of concern for the statistics that helps him pile them up so quickly and consistently.
"From the motivation standpoint, all I've got to worry about is doing my best," he said. "When you really grab hold of that, the numbers and all that stuff don't become the focus. They become a by-product rather than the focus.
"As long as I can look myself in the mirror and know that I've done everything I possibly can do, then I feel fine. And I know that's all I'm asked to do."
Posted by NC Sports on Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Monday, November 05, 2007
Former OSU safety worthy of Bills' trust on draft day
November 3, 2007
BY BILL RABINOWITZ
CINCINNATI -- The Buffalo Bills surprised a lot of people when they selected Donte Whitner with the eighth pick in the 2006 draft.
The Ohio State safety had been considered a mid-first-round pick, at best, but the Bills were intent on rebuilding their defense and projected Whitner to be a cornerstone.
They have not been disappointed. He is third on the team in tackles with 53. He is the only Bills player to have played on all 465 defensive snaps.
"He's just a tremendous player to coach," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "He loves to play the game. He's a fierce competitor. He is a high-character guy. He fits our team very well and seems to be getting better every game."
Although others questioned Buffalo's pick, Whitner never did. In fact, he believed he should have been the first safety taken, ahead of Texas' Michael Huff, who went one pick ahead of him.
"I just felt I was the best at my position," Whitner said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Confidence is not an issue with Whitner.
"I've always had confidence in myself, no matter what's going on around me," he said. "I feel I can run and tackle and hit and intercept balls as well as anybody else can. I feel I can help my teammates out around me and help with verbal communication and with physical skills.
"I felt I was worthy of going where I did. Now I'm still working on proving to everyone around me and in the league that I was worthy of going that high, and I think I've gotten some good feedback."
Whitner said he has lined up in every spot on defense except the line. He has the speed to help cornerbacks and the run-stuffing skills and desire to line up in the box.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer described Whitner as a Bob Sanders-type player. Sanders is a Pro Bowl safety with Indianapolis.
"He can play the ball well in the air, and he can come up and smack people," Palmer said. "Just a very good player."
Whitner is not content to make his mark solely on the field. He has become active in community service. One of five children raised by a single mother, Whitner has sponsored a contest in which four Buffalo single mothers will win an all-the-works appointment at a local spa. He recently did the same thing in Cleveland, his hometown.
"I remember coming home and my mom was dead tired, and she was still cooking and getting us ready for school and all that," Whitner said. "I just want to give back to those moms who do so much for their kids."
He said he got 400 applications in Cleveland and expects as many in Buffalo
"The moms with the best stories who tell how much they did for their kids and how much they love their kids will win," he said. "If I can't choose just four, I'll up the number."
While he is focused on his job with the Bills, Whitner is keeping an eye on the Buckeyes. He said he's already banking on an undefeated season.
"I'm going to buy my national championship tickets now," he said. "Hotel rooms, airfare, everything. Because we're going. That's how much confidence I have in the Buckeyes."
November 3, 2007
Green Bay's Aaron Kampman and Kansas City's Jared Allen have each taken the long road to arrive among elite of defensive ends in the NFL, says PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence.
The numbers define Aaron Kampman.
First, there’s his sack total. With 23.5 sacks since the start of the 2006 season — including eight this season — Kampman leads the NFL. More than Shawne Merriman. More than Michael Strahan. More than Jason Taylor. More than anyone. Then, there’s his draft status, a mere fifth-rounder in 2002 out of Iowa who wasn’t an attractive enough prospect to even get an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine.
Finally, there’s his jersey number. It’s 74, and was randomly assigned by the Packers because of his draft status. It’s a number more apt to be worn by an offensive linemen, not someone who was going to develop into an offensive lineman’s worst nightmare.
“My college number was 54, so I guess they figured we’ll give him a (number end in) 4,” Kampman said.
Kampman was named the NFC’s defensive player of the month after recording 5.5 sacks in October, including three last week at Denver and two the week before against Washington.
The numbers similarly define Kansas City's Jared Allen. Like Kampman, he’s one of the NFL’s most unappreciated sackmasters. In his first three years, Allen piled up 27.5 sacks. This season, he’s already got eight — including six in the last three games — which is tied with Kampman for the second in the league, one behind Philadelphia’s Trent Cole.
Like Kampman, Allen was a second-day draft pick, in this case, a fourth-round selection.
And like Kampman, his No. 69 is a jersey typically given to offensive linemen.
The similarities go beyond the numbers. While Kampman and Allen have emerged as two of the NFL’s top pass-rushers, neither are wanting for motivation.
Speaking about his jersey number, Kampman said: “I had a chance to change my number awhile back … to a 90s number. I thought about it. Why would I want to do that? That’s not how I came here. It still reminds me of the fact of how I started, how I progressed. That’s my number. That’s who I am.”
Allen, who is continually pushed and prodded by defensive coordinator Gunther Cunninham, said: “That kind of attention or that kind of publicity won’t affect me. I don’t have that sense that I’ve arrived or that this is my year and all I have to do is show up and I’ll get a couple of sacks. This is a result of my hard work. I realize that. I’m not going to let this thing slip. I’m not going to be satisfied.”
The phrase “hard worker” typically is a compliment, and that’s certainly true for Kampman, who has only gotten better after signing a lucrative four-year, $21 million contract before the 2006 season. It also is a bit of a backhanded compliment. Kampman didn’t get 15.5 sacks last season just because he works hard. Maybe it’s because he’s white. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t talk smack or celebrate every sack like he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. Maybe it’s because of his draft status. Maybe it’s because he didn’t just burst onto the scene as a rookie. Whatever the reason, Kampman is a Pro Bowl player because he’s an athletic player with polished skills.
“When you’re not a No. 1 pick, maybe that’s how they identify you because of where he started,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “But anybody that’s played against him, or anybody that’s been around him, I’ve been around him now for a year and a half, he’s a Pro Bowl football player. He’s very consistent. He brings the same energy every day, and he doesn’t really have a weakness in his game.”
The stories of Kampman and Allen are what separates merely good teams from the great ones. You can’t stock a whole roster with first-round picks. Teams need to hit on the middle- and late-round ones.
The Packers’ roster is telling. Of the 53-man roster, 32 of them were selected in the fifth round or later, or weren’t drafted at all. With players like Kampman and seventh-rounders like Scott Wells and Donald Driver, maybe it’s no wonder why this team has done so well in the face of adversity. After all, most of these guys weren’t expected to be in the NFL. So, what’s the big deal about a tie game late against San Diego or being forced to overtime at Denver?
“The one thing that I’ve seen is we have a lot of late-round picks in this locker room, guys that have kind of come up and had to earn it,” Kampman said. “There’s something to that.”
RedHawks take advantage in East
November 5, 2007
The RedHawks took care of business against the Buffalo Bulls, and now Miami (5-5, 3-1) shares first place with UB (4-6, 3-1) and holds the tiebreaker for the Mid-American Conference's East Division title.
This should put coach Shane Montgomery squarely in the MAC Coach of the Year mix, considering the RedHawks are winning with backup quarterback Dan Radabaugh, their third- and fourth-string tailbacks, a bevy of freshman receivers and a defense that has been wrecked by injuries.
Yet with two games left for Miami, three for others, the victory also opened the door of hope for several teams in the division making late-season turnarounds.
Specifically, Ohio University (5-5, 2-2), Miami's main rival and defending MAC East champ, is one game back of the RedHawks with a season-ending showdown between the two teams. That's if they don't stumble before that.
The common denominator for both teams is the Akron Zips (3-6, 1-3), who are on a three-game nosedive - and it would be four, if not for a miracle, last-second kickoff return.
Ohio, which has turned its quarterback duties over to junior Theo Scott, has won two straight. The added bonus is tailback Kalvin McRae, who has rushed for 200 and 151 yards in the past two games.
The Zips host the Bobcats in the Rubber Bowl on Wednesday night, then travel to Miami on Nov. 14. Even with the nosedive, Akron has something to play for considering it is tied for last place in the East with rival Kent State. While Akron holds the tiebreaker over KSU, if the Golden Flashes pick up a late-season win and the Zips don't, the teams flip places.
Friday, November 02, 2007
BY MARK FARINELLA
November 1, 2007
FOXBORO - Mike Vrabel may have saved his best moves last Sunday for after the game, eluding media members who wanted to talk to him after one of the best days of his career on either side of the ball.
But the Patriots' couldn't escape the onrushing hordes Wednesday at Gillette Stadium.
"I think we're looking at it pretty realistically, that it's going to be a heck of a matchup and it's a big game," Vrabel said of Sunday's game against the also-undefeated Indianapolis Colts at the RCA Dome (4:15 p.m.; Ch. 4, 12). "We're going to have to put a lot into it this week to try to get the upper leg up in the preparation and then go over there and play, play in a place that we haven't won in a little bit and play well."
Vrabel won his first AFC Defensive Player of the Week award in the wake of a fearsome performance in the Patriots' 52-7 whitewashing of the Washington Redskins. He was credited with 11 solo hits, 15 total tackles (up from an original total of 13 after coaches' films were reviewed) and three sacks, all three of them forcing lost fumbles by Washington quarterback Jason Campbell.
"Any time that somebody makes a play, more times than not other guys are involved," Vrabel said. "So certainly, anytime you get a sack, unless you're pretty much free to the quarterback, there has to be some sort of coverage element.
"On the third one, I think Junior (Seau) and I were trying to work a little game," he said. "He came in there and drew a lot of the attention and I was able to come by there … and also with the strip sacks, it just gives you another opportunity to get the ball."
Vrabel also scored the 10th receiving touchdown of his career (on 10 catches), scoring on a 2-yard pass from Tom Brady when he lined up as an extra tight end, went in motion and slipped into the end zone totally uncovered. It's as if the Redskins paid him no mind at all, despite his growing goal-line reputation.
"Sometimes they do (pay attention) and sometimes they don't," Vrabel said. "When they do, I don't get the ball. And when they don't cover me, I get the ball.
"You can only stop so much down there," he said. "It's either drop everybody off and play the pass, or let us walk it in. So I'm not running out there every time thinking I'm going to score."
Vrabel hopes he and his teammates will play much better Sunday against the Colts than they did in the second half of the AFC Championship Game back in January.
"It was disappointing to finish our season that way," he said, "but moving forward, we've all worked out in the offseason and we've all started training camp and we've all began this season with that really not in our mind, just wanting to get better and be a better football team.
"To start the offseason, it was tough to deal with," he said. "But I think we've all moved past and moved on. They're trying to do the same thing they did last year and we're trying to get where they are."
Posted by NC Sports on Friday, November 02, 2007