Monday, November 29, 2010

Bob Stoops voted best coach in Big 12 history

November 26th, 2010

By Shawn S. Lealos, Oklahoma Sooners Examiner

The Associated Press released its list of the best football players in Big 12 history and the Oklahoma Sooners finished with seven players on the list.

The players were chosen by 20 voters from newspapers in the seven Big 12 states. Oklahoma voters included Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World, John Shinn of the Norman Transcript and Jake Trotter of The Oklahoman.

Additionally, Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops was nearly the unanimous choice as the best coach in Big 12 history. Stoops finished with 18 votes, compared to one each for Mack Brown and Bill Snyder.

Oklahoma offensive players include running back Adrian Peterson and offensive lineman Jammal Brown.

Peterson, currently playing for the Minnesota Vikings, finished his career at Oklahoma with 4,045 yards in three seasons. He was the runner up to the Heisman trophy in his freshman year and Minnesota drafted him with the seventh pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Offensive tackle Jammal Brown played for Oklahoma from 2001-2004. Brown was a two-time All-American (2003, 2004) and was the fifth Oklahoma Sooners player to win the Outland Trophy, awarded to the best interior lineman.

Defensive players chosen include Tommie Harris, Rocky Calmus, Teddy Lehman, Roy Williams and Derrick Strait.

Defensive tackle Tommie Harris finished his Oklahoma career with 96 tackles and nine sacks. He was the third Oklahoma Sooners player to win the Lombardi Award in 2003.

Linebacker Rocky Calmus was one of the anchors of the 2000 National Championship team. As a senior, he won the Dick Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker. By graduation, Calmus was the Oklahoma Sooners’ All-Time leader in tackles for a loss by a linebacker.

Linebacker Teddy Lehman had a lot to live up to following Calmus at the position but it all paid off as Lehman won the Butkus Award in 2003. He finished his four-year career at Oklahoma with 329 tackles and five interceptions.

Safety Roy Williams was responsible for one of the most memorable plays in Oklahoma Sooners history when he leapt through the air and swatted the ball out of Texas quarterback Chris Sims hands to give Oklahoma the win in 2001. He won the Nagurski Award as the nation’s best defender in 2001 and finished seventh in the Heisman voting.

Cornerback Derrick Strait played for Oklahoma for four years, including the national championship year of 2000. He won the Jim Thorpe award in 2003 for the best defensive back in the country. Strait finished his career at Oklahoma with 270 tackles and 14 interceptions.

Other Oklahoma Sooners who received votes include Jon Cooper (1), Duke Robinson (3), Trent Williams (2), Phil Loadholt (1), Mark Clayton (3), Ryan Broyles (1), Jermaine Gresham (3), Sam Bradford (1), Gerald McCoy (4), Jeremy Beal (1), Dan Cody (1), Rufus Alexander (2) and Curtis Lofton (1).

Dawson drills another big kick for victory

Terry Pluto's postgame scribbles as the Browns look for a few more wins this season

November 29, 2010

By Terry Pluto, The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Some postgame scribbles after Sunday's nervous finish to a game the Browns should have won easily:

There is no one in the NFL -- no one -- who I'd rather see kicking in the wind and cold of Browns Stadium with a game on the line than Phil Dawson, who drilled that 41-yarder for the victory. Dawson has missed only one attempt under 50 yards this season. Meanwhile, Carolina's usually reliable John Kasay missed from 46 and 42 yards in the second half -- proving these kicks are much harder than Dawson makes them look.

Dawson boots another game winner

By Brian Dulik

November 29th, 2010

CLEVELAND — The Browns have shown no inclination to extend Phil Dawson’s contract, which expires at the end of the season.

Perhaps it’s time to rethink that position.

Dawson made his 13th career game-winning field goal — splitting the uprights from 41 yards out with 2:42 left in regulation — to give Cleveland a 24-23 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

“Phil is the best kicker in the league, plain and simple, and the best I’ve ever played with,” said punter Reggie Hodges, who also serves as Dawson’s holder.

“I spent a year in New York, where the winds are kind of tricky, but this is the toughest spot in the NFL to kick. It’s just amazing how well he knows the conditions here and how to respond to them.”

Dawson, who joined the Browns as a rookie free agent in 1999, is 9-of-10 (90 percent) on home field goal attempts this season. The six visiting teams at Cleveland Browns Stadium are just 12-of-19 (63 percent).

The latter figure includes a 3-of-5 performance by Panthers kicker John Kasay, whose 42-yard try as time expired clanged off the left upright — and allowed Cleveland to escape with the one-point triumph.

“(Kasay) is a good kicker, but not every kicker can be Phil Dawson,” Browns wide receiver Joshua Cribbs said. “Phil is like Old Faithful. We know he’s going to get the job done.”

Ironically, Dawson said he wasn’t sure he was going convert his game-winning attempt. He had missed two field goals in Jacksonville one week earlier and had only been called upon to try three extra points against Carolina.

“I was certainly uncomfortable because I hadn’t touched the ball in the second half (on a kickoff, extra point or field goal),” said Dawson, whose .831 career field goal percentage ranks ninth in NFL history. “The field also was an issue today with the lack of footing, and the ball was just kind of dying in the air.”

Making the try even more tenuous, Ryan Pontbriand’s snap to Hodges was high, but he fielded it cleanly and placed it down in time for Dawson to keep his normal rhythm.

“That’s when you’ve got to trust your preparation and ignore your emotions,” Dawson said. “Reggie did a great job on the hold and I was fortunate to get it in.”

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Badgers' Bielema finalist for Eddie Robinson award

November 23, 2010

MADISON — Holding a 10-1 record and sitting one win away from at least a share of the Big Ten title, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema has been named one of eight finalists for the 2010 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, the Football Writers Association of America announced on Tuesday.

Bielema, who was named the 2006 Big Ten Coach of the Year, has led Wisconsin to 10 regular-season wins for just the third time in school history. The team has won 10 games in a season just seven times in school history and Bielema has been on staff for four of those seasons (three as head coach, one as defensive coordinator).

With one regular season game still left to play in 2010, the Wisconsin offense has already broken school records for rushing touchdowns in a season (41) and points in a season (450). In addition, the team is on pace to break the mark for average yards per carry, points per game and completion percentage.

In his career, Bielema holds a 48-15 (.762) in five seasons at Wisconsin. That’s the fifth-best winning percentage among active FBS head coaches with at least four seasons of experience. In addition, those 48 wins already put Bielema fourth all-time at Wisconsin in career victories.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mason would like to get back on sideline

With the coaching carousel about to heat up, Glen Mason would like to hop on and get a job.

"But I am kind of a realist," he said. "When I got let go after 2006, people told me I did a great job at Minnesota and would get another chance to coach. You think someone would offer up a chance to coach, and more often than not it doesn't happen.

"I wasn't overly optimistic after 2006. And now I am more of a realist and I don't think it's going to happen."

Glen Mason was fired despite a 64-57 record and seven bowl bids at Minnesota.

Minnesota's decision to fire Mason after the Gophers blew a 38-7 lead in the 2006 Insight Bowl and lost 44-41 in overtime to Texas Tech led to the hiring of Tim Brewster. Brewster was fired in October after going 15-30 overall and 6-21 in the Big Ten.

"I think I was a 'surprise fire,' " Mason said. "We won our last three Big Ten games to get bowl-eligible [that year] and then lose to a good Texas Tech team. Then, they hire Tim Brewster. And three and a half years later, he's out. You can't keep making those type of decisions and accomplish what you want to accomplish."

Mason, 60, a former Ohio State player and assistant, was one of the most successful coaches in Minnesota history. From 1997-2006, he forged a 64-57 record and went to seven bowls. He led the Golden Gophers to 10 wins in 2003, notched victories at Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan and beat Arkansas, Oregon and Alabama in bowls. But school officials thought the program had gone stale and needed a new vision as it made a push toward the opening of an on-campus stadium.

Before taking the Minnesota job, Mason had success at Kent State and Kansas.

"A coaches' won-loss record can be misleading because it's harder to win at some places than others," said Mason, who is 123-121-1 in 21 seasons as a coach. "I won at three places that were perennial losers. When I left, they were consistent winners. And I did it the right way. I didn't break any rules and I had the respect of my colleagues."

Since leaving, Mason has worked for a financial company in the Twin Cities and as an analyst for the Big Ten Network. But he'd like to get back on the sideline.

"I have had a couple of inquires," Mason said. "But I have a pretty good thing going now. All of my kids live in Minnesota, so I wasn't just willing to go anywhere. After 21 years as a head coach, I'm not willing to go just any place to be a head coach."

Who does Mason think Minnesota should hire?

"There are a couple ways to look at it," he said. "I used to tell our coaches that there are two different kind of coaches: fundamentalists and schemers. I said we are going to be fundamentalists. We are going to coach football and take the best players we can get and improve them. It didn't matter how well we recruited at Minnesota, we weren't going to out-recruit Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State. They have a lot of built-in advantages. But we could recruit ... good, hard-nosed, hard-working kids who may have been a step slow or an inch short ... and we were going to develop them. That's what we did.

"That's what I believe Minnesota needs. You need someone who can go out and sell the school and get the best talent you can. But then you better have a guy who can really develop them."

Minnesota often is viewed as a difficult job. Indeed, the school has the longest Rose Bowl drought of any Big Ten school, last playing in Pasadena after the 1961 season. Getting to the Rose Bowl will be more difficult starting in 2011 with Nebraska joining the Big Ten.

"It's a lot better now because they have a stadium, which I never had," Mason said. "I always thought the biggest drawback we had was we played in the [Metro]dome. It wasn't on campus, it wasn't a collegiate atmosphere, we didn't control it. We had to compete for time with the Twins and Vikings.

"When we brought kids in for recruiting, it seldom was set up as a football field. It was set up for tractor pulls, snowmobile contests, they had a mum festival every year. We had to take prospects in there in that atmosphere. It was horrible. ... As far as I am concerned, it's a lot better situation now than when I was there."
Can Minnesota ever win the Big Ten title?

"Sure," Mason said. "I came close. We were positioned a couple times and we only have ourselves to blame. You just had to hang in there and believe. They need to make a thoughtful and educated decision on what needs to take place. Find that individual, and have everyone hang in there and go for it."

Troy Smith's "heroic effort" leads to impressive win over Rams

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dominic Jones wins Lee Tressel Award, earns All-OAC honors

Nine Earn All-OAC Honors in Football

By Ed Syguda

November 22, 2010

WESTERVILLE, OHIO— Defensive back Dominic Jones, running back Colton Coy, place-kicker David Brewer, and defensive lineman Chaz Horsley, headlined a list of nine Otterbein University football players to earn All-Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) honors this season, the OAC released Friday.

All four were selected to the first team.

Jones, a junior from Columbus (Brookhaven High School), also received the Lee Tressel Award, presented to the most outstanding defensive back in the league. Jones led the squad in tackles for a loss with 13, including four pass sacks, this season. He finished second among teammates with 66 tackles. The junior also made two interceptions and broke up six passes.

In addition to his defensive prowess, Jones led the OAC in kick returns, averaging 31.1 yards. He ranked second in NCAA Division III at the conclusion of regular-season play.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Glenville High Coach Ted Ginn Sr. Helps Players Go From Boys to Men

By Justice B. Hill

November 18, 2010

CLEVELAND -- The teenager, a manila folder in his hand, walks reed straight into the principal's office at Ginn Academy. He is in a crisp, bleach-white shirt and black slacks with a black leather belt, and he wears a red tie with black stripes.

Stopping at the front desk, the teenager asks the receptionist a question. She tells him she can't answer it. She escorts the teen into an anteroom to wait for one of the academy's administrators.

Other teens soon follow.

All are polite and cheerful, all nattily dressed in the academy's uniform and colors: black, white and red.

No blue jeans sagging off a boy's butt.

No faded T-shirts with Gucci Mane's image on it.

There are appropriate settings for such urban attire, but Ginn Academy, the only all-male public school in Ohio, is not one of them.

Ted Ginn Sr., the man whose name is stretched across the school's brick facade, wouldn't allow it. To Ginn, educating teenagers is serious business, so he brooks no foolishness. He knows he has a task that some people think he isn't equipped to handle.

In a sense, their criticism is fair. Ginn has no formal credentials as an educator. His calling card, really, has been his ability to create from rocky terrain a football dynasty at Glenville High School, his alma mater, and turn it into fertile ground for recruiters from Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina Central, West Virginia, the University of Miami, Ball State and colleges elsewhere.

Yet his critics ignore the intersection of coaching teens and teaching teens, a fact not lost on Ginn. He points out one trait his critics disregard: he can relate to kids.

Few men and women do so any better.

Yes, he isn't the classic educator. He lacks the college degrees and an office wall crowded with teaching awards. He concedes as much.

Ginn, however, blunts such criticism with what too many educators, their credentials and high-minded titles notwithstanding, don't grasp. He deals in "hope," one thing a teenager needs in abundance.

"Kids come here because they want a chance," Ginn said. "I have expressed to them that they got hope."

The 290 teenagers who attend the three-year-old Ginn Academy, a recycled middle school on the city's East Side, do have a chance. He reminds each of them they can be a father and a husband; they can be a doctor and a lawyer.

But they must first be a good man.

Boys to Men

Nothing defines Ted Ginn Sr. and his mission in life any better than this: he wants to help boys become men.

His effort to churn out men began in a public way in 1997 when he took over the football program at Glenville. He got the job because nobody else wanted it. Not that the program was sorry. As inner-city programs go, Ginn landed a decent one -- a program with potential.

He never doubted he could squeeze all the potential out of it. The talent has always been there; it was there when Ginn wore the Black and Red back in the 1970s, he says. What was not there were locker rooms, a weight room, a decent practice facility, dedicated coaches, discipline and the unshakable resolve that leads to success.

Through force of his personality, Ginn instilled discipline. He raised money to add a weight room; he hired coaches who shared his passion; he won games -- lots of 'em.

Ginn, 55, has never lost a regular-season game in the eight-team Senate League. His Tarblooders have become the 2010 version of Massillon, Canton McKinley, Steubenville, Bishop Moeller and other historic powers in Ohio high school football.

"He understands what it means to be a Tarblooder -- to wear that 'G' on the side of their helmets," said Pierre Woods, a former NFL player and a Michigan grad who played for Ginn a decade ago. "It's a pride thing, and that's what it's about: being proud."

Woods and his teammates didn't just represent a high school; they represented a community and its spirit. They weren't playing just for themselves; they were playing for their parents, their siblings and their friends.

Ginn taught players like Troy Smith, Donte Whitner, Rob Rose, Ted Ginn Jr. and Woods to believe in themselves and to own up to their weaknesses and shore them up. Ginn Sr. talked about more than success on the football field; he talked about success in life.

"Like he always told me -- and I'm sure he told other guys -- at the end of the day, it's up to you," Woods said. "The only person that can make you fail is yourself."


The word is anathema to Ginn. He espouses a gospel of success, and the program he runs reflects it. Glenville, a success for more than a decade, was one of the top-rated programs in Ohio this season. In various national polls, his Tarblooders had been ranked as high as No. 4.

His roster boasted some of the premier talent in the country, including quarterback Cardale Jones and wide receiver Shane Wynn.

Success, well, no one uses the same yardstick to measure it as Ginn does. If all he wanted for his program was a lot of wins, he feels he would be cheating the teenagers who have come out for his football team.

Ginn does stress winning. All coaches do, right? But he also preaches passion and commitment and personal responsibility. Playing for Ginn has never been about football alone; mostly, it has been about life itself.

He told his players not to settle for success. He didn't see that as a grand enough purpose.

"You have to talk about being 'great,'" Ginn said.

What Price for Greatness?

Greatness doesn't come gift-wrapped. While athletic skills are wonderful to have, athleticism guarantees a man little in this hi-tech world. Nor does athleticism last forever.

What then?

To Ginn, education is the answer. Commit to education, he tells his football players, and if they do, they will always have skills that play well in the workplace.

Ensuring that his players and the students at Ginn Academy, which has no varsity athletics, have a strong educational foundation is Ginn's mission. He has sent close to 300 of his athletes to college.

Inside the school he started, Ginn sits in a conference room. His thoughts are a long way from football this afternoon. He's been wearing his educator's hat. He's spent most of the morning talking with the academy's principal and a principal from a high school in Columbus, Ohio.

His cell phone rings often. His administrative assistant interrupts now and again as Ginn juggles his business, which is saving young souls.

"If I don't do something everyday to make a difference in somebody's life, then I had a bad day," he said, leaning back in his chair.

That's the reason Ginn pushed hard for the academy -- pounding on doors and cashing in IOUs to make it happen. He wanted to provide black teenagers in Cleveland more than what they might have found elsewhere. He wanted a place where teenagers in his buttoned-down academy could learn, a place where they could thrive and a place where they could be shielded, if only for a few hours, from the hard realities of the 'hood: gangs, drugs and senseless crimes.

So he takes pride in what the academy has become. His plans are to build a second academy. Not just a second, actually, but a third and a fourth -- urban schools that push academics hard.

Not everybody at the academy or Glenville will end up with the NFL careers like Woods, Whitner, Ginn Jr. and Smith. The rest will need to carve out a life in business or politics or in a service industry.

That's where they'll find their success -- or their greatness. Ginn intends to help them however he can. His focus is on giving them hope and to saving their souls.

"What's killing me is I can't save more, that I can't get myself in an environment where we can mass produce saving, because I still have someone at the end of the assembly line blocking it -- holding it up," he said.

For now, he finds solace in the fact he's helping a lot of black teenagers find their bearings. He's giving them hope and a chance, which is what all educators ought to be doing.

And Ginn is -- 24/7.

"There's no finish line," he said with a sigh. "Finish what? You have a new group tomorrow."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More than a stopgap, Yanda turning into a force at right tackle

By Dan Kolko

November 17, 2010

As you get settled in this morning, I'd like you to take a second and think about where the Ravens would be without Marshal Yanda.

Go ahead, I'll wait.

OK, you good?

Here's my take on that topic: It wouldn't be pretty.

When Jared Gaither came down with a back injury in training camp which essentially ended his season before it began, the Ravens had a huge issue on their hands. How would they fill the right tackle spot?

The coaches turned to Yanda, deciding to move him from right guard to the vacant tackle position. Not only has Yanda gotten the job done, he's been the Ravens' saving grace.

The fourth-year offensive lineman's impact can't just be measured by statistics; it's measured by what he has allowed the Ravens to do offensively.

With Yanda locking down the edge, quarterback Joe Flacco has had time to survey his receiving options and look to stretch the field. Tight end Todd Heap and running back Ray Rice haven't been needed to stay in and block as much as some expected, allowing those two to run more routes and get involved in the passing game.

Plus, and probably most importantly, thanks to Yanda's play, Flacco hasn't been forced to peel himself up off the turf after big hits too frequently this season, which he and the coaches certainly appreciate.

Those in the Ravens' organization, notably offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, know that the job that Yanda has done adjusting to his new role as Baltimore's starting right tackle simply can't be overstated.

"I've said it before - Marshal Yanda is a Pro Bowl right guard. And now, he's playing, and it shouldn't have surprised me because he played tackle in college, but he's playing like a Pro Bowl right tackle." Cameron told me recently. "So what does that mean? To me, he's a heck of a football player. He's a Pro Bowl player, no matter where we play him."

Yanda played right tackle the majority of his college career at Iowa, and he saw action at the position during his rookie year in 2007 and then on a handful of occasions last season when Gaither was hurt and the Ravens needed to make adjustments to their starting lineup.

But since the start of the 2008 season, the Ravens viewed Yanda as their solution at right guard. He was tough, agile for a guy of his size, and had a hard-nosed nature which fit well at the guard spot.

Yanda had a fantastic 2009 season, and the Ravens envisioned him locking down the position for years to come. But when Gaither came down with a lingering back injury in training camp, the Ravens needed to make a decision.

Instead of tossing an inexperienced guy like Oniel Cousins into the fire and expecting him to carry the weight of Gaither's absence, the Ravens turned to Yanda for help at right tackle yet again, and slid Chris Chester into Yanda's right guard spot.

The move from guard to tackle is by no means an easy transition, but Yanda made it seamlessly. As a result, right tackle has gone from a position of concern to a position of complete stability.

"I think for some guys, [moving from guard to tackle] is really hard," Cameron said. "But the Ravens' culture here is guys playing multiple positions. We start training guys for multiple positions from day one. Marshal was a tackle when he got here, we moved him down inside and he played at a high level. Now he's put on 10, 15 pounds and he's back out at tackle and he's doing well."

Here's another example of how versatile Yanda is: He's also the Ravens' third center behind Matt Birk and Chris Chester despite never playing the position in college.

So what makes Yanda so good? What has allowed him to move from position to position and perform at such a high level wherever he lines up?

"Toughness," Cameron says. "Mental and physical toughness. There's no substitute for that. In the National Football League, without those two things, good luck. And he's got it."

Yanda's been so solid, in fact, that he's seemingly eclipsed Michael Oher as the Ravens' most effective tackle.
While Oher has struggled at times at his new left tackle position, Yanda has been a consistent force on the right side.

It's unclear at this point exactly how the Ravens will choose to utilize Yanda in the future. He can play both guard and tackle at such a high level that he gives the team flexibility with how they attack the free agent market and the draft this offseason.

Do they bring in a quality right tackle and move Yanda back to guard? Do they keep Yanda at tackle and stick with Chester or someone else at the guard spot?

Cameron isn't worried about next season just yet, but he says that for the time being, the Ravens are thrilled with how Yanda has helped stabilize the right side of their offensive line.

"He's our right tackle," Cameron said. "Chris Chester is playing at a high level at right guard, so that helps. We don't really need to predict the future right now, but right now, there's not a scenario that puts [Yanda] back at guard for this season that I can think of. Whereas before, with the possibility of Gaither coming back, there was a possibility that if something happened to Chester, he'd go back to guard.

"But right now, I don't think there any scenario where he would go back to guard. He's playing extremely well."

49ers’ game-changer: Troy Smith does what Alex Smith never did


NOVEMBER 14, 2010

* Straight from tomorrow morning’s paper (UNEDITED VERSION)…

I’ll add something in a bit, gotta head out of the pressbox right now.
—9:45 p.m. UPDATE: Quick adds…

* -My read is that Mike Singletary’s non-committal stance on the starting QB isn’t a big deal. It’s only to make sure he doesn’t get out too far ahead on the Troy Smith-is-better-than-Alex 49ers theme.

Even though it’s true and almost certainly what Singletary has thought for weeks.

I think Singletary felt a little burned when he made those comments praising Troy Smith’s leadership at the time of the Denver game–even if Singletary really meant them as a comparison to Alex Smith’s more muted style, he didn’t want them interpreted quite so brazenly.

So Singletary will sit and wait a bit on naming Troy Smith the starter for the rest of the season, just for appearance’s sake. He also has the cover of Alex Smith’s left shoulder–Singletary can just say, hey, Alex is not healthy, no public decision necessary until he’s OK to play.

(Smith was on the sidelines, noticeably non-demonstrative throughout the game, as he was when he hurt his right shoulder in 2007, then while he sat out 2008. Probably a lot going through his mind. As there was in 2007-2008.)

But I also believe that Singletary’s determination not to praise Troy Smith too much today is a semi-reverse-sign:.

He likes Troy Smith so much that Singletary wants to stay on him now to make sure Troy keeps working and develops into the QB Singletary wants him to be.

You coach and cajole the guys you think can save your butt. The ones who can’t, you basically ignore.

Alex Smith will never be the savior, though that’s what the 49ers kept hoping.

It showed when Singletary was gentle, gentle, gentle with him (David Carr as a non-threatening back-up?), and it didn’t get the 49ers or Singletary anything.

And gentle-gentle, I think Singletary now realizes, was the wrong approach.

That all pretty much ended when Singletary started shouting at Alex Smith in the Eagles game. He needed a way out of Alex, and he just happened onto Troy Smith.

Troy Smith might not be great. He might not be the QB of the future. But he’s a legitimate QB of the now, which is better than the 49ers have had in many years.

Troy Smith did everything the 49ers hoped, wished and imagined Alex Smith could do at quarterback, for more than five years now.

And Alex Smith never quite pulled it off, not once, definitely not like this.

Not even for one game, not even by accident.

That might not be the most polite way to describe the typically touchy 49ers QB situation. But it’s the deepest truth about Troy Smith’s electrifying, captivating, mood-changing performance Sunday.

“You saw what I saw: He made plays,” coach Mike Singletary said of Troy Smith after he led the 49ers to a key 23-20 overtime victory over St. Louis at Candlestick.

“And made plays in crucial times. That’s what you want. That’s exciting to see.”

Singletary also was careful to say Troy Smith was far from perfect against the Rams and Singletary stayed away from giving Troy Smith the job permanently, with Alex Smith’s shoulder still an issue.

But the conclusion is beyond obvious: The 49ers have their QB for the rest of the season or the rest of Singletary’s career, whichever lasts longer.

It’s Troy Smith (free-agent cast-off), no matter the politics or the health status of Alex Smith (former No. 1 overall draft pick).

Troy Smith fits the offense, fits Singletary’s vision, and it he turned this game into his own when a loss would’ve basically shut down the 49ers’ season.

If Alex Smith played this game, the 49ers probably would have lost it, as they have lost so many others.

But Troy Smith played it and won his second consecutive start, and the 49ers are now 3-6, two games behind Seattle in the NFC West.

“He’s a playmaker–that’s what I’ll describe Troy as,” Vernon Davis said. “He’s not afraid to let the ball go. He wants to make plays and he’ll do whatever he has to do to make it happen.”

By itself, Troy Smith’s statistical line was one the 49ers’ best since the days of Steve Young–17 for 28 for 356 yards, a touchdown, no interceptions, for a 116.7 passer rating.

Alex Smith has never thrown for that many yards, or come close to averaging the 12.71 yards per attempt that Troy Smith accomplished in his second start for the 49ers.

But the real significance of the performance was in the details and the derring-do:

* Smith’s throw to Delanie Walker in overtime, with a passrusher on his back, that drew the pivotal pass-interference call and set up Joe Nedney’s game-winning field goal;

* The back-to-back completions to Frank Gore to convert a third-and-32/fourth-and-18 situation with the 49ers trailing in the final minutes of regulation.

* The sidestepping of countless Rams pass rushers, who were blasting through a banged-up 49ers offensive line, to make play after play;

* The determination to throw the ball deep and give his receivers the chance to battle for the ball.

“I love it,” Gore said of Troy Smith’s deep-ball inclination. “I know the receivers are happy to get the opportunity to go down field and make plays.”

It started with the first play from scrimmage, a 32-yard pass to Vernon Davis, and continued throughout the game.

49ers fans had to be scratching their heads: There’s a 49ers QB who loves to throw it deep? All of the time?

In all, Smith had eight completions that went for 23 yards or more, spread to four different receivers.

“That’s you throwing it to your guy away from their guy,” Troy Smith said of his style. “That’s you putting yourself into a position, as player, as a man–however big or small those guys out there, they deserve a chance to make a play.

“Whether a guy is draped all over him or he’s wide open, this is the NFL.”

Of course, Troy Smith wasn’t always brilliant, and the offense had some fits and starts.

But when the 49ers had to, they moved the ball, sometimes at an incredibly rapid pace. And when Troy Smith could’ve come up small, he always came up big.

Afterwards, did Singletary praise Troy Smith in the locker room?

“I don’t know if you’d call it praise,” Troy Smith said with a smile. “It was his little scowl—I know you probably get the scowl a lot.

“He told me, ‘Good job, and we definitely got to go back to the drawing board.’”

That’s different than what Singletary has said or felt about most of Alex Smith’s performances, no doubt.

But the main point is that the 49ers don’t have to keep hoping and praying for Alex Smith any more.

Troy Smith is their QB now. That’s simple to say and it was simple to see Sunday.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Troy Smith leads Niners to comeback win

Leading the charge: Niners quarterback Troy Smith throws downfield under pressure to set up the winning field goal in overtime against the Rams.

November 15, 2010

Best comeback: New starter Troy Smith (who threw for 351 yards with one TD and zero INTs) led the 49ers back from a 17-10 fourth-quarter deficit to a 23-20 win in overtime. Smith, after a would-be fourth-quarter TD was nullified by a penalty, threw a 16-yard scoring strike to Michael Crabtree with 2:10 left.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Notre Dame's defense outstanding in win over Utah

Excerpted From Keith Arnold's "Five things we learned: Notre Dame vs. Utah"

November 13, 2010

It was an analogy Brian Kelly didn’t want to use, but football is a lot like the game of life. Ebb and flow. Highs and lows. Good and bad. And after three solid weeks of nothing but negativity, Kelly’s Notre Dame squad went out on Senior Day and summarily dispatched Utah 28-3 on Saturday afternoon.

“Through the last three weeks, we certainly have had a great deal of adversity that we’ve had to overcome together as a group,” Kelly said. “In those times, to steal a quote from Coach Parseghian, adversity elicits traits sometimes that we didn’t think we ever had.”

After counter-punching much of the first quarter and spotting Utah a field goal on a failed fourth down gamble, the Irish got a big special teams play from cornerback Robert Blanton, who blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown. From there, the Irish systematically beat down the No. 15 Utes, giving the Irish their biggest win over a ranked opponent since 2005.

Any hope Utah had of overcoming a 14-3 halftime deficit was eliminated thirteen seconds into the second half, when freshman Austin Collinsworth stripped Shaky Smithson on the opening kickoff and Tommy Rees found senior Duval Kamara in the corner of the endzone to push the score to 21-3. Kamara would add another touchdown catch in the third quarter to seal the deal.

After losing a plethora of starters and last minute games to Michigan, Michigan State and a shocking defeat to Tulsa, the Irish finally came unbridled, finding their stride.

“You saw today a football team that didn’t have on their shoulders the traditions and reputations and all the things that you have to worry about sometimes being a football player at Notre Dame, and they just flat out played,” Kelly said.

And for the first time since the gallows of 2007, the senior class walks away from Notre Dame Stadium with a win, celebrating with a student section that had no intent of leaving the field.

Here’s what we learned in Notre Dame’s commanding 28-3 victory over No. 15 Utah:

Bob Diaco’s defense was astounding in every sense of the word.

If a coaches reputation can be made (or ruined) in one Saturday, Bob Diaco tested the theory during the Irish’s loss to Navy. Unable to solve even the most rudimentary elements of the Midshipmen offense, Diaco admitted that the 35-17 loss was his most frustrating as a defensive coordinator.

While Kelly caught some flack for keeping Diaco and offensive coordinator Charley Molnar away from the media this week, the move obviously paid dividends, as Diaco’s defense put together their most complete performance of the season, holding a Utah team that averaged 41 points a game to a single gimme field goal, one that was courtesy of an offense that turned the ball over on downs at midfield.

How dominating was the Irish defense’s performance? Consider that it was only after the score was 28-3 that Utah put together a drive that was over 24 yards. The front seven of the Irish defense completely dominated the line of scrimmage, holding a powerful Utah running game to 2.4 yards a carry and under 100 yards, even without interior stalwarts Ian Williams and Carlo Calabrese. The pass rush pressured Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn endlessly, and the secondary blanketed Utah receivers, with Harrison Smith making the best interception of his career and Gary Gray in the right place at the right time all day.

Diaco deserves all the credit in the world for dialing up a game plan that terrifically suited an Irish defense still incredibly thin due to injury. Even more impressive, the development of the defensive roster is incredibly apparent after 10 football games, with freshman like Prince Shembo and Kona Schwenke making big plays, and guys like Kapron Lewis-Moore and Sean Cwynar rising to the occasion.
It’s easy to see how defensive line coach Mike Elston, linebacker coaches Diaco and Kerry Cooks, and secondary coach Chuck Martin have put their fingerprints on this unit. Their performance might get lost in the shuffle, but it certainly shouldn’t tonight.

To read the complete article, please see the following link:

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Marshal Yanda making his mark at right tackle

By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

November 4, 2010

In the preseason, Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron had said that Marshal Yanda had the talent to become one of the best guards in the NFL. Yanda is trying to prove his coach right — at right tackle.

Since replacing the injured Jared Gaither at the beginning of the regular season, Yanda has solidified the right side of the offensive line. According to "Pro Football Weekly," Yanda is tied with left guard Ben Grubbs and right guard Chris Chester for the fewest number of penalties committed by a Ravens starting offensive lineman, and he has surrendered just two sacks.

Yanda said his objective is to continue his development at right tackle, which he hoped will be his position for a long time.

"Now I want to stay there," he said. "I don't want to play guard now because I feel like I'm settling in at tackle, and I feel like I can get the job done. Now I just want to settle in there and keep stacking games and try to get better and better with each game."

Cameron marveled at Yanda, who hadn't had extended starts at right tackle since 2007, his rookie season.

"Marshal has been tremendous," Cameron said. "There aren't many guys that can bounce out to right tackle and the play at the level that he's playing. Obviously, [there is] a lot of football left, but he's just another one of the good football players we have here."

After stonewalling Pro Bowl outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley in the Ravens' win against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 3, Yanda gets another test this Sunday from Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake.

Wake, who finished with 5½ sacks last season, leads Miami with 6½ thus far and is blessed with what Yanda described as two of the quickest feet in the league. Yanda said he must match the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Wake step-for-step.

"His first two steps are what win him sacks," Yanda said. "He can get past the tackle, and then you're fighting to try to chase and keep up and then he can throw you inside or come inside because you're out of position. So I have to match his timing. Get off when he gets off the ball and stay square."

Monday, November 08, 2010

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Marshal Yanda named to Sports Illustrated's Midseason All-Pro Team

By Peter King

November 4, 2010


QB: Peyton Manning, Colts: "Ho-hum. Throwing to Blair White, Brody Eldridge, Jacob Tamme. Same greatness."

RB: Arian Foster, Texans: "He's hit a lull recently, but early explosion keyed strong start for the Texans."

WR: Roddy White, Falcons: "Matt Ryan can't live without him. He throws at White 12 times a game."

WR: Brandon Lloyd, Broncos: "Talk about your classic deep threat: He's averaging 20.3 yards per catch."

WR: Davone Bess, Dolphins: "(Picked 3rd WR over FB.) Has hands and explosion and elusiveness. What else is there?"

TE: Antonio Gates, Chargers: "No player at any position is as superior to his peers as Gates is at tight end."

T: Jake Long, Dolphins: "Head coach Tony Sparano: "I thank God ... I have Jake Long at left tackle.'"

T: Marshal Yanda, Ravens: "His opening-day shift from right guard to right tackle has been a godsend for Baltimore; the fourth-year veteran helps keep Joe Flacco clean (just 10 sacks)."

C: Alex Mack, Browns: "Some thought the 21st pick was too high for Mack in 2009. Now, he's a franchise player."

G: Brandon Moore, Jets: "He's a strong drive blocker in the running game and never errs mentally."

G: Ryan Lilja, Chiefs: "Shored up Kansas City line; now Chiefs lead NFL in rushing."

Georgia Bulldogs DC Todd Grantham: Do The Dallas Cowboys Miss Him Or What?

By Jason Kirk - Senior Editor

November 3, 2010

When the Georgia Bulldogs hired Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Todd Grantham as their new defensive coordinator, the biggest question was how long it would take the Dawgs to convert from Willie Martinez' carefree 4-3 system to Grantham's particularly aggressive 3-4. Despite serious growing pains along the way, Georgia's defense is better than it was a year ago, record be damned.

But how about Dallas' defense without Grantham? They haven't had to switch their style up at all, retaining head coach and lifelong 3-4 man Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator and returning their former linebackers coach Paul Pasqualoni to take over the defensive line. Despite that, Dallas' defense is worse this year. You may have heard they're 1-6, and that's not entirely the offense's fault.

Through seven games, the Cowboys have given up 187 points. After seven games last year, they'd given up 136. That's over a touchdown per game difference. They finished 2009 with the NFL's second-best scoring defense; this year they're 27th. How much of that is really due to the loss of Grantham?

In 2009 Dallas was seventh in sacks and ninth in yards per rush, Grantham's two biggest areas of responsibility. So far this year, they're 14th and 24th respectively.
And that's with Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware's eight sacks, currently tied for second in the league. Minus Ware's talent, Dallas might have the NFL's worst pass rush, as their total would be neck-and-neck with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, and Cincinnati Bengals. Last year they would've ranked 23rd without Ware.

Sure, Dallas has been banged up, especially in the secondary. But that was the case last year too.

Meanwhile Georgia's run defense has improved by over ten yards per game, while their sacks per game are up ever so slightly.

The Dawgs' defensive stud has been Justin Houston, who has nine sacks. Mel Kiper calls him the best 3-4 outside backer in this year's draft class, assuming he goes pro. While Houston was already a force, collecting nine sacks in his first 21 games, Grantham's system has been a perfect fit. Despite his job title Grantham coached Ware and other linebackers at Dallas, and Houston immediately bought into playing in Ware's role at Georgia.

Yes, Grantham's often a raging hothead. But we've known that since day one. In fact, appreciated it on day one. Don't you think the Cowboys could use a little bit of that fire right now?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Mario Manningham Flashes Superb Hands

By: Zac

October 28, 2010

Last week, we highlighted the training behind Chris Johnson’s extraordinary balance and core stability, which were on display during the Titans’ impressive win over Jacksonville on Oct. 18. This week, the spotlight is on wide receiver Mario Manningham who, for one play, put his game-breaking speed on hold and showed some finesse with a spectacular sideline catch.

With 36 seconds remaining in the second quarter, the Giants’ wideout eluded coverage on a 12-yard Out Route and jetted for the sideline. Eli Manning, who rarely misses his man, was slightly off target with a laser pass over the head of a fully extended Manningham. Executing a tight rope act along the sideline, Manningham snatched the ball from overhead and hauled it in. Like a catcher in baseball, he seemed to have framed the catch—both feet in bounds—before falling to the ground, ball in hands, first down secured.

Many of the skills shown to perfection by Manningham—precise route-running, footwork, body control and hand-eye coordination—were developed while training with performance coach Tim Robertson, owner of Speed Strength Systems in Cleveland.

To make plays like this possible, Robertson has Manningham perform tennis ball drills aimed at enhancing his reaction time and hand-eye coordination. The concept is simple. According to Robertson, “If you’re able to catch a tennis ball in stride properly, it’s going to be much easier to catch a football.”

Monday, November 01, 2010

Troy Smith named Sports Illustrated's Offensive Player of the Week

From Peter King's "Cowboys should fire Phillips now; 'Skins, McNabb head for split, too?"

November 1, 2010

Sunday, Week 8. About as boring a football Sunday as there could be for the first couple of hours, Denver and San Francisco exporting horrible football to London; the Redskins stinking it up at Detroit; the Cowboys looking as pathetic as the '62 Mets; Kansas City and Buffalo playing offensive football like it was 1930 and not 2010; the Jets throwing a slumber party for their offense.

Then some interesting things happened. Lots of them. The benching of The Solution by Mike Shanahan; Troy Smith grabbing hold of the 49ers quarterback job; Ndamukong Suh playing like not only the Defensive Rookie of the Year but also a Defensive Player of the Year candidate; the Packers shutting out the Jets with a tour de force defensive performance that would have made Lombardi proud. And we haven't even gotten to the Patriots lacerating Favre and the Raiders humbling Hasselbeck and, Saints alive, the Saints coming alive.

Off we go on a tour of the NFL as the calendar turns to November.

The Award Section

Offensive Player of the Week

Troy Smith, QB, San Francisco.

Smith hadn't started an NFL game in 34 months -- since a Dec. 30, 2007 win over the Steelers as a Baltimore Raven. And to find out you'll get the start while in London, five days before the game, when you've never worked with the first-unit offense .... Pretty amazing deal. And Smith played well: 12 of 19, 196 yards, one rushing touchdown, one passing touchdown, no interceptions, and a gaudy 115.2 rating. "I'm not looking back at what should have been or what might have happened,'' Smith told me from London, after the Niners beat the Broncos in the league's international game at Wembley Stadium. "I'm just taking this chance and running with it.''

As I said on NBC Sunday night, you'll almost certainly see Troy Smith replace Alex Smith, regardless of Alex's health, when the 49ers come off their bye in 13 days against the Rams. My take is that Mike Singletary sees Troy as the make-something-happen sparkplug he never saw in Alex -- or in backup David Carr.

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