October 01, 2011

Football Gameday V & other balls, including ticket info on Wade, LeBron, Bosh game

The first part of this is a rerun from Friday afternoon's blog post. If you saw that, feel free to skip past this to the football, volleyball, futbol or whatever ball-type thing gets you groovin'.

 PSEUDO-NBA BASKETBALL

The NBA put an All-Star Game in Miami in the second year of the Heat and Miami Arena, a building that was outdated about 15 minutes after it opened. Why the NBA hasn't brought it's winter showcase back to Miami, despite American Airlines Arena downtown on the bay and South Beach nearby (maybe that's the reason), is a mystery. Which makes it all the more ironic that the next time a near all-star game gets played in Miami, it's at a small college arena in the suburbs.

Tickets for that game, "LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh present the South Florida All-Star Classic" at FIU's U.S. Century Bank Arena, 7 p.m., Oct. 8 will go on sale Monday at noon at the University Credit Union Box Office on the first floor of the Fieldhouse adjacent to at FIU Stadium. No phone or online orders will be taken. Tickets will cost $50 for upper bowl general admission, $100 for lower bowl reserved. Fans can buy two tickets per person until 3 p.m., four tickets per person after that.

The game, which Wade billed on Twitter as DWade vs. King James, will include the Heat's Big Three, the Knicks Carmelo Anthony and A'mare Stoudemire, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, New Orleans' Chris Paul, and many other stars.

Proceeds will go to Mary's Court Foundation, a foundation established by FIU coach Isiah Thomas in honor of his strong-willed mother, the late Mary Thomas

FOOTBALL

This is going to look like a Reader’s Digest Condensed Book version of my usual pregame posts. I’m tired, have a stuffy nose, a Long Island waiting and a dissatisfaction with how much I’ve seen of Duke.

This is the kind of wacked team that drives fans and coaches crazy, makes prognosticators look stupid and keeps bettors away from like the team came Chernobyl-dipped. Losing to Richmond (what?), drilled by Stanford (expected), then punking Boston College (everybody’s doing it) in a comeback win, then blowing Tulane off the field.

Take that BC game. Duke allowed BC only three first downs on the ground, but trailed BC 19-7 in the third quarter. They came back to win 20-19 after a last second BC field goal attempt went awry.

When a line finally came up for this game after FIU coach Mario Cristobal said quarterback Wesley Carroll would play, it was FIU by 3. That’s moved to 3.5 to 4, depending on where you look. Translation: some money on FIU, probably not much, and even less on Duke. Bettors are staying away from this one.

Duke lost defensive end Kenny Anuike, their best pass rusher, to injury early against Tulane. FIU will be without free safety Chuck Grace (right knee) and wide receiver Glenn Coleman (shoulder).

Duke undoubtedly saw the trouble Louisiana-Lafayette caused FIU with the quick wide receiver screen. FIU’s defensive backs couldn’t get off the Lou-La wide receivers’ blocks, thus allowing at least 5 to 7 yards before ball carrier contact. Eventually, they’ll draw FIU up, fake a hitch and throw the go. Until you prove you're not a fool, you'll get played for one.

FIU failed in both ends of its pass defense last week, but the pass rush gets the bigger they pass/you fail grade because that grew into a given after three weeks. When it didn’t get there last week, even by blitz, the secondary couldn’t maintain coverage. FIU coach Mario Cristobal uses “big” to describe every offensive line the Panthers face. But for Duke’s, he also used “long.” Long arms…that’s what scouts look for when searching for linemen that’ll keep the quarterback from being treated like a piñata at Westchester triplets birthday party. Cristobal’s worried about the pass rush getting erased for a second consecutive week.

One thing Lou-La did to loosen up FIU that the Dukies will do just because it’s their wont is throw on first down.

Duke allowed only eight rushing first downs against Tulane and BC. Take away the sacks and they allowed a combined 161 rushing yards on 43 carries, 3.7 per carry. Not overly permissive, but not The Great Wall of Durham, either. Richmond ran for 95 on 31 carries (no sacks). Duke coach David Cutliffe felt Tulane and BC were more straight ahead, physical teams. Cristobal called defensive tackle Charlie Hatcher “as good as we’ve faced” and, remember, Duke lost defensive end Anuike.

Add it up and I see another game where the shifty Kedrick Rhodes gets the bulk of the carries for FIU.  

Wesley Carroll’s back at quarterback for FIU. Despite an ankle that might still be bothering him, he needs to be a better passer than the Wesley Carroll who played against Central Florida and Louisiana-Lafayette. Against UCF, he was just a bit scattershot. Though the play calling got stale against Louisiana-Lafayette after the opening drive, Carroll’s decision-making wasn’t exactly Manning-esque before his injury. Carroll takes too many Ken O’Brien sacks/hits, where he holds onto the ball too long. By contrast, one play last week, he threw a panicky pass with the nearest upright Lou-La player pondering Kierkegaard on the sideline.

As well as Jake Medlock – the name just sounds like it should be followed by “A Quinn Martin production” – played against Lou-La, there were moments when Carroll would’ve made better reads. Against Duke, FIU needs to put more of the game in Carroll’s hands and he needs to be the senior leader in performance he can be. The plays -- small, medium, large and T.Y. Hilton – were there against Louisville and should be there against Duke.

Richmond’s Tre Grey got Duke for eight catches and 129 yards. That’s a secondary that should fear Hilton, even at 80 percent Hilton, or Wayne Times.

Let’s say both teams move the ball well. There’s been a defensive score in every FIU game so far, so figure on one here by FIU – a jumped route, a post-reception fumble, something along those lines. That score could wind up being the difference in a game where the punters should be able to spend the game arguing with the cheerleaders over who's the better athlete.

FIU 38, Duke 35.

But that’s just one black man’s opinion. I could be wrong (and have been the last two weeks).

VOLLEYBALL

In less time than it took my daughter to finish two bowls of matzoh ball soup, Western Kentucky swept FIU out of U.S. Century Bank Arena 3-0 (25-17, 25-22, 25-19). Jovana Bjelica had 13 kills and Chanel Araujo had 14 digs as Western left the former Sunblazer Arena with a win for the second consecutive season.

Defending Sun Belt champion Middle Tennessee State visits Sunday at noon.

WOMEN’S SOCCER

Since the humiliation by Oregon State two weeks ago, the women footballers have run off four in a row, the latest a 3-0 spanking of Troy Friday that gets them to 3-0 in the conference. They’re also 6-5 overall, their first time above .500 this season.

Chelsea Leiva and April Perry, striking early and late, each got her second goal of the season. In the middle, sub Deana Rossi sent FIU into halftime with a 2-0 lead off an assist from Kelly Ann Hutchinson. Hutchinson and Nicole DiPerna, who set up Leiva’s goal, are tied for the team lead with three assists.

South Alabama’s up next, at 2 p.m., Sunday.

August 13, 2011

Playing dominoes in West Miami-Dade...

There's not much from Saturday morning's practice to report other than the plethora of orange no-contact jerseys.

Among those who weren't hurt before Friday's scrimmage, safety Cain Elliot was still on crutches, of course, with a left ankle sprained Friday; Safety Justin Halley, who had an interception in the scrimmage, took a shot to the head and sat out Saturday's practice; wide receiver Mike Jean-Louis still couldn't seem to bend his left leg, on which the thigh was tightly wrapped; defensive lineman Andrew Mattox had a left thigh wrapped; defensive tackle Isame Faciane also was on the sidelines.

Butch Davis dropped by again with AD Pete Garcia. Mario Cristobal started coaching as a graduate assistant under Davis at the University of Miami. They exchanged much friendly yakkety-yak after practice, along with quarterbacks Wesley Carroll and Jake Medlock.

"Certainly so many things from his blueprint we have applied here," Cristobal said. "Obviously, a person I'm very grateful to and thankful for. It's awesome to see him. He's as good as it gets." 

Davis' presence and the way he recruited South Florida while at the University of Miami brings up the irresistable question, what if FIU has an eight-win or better season? Cristobal's contract buyout isn't so onerous as to keep a big-time school serious about him -- or, rather, that school's boosters -- from ponying up the $453,000 emancipation fee. There's something boosters and money can't buy, however.

As mentioned in a previous post, the Cristobals have two very young children, Daddy Cristobal puts in the marathon days of most college coaches (paranoid control freaks by nature) and Mama Cristobal's very active in the community. For such parents, the extended family support system can be a serious factor in deciding whether or not the grass is greener elsewhere, even if there's more of the long green involved. Yeah, money can buy you a parent support system of nannies, but not everybody's comfortable with that. You can build a parent support system of trusted friends. But, there really isn't anything like having the grandparents who love to spoil the kids, the aunts and uncles who'll turn a mall trip into as much fun as an afternoon at Disney or the cousins who are like siblings. That's raising the kids and, when we're talking coaches, the wife's doing the lion's share of that.

I'm not saying they'll never go anywhere because of that. I'm saying don't discount it as having weight. Current Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, an NFL coach who was raised the son of longtime NFL coach Dick Nolan, as quoted by John Feinstein's "Next Man Up:"

"I tell young coaches that they better be sure when they take a new job that their wife can be happy. See, the coaches have it easy. We get someplace and we're spending all our time doing what we love: coaching...We're not the ones who have to find new schools and new doctors and a new place to shop and send out change-of-address stuff and get phones hooked up. Your wife is doing all the work, so you better be sure she's comfortable with whereever you're going, because if she's not, everyone is going to be miserable."

Ye who have had to live with an unhappy wife know whereof he speaks.

If Cristobal does go, nothing that happened at North Carolina would deter FIU from hiring Davis, whose career surely will restart somewhere in a couple of years. FIU would be a much more inviting place to Davis if it were in a better conference.

And that leads us to the dominoes game.

Texas A&M's trying to move from the Big 12 (which isn't 12 anymore) to the Southeastern Conference. As one college football suit said Friday, "they'll need a partner." The early reports had Florida State, Clemson and Missouri all making the move to the SEC with the Aggies. Outside of A&M, everybody is playing the denial game like those guys who take the lie detector tests on The Maury Show. Some of them are telling the truth, but somebody's lying. Let's say A&M heads for the SEC with Florida State, a strong football-good enough basketball school that's in SEC country more than ACC country.

If it's FSU and/or Clemson, the ACC will start looking for another school. The ACC actually cares about academics, so they're not just going to grab any revenue sport powerhouse or big TV market school feeling like they need to make a move. They might go Big East courting (UConn? Rutgers?).

If the Big East gets nicked as the dominoes fall, don't expect FIU to get a "How do you do?" from that conference. FIU Stadium needs to be enclosed. Going on experience gained by watching 21 years of venue construction in South Florida, I'd put that project at 18 months from now. For the Big East, it probably needs to be enlarged with a second deck. FIU's athletic department has other beefing up and straightening up to do before thinking Big East. 

The Big 12's already going to lose A&M. They lost Nebraska. Oklahoma and Texas can hold that conference together. If they do, Houston's already being talked about as a strong possibility for replacing A&M. I think Texas and their $300 million Longhorn Network that they can't take with them to the Pac-10 or Big Ten will start thinking about life as an independent.

Houston's in Conference USA. So is Central Florida, which the Big East might want for the Orlando market if it goes hunting for a replacement school.

If you've got to replace one or two big schools, the No. 10 and/or No. 19 TV market, who do you do it with? With another big enrollment school that gets the vast majority of its students from an area that combines two TV markets (Miami-Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce) into a top 10 market.

That's when the Conference USA folks call the Mitch Madique Campus.

 


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