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Virginia Tech Outlasts MD; Completes Season Sweep

(AP)—Malcolm Delaney scored 22 points to help Virginia Tech rally past Maryland 91-83 on Tuesday night.

The Hokies (17-7, 7-4 Atlantic Coast Conference), who have won 13 of their past 16 games, trailed 76-75 after a basket by Maryland’s Jordan Williams with 5:21 remaining. But behind Delaney and Erick Green, Virginia Tech went on a 9-0 run to take control of the game. Green hit a 3-pointer in that run, and Delaney hit six free throws, including two with 1:14 left that gave the Hokies an 84-76 lead.

Maryland (16-10, 5-6) stopped the run with a 3-pointer by Dino Gregory with 1:09 left. The Terps cut the lead to 87-83 with 33 seconds left on two Terrell Stoglin free throws.

But Delaney hit two free throws with 28 seconds left push the lead back to six, and after Stoglin missed a 3-pointer, Delaney added two more with 14 seconds to go to account for the final margin.

 

Ahh a very tough defeat for the Maryland. They hung in there for most of the game and showed some very positive signs on offense. They led at the half and generated a handful of nice fast breaks. But they could not finish once again, dropping their record to 2-8 in games decided by single digits.

Virginia Tech’s seniors – Delaney, Jeff Allen, and Terrell Bell – were calm and clutch especially in the final minutes as collectively they made 7 of 8 free throws. The Hokies only had two turnovers in the second half, compared to the Terps’ eight.

A bright spot for Maryland however was the play of freshman guard Terrell Stoglin. He posted a career high 25 points coming off the bench and added six assists. Fellow freshman Pe’Shon Howard added ten points.

Maryland has four days off before hosting N.C. State late Sunday afternoon at Comcast Center.

 

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Terps Visit Hokies Tonight; NCAA Tourney Hopes On The Line For Both Squads

It is hard to believe it was almost a year ago (2/27 to be exact) that Maryland toppled Virginia Tech one of the more memorable games I can recall as a Terps fan.

The tip time was originally scheduled for 4:00 pm, but a beer truck ran over a nearby fire hydrant hours before the game, fracturing a water line that led to the Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg.

The game was delayed nearly three hours, but once it got going, it was ACC basketball at its finest. It featured 24 lead changes, 15 ties, and two overtimes. Greivis Vasquez dropped 41 and Malcolm Delaney added 28. When all was said and done, Maryland came out on top with a 104-100 win, and a NCAA Tournament berth was all but secured.

Fast forward to tonight’s game where the Terrapins (16-9, 5-5) need a win much more than they did last year when they visited Tech. But the Hokies (16-7, 6-4), even with seniors Delaney and Jeff Allen, are not where they would like to be record-wise at this point in the season. They need this game just as bad as the Terps do if they want to make a run at the big dance, especially after getting snubbed by the selection committee a year ago.

Delaney has been a fantastic player in his four years as a Hokie, however, it has been Allen that has carried the load in the last few weeks. In the past five games, he hasn’t scored less than 15 points or grabbed fewer than 11 rebounds a single time. Over that span, he’s averaging 20.2 ppg and 13.2 rpg.

Maryland’s Jordan Williams has similar numbers for the season in 17.1 ppg and 11.8 rpg. It will be interesting to watch these two go at it and fight for boards. Allen has the edge at the foul line (66%) shooting a full ten percentage points higher than Williams (56%).

Back on January 20 of this season, the Hokies came into College Park and dealt the Maryland their worst loss ever in the Comcast Center, a 17 point defeat. You know that game is still fresh in the minds of players from both teams. Across the board, Tech is the more talented team. But if the Terps can play a complete game tonight, I really believe they can pull this off.

And a complete game means the following:

Sean Mosely finally stepping up. 7.7 ppg in ACC games this year?? He has more than that in him. He knows this offense and can attack the rim well. I don’t see any reason why he can’t finish with 15 tonight.

Hitting free throws. UMD is shooting 65.2% as a team…tied for 281st in the country. It has been said since those 2K Sports Classic games back in November against Pittsburgh and Illinois, the foul shooting have to improve.

Cutting down on Turnovers. One stat that was critical to Maryland’s win in last year’s thriller against Tech was the turnovers, or lack thereof. In the entire second half (including both OT’s), they only committed two turnovers. Two! Possessions are so valuable, throwing them away with careless passes, charges, and moving screens cannot happen tonight if the Terps want to win. 13.6 is their season average. Keeping that number below double digits will would help immensely tonight.

Should be fun!! Tip is at 8:00 on ACC/Raycom

Peace

NBC’s SNF Crew In The House

From Top: WR Anquan Boldin, CB Josh Wilson, and LB Dannell Ellerbe get their headshots taken in preparation for NBC's Sunday Night Football broadcast

 

Ravens-Steelers Week…Feeling Like ’08

Well we have quite a matchup to look forward to this Sunday night. And it only seems appropriate that the Steelers come into town with the same record as the Ravens: 8-3.

High Stakes? You bet. But really, would you want it any other way?

The lead-up to this game feels an awful lot like the lead-up to the one 2 years ago on Dec. 14, 2008, when 10-3 Pittsburgh arrived to face 9-4 Baltimore.

That game more than lived up to the hype. It was a defensive slugfest and the Steelers came away with a memorable victory that clinched the division crown. Ben Roethlisberger drove his team 91 yards down the field and capped off the drive with this unforgettable play (which I recorded btw, sorry it is so blurry!!):

You’re going to hear many quotes from players of both teams this week that sound a lot like what Terrell Suggs said in his post-game interview last Sunday in regards to the the opposition this week:

“Our teams are similar, and we just don’t like them, but we respect them. It’s going to be championship football.”

The words are a little stronger on the internet between the fan bases. Venture over to the Scout.com Ravens page or read the comments to The Baltimore Sun’s Ravens Insider posts. The fans of these  teams can really fire up a war of words. Its quite entertaining and it proves  just how much this game means to the two cities involved.

The last two ravens victories over Pittsburgh have been great. An overtime win last year at home and a come from behind win this year at Heinz Field. However the guys under center for those two games? Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch respectively. Not to knock either of those two…but as a Ravens fan, I want to play Roethlisberger, and I want to beat him. Overcoming Pittsburgh just isn’t as satisfying or fulfilling when he isn’t playing.

Because like it or not, the man is an incredible quarterback. He is hard to bring down and he can improvise like no other when he gets flushed from the pocket.

Want to know what else is a hard pill to swallow for Ravens fans? The boys in purple haven’t defeated Big Ben at M&T Bank Stadium since November 2006, when he took that infamous hit from Bart Scott. Hard to believe its been that long, huh?? Granted, he didn’t play in ’07 or ’09…but still, its been 4 years!! And they last time they beat him period was just a month later when they took down Pittsburgh on the road to complete their first and only season sweep of the Steelers to date.

The big story this week will be the status of left tackle Michael Oher’s knee sprain. If he cannot go on Sunday, Oniel Cousins will get the start and faces the daunting task of protecting Joe Flacco from James Harrison for four quarters. More on that as the week progresses.

Peace.

Boise St – Nevada

Last Friday night I was amazed/stunned/mesmerized by the Western Athletic Conference showdown in Reno between Boise State and Nevada.

Now your first thought going into this game might have been: “Who cares about these two little schools. They are playing at 10:30 pm on a Friday night. I already got by football fix for the day! I saw a hell of a game between Auburn and Alabama, the big boys of college football. I am going to bed.”

Well if you did get your beauty sleep that night, you missed an unbelievable game. There were four plays I saw over the course of the second half that were simply jaw dropping. And if you want to see what I’m talking about, here is a link to the highlights. I’ll include where to skip to in the video to make it easy

– (:39 seconds in): With Boise ahead comfortably 24-7 on the third quarter, Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick rolled out of the pocket, pumped, took off, made a defender miss, and then leapt over the pylon with the ball in his hand to complete the 17 yard TD run. It was an amazing play that gave Nevada a huge burst of momentum and cut the deficit to 10. I thought it was Vick-esque and couldn’t stop saying “WOW!”.

– (:51 seconds in): Still down ten, Nevada got the ball back this time early in the fourth quarter. A little bit of trickery as Rishard Matthews got the handoff on an end around. Boise appeared to have the play sniffed out beautifully, with three men ready to bring Matthews down about eight yards behind the line of scrimmage. But Matthews darted through all three, broke through a  tackle around the first down marker, and then let his legs do the rest as he motored down the sideline for a 44 yard score. Nevada had narrowed the gap to just a field goal. UNREAL! At this point I was wide awake (keep in mind this is all happening at approx 12:30 am eastern time)

– (1:10 in): After a Nevada field goal to tie it up, Boise got the ball with a little over five minutes to go. They had faced adversity in their opener at FedEx Field against Virginia Tech yet still pulled out a W. I was thinking “Could they do it again? Could they do it here?” We didn’t have to wait long for an answer. On the first play of the drive, Boise QB Kellen Moore found Doug Martin on a screen pass underneath. Martin then got some stellar blocks down field, weaved through them, juked one defender, shed off another, and thanks to some poor pursuit angles by the Nevada safeties, went the rest of the way untouched for a 79 yard TD.

Talk about responding! It looked like Boise would prevail again. But Nevada had their own responding to do. They engineered a 14 play, 79 yard TD drive which tied the game up and ate up almost all of the clock. This leads to jaw dropping play #4.

– (1:41 in): Boise got one final chance with just nine seconds to play and the ball on their own 38. Moore heaved the ball deep down the field and Titus Young made a spectacular diving catch with just one second left. This was straight out of arena football, or an EA Sports video game! How could Nevada have allowed themselves to get beat deep?

Of course the end of the game was quite memorable, with Boise kicker Kyle Brotzman missing a field goal at the end of regulation and in overtime…both of which were under 30 yards.

Just an incredible game, it was as much fun watching a college football game as I can remember. It made it that much more memorable that the conclusion occurred at 1:52 a.m. and that it shook up the BCS standings (Boise entered the game ranked 4th).

Loving the Orioles Right Now

Have you been watching the Birds lately?? I know it can be hard to do so with football season now in full swing, but I encourage you to follow this team to the finish line. They are REALLY fun to watch. And they are beating the big dogs of their own division.

The O’s have been playing some outstanding baseball since new manager Buck Showalter arrived. The way they have been able to flat-out win in this final third of the season has been nothing short of remarkable. So with the help of the Orioles sections of baltimoresun.com, baseball-reference.com, and espn.com, I did a little bit of research…and the numbers are amazing.

They had a great August, going 17-11. Only one A.L. club, the Twins had a better record than the O’s. And at 12-7 this month, they are well on their way to producing the club’s first winning September since 1999 when they went 20-8.

Not surprisingly, the have gone hand in hand with a drastic change in the performance of the pitchers. During each of the first four months, Baltimore never ranked higher than 12th out of 14 A.L. teams in team ERA. In August they ranked 3rd, and this month they rank 5th

Here a few more notes to think about:

The Orioles have won 12 of their past 16 games. 10 of those 16 games were against either the Yankees, Red Sox, or Rays (all have appeared in the last three World Series’)

-They are 32-31 since the All-Star Break.

-Since Showalter took over, they are 29-17 overall and 13-7 on the road. (Road record under Trembley and Samuel? 14-40!!).

-And If the O’s can get a victory tonight, it would be their first three-game sweep of the Sox in Boston in 16 years.

Week 1 Preview: Baltimore Ravens @ New York Jets

January 16, 2010…that was the last time the Ravens played a game that mattered. Seems like a long time ago huh? Well the wait is over, September 13th has finally arrived, and what a game we have tonight!

The Jets and Ravens are very similar teams. They both have the young quarterbacks with plenty of experienced weapons on offense. Defensively, both squads play good ol’ “smash mouth football”.

There has been quite a bit of talking leading up to this game, and it’s fun, but I’m not gonna address the jabber. I want to look at the types of games both teams need to play to come away with a win tonight.

First off, believe the hype, Darrelle Revis is the real deal. He is as good as advertised and has to ability to take a whole side of a field away from the opposition. That opens up options for the New York defense to blitz, especially with their safeties. And everyone knows Rex Ryan loves to blitz. He will be sending extra guys at Joe Flacco early and often to try to fluster the third year signal caller. On the other side of the field will be Antonio Cromartie, who is also a very skilled corner, not as talented as Revis. However he does have lightning fast speed. If he comes up with an interception, he is likely to take it to the house.

That being said, Revis can only cover one guy at a time, tonight that guy will be Anquan Boldin. Baltimore has plenty of other options to go to other than Boldin when airing it out. Flacco will have to spread the ball around to targets Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Ray Rice in the flat.

Speaking of Rice, I believe he is more dangerous on those flare passes and toss plays tonight. Do not expect much from him rushing up the middle. The Jets have a beast in Kris Jenkins at nose tackle. He can take up so much space and will be a challenge for center Matt Birk on first and second downs. Against a defense as physical and brutal as New York’s, getting backs Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain at least half a dozen carries each is crucial. Rice isn’t built to take such a pounding for four quarters.

On to the Jets and their offense. Mark Sanchez enjoyed a solid rookie campaign and is looking to continue his growth as an NFL quarterback. He has plenty of viable options at his disposal to help him win not only tonight but throughout 2010. The addition of future Hall of Famer Ladainian Tomlinson as well as 15-year veteran Tony Richardson adds depth, experience, and stability to a young corps of backs in Shonn Greene and John Conner. Receivers Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes are solid options who have great hands as well as breakaway speed. However, Holmes is out for tonight’s game. He is missing the first four games of the season due to a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy this past offseason. Jerricho Cotchery will have to step up and fill in his place tonight. Tight end Dustin Keller averaged just over 11½ yards per catch last year but only hauled in two TD’s. I like him to have a big 2010, watch out for him across the middle.

This leads to the one glaring weakness of the Ravens, their secondary. With Ed Reed on the PUP list for the first six weeks of the season, and Dominique Foxworth gone for the year, the Ravens are vulnerable and everyone knows it. Baltimore will have to work with Fabian Washington, Josh Wilson, and Chris Carr at corner. Lardarius Webb is listed as a game time decision, however I expect him to suit up and get plenty up snaps. Tom Zbikowski fills in for Reed at free safety, while Dawan Landry provides the most experience and talent of the group at strong safety.

There are lots of big names at the skill positions for both teams, and they very well could be the difference in the outcome of the game. But I believe it will all come down to who can dominate in the trenches, specifically when New York is on offense. I already mentioned earlier that Kris Jenkins will cause disruption in the middle of the Ravens line, but more importantly is if the Jets big men can hold up against a tough Baltimore front seven. If they can, it gives Sanchez the necessary time to pick apart the corners and safeties. A poor effort up front will lead to sacks, hurries, and in turn, poor decisions by the second year QB.

I believe nose tackle Haloti Ngata is a bit better than Jenkins due to his speed and athleticism. Remember last year in the preseason (against the Jets) when Ngata droped back into coverage like a linebacker and picked off Sanchez and took it to the house? Center Nick Mangold, fresh off signing an 8-year, $57.4 million contract, will have the tall task of blocking Ngata all game. And a great matchup I’m excited to watch will be left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson against a leaner and quicker Terrell Suggs.

So many storylines and matchups to digest in this one. Both teams have “super” aspirations if you know what I mean. Lots of questions will have been answered by the conclusion of this evening’s battle. Time for the prediction: I say the Ravens get off to a slower than expected start, and possibly fall behind. But the offense has too many weapons and will unleash its firepower in the 2nd half. The defense will bend but not break, and limit the Jets to field goals when backed aginst the wall. BALTIMORE 27 – NEW YORK 16


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