Wednesday, November 30, 2011

David Wilson Named ACC Offensive, Overall Player of the Year

How is that balance possible?

Virginia Tech's David Wilson has had a remarkable season. Barring something crazy, he will likely break the school record for rushing in a season this weekend in the ACC Championship against Clemson.

He has already tied the Tech and ACC marks for 100-yard games in a season (10), he's the fifth leading rusher in the nation with 1,595 yards (ranking just above likely Heisman finalist Trent Richardson) and has been the spark plug for a much improved Hokie offense.

Wilson also served as an emotional lightning rod following Tech's 23-3 home loss to Clemson in October.

Wilson was so upset that he stormed straight into the locker room.

“The team got in there and just like a rage came over me and I was screaming at my team telling them we shouldn’t have lost that game,” the running back recalled of the Clemson aftermath. “‘They’re not better than us.’ And I told them we weren’t going to lose any more games. And I told them I mean it.”

It was a bit out of character for Wilson, but it seemed to be the right thing to say at the right time.

“It was real,” running backs coach Shane Beamer said. “It was real and it was genuine. … And he spoke for the whole team. We don’t like letting a team come in here and embarrass us in our stadium like they did. And we said that night we’d like to get another shot at them.”

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hokies Slam 'Hoos; No One Shocked

If there was ever a time for Virginia to beat Virginia Tech in football for the first time since 2003, this was it.

The 'Hoos came in hot off a "big" win over an underachieving Florida State squad and the Hokies were perhaps a little too focused on the BCS standings in which they suddenly mattered.

But it was business as usual. Virginia could have scored early, but likely ACC coach of the year and Cee Lo Green lookalike Mike London panicked and failed to convert a fourth down play deep in Tech's red zone.

Logan Thomas had another nice game completing 13 of 21 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns adding another TD on the ground.

Most of those went to the often invisible redshirt junior Marcus Davis, who had a career-high five catches for 119 yards and a score.

After a slow first half, David Wilson exploded in the second period totaling 153 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.

Now, quickly back to the BCS. No I don't really think Virginia Tech is the second best team in the nation, but how do they get jumped by Stanford?

Was Stanford's hard-fought win over No. 22 Notre Dame that much more impressive than Tech's 38-0 dismantling of No. 24 Virginia? No, it's not.

Regardless, Stanford can now sit around and study because they aren't eligible for their conference championship game while the Hokies prepare for a re-match with No. 20 Clemson, a team that as I predicted is mired in it's traditional late season swoon.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tech Improves to 10-1, Knocks Off UNC 24-21

Senior night in Blacksburg was a frigid affair made a little warmer by a Hokie victory. It was a night of strange happenings; Tech wore orange, Darius Rucker sang the national anthem, and David Wilson was held under 100 yards rushing for only the second time this season.

Logan Thomas threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, then the Hokies held on for dear life as they watched a 24-7 lead nearly evaporate in the closing minutes.

With that behind everyone, now things get really interesting.

The oxymoron that is a good University of Virginia football team is once again in existence. Head coach Mike London has the Cavaliers playing well to the tune of an 8-3 overall record and a win Saturday would mean the school's first appearance in the ACC Championship game.

Of course standing in their way are the 10-1 Hokies. The Commonwealth Cup, given to the winner of this longstanding rivalry, has been collecting dust in the trophy case in Blacksburg for some time now (2,555 days come Saturday but 'Hoos counting?).

This should be a good game in Charlottesville. For some perspective on UVA "football", here's Colin Cowherd's famous rant on the weenies.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Virginia Tech All But Locks Up ACC Coastal Division, Beats Georgia Tech 37-26

For the sixth consecutive season, the ACC Coastal Division crown was on the line when the conference's two Tech's met Thursday night in Atlanta.

Hokie quarterback Logan Thomas played brilliantly, completing 7 of 13 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing 18 times for 70 yards and two more touchdowns.

Two of those completions went to senior Danny Coale who turned them into 97 yards including a career-high 63-yard touchdown just prior to halftime.

Running back David Wilson was up to his usual tricks, carrying 23 times for a career-high 175 yards.

I simply cannot get over how dominant the Tech backfield is this season. Thomas runs over defenders with a power rarely seen in QBs and Wilson routinely demonstrates otherworldly balance, speed and power.

Wilson has been held under 100 yards rushing just once this season, and has now reeled off 7 consecutive 100+ yard games, the most by any player under Frank Beamer.

As for the Hokie defense, currently a veritable mash unit, they continue to impress even against the troublesome nonsense that is the triple option.

Despite shuffling guys along the defensive line, giving Jack Tyler his second career start at mike linebacker and being without several starters, the Hokie defense held Georgia Tech to 243 yards rushing. In three previous games against the Hokies, the Yellow Jackets averaged 311 rushing yards per game.

“We’ve got the best defensive coaching staff in the nation,” Tyler said. “They’re so good. We could plug in anybody and they’d be all right. They’re [the staff] just so good. They came up with a great scheme this week. Obviously, we’ve got people out of position, but they’re [the staff] just so good at what they do that it doesn’t matter.”

Man crushes on the defensive coaches aside (don't worry Jack I have one too) on the season, the Hokies' defense has now stopped the opponent for no gain or a loss on 275 of 590 plays (46.6 percent).

With the win Virginia Tech improves to 9-1 overall and 5-1 in ACC play while Georgia Tech falls to 7-3 overall and 4-3 in the ACC.

The Hokies all but wrapped up the Coastal division crown by eliminating the Yellow Jackets from contention. Barring a total collapse and losses in the final two regular season games against North Carolina and Virginia, the Hokies will find themselves defending last years ACC title in Charlotte with a likely rematch with Clemson (assuming they don't crap out which usually happens)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Un-Happy Valley As Penn State Disgraced by Scandal, Haunted by Silence

In the wake of the Penn State football scandal there are many things that should be left unsaid about the story. For that matter, don’t expect to find specifics about the allegations against Jerry Sandusky here.

You can also throw away any positive sentiment towards Joe Paterno and what he means to not only those in Happy Valley and college football world out the window.

If you its specifics you want, check out ESPN and their related stories feature.

What should, no must, be understood is that a group of adults deemed to be academic leaders and role models for America’s future failed to address a pervasive and egregious scandal that affects more than just Sandusky’s victims.

But Sandusky does not stand alone as the sole villain in this tragedy. Make no mistake about it, those who failed to take action and ensure Sandusky be brought to justice are equally guilty desperadoes. That group includes administrators and football staff members all the way from the very top of the university’s totem pole to the very bottom. Anyone with knowledge of the sickening acts that persisted over the span of many years is accountable.

For what purpose and what measure did those so-called leaders stand to gain? Money, power and a mountain of guilt that, long overdue, finally crumbled underneath them. We have all heard this same unfortunate story on repeat and sadly, with so much money involved in college athletics, we will likely continue to hear it ad nauseam.

Money and power drive people to do illogical and irrational things. All across the globe since the beginning of time this has been true, so why now in the 21st century would people in State College, PA be immune from such behavior?

Yet they are not martyrs. They are a function of a system that awards athletic success unparalleled and arguably unjustifiable monetary rewards while fueling a lifestyle replete of greed. These people are the problem, not the answer as their positions of power would fool one to believe.

Let their inevitable downfall be an example for anyone else sitting on such disgusting knowledge. Truth be told, once all of the dust has settled they will have only gained tarnished reputations, pink slips and hopefully prison sentences.

No one, not a football coach or university administrator nor a university or corporation is bigger than the law or, more importantly, any single individual. Yet that is what these so-called leaders expressed through their silence. If actions speak louder than words then inaction reveals only one definition: cowardice.

Unaccountability abound, the silence out of Penn State is deafening. While answers are sought, the gravest problem is understanding how such senseless behavior could be tolerated by anyone associated with the program and university. Moreover, how could any individual with knowledge of the wrongdoings not alert someone other than the corrupt university officials?

The biggest losers are the individuals whose lives are now forever scarred by Sandusky’s incomprehensible acts. As the public seeks to understand how and why these terrible acts occurred, the victims struggle with their emotions and feelings of emptiness. No amount of counseling or condolences offered to the victims can make amends for the mental toll caused by the horrendous acts.

These are serious matters and they require serious action. To whomever is responsible for punishing the villains, do not let the pedestal of which Penn State football sits as a money-printing business for the university and state of Pennsylvania get in the way of doing the right thing. Even if bigwig university officials lack the morality and integrity to do so, there must be some hope that state officials and their lawyers are not cast from the same mold.

Regardless of who at the university was legally responsible for pursuing the allegations against Sandusky, the entire chain of command from the top down to the very assistant that informed Joe Paterno of the first incident deserves to be fired. Not even Joe Paterno can be exonerated from punishment.

Matt Millen, a former player under Sandusky, was quite noticeably distraught during an interview this morning on ESPN. He summarized the scandal better than anyone has to date.

…This is about people. And if we can't protect our kids, we as a society, are pathetic. So, that's where I stand on it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Yet Another Round of New Notre Dame Football Helmets

For the second time in four weeks the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football Team will feature yet another variation of their classic gold helmet. It will mark the third different helmet donned by the Fighting Irish squad this season alone.

Playing Under The Lights at Michigan in early September, the Irish placed shamrocks on their helmets for the first time since the 1960s.

Fast forward more than a month later and the Irish revealed what had been in the works for more than a year by equipment manager Ryan Grooms: an entirely new process of applying gold paint to the helmets. It marked the second twist of their golden domes on the young season, this time coming against archival Southern California.

Now, Notre Dame is set to unveil its latest creation this Saturday as it takes on the Maryland Terrapins in a neutral site 'home' game at 7:30pm ET on NBC.

According to a Notre Dame press release, the helmet variation coincides with the Shamrock Series, which is the name given to the annual neutral site 'home' games hosted by Notre Dame throughout cities across the United States.
This marks the first in a series of uniform features that will be utilized for Notre Dame's Shamrock Series contests. After the 2011 game at FedExField, the Shamrock Series in 2012 moves to Soldier Field in Chicago for a game against Miami. In 2013 the Shamrock Series matchup against Arizona State will be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Irish will showcase uniform variations in their annual Shamrock Series games but otherwise will wear their standard uniforms the rest of the season.
It is clear a primary directive is to showcase the Irish in green jerseys and, accordingly, drive corresponding merchandise sales.

Purists scoff at the mere suggestion that Notre Dame try to capitalize on its cachet by altering its brand identity through uniform variations. While it is unmistakable an outcome of uniform variations is increased sales, it is not to say potential revenue is the sole driving factor behind the decision to create and promote new merchandise.

From our point of view, as long as the uniforms stay true to traditional colors worn by the university, which includes green along with blue and gold, there is nothing wrong with a little variety. It also helps to steer clear of extreme departures from the norm. This weekend's opponent, Maryland, cannot say it heeded our advice.

The uniforms shown above were debuted by the Terrapins in their season opening win against Miami (FL). Ironically, the Terrapins were supposed to save those jerseys for this weekend's matchup against the Irish. Ultimately, the Terps could not resist the temptation to unveil them in primetime on a Monday night as the only college game on the board.

Even if you find yourself among the helmet change naysayers, no Irish fan can deny their desire to see this change yield a different result than the prior two 'change games' earlier in the year. Emerge victorious and the critics will still exist, but in a much more subdued manner than they would in a loss.

That said, any argument claiming a loss is a result of a uniform change should immediately be rejected as unfounded, illogical and downright comical.

Suit up, play ball and look good (read that double entendre as you will) while winning.

Go Irish!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hokies Move up to No. 10 Following Bye Week; Notre Dame Edges Wake Forest

Virginia Tech has continued to win following a loss weeks ago to Clemson. The Hokies pulled out a lackluster 14-10 win at Duke last week to improve to 8-1 (4-1) on the year.

The only bright spot was the typically fluorescent David Wilson who scampered for 148 yards in Durham, helping to set up a huge match up this coming Thursday at No. 23 Georgia Tech.

After losing consecutive games to Virginia and Miami, the Yellow Jackets (7-2, 4-2) returned to form and thumped then No. 5 Clemson 31-17.

The Thursday night tilt in Atlanta is all but a must win for the Hokies if they hope to once again win the ACC's Coastal division title.

Notre Dame returned from Tobacco Road equally pleased with a 24-17 victory over a tough Wake Forest team.

Senior Jonas Gray finished with 19 carries for 92 yards and a touchdown while Cierre Wood tacked on 87 to seal the win.

The Irish now sit a 6-3 on the season and have two winnable games against a miserable Maryland squad and the spirited but largely inept Boston College Eagles before a regular season finale against No. 4 Stanford.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Notre Dame Football Tour: Welcome to The Gug

Until recently, Notre Dame Football did not have a training table or set of unshared locker rooms and facilities. In fact, the team's practice facilities were spread across three different locations: Notre Dame Stadium, The Joyce Center and the Loftus Sports Center. Instead of lavish dedicated facilities like the ones at Oregon and Texas, the Irish trailed far behind in the college football arms race.

That all changed with the opening of Guglielmino Athletics Complex, or as the players affectionately call it "The Gug." Conjoined to Loftus Sports Center, The Gug is a 96,000-square-foot masterpiece made possible by the late Don F. Guglielmino and his wife Flora.

In 2005, Notre Dame Football officially unveiled The Gug as its solution to unify the program under one roof. As a result, the Irish had weight training, meeting rooms, practice locker rooms and even a lounge to relax. The addition of a training table did not come until current Head Coach Brian Kelly's inaugural season at the helm.

The following video, presented by Irish Sports Connection (ICON), opens the doors of The Gug for a public tour, led by Sr. C Mike Golic, Jr. and Sr. NG Brandon Newman.

All in all, The Gug is a remarkable facility that warrants showing off as one of the many perks provided to Notre Dame's football squad.

Arguably, the most meaningful perk is the premier education afforded to all of Notre Dame's athletes. While the University held up its end of the bargain, Irish athletes responded to the academic challenges by earning a #1 ranking in 2011 NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR).


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