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Proud To Be A Deac
[Posted Sun. p.m., Washington up 10-0 on Philadelphia, much to the chagrin of Giants fans. Long week and I’m running on fumes.]
NFL Quiz: ***I did the following prior to Derrick Henry’s attempt to join the crowd, thinking he wouldn’t get the needed 223 yards today, but then he did, so you’ve all seen the answers. That said, I already spent the time on the quiz so it’s too late. Name the seven, aside from Henry, to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. Answer below.
NFL Regular Season Finale
--With playoff berths on the line galore….
I can’t help but start out with the L.A. Rams (10-6), needing to win to assure themselves a postseason bid, with starting QB Jared Goff out with a broken thumb.
So it was up to former Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford, who had never taken a snap in the NFL, as the Rams squared off against Arizona, the Cardinals (8-8) needing a win to move on.
Wolford proceeded to throw an awful interception his first pass of the game, the Cardinals turning it into a touchdown, but that was it. The Demon Deacon alum quickly settled down, becoming the first in NFL history to throw for 200 and rush for 50 in his first start, Wolford 22/38, 231, 0-1, 64.7, plus six carries for 56, all seemingly for first downs. Yes, it was the best 64.7 PR you’ll ever see, given the circumstances.
What’s so cool is that with this one effort, Wolford guarantees himself a job in the NFL next season as a backup just about anywhere he wants to go. Maybe even a two-year contract.
--The Bears (8-8) lost to the Packers (13-3) 35-16, Aaron Rodgers with four touchdown passes, but because the Cardinals also lost, Chicago held the tiebreaker and they advance to the postseason.
--Cleveland (11-5) is headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, 24-22 victors over Pittsburgh (12-4), who rested Ben Roethlisberger. But the Browns needed to stop the Steelers on a two-point conversion with just 1:23 to go. Nick Chubb ran for 108 yards and a score. Congrats Trader George!
--Baltimore (11-5) is in the postseason, 38-3 winners over Cincinnati (4-11-1), as Lamar Jackson threw for three touchdowns, added 97 yards rushing, and rookie JK Dobbins rushed for 160 and two scores…a huge plus in terms of the postseason. The rookie out of Ohio State has had a solid season.
Jackson surpassed 1,000 rushing for a second season, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to do so.
--Buffalo improved to 13-3, 56-26 over Miami (10-6), Tua picked off three times, Isaiah McKenzie with two touchdown receptions and an 84-yard punt return for a TD for Buffalo. We now hope for snow squalls during the Bills’ home playoff game.
--But the loss eliminated Miami, after Indianapolis (11-5) beat Jacksonville (1-15) 28-14, the Colts with the tiebreaker.
--And Tennessee (11-5) finished ahead of Indy in the AFC South, defeating Houston (4-12) in dramatic finish, 41-38, the lead changing hands multiple times in the final 2:00.
In this one, Derrick Henry, needing 223 yards to reach 2,000, rushed for 250 and two touchdowns on 34 carries.
--So as we await the finish of Washington-Philadelphia, the Giants (6-10) need a Washington loss to advance, New York having gotten its job done early today, 23-19 over Dallas (6-10), as Daniel Jones threw two touchdown passes.
But for those watching the game, you’ll forever wonder what the heck Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy was doing in not challenging a key third-down pass completion that put the Giants and Graham Gano in position for what proved to be the deciding 50-yard field goal late. On replay it was clearly incomplete, but McCarthy didn’t throw the challenge flag.
--Tom Brady thew four touchdown passes, and Antonio Brown (Booo booo) with 11 receptions for 138 and two scores, the Bucs finish up 11-5 in defeating the Falcons (4-12) 44-27.
But the Bucs may have lost receiver Mike Evans to a knee injury. They’ll learn more tomorrow on the extent of it.
--The Jets finished 2-14, 28-14 losers to the Patriots (7-9). It was an important game for Cam Newton and any hopes he has of continuing his NFL career somewhere as he looked good, three touchdowns passes and 79 on the ground.
Sam Darnold did nothing to make the Jets think twice about taking a QB in the draft.
--Kansas City (14-2) had already wrapped up home-field advantage so they rested Patrick Mahomes against San Diego (7-9), the Chargers no doubt saving coach Anthony Lynn’s job as they finished the season with four wins in a row, today 38-21.
So in terms of the playoffs we have the following, further details next time.
Saints vs. Bears
Seahawks vs. Rams
Bucs vs. Washington or Giants
Green Bay the bye
Colts vs. Bills
Browns vs. Steelers
Ravens vs. Titans
Kansas City the bye
--We note the passing of Hall of Fame running back Floyd Little. He died on New Year’s Day at 78. Little had been diagnosed with cancer, which became public this past May, and was moved to hospice care in November.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said those around Little were proud to have known him
“I was so fortunate to know Floyd and witnessed first-hand the impact he had on others,” Goodell said in a statement. “Whenever he represented the Broncos at the annual NFL Draft, others immediately sought to greet him and his genuine excitement of being with his fellow Legends and his pride and passion for the Broncos was unmistakable.”
For many Denver fans, Little was the team’s first star, a first-round pick out of Syracuse in 1967. He would rush for 6,323 yards, including a league-leading 1,133 (14 games) in 1971. But the team was not great and in his nine seasons with the Broncos they had just two winning records. The year he led the league, he was the first NFL back to do so for a last-place team.
At Syracuse, Little was a legend there as well, with his No. 44 retired by both Denver and the school.
President-elect Joe Biden, who attended law school at Syracuse at the same time Little was a student, called the running back a “good man” and a friend in a statement.
“As with everything else he did in life, Floyd lived to the very end with grit and heart, and love for his family and faith in God,” Biden said.
College Football / Semifinals
--We finally had the two games that would help define this weird season, Notre Dame-Alabama, Clemson-Ohio State.
In the opener, it was no contest, the 12-0 Crimson Tide easily handling the Fighting Irish (10-2) 31-14. It was 21-7 ‘Bama at half, and they cruised the rest of the way, never tested. And it once again was the Big Three…Mac Jones 25/30, 297, 4-0; Najee Harris rumbling for 125 yards on 15 carries, including a 53-yard scamper for the highlight reels; and DeVonta Smith, seven receptions for 130 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Jones now has 36 touchdown passes, 4 interceptions, and a stunning 77.0% completion percentage.
Meanwhile, as Brent Schrotenboer of USA TODAY pointed out, it’s been exactly 27 years since Notre Dame last won an elite bowl game. Yup, they have their 11 consensus national championships in the 20th century under five head coaches, but in the 21st century? ND has not won an elite bowl game since the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1994, when they beat Texas A&M, 24-21, in a battle of two top-10 teams. That’s 0-8 in New Year’s Six games. [0-9 if you include 2012’s BCS championship.]
So then we had the highly anticipated nightcap, Clemson and Ohio State. Earlier, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney had provided more than enough Billboard material for the Buckeyes when he said on his coaches poll ballot he had ranked OSU No. 11 because they hadn’t played enough games, just six. But everyone following the sport knows Ohio State was among the top six, at worst, even if their opponents weren’t exactly the likes of, say, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Miami, let alone in Clemson’s case, Notre Dame.
But it was a rematch of last year’s CFP, Trevor Lawrence vs. Justin Fields, and forget the final score, though fans of both schools won’t soon forget it, because for the rest of us it was an opportunity to see these two studs under the bright lights.
And, boy, did Justin Fields plant some positive thoughts into the minds of Jets fans with our No. 2 pick in the draft. It was a performance for the ages. As clutch as they come. And this from a guy who while highly talented, had some pretty lousy games this fall. There were major question marks. Not that Fields isn’t an NFL talent, but just how high does he go, and what quarterbacks are selected ahead of him?
Well, he answered virtually all of them. He is solidly in the top three…with Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson (who appears to be rocketing up the board).
Fields took a vicious, dirty hit from Clemson linebacker James Skalsi in the second quarter, right into the ribs…Skalsi duly ejected for targeting…but Fields was out just one play, returning to immediately throw a 9-yard touchdown pass, one of a startling SIX he threw on the night, Ohio State having its way with the ‘vaunted defense’ of Brent Venables, who I loved seeing get his comeuppance. He is easily the highest-paid assistant coach in the land, making him one of the highest paid “assistants” of any kind in the world, and observing him during Covid, I have grown to kind of dislike the guy. Ditto the insufferable Dabo Swinney. His entitled act grew very weary this year. I mean Dabo just didn’t ‘get it.’ We’re in the midst of the worst health crisis in a century and he acted like a jerk.
Anyway, back to the game…Ohio State rolled 49-28. Trevor, who unlike his coaches is a true gentleman and class act, did throw for 400 yards, but it was mostly meaningless after Fields had led the Buckeyes to a 35-14 halftime lead, thanks also to running back Trey Sermon, who has emerged as a monster in the mold of a Derrick Henry…a guy who can just take over a game in his own right. Boy, Sermon is going to be a hell of a pro, ditto Najee Harris, I hasten to add.
Fields ended up 22/28, 385, 6-1, plus 50 on the ground; Sermon had 193 yards on 31 carries.
For the Tigers, there is one mystery that hasn’t been answered. What happened this season to Travis Etienne? He was average, at best. Just 32 yards on the ground Friday. It’s not like he’s been hurt. The guy has done some good work catching it out of the backfield, and he can carve out a nice NFL career just as a third-down back in that regard, but as an NFL workhorse? That’s for scouts to decide.
So Trevor Lawrence is still the No. 1 overall pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and their 42 fans (Steve G. one of them) need not worry. He’ll be a terrific pro.
But at No. 2?
Steve Serby / New York Post
“Justin Fields may have given Jets GM Joe Douglas pause with the second pick if and when Adam Gase’s successor decide that they need a successor to Sam Darnold.
“The kid sure looked like somebody’s Fields of dreams.
“That successor would either be Fields or BYU’s Zach Wilson.
“And if Douglas and the next head coach decide to build around Darnold?
“Well, the cost for the No. 2-overall pick just went up for a quarterback-desperate team that will covet Justin Fields.
“This was Justin Fields’ proving ground following a pair of subpar performances against Indiana (3 INTs) and Northwestern (2 INTs) that had some questioning his ability to effectively process.
“This was Justin Fields’ big, bright stage to make a fool out of Clemson coach Dabo Swinney for disrespecting the Buckeyes when he voted them No. 11.
“Forgive Swinney and defensive coordinator Brent Venables if they had flashbacks to Joe Burrow shredding them in LSU’s 42-25 national championship win last January.
“Fields had his right side pulverized by the crown of Skalsi’s helmet. He was on his back on the Superdome turf, and stayed there for an agonizing minute.
“No way was Justin Fields staying down. Or out….
“Six TD passes.
“Second career loss for Trevor Lawrence.
“Second-overall pick in play for Justin Fields.
“Fields of dreams. For someone.”
Well, Jets fans have lots to mull over the next few months. Personally, I really want to move on from Sam Darnold. He didn’t bring the cheerleaders with him when the Jets grabbed him out of USC, and so he started out being in the doghouse with me for that admittedly selfish reason, but then he didn’t perform. Period.
On the other hand, the Jets could indeed get a haul at No. 2.
So we’ll see. As for all the endorsements I had lined up for Trevor before the Jets inexplicably won two games, I have all kinds of people suing me, contracts broken. What a disaster.
Dan Wolken / USA TODAY
“The night of Dec. 31, 2015 was probably the first time most people with a casual interest in college football had seen much of Dabo Swinney, and for the most part, America loved what it saw.
“His program, the Clemson Tigers, was the new kid on the block and would soon play Alabama in a classic national championship game that foreshadowed a decade-defining rivalry. Swinney himself was a welcome fresh face for the sport. In a coaching profession that had become buttoned-up and corporate, Swinney was engaging, folksy and laid-back. Unlike many of his colleagues who treat media obligations like an imposition on their ability to watch the same game film for the 2,000th time that week, Swinney could turn any question into a soliloquy and a story.
“The more Clemson won, the bigger Swinney got. And the bigger he got, the more we heard him talk. And talk. And talk. And talk, to the point where we have learned more about his worldview in the last five years than perhaps all of his Division I coaching colleagues combined.
“But the more Swinney has talked, the less he has projected the image of the fun-living, new-age program builder that defined his rise from coaching nothingness, and the more he has come across as stubborn, ill-informed and out-of-touch….
“Swinney will end 2020 as arguably the sport’s most polarizing figure. On every topic that defined this year in college football from the pandemic to racial inequality to something as picayune as how he voted in the Amway Coaches Poll, Swinney has leaned into controversy and doubled down. And it doesn’t seem to bother him in the least….
“The difference now is Swinney is arguably the face of the sport right next to Nick Saban, so more people are paying attention more often. But unlike Saban, who has turned avoiding controversy into an art form, Swinney does not filter anything, even on sensitive topics where he knows it will make him the target of criticism and mockery.
“And frankly, in 2020, he’s deserved it.”
Let’s just say Dabo was tone deaf in 2020 when it came to issues ranging from the pandemic to George Floyd. I’m one guy who would prefer much less of him.
My Clemson contact, who will go nameless for the purposes of what I’m about to write, said that he wouldn’t be surprised if the team is headed for a period of relative mediocrity. Recruiting seems to be down recently, save for the next quarterback DJ Uigalelei, and there are rumors of a potential scandal involving Mr. Venables (football related), which is why I’m hiding my source.
--In other games since last chat, 6 Oklahoma finishes 9-2 after a 55-20 win over 7 Florida (8-4). But this one was just kind of stupid. Kyle Trask was without his four top receivers, 3 of whom opted out to focus on the draft, the other with Covid, and there was no way he would succeed. Trask threw three picks in the first half and finished 16/28, 158, 0-3, before being replaced, while for the Sooners, redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler threw three touchdowns, rushed for another, and the running back tandem of Rhamondre Stevenson and Marcus Major combined for 296 yards on the ground on just 27 carries and two scores.
And then New Year’s Day, prior to the semifinals, 9 Georgia (8-2) edged 8 Cincinnati (9-1) 24-21 in a very good game from a spectator standpoint, mainly if you were watching to see a Group of Five school, that was seemingly dissed at the end by the CFP Selection Committee, beat an SEC powerhouse.
Alas, the ending of this game bothered me all night. The Bearcats had the ball, up 21-19, facing a 3rd and two on their 40. Georgia had just used its last timeout at 1:41 and I was thinking, just run it, even if you don’t get the first down, kill a lot of clock before punting it away, pinning Georgia deep with under a minute to play.
But instead Cincy threw a pass, incomplete, clock stopped, they punted it at 1:28, Georgia QB JT Daniels completed five quick passes, moved the Bulldogs into field goal range with 0:07 left, and Jack Podlesny nailed the longest field goal of his career from 53 to put Georgia up 22-21, two seconds left, and they got a safety on the ensuing kickoff.
It’s just an entirely different ending if Georgia had 30 seconds less to begin to operate with. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. What would have been a massive win for the Cincinnati program ended up being an ‘L’…lost recruiting opportunities… The Bearcats blew it.
Sunday, 25 Oregon finished an uninspiring 4-3, losing to 10 Iowa State (9-3) 34-17 in the Fiesta Bowl. Super year for the Cyclones and their highly sought-after coach Matt Campbell.
And Mississippi (4-5) beat 11 Indiana (6-2) 26-20, the Hoosiers of course without their injured leader, quarterback Michael Penix Jr., and it showed. Penix’ replacement, Jack Tuttle, needed 45 passing attempts to accumulate just 201 yards. Wide receiver Whop Philyor had 18 receptions, but only for 81 yards! That has to be a record for futility. So a sad way to end an exciting season for the Hoosiers.
Sunday night, 5 Texas A&M beat 13 North Carolina 41-27, as freshman Devon Achane had two touchdowns in the final 3:44, including a 76-yarder that put A&M ahead to stay.
So the Aggies finish 9-1 and will end up in the top four in the final AP poll. It was the first time A&M had played in the Orange Bowl since 1944 and it certainly helped validate the mammoth contract given coach Jimbo Fisher three years ago.
The Tar Heels were playing without their two star running backs, Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, both of whom sat out to prepare for the NFL draft.
Mack Brown’s boys finished 8-4, but they shouldn’t have lost by three points to both Florida State and Virginia.
The ACC, by the way, finished 0-6 in bowl games, ditto Conference USA.
--Thursday, Ball State completed a terrific short season with a 34-13 win over 22 San Jose State, handing the Spartans their first loss (7-1) while the Cardinals end up 7-1, their best season since 2013.
West Virginia (6-4) beat Army (9-3) 24-21.
--Back on Wednesday, Wake Forest took on Wisconsin in a nice matchup, the first time these two had ever hooked up on the gridiron, which is shocking, and the Deacs jumped out to a 14-0 lead on two Sam Hartman to Jaquarii Roberson touchdown passes, and then everything fell apart for Hartman…in shocking fashion.
In eight prior games this season, Hartman had been a model of consistency and stability…10 touchdown passes, just one interception. And then suddenly, he lost it, picked off a staggering four times in quick succession, literally seeming to throw it to the Badger defenders. It was stunning to watch. They were some of the worst interceptions I’ve ever seen from a college QB. Wisconsin just kept jumping the routes, Hartman locking in on his intended target. Eegads. He finished 20/37, 318, 3-4, and it will be a long, long offseason for the sophomore.
Anyway, Wake lost 42-28, despite outgaining the Badgers 518-266, thus finishing the season 4-5, but at least coach Dave Clawson can tell recruits the Deacs have now gone bowling five consecutive seasons, though finishing under .500 for the first time in that stretch is kind of deflating. Wisconsin ended up 4-3, in their stupid season.
--After I posted last time, 21 Oklahoma State defeated 18 Miami 37-34 in Orlando, both teams finishing 8-3. But the story here was Miami quarterback D’Eriq King. The promising QB had just announced he was returning for another season, a big boost to the Hurricanes’ 2021 prospects, and then the poor guy tears his ACL. I hope somehow he can make it back next fall, though the school seems optimistic he might be available for camp in August.
--Thursday, Mississippi State defeated Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl 28-26 in a hideous matchup to begin with as Mississippi State was a whopping 3-7 coming in.
But there was a massive brawl in the moments following the end of game and what started with some shoving near midfield during the postgame handshake spilled toward and down the sideline.
“It’s dumb. The root of it’s dumb, no matter what the root of it is. The root of it’s dumb and the continuation of it’s dumb,” Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said. “I would have that solidly in the category of dumb. Now where the dumb started, I’m not entirely sure.”
Leach said a group of Tulsa players circled around the Mississippi State pregame warm-ups and “were talking,” but wouldn’t speculate further about what may have caused things to escalate.
“I haven’t seen enough film or anything like that to entirely let us off the hook on this thing by any stretch,” Leach said.
So these were Leach’s initial reactions, but it was a lie. Mississippi State receiver Malik Heath was seen on video intentionally kicking a Tulsa player who was lying on the ground up around the face mask. Heath then posted an Instagram video praising himself for the act and joking about it with his teammates in the locker room.
“MVP, MVP,” Heath said while watching a video of the incident with his teammates. “Yo, come here (expletive). Get your little (expletive) down. Go back. Watch how I slam him there. Watch how I slam him there, come here. Go back. Watch how I slam him.
“Y’all, I go hard. Watch this. Watch this. Watch this, Malik. Boom. Get your (expletive expletive) down. (Expletive). Weak (expletive). Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
Heath was charged with driving under the influence in August. Leach said there have not been discipline issues with his players for most of the season.
But some were having none of it, and on ESPN’s “College GameDay,” Kirk Herbstreit didn’t hold back, specifically calling out Mike Leach.
“Mike Leach should be embarrassed,” Herbstreit said. “His postgame interview and what he said, ‘Hey, it’s football. Hey, it’s physical. It’s going to happen.’ Are you kidding me, Mike?! You should be embarrassed about your program and what it did. …
“This is a black eye for the sport. Maybe you don’t care about the sport, dude. It’s as bad as it could be watching that for people that are sitting around watching college football and that breaks out. It’s another black eye for college football.”
Host Rece Davis said the fight was a “crossroads moment” for Mississippi State and Leach.
“First year under Mike Leach – who are you going to be?” Davis said. “What’s your program going to be about? Is it going to be about this chippiness and false bravado and making videos in the locker room celebrating a fight? Or are you going to maybe pull an upset here or there? Or are you going to be about football? It’s a crossroads moment.”
Herbstreit suggested serious consequences for coaches and players who were involved.
“We’ve all been around the game. There are fights in football. But to this level – where the police are coming in and people need to be arrested – there needs to be consequences to send a message, not just to these coaches and to these players, but to the entire country that this will not be tolerated.”
Analyst David Pollack called for swift justice for those involved.
“The fact that you jump up and cleat somebody, you should be kicked out of the sport,” he said. “Like, go away. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen on a football field.”
--Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell is the Associated Press Coach of the Year after leading the Chanticleers to a near-perfect season. Indiana’s Tom Allen was second, Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell third. All three lost their bowl games.
--Texas, as expected, fired coach Tom Herman.
Chuck Culpepper and Glynn A. Hill / Washington Post
“The word ‘amazing’ might have suffered enough overuse to sap its meaning, but, oh boy, here came some Texas amazement Saturday.
“The ‘amazing’ here doesn’t pertain so much to paying a guy $15 million not to coach, as Texas boosters figure to do over the next three years for Tom Herman after his fresh ouster three years before contract’s end. Some would find that amazing, but paying a guy large money not to coach is among the most cherished and sacred of American traditions, such that Texas boosters might feel chastened that Auburn boosters get to pay their ex-guy (Gus Malzahn) $21 million.
“Further, Texas boosters must grapple with paying their ex-guy only roughly the same amount not to coach as South Carolina will pay its ex-guy, Will Muschamp. That one has to hurt.
“Nor is is amazing that Texas will pay Herman $15 million not to coach four months after layoffs and pay cuts in the athletic department to save $13 million, with one of those prepared statements containing excruciating layoff passages such as ‘extremely challenging times,’ ‘ever-changing times’ and ‘planning ways to put us in a position for success moving forward.’ Some might find that amazing, but remember, the priority of the American football donor is finding the guy who can beat the hell out of the despicable rivals on the schedule, as well as those somewhat less despicable.
“No, what’s amazing is that Texas has gone a so-so 78-60 across 11 seasons with all that money, which is humorous if you can refrain from sobbing. And what’s really amazing is thinking back to Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, surveying the landscape of that day, and then realizing that five years and change later, Steve Sarkisian would replace Tom Herman at Texas.
“On that Monday, Southern California athletic director Pat Haden fired Sarkisian amid his second season as head coach after his troubles with alcohol found its way into team meetings, practices and events. And on that Monday, Herman’s first Houston team stood 5-0 on its way to 13-1 and a Peach Bowl drubbing of Florida State, making him one of the hottest coaches in the history of hot coaches.”
Well, Herman was 32-18 in four seasons in Austin, including seven losses as a ranked team to unranked teams – tied for most in FBS since 2017.
--Going back to Tuesday, Tulsa upset 5 Houston 65-64, and 14 Rutgers had a terrific win at home over Purdue 81-76 to move to 7-1.
Wednesday, Seton Hall had a nice road win at Xavier, 85-68.
--Thursday, Wake Forest, which hadn’t played a game in 33 days, somehow got a game with Division II Catawba, which the Deacs badly needed, and Wake won 70-62, which may not seem impressive, but the Deacs were without six players due to Covid, which obviously has devastated the team thus far, and another two to injury.
--We had a biggie in Lawrence, Kansas, Saturday, as 8 Texas (8-1) whipped 3 Kansas (8-2) 84-59, the Jayhawks just 20 of 65 from the field, 3 of 23 from three. The shocking thing about this is the margin tied for the most lopsided win by an opponent in the history of Allen Fieldhouse (last being 1989).
Big win for Shaka Smart (Shaka Smart, Shaka Smart). Hard to believe he’s already in his sixth season in Austin and this looks like a potential breakthrough team for him.
But Rutgers had another biggie, hosting 10 Iowa, and in a terrific game (watched it all), the Scarlet Knights fell 77-75, Luka Garza with 25 for the Hawkeyes.
I’ve seen a lot of RU already this season. Very entertaining, but thin on the bench.
Today, the Deacs lost their first ACC game, 70-54 to Georgia Tech. It’s going to be another long season for us. Covid isn’t helping.
--Thursday night I watched the Knicks and Raptors, down in Tampa Bay as the Raptors can’t play in Toronto (due to Covid, quarantine issues in Canada), and the Knicks, after two straight wins that shocked the world, lost 100-83. But get this, New York was 3-for-36 from downtown. 3-36! RJ Barrett, after going 3-for-3 in the season opener from three, then went 0-for-21 in his next four games, including 0-for-8 Thursday. Good gawd.
Well then on Saturday, the Knicks returned to Indianapolis, which is where Barrett went 3-for-3 in the opener, and wouldn’t you know, he likes it there because he was 4-for-5 from three, 25 points in all, the Knicks evening their record at 3-3 with a 106-102 win.
So RJ is 7-for-8 from downtown in Indianapolis, and 0-for-21 everywhere else.
--Becky Hammon became the first woman to coach an NBA team on Wednesday when the assistant took over the San Antonio Spurs in the second quarter after coach Gregg Popovich was ejected in a 121-107 loss to LeBron James and the Lakers.
“I try not to think of the huge picture and huge aspect of it because it can be overwhelming,” Hammon said. “I really have had no time to reflect. I have not had time to look at my phone. So, I don’t know what’s going on outside the AT&T Center.”
--Speaking of LeBron, he celebrated his 36th birthday on Wednesday, 18 years in the league (amazingly), and in scoring 26 points, that marked 1,000 consecutive games in which he had scored at least 10, far and away the record.
[Michael Jordan is second at 866, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar third at 787, Kareem with a separate streak of 508 as well.]
--Lastly, we note the passing of a Basketball Hall of Famer, Paul Westphal, who died of inoperable brain cancer. He was just 70.
Westphal played for the Boston Celtics’ 1974 NBA champions, was a five-time All-Star, including with Phoenix, and had productive seasons in New York and Seattle as well. A guard out of USC, he averaged 15.6 points per game for his career, including 20+ ppg five consecutive seasons, 1975-80.
After his playing career, he was a head coach for all or part of 10 seasons, with the Suns, Seattle and the Sacramento Kings, and an assistant with Dallas and the Brooklyn Nets.
The Celtics selected Westphal in the first round of the 1972 draft, the 10th player chosen over all.
Westphal was mostly the third guard on the Celtics, playing behind Jo Jo White and Don Chaney. But in Game 5 of the 1974 NBA championship finals against the Bucks, Westphal played a critical role, scoring 25 points, while holding Oscar Robertson to 2 of 13 from the floor, the Celtics winning 96-87, eventually capturing the series 4-3.
As head coach in Phoenix in 1992-93, the Suns went 62-20, led by Charles Barkley, the league’s most valuable player. But Phoenix lost to Michael Jordan and the Bulls in a six-game championship final.
The holiday crush is over and the Premier League has serious issues with the coronavirus. Fulham had its second match postponed today due to Covid cases on the club, which is no surprise given the spread in the UK overall. Across professional English football, all levels, the number of matches having to be rearranged is approaching 50.
But for its part, the PL says it is not going to pause. The problem is the schedule is packed already, especially for those clubs involved in European competition.
So in the action that did take place since last Chat, Liverpool had its second straight draw, 0-0 at Newcastle, which is shocking given the Reds’ excellence the last few years.
Friday, Manchester United continued its stellar play with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa.
Yesterday, Tottenham finally got its act together, 3-0 over Leeds, while Arsenal would appear to be back in form, a 4-0 winner over West Brom.
And today we had Chelsea-Man City, City defeating the Blues 3-1, Kevin de Bruyne with a goal and an assist, while Leicester City beat Newcastle 2-1.
So the standings, 15/17 of 38…Games – Points
1. Liverpool 16 – 33
2. Man U 16 – 33
3. Leicester 17 – 32
4. Tottenham 16 – 29
5. Man City 15 – 29
6. Everton 16 – 29
7. Aston Villa 15 – 26
8. Chelsea 17 – 26
11. Arsenal 17 – 23
--In FIS World Cup ski action today in Zagreb, Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova resumed her position at the top with a win in the slalom in foggy and rainy conditions. Mikaela Shiffrin finished fourth.
--Dawn Wells, Mary Ann on “Gilligan’s Island,” died at the age of 82 on Wednesday of causes related to Covid-19, her publicist said.
Born in Reno, Nevada, Well represented her state in the 1960 Miss America pageant and quickly pivoted to an acting career, with early television roles on shows including “77 Sunset Strip,” “Maverick” and “Bonanza.”
Then came “Gilligan’s Island,” a goofy, good-natured show that became an unlikely but indelible part of popular culture.
Though the show lasted only three season, canceled in 1967, it hardly slipped from the horizon. As a kid I didn’t start watching it until the reruns started, and they were endless, for years and years. The implausible premise and simplistic humor made no difference to the show’s legions of fans.
Dawn Wells wrote a memoir with Steve Stinson in 2014 titled, “What Would Mary Ann do? A Guide to Life,” in which she included this thought: “Failure builds character. What matters is what you do after you fail.”
Asked decades later about her favorite “Gilligan’s Island” episodes, Ms. Wells mentioned “And Then There Were None,” which included a dream sequence in which she got to do a Cockney accent. She also cited “Up at Bat,” an episode in which Gilligan imagined that he had turned into Dracula.
“I loved being the old hag,” she said.
Of her stint as Miss Nevada, Wells said in a 2016 interview with Forbes, making light of her win. “Big deal, there were only 10 women in the whole state at the time.”
Yes, to answer the age-old question, I was a Mary Ann fan.
Top 3 songs for the week 1/2/65: [As happens every year when I transition from Dec. to Jan., I’m skipping a year or I’d be repeating a lot of tunes. I’ll get back to ’64 shortly.] #1 “I Feel Fine” (The Beatles) #2 “Come See About Me” (The Supremes) #3 “Mr. Lonely” (Bobby Vinton)…and…#4 “She’s A Woman” (The Beatles) #5 “Love Potion Number Nine” (The Searchers) #6 “Goin’ Out Of My Head” ( Little Anthony and The Imperials) #7 “She’s Not There” (The Zombies) #8 “Amen” (The Impressions) #9 “The Jerk” (The Larks) #10 “The Wedding” (Julie Rogers…B+…)
NFL Quiz Answer: Seven to rush for 2,000 yards in a season prior to Derrick Henry.
O.J. Simpson (2,003, 1973); Eric Dickerson (2,105, 1984); Barry Sanders (2,053, 1997); Terrell Davis (2,008, 1998); Jamal Lewis (2,066, 2003); Chris Johnson (2,006, 2009); Adrian Peterson (2,097, 2012).
Earl Campbell is the only one at 1,900…1,934 yards in 1980.
Next Bar Chat, Wednesday…a very brief one.