Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pistons Progressively Plugging Away

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

When I attended the Detroit Pistons road game against the Milwaukee Bucks on December 4, 2013, it was neat talking to Rick Mahorn and Greg Kelser. I was asking them if Detroit's coaching change from Lawrence Frank to Maurice Cheeks was an upgrade.

They both seemed pleased with the early returns.

There appears to be a sense of calmness under the new coaching staff which includes former Piston Rasheed Wallace, who works with Detroit's big men and Henry Bibby who has always been a great basketball mind.

One thing that looked obvious especially in the locker room after the game is there seems to be a tremendous amount of respect towards Cheeks.

But then again, we're talking about a guy like Cheeks, who on April 25, 2003, aided 13-year old Natalie Gilbert in Portland when she forgot the words of the Star Spangled Banner and he Rescued her from major humiliation and total embarrassment by sharing the microphone to get her through the ordeal. The Trail Blazers fans, who sang along at The Rose Garden, gave both a standing ovation in a game against the Dallas Mavericks.

If the Tigers had a closer like Cheeks in the bullpen then perhaps they would have won this years World Series.

During this two day stretch, Detroit defeated the Miami Heat 107-97 on December 3 in South Florida then took care of the Bucks 105-98 in Wisconsin in guard Brandon Jennings return to Milwaukee. Jennings had 17 points and 11 assists to haunt his old team at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Back-to-back road wins starting in the South and ending in the North.

The Pistons win over the Bucks gave them a 5-1 record in their last six meetings.

Milwaukee's record as of today is 6-23.

Are the Pistons (14-17) a playoff team? It's too early to tell.

But as of today, they would be seeded seventh in the weak Eastern Conference.

As of today, here are the standings in the Atlantic Division.
1. Toronto 12-15
2. Boston 12-17
3. Brooklyn 10-19
4. New York 9-20
5. Philadelphia 8-20.

Toronto and Boston would actually make the playoffs as the fourth and eighth seeds respectively. A great accomplishment for new Celtics Coach Brad Stevens, who was hired away from Butler University.

Amazingly, 4 1/2 games separate the first and last place teams, Toronto and Philadelphia.

The Brooklyn Nets had high expectations going into the season hiring Jason Kidd as their new head coach then trading for Celtics championship veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Kidd hired Frank as his top assistant. By the end of November Kidd demoted Frank to the video room and banned him from practices and games. Frank's lack of communication skills got him banished from Detroit in two years and he wasted no time alienating his new boss.

As the Pistons approach the 2014 portion of their schedule, they definitely have a good core of young players with Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Singler to compliment Jennings and free agent Josh Smith.

I'll be curious to see how Chauncey Billups fits into the equation, but his veteran presence with the younger players especially the guards as a mentor is priceless.

As I look at the Nets situation and their Billionaire Owner Mikhail Prokhorov and Detroit's Billionaire Owner Tom Gores, it will be interesting to see which one wins an NBA Title first.

I wonder if Prokhorov regrets firing Nets interim Coach P. J. Carlesimo, who replaced Avery Johnson on December 27, 2012. All Carlesimo did was compile a 34-19 record in 54 games with a .648 winning percentage. Although Carlesimo's Nets lost a first round 4-3 series in last years playoffs, he still has a chance to see them often enough as a road analyst for the Boston Celtics this season.

For Joe Dumars sake, if he wants to save his job, Detroit needs significant improvement and that post-season appearance.

After the game, Smith said he was impressed with Dumars championship pedigree and that was his major reason for coming to Detroit.

"So far it's been a great experience being here," Smith said. We're getting better each and every day, coming together as a team each and every day. It's great coming to a traditional winning organization whose main focus is to win championships, which is a big eye opener as a free agent."

Jennings said there is one major difference between the Pistons and the Bucks.

"They're both great organizations, but Joe Dumars told me from the beginning that the Pistons strive to win championships," Jennings said. "We don't care about who makes All-Star Games."

How did Jennings feel about his return to Milwaukee?

"I was real nervous," he added. "I mean to be honest, I was real nervous in the beginning because I'm not used to being on this side. It was a lot of emotions going on, but once the second half started, I was able to settle down and play basketball."

Cheeks said he was impressed with the character his team showed winning these back-to-back road games.

"It feels really good," he said. I think we are playing good basketball. We are getting a lot of good performances out of a lot of people. The first half was a little sluggish. Actually, it seemed like both teams were a little bit sluggish and a little slow from the travel and the whole day. The second half we picked up and our defense got going. We got out on the court and made plays."

The front-line trio of Smith, Monroe and Drummond remind me of another young trio that plays for the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ezekiel Ansah, who are beasts on the Lions defense. Unfortunately for these three guys, they were eliminated from playoff contention Sunday in a 23-20 OT loss to the New York Giants.

I'll be curious to see how Smith, Monroe and Drummond turn out on both the offensive and defensive boards, monitoring their rebounding totals every night.

It remains to be seen what the Pistons identity will be as the season progresses.

But one thing is for certain. If the players do their research on their coach, Cheeks doesn't lack credibility.

The 15-year point guard was a four-time NBA All-Star, made three NBA Finals Appearances in four years, 1980, 1982 and 1983. His one championship occurred in 1983.

Cheeks has been a head and assistant coach since 1994.

When the Pistons were winning there three titles, they did it with defense.

Cheeks built his game around excellent defensive skills. He was named to four straight NBA All Defensive Squads from 1983-86 and one second team in 1987.

This should give Pistons fans some indication as to what they should see more of for the remainder of the 2014 campaign.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Penn State's VS Wisconsin---Michigan Connections

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING
MADISON, WI

There were a lot of interesting story lines during the Penn State Nittany Lions recent visit to Camp Randall Stadium on November 30, 2013, which is the fifth oldest stadium in the country.

There were two members from the Orange Bowl Committee scouting the Wisconsin Badgers because it appeared to be quite possible that there would be three Big Ten teams heading to BCS Bowls.

Normally, the Atlantic Coast Conference Champions would get an automatic Orange Bowl bid. As it turned out, two Big Ten teams made it to BCS Bowl games.

No.2 Florida State (13-0) jumped to No.1 thanks to No.4 Auburn's 34-28 win over No.1 Alabama (11-1, 7-1) in the Iron Bowl on 11-30-2013.

The Seminoles 45-7 pounding of Duke (10-3, 6-3) in the ACC Championship Game on Saturday earned FSU the right to play in the National Championship Game in Pasadena, CA on January 6, 2014.

The Orange Bowl will now feature No.12 Clemson (10-2) against No.7 Ohio State (12-1) on January 3, 2014 in Miami.

Auburn (12-1, 8-1) will face Florida State (13-0, 9-0) in the National Championship Game after their 59-42 win over the Missouri Tigers Saturday in the SEC Championship Game.

Ohio State was defeated by a hot Michigan State squad 34-24 (12-1, 8-1) in the Big Ten Title Game Saturday and the Buckeyes are heading to South Florida.

The Big Ten is always a Big Draw in Florida.

Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa (Outback Bowl) and Nebraska (Gator Bowl) are playing in the post-season in The Sunshine State.

The Badgers took a seven-game winning streak into their contest against Penn State.

That was until the Nittany Lions figured this game was their bowl game and stunned the Badgers 31-24 in front of 78,064 fans. Any chance of a BCS Bowl ended with an inspired Penn State effort which allowed the Nittany Lions to improve to 7-5 and 4-4 in the Big Ten.

Wisconsin lost at Camp Randall Stadium for just the third time in the last four years and is now 61-7 at home since the start of the 2004 season. UW entered the game with the third-best home record in the nation since 2004.

Penn State entered the game as 24-point underdogs.

Head Coach Bill O'Brien said his players felt disrespected about the odds makers prediction.

"Our guys practice hard, they love to play and you know I can tell you flat out that they took offense to the fact that they were 24-point underdogs and that nobody even in State College thought they could win that game, except for the kids in that locker room and the coaches in that locker room.

"So I think that those kids took it personally. You know, you take those things personally. It's just the way it is, that's football. I really feel good about the seniors that they were able to go out on a winning note."

Because of the Jerry Sandusky Child Abuse Sex Scandal, Penn State is ineligible for the post-season.

Penn State ended the season on a winning note thanks to the play of freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who went 21-30, for 339 yards, four touchdown passes and zero interceptions.

The No. 19  Badgers dropped to (9-3, 6-2) and will play No. 9 South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on January 1, 2014 in Orlando.

Wisconsin needed just 34 rushing yards to break the school record of 3,309 set last season in 14 games. The Badgers added 120 and set a new school record with 3,396 yards in 12 games. These numbers will increase in Wisconsin's upcoming bowl game. The previous 12-game mark was 3,305 set in 1999.

There are two Metro Detroit Players that are performing well for Penn State.

Junior Wide Receiver Allen Robinson is from Southfield, MI and played High School Ball at Orchard Lake St. Mary's.

Entering the final week of the regular season, Robinson is third in the NCAA with 1,310 receiving yards and fifth in the nation with 119.1 yards a game. His 89 catches are seventh in the NCAA and his 8.1 yards are eighth nationally. He's also has six touchdowns.

Against the Badgers, Robinson had eight catches, for 122 yards. He finished the season with 1,432 yards which is a school record, and also added another school record for receptions in a single season compiling 97 receptions.

Despite one year left of eligibility, it is likely that he'll declare for the 2014 NFL Draft.

O'Brien wasn't thinking about whether Robinson would be back and said, "He made a lot of plays again tonight. I think even the plays that he didn't make it helped because there was the threat of him making a play and I think that always helps in the running game, which it was very hard to run the football tonight.

"You can't say enough about Allen Robinson. He's an excellent football player, a great guy to coach and a great guy to be around."

Red-shirt Junior C.J. Olaniyan has started 12 career games including every game in 2013 at defensive end. He ranks second in the conference with three forced fumbles, is tied for 10th in tackles for a loss (11) and is tied for ninth in the Big Ten in sacks (5.0).

Olaniyan, who is from Warren, MI and played for Warren Mott High School, Earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors with eight total tackles, four assisted and four unassisted, had 2.5 sacks and forced his first career fumble in the second quarter of Penn State's 43-40 (4OT) home win over No.18 Michigan on October 12.

Going into the Badgers game, Olaniyan had 25 unassisted tackles.

Against Wisconsin, Olaniyan had a 33-yard interception return that led to a Penn State 28-yard field goal which gave the Nittany Lions a 24-14 lead. He also had three QB Hurries.

Coach O'Brien said he's very pleased with Olaniyan's improvement this season.

"He's had a good year for us," O'Brien said. "He's made a lot of plays, is an instinctive player, has played much better this year than last year. C.J. has another year for us and we're excited about that. He's made key plays for us all year in the games we've won."

Olaniyan knew that there were plenty of Michigan Schools he could have attended and said Penn State was simply a better fit.

"It was all about the visit and I walked around the facilities and they were fine," Olaniyan said. "When I talked to coach J (late-Joe Paterno), I knew this was the place I wanted to be. When I came to Penn State, it had to do with the people and the fans. By them (NCAA) taking away the bowl games, it didn't effect me much because I had the opportunity to play in front of our great fans. That's all that mattered to me."

When the NCAA hammered Penn State with major sanctions in the Jerry Sandusky Child Abuse Sex Scandal, this would have been a perfect opportunity for Olaniyan to leave.

But he knew that the hiring of former New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator O'Brien's NFL connections would be helpful in his pursuit of a professional career.

"He's going to tell you straight up what you need to do to improve," Olaniyan said. "He won't tell you want you want to hear, but what you have to hear. He will tell it like it is. He won't lie to you. He's been in the business a long time."

There are two players on Wisconsin's roster that are from Michigan.

Senior Tight-End Jacob Pedersen is from Menominee and Senior Offensive Lineman Zac Matthias (No. 75 in photo above) is from Hemlock. Matthias is 6-5, 318 pounds.

Pedersen had four receptions for 64 yards against Penn State. He finished with 501 yards this season. In his four years with Wisconsin, he amassed 1,344 yards and 17 touchdowns. Pedersen was a captain for his final home game in red.

Interesting Note: Thanksgiving Weekend wasn't a good one for Wisconsin based teams facing Lions nicknames. Wisconsin lost to the Nittany Lions while the Green Bay Packers went to Detroit and were thrashed by the Lions 40-10 at Ford Field.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.




Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Detroit's Daniel McKinney's Road To FAU

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTO BY CANDICE EBLING

He may not get the recognition as Washington Redskins Running Back Alfred Morris, Arizona Cardinals Tight-End Rob Housler, Houston Texans Wide Receiver Lester Jean or Tennessee Titans Quarterback Rusty Smith, but Daniel McKinney could be a player to watch in the 2014 NFL Draft.

McKinney was a linebacker at Melvindale High School and as a senior, he recorded 115 tackles, 16 sacks, three forced fumbles and four interceptions.

From Melvindale, McKinney attended City College of San Francisco, a Junior College in California, where he would help lead the Rams to a State Championship, which caught the eye of the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Due to a mix up, he wasn't able to attend West Virginia.

McKinney was recruited by FAU's Associate Head Coach and Recruiter Jeff Sims, who needed a slot receiver for the Owls new Spread Offense.

Unless FAU (6-6) qualifies for a bowl game, in what appears to be his last college contest, McKinney caught four passes for 75 yards in FAU's 21-6 win over FIU Friday in the Shula Bowl.

In 2012, McKinney played in 12 games, had 48 receptions, 492 yards and two touchdowns.

In 2013, he played in 10 games, had 45 receptions, 540 yards and one touchdown.

His progress has drawn tremendous praise from Interim Head Coach Brian Wright, who has guided the Owls to a 4-0 record after the departure of Carl Pelini.

"Dan is a durable guy and I mean he keeps playing. The thing I'm most proud about Daniel is some of these football games there were a lot of plays scripted for him within the game plan and really the last two weeks, he has not touched the ball as much as we would like him too offensively," Wright said. "And he has not said a word; all he asked is what else can he do and what he can do on special teams to help?

"Daniel McKinney is a winner. He wants to win and I am very proud of him. He just keeps playing and he keeps holding the rope and when you keep holding the rope and enduring as a football player and as a man, good things happen for you."

McKinney took the time in this Question and Answer Interview to describe his Unique Road to the FAU Owls from Detroit.

Q: How are things working out for you here in Boca Raton?

A:Thing are working out real fine. I met with the coaching staff, I really liked it and they welcomed me as one of theirs and treated me like family.

Q: There were a lot of Michigan schools that you could have attended, how did you make it to Florida Atlantic University?

A: The only time I knew about FAU was when they played in the Motor City Bowl in Detroit in 2008 at Ford Field. That was the last time I heard of them until I was getting recruited by Coach Sims. I didn't have the grades coming out of high school, so I made the best of the situation to go to Junior College. This helped me grow up, deal with certain things and gets me ready for the next level of football. I was actually doing stock and merchandising for shirts for the Motor City Bowl and watched the game.

Q: Lets talk about the 2013 season, starting with the mid-season coaching change. What has it been like?

A: There has been no difference between the two coaches. Same staff. We've instilled more of the "Us Factor" and we run the practices the same, a couple tweaks here and there. It's about Us and not about the Coaches we have.

Q: What type of progression have you made from the beginning of the season until now?

A: Our quarterbacks have learned to take what the defense gives them, and if we can run the ball for 500 yards we'll run it. If we can pass for 700 yards we'll pass it. If we can utilize a balanced attack, then we'll just use a balanced attack. I just get in where I fit in and make plays when I need to. I also need to be a leader. When I don't get the ball, I have to be mature and handle the situation.

Q: What's your overall experience been like at FAU?

A: It's been great. We've had to go through a couple things, but we're trying to turn the program around and laying the foundation for the new players coming in. This program is going to be on the rise. This should be one of the top programs since there are a lot of great athletes in South Florida. Who wouldn't want to come to Florida and play football?

Q: What does the future hold for Daniel McKinney?

A: I will be pursuing a professional career after this and plan to take full advantage of the School's Pro Day Next Spring.

We'll know whether the Owls move to Conference USA pays dividends now that FAU could play in a bowl. where there is a small payday.

For McKinney, 6-0, 205, there is one more last impression to make for scouts to see if he gets invited to an All-Star Game or the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Interim Coach Wright?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTO BY CANDICE EBLING

There aren't too many things the USC Trojans and FAU Owls have in common, but there is one major similarity between both universities.

Each school made mid-season coaching changes and the early returns have been excellent.

USC fired Head Coach Lane Kiffin after a 62-41 loss on the road to the Arizona State Sun Devils which dropped the Trojans to 3-2 on Sept 29.

Kiffin was replaced by Ed Orgeron, who has made the most of his opportunity and the interim coach is 6-1 including a 20-17 upset victory over No. 4 Stanford.

If Orgeron continues to win, I wouldn't be surprised to see him buy a home overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Here in Boca Raton by the Atlantic Ocean, Brian Wright is making the most of his opportunity as well.

After taking over for Carl Pelini, who resigned because of drug use, Wright rallied the Owls to an impressive 34-17 Homecoming win over the Tulane Green Wave (6-4) on November 2 at FAU Stadium.

The Owls took advantage of the bye week and then returned to action to blast Southern Mississippi (0-10) on the road 41-7 and improved to 4-6 overall and 2-0 under Wright.

The inspired football continued Saturday, as FAU faced the Independent New Mexico State Aggies (1-10) and pounded them 55-10. This was the first meeting between these schools and New Mexico State will be playing in FAU's old conference in 2014 joining the Sun Belt.

FAU improved to 5-6 and the Owls are 3-0 under Wright.

Should the Owls defeat FIU (1-10) Friday and improve to 6-6, they'll become bowl eligible.

A win would give Wright a 4-0 mark and Owls Athletic Director Patrick Chun will have a tough decision if he decides to look for another coach or retain and keep the continuity with Wright.

Against New Mexico State, FAU cruised to a 21-0 lead by the beginning of the second quarter and took a 28-7 lead at halftime. Owls QB Jaquez Johnson threw for 200 yards and two touchdowns. One of Johnson's touchdown passes was a 64-yard strike to Lucky Whitehead.

Johnson ended the game with 321 yards, three touchdowns and had a career high in rushing yards with 60. This is the fourth consecutive week Johnson has led all rushing for FAU.

FAU amassed 585 yards in total offense.

FAU blocked a punt for a touchdown in the first quarter which gave the Owls a 14-0 lead. On September 1, 2001, FAU's first touchdown in school history was a punt return for a touchdown by Todd Poitier against Slippery Rock.

Detroit native Senior Wide Receiver Daniel McKinney led FAU with three receptions for 83 yards with a long of 48 yards in the opening half.

McKinney, 6-0, 205, finished the contest with five receptions for 138 yards. This was his game high for the season.

When the game was over, the FAU win was the largest margin of victory against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent in the program's history.

It's FAU's third straight win in double figures and after the game, Wright refused to take any credit and deflected all of the praise to his players.

"I told my players that we had to go 1-0 each week and that's our goal this week is to go 1-0, " Wright said. "We're on a mission. The players are enjoying playing football, they have fun preparing during the week, and they are having fun showing up on Saturday and playing, and it's fun to watch them. And I just feel a sense of togetherness out there as a unit. It feels like a football team out there and that's fun to watch.

"I told the guys that we're on a mission to purse excellence and I told them not to focus on the scoreboard as much, but to purse excellence and be the best men that they can be as people first, and as football players, as students and then score and the wins will take care of itself.

"You find out the character of men when they rally around adversity. These players and seniors deserve the best effort and this team is resilient. We don't care if we run or pass, we just want to win football games."

These late season runs used to occur when Howard Schnellenberger was coaching and leading the team to a pair of bowl wins.

The last time FAU finished 6-6, the Owls defeated FIU which led to a Motor City Bowl bid and a win over Central Michigan in Detroit.

Time will tell if this happens again.

But one thing is certain, Pelini must be going crazy that a young interim coach is reaping the benefits of the players he recruited and is winning with them.

This interim coach will either be the next permanent coach or certainly one of the hottest prospects out there for another program.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming weeks.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Good Riddance Carl Pelini

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

On December 1, 2011., former FAU Head Football Coach Carl Pelini decided to hold an impromptu introductory press conference which excluded many media members.

On October 30, 2013., he resigned and was escorted off campus by police just a few days before the Owls Homecoming Game against the Tulane Green Wave. He took Defensive Coordinator Pete Rekstis with him.

If there was ever a coach that made a first and lasting impression for all of the wrong reasons, Pelini is that individual.

Both coaches were forced to resign because they were caught using drugs.

Pelini attended a recent social event at which Marijuana was used.

FAU officials released sworn affidavits from two people---including a member of Pelini's staff---alleging that the football coach was using Marijuana and Cocaine.

FAU Assistant Matt Edwards told officials that he witnessed Pelini smoking Marijuana during the Owls bye week on October 19, 2013 in Key West, Fla. This was also backed up by Allison Stewart.

Pelini's contract specified that if he used "Any Narcotics, Drugs or Other Controlled Substances, he could be subject to firing." Since he wasn't fired, FAU may be able to recover $500,000 because the coach terminated the contract himself.

According to FAU's Most Recently Released Payroll Data, Pelini's base salary was $472,500, Rekstis is $145,000 and Edwards is $90,272 annually.

Before FAU's 24-23 loss to Marshall on October 12, I was riding up the elevator with FAU Athletic Director Patrick Chun and was tempted to ask him how much time Pelini had to turn this program around. But I opted to save this question until after the season so Chun could make a complete evaluation.

Pelini made that decision easy as his tenure as Owls Coach ends with a 5-15 record. Judging by Pelini's salary, FAU paid a lot of money for a handful of wins. This drug exit could likely get him black balled from a future head coaching job.

FAU hired a man that's the worst ambassador to the program with bad accessibility and alienated the media which is a reason why there are a lot of empty seats in the press box. In the future, I'm sure winning will fill some of those seats, however, Pelini never gave himself a honeymoon period because he got things started on a bad note.

This may not be a good year for the Pelini family because it appears brother Bo is on the hot seat at Nebraska because he continues to have trouble controlling his temper.

These two remind me of a "Pothead and a Hothead." Carl served on Bo's staff at Nebraska before he accepted the head coaching position at FAU.

As I look at this coaching situation, Pelini did Chun a favor in the sense because the athletic director inherited this "Mysterious Moron" and can now look for his own coach.

This is the third homecoming game at FAU Stadium and there have been three different head coaches.

It began with Howard Schnellenberger, then Pelini and now Offensive Coordinator Brian Wright is roaming the sidelines for the final four games.

Wright is on House Money because he has a chance to show the Owls administration what he can do by trying to rally the program under difficult circumstances. Giving him a chance was the right move instead of asking Schnellenberger to come out of retirement and work with a staff he hasn't worked with before.

During halftime of the Owls contest against Tulane, Chun added, "Wright is definitely a candidate for the job with four games and five weeks left in the season." Chun wouldn't comment on the search beyond Wright.

But I have a feeling that in the background, Schnellenberger will have some input in the coaching search as he attempts to get this program back on track.

Schnellenberger built this program from scratch and I wonder what he's thinking now.

FAU is a good job because of the strong South Florida recruiting base, a nice stadium that can be expanded and the potential is unlimited. The Owls are seeing more of their players reach and play in the NFL.

FAU upgraded to Conference USA and I wouldn't be surprised if there is another conference change down the road. But first things first.

For what FAU paid Pelini, there is no reason to think that a big name wouldn't want to take this job. The potential is unlimited.

The Owls rallied around the Pelini controversy as the players took their last names off the back of their jerseys and put FAU instead as a sign of unity.

That unity carried over with the Owls performance on the field as FAU took advantage of four interceptions as they drilled Tulane 34-17 in the first ever meeting between the two schools. The Owls improved their records to 3-6, 2-4 while Tulane dropped to 6-3, 4-1.

Wright is now 1-0 as a head coach and his team celebrated with a Gatorade Drenching after the contest.

Watching Wright in his first post-game press conference was even more impressive. His answers were candid, his energy and enthusiasm was high.

He certainly seemed like a guy who plans to coach this program longer than four games and gave Chun and the rest of the FAU Administration plenty to think about.

Offensively, his team out gained Tulane 331-167 and the defensive pressure forced four interceptions.

He even used a trick play on offense that saw Detroit Wide Receiver Daniel McKinney throw a 30-yard touchdown pass to William Dukes.

Wright utilized the skills of QB Jaquez Johnson well as he gained 142 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns, one was a 49-yard scamper.

The Owls have a bye week to try to put this coaching controversy behind them as Wright has a chance to adjust to his interim that he hopes will be his permanent role.

The FAU situation reminds me about what happened to the 1989 Michigan Wolverines Basketball Team. Head Coach Bill Frieder  accepted a job to coach at Arizona State. Michigan Athletic Director sent Frieder to Tempe and promoted assistant Steve Fisher to the Wolverines the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines won the tournament and Fisher was hired as the permanent coach.

Now Wright has the task of trying to guide FAU to a bowl game.

The final three games are against Southern Mississippi 0-8, New Mexico State 1-8 and FIU 1-7.

There is no way that Wright will allow this team to let down, but if the Owls play as well against these opponents as they did against a strong football team like Tulane, I like their chances of getting to a bowl game. I have a feeling their coaching search won't be as long as it appears at this present time.

Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. But I will say this, Wright did get a loud applause from the media after the game, something that was unimaginable during the Infamous Pelini Era.

Wright can only learn from Pelini when dealing with the press, "Learn What Not To Do" and if he figures it out quickly. If he makes himself very accessible to the public and media then he'll have a bright head coaching future.

When I first heard the news and spoke to Owls Assistant Media Relations Director Justin Johnson, I told him that when this controversy clears, the departure of Pelini will be the best thing that ever happened to this program.

The early returns are good and it will be interesting to see how this teams rallies around their new coach.

Good Riddance Carl Pelini. I knew you were a bad hire in the first place and I'm glad that your mysterious behavior and drug abuse led you to a one way ticket out of town.

You blew your only head coaching opportunity that you'll ever get. Might be time to call brother Bo so we can see the "Hothead get re-united with the Pothead."

We'll see if he smokes a joint if his former team wins a bowl game as another coach reaps the benefits of his recruiting.

The guy can't pull his hair out because he doesn't have any.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Detroit Tigers Next Skipper?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

I don't think the Detroit Tigers Managerial Search will be as complicated as it seems.

There are some good names out there but it's just a matter of determining if this team needs an overhaul or stays with continuity.

Are they looking for a Big Splash?

Or a Diamond in the Rough?

There is no question that I thought they were blindsided by this move because they thought they could get one more year out of Jim Leyland.

With Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez becoming free agents and Max Scherzer in line for a big payday either through arbitration or free agency after the 2014 season, Leyland could have had a great shot at a fourth straight post-season bid.

But this is where we are at.

The Tigers didn't have what the Pistons had when they fired Rick Carlisle and hired Larry Brown with their Succession Plan.

Brown led the team to the NBA Finals twice and won a championship in his only two years roaming the sidelines at The Palace of Auburn Hills. He bolted for his dream that turned out to be his nightmare job with the New York Knicks and Detroit proceeded to hire Flip Saunders, who led the Pistons deep into the playoffs, however, falling short of a championship losing in the Conference Finals.

Here is My Breakdown as to who the Next Tigers Skipper should be. Again, it's My opinion and I encourage any kind of feedback.

According to the Online Sports Book Bovada, I will attach the odds in parenthesis to what I believe and mention a few more names.

1. Brad Ausmus (4-1) is what Leyland said the Tigers need and that's young at the age of 44. He was the Tigers catcher in 1996, 1999-2000. He's played 17 years and is regarded as one of the smartest players in baseball.

2. Lloyd McClendon (9-2) age 54 is a great internal candidate. He's been a Tigers Coach since 2006 under Leyland. His only stop was with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2001-2005 where he was 336-446 and a .430 winning percentage. Considering that Pittsburgh has been dormant for 20 years, Lloyd deserves a second chance.

Once upon a time a guy by the name of Chuck Daly coached a horrible franchise in 1981-82 and went 9-32 with the Cleveland Cavaliers. All he did was win two championships with the Detroit Pistons in his second stop and compiled a 13-year coaching record of 638-437 mark, 12 playoff appearances en route to the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame.

I'd say that Daly did pretty well. I see no reason McClendon can't have success plus if he keeps coaches Gene Lamont and Jeff Jones then this becomes a seamless transition.

3. Tom Brookens (5-1) at age 60 is a Tiger in every sense of the word. But I see him more as a coach than a manager.

4. Torey Luvullo (5-1) is 48 and is another former Tiger that is serving as Bench Coach of the Boston Red Sox. He figures to be busy until October 31. If he's the Tigers choice, they'll wait otherwise he'll manage someday, somewhere.

5. Gene Lamont (11-2) will be 67 on Christmas Day and he's been a manager for the Chicago White Sox  (1992-1995) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (1997-2000). Can't hold the Pirates gig against Lamont but at this point of his career, his knowledge is best served as a bench coach to assist a young manager.

6. Larry Parrish (8-1) will be 60 on November 10 and has previously managed the Tigers. He's a company man having spent plenty of time managing Detroit's farm teams. But I don't see a second tenure as Tigers skipper for Parrish.

7. Manny Acta (8-1) will be 45 on January 11, 2014 and is 372-518 with the Washington Nationals and Cleveland Indians. The Tigers are familiar with him as a divisional manager. If he interviews well then he could be a long shot for the job. But there are too many good candidates for this opening, however, he could still be a coach for Detroit because he can relate to the Latin players.

8. Dusty Baker (15-1) is 64 but I believe he has one more managerial stop left in him. According to My Mentor Tony DeMarco, he believes that Baker could land with the Los Angeles Dodgers if Don Mattingly is removed as pilot. I'll take Tony's word and Baker did play for Los Angeles from 1976-1983. He also played and managed for rival the San Francisco Giants. Need I say more about a Southern California Homecoming. He would be a safe choice for the Tigers if it ever happened.

9. Tony Pena (15-1) is 56. He's a bench coach for the New York Yankees as Joe Girardi right-hand man. He has one managerial stop with a down franchise leading the Kansas City Royals to a 198-285 mark and a winning percentage of .410 from 2002-2005. Again, another prominent Latin name, but is he a fit with the Tigers? I don't know. I'd like to see him get another opportunity.

Here are some other names that were not on the board worth thinking about,.

Tampa Bay Rays Coach Dave Martinez, 49, is currently a bench coach for Joe Maddon. Look for his name to come up as a promising candidate as he learns the trade from the Best Small Market Manager in Baseball, speaking of Maddon.

Two past managers that have won the World Series include Charlie Manuel, who will be 70 on January 4, 2014 and 49-year-old Ozzie Guillen.

We'll start with Manuel.

In a 13-year managerial career with the Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies he compiled a 1000-826 mark. He's an intriguing short term candidate for a team that feels it's close to winning a title. His downfall in Philadelphia was attributed to trades that sent key players to contenders.

Manuel's 2008 World Championship with Philadelphia does make him a good candidate if team's are willing to overlook his age.

As for Guillen, his body of work was great until he took the Miami Marlins job.

In his lone season with the Marlins in their new ballpark, the team was 69-93 with a .426 winning percentage. He alienated the fan base by proclaiming he loved Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro.

Prior to coming to Miami, Guillen won a World Series with the Chicago White Sox in 2005. He has a career record of 747-710 with a .513 percentage. The last time the White Sox won a World Series was in 1917.

If you want drama, great quotes and to see the Tigers vs White Sox rivalry get more intense, then he's your pick. Is he a good fit for Dombrowski and Ilitch, I have major doubts. I've always thought of Guillen as the Latin version of the late Tigers Manager Billy Martin. He's fiery, passionate and I enjoy the way he goes about getting the best of his players. He's well liked and respected in the clubhouse.

Baseball does miss him in a dugout and I have a feeling that he'll get another chance. Has he learned his lessons and is he more trouble than he's worth with the drama he brings? Stay tuned. There is another chapter to be written.

Finally, if you want a long shot candidate, here is one.

He's not mentioned on any of the lists that I've seen but he'd be a great fit.

Because of tampering rules, the Tigers wouldn't be allowed to contact Oakland A's Manager Bob Melvin, who will be 52 on October 28th.

But Melvin made his debut playing for the Tigers in 1985 under Sparky Anderson. He played 10-years for seven different teams.

He's managed 1,388 games with three different teams and has a career mark of 705-683 with a .508 percentage for the Seattle Mariners (2003-2004), Arizona Diamondbacks (2005-2009) and the Oakland A's 2011-Present.

He won the 2007 National League Manager of the Year and the 2012 American League Manager of the Year Award.

His team plays in a stadium that draws poorly and has sewer problems. He managed two great playoff series against the Tigers only to come up short.

Give Melvin lots of resources and talent, plus he's a good age, then you have a guy that's more than capable of filling Leyland's Big Shoes.

A few other names that were mentioned in preliminary searches include former Tiger Kirk Gibson, Future Hall of Fame Manager Tony LaRussa, former Pirates Manager Jim Tracy and LA Angels Manager Mike Scioscia.

I could see Tracy as a candidate but Gibson has committed to stay in Arizona and Scioscia  is under contract. He would be a good fit in Detroit as would Tracy, 57. Any former Pirates manager is worth of consideration since the franchise had 20-consecutive losing seasons.

I would also look at San Diego Padres Manager Bud Black, a former pitching coach.

Look for Boston Red Sox Third Base Coach Brian Butterfield to get some interviews down the road. I covered Brian back in our days with the Fort Lauderdale Yankees back in 1982.

During the 2010 off-season, the 55-year old native of Bangor, Maine., was one of four finalists for the Toronto Blue Jays job. He is the son of Jack Butterfield, the former Vice-President of Player Development and Scouting for the New York Yankees.

This guy is a baseball lifer and being in a baseball family, a good showing by Boston in the 2013 World Series could easily put him on a team's radar for a future managers job.

I could see Butterfield filling out a line-up card one day.

Now it will be interesting to see who the Tigers next manager will be but with this list of names mentioned in this story, I'll also be curious to see where these other skippers land.

My longtime friend Tom Gage, in the photo with me at Marlins Park in the Press Box, of the Detroit News has worked with many managers through the years and I'll be curious as to what he has to say next spring about the newest hire.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Too Much Specialization

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTO BY CANDICE EBLING

Now that the shock of the retirement of former Tigers Manager Jim Leyland has sunk in, the question remains, who will be given the keys to Detroit's Rolls Royce Starting Pitching Staff that President and General Manager Dave Dombrowski has assembled?

What manager gets to make up a line-up card with Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez?

While it's too early to predict who will be sitting in the Tigers Dugout, there is one thing that I hope the next skipper does differently to the now departed Leyland.

Fox Analyst Tim McCarver, who is retiring after the World Series hit a bulls eye when he said "that today's managers are prisoners of pitch counts."

This is so true and it's coming from a man that is a Hall of Famer, who caught two players that also have plaques in Cooperstown, NY.

Steve Carlton and Bob Gibson were legendary performers.

McCarver was Carlton's personal catcher. He was behind the plate when Gibson defeated the Boston Red Sox in the 1967 World Series then back again as runner-ups when the Tigers defeated the Cardinals in the 1968 Fall Classic.

McCarver has also been awesome broadcaster. I've learned a lot by watching and listening to him. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame winning the Ford C Frick Award in 2012 which is in the Broadcasters Wing.

I totally understand a manager's desire to protect his pitchers. But a pitch count, please.

Also, we're in the day of the five man starting rotation therefore there is an extra day's rest between starts, thus I would think that complete games should still be common. The only time a four man rotation exists is in the playoffs.

These athletes spend more time in the weight room, have modern day medicine and trainers that work with them. By no means am I talking about steroids. I'm talking about technology and more resources to keep them healthy.

I hope the new manager realizes that by having more complete games that it reduces the dependency of the bullpen.

Once upon a time there were two and three inning saves. Nobody can tell me that these can't be a part of baseball again as they once were.

Going through five relief pitchers in two innings makes me sick especially when the starter is having success. For that matter using that many pitchers in a short period still makes me ill and while I understand managers using strategy, there is the fine line of over managing.

Baseball is easy to second guess and I'm not here to do that. I'm just trying to put things in perspective and any manager that has any kind of success in baseball to me is alright in my book.

I've said it before that one of the greatest athletes in pro sports Michael Jordan played it briefly, got smart by trading his cleats for sneakers and won more championships on the hard wood.

Need I say more?

If I'm an old school traditionalist, then I'm guilty as charged.

If I'm a purist then I'm guilty as charged.

There is a reason that my beard and hair is gray.

I've seen a lot and figure to see plenty more before I'm done breathing both in life and in sports.

In the meantime, I'm not asking for much.

Even former Texas Rangers CEO and Hall of Fame Pitcher Nolan Ryan tried to have his team more conditioned to go deep into games.

During the Tigers 4-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox, there were a couple games that starters could have completed.

One that comes to mind is Game 2 when Detroit had a 5-1 lead and Max Scherzer was pitching a gem.

Max told Leyland he was finished, got pulled and the bullpen which is been a problem for Detroit all-season imploded thus the Tigers lost 6-5 in what turned out to be one of two key turning points in the series.

We've seen complete games from Justin Verlander. There is no reason to think we can't see a few more. I'm not saying a lot more but a few more from Verlander photographed in the dugout and others.

There is no crime in having a fresh bullpen.

I realize that today's owners have a lot of money invested into these young players.

But please tell me if Joba Chamberlain of the New York Yankees or Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals have had the stellar careers they were expected to have.

Last year, the Nationals cost themselves a chance to advance deep into the playoffs because they had an innings count on the young hurler.

In 2012, Strasburg had a 15-6 record with a 3.16 ERA in 159.1 innings as Washington had a 98-64 mark.

This season, his numbers regressed as he went 8-9 with a 3.00 ERA in 183 innings as the Nationals completed an 86-76 season.

Manager Davey Johnson retired and it will be interesting to see what happens how a new pilot sails with Strasburg.

Strasburg has a career record of 29-19 with a 2.96 ERA in 434.1 innings.

Chamberlain was considered a projected starter but has never been able to fill that role. He is a free agent and I have a feeling that while the Yankees let very few of them get away, Chamberlain could be pitching elsewhere in 2014.

Just as it will be when the Tigers hire their new manager.

I have a feeling that one of Dombrowski's key questions during the interview process is how he handles a pitching staff.

One piece of advice I have for the Tigers is to keep Pitching Coach Jeff Jones since he has the respect of the pitching staff and has won with it.

Other than that, Dombrowski doesn't need any advice from us since he's had a great track record for many years.

The only thing he has left to accomplish is win a World Series for an owner that's is 84 before time runs out on Mike Ilitch health wise.

I'm pulling hard to get this championship as are so many others.

I'm sure that in a perfect world that when Commissioner Bud Selig retires after next season, he'd love to hand the World Series Trophy to Ilitch. I doubt that anyone will debate this or the fact it will take some time for Dombrowski to get this hire right.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.



Motown Mastermind

MIAMI---BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

I'll never forget Spring Training of 2005.

I went to Jupiter, Florida., to cover a St. Louis Cardinals game and Jim Leyland was managing this contest while Manager Tony LaRussa went on the road.

During our interview, Leyland looked relaxed and was having a good time.

He was six years removed from his last managerial job with the Colorado Rockies where his squad finished in last place 28 games back of the National League West Division Winner, the Arizona Diamondbacks (100-62).

Colorado finished with a 72-90 mark in 1999 and Leyland had to live through a season of high altitudes, tons of home runs and the nightmare of coaching a pitching staff in the Rocky Mountains.

This experience along with a 1997 World Championship followed by a Fire Sale from the Florida Marlins led him to Hibernation.

I never thought in my wildest imagination that a year later, he'd appear in Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, that he'd be wearing Tigers attire as Alan Trammell's replacement.

But indeed, he was Sporting the Olde English "D" and in the Detroit Dugout.

Here are the things that I never imagined when we were reunited in 2006 as we laughed together on how time did fly.

1) He'd finish his eight-year Tigers tenure with a 700-597 record from 2006-2013.
2) He ranks third on the Tigers All-Time List of Games Managed with 1,297.
3) Leyland's Tigers' teams finished above .500 in six of eight seasons at the helm.
4) Detroit surpassed the 3 Million mark in season attendance in franchise history all during Leyland's managerial career (2007, 2008, 2012 and 2013).
5) He is the third winningest manager in Tigers History.
6) He guided the Tigers to three straight American League Central Division Championships from 2011-2013.
7) He is the 26th manager in Tigers History.
8) He guided the Tigers to 700 wins, the third most in team history behind Sparky Anderson (1,331) and Hughie Jennings (1,131).
9) Leyland guided the Tigers to the post-season four times and was 3-0 against the New York Yankees.
10) Leyland led Detroit to two American League Pennants in 2006-2012 and two World Series Appearances.
11) The Tigers have only advanced to the playoffs one other time for three consecutive seasons and that was from 1907-1909 with Jennings as skipper. This century long drought ended so there is hope for the Chicago Cubs one day.
12. Leyland became the third Tigers manager to lead guide the club to the World Series multiple times joining Jennings and Cochrane.
13) After the Tigers season finale with the Miami Marlins, Detroit  had the second best record in inter league play by compiling a 93-53 mark. The Boston Red Sox are first with a 98-48 record and a .671 winning percentage.
14) The American League Champion Red Sox can thank Leyland for having home field advantage in the 2013 World Series with his victory in this summers All-Star Game.
15) Prior to Leyland's arrival, the Tigers had gone 12 seasons without a winning season. He finished under .500 once and in one season Detroit was 81-81.

Before Leyland took over in 2006, here were the Tigers Managers and records after Anderson retired in 1995:

*Buddy Bell 1996-1998 (184-277)
* Larry Parrish 1998-1999  (82-104)
* Phil Garner 2000-2002 (145-185)
*Luis Pujols 2002 (55-100)
*Alan Trammell 2003-2005 (186-300)

To summarize Leyland's career as a whole, one must look at the Big Picture.

1) He leaves the game ranked as the 15th All-Time leader in managerial wins with 1,769.
2) With the Pittsburgh Pirates, Florida Marlins, Colorado Rockies and Tigers, he compiled a 1,769-1,728 mark.
3) Leyland is 14th All-Time in games managed with 3,499.
4) Leyland guided his teams to the playoffs eight times in 22 seasons and has a 44-40 mark in the playoffs.

Can you imagine how much higher these career numbers would have been if Leyland didn't take six years off from managing?

I can't!

There is no doubt that he's worthy of Hall of Fame Consideration!

Unfortunately, the lasting impression that most people will remember is the fact that the Tigers lost this years American League Championship Series to the Red Sox as Boston hit two grand slam home runs.

But in the playoffs, there are many big moments on the big stage.

He'll have to live with these moments in retirement but you can rest assure the Tigers organization and fans are celebrating his accomplishments as he revitalized a sleeping giant fan base which shows in the incredible attendance figures during his tenure as the Tigers skipper.

For me, it's been great working with Leyland in Spring Training and in the Regular Season. I look forward to going to Lakeland, Florida., with Leyland nearby along with good friends Tom Gage and Trainer Kevin Rand, who I'm photographed with.

What makes it even more interesting is I had the great pleasure of watching him manage his last game at Marlins Park even with a no-hitter being thrown against his ball club.

I'm glad that he's going to be working in the organization and hope down the line that the Tigers retire his number at Comerica Park with Trammell, Lou Whitaker and Jack Morris.

All of these are a major part of Tigers history.

Another reminder won't hurt to acknowledge the greatness that they've meant to this rich franchise tradition with Leyland being the latest.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

Monday, October 14, 2013

History At Old Orange Bowl Location

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

I've seen a lot of great football games featuring the Miami Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes, but in all of my years of covering baseball, this is the first no-hitter I've ever seen in person.

Of all places, it happened on the site of the Historic Orange Bowl Location.

On Sunday September 29, 2013, a crowd of 28,315 at Marlins Park saw Tigers Cy Young Award Winner Justin Verlander throw six scoreless innings.

He was relieved by Doug Fister in the seventh inning. Rick Porcello entered the game in the eighth, retired the side and had two strikeouts. He was relieved by Luke Putkonen in the ninth.

This was a tune-up for the Tigers as Detroit prepared for the playoffs.

The fans got more than they bargained for as the story in this game was Marlins right-handed pitcher Alvarez Henderson. He threw a 1-0 no-hitter against the Tigers and it was the fifth in Marlins history.

The winning run came on a bases loaded wild pitch by Putkonen that allowed Giancarlo Stanton to score from third base. Stanton originally reached base with a single.

Henderson had one walk, four strikeouts, hit Prince Fielder with a pitch then cruised to improve his record to 5-6. He threw 99 pitches and 66 were strikes.

The Marlins swept the Tigers as they improved to 62-100 while the Tigers dropped to 93-69.

It was a very unusual game in the sense that Alvarez was facing a pitcher that has two no-hitters himself speaking of Verlander.

The Tigers were resting most of their star players, but by no means am I taking anything away from the kid's accomplishment.

I didn't pay much attention to the pace of the game as I was working on a story and was dealing with technical issues getting online.

My photographer Candice Ebling sent me a text message that she was debating switching positions about the potential no-hitter, but opted to stay put by the Tigers Dugout.

That's when I started taking notice to what could be history.

Indeed that became the case.

Alvarez became the 282nd pitcher in MLB History to throw a no-hitter and he's likely to have some mementos sent to the Baseball Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

Alvarez, who was born on April 18, 1990, became the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the final game of the season since Mike Witt in 1984 when he did it for the California Angels.

When no-hitters are thrown, in many instances it's by a pitcher that we've never heard of.

Alvarez's career record is 15-23 with a 4.25 ERA and 176 strikeouts.

He was acquired by the Marlins along with six other players from the Toronto Blue Jays in a 12-player trade where five players went North of the Border. Three of the key players sent to Canada include Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.

Since the Alvarez no-hitter, these words have become more common for the Detroit Tigers. In Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Oakland A's, Verlander went into the eighth inning with one.

In Game 1 of the American League Championship Series in Boston versus the Red Sox, Anibal Sanchez took to the Tigers into the sixth and the bullpen carried a no-hit bid into the ninth inning. The Tigers were two outs away from making history. Detroit won the game 1-0.

In Game 2 of the ALCS, Max Scherzer took a no-hitter in the sixth inning before it was broken up against the Red Sox. The Tigers bullpen imploded in a 6-5 loss to Boston.

Nonetheless, these masterpieces don't happen often and they do indeed sneak up.

What made Alvarez situation so unusual was that he was sitting in the on deck circle when the freak play occurred and the celebration was as different as it could be.

But only in baseball just when you think you've seen everything, something else dazzles in amazement.

Who knows what this kid will accomplish in his career, but on this one autumn afternoon in South Florida, he dominated the headlines all over the country before the playoffs.

He did it starting against one of the best pitchers in baseball, Justin Verlander and one of the best teams.

During this series, Miami couldn't have asked for a better result at the gate with the Tigers.

During the Friday Night September 27th, 3-2 win, 26,992 showed up as the capacity for Marlins Park was 72.1% full.

On Saturday Night September 28th this was another positive result at the gate as 28,750 (76.8%) saw the Marlins prevail in 10 innings 2-1.

But for those that saw this finale, this is a day that they'll be talking about for years knowing they saw a youngster make a name for himself.

It will be interesting to see what future final games of the year will be like for the Marlins.

Now the question remains, how long will Alvarez remain with the team?

If you're a Marlins fan, the way they have fire sales with star players which has outraged the fan base, I'd find it hard pressed to see them get excited.

But they cheer them when they come back. Just ask Miguel Cabrera.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

Tale of Two Football Programs

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

As I went to the sixth floor of the FAU Press Box, I ran into Owls Athletic Director Patrick Chun and we talked briefly about the switch to Conference USA.

Chun was pleased to make the move because FAU was hosting a new conference opponent. More importantly, he knew that by upgrading to a higher level conference, it would also draw larger crowds. It also enabled FAU to keep its rivalry with FIU intact.

This was definitely the case Saturday Evening as 19,760 showed up to see FAU's second conference opponent. The attendance was the second largest in the history of FAU Stadium.

This opponent has been playing football since 1895 and has an interesting tradition. Going into the 2013 season, Marshall's all-time record is 542-520-47 (.510).

The Marshall Thundering Herd has produced a lot of NFL Players. The three alumni which come to mind include QB's Chad Pennington, Byron Leftwich and Wide Receiver Randy Moss. Each of these players appear heavily in the Marshall record book.

Moss should be inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame when he becomes eligible in five years.

These two schools have other things in common.

Marshall has appeared in five bowl games in Detroit. The Thundering Herd are 3-1 in the Motor City Bowl and 1-0 in the Little Ceasars Bowl. Marshall's record is 4-1 in Southeastern Michigan.

FAU won it's lone appearance in the Motor City Bowl in 2008 defeating Central Michigan and is 2-0 all-time in bowl games.

Going into the 2013 season, FAU is 58-74 participating in the Sun Belt Conference playing for their only two coaches Howard Schnellenberger and now Carl Pelini.

FAU began playing football in 2001 and the Owls winning percentage is .439.

To date, FAU's best players include Tennessee Titans QB Rusty Smith, the first Owl ever selected in the NFL Draft and Washington Redskins star Running Back Alfred Morris, who ran for 1,613 yards in his rookie season of 2012.

There is one thing these programs Fortunately Don't have in common.

On November 14, 1970 the Thundering Herd was devastated by a tragedy that eventually became a movie in 2006 called "We Are Marshall" which centered around the crash and rebirth of the program.

A total of 75 passengers, including 37 members of the football team were killed in a plane crash.

It took a full decade to recover from the crash and Marshall was the worst football program in the 1970's.

The Thundering Herd didn't have a winning season until 1984.

In the 1970's, Marshall was 23-83 from 1970-79, changing head coaches four times during that time frame.

If there is an interesting thing to watch with these mid-major schools is they do produce their fair share of players and many of them are the ones selected in the second and third days of the draft otherwise known as the "Hidden Gems" that win Super Bowls.

As for their first meeting, FAU held a 23-14 lead with 8:07 left in the fourth quarter, but the Thundering Herd came back to win 24-23 as Justin Haig connected on a 41-yard field goal as time expired.

The victory improved Marshall's record to 4-2, 2-0 while FAU dropped to 2-5, 1-4, in the Conference USA Eastern Division.

Detroit native Daniel McKinney, who is photographed, caught two passes for 11 yards.

This was the second heartbreaking loss this season at home for FAU and that aggravated Owls Coach Pelini.

"We can't play 9/10 of a game," Pelini said. "We have to play 10/10 of a game. I'm not going to pat anyone on the back after a loss."

FAU has a bye next week and don't expect Pelini to pat anyone on the back as the Owls travel to meet the Auburn Tigers on October 26 in Alabama. The only thing guaranteed is a large payday to deposit into the Athletic Department's bank account.

Up next for FAU at home is a visit from the Tulane Green Wave. I'll be curious to see the turnout on November 2, 2013.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

A New FAU Era In Conference USA

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

The last time the FAU Owls opened the season at home against Middle Tennessee was a day that Michigan Wolverines Football fans certainly would like to forget.

On September 1, 2007, Appalachian State stunned the Wolverines 34-32 in front of 109,208 shocked fans at The Big House.

The rematch will be August 30, 2014.

This same day, I was covering My first FAU contest against Middle Tennessee at Fort Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium. The Owls defeated Middle Tennessee 27-14. Since that win, FAU has lost five straight games to Middle Tennessee and trail the series 7-3.

Six years later, the Owls have opened at home again against Middle Tennessee, but two major things have changed.

FAU has moved from the Sun Belt Conference to Conference USA.

Three years ago, FAU moved into it's beautiful on campus stadium that faces the Atlantic Ocean. You can see the ocean from the Sixth Floor at FAU Stadium in the Press Box.

Four teams made the switch to Conference USA. Florida International University and North Texas were the first to make their announcements. Months later, FAU and Middle Tennessee followed them.

For the last few years we've seen a lot of conference realignment. Schools like Colorado, Utah, Texas A&M, Missouri, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Nebraska, West Virginia and TCU are acclimating to their new rivals. The Big Ten will add Maryland and Rutgers next season while Louisville is headed to the ACC.

How have the Owls adapted thus far?

After FAU's 42-35 overtime loss to Middle Tennessee, the Owls are 1-3 and 0-2 in the conference. The Owls have now lost six in a row to the Blue Raiders and trail the all-time series 8-3.

FAU's only victory occurred September 14, as the Owls defeated My Alma-Mater the University of South Florida Bulls 28-10 in Tampa.

It's hard to win committing five turnovers as FAU did, in addition to allowing Middle Tennessee to amass 446 yards in total offense.

It's rare to see a team compile 503 yards in total offense and lose. But that's what happened to FAU.

Wide Receiver, Daniel McKinney, a senior from Detroit was FAU's leading receiver. He had nine receptions for 82-yards and a touchdown. This was a career high for McKinney.

Sophomore QB Jaquez Johnson threw for 321 yards, three touchdowns but also had two interceptions.

When the game was over, FAU Coach Carl Pelini said despite the close loss, he's said there is no such thing as a moral victory.

"You're not going to beat a good football team like Middle Tennessee when you constantly shoot yourself in the foot," Pelini said. "I don't think we were very disciplined on the defensive side of the ball, and I think we made a lot of mistakes on the offensive side of the ball. You can't have five turnovers in college football and expect to win games. It shouldn't have come down to overtime."

Pertaining to the turnovers, Pelini added, "they're tearing at the football. You know you saw it, and we just got to be stronger. We practice ball security everyday, so it's unacceptable."

FAU returns to action on Saturday, September 28 at 7 pm as it hits the road to play in the first "Owls Bowl" visiting Rice in Houston, Texas.

There is one thing FAU didn't have to deal with that two other Florida schools had to face Saturday.

The Florida A&M Rattlers were ripped by the Ohio State Buckeyes 76-0 in Columbus.

FAU's rival Florida International University went to Kentucky and was crushed by Louisville 72-0.

After today's offensive display, I'll be curious as to see what's ahead in the coming weeks for FAU. I find it hard to watch a team score 35 points and lose.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Sports Scene

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Here is a change of pace from the norm.

I've decided to take one topic from each of the Four Major Sports and talk about it.

Lets start with the NFL. I know this is a sensitive issue, but I have no problem with Washington Redskins Owner Dan Snyder keeping his teams' nickname. The fan base has identified with the Redskins and it's Snyder's right to keep it. He is a businessman that's allowed by the free enterprise system in this country to turn a profit. I doubt you'll see Commissioner Roger Goodell pressure him to change the name. I'm sure they'll talk about it, but that's as far as it will go. There is a rich tradition with the Redskins name.

The only time I ever objected to Snyder trying to make a profit was when he used to charge fans money to see team practices in training camp early in his ownership. But when he saw it was a bad public relations move, Snyder backed off.

Super Bowls have been won with the Redskins name and legendary Coach Vince Lombardi also coached in the Nations Capital.

Many college universities had to change their Indian names or they risked harsh NCAA penalties such as not being able to host NCAA sanctioned events and would be subjected to fines if they didn't comply..

The Florida State Seminoles have been able to keep their name.

I can't see Robert Griffin III or Alfred Morris playing for the Washington Wheels. So no worries Washington fans, you'll be able to see important games at your stadium as long as your team is good enough to play in them.

Hosting a Super Bowl is the only exception because warm weather climates and indoor stadiums get these games.

If the Redskins have to change their name, then the Kansas City Chiefs should do the same to make sure there is no double standard. We know that won't happen.

These Indian names will stay.

In MLB, some of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated their division title by doing belly flops and jumping in the outfield pool at Chase Field after defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks took offense to this because they felt as though they were showed up as a sign of disrespect.

Seriously?

Really?

This was a lighthearted celebration and really a good idea.

The Diamondbacks should be complimented that they have one of the newer and nicest stadiums in baseball therefore it was utilized in a positive way.

Besides, it's nice to see a celebration out of the clubhouse and we're showcasing water and not alcohol. I will never object to anything that is creative, original and different.

In the future, the Diamondbacks should win the game instead to avoid such a celebration in their house.

In the NBA, we're starting to see a trend of former star players playing in games overseas and finishing their careers in places like China. Former Houston Rockets Guard Steve Francis played their briefly in November of 2010. For a short period, Francis had an inexpensive shoe that he was selling in China.

Allen Iverson also played overseas in the Turkish league in 2010-2011.

Now recently retired Tracy McGrady is contemplating the idea. I think this is neat because it allows the world to see some of these athletes. There has been a lot more of this in baseball as players careers that wind down go to Japan.

If a player can get paid to do what he enjoys doing, live in another culture, then more power to him. If these guys have endorsement deals, then it's another way to market them, especially since basketball shoes are huge overseas. The NBA has done an outstanding job marketing overseas especially now that they're playing exhibition games that are leading to regular season contests.

In the NHL, it's hard to believe that hockey is playing exhibition games. What will make this year much different then any other is that the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets are now in the Eastern Conference while the Winnipeg Jets are in the Western Conference.

This is a move long overdue and it will be interesting to see how both teams adapt to the physical nature of the Eastern Conference.

In a different way, I doubt they'll be much adapting to the reduced travel schedule and not changing the time zones.

But I have to admit that in a perfect world, it would be great if the Chicago Blackhawks played in the Eastern Time zone if for no other reason, all Original Six Teams would be in the same conference. However, that will never happen unless there is future expansion which somehow allows this to take place. I'm not holding my breath.

I'm glad the Red Wings will have the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens in the same division and they'll see more of the New York Rangers. Five Original Six teams in a conference is a great consolation.

Being a resident in The Sunshine State, I'm looking forward to seeing the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning face the Red Wings more often.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

MLB's Feel Good Story Lines

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

This years final two weeks in MLB's drive to the playoffs have many interesting Story Lines.

Inside those Story Lines, there are some great Manager Of The Year Candidates.

There are some perennial losing franchises that have become winners.

The 2013 season can also have a "Back To The Past" theme as certain teams which faced each other in the playoffs in the past, could very well do the same.

Lets start in the American League.

As of this moment there are four teams that are within 2.5 games of the final wild card spot. The current leaders are the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers.

On the outside looking in are the Cleveland Indians, managed by Terry Francona, the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees and the Kansas City Royals.

Yes, the Kansas City Royals.

Once upon a time, the Royals and the Yankees faced each other in the playoffs from 1976-78. The Royals only World Series title occurred with late former Yankees Manager Dick Howser in 1985.

After many years of frustration, the Royals have built their team through the farm system and Manager Ned Yost has done a fine job with this squad. Whether Kansas City makes the playoffs is one thing. But the Royals have also created new revenue streams as they renovated Kauffman Stadium for $250 million.

Despite being known as a small market franchise, things are looking good for Kansas City, and who knows, perhaps they will face the Yankees again in future postseasons.

For now, Royals fans are just happy that they can talk about baseball late into September and don't care who they meet in the playoffs. They just want to get there.

In Cleveland, Francona has definitely done a fine job in his first year as Indians skipper. Buck Showalter led the Baltimore Orioles to the playoffs last year and just simply wins every where he manages. Being in the toughest division in baseball makes his work even more impressive. Despite injuries and performance enhancing drugs distractions, I give the New York Yankees a lot of credit for still being in the pennant chase.

In the National League, there are only two teams to talk about.

We're in the "Back To The Past" theme.

In any other season, the Manager of The Year Candidates can come from a group consisting of Francona, Joe Girardi, whose done a masterful job dealing with adversity, and Yost, who could still be a possibility.

The two candidates who are my odds on favorite to win the award are Boston Red Sox Pilot John Farrell, who has his team in first place in the American League East. The one-time Boston Pitching Coach inherited a 69-93 squad which suffered it's first losing season since 1997 and worst since 1965. Now they're certainly the front runner to win the World Series.

The man that I believe Will Win the Manager Of The Year is Pittsburgh Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle. In 2007, Hurdle led the Colorado Rockies to the franchises' first World Series appearance. Colorado was swept by the Red Sox 4-0.

This seasons managing job has been monumental for Hurdle as the Pirates have snapped a 20-consecutive losing seasons mark, the largest in North American professional sports history.

The Pirates likely opponent in the playoffs could be the Cincinnati Reds.

Back in the 1970's, these two rivals played in Three Rivers Stadium (Pittsburgh) and Riverfront Stadium (Cincinnati). Both stadiums had artificial turf. They both had some great Hall Of Fame players. Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente and Johnny Bench were a few.

Pittsburgh won the World Series in 1971 and 1979. Cincinnati's Big Red Machine, led by former Detroit Tigers Manager Sparky Anderson, won two-straight championships in 1975-76. Now it's very possible they'll play a one-game wild card playoff to advance deeper into the tournament.

It will be neat to see how these Feel Good Story Lines turnout as well as which Manager is honored.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.




Saturday, September 14, 2013

Historical NFL Contests

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When you watch this weeks NFL Games, there are some interesting match-ups that might require a timeline and a USA Map. There are also some interesting coaching stories.

The Tennessee Titans travel to Houston to take on the Texans at Reliant Stadium. The Titans used to be the Oilers, who played in the Astrodome across the parking lot.

My only visit to the Astrodome was when the Detroit Lions faced the Oilers and Hall of Fame Running Back Barry Sanders eclipsed the 10,000 yard rushing mark. The intriguing part of this game is the Texans debated about taking University of Texas standout QB Vince Young, but passed on him and he was drafted by the Titans.

The New Cleveland Browns visit the defending Super Bowl Champions Baltimore Ravens in Maryland. Once upon a time the Ravens were the Cleveland Browns. But when former late Owner Art Modell saw all of Cleveland's Sports Teams get new stadiums and his was left out, in addition to the fact that the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame was built, he bolted Lake Erie for the Baltimore Inner Harbor. The Ravens have won two Super Bowls since departing Ohio and the Browns have a new stadium, but have struggled to field consistently contending teams.

When the Dallas Cowboys face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, how many people remember that these two franchises once played in the same city?

From 1960-1962, Chiefs late Owner Lamar Hunt had an American Football League team in Dallas that played at the historic Cotton Bowl. They were called the Dallas Texans. They had a Hall of Fame QB named Len Dawson and legendary Coach Hank Stram that were with the Texans and won an AFL Championship in 1962.

Stram and Dawson played a huge part in the Kansas City Chiefs lone Super Bowl Title. In 1969, the Chiefs pounded the Minnesota Vikings 23-7,  in Super Bowl IV. The announcers in this game were the late Jack Buck, late Pat Summerall  and Frank Gifford. The cost of a 30-second commercial was $78,000 and the audience had an estimated viewership of 44.3 million viewers on CBS. The Vikings entered the game as 12 point favorites. The contest was played in front of 80,562 fans at the now demolished Tulane Stadium, in New Orleans, LA.

The Miami Dolphins go to Indiana and face the Indianapolis Colts. Former Dolphins Coach Don Shula lost his first Super Bowl appearance as a head coach for the Baltimore Colts. In Super Bowl III, the New York Jets defeated the Colts 16-7 on January 12, 1969. This is the game that Jets Hall of Fame QB "Broadway" Joe Namath delivered on his Guarantee to deliver a championship to the Big Apple. Shula would eventually win a pair of Super Bowls with the Dolphins and piloted the only perfect season at 17-0 in NFL History.

Finally, the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins have never played in the Super Bowl, but have a common link to the game when they play in Wisconsin on Sunday.

Hall of Fame Coach Vince Lombardi has the Super Bowl Trophy named after him and has coached both historic franchises. He won Super Bowls I and II defeating the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders in consecutive years.

From 1959-1967, Lombardi guided the Packers to an 89-29-4 mark. He coached one season with the Redskins and led Washington to a 7-5-2 mark. Prior to Lombardi's arrival, the Redskins had 14-straight losing seasons.

Lombardi's career record was 96-34-6 with a winning percentage of .738. In the post season he was 9-1 with a .900 winning percentage.

When you watch the game at Lambeau Field, while Aaron Rodgers and Robert Griffin III are the present and future stars, Lombardi's connection with both franchises is indeed something to remember.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.



Friday, September 6, 2013

This Weeks Headlines

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

During the past week there have been some interesting headlines on the Sports Scene.

Here are six that standout.

1. I don't put too much stock in the Boston Red Sox 20-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers Wednesday Night. Despite the fact that the Red Sox hit a club record eight home runs in the game, for Detroit, this only counts as one loss. Some of those home runs occurred on the right field line. It's called Pesky's Pole and it stands 302 feet from home plate. This is the shortest outfield distance, left or right field in Major League Baseball. These two teams could very well meet in the post season. The Red Sox are currently 85-57 while the Tigers are 81-59 so it would be to Detroit's benefit to at least win more games than Boston so they would have home field advantage at spacious Comerica Park. Detroit could get a break if Boston is eliminated before they meet.

2. I'm glad that the Pittsburgh Pirates finally secured a winning season ending their 20-year futility streak of being a sub .500 team. The Pirates, 81-58, are definitely the feel good story of the year led by the leadership of Manager Clint Hurdle. If the number had reached 21, this would have been sad because Pirates Hall Of Fame Outfielder Roberto Clemente wore it. But thankfully this never happened. For years this team made trades at the deadlines to help contenders. This season, the Pirates made trades as they get ready for their first postseason since 1992. I wish them well except if they face the Detroit Tigers.

3. It's no crime to get hammered by the Denver Broncos in the NFL Season Opener Thursday Night. When Broncos QB Peyton Manning throws for 462 yards and seven touchdowns in the Baltimore Raven's 49-27 bashing, the largest loss by a Super Bowl Champion in NFL history, just look to next week's home opener against the Cleveland Browns. Manning's seven touchdown passes tied an NFL record for most in a game. He joined Joe Kapp  (1969), Y.A. Tittle (1962), George Blanda (1961), Adrian Burk (1954), and Sid Luckman (1943). Manning became the second player in NFL history to have seven touchdown passes zero interceptions joining Tittle.

The heart of the Ravens defense Ray Lewis retired in the off season. Baltimore was playing in the high altitude of the Mile High City. Manning was carving the Ravens defense like we'd carve a pumpkin at Halloween. My Girlfriend Candy took the Ravens defense in her fantasy league. I told her that there was no need to panic because Dr. Manning was simply performing surgery as he does on all defenses. Therefore, judging Baltimore's defense now would be premature because of these circumstances. If the Ravens defense falters in future weeks, then consider making a change.

4. Florida Atlantic University (FAU) loses the first of their four-game series against the Miami Hurricanes on Friday August 30, 2013 at Joe Robbie Stadium 34-6. FAU used three QB's in their new Spread Offense. I will be curious to see how many games it takes for Owls Coach Carl Pelini to find his starter. On Thursday Night, FAU dropped to 0-2 by losing on the road to East Carolina 31-13. Next for FAU, a trip to Tampa to face My Alma-Mater the University of South Florida Bulls on Saturday, September 14, 2013.

5. Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers Coach Bobby Petrino made an impressive debut on Saturday August 31, 2013 playing in Nashville, Tenn. A crowd of 47,623 fans at the Tennessee Titans home LP Field with plenty of WKU fans in attendance, saw the Hilltoppers defeat in-state rival the Kentucky Wildcats for the second straight year. This time the score was 35-26. Western Kentucky out gained Kentucky 487-419 in total offense and held the ball for 35 minutes. Western Kentucky's Football Stadium has a capacity of 22,000. This turned out to be a good financial move to play the game in Nashville.

In his career, Petrino is undefeated in season openers, improving to 9-0. When he's had more than a week to prepare for an opponent, he's 28-8 in such games. The former Louisville coach is now 5-1 against Kentucky. His lone loss occurred when he was the head coach at Arkansas.

Petrino, 52, was fired from Arkansas in April of 2012 for misleading school officials about a motorcycle accident that revealed his mistress was a passenger and employed by the coach.

His overall college record is 76-26 and is 4-3 in Bowls. Petrino landed the Western Kentucky job when coach Willie Taggart was hired by USF.

We'll see if Bobby is smart enough to not blow this opportunity.

Petrino's team gets another SEC opponent this time as they travel to Knoxville and face the Tennessee Volunteers in front of 100,000 plus fans on Saturday.

If he wins this game, he could be elected Mayor of Bowling Green, KY.

6. As we approach September 11 this week and remember the tragedy that changed all of our lives, I commend the Arizona State Sun Devils for honoring a legendary alumnus. At Sun Devil Stadium, Tillman Tunnel welcomes the Sun Devils. The Tunnel has received a recent makeover complete with inspirational signage a PT-42 "The Heart Of A Champion" logo and a photo veil of Tillman.

Eight months after the September 11 attacks, Pat Tillman turned down a $3.6 million contract offer from the Arizona Cardinals  to enlist in the U.S. Army. He became a Ranger but was killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan in 2004.

The Sun Devils celebrated the events Thursday night blowing out Sacramento State 55-0.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.


About Me

My photo
My Super Passion: In 40-years in the Sports Media Business, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience some Great Moments with Championship People. I look forward to any feedback you readers have. I encourage you to look at the MOTOR CITY MAD MOUTH HALL OF FAME ON August 8, 2012 because these people have made the Journey in Sports Media as fun as it's been.

Blog Archive