Saturday, September 14, 2019

The QB Duel We Didn't Expect

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

If there was ever a time that covering the NFL Draft was useful then this year was it.

When the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted QB Gardner Minshew III in the sixth round, 178th overall, everyone in the building raved about the Washington State product who worked under the tutelage of offensive guru Mike Leach.

Leach has worked wonders at Texas Tech and he's repeated his success for the Cougars.

The Jaguars gave Minshew plenty of playing time during the pre-season to keep starting QB Nick Foles healthy for the start of the regular season.

Great logic for a guy that signed a four-year $88 Million Contract on March 13, 2019.

It worked early in the game as Foles threw a 35-yard TD pass to DJ Chark Jr. 5:23 into the game. Foles left the game completing five of eight passes for 75 yards and a score.

But the downside of the touchdown was Foles got knocked out of the game as he suffered a broken collarbone in his left shoulder. Jacksonville is expecting him to return by Week 11.

Who would have expected the opening weekend in Jacksonville to see a battle of young QB's in a shootout, the most unlikeliest of one?

Nobody!

But that's what we had, Minshew III vs Mahomes.

Minshew kept Jacksonville in the game as the Jags trailed 23-13 at halftime.

The rookie went into the intermission by completing all of his nine passes for 128 yards.

Minshew continued his accuracy in the second half as he became the first NFL player since 1991 to complete his first 13 passes.

The streak of 13 passes is the third longest in franchise history.

You talk about a hot streak, this was it!

On a day where the temperature was 91 degrees at kickoff, according to First Coast News, the temperatures reached above 120 degrees and the Jacksonville Fire Department reported 86 medical calls were made from TIAA Bank Field and 18 people were taken to hospitals.

But not Minshew III. He stayed hot all afternoon.

In the Press Box there were comparisons to New England Patriot future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady. In 2000, the former Michigan Wolverine was selected in the sixth round, 199th overall by New England and has six Super Bowl Championships.

The Patriots are favorites to win their seventh title.

Perhaps at this stage that may be a bit premature however, the draft position will always be linked to Minshew.

When the contest was over, it was Mahomes who led the Chiefs to the opening season 40-26 triumph and his favorite target was Sammy Watkins, who played his collegiate ball at Clemson.

Mahomes, last years MVP, completed 25-33 passes for 378 yards and three touchdowns which led to a passer rating of 143.2 for the team coached by Andy Reid.

Meanwhile, Watkins caught nine passes for 198 yards and scored three touchdowns.

Minshew finished the game completing 22-25 for 275 yards, two touchdowns and one interception with a 122.5 passer rating. His interception was a pass that was tipped twice, simply bad luck.

You talk about an impressive debut, this was it!

Head Coach Doug Marrone raved about his rookie signal caller.

"I think that Gardner (Minshew), I feel better about him now, today, after Week 1, than I did during the pre-season," Marrone said. I think that's fair to say. I think the work during the preseason was able to get him ready for things like this.

"I don't know, I'm hoping that's the case. I think you have to understand is it's very difficult for any backup quarterback to go out there because they don't take any reps during the week. He didn't take any reps against Kansas City's defense and went out there and performed."

Here are some other facts about Minshew's debut.

He became the most accurate single game passer in Jaguars history among players with at least 25 pass attempts with his 88.0 completion percentage.

His 88.0 completion percentage was the highest for any player with at least 15 attempts making their NFL debut in NFL History.

His 275 passing yards were the most ever by a Jaguars player making his NFL debut, and the fifth most by a Jaguars rookie in a single game.

Get used to seeing second year wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., who turned in a career performance against the Chiefs, catching four passes for 146 yards (36.5 rec. avg.) and one touchdown from Foles. Among players with at least four receptions in a game, Chark's 36.5 yards per-catch average is the highest in a single game in franchise history.

This marked Chark's first 100 yard performance and the first by a Jaguars receiver since Week 4 of the 2018 season against the New York Jets.

Chark was responsible for three of the Jaguars four longest offensive plays on Sunday, a 69-yard reception and two 35-yarders, one of which was a TD.

In many instances, a team should be quite concerned losing a starting QB in the opening week especially when it rests its players during the preseason to avoid injuries.

However, because Jacksonville's football operation appears to have found it's Hidden Gem in the off-season, this organization has a future building block in Minshew.

Moreover, he'll have Foles on the sidelines mentoring him as he gets on the job training.

Jacksonville enters tomorrows road game at the Houston Texans as 8.5 point underdogs.

Houston has game film on Minshew, while the rookie has practices with the first team this week.

Jacksonville has additional playmakers it can turn to with running back Leonard Fournette, who rushed 13 times for 66 yards, in addition to catching four passes for 28 yards.

The LSU product has now eclipsed 1,500 career rushing yards (1,545).

Add wide receivers Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, Keelan Cole and tight end Geoff Swain and Minshew will have some offensive support.

Conley made his Jacksonville debut as he was signed as an unrestricted free agent on March 16, 2019. The five-year veteran caught six passes for a career high 97 yards and one touchdown.

Conley's previous career-high for receiving yards was 74, set on November 19, 2018 against the Rams as a member of the Chiefs. Conley now has seven career TD passes.

I'll be watching this game closely as we get set to cover Thursday's Nationally Televised Home Game against the Tennessee Titans at 8:20 pm on The NFL Network.

This could be Minshew's coming out party as 31 NFL teams could be scratching their heads as to the prospect that got away.

But it was neat observing first hand about "The QB Duel We Didn't Expect" yet getting a glimpse of potentially more encounters, Minshew vs Mahomes, the race to their first Super Bowl Championship.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

He is the Founder and CEO of The South Florida Tribune, plus the Co-Host of The Sports Exchange on the weinetwork.com that airs Tuesday and Thursday 5-7 ET.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

A Knights Saturday

BY SCOTT MORANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

During the past two weeks, the Michigan Wolverines and FAU Owls have been linked to some interesting storylines.

Last week, the Wolverines defeated a common opponent Middle Tennessee State, while the Owls lost to U-M's biggest rival, Ohio State University.

This week, if you play the name game, there are some similarities as well.

Early in the day, No.7 Michigan escaped with a 24-21 double OT win at The Big House against The Black Knights.

This was the second straight year that the Black Knights pushed an opponent into overtime.

Last year, Army lost to No.5 Oklahoma 28-21.

A nervous Wolverines crowd of 111,747 saw Michigan improve to 2-0.

Michigan evened it's all-time series record with Army to 5-5.

Army got paid $1.5 Million to scare the daylights out of the fans as Michigan figures to drop in next week's polls.
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After I watched this game in Ann Arbor from my home in Deerfield Beach, Candy Ebling and I took to 15 minute trek up I-95 to Boca Raton, FL for FAU's Home Opener vs Central Florida Knights.

This is the third meeting between universities that are only 2.5 hours apart off the Florida Turnpike.

The first meeting occurred in the Owls third game of the program's third campaign on September 13, 2002.

The game was played in the Citrus Bowl and finished with the Knights winning 33-29 after knocking down a potential TD pass in the end zone in the closing seconds.

The second meeting played at UCF's on-campus Spectrum Stadium wasn't even close with the Owls getting crushed 56-36.

How would today's first meeting at FAU Stadium turnout?

For the second straight week, FAU fell behind early as No.18 UCF jumped out to a 28-6 lead in the first half which took nearly two hours to complete.

In the opener, Ohio State jumped out to a 28-3 at halftime lead and won the contest 45-21.

Unfortunately, for the Owls things got worse as UCF scored at the 7:37 mark as Knights QB Dillon Gabriel connected with Adrian Killins Jr. for a 74-yard TD pass.

UCF extended it's lead to 35-6.

It didn't take long for UCF to add to it's lead as the Knights scored again at the 3:19 mark. This drive was six plays, 71 yards and 2:13 to complete. Gabriel scored on a four-yard run. The point after failed and the Owls trailed 41-6.

By the end of the third quarter, the majority of the fans in the stands were the Knights fans, who traveled to watch what would turn out to be a scrimmage.

A good way to spend the weekend for the fans that make Orlando home.

A football game then a day at the beach on Sunday, just a mere 1.8 miles away east of the stadium.

Their presence led to a record crowd of 30,811 which passed a previous mark of over 27,000.

For the few fans left at the 4:20 mark in the fourth quarter, the game was delayed due to lightning as UCF held a 48-14 lead. The normal procedure is to wait at least 30 minutes before the game is called from the last strike.

However, FAU Coach Lane Kiffin and UCF Coach Josh Heupel agreed to call the contest.

Among those in attendance in the Press Box were scouts from the Baltimore Ravens, who are in town to face the Miami Dolphins tomorrow afternoon at Joe Robbie Stadium.

You didn't need a lot of statistics to explain how ugly this was for FAU.

UCF outgained FAU in net rushing yards 312-137, net passing yards 262-177 and total yards 574-314.

FAU (0-2) led in a category that you don't want to lead in, penalties as the Owls had 7-97 to 5-55 for UCF.

FAU QB Chris Robison had a day that he'd like to forget by completing 18-40, one interception, zero TD's and was sacked four times.

Coach Kiffin knew that Saturday's performance in front of the record setting

crowd didn't do anything to sell tickets.

"I want to apologize to the fans," Kiffin said. "We played bad early. Not many positives came from this game. I was shocked at how it went especially our inability to move the ball against them in the first half. I've been concerned about the offensive line from the first day of camp.

"Our defense had three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and we can't do that. We got beat up today and lost two guys at running back.

"I'm surprised by the outcome and I thought we would have showed up today."

Robison made no excuses about his performance.

"They (UCF) had a good plan going in blitzing us a lot," Robison said. "It was tough for us to get started and that was the difference in the game. Last week we started slow and today we continued to not execute on offense and it showed. We prepare the same way regardless of the opponent. You can't fall behind against any opponent, especially against a good one."

FAU will have to wait another week to get the program's 93rd win as the Owls return for a road game in the Midwest.

This time they'll go to Muncie, Indiana., to face Ball State University for a 2 pm start.

FAU is now 7-12 all-time in home openers.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is Founder and CEO of The South Florida Tribune.

Quit Your Complaining

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

A week ago, all of Florida had to deal with the stress that Hurricane Dorian was about to hammer the state being classified as a Category Five.

The Florida State Seminoles contest vs the Boise State Broncos game slated for 7 pm in Jacksonville was switched to noon and moved to Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.

There was talk that those that booked hotel rooms in Jacksonville didn't get refunds.

For those that didn't, there were two ways to work through the dilemma.

Either complain to their credit card companies to get the charge reversed, or bite the bullet and stay in Jacksonville to take the 2:26/165 mile drive to the game via I-10 West.

Those that had to drive won't get any sympathy from me.

I drive from South Florida to Jacksonville and cover the Jaguars.

The drive is close to five hours and I use the time on the road to meditate.

As I watched the updates about Hurricane Dorian both on TV and in Social Media, there was one thing that was extremely disturbing.

People were classifying the updates as Fake News.

How do you define Fake News?

I'll tell you how NOT to define Fake News.

By criticizing news outlets constantly, who are predicting where storms are going, is a joke!

I'll never criticize an organization when it comes to their coverage of weather.

Regardless of where you live, weather anchors make mistakes because they don't control what transpires outside.

They risk their lives to inform you.

They interpret what information they have, and communicate it to us.

If you've ever heard the cliché's "Better Safe Than Sorry" or "Too Much Information Is Better Than Not Enough," then you get it!

That will explain what our industry is about in today's faster pace, where information is conveyed to us in a mere second, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

During these broadcasts, the newscasters and weather anchors are doing their best to motivate us to protect ourselves.

Leave them alone!

And focus on doing your job!

At two different stages of the football game, FSU vs Boise State, the Seminoles held 24-6 and 31-13 leads. 

But in the end, The Boise State Broncos did their job because despite playing the Seminoles in Tallahassee, Boise State prevailed 36-31.

They had plenty of things they could have complained about but kept their focus. What was  originally set as a neutral site game turned out to be a road contest in front of 50,917 fans.

But instead, they give the words "Quit Your Complaining" the true definition of what happens in life too much which many of us use as cop outs when things are going wrong.

The only people that should rightfully be complaining are those in the Bahamas which got pummeled while all of us dodged a bullet.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is the Founder and CEO of The South Florida Tribune.


Sunday, September 1, 2019

Events Coming Full Circle

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

In life, there are times when you ask where was I when specific events happen?

I've had numerous moments like that through the years.

Especially when I've had medical issues connecting them with events and dates.

On this day in 2007, one of those occurred at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

During the weeks leading up to the Michigan Wolverines hosting Appalachian State at The Big House in Ann Arbor, MI., a friend of mine named Mark Lehrman asked me what I thought of this matchup.

The Mountaineers entered the contest as two-time FCS Champions while the Wolverines came into the game as No.5 in the AP and Coaches Poll.

Michigan had a strong senior class of offensive tackle Jake Long, tailback Mike Hart and QB Chad Henne.

I told Mark this game is going to be tougher than most people think.

Just because you're at a lower level of college football doesn't mean that you're much better than your opponent.

There are a lot of great NFL players that come from these institutions such as the late Walter Payton and Jerry Rice.

The Michigan vs Appalachian State University (ASU) game was the first ever on the New Big 10 Network.

Little did anyone know that this would be the Biggest Upset in College Football History.

There was no betting line on this game. Las Vegas didn't think much of it to give it a line.

Oh, how Vegas missed this one.

ASU was ranked No.1 in the pre-season FCS Poll from The Sports Network, receiving 67 out of 70 first place votes. The team had won the previous two FCS National Championships and were favorites to win a third consecutive title according to media outlets.

More importantly, they had also won their last 14 games, the longest in either Division I Subdivision at that time. They had an overall record of 6-34-1 against major FBS teams. The Mountaineers ran a no-huddle spread option system, which they implemented in 2005, their first championship season.

Michigan paid Appalachian State $400,000 to play the game.

When it was all said and done, Michigan lost 34-32 in front of a stunned crowd of 109,208.

Wolverines Coach Lloyd Carr was stunned while Mountaineers Coach Jerry Moore was on Cloud Nine.

The Wolverines would finish the season 9-4 and ended their season beating the Florida Gators 41-35 in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando.

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Where was I when all of this history took place on September 1, 2007?

I was covering My first FAU Football Game for the Deerfield Beach Observer at Lockhart Stadium for a team that was coached by Howard Schnellenberger, who is in the photo at this year's Spring Game.

FAU faced Middle Tennessee State, who was and is currently coached by Rick Stockstill, now in his 14th season.

FAU defeated Middle Tennessee State 27-14 in front of 11,398 fans.

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The aftermath of the Big Upset at The Big House saw ASU win their third consecutive FCS Championship.

The Mountaineers became the first FCS team to receive votes in the Final AP Poll. They received five votes which placed them at a tie for 34th overall with The University of South Florida.

Michigan hosted the Mountaineers again in 2014 and the visitor received $850,000 to get mauled 52-14. The Mountaineers were now members of FBS and played in the Sun Belt Conference.

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Twelve years nearly to the day, Stockstill would face The No.7 Michigan Wolverines on August 31, 2019 on The Big 10 Network.

Middle Tennessee State entered the game as 35.5 point underdogs and they compete in Conference USA.

The Blue Raiders capitalized on two U-M turnovers and scored late in garbage time, but lost 40-21 in front of 110,811. The margin of victory didn't reach the point spread. But there would be no major upsets this time. 


While I have no idea of the amount Middle Tennessee State earned for this game, I assume they earned between $750,000 -- $ 1 Million.


But the prime-time exposure was priceless.

As I look back at the sequence of events, it's surreal to think that Middle Tennessee State, located on the outskirts of Nashville in Murfreesboro, would face the two teams I cover 12 years apart nearly to the day with a historical upset.

Nevertheless, it was a good opportunity to reminisce where I was when a particular game occurred.

We'll see Middle Tennessee State in action as The Blue Raiders face FAU at 4 pm on October 12, 2019 in Boca Raton, FL.

Yet, it's amazing how things indeed come full circle.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is the Founder and CEO of The South Florida Tribune.

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