Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Playing On House Money?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Prior to the start of the 2020 Vrbo Citrus Bowl, tickets for the secondary market were going for $150-$200 for the New Years Day contest.

That was no surprise when you consider the match-up was the Michigan Wolverines (9-3) against the Alabama Crimson Tide (10-2).

This number didn't surprise Florida Citrus Sports PR Guy Sam Gardner since the Bowl's objective is to get "two good helmets" which they indeed accomplish here with these storied programs. Going into the game, the series was tied 2-2.

The attendance for the game was 59,746 which was the largest since the 2016 game that saw Michigan maul the Florida Gators 41-7.

Michigan entered the game as 10 point underdogs so virtually many analysts predicted that Alabama would win.

Many of the people I spoke to were rooting for Michigan because of their dislike for Alabama Coach Nick Saban.

If you're a Miami Dolphins fan, Saban had an abrupt departure.

Since the Florida Gators own the Sunshine State, Alabama and Saban detest the Crimson Tide.

The game started with Michigan's Giles Jackson running the opening kick-off 50 yards, but the Wolverines were unable to take advantage of the excellent field position.

Alabama wasted no time on their opening possession as Tide QB Mac Jones connected to Jerry Jeudy for an 85-yard TD. The drive took all of 11 seconds giving Alabama a 7-0 lead with 13:47 left in the first quarter. Jeudy is from Deerfield Beach, FL.

But Michigan wouldn't get rattled as QB Shea Patterson showed great mobility in the pocket to extend plays in the passing game and got some timely runs.

The Wolverines scored 13 unanswered points to take a 13-7 lead deep into the second quarter.

Alabama would mount a scoring drive that was aided by a Michigan pass interference and a roughing the passer call that was capped by an eight plays 75 yard drive that took 3:44 capped by a nine-yard run by Najee Harris. It occurred at 3:32 left in the quarter.

The Wolverines took the lead at halftime thanks to Quinn Nordin's who kicked the longest field goal in Citrus Bowl history at 57 yards. It tied the longest FG in Michigan history. Michigan took a 16-14 lead.

Alabama won the toss to start the contest and this decision led to scoring on the opening drive in the third quarter. Davis hit DeVonta Smith for a 42-yard score. The extra point was good and Alabama regained the lead to 21-16.

The Crimson Tide scored again with 10:01 left in the fourth quarter. A Jones 58-yard pass from Davis to Jeudy led to a score. Davis threw a 20-yard touchdown that extended the lead to 28-16 to Miller Forristall.

At that point, Jeudy had six catches for 204 yards and one touchdown. Those would be his final totals and he was voted the game's MVP.

The Wolverines would not keep the game below double figures. Patterson would toss an interception late in the fourth quarter.

This led to yet another Alabama touchdown as the Crimson Tide relied on the legs of Harris who carried the ball 11 times. He scored a two-yard touchdown that extended the lead with the extra point giving Alabama a 35-16 triumph.

Alabama outscored Michigan 21-0 in the second half.

Alabama leads the all-time series 3-2.

If you're looking for a pair of good NFL prospects then Jeudy and Harris could be playing on Sunday.

Jeudy declared for the NFL Draft and just signed super agent Leigh Steinberg Tuesday, to represent him.

Harris finished the game with 24 carries for 140 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

There were lots of questions after the game as to whether or not Alabama ran up the score as Saban looked to get revenge on Harbaugh for luring his assistant Josh Gattis to Ann Arbor.

But in the end, there were only three statistics that mattered in this game.

Alabama out gained Michigan in total yards 480-395.

Michigan found the yellow flag as an enemy by committing seven penalties for 61 yards while Alabama had five for 25 yards.

The time of possession battle favored Michigan as the Wolverines led 34:47-25:13 which truly indicated that the final score was closer than the actual end result.

Harbaugh mentioned this at his post-game press conference.

"It was a very competitive game through the half, into the fourth quarter, until, really, until about six minutes left in the game. Their ability to create the big play was critical in the game, and their ability to keep us out of the end zone and through drives. We had long drives and settled for field goals."

Harbaugh was asked about the future of the program heading into next year.

"I feel good about that. I feel good about some of the young players that got experiences this season and, you know, them getting their opportunity, going to work on that. I mean, as Jordan (Glasgow) said this season just ended 10 minutes ago, so-- but I know I'm going to be excited about it."

Harbaugh can feel good about the fact that one of Michigan's key victories occurred against Notre Dame, the Wolverines were able to defeat Michigan State.

But for the Coach that earns more money at his Alma-Mater than most NFL coaches, his next challenges ahead are on the recruiting trail. He has to find the successor for Shea Patterson at quarterback.

Harbaugh and that QB will be tasked with beating Ohio State in Columbus at the end of the 2020 Season.

In the end, the team wasn't expected to defeat Alabama and he should view this game as though his squad was indeed, "Playing On House Money."

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottbm33@gmail.com.
He's the Owner of The South Florida Tribune and it's Broadcasting Network.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Sunshine State Struggles

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When you think of the Sunshine State what comes to mind are the beaches, bikini's, night clubs, palm trees, high rise condominiums and hotels.

There are other parts of Florida that aren't great such as the scams, numerous call centers, toll roads, transient drivers that lead to crashes and of course we can't forget the hurricanes.

When I lived here in the 1980's, the only major sports teams in the state were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Miami Dolphins.

But how things have changed through the years.

South Florida has all four major sports while the Tampa Bay Area has three.

Even Jacksonville has an NFL team, the Jaguars.

Back in the 1980's, I never visualized that NHL Hockey would ever take place in the Sunshine State let a lone succeed. Where would the crowds come from?

After covering enough games through the years, the transplants show their colors at Tampa's Amalie Arena and the BB&T Center in Sunrise.

The Red Wings have a very good following at the BB&T Center.

It's nice to see the Red Wings twice in Sunrise which is 20 minutes from home.

I-75 North is a four hour drive if I take the trek to Tampa to see the Lightning.

When I saw the Red Wings get scheduled to play on My Birthday Weekend on December 28 and 29, this was too good to pass up.

Would there be a win during the holiday season for the Red Wings? Unfortunately, No!

Would the Red Wings be at least be competitive that weekend? Yes!

But I was wondering about them being competitive especially after Detroit's first game in Sunrise on November 2, 2019, when they looked flat and were blanked 4-0.

What occurred were a pair of one goal losses.

The Red Wings lost to the Florida Panthers 5-4 on December 28.

There were only two statistics that mattered.

First, Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard faced 30 shots and five got behind him.

Second, his record dropped to 2-13-1. Howard was playing his second game after a 10 game absence.

The Red Wings have now lost five straight to the Panthers.

But Coach Jeff Blashill left the contest pleased with his teams' effort.

The last time I saw the Red Wings play in Tampa, there were lots or Red and White jerseys in the stands.

This was no longer the case as current Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman changed the culture of the franchise and has turned them into a winner.

Yzerman didn't travel with the Red Wings during this trip.

Would the Red Wings get blown out in this game?

Tampa hasn't been kind to Detroit as the Red Wings haven't won there since February 17, 2011.

That would not be the case again as the Lightning defeated Detroit 2-1.

The Red Wings fell to 2-16-2 in their last 20 games.

The score could have been worse if it wasn't for the play of Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier. He faced 39 shots and gave up two goals.

He kept the Red Wings in the game all night, but scoring one goal doesn't get it done.

The Red Wings have now lost 16 straight road games in Tampa.

They'll return here on Saturday, March 14 and hope to break this long drought.

Once again, Blashill was pleased with the competitive level of his team and hoped that would carry over into their New Year's Eve Clash two days later against the San Jose Sharks on December 31, 2019.

After losing by two goals that weekend, two was yet the magic number as this time, the Red Wings shutout the Sharks 2-0 at Little Caesars Arena.

The team's six-game losing streak was over,

Once again, it was the stellar play of Bernier that stood out as he stopped all 34 pucks that came his way.

It was Bernier's first shutout of the season and 18th of his career. He improved to 8-11-2.

Through the halfway point in the season, Detroit has a 10-28-3 record with 23 points and is the worst in the NHL.

The second worst team is the New Jersey Devils who own a 15-19-6 mark with 36 points.

What will the next 41 games be like?

One can only hope that the 2020 portion of the schedule is kinder than 2019.

On a positive note to end the year, Tyler Bertuzzi, 24, who leads the Red Wings with 30 points will be playing in the All-Star Game in St. Louis in February.

One thing seems certain is that they're playing hard for Blashill and Yzerman keeps stressing patience and we'll see if the younger players take advantage of their opportunities to see if they'll be playing in Detroit long term.

One guy to watch will be Filip Zadina, a 2018 pick who demonstrates great presence around the net that has the capabilities of being a goal scorer.

We'll find whether the Red Wings will get lucky to get the marquee franchise player they so desperately need in the June NHL Draft.

From my standpoint, it was neat seeing some old friends again such as Ken Kal, Paul Woods, Ted Kulfan and Trevor Thompson to name a few.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottbm33@gmail.com and is the Owner of The South Florida Tribune and Broadcasting Network.

East Meets West

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Throughout my 41 years in Sports Media, I've been fortunate to be a member of some great organizations.

The first organization I got involved in was Detroit Sports Media (formerly the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association (DSBA).

During the past 12 months, I've broadened my platforms to the following organizations:

*American Sportscasters Association (ASA), based out of New York City, NY.
*National Sports Media Association (NSMA) whose headquarters are in Winston Salem, NC.
*Southern California Sports Broadcasters (SCSB) which is in Los Angeles, CA.

If there was an organization in Florida, you can rest assure I'd be a part of it because these are great avenues to network and possibly get jobs, get involved in local events, attend a once a year party, awards banquet, and possibly line up guests for my shows.

I'm convinced that there is no better way to meet professionals than on LinkedIn.

On December 21, 2018, I connected with Chris Roberts, the "Voice of UCLA" who worked with the university for 23 years from 1992-2016.

During the past year as I've gotten to know Roberts, we refer to one another as "Broadcast Brothers."

He's always provided great advice for me in this industry and has been a guest on the Sports Exchange when I've needed him. I enjoy the interaction we have on the air as we promote Southern California Sports on the East Coast.

In February of 2016, Roberts became the President of SCSB.

This organization was formed in 1958.

Vin Scully is the only living original member of SCSB.

Roberts is the reason I joined SCSB.

I've always had a philosophy to meet the guests that I network with and bring on my show.

On Tuesday, January 7, 2020, the meeting with Roberts will take place as I'll be attending the 2020 SCSB Awards Luncheon at the Lakeside Golf Club in Burbank, CA.

The event begins with Cocktail's at 10:15-11:30 am. The Award Luncheon begins at 11:30 and lasts until 2 pm.

The 2020 Hall of Fame Class will have two members in Matt Stevens and Bill Macdonald.

Stevens is a radio analyst for UCLA Football while Macdonald is the television play by play commentator for the Lakers.

The Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Ralph Lawler while the President's Award goes to Vic "The Brick" Jacobs.

Jacobs works with a Radio Anchor Team that also consists of Dan Beyer, Deb Carson, Isaac Lowenkron, David Glascon, Steve DeSaegher and Ralph Irvin.

Lawler does television play by play for the Los Angeles Clippers.

In my next story, I'll announce the winners of the other awards.

When Roberts and I did a preview of the event Thursday Night on The Sports Exchange, we did go over the ballot.

A few names that caught my attention were Michigander Joe Davis, who does play by play for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Former Detroit Lions QB Rodney Peete, who played his college ball at USC, has a radio show with longtime LA Broadcaster Fred Roggin.

Former Detroit Piston Stu Lantz is a television game/studio analyst for the Lakers.

Another Lion Nate Burleson does pre-season football for the LA Rams.

Former ESPN broadcaster Charley Steiner used to announce Boxing for the world wide leader, He would eventually call games for the New York Yankees then traded the subway for the freeways in LA to work for the Dodgers.

Another interesting name is former Detroit Piston for a day Robert Horry.

Horry was traded by the Houston Rockets to Detroit, but the trade became voided when Dennis Rodman failed to pass a physical. Horry works as a television game/studio analyst for the Lakers.

Former Detroit Tigers play by play announcer Josh Lewin is calling Roberts former sports with his former employer UCLA. He does Bruins Football and Basketball.

When I attended the Olympic Games in LA in 1984, Jim Hill was an anchor. He still is and I voted for him.

This is just the sampling of who could win awards. As I mentioned before, I'll mention the winners next week.

One thing is for certain. Whether Scully is in attendance remains to be seen. There will be two segments of him congratulating the winners.

Roberts told me that I'm the first media member to be a part of SCSB. I certainly hope that continues.

There are 100 members in the SCSB and it costs $40 to join. It's a membership that is open to the public and the SCSB is involved in the community.

As I get ready to take this cross-country trip, my objectives are quite clear.

My goal is to get some great photos, line-up future guests and hand out business cards in order to give exposure the South Florida Tribune and it's Broadcasting Network.

I also have some good friends in the area.

If I get the itch, there is also the beautiful drive up the Pacific Coast Highway. I call it Meditation 101!

One interesting fact is The LA Metro Area is the No.2 Media Market in the country. It's also the Entertainment Capital of the World.

There will be some sight-seeing as well, as I can only hope that should I be able attend this event in 2021, My Wife Candy will come to Southern California for the first time.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottbm33@gmail.com and is the Owner of The South Florida Tribune and Broadcasting Network.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

A Real Georgia Peach, Falcons Style!

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
ATLANTA, GA

I've always been enamored in seeing new stadiums and do everything I can to get to them when the situation presents itself.

In this very city on September 6, 1992, I saw the first game ever at the now demolished Georgia Dome. This facility cost $214 Million which would equate to $382 Million in 2018.

It hosted two Super Bowls and 23 SEC Championship Games along with 25 Peach Bowls.

What it wasn't was the home for Brett Favre, who was traded to the Green Bay Packers on February11, 1992.

It was demolished on November 20, 2017.

The Atlanta Falcons hosted the New York Jets.

Bruce Coslet was the head coach of the Jets while Jerry Glanville roamed the sidelines for the Falcons.

Browning Nagle was the QB for the Jets while Chris Miller was the signal caller for Atlanta.

The Falcons had a 20-3 lead but the Jets lost the game 20-17. A Norm Johnson 54-yard field goal in the second quarter was the difference in the game.

What made this trip possible to Mercedes Benz Stadium was a pre-planned family trip that started out on December 8, 2019 when we covered the Jags contest against the LA Chargers in Jacksonville.

After the game, we drove to Racine, WI and spent 12 days with family. We departed Wisconsin on December 20, 2019 and visited another family member in Nashville, TN then took the five hour trek to Atlanta on December 21, 2019.

There were lots of things that made this visit different.

First of all the cost to build this incredible facility was $1.6 Billion and it's only two years old.

Second, unlike my first NFL appearance in Atlanta where I was a neutral writer, I have a vested interest in this game. I'm covering the contest as a writer working with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Third, there is an actual first since this is the Jaguars inaugural regular season appearance in this venue.

What made this such a fascinating experience is there were no game notes as this Press Box is totally paperless as my monitor demonstrates. I wouldn't be surprised to see more teams going paperless in this fashion.

Before the game, I joked with Jaguars Director of Public Relations Tad Dickman and he was enlightened about my previous visit. He hadn't heard of some of the players and coaches that I mentioned.

The head coaches for this game are Dan Quinn of Atlanta and Doug Marrone of Jacksonville.

Each team was 5-9 going into the game. We'll know whether these coaches will be employed by their current teams in the coming weeks.

The signal callers are Matt Ryan of the Falcons and Gardner Minshew II.

The key players to watch are wide receiver Julio Jones for Atlanta and running back Leonard Fournette of the Jaguars.

Unlike other venues around the country to make a return appearance here is easy as the Jaguars face each other every pre-season. Jacksonville is scheduled to return to Atlanta in 2020.

When we left here, the Peach Bowl is one of the College Football Playoff Games.

On December 28, 2019, (4) Oklahoma 12-1 squares off against Fournette's Alma-Mater (1) LSU 13-0 which will showcase Heisman Trophy Winner Joe Burrow.

Today, it was raining outside so if there is an incentive to come back, which there is, I can only imagine what this Jewel would be like with the roof open. From our place to this stadium is about a nine-hour drive up I-75 so it's very doable.

Unfortunately for Jacksonville it rained hard in the opening minutes of the first quarter.

Atlanta put together an opening drive that went six plays, 83 yards and took 3:33 to complete. Davante Freeman scored on a 17-yard run.

If you had Freeman on your fantasy team, he exceeded his projection by the 9:28 mark in the first quarter as a Jacksonville turnover led to another touchdown.

The Falcons had a four play, 25-yard drive that took 1:50 to complete. Freeman caught an eight-yard touchdown from Ryan.

Two touchdowns early in the contest for Freeman. With 2:19 left in the first quarter, Freeman had amassed 20.90 fantasy points and was projected to get 15.72 in Yahoo Leagues.

The Jags trailed 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter each team traded field goals and Atlanta took a 17-3 lead at halftime.

This score is similar to the one when the Falcons hosted the New York Jets.

Unfortunately, for Jacksonville, when it was all said and done, the Jaguars built themselves too big of a hole to get out of.

The Falcons would pull out a 24-12 win and Ryan, Freeman and Jones were the three-headed monster that doomed them in Atlanta's home finale.

The Jaguars defense yielded 518yards. Including this game, they've given up over 500 twice and 11 in the teams' history. Somewhere out in Los Angeles, Jalen Ramsey must be smiling.

Ryan was superb by throwing for 384 yards and a touchdown. Freeman was a dual threat by rushing for 53 yards and adding another 74 via the air along with two touchdowns. Jones had 10 catches for 166 yards.

Freeman's final fantasy total was 33.70.

The end result was another Jacksonville loss. The team dropped to 5-10, while while Quinn, whom many perceived to be on the hot seat has watched his squad improve to 6-9.

Quinn would retain his job as he'll be roaming the sidelines for the Falcons in 2020. Atlanta won it's last game 28-22 in OT at Tampa Bay to finish the year 7-9.

At the post- game press conference you can tell that Marrone was mentally drained. He's dealt with injuries, off the field controversies, the firing of his boss Tom Coughlin and most of all, a season that lacked wins.

After the press conference, Owner Shad Khan was in there meeting with him with the door closed.

The Jaguars defeated the Indianapolis Colts 38-20 on December 29, 2019 and concluded the season 6-10.

Black Monday on December 30, 2019 was not the end of the Marrone era. Khan gave him and GM David Caldwell one last year to figure this out opting for continuity rather than house cleaning.

Although the Falcons will return to this Palace in August, it was be neat watch the Peach Bowl Game as LSU hammered Oklahoma 63-28 on December 29, 2019. The NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four comes here in April.

We look forward to conquering our next stadium, I truly hope it won't be 27 years until I return since their is unfinished business with the open roof.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottbm33@gmail.com and is the Owner of The South Florida Tribune and Broadcasting Network.

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