Friday, November 20, 2020

No Ordinary Football Game

 BY SCOTT MORGANROTH 

If you looked at the FAU schedule earlier in the year, there was no U-Mass Minutemen sighting. 

This game was announced less than two weeks ago to give FAU another home game otherwise their contest with Western Kentucky University on November 7 would have been the last of 2020.

As I came to the game with My wife, I told her this contest would have a different feel to it. There is a strong possibility it will be the last one I attend with my mother alive. 

This game featured an opponent that’s nickname is called the Minutemen.

At around Midnight, we’ll be driving to Detroit as we look forward to seeing my mother.

She is currently in Hospice and has COPD where she’s on oxygen 24 hours a day. 

Unfortunately, smoking is about to take the life of an immediate family member. 

On May 11, 1973, My Grandfather Sidney Morganroth died at the age of 55 of lung cancer. After my grandfather’s passing, my father quit smoking cold turkey and I never started.

My mother is a very polarizing individual. 

Since I last saw her in August of 2019, her health has deteriorated badly. But she’s battled COPD like a warrior. I have to admit that I’m surprised she’s still alive. Thanks to periodic Face Time Calls, I’ve been able to see her. There were times I wanted to see her this year, but COVID-19 made that impossible.

I’m thankful that she was alive to be around for her 60th Wedding Anniversary. She also saw the birth of another great grandchild along with the announcement that another one is on the way.

My hope right now is she’ll be alive when we get there, and make it through Thanksgiving. 

She does have a birthday on December 7 and she’s supposed to turn 79.

On April 18, 1775, the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere took place.

On November 21, 2020, the Midnight Ride of Scott Morganroth will take place.

What makes this 20 hour plus trip to Metro Detroit more difficult is I won’t be able to see any of my other family members or close friends as Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer has paused restaurants for three weeks. 

We’ll be staying at an Extended Stay and making our own meals to minimize the risks of being diagnosed with COVID-19.

There is twice as much pressure to avoid the virus as it would put my mother and father at risk. They’re definitely high risks in their late 70’s. I couldn’t live with the thought of my parents passing away with us coming to town.

So this FAU Game was very therapeutic for me.

The Owls went into the contest 4-1, while their counterpart was 0-2. 

Initially, the Minuteman cancelled their season but as the year progressed, they decided to schedule four contests all on the road. 

Their first two games were lopsided losses. 

On October 17, Georgia Southern trounced U-Mass 41-0 in Statesboro, GA. 

On November 7, Marshall hammered the Minuteman 51-10 in Huntington, WV.

FAU came off an impressive 38-19 win over FIU on Friday, November 13 to win the Shula Bowl.

How would the Owls respond vs U-Mass?

FAU took a 7-0 lead in the first half and rolled to a 24-2 win.

Owls QB Javion Posey was 13-27-203 yards with 0 TD’s and 0 interceptions. 

Posey did his damage on the ground with 19 carries for 90 yards and one touchdown. He had a run of 70 yards. 

Running back BJ Emmons had eight carries for 25 yards and one touchdown.

FAU doubled up U-Mass with 16 first downs to eight and led in time of possession 34:50–25:10. FAU dominated offensively as the Owls out gained U-Mass in total yards 368-147.

Another defensive gem for FAU as the Minutemen’s only points occurred on block punt that resulted in a safety.

Taggart remained undefeated at FAU Stadium as he is 5-0. 

More importantly, FAU completes its home schedule going 4-0.

Taggart was pleased that his team went undefeated at home.

“I love playing in this stadium and I haven’t lost here,” Taggart said. “I wish I could play them all here. Our goal was to go undefeated at home and we accomplished that.”

I asked Taggart about adding U-Mass to the schedule on short notice. He said, “this was brought up a month ago and we had an open week and wanted an extra home game. U-Mass wanted to play this game and we just had to sign the contract.”

Taggart was once again pleased at the performance of the defense.

“The defense played great and we held them to two points,” he said. “The coaching staff did a good job as we forced two turnovers. This was the first time our guys got two turnovers since the first game. We still have lots of work to do offensively.”

With the win, FAU improved to 5-1 while U-Mass fell to 0-3. This is the third game that the Minutemen have lost by more than 22 points.

Ironically, FAU will play Georgia Southern on December 5 at Statesboro, GA. 

The Owls hit the road for a contest at Middle Tennessee at Murfreesboro on November 28 at 3:30 pm.

For us the journey up I-75 North begins.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Sebring, A Bucket List Item!

 BY SCOTT MORGANROTH 

If you could turn back time, what would you like to do for a living?

This is a No-Brainer for me!

I would like to be a race car driver. 

Yes, it’s expensive to get in the sport and it’s tough to get involved. 

But remember, I asked the question, what would you like to do for a living? There is nothing better in life than an adrenaline rush!

Sometimes I often think the thing which is close to a race track is when I drive on all kinds of highways. I don’t mind two lane roads, but I prefer the major ones. Needless to see, my wife has to use her tablet when I drive on the highways because I love speed and passing drivers. 

During the years, I’ve covered auto racing, attended races as a fan, have driven around tracks and have taken ride alongs.

I’ve covered races at Michigan International Speedway, Miami-Homestead Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway, Sebring International Raceway, Detroit’s Belle Isle Road Course while I’ve taken laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. I also took them at Phoenix.

But there is one constant to all of this! 

Not only do I enjoy getting to the track early to prepare for these races, but it’s neat to walk around these venues.

There are plenty more tracks on my bucket list! There are plenty of ride alongs to be had! 

In 2019, I started covering events at Sebring. My former colleague, Herb Branham at the Tampa Tribune introduced me to Sebring Track Historian Ken Breslauer. Branham knew Breslauer as Herb held the same position at the Daytona International Speedway.

After working this last year, this event is addictive!

Sebring International Raceway is a 3.74 Mile Course with 17 turns. It’s open seating without capacity limitation. If there is ever a track where you need an RV and Motor Home, this one is it! It’s extremely fan friendly and there is no way to conduct this event without fans. There is plenty of room for social distancing. It’s a very spacious environment.

It occupies the site of Hendricks Army Airfield, a training base for B17 pilots in operation from 1941 to 1946.

The first 12 Hours of Sebring was held on March 15, 1952. 

Can you imagine a Corvette, Cadillac, Lamborghini, Lexus, Porsche, BMW, Audi, Ferrari, and Mercedes driving at an average speed of 120 MPH and 180 MPH on straightaways on an Asphalt/Concrete Surface? They do and the amount of money spent on these vehicles is incredible.

What makes Sebring Special is we’re talking about Endurance Racing. 

The yearly spectacle normally occurs in March, but this year, The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Presented By Advance Auto Parts occurred on Saturday, November 14th.

What’s great about Endurance Racing is that it’s very relatable to me. 

When I travel, I prefer to drive instead of fly. 

For me, I like to drive straight through to get to my destination and in many cases, going over 10 hours at a time is a piece of cake. Furthermore, I get stronger as the drive continues especially when I travel during the middle of the night. 

I’m a meditation junky and often make my best decisions behind the wheel listening to music! 

My wife Candy calls me a “Crazy Man” because she’s never seen anyone that has my tenacity to get stronger as the drive gets longer. 

Before My Mother-In-Law died, she always worried about my outrageous road trips. 

Many years ago, I couldn’t call my grandmother because she always worried about me so what I did was called her when I would get in my hotel room.

When you work a race at Sebring in the Press Box, there is no shortage of caffeine, energy drinks, and sweets because you need to get that sugar buzz to get through the day.

But Breslauer has been great to work with. I’ve had him on my broadcasts numerous times. Last year, he spent time educating me on Endurance Racing. The South Florida Tribune is on the Media Distribution List for IMSA therefore, I have a better understanding of the sport. 

Breslauer told me that COVID-19 has presented some challenges this year as the 12 Hours of Sebring, which is held in the third week of March was moved to the fall and will decide the IMSA Championship. 

To deal with Covid-19, they held a race in July to make sure that the event would run smoothly. 

One thing that didn’t factor was time of the race. 

During the Spring, the beginning of the race starts 40 minutes later because of Daylight Savings Time. This year’s race started at 10:10 AM and ended at 10:10 PM.

Breslauer said that he enjoys having his event in the spring.

“There is no reason to change it, the tradition is the third Saturday in March, “ he said. “People plan their vacations around this and it’s Spring Break. The Championship Weekend is held at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. We’re more than happy to give it back to them. We’re the second race of the year behind Daytona (Rolex 24 Hours) which is the Florida Doubleheader. It’s like the PGA Tour where they have all of their Florida Golf Events together during the Winter.”

NASCAR Legend Jimmie Johnson recently retired and will race in Indy Cars in 2021. He’s looking for a new challenge with a less demanding schedule. 

Breslauer doesn’t think it’s far fetched to believe that the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion could appear in this historical venue.

“I think so,” Breslauer said. “It’s always good to have NASCAR Stars race here. We’ve had them in the past. There is a good chance we could see that down the road.”

Sebring has no trouble landing big name drivers.

There were six former Indianapolis 500 winners competing in the Twelve Hours of Sebring. 

They include Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Breslauer wrote a book called “SEBRING” and it’s The Record Book of America’s Legendary 12 Hour Sports Endurance Race. 

It’s loaded with photos and is a must buy if you’re a Motor Sports Fan. It can be purchased on E-Bay.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com. 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Winning Ugly In Paradise

 BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Prior to the FAU vs Western Kentucky Football Game, I had an opportunity to spend time with my niece Bria outside her dorm room.

She’s a freshman and is enjoying life in Boca Raton, FL.

One of the things that I told her that when I reflect back on my college experience back in the 1980’s that I won ugly to get my degree. Working full-time made it tough to reach the highest grades, but my priority was not having to pay back student loans.

By the end of the evening, winning ugly would come into play as the FAU Owls defeated the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 10-6. The win improved FAU’s record to 3-1 while the visitors dropped to 2-6.

Why was this game ugly?

The score was 0-0 at the half and 3-3 at the end of the third quarter.

There were 10 punts, five on each side. 

The one punt that stood out was a 70-yarder with no return by Matt Hayball. 

Coach Willie Taggart challenged him all week to make a difference and Hayball did just that as his kick changed field position for WKU and had them deep into their own territory.

If you were looking for offense, this would not be the game. 

FAU out gained WKU 273-257.

Time of possession favored the visitors 33:49-26:11. 

Taggart made a gutty call and decided to not kick a field goal on fourth down and one late in the game. FAU converted and the game winning touchdown was an 11-yard TD run by QB Javion Posey with 2:27 left in the game. 

Posey took the place of Nick Tronti, who was benched. Posey provided a spark as he had nine carries for 60 yards. His lone pass was intercepted.

Taggart has now coached four games at FAU Stadium and has won all of them.

When he was coaching at Western Kentucky in 2011, he beat the Owls 20-0 to open the new on-campus stadium. 

He’s 4-0 at FAU Stadium and will face U-Mass on Friday November 20 at 8 pm.

When I asked Taggart about Winning Ugly In Paradise, he had a fun time answering this question.

“This was a great win for the Owls,” he said. “It was a tough, hard fought game and we hung in there for four quarters. We found a way to win a tough ball game. I don’t believe in ugly wins (smiling). This is gorgeous, have to embrace it, celebrate it and get excited about it. It’s tough to win games and this was pretty.”

FAU’s win over the Hilltoppers gave the Owls a 9-3 advantage in this series. It is one of the longest series in Owls history.

FAU returns to action on Friday, November 13 as the Owls travel to FIU and face the Golden Panthers in Miami for the Shula Bowl at 7 pm.

Like FAU, FIU has been facing COVID-19 issues and has been idle the past two weeks. This contest is scheduled for 7 pm. FIU is 0-3.

 Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com. 

Inter-Miami, Recap Before International Break

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH This is the time of the year in sports where we begin to hit that slower period where the NBA Finals are complete, the N...