Monday, November 26, 2007

Spanning the Nation: Two Game Winning Streak Edition

Well, the Irish played their 12th and final tackle football game on Saturday, a contest in which they had nothing to gain by winning but probably still would've lost something had things gone the other way. When you're 2-9, the knife is already stuck deep inside you; falling to 2-10 is just the little twist of it to slash up some more internal organs before you wither and die. So it was nice to avoid that. On a somewhat positive note, there are a lot of players on this ND team who clearly still have their best football in front of them. Now comes one of the most critical offseasons in program history between the conditioning and development of who's in the program and a solid job of closing on the recruiting trail. Having said that, how'd the week go for everybody else's teams?

Angelo Suozzi - Hometown: Pittsford, NY

Hot damn, the Sabres are on a winning streak! After wrapping up last week with a win over Montreal, the boys in marigold beat the best team in the NHL, Ottawa, then swept a home-and-home against the Canadiens for their fourth straight win. With a home date tonight against the Capitals, the current Worst Team in the NHL, the Sabres can break a tie with Toronto and climb out of the cellar in the Northeast Division. Lindy Ruff's crew may finally be coming together. Over in Orchard Park, the mood is decidedly less festive. A four-game winning streak that put the Bills over .500 sparked thoughts of a playoff run, but consecutive embarrassments versus the AFC's elite in New England and Jacksonville have Dick Jauron adjusting his thinking. And then re-adjusting his re-adjustments. This guy changes quarterbacks more often than Charlie Weis; today he announced the 5-6 Bills will go back to rookie Trent Edwards - trust me, he can loft a sure interception into double coverage and kill all the momentum of a fourth quarter drive just as efficiently as JP Losman.

Thomas McCall - Hometown: Lake Charles, LA

LSU Tiger fans had a lot to be thankful for over the long holiday break, and Thomas was only too happy to join in the festivities. Attending Les Miles' Farewell Concert at Tiger Stadium, T-Mac was wowed by the intensity of the Cajun faithful and the overwhelming support for Tigers quarterback Matt Flynn (the "You Suck" chants are just them sayin' they love you, Matt). Unfortunately, Gentleman Les tripped up an amplifier or two and blew out the speakers in his farewell concert before he retires home to Michigan, as LSU finally rolled snake eyes in losing 52-50 in triple overtime to the soon-to-be Nutt-less Arkansas Razorbacks. The post-mortem? "Dark and calm", Thomas reported. "No hang overs. Just tears." Across the state in NOLA, the Saints finally emerged from hibernation and tripped up the Carolina Panthers, with the added bonus of Marques Colston finally catching a f&*king touchdown pass. The Crescent City Warriors are nestled comfortably in the logjam of 5-6 teams fighting for the NFC Wild Card.

Pat Girouard/Joe Long - Hometown: Cretin Derham Hall, MN

I think Pat Girouard is too tough on the Vikings. What they did on Saturday is not easy to accomplish - returned not one, not two, but three interceptions off the Golden Arm of Eli Manning for touchdowns in a stunning romp over the G-Men in New Jersey (payback for that humbling 2000 NFC Championship game, I suppose). The Twins' week was less enjoyable, as Torii Hunter officially shunned them for the warm, sunny confines of Disneyland as a member of the six-man outfield platoon for the LA Angels of Anaheim. Things cooled off on the ice, as the Wild suffered defeats to divisional rivals Colorado and Vancouver, bunching things together in the Northwest division as four teams are separated by a total of three points. And Wisconsin kicked back to enjoy the first of six weeks off before their likely trip to the Alamo Bowl. 

Brian Fallon - Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI

It's all starting to crumble for Fallon's beloved Detroit Lions. For the third straight week they played sloppy, unimpressive football (those are codewords for "typical Lions performance") and righted themselves just long enough to give a faint glimmer of hope before proving they didn't belong when they couldn't stop Ryan Grant in the fourth quarter. Among the teams that have been known to stop Ryan Grant: Michigan, Michigan State, Navy, Rutgers, Oregon State, BYU, Washington, USC, Boston College, & Pittsburgh. Maybe Rod Marinelli should seek a consult. The Red Wings didn't have a very fun Thanksgiving weekend either, losing to the pesky Nashville Predators and then falling in a shootout to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Even with those hiccups, nobody on the Wings should be panicking when they're just a point behind Ottawa in the President's Trophy standings. But Fallon probably walks away the big winner in fantasy: his juggernaut First Round Wideouts established a league-high in scoring for the year with 106 points in drubbing Girouard's Gator Bowl Bound crew. In case you were wondering, yes, he did that despite having a player in the lineup who didn't score.

Kevin Braun - Hometown: Lancaster, PA

I think Andy Reid neatly summarizes Kevin's own thoughts at this time: "Three points, man. Three points. The Patriots and three points. They're killing me with it." It was the perfect Cinderella story - down-on-his-luck coach, scrappy cast-off backup quarterback better known for his hot girlfriend, aging and banged up veterans yearning for a second chance three years after getting defeated in the big one, all matched up against the titanic, unstoppable force of nature that cannot be tamed. But, because this is Philadelphia, the story ends with Cinderella getting caught and imprisoned for 10 years on the charge of soliciting the Prince under false pretenses. The Eagles lost, 31-28, despite hurling everything they could think of at the Patriots. But maybe this gives teams across the league renewed hope that a) Belichick's boys are human, and b) there's no need to toss a deep slant-and-go with 4 minutes to play, down by three, deep in New England territory.

George Heidkamp - Hometown: Hinsdale, IL

Nothing but good news for the Packers this week, with a 37-26 win over the Lions on Thanksgiving Day and a showdown against the NFC's Evil Empire, Dallas, on Thursday night. Meanwhile, the White Sox feel like they got kicked in the junk thanks to Torii Hunter signing with the Angels, but look at the bright side: they still get to throw way too much money at a modestly-talented hitter, and they get the benefit of him being two full years younger than Torii (Aaron Rowand)! Why overpay for a Mustang when you can overpay for a Corvair? The death-spiral continues for the Bulls, who are now so bad they've lost to the New York Knicks and earned Isiah Thomas another two-year extension, but the Blackhawks continue to surprise, earning five more points this week to stay with the pack of teams chasing the Red Wings in the Western Conference.

Paul Jacobs - Hometown: St. Louis, MO

The dream is over for the Rams, who bumbled away an opportunity to win against Seattle with a 4th-and-goal fumble at the 1-yd. line. Did Bob Davie take over for Scott Linehan this week? And hey, check out the Blues, who went 3-1 this week to shoot into second place in the Central Division. But Paul's only true love remains far in the distance, though if you want to share in the appreciaton, log on to MLB.com and vote for Jim Edmonds' stunning, vertical lay-out grab in center as the Play of the Year. Unlike the Stanford replay officials, you won't need further review to know it's a catch.

Mike Devitt - Hometown: Marion, IN

Mike's Colts continue to search for their mojo, and it was in short supply during the opening quarter of Thursday's game against Indianapolis. Luckily, everybody settled down and remembered, "Guys, we're playing a team led by Joey Harrington. Let the win come to us." Peyton and Co. did just that and won going away, 31-13, setting up a showdown with Jacksonville for the AFC South lead this coming Sunday. 


Meanwhile, Back at Headquarters...

Irish power forward Luke Harangody continued his terrific start, dropping in 25 points and collecting 13 rebounds in an 87-75 victory over Youngstown State. The lead was actually a lot more comfortable, but get this: a Mike Brey-coached team allowed an opponent to stage a late run in the second half. I'm as shocked as you are. YSU went a 22-5 burst to get the game into single-digits before the Irish finally put it away at the foul line. Harangody was backed up by Kyle McAlarney (23 points, 5/10 on three-pointers) and Zach Hillesland (10 points) while Rob Kurz had 11 rebounds. The Irish were back to their ball-distribution style, as all 7 regulars recorded at least one assist; Notre Dame recorded 24 assists in total on 32 baskets. Having suffered two defeats at the Paradise Jam, the Irish probably now need to sweep their remaining non-conference games (not difficult to do, since they're all at home against meek competition with the exception of a neutral-site game against Kansas State) before even thinking about staying alive for a Tournament bid. The March destination for this team will be determined by conference play so long as they avoid another meltdown during December. But when Mike Brey is the coach, all bets are off.

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