Saturday, October 30, 2010

Temple records 2nd straight shutout; stops Akron 30-0

By John McMullen

Philadelphia (The Phanatic Magazine) -  Last week Temple recorded its first shutout over an FBS opponent in 36 years with a 42-0 decision over Buffalo in western New York.

The Owls must have liked the feeling.

Al Golden's bunch secured its second whitewash in as many weeks on Saturday with a 30-0 triumph over hapless Akron at Lincoln Financial Field.

Mike Gerardi completed 15-of-22 passes for a career-high 209 yards and a touchdown for Temple (7-2, 4-1 MAC), which tied the school record with its 10th consecutive home win and won for the 16th time in its last 20 contests.

The Owls also won 10 consecutive home games form 1972-73 in both Temple and Veterans Stadiums.

Bernard Pierce had 83 yards rushing and a TD on 19 carries and Matt Brown added another 69 on 13 carries. Michael Campbell caught three passes for 96 yards while Rod Streater had five for 35 and added another 46 yards rushing, including a 24-yard scoring run on a reverse.

On the defensive side of the ball, Maurice Jones had two sacks.

Patrick Nicely connected on 15-of-26 passes for 134 yards and an interception for the Zips (0-9, 0-5), who remained winless under first-year coach Rob Ianello. Alex Allen had 30 yards rushing on 10 carries and Antoine Russell finished with five catches for 50 yards.

Akron was intent on stopping the vaunted Temple running game and forcing Gerardi, a former walk-on that took over the starting quarterback job from Chester Stewart earlier this month, to beat them. The Zips stacked the line of scrimmage and Gerardi was able to make some big plays in the passing game early but lacked the consistency to finish.

The two teams exchanged punts to start the contest before Gerardi, backed up inside his own 10-yard line, rolled left and found Campbell for a 35-yard gain. After an 11-play, 84-yard march, the drive bogged down at the Akron 10, however, when Gerardi missed a wide-open Streater on a post pattern in the back of the end zone. The Owls were forced to settle for a 27-yard Brandon McManus field goal and a 3-0 edge with just over six minutes left in the first quarter.

TU extended its lead late in the second quarter with a similar long drive that featured a 45-yard Gerardi to Campbell hookup. This time the Owls stalled inside the 10 after an 11-play, 91-yard drive when Gerardi didn't give Deon Miller a chance on a poorly thrown fade pattern in the end zone. McManus came on again to connect on a 25-yard field goal to give Temple a 6-0 edge with 4:02 left until halftime.

The woeful Akron offense was given its best chance to get on the scoreboard before intermission when defensive end Shawn Lemon came up with a defensive trifecta, sacking Gerardi, forcing a fumble and recovering it at the Owls' 32 with 1:33 remaining. The Zips failed to move the ball much and Igor Iveljic'2 42-yard field goal attempt was blocked by junior defensive back Kee-ayre Griffin.

Brown had just 31 yards rushing on seven carries in the first half, 18 on one play, and Pierce was bottled up with just 21 yards on nine attempts.

Temple came out of the locker room with more urgency and a 38-yard Delano Green punt return gave the Owls great field position on their first possession of the second half. Green's return set the Owls up at the Zips' 37 and the team needed just three plays to take it in. First, Streater took a reverse for 16 yards and Brown followed by going off left tackle for 11, before Gerardi capped the quick-strike by finding freshman tight end Alex Jackson for the 10-yard score.

Junior defensive back Keith Kroboth's interception on Akron's ensuing possession set up McManus' third field goal of the game, this one a 45-yarder with 8:13 remaining in the third quarter to put TU on top 16-0.

The rout was on in the fourth when Streater took a reverse around left end for a 24-yard TD run to make it a 23-0 game with 9:03 left in the game.

Pierce's 8-yard TD run with 2:46 left in the game accounted for the final margin.

TU returns to action next Saturday when the club travels to Dix Stadium to take on Kent State.


*Temple, which is bowl eligible for the second straight year after last week's win in Buffalo, now leads the all-time series with Akron 13-7. This is the first time the Owls have been bowl eligible for two consecutive seasons and just the fifth time in school history that Temple could go "Bowling," 1934 (1935 Sugar Bowl), 1979 (Garden State Bowl), 1990 (7-4 record but no bowl bid) and 2009 (Eaglebank Bowl).

*Since joining the MAC in 2007, the Owls own the league's best home record in conference games at 13-2.

*McManus' three field goals give him 27 for his career, surpassing Chonn Lacey (1998-01) for sixth on the all-time Owls' list. McManus also has 151 career points at Temple, moving past Anthony Anderson (1975-78) or seventh in school history. Pierce's TD gave him 156 career points, tying Nick Mike-Mayer for the
fifth spot.

*Pierce's 83 yards rushing gives him 2,005 for his TU career, passing Mark Bright (1976-79) for sixth in school history.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sixers fall to Hawks; remain winless

Philadelphia - Al Horford scored 20 points and dominated the boards with 12 rebounds as the Atlanta Hawks kept the Philadelphia 76ers winless on the young season with a 104-101 triumph at Wells Fargo Center.

Josh Smith added 12 points, nine rebounds and six blocks and hit a big three- pointer in the final minute before blocking Andres Nocioni's potential gane-tying try at the buzzer in the win, the Hawks' second straight on the road to start the year.

"You can't be scared to take them," Smith said of the big basket. "My whole team puts trust in me. When they do that, it makes it easier on you to make the shot."

All-Star Joe Johnson scored 22 points, while Jamal Crawford netted 19 for Atlanta, which won despite turning it over 20 times.

"That's as athletic a team as you're going to face in the NBA," Sixers head coach Doug Collins said of the Hawks. "So our guys fought like crazy."

Andre Iguodala paced Philadelphia with 27 points, 10 assists and six rebounds, while Lou Williams and Nocioni were sparks off the bench with 16 and 15 points, respectively, in the loss.

Elton Brand had 20 points and eight boards but Jrue Holiday had his second straight subpar performance with eight points on 3-of-11 shooting. Holiday did have four assists and no turnovers, however.

Evan Turner followed up his impressive NBA debut by laying an egg, going scoreless in nearly 19 minutes of action.

The Sixers were impressive in the open floor, amassing 29 fastbreak points to just eight for the Hawks and turned the ball over just eight times to 20 for Atlanta but were manhandled on the glass, snaring just 36 rebounds compared to 46 for the Hawks.

Philadelphia had a chance to even things after Johnson made only 2-for-4 at the foul line in the final 11.7 seconds. After calling timeout with 4.5 ticks left, the Sixers inbounded to Nocioni, and ran Williams off a double screen. The Argentine was unable to locate his teammate, stepped back and attempted a three but Smith was there to block it, as the Hawks escaped with the win.

Phillies' Polanco has surgery

Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco had successful surgery on his left elbow Friday.

Polanco had a procedure done to have bone fragments removed and an extensor tendon repaired.

"It went very well and we are fully expecting Placido to be 100 percent by spring training," said Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. "Placido will have follow-up appointments with the doctor over the next several weeks and we hope to have him swinging the bat again within 10 weeks, around early January."

Polanco was injured early in the season when he was hit by a pitch from Atlanta's Tim Hudson. He spent minimal time off the field and played with the injury through the National League Championship Series, which the Phillies lost to San Francisco in six games.

Polanco just completed the first of a three-year contract he signed with Philadelphia last offseason. In 132 regular season games, the 35-year old batted .298 with 27 doubles and 52 RBI.

Short attention spans will not define Turner

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - Evan Turner was a pretty good college basketball player.

The versatile Chicago native ended a spectacular career filled with accolades at Ohio State as the 2010 National Player of the Year.

A skilled ball-handler, Turner excelled as a facilitator  whether he was toiling at the point, as a two guard or at small forward. Turner excelled when creating for others, and could forge the type of space and separation to get his own shot at virtually any time.

With little left to prove with the Buckeyes Turner decided to forego his senior season and enter the NBA Draft where he was selected second overall by the rebuilding Philadelphia 76ers, a team with quite a few holes but a legitimate prospect at point guard in Jrue Holiday.

Most draft experts raved about the 6-foot-7, 210-pound Turner, comparing him to players like Grant Hill and Brandon Roy. Of course, he would have to learn some new skills while adjusting to the speed of the NBA game.

Doug Collins, the Sixers new coach, quickly fell for Holiday's game, mentioning some of the league's top point guards while addressing the UCLA product's ceiling as a player.

"He is the total package," Collins said of Holiday during his luncheon with the local media before the preseason began. "He is such a good kid and such a hard worker and he is pure. I honestly believe that next year you will talk about him being one of the top five point guards in the league. I think you will speak about him with Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose."

That meant Turner would have to settle in as the team's two-guard and learn to play without the ball in his hands, a totally new skill set for the 22-year-old.

Early results weren't pretty. Turner struggled mightily in the Orlando Summer League and followed that up with a preseason in which he shot a miserable 31 percent from the floor and failed to connect on a single 3-pointer.

"Evan got knocked back this summer, and I think it is the thing that happened to him," Collins explained. "I think it gave him an idea of how hard it is and how tough it is in this game and how nightly he is going to have a bull's-eye, and that guys are going to go at him. He is learning that you have to earn your stripes in this league."

He's also learning how quickly people will give up on you.

In ESPN the Magazine's recent NBA preview issue, Turner was named by three of the four experts polled to be the "Bust of the Year" Yep, Ric Bucher, Jalen Rose and Chris Broussard all gave up on Turner before he played a single real game.

Evidently in our 24-7 news cycle, short attention span culture, four months, the time between the NBA Draft and the opening day of the season, is all the time you need to remake your entire game.

Well, I'm not sure if the ESPN family of talking heads is embarrassed after watching Turner's first real NBA game against the Miami Heat but they should be.

The rookie came off the bench and stuffed the stat sheet against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Company, scoring a team-high 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting and adding seven rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot in 31 minutes of action during a 97-87 Sixers setback.

"I thought I did better than in the past," Turner said after his debut. "I got a pretty good rhythm going. I was in sync with my teammates tonight. I though we might have been able to pull it out but they have a lot of good players."

Turner was the Sixers' best player against a team with the best wing players in the game. He even had a little Allen Iverson moment. No, it wasn't a 21-year-old A.I. crossing over Michael Jordan, but his left to right spin move on Wade ignited the capacity crowd at Wells Fargo Center.

Turner is certainly going to have hiccups during his rookie season but he's still the same guy with the big upside coming out of Ohio State. Now, however, he has an excellent coach guiding him.

Collins is no system guy. He is one of the best at maximizing the strengths of his players while masking as many of the deficiencies as possible.

"This is my fourth different spot and I haven't used the same offense yet," Collins said.

The veteran coach was forcing Turner to address the flaws in his game during the summer and the preseason, a novel concept. Now that things actually count, you can bet Collins will be trying to accentuate the things Turner does well, not slamming the square peg into the round hole.

"I had some rough, rough days [during the summer]," Turner said. "Today, I had a pretty good day. We fought as a unit, that's the most important thing and we never gave up.

"I think coach was real impressed."

I'm sure he was.

Turner is just too good to let a short attention span define him as a player.

76ers try to give Collins a win vs. Hawks

The Philadelphia 76ers hope to capture their first win in the Doug Collins-era tonight when they host the Atlanta Hawks at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Sixers dropped their home opener on Wednesday when Dwyane Wade poured in a game-high 30 points, and James Jones buried six three-pointers en route to 20 points as Miami downed Philadelphia, 97-87.

Rookie Evan Turner, the second overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, scored 16 points off the bench to lead the way for the Sixers, who have dropped five straight to Miami dating back to the start of last season.

"I had some rough, rough days in the pre-season, so to have a good day is definitely a blessing," Turner said. "When you see the ball go through the rim and move the ball well, things feel good. We never stopped trying to attack."

Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young scored 15 points apiece off the bench in defeat during Collins' head coaching debut in Philadelphia.

"If our guys will give this kind of effort every night then our fans will appreciate that, and it's going to equate to some wins," Collins told the 76ers' website.

Three starters for Philadelphia, forward Jason Kapono, center Spencer Hawes and point guard Jrue Holiday, struggled mightily against Miami but Collins is uncertain if he will make any changes against Atlanta.

"My starters are not necessarily my best players, that's why I said don't get caught up in who's starting," Collins said.

The Hawks, meanwhile, took their season-opener, a 119-104 win over the Grizzlies in Memphis on Wednesday.

Joe Johnson finished with 22 points and seven assists in that one, the debut of their new head coach Larry Drew, an 18-year NBA assistant that had a two- year stint under Collins in Washington from 2001-03.

Zaza Pachulia added 17 points and 11 boards off the bench for the Hawks, who went 53-29 last season and advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals. However, after the Hawks were swept by the Orlando Magic, Mike Woodson was fired and Drew, the lead assistant, was tabbed as the next head coach.

Mike Bibby added 19 points and Marvin Williams netted 15 in the victory over the Grizzlies.

"One of the keys is their athleticism and the mismatches everywhere," said Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins. "You have to over-help, and when you don't overhelp they get blow-bys and cause people to help."

On the injury front for the Hawks, swingman Maurice Evans is struggling with fluid in his right knee and will miss tonight's game.

Atlanta took two of three meetings against the Sixers last season, including a 100-86 win in Philly last November.

Wings name Dave Stilley assistant general manager

Philadelphia, PA - The Philadelphia Wings of the National Lacrosse League (NLL) have added three-time World Champion and former Wings Captain Dave Stilley as Assistant General Manager. Stilley will support
General Manager Johnny Mouradian with corporate sponsorships, player contracts and league  communication as the Wings prepare to open their  25th Anniversary season against the Boston Blazers at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday, January 8 at 7 p.m.

Stilley is an 11-year veteran of the NLL and led the Wings to championships in 1998 and 2001. Ownership looks for Stilley to bring the same intensity and drive to win to his new position as Assistant General

"Dave brings leadership, a winning tradition, and another dynamic level of energy to our organization," said Wings Owner Mike French.  "His physical presence was an important component to the Wings winning
championship teams.  He is a perfect fit for our revitalized winning strategy this season."

"I am absolutely thrilled and honored to be back in Philadelphia where I started my NLL career," said Stilley about his new position with the Wings. "I am very excited to re-connect with the fans, learn from some
of the finest professionals in the business and work with the world class coaching staff that is John Tucker, Blaine Harrison and former teammate, Tom Slate." 

Wings season tickets are on sale now! Call 215-289-WING (9464) or visit for more information.

Matrix Fights III tonight: More MMA, this time, of the sustainable variety

By Charles Cieri

Matrix Fights III goes down tonight. On the heels of last week’s scene-shifting Bellator 33, this fight is important for a few reasons. Number one, best outlined in last week's Inquirer article, the success of these types of fights will make or break the scene. Also it has legit match-ups, most notably, Julio Rosario v Brylan Vanartsdalen and Azunna Anyanwu’s pro debut. Lastly, Matrix promoter Jimmy Binns has gained something of a track record for giving the spectator his and her money’s worth.

While Bellator 33 was a sensational success, Bellator is gone with no indication on when it will return. The promotion’s star draw and the city’s best known fighter, Eddie Alvarez, could make MMA huge in the city — Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney called him a one man promotional machine — but no local promoter could afford him unless, god-forbid, he sustains a tremendous loosing streak. He won’t be back in this up-and-coming market, save the occasional appearance.

There are other options, Wilson Reis is almost in reach for the local promoters as is Anthony Morrison, both have made one appearance but at 25 and 26 years-old respectively, that will only be an outside chance for a little while longer (you can call me on that, I see both these guys taking off and joining Alvarez and Frankie Edgar to make the region the 145-155 mecca).

So, realistically, there is no one-man in the price range that can shoulder this scene. That leaves two immediate solutions to build the scene on, has-beens and up-and-comers. I’m not going to go into the first option and thankfully, for the most part, local promoters are in accord. As for up-and-comers, we have the programs — the best on the East Coast (again, call me on it) — and the first crop of local bound fighters from those camps have been entertaining crowds since August 2009. The only question is how much opportunity will there be for prospects to challenge each other, weed out non-hackers and elevate the pedigree. This question loosely translates to revenue. If the promoters can turn a profit, they will put on more shows and turn on the power to this potential MMA furnace.

The match-ups on this card provide solid fuel for that furnace, thanks to match-maker Sam Caplan. There are plenty of names that have distinguished themselves to some extent in previous shows. Brian Pitaniello, Geroge Hibbs and Mathew Friedeborn will be on this card and anyone of them could put on a surprise fight-of-the-night.

Great fight-nights aren’t built on potential standouts however, and this card has its proven draws. Julio Rosario has a great story and a killer push to finish the fight, training out of Semper Fi MMA, a relatively new gym on the scene, this event was more or less built around him and much can be made about how he steps up to that pressure. His opponent Brylan Vanartsdalen comes from the solid Daddis FC. Although, we didn’t see much of his standup in his last fight (he submitted his opponent 15 seconds in), this is his third nod from Sam Caplan, meaning he has the eye of a very distinguishing and well informed talent scout.

Also on the card are Jeff Cressman and Azunna Anyanwu. Cressman, a 135 pounder, was caught early in his last fight to my extreme surprise. His previous appearance was a fight-of-the-night three round slug-fest. Look for him to return to that intensity. Anyanwu has come out of nowhere to run up on the heavyweight radar. His pro-debut is both early (only two amateur fights is two short of the usual procedure) and way late, with a purple belt from Jared Weiner and handwork from Daddis FC, he gets my pick against any heavyweight thus far on the scene.

The fights start at 7pm and goes down at the Philadelphia Sheet Metal Workers’ Local at 1301 Columbus Boulevard. The on-line tickets are sold out but more tickets should be available at the door.

Villanova ranked 6th, Temple No. 22 in first AP Basketball poll

The three-time defending Atlantic 10 Conference champion Temple Owls will open the 2010-11 season ranked #22 in the nation in the Associated Press poll.  The Owls, also ranked #22 by the ESPN/USA
Today poll released last week, open the season among the nation’s Top 25 for the first time since the 2001-02 season.

The Owls, which ended the 2009-10 season with a 29-6 record and ranked 12thin the final Associated Press poll, return three starters including first team All-Atlantic 10 Conference performer, 6-9 senior forward Lavoy Allen, A-10 Tournament Most Outstanding Player, 6-4 junior guard Juan Fernandez and 6-11 junior forward Micheal Eric.   Junior Ramone Moore, the league’s Sixth Man of the Year, also returns along to bolster a program that has won 73 games over the last three seasons.

Temple was picked to repeat as A-10 champion in a media/coaches poll announced at the league’s media day on October 21.  Allen was named preseason first team all-conference and to the all-defensive team while
Fernandez was a second team selection.

For the first time since the 2000-01 season Temple will open with consecutive home games at the Liacouras Center.  The season opens with a home game against Seton Hall on Nov. 12.  The Owls follow that with a home date against Toledo on November 14.

Villanova, meanwhile, is ranked No. 6.

*Associated Press Preseason Top 25
*1. Duke
2. Michigan State
3. Kansas State
4. Ohio State
5. Pittsburgh
6. Villanova
7. Kansas
8. North Carolina
9. Florida
10. Syracuse
11. Kentucky
12. Gonzaga
13. Illinois
14. Purdue
15. Missouri
16. Baylor
17. Butler
18. Washington
19. Memphis
20. Georgetown
21. Virginia Tech
*22. Temple
*23. Tennessee
24. Brigham Young
25.  San Diego State**

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Velasquez takes Brock's title but he can't take his place

By John McMullen

There are winners and losers in most fights.

Cain Velasquez was the obvious winner last weekend in Anaheim when he blitzed Brock Lesnar to win the UFC heavyweight championship. There were a couple of losers, however, Lesnar and the promotion itself.

I first came across the biggest drawing card in mixed martial arts history in 2004 when I was covering the Minnesota Vikings. Lesnar, a former NCAA wrestling champion at the University of Minnesota, was a rookie trying to make it as a defensive tackle with the Vikings but he was no ordinary "street free agent."

Lesnar was already a worldwide phenomenon thanks to his days battling Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Mark "The Undertaker" Callaway during his highly-successful World Wrestling Entertainment career.

The Vikings had Pro Bowl talent like Daunte Culpepper, Randy Moss and Antoine Winfield at the time but there was little question as to who the most popular player was in Mankato. Dozens of fans would show up every day, looking for Lesnar to sign their professional wrestling paraphernalia.

He wasn't happy about it. It's not that Lesnar was embarrassed about his WWE career. In fact, he was quite proud of the stardom he achieved and the millions he made in a rather short period of time in the hybrid world of sports entertainment. But, he also tired of the ungodly travel schedule that crisscrossed the globe and the beating he took on a daily basis. Yep, talk to anyone that has done both and they will tell you "fake" pro wrestlers take much more punishment than either football players or mixed martial artists.

Perhaps more importantly, however, Lesnar wanted to be taken seriously during his pro football sojourn. The Vikings then-head coach, Mike Tice, would rave about Lesnar's pure athletic ability but always tempered any expectations by pointing out how raw he was.

The South Dakota native had no football experience at with the Golden Gophers and hadn't been on the gridiron since his days at Webster High School in the Mount Rushmore State. He also was still recovering from a rather serious motorcycle accident in which he injured his groin, limiting his mobility.

That didn't stop Lesnar from knocking Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Damon Huard out of a scrimmage at Blakeslee Stadium when he through the line, whacked the signal caller and sent him to the sidelines as the crowd cheered in WWE fashion.

Lesnar wasn't quite ready to play in the NFL but the Vikings weren't ready to give up on him either, and extended an invitation to play as a representative of the team in NFL Europa. Lesnar declined for the same reason he left WWE, he wanted to be closer to his Minnesota home with his family.

When MMA started taking off around the world, Lesnar finally found his calling and on April of 2006 he appeared inside the ring after the final match of K-1 Hero's Las Vegas show and announced his intent to join the promotion.

He began training with the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy under Greg Nelson, and one of his former wrestling coaches at Minnesota, Marty Morgan. His rise in the sport was meteoric, needing only one professional bout before UFC president Dana White inked him to a deal that guaranteed Lesnar $250,000 per fight plus pay-per-view  bonuses, making him one of the highest paid mixed martial artists in the world.

"I don't think there are any other pro wrestlers that can make the transition to  MMA, except for Brock Lesnar," White said at the time after inking Lesnar. "And if you look  at his amateur wrestling credentials, his size, and what he's done, this guy can end up being a force in the heavyweight division of the UFC."

White was proven correct when Lesnar needed just two UFC bouts before he took down one of the sport's true legends, Randy Couture, to win the heavyweight crown. His awesome strength, speed and grappling ability made him a tough out for even the most experienced of fighters.

Then real life came calling and Lesnar was stricken with a mysterious illness while hunting in Canada before his scheduled title defense with Shane Carwin. A very private person Lesnar let few people in on the severity of the illness and rumors started to fly.

"He's not well and he's not going to be getting well anytime soon," White said of Lesnar when setting up an interim title match between Carwin and Frank Mir.

Finally it was revealed that Lesnar was suffering from a serious case of diverticulitis, a very painful intestinal disorder. After further diagnosis, Lesnar underwent surgery in November of last year to close a perforation in
his intestine that had been leaking fecal matter into his abdomen. Some even said, the champ was close to death and may never fight again.

By January, Lesnar had made a miraculous comeback and was to unify his title with Carwin's interim belt at UFC 116 in Las Vegas. Carwin dominated the opening round, knocking Lesnar down once but then ran out of gas in Round 2 before Lesnar clamped on a triangle choke for the win. Amazed by the comeback
few paid attention that Lesnar was dominated physically for the first time against Carwin.

The illness had taken its toll.

Velasquez didn't make the same mistakes as Carwin last weekend, dominating Lesnar over 4:12 before finishing him for the TKO.

What the illness didn't take, however, was Lesnar's natural charisma and ability to sell a fight, something he learned from his days in WWE. Early trending numbers put the Lenar-Velasquez bout at slightly more than 1 million pay-per-view buys, among the most in UFC history.

Velasquez is currently being marketed by the UFC as the first Mexican to win a world heavyweight championship in combat sports in order to tap into the vast Latino community but the new champion is shy, reserved and not naturally charismatic.

His first title defense against Junior Dos Santos, probably next spring, will struggle to do half the buys of his title win. In fact, Velasquez, no matter how good he becomes, will likely never touch the 1 million buy mark again unless it's for a rematch with Lesnar.

Velasquez is a better fighter than Lesnar, but the former champ is something more, the rarest of all breeds in today's fighting world -- a true drawing card.

White announces UFC-WEC merger

Las Vegas, NV (USA) – In a media conference call today, Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White announced the UFC is adding two new championship divisions at bantamweight (135lbs.) and featherweight (145lbs.), while also announcing a new television deal with the VERSUS Network to air four UFC fights in 2011.

“As the UFC continues to evolve and grow globally, we want to be able to give fans title fights in every weight division,” said White. “This is a big day for the sport and the athletes who will have the opportunity to fight on the biggest stage in the world.”

The two new divisions feature WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, who will now be recognized as the reigning UFC featherweight champion, and WEC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. White confirmed that the winner of the Dec. 16 lightweight title fight between WEC champion Ben Henderson and top contender Anthony Pettis live on VERSUS will take on the winner of the UFC 125 main event title bout between champion Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. This upcoming fight will serve as a UFC lightweight title unification bout to be held next year.                                                                                                                                                                 
White also stated the UFC is expanding its presence on the VERSUS Network in 2011, and will increase its number of UFC events from two to four per year. Versus is scheduled to air the two remaining live WEC events in 2010 on Nov. 11 and Dec. 16. The Nov. 11 event in Las Vegas will feature “The California Kid” Urijah Faber’s debut at bantamweight as he takes on Takeya Mizugaki, while the Dec. 16 event in Glendale, Ariz. will feature Henderson-Pettis and a bantamweight title clash between Dominick Cruz and challenger Scott Jorgensen with the winner becoming the new UFC bantamweight champion.

“We have a great relationship with the VERSUS network, and we look forward to working with them to give UFC fans even more free fights in 2011,” said White.

Halladay honored by peers

New York, NY, Thursday, October 28, 2010 … Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies and David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays are Major  League Baseball’s kings of the hill, according to their peers. 

The  Major League Baseball Players Association and ESPN Radio’s Mike Greenberg  and Mike Golic announced the winners of the 2010 Players Choice Awards for each league’s Outstanding Pitcher during the fourth in a series of five daily broadcast segments highlighting the on-field performances and community leadership of Major League players.  The 2010 Players Choice Awards are being broadcast exclusively this week on ESPN Radio and are presented by Majestic Athletic and 2K Sports and benefit the Major League
Baseball Players Trust. 

Halladay helped guide the Phillies to the National League East Division championship by leading all Major League hurlers in wins (21), shutouts (4), complete games (9) and innings pitched (250.2).  The seven-time All Star finished second in the NL with 219 strikeouts and third with a 2.44 ERA – the second lowest ERA in his 13-year Major League career (2.41 in 2005).  Acquired by the Phillies on December 16, 2009, in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays (in exchange for Michael Taylor, Travis d’Arnaud & Kyle Drabek), Halladay has now won two Players Choice Awards (2003 AL Outstanding Pitcher.)

In just his second full Major League season, Price finished with a record of 19-6 with an ERA of 2.72 and 188 strikeouts, to help lead the Rays to the American League East Division crown.  He tied for second among all AL pitchers in wins and was third in ERA.  Drafted first overall by Tampa Bay in the 2007 Amateur Draft, Price has a record of 29-13 with a 3.31 ERA in 55 career starts.

The Players Choice Awards annually honor the outstanding player, rookie, pitcher and comeback player in each league, while the Player of the Year and Man of the Year awards bestow top honors without regard to league. Balloting for the Players Choice Awards was conducted in September under the supervision of accounting firm KPMG.

Union's Danny Mwanga Nominated for MLS Rookie of the Year Award

NEW YORK, (October 27, 2010) - Major League Soccer released today the annual end-of-season awards finalists announcing Philadelphia Union forwards Danny Mwanga and Sebastien Le Toux as finalists for MLS Rookie of the Year and MLS Fair Play Award, respectively.

Mwanga is among the three finalists for the Rookie of the Year award, along with New York's Tim Ream and D.C. United's Andy Najar.  Meanwhile, Le Toux, MLS' combined leader in goals and assists, will compete against the Chicago Fire's C.J. Brown and San Jose Earthquakes' Chris Wondolowski.  Both the Rookie of the Year and Fair Play award winners will be announced on November 3.

The season's most outstanding plays will be recognized on Wednesday, Nov. 17 when the AT&T Goal of the Year and the NAPA Auto Parts Save of the Year are announced. Voting for the Goal and Save of the Year are conducted on the League's official web site,

The Full list of finalists and announcement dates are as follows:

Hans Backe, New York Red Bulls
Schellas Hyndman, FC Dallas
Jason Kreis, Real Salt Lake

Chris Albright, New York Red Bulls
Bobby Convey, San Jose Earthquakes
Brek Shea, FC Dallas

Nat Borchers, Real Salt Lake
Omar Gonzalez, LA Galaxy
Jamison Olave, Real Salt Lake

C.J. Brown, Chicago Fire
Sebastien Le Toux, Philadelphia Union
Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes

Kevin Hartman, FC Dallas
Donovan Ricketts, LA Galaxy
Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake

Brian Ching, Houston Dynamo
Jimmy Conrad, Kansas City Wizards
Seth Stammler, New York Red Bulls

Edson Buddle, LA Galaxy
David Ferreira, FC Dallas
Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes

Thierry Henry, New York Red Bulls
Joel Lindpere, New York Red Bulls
Alvaro Saborio, Real Salt Lake

Danny Mwanga, Philadelphia Union
Andy Najar, D.C. United
Tim Ream, New York Red Bulls

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sixers drop season opener to Heat

By John McMullen

Philadelphia - It wasn't LeBron, D-Wade or Chris Bosh that got the Sixers during Wednesday night's home opener, it was James Jones.

Jones, the slender 6-foot-8 veteran forward, buried four 3-pointers in less than a four-minute span in the second quarter during a 16-2 Miami run and Philadelphia never recovered from there, falling to the Heat, 97-87, in front of a sellout 20,389 at the Wells Fargo Center.

"That Miami team is a really good team to say the least, and they are a terrific defensive team," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "When they put LeBron [James] at the top of the floor with [Dwyane] Wade and they spread you out with those shooters and the pick-and-roll, it's tough to defend. James Jones got hot and hit all those threes which broke the game open in that one stretch."

Jones finished the game with 20 points and tied a career-high by draining six from beyond the arc, while Wade, coming off a miserable 4-of-16, 13-point performance in Miami's season-opening 88-80 loss to the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, finished with 30 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

"He was letting the game come to him," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Wade. "He is a feel type player and I think he felt a lot more comfortable tonight and was able to get to the rim."

James, the reigning two-time NBA MVP, had 16 points, six rebounds and seven assists and was content to play facilitator, although "The King" amassed nine turnovers after recording eight vs. the Celtics last night.

"The biggest difference for us offensively was moving the ball and getting open shots," Spoelstra said of the win. "But, we can't let up like we did in the fourth quarter. We have to be an effort team."

Rookie Evan Turner paced the Sixers with 16 points, seven boards and four helpers off the bench as the team dropped it's fourth straight opener and fifth consecutive game against Miami. Fellow reserves Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams each had 15 points.

The rivalry between the Sixers and Celtics may lay dormant right now but make no mistake, there is no love lost between the two clubs. It's not the same kind of white-hot passion when Wilt and Bill Russell were suiting up or Doc and Larry but the hatred remains.

These days the C's are a legitimate title contender while the Sixers are in the midst of another rebuilding project. Getting off to a good start would have been nice for Collins and Company but that was made
exponentially harder when Boston dispensed of the new-look Heat in the NBA's opener on Tuesday.

Instead of arriving in the City of Brotherly Love lazy and satiated, the Heat showed up on Broad and Pattison angry. Angry at the TD Garden crowd that called them overrated. Angry at the talking heads who turned on them after 48 minutes of basketball, and angry that they had to play for the second time in as many nights.

To be blunt the 76ers were walking into a buzz saw, a hornets' nest that was just stepped on by their long-time nemesis.

To their credit the Sixers hung tough early until an unlikely foil would step up to bite them, Jones.

The Sixers forced eight turnovers in the opening quarter and generated 23 shots to just 13 for the Heat but couldn't take advantage. Philadelphia shot a miserable 30.4 percent in the frame and trailed 18-15. Young and Andre Iguodala were the lone bright spots, combining to go 5-of-6 while the rest of their teammates went 2-for-17.

The 76ers actually took the lead, 26-24, on Young's conventional 3-point play with 9:35 left before intermission but Miami woke up from there, embarking on the 16-2 run with James largely on the bench. Jones punished the Sixers from beyond-the-arc with four 3- pointers during the burst and the Heat led 40-28
with 5 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter.

"J.J. [Jones] was unbelievable today," James said. "When Dwyane and I are able to penetrate and we have the long ball going like we did today, our offense is tough to stop."

An Iguodala slam stopped the bleeding momentarily but Philadelphia was unable to make much headway for the rest of the quarter and entered the locker room trailing, 49-41.

The Heat quickly gained control in the third quarter thanks to consecutive turnovers by Jrue Holiday that resulted in back-to-back easy buckets, the second of which put Miami on top, 57-43.

Another barrage of three straight 3-pointers, two by Jones and one by Eddie House, later in the third helped the Heat extend their lead to 80-54 entering the final frame.

The Sixers played a little better in garbage time with Turner showing some of the all-around skill that made him the No, 2 overall pick in June's draft, a nice development considering his poor preseason.

"I had some rough, rough days [in the preseason] so to have a good day is definitely a blessing."  Turner said. "When you see the ball go through the rim and move the ball well things feel good. We never stopped trying to attack."

Game notes: Holiday did not score until hitting a three with just over five minutes left to play and was benched by Collins for most of the third quarter after his back-to-back unforced errors. He finished with six points and five turnovers...Center Spencer Hawes started but did not score in just over 14 minutes. Meanwhile, Jason Kapono started and netted just two points in 13 minutes.

Doom and gloom hang over Sixers

By Steven Lienert
Philadelphia (The Phanatic Magazine) - The Philadelphia 76ers begin another basketball season on Wednesday.
The question is: Why bother?
First, the Sixers went 2-5 in the preseason. Now, before dismissing that as not a true indicator, please consider that in basketball more than any other sport, the starters are more likely to play in the preseason.
In the NBA, if a team is going to make significant improvement in the upcoming season, it shows in the preseason. This preseason indicates that the Sixers will, once again, suck.
Secondly, another thing this preseason revealed is that the 76ers may have swung and missed when they picked Evan Turner with No. 2 overall pick.
Making a shoe deal with a Chinese sneaker manufacturer not withstanding, new coach Doug Collins has already given, and taken away, Turner’s starting spot. That’s after the kid shot 31% from the field in the preseason. Turner also failed to connect on a single three-pointer.
The only impact Turner will be making for the 76ers on Opening Night against the winless Heat (hey, I had to take that shot) is on the cushion of the chair he will be sitting upon.
Furthermore, in ESPN the Magazine’s NBA preview issue, Turner was named on three of the four experts polled to be the Bust of the Year. Ric Bucher, Jalen Rose and Chris Broussard each said Turner will be bad.
Those are three guys that do this for a living. And if Turner doesn’t pan out, it sets a bad franchise back even further.
Lastly, the same aforementioned publication also picked the Sixers to finish 12th in the Eastern Conference. Not many other things I’ve read predict a rosier finsh. Even if they were picked to make the playoffs, why bother?
We all know that either the Heat, Celtics or Magic will win the East. Maybe for the next three or four years. Perhaps the 76ers need to blow things up on an epic level.
Trade or release everybody. Be as bad as bad can be for the next two years. Stockpile draft picks and cap space. Then go after it again in 2013.
Otherwise, we are all stuck in the same place we are now. The Sixers have no chance, no matter how much better they are playing defense under Collins.
Instead of being mired in mediocrity, at least we know there is a plan for the future. Because right now, the 76ers are as far away from winning a NBA title as the Eagles.

Why the Rangers will win the World Series

By Chris Ruddick

Philadelphia, PA - The Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees were widely viewed as the two best teams in baseball this season. Well guess what? The Texas Rangers disposed of both of them on their way to their first-ever World Series appearance.

And I don't think the San Francisco Giants are the team to derail the Rangers from a championship here in the 106th edition of the Fall Classic.

There is not much this Rangers team can't do. They hit the ball a ton, their bullpen is phenomenal, and they run the bases better and as aggressively as any team I have seen in some time.

And, oh yeah, they have this guy named Cliff Lee.

After a tremendous postseason run with the Philadelphia Phillies a year ago, all Lee has done in these playoffs has gone 3-0 with a 0.75 earned run average in his three starts.

With his win in Game 3 against the Yankees, Texas' midseason acquisition became the third pitcher in MLB history to win his first seven playoff decisions and is the first pitcher with three games of 10-plus punchouts in one postseason.

"What I attribute my success in the post season to is confidence, relying on my routine, playing on a really good team, having a really good offense to lean on, Bengie Molina," Lee said. "Those are a lot of the reasons. But I think mostly it's probably just confidence and going out there and expecting to be successful, and what allows me to do that is my routine. I've proven to myself over and over that it works, and eventually it becomes what you rely on to make you successful, and that's where I'm at."

Lee's career ERA of 1.26 in the postseason is also good for third best all- time. Simply put he is becoming a postseason legend and could elevate himself into a different stratosphere with another solid series.

Not bad for a guy who is about to become a free agent in a few weeks.

Also, Lee has beaten the Giants all three times he has faced them and has pitched to a 1.13 ERA in doing so. I expect him to set the tone right away in Game 1 and take whatever home field advantage the Giants think they may have.

The Rays couldn't hit Lee. The Yankees couldn't hit him. Do you really think the likes of Juan Uribe, Freddy Sanchez or Edgar Renteria are going to get to him?

But it hasn't just been Lee. C.J. Wilson has pitched well in two of his three postseason starts and Colby Lewis beat the Yankees twice and has pitched to a 1.45 ERA in three starts.

Sure you can make the case that Philadelphia had better overall pitching than the Rangers and the Giants found a way to beat them. True, but the Phillies did not hit in the NLCS. That is the only reason they lost that series.

That is not going to be a problem for the Rangers. By the way, can you believe we have gotten this far without mentioning Texas' offense?

For years, this was a hit-first, pitch-second team. Well, while that is not the case anymore, the Rangers still can score runs with the best of them, as evident by the fact that all four of their wins over the Yankees came by five or more runs and they have played just a single one-run game this postseason.

What makes the Rangers so dangerous, though, is their ability on the basepaths. Sure they can hit the home run and score in bunches, but everyone on their team takes pride in stealing bases, or stretching a single into a double, moving a guy over, or just taking an extra base at the right time.

ALCS MVP Josh Hamilton is at the center of the offense. After hitting a mere .143 in the ALDS Hamilton hit .350 against the Yanks with three home runs and seven RBI. It is safe to say that Hamilton, the front-runner for the AL MVP award, is back at 100-percent after missing 24 games in September with fractured ribs.

But it is not just Hamilton.. Nelson Cruz can hit, Vladimir Guerrero, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus. The lineup is relentless and will be too much for San Francisco to handle. Regardless of who is pitching.

"I've had to face them over the years and it's not a lot of fun," said Lee. "When you start pitching around Josh Hamilton and then you're staring at Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler, it's not a lot of fun, because it's a very powerful lineup.

"I feel like I could fill that lineup every day and throw it out there. I mean, it's a winner."

Bottom line is there is not much these Rangers can't do and they will be celebrating sometime next week.

Sixers open season with Heat

The NBA's version of The Beatles invades the City of Brotherly Love Wednesday night after a bad opening night performance in Beantown.

Ray Allen and Paul Pierce scored 20 and 19 points, respectively, as the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics held off the new-look Miami Heat, 88-80, in arguably the most anticipated regular season opener in NBA history.

The Heat, of course, grabbed everyone's attention in the offseason by acquiring two of the highest profile free agent acquisitions in NBA history. Reigning two-time NBA MVP LeBron James, who fled Cleveland after seven seasons, and former Toronto All-Star power forward Chris Bosh joined forces with Dwyane Wade.

The blockbuster moves by Miami gave them three players with 17 All-Star appearances between them and tons of championship expectations. James and Bosh both signed six-year, $110.1 million contracts, and Wade was re-signed by the Heat for $107.5 million over six years.

Miami's "Big Three" was not good enough to get past a tough Boston team on Tuesday night. James led the way with 31 points on 10-of-21 shooting. Wade and Bosh added 13 and 8 points, respectively, and shot a combined 7-of-27 from the field.

"We all know Rome wasn't built in one day. We understand that," James said. "We just need to continue to get better."

"A little bit out of rhythm, of course. This is my first -- LeBron's and my first preseason game," Wade added. "Just getting a little bit out of rhythm and continuity is still -- with me being out, the continuity is still not there yet. But I thought defensively we played well. We did a good job of holding this team to 88 points, and we've still got a lot of things we can work on."

Tonight the Heat try and get back on track against the Philadelphia 76ers and their new coach, Doug Collins.

The 76ers, once one of the NBA's marquee franchises thanks to legends like Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson, have not been a part of the recent Philadelphia sports revival.

In fact attending a Sixers game last year at the Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) Center was a bit depressing. Poor decisions by the front office hampered the team's development culminating in an awful 27-55 ledger last season in which head coach Eddie Jordan lost his team by Christmas.

To be blunt, then-Sixers president and general manager Ed Stefanski probably should have joined his hand-picked coach and friend on the unemployment line after last year's disastrous run. But, the Comcast-Spectacor braintrust of Ed Snider and Peter Luukko, loathe to admit another in a long line of mistakes, gave the embattled Philadelphia basketball chief one more chance.

This time, with the leash pulled tight in the form of assistant general manager Tony DiLeo and consultant Gene Shue watching over his shoulder, Stefanski made a prudent decision and inked the highly regarded Doug Collins to be the team's mentor in 2010-11.

The hire happened a year after it should have and cost the Sixers dearly in the crowded, very competitive Philly sports market, but Stefanski was finally moving the team in the right direction again.

Dealing underachieving center Samuel Dalembert to Sacramento for Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni, and landing Evan Turner after lucking out a bit in the NBA Draft Lottery also were regarded as feathers in Stefanski's cap.

That said, you could still sense the Sixers' brass wasn't all that comfortable with Stefanski leading the organization and that sentiment came into focus in August when Snider and Luukko demoted him and named his old boss in New Jersey, Rod Thorn, as the team's new president.

Thorn, an NBA veteran of more than four decades, is one of the league's most highly-regarded executives, while Collins' basketball knowledge is without peer, almost encyclopedic.

If winning truly starts at the top, the Sixers are about to arrive fashionably late to Philadelphia's sports revival.

"I know the pulse of this city," said Collins, who will be on the sidelines despite being diagnosed with vertigo last week. "I've had a chance to live it. I'm blessed to be the coach here and I don't take that responsibility lightly."

Miami swept the four-game season series between the two clubs a year ago.

James will need to embrace being the heel

By John McMullen

LeBron James has always been loved.

During his days in Cleveland "The King" was always the babyface, the guy wearing the white hat, the protagonist in the reality television show that was the Cavaliers chasing the franchise's first world championship.

He was the Brett Favre of the NBA. We all loved the youthful exuberance he showed while playing the game, the ebullient smile and his ability to make something out of nothing on the floor.

Like Favre, however, somewhere along the line the narcissism showed up. By letting his immature hangers-on shop his divorce from the Cavs to ESPN, James essentially flipped his middle finger at his hometown fans and the people who loved and supported him since high school.

Overnight, he became the heel, the cowboy in the black hat, the antagonist.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. Some people thrive on being the bad guy and a hero can't exist without a villain nipping at his heels. Batman needs his Joker, James Bond had to have Dr. No. For every Clarice Starling there has to be a Hannibal Lecter and for every Hulk Hogan it's always good to have a "Rowdy" Roddy Piper laying around.

Problem is, James isn't well-suited for the heel role he now finds himself in. After one regular season game, it's apparent that the enthusiasm we all loved is gone, the smile is history.

Basketball now seems like a business to a 25-year-old kid who couldn't hide his love of the game before a public relations faux pas. I just hope he doesn't have Jenn Sterger's phone number and a pair of Crocs.

I'm sure James occasionally eyes his long time friend Maverick Carter and wonders what it would be like to have a competent advisor in his ear. But, even if you consider Carter the Wizard behind the curtain in "The Decision" debacle, it's James that came across as the selfish, ego-driven athlete for the first time.

In that one ill-conceived moment, James went from the most popular figure in Cleveland to a pariah who now rivals Art Modell as the most vilified sports figure in the city's history.

Perhaps he could handle that but the rest of the country has hitched its wagon to the Forest City and declared James a pariah -- an overrated fool that couldn't get things done when it got tough in Cleveland so he fled for an easier life in Miami.

Of course things aren't going to get easier in south Florida for James. Sure on paper his teammates are better but the Heat may want to embrace Billy Joel's "Pressure" as their anthem this season. Anything short of an NBA championship will be viewed as a disappointment, almost a disaster.

The NBA's version of The Beatles will be under a microscope each and every night. Win tonight in Philly by 25 points and people will yawn ... "you should have won by 30."

Lay an egg in your opening night performance like the Heat did in Beantown and the vultures start to circle.

"We all know Rome wasn't built in one day. We understand that," James said after Miami's loss to the Celtics "We just need to continue to get better."

In the most anticipated opener in NBA history on Tuesday, Miami's new "Big Three" of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh just wasn't good enough to get past a Boston team gifted with incredible chemistry and a defensive mindset.

James, with his new uniform No. 6, made a jumper from the right wing just 1:07 into the game and finished with a more than respectable 31 points on 10-of-21 shooting, but Wade and Bosh added just 13 and eight points and shot a combined 7-of-27 from the field.

"(Chemistry) is something that you know isn't going to be 110 percent (right away)," James said. "We need to work every day to continue to get better through our practices and our games. We haven't had much practice time together or game time together. As the season goes on and the practices go on we'll continue to have camaraderie."

The Heat were trailing 16-9 following 12 minutes of action. By halftime, it was 45-30 as Miami shot just 11- of-41 (26.8 percent) from the field.

The Heat finally got it going a bit in the third quarter but after Big Baby Davis hit a jumper to give the C's an 83-70 advantage with just over four minutes remaining, the TD Garden faithful started to chant "overrated."

Miami and James answered with a 10-0 run before a Ray Allen dagger put things away with under a minute to go.

On cue, the vultures took to the air.

"In the half-court, (Miami) is going to be a jump-shooting team," TNT analyst Steve Kerr said. "Bosh does not have a post game, LeBron does not have a post game yet and Wade is still finding his way. Wade may have to make the biggest sacrifice in this whole experiment with these three guys together."

"The one weakness Miami has is they are just a jump-shooting team," Charles Barkley added. "They have to play at a much faster pace. As great as Dwyane and LeBron are, they aren't great jump-shooters."

Yep, in 48 minutes, the Heat went from challenging the Michael Jordan-Bulls for the NBA's best all-time record to a group of incompetents unable to sink a simple jump shot.

The Joker might blow up a hospital if he was disrespected like that.

Dr. No would surely unleash SPECTRE on the world, while Lecter would be looking for some fava beans and a nice chianti and Piper would be swinging a coconut over someone's head.

LeBron ... the ball is in your court.

2010-11 NBA Predictions: New-look Heat take aim at the Lakers

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Upsets are why we all watch sports.

Think about it, if the favorite won each and every time, what would be the incentive to tune in? After all, with DVRs and Tivos all the rage, NBC's brilliant comedy Community is always just a few clicks away.

If your favorite team didn't have a chance against the current media darlings -- why would you run up the credit card and be ready to plunk down $30 for parking and another Andrew Jackson for your favorite adult beverage? I mean, it's always eight dollar beer night somewhere, right.

Simply put, hope is why gambling is a billion dollar industry and why we keep watching every single day even when our favorites are sinking faster than the job security of Juan Williams at National Public Radio.

The most indelible moments in sports are the upsets and it gives us the chance to mock the most popular of the talking heads who gave us his or her lead pipe locks earlier in the day. Or the broadcaster playing captain obvious, who loves to break out the cliched "That's why we play the games" reference.

And that's why David Stern hasn't handed the Lawrence O'Brien Trophy to the Los Angeles Lakers or Miami Heat just yet.

The NBA preseason is mercifully in the rear view mirror now and the light of real basketball is finally shining at the end of the tunnel, with the locomotive closing fast. The Association kicks off for real on Tuesday, Oct. 26 with a three-game slate headlined by the new-look Heat, featuring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, visiting the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics, along with the two-time reigning champion Lakers facing off with the returning Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets.

The power players haven't shifted all that much in the offseason with Miami taking Cleveland's place among the elite thanks to James' "Decision" to leave the Forest City for South Beach. Last year's two finalists, the Lakers and Boston remain part of the championship conversation while, the continued development of Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City likely means the Thunder will take a seat at the big boy table.

In the East, Orlando took a step back last year after moving the unselfish Hedo Turkoglu and replacing him with the me-first Vince Carter but still remains an upper echelon club capable of making a run.

Out West, Turkoglu is now in Phoenix hoping to help replace Amare Stoudemire in the Valley the Sun, while the Rockets figure to have a bounce back year now that Yao is on the floor after missing all of last season with a foot injury. Denver figures to stumble a bit, however, as trade rumors continue to swirl around Carmelo Anthony.

If you are looking for improvement, start in the nation's capital where Washington added the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, John Wall, to a nucleus that includes the emerging Andray Blatche. Two other east coast teams, Philadelphia and New York, also figure to be much more competitive. The Sixers have added a real coach in Doug Collins, while the Knicks signed Stoudemire and Raymond Felton to help Mike D'Antoni run his seven-seconds-or-less offense.

As for the personal hardware. I see great things on the horizon for Clippers rookie Blake Griffin and you can except Durant to usurp a certain "King" in the race for the NBA's Most Valuable Player award.

In deference to Denny Green, I'm not ready to "crown" the Heat or Lakers but gazing into one's crystal ball this time of year is almost a necessary evil.

So, here goes nothing.

A look at the 2010-11 NBA season...


1. Miami (Southeast Division Winner)
2. Orlando
3. Boston (Atlantic)
4. Milwaukee (Central)
5. Atlanta
6. Chicago
7. Washington
8. Philadelphia


All of a sudden the East, at least the top of the conference, is significantly better than the West. There are three serious title contenders in Miami, Boston and Orlando but the Heat bring the most to the dance.

Chemistry looks like the only thing that could possible derail Miami. I have been going back and forth between Boston and the Heat in recent days but in the end when you think NBA basketball talent, more often than not, is the trump card.

The Heat possess plenty of skill with three possible future Hall of Famers in James, Wade and Bosh. If you harken back to the 1980s that kind of lineup wasn't all that rare but expansion has watered down the product and the Heat are certainly the exception these days.

It's hard to imagine Miami struggling much during the regular season but the ability of role players to step up should be the deciding factor come playoff time. Losing Mike Miller, the type of weakside shooter needed with all the double-teams James, Wade and Bosh will command, until January with a torn ligament in his right thumb hurts, But, the sharp-shooter should be back in plenty of time to shake off the rust for the inevitable postseason run.

Boston, meanwhile, is a veteran team that will likely be hungry coming off a Game 7 loss to the Lakers in The Finals. Keeping their veteran pieces healthy for the playoffs is always the key these days in Beantown. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Shaquille O'Neal are all another year older but if Doc Rivers can sport a finishing five of KG, Pierce, Ray-Ray, Shaq and Rondo when it counts, it will be tough for anyone to match up.


1. LA Lakers (Pacific)
2. Oklahoma City (Northwest)
3. Dallas (Southwest)
4. Denver (with Carmelo)
5. San Antonio
6. Portland
7. Phoenix
8. Utah


Most of the Western Conference took a step back this offseason and the Lakers now stand alone as the one significant championship contender. Adding solid role players like Theo Ratliff, Matt Barnes and Steve Blake to a nucleus that was already a championship club makes LA the prohibitive favorite to repeat as the top team in the West and a solid pick for yet another championship.


Chalk is never any fun. Most of the NBA GMs are expecting a three-peat for the Lakers but remember who originally trademarked the term for commercial use -- former Lakers coach and current Heat basketball chief Pat Riley. Riley has done everything possible to stop the Lakers juggernaut and I think he and the Heat will get it done. Of course, the Lakers are the defending champs and if I've learned anything from Ric Flair over the years, its this: "To be the man you have to beat the man."

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Durant, Oklahoma City

James is usually locked in an annual battle with the Lakers' Kobe Bryant for the right to be called the NBA's best player but now it's a three-way dance with Durant joining the conversation. Since the voters tend to look for new blood and James seriously damaged his reputation with "The Decision," I think the door is open for "The Durantula."

Honorable Mention: Bryant; James

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Blake Griffin, LA Clippers

A lot of people forget Griffin is eligible after missing all of last season but the Clips will likely be much improved and Griffin will get a lot of credit for that. The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Griffin combines a rare work ethic with outstanding athleticism.

Honorable Mention: Wall; DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento


I prefer a lock-down perimeter defender for this award, someone like Houston's Shane Battier, Bryant or Andre Iguodala, but the voters seem enamored by blocked shots and intimidating interior defense. That describes Superman.

Honorable Mention: Battier; Bryant; Ron Artest, LA Lakers; Rondo; Iguodala

SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR: Lamar Odom, LA Lakers

It's the usual suspects here with San Antonio's Manu Ginobili, Dallas' Jason Terry, Atlanta's Jamal Crawford and Odom all possible winners.

But, I suspect Ginobili and Terry could spend too much time in their respective starting lineups, making it a two-horse race between Odom and Crawford. Odom is simply a more well-rounded player than the offensive-minded Crawford, who is also disgruntled with his contract.

Honorable Mention: Ginobili; Terry; Crawford, Ben Gordon, Detroit


Generally you look for a player coming off injury and there are two really good choices in Griffin and Yao but the Rockets center is the far more polished player at this point. The top pick in the 2002 draft, Yao has been rock-solid when on the floor with career averages of 19.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 481 games over seven seasons with the Rockets. He has been named an All Star in each of his healthy campaigns and is one of the most- skilled big men in the world. If the foot holds up, he's your winner.

Honorable Mention: Gilbert Arenas, Washington; Griffin

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia

The Sixers think Holiday is a future star. The book on Holiday before the 2009 draft was the cliched "raw with the huge upside." Normally, I shrug off talk like that since it's become commonplace among NBA personnel people. But one longtime scout who I respect assured me Holiday would be the best point guard from that '09 draft in five years, a bold statement considering Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson and Darren Collison also went in Holiday's class. When the Sixers turned the keys over to Holiday late last season, you could see exactly what all the fuss was about. A true quarterback that thinks pass first, Holiday is already one of the top 10 defensive point guards in the league. Experience should turn the former UCLA guard into an All-NBA defender and a more consistent jumper could turn him into an All-Star.

"He is the total package," Collins said of Holiday. "He is such a good kid and such a hard worker and he is pure. I honestly believe that next year you will talk about him being one of the top five point guards in the league. I think you will speak about him with Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose."

Honorable Mention: Kevin Love, Minnesota; Rodrigue Beaubois, Dallas; Darren Collison, Indiana.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Flip Saunders, Washington

Saunders is rarely mentioned when people talk about the NBA's best coaches since he never got over the hump in either Minnesota or Detroit. He may not be Gregg Popovich, Phil Jackson or Larry Brown, but he's leading the next level of coaches and the Wizards should start to take off now that they have added some talent.

Honorable Mention: Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City; Doug Collins, Philadelphia; Scott Skiles, Milwaukee

ASSISTANT COACH OF THE YEAR: Mike Budenholzer, San Antonio

Budenholzer has been ready to be an NBA head coach for at least two years now. The master of "last two-minutes" edit, Budenholzer got his start as a video editor and is astute at pointing out the oppositions's deficiencies.

Honorable Mention: Phil Johnson, Utah; Tyrone Corbin, Utah; Michael Curry, Philadelphia


Riley re-made the Heat in one offseason bringing in James and Bosh to team with Wade. But, don't underestimate the rest of his wheelings and dealings that brought in role players like Miller, Eddie House, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Juwan Howard.

Honorable Mention: Mitch Kupchak, LA Lakers


Collison should thrive after being handed the keys by the Pacers. He was really good while filling in for the injured Chris Paul during his rookie year in the Big Easy and now has an opportunity to grow with one of the game's best young scorers in Danny Granger.

Honorable Mention: Al Jefferson, Utah; Trevor Ariza, New Orleans

MOST IMPROVED TEAM: Washington Wizards

If everyone remains healthy, the Wizards have a lot of pieces in place. Wall is a future superstar, Blatche looks like an All-Star type player, while JaVale McGee is a legitimate center. Both Kirk Hinrich and Josh Howard should also offer solid bench options. Meanwhile, Saunders is always a threat to win Coach of the Year honors. A return to the playoffs is likely this season even in the much-improved Eastern Conference.

Honorable Mention: LA Clippers, Philadelphia


LA became an elite team again when it pulled off one of the big trades of the 2007-08 campaign, acquiring the seven-foot Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for an assorted group of flotsam. Gasol fits in great as a second option to Bryant and works very well with and the rest of his teammates.

The Spanish star uses his vaunted offensive skills and fundamentals to score at will on the low blocks and shed the soft label two years ago when he became an underrated defender with the ability to torture the opposition with his length.

Honorable Mention: Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas; Ginobili


1. Chris Paul, New Orleans
2. Deron Williams, Utah
3. Derrick Rose, Chicago
4. Steve Nash, Phoenix
5. Rajon Rondo, Boston
6. Chauncey Billups. Denver
7. Tony Parker, San Antonio
8. Jameer Nelson, Orlando
9. Devin Harris, New Jersey
10. Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia


1. Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers
2. Dwyane Wade, Miami
3. Brandon Roy, Portland
4. Joe Johnson, Atlanta
5. Ray Allen, Boston
6. Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia
7. Tyreke Evans, Sacramento
8. O.J. Mayo, Memphis
9. Stephen Jackson, Charlotte
10. Jason Richardson, Phoenix


1. Dwight Howard, Orlando
2. Brook Lopez, New Jersey
3. Yao Ming, Houston
4. Al Horford, Atlanta
5. Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee
6. Chris Kaman, LA Clippers
7. Joakim Nosh, Chicago
8. Al Jefferson, Utah
9. Nene, Denver
10. Andrew Bynum, LA Lakers


1. LeBron James, Cleveland
2. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City
3. Carmelo Anthony, Denver
4. Gerald Wallace, Charlotte
5. Paul Pierce, Boston
6. Danny Granger, Indiana
7. Rudy Gay, Memphis
8. Caron Butler, Dallas
9. Luol Deng, Chicago
10. Ron Artest, LA Lakers


1. Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers
2. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas
3. Chris Bosh, Toronto
4. Tim Duncan, San Antonio
5. Amar'e Stoudemire, New York
6. Kevin Garnett, Boston
7. Carlos Boozer, Chicago
8. David Lee, Golden State
9. Luis Scola, Houston
10. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Flyers snap out of funk, double up Sabres

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

Jeff  Carter recorded  a  goal and  two assists  as Philadelphia  posted a season-high for  goals in a game with a 6-3 win over Buffalo, in a contest which saw the home team honor one of its most memorable players.

Claude  Giroux and Danny Briere added a goal and a helper each for the Flyers, who  had lost four of five coming in and earned their fourth win of the season by notching a season-high three power-play goals.

Nikolay Zherdev, Darroll  Powe and Andreas Nodl also tallied to back 32 saves from Sergei Bobrovsky.

Prior to the contest, the Flyers honored former defenseman Barry Ashbee, who was part of the team's 1974 Stanley Cup winners despite having his career ended by a severe eye injury before the conclusion of that season. Ashbee was named as assistant coach prior to the start of the following season, also a championship campaign.

Diagnosed with leukemia in April, 1977, Ashbee passed away the following month and subsequently his Number 4 was retired by the franchise.

Thomas  Vanek, Tyler Myers  and Steve Montador hit the net for the Sabres, who have dropped six of their last eight games.

Ryan Miller allowed five goals on 33 shots in the loss. The 2010 Vezina Trophy winner has given up five goals in a game twice in nine games this year. He gave up five goals just three times in 69 games last season.

The  Flyers moved ahead for good at 4:43 of the second period, but not without controversy.  While Zherdev cruised through the slot, Briere was pushed behind Miller  by a  defenseman and stood in  the crease as the Ukrainian winger shot the  puck  into the  far  side  of the  net.  Despite  Miller's complaints of interference, the home team took a 2-1 advantage.

Giroux fed Powe at the left side of the crease to cap a 2-on-1 break for a 3-1 Philly  lead at the  11:44 mark, then it was a three-goal edge on a power play less  than three minutes later as Giroux won a faceoff forward and sent a pass intended for Nodl off the skate of Sabres captain Mike Grier and past Miller.

On  a  two-man advantage, Carter's redirection  in the slot of a Mike Richards slap pass made it 5-1 at 38 seconds of the third period.

Myers  ripped a  shot through  a screen  for a  power-play marker  at 7:10  to bring Buffalo within three, and when Montador had an open look in the slot for a successful wrister with 7:28 remaining it was 5-3.

The  Sabres  had an extra skater  out with 1:35 to  play, and had a goal wiped out  25  seconds later as  Vanek was ruled  to have kicked  a puck in with his skate.

Nodl then hit the empty net with 36 seconds to play to seal the victory, tallying his first goal of the season after linemate Blair Betts gave up the puck along the Buffalo blue line.

Buffalo  hit the  scoreboard at 8:54 of the first period when Montador's point drive  sailed  through traffic, hit Vanek  in the pants, and trickled into the net.

Philadelphia equalized on the power play with 4:45 to go, when Briere took his own  rebound  from along the goal  line to the  left of Miller and squeezed it through at the left post. It was his team-leading sixth of the season.

Notes: Carter's  last  three-point game  occurred during  a 4-2  win over Carolina on January  23,  2010...It was the  Flyers' first home  win over the Sabres since March 10, 2009 when they took a 5-2 game...The Flyers' win snapped a streak of five  straight  victories by the  road team, beginning with Philadelphia's 6-4
decision at Buffalo on March 20, 2009...All four games last season were won by the  road  team...Briere and Giroux  posted their first multi-point efforts of the year...Nodl recorded his first point since notching an assist against Washington on Dec. 5, 2009. It also was the second goal of his career and first since Dec. 20, 2008 against the Capitals.

Union hires Rowan as EVP and chief revenue officer

Chester, Pa. (October 26, 2010) -   Philadelphia Union has announced the hiring of Dave Rowan as the team's Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer.  Rowan brings a wealth of knowledge to Philadelphia Union with over 26 years of experience in the sports industry, including stints with the Philadelphia Eagles, Philadelphia Phillies and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"I am extremely excited to be joining Philadelphia Union and Keystone Sports and Entertainment," remarked Rowan.  "I look forward to building off of the phenomenal foundation that has been established by MLS, the ownership group, the staff and the tens of thousands of supporters.  I'm truly honored to be part of such a great organization and am looking forward to many exciting times both on and off the field."

The Marlton, N.J. resident spent the last six years as the Director of Sports Sales for CBS Radio, where he was responsible for selling integrated sponsorship packages for all of Philadelphia's major sports teams including the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and 76ers.

"We are delighted to welcome Dave to the Union family and are excited to have such an accomplished executive join our team," said Philadelphia Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz.  "Dave's wealth of experience and local roots will be a tremendous addition to our staff."

"Dave will be a huge asset to our organization," said Philadelphia Union President Tom Veit.  "Not only is he a Philly guy with a great reputation but he also possesses an understanding of the Union culture and our relationship with our supporters."

Prior to joining CBS Radio, he served as the Vice President of Corporate Sales for the Eagles, overseeing all of the team's corporate partnerships, promotions and naming rights negotiations and presentations.  Rowan also played a major role in closing one of the largest stadium naming rights deals in League history with Lincoln Financial Group and the largest for a team practice facility with NovaCare.  His department continued to thrive in Lincoln Financial Field's first year of operation, establishing the Eagles as one of the top revenue producing teams in the NFL.

Rowan spent three seasons as the Director of Corporate Sales for the Jacksonville Jaguars, developing the corporate sales plans for the team in its first year of existence, including naming rights and multiple seven figure Owner's Circle marketing relationships.  He was also in charge of the team's in house broadcast department.

A 1984 graduate of Penn State University, he began his career with the Phillies organization, first as the General Manager of the Clearwater Phillies and then later as an account executive in Corporate Sales for the Major League franchise.

Rowan has also been the Director of Sales for the Spectacor Management Group, where he was responsible for all sales activities of the Flyers and Spectrum properties, as well as the 11 buildings in the Southeast region of the country, including the Louisiana Superdome and Jacksonville Gator Bowl.

Collins names starting lineup

New Sixers coach Doug Collins has announced his starting lineup for Wednesday's season opener against the Miami Heat.

Jrue Holiday and Andre Igoudala will start in the backcourt, Jason Kapano and Elton Brand will fan the forward spots and Spencer Hawes will patrol the pivot.

The sharp-shooting Kapono is the one surprise but Collins likes his presence to help space the floor. Meanwhile, the team's bench, which will feature Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, Lou Williams, Marreese Speights, Andres Nocioni,  Darius Songalia and Tony Battie is formidable, at least on paper.

Rookie big man Craig Brackins and guard Jodie Meeks will be inactive.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Temple's Wilkerson named MAC Defensive Player of the Week

CLEVELAND (10/25/10) - Temple junior DT Muhammad Wilkerson (Linden, N.J.) has earned the Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Week honor for the East division, the MAC announced on Monday.

In Saturday's 42-0 win at Buffalo, Wilkerson led the Owls with six tackles and a career-high 2.5 sacks.  The defense preserved the shutout, the team's first since 1992 and first shutout of a BCS opponent since 1984. The 42-point win was the largest margin of victory for Temple in a MAC game.

A starter in all eight games, Wilkerson is third with 51 tackles while posting a team-best 8.5 TFL, a team-best 7.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, two break-ups, and a hurry.

The MAC honor is the third of Wilkerson's career and his second this season. He also earned the honor on Sept. 13.  This fall six Owls have been honored by the MAC seven times.

Temple (6-2, 3-1 MAC) hosts Akron (0-8, 0-4) on Saturday, Oct. 30 in its annual Breast Cancer Awareness game at Lincoln Financial Field.  The first 5,000 fans will receive pink pom pons. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

Crew disposes of Union in season finale

October 24, 2010 (Columbus, OH) - Philadelphia Union's road woes continued in the expansion club's season finale, with Peter Nowak's side falling 3-1 to the Columbus Crew on Sunday. Guillermo Barros Schelotto netted an early penalty kick, Emilio Renteria doubled the advantage before the break, and Andres Mendoza scored late in the second half, providing more than enough offense behind a stellar performance from Columbus goalkeeper Will Hesmer. Sebastien Le Toux boosted his MVP candidacy with his 14th goal of the season to go along with 11 assists.

After dominating possession early, Columbus reaped the benefit of spending so much time in Philadelphia's defensive third. Eduardo Coudet was whistled for a foul in the area when he tackled Eddie Gaven at the edge of the box, and Barros Schelotto calmly netted his ninth goal of the season in the 15th minute off the ensuing penalty kick, targeting the lower left corner with goalkeeper Chris Seitz diving in the opposite direction.

The Union settled down after the goal and controlled the tempo until falling victim to a defensive breakdown in the 42nd minute.  Robbie Rogers turned to the middle of the field from the left touchline and slotted a pass to Eddie Gaven, who turned and played Renteria through with a clever chip while the Union were attempting to hold their line. With no defenders in his vicinity, Renteria took one touch and found the lower right corner of the net to give Columbus a 2-0 advantage.

Seitz kept the Union in the match before the interval when Columbus threatened to extend their lead minutes after their second goal. Emmanuel Ekpo took advantage of space in the midfield and dribbled into
Philadelphia's area, laying a ball off to a wide-open Renteria 14 yards out.  Looking for a brace, Renteria one-timed a shot while falling down, but Seitz was up to the task, diving to his left to parry the attempt away.
The Union nearly pulled one back in the 59th minute when second half sub Shea Salinas sent a cross in from the right to Justin Mapp in the middle of the area. Mapp sent a bouncing ball towards goal, but Hesmer made an acrobatic save to deny the Union's bid to cut the deficit in half.

The Crew had a chance of their own in the 63rd minute when Renteria was sent through along the right flank by Barros Schelotto. Dribbling diagonally into the box, Renteria tried to sneak an angled shot near post, but Seitz closed down the available space and made a save with his legs to keep the Union within striking distance.

Seitz continued his strong performance in the 68th minute when Renteria broke free yet again, coming out to close down a breakaway opportunity.

The Crew would find a third goal, however, after Barros Schelotto broke free in Philadelphia's territory in the 79th minute. Michael Orozco Fiscal deflected the ball away at the edge of the area, but it bounced right to Mendoza, who rocketed a one-timer with his left foot past Seitz to put the match out of reach.

Despite being down 3-0, the Union continued to push forward. Only a tremendous save from Hesmer off a blast from Salinas kept the Union from scoring in the 81st minute, and Philadelphia avoided the shutout with a tally in the 87th minute. Le Toux received a pass from Alejandro Moreno in the middle of the field, turning towards goal and blasting a shot from just beyond the area past Gaven, who come on for an injured Hesmer late in the match.

The road proved to the Union's downfall this year, as the club finished with a 2-12-1 mark away from Philadelphia. With the loss, the Union failed to record consecutive wins in league play, despite their much-improved form after a rough start to the season. Officially shedding the expansion label, the Union notched a 8-15-7 record in their inaugural campaign, good for seventh in the Eastern Conference.

Philadelphia Union 1, at Columbus Crew 3


CLB -- Guillermo Barros Schelotto 9 (penalty kick) 15

CLB -- Emilio Renteria 5 (Eddie Gaven 5, Robbie Rogers1) 42

CLB -- Andres Mendoza 2 (Guillermo Barros Schelotto 9) 79

PHI -- Sebastien Le Toux 14 (Alejandro Moreno 7, Roger Torres 6) 87

Attendance: 19,006


CLB -- Emilio Renteria (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 63

PHI -- Michael Orozco Fiscal (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 63

PHI -- Roger Torres (caution; Tactical Foul) 76

Referee: Jair Marrufo

Referee's Assistants: -Chris Strickland; Daniel Belleau

4th Official: Hilario Grajeda

Time of Game: 1:51

Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-78-degrees

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Navy routs Notre Dame

By John McMullen

East Rutherford, NJ (The Phanatic Magazine) - Notre Dame hasn't been a real national power since Lou Holtz was roaming the sidelines in South Bend but there is still something about the Fighting Irish.

A crowd of 75,614 greeted the Irish in north Jersey on Saturday but the subway alumni went home despondent as Navy routed Notre Dame, 35-17, in the renewal of college football's longest continuous intersectional rivalry at the new Meadowlands Stadium.

Alexander Teich had a career-best 210 yards rushing on just 26 carries, and added a career-long 31-yard touchdown reception for Navy (5-2), while quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who came in averaging just 2.9 yards a carry, finished with 90 yards and three touchdowns on 20 rushes.

Notre Dame (4-4) apologists will point to the fact that the Irish were playing without their top three receivers, wideouts Michael Floyd (hamstring) and Theo Riddick (ankle), along with tight end Kyle Rudolph (hamstring), but that doesn't explain the woeful performance of the team's defense.

Under the much-maligned Charlie Weis the Irish had a ton of trouble defending Navy's triple-option in recent years but things hit rock-bottom on Saturday afternoon. The Notre Dame defenders were on their heels from the outset and never recovered, allowing 367 yards rushing.

"This is what we are. We are an option team," said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo. "Sure we use the triple but I'm not sure we did anything Notre Dame hasn't seen, we just executed."

Notre Dame is now 72-12-1 all-time against the Midshipman since the rivalry began back in 1927, but has lost three of the past four matchups since 2007 when Navy beat the Irish to snap Notre Dame's 43-game winning streak in the series, the NCAA record for the longest run against any opponent.

Meanwhile, the Irish lost for the first time ever in the state of New Jersey. Notre Dame came into today's contest 14-0 in the Garden State, including an 11-0 mark at the old Giants Stadium.

"This is 2010," Niumatalolo said. "We are a good team, they are a good team."

Dayne Crist completed 19-of-31 passes for 178 yards with one TD and two interceptions while Armando Allen added 90 all-purpose yards for UND.

The Irish and their new coach Brian Kelly were simply outschemed by the far less-talented Midshipman. Time and time again Notre Dame failed to locate the ball as Navy gashed them in the historic performance.

The Irish went methodically downfield on the games's opening possession but came up empty when Christ was stoned on a quarterback sneak on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line.

That stop changed the game's momentum and Navy never looked back after quickly taking an early 7-0 lead thanks to a six-play, 99-yard march in what could have been called the Teich show. First, the Navy fullback converted a 3rd-and-1 with a career-high 54-yard rumble and, three plays later, corralled a poorly thrown screen pass with one hand before racing 31 yards for the TD.

The Irish were able to move the ball again on their second possession but bogged down inside the 25 before David Ruffer came on to boot a 45-yard field goal, his school record 18th consecutive.

The Notre Dame defense continued to struggle identifying the ball carrier during Navy's next possession and a big pass interference call on safety Harrison Smith helped the Midshipman en route to another TD and a 14-3 lead. Dobbs capped the 12-play, 77-yard drive with a 3-yard keeper with 11:01 left in the second quarter.

The Irish kept moving the ball and finally found the end zone on their next attempt when Crist finished a 13-play, 72-yard march by finding freshman receiver T.J. Jones for a 16-yard score on a big 3rd-and-14 play to make it a 14-10 game with 6:07 on the clock until intermission.

The Notre Dame defense finally stopped Navy for the first time when junior defensive end Ethan Johnson sniffed out a Dobbs run for a 2-yard loss on a 3rd-and-4 near midfield. But, Midshipman punter Kyle Delahooke pinned the Irish at their own three. Notre Dame was unable to move the ball and Crist
threw an awful pass into double coverage on third down that De'Von Richardson picked off at the ND 30.

The Irish defense continued its hapless performance when Carlo Calabrese, a Verona, NJ native, missed a tackle on Gee Gee Greene in the open field, allowing the running back to get the corner and find the end zone for a 9-yard score, giving Navy a commanding 21-10 edge heading to the locker room.

Any hope on an Irish comeback in the second half was quickly muted when Navy came out and sliced through the ND defense again, this time for an easy 7-play, 77-yard drive that Dobbs puncuated with a 9-yard TD run.

The rout was on after another Crist interception when Dobbs scored for a third time and the 43td time in his college career, this time on a 1-yard TD plunge to make it 35-10 with 4:38 remaining in the third quarter.

Cierre Wood's 1-yard TD run for Notre Dame with 6:12 left in the game accounted for the final margin.


*Rudolph, an All-American tight end, recently underwent surgery for a torn hamstring and is out for the season. The junior had 28 receptions for 328 yards and three TDs before being shut down.

Riddick, who moved from running back to receiver this spring, was enjoying a breakout season before suffering a severely sprained ankle last week against Western Michigan. Riddick, who the team hopes to have back for the Utah game on Nov. 13, has 38 receptions for 406 yards and three touchdowns in seven games.

Floyd, one of the best receivers in the country and a future first round pick in the NFL Draft, was listed as a game-time decision with a hamstring injury. The junior from St. Paul, Minnesota's famous Cretin-Derham Hall High School has 44 catches for 624 yards and six TDs on the year.

*The two schools officially announced at halftime that next year's game will be played on Sept. 1 at the new 50,000 seat Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. The teams also played in Ireland back in 1996.

*Despite its failings in recent years Notre Dame is still a "national" program that recruits from the entire country. The Irish have seven players from New Jersey, incuding tight end Mike Ragone of Camden Catholic in south Jersey. The Irish have eight players from Pennsylvania including West Chester's Ryan Kavanagh, a reserve long snapper.