Archive for September, 2016

Washington’s biggest home game in 15 years ended with Stanford in little pieces

Posted by    |    September 30th, 2016 at 11:15 pm

This was the Huskies’ moment, and they didn’t miss.

Washington’s good –€” better than in a long while, it appears.

The No. 10 Huskies came into Friday night’s game against No. 7 Stanford without a loss, but they hadn’t yet gotten a chance to prove they could swing with the big boys and beat them. Stanford has some of the biggest boys around, and it didn’t matter. The Huskies boat-raced the Cardinal from the outset, attacking Stanford all over and never letting up. By the time the purple smoke lifted in Seattle, it was 44-6, Washington. It was never close.

Stanford entered with a bunch of injuries, including to its top two cornerbacks. The Cardinal started two backups, and Washington threw at both of them for big plays on its first-possession touchdown drive. The Huskies just kept coming, bulldozing Stanford’s vaunted offensive line at one moment and corralling Christian McCaffrey at the next.

Maybe that was the biggest thing. Of course Washington exploited Stanford’s backups in the secondary, but the Huskies went after Stanford’s strengths, too. That behemoth offensive line that inspired our Shakespearean love letter just on Thursday? Allowed eight sacks. Stanford’s talented defensive front? Got zero. McCaffrey, the deadliest running back in all the land? Had 12 carries for 49 yards.

It was a blowout. Washington is 5-0 and in total control of the Pac-12 North. UW is the conference’s best Playoff hope by a mile, and come Sunday, it will almost surely have its highest AP Poll ranking since finishing No. 3 after 2000.

The Huskies entered the year with a whole lot of hype.

Friday was a chance for validation. They seized it.

The Huskies were brilliant immediately. Stanford ran four plays for 13 yards to start the game, then immediately gave up a seven-play, 64-yard touchdown drive over the next three minutes.

Washington just kept running it up, tossing Stanford’s quarterbacks to the ground. When McCaffrey got the ball, he didn’t usually go anywhere. Sometimes Stanford tried to run the ball without him, and the entire operation looked like this mess:

This, also, simply isn’t Stanford’s brand:

What are you doing tonight, Stanford? pic.twitter.com/HGWS5zbpPB

— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) October 1, 2016

Maybe Washington just demoralized them. Whatever it was, it was bad. Washington decided to use a 16-play, 75-yard, nearly 10-minute touchdown drive in the fourth quarter as an exclamation point, but the game was already long over.

Stanford’s supposed to be a safe bet. The Cardinal are usually great, and when they’re not, they’re still not bad. Oregon’s blown them out a few times since Shaw took over in 2011, and Arizona State beat them by 16 a couple of years ago. But almost always, they’d been competitive up and down Shaw’s 71 games helming the program. This isn’t a team that’s supposed to get crushed, and Washington went ahead and stomped it like a bug.

The stat sheet paints an obliterative picture. Washington quarterback Jake Browning was 15-of-21 passing for 210 yards and three scores. The yardage totals were 424 for Washington, 213 for Stanford.

The Huskies have been here before, most recently about 15 years ago.

Washington won a national title in 1991. The school honored that team on Friday, because sometimes timing is poetry. But the Huskies have had other good years since then, including an 11-1 Rose Bowl year in 2000 and an 8-4 season in 2001 that wrapped with the Huskies ranked 19th in the country. They haven’t finished higher than 25th since. But even that year wasn’t everything it could’ve been.

In 2001, Stanford came to Seattle in November, ranked No. 10 against the No. 11 Huskies. Washington delivered a hurting that day, too, winning 42-28 to move to 7-1. UW closed the year meekly, though, losing three of its last four, including the Holiday Bowl against Texas. The start was good, but the finish wasn’t.

Now the Huskies have a chance to do it better. They’re in the North’s driver’s seat, and they’re better than anyone in the conference’s South. The Playoff’s sitting there for them, and everyone else should be scared of them.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s teammates excited to see him return to track

Posted by    |    September 30th, 2016 at 10:22 pm

Earnhardt, who’s still recovering from a concussion, will attend the NASCAR races this weekend at Dover.

Although he won’t be competing, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be in attendance for Saturday’s Xfinity Series race and Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series event at Dover International Speedway, the first time he’ll be at the track for a race since removing himself out of the car in early July.

Earnhardt’s returning to watch a race is an encouraging sign, as he continues to recover from a concussion sustained when he crashed during a June 12 race at Michigan International Speedway. NASCAR’s most popular personality has been at the track twice previously, but each time was on a Friday to conduct a press conference and he left shortly thereafter.

Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson are looking forward to seeing Earnhardt, who’s missed 10 races and will sit out the remainder of the season, at the track this weekend. Jeff Gordon will drive Earnhardt’s No. 88 in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race.

“I can only imagine how hard it is to go to the track and watch your car race, and then also how boring it would be because we do have the coolest job to sit in that race car,” Johnson said. “And then just to come to a track and watch, I don’t know if I could do it.

“[It’s] great from a public perception that he’s coming and that people can really see how hard he’s working and then kind of tie that together with his recovery process.”

Earnhardt’s watching racing in-person is part of the rehabilitation from his third concussion in four years, he said Monday on “The Dale Jr. Download” podcast.” That includes exposing himself to situations where loud noises could trigger symptoms such as the grocery store, restaurants, or the race track. He will sit in the pits for both the Xfinity and Sprint Cup races.

“For those guys to see him at the race track and there supporting them, I’m sure it has to mean a lot to those guys,” Elliott said. “… I 100 percent think it would [a boost] for sure.”

While Earnhardt hasn’t been at the track, he has regularly visited Hendrick’s headquarters in Concord, N.C., where’s met with crew chief Greg Ives and taken part in company-wide competition meetings. Elliott said Earnhardt has also continued to fulfill sponsor obligations.

Earnhardt is targeting being medically cleared in time for the start of the 2017 season, which begins with the Daytona 500 in February.

“I’ve seen a lot of him and I know he’s dying to get back in the race car and eager to feel amazing again,” Johnson said. “I think he’s on a great road of progress right now.”

Ryder Cup 2016: Live results, scores, match schedule, format, and more

Posted by    |    September 30th, 2016 at 7:45 pm

The world’s premier team international golf competition is under way just outside the Twin Cities.

Golf fans get four major championships every year. But only once every two years do they get an opportunity to enjoy the stars of the game in the world’s premier team competition.

The Ryder Cup is here.

Two 12-man teams from the USA and Europe will meet at major championship venue Hazeltine National just outside the Twin Cities in Chaska, Minnesota, to compete for Samuel Ryder’s trophy for the 41st time. It is two days of two-man partner competitions on Friday and Saturday mornings and afternoons, followed by 12 one-on-one matches on Sunday.

The competition can trace its earliest roots to an informal competition between golf professionals from the United States and Great Britain in 1921. That led to the first official Ryder Cup in 1927 between the US and Great Britain and Ireland. At Jack Nicklaus’ urging, continental Europe was added to the competition to make the event more competitive and take on a bigger profile in 1979 — and that led to the massive, raucous international event that fans know today.

But despite the Americans early domination, the Ryder Cup’s recent history has been owned by the Euros. The US team has only won the trophy once (2008) since the famed Battle at Brookline in 1999 — and most of the European wins over that time period have come by large margins, including the last meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland in 2014. That led to the creation of the US Ryder Cup Task Force, the group that was slated with the task of revamping the American team golf process and get the team back to the glory of past years.

This year’s edition features an American team that captain Davis Love III called the “best golf team ever assembled” — but it’s hard for many pundits to even believe they’re the best team in this competition. A number of the stars of the European roster are coming off career years, while some of the Americans have stumbled through the 2016 season. But the Euros come to Chaska with five rookies on the roster, how will they handle the hostile crowds in Minnesota? There’s a reason the Americans were the betting favorites early in the week.

How to Watch on Saturday

Day 2 coverage — Saturday’s second two sessions

Television:

9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET — NBC

Online streaming:

8 a.m. AND 1 p.m. — Ryder Cup “First Tee Experience” stream

9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET  — Golf Channel/NBC Sports LiveExtra simulcast stream

Radio:

1 to 6 p.m. — PGA Tour Radio on Sirius-XM (Ch. 92/208 and streamed here)

Format

The Ryder Cup, of course, isn’t a stroke play event. This is a team, match-play event with variations over the three days.

On Friday and Saturday, the Ryder Cup consists of eight two-a-side team matches, four in the morning and four in the afternoon. The morning format features what will be called “foursomes” — but what the casual player might know better as alternate shot. Two players playing the same ball, switching off until the ball is holed. The afternoon matches are what’s known as Four Ball — or maybe Best Ball at your local club. All four players play their own ball through the hole, and the best score between the two Americans and two Europeans wins the hole for their respective side. Four players on each team will sit out each session.

But Sunday is where the Cup usually swings and things get wild. All 12 players in the field compete in one-on-one match play competition.

The Rosters

USA Europe
Dustin Johnson 1 Rory McIlroy
Jordan Spieth 2 Henrik Stenson
Phil Mickelson 3 Justin Rose
Jimmy Walker 4 Sergio Garcia
Brooks Koepka 5 Danny Willett
Brandt Snedeker 6 Rafa Cabrera-Bello
Patrick Reed 7 Andy Sullivan
Zach Johnson 8 Matthew Fitzpatrick
JB Holmes 9 Chris Wood
Rickie Fowler 10 Martin Kaymer
Matt Kuchar 11 Lee Westwood
Ryan Moore 12 Thomas Pieters

Schedule

Saturday Morning Foursomes

7:35 a.m.: Rickie Fowler & Phil Mickelson (USA) vs. Rory McIlroy & Thomas Pieters (EUR)

7:50 a.m.: Brandt Snedeker & Brooks Koepka (USA) vs. Henrik Stenson & Matt Fitzpatrick (EUR)

8:05 a.m.: Jimmy Walker & Zach Johnson (USA) vs. Justin Rose & Chris Wood (EUR)

8:20 a.m.: Patrick Reed & Jordan Spieth (USA) vs. Sergio Garcia & Rafa Cabrera Bello (EUR)

Results

USA leads 5-3

Friday Morning Foursomes

Spieth & Reed (USA) def. Rose & Stenson (EUR), 3&2.

Mickelson & Fowler (USA) def. McIlroy & Sullivan (EUR), 1-up

Walker & Johnson (USA) def. Garcia & Kaymer (EUR), 4&2

Johnson & Kuchar (USA) def.  Pieters & Westwood (EUR), 5&4

Friday Afternoon Fourballs

Stenson & Rose (EUR) def. Spieth & Reed (USA), 5&4

Garcia & Cabrera-Bello (EUR) defMoore & Holmes (USA), 3&2

Snedeker & Koepka (USA) def. Kaymer & Willett (EUR), 5&4

McIlroy & Pieters (EUR) def. Johnson & Kuchar (USA), 3&2

Shooting Guard Jase Febres Commits to Texas Longhorns Hoops

Posted by    |    September 30th, 2016 at 6:45 pm

Jase Febres is a Texas Longhorn. The Houston Westfield shooting guard is currently ranked 60th in the 247 Sports Composite rankings. He officially visited Texas on September 10 and chose the Longhorns over the Houston Cougars, Baylor Bears, and Stanford Cardinal.

Shooter is the first word that comes to mind when watching Febres light up his YouTube reels. He’s the guy that, in 20 years, will just run 3-point line to 3-point line and spot up shoot his younger nemeses to death. There’s some evolution to his scoring diversity in his highlights, and he’ll need to become a better slasher-scorer to make a significant impact in college. As is, his ability to hit a 3 is already a plus skill. My Scipio cross-racial comparison matrix marks him as a nouveau-riche Matt McQuaid. In other words, I’m a fan.

I foresee Febres getting playing time right away as a freshman, serving as a microwave bench shooter. Not much context on his ability to D, but that’s a prerequisite to getting playing time in Shaka Smart’s system. Febres is a great take as a multi-year developer. If things break right, he’s taking over at the 2 as Eric Davis gets ready to play professional ball. Welcome aboard, Jase. Hook ’em.

76ers Ben Simmons suffers a fractured foot during practice

Posted by    |    September 30th, 2016 at 5:26 pm

The No. 1 pick is now dealing with an injury.

Philadelphia 76ers rookie and No. 1 pick Ben Simmons fractured his foot during practice on Friday. According to the 76ers, Simmons suffered a fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone of his right foot. The team is still evaluating treatment options and there isn’t yet a timeline for how long he could be sidelined.

The injury occurred during the final scrimmage of the team’s training camp at Stockton University. Simmons rolled his ankle and it was initially believed to be a minor injury before an X-Ray and MRI revealed the fracture.

Simmons was pegged to play a major role as the cornerstone of the franchise as the 76ers attempt to turn young talent into success on the court. Although a timeline for his return is still yet to be determined, this is a significant setback on the start of his rookie season. It’s also the second time a foot injury has hampered a 76ers lottery pick. Joel Embiid missed all of his first two NBA seasons after needing multiple surgeries on his foot.

The recovery of a foot fracture for an NBA player can vary significantly depending on the location and severity of the fracture. Kevin Durant suffered a Jones fracture — a fracture from the base of the fifth metatarsal — and was originally slated to miss 6-8 weeks. Durant’s injury turned out to be serious as he needed second and third surgeries, and went on to miss an extended period of time.

Fracturing the fifth metatarsal is fairly common in the NBA. The recovery depends on the type of fracture and avoiding re-injury. In some cases, a player returns in 4-6 weeks, like Brandon Jennings did in 2010. In worst cases, additional surgery is required.

Simmons’ timeline to return will depend on whether he suffered a mid-shaft fracture, a Jones fracture or a Avulsion fracture. InStreetClothes.com has a complete breakdown of the NBA players who have suffered the injury and their recoveries. In any case, he’s likely to miss a few weeks. The Sixers will begin the regular season on Oct. 26.