Saturday, October 27, 2007

Olli Jokinen Breaks Panthers Scoring Records

Congratulations to Panthers center Olli Jokinen for breaking the Florida Panthers franchise scoring records for both career goals and points. Jokinen scored two goals in the Panther's 4-3 win over the Philadlphia Flyers Wednesday night. He also set a team record with his 31st game winning goal.

Jokinen now has 355 career points and 158 goals to break the previous team records held by Scott Mellanby, who played for the Panthers from the expansion 1993 season to 2001. Mellanby was one of the signature players in Panthers history and a key member of the Florida's 1995-96 team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals.

Do They Speak English in London?

Channing Crowder

Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder will never be confused for a rocket scientist. But when Crowder asked a Sun Sentinel reporter whether people in London spoke English, you either had to wonder if Crowder was joking or if he's just plain stupid. I'm hoping its the former and not the latter.

Here's what Crowder said. "I couldn't find London on a map if they didn't have the names of the countries. I swear to God. I don't know what nothing is. I know Italy looks like a boot. I learned that. I know London Fletcher. We did a football camp together. So I know him. That's the closest thing I know to London. He's black, so I'm sure he's not from London. I'm sure that's a coincidental name."

Wow! This is just another example of how athletes should just keep their mouths shut. Crowder, who attended the University of Florida, probably didn't take any geography classes in Gainesville. If he did, it sounds like he slept through them.

Heat trade Antoine Walker to Minnesota for Ricky Davis in a 5 player deal

Ricky Davis shown playing against the Heat last year

Miami Heat fans can finally say goodbye to the tippy-toe three-point shots of Antoine Walker. No longer will we have to endure another frustrating season of clanks from the free throw line and 3-point line from the notoriously inconsistant Walker. The Heat traded Walker along with Michael Doleac,Wayne Simien and a conditional first round draft pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Ricky Davis and Mark Blount.

This trade should make the Heat a better team for now. But not good enough to return to championship glory. The Heat will begin the season without Dwyane Wade who is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. The Heat are hoping Ricky Davis can help fill the void during Wade's absence. When Wade returns, Davis will likely move from shooting guard to small forward. Davis brings instant offense and athleticism, having averaged 18.6 point per game in the last three years in Minnesota. With the loss of Jason Kapono to free agency, Davis also fills another void--a quality perimeter shooter from 3 point range.

Fans of both Miami and Minnesota are happy about the deal. Both Walker and Davis have talent and also have the ability to make their coaches rip their hair out. In addition to his inconsistant play, Walker showed up for training camp out of shape. His body-fat was way above the requirements of Pat Riley, who demands all his players conform to his strict standards of conditioning. A fed-up Riley barred Walker from practicing with the team. It was only a matter of time before Riley would completely run out of patience and dump the lazy Walker.

Davis is not without his faults. While gifted and athletic, he's been known to be somehwat of a ballhog who lacks the discipline to play team basketball. Looking at his track record, he hasn't shown the ability to make his teams better. His numbers are nice, but the victories don't seem follow. Davis is no stranger to Miami. He played for the Heat back in the 2000-2001 season. But he only played in seven games due to an ankle injury. He was then traded to Cleveland and feuded with Cavaliers head coach Paul Silas. Riley later admitted trading Davis was a mistake. But Davis was labled as selfish by fans and the media. In a game against the Utah Jazz in 2003, Davis missed a shot on purpose on his own team's basket just so he could get a rebound and reach a triple double. Now I gotta admit, that's pretty selfish. Since then, he's bounced around from Boston to Minnesota and now back to Miami.

But like any great coach, Pat Riley has an enormous ego. He obviously thinks he can get Davis to buy into his system. But this trade was much than just getting Davis. It was about dumping Walker's salary along with Doleac and Simien, who was a mediocre bench player.

The Heat also get Mark Blount who can play both power forward and center. Blount can basically do everything Doleac can and probably better. The 7-foot, 250 pound Blount averaged double-digits in points and gives the Heat a quality big man off the bench.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Happy Birthday Al Leiter

Happy 42nd birthday to former Florida Marlins pitcher Al Leiter. During his 19 year major league career , Leiter compiled a career record of 162-132 with a 3.80 ERA and 1,974 strikeouts. He had two stints with the Marlins from 1996 to 1997 and again in 2005. On May 11, 1996, Leiter became the first pitcher in Marlins history to throw a no-hitter after beating the Colorado Rockies. He is also remembered for having started game seven of the 1997 World Series, pitching 6 innings and giving up 2 earned runs while being credited with a no decision. The Marlins would go on to beat the Cleveland Indians in extra innings and clinch the team's first World Series title.

Born Alois Terry Leiter in Tom's River, New Jersey, Leiter came from an athletic family. His older brother Mark was also major league pitcher. But it was Al who was considered the best talent in the family. At Central Regional High School in New Jersey he began to carve a legendary career, attracting major league scouts with his lively arm and 90 plus mph fastball. Following his high school graduation, the New York Yankees selected Leiter in the second round of the 1984 Major League Draft. Three years later, he made his major league debut with the Yankees.

Over the course of the next 18 years, Leiter pitched for the Yankees, Blue Jays, Marlins and Mets. In April 2002, he became the first pitcher to defeat all 30 major league teams and was a two-time National League All Star. (1996 and 2000).

Leiter spent only three combined seasons with the Marlins during his two stints. His 1996 season was one of the best of his career. In addition to throwing a no-hitter, Leiter went 16-12 with 200 strikeouts. In 1997, he helped the Marlins win the World Series. Leiter also has a World Series ring as a member of the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays.

Following his baseball career, Leiter has gone on to a successful broadcast career. He currently works for the YES Network doing color commentary on the New York Yankees broadcasts. He has also done work for the Fox Network during the playoffs over the last several seasons. Leiter is also known for his charity work. He won the Branch Rickey Award in 1999 and the Roberto Clemente Award in 2000.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Patriots Stay Perfect...Unfortunately so do the Dolphins

Randy Moss makes a leaping catch over Dolphins defenders Cameron Worrell and Will Allen

This game was worse than men vs. boys. Watching the Patriots beat the Dolphins was like witnessing a school bully taking away lunch money from the class nerd. Randy Moss should have been arrested for rape by the way he violated Dolphins safety Cameron Worrell. By halftime, Tom Brady had thown five touchdown passes and the Patriots led 42-7. The Patriots may be the most dominant team I've seen in a long time--if ever. They've destroyed every team they've played and are now 7-0. The Dolphins are now 0-7 and will next play the the hot New York Giants in London.

To make things worse, the Dolphins lost running back Ronnie Brown to a season ending ACL injury. Not only are the Dolphins losing games, they continue to lose key players. Two weeks ago, it was Trent Green. This past week, leading receiver Chris Chambers was traded to San Diego and now Brown is gone for the year.

I'm going to say it now. This team has a damn good chance to go perfect--as in 0-16. In fact, the Dolphins may have a better chance of losing all of their games than the Patriots do in winning theirs. By the way, the 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs are the only team in NFL history to go a full season winless. They went 0-14.

Every year, the 1972 Miami Dolphins reunite for a champagne party when the last undefeated team loses. I doubt the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers reunite to celebrate the last winless team getting in the win column. But look out '76 Bucs, you may have company soon.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Canes Beat the Noles in a Sloppy Classic

Miami linebacker Colin McCarthy races 27 yards for a touchdown after recovering a Xavier Lee fumble. Canes backup tight end Dedrick Epps celebrates his game winning touchdown catch from Kirby Freeman

It may not be the most historic or longest running rivalry in college football. But whenever the University of Miami and Florida State meet on the football field, chances are you'll see a thrilling finish. Forget about the records or where the teams are ranked. (unranked in this case) I dare anyone to find a rivalry that has more close and dramatic finishes than this one. If you have a heart condition and are a fan of either of these schools, this rivalry can be hazardous to your health.

Trailing 29-24 to start the fourth quarter, the Canes were down to their backup quarterback Kirby Freeman, who had completed more passes to the Noles than to his own teammates going into the final drive. With under 3 minutes to play and trailing 29-24, Freeman led the Canes to a game winning 83 yard drive that will down as one of the best in the history of the UM vs FSU rivalry. Just a couple of minutes earlier, Freeman appeared to be the goat, when he was stopped on 4th down and inches quarterback sneak inside the FSU one-yard-line. Never has a quarterback played so poorly, yet been so brilliant when the game was on the line.

How crazy was this game? Throw out all logic and expect the unexpected. Canes backup tight end Dedrick Epps had yet to catch a pass all season. But he would be on the receiving end of Freeman's game winning throw. FSU kicker Gary Cismesia made all five of his field goal attempts. FSU even got a defensive touchdown when linebacker Toddrick Verdell ran back a Kyle Wright interception 45 yards for a touchdown. Miami was able to score 37 points despite losing its starting quarterback Kyle Wright to a severe ankle injury and only four completions by Freeman. But three of Freeman's completions came on the final drive. Miami kicker Francesco Zampogna threw 26 yard touchdown pass on a fake field goal.

But let's be honest. Both of these teams are nowhere near the level they once were in their heyday. Gone are the days when the Canes and Noles were playing for national championships or a top ranking. We're now in an era where the University of South Florida is a better program. Both UM and FSU are unranked. The two teams combined for 9 turnovers and 15 penalties.

It was not a well played game. But you couldn't have asked for a more breathtaking and unlikely finish. Brent Musberger and Keith Jackson weren't broadcasting the game. In fact, ABC didn't even send it's B or C team to cover the game. They sent Terry Gannon and David Norrie--who are probably the network's D team. The only hype going into the contest was the lack of hype. But don't tell that to 82,000 who packed Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahssee or any those who watched it on TV. It was a sloppy classic.

Some observations:

*Miami defensive tackle Teraz McCray was the game's unsung hero. The senior from Pompano Beach Ely High was constantly in the FSU backfield, forcing fumbles and tipping passes. McCray forced FSU quarterback Xavier Lee to fumble that led to linebacker Colin McCarthy to score the game's final touchdown.

*Darnell Jenkins has become Miami's go-to receiver in clutch situations. Jenkins caught 4 passes for 106 yards. Although he didn't score, two of Jenkins catches set up Miami touchdowns, including the game winning pass from Freeman to Epps.

*Randy Shannon is the eighth Miami head coach to face Bobby Bowden's FSU teams. All eight of Miami's head coaches have beaten Bowden at least once.

*Bobby Bowden's record against the Canes drops to 13-20.

*Miami won the game despite FSU scoring first on a Gary Cismesia field goal. Why is this noteworthy? Going into the game, the team that had scored first had won 15 of the last 16 games in this rivlary. Well, make that 15 out of 17.

*Darren Daly replaced Francesco Zampogna as UM's starting place kicker. However, Zampogna came off the bench and threw a touchdown pass to tight end DajLeon Farr on a fake field goal.

*It's quite obvious Graig Cooper is Miami's best running back. Javarris James played better, but is still struggling to duplicate his freshman season. Cooper was used almost exclusively on Miami's game-winning final drive. Cooper needs to get the ball more.

*Sam Shields might be Miami's most talented receiver, yet didn't catch a pass. However, Dedrick Epps, who hadn't caught a pass all year, pulls in the game winner. Go figure.

*The Canes injury problems continue to mount. Miami's defensive line is getting thinner. The Canes played without three defensive tackles Antonio Dixon, Dwayne Hendricks and Josh Holmes. Defensive end Eric Moncur and left tackle Jason Fox also left the game with injuries. Quarterback Kyle Wright was knocked out of the game with a sprained ankle and Kirby Freeman took a vicious shot to the ribs after he was sandwiched between two FSU defenders on his game winning pass.

*Kudos to safety Randy Phillips who had two interceptions on tipped passes. Phillips had begun the year as a starting cornerback. But he lost his job after a terrible performance against Oklahoma. Phillips made the switch to safety and had the best game of his career.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Happy Birthday Willis McGahee

Happy 26th birthday to former University of Miami and current Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee. McGahee has overcome two serious knee injuries to become one of the NFL's most productive and highly paid running backs. His 2002 season at UM is arguably the greatest individual season ever by a UM offensive player the best ever by a Canes running back.

Born Willis Andrew McGahee in Miami, he came from an athletic family. His father Willis Sr. was great high school player at both all-black George Washington Carver and Mays High Schools during segregation. The elder McGahee was a two-time Miami Herald All-City selection as a defensive lineman while playing for legendary high school coach Nathaniel "Traz" Powell and later played college ball at Texas Southern University. Those athletic gifts were passed down to his son Willis Jr.

The younger McGahee was destined to be a football star. He began his high school career at Miami Springs High School where he played for longtime coach Buddy Goins. When McGahee was in the 9th grade, Goins ran into then UM running backs coach Don Soldinger and told him McGahee is the best running back talent he ever saw come out of Dade County. Soldinger never forgot the conversation. He kept track of McGahee throughout his prep career. By his junior year, McGahee had established himself as one of the premier backs in the state. He rushed for 1004 yards, averaging 8.5 per carry, and scored 15 times. He did this despite missing a few games due to injury and earned second team All-Dade County from the Miami Herald.

McGahee transferred to Miami Central High School his senior year where he played for Tim "Ice" Harris. He was hyped as the best running back prospect in the state and one of the best in the country. In his first five games, McGahee lived up to the hype rushing for 677 yards, 11 touchdown and averaged 8.8 yards per carry. But he suffered a season ending knee injury. Despite the injury, college recruiters didn't back off. He was named 3rd Team All Dade County by the Miami Herald and named to the prestigious Parade All American team and Gatorade Florida Player of the Year.

Recruited heavily by Florida, Florida State and Ohio State, McGahee chose to stay home and play for the Canes. He sat out his freshman year while redshirting to rehab his knee injury. McGahee saw his first action in 2001 while playing behind Clinton Portis and fellow freshman Frank Gore. He started his first game in the 2002 Rose Bowl against Nebraska at fullback and helped the Canes win the national championship.

When Portis left UM for the NFL and Gore suffered a season ending knee injury in spring practice, McGahee was given the starting tailback job and ran away with it. In 2002 McGahee gained 1,753 yards and scored 28 touchdowns--both UM records. He finished 4th in the Heisman Trophy voting. He led the Canes to another undefeated regular season and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl to play Ohio State for the national championship.

Heavily favored, the top ranked Canes struggled offensively against the Buckeyes. McGahee was held in check until he scored on 9 yard touchdown run to cut Ohio State's lead to 17-14 in the third quarter. But early in the 4th quarter McGahee suffered a devastating knee injury that forced him to leave the game. Miami eventually lost 31-24 in double overtime due to a controversial pass interference penalty that allowed Ohio State to stay in the game.

Despite the injury, McGahee's agent Drew Rosenhaus used some shrewd maneuvering to convince NFL teams his client was first round worthy. The Buffalo Bills selected McGahee with the 23 pick of the 2003 NFL Draft. After sitting out the 2003 season, McGahee made a strong comeback with the Bills in 2004 rushing for 1,128 yards and 13 touchdowns. He followed that year with a solid 1,247 yards in 2005. After struggling in 2006 with only 990 yards, McGahee signed a 7-year contract worth $40.12 million with the Ravens.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Canes QB Robert Marve to Redshirt

Robert Marve has yet to play a down of football at the University of Miami. In fact, he won't play a down for the Canes until at least next year. But ask any hardcore UM football fan about Marve and they'll tell you how important this young 6-foot-1, 198 pound freshman means to the future of UM football. Marve may be the most highly regarded quarterback recruit to set foot on the UM campus since....well Kyle Wright. However due to injuries he sustained from a car accident over the summer, Marve will sit out the season and redshirt. Marve's injuries have yet to fully heal. He expect to be ready by next spring.

Blessed with a powerful right arm and known as a fiery leader, Marve has a great football pedigree. He is the son of former NFL linebacker Eugene Marve, who played for the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A year ago, Robert led Tampa's Plant High School to a perfect 14-0 record and the Class 4A state title. He threw for a state record 48 touchdown passes and 4,380 yards, erasing the previous records held by current University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. Marve's incredible senior season earned him Florida's Mr. Football honors, given annually to best high school player in the state.

Marve had originally committed to play his college football for Alabama. But when Alabama fired Mike Shula, Marve began looking at other options. He eventually chose the Canes. Since the graduation of Ken Dorsey, UM fans have been starving for excellence to be restored to the quarterback position. They say good things come to those who wait. Canes fans are hoping Marve will return Miami back to where it belongs--on top.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Trent Green Says He'll Be Back

Nobody knows Trent Green's physical condition better than Green himself. But yesterday during his radio show on WQAM, Green told Hank Goldberg he wants to return to the field sometime this season. Just the fact that Green wants to come back makes you wonder if he already has brain damage.

Seriously, what does Green hope to accomplish with a comeback? The Dolphins are going nowhere this season. One more blow to the head and Green's brain could turn into scrambled eggs. As a fan of the Dolphins, I would hope Cam Cameron and the Dolphins organization does the right thing and not put Green back on the field. It's just not worth it. I admire Green's competitiveness and his love for the game he's played since he was a young boy. Sometimes it's tough to let go. But what's more important--playing football or living a normal life? I hope for Green's sake, he makes the right decision.

What will Joey say this week?

Those of you who have read this blog have already figured out my dislike for new Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter. I didn't like him when he played for the Steelers. But at least he was a good player in Pittsburgh. Since signing a $32 million contract with the Dolphins, Porter has been more bark than bite. So far he has zero sacks and did not make a tackle in last week's game against the Browns. Porter has been the eptiomy of a payroll bandit.

Every week, Porter has made more headlines for what he says than what he does. Last week, he criticized Browns tight end Kellen Winslow for not being a true tight end. All Winslow did was catch 5 passes for 90 yards, while burning Porter over and over. Two week prior, he guaranteed the Dolphins would beat the Raiders. That didn't happen. In week one, he acted like a spoiled brat moping on the sidelines and in the lockeroom after yet another ineffective performance. Dating back to last year, Porter has not recorded a quarterback sack in his last 10 games.

This past Sunday, the Fox Network aired surveillance video from a Las Vegas casino which showed Porter and three of his "buddies" attacking Bengals tackle Levi Jones at a black jack table. Porter plead guilty to charges of misdemeanor battery and was fined for his actions by the NFL. It may have been the last time Porter actually hit somebody. I guess if you can't hit somebody on a football field, you might as well join your fellow thugs and attack somebody in a casino.

Since the Dolphins are 0-6 and have virtually no chance of beating the Patriots this coming Sunday, I'm waiting to hear what kind of verbal nonsense Porter has for this week. Maybe he'll say Tom Brady isn't a real quarterback because he's too pretty. Perhaps Porter will guarantee Randy Moss won't catch a pass. Whatever outlandish garbage comes out of Joey's mouth, it'll probably be more entertaining than his actual performance. My guess is Porter will once again finish the game with his foot in his mouth.

Frankie Hammond Commits to the Gators

At the start of the season, Hallandale High School receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. was flying under the radar of most college recruiters. He didn't attend any football camps over the summer and was considered more accomplished in track. At 6'0 and only 150 pounds, he wasn't exactly a physical speciman. But through seven games, the senior speedster has now established himself as the best receiver in Broward County and one of the best in the state. College recruiters began converging on the Hallandale campus to court this late bloomer. Yesterday, Hammond verbally committed to play for Urban Meyer and the University of Florida Gators.

Hammond currently has 25 catches for 540 yards and 7 touchdowns to lead Broward County. His 21.6 yards per catch also is the best in Broward County. Schools like Miami and Boston College have also offered scholarships. In fact, Miami was considered the early favorite. Last week, a couple of UM fan websites had claimed Hammond was close to making his commitment to the Canes. But in a bit of a surprise and some effective recruiting by UF assistant coach Doc Holiday, Hammond gave his pledge to the Gators.

Dolphins Trade Chris Chambers to San Diego

The screams of joy heard coming from the Dolphins training facility at Nova Southeastern University probably came from the mouth of Chris Chambers. Well, actually there are no substantiated reports of Chambers yelling, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty. I'm free at last!" But I wouldn't blame him if he did. The Dolphins traded the wide receiver to the San Diego Chargers for a second round draft choice. Personally, I think this a trade that should benefit both teams. The Chargers need help at wide receiver and the Dolphins just simply need help period.

All kidding aside, Chambers has been a quality player for the Dolphins for nearly seven seasons. You could argue Chambers and Ronnie Brown have been the only outstanding offensive players drafted by the Dolphins in the last decade. A month ago, I had written a blog entry on how I thought the Dolphins shouldn't trade Chambers. But after watching the Dolphins continue to lose game after game, it was clear Chambers wasn't fitting into Cam Cameron's system or the team's future plans.

The Dolphins are a team in a rebuilding mode in desperate need of more draft picks. To get more draft picks, you're going to need to let some good talent go. Chambers is a good talent. He made the Pro Bowl in 2005 and has led the Dolphins receiving yards and touchdowns each of his first five years. His production fell off dramatically in 2006 and through the first six games, he caught 31 passes for 415 yards and no touchdowns.

As a Dolphin fan I greatly appreciate Chambers contribution to the franchise. He was a second round draft pick out of Wisconsin in 2001. He's been a more productive player than virtually all the receivers who were drafted ahead him. He would sometimes frustrate you by making spectacular catches at one moment and then dropping easy passes the next. But also remember he never had the opportunity to play with a good quarterback. Over the years his Dolphin quarterbacks have ranged from Jay Fiedler to A.J. Feeley to Gus Frerotte to a damaged Daunte Culpepper and now a concussed Trent Green. Its a sad trail of mediocre and broken passers.

Chambers will now head off to San Diego and play for a team that finished 14-2 just a year ago. The Chargers have struggled under new head coach Norv Turner and have been looking to bolster their wide receiving corps. Chambers should help. But at 29 years old, you have to wonder if his best years are behind him. An NFL receiver only has so many good years in him--unless your name is Jerry Rice. Once you turn 30, it's usually downhill from there. Chambers' departure from Miami should help rookie first round pick Ted Ginn get more quality playing time. I'd like to think Ginn's play in practice was a factor in making this trade happen.

The Dolphins will now get a second round pick. That's all in good. But you can acquire all the draft choice you want. You still have to pick good players. Picking the likes of Jason Allen and Lorenzo Booker is not going to make your team better. Lets hope general manager Randy Mueller can pick the right players this time.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Cleveland Rocks The Dolphins

Ted Ginn returns a kickoff for an apparent touchdown. The play is nullified by a holding penalty against Derek Hagan.

The Dolphins quest for perfection continues as they lost yet another game--this time 41-31 to the Cleveland Browns. The loss drops Miami's record to 0-6. It's only fitting this game was played in a town known as "The Mistake By the Lake". It's getting to the point where being a fan of the Dolphins is like masochism. You know it's going to hurt your mental health watching this team. But yet, we all keep coming back for more.

The only thing that would have made this loss more humiliating is if Brady Quinn came off the bench and threw a couple of touchdown passes to run up the score. Fortunately for the Browns, Derek Anderson did just fine on his own. Anderson completed 18 of 22 passes for 245 yards, 3 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. If Anderson keeps playing like this, Quinn may never get off the bench. But then again Anderson won't get the chance to play against the Dolphins again this season.

The once solid Dolphin defense has become an absolute shambles. The pass rush has become almost non existant. Jason Taylor had one sack. But Miami is getting absolutely nothing from overpaid, loudmouth linebacker Joey Porter. The Dolphins are paying Porter $32 million to make game-changing plays.

During the week Porter opened up his mouth again and called out Browns tight end Kellen Winslow. He said Winslow was a wide receiver and didn't deserve the title "tight end" because he doesn't block. Maybe somebody should tell Joey he doesn't deserve the title linebacker because he doesn't make any tackles. How bad is Porter? He hasn't registered a sack in his last 10 games dating back to his final 4 games last year as a Pittsburgh Steeler. But he was right about one thing. Winslow is a tremendous receiver and burned Porter while he was in coverage. Winslow finished the day with 5 catches and 90 yards--many of it at Porter's expense.

Zach Thomas just continues to put his heart and soul into this sinking ship. He made 12 tackles and as usual threw his body all over the field. But words can't describe the sad state of the Dolphins secondary. I can't say that I'm surprised. After the injury to Yeremiah Bell in the season opener, fans had to wonder who was going to be the unit's playmaker. The answer is nobody. Browns receiver Braylon Edwards had a field day catching all three of Anderson's touchdown passes. Just the fact that Cameron Worrell is even playing for the Dolphins should tell you how bad the Dolphins defensive backs are. What's even worse is last year's top draft pick Jason Allen can't even get on the field. Why is he even on the roster? If Jason Allen can't beat out Cameron Worrell, then what good is he?

The good news is Ronnie Brown is playing awesome football. And while other running backs like Adrian Peterson get more headlines, Brown has quietly racked up over 100 yards in each of his last four games. Brown also leads the team in catches and receiving yards. He is the only player on this team worth watching right now.

I also have to give props to quarterback Cleo Lemon. I thought he did a good job moving the offense and managing the game. He threw for 256 yards, 1 touchdown pass and also ran for another pair of TDs. But the good play of Brown and Lemon could not cancel out Miami's ineptness on defense.

How sad was this loss? Not only are the Dolphins losing games, they're costing their fans money. How? During the radio broadcast, WQAM play-by-play announcer Jimmy Cefalo mentioned a woman who entered a contest by Texaco to win $25,000. To win the money, Ted Ginn must return a kickoff for a touchdown. Well, guess what happened? Ginn returned a kickoff for a touchdown, only to have it nullified by a holding penalty against Dolphins receiver Derek Hagan. The woman didn't get the money. Ginn didn't get the touchdown. And everybody who plays, watches or is associated with the Miami Dolphins loses. It's been that kind of season.

Oh by the way, the Patriots are next on the schedule. Anyone want to guess what happens when a 6-0 team plays an 0-6 team? Start punching holes through those paper bags Dolphin fans because it's going to be ugly next Sunday.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Canes Continue To Regress

Georgia Tech running back Tashard Choice gains some of his 204 yards

Since beating Texas A&M 34-17 back on September 20th, it seemed Randy Shannon's Miami Hurricanes had turned the corner and were on their way to a successful season. Oh how the wheels have fallen off. The unranked Canes continue to flounder after losing to Georgia Tech 17-14 at the Orange Bowl. The loss was Miami's second straight and dropped UM's record to 4-3 and 1-2 in the ACC with the heart of its conference schedule coming up. Georgia Tech has now beaten UM the last three consecutive years.

For so long Miami's defense had been the backbone of the team. But with injuries to starting linebacker Colin McCarthy, defensive tackle Antonio Dixon and poor play from the secondary, this is the worst UM defense I've seen in a long time. Georgia Tech running back Tashard Choice rushed for 204 yards. It marked only the third time since 1986 the Canes defense had allowed a running back to break the 200 yard barrier. Choice got 152 of his yards in the second half and it was clear this Canes defense wasn't capable of stopping him. What's even more frustrating is Georgia Tech ran the same counter play time after time and the Canes could do nothing to stop it. That's just physical domination.

The offense wasn't much better. Quarterback Kyle Wright continues to take steps backwards in his senior year. He threw for a pathetic 56 yards. It wasn't because of a lack of trying. Offensive coordinator Patrick Nix called three long bombs on the Canes first three plays from scrimmage. All three times, Wright's passes missed their targets. In fact, the Canes threw 6 deep passes the entire game and completed none of them. On a couple of occassions receiver Darnell Jenkins was wide open for easy scores. Kirby Freeman even made couple of appearances and was just as ineffective.

Again, it's not a big mystery where Miami's offensive problems begin. The quarterback position is in an awful state. There's no other way to put it. The Georgia Tech game marked the third time this season Miami quarterbacks Wright or Freeman failed to throw for at least 100 yards. That should never happen once in a season--let alone three times. Watching Wright throw the deep pass is painful. He either underthrows his receiver or overthrows them badly. The only good thing I can say about Wright's performance is he didn't throw any interceptions.

If there was a bright spot, freshman running back Shawnbrey McNeal has emerged as a breakaway threat. McNeal had a 33 yard touchdown run on 4th down and 1. He also had another long run that was called back due to a holding penalty. McNeal finished with 48 yards on 8 carries. But as well as McNeal played, UM's offense was not able to muster enough consistancy. What's also alarming is the deterioration of starting running back Javarris James. James started the game, but didn't see any action after the first quarter.

By the way, is there is worse punter in the nation than Matt Bosher? His backup David Strimple wasn't any better. When your offense can't move the ball, you better have a good punter to give your team a decent field position.

But what disturbed me the most going into the Georgia Tech game was a quote by Randy Shannon. He said the players don't trust the coaches. It's easy to blame the coaches for Miami's recent regression. Shannon is ultimately responsible for the product on the field. But it's clear the talent level is the worst Canes fans have seen since the days of probation in the late 1990s. Shannon has tried disciplining players by taking away playing time and changing personnel. But nothing has worked so far and you have to attribute this to a lack of talent.

I'm willing to wait and see how Shannon's recruits develop when they enter UM. If you believe the recruiting experts, the Canes should bring in a great crop of new talent this coming signing day. UM currently has 17 high school players committed including some of the very best in South Florida. But let's not forget Kyle Wright was all-world coming out of high school. Shannon and his staff must prove they develop talent as well they can recruit it. Those are two totally different things. Success will not happen until this coaching staff can do both.

Jacory Harris Throws 6 TD Passes In One Game

He's the starting quarterback of the nation's best high school football team. So setting standards of excellence has been nothing new for Northwestern High's Jacory Harris. Harris continues to rack up records and victories like no other QB in Miami-Dade County history. Last night, the 6-foot-4, 170 pound senior threw six touchdown passes to five different receivers in Northwestern's 63-0 victory over Hialeah-Miami Lakes.

Harris, who has verbally committed to the University of Miami, now has 23 touchdowns on the season and is on pace for 58, which would break the record of 48 set by former Tampa Plant High standout Robert Marve, who now plays for UM. His 6 touchdown passes last night is a Dade County record. The state record is held by Orlando Colonial's Mike Mitchell who threw 8 in one game. Current University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow once threw 7 touchdown passes while playing for Ponte Vedra Nease High School.

Deerfield Beach: The Kings of Broward

Deerfield Beach running back Cassius McDowell runs through a St. Thomas Aquinas tackler

For years head coach George Smith and his St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders ruled Broward County with an iron fist. But move over this year St. Thomas fans because the Deerfield Beach Bucks made a huge statement Friday night. The Bucks beat the Raiders 43-41 in one of the greatest games played in recent Broward history.

Both teams entered the game undefeated and ranked #2 in the state in their respective classifications. The game swung back and forth. But in the end, it was Bucks kicker Dieago Ramos who supplied the winning points with a 19 yard field goal to give Deerfield Beach the victory. The kick was sweet vindication for Ramos who had missed two kicks earlier in the game. Running back Rodney Harrell rushed for 219 yards on 19 carries. Deerfield Beach is now 7-0 and ranked #2 in Class 6A behind Miami Northwestern. The Raiders dropped to 6-1.

This Deerfield Beach team is no fluke. The Bucks don't have any big-name blue chip recruits or any stars. It's just a team filled with good players that have rallied around second-year coach Art Taylor and play great team football. Before the regular season began, the Bucks gave Miami Northwestern a huge scare, losing 50-41 in a preseason jamboree game. At the time, there were whispers that Northwestern's defense wasn't very good. On the contrary, Deerfield Beach's offense is that good.

And before everyone anoints Northwestern as the 6A champions again, don't underestimate this Deerfield Beach team. I have a feeling these two teams will meet again the in the playoffs. If Northwestern doesn't come ready to play, look out. Let me remind Northwestern fans the last time the Bulls lost a game was in the 6A semifinals to Deerfield Beach in 2005 at Traz Powell Stadium--Northwestern's home field. So there is precedence.

RIP Alec Kessler (1967-2007)

Former Miami Heat player Alec Kessler died last night from a heart attack in Pensacola after playing a game of pickup basketball. He was just 40 years old. At 6-foot-11, Kessler was a former All SEC and All American player at the University of Georgia. He graduated in 1990 as Georgia's all time leading scorer with 1,788 points. Kessler was one of two first round draft picks by the Miami Heat in 1990 along with Willie Burton. Kessler was the 12th pick of the 1990 NBA Draft.

Both Kessler and Burton struggled in their Heat careers and never lived up to expectations as pros. Kessler averaged just 5.2 points 3.6 rebounds in his 4 year Heat career that spanned 210 games. But while Kessler's basketball career didn't live up to promise, his life after basketball was very successful. He graduated from medical school at Emory University in Atlanta and became an orthopedic surgeon. Kessler and had been practicing medicine in Pensacola. I would like to send out my prayers and condolences to the Kessler family. He is survived by his wife Rhea and sons Nicholas and Christopher.

Happy Birthday Bob Kuechenberg

Happy 60th birthday to former Dolphins offensive lineman Bob Kuechenberg. From 1970 to 1983, the man known affectionately as "Kooch" was a fixture on the Dolphins greatest teams. He is arguably the greatest Miami Dolphin not currently enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Born Robert John Kuechenberg in Gary, Indiana, Kuechenberg grew up in nearby Hobart,Indiana--just east of Chicago. He starred at Hobart High School and later became a standout college player at Notre Dame. During his college career, Kuechenberg saw action on both the defensive and offensive lines and played for legendary coach Ara Parseghian. He played on Notre Dame's 1966 national championship team as a sophomore. His teammates at Notre Dame included college football stars Alan Page, Terry Hanratty, Nick Eddy and Rocky Bleier. By his senior year, Kuechenberg had settled as a defensive lineman with dreams of playing in the NFL.

Drafted in the 4th round by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1969 as a defensive lineman, Kuechenberg's NFL career almost ended before it began. He was promptly cut in Eagles training camp and spent the rest of the year playing semi-pro football for the Chicago Owls of the Continental Football League.

In 1970 Kuechenberg's life would change forever. Don Shula had arrived in Miami as the Dolphins new head coach and brought with him a coaching staff that included brilliant offensive line coach Monte Clark. Kuechenberg was invited to Dolphins training camp as a longshot free agent. But it was Clark who saw talent in the former Notre Dame star and molded his project into one of pro football's best guards of the 1970s. By 1971, Kuechenberg along with Jim Langer, Larry Little, Norm Evans and Wayne Moore made up the NFL's most dominant offensive line. All five players had been rejects from other teams. All five would become Pro Bowl players at sometime during their careers. Langer and Little are currently in the hall of fame. That year, the Dolphins would win the AFC title earning a trip to Super Bowl VI. The Dolphins would lose to the Cowboys, but better days were ahead.

By 1972, Kuechenberg and his fellow linemates helped open huge holes and running lanes for running backs Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris and Jim Kiick. The Dolphins would set an NFL record for rushing yardage that season and would finish the season with a perfect 17-0 record--the only undefeated team in NFL history.

Kuechenberg's finest perfomance came in Super Bowl VIII against the Minnesota Vikings. NFL Films had asked Don Shula to narrate the game's highlight video. In the video Shula went out of his way to praise and spotlight Kuechenberg, whose responsibility was to block Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page, who was Kuechenberg's teammate at Notre Dame. Kuechenberg was a master technician who dominated Page the entire game and helped fullback Larry Csonka rumble for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Dolphins victory. What's even more remarkable is Kuechenberg played with a cast after having suffered a broken arm during the season.

During the course of his 14 year career with the Dolphins, Kuechenberg was six-time Pro Bowl selection and was twice first-team All Pro in 1975 and 1978. The Dolphins made four trips to the Super Bowl and Kuechenberg started in every one of them. He played in a remarkable 196 games and was considered the leader of a line that was loaded with great players. Later in his career, he served as a mentor for another hall of famer Dwight Stephenson.

Kuechenberg has been a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame each of the last five years. Unfortunately, he's never received enough votes to earn this long deserved honor. A vocal leader during his playing days, Kuechenberg has continued to be outspoken since his retirement. He's not afraid to speak his opinion or criticize some of the Dolphins best players. Even players like Dan Marino and Jason Taylor haven't escaped Kuechenberg's criticism. Taylor once responded, "I think Kooch needs a hug and a hobby." But to understand Kuechenberg, you must realize this is a man who knows perfection and expects it from his beloved Dolphins.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Panthers Finally in the Win Column

Going into last night's home opener at the Bank Atlantic Center against the New Jersey Devils, the Florida Panthers were winless in three games. But the Panthers weren't alone. The Dolphins are currently winless and FIU's football team hasn't won a game since 2005. Well now you can remove South Florida's hockey team from the ranks of the winless with a 3-0 victory over the Devils.

The Panthers got powerplay goals from Olli Jokinen and Nathan Horton and goalie Tomas Vokoun recorded the shutout. Not bad when you consider the Devils are one of the top teams in the league and goalie Martin Brodeur is one of the legends of his position. The Panthers are now 1-3. But keep an eye on this team. The Cats are no threat to compete for the Stanley Cup Finals. But there is a solid core of young players that are starting to emerge. Perhaps it won't be long before fans start showing up to the arena again with rubber rats.

Happy Birthday Cristie Kerr

Happy 30th birthday to golfer Cristie Kerr. A graduate of Miami's Sunset High School, Kerr is one of the top golfers on the LPGA tour. She recently won the U.S. Women's Open and is currently ranked the fifth best player in the world.

Born and raised in Miami, Kerr started playing golf at age eight and is arguably the most decorated amateur golfer to ever come out of South Florida. During her years at Sunset High School, Kerr was a member of the boy's golf team because the school didn't field a girls team. Not only was Kerr on the boy's team, she was the team's best player and it wasn't close. At age 16 she won the Junior Orange Bowl International Golf Championship and was the 1995 American Junior Golf Association Junior Player of the Year.

Kerr turned down dozens of college scholarships and turned pro at age 19. Over the years, she's made a remarkable physical transformation. Those who saw her play in her early years probably wouldn't recognize her. She initially struggled to adapt to the pro level while battling weight issues. In just the last few years, she's dropped 50 pounds and is now one of the most fit players on the tour. Kerr has come a long way since she was a pudgy bespectacled girl when she graduated from high school.

Since losing the weight, Kerr has finally started to live up to the great potential golf pundits put upon her out of the amateur ranks. She currently has 10 championship victories on the LPGA tour. In 2006, Kerr was the only American to win more than one event on the tour, winning three times. Her victory at the 2007 U.S. Women's Open was her first major championship.

In 2006 Kerr got married is currently makes her home in Scottsdale, Arizona. She's very active in fundraising for breast cancer research. Through her foundation, she's raised over $250,000 since 2004.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Trent Green Needs To Retire Now

Texans defensive lineman Travis Johnson stands over an injured Trent Green

Once again we are reminded how dangerous the game of football can be. Any given play could be your last. Just last month, Buffalo Bills tight end and former UM player Kevin Everett suffered a serious neck injury and faced the grim future of possibly never walking again. Everett's condition has slightly improved. But his road to recovery still has a ways to go. This past Sunday Dolphins quarterback Trent Green saw his football mortality flash in front of his eyes.

With that in mind, I've become a firm believer Dolphins quarterback Trent Green needs to retire immediately. As most of you are aware, Green suffered a concussion after attempting to cut block Houston Texans defensive tackle Travis Johnson. He laid motionless on the field for several minutes and was wheeled off the field on a stretcher. Luckily the injury was less severe than it initially appeared.

But the long term effects could be devastating. This was not Green's first concussion. He suffered a season ending concussion last year as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Every concussion results in trauma to the brain. It's the type of injury that could turn a perfectly fine-tuned athlete into a vegetable in a milisecond. Some of football's greatest quarterbacks including Steve Young and Troy Aikman were forced to make the difficult decision to end their careers sooner than they wanted because of this injury.

I'm in no position to tell Green what to do with his life, nor do I know him personally. But at 37 years old and his best football years behind him, Green must think of his future. He's got a wife and children to care for as well as his own well being. If he suffers another concussion, he'll face more than just the end of his football career. He may never function normally for the rest of his life.

Like any pro athlete, Green thrives on competition. Leaving the game is never an easy decision. But I think Green's decision should be simple. Life is more important than football.

By the way, I was angered to hear the NFL did not fine Travis Johnson for his classless behavior during Sunday's game. Johnson taunted Green while he was knocked out on the field. Johnson stood over Green and took pleasure in his injury. It's the most bush and pathetic thing I've seen in football in a long time.

Johnson's reasoning was he felt Green's attempted block was a cheap shot. First of all, Green's block was legal. He was also in front of Johnson. Green did not come up from behind and hit Johnson. Anybody who saw the replay should have enough sense to know Green couldn't block Johnson without going for his lower body. Johnson is 300 pounds. There's no way Green could physically block Johnson by taking him on high. Bottom line, there was no malicious intent on Green's part. He didn't go out of his way to hurt Johnson. On the other hand, Johnson went out of his way to humiliate an injured player. That's as low as you can go.

Dolphins Booted Out Of Houston

Houston's Kris Brown kicks a 57 yard field goal to beat the Dolphins

Bad teams find ways to lose games. Now sporting a record of 0-5, there's no question the Dolphins are a bad team. But Miami's 22-19 loss to the Houston Texans was not the result of the Dolphins blowing the game. This time I'm going to give credit to the Texans for winning it.

How could you not? The simple fact is Texans kicker Kris Brown was the best player on the field. It's rare that you can say this about a kicker. But the facts don't lie. Brown kicked five field goals--three of them were beyond 50 yards. He kicked the game winner from 57 yards yards away. Oh and by the way, he didn't miss any kicks the whole game. There's nothing you can do as a Dolphin player or fan but tip your helmet to Brown and the Texans.

Now I know a lot of Dolphin fans are still upset with Cam Cameron's decision to punt the football in Houston territory with about a minute left to play and the scored tied 19-19. First of all, I'm not a Cameron apologist. I've never really been a huge fan of his as a coach. But I believe he made the right decision to punt. Sure hindsight is 20/20 and the Dolphins defense was not able to stop Houston's offense when it mattered. But I can honestly say if I were in Cameron's shoes, I would have done the same thing.

It's easy to play the result. But Cameron did the right thing by playing the percentages. Had the Dolphins attempted the field goal, kicker Jay Feely would have been forced to attempt a 58 yard kick. And although Feely has not missed a field goal this year, none of them have been that far away. Miami's defense did a good job limiting Houston's offense all day. I don't fault Cameron with putting faith in his defense. The Texans scored only one offensive touchdown and began their final drive inside their own 10 yard line. Zach Thomas's return to the lineup was a huge boost to a defense that couldn't stop Huggy Bear's son (Raider running back Justin Fargas) from rushing over 100 in one quarter last week. But when it was crunch time and the Dolphins defense really needed a stop, they couldn't deliver.

Aside from Brown's heroics, this game will always be remembered for Trent Green's concussion after he tried to throw a block on Houston defensive tackle Travis Johnson to free receiver Ted Ginn on an end around. Green was wheeled off the field on a gurny after he laid motionless for several minutes. Shortly after the play, Johnson taunted Green while his was knocked out on the ground. For this, I just want to say Travis Johnson is an absolute piece of crap who should be fined by the NFL. It's one of the most unsportsmanlike gestures I've seen on a football field. I'll get into this incident a little more on another blog entry.

For now Cleo Lemon is the Fins starting QB. I'm all for playing the the quarterback who gives the team the best chance to win. But the Dolphins have made a huge investment in John Beck and I can't emphasize how important it is for him to start playing and contributing. I can understand the philosophy of bringing Beck along slowly and letting him learn in practice. But nothing can prepare you more than playing in an actual game. You can't completely simulate game situations in practice. The speed of the game and pressure can't be duplicated on the practice field. So while Cleo Lemon has now been given the keys to the car, I expect John Beck to be unleashed sooner than originally anticipated. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Butch Davis Schools Randy Shannon

Going into yesterday's game between Miami and North Carolina, Randy Shannon tried to his best to convince the media to downplay the coaching matchup between himself and Butch Davis. But after watching North Carolina beat the Canes 33-27, you'd have to say the Tar Heels were clearly more prepared and were better coached than UM.

Most college football fans are aware of Davis's history at UM and how he cleaned up the Hurricane program when he arrived in Coral Gables 1995 and returned the Canes into a national power. Shannon's entire football career has been somewhat in Davis's shadow. Back when Shannon played at UM, Davis was there as a defensive line coach. When Shannon played for the Dallas Cowboys, again Davis was there on Jimmy Johnson's coaching staff. When Davis was hired as UM head coach, Shannon was an assistant on his staff. So, it's fair to say there's not a coach in the country who knows Randy Shannon better than Butch Davis. And don't think for one minute that didn't help Davis and his North Carolina prepare for the Canes.

Miami was a 7 point favorite going into the game. There's was little question the Canes were considered the more talented team. The Canes entered with a 4-1 record. The Tar Heels were 1-4. Miami had a fifth year senior Kyle Wright starting at quarterback. North Carolina's starting QB T.J. Yates is a freshman. All logic points to an decisive Canes victory. But as Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend.

Don't underestimate the importance of coaching in college football. The most important aspect of coaching is preparation. I believe games are won or lost by how you practice and prepare going into a game. Just watching the first half of the game, North Carolina's staff did a vastly superior job getting their athletes ready to play. The Tar Heels dominated on offense, defense and special teams racing to a 27-0 lead at intermission. While the Canes made a strong comeback in the second half, they couldn't overcome the huge halftime deficit.

How did the Tar Heels do it? North Carolina took advantage of just about every weakness of UM's team. The Tar Heels used new formations and plays they hadn't shown in any of their previous five games. For example, UNC used a lot of running plays that involved pulling and motion from its offensive line. Rarely did the Tar Heels use these plays in their previous games. They were also prepared for every defensive look the Canes gave them and called the right play at the right time. A perfect example was receiver Brandon Tate's 54 yard touchdown run on a reverse. Again, this was a play UNC had not shown all year. It also didn't help that Miami made so many mistakes both mentally and physically. North Carolina's domination during the first 30 minutes was as close to perfect football as any team has ever played against the Canes. Don't think for one minute Davis's familiarity with Shannon and the UM program didn't help.

I'm going to use a quote that has been used in just about every cheesy kung fu movie. We've all heard it. "And now the student has become the teacher." I'm convinced Randy Shannon will be a good coach for the Canes. He's already significantly improved the recruiting over his predecessor Larry Coker. But it will take time to build the program back to elite status. It's also going to take time for Shannon to become a great head coach. There's a huge difference between being a defensive coordinator and running and entire football program. Right now Shannon is performing on the job training. Indeed the student has a ways to go to master his teacher.

Here are some other observations from the UM vs. UNC game:

*This game was a microcosm of Kyle Wright's career. He threw for 302 yards and 2 touchdown passes. But he also threw 4 interceptions and all of them hurt the team badly. Wright has a propensity for throwing interceptions in the end zone. This is the third game this year he's made the same mistake.

*Miami's special teams were absolutely awful. Kicker Francesco Zampogna missed a 33 yard field goal and an extra point. Meanwhile, his North Carolina counterpart Conner Barth made four field goals including a 51 yarder. You can argue UNC's huge advantage at the kicking position was the difference in this game. Miami kick returner Lee Chambers showed horrible judgement trying to advance out of the end zone and was tackled at the 8 yard line. Canes punter Matt Bosher also had a punt blocked setting up a UNC score.

*The Canes have zero playmakers in their secondary. Cornerback Carlos Armour was exposed as the weak link all game long. On North Carolina's first touchdown, Armour missed a tackle that allow Tar Heel running back Anthony Elzy scored on a 39 yard run. Armour was also torched left and right by quarterback T.J. Yates and his receivers. In fact, I can't remember the last time a Miami cornerback has intercepted a pass. Safety Kenny Phillips is the only player who makes any positive plays. But even Phillips is a bit overrated. He's not the game-changer that Ed Reed or Sean Taylor were. To be fair, not many players in the game are.

*Other than his long TD against FIU, receiver Lance Leggett has been terrible. He struggles to get open. When he does get open, he doesn't have reliable hands and his route running is abysmal. On the flip side, senior Darnell Jenkins has been a pleasant surprise and has really stepped up his play. Jenkins had a 97 yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. Sam Shields is the most talented receiver on the team. But after missing two games with suspensions, you have to wonder about his dedication to the team.

*What has happened to Javarris James? James has yet to rush for 100 yards in a single game. He is below his pace of his freshman year last year. Against North Carolina, James carried 10 times for just 27 yards. Graig Cooper clearly has surpassed James as Miami's best running back.

*Injuries are become a big problem on defense. Linebacker Colin McCarthy and defensive tackle Antonio Dixon left the game with injuries and did not return.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Happy Birthday Jimmy Cefalo

Happy 51st birthday to former Miami Dolphins receiver and current radio broadcaster Jimmy Cefalo. Cefalo has been a South Florida resident since he began his rookie year with the Dolphins in 1978.

Born James Carmen Cefalo in Pittston, Pennsylvania, Cefalo was a hometown and home state hero at Pittston Area High School just outside Scranton. He starred as a running back and was considered one of the greatest high school players to come out of Pennyslvania in the 1970s. In 1973 Cefalo was named to the prestigious Parade All American High School Football Team. That Parade All American squad included future hall of famers Joe Montana and Earl Campbell. He was also named to the Pennsylvania Football News All Century Team. An excellent student, Cefalo was recruited by virtually every football power in the country. He ultimately chose to stay in his native state and play for Joe Paterno at Penn State.

At 5'11 and 190 pounds, Cefalo made the switch from running back to wide receiver and also returned punts during his Penn State career. In 1974 he became the first true freshman to start at Penn State during the Paterno era. As a senior, he led Penn State in all-purpose yardage and was the MVP of the 1975 Cotton Bowl and 1976 Gator Bowl. In the classroom, Cefalo was a dean's student and graduated with a degree in journalism. He had written articles about his college experience that appeared in the New York Times.

In 1978 the Miami Dolphins chose Cefalo in the 3rd round of the NFL draft. He would spend the next 6 years playing wide receiver for another coaching legend Don Shula. Not blessed with great size or blazing speed, Cefalo did possess very good quickness and dependable hands. He caught 93 passes for 1,739 yards and 13 touchdowns in his pro career. His best season came in 1981 when he caught 29 passes for 631 yards and 3 TDs, averaging a whopping 21.8 yards per catch.

Cefalo was one of the few players in Dolphins history with the distinction of catching passes from both of Miami's hall of fame quarterbacks Bob Griese and Dan Marino. He played in two Super Bowls and scored on a 76 yard pass from David Woodley in Super Bowl XVII against the Redskins despite playing with the flu and a 100+ degree fever. At the time, the touchdown was the 2nd longest touchdown pass in Super Bowl history. He also caught Dan Marino's record setting touchdown pass in 1984 to break George Blanda's season record for TD passes. On January 20, 1985, Cefalo played his final football game in a 38-16 loss to the 49ers in Super Bowl XIX. The Dolphins haven't reached the Super Bowl since.

Near the end of his football career, Cefalo first showed off his talents as a broadcaster working as a reporter and host of the local TV show PM Magazine. He was not your typical football player. He possessed the gift for gab and was blessed with a smooth voice and delivery. He later worked as correspondent for NBC News and the Today Show and also worked was a color commentator on NBC's NFL broadcasts with veteran play by play announcer Charlie Jones. His most memorable broadcast was the 1987 Fiesta Bowl between Penn State and Miami. It is still the most watched college football game of all time. Cefalo won an Emmy Award for his writing during NBC's coverage of the 1988 Olympic games in Seoul, South Korrea. He also spent a brief time as a TV game show host for the show Trump Card.

After his stint at NBC, Cefalo returned to South Florida and worked for over a decade as the sports anchor for WPLG Channel 10. The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association named him Florida Sportscaster of the Year five times (1998, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004). For the past two years, Cefalo has been the radio play-by-play voice for the Miami Dolphins working with Joe Rose and Jim Mandich.

But Cefalo's talents and interests go beyond football and broadcasting. He is a well known wine connioseur with over 1,200 bottles in his personal wine cellar. His family has been in the wine business for several generations, and this love of wine has led to two Miami-area emporiums: Cefalo's Wine Cellar and Cefalo's Wine Corner. He also founded Cefalo's Cave Club, a $300-a-month private club with personal wine lockers, tastings, classes and meals. Cefalo currently lives in Miami Beach with his wife Janice and three daughters.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Panthers Return To the Ice

Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun can't stop the Rangers Chris Drury from scoring one of his two goals

What is the worst pro sports team in South Florida? That's a tough one. The Dolphins are currrently winless and look hopeless. The Marlins just finished their season in last place. But I'm going to say the Florida Panthers. This is a franchise that hasn't been to the NHL playoffs in seven years. Think about it. Just about every hockey team makes it to the postseason in the NHL. You have to really suck to not make the playoffs.

Last night the Florida Panthers opened their season with a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. I have to admit, I'm not the biggest hockey fan in the world. But I was watching. To be fair, the Panthers were beaten by a very talented team on the road. Florida actually had a 2-1 lead at the end of the second period. But New York's Chris Drury and Scott Gomez took over in the final period with four unanswered goals.

A little over a decade ago the Panthers were living the charmed life. It was a time when hockey actually mattered in South Florida. The Panthers had won the 1996 Eastern Conference championship while playing to packed houses at the Miami Arena with rubber rats thrown to the ice. The names John Vanbiesbrouck, Scott Melanby, Bill Lindsay, Ed Jovanovsky and Stu Barnes still remain entrenched in my memory. Please keep in mind, I'm not even a hockey fan. But I'll never forget those guys.

But today there isn't a more maligned franchise in South Florida pro sports than the Panthers--and that's saying something. Since moving to their current arena, the Panthers have only qualified once for the postseason and were swept. Just last year, the Panthers made arguably the worst trade in the history of South Florida sports. They sent all star goalie Roberto Luongo to Vancouver for Todd Bertuzzi. Luongo may arguable be the best goalie in the game today and Bertuzzi no longer plays for the Panthers. Former general manager Mike Keanan was run out of town. He should have been tarred and feathered for that deal.

But there are some NHL pundits who believe the Panthers are going in the right direction. Let's face it, there's only one way to go and that's up. ESPN's Barry Melrose actually thinks the Panthers have a good shot to be a playoff team. New goalie Tomas Vokoun is considered one of the better up and coming players at his position. The Panthers have also started to mold a solid core of young talent including Olli Jokinen, Nathan Horton and Stephen Weiss.

Vokoun surrendered five goals in his debut. But not all of it was his fault. The Panthers defense was sloppy to say the least in the third period. Not only did Vokoun debut as Florida's new goalie, the Panthers also debuted their new uniforms with red sleeves. And while the uniforms have changed, the results haven't. But the best part of starting a new season is wiping the slate clean. The good news is it's only one game. The bad news is there are about 81 more.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Can A-Rod Finally Deliver In the Postseason?

Alex Rodriguez--back in the day at Westminster Christian

Let me start off by saying I hate the New York Yankees. In fact I dislike all New York teams. But when it comes to Alex Rodriguez, I'll admit I have soft spot for A-Rod and wish him the best.

Long before Alex Rodriguez was ever a national superstar, I remember seeing him for the first time in the spring of 1991. Back then, I knew a guy named Adrian Antonini who played baseball at Westminster Christian High School, which had a powerhouse baseball program in Southern Miami-Dade County then coached by the Rich Hoffman. Adrian was a catcher on Westminster's team and later went on to play college ball at LSU. Antonini told me about a 10th grade shortstop who just transferred to Westminster from Columbus High and said he was the best player he ever saw. I have to admit, I was kind of skeptical. But when Antonini describe the 15 year old baseball prodigy, he made him sound like a player the game had never seen before. So I had to check out this phenom for myself.

Sure enough, there he was. It didn't take very long to notice Alex Rodriguez in high school. He was the biggest, the fastest and the most graceful and developed player on the field. He literally looked like a man playing with and against boys. Westminster was playing Gulliver Prep that afternoon. In his first at bat of the game, Rodriguez crushed a pitch over the centerfield fence. He would hit another home run a couple of at-bats later. In the field, he was smooth as butter. I couldn't believe I was awed watching a 15 year old boy playing baseball. It was quite surreal.

All these years later, I don't know where Adrian Antonini is today. But I'd like to thank him for telling me about Alex Rodriguez. For those of us who have followed local high sports, we've literally watch Alex Rodriguez grow into what he is today--A-Rod.

Alex Rodriguez is simply the greatest athlete South Florida has ever produced. That's right. He's better than Michael Irvin, Chris Evert, Ted Hendricks or Derrick Thomas. At age 32, A-Rod has hit 518 career home runs, twice won American League MVP awards and several gold gloves as a shortstop and third baseman. At his current pace, he will eventually surpass Barry Bonds as the baseball's greatest home run hitter--provided he stays healthy continues his passion for the game.

He's done just about everything you can possibly accomplish as an athlete, except one thing--win a championship. Growing up in Miami, Alex's favorite athlete was Dan Marino. He even wears number #13 as a tribute to his idol. But just like Marino, Rodriguez has yet to wear a championship ring and everybody never lets him forget it. Rodriguez's struggles in the playoffs have been well-documented. Just last year, A-Rod's batting average was a pathetic .098 (4 for 41) in New York's playoff series loss to Detroit. He has zero RBI in his last 12 postseason games. His lack of success in October has made him the target of the New York media.

If I have one major criticism of A-Rod, it's that he tries too hard to please everyone. He actually cares what people think of him. But those faults are also a postive. He's given generously to local charities and organizations. He's been a longtime supporter of the Boys & Girls Clubs. He once donated $4 million to the University of Miami to help rennovate its baseball stadium even though he never attended UM. But he's always had a love for the school and grew up a Canes fan. He had accepted a scholarship to play baseball at UM. But when the Seattle Mariners made him the first pick of the 1993 amateur draft, it was too much money to ignore.

I really don't want to see the Yankees win the World Series. They have the most spoiled and obnoxious fans. But a part of me really wants Alex Rodriguez to finally get that monkey off his back and exorcise those demons. But I have a feeling once A-Rod starts succeeding in the postseason, the same New York trolls who hate him will start kissing his butt. The Big Apple really doesn't deserve him.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Will Antoine Walker Ever Grow Up?

Well it didn't take long for Antoine Walker to screw up again. Walker along with Smush Parker and Earl Barron arrived on the first day of Miami Heat training camp out of shape. All three players failed to meet Pat Riley's conditioning standards and were not allowed to practice.

Okay, maybe I'm being a little unfair to Walker by singling him out. Yes, he had a rough offseason when he was robbed at gunpoint in his hometown Chicago. But this guy has been a screwup ever since he arrived here. Last year he shot 20 percent from 3-point range and under 50 percent from the foul line while playing mediocre defense. Yes, he was part of the Heat's championship team two years ago. But for the love of God, you're making $8 million to play basketball for a living. The least you can do is keep yourself is decent condition instead of snacking on butterfingers and M&M's.

Pat Riley is known for his maniacle training camps. No player, including Shaq and Dwyane Wade, is allowed to practice unless they meet Riley's fitness standards by maintaining a certain level of body fat. Walker, Parker and Barron all knew this. Walker especially should know better, since he's been with the Heat the longest of the three. Walker should just dress up as the Hamburglar for Halloween because all he's been is a payroll bandit.

The Rock Gives Back To The U

Dwayne Johnson During his UM Days

Before he became a pro wrestler and a movie star, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was a backup defensive tackle for the University of Miami Hurricanes during the early 1990s. He spent most of his college football career playing behind Warren Sapp in anonymity. But today The Rock takes a back seat to nobody. His latest movie "The Game Plan" was the top grossing film at the box office, raking in $23 million.

The Rock may be a superstar. But Dwayne Johnson hasn't forgotten his roots. Yesterday, Johnson returned to UM to donate $1 million to the football program. The Rock and his wife Dany Garcia Johnson met while they were students at UM and still maintain a home in Davie. According to UM head coach Randy Shannon, the money will be used to help renovate the weight room facilities for all UM athletes.

It's refreshing to hear fame hasn't gone to Johnson's head. Just imagine if every superstar Cane athlete gave back to the program that helped them become famous. In a world where people gain fame for having no talent (Paris Hilton). It's great to see a person like Johnson who came from humble beginnings make it big and never forget where he came from.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Can The Heat Regain Its Championship Flame?

Pat Riley

Hey, I know the football season just started, but it's never too early to start looking forward to the NBA season and another year of Miami Heat basketball. Let's face it. With the way the Dolphins are playing, you can pretty much throw this football season down the toilet. In fact, let's just say the Dolphins are now on the clock with the first pick of the 2008 NFL Draft and are waiting for Commissioner Goodell to approach the podium.

Today the Heat started its training camp and with it always comes optimism and hope. Afterall it was just less than two years ago that Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal were hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy back to a raucus victory parade down Biscayne Boulevard. But after the way last season ended, that celebration seems like a million years ago.

If you know anything about Pat Riley, you know there are few people on the planet who are as competitive and take losing more personally than Miami's Armani-clad leader. And make no mistake about it, Riley's pride was wounded after last season's 4 game sweep by the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs.

But bruised ego aside, can Riley once again resurrect this roster of aging fatcats into a championship unit? A year ago, the Heat were basking in glory and getting ready to defend its title. The team held a lavish ceremony prior to its home opener against the Bulls and received their championship rings. When it was all over, the Bulls proceeded to kick their ass.

The entire season was a rollercoaster of ups and downs. But Shaq assured us the team would return to championship form come playoff time. That's right. Don't worry. We'll just turn on the switch when it matters. But it never happened. A shoulder injury to Wade didn't help and Chicago's young legs ran circles around Miami's tired veteran outfit.

So what can we look forward to this season? Usually there are a couple of new faces--either free agents or draft picks who fans eagerly want to see. But this year, the Heat virtually struck out on every free agent they wanted. It wasn't from a lack of trying. They wanted Rashard Lewis. He signed with Orlando. They wanted Moe Williams. He resigned with the Bucks. There were even rumors of interest concerning Mike Bibby and Ron Artest. But nothing has materialized. Even guys who the Heat didn't really want like Charlie Bell, turned down Miami to stay in Milwaukee.

Instead of fresh new faces, the Heat will begin this season with an uninspiring pair of veteran free agents Penny Hardaway and Smush Parker. As Jim Mandich would say, neither makes my toes tingle. And I'll be honest, I didn't even know Penny Hardaway was still an active NBA player. I thought he retired with Bob Cousy and Jerry West. Parker spent most of his career with the Lakers watching Kobe Bryant hog the basketball. So it's understandable when you notice how few assists Parker accumlated in LA. It's hard to distribute the basketball when one player holds on to it all the time. As far as the draft was concerned, the Heat selected Ohio State's Daquan Cook, who was only considered the third best freshman on his team. But if you know anything about Riley's history with rookies, Cook will spend the year giving Shaq and the boys cups of Gatorade during timeouts.

Maybe I'm sounding too much like a gloom and doomer. But how is this team going to be better than last year? Not only did the Heat fail to pick up any big-named free agents. They also lost some valuable talent from their team a year ago. Who's going to shoot the 3's? Last year's sharpshooter Jason Kapono is gone. Who's going to play defense? James Posey is gone. And to make matters worse, Posey signed with the Celtics, an Eastern Conference team with a drastically improved roster. And for crying out loud, when is Dorell Wright finally going to develop into a legit NBA player. We've seen flashes and glimpses. But inevitably, Wright finishes the season with more fizzle than sizzle. This year, Wright had better become a big part of the Heat's rotation or this will be a long year.

No doubt my expectations have been simmered down this year. But if you know about Riley's history, he often does his best coaching when he's counted out. The "experts" are claiming the Celtics are better. And with the acquisitions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen along with Posey, it's hard to argue with them. The Orlando Magic are a team on the rise, led by former Heat coach Stan Van Gundy and one of the best young post players in the game Dwight Howard. The Pistons are always tough and don't forget the defending Eastern Conference champs the Cleveland LeBron James's.

But screw the critics. You'll know basketball is back when the sneakers start squeeking and TV play-by-play announcer Eric Reed belts out "Tippy-toe three....Kaboom!". Just close your eyes when Antoine Walker shoots those tippy-toe threes. I never thought I'd look forward to American Airlines Arena announcer Mike Biamonte scream "Dos Minutos!" near the end of every quarter. Yes, it's stupid, childish and everybody rolls their eyes when he does it. But after watching the Dolphins stink up the field, maybe a little hoops is needed to heal this wounded sports soul.

Monday, October 1, 2007

100 Greatest Miami Hurricanes of All Time

Pictures from top to bottom: Ted Hendricks, Michael Irvin, Ken Dorsey & Jerome Brown

Picking the 100 best University of Miami football players of all time is no easy task. Most Canes fans know about the five national championships, two Heisman winners and countless NFL alumni. But a lot of people may not be aware of some of the great players from the past, who played at UM before it became a powerhouse. If you know UM's history, the program has produced great players well before the Canes ever started winning national championships in 1983.

So here's my list of the 100 greatest football players to ever suit up for the orange and green. They represent almost all 80-plus years of Canes football history. Players are listed in order with the years they played at UM. The list is based strictly on college career. Pro careers did not factor in the decision making process.

100 Great Miami Hurricanes

1. Ted Hendricks (1966-68)
2. Michael Irvin (1985-87)
3. Jerome Brown (1983-86)
4. Ken Dorsey (1999-02)
5. Warren Sapp (1992-94)
6. Bernie Kosar (1983-84)
7. Ed Reed (1998-01)
8. Steve Walsh (1986-88)
9. Vinny Testaverde (1982-86)
10. Gino Torretta (1989-92)
11. Edgerrin James (1996-98)
12. Dan Morgan (1997-2000)
13. Ray Lewis (1993-95)
14. Sean Taylor (2001-03)
15. Bennie Blades (1984-87)
16. Russell Maryland (1987-90)
17. Willis McGahee (2001-02)
18. Bryant McKinnie (2000-01)
19. Santana Moss (1997-2000)
20. Micheal Barrow (1989-92)
21. Jim Kelly (1979-82)
22. Andre Johnson (2000-02)
23. Ottis Anderson (1975-78)
24. Eddie Brown (1983-84)
25. Clinton Portis (1999-01)
26. Craig Erickson (1987-90)
27. George Mira (1961-63)
28. Jim Dooley (1949-51)
29. Don Bosseler (1954-56)
30. Leon Searcy (1988-91)
31. Reggie Wayne (1997-2000)
32. Daniel Stubbs (1984-87)
33. Jonathan Vilma (2000-03)
34. Jeremy Shockey (2000-01)
35. Kellen Winslow (2001-03)
36. Bill Miller (1959-61)
37. Fred Marion (1978-81)
38. Cortez Kennedy (1989-90)
39. Chuck Foreman (1970-72)
40. Burgess Owens (1970-72)
41. Rubin Carter (1972-75)
42. Greg Mark (1986-89)
43. Darrin Smith (1989-92)
44. Alonzo Highsmith (1983-86)
45. Melvin Bratton (1984-87)
46. Lamar Thomas (1989-92)
47. Antrel Rolle (2001-04)
48. Dennis Harrah (1972-74)
49. Eddie Edwards (1975-76)
50. Don Latimer (1974-77)
51. Jim Burt (1978-80)
52. Bill Hawkins (1985-88)
53. Ryan McNeil (1989-92)
54. Jack Losch (1954-55)
55. Maurice Crum (1987-90)
56. Dan Conners (1961-63)
57. Darryl Williams (1989-91)
58. William Joseph (1999-02)
59. Vince Wilfork (2001-03)
60. Joaquin Gonzalez (1998-01)
61. Kevin Williams (1990-92)
62. Tony Cristiani (1971-73)
63. Lester Williams (1978-81)
64. Don Smith (1975-78)
65. Al Carapella (1948-50)
66. Ed Weisacosky (1963-65)
67. Randal Hill (1987-90)
68. Brian Blades (1984-87)
69. Carlos Huerta (1988-91)
70. Rusty Medearis (1990-92)
71. Kenny Holmes (1993-96)
72. Kenard Lang (1994-96)
73. Phillip Buchanon (1999-01)
74. Fran Curci (1957-59)
75. Bubba Franks (1997-99)
76. Danny Miller (1978-81)
77. Glenn Dennison (1981-83)
78. K.C. Jones (1993-96)
79. Jim Otto (1957-59)
80. Eddie Dunn (1936-38)
81. Bernard Clark (1986-89)
82. George Mira Jr. (1984-87)
83. Kevin Fagan (1982-85)
84. Jerome McDougle (2001-02)
85. Cleveland Gary (1986-88)
86. Brett Romberg (1999-02)
87. Kevin Patrick (1990-93)
88. Tremaine Mack (1994-96)
89. Kelly Jennings (2002-05)
90. Willie Smith (1983-85)
91. Wesley Carroll (1989-90)
92. Bubba McDowell (1985-88)
93. Jessie Armstead (1989-92)
94. Bob Masterson (1935-37)
95. Larry Brodsky (1978-81)
96. Mike Sullivan (1987-90)
97. Jay Brophy (1979-83)
98. Vernon Carey (2000-03)
99. Devin Hester (2003-05)
100. Albert Bentley (1979-83)