A very busy night tonight on the sports landscape, as the Phoenix Suns play in Dallas, the Aggies are in their bowl game, and Bob Knight tries to become the all-time leader in Wins. Not bad for a Thursday night, eh?
Holiday Bowl, 7pm, ESPN …
The first A&M victory over the Longhorns since 1999 was significant for the program and coach Dennis Franchione, often maligned during his four roller-coaster seasons with the Aggies.
"I would say the biggest win in his career here," said Bullitt, who joined the program with Franchione in 2003. "I always knew he could be a coach who could take us over the edge."
After this remarkable season in which nearly every game teetered on the edge, Franchione is fond of saying his gritty team is a minute-and-a-half from being undefeated and playing Ohio State.
Then, he rightly adds, it's also about a minute-and-a-half from being 6-6.
So as the No. 21-ranked Aggies (9-3), winners of five conference games by an average of five points, face No. 20 California (9-3) in the Holiday Bowl, has the program left hard times behind? Did the 12-7 upset of Texas signal a shift in the Big 12 South?
The Aggies hope so. Still, a loss tonight sends A&M into the off-season as loser of three of its final four games, with a difficult 2007 schedule. But distinguishing such a finish from last season's ugly four-game slide or losing four of five to end the 2004 season, was the competitive spirit in games that hinged on a play or two.
"I just saw the program really take a step ahead," A&M athletic director Bill Byrne said. "With all the kids coming back, most of our difference-makers are coming back, our offensive and defensive lines are coming back, and that's where you build programs."
At least eight starters look to return on both offense and defense. And for the first time in Franchione's tenure, seniors and juniors will permeate the depth chart. Seven starters on both sides are likely to be seniors.
In the trenches, where games are won and lost, and apparently programs are built, three of four defensive linemen look to be seniors and possibly four of five on the offensive line.
Bob Knight goes for the record tonight at 8, ESPN 2 …
Knight gets his first chance at his 880th victory -- and breaking a tie with legendary coach Dean Smith for most victories -- when Texas Tech (10-3) plays host to UNLV at 8 tonight at United Spirit Arena.
"[Smith] happened to be in a really good situation, and I have, too," Knight said. "It's a thing that just happens. And you've got to coach a long time. If you coach a long time, and you can coach at all, you've got to win some games."
He's won more than "some" games. In his first 40 seasons, he has won 20 or more games 28 times, which is tied for the most among active coaches, and 30 or more games with four different teams.
Heading into tonight's game, he's won 71.3 percent of his games. Among NCAA Division I coaches who have won 500 or more games in a career, that winning percentage ranks 14th all-time.
"I think he is one of the brilliant basketball minds that ever came down the road," Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said. "I know him to be a superb teacher. I have learned a lot about how I teach watching him."
Knight started his career taking over an Army program for the 1965-66 season that had won 20 games or more just once in its history and had made only three postseason trips.
In his six seasons at Army, Knight took the team to the postseason four times and won 20 or more games twice.
Only Mike Krzyzewski, who Knight originally hired as an assistant coach at Army, has had a 20-win season at the school since then, and Army has not had a winning season since 1985.
Mavs-Suns, 7pm, TNT …
The Mavericks and Phoenix Suns came out of their first meeting this season with a combined 2-9 record.
Things have changed considerably.
The Mavericks are 20-3 since then and would be the hottest team in the NBA except that the Suns have gone 18-2 since.
This is the kind of competition the Mavericks had better get used to, because the degree of difficulty goes up substantially from now through mid-January.
Over the next 16 days, Dallas will play 10 games, seven of them against teams above .500 and four against teams that consider themselves legitimate title contenders, including today's 7 p.m. tip against Steve Nash and the Suns.
All Phoenix did was win 15 in a row, a streak that ended last week. The Mavericks own a seven-game winning streak.
These are the kind of games the Mavericks need if they want to continue a season-long growth spurt that coach Avery Johnson says is never-ending. No matter who the opponent is, he wants to see improvement.
But his players know that Phoenix, San Antonio, Indiana (twice), Utah, Denver and the Los Angeles Lakers – all on the schedule in this stretch – are better barometers for a good team.
By the way, who has played better than Josh Howard recently? Nobody.
The NBA announced today that All-Star candidate Josh Howard was named Western Conference Player of the Week for games played from Monday, December 18 through Sunday, December 24. It is the first time in his four-year career that Howard has received the honor. Teammate Dirk Nowitzki was the last Maverick to be named Player of the Week back in mid-November.
This season, Howard is the Mavericks second-leading scorer with 18.7 points per game. He’s also averaging 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.21 steals and 1.26 blocks while committing just 1.5 turnovers per game. Howard has scored 20+ points in eight of the past 13 games and is averaging 20.3 points over that span. Dallas is 8-1 when he scores 20+ points after going an amazing 19-0 in 2005-06.
Despite winning 58 games in 2004-05 and a franchise-high tying 60 in 2005-06, Nowitzki has been the Mavericks only All-Star the past two seasons. Since the shortened 1998-99 season, a total of nine teams have won 60+ games and Dallas was only the second to have fewer than two players selected to the All-Star game.
With the help of Howard, Dallas has won six straight and 20 of its last 23 games. In the three games last week, Howard averaged a team-high 22.7 points (55.1% shooting), 4.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.00 steals and 2.00 blocks.
Over the past seven games, Howard has not missed any of his 30 free throw attempts and he is shooting 84.5% from the line this season after shooting just 72.9% for his career entering 2006-07.
Howard has hit 35 3-pointers in his 19 games played this season after having just 26 in 59 games played in 2005-06. He’s also shooting 44.9% from behind-the-arc, which is 12th best in the NBA.
One of only six players currently averaging at least 1.2 steals and blocks, Howard has already blocked 24 shots this season after recording 26 in all of 2005-06.
Haven’t talked much about the Stars lately, but after last night’s nice win in Colorado, I thought they deserved a little love. You know, just when you want to count those guys out, they get a win like last night or last week in San Jose and totally redeem themselves.
They have big injuries, and it was debatable whether they had enough horses when everyone was healthy. But, this team does seem to have some fight in it down the roster, and I really like what a few of the kids have shown me. Even when everyone is healthy, Chris Conner needs to be in the lineup every night. Last night, in just his 3rd NHL game, he has again demonstrated some ability in the offensive zone and tenacity all over the ice. Loui Eriksson is really starting to show flare with the puck, too. I think Eriksson has plenty of talent, but now he is showing that the nerves are leaving him, and he can just play. The key for him will be finishing the chances, and maybe he is starting to do it. There are plenty of kids on this team, but kids that look like they may have something are rare around here, so Conner and Eriksson are promising.
Turco gave up at least one Judge Softy last night, but in the end he looked much better than Jose Theodore, and made the late saves to secure the win. I still think they are an average team in just about every department, but it is nice to see how they respond to bad news.
Wonder if Doug Armstrong has plans to help out the team before it is too late with a nice trade? I say this somewhat as a joke, but have you noticed Bill Guerin has 16 goals and is +5 on a team that is -35? You are already paying his salary…
Stars win in Denver …
Thrust into the spotlight by injuries, the Stars' prospects are going to have to grow up quickly if Dallas wants to avoid falling behind in the Western Conference.
But the Stars' kids seemed up to the task Wednesday night in a 5-4 victory over the Colorado Avalanche, a game in which the lead seesawed frequently before Dallas finally took control with three unanswered goals in the final 30 minutes.
"We had a lot of guys really contribute," coach Dave Tippett said. "We're scratching and clawing right now, with missing some people and playing back-to-back [nights]."
Dallas' power play also pushed the pace, going 3-for-4 and generating Jeff Halpern's game-winner from the right circle 1 minute, 52 seconds into the third period.
For the Stars, Steve Ott, Mike Modano, Eric Lindros and Brenden Morrow were out with injuries -- with Morrow's being the most recent and the most serious of the maladies, after the captain underwent wrist surgery Tuesday night in Chicago.
So some of the Stars' burden fell on players such as 21-year-old winger Loui Eriksson, by now a fixture in the Stars' thinned lineup but not yet a regular offensive contributor, and 23-year-old winger Chris Conner, who was called up from minor-league Iowa earlier Wednesday to take Morrow's roster spot.
Both players contributed first-period goals; Conner's was his first in three career NHL games.
"Early on, Conner and Eriksson were both very good, very quick on the puck, and gave us some energy," Tippett said.
JJT jumps on the Terrell bash fun …
only a Narcissist could drop a critical third-quarter pass – good for about 50 yards – in a game for the NFC East championship and then complain about your involvement in the offense.
Clearly, you don't understand how self-indulgent that makes you look. Then again, you probably don't care. You're all about numbers. If they happen to come in the midst of victories, then fine. Otherwise, you've got a problem.
So let's look at your numbers.
You've got 79 catches. So what. You've got 1,063 yards. So what. You've got 12 touchdowns. In franchise history, Frank Clarke (14) and Bob Hayes (13) are the only receivers with more. Again, so what.
You haven't made the Cowboys a better team, which is what adding a dynamic receiver with game-breaking potential was supposed to produce. If the Cowboys beat Detroit, as expected, they will finish one-game better than last year, but without the coveted NFC East crown or a home playoff game.
Jerry Jones deserved more, considering he's paying you $10 million this season.
He deserved a catch on fourth-and-2 against the Giants in October with the game still in doubt. He deserved that apparent 74-yard touchdown catch against the Redskins in November that would've never given Washington an opportunity to rally. And he deserved the 50-yard catch that might've given Dallas enough impetus to slip past the Eagles on Monday.
You dropped all three. After Monday's game, you had the audacity to say it's difficult to concentrate when you're not involved early in the game. You say every other team you've played for has made sure you got the ball in the first half.
Your memory is faulty. In the last five seasons, 2003 is the only time you've had considerably more passes directed your way in the first half (62.3 percent) than the second half. Every other year, the percentage of passes directed your way in the first half has been about 50 percent.
Cowboys crumble at the wrong time …
Three weeks ago, the Cowboys were in position to win the NFC East and also had a shot at the No. 2 seed in the conference. Dreams of hosting a playoff game after a first-round bye were within reach.
Three weeks later, the Cowboys are on track to be a wild-card team playing a first-round road game. Only a Cowboys win Sunday coupled with a Philadelphia Eagles home loss against the Atlanta Falcons will save Dallas from going on the road in the first round.
And there is no sign they are this year's Pittsburgh Steelers and capable of winning three consecutive road playoff games to reach the Super Bowl. Instead, over the past three weeks the Cowboys wasted their chance.
"You have to say that," Cowboys nose tackle Jason Ferguson said.
The Cowboys are currently in line to travel to Seattle and play the defending, but reeling, NFC champion Seahawks in the first round.
The road to Seattle has been paved by the Cowboys' losses. By losing two of their past three games at home, the Cowboys have demonstrated they are not one of the NFC's premier teams.
They are 4-4 against teams with a winning record at the time. Their past two home games have resulted in two losses by a combined score of 65-24.
And the 23-7 loss to the Eagles on Monday reinforces the doubts that have permeated throughout Valley Ranch.
"You are what you are in this league," quarterback Tony Romo said. That's football speak for, we're not good, but we're dealing with it.
"We'll find out when we get into the tournament," Romo said.
Gerald Ford could have been a Packer …
A decision involving the Green Bay Packers played a role in Gerald Ford’s path to the White House and his place in U.S. history.
In 1935, following his stint as center on the University of Michigan football team, a young Ford played in the East-West Shrine Game.
After the game, Packers founder and coach Curly Lambeau offered Ford a contract with the team for $200 a game for a 14-game season.
Ford chose a different career path. He turned down the offer and headed to law school at Yale University.
Jason Taylor bashes Shawne Merriman …
Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor says the candidacy of his likely chief rival for NFL defensive player of the year, Shawne Merriman, was tainted by a four-
game steroid suspension in November.
"You really shouldn't be able to fail a test like that and play in this league, to begin with," Taylor said Wednesday. "To make the Pro Bowl and all the other awards, I think you're walking a fine line of sending the wrong message."
Merriman, who plays outside linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, has denied he's a steroid cheat and blamed his positive test on a tainted supplement.
"A performance-enhancing drug is, obviously, what it is," Taylor said. "You enhance your performance by doing that. You fail that test, I think it's not right, it's against the rules and ultimately I think it's sending the wrong message to the youth in America and the people who look at this game not only as entertainment but also to learn lessons from it."
When told of Taylor's comments, Merriman said he tries to be a good role model, and he said he has taken his punishment for the positive drug test.
"If I wasn't having the kind of season I'm having, this wouldn't even be a conversation," Merriman said. "The NFL will always have the level of integrity. That's what makes the NFL. In my situation, everything happened in an appropriate way. I sat out my four games, my money was taken away from me, my four games were taken away from me, and I came back and played my rear off."
Merriman leads the NFL with 16 sacks in 11 games for the AFC West champion Chargers (13-2). He has four forced fumbles and has one interception.
Sports Illustrated bashes Fox Soccer’s FanZone?????…
LOW: Objectivity goes out the window -- with raucous results -- on Fox Soccer Channel's Fan Zone, a Premier League game called by one unabashedly rabid fan from each team. There's plenty of taunting, rooting and screaming; for a more authentic experience you'll have to fly to England and buy a ticket.
I Seen Da Leprechaun ….
See all the old episodes of Heroes Here ….
And now, a few emails:
i can't believe you're joining the dark side about terrell owens. i've heard so much criticism of him today and not one numb nutted critic has mentioned that he also leads the league in touchdown receptions. i wonder if they even know it.
theismann said he was not even a good player. when is the last time a receiver had over 1000 receiving yards, over 80 catches and lead the league in touchdown receptions? it's never happened and never will happen.
and you say he's not worth it. ridiculous.
i know he's had drops. every receiver drops passes, but him more than most. but you cannot deny his production more than makes up for it. he also makes romo a better quarterback. WE WOULD NOT BE SOLD ON THE THOUGHT THAT ROMO IS THE COWBOYS QB OF THE FUTURE IF OWENS WAS NOT HERE.
you know for a fact that his presence makes perfect economic sense for the cowboys. no one can deny that.
as for him speaking out, i've never cared about any player speaking his mind. he's never said anything you or i weren't thinking, and i give him props for being honest and not sugar coating everything with that "one game at a time" b.s. i pray for death every time i hear a player use that
and you, bob. you must be hitting the pipe a little too hard. when owens says something, you basically claim he's being a bad player/teammate/human, BUT terry glenn says the EXACT SAME THING, oh, he has a great point.
haven't you ever thought that sometimes, owens may be right? actually he may even be right more often than not. (i tried no to sound too much like that terrible dick vermeil commercial)
owens is a great player and should be back with the cowboys next year. it'll be great to have him with a healthy hand and romo with a year of playing experience under his belt.
now, what do we do at free safety?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
I think the term that would be appropriate for Monday's Cowboys/Eagles embarrassment would be "Reality Check"
Romo: A QB that Played like a 1st Year Starter
Offensive Line: Got pushed around, couldn't protect the passer and couldn't get the ground game going as Philly beat by more then a 2 to 1 margin in yards.
Defensive Line: Couldn't contain Jeff Garcia, allowed Brian Westbrook to have a good game, and couldn't stop a passing game that sprayed the ball to all of the receivers multiple times.....
Special Teams: Who is Miles Austin? Really.....That's another name for your spare list on WTDS....
And yet, I'm not shocked.... The NFC is pathetic and could be the home for all types of chaos in the playoffs.... If the Giants can still be in contention with a 7-8, that shows how bad this conference really is.....
And some youtube:
Tito – Chuck 2
Brashear Destroys Downey