Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bits and Bytes: Delayed football edition

The football team at this guy's elementary school is incredibly busy.

From the “it’d be on time if I was writing it for The Chronicle!” files come these thoughts on the Flying Dutchmen’s 28-16 win over Rhode Island Saturday. In all seriousness, I was in and out of the room during the game and didn’t get to listen to the entire broadcast, so I felt as if an entire post about the game would be a little inauthentic. Anyone can recite the stat package, I’d like to do more than that and not try to fool you when I can’t go in-depth.

Anyway, that said, the win was a workmanlike one for the Dutchmen, who did what they had to in disposing of the struggling Rams and keeping themselves in the mix for the CAA North title. Those pounding the keyboard for Steve Probst to take over as the starting quarterback were no doubt thrilled to see/hear the sophomore give the offense quite a jolt in the third quarter, when he threw an 89-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Weaver and scrambled 29 yards for a score on consecutive drives to give the Dutchmen a 21-3 lead.

The next drive, quarterbacked mostly by Cory Christopher, stalled at the URI one-yard-line when Christopher fumbled on fourth down. Still, I’d expect the timeshare to last the duration of the season. Two quarterbacks are essential for a team that operates the zone read offense so much. Christopher leads the Dutchmen in carries while Probst ranks first on the squad in yards per carry (6.2) and yards per game (54.2).

The most important game of the season awaits Saturday, when the Dutchmen host New Hampshire. At 2-2 in the CAA North, and with games remaining against UNH and UMass—the only one-loss teams in the North—the Dutchmen can win the North and put themselves in contention for a playoff berth by winning out.

Of course, they knock off three ranked teams (UNH is eighth, UMass 16th and Delaware 23rd in this week’s coaches poll) in the final five weeks (the Dutch have a bye—or, as we called it in college, Brigham Young Elementary—next week and visit downtrodden Northeastern, losers of 13 straight, Nov. 14) and the Dutchmen will have really earned that postseason appearance.

Alas, with three losses already—including the eyesores to Richmond and Maine—the Dutchmen’s playoff hopes will probably be snuffed out with a loss Saturday. New Hampshire has won the last six games against Hofstra, three by six points or less and three by 20 points or more, including the last two by a combined score of 85-28. And any hopes of catching the Wildcats snoozing ended when they lost to UMass last weekend.

One thing is certain: A win over UNH would trump the win over James Madison—which is 0-2 since the loss to the Dutchmen—and would rank as perhaps the biggest upset victory for the program since the 1994 rout of New Hampshire. Stay tuned to this page over the next 48 hours, as I’m hoping to put something together on that seismic victory.

Some other Bits and Bytes:

—The Dutchmen didn’t receive a vote in the coaches’ poll this week, but they received 17 votes in The Sports Network media poll, good for 41st and a single vote ahead of Old Dominion. Ha! You can take your preseason no. 1 pick in basketball and cram it, Monarch Nation!!!

—Things are not looking good, at all, for our beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers, known worldwide as The Official NFL Team of Defiantly Dutch. The Bucs came back from a two-touchdown deficit Sunday to tie the Panthers in the fourth quarter, but Carolina mounted a 16-play, 80-yard drive and scored the winning touchdown with less than a minute left to win, 28-21.

And honestly, it was a bit of a fluke that the Bucs were that close. They closed to within 21-14 on a 97-yard kickoff return by Sammie Stroughter and tied it on a 26-yard interception return by Tanard Jackson a little less than midway through the fourth quarter. The Panthers finally realized what the rest of the world has known since the NFC Divisional Playoffs last January—interception-prone QB Jake Delhomme cannot be trusted to run a flag football team, never mind an NFL team—and ran the ball 15 times on their winning drive.

At 0-6, Raheem Morris and the Bucs are off to the franchise’s worst start since 1985, and the 10-game losing streak dating back to last year is the Bucs’ longest since their NFL record 26-game skid in 1976-77, way back when I was blogging nostalgically about my Terrible Twos. And contrary to what I wrote three weeks ago, I’m beginning to worry that the Bucs are prepping for quite a run at becoming the first NFL team to ever endure two winless seasons. The rest of the schedule, starting with the rejuvenated New England Patriots in London this week (good news: it’s a home game for the Bucs!), is brutal. Can’t they beat Brigham Young Elementary next week?

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