Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Scarbrough's Take: LSU, Syracuse and Reflections on the Carrier Dome

Sep 26, 2015; Syracuse, NY, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) scores a touchdown after braking a tackle by Syracuse Orange cornerback Wayne Morgan (2) during the first quarter in a game at the Carrier Dome.  Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

By Lyn Scarbrough
Lindy's Sports

For the second week in a row, LSU looked like a national championship contender on Saturday, defeating Syracuse, 34-24, in a win more convincing than the score indicated.
Again, it was the Leonard Fournette show, as the sophomore Heisman Trophy candidate torched the Orange for 244 rushing yards and two touchdowns and had another 88-yard scoring run called back by penalty. The Tiger defense did its part, picking off a pass and holding the home team to 281 total yards in the Carrier Dome.
But, as I watched television highlights on Saturday night, my thoughts went back to a game played in that same arena exactly 14 years ago that day, on the fourth Saturday in September, 2001. Since then, that happens every time that I watch a game played in Syracuse.
It was the only game that I’ve ever attended or covered at the Carrier Dome and it was planned to be a unique football experience. My media/photo pass would have me on the sideline for that game between Syracuse and Auburn, but plans had been made for a mini-vacation before and after the game.
Several people had lodging reservations on the Canadian side of the border, near the rim above Niagara Falls … you know, the Maid of the Mist, the heavy blue rain gear as the boats go near the thunderous, deafening cascade. We also hoped to make it down to Cooperstown and drive through the Finger Lakes region of central New York.
But, hundreds of miles away from Syracuse, some people had other ideas. Several teams of Islamic terrorists, the very face of evil, had plotted to fly jetliners into buildings, kill thousands of innocent victims and throw the United States and the world into chaos. The cowards succeeded in their despicable, un-Godly plot.
In the aftermath, college and professional football games scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 15 were either postponed or cancelled, along with most other athletic contests and many other events around the country for the next week. Instead of attending games, people went to churches. Instead of yelling for their teams, they prayed for their country.
The next significant football game scheduled for the state of New York was set for Syracuse. Auburn was to play the Orangemen (as they were known then) on Sept. 22, the fourth Saturday of the month. After much debate, the decision was made to resume football games that weekend. Because of the location and the setting, Syracuse against Auburn would have added importance. It became a national headliner.
Niagara Falls and the Finger Lakes were out. Many fans, including several from our group, were understandably apprehensive about flights into New York.
So, just four of us made the trip – J.T. Norris, a former Motorolan now working for Harley-Davidson in Wisconsin; my cousins, Wesley Salter, who now lives in Tuscaloosa, and Myers Hyche, a former Birmingham Post-Herald sportswriter, now living in Orlando; and me with my sideline media pass to cover the game for Lindy’s.
On the field, the 2001 game wasn’t memorable.
Syracuse All-American defensive end Dwight Freeney led the Orangemen defense that forced five Auburn turnovers on the way to a 31-14 victory. That Syracuse team finished 10-3, placed second in the Big East and defeated Kansas State in the Bowl.
Auburn was a freshman dominated team, including its young starting quarterback Jason Campbell. After his 44-yard scoring run gave the Tigers an early lead, they didn’t score again until late in the fourth quarter. They went on to finish tied for the SEC Western Division title before losing to North Carolina in the Peach Bowl. Four seasons later, that team, led by seniors Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown, Carlos Rogers and Campbell, went undefeated and was named national champion by several outlets.
Based on LSU’s performance so far in 2014, it may not take that Tiger team four seasons to contend for the College Football Playoff championship.
But, off the field, the 2001 game was more than memorable. Of the 500-plus games that I’ve attended and covered over the past five decades, few, if any, stand out more.
Outside the Carrier Dome and around Syracuse the scene was subdued. Fire trucks were parked along brick sidewalks with firefighters holding boots to collect money for disaster relief. Inside the stadium, fans for both teams waved American flags as both bands played patriotic anthems. State and local officials, on the playing surface before the game, addressed the crowd, introducing area firemen who had returned from working in the rubble of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. The pregame national anthem has never been more meaningful or inspiring.
The 49,262-seat Carrier Dome, a small venue, dwarfed in size by the Georgia Dome and Superdome with their 70,000-plus capacity, seemed sort of dark and foreboding that night. It was hot on the sideline and loud, really loud, Tiger Stadium loud. A few minutes into the game, the photographer standing next to me indicated that there was no need to continue to attempt talking. Hearing each other was hopeless.
But, nothing else seemed hopeless that night, not for the teams on the field, and not for America.
Of course, both teams and their fans wanted to win the game. But, in a larger sense, the outcome didn’t matter. When the ball was kicked off, both teams had won, the nation had won. By the fact that the game was being played, especially in New York state, the terrorists had lost … and all of us had won.
The people of New York were given a respite, even if only for a few hours, from the abominable crime inflicted upon it. And, the people of the United States proved the resiliency and spirit that made America great.
Unprecedented horror had brought the nation together to a degree not seen since World War II. There was resolve to destroy terrorists, punish their supporters, make their lives miserable and their attacks impossible. Dealing with terrorists and their supporters and potentially helping enable their efforts – unthinkable!
September, 2001 … 14 years ago. It was the time when day-to-day life in this country and around the world was changed forever, when we stopped being able to take routine things for granted, and when America showed its true character.
Americans, almost all Americans, stood in solidarity … and sports venues around the nation brought people together as nothing else could.
It was a time and an experience that I will always remember. Hopefully, none of us will ever forget.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Big Ten Announces Women’s Basketball Television Slate for 2015-16 Conference Season

Every Big Ten matchup will be produced and distributed

ROSEMONT, Ill. – The Big Ten announced today that every women’s basketball conference game during the 2015-16 season will be produced and distributed by BTN, BTN Plus, an ESPN Network or CBS.

Big Ten women’s basketball teams will be featured on national television at least 78 times over the course of the season. BTN will televise at least 65 games, ESPN networks will carry 11 contests and CBS networks will broadcast two matchups, with all remaining conference games streaming live on BTN Plus.

All 14 teams will open Big Ten play on Thursday, Dec. 31, with BTN airing the conference-opening game between Michigan State and Ohio State at noon ET. The six remaining games will stream live on BTN Plus, starting with Minnesota at Rutgers and Purdue at Michigan at 1 p.m. Iowa takes on Nebraska at 2 p.m., while Indiana tips at Wisconsin at 3 p.m. Penn State hosts Northwestern for a 7 p.m. matchup and Illinois rounds out the day against defending Big Ten Champion Maryland at 8 p.m.

A rematch of the 2015 Big Ten Tournament title game will take place on Saturday, Jan. 2, as last year’s tournament champion Terrapins will host the Buckeyes live on CBS.

The regular season concludes on Sunday, Feb. 28, and all 14 teams will compete for the conference tournament crown at the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis from March 2-6. All 13 games over five days will air live nationally as BTN will broadcast the first 12 games, and ESPN will show the championship at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 6.

All on-air games broadcast by BTN can be streamed via the web, smartphones, tablets and connected devices on BTN2Go, BTN’s digital extension. More than 100 additional games will also be streamed on BTN Plus on BTN2Go, and many of those will air on delay on BTN as part of the Student U initiative.

BTN’s women’s basketball coverage also includes highlights and analysis on BTN Women’s Sports Report, which airs on Mondays throughout the season at 10 p.m. ET.

The full conference schedule, along with television designations and start times, can be found on the attached PDF.

Iowa Baseball Releases 2016 Schedule

Hawkeyes to play 24 games at Duane Banks Field

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa head baseball coach Rick Heller released the details of the Hawkeyes’ 2016 spring schedule Tuesday.  Iowa will play 24 home contests at Duane Banks Field this season.

Iowa will open the season with three straight road trips -- at Dallas Baptist (Feb. 19-21), Snowbird Baseball Classic (Feb. 26-28) in Port Charlotte, Florida, and Southern Illinois (March 4-6) in Carbondale, Illinois.  Dallas Baptist was an NCAA Regional host in 2015.

Weather permitting; the Hawkeyes will face an opponent to be determined in their home opener on either March 8 or March 9 before traveling to Atlanta for four games at the Perfect Game Tournament from March 11-14. 

From March 18-20, Iowa returns to Springfield, Missouri, for a three-game series at Missouri State.  The Bears eliminated Iowa from regional play in 2015 to advance to Super Regionals.

The Hawkeyes will host a loaded Big Ten schedule in 2016, hosting three-game series against Maryland (March 25-27), Illinois (April 8-10), Michigan (April 22-24), and Michigan State (May 13-15).  Maryland and Illinois were NCAA Super Regional teams, and Michigan was an NCAA Regional qualifier.

Iowa’s Big Ten road slate includes series at Minnesota (April 1-3), Indiana (April 15-17), Ohio State (May 6-8), and Penn State (May 19-21).  Indiana was a 2015 NCAA Regional qualifier.

The Hawkeyes midweek slate includes home games against NCAA Regional qualifier Bradley (March 23), Northern Illinois (March 30), Milwaukee (April 5), Air Force (April 12-13), Grand View (April 26), Nebraska Omaha (April 27), and Western Illinois (May 3). 

Iowa will host Big 12 Conference foe Kansas State for a three-game weekend series from April 29-May 1. The Hawkeyes’ two road midweek contests will be against Bradley (April 20) and Western Illinois (May 17).

The 2016 Big Ten Tournament will be held at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha from May 25-29.  NCAA Regional play will be June 3-6 at campus sites across the country.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Scarbrough's Take: Aubrun...Similar Game - Not The Same Feeling

Sep 19, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) leaps over the goal line for a touchdown against the Auburn Tigers during the third quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
By Lyn Scarbrough
Lindy's Sports

If you thought the game in Tiger Stadium on Saturday afternoon between LSU and Auburn looked familiar, there’s a reason.
It did.
Go back two seasons.
In 2013, undefeated LSU jumped up early on undefeated Auburn. The visiting Tigers showed no offense, had turnovers, couldn’t slow LSU’s running game (Jeremy Hill had 154 first half rushing yards, finishing with 184 and three touchdowns) and trailed at intermission, 21-0.
This past Saturday, Leonard Fournette did the damage, opening the game with a 71-yard run, before ending with 228 yards and three scores. Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson provided the turnovers and the halftime lead was 24-0. So for the record, LSU has led by a combined 45-0 at halftime the last two times this series has been played in Baton Rouge.
At that point two years ago, the visitors came back with 21 second half points, improved offensively, but still lost by double digits. However, fans left the stadium thinking that the team had turned a corner.
That team went on to defeat every other opponent, including Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama, before steamrolling Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. It came within 13 seconds of winning its second national championship in four seasons. LSU went in the other direction, losing to Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama before defeating Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
This past Saturday, the visitors again came back with 21 second half points, improved offensively, and lost by double digits, but you didn’t leave the stadium with that feeling this time.
If the Gus Bus turned a corner in Baton Rouge this year, it was in the wrong direction on a one-way street. This team looks nothing like the championship team it was predicted to be by the SEC media. Unless things change … drastically and quickly … it’s not a sure thing that this team will even win six games and play in a postseason bowl at all.
LSU, on the other hand, is one of the four best teams in the conference based on game performance so far, joining Texas A&M, Georgia and Ole Miss. (Notice, no team from the state of Alabama is in that quartet.)
This could end up being one of the most disappointing and underachieving teams in Auburn history.
For LSU, it could be one of the most unexpected contending seasons in the past decade. Based on its most recent performance, that group of Tigers doesn’t have much on which to work before it heads into Saturday’s game against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.
Problem areas for the Tiger group from east Alabama heading into its game with Mississippi State are many and major, some not hard to spot. You won’t win much if you can’t hit your receivers, you can’t make a big play, you can’t tackle. You get the idea.
Start with the quarterback position since that’s where so much was expected, so much was heralded and so little has been delivered.
You have to feel for Jeremy Johnson. He is a superb athlete and he’s been patient waiting for his time to lead the Auburn team. But, what has happened can’t be sugar coated. Johnson hasn’t consistently hit receivers, often badly overthrowing or underthrowing. The result has been six critical interceptions, most thrown directly to a defender. He hasn’t been able to read defenses or pose a consistent running threat. He’s fumbled the ball and handled it loosely. If he’s inspiring confidence from his teammates or Tiger fans or anybody for that matter, it’s hard to see and would be even harder to understand.
Should Sean White, one of the nation’s top high school quarterbacks two seasons ago, start against the Bulldogs? If Johnson starts and there’s not first quarter results, should White be brought in early? Should freshman Jason Smith, the talented dual-threat prep and junior college quarterback, be moved to the position, even for the Wildcat option?
What change is needed? Not sure, but obviously, something different must happen.
How about big plays, a trademark of Rhett Lashlee and Gus Malzahn offenses? They haven’t existed. I’m not sure that Auburn has recovered yet from the 56-yard scoring bomb from Johnson to Smith that was wiped out by a holding call in the Louisville game. That would have run the score to 31-3 and the rout would have been on. Instead, after that penalty – and the accompanying 15-yard poor sportsmanship call – made it 1st-and-35, it became a close game and Auburn has never looked the same.
How about the defense? You remember, the one that was going to show such drastic improvement. The one that was going to increase pressure on the quarterback and hit like a ton of bricks. Apparently, David Copperfield has joined the Tigers’ defensive coaching staff because that much anticipated defense has disappeared … if it ever showed up at all. Since star defensive end Carl Lawson was injured in the first quarter of the Louisville game, that defense has been AWOL. It would have seemed impossible, but this defense may be playing worse that the 2014 unit. For sure, it is getting worse game-by-game.
As concerning as on-field results have been, the appearance of effort … or lack thereof …
is at least equally concerning. On Saturday, potential blockers, tacklers and receivers sometimes looked as if they just didn’t want to make the effort.
The 2013 team never quit against LSU or against other teams during the season. Remember those historic come-from-behind wins at the end of the year, paving the road to Pasadena? On Saturday in Tiger Stadium, that excitement, that determination, that never-say-die attitude … appeared to have died.
“The first half our offense was awful and really didn’t give our defense any kind of spark or hope,” coach Malzahn said after the game.
Awful. No spark. No reason for hope. That pretty much summed it up.
Is the season already over for the preseason SEC favorites just three weeks into September? Not at all. Every goal is still attainable.
A win over Mississippi State and its Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Dak Prescott could go a long way toward turning the wrong-way Gus Bus around. A realistic evaluation of both teams at this stage doesn’t point in that direction, but the Tigers have been installed as an early four-point favorite.
Win this one, take care of San Jose State the following week, and then there is a Saturday with no game before playing in Lexington on Thursday night. A win there is definitely possible before heading the next week to Fayetteville, where the hometown Razorbacks are likely to be 1-5 when Auburn comes to town. The Hogs will be desperate for a win … over anybody.
Win those (and have the 6-1 record that they would represent) and the next three Saturdays (Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Georgia, with two of those at Jordan-Hare) don’t look impossible. Lose a couple of those and it’s hard to foresee a season with six wins. That anticipated trip back to Arizona for another national championship game could be replaced with a holiday season at home.
It’s still not a lost cause. Remember 2013. This is exactly what happened then.
But, the feeling this time is not the same, and for Auburn to come close to repeating 2013, it has to get that feeling again.
Even though it’s early in the season, the game against Mississippi State is probably the most important one for Auburn since the title game against Florida State. The Tigers need to get that 2013 feeling back and time is quickly running out for that to happen.

Lyn Scarbrough works for Lindy's Sports and specifically college football.  He is an editor, columnist and radio host and a contributor to this blog.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Scarbrough's Take: Looking around the SEC after Week 2

Cody Core (88) is one of many weapons Ole Miss has on offense. (Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports)
A week ago, the analysis of SEC football programs seemed pretty obvious.
There were a record 10 SEC teams in the Top 25. Conference teams had played four games against Power 5 conference teams and won them all. And, most of the scores against “lesser” opponents were by comfortable, if not gigantic, margins.
One week later, not much seems sure at all.
In the league’s marquee game, Tennessee fell to Oklahoma, 31-24. It’s not so much that the Vols lost the game. It’s how they lost it.
With expectations high for the first time in memory, Neyland Stadium, decked out in alternating sections of orange and white, was rocking. When the home team went ahead, 17-0, fans were literally dancing in the aisles. The celebrations were premature.
With their backs against the wall and time running out, the Sooners scored a late touchdown to tie the game, then their score in the second overtime won it. It was the worst come-from-behind win against the Volunteers in program history. Never had Tennessee led a game by 17 points and lost.
So what’s next? Suddenly, with such disappointment, the air is out of the Big Orange balloon. It can still be a great season for the Vols, but the coaching staff has its work cut out not to allow this loss to define the team. A trip to Florida, a team that has beaten them 10 consecutive times, is in two weeks. Two weeks later, Georgia comes to Knoxville. Two weeks later, Tennessee plays in Tuscaloosa. What will happen next?
And, this past Saturday against those “lesser” opponents, it looked like a different conference.
Auburn, a preseason national championship contender, had to score late, then dominate overtime, for a 27-20 win over Jacksonville State. How significant was the win? Auburn fell in the Coaches Poll from No. 7 to No. 15 by winning. The Gamecocks climbed from No. 5 to No. 1 in the FCS poll by losing.
The Tigers have not looked anything like a title contender in its first two games. Injuries have hurt significantly on the defensive side. Carl Lawson and Tray Matthews couldn’t play on Saturday. Then when two other secondary starters were lost (one to injury (Josh Holsey), one to ejection (Blake Countess)) during the first half, three freshmen were forced to play in the defensive backfield for almost the entire game.
Offensively, quarterback Jeremy Johnson, heralded as a possible Heisman Trophy candidate before the first game, has looked more like a candidate for second string after two outings. So far, there has been no reason for opponents to respect the Auburn quarterback as a running threat, and with no zone-read option, Johnson has forced passes into double- and triple coverage, resulting in five interceptions.
If things don’t improve for the Tigers on both sides of the ball, those other Tigers in Baton Rouge will start the season with an unanticipated 2-0 start in conference play on Saturday afternoon and Auburn’s title dreams could head toward nightmare status.
Three other SEC teams didn’t fare any better. Florida struggled to defeat East Carolina, 31-24, while Missouri had to score late to beat Arkansas State from the Sun Belt Conference, 27-20. That’s three wins by just one touchdown when SEC teams were big favorites.
Arkansas fans should be so fortunate! The Razorbacks lost to Toledo of the MAC in a game when their supposedly high-powered offense only scored 10 points. To make it worse, the Rockets’ first game, scheduled against Stony Brook, had been cancelled by thunderstorms the previous week. So, this was Toledo’s season opener … on the road in Arkansas.
As with Tennessee, the question becomes, what’s next?
On Saturday, Texas Tech travels to Fayetteville.
Here’s the comparison … Arkansas opened the season with a 35-point win over UTEP. The lost to Toledo last week.  On Saturday, Texas Tech scored 69 on UTEP, winning by 49. After playing the Red Raiders, the Razorbacks play Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas, then travel to Knoxville and to Tuscaloosa, before returning home to play Auburn. A 3-4 start is a realistic possibility for Arkansas, and a 1-6 start isn’t out of the question. For another fan base with high expectations, that would be tough pill to swallow.
The two most impressive SEC teams to this point have been Texas A&M and Ole Miss. The Aggies impressively knocked off No. 16 Arizona State, then followed it up with a 33-point win over Ball State. They should be 5-0 when Alabama comes to College Station in mid-October.
Alabama will play that upstart Ole Miss team after two comfortable wins over Wisconsin and Middle Tennessee. The Tide has run the ball well, gotten satisfactory play from Jake Coker at quarterback and has given up just 13.5 points per game. Butsomething has to give on Saturday in Tuscaloosa when the Rebels visit Bryant-Denny Stadium.
How impressive has the Ole Miss offense been? After scoring 76 in the first week win over UT-Martin, the Rebs scored 73 in beating Fresno State from the Mountain West. They became the first team in 47 years — the Houston Cougars did it in 1968 — to score as many as 73 points in consecutive games, and only the second team to do that in the last 90 years. No SEC team has ever come close to matching it.
You have to go with Alabama in this one due to the home-field advantage and maybe the revenge factor, too, after the game in Oxford in 2014. In case you wondered, Ole Miss and Alabama started playing football in October, 1894. The Rebels have never beaten Alabama in back-to-back seasons.
How about this week’s other in-conference match-ups?
South Carolina is fortunate to be 1-1 after being dominated at home by Kentucky, following a narrow opening win over North Carolina which threw two interceptions in the end zone. The Gamecocks play in Athens on Saturday against a Bulldog team that appears to be the best in the East. Look for another Georgia win, sending Steve Spurrier’s season into a further tailspin.
Kentucky’s win in Columbia was its first conference road win since 2009. The Wildcats welcome Florida on Saturday, looking for its first win over the Gators in 29 years. If the Cats win this one, they could be 5-0 when Auburn comes to Lexington for a Thursday night game on Oct. 15. Who would have thought it was more likely for Kentucky to be undefeated than Auburn when that game is played!
Will things be more clear in the SEC after the third week of the season? If the first two weeks are an indication probably not.

Lyn Scarbrough works for Lindy's Sports and specifically college football.  He is an editor, columnist and radio host and a contributor to this blog.

Monday, September 14, 2015

All-Session tickets available for 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- All-Session tickets for the 2016 United States Olympic Wrestling Team Trails are available for purchase beginning today at the UI Athletics Ticket Office.
All-Session options include VIP ($225), adult ($75), and youth (18 and younger, $50). Fans can purchase tickets at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, over the phone at 1-800-IA-HAWKS, or online at

The University of Iowa and Iowa City/Coralville CVB host the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on April 9-10. More than 100 wrestlers from three divisions -- men’s and women’s freestyle, and Greco-Roman -- compete in Iowa City for the opportunity to advance to the 2016 Rio Olympics as a member of Team USA.

Single-day and single-session tickets go on sale April 4, 2016.

Final Week 3 Football Standings

Class 2A District 4

                        D4    Overall        PF    PA
Anamosa        1-0    3-0             127    38
Mt. Vernon      1-0    2-1             104    64
Monticello       1-0    2-1              53    75
Cascade         0-0    1-2              53    141
Tipton              0-1    2-1             95    64
Camanche      0-1    1-2              60    68
NEGL              0-1    1-2              57    79

Scores - Friday, September 11
Anamosa 56, Tipton 20
Mt. Vernon 53, NE Goose Lake 15
Monticello 26, Camanche 10
Cascade 29, Mation 26

Friday, September 18
Tipton at Cascade
West LIberty at Monticello
Camanche at Mt. Vernon
Anamosa at NE Goose Lake

Class 1A District 5

                              D-5    Overall        PF    PA
Alburnett                1-0    3-0             106    54
Durant                    1-0    1-2              54    115
Wilton                     1-0    1-2              47    65
West Branch           0-0    3-0             121    37
Wapello                   0-1    1-2             60    80
Bellevue                  0-1    1-2             27    70
North Cedar             0-1    0-3             44    78

Scores - Friday, September 11
Alburnett 32, North Cedar 27
Durant 24, Wapello 13
Wilton 27, Bellevue 0
West Branch 38, West Burlington-Notre Dame 17

Friday, September 18
Wilton at Durant
Wapello at Columbus Junction
North Cedar at West Branch
Wapello at Columbus Junction