Political Minute No. 3 – Freedom of Speech


Freedom of speech is a hallmark of American Democracy.  It is a staple in our society and is safeguarded in our Constitution.  This has taken many forms throughout our history.  Today it is amazingly still under attack, and from the current White House administration no less!  The White House takes issue with any criticisms the press aims its way, legitimate or not.  This is perhaps to be expected with the current occupant.  But what has really spurred a lot of this conversation in larger society stems from a seemingly small protest started three years ago at a professional football game.  During the second preseason game of the 2016 NFL season, Colin Kaepernick chose to sit instead of stand during the national anthem.  During the final game of that preseason Kaepernick switched from sitting to kneeling in an attempt to show more respect for military members while still drawing attention to the social issues he felt were being neglected in the United States.  He is currently out of a job, and many blame his anthem protest as the reason behind his apparent blacklisting.  However, the movement has started to gain steam and now the entire league is grappling with the issue as entire teams participate.

I must confess that my opinions on the anthem protests have changed over time.  When Kaepernick initially began this, I was bothered.  I did feel it was disrespectful and out of line.  I now realize that I was completely and utterly wrong.  Not only was I naïve in not seeing the extent of the racial issues this country is still battling, but I failed to appreciate the statement being made and the respect that was still held by the protestors.  I always used to put my hand over my heart and sing the national anthem whenever it was played before a game.  I vividly remember in high school being complimented by a parent as I was one of the very few, if not only one on our soccer team to place my hand on my heart during the anthem.  I now no longer sing nor place my hand on my heart during the anthem.

It is not out of a disrespect for our military; this seems to be the most common criticism hurled at the protestors.  The men and women serving our country deserve the upmost respect, appreciation, and support from every single citizen in the United States.  I still feel I do all of those things; if I ever get the chance I thank any service member, police officer, fire fighter, etc. for all they do for this country.  However, I no longer feel the connection to the nation that would lead me to place my hand on my heart and sing the anthem.

In my mind, placing your hand on your heart and pledging something means that it matters deeply to you.  You are making a promise and supporting something.  You identify with it so much that it is in your heart. Despite the Department of Defense’s best attempts, by funneling money into professional football,  it does not signify respect or support for the military or government.  It is an impactful, weighted action that comes with significant meaning.  I no longer identify with the United States.  I feel more pride listening to “O, Canada” than “The Star Spangled Banner.”  I chose to stand, hands at my side or behind my back, out of respect for the United States.  I would stand out of respect for any nation’s anthem when it is played.  For me the United States is now simply another nation to which I will offer respect but I will not pledge my allegiance.  And I can have no serious complaint against those who choose to express similar sentiments in their own way.

Any pride at being an American vanished on November 8th, 2016.  I used to feel hope that despite all of the problems in our country we continued to move forward and work to address them; we may not have always been successful but the overall trend was forward.  I no longer have those feelings.  Yes Hillary Clinton may have won the popular vote, but any country that could have that many people vote for (or not even bother to vote against) a misogynistic, egotistical, sexual predator is not a country of mine.

Wrapping this back to freedom of speech, anthem protests are just that, a freedom of speech.  When Trump actively attacks them and NFL owners threaten those engaging in free speech, they are going against core fundamental American beliefs.  Of course freedom of speech can be abused.  Look to the Neo-Nazi protests in Charlottesville.  When one’s freedom of speech is leading to physical harm of others that is when one’s freedom stops.  Speech is powerful.  Yes, it is only words or an expression of oneself.  But it has the ability to incite dangerous situations in society.  When words reach that level, they are no longer protected by the Constitution; hence why you can’t randomly shout fire in a theater.  Everyone deserves the ability to express themselves through speech, no matter which side of an issue one falls.  However, the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution does not guarantee freedom to say anything. Lines are drawn at such things as libel, slander, inciting panic or violence.  This past August in Charlottesville, VA the Neo-Nazi’s were not protected by freedom of speech because of the violence they incited.  In comparison, kneeling or simply standing and not participating in an anthem is not a violation of others safety and is protected under freedom of speech.

Now more than ever freedom of speech must be championed in this country.  You may not always like what the other side is saying but they have a right to their opinions and to verbalize them.  It doesn’t mean we have to listen.  We do have to protect everyone’s rights.  The press must continue to fight the oppressive White House and publish the truth.  Those facing oppression and injustice must continue to speak out.  America can only truly be great when we can trumpet our ideals honestly and openly.  Continued hypocrisy will only serve to further erode this country from within as well as on the global stage.


MLS: DC United v. Orland City – 3/3/18 – Player Ratings


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DC United kicked off the 2018 season on the road (a phrase that will be used A LOT to start this season) in Orlando.  With an overhauled and much younger roster the Black and Red managed to get a point to kick off what is virtually a 14 game road trip (2 “home” games in Maryland don’t count).  There were some positives but in the end I’m sure Ben is upset at squandering a golden chance at 3 points.  With Atlanta United up next, hopefully DC can get another positive road result and breath some serious optimism into this season.

Quick Thoughts:

New Beginnings… – 7 new to DC players started this match (Ousted, Brillant, Fisher, Moreno, Segura, Asad, and Mattocks) and an eighth (Durkin) made his debut as a sub.  Things looked promising from the start with the higher energy level than in years past coinciding with the decreased overall age of the starting 11.  Asad marked his debut with a goal and Brillant had the other DC highlight, clearing a goal off the line.  Despite having so many new pieces communication didn’t seem to be a huge issue but…

…Previous year’s demons return –  … down the stretch this group showed it still has a lot to learn.  Up a man and a goal for 50 minutes and only emerging with a point is simply not good enough at a professional level.  Hunkering back deep into our own half allowed Orlando to build pressure and crash wave after wave of attack against our goal, finally breaking through in stoppage time.  There was also a worrying return of a completely anemic attack.  Mattocks all on his own had a penalty saved, fouled up a break away, one on one chance, and just all in all looked active but completely ineffective when it came to the final product.  Mullins came on and looked even worse.  He failed to hold the ball in the corner in stoppage time, instead electing to send in a horrid cross.  Orlando, presented with the chance to put together a final attack, punished the black and red.

Mixed bag of defense – Ahead of the season, all the analysts continually harped on DC’s defense.  They may have showed better than some predicted but there is still clearly a ways to go.  Oniel Fisher really didn’t look like he had ever played defense before in his life.  Brillant on the other hand cleared a goal off the line and even looked dangerous attacking corners in the opponents end.  Birnbaum was fairly steady.  DeLeon had some good moments, but wasn’t afraid to mimic his new Jamaican teammate’s ineptitude.  News of an incoming left back from Costa Rica could be a huge boost to this unit.



Player Ratings: (1-10 Scale)

Ousted: 5 – It’s hard to compare him to Hamid who built himself into a legend in black and red but you have to think the former number 1 might have found a way to preserve the clean sheet.  On the flip side it’s hard to fault him for his debut as he generally took good angles and seemed to have all real opportunities stopped.


Fisher: 2 – Despite skewering the Jamaican left back above, I felt he showed some promise going forward which earned him the 2.  He looked to have some good attacking combinations with Asad when he overlapped with the midfield.  Unfortunately he’s getting paid to defend and at times we would’ve been served better putting a stationary practice dummy on the corner of the box.  The goal also came down his side.

Brillant: 6 – Easily the stand out of the defense.  Put in a performance reminiscent of Bobby Boswell a couple years ago.  Looked to be getting very vocal with his teammates.  Could develop into a captain over the course of the season.

Birnbaum: 5 – Tentatively looks like he’s putting last season’s horrors away.  Didn’t do anything to really stand out but did manage to partner pretty well with Brillant, not allowing many chances across the full 90 minutes.

DeLeon: 4 – Showed some good defensive positioning and strength in the first half.  Badly faded down the stretch.  For somebody who seems to pretty much be locked in as an every game starter at right back he’ll need to develop a lot more consistency very very quickly.


Moreno: 4 – Was alright.  Generally did a good job shielding the back line but couldn’t keep possession often enough.  Failed to help pick up Pinho on the equalizer.


Asad: 6 – Marked his debut with a (somewhat fortunate) goal.  Early returns indicating he will repay DC’s investment in the former Atlanta star.  It will be very exciting to see if he and Acosta can link of with Arriola and Mattocks to develop a seriously deadly attack.

Segura: 4 – Similar to Moreno.  Buzzed around but faded and simply couldn’t hold possession.  Was shifted wide later in the game and didn’t seem to grasp all his responsibilities.  Allowed Spector to bomb up the wing in stoppage time and deliver the winning cross.  Not a very good way to end your debut.

Stieber: 5 – Decent day as he wasn’t really caught on the ball much.  But couldn’t help us keep possession down the stretch and didn’t really get any kind of chemistry with Mattocks.  Had one decent crack from distance in the second half but otherwise was pretty ineffective.  Should fall to the bench with Acosta returning from suspension next weekend.

Arriola: 5 – Gave exactly what we’ve come to expect from the speedster.  Lots of pace.  Lots of tenacity.  Not always there when it comes to the final ball.


Mattocks: 4 – This may be a bit high for the former Timber and Whitecap.  However, I was impressed with his energy, high press, and ability to hold the ball up.  I was not expecting him to display the strength necessary to bring teammates into play when we lump the ball forward but he actually did an excellent job for the most part.  If it wasn’t for missing a PK and dallying on the ball to long during a second half break-away we’d be looking at a grade near 9 or 10.  Unfortunately for him he’s here to score goals and blew his 2 best opportunities.  Hopefully he’ll find a more clinical edge in the coming games.



Harkes: 4 – pretty much identical to Moreno.  Sat in and helped stem the tide momentarily but couldn’t complete the task.  Never really could grasp an extended period on the ball or find outlets (which is only partially his fault) to help salt the game away.

Durkin: 1 – If I hadn’t seen him come on the field I wouldn’t have known he came on.  As a supposed stand out d-mid brought on to protect a lead late on, the teen failed to make an impact.

Mullins: 1 – As discussed above, I was more frustrated with Mullins for not taking the ball to the corner when blatantly given the opportunity, in turn providing Orland another attack chance in stoppage time, than Moreno or Segura for their poor marking.  He looked slow and clumsy.  I’m beginning to wonder who was playing under his name over those last couple months in 2016 when we had a “Patrick Mullins” that looked like the next Robbie Keane.


Chad Ashton: 4 – In for the suspended Ben Olsen on the touchline, he did a decent job.  Said all the right things at halftime and honestly made all the substitutions I would have made.  Unfortunately he couldn’t get the team to see out the result which would’ve provided an absolutely monumental 3 points to kick start the long road trip.


Despite the disappointing start to the year, we visit Atlanta next in the United Darby.  Last year we proved that the OG United was far superior (at least head to head).  Let’s continue that trend and grab a full 3 points this time.


Vamos United.

Real Madrid vs Tottenham Hotspur Champions League Group Stage Round 3 Player Ratings 10/17/17


As always the Bernabeu faithful was ready to welcome it’s beloved Real Madrid back into the cauldron in the capital for another big Champions League encounter. It was Spurs’ first visit to the Spanish capital since the 2010/2011 season when they were there in a quarterfinal matchup that saw them get destroyed 4-0 en route to losing the tie. The London side had never won in Madrid on 4 previous occasions, nor had they ever even picked up a point, but Mauricio Pochettino’s side were ready and even somewhat surprisingly went ahead on 28 minutes.

Real controlled much of the opening stages with Ronaldo coming close twice and Benzema also nearly nipping in off a rebound. But Spurs weathered the storm and grew into the game around the 20 minute mark and forced a great save out of Navas on a Harry Kane header before Kane got on the end of a raking ball into the box that he barely hit. The ever so slight deflection threw off the trailing Raphael Varane who ended up putting the ball past Keylor Navas to give the visitors the lead. Spurs continued on the front foot but were quickly pinned back as Madrid went for the equalizer. Karim Benzema and Ronaldo up front looked to pour on the attack but both laced shots over the bar. Finally, it was a Benzema pass that found the streaking Toni Kroos in the box who was brought down for a penalty.

Ronaldo fired home for 12 yards and the teams were knotted at one all headed into intermission. Both teams had chances in the second half but a few very impressive saves from both goalkeepers kept the game deadlocked and it ended 1-1. The teams continue to match each other in results and now co-lead the group with 7 points. A surprising draw for Borussia Dortmund at APOEL Nicosia hurts the Germans’ chances of making it through.

Navas 9- Was absolutely crucial in stopping Kane from notching hat trick with a save over the bar on a Kane header in the first half. In the second half, Kane got free from 18 yards out and hit a low shot that would have crept in if it weren’t for another great save from Navas to push wide. Had to come up trumps not long after to keep Spurs from taking the lead. Commanded the box well and a slow roller out to Kroos that put the German in no mans land may be his only fault on the night. Nothing he could do on the goal.

Hakimi 7- This was my first chance to see the teenage Moroccan international play and he certainly passed any test I would have given him. Scampered forward as much as the marauding Carvajal would and sent a couple good crosses, won a couple free kicks and generally frustrated Vertongen when he could. Popped up for a key intervention in the second half in the defensive third but didn’t have a ton to do defensively though did do well to keep Erikson at bay.

Ramos 6- A solid enough night from the skipper. Put in a decent defensive shift for the most part with some key tackles but Kane skipped by him noticeably on one occasion as did I believe Sissoko on another. A wayward pass or two didn’t help but was about average for him overall.

Varane 4- While he did give Spurs their only goal (and first ever scored against Madrid), it’s hard to fault him as there’s no way he could see the ball as it came to him and it was just very unlucky. Patrolled the back line well enough but was a bit off with his decision making. For instance he got forward once well and then tried to do too much and lost out and other times gave the ball away unnecessarily, a characteristic that has always plagued the young Frenchman. Used his speed well but looked a bit confused to say the least.

Marcelo 4- The Brazilian didn’t necessarily do anything wrong but he could not find a way around Aurier all night. won a couple corners but struck a frustrated figure for the most part. Marshaled Eric Dier fairly well when he got forward but just like Hakimi wasn’t asked to do a ton defensively with Tottenham’s attack coming mostly down the middle. Faded a bit in the second half as well as he realized he wasn’t getting through Aurier. Madrid missed his incisiveness.

Casemiro 5-  A calmer night than usual for the Brazilian CDM. As always had a few very nice tackles mixed in with a few poorly timed ones. Did well enough for the most part but at times was overrun by Dier and Winks and didn’t do well with Kane. Covered well for Varane and Ramos when either CB got forward.

Kroos 6- As is the norm, kept things ticking in midfield but didn’t have a huge influence on the match. Struck an exacerbated look when he was caught in no man’s land with Aurier on his back but fortunately won a free kick. Linked up well with Modric in the midfield and spread the ball around nicely but his crosses weren’t quite up to caliber. Did win the penalty for Ronaldo to convert.

Modric 8- Was the man to keep things going in midfield. Much like Isco, he’s indispensable to this team. Did his best to find Ronaldo on multiple occasions with through balls though that’s not to say he wasn’t a bit off with his passing as well with a few long balls not reaching their intended targets. Did send in a picturesque cross that Benzema needed to get a head on.

Isco 8- Darted around the field in his free-flowing role and was the impetus to Madrid’s attack. Lofted a lovely pass for Marcelo in the first half and popped up wherever needed. Put in a few good tackles and had a couple shots on frame both forcing saves from Lloris.

Ronaldo 8- Was a nuisance all night. Should have put Madrid in front early on with a header off the post and later had another chance that went just inches wide of the far post. Forced a wonderful save out of Lloris to keep it at 0-0 and later put home the penalty for Madrid’s lone goal on the night. Showed off his pace in the second half to dart by 3 defenders and get a shot away that stung the hands of the Hotspur net minder. Unfortunately caught the bad side of Vertongen’s disgraceful dive and nabbed a yellow for it.

Benzema 7- A good game for the Frenchman but absolutely should have been on the scoresheet. Had a chance on the rebound from Ronaldo’s post-driven header but put it two feet wide. Later in the second had a golden opportunity from four yards out after a wonderful whipped in cross from Casemiro that unbelievably Lloris kept out with his trailing leg. Had a few crosses shave the tips of his head hairs but things didn’t work out for the big striker and his number was the first one up on the board.


Asencio 5- Came on with about 15 minutes and added time to  go. Got on the end of a couple attacks but didn’t have a ton of time to make much of an influence.

Vazquez N/A- a last roll of the dice for Zidane who threw the young Spaniard on with under 5 minutes to go and I don’t believe he got a foot to the ball save maybe one time.

Zidane 6- The team was vamped up for this contest as always in the Champions league but they couldn’t find the opening goal they were looking for. Spurs went in front which deflated the team a bit and they were fortunate to get back into it with a deserved penalty awarded late in the first. Both subs were correct but they came a bit too late for my liking. Each needed to come on maybe 10 minutes sooner.

Madrid sit at 7 points with 2 away games and a home game against Dortmund to go.

Hala Madrid!

James Madison vs Villanova Football 10/14/17 Preview and Prediction


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There are some major storylines going into this contest between #1 ranked JMU and #12 ranked Villanova. The Dukes are coming off a tough but ultimately victorious road game 2 weeks ago in Delaware, an environment that isn’t easy for any team to win in. JMU had a bye week last week so they should be healthy and ready to go for Saturday’s game. Villanova two weeks ago won at Towson 24-9 and cruised past Maine last weekend 31-0 at home. Here are the big stories going into the game.

Gameday- I can’t start off this post without mentioning that ESPN’s College Gameday is returning to JMU for a second time in 3 years. With the Dukes riding a 17-game win streak and Villanova being arguably the second best team in the conference despite their two losses (more on that in a second), plus there are no top 2 matchups in the FBS, it was the perfect occasion for ESPN’s primary college football show to return to home of the Dukes. Texas vs Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry would have been the obvious choice but a two loss Texas squad vs an Oklahoma team coming off a pitiful loss to Iowa State didn’t help either team’s cause. Utah vs USC was the other big option but with Utah coming off a heartbreaking loss at home to Stanford, everything shaped up for the Gameday bus to roll into Harrisonburg. Lee Corso and company were welcomed by a massive gathering on the Quad and expect the crowd to be even bigger on Saturday than the 12k+ that showed up 2 years ago.

The Matchup- As I stated before, both programs are coming off wins and Villanova could easily argue that it could be 6-0 as it lost a very close battle at Temple in which it’s running game didn’t show up and lost by 9 at Albany 3 weeks ago, again in a contest that the run game was a no-show. Usually the JMU vs Villanova games have been classics with both teams regularly being ranked in the top 25. Nova haven’t won in Harrisonburg since 2009 and the Dukes have taken the last 2 in the series but that’s not to say the series hasn’t been pretty even throughout it’s history. The Dukes lead the all-time series 14-11.

Villanova- The Wildcats will be without their starting QB Zach Bednarczyk and will also be missing a couple other offensive skill players in running back Matt Gudzak and WR Changa Hodge which could be a tough blow heading into Saturday. The injury to Bednarczyk will force back-up Freshman QB Jack Schetelich into the starting role and he only threw for 8 passes last game but ran 14 times for a mere 30 yards and a score. He was also sacked 5 times.

JMU- Despite still being without the injured Cardon Johnson, who’s gone for the season, the Dukes should be healthy and ready to go after a week off. They also return to the friendly confines of Bridgeforth Stadium that will no doubt be shaking with noise in just over 24 hours. The Dukes are riding a CAA-tying 17 game win streak and with a win tomorrow would pass Richmond’s 2009-2011 mark of 17 straight that also included a national championship for the Spiders. The Dukes have been unbeatable at home since the last time Gameday came to town putting up Madden-esque numbers at times. However, this year has been all about the defense. Slightly under the radar due to JMU’s offensive juggernaut, The defense is only allowing 11.3 points a game and haven’t let any opponent score north of 14 points this season. Despite the team losing some defensive leaders last year, this unit has looked even better this season. They’ll need to be ready to frustrate Schetelich on Saturday.

Keys to the game:

Defense should win the game- Both teams have at times relied heavily on their defenses to win them games. JMU has been tested by Maine and Delaware so far this season “only” putting up 28 and 20 respectively, their lowest two totals of the season. Senior QB Bryan Schor also didn’t look particularly fantastic in either contest, throwing a pick in both games and not finding the end zone when the team traveled to Delaware. However, the defense only allowed 10 points in both games and outside of giving up a few big offensive plays, played perfectly. They forced key turnovers and were able to get into the back field on multiple occasions. Villanova’s defense has also been top-notch so far this season. The most points they’ve given up in a game is 35, which was in their first game against Lehigh. But since then they haven’t given up more than 19 points and have posted two shutouts including last weekend. The Wildcats pride themselves in takeaways and they had a scoop and score of 99 yards when they faced Maine.

Turnovers could be the difference- This one is pretty self-explanatory but whichever team can keep possession should win the game. Whichever defense can force a key turnover will win the game. JMU has had an interesting go at it with turnovers over the last couple of games. They are +2 overall as they’ve lost 2 each in the last 2 games but also capitalized on nabbing 3 each against Maine and Delaware. ‘Nova’ on the other hand is +4 in it’s last 2 games as they committed 4 turnovers and picked up 3 against Towson but turned it over only once again Maine while forcing the Black Bears to commit 6 turnovers.

The Crowd- The one thing JMU football has had an issue with in its history is keeping everyone at the game for the full four quarters. Now, is that the football team’s fault? No,of course not. That’s down to whether or not people are willing to stay and support the team over going to get drunk at 5:00 in the afternoon. Unfortunately most choose to go pre-game after the MRDs perform at halftime. While Gameday brought a record crowd to Bridgeforth back in 2015 to the tune of 26,069 people, that isn’t the norm. Well, the size of the crowd is normal, the fact that everyone stayed for the game despite a very tough loss is both good and bad. It was awesome to not see an empty seat at halftime yet it was incredibly frustrating to see JMU lose a game that was one of the biggest in JMU’s history. The crowd should be into it from the start and hopefully won’t let off the pedal until the fourth quarter ends.

Gameday Hype- There were multiple reason’s as to why JMU lost the game to Richmond almost exactly 2 years. The team offensively was easily one of the best in the country, but the defense, eh, not so much. The coaching staff didn’t have the team ready as the football team showed up in force at the College Gameday booth to unveil their new, ugly, White helmets with the throwback “M” logo when they probably could have been out on the field. And frankly, Richmond was a better team that year as they rolled to the FCS Playoff semifinals. Everyone that was at that game will remember how painstaking that loss was and no one should remember it more than Bryan Schor who was forced into action when Vad Lee went down injured. While ESPN Gameday may have brought an excitement unlike any other to Campus, I think the main reason is the team got far too over-hyped for the game that they ended up falling flat on their faces. I have no doubt Coach Mike Houston will not be repeating that and will have the team raring to go.

Prediction: JMU nation shouldn’t expect a game like it was 2 years ago. Neither of those teams had fantastic defenses. I expect this one to be lower scoring with a couple turnovers but I expect the massive crowd, home turf, and a clutch Bryan Schor to Eldridge TD Pass in the 4th quarter to be the difference. JMU 30-24

JMU vs Maine Football Review 9/23/17


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Had a chance to go back and watch JMU’s fourth football game of the season and their CAA opener vs the Maine Black Bears. While the Dukes were a little lackluster out of the gates, throwing an INT and not scoring in the first quarter as neither team’s offense could get going. But the Dukes took their first drive of the second quarter to the house on an 89 yard 11 play drive eating up 4 and a half minutes (an eternity for this team). Everything seemed to be in order but the offense sputtered for the rest of the half only accumulating another 8 yards and Maine also pulled to within 4 with a field goal before the break.

The visitors opened up the second half with a “JMU-esque” drive of 5 plays 73 yards in under 2 minutes to give JMU it’s first deficit faced all year. but two offensive drives later and Schor threw for his second TD of the day to bring the Dukes back in front 14-10 and they never looked back.

Schor finished the game with 4 TD passes and the Dukes eventually pulled away and won 28-10 over a Maine program that has notoriously given them fits. The win brought the Dukes winning streak to 16 games which is one away from tying the FCS record (Which JMU reached last weekend at Delaware).

Offense- B: The Offense had two turnovers and sputtered for big portions of the game. The play calling at times wasn’t smart and the running game looked stagnant. With Cardon Jonhson out for the year, Marcus Marshall and Trai Sharpe got the majority of the workload in the run-game. Marshall finished with 135 yards rushing on 19 carries but over a third of that came on one carry of 49 yards. Sharpe, who was playing with a heavy heart as his father passed away days earlier, ran for only 25 yards and fumbled at the goal line and turned it over to Maine. However he had a couple key runs to get first downs for the Dukes late in the game. Bryan Schor passed for 281 yards and 4 TDs but a poor throw lead to an interception and his offensive line, who are normally fantastic at keeping their QB clean, allowed Maine to get a few big hits on Schor along with a couple sacks. Ezrah Archie emerged as an unexpected favorite target for Schor, catching 8 passes for 90 yards and a score. David Eldridge added to his tally of big time plays catching a couple very difficult passes including one for a touchdown.

Defense- A: The defense brought down Chris Ferguson numerous times in the backfield and also picked off the Maine QB 3 times. THey only allowed 10 points and shutout the visitors for the final 42 minutes of the game. The only blip on the day was their issue containing Sophomore Josh Mack who ripped off 144 yards on 24 carries including a 60 yard TD run.

Special Teams- B: Nothing too special from the special teams. Tyler Gray hit all 4 XPs and the punt and kick-off coverage was solid though not stellar. JMU’s 5 punt returns netted a grand total of 7 yards which is fairly dismal to say the least, however, most were fair caught. One thing of note was punter Harry O’Kelly who punted on average just north of 40 yards but his 63 yard cannon punt pinned Maine back inside it’s own 15 which lead to great field position on JMU’s next drive and an eventual TD. O’Kelly, from Australia, is only a freshman but he could win the battle with fellow freshman Jeremiah McBride for starting punter. Not a story many Dukes fans will pay attention to, but his foot could be a major weapon in close affairs.


The Dukes move to 4-0(1-0) on the season and travel to the Blue Hens of Delaware before the bye week.










Friday Football Flash – vs. Boise State 9/22/17


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Wow.  Where did this team come from?  Last Friday saw UVa travel to the blue turf in Boise and look as if they were playing at home against VMI.  This was easily the best and most complete performance of the Mendenhall Era.  It was easily the best and most complete performance of the last 5 years.  And it was quite possibly the best and most complete performance of the last decade.  It was the most comprehensive victory over a “traditional” college powerhouse since 2007 when UVa shut out Miami 48-0.  Since that time the Cavaliers have shown flashes of potential winning games here and there against big schools.  And there have been huge blowouts of small schools.  But nothing with a margin even approaching this 19 point beatdown of a school with some serious football tradition.

Despite the final score line things did not start out smoothly.  Brett Rypien marched the Broncos right down the field and into the end zone sending shivers down the spines of wahoos everywhere who saw Rypien torch UVa in Charlottesville back in 2015.  An ensuing 3 and out for the Cavaliers did little to alleviate any of the anxiety.  Thankfully some pressure on Rypien halted the next drive and Jordan Ellis plowed his way down the field eventually finding the end zone with a 3 yard TD run. From there on UVa never really looked back.  Benkert really dialed things in and would hit touchdown passes of 30, 27, and 64 yards.  Halftime would see UVa’s lead at only 21-14.  That would be as close as Boise would get the rest of the way.  On the first drive of the second half Benkert hit Levrone for the 64 yard touchdown and that seemed to break the Broncos spirit.  Zaccheaus would get in on the act with a 56 yard touchdown run later in the 3rd.  Ellis would finish off our scoring in the fourth quarter getting his 5th touchdown of the season.  Boise would finally get back on the board late in the fourth quarter getting a safety and hitting a deep touchdown bomb from their backup qb.  It was very impressive.  However, UVa fans need to stay grounded.  Boise is not as strong as they have been.  And while UVa may have been flying under some people’s radar, a Friday night, nationally televised performance like this will have teams taking you more seriously.  ACC play awaits after a well-earned bye week.  Going 3-1 out of conference sets us up nicely to make a serious run at bowl contention.  Based on performances so far you have to think Boston College, Pitt, and UNC are the most likely games to get us to the 6 win threshold.  But with Pitt and UNC both on the road, the upcoming game against Duke could be a chance to ease the tension on either of those games.


Offense – A : After the first drive they settled down and turned into a well-oiled machine.  Ellis led the way on the ground with 24 carries for a hard fought 93 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Benkert absolutely lit up the Idaho night going 19/29 for 273 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions.  Levrone led all receivers with 141 yards and 5 receptions.  It was quite refreshing to see a UVa team run the ball successfully and be able to stretch a team deep.  If they can continue this kind of quality with any consistency they’ll be a real handful for all the remaining teams on the schedule.

Defense – A : Despite surrendering 353 yards through the air, they really shined by holding 9 different Bronco rushers to a total of 30 yards on 24 attempts.  The interception in the fourth quarter was icing on the cake as they surrendered only 21 points at altitude on short rest.

Special Teams – A : Easily, by an exponentially large margin, their best performance as a unit of the season.  Despite never kicking any field goals Mejia nailed all 6 extra points.  They did surrender 142 return yards on kickoffs but that came to only an average of 23.7 yards per return.  Punts was where things really shined for UVa.  Three punt returns netted only 14 yards for Boise.  Coleman put another punt out of bounds inside the 20 plus had a fifth fair caught also inside the 20. Late in the game a punt was blocked which put a slight damper on the outing but considering their levels of performance during the previous 3 games, this was highly encouraging.


Coaches – A+ : Traveling west of the Mississippi, to altitude, on a short week, against a traditional football powerhouse had all signs pointing to a big loss.  The easy opening drive TD for Boise seemed to confirm these fears.  The coaching staff did an amazing job keeping things calm and leading the Cavs to a win.  Play calling was impressively varied on both sides of the ball.  Special teams showed significant improvement.  And Mendenhall got a signature win in his second season.


Focus now turns to ACC play.  Duke comes to town on Bicentennial weekend in Hooville.  A win could set up a big party atmosphere on grounds as bowl eligibility would be firmly in sight.  Mendenhall will have his work cut out for him to keep this team grounded and in the moment over the bye week.


Real Madrid vs Borussia Dortmund Champions League Round 2 Player Ratings 9/26/17



Los Blancos walked out of the famous Waldstadion with an impressive 3-1 victory over the Black and Gold of the Germans. Gareth Bale found the net after 18 minutes with a gorgeous volleyed effort after Carvajal found him wide open 15 yards out. Dortmund continued to push and should have had a penalty early on when Sergio Ramos  handled a cross that deflected off of Navas. But Madrid lead at the break and went up 2-0 shortly after the break when Cristiano Ronaldo latched onto a Bale cross and sent Burkei the wrong way to put the Whites firmly in front. Aubameyang replied 4 minutes later as he nipped a cross by Navas to bring life back to the Dortmund faithful. But Madrid held firm and after getting fresh legs on, Luka Modric slipped in Ronaldo who lashed a shot that beat Burkei at his near post.

3 Thoughts:

1st win- There aren’t many stadiums that Madrid have been to (especially multiple times) and haven’t won. But the Black and Yellow wall of Dortmund was one that has haunted them over the years. But Madrid outplayed the German outfit for most of the match and got their deserved first win in 7 tries.

Good win but…- This was a great team performance all around and it was good to see Bale and Ronaldo have good games despite all the criticism they’ve gotten. My issue is, why is it taking going to a big stadium in a big time game to bring the best out of the players. Madrid are 3-0-0 away from home in all competitions so far in the young campaign but 1-2-1 at home with a couple inexplicable performances. 2 points out of a possible 9 in home La Liga games is simply unacceptable for any team and while I’m not one of the harsh critics of Madrid nor am I a fanboy, it’s frustrating for the Madridistas to be so lackluster so far.

Bale Injured- Stop me if you’ve heard this before “Gareth Bale is down injured holding his leg on the pitch and here come the trainers.” or some variation of this. It’s agonizing the number of injuries Madrid players have gotten thus far and I have no doubt this is yet another muscle injury for Bale who will more than likely be sidelined for the next month. Sure, I’m just speculating as I’m no doctor, but given Bale’s history I’d say it’s a fair bet.

Navas 7- The Costa Rican net minder was solid throughout the game as he had to be quick to react on a number of occasions as Aubameyang and company threatened. The Gabon striker was able to poke past Navas in the second half a couple other shots went close but Navas was up to the task. Was nearly picked in the first half on a backwards pass but was able to Cruyff out of the situation.

Carvajal 8- Good match for the Spanish international who did well to keep Mario Goetze and Maximillian Philipp at bay. Should have have crossed for Ronaldo or Bale early on in the first half when he instead went for goal and his shot was easily saved. Was keen to dive and head back to Navas after Ramos and Varane got mixed up in the box to thwart a Dortmund threat. Also grabbed the assist for Bale’s opener.

Varane 7- Quiet but solid night for the French back. Spread the ball around nicely and tracked down a couple loose balls but not much else to note. Did get a bit mixed up at times with Ramos but nothing bad. Put out a couple fires as Dortmund were pushing for goals in the second half with a particularly important goal line save as he had Aubameyang on his hip.

Ramos 7- Should have accrued a penalty for handling in the box early on in the game but marshaled the back line very well and had another goal line clearance later on. Had two wonderful chances to score, one header went wide the other was well saved.

Nacho 6- Has had a bit of difficulty at times dealing with Castro and Yarmolenko, bringing down the latter on a clumsy challenge in the first half. Probably was a challenge away from getting a yellow but staved off any cautions. LB isn’t his strongest suit but he filled in well for Marcelo despite not possessing the Brazilians flare or desire to get forward often. Also had a shot on frame but was saved.

Casemiro 5- Mixed bag on the night. Offensively he gave the ball away a few times with a couple lazy passes mixed in and looked a bit lost in the midfield but also put in some lovely tackles as usual and helped out as always defensively. Did send a gorgeous long pass early on to spring Carvajal who eventually had his shot saved ad stepped in the watch the left flank a few times when Nacho got forward.

Kroos 6- Not a particularly flashy evening for the German, but he strung together some good passes together and though he isn’t 100%, the team needs him. His crosses ha some good ones and some bad ones thrown in but controlled the midfield for the most part.

Modric 8- Picked up a yellow for mimicking the ref towards the end of the first half but that was a small blemish on an otherwise wonderful night. Was the heart of most of Madrid’s attacks and he put Ronaldo through with a red-carpet pass for his second and Madrid’s third goal on the night. Also showed a rare burst of speed to get on the end of a cross in the second half that he unfortunately was unable to light the same spark behind the shot that were in his boots.

Isco 4- Didn’t have much of an influence on the match. Saw a fair amount of the ball, especially when he was out wide left but his passing has been off and he’s had multiple giveaways. Won more headers than Naldo and Bale in the first half despite his stature but he never got into the contest outside of one rasping shot that forced a great save and it wasn’t surprising to see his number first up on the board.

Bale 8- Scored his goal beautifully on the volley and could have had more had Carvajal found him instead of shooting. Ronaldo also nearly missed him on a cross that was toe-poked out for a corner. Returned to get Ronaldo one the score-sheet after another great run and low cross that Ronaldo met just in time. Overall he was very active all night and one of Madrid’s best players. Also stung the hands of Burkei after a lung bursting run forward. Picked up a non-existent yellow for an elbow to the head that wasn’t there.

Ronaldo- I thought at half-time that it would be another hands on hips night for Ronaldo as the superstar hadn’t been particularly involved through the first 25 minutes and I figured he’d be held out of the goals. But he proved me wrong with two emphatic finishes to seal the win for Madrid.


Hala Madrid!


Friday Football Flash – vs. UConn 9/16/17


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Hope springs eternal in Charlottesville!  Once again UVa’s defense played exceptional and the offense had its best day in the Mendenhall era.  The opening drive looked promising for the Huskies but the defense buckled down and forced a punt.  UVa started the day at our own 12 but promptly put together one of the most complete and precise drives Hooville has seen in years.  18 plays and almost 10 minutes later Hamm would get into the end zone to put the Cavaliers up 7-0.  We simply never looked back.  UConn tried to take advantage of our weak special teams by taking the ensuing kickoff 65 yards and set up shop at the Virginia 25 but our defense came up with a huge goal line interception.  Despite one of the few unsuccessful offensive possessions for UVa, the defense forced another turnover at the goal line as Shirreffs tried to reach the end zone on a scramble.  Mejia would make his second field goal as a Wahoo to put us up 10-0.  UConn, seemingly not confident in their kickers would attempt to go for it on 4th and 3 at the UVa 32 but Micah Kiser would come up with a huge sack and we would regain possession.  2 plays and 23 seconds later we led 17-0 as Benkert found Doni Dowling for a 42 yard TD pass.  Another 4th down attempt, this time on 4th and 9 from UVa’s 37 was again foiled this time Kiser came up with a 10 yard sack to stop the UConn drive.  Ellis would get in on the touchdown game to finish this drive and put us up 24-0 going into the half.  It was a near perfect first half.  The second half would see the first Cavalier turnover of the season.  Benkert tried to force it into the end zone and the Huskies came up with the pick.  Not to be phased, yet again the UVa defense forced a turnover on downs.  Benkert would redeem himself on the next drive finding Olamide Zaccheaus for a 30 yard score to virtually seal the game 31-0.  UConn finally got on the board thanks to a flea flicker as Hergy Mayala got in behind the UVa defense and Shirreffs found him for a 60 yard score.  In a move that has to crush the soul of any kickers on the UConn team, they went for a 2-point conversion; it failed.  UVa would get in on the “don’t trust the kickers” theme on the next drive as we went for it on 4th and 11 at the UConn 31.  UConn’s defense came up with a rare stop and their offense capitalized with their most complete drive of the day but again failed on a 2-point conversion.  Andre Levrone didn’t like the score getting so close (31-12) so he took advantage of a massive hole in the secondary to get wide open, then simply out run all UConn defenders for a 73-yard TD once Benkert found him.  UVa’s defensive subs did not hold to the same standard as our starters as we surrendered another UConn touchdown march.  The failed 2-point conversion would be the last time UConn’s offense would see the field as we simply ran out the final 2:06 to complete the 38-18 victory.  It’s easy to get very excited about this performance.  It’s especially easy when you look at the abysmal offensive performance from last year when we could only put up 10 points on this UConn team.  However, let’s slow things down.  This was a domination of a weaker team.  That is definitely something that has been missing from this UVa program for the last decade and is clearly a sign of progress.  BUT, it was still just the bare minimum one should expect from the team.  We’ll need a similar performance just to hang with Boise State on the road tonight, to say nothing of actually winning.  Having said that it does keep bowl hopes alive and provides a glimpse into the possible future of this team under Mendenhall.  Tonight we will find out if this was simply a glimpse into the future or an actual indication of where this team currently sits.  A win is not required to show progress or for our bowl hopes.  We are still a developing program that lacks depth and confidence.  There are many more winnable games still ahead on the schedule so don’t get discouraged if we can’t knock off the Broncos on their home turf.


Offense – A : Would’ve been an A+ if Benkert hadn’t forced the one pass into the end zone.  He basically played a flawless day and it was a huge improvement over last week, even taking into account the quality of the opponent.  But we simply can’t have that interception.  And while the running game showed improvement it’s still lacking.  Benkert needs to actually keep the ball for once on an option play instead of handing it off 100% of the time.  He’s not fooling anyone and it’s not helping the running backs.  Even a split second extra could get us a couple extra yards which can be the difference in winning and losing.

Defense – A : They definitely held up their end of the bargain.  A second first half shutout on the season is good.  Forcing multiple turnovers is better.  And getting off the field on multiple fourth down attempts is fantastic.  This grade was kept from an A+, not because of the points surrendered late on (which I’m chalking up to the game being in hand and reserves coming in) but because yet again a quarterback absolutely gashed us scrambling.  Shirreffs racked up 90 yards rushing with a 39 yard scamper mixed in.  To put this in perspective he got those yards on 14 attempts.  In week 1, again Holy Cross he got -1 rushing yards.  Think about that.  With Boise State having a mobile quarterback either starting or just coming in for a certain package of plays we should all be very scared whenever we see Montell Cozart take the field.

Special Teams – D : Mejia looked fine, nailing 5 XPs and hitting from 28 yards.  It was a little concerning to not see him brought out to even attempt from around 48 yards.  I know that’s long and I get that we didn’t need the points or particularly want to give UConn the ball that close to midfield so soon after they scored.  But we were up 31-6 in the fourth quarter facing fourth and 11.  What better time to give Mejia some in-game practice from range.  He’ll never grow if he’s not tested.  But Mendenhall clearly doesn’t trust him and that’s a problem for a team that looks like it could hang close with some good teams but will clearly be at a disadvantage in the kicking game.  The real reason this grade is a D stems from the 134 return yards we conceded on kicks and punts.  Giving up an average of 31.5 yards per kickoff is not a sustainable way to win games.  The worst part is this trend has continued through 3 weeks… against 3 of the easier teams on our schedule.


Coaches – B : It was particularly nice to see an offense finally unleashed.  I will not be surprised at all to see us return to our conservative ways out in Idaho but one can still hope.  I am worried most because Mendenhall seems unable to address QB containment (which specifically falls on him as D-coordinator) or the atrocious kick return coverage.  If we don’t see changes on both those fronts come ACC play, we’re again staring at a potentially 1 win league campaign.


UConn is not a good team.  Boise State is a good team.  UVa is still an unknown team.  Going 2-1 to this point was to be expected but it’s still not exciting.  Tonight is another huge test.  It’s not season critical, as I’ve mentioned.  But there is some potential to make up for the loss to Indiana.  If we can’t scrape out a win, we’ll need to pick up multiple ACC road wins and that’s never easy.


Friday Football Flash – vs. UConn 9/16/17 #UVA #UVAvWM #WaHooWa #GoHoos

Friday Football Flash – vs. Indiana 9/9/17


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The weather was drastically different from opening day.  Unfortunately instead of improving the Hoos wilted under the heat.  The Adventures of Cavman saw a giant set of moving red letters spell out Hoosiers on the Lawn.  Cavman and Sabre came to the rescue destroying the “iers” and leaving Hoos.  That was the highlight of the day.  A stout defense was let down by an inept special teams and an impotent offense.  All signs of progress from our special teams was virtually eliminated and our offense could never get out of neutral.  Despite an early interception and some control of the game for most of the first half we could only muster a 3-0 lead.  Some collapses right at the end of the half let the Hoosiers head to the locker room up 17-3 and they never really looked back.  To our credit we continued battling to the end, even getting the chance to make it a one score game with some time still on the clock.  A three and out deep in our own territory and having the ensuing punt returned for a touchdown ended the day.


Offense – D : Despite a similar passing output from Benkert to week 1, the run game utterly vanished.  A measly 51 yards between Ellis and Reed coupled with Benkert’s inability to get the ball to the end zone (only 1 td pass) left a huge opportunity on the Scott Stadium turf.  We had to punt 9 times, 7 of which were three and out, and another 2 drives ended on downs.  That is an abysmal output.  The only positive was that for a second straight game we managed to avoid any turnovers.  A lot to correct before UConn comes to town.

Defense – B- : They played hard all day long.  They were continually put in bad spots thanks to our abysmal punt coverage.  But they gave us a chance to win.  A turnover at the goal line and some three and outs really saved us early in the first half.  They forced the benching of Richard Lagow, who passed for 410 yards against Ohio State, with only 24 passing yards.  And only gave up 173 passing yards to backup Patrick Ramsey.  Unfortunately a dangerous problem is containing the quarterback.  Ramsey and Laglow only rushed for 41 yards combined but that included the lone IU rushing touchdown and it also included both of the longest runs by Indiana on the day, 26 and 13 yards respectively.  There were warnings from the W&M game that a mobile qb could give us trouble.  It is so far the biggest weakness we’ve shown so far.

Special Teams – F : Yes Mejia made his first collegiate field goal and converted both extra points.  And yes Coleman had several exceptional punts that pinned IU deep.  But it was a catastrophic day covering kicks.  They absolutely turned the game.  After taking the 3-0 lead we surrendered a 31 yard return that was the beginning of a touchdown drive.  Then we surrendered a 43 yard punt after going 3 and out which led to another IU td.  Then we quickly had another 3 and out which led to a 19 yard shanked punt which allowed Indiana to tack on a field goal before half.  All in all IU racked up 163 punt and kick return yards plus took one to the house late that sealed the game.  Unacceptable.


Coaches – D : It’s one thing to lose to a better team.  It’s another to get beat in 1 aspect and lose.  The offensive play calling felt like a return to the dark days of London-Fairchild.  Defense was good but they never adapted to the mobility of the back-up quarterback.  And special teams…


Now the UConn Huskies come to town and the season is already on the line.  It was going to be an important game either way because every game is important coming off a 2 win season.  The stakes have been raised; win and the slightest spark of bowl hopes remain.  Lose and Mendenhall will undoubtedly be spending another December at home.


Friday Football Flash – vs. W&M 9/2/17


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The University of Virginia football kicked off for the second season under the charge of Bronco Mendenhall.  A cool and misty day greeted the guys in their ties and the girls in their pearls.  While the crowd was a bit subdued the day still proved a welcome respite from the turmoil that had rocked Charlottesville in the weeks leading up to the game.  A brilliant return was made by the Adventures of Cavman which Mendenhall had removed in his first season.  Looking much more buff and superhero-esque he and Sabre charged from Monticello to the lawn to destroy the green and gold eagle.  It may have been the most exciting part of the day.  Usually that proceeds a depressing review of a loss (i.e. Richmond in the 2016 season opener).  This year it was because the Cavaliers took care of business without much fanfare.  The 28-10 victory wasn’t especially comfortable but it wasn’t nervous either.  We led after every quarter and pitched a shutout in the first half.  There are things to work on but after last year we can’t take even FBS games for granted.


Offense – B+ : Benkert said after the game that they barely scratched the surface.  Hopefully that proves to be true because the offense on the day was rather bland.  But it was a decent performance.   Any time we throw for 3 touchdowns and 250+ yards without any interceptions is a good day for UVA football.  It was part of a larger turnover free performance which broke a very long streak of games with a turnover that had spanned multiple seasons.  The running game was less than stellar.  Ellis and Ham only combined for 115 yards and 1 touchdown.  That will need to improve as the defenses we face will only get better from here.

Defense – A : An interception coupled with a first half shutout get you a solid A.  Kiser and Blanding anchored the D as expected.  Malcolm Cook led the team in tackles.  Juan Thornhill impressed in the secondary.  And  Eli Hanback (PH Graduate) had an impressive game as well helping to control the line of scrimmage.  Dark spot was the Injury to Tim Harris which could really hurt the secondary.  They also showed a disappointing ability to contain the quarterback.  Tommy McKee scrambled for 89 yards and a touchdown including getting W&M’s longest run of the day (25 yards).  While a lot of W&M’s offense came after the defense started to be rotated late in the game it is still something to watch moving forward.

Special Teams – B : Missing a field goal is never good.  But nailed all extra points which is a step up from last year.  Kickoffs looked generally good too.  Joe Reed had an impressive day on kick returns getting 91 yards on 3 returns with a long of 44 yards. Hopefully he can keep that up.


Coaches – B : Hopefully it was more of a conservative game plan simply to not give away any more than necessary in the first game of the season.  If it’s not we’re in for a looooong year.


All in all a successful performance.  Couple of things to clean up.  Next week will be much more of a test.  Indiana gave Ohio State a good game for at least a half.  We’ll need a much improved performance to keep that explosive offense in check.