Archive for 13 Sports Blog
Park Tudor HS graduate Yogi Ferrell told us earlier this week he was worried about being too fired up for his first ever NCAA Tourney game!
The freshman did just fine!
He scored the first points of the game and finished with a team-high 16.
IU shot 57 percent in the first half and led by 21 at the break. James Madison never had a chance, Indiana had five guys in double figures.
This game was a snoozer as IU won 83-62. IU will practice Saturday here in Dayton and the face Temple Sunday! I wasn’t impressed by Temple and we expect IU to roll onto the Sweet 16 next week in Washington DC!
Las Vegas-An unexpected five hour layover in the Sin City airport gives me plenty of time to ponder the remarkable season the Colts have endured (or I could visit the Oxygen Bar, where you pay to breathe flavored air). Fans and media in Indianapolis have been spoiled for almost a decade, assuming the Colts will win their division and be in the playoffs. Nothing is a given this season. A 9th consecutive trip to the playoffs rides on the final Sunday of the regular season.
In Early December, the Colts were just 6-6. The postseason chances looked slim. But the Colts never lost control of their playoff destiny. Every game became a must win. Instead of resting starters, the playoffs figuratively started early. Four straight wins to end the season will give the Colts another AFC South championship and ensure a playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium. No small feat for a team that looks nothing like the one that started training camp in Anderson back in August.
The Colts have placed a staggering 17 players on injured reserve. Those are players with injuries that prevent them from returning until next season. Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez, Bob Sanders, Melvin Bullitt and Jerraud Powers lead the list. The Colts have been hit particularly hard (no pun intended Austin) with players who catch passes and players who try to intercept passes.
Jacob Tamme had not caught a pass this season until Dallas Clark got hurt. Now Tamme is critical to the Colts passing game. Blair White had a nice preseason. But who would have guessed the Lance Armstong look alike would be catching touchdown passes in December?
The musical chairs have been even more dramatic in the defensive backfield. Antoine Bethea is the only player who has started every game. When Bob Sanders got hurt in the first quarter of the first game of the season, a nonstop rotation began at the other three spots that has brought a new addition to the roster almost every week. Aaron Francisco was not on the team at the start of the season. But he seems like a long time Colt compared to Justin Tryon, Cornelius Brown and Mike Newton – all of whom are playing significant roles on the Colts makeshift defense.
Taken in perspective, the Colts have given a remarkable performance. A team that could easily have an excuse of broken down and short handed is playing smash mouth football in late December. The Colts are running the ball and stopping the run, the kind of football that wins playoff games. The Colts have outrun two of the best running teams in football the past two games, and held down two power running backs to the point of being non-factors.
I think the Colts will beat down the lifeless Tennessee Titans Sunday to win the AFC South. They have a good chance to win a home playoff game (especially if the Jets come to town again this year). Anything after that is gravy for a team that has accomplished far more than could be reasonably expected. Jim Caldwell won his first 14 games as a rookie NFL coach and led his team to the Super Bowl. But he has probably done a better job coaching this M*A*S*H unit.
-Rich Nye, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Philadelphia – Peyton Manning makes his 200th consecutive start for the Colts Sunday. That’s an amazing number when you consider all his teammates who have fallen just this season. By the end of this season, Peyton will pass the legendary John Unitas having played more games than any other player in Colts history. But I’m starting to wonder who Peyton will be playing with by then.
The Colts are decimated by injuries heading into Sunday’s game against the Eagles. Running backs Joseph Addai and Mike Hart did not make the trip to Philadelphia. Neither did tight end Brody Eldridge, Linebacker Clint Session or cornerback Justin Tryon. The Colts added wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez to the injured reserve list Saturday. Gonzalez makes a dozen players on that list, out for the season.
I believe in the Colts next man up mantra, because I’ve seen it work for this team. But at some point, there is no next man up, or the next man is not nearly the man you want in that position. Mike Hart can step up for a while. Jacob Tamme can have a big game here or there. But the Colts can’t keep replacing starters and expect the same production.
The Colts are suspect at running back, tight end, linebacker, cornerback and safety right now. I’m afraid the Colts are in trouble coming off a Monday night game and short week of preparation. By contrast, the Eagles did not play last weekend. Eagles coach Andy Reid is 11-0 coming off a bye week. Michal Vick is coming back after missing the past three games for the Eagles.
The Colts gave an inspiring performance to beat the Texans Monday night. If they beat the Eagles, this will be an even greater win measured by obstacles overcome.
-Rich Nye, WTHR Sports Reporter
Denver – I’ve spent an entire day in the Denver airport. I fly all the time. I know you need to get to the airport early. I was here an hour and a half before my flight left this morning. Not good enough. A long line at United Airlines and a ridiculous line at security made me miss a flight for just the 2nd time in my 17 years of traveling for WTHR.
I’ve paid the price in a big way. Airline change, two standby flights came and went, and now I will finally get home around midnight. My luggage has been in Indy since 2:45 pm.
I’ve done lots of people watching. My colleague, who will remain nameless, asked at one point if there was an old hookers convention going on in Denver. It was actually a legitimate question.
I’ve also had plenty of time to think about the Colts win over the Broncos Sunday. The Colts gave up 519 yards total offense and Kyle Orton enjoyed a career day through the air. But the Colts defense rightly took pride in holding the Broncos to just one touchdown on five trips to the red zone. I agree with players who say the scoreboard is the only number that matters.
But I heard something Sunday I don’t want to hear again: bend but don’t break. The Colts defense lived by that identity for several seasons. It finally went away a few years ago. I don’t want it to come back. I know Bob Sanders is out for the season. But this defense should be playing better. This defense has enough talent to get off the field quicker. This defense should not be getting run over by the Texans and under aerial assault from the Broncos.
Peyton Manning broke another record Sunday that probably went most unnoticed. He has now won 133 games in a Colts uniform, more than any other player to wear a horseshoe on his helmet. He passed legendary Johnny Unitas, taking away one of the few records Peyton had not already swiped from the late Baltimore Colt.
I thought the Colts would play more two tight end offense with Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez out. But the Colts proved that next man up thing again with a solid contribution from Blair White in his first NFL game, including a touchdown catch. White was the preseason All-Pro. He might be cut and back on the practice squad before the season is over. But he was ready when his number was called.
One more tidbit. Pat McAfee’s kickoff touchbacks are putting opponents in a huge hole. McAfee put 6 kickoffs in the endzone Sunday, maybe with a little help from the thin air in Denver. But he kicked a bunch deep the previous Sunday against Giants too at Lucas Oil Stadium. It’s hard to put a value on the advantage that gives the Colts. An 80 yard drive is a long way to go.
I’ve still got a long way to go to get home tonight.
-Rich Nye, WTHR Sports Reporter
I would hate to have to fire someone. I’ve never been in that position. But NFL coaches are forced to reduce their work staff every year about this time. The NFL rosters must be trimmed to 53 for the start of the regular season. About 20 players lose their jobs all in one day.
The Colts made their moves Saturday. Some guys had to know the ax was coming. Others were caught off guard I’m sure when asked to turn in their playbooks. Survivors celebrate an NFL dream come true. In years past, guys like Gary Brackett, Melvin Bullitt and Jacob Lacey have become starters after first beating the odds just to make the team.
First, congratulations to Indianapolis native Devin Moore from Ritter High School, who clearly won the battle to return kickoffs and punts for the Colts with Brandon James, Ray Fisher and Sam Giguere all let go. Moore is one of those feel good stories on a day that is filled with professional heartbreak for so many others.
One surprise for me is that tight end Gijon Robinson survived. Robinson has played a significant role in the Colts two tight end plays in the past. But I thought the strong preseason of Brody Eldridge might have made Robinson expendable. And when Robinson was still playing late in the final preseason game, I thought he was doomed. Anyone playing at the end of that game is usually playing in their last game. The Colts are keeping 4 tight ends for now. Dallas Clark, Eldridge, Jacob Tamme and Robinson.
I also thought John Chick might stick with the club. The Canadian Football League defensive player of the year made several plays in the preseason, many more than rookie Jerry Hughes. But the Colts are loaded at defensive end.
NFL rosters change almost daily based on injuries and needs. So guys at the bottom of the roster are always uneasy. But this was the day when the football unemployment line gets much deeper.
Rich Nye, WTHR Sports Reporter
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Illegal snap, number 18, offense. That’s not a penalty Colts fans are used to hearing. Not one Peyton Manning wants to hear either. But that was the call twice Thursday night in Green Bay. What is an illegal snap, anyway? A subtle NFL rule change has put the umpire in the way of the Colts offense.
The umpire is the official that spots the ball after each play on the line of scrimmage. For years, he put the ball down and stepped back just a few steps behind the linebackers for the snap. That’s a football war zone. The umpire was getting in the way. Too many men in zebra shirts got hit, tackled and hurt. Some teams were even trying to use the umpire as a pick to get receivers open.
So the NFL decided to move the umpire across the line of scrimmage, behind the running backs in a safe place. Here’s the problem. That’s about 10 to 15 yards away from the football. The umpire takes another second or two to get in position after each play. The quarterback is now required to wait for the umpire to be ready before he can snap the ball. He has to look behind him or check with the linesman.
The new rule is not conducive to the no huddle, quick snap Colts offense. We’ve all seen Peyton Manning hurry to the line and quickly snap the football, catching the defense unprepared or with too many men on the field. But the extra time it takes for the umpire to get in place also allows the defense to get ready.
The NFL is reviewing how this new umpire position is working in the preseason. Obviously, from the Colts perspective, it’s not working well. Peyton Manning called the penalties ridiculous. With all his antics and audibles at the line of scrimmage, Manning doesn’t want to be checking or waiting on the umpire.
Peyton suggested umpires in better athletic condition. Putting the umpires back on the defensive side with helmets and pads might be another possibility. But if this rule stands as is, the Colts offense will be slowed down a tick. The no huddle offense still will be effective. But defensive players won’t need to fake injuries quite as much to catch their breath or switch personnel.
Rich Nye, WTHR Sports Reporter
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Anderson – The Colts are returning to their old home today. The team is back at Anderson University for training camp after 12 seasons in Terre Haute. Peyton Manning is the only player still on the team from when the Colts used to begin the season here. Peyton was a rookie quarterback the last year the Colts came here, 1998.
Peyton says he doesn’t remember much about Anderson. But he did recall riding up to Anderson from Indy after he signed his first pro contract. Team President Bill Polian was in the car. Peyton says the ride was a little awkward after the contentious contract negotiations that brought Peyton into camp a couple days late.
13 years later, Peyton is back in Anderson. I know because I saw and talked to him. But he’s the only player I get to talk to today. The Colts have tightened the leash on the media watchdogs. No up close conversations with players hauling video game systems and comfy pillows into college dorm rooms. That would apparently compromise the ability of the NFL’s most consistently successful franchise from getting back to the Super Bowl this year. And it would be too much fun. That cannot, and will not, be tolerated in the new Anderson era.
My videographer, Matt Wilkening, is shooting video of players arriving. But this will be silent video shot from about a football field away. No audio allowed. We’ve been reduced to shooting surveillance video of muscle-bound men riding around on golf carts. So silly.
Why are the Colts so secretive, so protective? President Bill Polian wants control and no distractions. The only minor controversies are whether Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis show up on time or holdout for a new contract. My guess is they will be here by 2 p.m. Top draft pick Jerry Hughes is unsigned as I write this, but I’ll bet he’s here soon.
For years, this has been a really fun day of reporting. Players bantered about leaving family behind, bringing along some of the comforts of home and getting ready for the season. What’s to get upset about? Everyone is undefeated in August.
Ashley Manning bakes Peyton a batch of cookies for training camp every year. Peyton even gave me one a few years ago. It was good. Today I’m stuck in a dorm room turned into a media center, quarantined as Peyton described it so well. I would trade my laptop for a cookie and a little access.
Rich Nye, Sports Reporter
From reporter Mary Milz:
I like to run marathons. Some people ask why would ever want to do that? Jim Barber and Victoria Rian swim marathons (open water events six miles or longer.) I found myself asking them the very same question. Why?
Because it scares me to death.”
Yeah, me too. Twenty miles in the open sea – saltwater, surf and sharks. While the Monon has its moments, it’s nothing like that.
Victoria continued, “By trying to get over those fears, maybe it will help me with the rest of my life.”
Jim, who’s done the English Channel and Long Island swims, earns the Triple Crown of Swimming with Catalina, a feat only 34 others have achieved.
I swim some and struggle to finish a mile. At least with running or biking, you can talk, listen to music or take in your surroundings. Swimming is so solitary. The thought of pushing through the water for two hours let alone nine or ten is hard for me to imagine. How do you stay motivated?
Victoria told me she focuses entirely on what she’s doing – her breathing, her strokes, her kicking. Jim said sometimes he’ll be listening to music on the way to the pool or lake and a tune sticks in his head and he’ll be singing it through. Other times he works through a problem.
The two log about 40 miles a week when training for a distance swim. As Jim swims about three miles an hour – that’s roughly 13-14 hours a week in the water. Wow. And did I mention that Jim is 50, married and a father of four? He may be a bit slower than he was 20-years ago but he’s no less determined (and no doubt a lot faster than many a swimmer half his age.)
I’m in awe of people like Jim and Victoria. They found a passion (in swimming) and they go for it, and in doing so they demonstrate that we’re all probably capable of doing more than we realize. I’ll be among those cheering from afar when they hit land in LA.
On a different note – some of the accompanying photos show the work behind the story. Photographer Jacob Jennings had the challenging task of capturing the story from a dock and the front of a pontoon boat on a hot, sunny and very muggy day.
I don’t know enough about light and color balance to explain the difficulty of shooting on water with the sun directly overhead, but I can tell you Jacob went the extra mile to show Jim and Victoria in action from several different angles.
He got down to water’s edge, even immersed a small camera in the water to catch eye-level shots. Also, thanks to Lisa Sidner for motoring us around Morse.