Tag Archives: JT Barrett

J.T. Barrett and Ohio State Are Downright Scary

Coming into the 2017 season, the Ohio State Buckeyes were ranked No. 2 in the polls, which garnered both negative and positive reactions. Some eyebrows were raised due to the fact the Buckeyes had been obliterated 31-0 in the 2016 College Football Playoff and were seemingly rewarded based on their namesake alone, while fans argued that despite their embarrassing loss, they lost to the eventual national champion Clemson. Not even almighty Alabama could defeat them. Also, if it wasn’t for a few fortunate opportunities that went Penn State’s way, they would’ve won that game and advanced to the Big Ten Championship game as the presumed favorites versus Wisconsin. Whatever your position was, it was a fortuitous spot to be ranked ahead of the reigning Big Ten champs Penn State and put the pressure on Ohio State to prove their worth.

In their first battle or “test” of the season against Oklahoma, the Buckeyes, seven-point favorites in Columbus, suffered their biggest loss at home since 1999 (46-20 loss to Illinois) and were mocked as overrated. J.T. Barrett was just 19 of 35 for 183 yards as the passing game was wildly inconsistent and below average. It appeared the naysayers were right and much to their delight, the Nittany Lions leapfrogged the Buckeyes in the rankings.

Since that time heading into last Saturday, Ohio State had been playing very good, fundamentally sound football. Yes, the opposition wasn’t exactly challenging but their offense had looked like a well-oiled machine and the defense hadn’t surrendered many points. Sometimes all you need is a few solid games to build momentum and confidence and regain your swagger.

Last weekend before the epic showdown, I was asked the question several times who was the best team in conference and I said Ohio State. Some gave me interesting looks while others laughed and said good luck versus Penn State. Others said I was a traitor for not saying my alma mater, Wisconsin. However, as hard as it is to support Ohio State, I had predicted much earlier this year, Wisconsin would meet Ohio State in the title game and I had to stay true to my word.

Also, I just had this premonition the Buckeyes would get the job done. The game was in Columbus and it’s not the easiest place to play. It’s like meeting a rabid animal in its very own den – its possible to survive but its no simple task either. Second, these teams were only separated by four spots in the rankings. It seemed everyone was already writing the Silver Bullets off much too soon and media outlets criticized Barrett for failing to show up in big games but you can never count out a Buckeye squad that has been written off too early.

We’ve seen this story before in 2014 when Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech only to come back and win the national title. Just when they appear dead to rights, they come back and shock you. To me, it’s simple: Hell hath no fury like a scorned Urban Meyer. Besides Nick Saban, no one plans, prepares, adjusts and responds in the face of adversity better than Meyer.

Things didn’t look great early on for the Buckeyes as Penn State raced out to a 21-3 advantage and although they closed the gap 28-17 by halftime, the Nittany Lions were in control as they built a 35-20 lead in the fourth quarter and appeared they would knock Ohio State out of playoff contention.

Yet, in spite of the big lead, turnovers, poor special teams, and questionable calls, Barrett rose to the occasion. All the qualities people said he didn’t have, he displayed: leadership, poise, resolve and a strong, accurate arm capable of leading his team to victory. The sign of a great leader is how he reacts and responds to adversity and all Barrett did was calmly throw 13 for 13 in the final quarter for 170 yards and three touchdowns including the game-sealing pass to Marcus Baugh with 1:48 left. It was the most impressive performance of his collegiate career in a classic game and showed once again the power of never giving up.

Yes, the jury is still out on Barrett and the Buckeyes as they are far from the being the top contender but the critics have been silenced, at least for moment. The takeaway here is really quite simple: Barrett vaulted himself back into the Heisman race as a front-runner and cemented Ohio State’s spot in the middle of the playoffs, though the initial rankings surprisingly did not place them in the top four. The Buckeyes are peaking at the right time and Barrett is a dangerous man. If they can fix their special team problems, it could be 2014 all over again and that is downright scary.

E-mail Mike at mike.tews@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051

Image courtesy of flickr

What Should We Really Expect From Ohio State in 2017?

It’s no secret that Ohio State is reloading once again, both on the field and within the coaching staff. The Buckeyes are two weeks into spring practice with the annual spring game slated for April 15.

The talent exodus isn’t anywhere near the level it was a year ago, but Ohio State still must replace three starters in the secondary for the second consecutive season. So what should we really expect from the Buckeyes this upcoming season? Is a third playoff appearance in four seasons in the cards for 2017?

At this time last year, Ohio State was preparing to replace 16 starters and the Buckeyes ultimately qualified for the College Football Playoff with one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in the country. Granted, the team looked like it in an uncompetitive 31-0 shutout loss to eventual national champion Clemson, but the season overall was an unexpected success. If Ohio State can pull off an 11-1 record, which included a win over Michigan and a playoff appearance with just six returning starters, 2017 should be a breeze right?

Without question, the Buckeyes will contend for a Big Ten title and be amongst the teams vying for one of the four coveted playoff spots. However, it will be anything but a breeze. Before we start talking playoff or national championship, let’s not forget that Ohio State has failed to even make the Big Ten title game each of the previous two seasons. But Ohio state fans have reason to be extremely optimistic considering head coach Urban Meyer has delivered a national championship every season following a bowl loss, both at Florida and Ohio State.

My honest opinion is that Ohio State makes it a third consecutive season without a conference championship game appearance just because it feels like it’s Michigan and head coach Jim Harbaugh’s time to finally beat their rival, especially with The Game being played in Ann Arbor this season. But that’s a whole different conversation.

Following the Clemson debacle, Meyer promised the media that we would see a vastly improved offense, specifically the passing game, and that a performance like the one Ohio State displayed that night “won’t happen again.” So you can pretty much take that to the bank. New offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson is certainly one of the best. I think it’s fair to expect the Ohio State offense to perform at a level closer to what we saw early in the 2016 season against Oklahoma.

Is Ohio State going to put up over 40 per game and throw the football with ease once the Big Ten schedule gets underway? Of course not, but the consistency will be much more evident. I just can’t see ineffective and sloppy football continue with Meyer at the helm.

And that brings us to fifth-year senior quarterback J.T. Barrett. Will Barrett revert back to the inconsistent and inaccurate passer many Buckeye fans have labeled him or will he return to the Heisman Trophy contender that he was in 2014 prior to a season-ending broken ankle? I believe it will be the latter for Barrett’s final season in Columbus.

The guy is too accomplished and is going to go down as one of the best quarterbacks, at least statistically, in the history of the program. Following a broken ankle, quarterback controversy and inconsistent play, it would be a storybook ending for Barrett to lead to lead and ultimately finish a national championship season for Ohio State. I’m not going to go that far, but I do believe Barrett will find himself in New York as Heisman Trophy candidate. With everything Barrett has been through,  he will most assuredly finish on a high note.

Defensively, losing safety Malik Hooker and cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley will be tough. However, we said the same thing a year ago when Hooker and Lattimore possessed minimal to no experience. Once again, three new starters in the secondary may need a little time to gel, but talent certainly won’t be an issue.

With former co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell now at the University of Cincinnati, Bill Davis steps in to coach the linebackers after 24 years of NFL coaching experience. That makes me feel good. Davis, Meyer’s longtime friend since they went to Cincinnati together, has quite the task since he will not have the services of former stud linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who should be a first-round lock in next month’s NFL Draft.

The 2017 is still five months away but the upcoming spring game will give us a little taste of where the Buckeyes are at. It’s safe to assume that there won’t be much of a drop-off in terms of talent and we can expect another typical season from Ohio State, a season where the Buckeyes once again contends for both a conference and national title. Not because the Buckeyes were able to in 2016 with 16 starters lost, but because it’s Ohio State and it’s Urban Meyer we’re talking about.

E-mail Mark at mark.silverman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25

Photo: Flickr by Paula R. Lively

Way Too Early Ohio State Predictions for 2017

National Signing Day has come and gone and we’re still two months away from the annual spring game, nevertheless, it’s time to make my early predictions for the 2017 Ohio State Buckeyes. Of course, these projections are subject to change.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, who will be entering his sixth season in Columbus, landed what is widely recognized as the nation’s second-ranked recruiting class for 2017. Since Meyer took over in 2012, top-five recruiting classes have become quite routine. The 2017 class is the most heralded in Meyer’s tenure with the Buckeyes and includes five-star prospects Jeffrey Okudah (CB/Grand Prairie, TX), Baron Browning (OLB/Kennedale, TX) and Shaun Wade (CB/Jacksonville, FL).

Meyer has once again put Ohio State in position to compete for a playoff appearance and a national championship in 2017. With the season-opening kickoff still over six months away, here’s my early game-by-game predictions.

8/31 at Indiana

Ohio State’s trip to Bloomington will mark the first time in 41 years that the Buckeyes open the season against a Big Ten opponent (1976 vs. Michigan State). It will also be the third time that Ohio State begins the season on a Thursday night. The Buckeyes previously played Thursday night openers (2-0) in 1997 and 2010 at home against Wyoming and Marshall, respectively.

Ohio State will have no problem cruising to a comfortable victory in front of what should be a pro-Ohio State crowd. Meyer and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson will show off an improved passing offense led by senior quarterback J.T. Barrett. Wilson will be coaching in his first game since he resigned from Indiana last season. Wilson will surely have extra motivation in his return to Bloomington and I suspect there may be a few added wrinkles to the offense in store for his former employer. Ohio State jumps out to an easy 1-0 start.

Ohio State 45, Indiana 17

9/9 Oklahoma

After being embarrassed in their own building a year earlier, quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Sooners will be out for revenge. Unfortunately for Oklahoma, the Sooners will be forced to deal with another September loss. Oklahoma’s pass defense was abysmal in 2016 and it won’t be much better in 2017, at least in the second game of the season. Barrett immediately enters the Heisman conversation and Ohio State wins in a back and forth shootout to improve to 2-0.

Ohio State 41, Oklahoma 34

9/16 Army

We’ve seen Ohio State struggle with Navy twice over the last decade (2009 and 2014) and I think Army will also put up a strong fight. This will be one of those games where the Buckeyes are just happy to get out of Ohio Stadium with a win, especially coming off such an emotional victory over Oklahoma the week before. Ohio State gets the win, but Army makes it interesting.

Ohio State 27, Army 19

9/23 UNLV

If there was ever a game to miss because of the unfortunate circumstance of attending the dreaded wedding during the Ohio State football season, this is it. UNLV will be outmatched in every phase of the game. Buckeyes win big.

Ohio State 63, UNLV 13

9/30 at Rutgers

Rutgers will surprisingly keep the game close in the first half, but then Ohio State’s talent will take over. The scoreboard may not indicate that it was actually a game into the second half.

Ohio State 38, Rutgers 21

10/7 Maryland

The Terps will be looking to avenge the 62-3 pummeling that Ohio State put on them last season in College Park. Maryland will make this a little close, but not by much.

Ohio State 58, Maryland 0

10/14 at Nebraska

Nebraska will also be seeking payback after Ohio State crushed the Cornhuskers by an identical 62-3 score. Barrett and the offense will struggle for much of the game and look more like the unit that regressed in 2016. The Silver Bullets keep Ohio State in the game and the Buckeyes pull out a close one late.

Ohio State 23, Nebraska 17

10/28 Penn State

Following the bye week, Ohio State can’t wait for this one. Other than the Michigan game of course, you can bet that the Buckeyes have Penn State circled on the schedule. The Nittany Lions will keep it competitive on the scoreboard for awhile, but Ohio State dominates the game from start to finish. Penn State played way over their heads in the second half of last season and I just don’t see the Happy Valley “magic” making its way to Columbus.

Ohio State 34, Penn State 16

11/4 at Iowa

In what would normally be a game I would worry about, I think it’s a game Ohio State comes out of unscathed. Kinnick Stadium is a tough place to play. Just ask Michigan. Ohio State dominates physically and the Buckeyes win a fairly tight contest that doesn’t really feel that close.

Ohio State 27, Iowa 23

11/11 Michigan State

Ohio State will look to defeat the Spartans in the Horseshoe for the first time since 2007, which was also the last time the home team was victorious in this series. As is usually the case, Michigan State will play Ohio State down to the wire, but Barrett will prove to be the difference in crunch time. Thankfully, 2017 will not be a year that Michigan State disrupts an undefeated season for Ohio State.

Ohio State 34, Michigan State 30

11/18 Illinois

There will be no looking ahead to The Game in this one. Ohio State will take care of business in their final tune-up prior to Michigan.

Ohio State 52, Illinois 17

11/25 at Michigan

The Buckeyes take a perfect 11-0 record up to the Big House with a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game and the college football playoff on the line. Michigan will enter The Game with one loss, setting up a winner-take-all matchup for the Big Ten East. The Buckeyes and Wolverines play out another classic, but it will be Michigan and coach Jim Harbaugh who exact revenge on the Buckeyes in heartbreak fashion.

It will be a bitter pill to swallow for Buckeye Nation, but it’s almost karma after the way The Game unfolded in Columbus last season. Harbaugh will finally win the last game of the regular season after starting his Michigan tenure 0-2 against Ohio State and enjoy a big glass of milk afterwards.

Michigan 28, Ohio State 27

That’s how I see the 2017 regular season unfolding for Ohio State. The devastating loss to Michigan means there will be no Big Ten title game and no CFP for the Buckeyes. Instead, Ohio State will participate in a quality New Year’s Six Bowl with just the one loss.

These are way too early projections and a lot concerning Ohio State football will probably change between now and then. In any case, Ohio State has reloaded the cupboard and is primed for another legitimate run at the playoff.

E-mail Mark at mark.silverman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25.

Photo by Paula R. Lively

More Than A Friday: We Remember New York, and We Still Live in Fear

It was fourteen years ago today, when we learned that we are never safe, not in this world. Yes, I remember where I was when I learned of what happened. Yes, it was terrible in every way. And yes, it changed a lot of things for a lot of people, but most of all, the events of that morning instilled a level of fear in all of us, about things that perhaps we were previously too blissfully ignorant about.

We fast forward to this week, where we have a new, legitimate fear in our own backyard in Arizona this very week. Maybe back then, on the day of, we didn’t understand the motive, why those planes hit those buildings, but maybe those answers came with time, even though those answers were never what we deemed acceptable. Right now, we don’t know why we fear the very highways we travel every day, other than the fact that we don’t care to be hit by random gunfire. I find myself assuming a level of vigilance, keeping my head on a swivel, eye-balling rooftops and roadside mountains for snipers. I hear that, while the highway shootings are of a serial nature in Arizona, this is happening in Chicago now as well. What the hell is happening? I don’t want to be next, but I really don’t want there to be a next at all.

I guess it’s important to remember how fear brings us together, and makes us collectively brave. We remember those who ran toward the trouble, when so many were running away. Those rescue workers died, so that so many could live. At this point, I’d like to take a deep breath, and let the honorable stand on their own plane.

Alright, new thought. This is a sports site, so I want to mention how Mike Piazza’s home run and President Bush’s first pitch at the World Series helped begin the healing process in New York and across the country. The Mets wore caps honoring the police and firefighters, who we will forever remember as heroes, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t talking about baseball and level of heroism that is above reproach in the same breath. Speaking of which, let’s breathe one more time.

Here are ten thoughts from the week that was:

  • Former tennis star James Blake had a rough run-in with the New York Police Department the other night, and I suppose that’s putting it mildly. The former #4 tennis player in the world was tackled and cuffed on Thursday in a sting operation gone awry. Blake, who bore a reasonable likeness to a suspect, according to police, said he told police he wished to comply and that he was very scared throughout the entire ordeal. On a day that we’re honoring your fallen brothers, this is not okay, NYPD.
  • Amid some heavy investigative reporting on the part of ESPN’s Outside the Lines and a similar multi-author report by Sports Illustrated, the New England Patriots had their Super Bowl homecoming game on Thursday evening in Foxboro. They took the field, not as champions, but certifiable cheaters in the eyes of many. Accusations of sabotage and things of that ilk weren’t easily dismissed, especially when the visiting Steelers headsets malfunctioned in the first half of Pittsburgh’s 28-21 loss to the Patriots. Mike Tomlin wasn’t happy, and I’m no Steelers apologist, but his anger was justified. Apparently, he doesn’t get a leg to stand on, because he stood on the field of play during a kick return, a few years back. Get the hell out of here with that noise.
  • Back to New York, where the Yankees strangle-hold on the top American League Wild Card spot and realistic chances in the division are being largely ignored, the Mets have become my favorite “I have no dog in the fight” team to watch on MLB.tv. On Labor Day, I tuned in for parts of their most important game of the season, versus the Nationals in DC. Yoenis Cespedes did what he’s done since arriving in Queens, and that’s to provide a spark for the previously hapless offense that Terry Collins has marched out there. The other takeaway from the Mets’ 8-5 victory, was more about the man than the ballplayer that Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos is. He hit a grand slam in the game, shifting momentum before Cespedes took it back, but this is a guy that survived an abduction in Venezuela back in 2011. That kind of thing always stays with me, and I take great joy in any success that he has.
  • Ohio State wore the #1 ranking, given to them by the Associated Press and the Coaches, very well on Monday, at Virginia Tech. The result of the game, a 42-24 rout of the Hokies, came secondary to the story we’ve wondered about, on and off, for the last eight months. How would Urban Meyer deal with “too many cooks in the kitchen” at the quarterback position. Many figured Braxton Miller would transfer, and that the odd man out would be visibly unhappy. JT Barrett was named a captain early in the week, and seemed anything but disgruntled about being the backup to Cardale Jones. As for Miller, he didn’t transfer, but he stepped aside, switching positions, and it looks like he might be one of the best receivers in the country. Well played, Urb.
  • Talk about a state of misery! Both of the Missouri ballclubs look like they’re slowing down at exactly the wrong time. Kansas City has the luxury of an 11-game lead in the American League Central Division, despite being losers of seven of their last ten. Up in St. Louis, the Cardinals have taken themselves out of the best ever conversation, and they’ve just looked flat-out bad at times, recently. They’ve dropped two of three to both of their relevant adversaries in the National League Central Division since last weekend, and they aren’t off to a good start in Cincinnati either. The fact that Pittsburgh has a fighting chance at that division spells doom for the Cardinals, who lost 11-0 in the ‘Nati on Thursday.
  • The Pirates defeated the Reds on Wednesday at Great American Ballpark, in a game the Reds finished without Joey Votto. The Canadian slugger got jobbed all game by plate umpire Bill Welke’s strike zone, and he let him have it after a called strike 2 in the eighth inning. I recall how angry you can get about things like that, so I understand, but I’ve never been labeled a star of the stature that Votto is, so I’m surprised. Major League Baseball was nice enough to spare him on his 32nd birthday Thursday, but stay tuned on Friday. They may be giving him a belated gift of a day off, probably without pay.
  • Did I miss something about Tennessee football? I see that they’re now ranked #23, and people seem to believe their game with visiting Oklahoma on Saturday afternoon at Neyland is a big game. Not buying on the Vols after what I saw of their opener against Bowling Green, but we’ll see. Of course, I didn’t shell out the $99.99 to pay-per-view Bob Stoops’ Sooners clobber Akron last week, so who knows.  I also see we’ve got Mississippi State ranked, just in time to host LSU this weekend. What the pollsters won’t do for the SEC!
  • On the other hand, Oregon and Michigan State should come as advertised. Forget that the Ducks gave up 42 to Eastern Washington or that the Spartans looked less than spectacular at Western Michigan last Friday; look for a close, low-scoring game. That doesn’t bode well for Mark Helfrich and Oregon in East Lansing on Saturday night.
  • I know most people live in the “what have you done for me lately?” realm, but I’m still a sucker for the nostalgia of a Packers-Bears game. No dog in the fight, but these two organizations have played about as even as two teams can play over the entire course of history, though Sunday won’t be even in any way, shape, or form.
  • If you don’t give a damn about a rivalry that happens to be lopsided in 2015, you probably care less about my opinion on the night Rob Gronkowski gave my Little White Beanbags fantasy team, my first go-around with fake football in about 8 or 9 years. I can’t begin to imagine the level of apathy non-hockey fans would have over an Oilers-Coyotes game in November, but I’m still excited to go to Glendale on November 12th, but if hockey people are comparing Edmonton rookie Connor McDavid to LeBron James, that’s some hockey I don’t want to miss.

And no one ever gets excited about going to Glendale, even before we were scared of being hit by rounds of seemingly random gunfire. Stay safe, everyone.

LeBron James and Johnny Manziel Highlight Ryan’s Best and Worst of 2014 Sports Moments

by Ryan Isley

Another 365 days has come and gone and with it goes yet another year off the calendar. As 2014 gives way to 2015, I thought it was time to sit down and figure out what were my top three good AND bad sports moments of the year that was.

My list will differ slightly from most in the Cleveland sports scene, if only because of my original feelings towards Johnny Manziel and because of my love of the New York Rangers in the NHL. And as a Cleveland sports fan, it is a lot harder to find three good moments than three bad moments.

Let’s start with the negative and end on a positive note, shall we:

The Worst Three Moments of 2014:

1) Cleveland Browns do Cleveland Browns Things in NFL Draft (May 8):

Going into the draft, the Browns had obvious needs as usual but held the No. 4 and No. 26 overall picks they seemed to have a chance to fill some holes. They had done the right things the previous season, trading Trent Richardson for that No. 26 pick, which might be a top-3 move that has been made by this organization since its return in 1999.

Most Browns fans fell in love with Texas A&M quarterback and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. His trademark money sign celebration as already becoming a thing around Cleveland prior to the draft.

For me, the two picks I wanted were Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins at No. 4 and Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at No. 26. Bridgewater, once thought of as a possible top-5 pick, was slipping due to a subpar pro day and what “experts” labeled as skinny knees and small hands.

Of course, the Browns saw Watkins sitting there at No. 4 and traded down with the Buffalo Bills to get the No. 9 pick and Buffalo’s first round pick in 2015. The Bills then took Watkins. Because of course. The Browns then traded the No. 9 pick and a fifth round pick (No. 145) to the Minnesota Vikings for the No. 8 pick. They used that pick on Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert.

The Browns would then trade No. 26 and a third round pick (No. 83) to the Philadelphia Eagles for the No. 22 overall selection. It was with that pick that the Browns did what the fan base wanted and took Manziel.

Watkins finished the season with 65 catches for 982 yards and six touchdowns. Those numbers would have been tops in each category for the Browns. Bridgewater – selected by the Vikings with the last pick of the first round (No. 32) – started 13 games for Minnesota. He completed 64.4% of his passes for 2,919 yards and 14 touchdowns, while throwing 12 interceptions.

2) Virginia Tech Invades The Shoe, Leaves With a Win:

In the second game of the season for the Ohio State Buckeyes, they found themselves hosting a Virginia Tech team that was ready from the jump and for the most part of the game, just outplayed Ohio State. When T.J. Barrett – who was making just his second career start – was intercepted by Donovan Riley and Riley returned to the house with under a minute to go, it put a wrap on the chances Ohio State would finish the season undefeated.

Of course, Virginia Tech would go out the next week and crap the bed against East Carolina and then again the following week against Georgia Tech, making the loss even look worse for the Buckeyes. When the Hokies finished the season 6-6 and barely eligible for a bowl game, it looked as if the loss by the Buckeyes in September just may keep them out of the playoffs.

Thankfully for Buckeye Nation, Ohio State was able to use the strength of an 11-1 regular season and a thumping of Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game (see later in the column) to put themselves in a position to be one of the last four teams playing for the national championship.

3) Alec Martinez Beats Henrik Lundqvist in 2OT – Los Angeles Kings Hoist Stanley Cup (June 13)

It was a series that had pretty much been decided before Martinez grabbed a rebound in front and put it past a sprawled out Lundqvist, but that goal was the final nail. The fait accompli if you will.

The Kings had taken three of the first four games in the series but the Rangers fought back in game 4 to send the series back to Los Angeles. Game 5 went just as two of the first four had gone – tied through regulation. When neither team could break through in the first overtime, Martinez struck gold.

Martinez led the 3-on-2 break for the Kings with a Ranger trailing and passed the puck to Tyler Toffolli. When Toffolli’s shot was stopped by Lundqvist – his 48th save of the game – Martinez was there to clean it up and finish the game and series.

The Best Three Moments of 2014:

1)  The Return of the King (July 11)

This one was pretty easy of course. The best sports moment of 2014 for me was the announcement that LeBron James would be returning home to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. After playing four seasons for the Miami Heat and winning two NBA championships in four NBA Finals appearances, Akron’s native son was coming home.     

For me, this one was most important for a couple reasons:

1) The obvious reason is that the return of LeBron made the Cavaliers a better team than the one that went 33-49 in the prior season.

2) The second reason is probably obvious as well to those who know me. As an Akron kid myself, it took about a year to get over the departure of LeBron in 2010. But once I saw that LeBron was still doing things for the community in which he grew up, I softened my stance on him leaving and began to root for his success. For as much grief as I took from people for rooting for LeBron while he played for the Heat, seeing him decide to return to Cleveland was that much more gratifying.

2) Martin St. Louis OT Goal Lifts Rangers in Eastern Conference Finals Game 4 (May 25)

With the Rangers leading the series against the Montreal Canadiens 2 games to 1 and needing a win at home to avoid heading back to Montreal in a 2-2 tie, St. Louis took a pass from Carl Hagelin and went top shelf glove side on Dustin Tokarski for the winning goal and a 3-1 series lead. The Rangers would eventually win the series in six games.

This may not have been the goal or the game that propelled the Rangers into the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1994, but it is the most memorable goal to me from the playoff run that ended just three wins from a championship. For St. Louis, the goal came just one week after St. Louis buried his mother France after she passed away on May 8 of a heart attack.

It was not the only emotional goal for St. Louis in the postseason. He scored the first goal in the Rangers’ 5-1 Game 6 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins a series earlier just three days after the passing of his mother. The Rangers had trailed that series 3 games to 1 before rallying back to win the final three games.

3) Ohio State Manhandles Wisconsin 59-0 in Big Ten Championship Game (December 6)

No Braxton Miller? No J.T. Barrett? No Problem.

Down to its third quarterback of the season, Ohio State went into Indianapolis as a 4-point underdog and beat the living daylights out of the Wisconsin Badgers 59-0 to win the Big Ten championship and ultimately put the Buckeyes into the first ever college football playoff.

Cardale Jones carved up the Wisconsin defense to the tune of 257 yards on 12-of-17 passing and three touchdowns and zero interceptions in his first career start for Ohio State. 137 of those yards went to Devin Smith, who hauled in four passes – three for touchdowns – while averaging 34.3 yards per reception. Running back Ezekiel Elliott handled the ground game, amassing 220 yards on the ground on 20 carries and scoring twice, including an 81-yard scamper that put the Buckeyes ahead 14-0 in the second quarter.

The much maligned Buckeyes defense was stellar, holding the Badgers to only 258 total yards of offense. More impressively, they held Heisman Trophy finalist Melvin Gordon to just 76 yards on 26 carries. Gordon had run for 2,260 yards going into the game and had averaged 208.2 yards per game in his previous 10 contests. That included a 408-yard performance against Nebraska in which Gordon watched the fourth quarter from the sidelines.

Comments? Questions? You can leave them here or email Ryan at ryan.isley@morethanafan.net. You can also connect with him on Twitter @isley23.

My Cleveland Sports Weekend

Dear Diary,

You won’t believe the sports weekend I just had!

First, in high school football action on Friday, my North Ridgeville Rangers suffered a Homecoming Game defeat to the dreaded Midview Middies, 28-14. Junior RB Demario McCall (Run DMC we call him) had a terrible time trying toRunDMC cut and run in the muddy, wet conditions and just couldn’t get it done. It’s strange to say that 103 yards and a TD is his worst game of the season but it’s true. Word on the street is that Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer was checking him out a few weeks ago… Hmmmm.

Saturday was all about the Buckeyes. I’ll admit, their pass defense leaves much to be desired. They are playing like two separate defensive units, The Front Seven and buckeyesThe Back Four. Nope, not a fan of the Fickell, but you already know that. Anyway, with Cincinnati QB Gunner “The Gunslinger” Kiel at the helm, the Bearcats got over 400 yards of offense. Heck Gunner threw for 4 TDs and 346 yards! Luckily, JT Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott were more than ready to show that the Buckeyes have some offense too… JT had 324 passing yards, 79 rushing yards and 4 TDs of his own! And Zeke with 188 rushing yards?!? Amazing! Mark another one in the Buckeyes Win Column 50-28! That’s three games in a row where the offense socred 50+ points. I guess if the defense can’t hold ’em, we’ll have to win in shoot-out fashion!

I hear the Cavaliers had some kind of scrimmage and then a game vs the head coaches former team from Israel but really, it’s football season. Am I right? LOL Whatevs.

Now, Sunday was the capper! Let me tell you, diary, I was freaking out until around 4:10pm watching the Browns play down at the Tennessee Titans. It’s a good thing I am the only one in the office on Sundays because I was screaming and yelling and throwing things (just a couple things and they were soft so nothing got broken), but really, the missed tackles and mental mistakes make me crazy! Being down 28-10 at the half is insane! I know we came back to tie the Steelers in week 1 being down 24 points but I hadn’t seen enough to have faith that good guys in the white jerseys could come from behind. Again. And don’t even get me started on the defense! Could we give up just a few more points to backup QB Charlie Whitehurst? And his pony tail? Really? REALLY??? ARGH!BrownsvTitans

But oh gee lordy was I surprised when the second half started and the defense just shut them down. Plus, we never gave up on the run, just kept cranking away and chipping their lead down until we were ahead by 1 point! And yes, I was afraid that 1 minute on the clock was too much time for us to give the Titans. Can you blame me? Well, all I can say now is: HALELUJIAH BABY IT’S VICTORY MONDAY! I totally <3 Travis Benjamin. Sigh. He’s really making a name for himself as the Play Maker this team needs while JG is out. I’m not ready to declare them the Kardiac Kids 2.014 but maybe the Comeback Kids is who they are… or The Spread Coverers. LOL

Can I handle a long season of 3-point games differentials? As long as we are actually scoring TDs and finding ways to WIN these close games, you bet your butt I can handle it! Go Browns!

Respectfully Submitted,

Cleveland Kate