Thoughts on the weekend

Some quick hits. Since I didn't finish my football thoughts yesterday, let me start there. Just an awful defensive performance. Sinisi was a tough runner, and Monmouth's offense was confusing, but that shouldn't stop you from tackling.
Not to be left out, the offense also needs some abuse. Putting up 36 points is nice, but six turnovers isn't. The worst part is most of them weren't really forced.
As for the offense, here's my weekly plea to you the fans. Remember, coaches spend the entire week breaking down film of both the opposition and their team, both from games and practice. Things are discussed, gone over, worked on, then gone over again.
Plays are called for reasons, and not becauuse a coach likes or dislikes a certain player. If the CCSU staff had evidence that the passing game would be more effective if it were used more, it would use five wideouts on every play. The Blue Devils are a run-first team because that style best fits the strengths of this particular team. As boring as you might all find it, winning ugly is better than losing just to try and be exciting.
You'll see some passing to mix things up, but it won't be what you guys seem to be calling for. Nor, in my opinion, should it be. Monmouth couldn't run Central's offense and Central wouldn't have the same success running Monmouth's. You can't just say, oh, that looks good, let's do that.
As for the one comment I read this week about practice... I can assure you that both offense and defense are practiced. The Devils didn't forget to work on it last week.
The women's soccer team has turned it on at just the right time, and very well could host the NEC tournament in two weeks in New Britain. The men also deserve to be commended. What a run it's on when it was needed most. Now they have two home games with the season on the line. It wasn't long ago that such a scenario seemed impossible.
Volleyball keeps rolling, things could be VERY busy around here in two weeks.
I'm also doing all my prep work for basketball right now, lots to come soon.

A quick aside from a Nation member

I usually leave the non CCSU sports talk to Ryan (check out his blog on the Herald's main site, the kid is smart and funny and talented) but I had to chime in after something I just saw.
First off, if you've met me, you know I'm a big Sox fan. I won't waste time bragging, but I saw a moment during the party that defines why we love sports so much.
Tim Wakefield, who told the Sox to give his spot on the roster to Jon Lester because Wakefield's shoulder would only allow him to pitch once and the Sox might need help later on in the series, was being interviewed on NESN.
As he was talking, Mike Timlin came over, and on live television, interrupted to talk about what a class act Wakefield was and how much he meant to the other players both personally and professionally. Then, two men who are both in their 40s and set for life financially, shared tears and a hug.
That's what this is all about. This was the kind of moment that makes us care so much.
Yes, all of these guys have tons of money, or will someday soon. But for as jaded as we get about tickets and salaries and the competition between fans and writers and bloggers, it all comes down to moments. At the end of the day, we go through all we do in order to experience them.
In that moment, two men who spent the last eight months together more than they were with their families while fighting for the same goal embraced when they achieved that milestone. Neither cared about money. They weren't filming a commercial.
All that mattered was the moment.

Halftime thoughts

What a weird first half. Central could easily be down 35-7, and they could easily be up big too. Four turnovers in a half make it very tough to win anything, though. I actually think they might be opening things up too much. Especially in the rain, just give it to Hull and Jo Jo and let them milk the clock. The more Central has the ball, the less Monmouth does.
Let the biggest 30 minutes of the season begin.

Just another rainy Saturday

We're underway at rainy Arute. I don't know if it's the early start, the rain or that it's on tv, but there seemed to be a sparse crowd when I came in. From the box I can't see down to see if it's filled in.
Ok, off to work, hope you guys enjoy the game.

What a weekend

I'm finishing up Gameday now, then I have to get ready for the biggest women's soccer game of the year in New Britain against LIU. The Devils and Blackbirds have a long history, and enter today tied for second in the league. This game and the game against Monmouth will go a long way towards determining who hosts the NEC tournament. More importantly, a win today gives Central its swagger back.
The men are at Monmouth today, and the Hawks haven't lost an NEC game in more than two years.
After my double-duty with NBHS football tonight, I'll be getting up early to give you guys all the coverage from Arute when the Hawks' football team comes to town. I won't spoil Gameday for ya, but let's just say there's a quote in there you're' DEFINITELY going to enjoy from coach Mac.
It's getting to be that time of year, when every game gets a different feel.

I'm back

Sorry it's been awhile since I've blogged, it was a busy weekend. First off, how about those Red Sox, eh?
Ok, back to what you guys care about, your Blue Devils. We'll start with the football game. I had the pleasure of driving down with a bunch of guys you know, and we had a great time. Days like that make my job interesting, even if we did have to go over every bridge in New York (I hate heights).
As for the game itself, it was a gutty effort. The defense was dominant for more than a half, and the offense saved the day when it had to. Throw in a little luck, and the Blue Devils cleared their path to the NEC title. Albany won't be easy, but the Devils will be the favorite at home.
The passing game was better, though it will never be what a lot of fans around here wish it was. Remember, plays are called for specific reasons, it's not that a coach or group of coaches just likes one style more than another. You go with what works, as Jo Jo Freeman once told me.
The pass defense wasn't shaky, but it was the one area I'd like to see improved most based on last week. I wrote down Matt Abbey's name in my notes way too often.
How about the guts Mac showed on the reverse call? If that doesn't work, Wagner wins the game on a field goal. I'm certain of it. But it did, so the Blue Devils look like geniuses.
Anyone have any questions about the Wagner game for a guy who was on the sideline? How about this week's Monmouth tilt? Don't forget, 11 a.m. start.
Big weekend for the men's soccer team, which looks like it's getting its ducks in a row. But it may be too late. The women are making a serious run at the NEC, with huge home games coming up. They could use a big turnout for the LIU game in particular. I believe their Dartmouth game is off so that the Monmouth game can be replayed, I'll find out tomorrow. I doubt it will be rescheduled, though.
The volleyball team keeps rolling. If they win the NEC regular season title, we could be looking at one of the biggest weekends in CCSU history coming up in early November.

A clarification and a note about yesterday's blurb

Just wanted to make one clarification about my NEC/Bryant blurb last night.... I was referring to the sports that are D-1 when I said they're supposed to avoid D2 schools.... so that applies more to basketball as I understand it and soccer than football, which is (I can't say 1-AA or the NCAA will be mad). I also got that detail very quickly and didn't have time to break down all the details.
Also, I'm sorry things were a little vague... there were two reasons. First, I got the scoop at about 9:30 p.m. Wed. night, and had to write that story and a volleyball gamer. The second reason was that I was trying (in a short time frame no less) to get as much detail in as I could without a lot of hard facts, and I also, when writing something like that, have to make sure that the sources aren't revealed.
Now that it's official, I'll get you more details, hopefully Friday for Saturday's paper.

Just a couple of goodies

You guys have been so nice to me that you get an extra notebook this week, plus Gameday on Saturday. (I'll be at Wagner, by the way, so expect full coverage on Sunday).
As for the rumor of the day, as I understood it there was a meeting this week involving key people from NEC schools, but expansion, while expected to come up, wasn't necessarily going to be voted on.
I'm sniffing around to see if it was, but don't go crazy yet, it wasn't guaranteed to be decided on at this meeting as I had it explained to me. I'll try and see if something changed.

Allow me to add my two cents

First off, what a weekend. I think I wrote six stories. Two great soccer games and the football team pulling out a giant victory.
I'll have more on that as the week goes on, we're planning a bunch of notebooks.
I wanted to chime in on the topic of the day, however, and that's media coverage of the Blue Devils.
First off, I think a lot of the fans' focus is misplaced. Don't try and be UConn, find your niche as the number two team in the state. Without any disrespect to the great people I work with at Central, the Huskies are always going to be top dogs (pun intended) in this state media wise. The goal of Central fans who want more attention should be to fight off Hartford and Yale.
With that said, there are two ways to do that. The first is by winning, which the people at Central are getting pretty good at. No one ignored CCSU's tourney run last year. I'm always amazed by the other writers who are suddenly next to me at soccer games when the women make the tournament. If the football team makes the postseason, it'll be fighting off all the media who will show up.
The second (and most important) step is up to you, Blue Devil fans. We the media cover what people want covered. That's why Britney Spears is a bigger deal than the president.
As CCSU has garnered more buzz in recent years, our coverage at the Herald has increased (I'd never be going to Wagner for a football game like I am now in the old days). Now you guys have a blog dedicated to your school and on Saturday there were four stories in the local paper on your school. That other paper in the state staffs just about every football game now, as well.
But now you guys have to step up. The crowd on Saturday was smaller than it was for the Southern game. You want to draw reporters? Give us a crowd to follow. We go where you go.
If you want more buzz, you have to create it. It doesn't work the other way around. The media won't help you create buzz, you have to give them a reason to cover you. CCSU gave you 4,000 more seats. Fill the seats you have, then all the extra ones, and more media guys like me will come, I PROMISE. You want the TV channels to come? Make sure they know that New Britain is the place to be.
Until then, you're stuck with me. :)

Second helping

I try to keep my opinions out of the actual paper, but on the blog it's o.k. to rant a little, so I'm going to.
First off, let me say that I'd have the same opinion had CCSU men's soccer team been given a victory it didn't deserve instead of had a deserved win taken away.
What the NCAA and NEC has done here is wrong, in my humble opinion. I'm all for using modern technology to fix mistakes. I have no problem with replays to decide if a ball went in the net, a shot came after the buzzer or what player threw a punch.
Those calls in those situations (hockey goal, basketball buzzer-beater or any sport with a big fight), however, are made by the referees. They aren't made days later in an office.
Appeals should be used for rules interpretations, not judgement calls. If the wrong player was red-carded and you want to overturn a suspension, fine. If it can be proven that the game's score was wrong due to a mathematical error, that should be fixed. But to say a referee can't determine when he blew his whistle is a scary proposition. Next he won't be able to decide for himself if a ball was inbounds.
To be fair, let me say that while the NEC was wrong for using the process it did, its judgement was correct. According to the letter of the law, Central's goal shouldn't have counted, the whistle had blown before the ball was in the net. But can't common sense be used? If the ref was blowing the whistle to signify a goal, then should the fact that he made his ruling less than a second too early out of anticipation be held against the team that scored?
More importantly, if we're going to start appealing judgement calls, when does it end? Will every close call be sent for computer analysis? Does that mean we wait three days from now on to find out who REALLY won a game?
At the very least, there MUST be a clear list of things that can be appealed, and they should be heard during the game. Almost every team has video cameras at a game. Let's have a laptop at the scorer's table, load the video and settle it before the game goes on. You want to have instant replay in all sports? Fine. Do it on the field. That way, even if an appeal is granted, the team being denied doesn't have to wait three days to find out it didn't win.
Games are meant to be watched and remembered on videotape. They're meant to be decided on the field.

Gut check

Well that wasn't pretty, but it got done.
There will be games against bigger names, but if the Blue Devils reach their goal of an NEC championship, this is the game they should look back on. The Blue Devils fought through a rough first half, with the defense making sure the game was there for the taking.
What impressed me most was the way Coach Mac and his staff were willing to stay with what they knew would work eventually. I can already see the Internet buzz that will come tonight and Sunday: 75 rushes in one game is insane. Well, for this team, it isn't.
As Dennis Green would say, the Blue Devils are who they thought they were. But, they didn't let Robert Morris off the hook.
Those who want a high-powered passing attack will likely need to find a new team to root for. You saw the inconsistencies in the CCSU passing game today, though it should be given credit for some huge plays when they were needed. It's not about how many times you come through, it's when.
What you also saw, however, was a team that finds ways to make big plays. Ernie Greywacz saved the day twice on defense, and Central scored when it had to.
Wagner won't be easy next week, but I'll be down there to let you know how it goes.

A couple of "nuggets"

As my friend Bruce Biel likes to call them. I have a few more things from my rainy afternoon with the basketball team, we'll do them either this weekend or early next week. Nothing about lineups or rotations yet, I want to give Howie a few days with the kids in the gym before we start worrying about that stuff.
But I will admit, I'm getting fired up for basketball season already. I'm a basketball junkie and a baseball fan above all else.

Fun weekend of soccer ahead, with three big NEC games at home starting Friday at 3 p.m. I might have a very interesting (and possibly important) note regarding the men's team by Saturday's paper, but I'm not sure yet, the potential story is developing. For now I'll just say that it has nothing to do with Central or any of its players being in any trouble.

Oh, and I think there's a football game or something on Saturday, right? I'm teasing. Gameday's done and ready to run in Saturday's paper, take it to the game and read about the opposition and the keys to the game before you head into Arute. Our amazing editor, Brian Straight, works hard to lay it out in a way that is really readable and the new size makes the paper the ideal size for something like that. Brian also gives me the freedom to keep my schedule rather flexible so that I can chase down things when they happen, so you guys should love him.

Busy season

Ever wonder what it's like to cover sports for a living? Believe me, I'm not complaining, I get to pretend watching games and talking to interesting people is "work". But this week is not going to be quiet.
Right now I'm writing Gameday and another blurb that updates some NEC news, or at least puts a timetable on some old news. I'll have tidbits from the men's basketball team this week, a soccer game on Friday, football on Saturday and two more soccer games on Sunday.
There should be lots to blog about in the days ahead. That is, until Monday, when I believe a nap will be in order.
Thanks for reading, keep the comments and suggestions and questions coming. This thing is being much better received than I ever envisioned, and I and everyone at the Herald appreciates it.

Get Tuesday's paper for your story

Tuesday's Herald will have the story I kept teasing. I didn't mean to give it the hype it got, but hopefully you get a lot of answers. I asked every question I could think of, and it is a rather big subject.
Two other notes: I should have at least a little basketball info this week, and for the person who asked, my email for purposes of getting questions to the blog is

PS: Regular notebook coming, too.

Did you miss me?

I'm sorry I haven't been doing this every day as I'd hoped to the last couple of weeks. I've been 1) busy 2) sick and 3) working on a couple of things that have had me running around.

Right after I post this blog (is each entry a blog, or is this thing a blog?) I'm going to write that story I hyped to you guys for all those weeks. I'm sorry if it doesn't meet the hype, the delays kind of made it take on a life of its own, but there's some fairly big news coming. I'll give you a head's up on when it will be in the paper so you know when to look. Thanks for being patient, and I hope you guys are psyched to get some new info.

Now, a couple of other notes. Nice job by the football team Saturday. Yes, it's a game the Devils were supposed to win, but those can be the hardest ones to get. Ask USC. Already some interesting results in the league. Central would be positioned quite nicely with a win this week.

Kudos to the person on the CCSU fans board who went to his/her first soccer game. Seriously, more of you should. As for the result, CCSU wins that game without the red card. The card was earned, it was a bad play, but QU doesn't hang with the Devils if it's 11 on 11 all day. It just goes to show you how hard it is, even for the best athletes, to hold emotions in check.

I've known some people in the QU program for a long time, so I'd love nothing more this season than to see CCSU and the Bobcats meet again for the title. Considering the start QU is off to and how good I believe CCSU is, it could happen.

The men look competitive in conference play. I'll have more on them in this week's notebook. Looking forward to seeing them in person soon.

O.K., I have some writing to do. After this I'll need more questions to answer, so fire them at me, please. Hope you guys liked the C.J. blog.

Your questions answered

I had the chance to sit down with CCSU Director of Athletics C.J. Jones today (did I mention there's big news coming?) and, after we were done talking about what we were talking about, I mentioned to him that there were some questions I'd been given by you the fans on my blog. He was more than gracious to take a couple of extra minutes to answer a few.

Here are some highlights in short form:

1) He was encouraged by the support by some local politicians in terms of trying to get a new arena built, but made it clear that, if such a building comes, it won't be anytime in the immediate future.

2) I had held off on reporting this before because I'd only heard it from people I don't know terribly well, but C.J. seemed just as optimistic about the possibility of the FCS playoffs being expanded (maybe up to 24 teams) as those other people did. Will the NEC get an automatic berth as part of a future play-in round? That's to be determined, but things are looking better than they once did.

2b) Jones sounds like he believes in the NEC's future as a football conference. If the league gets that automatic bid, it could become even more attractive to teams looking for a home. At the very least, it should stop teams currently in the league from shopping themselves around.
"Now that you potentially have (that chance), I would think from my perspective, that would mean teams looking at other opportunities for a chance to get into the playoff don't have to look at those opportunities," Jones said. "So let's build our conference and some of those teams that are out there and want to be part of that might be looking at our conference. So that might even make our conference stronger in terms of someone coming in."

Much of this is reliant on the NEC getting access to the playoffs. The expansion, however, isn't even official yet, never mind how the extra spots would be filled, so don't hold your breath yet.

3) Along the same lines, there should be more word about at least the potential of NEC expansion in other sports by November.

After talking to Jones, my prediction is an expanded NEC football conference within five years, maybe sooner. I wouldn't be shocked if the NEC gets included in the playoffs in the future, either.

Big thanks to C.J for taking time to answer those questions, and for all his help on the story you'll be reading in the next few days. The delay was because of a third party, everyone at Central is always cooperative with me. If you have more questions, fire them to me, and I'll try and pass them along.

More basketball info is my next pet project after this one I've been chasing. After that, I think we'll have covered everything you've asked me so far (except for football schedules, which I'll effort getting more on as well).

A couple of nuggets

Just a couple of tidbits for you info-starved Blue Devil fans. Talked to the person I needed to, so the person who told me he was "patiently" waiting for that story won't have to wait long.
Secondly, I saw Tristan Blackwood today, and he looked to be bulked up. I didn't get the chance to ask him how much muscle he put on this offseason because I had to get back to my volleyball game, but he looked like he's ready to take on the burden of being CCSU's best player.
Notebook coming this week, extra football story, and Gameday for Saturday's paper. I have tons to do, but I'll keep you posted. Keep reading, and keep the questions coming.