Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Another SideByrne (Post Richmond)

by Tom Byrne

A lot of little things on my mind this week…

Watching the Delaware-Richmond game back as I prepared for my Tuesday TV12 sports segment just reinforced some of the feelings I had after watching the game from the field Saturday.

Joe Flacco can make throws most QB’s at this level can’t and has the confidence to try them. He’s also becoming a real leader. I think everyone can agree on those points. But I also have to admit I may agree with some who are wondering aloud if Flacco’s “tweaked” knee might be the best thing to happen to him and this team. Look, I don’t hate the option like some (including the voice of the Hens’ Mike Corey). I grew up with it at Ithaca under the late, great Jim Butterfield. But, it may be a good idea to “let Flacco be Flacco”. When he talked about picking teams apart from the pocket with me post-game, he had a pretty big smile on his face.

Aaron Love is one tough dude. You could tell he was in pain late in the game, yet kept coming up with big catch after big catch. But he will drive a sideline reporter, like me, nuts. “Guys, it looks like he’s really hurt. Trainers are checking him out. No wait, he’s headed back to the offensive huddle. No, now he’s getting his padding adjusted. Now, he’s ready.” His status changes five times before the crew can get me on the air. But Saturday, he wound up out there one way or another.

And anyone who doesn’t like those one year transfers needs to look at Ben Patrick and Garrett Schultz. Schultz’s play on Josh Vaughn Saturday was an unbelievable, and Patrick’s numbers (and Hula Bowl selection) speak for themselves. But it goes well beyond the field. These two bring heart and leadership to this team. Schultz came from Temple with no promise of starting, then earned his way on the field. Patrick didn’t let a preseason injury keep him from learning the offense and putting up a monster year. Th example these guys set for younger players is invaluable, and not just for the remainder of this year. I can’t imagine the way these two go about their business won’t rub off on some of these guys as they move forward. The bottom line is… if you choose wisely, having this type of transfer, even for just one season, can be a real benefit.

Last week, Delaware head coach K.C. Keeler mentioned on more than occasion that Delaware was one of the few places where the media and fans ask about the playoffs when a team is 3-3. Personally, I wasn’t thinking playoffs last week and I don’t believe one question at a post-game press conference and an unsolicited quote from a player about needing to win out to make the post-season constitutes a playoff frenzy. Actually, I think by making his references to the playoffs, Coach Keeler wound up mentioning the post-season more than anyone else. But anyway, both Delaware and Delaware State did give media and fans reason to at least entertain playoff thoughts with their wins last week. Well, I’m here to squash all such thoughts. It’s just a tease. (Hope this helps, coach)

First off, both have to win out. That means the Hens winning at JMU November 4th and the Hornets topping South Carolina State at home this week. Hardly locks.

If somehow UD and DSU do win out, Delaware would be 8-3 and Del State 9-2, but even then both need some serious help to get it. At 8-3, Delaware will likely be trying to be the fourth team in from the Atlantic 10. Tough sell with losses to Albany and Northeastern, and a win over DII West Chester. As for DSU, 9-2 looks nice, but unless first place Hampton loses again, giving DSU the MEAC automatic bid, I don’t see Del State getting an at-large spot. Even at 9-2, their only quality win would be against a still unranked South Carolina State, and their wins over St. Francis and Concord (the West Virginia college, not the Delaware high school) aren’t going to bolster their resume.

The funny thing is one or the other could have been helped if, on Saturday night, September 9th, the Hens and Hornets were playing a night game against each other rather than notching ho-hum non-conference wins against West Chester and St. Francis. One team would now have a potentially difference making quality win. Instead, UD and DSU could, if everything works out for both, wind up battling each other, and a bunch of other teams, in the front of the Selection Committee for the last at-large berth. Can you imagine if one gets in and the other doesn’t?

And one thought on basketball. The CAA preseason polls are out and how weird is it to see Delaware DEAD LAST on the men’s side? New head coach Monte Ross has his work cut out for him, but at least with such low expectations, he should be given time to get it right. He’s already made strides with fans, media and in recruiting.

Almost as interesting is the women’s poll, where Delaware is third behind Old Dominion and James Madison. I know ODU is great and deserves to be the preseason favorite until someone knocks the 15 time defending champ off, but putting the Hens behind JMU is a mistake in my book. When are people going to realize how good a coach Tina Martin is? Perhaps this year when she has arguably her most talent group and the CAA tourney at the Bob.
Tom Byrne is a Sports Anchor for WHYY-TV, Sports Director of WILM Newsradio, and Sideline Reporter on University of Delaware Football Broadcasts on The River 94.7

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