Friday, August 31, 2007

O What A Night

Early Friday Morning I was driving up the Eastern Shore of Virginia on my way home from Delaware's first football game of the year the previous night at William and Mary. I was thinking about the game and to paraphrase the late Jack Buck, I still didn't believe what I had just seen.

Delaware running back Omar Cuff rewrote the record books on Thursday Night when he rushed for 244 yards and scored 7 touchdowns. I wonder if he got a little tired of all of us asking him if his ankle was okay. If so, message received. Loud and clear. We get it.

In a funny anomaly Omar's profile on the ESPN site projects his stats for the entire 2007 season based on the first game. How is this for a line:

330 rushes for 2684 yards and 66 TDs plus 44 catches for 572 yards and 11 receiving TDs.
While those numbers may be a tad ambitious, if he stays healthy, Omar will likely have a huge year.

Not bad for a guy who was brought in to be a reserve defensive back never likely to play much, and was moved over to offense only out of necessity in 2004 when several other running backs went down with injuries. That year, after not playing at all in the first six games and only sparingly in the next two, Omar had his coming out party in Game 9 on the road against one of the toughest defenses in the country.

Like the character from the HBO show The Wire who has the same name and who announces his presence with a giant shotgun, Omar announced his presence that day to the record setting tune of 34 carries and 162 yards while paralyzing the James Madison defense as if they were looking down both barrels. In the remaining four games of the season (two of which were 1-AA playoff games), Omar had three 100 yard plus performances and scored a total of eight touchdowns.

The legend was born.

When Delaware Head Coach KC Keeler talks about Omar Cuff his eyes light up. After the 2005 season, the coach asked his already all-world running back to try and make himself a better receiver. The following off-season with the help of his mom (Can you say: Campbell's Soup commercial?), Omar went to work catching ball after ball after ball from his mom in the alley-way near his house. He caught balls until his hands hurt and more importantly until his hands improved.

He made himself into the complete package: A strong runner, a reliable receiver, and lock-down blocker which is imperative for any back in the Delaware spread offense, but unfortunately he did not get a much chance to show off his skills last year due to injury. Which made Thursday night even more compelling.

After stalling on their opening drive of the game against William and Mary, the Delaware offense would explode for seven consecutive touchdowns on their next seven possessions not counting a kneel down at the end of the first half. Seven touchdowns. All courtesy of Omar Cuff with a lot of help from what appears to be a very talented offensive line. It truly was an incredible performance.

The legend continues. Stay tuned...

Bill Komissaroff

Monday, August 13, 2007

High Hopes

This team is going to be better.

It was definitely a bit of a culture shock for me to be back in Delaware Stadium on Saturday for the scrimmage after being in Vietnam for about a month. From the streets and markets of Hanoi and Saigon and the beaches of Nha Trang and Hoi An back to the world of Rocket Screens, Belly Reads, and Cover 2s. I loved it!

I am not usually much a "practice" or "scrimmage" guy. I find that, more than any other sport, it is very difficult for me to evaluate what I see on a practice field or during a scrimmage and project what it might mean for a football team against real and live opponents.

That being said, the 2007 University of Delaware Football team will be better than last year's model. It has to be. Right?

This past Saturday's scrimmage was my first chance to see the team at all since the end of last season. (Unfortunately my schedule did not allow me to see any of the Spring practices or the Spring Game.)

It is still obviously very very early, but there seems to be a different aura surrounding the team now as opposed to this time last year. The first thing I noticed was that there were plenty of live bodies available to play on Saturday. That is certainly a good thing.

It is going to be fun to watch the relationships between Quarterback Joe Flacco and his various receivers develop. It looked to me that Wide Receiver Mark Mackey may have grown a few inches, and I have a feeling that Tight End Robbie Agnone will step up and fill the shoes of Ben Patrick without missing a beat.

On defense, I was disappointed that neither Defensive Ends Matt Marcorelle or Notre Dame transfer Ronald Talley participated, but was assured by Head Coach KC Keeler afterward that it was strictly precautionary and that both are fine.

I was told by a few who had been to previous practices that Talley looks like a real difference maker and combined with a healthy Marcorelle could make for an extremely deadly combination (for opposing QBs).

After the scrimmage I spoke to Safeties Charles Graves and Anthony Bratton both true sophomores who will be expected to take on much more responsibility this year after getting their feet wet last year. They both seem to understand the challenge ahead of them and more importantly seem to relish it.

Expectations are always high this time of year on South College Ave. After all this is Delaware Football. But coming off a losing season and combined 11-11 record with zero playoff games for the last two years, the hopes may even be a bit higher than usual .

Is that even possible?

Bill Komissaroff