Sunday, August 30, 2009
Bernard, who fumbled twice in 600+ touches during two seasons at ACU, lost the ball Thursday night thanks in part to Rams DE Victor Adeyanju, who - judging by this picture - has a bright future as a chiropractor if he doesn't make the team out of training camp.
The Cincinnati Enquirer beat writer says Bernard has moved to No. 2 on the Bengals' depth chart at RB behind Cedric Benson.
Sunday night, Johnny Knox made his lone catch in Chicago's win over the Denver Broncos a big one, hauling in a 43-yard pass on 3rd down to lead the Bears' to a game-clinching touchdown in a 27-17 win at Invesco Field at Mile High (which, by the by, remains the worst massacre of a formerly great stadium name). The game was shown on NBC, and Cris Collinsworth gushed over Johnny's speed and potential. Nice nugget from Al Michaels, too, about the Bears taking Knox with the draft pick they got from Denver in the Jay Cutler trade.
The Bears' other former Wildcat, Danieal Manning, has yet to see the field in the preseason as he continues to nurse an injured hamstring. Coach Thomsen loves to talk about Danieal's character even more than his ability. Here's a good article highlighting both.
Friday, August 28, 2009
By now you've heard how 80+ students went onto the field Thursday night to help move a large section of bleachers that blew into the end zone from the north end of Shotwell Stadium. Minutes before, 60-mph winds and heavy rain raked the stadium about the time ACU was scheduled to host Northwest Missouri State in a nationally televised game, causing about an hour's delay in the start time and a premature end to a big tailgate party in the parking lot. No one was injured but there were some frantic moments as a fast-moving thunderstorm and heavy lightning caused officials to clear the stands and advise spectators to seek shelter in their vehicles or under the stands. Kudos to the great fans who pitched in to move the bleachers onto the grassy embankment above the field so the game could start without further delay. No. 5-ranked ACU beat No. 2-ranked NWMo, 19-14, in the season opener.
I think a lot of ACU fans - spoiled rotten in recent years by No. 1-in-the-nation offensive juggernauts - were like the Pig nurses recoiling in horror at the sight of the "ugly" woman as the bandages were removed from the new-look ACU offense Thursday night to reveal a unit that mustered just 174 total yards of offense against Northwest Missouri State. (As a frame of reference, consider that Johnny Knox caught 9 balls for 189 yards in the first half against West Texas A&M last October.)
But as little as ACU mustered, Northwest could never catch up. And every Wildcat fan should relish the 19-14 win over a very good Bearcats team, no matter how it may have looked to some. Keep in mind, it's doubtful the 'Cats will face a defense as good as Northwest's the rest of the season.
And besides, this isn't figure skating. There are no style points or national voters to impress. Remember in Division II, the national polls are only eye candy. It's the regional rankings, the first of which will be released in early October, that determine which of the six teams from each of the four super regions make the playoffs.
It's a huge victory over a team from ACU's region. And it could well be the win that pushes the Wildcats into the playoffs come November. Though I'll grant you what with the weather delay and the points on punts and the fans carrying the storm-blown bleachers out of the end zone, it was a night Rod Serling would've loved.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The start of the game has been postponed because of a massive storm that blew through about 6:40 p.m. CDT, maybe 15 minutes ago. It's now raining sideways and hailing. ACU's first nationally televised home game will have to wait. Kind of fitting. CBS College Sports gets to show the rest of the country what those of us in the Big Country have grown accustomed to.
For now, the goalposts are still standing. ACU fans hoped to tear them down after the game.
It remains to be seen if this season-opener with Northwest Missouri State will be memorable, but here’s the top games I'm grateful to have witnessed in Shotwell through the years:
ACU 93, West Texas A&M 68 (2008) – Lost in the otherworldly stats is the fact that the losing quarterback (WTA&M’s Keith Null) threw for 598 yards and 7 touchdowns, just one of 45 school, LSC and national records set in this pinball game. I was texting scores to a friend in Dallas, who thought I was making some of it up. Bad defense? No, more like two of the best offenses in the nation at any level beating up on each other. They wore each other out, with ACU running back Bernard Scott the headliner with 7 TDs and 292 yards rushing.
ACU 26, East Texas State 0 (1976) – Fans expected to see ACU running back Wilbert Montgomery break Walter Payton’s career TD mark in the Homecoming game, which he did. Bonus highlight: teammate Ove Johansson’s 69-yard field goal, which would have been good from 73 yards and is still a world record at any level of football. I was on the ACU sideline as an Optimist sports reporter for ACU's student newspaper.
ACU 36, Southwest Texas State 30 (1977) – On the way to ACU’s last national championship was this memorable nail-biter, which featured sophomore quarterback John Mayes come off the bench in the third quarter to ignore a broken thumb and pass the Wildcats to a thrilling win over SWT, coached by Jim Wacker.
ACU 35, Wisconsin-Stevens Point 7 (1977) – ACU’s NAIA semifinal win came over a team led by one of the nation’s most prolific passers, Reid Giordana, who hardly looked like it that day. The game’s offensive MVP was ACU sophomore fullback Kelly Kent, who had to make an unscheduled trip to the locker room for some new equipment when a would-be tackler was left with only a handful of his athletic supporter while Kent rambled downfield for a touchdown, his garment unraveling in a long string behind him. ACU's next win was a 24-7 victory over Southwest Oklahoma at the Apple Bowl in the now-demolished Kingdome in Seattle, Wash., which made them national champions. As editor of the Optimist, I accompanied the team to cover the game, and got to play touch football one afternoon in the Kingdome, something nobody else can say they'll ever do again.
ACU 27, Angelo State 0 (1976) – ACU quarterback Jim Reese throws for a then-LSC record 564 yards on a field muddied by a week of rain.
ACU 46, Western New Mexico 13 (1977) – ACU tailback Alex Davis was steaming down the west sideline on what looked to be a 52-yard TD romp, when an opposing player – helmet off and holding a drink cup – stepped off the sideline to trip him. Officials awarded him the TD anyway. Boring game, but once-in-a-lifetime play, at least from a fan’s and reporter’s perspective.
ACU 56, Mesa State 12 (2007) – The Wildcats' junior QB, Billy Malone, was intercepted on the first play from scrimmage in ACU's first NCAA playoff home game ever, and the Mavericks return for a TD gave them a surprising lead. The home team scored the next 56 points, one of the best answers ever to an early challenge from its opponent, and the Purple and White fans loved it.
A few Northwest Missouri State fans have wondered on blogs this week if their team is ready for a game in fiery West Texas in late August, as the Show Me State has enjoyed one of its coolest summers on record. Some Bearcat fans say their team’s conditioning is not always ideal early in the season, and worry aloud about a contest like tonight where the air temp is in the mid 90s and the number probably reads more like 120 down on the artificial turf field. A 30 percent chance of rain has the humidity extra high, at least for Abilene. Lest Wildcat fans doubt their opponents’ early-season physical preparation, it should be pointed out that NWMo seasons have proven to be a marathon, not a sprint. Bearcat teams have played in four consecutive NCAA Division II championship games in mid-December, at times in blowing snow and frigid temperatures some warm-weather teams would find un-nerving. The Wildcats got a taste of that weather in late November in Nebraska during the NCAA playoffs (a 70-63 loss to Chadron State), and would gladly exchange one of their broiler games for one a lot closer to Christmas than Labor Day. Don’t be fooled; weather does not deter championship-quality football teams.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
In case you missed – and you likely did because the IAAF World Track and Field Championships have generated zero media coverage in the United States – former ACU standout Delloreen Ennis-London (left in photo above) finished third in the final of the 100-meter hurdles Wednesday at Olympic Stadium in Berlin.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Cincinnati Bengals RB Bernard Scott (in a 17-7 preseason loss to New Orleans Friday)
6 carries for a team-high 30 yards
1 reception for 12 yards
(Read the Bengals' beat writer, Geoff Hobson's, glowing review of Bernard here. After clicking on that link, scroll down to No. 4 in Hobson's column.)
Chicago Bears WR Johnny Knox (in a 27-20 preseason loss to Buffalo Saturday)
2 receptions for 22 yards
1 kickoff return for 39 yards
1 tackle (on a defender who intercepted a pass Knox bobbled)
Chicago Bears DB/KR Danieal Manning
Did not play because of a hamstring injury
Finished tied for 67th at the PGA Championship. In the par 3 coverage I anchored for CBS and DIRECTV here in Minnesota, we were able to feature Jeev prominently and talk a lot about ACU, former ACU golf coach Vince Jarrett, current coach Mike Campbell whose brother Chad played in the tournament (T43), and the fact that so many ACU alumni are involved with golf.
Friday, August 14, 2009
The more pressing question was W.W.J.W.D. - When Would John WithDraw? John Daly, in a painter's hat and purple paisley pants (I'm pricing what it would cost for Coach Thomsen to put his team in a football version of that pattern), started playing hockey on the 8th hole, his 17th of the day. He'd just eagled the 7th to get to +2, but hit his tee shot on the par 3 8th over the green and into a horrible lie. Missed a long par putt, then walked up and nonchalantly blew his short bogey putt past the hole. Kind of like I would when playing with Lance. Except I don't count those. JD doesn't have that luxury. He did the same thing on 9, his last hole, and signed for a 78.
That's the last we'll see of him this week. He withdrew shortly thereafter. There's a lot of good in John Daly, but more often than not it seems he can't get out of his own way.
ACU's own Jeev Singh shot 74 but was featured prominently in the par 3 coverage I hosted on DIRECTV and PGA.com. ACU golf coach Mike Campbell's brother, Chad, also shot 74.
I'll be back on today (Friday) at 1 pm (CDT) on DIRECTV and PGA.com. Click on the par 3 coverage. We'll have Tiger Woods in our broadcast window.
Prediction: He won't be wearing purple paisley pants. Mark it down.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
2009 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year Lance Barrow ('77, left) will produce the television broadcast for CBS Sports. I'll anchor the Par 3 Coverage for CBS and DIRECTV. And if you follow the championship in print or online, chances are you'll be reading the work of Associated Press Golf Writer Doug Ferguson ('83).
ACU is well represented on the course, as well, with Jeev Singh (right), who redefined Abilene Christian as "The Singh-ing College" when he won an individual national championship and led the Wildcats to a team title in 1993. And Chad Campbell, who lost a playoff at The Masters in April, is the brother of current ACU golf coach Mike Campbell.
How about this for a perfect purple storm? The championship comes down to a playoff between Jeev and Chad which ends on a par 3 hole. Lance produces the telecast for CBS Sports, Grant anchors it on DIRECTV, and Doug Ferguson writes the recap.
Who would be the winner? That's easy: ACU.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
"I like him a lot. I think he's going to be really good. I think he's a really good change of pace for us, especially with a big bruiser like Cedric who stays in between the tackles. But Bernard's got a lot of speed. I don't know if he's as fast as Cedric, but he's explosive and quick. I'd say he's been the star so far of all the rookies. He's made the most plays. He's dropped the most jaws."
It wasn't others' jaws but Bernard's shoulder that kept him out of Friday's team scrimmage. Late Thursday, he had to have his shoulder popped back in after getting hit in practice. But his cousin, WR Clyde Gates, said at ACU's team lunch today that he'd spoken to Bernard and that it isn't serious.
Meanwhile, the team from the City of Big Shoulders will have a very purple-tinted kick return team this season. News out of Chicago Bears' Training Camp is that Devin Hester, who returned the opening kickoff in Super Bowl 41 for a touchdown against the Colts but gradually relinquished those responsibilities to Danieal Manning last season, will still return punts but will not return kickoffs at all in 2009.
That means Danieal's the Man, and that's good news for Bears fans. Manning leads all active NFL players who have a minimum of 40 returns with a 28.2 yard average on kickoff returns. Last season, despite taking over for Hester midway through the season, Manning led the NFL in number of 30+ yard returns, including an 83-yarder for a touchdown on the opening kickoff against New Orleans on Dec. 11.
Have fun with both of these videos:
First, the call from the NFL Network guys.
Then this one from someone in the stands. (I think this guy is a Bears fan. Could be wrong.)
Turns out Manning could be joined by fellow former Wildcat Johnny Knox, who's also taking reps on kickoff returns. Coach Thomsen today said the scribes covering the Bears disagreed over the order of the team's fastest players. One group ranked them Hester, Knox, Manning. The dissenting opinion had the order as Manning, Knox, Hester.
Is this any fun or what?
Back on The Hill, the team practiced this morning for 2 hours, their only on-field session today. They'll spend the rest of their Saturday in the weight room and watching film. They're back on the field Sunday afternoon.
Not to be outdone by the guy he handed the ball off to a bunch last year, QB Zach Stewart had his own jaw-dropper this morning. Some of the coaches were still buzzing about one particular 12-yard out route. Zach absorbed the heat of an on-coming pass rush and zinged a bullet that hit Rutgers transfer WR Dennis Campbell in the hands. It wasn't just the speed and accuracy of the throw but the fact that Zach has only worked with Campbell a couple of days.
This isn't these coaches' first rodeo. And some, like new RB coach Keith Wagner, who came in like Chris Thomsen to play one year under Bob Strader back in 1993, have NFL and other professional experience. I didn't see the pass, but I did see some of them actually high five each other when talking about it two hours later at lunch. That's about all I needed to know.
Zach's coming off surgery to repair the labrum on his throwing (right) shoulder the week after the playoff loss to Northwest Missouri State and couldn't throw 'til June. Coaches love his arm strength - enough obviously to high five each other - but also his ability to improv and make plays.
The key concern is how he'll respond to getting popped a few times. That's a concern he now shares in common with his old backfield teammate.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Fans in Cincinnati are about to find out what those of use who watched Bernard Scott have known for the last two years: this guy can play at the NFL level.
1. PREPARE FOR THE B. SCOTT BLITZ
Fans will come into the gates talking about rookie defensive end Michael Johnson and they'll leave buzzing about rookie running back Bernard Scott.
Scott has already been anointed the best rookie of the first week of camp by none other than quarterback Carson Palmer. The kid has jets and a knack for getting outside. He's 5-10, 200 pounds and has already been compared to Titans running back Chris Johnson by at least one teammate after Johnson's Rookie of the Year season last year.
But Scott's not worried about showing his balls skills Friday. "That's pretty natural," he said.
"I just need to show them in a game situation I know what I'm doing," Scott said. "That I can pick up a blitz and I can adapt to the speed of the game. I've been holding my own (in blitz pickup) but I think I can get in better position."
Scott says he's going to concentrate on his hand placement and making sure the blitzers don't get their hands inside his.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
ACU SID Lance Fleming reports from Day 2 of Training Camp that Bernard Scott's other brother Daryl - RB Daryl Richardson - is the spittin' image of his big bro. No pressure there.
Should be worth a touchdown or two as a decoy alone. Run Daryl out there wearing #3 and send opposing coaches scrambling for their game programs.
Even better, Lance says, is that he looks like Bernard when he runs, too. At least in practice. Justin Johnson, the transfer from Oklahoma, also looks the part of a D1 back.
Meanwhile, Bernard continues his first full week of camp with the Bengals. Here are some cool pics from the Associated Press. While you're on that page, enter "Johnny Knox" in the search bar at the top of the page and see ACU's other NFL rookie at Bears camp.
Other news and notes:
* Former ACU quarterback Billy Malone is back with the Wildcats, this time in a coaching capacity. After a tryout with Buffalo earlier this summer, Malone returned to Abilene where he will coach tight ends as he works toward finishing his degree (he's six hours short of graduating).
* Several players on this year's roster have close relatives who have played for the Wildcats, including Richardson, whose brother, Scott, is the Wildcats' all-time leading rusher and is in camp with the Bengals.
Others with ACU connections:
*Walk-ons Jackson Richburg and Case Wilson are the sons of Monte Richburg and Mark Wilson, respectively. Mark Wilson was an all-America defensive back in the early 1980s and is back in coaching having joined the staff of former Wildcat Bob Shipley at Brownwood.
*Offensive assistant Brock Sherwood's younger brother, Austin, is also on the roster.
*There's OL Brock Niederhofer, son of Ol' Dan.
*And WR Kolby Freytag, son of Kirk. (That's Kolby with a K.)
*WR Chance McCoy's father is former Wildcat Brad McCoy, who is currently the head coach at Graham. His older brother is currently penciled in as the starting quarterback at Texas: Colt McCoy. You may have heard of him.
Other names you might recognize:
*Baylor transfer V.J. McElroy is the son of former Oakland Raider defensive back Vann McElroy.
*Clark Harrell is the brother of former Texas Tech quarterback and current Saskatchewan Roughrider (CFL) Graham Harrell.
Let's hope all of these guys make names for themselves this season.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
There's no way to prove what I'm about to say - short of doing real research - but I'd venture to guess Cuffee - did I mention he's a defensive back? and did I really just utilize a second dash in the same sentence? - is bigger than anyone who played for ACU up until about 1970. I picked that date because I think I can probably outrun the pre-1970 players who might take offense at my suggestion.
You know what they say, "Never criticize a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes...after that you can do whatever you want because you're a mile away from him and you've got his shoes." (Just to be safe, I hope I'm at least a mile away from any former players who are reading this.)
Seriously, it's amazing how much bigger, stronger, and faster the average player is today - at all levels and in nearly every sport. Doesn't mean they're better, but they are, by and extra extra large, bigger. When they're bigger and better, they're Tony Washington.
Coach T and his staff have a lot of work to do between now and the season opener against Northwest Missouri State three weeks from Thursday. But then so does every other coach, including Mel Tjeerdsma at Northwest.
The great Bum Phillips was always quoted as saying what made Don Shula such a good coach was that "He could take his'n and beat your'n or take your'n and beat his'n." Every coach would say he could get better in his Xs and Os, but Coach T is already among the best in the business at the other stuff it takes to be a good football coach, like convincing young men of every imaginable profile and background that the next few years of their lives would be best spent on a Hill far away from where many of them live. And then doing everything in his power to see that it happens, on and more importantly (to him) off the field.
As much as the 'Cats lost from last year's 11-1 team, there is a ton of talent still here - and that's just the O line. The 7 guys who'll see the bulk of the playing time in the trenches probably total 2000 lbs, bookended by tackles Trevis Turner (right) and Tony Washington (left), the human stimulus package who's sparking the local economy by drawing drooling NFL scouts to Abilene in droves. (Bet you weren't expecting to see "Washington" and "stimulus package" used positively in the same sentence.)
There ought to be plenty of room to run for whichever 'Cat carries the rock. Identifying exactly who should do that most often is among the major issues the coaching staff will deal with over the next couple of weeks. Since last season ended, a lot of promising names have been bandied about as potential ball carriers. But those guys have to make their grades and get to camp before they can take the field. Count on two things from whoever's in the backfield:
1. He'll be good.
2. He won't make us forget about Bernard Scott anytime soon.
But remember, two years ago this week, few of us had ever heard of Bernard. Now, he's camping with the Cincinnati Bengals, hoping to make a name for himself in the NFL.
There's also the small matter of determining who'll be handing it off to the mystery back or chucking it downfield. You'd figure Zach Stewart, by virtue of his 2-0 record as a starter last season when Billy Malone went down with a busted thumb toward the end of the WT game, would be the odds-on favorite. But there's no gambling at Bushwood, sir, or ACU. And Clark Harrell - who's older brother, Graham, only threw for about 4 zillion yards at Tech the last few years - had a terrific spring and will compete with Stewart to start under center.
Whoever's in the game will likely be called upon at least a couple of times per quarter to throw it as far as he can downfield where Edmund "Clyde" Gates will be slowing down to catch it. ACU players don't have their names on the back of their jerseys. With Gates it wouldn't matter anyway. There's not a d-back in the Lone Star Conference who could read it from that far back.
The defense will be big, fast, and - most importantly - deep. Aston Whiteside's just a sophomore but already the reigning LSC South Lineman of the Year and Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Tony Harp from his safety post will quarterback the defense.
Couple of questions for you with Training Camp upon us:
1. What's your prediction for ACU this season? Give me a record and whether or not they make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year.
2. How much Training Camp coverage do you want to see? Weekly, daily, multiple times a day? Video, too?
3. Should I agree to the challenge from Coach T and Tony Harp to suit up with the Wildcats during a day of Training Camp to see what it's like? They thought it would make a great package for our first episode of The Chris Thomsen Show, which debuts Aug. 22 on KRBC Channel 9 here in Abilene and will be available for viewing online, too. And by "great," of course, they mean abject misery for me.
4. How much would you be willing to shell out to go see all three former ACU players currently on NFL rosters play on the same field? It's happening Oct. 25 when Danieal Manning and Johnny Knox of the Chicago Bears visit Bernard Scott in Cincinnati. I can tell you an interested group is already forming.
Answer these questions here in the comment area or find me on campus.
The Cheetos are on me. Or at least they will be when we're done.