Friday, October 8, 2010

Ward stops, Skinner shootout goal helps Canes leave Finland with four points

Cam Ward stopped three shots in an overtime shootout and 18-year-old rookie Jeff Skinner scored the lone shootout goal as the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 in Helsinki, Finland.

Thursday the Canes started the season in Finland with a 4-3 win over the Wild.

Skinner assisted Tuomo Ruutu in the second period to tie the score at 1-1 and become the youngest player ever for the Hurricanes franchise to get a point.

In the overtime shootout, Skinner became the third youngest player ever to score a shootout goal in the NHL. Skinner, the first man shooting in the shootout, slowly went right, picking up steam he crossed over and popped it up and in from left side.

Ward had 41 saves including the three shots in the shootout.

Duke co-ed Owens didn't rate basketball, football players


This is one time the Duke basketball and football teams are glad to be out of the spotlight.

Karen Owen on the left
If you’ve clicked through the web at all recently, you’ve probably seen that a former Duke undergraduate, Karen Owen, did a Power Point presentation on 13 of her sexual affairs while she was in school. 

To say it is explicit is an understatement – Owen included pictures of her lovers and intimate details of their affairs, including the fact that she had sex with one in a stairwell at the Perkins Library. NBC 17 did a story about it, and it’s pretty obvious most people in the Duke community are well aware of Owen’s efforts.

Owen had an affinity for jocks, hooking up with lacrosse players in particular and a baseball and tennis player. In what is written with graphic language but as if it is a term paper for “horizontal academics,” she rated them all, including … well, you get the idea. She often met athletes at Shooter's bar on Wednesday nights and went off frolicking with them after that.

What’s interesting, though, is there are no basketball or football players included. You can bet that Mike Krzyzewski and David Cutcliffe are breathing a sigh of relief about that.

Consider attending one of these 10 area high school football games

Here are 10 football games that are within driving distance in the Triangle area. In bold is the predicted winner. Most games are at 7:30 p.m. tonight. You might want to check with local officials as some games start at 7.
My record last week was 7-3 for a season total of 52-18.

Broughton at WF-Rolesville, 7 p.m.

Cary at Athens Drive

Chapel Hill at Cardinal Gibbons

Fuquay-Varina at Holly Springs

Lee County at Middle Creek

Panther Creek at Green Hope

Sanderson at Millbrook, 7 p.m.

Smithfield-Selma at Garner

SE Raleigh at East Wake

Wake Christian at Ravenscroft

Check the scores in our Sports Roundup on the left navigation bar.

Not a good stretch for Carolina fans: Rameses' owner dies

Carolina football wins a couple of games and Dick Baddour indicates that the investigation into wrongdoing might be coming to a close. Just when things start looking up, Will Graves is dismissed from the basketball team and Chancellor Holden Thorp says the investigations may take up to a year to complete. And now this: the owner of Rameses, the Carolina mascot, has died.

Below is the announcement coming from the UNC General Alumni Association, which broke the news.

Rob Hogan, for years a fixture on the Kenan Stadium sidelines as the owner and handler of Carolina's mascot, died early Friday from illness related to a fall on his farm.

Hogan, who was 54, had been hospitalized since Sept. 15, when he fell from his tractor and suffered a hip injury that suddenly became life-threatening. The ninth-generation farmer was harvesting hay and stayed in the field until 11 p.m. When he was stepping down from his tractor, he missed the last step and landed with his full weight on his hip.

By the next morning, he could not move or feel his left leg, wrote his wife, Ann Leonard, in a blog on CaringBridge.org. Doctors at UNC Hospitals diagnosed Hogan with rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which a muscle injury causes tissue to die and release myoglobin, which is toxic to the kidneys. He underwent several surgeries in the last three weeks. The family kept friends apprised of his condition daily.

In Hogan's absence, Rameses XVIII has missed the Tar Heels' first two home football games. Other family members had been planning to bring Rameses to the Clemson game on Saturday.

“We’re hoping they can bring him back out as soon as they’re ready to,” said Rick Steinbacher ’93, an associate athletics director. “We will welcome them with open arms, but it’s not a rush.”

The Hogan family has cared for the Tar Heel mascot since 1924.

Tar Heels won't miss Will Graves

Will Graves is no star. He’s a role player on a good ACC team, the type of player who only becomes a important if the team lacks overall talent. So the fact that he was third on North Carolina in scoring last season, at 9.8 points per game, tells you plenty about the talent level on those Tar Heels.

Still, Thursday’s news that Graves was off the Tar Heels for good came as a shock. UNC was 20-17 overall last season and 5-11 in the ACC, and stunning offseason loss of the Wear twins thinned Carolina’s frontcourt. Your first thought is, Wow, who’s left?

The Heels lack height and depth. Seven-foot Tyler Zeller, 6-10 John Henson and 6-9 transfer Justin Knox are the only players taller than 6-8.  Zeller and Henson are not physical players at all, and UNC will need Knox and 6-8 freshman Harrison Barnes to provide muscle inside.

Graves wasn’t much of a rebounder anyway, preferring to float on the perimeter and look for jumpers. The hunch here is Carolina will close ranks quickly and he won’t be missed. Freshman Reggie Bullock is listed at 6-7 but has guard skills and a complementary game – he can easily fill minutes on the wing that will open up with Graves gone.

Frankly, Barnes and Bullock are capable of pushing Graves off the court, which might have been difficult for Graves to accept in his senior year. As surprising as Thursday’s announcement was, it might be best for a Carolina team that needs new chemistry and commitment as it opens the 2010-11 season. The hunch here is come January, UNC fans won’t be saying, “We sure miss Will Graves …”

Thursday, October 7, 2010

UNC's Graves dismissed from basketball team

NEWS RELEASE - Fifth-year senior forward Will Graves has been dismissed from the University of North Carolina men's basketball team for failure to comply with team rules, head coach Roy Williams announced today.

Graves red-shirted in 2006-07 then played in 92 games over the past three seasons. He scored 513 points at UNC, including 353 last year, when he averaged 9.8 points per game and was the Tar Heels' third-leading scorer.

The Greensboro, N.C., native made seven three-pointers and scored a career-high 25 points in the 2010 NIT championship game against Dayton.

"This is 100 percent not related to any NCAA matters on campus," says head coach Roy Williams. "I hate this for Will. He worked extremely hard this summer to get himself physically in the best shape he's been in years, but he did not do everything he needed to do to be a part of our basketball program. This is a huge blow to our team, but an even bigger blow for Will. Playing for the Tar Heels meant so much to him."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Having starting safeties back helps special teams, UNC's Davis says

Special teams might see the biggest boost from the return of safeties Da'Norris Searcy, who was cleared to play last week, and senior Deunta Williams, who is coming off a four-game NCAA-imposed suspension this Saturday.

UNC coach Butch Davis says that the return of Searcy and Williams, an All-ACC player, frees up guys to contribute on special teams. "That's an area we have been absolutely paper thin throughout the first four games of the season," Davis said during the weekly ACC teleconference. "We were having to burn redshirt years and play young, inexperienced players."

DB Matt Merletti, who played a very high 70-75 snaps in one game at safety, will be able to return to special teams and play in the secondary in certain packages. Davis says he doesn't want any member of the secondary to play as many snaps as Merletti has had to play.

Searcy got a lot of work in his first game back and he made a key interception for a touchdown late in the first half against East Carolina to tie the score. "It was emotional for him," Davis says. "He was ecstatic just that he was going to be able to return to play and then to go out and help win the game - to make a play that not only changed the momentum but changed the score."

Searcy was also able to provide a lift to special teams as he did a good job returning punts and kickoffs against East Carolina. Williams' return could provide a similar lift to the defense and special teams this weekend at Kenan Stadium against Clemson.

"Clemson is probably the most talented and complete football team we've played against this football season," Davis says. "They are extraordinarily fast on defense. They rotate guys in and there is no drop off."

He also pointed to Clemson's offense led by QB Kyle Parker whom he says gives them a lot of leadership and playmaking ability. He will be testing the Carolina secondary.

While the starting safeties are back, the starting cornerbacks are still out. "Our corners are a work in progress," Davis said. "We have kids out there that didnt even think they were going to play this year." He says they have huge new roles and their challenge is to get better each week.

One of the starting cornerbacks, Kendrick Burney, will be back from an NCAA suspension in two weeks.

Injury report: Senior Greg Elleby, who moved from offensive guard to defensive tackle after all the suspensions, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against East Carolina and has been lost for the season.

Meanwhile, senior linebacker Quan Sturdivant, who is a leader on defense, is expected back this week after sitting out last weekend with a thigh injury.

Irving now making a difference for N.C. State

Guess who is starting to come on for N.C. State? Nate Irving.

When you watched Irving at the start of the season, you couldn’t help but wonder if the explosiveness he showed in the past would ever return .Given that it’s a near miracle that Irving is even alive, let alone playing, that hardly seemed that big of a deal.

But Irving, now playing middle linebacker, is starting to show his old ability to smash players to the turf like he did two years ago. Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien said Wednesday that his play is a result of his becoming more comfortable at middle linebacker.

“I think the key with Nate is experience is a great tool,” O’Brien said. “And playing in the middle everythin, was different. You try to do anything you can in practice to get ready to play but there is nothing like game experience.”

Irving had played outside linebacker until coach Jon Tenuta switched him inside this season. Irving has started to understand the position after a slow start.

“He’s much quicker with his readers and he’s much quicker with where he is supposed to be and what he is supposed to do,” O’Brien said.

Just how far back is Irving from the accident? That’s hard to say, but as O’Brien noted, “I  don’t think he’ll ever get back to that because of the trauma that was at the accident. But he’s awful close.”

Here are Irving's tackle numbers by game: Western Carolina (0), Central Florida (3), Cincinnati (7), Georgia Tech (16) and Virginia Tech (13).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

UNC grad honored for work as CEO of U.S. Anti-Doping Agency

The leader of the agency that polices doping by Olympic athletes have been honored by the University of North Carolina General Alumni Association with a Distinguished Young Alumni Award.

Travis Thompson Tygart ’93, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., oversees a nonprofit organization that investigates Olympic athletes suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs; reaches out to young athletes and elite amateurs to educate them on making healthy, ethical choices; and funds research related to deterring drug use in sports.

After receiving a degree in philosophy at UNC, Tygart earned a law degree from Southern Methodist University in 1999 and became outside counsel to the agency when it was formed in 2000, shortly after the Sydney Olympics. He became USADA’s director of legal affairs in 2002 and CEO in 2007.

Besides high-profile investigations of athletes and organizations, such as the BALCO laboratory in San Francisco, the Jacksonville, Fla., native has testified before Congress several times about broader issues related to illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs and the pressures on those who want to compete fairly without jeopardizing their health or compromising their integrity. His testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2008 helped achieve Senate ratification of the UNESCO anti-doping convention, an international treaty against doping in sports.

Tygart returns to UNC at least once a year to speak to journalism, law and philosophy students on ethics issues.

Since 1989, the GAA’s Distinguished Young Alumni Awards have recognized alumni aged 40 or younger whose accomplishments have brought credit to the University.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hurricanes duke it out with Russians; Staal removed as safety precaution

Carolina Hurricanes' coach Paul Maurice decided to remove captain Eric Staal from the team's exhibition game against SKA St. Petersburg in Russia Monday in the second period as a safety precaution.

Hurricanes' players and coaches were upset by what they believed were deliberate low blows by the Russian team, which defeated Carolina 5-3 in the exhibition game.

"It seemed like they were getting awfully close to his knees and there wasn’t enough concern out there,” Maurice said. “He’s a star NHL player and should be playing in the National Hockey League."

Maurice said he expected a lot of fights and a lot of bs, and that's just what happened.

The players, many of whom have played against Russians in youth and junior hockey, weren't surprised by the rough play but they took exception to the hits to knees.

Staal, who came away with a cut under his eye, said that he received two low hits. “He kind of dove at my knees,” said Staal, who was lifted shortly thereafter. “I’m a big guy, I can take a hit, but when the guy lunges at your knee when you’re going full speed, you can blow an ACL."

Several fights ensued after that as Hurricanes' Jay Harrison and Joni Pitkanen were both tossed from the game.

Maurice said that the team bonded and built chemistry as a result of the game and its altercations.

Capital Sports readers give thumbs up to the Bulls, thumbs down to Panthers

The Durham Bulls were chosen as the favorite North Carolina-based professional team by Capital Sports readers in an online poll.

The minor league affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays got 57 percent of the vote compared to the second-place finishing Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL which got 21 percent of the vote.

There were not as many responses to this unscientific poll as last week's poll about whether or not Butch Davis would be back next season as UNC's coach. That plays into the common thought that this is a college sports area and that fans of pro teams often like teams outside of North Carolina so they weren't inclined to vote.

Still, the results were interesting. In a separate poll, the Carolina Panthers of the NFL were chosen as the least favorite NC-based pro team with 36 percent of the vote. The next least favorite teams were soccer's Carolina Railhawks and the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats which each got 27 percent of the vote.

The Railhawks didn't get a single vote as favorite NC-based pro team while the Carolina Mudcats and Durham Bulls didn't get a single vote as least favorite NC-based pro team.

Many fans of the Mudcats and Bulls enjoy the experience of going to the games but I doubt as many of their fans follow the players and standings as much as Hurricanes' fans do. But that's just an educated guess.

Panthers should have stolen a victory in New Orleans

Ok, so the Carolina Panthers aren't very good this year but they really had a chance to steal one in New Orleans... and they should have.

Despite being winless and using a rookie quarterback and being without injured Steve Smith, the Panthers were within John Kasay's field goal range, just barely at the 36-yard-line, with time running out.

But then they ran a slow-developing, deep-in-the-backfield running play to DeAngelo Williams that lost four yards. Even then, at 57 yards, the Panthers had a chance to win it on a long field goal.

But the Saints predictably blitzed QB Danny Clausen who was sacked for another four-yard loss. The Panthers elected not to try a miracle 61-yard field goal attempt and failed on a fourth-down pass. Saints 16, Panthers 14.

It was right there for the Panthers as the Saints have not been playing like Super Bowl champs. The Panthers would have been better off running a couple of off tackle dive plays and try a 50-yarder than running those two slow plays that went backward.

It doesn't get easier for the 0-4 Panthers as they play the 3-1 Bears next week without their star receiver Steve Smith, who is expected to be out with a high-ankle sprain. The Panthers have a bye week after the Bears game.

Garner's Brandon Banks, in his first pro game, key to Redskins victory

The talk was all about Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb coming back to Philadelphia to face his old team, the Eagles. But it was a first-quarter, 53-yard punt return by Garner's Brandon Banks that was the key to the Redskins 17-12 win Sunday.

Banks, who is only about 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds, took a punt at his own 8-yard line and sped down the left sideline all the way to the Eagles 39-yard line setting up the Redskins' first score of the game.

The Redskins scored another TD on a McNabb to Chris Cooley and held off the Eagles. John Riggins, former Redskins' great and host of his own radio and TV program, said that Banks' punt return was the key play of the game for the Redskins.

That's hard to argue as it gave the Redskins the momentum early which lasted until the last few minutes when the Eagles made it close.

Banks made the Redskins' squad at the first of the year but was placed on the practice squad until Sunday when he made his NFL debut in fine fashion.

“I feel good, but I still feel like I should have scored on that play,” Banks said. “But you know, we won so that’s all that matters at the end of the day, so I’m happy.”

In practice during the week leading up to the game, Banks played the roles of Eagles Michael Vick, who was injured during the game, and DeSean Jackson.

Few could have imagined that he would have made an impact in the real game. Banks also ran a few plays at wide receiver.

Banks, who went undrafted out of Kansas State, was a two-time all-conference football selection at Garner High School and was named to the USA Today's All-USA high school track and field team in 2006.

Daily Tar Heel calls on Davis to be ousted

Add The Daily Tar Heel to the growing number of people saying Butch Davis should not be retained.

The DTH, the independent student paper of the University of North Carolina, called Monday for Davis to be ousted after this season.

"It’s time to prepare to end the Butch Davis era," The DTH said in an editorial. "After this investigation ends, the University will need a fresh start. That should include new leadership and a new head coach — preferably someone who will not be so disengaged as to hurt the University at large again."

Davis continued to defend his tenure at Monday's news conference. 

"I'm sorry that I trusted John Blake,” Davis told reporters.

ESPN reported Sunday that Blake called Alabama's Marcell Dareus over the summer to encourage him to sign with Gary Wichard. Davis said Monday, “You assume that no coaches ever would contact players on other teams."

Assessing Saturday: Kudos to Pack fans ... what was Graham thinking? ... Volleyball ahead ...

You have to give N.C. State fans their due – the Wolfpackers turned out in droves on Saturday to watch the Wolfies take on Virginia Tech.

Gotta love Carter-Finley on game day
Carter-Finley Stadium had 58,083 fans, which was third all-time. The largest crowds were 58,650 for East Carolina in 1986 and 58,300 against the Pirates in 1985. Considering N.C. State’s poor efforts on the field in recent seasons, you have to be impressed by the support they’ve received from the fan base. ...

Speaking of N.C. State ... what exactly was T.J. Graham thinking when he tried to run the ball out of the endzone on the final Virginia Tech kickoff? N.C. State had to score a touchdown to win, and all Graham had to do was take a knee and put the ball at the 20-yard line.

Instead, Graham tried to make a big play – and did, for Virginia Tech. He got smacked to the ground at the 11-yard line, and burned eight seconds. That left Russell Wilson with 1:19 to play, and Wilson forced up a throw on first down under pressure. You get the feeling that with State in a hole, Wilson felt he had to take a chance.

Great teams play smart in clutch situations, and State’s blunder on the kickoff put it in a deep hole. ...

Quick switch to another sport … we know many of you are counting the days until the big volleyball showdown between Duke and North Carolina. What – you’re not?

Well, you should be. Both teams are 5-0 in the ACC and meet Friday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium at 7 p.m. If you haven’t seen a college volleyball match, it’s a fast-paced affair that’s quite engaging to watch. Duke and Carolina are always at the top of the ACC standings, and are again there this year.

There is no ACC Tournament in volleyball, so these regular-season matches are huge. Oh, and they are cheap, too, and you can get a good seat.

How Wallace Wade will look if Duke doesn't turn it around
Is Duke still playing football? After all the preseason talk about trying to reach a bowl, the Devils are now 1-4 and essentially irrelevant. You can’t be last in the ACC in scoring defense at 39.8 points per game and have a chance to be competitive.

David Cutcliffe is a great guy and smart coach, but one has to wonder if the historic problems that have sunk Duke football will swallow him whole as well.

The Blue Devils have to play better defense and run the ball. The problem, as always, is getting enough athletes on campus to be able to do that. Duke can pitch and catch but can’t match its rivals in other areas. Finding a way out of this morass is a monstrous challenge. ...

The slew of news on North Carolina can almost seem comical, with the sports pages full of the details of the inner workings of the honor court and every headline having something to do with a tutor or the NCAA. But the Capital Sports Report is more interested in the quiet workings of the Secretary of State’s office.

Remember, the NCAA can’t subpoena and can’t imprison. Ah, but the state of North Carolina can. Our state, like others, has a Uniform Agents Act, which has been as toothless as a law can be in recent years.  But the state can, and should, pursue this issue ruthlessly. The state should not assume the school will investigate itself, and should use its power of subpoena to push hard in this matter.

There’s a reason, after all, that former UNC coach John Blake resigned and grabbed prominent Raleigh attorney Wade Smith to defend him. The state should go after anyone who abused the rules and use this dismal season as a way to prevent further abuses. ...

Wake Forest is 12th in the ACC in total defense, giving up 441.6 yards per game. Whew, you have to know that’s keeping Jim Grobe up at nights … The Deacons will never have overwhelming talent but they have played smart, tough team defense in Grobe’s tenure.