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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pro Bowl thoughts

Roberto Ruiz-Maki

The NFC beat the AFC 55-41 in an extremely ugly game. What is the point of having the Pro Bowl the week before the Super Bowl? The Super Bowl is the biggest game of the year, and one of the best parts is having two full weeks to hype the game. For the second straight year, though, the NFL decided to have the Pro Bowl squeezed in between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. Logically, this makes no sense. Not only are the players who should be representing the two top teams not involved (along with all the other players who come down with mysterious injuries during the week leading up to the Pro Bowl), but it detracts from the Super Bowl hype. Having two weeks to digest everything that is about to happen is excruciating, but the good kind of excruciating. Not only is the game hard to watch because neither team is really trying (tell me how, in a defense driven league, the scores seem straight out of a video game), but players are being more obnoxious than usual. At one point in the game, with the NFC leading 35-0, Steven Jackson took a hand-off and ran it in from 21 yards out; I became sick to my stomach while watching Jackson waltz around defenders while they played as if they didn't have enough money to get their jersey dry cleaned after the game.
The Pro Bowl is not a football contest, it means nothing to the players involved, and it is a disgrace to have it as the last football game played prior to the Super Bowl. The game used to be played after the Super Bowl, and that is where it belongs. Every player who wants to participate can do so, instead of leaving the players from the two best teams out of the game.

On a somewhat separate topic, the NFL does not have a site chosen for the Pro Bowl in 2012. Hawaii has payed four million dollars to have the game in Honolulu this year, and it has traditionally been held in Hawaii (every year since 1980 except last year, when it was held in Florida). Players have made it clear that if it is not held in Hawaii, they are less likely to go. The NFL should stop entertaining offers from other locations, and realize that the location that is best for them is Hawaii. Players view it as a vacation if it is in Hawaii, most players already live in Florida, so why take time out of their schedules to play another game there?

Go Packers.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Packers vs Bears, NFC championship recap

Roberto Ruiz-Maki

The Green Bay Packers will be representing the NFC in the Super Bowl on February 6th against the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Writing the previous sentence sans all-caps was quite an accomplishment for any Packers fan, so I am proud of myself.)
In what was easily the biggest football game ever played at Soldier Field, the Packers prevailed over the Chicago Bears and their third string quarterback Caleb Hanie. After the first drive it seemed as if the Packers were going to run away with this game just as they did last week in Atlanta, but the offense stalled after scoring two touchdowns and went into the fourth quarter leading 14-0. With the Packers defense dominating Chicago up to that point, Packers fans were expecting to coast to an easy victory over their hated rival. Hanie wouldn't let that happen though; he led the Bears on two scoring drives to make it a game at 21-14. Chicago had the ball at midfield with two minutes remaining, and images of the NFC championship game against the New York Giants started to fill the minds of Packers fans. But Hanie threw an interception to Sam Shields with less than a minute to go, and the game was sealed in thrilling fashion for Green Bay.
The play of the game was when 345 pound (on a good day) BJ Raji intercepted a pass from Hanie and ran it back 18 yards for a touchdown, giving the Packers a 21-7 lead late in the fourth quarter. The player of the game, however, had to be the rookie Shields. Shields had four tackles, one sack, two interceptions, and a forced fumble in the game, with the other interception coming at the Green Bay three yard line with less than a minute left in the first half. Shields played years beyond his age, owning the last minute of each half.
After winning three straight road games in the playoffs, the Packers will travel to Arlington, Texas to play in the Super Bowl. The Packers, who have kept winning despite having 15 players on injured reserve (every other team in the history of the NFL with that many players on injured reserve has failed to win even half of their games), will be the first six seed to represent the NFC in the playoffs.
(Please read this next sentence as if it were capitalized.)
The Green Bay Packers will be representing the NFC in the Super Bowl on February 6th!

Recap: Notre Dame 80 – Marquette 75

Ryan Ellerbusch

Looking for another 22-point repeat win over Notre Dame like the one just 12 days ago, Marquette  got off a hot start in the first-half before a strong second-half surge propelled the 16th ranked Fighting Irish over the Golden Eagles 80-75.

Darius Johnson-Odom led Marquette with 25 points and the Golden Eagles led by as much as 12 points before Marquette’s 61.5% shooting from the field in the first half cooled off drastically. From that point on, they shot just 30% in the second-half and Notre Dame cracked down defensively therefore slowing down Marquette’s aggressive offensive attack to squeak out the win. Once again, Marquette failed to hold a second-half lead on the road despite a 45-36 advantage at halftime. Notre Dame grabbed the lead for good with 10:28 remaining in the game, their first since the score was 2-0, when Ben Hansbrough drained a timely 3-pointer and finished with a game-high 28 points.

Marquette saw extended playing time from senior forward Joe Fulce who saw 17 minutes of action and tallied 10 points and 5 rebounds in place of Jae Crowder and Chris Otule who both fouled out in the game with four minutes remaining. Jimmy Butler also put together another consistent performance with 12 points and is just one point shy of scoring 1,000 career points in Marquette basketball history.

Marquette will look to slow down Kemba Walker and the 8th ranked UConn Huskies Tuesday Night at 8 p.m. when the Golden Eagles return to The Bradley Center. Marquette will look to feed off the energy from their home court crowd and get back to their winning ways.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Recap: Marquette 94 - DePaul 64

Ryan Ellerbusch

Last time Marquette faced DePaul, the Blue Demons were about to snap a 24-game losing streak in Big East play by beating the Golden Eagles 51-50. However, on Tuesday night Marquette made sure that debacle didn't happen again and were victorious this time to extend DePaul’s current conference losing streak to 18 games, their most recent conference win was last year’s matchup.

Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler led the way for Marquette in the 30-point blowout win with 20 points apiece as the Golden Eagles combined to shoot 51.5% from the field. Butler and point guard Junior Cadougan also had four steals each, contributing to the 22 forced DePaul turnovers and a 40-10 Marquette advantage in points off turnovers. Jae Crowder had yet another big performance and played an all-around great game, contributing in many aspects on the stat sheets. Crowder tallied 18 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 blocks on the night.

Marquette led 46-29 at halftime due in large part to a pair of 6-0 runs along with a 16-2 run to close out the first half. They later closed out the 94-64 win by converting at the free-throw line, playing strong defense, and cleaning the glass.

It was nice to see Marquette (13-6, 4-2 Big East) get back on track and beat the winless DePaul following their devastating 71-70 loss against Louisville on Saturday, in which they choked the game away in the closing minutes. Marquette on offense has seen their opponents play a 2-3 zone against them in nearly every game as of late and good shooting from the paint and three-point range will be the key in the upcoming games, all against ranked foes.


- Washington Wizards rookie point guard, John Wall, was in attendance for the Marquette/DePaul game. He and Darius Johnson-Odom are both Raleigh, North Carolina natives.
- Junior Cadougan had to the leave the game temporarily in the first-half to have a band-aid placed above his left eyebrow where he had a cut. Luckily, he returned shortly thereafter.
- Vander Blue got back on track offensively tonight. Blue finished with 12 points on 5-6 shooting from the field and 2-3 from the charity stripe.

Response to Brett Favre's prediction

Roberto Ruiz-Maki

“I think they will win it all! I hope they do…. The receiving corps is the best ever, maybe, but Dom and the defense get the MVP award at this stage.”
Brett Favre told ESPN's Ed Werder this through email, and I am angry. This seems to me like Favre is saying that if the Packers don't win, the loss should be attributed to Aaron Rodgers (even though he says that Aaron is the best qb). What Favre said was an underhanded shot at Aaron Rodgers. There is no way for Rodgers to win now, because if he does win the Super Bowl, it is because he has possibly the best receivers ever, and his defense was incredible. If he loses though, he had all of the intangibles necessary to win, but he blew it (kind of like Favre in the 1997 Super Bowl). I find it very unsportsmanlike for Favre to do something like this, and it just tells me that he is still bitter over the break-up with the Packers. Look, Favre, the Packers went in a different direction, get over it.
I could be seeing this all wrong, the email could be 100% genuine and I would be getting mad over nothing, but what has Favre done since being let go that says that he wants the best for the Packers? He has openly stated that he wanted to get revenge on them, and show them that they made a mistake by locking him out. He wants Green Bay to want him back, to apologize for going with Rodgers when he still wanted to play. Am I really supposed to believe that he now wants Rodgers to succeed? I doubt it, and I hope every Packers fan is seeing through his veil.

On a separate note, I hope that Favre signs a one day contract with the Packers so that he can retire in the Green and Gold. It would be a shame if he decided to retire as a Viking just to take one last shot at Green Bay, though I see that as the likely scenario. Favre should retire as a Packer because we all cheered him every time he ran out of the home tunnel (and some diehards even cheered when he ran through the visitors).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Brett Favre series - Part 5

Roberto Ruiz-Maki

I have been tough on Brett Favre thus far, and it bothers me. When Favre would run onto that field on Sunday, fans would be filled with hope. When Favre would throw a touchdown and lift his hands in the air while sprinting all around the field in celebration, our heart rates would match his beat for beat. I will never forget the night that Favre was traded to the New York Jets because my heart shattered into a million pieces. While there will be many great memories of Favre, there will be too many sad ones to ignore.
Perhaps if I had seen Favre when he first started, my opinion would be different, and I would be a relentless advocate for his hall of fame plaque to read “Best Quarterback of All Time.” Alas, I was not born in an earlier year, and I instead injected myself into the Packers endless fan base in 1997, making my first experience the gut-wrenching loss to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.
Already, Favre's records are starting to fall to Aaron Rodgers, his heir to the throne. Bart Starr paved the way for great Green Bay quarterbacks, and Brett Favre reignited those sparks 30 years later. The torch has now been passed to Aaron Rodgers, though things would have been very different if Favre had never stumbled into Green Bay as a young southern boy with NFL aspirations. There would be no tradition for Rodgers to uphold, and the grooming seasons that were so imperative to his growth would have never occurred.
The Green Bay that Rodgers inherited was much better off than the one that Favre received, and Rodgers has Favre to thank for that. I speak for every Packer fan when I say that I hope Rodgers can bring Green Bay to new heights, heights that even Favre could not achieve. I just hope that Rodgers also realizes the heart and soul that Favre left on that field in order to give him that opportunity.
This is the last part of the Favre series, and I hope that readers see that my goal is not to detract from Favre's legacy, but instead to bring it into a clearer view. Favre will always be remembered as the man who brought football back to Titletown. The only mistake Favre ever made was that instead of realizing his flaws and working to correct them, he decided that mistakes were bound to happen when someone played the game with the level of chaotic enthusiasm that he did; and because of that, we love him.

Packers vs. Falcons recap

Ryan Ellerbusch

While I don’t buy Troy Aikman’s comment that head coach Mike McCarthy is an “underrated playcaller,” the Packers’ offense was clicking both on the ground and through the air. Many fans are saying “Super Bowl or Bust” heading into the NFC Championship game behind an impressive defensive performance as well as the offensive fireworks.

Rookie sensation James Starks may be for real and despite rushing the ball 25 times for 66 yards, he had big runs at crucial times in the ballgame. This opened up the passing attack as the Packers gained 26 first downs, including 8 for 12 on third-down conversions. Rodgers was nearly unstoppable in and outside of the pocket avoiding sacks and completing 31 of 36 passes. Wide-receivers Jordy Nelson and James Jones both were targeted by Rodgers numerous times and had surprisingly big games with a touchdown apiece.

Sunday’s game in my opinion solidified Clay Matthews as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year with 2 sacks and a fumble recovery along with the play of Tramon Williams and Aaron Rodgers. Williams’ two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and Rodgers’ 4 total touchdowns hopefully will prove to the NFL Pro Bowl committee that they deserve to be recognized by being named to the roster and not just as alternates.

Regarding special teams, the 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was unacceptable and devastating to watch. However, credit the Packers offense once again, Tim Masthay was not given a chance to punt all day and Mason Crosby nailed two of three field goals. To advance to the Super Bowl, winning the turnover margin will be the key for the Packers to punch their ticket to Dallas, Texas for Super Bowl XLV.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Brett Favre series part 4

Roberto Ruiz-Maki

Brett Favre was known as a “prankster” during his playing days. His pranks ranged from pantsing guys who didn't wear underwear, to putting a bag with a dead animal, along with its blood and guts, inside a teammate's locker. In his early years I think it was fair to say that Favre was a good teammate, as long as you did not mind insensitive, grotesque pranks. That is the way of the NFL though, and it is not fair for us to judge when we know not what goes on behind closed doors. Favre was considered a good teammate, making long practices easier to get through and two-a-days (two practices in one day) less painful.
To win a championship in any sport, you not only have to have talent and drive, but you also need cohesiveness. A team is labeled as such for a reason, and if players feel like one player is above everybody else, then the team will fall short of its ceiling. Bill Simmons of ESPN calls it “The Secret,” and I believe that Favre never really got it throughout his playing career. Yes, he made teammates feel like family when times were going well, but when times got tough he began to pout and blame everybody but himself, something that a person who knew “The Secret” would never do. The Packers did everything they could to keep Favre happy; from hiring his favorite coaches, to paying him more than any NFL player when he signed contracts, the Packers tried to keep their star player content.
My final argument for Favre not being the best quarterback ever is simple. Ask yourself this question: if I had to bet my life on a football game, and I got to choose the football team, who would my quarterback be? If I wanted to have fun and get excited, I would choose Favre. If I wanted to win the Football game, I would choose Steve Young (my top five would look like this: Young, Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr). Favre lost every big game in which he was the deciding factor. Even the Super Bowl he won was largely decided by the heroics of Desmond Howard.
The fifth and final part to the Brett Favre series will be coming out tomorrow night. I will wrap it all up and pay tribute to Favre, because even though I do not believe he belongs in the top five best quarterbacks of all time, he will always be top two in my heart (right behind Aaron Rodgers if he can win a title).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Brett Favre series - Part 3

Roberto Ruiz-Maki

Brett Favre was at his best when Mike Holmgren was his head coach, not only with statistics, but with winning. Favre won his only Super Bowl when coached by Holmgren, and Holmgren never let anybody forget how much he had to work to get Favre to act like a leader. Holmgren openly questioned Favre's ability to lead a football team, and he was slow to give Favre a captain's position. Holmgren kept Favre in check, and immediately after he left, Favre's numbers and wins suffered greatly. Since Favre never made it back to the Super Bowl without Holmgren, it is safe to say that Favre got there and won more because of Holmgren and the number one ranked defense than his play.
Favre, the focal point of every Packers team, was known to struggle at the end of big games because he would run wild. Once Holmgren left Green Bay to coach Seattle, Favre had control of the team. The Packers hired coaches that would cater to Favre's needs, and would be more “yes men” then coaches (not just head coaches but quarterbacks coaches, offensive coordinators, etc). Ray Rhodes let Favre do what he wanted, never even bothering to bring up what he thought should be done. (Rhodes was fired after one season, finishing with a record of 8-8.) Mike Sherman approached Favre very differently. At first Sherman tried to bring Favre in and change his way of thinking. Favre bought into it for the first few years, but Sherman became impatient with Favre because at the end of games Favre would throw away the game plan and make costly mistakes. Despite his stellar record, Sherman was eventually fired because of his feud with Favre.
If you do not believe me when I tell you that Favre would often make costly mistakes, or that he would throw errant passes at the end of games because he would get jittery, then ask yourself this: why was it that when Favre signed with the Vikings, every Packers fan predicted that he would do great in the regular season, but in the playoffs he would throw a game ending interception? After seeing Favre throw interception after interception in close games, Packers fans had grown accustomed to heartbreak. Do great quarterbacks throw game ending interceptions in overtime of a conference championship game? Do great quarterbacks throw six interceptions in the divisional round of the playoffs, including three that were returned for touchdowns?
Favre made some of the most spectacular passes, throws that would be silly to even dream of; but he also made of the most mind-boggling mistakes ever. Living with Favre was living life on the edge, and when you live life on the edge you sometimes take a pretty ugly fall.

Part four of the series will be up tomorrow night, don't forget to look for it!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Brett Favre series - Part 2

Roberto Ruiz-Maki

Brett Favre finished at the top of every major statistical category for quarterbacks; I believe that that was more a benefit of his longevity than anything else though. Favre will always be in the hearts of Packers fans, even if he did wear that hideous Vikings jersey (that just made him look fat). There will always be a group of fans that would swear on their child that Favre was the greatest ever. I would like to bring up some statistics that point to the contrary. Yards per attempt index (Y/A+), net yards per attempt index (NY/A+), adjusted yards per attempt index (AY/A+), adjusted net yards per attempt index (ANY/A+), completion percentage index (Cmp%+), passing touchdown percentage index (TD%+), interception percentage index (Int%+), sack percentage index (Sack%+), and passer rating index (Rate+) are all advanced ways of determining whether a quarterback is above average, below average, or average. With a standard deviation of 15, 100 is considered average, while anything below 100 is below average, and anything above 100 is above average. A league leading season usually has scores of around 120, and the highest scores calculated for passers have been in the 140's. Here are all-time great quarterbacks (and Terry Bradshaw) compared to Brett Favre:

B. Favre S. Young J. Montana T. Brady P. Manning T. Bradshaw
Y/A+ 105 123 111 110 114 109
NY/A+ 109 119 116 112 121 108
AY/A+ 106 125 118 115 116 107
ANY/A+ 108 122 121 116 120 107
Cmp%+ 111 125 124 112 119 95
TD%+ 113 120 111 118 118 114
Int%+ 98 113 118 114 106 96
Sack%+ 111 94 111 110 123 103
Rate+ 109 126 123 118 118 105
By just looking at these numbers, you can tell that Favre does not match up with quarterbacks that are considered the best to ever live (except Bradshaw). One thing that really sticks out to me is interception percentage index because every other great (except Bradshaw) was above average in this category, while Favre was below average. Favre matches up much better with Bradshaw, a quarterback who won four Super Bowls because of his team's defense more than anything else. Bradshaw is considered one of the NFL's elite because he won four titles, not because of his passing prowess. Allow me to be blunt; Bradshaw was not great. He was a decent quarterback thrown into a great position (kind of like Trent Dilfer, but with more passing skills). Obviously Favre should still be considered elite, but should he be considered legendary? I do not believe that a player should only be judged by his statistics, so tomorrow I will look into other aspects of Favre's game that pushed him above and beyond other quarterbacks (was it only durability, or was there something more?). I also believe that winning games takes more than a quarterback, so I will look into the players and coaching staffs that Favre was blessed with during his career (is it a coincidence that Favre's best years came during the Mike Holmgren era?).
Check in tomorrow night for the third part of the Favre series.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Brett Favre series - Part 1

Roberto Ruiz-Maki

This topic is one that I have touched on a few times, but I never took the opportunity take a deeper look into it. So instead of doing a short blog on this topic I will be doing a five-part series that begins today. Brett Favre, regarded by some to be the best quarterback to ever play the game, was ultimately overrated. The first part of the series will be how it all started, how Brett Favre went from a great quarterback, to a (supposedly) legendary one.
Brett Favre came to Green Bay before the 1992 season. At the time he had just finished his rookie season with Atlanta, a team that never gave him an opportunity to start. Nobody quite knew what to make of Favre at first; he was a Mississippi country boy coming to the frigid cold of Green Bay, and he was backing up Don Majkowski at the time anyway, so many did not give him a second look. Lightening struck, though, and Favre quickly got the chance to start when Majkowski injured a ligament in his ankle in week three. Though Favre was booed by Packer fans because of his inability to hold onto the football (fumbling four times), he drove the Packers 92 yards and threw the game winning touchdown with 13 seconds remaining to beat the Cincinnati Bengals. After that game, Favre started 253 consecutive games for the Packers, bringing the Packers to two Super Bowls, winning one, and garnering three Most Valuable Player awards from 1992-2007.
The state of Wisconsin embraced Brett Favre as the face of not only the franchise, but the state. Favre was synonymous with Wisconsin, and Wisconsinites loved that. As he went on to a hall of fame career, breaking what seemed like every record in the book, fans embraced him as one of their own. Packers fans viewed him as the best quarterback of all time, and even though outsiders did not always hold him in such high regard, that just made fans love him even more.
I am a lifelong Packer fan, I bleed green and gold, and my favorite season is football season. I grew up loving Favre as much as the next fan, and my countless pictures, signatures, and books prove that. Because I did not start watching the Packers until after the 1997 season, though, I got a unique view of Favre. My view was not blurred by the franchise Favre built; instead, I got a firsthand look at what he truly was: a quarterback blessed with the durability to be legendary, but the tools to be mediocre.
Favre was the only sports star to stay in Wisconsin as long as we wanted him. Every other star during this time period left, including Ray Allen, Reggie White, Carlos Lee, CC Sabathia, Ben Sheets, Gary Sheffield, Sam Cassell, Glenn Robinson, Gary Payton, Richie Sexson, etc. Favre stayed. He was the one who truly cared about the fans. This made fans put him on a pedestal, one that he never really belonged on.

The second part of the series will be available tomorrow night.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Recap: Marquette 79 - Notre Dame 57

Ryan Ellerbusch

Whether it was Marquette’s outstanding team performance from three-point range, Notre Dame’s poor shooting from the field, or the courtside presence of Marquette graduate/Minnesota Timberwolves rookie forward Lazar Hayward, the Golden Eagles defeated the 11th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish 79-57 in the 114th meeting throughout this storied rivalry. Marquette has faced Notre Dame more times (117) than any opponent other than Wisconsin.

“Overrated!” was what the Marquette student section was chanting in the closing minutes of their blowout victory over Notre Dame (14-3, 3-2 Big East) on Monday night. Coming into the game, Notre Dame was deemed as one of the Big East teams on the rise, defeating quality opponents in recent weeks such as Georgetown, Connecticut, and St. Johns. Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis, each averaging 16 points a game for Notre Dame, were shut down by Marquette's defense and were held to just 9 and 10 points respectively. Notre Dame’s 57 points scored on ESPN2’s “Big Monday” nationally televised primetime game against Marquette is far off from their average of 78.2 team points per game. They made just 21 of 53 (39.6%) from the field including a woeful 3 of 16 (18.8%) from beyond the arc in the loss.

On the other hand, Marquette was firing from all cylinders under the watchful eye of Lazar Hayward who sat courtside near the Marquette bench cheering on his alma mater. Marquette was 12-17 (70.6%) from three-point range and had four players score in double-digits. Dwight Buycks finished with 21 points and was 5-5 from beyond the arc. Jae Crowder was 4-6 from downtown and had 18 points to go with a team-high 7 rebounds. Jimmy Butler had 15 points and got to the free-throw line 7 times on the evening. Lastly, Darius Johnson-Odom scored 13 points and was 2-2 from three-point range. Marquette led since the opening tip-off with Johnson-Odom knocking down a 3-pointer and later adding a slam dunk following a 3-pointer from Dwight Buycks near the Al McGuire Center court logo to give Marquette a 64-43 lead with 7:39 left to play. Marquette never lost momentum throughout the entire game and now improves to 10-1 at home inside The Bradley Center.

Marquette (12-5, 3-1 Big East) will travel to Louisville (13-2, 2-0 Big East) on Saturday before welcoming Marquette students back to campus for the beginning of second semester on Tuesday, January 18th versus DePaul (6-9, 0-3 Big East).

Saturday, January 15, 2011 @ Louisville Cardinals - 10:00 a.m.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Packers-Eagles Recap & Packers-Falcons Preview

Ryan Ellerbusch

Dom Capers and the Packers defense made a statement Sunday against the Eagles and showed the rest of their potential NFC competitors that they are not to be wreakened with as I believe they are legit Super Bowl contenders behind such a well-coached and aggressive defense.

However, I would like to see Dom Capers be more aggressive on 3rd down situations in particular, and bring more pressure. The Packers ability on defense to hold late game leads and force turnovers in the clutch has solidified wins in the past two weeks against the Bears and Eagles. The Packers will look to get out to an early lead against the Atlanta Falcons next week and rely on their defense to shut the door in order to keep the 2011 playoff winning streak alive.

Aaron Rodgers played an excellent game but only had 18 passing completions, due in the large part to the breakout playoff performance of rookie James Starks, who carried the ball 23 times for 123 yards. I’m finally glad to see Aaron Rodgers earn himself a playoff win as he continues to establish his legacy in addition to impressing his doubters of his ability to come through in the clutch and win playoff games.

Dropped passes have been a common occurrence in recent games as Greg Jennings and James Jones let balls today slip through their fingers in the cold conditions at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Thankfully for the Packers receiving core, next Saturday’s game against the Falcons will be played indoors, where the Packers lost earlier this season in week 12 by a score of 20-17 in Atlanta.

The key to the NFC Divisional playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday January 15th at 7:00 p.m. will be to stop their running game led by Michael Turner who rushed for 110 yards in the two team’s previous meeting. Keeping the duo of quarterback Matt Ryan and wide-receiver Roddy White in check will be another factor of the game that the Packers will need to prevent on defense. If the Packers can keep up their stellar play on defense and establish the running game like they did on Sunday against Philadelphia, then there should be no reason why the Packers shouldn’t win and move onto the NFC Championship game against either the rival Chicago Bears or the Cinderella storied team in the Seattle Seahawks.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Recap: Pittsburgh 89 - Marquette 81

Ryan Ellerbusch

Marquette got its first taste of true competition in the Big East Conference, falling to the 5th ranked Pittsburgh Panthers 89-81 on Saturday afternoon. This game was the first of seven of the team’s next eight conference matchups pitting Marquette against programs currently ranked in at least one of the national polls.

Pittsburgh got off to a great start early by catching on fire from behind the three-point arc, going 8-12 shooting in the first half behind their experienced and physically gifted team. Pittsburgh had outstanding team chemistry on the court, returning four starters from a season ago, as eight Panthers contributed five points or more to lead the balanced scoring attack.

For Marquette, they attempted to establish their fast tempo style of play and succeeded thanks to the toughness of Darius Johnson-Odom who poured in a game-high 20 points and was also the go-to-guy for the Golden Eagles the majority of the game.

However, the remainder of Marquette’s roster was not as consistent as Johnson-Odom was on Saturday afternoon. It was a tale of two halves for key players such as Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler. In the first half, Crowder scored eight quick points in eleven minutes, but was sidelined after getting into some foul trouble. Returning in the second half, Crowder was not his usual self and was a measly 1-7 from the field with a pair of turnovers too. Much like Crowder, his counterpart Jimmy Butler was 1-7 shooting from the field in the first-half, but turned it on by game’s end and finished with an impressive 17 points and 7 rebounds.

Approaching halftime, Pittsburgh seemed to be putting this game out of reach for Marquette by taking control of a game tied at 24 with 7:54 left in the first half and creating a 48-32 lead with 1:07 left in the first half capping a 24-8 run. Dwight Buycks regained the Golden Eagles’ team spirit and momentum though in the final minute with a long fadeaway three-pointer to end the half, which cut the halftime deficit to 11.

In the second half, Pittsburgh built their lead to as much as 16 points and continued their red hot shooting from all spots on the floor as Marquette struggled on their perimeter defense and surrendered 89 points. Marquette did have numerous opportunities to make a comeback with five consecutive Pittsburgh possessions ending in turnovers mid-way throughout the second half, which allowed Marquette to go on a brief 8-0 run. Nevertheless, the heavily favored Panthers with the home court advantage overpowered the Golden Eagles and we’re victorious in the end.

Monday, January 10, 2011 @ The Bradley Center - 6:00 p.m.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Recap: Marquette 72 – Rutgers 65

Ryan Ellerbusch

Wednesday night marked the beginning of a stretch of three games in six days for the Marquette Golden Eagles, and they were able to take care of business and earn their first Big East road victory over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 72-65.
Marquette (11-4, 2-0 Big East) relied on three big scoring performances from Darius Johnson-Odom (who tied a career-high with 29 points), Jimmy Butler, and Jae Crowder (who scored 16 and 15 points respectively). Marquette’s “Big Three” scored 60 of the team’s 73 points on the evening, despite averaging 81 points coming into the game. Rutgers stretched their defense and made it difficult for Marquette to work the ball around on offense, forcing 16 total turnovers in the contest. But, reminiscent of Marquette’s New Year’s Day win over West Virginia, the Golden Eagles got off to a hot start and held a nine point lead just four minutes into the game, thanks to two early 3-pointers from Jae Crowder, who also grabbed a game-high seven rebounds. Crowder, who was named to the Big East Conference Honor Roll for the second straight week, has impressively sunk a 3-pointer on his first attempt in 13 of 14 games played this season.

Marquette led 37-30 at halftime, courtesy of Darius Johnson-Odom’s hot shooting as of late and pair of 3-pointers with two minutes left to play. The Golden Eagles surprisingly shot better from 3-point range (7-11 for 63.6%) in the first half compared to the rest of the field (12-21 for 57.1%). Sophomore point guard Junior Cadougan was also given the chance to shine and played 29 minutes and tallied eight assists off the bench over regular starting point guard Dwight Buycks. Marquette also took advantage of Rutgers by getting to the free-throw line as they’ve been doing all season, although converting just 20 of 32 attempts (62.5%) at the charity stripe, which kept the Scarlet Knights playing the chase and foul game up until the final buzzer sounded, as Marquette went on to win 72-65.

Marquette will play one more road game Saturday afternoon against Pittsburgh, which is currently ranked 5th in the nation, before returning to the friendly confines of Milwaukee’s Bradley Center for ESPN’s “Big Monday” rivalry matchup. The matchup will pit Marquette against the surprise of the Big East conference in Notre Dame. Marquette will need to rely on their depth at guard and have excellent games from their post players if they expect to upset both Pittsburgh and Notre Dame.

Saturday January 8, 2011 @ Pittsburgh Panthers - 1:00 p.m.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Packers' season in review

Ryan Ellerbusch

Looking back at the regular season and considering all of the injuries that have dampened the Packers’ roster, you have to give credit where credit is due. Tramon Williams, BJ Raji, and AJ Hawk have all turned in solid defensive performances throughout the season and have earned Pro Bowl alternate recognition as a result. Even Matt Flynn’s effort in a close loss to the Patriots (in which they were extremely competitive in), helped the Packers never lose hope as they kept the mindset that anything was possible and that controlling their own destiny could indeed be accomplished. Leadership by the Packers’ veterans also helped the success of the new faces on the team as they not only earned a roster spot, but eventually would play a key role in the latter part of the season.

Ted Thompson deserves to be acknowledged for building the roster and youth mid-season in the midst of numerous unfortunate injuries at what seemed like every position. The emergence of several young athletes, many of whom never were given the chance to play, let alone start, at the NFL level, kept the Packers in playoff contention. Linebacker Erik Walden was one of those players who started at right outside linebacker and recorded 8 tackles and 2 sacks on Sunday, holding the Chicago Bears offense to just 3 points.

As far as Sunday’s outcome is concerned, the Packers 10-3 win over the Chicago Bears will allow them to live to see another opponent next week in the Philadelphia Eagles as they will look to head coach Mike McCarthy for a superb game plan, even though the criticism regarding his play-calling and challenges continues despite a wildcard playoff berth.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My thoughts on Mike McCarthy

Roberto Ruiz-Maki

Every time I watch a Packers game, I hear the anger. There are always fans who sit there and shake their heads, thinking that they could do better. They grumble and get angry at a coach who has the fourth best winning percentage of any Packers coach, ever. Mike McCarthy has won 59.5% of the games that he has coached in. Only Curly Lambeau (66.8), Mike Holmgren (67.0), and Vince Lombardi (75.3) have better winning percentages as head coach for the Packers. Maybe it is time to give McCarthy a break.
I understand that when a fan base sees a team as underachieving, they blame it on the coach. Honestly though, is this Packers team underachieving? The Packers have no business being in the playoffs: they have lost key starters on both sides of the ball, and they have faced a difficult schedule. The Packers sit at 9-6 though, with the playoffs right in front of their noses. Of the 6 teams that are likely going to the playoffs in the NFC, all but the Packers have been healthy this season. How would Atlanta fare without Michael Turner and Roddy White? What about Philadelphia without LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson? I do not feel the need to even bring up the other key injuries that the Packers have fought through.
McCarthy has been everything you could want from a coach. He does not embarrass the organization in the press, he does not scream and berate players on the sideline, nor does he make stupid decisions during the game. That might have struck a nerve, because most people feel as though he does make questionable decisions. People may disagree with his play calling, but they would be wrong. It is that simple. McCarthy gets paid to win football games (which he has done), and he spends each and every week poring over the opponent's game tape, just to see where the opponent is vulnerable. After dissecting the opponent, he creates a game plan with the help of several assistant coaches who also just finished watching film. He knows infinitely more about every opponent than any Packers fanatic, and he wants to win the game more than any other fan.
Look at the other coaches that have been hired in the past few years: Josh McDaniels, Mike Singletary, Rex Ryan, Pete Carroll, and Raheem Morris. I would take McCarthy over all of those coaches. They all have either embarrassed their franchises or have suffered from several disappointing seasons.
McCarthy is a good coach, and I am glad that the Packers hired him over the other options. He has shown that he makes mistakes, like every other coach, but he can overcome those mistakes and help his teams overachieve.
Packers fans were just named the smartest fans in the NFL, so perhaps we should start acting like it.

Recap: Marquette 79 - West Virginia 74

Ryan Ellerbusch

In Saturday’s New Year’s Day tip-off, which marks Marquette’s sixth year in the Big East Conference, the Golden Eagles defeated West Virginia by a score of 79-74 in front of 15,575 energetic fans at The Bradley Center.

The Golden Eagles had no trouble adjusting to the unusual ten a.m. start time and jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead and didn’t allow the West Virginia Mountaineers to get their first basket until nearly four minutes into the game. During that early stretch, Marquette had a 10-0 fast break advantage thanks to four steals. The Golden Eagles ended the game with eight steals as both teams played very physical and had to earn every basket on each possession.

West Virginia’s physicality and their ability to alter shots on defense kept them in the game and frustrated Marquette as the Golden Eagles were having trouble finishing the ball in the paint which prevented them from extending their lead early. West Virginia also switched to a 2-3 zone midway through the first half and at various other times throughout the game, which helped the Mountaineers crawl their way back into the game. Marquette has seen the 2-3 zone often this season and hopes to improve at breaking it by knocking down jump shots or with quick passing leading to easy baskets.

Leading 37-34 coming out of halftime, West Virginia tied the game at the 17-minute mark and later took a brief four point lead with 11 minutes remaining. It was an afternoon of career highs offensively for both Marquette and West Virginia. Junior guard Darryl Bryant had a career high 25 points, however was uplifted by the performance of last year’s junior college player of the year, Jae Crowder. Crowder continued his scoring rampage as of late and recorded 29 points on Saturday in the winning effort. Crowder nearly did everything for Marquette down the stretch, but Darius Johnson-Odom broke out of his shooting slump and tallied 21 points including a momentum boost that propelled the Golden Eagles to the finish line. Center Chris Otule got his first and only two points in the game via a put-back slam dunk with 1:14 remaining followed by Jae Crowder jumping an arrant pass as well as knocking down free throws in the closing seconds to seal the 79-74 win for Marquette.

January 5, 2011 @ Rutgers Scarlet Knights - 6:30 p.m.