Sports Today: Bengals give up the ghost

Published: Monday, December 11, 2017 @ 9:59 AM

Marvin at a loss for words

Today the sports world still turns in Southwest Ohio whether we want it to or not. 

As far as weekends go, this one could have gone better. 

I predicted the Bengals would lose to the Bears, though I did not think Cincinnati would look quite that bad

RELATED: 5 things to know from Chicago’s 33-7 win in Cincinnati

Marvin Lewis’ team obviously faced an uphill climb with so many defensive starters hurt, especially since this is a team with no leadership on offense. 

For not the first time this season, A.J. Green had to spend part of his Sunday afternoon explaining to reporters why he let the team down

That’s always problematic from your best player, but it’s worse with this team since the coach and the quarterback don’t provide the type of leadership typically expected from men who have been doing this as long as Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton. 

Lewis opened his postgame press conference by saying he didn’t know what happened. That was obvious. 

Andy Dalton said… who cares? He never says anything of substance before or after games, and he rarely if ever does anything during games to make his team better. 

Those two things may not be connected, but it’s his choice not to say anything or show any personality in interviews so I’m free to hold it against him when his team fails. 

Andy on A.J. struugles: It happens to everybody

We long ago reached the point where people decided just to take whatever they want from every Dalton performance — talk about his lack of support if you like him, nitpick his mistakes if you don’t, it’s all the same — but the conclusion I have reached with him is that at the end of the day, he has proven he can’t carry a team. 

As mentioned, the defense was behind the eight ball because of personnel. As such, that unit was gutted by a bad offense. 

If you get outscored in that situation, OK, stuff like that happens in the NFL. 

Seven points against a so-so defense with a veteran quarterback and a still-pretty-good cast of skill players (even without Joe Mixon) is not acceptable. 

And maybe Green wouldn’t have so much focus on him if he had a quarterback who held him accountable for his mistakes. 

And then maybe Green wouldn’t be so prone to clunkers, either. 

I said before this is not a lost season for the Bengals, and I still feel that way. 

We knew the offensive line would be bad. 

The defense, when healthy, has been better, and youngsters have a lot to do with that. 

Even without Tyler Eifert, the offense has proven to have lots of weapons, some of them young. 

The cupboard is far from bare. 

If they could block anyone, there’s more than enough skill talent around Dalton to get back to the playoffs and lose. 

This is now guaranteed to be a disappointing season. 

There’s definitely enough skill on this Bengals roster to win nine games. Instead, it looks like they’ll lose at least that many. 

I am not one who roots for tanking or against a team to get a coach fired, but that is where this is all headed anyway. 

At least things will get interesting once that change happens… 

Meanwhile, the Ravens and Steelers played a classic on Sunday night. 

That inevitably left me wondering what it must be like to follow a team that has enough respect to overcome adversity on a regular basis and not be hit with an overriding feeling of dread whenever anything bad happens. 

Lewis has moved the Bengals beyond any reason for concern the horrors of the 1990s will return, but under him the franchise is now squarely in a situation in which every setback is viewed as another reason to doubt they will ever deserve to be talked about with the great teams in the league. 

That’s not as bad as how he found it, but after this many years, it ain’t good… 

The Browns lost, too, and it was quite a work of art. 

They had the Packers on the ropes before a special teams gaffe opened the door to the game-tying touchdown. 

Cleveland got the ball to start overtime only to have DeShone Kizer throw an utterly baffling interception to set up Green Bay’s winning touchdown. 

I’m still bullish on Kizer’s potential, but calling that a rookie mistake seems too kind. 

I would think an 11-year-old would know not to simply throw the ball up for grabs in that situation… 

Also this weekend the Dayton Flyers absorbed a pretty bad loss to Penn. 

That is not a shot at the Quakers. 

They’re 8-4 with a KenPom rating just eight spots behind Dayton’s, but this is a game Anthony Grant’s team should win nine times out of 10. 

Playing at home, the Flyers should have had some sense of urgency given the troubles they’ve already faced, but the coach indicated that was not the case

What happened Saturday isn’t going to ruin the program or anything, but it’s a big setback if they want to have a solid year. I’m going to call 20 wins and a finish in the top half of the Atlantic 10 a solid year. Maybe that would be a good year given all the graduation losses, but we can argue about that later. 

Given this team’s athleticism, defense has bene a surprising problem for the Flyers so far. 

Penn, like Auburn, lit them up from the perimeter, thwarting comeback attempts. 

Less surprising was Grant’s statement that the offense struggled because of a lack of transition opportunities. That much could have been expected before the season started (that they would be better scoring in the open floor than the half-court). 

On the bright side, there is a lot of potential here. There are a lot of different parts for Grant to try to put together, and he’s probably not going to get the same performance out of some of those guys every night because so many of them are inexperienced. 

This one stings, but it’s also believable it will help them be better in the long run — whenever that happens to be… 

On the bright side, Wright State beat Kent State on Saturday at the Nutter Center

The Raiders haven’t exactly played a murderer’s row of college basketball teams, but they are two games over .500 at this point despite opening the season with some personnel problems. 

Second-year WSU coach Scott Nagy said he saw his team do all the things it has to in order to be successful this season. 

“Obviously, we’d like to be better on offense, and we’ll get there. I’m less concerned about that and more concerned about staying at this level that we were defensively — and the hustle plays. We saw kids on the floor making plays. I’m really pleased with the guys.” 

The Raiders play at Toledo on Saturday… 

Ohio State football hit the practice field again Friday to begin preparing for USC. 

If the Buckeyes who met with the media were still torn up about Alabama’s being picked over them for the playoff, they did a good job of hiding it

Everyone I heard asked about the lower back/spinal cord injury former Buckeye/current Steeler Ryan Shazier suffered last Monday night also had pretty much the same answer: They felt bad, but it doesn’t really affect them because they understand the risks of the game

It’s been interesting watching the disconnect between players and media on this… 

The Reds didn’t make any news over the weekend, but they were at least tangentially involved in its biggest story in baseball: The Yankees won the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes. 

That’s bad news if you’re a Small Market Defeatist who believes the decks are stacked against teams like the Reds (to be clear, they are, but not to the point Cincinnati can’t regularly compete with smart management), but it’s better than the alternative. 

The reigning National League MVP could have ended up in St. Louis, but he vetoed a trade to the Cardinals. 

(I guess Alan Trammell and Jack Morris being picked for the Hall of Fame could qualify as a bigger story, but I don’t think so.) 

Clemson recruiting: Tigers offer two 2019 Georgia pass-catchers

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 2:18 PM

Clemson Tigers-Clemson football-Clemson recruiting-2019-pass catchers-offer

With the departures of Ray-Ray McCloud and Deion Cain, Clemson’s one weakness in the coming season appears to be depth among its receiving corps.

Saturday, the Tigers took a couple of steps to enlist more pass catchers for the future.

Clemson extended offers to two 2019 Georgia prospects, one of whom played in high school with incoming freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Jackson Lowe, a 4-star tight end, played with Lawrence at Cartersville High School. Jaelyn Lay, a huge, 6-foot-6 target who is viewed as both a potential wide receiver and tight end, also picked up an offer from the Tigers.

Both players described their offers as “dreams” on Twitter.

Lowe, a 6-foot-5 target, already has offers from 12 total schools, including Kentucky, North Carolina, Central Florida and Wake Forest. Lowe has already established himself as a red zone threat, having caught 16 passes for 340 yards and six touchdowns during the 2017 season.

Lay is not considered quite as polished a prospect but has already received offers from Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Cincinnati and Central Florida, among other schools. The Riverdale, Georgia native earned first-team all-region honors in Georgia’s Region 3-AAAAA for the 2017 season.

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Kansas State might wear unique lavender uniforms again this season

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 2:13 PM

According to Kellis Robinett of the Kansas City Star, we might get a chance to see Kansas State’s throwback lavender uniforms again in the 2017-2018 season.

Bruce Weber said that the uniforms “were big-time”, and that the Wildcats might wear them again.

The Wildcats wore lavender tops on the road starting in the 1970s, and discontinued their permanent use in 1982. Since then, Kansas State has brought them back in special occasions.

Kansas State is a surging basketball team, to say the least. On Tuesday, they upset no.4 Oklahoma on their home court, then beat no.24 TCU on Saturday.

The victory moves Kansas State to 4-3 in conference play, and puts them in a tie for third place with Texas Tech and Oklahoma.

It won’t get easier from here for the Wildcats. Their next conference opponent is Baylor on next Monday, and Kansas State will have to travel to Waco to take on the Bears.

The post Kansas State might wear unique lavender uniforms again this season appeared first on Diehards.

Arizona outlasts Stanford 73-71 in first-place Pac-12 battle: What we learned

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 2:01 PM

Arizona was the overwhelming favorite during the preseason to win the Pac-12 title, but it wasn’t until Saturday that the Wildcats found themselves alone in first place. That came by virtue of a hard-fought 73-71 win at Stanford that saw them rally from down 11 points with less than 10 minutes left (after leading by 12 in the first half).

The Wildcats (16-4, 6-1) now hold a one-game lead over Stanford (11-9, 5-2) and USC (14-6, 5-2) with three of their wins coming on the road.

Here’s what we learned about No. 16 Arizona in its victory:

Rawle Alkins’ defense made a huge difference

Arizona coach Sean Miller has been openly critical of his team’s play on the defensive end all season and he couldn’t have been happy with how easily Stanford senior forward Reid Travis was getting to the rim and scoring while also getting freshman center DeAndre Ayton into foul trouble.

But once Miller put Rawle Alkins on the job in the second half, going with a 6-foot-5 guard to defend the 6-foot-8 Travis, the Cardinal’s leading scorer became a complete non-factor. He finished with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting but 14 of those points came before halftime and Travis didn’t score in the final 14:26 of the game.

Alkins, who missed Wednesday’s win at California with a sore foot, was also the one defending Stanford’s final shot, an off-balance 3-point attempt by Dorian Pickens at the buzzer. And to boot he added 13 points, including what proved to be the game-winning basket on a layup with 37.9 seconds left.

Allonzo Trier continues to be a closer

With DeAndre Ayton unable to get going, finishing with 9 points and 8 rebounds before fouling out in the final minute, that left Arizona with only half of its potent scoring duo.

Good thing junior guard Allonzo Trier was able to carry the load, particularly down the stretch. He had 13 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, going 5-of-6 from the line in the final 3:29. His aggressiveness toward the basket helped turn the tide late, as Arizona went to the free throw line 12 times after halftime after getting just 1 foul shot in the first half.

Trier was 5-of-10 from the field and 4-of-9 from 3-point range as Arizona went 8-of-27 from outside, its most perimeter shots in a game this season.

Arizona’s bench remains a mostly non-factor

The Wildcats can put their starting five up against any team in the country and be competitive. It’s when having to go beyond that quintet that things get dicey.

Sophomore guard Dylan Smith had 5 points in 16 minutes off the bench against Stanford, after scoring 14 in place of Rawle Alkins against California the previous game. The rest of Arizona’s reserves who played Saturday: zero points on 0-for-2 shooting in 19 minutes.

Arizona’s bench had 6 points in 54 total minutes at Cal, managed 8 points against Oregon in 38 minutes and scored only 5 points in 39 minutes against Oregon State. The last time a non-starter had more than 6 points was Dec. 30 when Smith had 9 in the Pac-12 opener against Arizona State.

Tennessee Titans hire former Buckeye Mike Vrabel as coach

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 6:37 PM

Mike Vrabel, a former standout offensive lineman with the Ohio State Buckeyes and former Buckeyes assistant coach, was hired Saturday as head coach of the Tennessee Titans.

Vrabel, who made the Ohio State All-Century team in 2000, and won three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, retired from football and became a defensive assistant for Ohio State in 2011. He was the Houston Texans defensive coordinator last season.

Ohio State celebrates Cotton Bowl victory(David Jablonski - Staff Writer)

“This is an incredible opportunity and one I have been preparing for my entire football life,” Vrabel said. “I am excited to get to work and that work starts now.”

Tennesse was 9-7 in 2017, beating Kansas City in the AFC Wild Card game and losing the Divisional game to New England. 

The Titans and former coach Mike Mularkey couldn’t agree on a contract extension after the season.