Tag Archive | "Scott Morganroth"

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FAU’s Best NFL player

Posted on 10 January 2013 by LeslieM

By Scott Morganroth

Former FAU QB Rusty Smith was the first Owls player ever selected in the NFL Draft being chosen in the sixth round, 176 overall, by the Tennessee Titans in 2010, but he hasn’t played the best.

In the 2011 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals selected tight-end Rob Housler in the third round, 69th overall, and he was the team’s fourth leading receiver with 45 catches for 417 yards this season.

The best player ever drafted from FAU was running back Alfred Morris. There have only been three Owls picked in the NFL Draft. But Morris, who turned 24 on Dec. 12, had a monster rookie season playing in the same backfield as Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. He rushed for 1,613 yards, with a 4.8 average and 13 touchdowns. He was second in the league in rushing. Morris broke the Redskins single season rushing record previously held by former Miami Hurricane Clinton Portis, who had 1,516 yards. He broke Charley Taylor’s rookie season touchdown total of 10.

In the Redskins final regular season game, a 28-13 win over the Dallas Cowboys that gave Washington its first NFC East title since 1999, all Morris did was amass 33 carries for 200 yards and three touchdowns. It was Washington’s first playoff appearance since 2007. Not bad for a guy who was a sixth round pick, 173 overall, who Washington selected in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings on July 27, 2011 for Donovan McNabb. Morris became the fourth player in NFL History to ever record over 1,600 yards rushing in his rookie year. It’s safe to say that Redskins Owner Dan Snyder got a bargain when he signed Morris to a four-year $2.22 million contract with a $154,000 signing bonus on May 6, 2012. Now, McNabb is out of football and is doing radio in Philadelphia. But leave little doubt that with Snyder’s deep pockets of signing veteran free agents which failed to produce, Morris will have a new contract soon enough.

What a difference a year makes. In 2011, Morris was the best player on a 1-11 FAU team. In 2012, he’s put FAU on the map, playing a key role in the Redskins 10-6 season and, as long as he stays healthy, the youngster out of Pensacola, Florida has a bright future ahead of him. The Redskins front office know they have found a hidden gem to build their offense around while FAU can use Morris as a recruiting tool to build its young program.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scott sports33.com.

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FAU Ends 2012 Season

Posted on 13 December 2012 by LeslieM

Dec. 1, 2012 wasn’t a good day for the Pelini brothers. First, FAU Coach Carl Pelini saw his team commit key turnovers as his Owls lost their finale 35-21 to the Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns. FAU’s home loss saw the Owls drop to 3-9, 2-6 in the Sun Belt Conference. Louisiana improved to 8-4 and 6-2.

Hours later, Bo Pelini’s Nebraska Cornhuskers had a chance to win the Big Ten Conference.

But the Wisconsin Badgers (8-5) had other ideas … crushing the Cornhuskers 70-31 at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Wisconsin got the automatic bid to the BCS Championship Series and they’ll face Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Nebraska (10-3) will play Georgia (11-2) in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando.

During the Louisiana game, FAU trailed 21-14 at halftime and amassed 528 yards in total offense. At one point, FAU led 14-7.

The key turnovers halted scoring drives, as FAU had three turnovers with one fumble and two interceptions by senior QB Graham Wilbert, who played in his last game. Wilbert finished the 2012 season with 2,814 yards and only six interceptions.

He’ll spend the rest of the winter and beginning of the spring getting ready for FAU’s Pro Day.

Junior William Dukes had a career day against Louisiana catching nine passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns. He led FAU receivers with 979 yards.

Next on Pelini’s agenda is the recruiting trail as he prepares to improve on this season.

Now that football is over, the shift is to Men’s Basketball. On Sunday, FAU faced the Warner Royals, who were 6-4. The Warner Royals public relations staff never brought any game notes for the media, nor did they bring their “A” game, as FAU cruised to an 83-50 win at “The Burrow” in a contest that started at 3 p.m.

Before the game, I wondered how many people would show up since there was a full slate of NFL games. Believe it or not, there were plenty of fans and it was a half way decent atmosphere. FAU improved to 5-4.

Greg Gantt led FAU with 19 points and Stefan Moody had 18. One notable newcomer to the FAU roster is 7 ft. center Dragen Sekelja, from Zagreb, Croatia, who transferred from Baylor. His presence was felt as he grabbed 11 rebounds against Warner.

OWLS NOTES: Former FAU Athletic Director Craig Angelos is the new Associate Director of Athletics/Compliance Services for my alma-mater, the University of South Florida Bulls in Tampa.

Finally, the 2013 season will be the last in the Sun Belt Conference for FAU and Middle Tennessee, as both are headed to Conference USA in 2014. They’ll join FIU and North Texas, who are expected to be members of Conference USA in 2013.

The FAU/FIU rivalry will resume in 2014, after taking a oneyear hiatus in 2013.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

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Posted on 08 November 2012 by LeslieM

By Scott Morganroth

FAU’s 24-17 loss to Navy on the road Saturday, Nov. 3, guaranteed them one thing.

There will no post-season for the Owls and new head coach Carl Pelini.

The Owls are 2-7 and 1-4 in the Sun Belt Conference. The only team behind them is Conference USA bound Florida International University (FIU), which is 2-8 and 1-5. These squads face each other on Friday, Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. at FAU Stadium in the Shula Bowl.

Why the Owls are in the position they’re in is defined by the numbers based on the 2012 Overall FBS Rankings.

• FAU is 91st overall in passing yards-per-game with 201.3.

• The Owls are ranked 102nd in the nation with 123.6 rushing yards-per-game.

• The team is 118th in scoring with 18.2 points-per-game.

• FAU is 86th allowing 30.3 points-per-game.

When you’re at the bottom echelon in the nation of all these major statistical categories, it’s a recipe for disaster. After nine games, it’s safe to say that Pelini has seen plenty of game film and knows where the weaknesses are with this program when he goes back on the recruiting trail.

The team leaders are QB Graham Wilbert, who is 185-280, 1775 yards, 12 touchdown passes and only three interceptions for a 131.3 rating.

Jonathan Wallace is the Owls’ top running back with 124 carries, 493 yards and four touchdowns.

The main targets include wide receivers Byron Hankerson and William Dukes. Hankerson has 23 receptions for 308 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Dukes is the team leader with 39 catches, 555 yards and a pair of touchdowns. FAU’s 34-27 victory over Troy on Oct. 27 was the first time that they defeated the Trojans at home in the season series between these two schools. The last time that FAU defeated Troy was on Dec. 1, 2007, 38-32, and this earned the Owls a Sun Belt Conference Championship, which led to a New Orleans Bowl win over Memphis, 44-27, on Dec. 21, 2007.

Troy’s Will Scott did set a school record with a 52-yard field goal on Oct. 27.

The last time FAU defeated a Sun Belt Conference opponent at home was when the Owls defeated the University of Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 13, 2010 at Lockhart Stadium, 24-23.

This same season, Troy whipped FAU, 44-7, on Dec. 4. FAU travels to Western Kentucky Saturday for a 1 p.m. kickoff, followed by the FIU contest. The Owls conclude their regular season at home on Dec. 1 as they face Louisiana-Lafayette at 3 p.m.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com

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FAU’s struggles continue

Posted on 10 October 2012 by LeslieM

By Scott Morganroth

The FAU Owls may have a new coach, but, through five games into the 2012 regular season, the results still haven’t changed.

FAU is 1-4 and 0-2 in the Sun Belt Conference. This weekend, the good news is FAU didn’t lose. The bad news is they didn’t win. In other words, they were off and have had time to practice and regroup as they approach the final seven games, realizing that the Owls lone win was against an FCS school in Wagner College on August 31.

The Owls most recent defeat occurred on Sept. 28 against North Texas, dropping a 20-14 decision at FAU Stadium. FAU led in a category that you don’t want to lead in as the Owls had a 3-1 edge in turnovers.

FAU QB Graham Wilbert had two interceptions and the Owls lost a fumble. FAU trailed North Texas 10-0 at halftime. Wilbert was 21-34-142 yards and also had eight carries and scored a rushing touchdown. Running back Damian Fortner had 17 carries for 63 yards and one touchdown.

North Texas gained 307 yards in total offense in 60 plays while FAU utilized 71 plays for 301 yards.

When the game was over, Coach Carl Pelini said he planned to review the film and find out what went wrong and what it will take to fix the Owls’ problems.

“It’s the same thing, we just don’t know how to win,” Pelini said. “We don’t know how to win as a football team or as a football program. When the game is on the line, we couldn’t get over the hump. When the score is 0-0, we make mistakes over and over again. We didn’t convert in the red zone, made mistakes defensively, gave up the wrong big play. When we’re down 17-0, we start to play until it gets close again, then the pressure is on us again and we don’t perform. That’s what we have to learn as a football program and that’s to perform when the pressure is on.”

Next up for FAU is a pair of Sun Belt Conference road games. On Saturday, the Owls face the University of Louisiana Monroe on Oct. 13 followed by an Oct. 20 contest against the University of South Alabama.

FAU returns home to face Troy University on Oct. 27 at 5 p.m. Three important games will dictate where this program goes and the direction of its first year head coach.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

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Owls win ugly Opener, 7-3

Posted on 06 September 2012 by LeslieM

If there were ever a time to be late for a football game (due to a prior commitment), then FAU’s home Opener Friday night against Wagner College was it.

I arrived at 9:10 p.m. with five minutes left in the second quarter and FAU trailing the Seahawks, 3-0. The first person I saw was Assistant Athletic Director and Media Relations Director Katrina McCormack. She smiled and said, “things worked out for you.” This meant that I didn’t miss much.

By halftime, FAU had amassed a mere 79 yards in total offense.

The Owls woke up during the fourth quarter as QB Graham Wilbert connected with wide receiver Byron Hankerson for a 39-yard touchdown pass with 11:36 left in the game. The drive was one play for 39 yards and the time of possession was seven seconds.

The 14,510 fans had their first win of the season before Labor Day. (Last season, it was after Thanksgiving before FAU won their first game. The Owls defeated UAB 38-35 on Nov. 26, 2011 in a 1-11 season.)

Wilbert went 10-13, had no interceptions for 126 yards and one touchdown. Hankerson had five receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown. Running back Martese Jackson gained 99 yards on 21 carries as FAU finished the game with 327 total offensive yards.

They defeated Wagner, which is located in Staten Island, New York and has been playing football since 1927. Going into the FAU contest, Wagner had an alltime record of 379-324-19 for a .534 winning percentage. They currently play in the Football Championship Series (FCS), a level below FAU, which participates in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).

FAU has been playing football since 2001 and the Owls record is 58-74 for a .439 winning percentage. Despite being on different levels, the FCS schools compete well against the FBS squads.

(On Sept.1, 2007, Appalachian State put the FCS on the map, defeating the Michigan Wolverines, 34-32, in Ann Arbor, MI, in one of the biggest upsets in college football history.)

During week one of this season, FAU’s next opponent, Middle Tennessee State, lost 27-21 to McNeese State. Another FCS upset occurred in Pittsburgh, as Youngstown State defeated the Panthers, 31-17, of the Big East at Heinz Field.

These FCS schools are good and they produce quality NFL players. Former Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton and San Francisco ‘49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice began their Hall of Fame careers at FCS institutions.

When the game was over, FAU Coach Carl Pelini admitted he had butterflies during his head coaching debut.

“This was just another football game, but we prepared as best as we could,” Pelini said. “Nothing that happened out there shocked me. Graham did it for us. We made mistakes, no panic, and I will not apologize for a win.

“Our greatest leap should be between weeks one and two.”

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OWL CORNER: Storey called up by Houston Astros

Posted on 08 August 2012 by LeslieM

As football training camp opens this week in preparation for the season opener on August 31 against Wagner College, there is one unexpected, but positive story line that occurred on Friday, August 3.

Former FAU Pitcher Mickey Storey was called up by the Houston Astros and arrived in Atlanta at 6:30 a.m., taking an overnight trip from Portland, OR, where his AAA team was playing, according to MLB.com.

Hours later, the 2008 graduate was making his bigleague debut, retiring the only two batters he faced against the Braves in Atlanta.

The first hitter Storey faced was veteran Dan Uggla, who started at second base for the National League in the 2012 Major League, Baseball All-Star Game.

Through Sundays action, the Astros are 36-73 and 30.5 games back behind National League Central Division leader the Cincinnati Reds and are the worst team in baseball. The Astros are playing their final year in the Senior Circuit.

Houston will begin play in the American League West in 2013 and will need all the capable pitching it can get as the Astros face the designated hitter.

The right-handed Storey compiled a 7-4 record with a 3.05 ERA this summer for Oklahoma City. He struck out 72 batters in 65 innings and yielded only 14 walks.

At FAU, Storey ranked second all-time in Owls history with 292 strikeouts and is tied for second in wins with 23.

He threw the program’s last no-hitter in 2006 against Campbell University, after being named the 2005 National Freshman of the Year by Collegiate Baseball.

Storey is the seventh FAU baseball player to advance the major leagues. Jeff Beliveau is currently a relief pitcher for the Chicago Cubs (43-62) after being called up from the minor leagues in July.

There are now two players who got called up this summer by struggling teams.

For Storey and Beliveau, these promotions mean they have excellent opportunities.

With no disrespect to September, this is a month where the rosters are expanded to 40 players and it is considered “The Cup Of Coffee” to make an impression for Spring Training.

It will be interesting to monitor the careers of Storey and Beliveau in the coming years.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

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Owl corner: FAU athletic department changes

Posted on 12 July 2012 by LeslieM

There will be one face missing at the FAU Football Opener on August 31 – for the first time since 2003.

Craig Angelos won’t be in attendance when the Owls face Wagner College. He was fired as Athletic Director on March 21, 2012 from his position where he earned $192,000. The main reason he was let go was utilizing his fundraising. There was a lack of money.

Add that to the fact that FAU failed to sell out its Oct 15 opener at the new stadium, in addition to fewer than 4,000 showing up at the final football game of a 1-11 season, and it’s safe to say that Angelos will watch future Owls games on TV.

On July 2, the Owls decided to go to Big Ten Country to hire Angelos’ replacement. Now, the challenge of fundraising falls in the hands of 37-year old Patrick Chun. He has spent the past 15-years in numerous roles with the Ohio State Buckeyes.

He worked in endowment building, strategic planning, management and leadership.

Ohio State University (OSU) provides services for more than 1,000 student athletes, 36 intercollegiate athletic programs, 100 coaches and more than 330 full-time athletic department staff in 15 facilities.

The Ohio State athletics operating budget is in excess of $126 million.

Chun’s colleagues gave him strong endorsements.

Among those who voiced positive reviews: OSU Associate Vice President/ Athletic Director Gene Smith; Clark Kellogg, who is CBS Sports College Basketball lead analyst/ vice president of Indiana Pacers; football coach Urban Meyer; basketball coach Thad Matta; former football coach Jim Tressel, who is the current Vice President of Strategic Engagement at the University of Akron; Dutch Baughman, executive director of Division IA Athletic Directors Association and Joseph R Castiglione, vice president of Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Oklahoma.

During the past year, the FAU Athletic Program has experienced numerous changes. In May, Women’s Basketball hired Kellie Lewis- Jay, 36, who spent five years at the University of Nebraska, where she coordinated the Cornhuskers recruiting efforts. Lewis-Jay becomes the fourth head coach in FAU’s 28-year existence.

Current Football Coach Carl Pelini was an assistant coach for Nebraska last year, so the road from Lincoln to Boca Raton has filled two coaching vacancies, plus it could lead to games in the field with FAU facing Nebraska in women’s hoops along with football. FAU is scheduled to travel to Nebraska on August 30, 2014 to face the Cornhuskers.

Don’t be surprised to see FAU face the Ohio State Buckeyes in the future with the automatic connection between Chun and the Buckeyes.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

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Owl Corner: FAU’s renewed energy

Posted on 14 June 2012 by LeslieM

By Scott Morganroth

It’s hard to believe that FAU’s first football game is Aug. 31, 2012 against Wagner College.

This will be the first year that a new man is roaming the sidelines. Carl Pelini takes over for the father of the program, Howard Schnellenberger. When the Owls kicks off, Schnellenberger will probably be watching the game from a private suite at FAU Stadium.

Pelini is determined to erase the agony of a 1-11 season with a group of players who have a clean slate, but it won’t take long for that slate to become dirty. During FAU’s Spring Game in April, Pelini had a chance to see his team on the field for the first time. When the game was over, I asked him what he thought of his team’s energy and he made several things clear about what to expect in 2012.

“I’m energetic and I want to see more energy and enthusiasm on the field,” Pelini said. I want guys who love to play the game. Right now, it sometimes seems like guys are going through the motions. I’ve never seen as many guys as I saw laying on the ground between plays.

“Unless your leg is falling off, you better walk off the field. I don’t want to see the trainers out there unless you’re truly injured. Guys walking around between plays and slow getting into their stances is all stuff that I want to get cleaned up. You can talk about it and talk about it, but now it’s on tape. That’s something that we’re going to address with them right away.

“I want a different energy level. I want a guy who loves the game of football, is excited about it, plays passionately.”

Pelini has one other message that he wants to make sure all of his players understand.

“I always warn my players at every level I’ve been at that when that day comes and you walk off the field for the last time, you’re going to miss it. Pelini added.” Don’t waste the time you have. Have fun at the game. That’s important. Sometimes, I don’t know if we know how to do that.”

The players better comprehend these messages fast. Pelini is 46 years old and not only is he trying to make the most out of his first head coaching position, trying to turn a program around, but it’s no secret that what he accomplishes at FAU will determine where his head coaching career is headed in the future.

These players better be prepared for training camp after last year’s poor season.

I have a feeling the 2012 FAU Owls know that there is a new sheriff in town. This guy will get every ounce of energy out of them, otherwise, they’ll be on the bench or off the team.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

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OWL CORNER: FAU 2012 NFL Players

Posted on 09 May 2012 by LeslieM

Despite a 1-11 season, there are two FAU Football players that have a chance to continue their football careers.
Former FAU running back Alfred Morris was selected by the Washington Redskins on the final day of the NFL Draft, April 28, in the sixth round, as the 173rd overall pick.
Morris is FAU’s all-time leading rusher with 3,529 yards. The Pensacola native also holds FAU career records for total touchdowns with 31, rushing touchdowns (27) and all-purpose yards (3,843). He now has a chance to join Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III in the Washington backfield.
Morris was named offensive MVP of the football team and FAU’s Male Student-Athlete of the Year.
FAU has now had a player drafted in the last three NFL Drafts. Morris joins Rusty Smith in 2010 (Tennessee Titans) and Rob Housler in 2011 taken by the Arizona Cardinals.
Former FAU defensive end Kevin Cyrille has signed a rookie free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings, following the completion of the NFL Draft.
The 6’-4”, 275 lb. Cyrille finished his FAU career as the school’s all-time leader in quarterback hurries with 14. He also ranks among the Top 10 in five defensive categories despite only playing three years after transferring from Western Michigan University.
Last season, Cyrille started 11 of FAU’s 12 games and has 36 total tackles. He was second on the team in both tackles for loss (8.5) and sacks (4.5), while leading the team in quarterback hurries with nine.
The Miami native is among 15 Vikings’ rookie free agents that will travel to Winter Park, Minnesota for the team’s rookie mini-camp which began, Friday, May 4.
A year ago, former FAU wide receiver Lester Jean made the Houston Texans roster but spent the season on injured reserve. He is expected to compete for a starting spot in 2012.
In other football news, FAU and the University of Miami Hurricanes have agreed to play a three game series. It will begin with FAU traveling to Miami on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. FAU will play host to the Hurricanes in 2015 then return to Miami in 2016.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

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Owl Corner: Public relations debacles

Posted on 11 April 2012 by LeslieM

FAU Owls and FIU Golden Panthers have more things in common besides being rivals in the Sun Belt Conference and being small mid-major schools in South Florida. Over the past few months, both schools have made changes with their revenue producing sports where each have taken a hit in the Public Relations Department.

On Dec. 1, 2011, Carl Pelini became the successor to Howard Schnellenberger as he hopes to revive a 1-11 program. This is Pelini’s first head coaching job and FAU is paying him $375,000 to rebuild the program. When Pelini was hired, his introductory press conference was handled poorly. He told the university’s Sports Information Department to hold an impromptu press conference and gather as many media as possible, regardless of how many didn’t make it, without knowledge. I was told later by the FAU Sports Information Department that Pelini’s accessibility would be far less then Schnellenberger, who would be extremely accommodating, realizing how necessary it was to gain the free publicity to promote his program. Schnellenberger is an icon and built the program from scratch while Pelini has more recruiting tools to work with, in addition to the new stadium. It’s his job to win and put rear-ends in the seats to pay for his salary.

Speaking of putting rear-ends in the seats, down in Miami, Hall of Famer Isaiah Thomas averaged 1,071 for the Golden Panthers in three seasons, while attendance was four times that amount on the road. However, Thomas, who was hired in 2009 via a fiveyear contract, never had a chance to see his rebuilding project through. He was fired after three seasons, posting a 26-65 record.

Prior to Thomas’ arrival, FIU’s last winning season was in 1999-2000 and its winning percentage of .315 since, according to STATS LLC, is 329th out of 344 Division I Men’s programs that competed over the last 12 years.

I’ve known Thomas since the late 1980s and I know that he wouldn’t have taken this job if he didn’t have a chance to see it through. He loves basketball and didn’t take a base salary his first year, agreeing to a deal where he would receive nearly half of any gross revenues from ticket sales, commissions collected on food and beverage concessions and sponsorships.

Thomas put FIU on the map and the average college coach usually gets five years to recruit his players and institute his philosophy.

Timing couldn’t have been worse for FIU to make this change, and I do believe it will backfire. It’s not like the university is a cash cow, since its football stadium holds 20,000. There will be a small budget and Thomas’ controversial firing only puts a stain on the program. What reputable coach would come to FIU with a sub-par basketball stadium?

Thomas will likely land back in the NBA while FIU will go back to being an unknown commodity that is the Miami Hurricane’s infant brother.

FIU’s Football Program is best known for a controversial brawl it had with the Hurricanes at the Orange Bowl on Oct. 14, 2006.

As for Pelini, I hope his second impression is better than his first. There is no doubt that both situations are under a major public relations microscope and we’ll see how they both play out.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

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