Bob Sparks - 7/57 - SaintPetersBlog

Bob Sparks

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

Serge Ibaka makes buzzer-beater to knock of Thunder

Magic fans have been hoping Serge Ibaka would start to play like he was in Oklahoma City. On Sunday night, he did.

In his first game back in the arena where he starred for the Thunder, Ibaka had his best game in a Magic uniform by far, scoring 31 points, hauling down eight rebounds and blocking four shots. His final two points came on a nine-footer with 0.4 seconds left to give the Magic a 119-117 win over the Thunder.

It was a storybook ending for Ibaka, who was part of the trade to the Magic over the summer in exchange for Victor Oladipo. Ibaka scored only two points in the fourth quarter, but they came at the right time.

The Magic have often gotten off to slow starts this season, but Sunday was not one of them. They jumped out to a 27-13 after the first period and led 57-47 at halftime.

After the Thunder rallied and took an 84-82 lead into the fourth quarter, the fireworks really began. Each team punched and counter-punched with neither team leading by more than six points.

It came down to the final possession as the Magic inbounded the ball with 11 seconds remaining. Ibaka had the ball last and made it count.

“We did that play before in the preseason and it worked for us, so (Coach Frank Vogel) asked me to do the same play, to just go and make the play,” said Ibaka. “I was ready.”

The Magic needed everything they got from Ibaka. His former teammate, Russell Westbrook, had a monster game.

He put up his third triple-double of the season, scoring 41 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing out 16 assists. Oladipo had 12 against his former teammates.

While the struggles of Nikola Vucevic continued with a meager four-point effort, Elfrid Payton and Evan Fournier again provided sound efforts at the guard position. Payton had 23 points, seven rebounds and nine assists without a turnover. Fournier had 21.

The victory broke the Magic’s three-game losing streak and improved their record to 4-6. It was their second road win in five games.

Following the game, the Magic boarded a plane for Indianapolis where they will take on the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.

 

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Dolphins intercept four passes in final period to beat Chargers

A football game with many mistakes is not often entertaining or filled with drama, but that does not describe Sunday’s game between Miami and San Diego. In the end, San Diego made the last mistakes resulting in the Dolphins 31-24 win at Qualcomm Stadium.

Heading into the fourth quarter, Miami led 21-17. Throughout the period, the Dolphins took numerous penalties on both sides of the ball. They racked up 81 yards in penalties on the day.

In the end, those mistakes paled in comparison to the four interceptions thrown by Chargers’ Quarterback Phillip Rivers. All four interceptions came in the fourth quarter.

The Dolphins went three-and-out following the first two, Rivers then found Tyrell Williams for a 51-yard score to put the Chargers ahead 24-21 with only 4:04 remaining.

After Andrew Franks’ field goal tied the game for Miami, Rivers was leading his team down the field. With just under three minutes left, Kiko Alonso picked off Rivers and took it 60 yards for a touchdown to put Miami ahead 31-24.

“I mean, that’s my first touchdown on defense ever,” said Alonso. “I felt good.”

Tony Lippett intercepted Rivers with 1:01 remaining, his second of the day, to seal the game.

Ryan Tannehill threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns for the Dolphins. The Chargers did a good job on Jay Ajayi, holding him to 79 yards rushing.

At the same time, the Dolphin defense kept the Chargers’ Melvin Gordon under control. He could manage only 70 yards, San Diego’s entire rushing total, on 24 carries.

DeVante Parker had 103 yards receiving and Kenny Stills had 47 yards and a touchdown.

With the victory, Miami moves to 5-4 on the season. It was their fourth straight victory and their first on the road in four tries.

It has them squarely in the hunt for a spot in the playoffs. They will try to keep their streak going when they return to the west coast to take on the Los Angeles Rams.

 

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Texans earn first road victory by beating Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars won the statistical battle, but that was of little consolation on Sunday. The Houston Texans came away with a 24-21 victory over the Jaguars at EverBank Field.

Jacksonville’s defense held Texans’ Quarterback Brock Osweiler to only 99 yards passing. Unfortunately, two of his passes went for touchdowns.

Jaguars’ Quarterback Blake Bortles threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns. It was another throw that played a huge role in determining the outcome.

His fourth pass attempt of the game was picked off by Houston’s Kareem Jackson and returned 42 yards for the opening score of the game. The Jaguars managed to tie the game at 7-7, but Houston regained control and led 24-13 in the final minutes.

When Bortles hit Allen Robinson for a score, followed by a two-point conversion with just over two minutes remaining, the Jaguars trailed 24-21. With two timeouts and the two-minute warning, they had a chance.

When the Texans muffed the kickoff, they had to start from their own eight. If they could get one stop deep in Houston territory, Jacksonville had a chance.

They could not make the necessary play and the Texans were able to run out the clock.

Robinson had a good day receiving with 107 yards and a touchdown. The Jags again failed to gain 100 yards rushing with their total of 80. Four Houston runners piled up 181 rushing yards.

With the loss, Jacksonville falls to 2-7, including 1-4 at home. Houston improved to 6-3 and Sunday’s win was their first on the road in four tries.

Next week they travel to Detroit to take on the Lions.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Big shakeup at top of top 25; FSU is 17th; UF 21st

The Associated Press Top 25 poll does not look the same as it did one week ago. With three of the top four teams losing on Saturday, that should come as no surprise.

Following Michigan’s loss to Iowa, Alabama is now a unanimous choice for the top spot. The Wolverines fell to fourth.

Ohio State moved into Michigan’s former spot at No. 2 followed by Louisville, who replaced Clemson after the Tigers’ shocking loss to Pittsburgh.

Washington, the former No. 4, dropped to seventh after losing at home to Southern California. The Trojans vaulted from nowhere to No.15 in this week’s poll.

Florida State moved up three positions to No. 17 after their lopsided win over Boston College. The Florida Gators moved up one position to the 21st position after their home win against South Carolina.

The South Florida Bulls received some votes for honorable mention.

While Alabama is rightfully recognized as the consensus top team in the country, the Big 10 has placed four teams in the top 10. In addition to Michigan and Ohio State, they are joined by Wisconsin and Penn State, who are ranked No. 6 and No. 9, respectively.

The Big 10, Pac 12 and SEC have five teams ranked overall. The Big 12 has four and the ACC has three.

Three non-Power five conferences are represented. The Mountain West has two teams in the top 25 while the Troy Trojans, representing the Sun Belt Conference, crash the party at No. 25.

The top 25 poll can be found here.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

FAU pulls out a dramatic victory over Texas-El Paso

All that stood between the Florida Atlantic Owls and their second straight victory on Saturday night was 96 yards and a clock that said only 2:46 remained in the game. No problem.

Quarterback Jason Driskel took his team down the field to come away with a thrilling 35-31 win over the Texas-El Paso Miners in Boca Raton. Driskel’s seven-yard toss to Nate Terry, who made a spectacular one-handed catch, gave FAU the go-ahead score with only 25 seconds left to play.

The Owls showed plenty of grit in this game, especially over the last half of the final period. When Miners’ Quarterback Ryan Metz hit Hayden Pinke for an 11-yard touchdown with 7:34 remaining, UTEP had a 31-20 lead.

Driskel led his team on a 75-yard scoring drive that cut the deficit to 31-28. The Owls’ defense then stepped up to force a punt.

FAU averted disaster when Henry Bussey III fielded the punt, fumbled, but recovered on the FAU four yard line. Driskel then led his team into the end zone in 10 plays.

Ocie Rose clinched the game with an interception at the UTEP 42.

Driskel finished with 233 yards passing with a touchdown and one interception while also rushing for 79 yards. Devin Singletary had a huge rushing game, gaining 145 yards and scoring two touchdowns. Kalib Woods had 104 receiving yards.

With the victory, Florida Atlantic improved to 3-7 and 2-4 in Conference USA. Next week they will play their final home game of the season. Old Dominion provides the opposition.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Hurricanes smack Cavaliers to become bowl eligible

Saturday’s game between Virginia and Miami did not finish like it started. The Hurricanes rocked the Cavaliers 34-14, but had to recover after the worst possible start.

On Miami’s first play from scrimmage, Quarterback Brad Kaaya was picked off by Micah Kiser at the Miami 18. Five plays later the Cavaliers were in the end zone and had a 7-0 lead.

Kaaya was able to shake it off and the Hurricanes led 17-14 at half time. The second half started much better for Miami.

They forced three Virginia turnovers and the Hurricanes took full advantage. After Kaaya hooked up with Ahmmon Richards for a 77-yard touchdown, Virginia turned the ball over three times, including a muffed snap by punter Justin Vogel.

Mark Walton effectively put the game out of reach with a 15-yard touchdown run with 11:17 remaining. Fittingly, the Cavaliers fumbled the ball away on their final possession with under two minutes remaining.

Kaaya wound up throwing for 229 yards and two touchdowns. Richards had 100 yards receiving while Walton ran for 111 yards and a touchdown. Miami had an outstanding effort on the ground, rushing for 222 yards on the day.

With the win, Miami improved to 6-4 and became bowl-eligible. It also kept a streak alive for first-year Coach Mark Richt. In 34 years of coaching, including his years as an assistant, Richt has never been with a team that failed to go to a bowl game.

“I’m really proud of the effort of our team,” said Richt. “We have not won here since 2008, so this was a big win for us.”

The Hurricanes are now 6-4 and 3-3 in the conference. Miami has now won their last two games after suffering through a four-game losing streak.

They head to North Carolina State next week before concluding the regular season in two weeks against Duke.

 

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Knights become bowl-eligible with big win over Bearcats

Bowl eligible and Central Florida. Not many thought those words would be used in the same sentence, but that accurately describes the situation with Knights football.

With their 24-3 win over Cincinnati on Saturday at Bright House Networks Field, UCF earned their sixth victory of the season, thereby assuring them an invite to a bowl game. Everyone should stop and remember this team was 0-12 just one year ago.

OH-AND-TWELVE!

First-year Coach Scott Frost clearly has something going in Orlando. Player buy-in to what he is preaching is obvious just from the results.

The Knights are showing different ways to win. On Saturday, Quarterback McKenzie Milton deployed a dink-and-dunk passing attack as he threw for only 150 yards and a touchdown.

The key was he threw no interceptions. UCF had no turnovers on the day, while they had a key interception and a fumble recovery.

Special teams also scored when Justin McDonald returned a blocked punt 23 yards for a touchdown. Jawon Hamilton’s 25-yard run early in the fourth quarter effectively put the game out of reach. Hamilton had 81 yards on the ground.

 The UCF turnaround is one of the best stories in all of college football. Such an improvement is certain to gain Frost some votes for national coach of the year.

Central Florida, now 6-4 on the season and 4-2 in the American Conference, has two games remaining. Next week they host Tulsa before concluding the regular season with a trip to Tampa to take on the South Florida Bulls.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Cold-shooting Magic crumble at the end; fall to Utah

Lately the Orlando Magic have suffered from poor starts in losing their last two games by big margins. On Friday night, it was the ending that did in the Magic as they fell to the Utah Jazz 87-74 at the Amway Center.

After two blowout losses, Magic Coach Frank Vogel tweaked the starting lineup to insert more defense and hopefully get off to a better start. Jeff Green started in place of Aaron Gordon and the Magic trailed only 42-38 at halftime.

A combination of good defense and some poor shooting kept the game close. Led by D.J. Augustin and Evan Fournier, the Magic took a 64-60 into the final period. Then, the proverbial roof feel in.

Utah completely shut down Orlando in the final period, outscoring Orlando 27-10 to get out of town with the victory. The Magic trailed only 75-72 with 5:20 remaining, but could make only one shot the rest of the way.

On the positive side, Augustin had his best game in a Magic uniform, scoring 19 points. Fournier was the only other Orlando player in double figures with 21. Outside of Fournier, the rest of the starters made only seven of 35 shots.

“We’ve got to continue to work on our offensive execution; continue to gel,” said Vogel. “I thought the effort was better. We just have to keep grinding.”

The defensive effort was there for the Magic as they held Utah to only 40 percent shooting. That should normally lead to a win, but Orlando could only shoot 33 percent themselves.

With the improved defensive showing, Vogel will likely stick with having Gordon come off the bench. It is hard to imagine Nikola Vucevic, Elfrid Payton, Serge Ibaka and Green will have a night like they had on Friday.

Now losers of three straight games, the Magic (3-6) have a tough task in front of them. They head to Oklahoma City on Sunday to face the Thunder.

Ibaka and Augustin will return to their former home for the first time, while the Magic players can say hello to former teammate Victor Oladipo.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Magic still feeling the reality of growing pains

It has been a week of ups and downs for the Orlando Magic. Following a three-game winnings streak that saw them even their record at 3-3, they have now lost their last two games by big margins, including Wednesday night’s 123-107 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

This begs the obvious question: can this team display sufficient mental toughness to match the obvious physical talents needed to be a playoff contender?

After their Monday night humiliation in Chicago, it was reasonable to expect the Magic to come out on Wednesday ready to put that debacle behind them. They were playing at home against a team that was 1-5, winless on the road, and tired from having played the night before in Brooklyn.

Instead, the Magic were steamrolled early and trailed at halftime, 74-47. If they did not feel bad enough, they were serenaded by some boos as they left the court after 24 minutes.

A mini-run to briefly get the deficit to 11 points in the fourth quarter did not satisfy the fans or Magic Coach Frank Vogel.

“(Minnesota) was more upset with their 1-5 start than we were with our loss to the Bulls the other night,” he said after the game. “They had more desperation and urgency and that’s disappointing.”

Some vocal leadership on the court, together with some soul-searching in the locker room, would be helpful to a team still looking to find their way. There are some players who prefer to let their play and hustle speak for itself.

Evan Fournier and Elfrid Payton have given the Magic solid guard play. Nikola Vucevic has had some good games and some not so great. Bismack Biyombo has been the kind of high-energy player the Magic expected.

Scoring is one thing, but basketball has two hoops and the job of keeping it out of the other basket is just as important as putting it into yours. When the Oklahoma City version of Serge Ibaka shows up every night, the Magic will be a better team, especially on the defensive end.

It is encouraging to hear Aaron Gordon has set a goal of becoming defensive player of the year. A guy as athletic as Gordon could be a tremendous defensive player.

“Frank (Vogel) can put me on whoever, I’m ready for that challenge,” Gordon told Pure Magic.

That is the kind of attitude that brings a team together. It needs to be infectious.

“We’ve got a good basketball team that hasn’t figured it out yet,” said Vogel. “We have high character guys, but the margin for error is slim. If we’re going to be outworked with effort, concentration, focus, and attention to detail, we’re going to see more of what we saw (Wednesday).”

The next benchmark of the development process comes in the next three games beginning Friday night at the Amway Center when the 5-4 Utah Jazz come to town. The Jazz are 3-3 on the road, including a win at San Antonio.

On Sunday, the Magic will see old friend Victor Oladipo when they visit Oklahoma City. Those fans will likely give Ibaka a warm welcome upon his return.

After that game, Orlando will them fly to Indianapolis to face the Pacers, whose fans will also give a warm greeting to Vogel, who spent many successful years on the Indiana bench. Hopefully, they will have the extra incentive to win one for their coach

As the growing pains continue, we will know if the Magic are growing as a team by the end of next week.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Timberwolves run past Magic 123-107

Last week the Orlando Magic showed sure signs they were coming together as a team after an ugly start. After Wednesday’s ugly 123-107 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Amway Center, the momentum of a three-game winning streak is now a distant memory.

After Monday’s blowout loss in Chicago, the Magic were set to get back on track at home against a team that was 1-5 overall and winless on the road. Minnesota looked as though they felt quite at home on Wednesday.

They jumped out early and never looked back. The Timberwolves led by 22 points after the first quarter and by 74-47 at halftime.

Orlando was a step or two slow, but the Timberwolves also shot well when their jump shots were contested. Minnesota shot 51 percent from the field, including 57 percent from three-point range.

That is a recipe for victory.

“It’s frustrating because we are losing by big margins, especially because we are not playing the right way and doing what we are supposed to be doing,” said center Nikola Vucevic. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. It is not fun right now. There are still a lot of games to be played, but we have to figure it out quickly.”

Going in, things lined up well for the Magic. Not only were they playing a team winless on the road, but Minnesota was playing the second game of a back-to-back.

The Timberwolves played in Brooklyn the night before and arrived in Orlando in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Despite that fact, Minnesota looked to be the fresher of the two teams despite the Magic having Tuesday night off.

The Magic had no answer for Andrew Wiggins, who had 29 points and dished out six assists.  Karl-Anthony Towns added 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Vucevic had a strong second half to finish with 24 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Magic. Elfrid Payton added 18 points and seven assists.

Orlando fell to 3-5 on the season and only 2-2 at home. Next up is the Utah Jazz, who come to the Amway Center on Friday night.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons