Gary Shelton - 7/180 - SaintPetersBlog

Gary Shelton

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

Lightning loses again, this time in a shootout to Edmonton

The Tampa Bay Lighting played better Saturday night, but it still lost.

This time, the Bolts fell 3-2 in a shootout against the Edmonton Oilers.

Tampa Bay, which has now lost nine of its last 11, took a 2-1 lead in the second period on goals by Jonathan Drouin and Tyler Johnson. But the Oilers tied the game on a goal by Leon Draisaitl with 13 minutes to play in regulation. It was Drouin’s fourth goal in six games, but it was Johnson’s first since Dec. 1.

The Oilers scored twice in the shootout, once by Mark Letestu and the winner by Connor McDavid. Drouin scored for the Bolts.

Ben Bishop is now 9-11.

The Lightning is home on Tuesday night against the Detroit Red Wings.

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In Cure Bowl, UCF Knights reminded they still have a ways to go

It didn’t end the way that UCF wanted it to end. But perhaps it ended the way the Knights needed for it to end.

The UCF Knights were reminded that their work is not done Saturday night as they fell to Arkansas State, 31-13, in the Cure Bowl. The Knights went from a winless season to a 6-7 season and a bowl win.

It was nice, but it wasn’t complete. And that will gnaw at UCF and coach Scott Frost in the off-season. There is more recruiting, more coaching, to be done.

“I think when either team’s defense was on the field, it was the superior unit on the field,” Frost said. “We kind of knew that going in, we’re never making excuses, we’re beat up and especially up front on the offensive line.

“I don’t think that was a unit where we started with a ton of depth and we’re playing some young guys, but we carried the ball, I didn’t know this, 30 times for 12 yards, we gotta be better than that. We had some guys nicked up, but we’ll never use that as an excuse. We gotta keep working to get better.”

The Knights were unable to move the ball against Arkansas State. Freshman quarterback McKenzie Milton threw for only 175 yards, and the team rushed for only 11 yards. Arkansas State didn’t gain a lot more yardage – only 235 – but receiver Kendall Sanders caught three touchdown passes – 12, 75 and 17 yards – in a 125-yard performance.

Arkansas State, champions of the Sun Belt, started the season 0-4 and finished 8-5.

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Can Tampa Bay’s football team stand up to America’s Team?

The star. You recognize the star.

You may not have understood the old flying Elvis of the Patriots, and the Browns are kind of bland up top, and who knows what that Pittsburgh symbol is. But you know the star of the Dallas Cowboys, and you know the stars who have worn it. Roger Staubach. Tony Dorsett. Bob Lilly. Michael Irvin. Emmitt Smith.

There is indeed an aura to the Cowboys, only part of it self-perpetuated. The Cowboys can be accused of a bit of arrogance when it comes to the “America’s Team” nickname, but in a couple of eras, Dallas has indeed been special. And except for being upset by the Giants last week, it would seem they’re on their way again.

Let by marvelous rookies Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott, the Cowboys have been the turnaround team of the NFL. They were horrible a year ago, but they have been rejuvinated. And now they have to play the Tampa Bay Bucs, themselves a nice comeback story.

For years, the Cowboys led the league in headlines, and they built a fabulous stadium, and they were among the leaders in merchandizing. Jerry Jones was always good for a soundbite in his latest face. But the team didn’t win. They haven’t won a Super Bowl since after the 1995 season. They’ve reached the playoffs in only eight of the last 21 seasons. Isn’t America better than that?

Still, the Cowboys have held onto much of the luster. Winning five Super Bowls will do that.

Maybe that’s why Dallas is a seven-point favorite despite the Bucs’ five-game winning streak.

Oh, there are some similarities at the top of the roster. Jameis Winston and Prescott are both impressive young quarterbacks. Elliott, behind a huge offensive line, is having the season that Doug Martin had a year ago. Both Mike Evans and Dez Bryant can take over games at receiver.

But where the Bucs seem to avoid as much of the spotlight with a go-about-their-business mantra, the Cowboys gravitate toward the brightest lights. Jones loves microphones.

Can Tampa Bay win this game? Sure, but it will take takeaways. The defense has to stand up. The offense has to strike early.

Do that, and the stars might fade.

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Lightning returns to the dark side in loss to Vancouver Canucks

After a one-game reprieve, the Tampa Bay Lightning returned to its slump Friday night.

The Lightning lost a 4-2 game to the Vancouver Canucks. The Bolts had stopped a streak in which they lost seven of eight with a win against Calgary Wednesday, but they lost their eighth in 10 games against the Canucks.

“We can’t sit here and say we didn’t play well,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. They had 10 scoring chances the whole game. They score three goals. You can’t ask our team to do any better than that. Any NHL team will tell you, you give up 10 scoring chances, you’ve got a really good chance to win the hockey game. We’re playing pretty well defensively, a couple breaks here. Unfortunately, some of these turnovers are ending up in the back of our net. In the end, it’s a tough game not to get points out of, that’s for sure.

“It’s too bad because it was a pretty solid effort by a depleted group. You feel for the guys. It’s a self-inflicted loss is what it is. Bad turnovers end up in our net and a marginal call at best, a penalty 200 feet from our net and they just get an unreal break. It’s tough to fault the guys on their effort. The Canucks got the breaks and we didn’t.”

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped only 20 of 23 shots in the loss.

Victor Hedman gave the Bolts a 1-0 lead, but Brandon Sutter and Luca Sbisa gave Vancouver a 2-1 lead after two periods. Corey Conacher scored his first goal to tie things up, but Bo Horvath scored a power play goal to give Vancouver the lead. Alex Burrows scored the final goal on an empty netter.

“I thought the first period was a good period,” said defenseman Anton Stralman. ” We played well. We played within our structure. And then the second period I thought we stopped doing the right things. We took the easy way out a little bit, and they hurt us. What’s unfortunate is that third goal, obviously, it’s just unlucky, especially on our PK too where we’ve been struggling and trying to get back on track. To allow one of those, it sucks, but, at the end, we need to play better over 60 minutes.”

The Lightning has been outscored 37-23 in their last 10 games.

Tampa Bay is in Edmonton tonight.

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Is Tampa Bay’s best all-time soccer performer … Bill Edwards?

He did not grow up on the pitch.

He did score any golden goals to break nil-nil ties.

Before it’s all said and done, however, the finest soccer performer in Tampa Bay history might just be a smiling man named Bill Edwards.

With all deference to Rodney Marsh, Derek Smethurst and Oscar Fabbiani, it is Edwards who is the current steward of the sport in Tampa. And it is Edwards who sees a bigger stadium, a better league and larger crowds for his Rowdies.

And isn’t that cool?

Edwards doesn’t have a foot like Joe Cole. He isn’t magnetic like Marsh. Above all, he doesn’t have hair like Carlos Valderrama. But, man, is he a player.

Edwards, a habitually dissatisfied man, is the George Steinbrenner of his sport. Like Steinbrenner, filled stadiums and pretty good does not quite cut it. Like Steinbrenner, Edwards wants his team to be the talk of the town. Like Steinbrenner, he believes in spending money to make money.

Take Joe Cole. Given that the Rowdies missed the playoffs this season, you could suggest that Cole – as wonderful as he was – wasn’t worth the money. But to Edwards, he was. He was a star, a marquee player, the straw that stirs the drink. You get the feeling that Edwards wants more Coles, not fewer.

Then there is the MLS. Edwards might have been happy with the NASL if it had been more functional. But it wasn’t, and Edwards began to flirt with the MLS. Now, he’s on a 10-team expansion list. He has media market size in his corner. He has history. He has a fan base. If he can get Al Lang expanded, he’ll have the stadium. Given that the 10 media markets that are bigger than Tampa Bay already have MLS, he’s a good bet.

Ah, and the stadium. This is where Edwards’ vision is particularly lovely. He sees Al Lang growing to more than 18,000 season seats, which would indeed make Saturday night a party and fill downtown. And he sees it with no cost to the taxpayer. If it’s free, is it for thee?

All of which would make the Rowdies more vital, and the sport more enjoyable. Who has made a bigger impact on the game locally than Edwards?

Oh, it will cost him some cash. Better players would be needed. Stadium improvements. Nicer restrooms, he has said, demonstrating his attention to detail.

But Edwards sees this as his legacy, and bully for him that he does. Bully for us, too. Call it Bill Edward’s golden gold.

It’s a fine sport, and it’s a good crowd that enjoys itself. For Tampa Bay, the future looks bright.

On the other hand, the Rowdies could use a few more goals.

Think Edwards can fill it up?

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Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston settles with woman accuser

Tampa Bay Bucs’ quarterback Jameis Winston can just worry about the playoffs.

If anything else was on Winston’s mind, he put it to rest Thursday when he and accuser Erica Kinsman have reached a settlement in her lawsuit.

John Clune, a lawyer for the woman, Erica Kinsman, on Wednesday night confirmed a report first published by TMZ Sports, saying, “The case has been resolved to the satisfaction of the parties.”

Kinsman, who said she was raped by Winston when the two were at Florida State, reached an undisclosed settlement in her case. Kinsman had been awarded $950,000 in a suit against Florida State regarding the handling of the allegations.

Winston has never been charged criminally in the case. FSU’s code-of-conduct hearing also found no wrongdoing.

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Tampa Bay among 10 cities announced for potential MLS franchise

Well, that didn’t take long.

Only days after mentioning his twin ambitions of moving to the MLS and expanding Al Lang Stadium, Tampa Bay Rowdies’ owner Bill Edwards finds his team among 10 teams being considered for expansion by North America’s most prestigious soccer league.

The MLS is currently at 20 teams — three others are planned — but has plays to go to 28.

“I want to be the first of the 10 potential cities to earn an MLS franchise,” Edwards said.

The team expects to expand by two teams to begin play in 2020. The league said it required a committed ownership group, strong fan support and a comprehensive stadium plan.

“It’s great to know that less than two weeks after announcing our campaign, Major League Soccer is acknowledging us as one of the potential expansion cities,” Edwards said. “Bringing Major League Soccer to the Tampa Bay area by 2020 is my goal.”

The Rowdies would seem to have a built-in rivalry with Orlando.

Also helping Edwards’ MLS bid is the stalled plans by soccer superstar David Beckham to bring a stadium to Miami, which led MLS Commissioner Don Garber last week to suggest putting a deadline on Beckham’s deal, or owners will be forced to consider another market — with St. Petersburg inching up the list.

Garber’s idea is to have at least 24 teams in the current 20-team league, telling reporters in Toronto earlier this month that if expansion doesn’t happen: “there are going to be a lot of things that we have to move around.”

Expansion applications are due Jan. 31, with Sports Illustrated reporting that requests must include a business plan featuring ownership structure, potential stadium sites, financing and projections as well as sponsorship opportunities and information about the local soccer community.

Bill Edwards long-term plan for Al Lang Stadium and the Rowdies in St. Petersburg can certainly check every one of those boxes.

 

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Charlie Strong makes impressive showing at first USF press conference

Everyone wins at hello.

A new coach walks into a room, filled with new energy and ambition, and he knows which notes to hit in his opening press conference. Fans cheer, and no one fumbles, and no one is called for holding. The entire day looks like a bright future.

It was that way for new USF coach Charlie Strong Thursday morning, as he was interoduced to fans and the media.

He talked about getting better. He talked about a new on-campus stadium. He talked about recruiting.

Speaking in a clear, commanding voice, Strong talked about the team repeating its success and building on it. He didn’t say much about his staff, except that he admires the job the current one did in winning 10 games. He didn’t commit to how long he would be here, except to say that “anytime you take a job, you’re there.” He didn’t say much about recruiting, except to point out that he had spoken to every person USF is recruiting.

In other words, Strong had a nice welcome. Now comes the difficult part.

Strong has to repair a USF defense that ranked No. 120 out of 128 schools while maintaining an offense that ranked 10th. His history as a Florida assistant coach is sure to help him renew his ties with state colleges.

“There is no reason we can’t compete on year-in, year-out basis,” Strong said. “We all have a vision of where we’d like to take this program. A foundation has been laid. It’s going to get better, and get better, and get better.

USF’s new season begins on Aug. 26 against San Jose State. After that comes a game against Stony Brook before the Bulls take on Illinois and former Bucs’ coach Lovie Smith.

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Lightning finally wins a game, beating Calgary on the road

Finally, victory.

The Tampa Bay Lightning ended its losing streak, a slump that had seen the team lose seven of eight games. The Bolts scored two goals in each period to beat the Calgary Flames, 6-3.

The Lightning gave up an early goal, but then scored two in each period. Brian Boyle scored two in the first period and Alex Killorn scored two in the third. In between, Braydon Coburn and Andrej Sustr scored goals.

Goaltender Ben Bishop faced only 22 shots. Three of them went in, including goals by T.J. Brodie and Michael Ferland in a 21-second flurry.

“You sit there and the puck goes into the net three minutes into the game, but there was one thing probably in our last couple of weeks here where our heads are down,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “But nobody batted an eye on that, and I thought that was big. Ultimately, and every coach will tell you, you need your goalie to be there for you. And he was there for us tonight, there’s no question. Even when they got those bang-bang goals in the third, to come up with that save on Bennett, who knows what happens if that goes in. He didn’t have to make a ton of saves tonight, but he made the right one and that was big.”

Cooper liked getting goals from his defense.

“I tell you what it does, it really lifts the guys on the bench because, I don’t know, guys are really pulling for those guys,” Cooper said. “You can just tell, there’s just a weight off their shoulders because it makes them feel part of things. It was a total team effort tonight. You’re missing, (Kucherov) is out, and we lost Palat early in the second period and obviously Stamkos is out, you need to get goals from somebody, and when you’re getting them from everybody, it was a confidence builder for us. It was really good to see.”

Killorn said the Lightning were a desperate team.

“I think when you lose eight out of 10 games, there has to be a desperation level,” Killorn said. “I think the coaches have done a good job keeping it somewhat loose but everyone knows how important games are. You see yourself in the standings and you keep falling, so we have to get right back on track and I think this was a good game starting in that direction.”

The Lightning played without leading scorer Nikita Kucherov.

Tampa Bay plays at Vancouver Friday night and Edmonton Saturday night.

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Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans hopes to break out against Dallas

At the best part of the season, Mike Evans finds himself surrounded.

Evans, the talented wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Bucs, has been held in check for two weeks now. He had three catches for 38 yards against San Diego, and only four for 42 against New Orleans. After 10 touchdowns in his first 11 games, he has been kept out of the end zone for two straight weeks.

So how do opponents keep Evans out of the end zone?

“It depends on their personnel and then what their scheme is, but we are seeing a lot of hand-fighting,” said coach Dirk Koetter. “A lot of people try to hold Mike up at the line and not let him get started. And then even teams that aren’t half-field teams, we’re seeing more teams roll the coverage to Mike. And if they’re a single-high team, tilt the safety that way. If they’re a two-deep team, cloud it that way.”

Offensive coordinator Todd Monken also gave credit to the opposing defenses.

“The way the game plays out has something to do with that,” Monken said. “We still targeted him eight times and we’re going to still continue to move Mike around and target him because he’s a special talent. So, sometimes it just works out that way. He was still a big factor, got an interference call to put the ball on the one-yard line for our only touchdown, when they went cover-zero. Another time they got a holding call – Jameis (Winston) did hit Chuck (running back Charles Sims) – but that did add five yards on to that. So again, there’s some things we can do schematically, there’s some things that Mike can do better with his route running and his mental stamina to stay in the game and continue. Even the first drive, I think we had him – it was a glance that kind of turned into a post with quarters and we had a chance to hit him and we didn’t. So, (we are) just a little bit off in a number of our areas, but we’re really close.”

 Yes, Monken said, Evans is frustrated.

“Sure, I think Mike wants to be a big part of what we do and he should be,” Monken said. “Some frustration from being held, from being doubled, from not being a bigger contributor. Not from a selfish side, Mike’s not wired that way to be selfish. Mike is wired to be a team player, but Mike believes in himself. And he did, even with the four catches he had, they all seemed to be big. Third down catches, low throws, so again, I think he stays in the game relatively well mentally, but the frustration is he wants to do more to help us win.”

Monken said the way the game is refereed has much to do with it.

“I think that’s the way the league is headed. Defenders getting their hands on you, how often it’s going to get called,” Monken said. “Mike’s awfully handsy himself, so we’ve just got to do a better job of him getting away from that and doing a better job of having routes that give Mike a chance to catch the ball in space, which we still do. There was a number of routes that should the coverage dictate, would’ve gotten [Evans] the ball. Now again, how many targets is that going to be when you’re running the ball as often as we were and as few as possessions as we had? I don’t know what that’ll be.”

 Evans will try to break out this week against Dallas on Sunday night.

“They have been trying to stop Mike Evans,” quarterback Jameis Winston said. “When you’re playing against a team and their main focus is to stop one guy, it’s tough to give him the ball. So you’ve got to work with everyone else and the other guys have been doing a good job stepping up.”

 Dallas is second in the NFL in run defense, but only 28th against the pass.

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