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How fast can FSU’s fabulous freshmen contribute to running game?

The question isn’t how good they are going to be someday. Heck, “someday” seems assured.

For FSU, the question is how good are their talented freshman running backs going to be this year. Not that there is any hurry, right?

Well, there kind of is. The Seminoles, and coach Jimbo Fisher,  open their season next year against Alabama (Sept. 2 in Atlanta), and the No. 1 priority is to replace dazzling running back Dalvin Cook. Oh, the Seminoles have some talented backs on campus, but are will they be ready right out of the gate?

Oh, FSU has incumbent backs: Junior Jacques Patrick, senior Ryan Green and sophomore Amir Rasul. Patrick has been in the FSU rotation (he had 350 yards rushing a year ago). But neither Green nor Rasul has been seen a lot.

Besides, the world seems to be all atwitter over the fabulous freshmen: Cam Akers, Khalan Laborn and Zachandre White, who come from Mississippi, Virginia and Florida. Can those three make an impact before the Seminoles face the Tide?

With Patrick getting the tough yards, the call seems to be for a home run hitter. Start with Akers, who rushed for 2,108 yards and a staggering 34 touchdowns. He’s shifting from quarterback, where he played in high school, but he figures to be an immediate contender for playing time.

Don’t count out Laborn, either. He rushed for 1,485 yards and 19 touchdowns, and he’s known for having an amazing burst.

Then there is White, who had 779 yards and six scores. He’s known as a tackle breaker, which means he would have to get his snaps from Patrick.

Together, they seem to have FSU poised for a very good running game. The only question is how long it will take.

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Rowdies launch single-game ticket sales as big season expected

Tampa Bay Rowdies owner and CEO Bill Edwards is looking for a big season from his team.

The Rowdies, who join the USL for the first time, have begun to sell single-game tickets for the 2017 season. The Rowdies open the season on March 25 against Orlando B.

How good does Edwards expect his team to be?

Very.

“We’ve built a tremendous team that has a mixture of returning veterans like Joe Cole, Georgi Hristov and Matt Pickens, and new additions like Damion Lowe, Leo Fernandes, Luke Boden, Darwin Jones and Alex Morrell. Under the leadership of coach Stuart Campbell, we’ve established a strong squad that I believe is the best we’ve ever had,” Edwards has said.

Also, he has said this: “With your passion in the stands and the talent on the field, I know this will be our year. This is the year we add another championship to our history and bring the USL cup to Tampa Bay.”

And this: “We’ve recently focused on our push to join Major League Soccer, but it’s time to shift gears and prepare for the upcoming 2017 United Soccer League season. Unlike previous seasons, this year you will see a great variety of opponents come to Al Lang Stadium with 15 teams in the Eastern Conference alone. It’s important that you’re in the stands to show them why Al Lang Stadium is our house.”

Edwards has done a good job feeding the Rowdies’ mania. If this is his best team, as he believes, it should be fun.

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Patriots win tops ranking of best 10 Super Bowls of all-time

It started sloppily. The Atlanta Falcons jumped to a three-touchdown lead. The New England Patriots were struggling.

And then it all changed.

And it became the best Super Bowl ever.

Days after the Patriots came from behind to beat the Falcons in overtime, that seems to be the consensus. With Tom Brady throwing for 466 yards, most agree that that the Super Bowl had never seen anything quite like it. In a year of close championships, this was the most memorable.

But where does it stack up with the great Super Bowls?

Why, first.

The top 10:

1. Super Bowl LI, New England 34, Atlanta 28: Fans of the Atlanta Falcons feel as if their hearts were pulled through their chests after Brady and the Patriots came from behind to force overtime. One of the reasons why? The Falcons’ defense was on the field for 95 plays, including two two-point conversions. Another reason? The Falcons had horrible game management in the fourth quarter. The biggest reason: Brady is other worldly.

2. Super Bowl XLIX: New England 28, Seattle 24: The unanswered question is this: What sort of brain cramp did Seattle coach Pete Carroll suffer before he called a passing play instead of simply handing the ball to brutish running back Marshawn Lynch. Pats’ defensive back Malcolm Butler probably doesn’t know either, but he’s glad he did. Butler intercepted to close out the victory.

3. Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23: First, Arizona came from behind to go ahead of Pittsburgh. Then, Pittsburgh came back from the comeback to beat the Cardinals in a thrilling victory. Ben Roethlisberger hit Santonio Holmes for a six-yard touchdown with 35 seconds to play.

5. St. Louis 23, Tennesee 16: What’s just as good as a comeback? A game-saving tackle that presents one. Mike Jones tackled Kevin Dyson on the one-yard line to preserve the win for the Rams after Kurt Warner gave the Rams the lead with less than two minutes to play.

6. Super Bowl XLII, New York 17, New England 14: The Patriots were set to finish an unbeaten season when the Giants’ Eli Manning scrambled and threw downfield, and receiver David Tyree caught the ball off the top of his helmet.

7. Super Bowl XXV: New York 20, Buffalo 19: The Giants somehow stopped the Buffalo offensive machine, despite an excellent night by Thurman Thomas. Scott Norwood missed the field goal at the end, but it would have been his longest of the year on grass.

8. Super Bowl XIII: Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 31: Twice, the Steelers held on the to beat the Cowboys. This time, a drop by tight end Jackie Smith in the end zone helped the Steelers continue their dynasty.

9. Super Bowl XXXVI, New England 20, St. Louis 17: This is where the Patriots’ dynasty under Bill Belichick began. Tom Brady drove his team downfield for the winning field goal.

10. Super Bowl III, New York Jets 16, Baltimore Colts 7: This one is listed not for a fantastic finish, but for the fantastic pluck of the Jets, who copied Joe Namath’s swagger on their way to a historic victory.

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Lightning wins its second in a row to show it still has life

Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, there might be life to the Tampa Bay Lightning, after all.

And if so, nights such as Tuesday night give fans a reason to believe.

The Lightning won a 5-0 game that should serve as the team’s blueprint for the rest of their playoff run. They got good goaltending, they got goals from their speediest skaters, and their penalty kill was strong in a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings.

It was the first regular season shutout by goalie Ben Bishop since last March 28, when he stopped 34 shots against Toronto. This time, Bishop stopped 19 shots in the first period, but had to face only nine the last two periods.

“Bish played extremely well in the first period when we needed him,” said coach Jon Cooper. “I looked up and they had 19 shots. We felt extremely fortunate to go to intermission with the lead. Clearly Bishop had a lot to do with that. But once that happened, we gave up nine shots the rest of the game. That’s the team helping each other out. Ben bailed us out in the first, and the team said ‘Ben, we’re not going to try to need you in the last two periods. That’s how it went.”

The Bolts also got two goals from Nikita Kucherov and one from Jonathan Drouin. Gabriel Dumont had his first goal for the Lightning, and Braydon Coburn added a goal.

For the Lightning, it was the first time the team has won back-to-back games since December 20th and 22nd.

“We need to get consecutive wins,” Drouin said. “When you win one , lose one, win one, lose one, you don’t get points out of it. We want to make it three and four. That’s what we need. We need points on the road.”

For Bishop, it was his second straight win. He’s struggled much of the year to remain above .500, and so it is encouraging to think he might get on a roll.”

Tampa Bay visits Minnesota on Friday night.

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Who’s on first? Rays re-sign Logan Morrison to roster

If a Tampa Bay Rays fan was looking for something new, Tuesday was a disappointing day.

The Rays, whose interest in slugger Chris Carter had been well reported, missed out on the former Milwaukee slugger, who signed with the New York Yankees for $3.5 million. Carter would have been an intriguing addition after a 41-home run season.

Later in the day, the Rays reached a new agreement with Logan Morrison, who hit .238 for the team a year ago.

He hit .275 with 14 home runs, 43 RBI and a .350 on-base percentage over his final 79 games (72 starts), from May 16 through the end of his season. He appeared in 107 games, but his season was cut short by two injuries: a right forearm strain put him on the disabled list for 16 games at the end of July, and a left wrist strain sidelined him for the final 20 games of the season.

The Rays training camp begins on Feb. 12 when pitchers and catchers report.

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Blake Dowling: Drones, drones everywhere — Super Bowl to Prison

Yay sports!

Or “yay ball,” as one of my techie staff members used to say (she had zero interest in football, etc.)

Yay sports, indeed. This weekend was awesome for sports, with the most thrilling Super Bowl ever. And I also attended the Kentucky-Florida basketball game; what a battle in the brand-new Gville arena.

If you love hoops, watching 6 of the top 10 teams get knocked out Saturday was exciting; for Gator fans, a 20-point whipping of Kentucky (doesn’t happen often) so we get to enjoy that one for a while.

Fast forward to Sunday; seeing Lady Gaga bring the thunder in her Super Bowl halftime performance, then wondering how she got on the roof.

And HOW IN THE WORLD IS THAT AMERICAN FLAG FLOATING IN THE SKY?

Also, on another subject, a huge shoutout to LG for her message of unity and being pro-America. So many haters out there nowadays. Best country ever, 42 years as a resident. No plans to leave — regardless of Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump or whoever is in the White House.

I would stay even if Lady Gaga was president. Cool outfit she was rocking; very presidential.

Anyway…

There is no need to comment on a flying drone pug, is there?

So, how are there lights in the sky above the game?

My dad lives in Houston and the only flights he says are allowed around the Dome game weekend are Military Black Hawk choppers. So, what are those lights again?

Drones, my friend.

Each dot is actually a flying drone, part of Intel’s Shooting Star Drone squad. Each one is about a foot long and covered in LED lights. The drones are all programmed from a central location that runs a dance routine.

Talk about a big stage, taking account the fact that security was as tight as any game in history, the stadium is in Houston Hobby Airport’s flight path, as well as the aforementioned aircraft ban around the stadium.

How about this, it really didn’t happen during the Super Bowl. The drone show was taped the week earlier and overlaid into the live broadcast for the TV audience.

That is the world we live in. Princess Leia is in Rouge One looking 19 and drones are on the television, but not live. POW!

In years to come, drones change the way we do a lot of things: weaponized drones, real-estate drones and cargo drones.

What’s next? How about reconnaissance drones for missing persons lost in the woods? Drones for agriculture, police, elections (dropping pamphlets) and firefighting.

Cartels down south are early adapters of this kind of tech for drug smuggling at borders and in prisons.

Think about it, a drone operator a mile away from a prison packs up a drone with Oxycodone, weed and the like, flies it over the walls of the prison, dropping the package into the common area. Pickups are smooth and no one gets shanked.

Same with drugs at the border: fly it, drop it, head back to base for another. Drones fly low and are small, making radar useless.

Prisons are beginning to use low-tech countermeasures, with nets over a facility’s yard. Meanwhile, high-tech options like DroneShield are rolling out, and others — like the DroneGun — can disable a drone by jamming it.

Although as done tech moves forward, I am sure some Polk County residents will take them out with a high-powered rifle.

With any new tech, it is very interesting and cool to see where the journey goes, but also scary to see how bad guys will take advantage.

Enjoy the day when a drone brings you a pizza. And if you ever see something like that heading your way, duck and cover, brother.

(By then, though, it’s most likely too late.)

 ___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and writes for several organizations. He can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

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Super Bowl game was simply the latest great finish in sports

Don’t look now, but all of the sudden, sports are pretty good.

Yeah, we all like to reminisce about the old days, about Michael Jordan and Joe Montana and Wayne Gretzky. Lately, however, we’re seeing sports as if they were scripted by movie writers.

If nothing else, Sunday night’s Super Bowl should tell you that. There had never been an overtime game. There had never been such a comeback. There had never been a quarterback like Tom Brady, who guided the New England Patriots to a 34-28 victory.

But was the Super Bowl really better than this year’s national championship game in college football. Remember, Deshaun Watson of Clemson threw the winning touchdown pass as time ran out to beat vaunted Alabama.

And how about the World Series? The Chicago Cubs finally beat their demons with an 8-7 win in extra innings of Game Seven.

Not much can match the comeback of the Cleveland Cavs in the NBA title. They won in seven games, winning games five, six and seven when Golden State had three chances to close out the series.

Then there was the Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh won in six games (not seven) over San Jose behind Sidney Crosby.

Ah, and how about the Final Four? Villanova beat North Carolina for the title on a last-second shot by Kris Jenkins.

Remember this as new champions are crowned. They have some great storylines to match.

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Gators rewarded, Seminoles dissed in AP Top 25 poll

For those paying attention to polls, Florida Gators fans should be glad while Florida State Seminoles followers should be mad. The Gators surged to the No. 17 position in the AP Top 25 poll, while Florida State moved up one spot to the 14th position.

Both teams won their two games since the last poll, but only one appears to have impressed poll voters.

The Gators had two huge wins over the week. A 39-point win over Missouri and a 22-point blowout of former No. 8 Kentucky facilitated Florida’s seven position climb in the poll. They are still two spots behind the Wildcats.

Florida is on an incredible run of four straight wins of at least 22 points, three of which were by more than 30. They are playing like a strong NCAA Tournament contender.

Florida State, on the other hand, was not rewarded for an impressive week. An 18-point blowout at Miami, followed by a nearly-perfect 48-point dismantling of Clemson, apparently made the voters yawn.

Despite having a better conference record (8-3 vs. 7-3), overall record (20-4 vs. 19-5) and a victory over Louisville, the Seminoles are ranked 10 spots below the Cardinals! Despite having a better conference record (8-3 vs. 7-3), overall record (20-4 vs. 17-5) AND a victory at Virginia, the Seminoles are ranked two spots below the Cavaliers!

Virginia also lost at Syracuse this week.

Gators’ Coach Mike White and Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton both understand they have outstanding teams and further understand polls will take care of themselves as long as they keep winning. Hamilton, however, may have the better short-term motivational tool with the obvious lack of respect shown for his team.

Gonzaga shot to the top of the poll followed by Villanova and Kansas. They Jayhawks maintained their position despite losing at home to unranked Iowa State.

Florida State is one of five ACC teams ranked this week while Florida is among only three SEC teams in the top 25.  The Big East had four teams, while the Big 12, Big 10 and Pac 12 had three each. The West Coast Conference and American Athletic Conference each had two.

The Top 25 poll can be found here.

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Now comes the selecting season of NFL’s general managers

Now, it is Jason Licht’s season, poobah of the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Now, it belongs to John Lynch, boss of the San Francisco 49ers.

Now, the NFL belongs to Steve Keim of the Cards and Ted Thompson of the Packers and John Schneider of the Seahawks and the rest of the general managers of the league.

The Super Bowl is over, which means free agency is next, followed by the NFL draft, followed by coaches proclaiming they are simply delighted by the additions to their teams. The thing is, no one can quite be sure who will be a free agent, and no one can ever be certain about the draft.

Once a week, then, the SaintPetersblog will examine the upcoming Bucs’ draft and the predictions for it.

Today, we start with the Bleacher Report.

In the first round, they have the Bucs taking Miami tight end David Njoku. Not a bad player, but don’t the Bucs’ need a speedy receiver and an athletic safety more? Bleacher Report still has linebacker Jarrad Davis of Florida, safety Jabrill Peppers of Michigan and wide receiver John Ross of Washington still on the board.

In the second round, Bleacher Report has the Bucs taking Florida defensive lineman Caleb Brantley. UCLA cornerback Fabian Moreu is the third round pick. LSU receiver Malachi Dupre is the fourth-round choice. Utah tackle J.J. Dielman is the fifth-round choice.

The sixth round pick is interesting. Bleacher Report has the Bucs taking San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey, who led the nation in rushing this year. In the seventh round, the site has the Bucs taking Xavier Woods of Louisiana Tech.

Last year’s Bucs’ draft worked out fairly well (cornerback Vernon Hargreaves and defensive end Noah Spence started. The draft will be remembered, however, by the noise surrounding the selection of FSU kicker Roberto Aguayo.

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Falcons’ flop a new low for Atlanta’s sad sporting history

Well, Atlanta, there’s nothing left to say.

The city once known as “Loserville” was cruising toward its first Super Bowl championship, leading Tom Brady and the mighty New England Patriots by 25 points.

TWENTY-FIVE!

Back in Atlanta, the city was all ready to bust loose in a celebration like no other, seemingly assured of finally putting to rest its history of sports flops.

Then, it happened.

The greatest flop of them all.

This one will take a long, long time to get over.

“I’m kind of numb,” said Falcons safety Ricardo Allen, who might as well been speaking for an entire city. “I don’t really know what to feel. I’m broken inside, because this is not us. I’m kind of numb to the feeling, man. It’s terrible. It’s one of the worst feelings ever. I’m not a guy that forgets very easy. I’ll probably never forget this. It will always be haunting.”

Brady engineered a stunning comeback, leading the Patriots to a pair of touchdowns and a pair of 2-point conversions that sent the Super Bowl to overtime for the first time.

At that point, it was a mere formality.

The Patriots won the coin toss.

Of course.

The Patriots drove right down the field for the championship-winning touchdown.

Of course.

The final: New England 34, Atlanta 28.

Brady will long be remembered for his record-breaking performance, completing 43 of 62 passes for 466 yards, and this will certainly go down as one of the greatest title games in NFL history.

That’s little consolation to the Falcons.

“That’s a hard one in the locker room,” coach Dan Quinn said. “No place to put that one mentally for us. But I am proud of the fight these guys have. The brotherhood this group has built, it’s as strong as I’ve ever seen.”

In the A-T-L, this will join the Braves blowing a 6-0 lead in Game 4 of the 1996 World Series, the Hawks squandering a chance to eliminate Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics in the 1988 NBA playoffs, and Danny White leading the Dallas Cowboys back from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Falcons in a 1981 playoff game.

But, really, nothing comes close to this level of sporting disappointment.

The Falcons spent 2½ quarters playing with the swagger and confidence of a team that wasn’t the least bit concerned about their city’s history. Heading to the fourth quarter, they were still up 28-9. The Patriots tacked on a field goal early in the fourth, but Atlanta was still comfortably ahead.

Then, the play that turned the momentum solidly in New England’s favor.

MVP Matt Ryan dropped back to pass, was hit by Dont’a Hightower just before his arm came forward to pass, and the ball popped lose. The Patriots recovered at the Atlanta 25.

It was the only Falcons’ turnover of the postseason.

“We had some opportunities to make plays,” Ryan said. “We just missed on a couple of things and just made a few mistakes and ultimately, when you’re playing a real good football team like New England, those mistakes ended up costing us.”

Even after Ryan’s turnover and the ensuing Patriots touchdown, Atlanta was still in position to put the victory away when Julio Jones made a stunning catch along the sideline, ripping the ball away from a defender and somehow getting both feet down before tumbling out of bounds at the New England 22.

With under 5 minutes remaining and the Falcons still up 28-20, all they needed to do was run three more plays and set up for a field goal by Pro Bowl kicker Matt Bryant that would finally put the Patriots away.

Devonta Freeman was thrown for a 1-yard loss, but that wasn’t a huge deal.

What happened next was a big deal.

Instead of another run, Ryan set up for a pass. He was thrown for a 12-yard loss and, just like that, the Falcons were on the fringe of Bryant’s range.

Any hope for a field goal was lost when Jake Matthews was called for a holding penalty that set Atlanta back another 10 yards.

That sequence will surely haunt outgoing offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who was acclaimed for his work with the league’s highest-scoring team and will shortly be named head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

“You always want to run the ball if you can,” Shanahan said. “We got into field-goal range, where we would’ve ended it. But getting that sack and that hold call was tough.”

The Falcons were forced to punt it back to Brady and a Patriots team that was brimming with bravado.

It wasn’t the least bit shocking when they marched right down the field, 91 yards, for James White‘s short touchdown run.

It wasn’t the least bit shocking when Brady hooked up with Danny Amendola on a 2-point pass that tied the game with 57 seconds remaining.

It wasn’t the least bit shocking when the Falcons, without any timeouts, failed to muster anything on their final offensive possession.

It wasn’t the least bit shocking when the Patriots won the toss and drove down the field one more time, 75 yards in just eight plays, and finished off the Falcons with a 2-yard touchdown run.

The city of Atlanta had seen it all before.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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