Ron Moshier - Sports

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Moshier: Smith's block good "no call"

When it happened, we heard very little, if anything, about the block thrown by Utica’s Will Smith in Super Bowl XLIV, the one that helped spring New Orleans Saints teammate Tracy Porter free on his 74-yard interception return. But in the days following the Saints’ 31-17 upset of the Indianapolis Colts, the legality of Smith’s block has been questioned by more than a few on TV, radio, and the Internet, including the talking heads on ESPN’s “First Take” and “Pardon the Interruption.”

 

NBC’s game day announcers Jim Nantz and Phil Simms never suggested Smith should have been flagged for an illegal block in the back on Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, and Porter (of course) later called it “a great block.”

 

Upon much further review, I’d say it was neither. To me, it looked like Manning saw Smith coming his way, turned his back, and ran for cover – so much so, that Smith’s “block” was more of a simple shove. And no replay shows Manning begging for a “block in the back” penalty.

 

Still, many have found it necessary to question whether or not Smith and the Saints benefited from a “no call” that should have been called, including NBCsports.com’s “PFT” or “Pro Football Talk.”

 

You can check it out for yourself, but (keeping in mind Will Smith is from Utica) here are some of the responses I agree with:

 

“Peyton was not even trying to make the tackle. … He was just flailing around, saving his behind from taking a big hit.”

 

“The blocking player’s helmet must be clearly BEHIND the blocked player, not on the side.”

 

“If it had been a foul, Manning would have let us know.”

 

“Manning went down and ducked his shoulder in front of Will Smith. Smith pushed him from the side, not the back, as Peyton was going down.”

 

“Didn’t see Manning complaining about it afterwards so I wonder how hard of a shove it really was.”

 

“The right call was no call.”

 

“Peyton overran the play and (Smith) shoved him in the direction his momentum was already taking him.”

 

“No flag, no penalty. Get over it. You lost.”

 

“It’s not a penalty. … I’m shocked they did not throw a flag, simply because it was the Colts and Peyton Manning.”

 

“Peyton turned when he realized Will Smith was going to pancake him and Will pulled up. …”

 

“And besides, do you really think Peyton would’ve actually made that tackle?”

 

“Smith gets his hands on Manning’s shoulder, turns him, and knocks him mostly on his side. He definitely didn’t blast Manning square in the back. …”

 

“What kind of league would this be if you could get a block in the back call by turning your back every time you see a blocker coming your way?”

 

That last entry may be my favorite. Of course, many other responses to the NBCsports.com question come from those who saw it differently, including a sarcastic, “Will Smith did get a great block, right between the one and the eight and right below the word Manning.”

 

Sour grapes? Maybe. You can make the call. We all can. I’m just glad the officials didn’t – not just for Will Smith’s sake, but because making no call was the right call.

 

 

Friday, February 5, 2010

Moshier: "Freak" sudden-death OT game remembered

That five-overtime game the Ilion and Mohawk boys basketball teams played last week sure brought back memories.

 

One of them was that Central Oneida League game between Utica Free Academy and Thomas R. Proctor High School played 36 years ago, another quintuple-overtime thriller that UFA won 70-68 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.

 

All that reminiscing also reminded Notre Dame High School graduate Anthony Scalzo of another memorable COL matchup played Jan. 20, 1961 at Proctor that was most likely the area’s first (and hopefully the last) boys basketball game decided by a sudden death OT.

 

The 66-year-old Scalzo, an East Utica native now living in Muskego, Wisc., played on that very first Notre Dame team, and the unbeaten Jugglers – then coached by Chuck Stevesky -- were trailing Proctor 45-28 at halftime. Notre Dame center Steve Remis finally tied it with his only basket, a hook shot with two seconds left in regulation. Scalzo said a fight broke out in the stands late in the second overtime. That’s when the coaches and referees, concerned about the safety of players and fans, decided the game would end in sudden death, with the first team leading by two points getting the win.

 

“I think the refs proposed that and the coaches said OK,” Scalzo said. “The tension was just so high and there was such close quarters (in Proctor’s old gym). …”

 

Notre Dame junior Art “Butch” Williams, who later starred at Utica College and eventually was inducted into the Greater Utica Sports Hall of Fame, scored the game-winning points from the foul line as the Jugglers prevailed, 84-82. Williams made 8 of 8 free throws, converting four 1-and-1 chances, in the overtimes.

 

John Pendergast scored 28 points and Mike Brown had 21 for Notre Dame. Pomp DelMonte led Proctor with 33 points.

 

“It was a freak thing,” Scalzo said of the sudden-death ending. “They didn’t just want to stop the game. I don’t think there’s ever been another sudden-death overtime.”

 

Let’s hope not.