Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Blue, Blue, Blue, Blue Christmas

Ever since the NCAA implemented its ominously named "Life In The Balance" package in 2012 for Division II sports, I've had a blue Christmas. The Porreco Cup regularly attracted top small college talent from around the country and it provided a local sports respite from all the snow shoveling and gift returns. But I'm down this holiday for an altogether different reason.

After this past week's pair of wild losses -- 105-102 in double overtime at Edinboro Wednesday followed by a 60-56 home defeat vs. Pitt-Johnstown Saturday -- Gannon owns the PSAC West basement at 1-7 and is tied for the worst overall record in the conference at 2-9. When you consider the exhibition blowouts at Pitt and George Washington, this team has taken the floor 13 times this season and lost 11. The statistically-based Performance Indicators, which listed the Knights in the top five of the Atlantic Region most of last year, currently rank Gannon in the bottom 10. You might be thinking, "Well, at least we're not the worst team," but the crummy part is that Millersville is dead last ... and we lost to them earlier this season. At home!

But that's looking in the rear view mirror. What's making my stomach feel like I just drank two gallons of rancid eggnog is that when I analyze Gannon's remaining schedule and compare scores of common opponents, I think the Knights will be favored in maybe three of those games. I know that's not exactly how things will work out, but it is a possibility that we're staring down the barrel of a 5-21 season. Eight games of the 2016 slate are on the road where GU has yet to win this season (0-4), so those will be a challenge. And remember the days when you looked at the Gannon schedule and figured they'd lose maybe two or three at the Audi? Well, we're already 2-5 at home and will have to improve upon that pace over the final seven home games to avoid matching the school record of 10 home losses (1956-57 and 1995-96).

How did we go from nice to naughty so quickly? A year ago I was writing about a 31-point road victory by the Knights and celebrating a 6-0 December. Now I'm shaking my head because Gannon was an astonishing 0-6 this month with the margins for the first four games being 8 points or more.

I guess I should feel better that the Knights were competitive this week against Edinboro and UPJ, the current leaders of the West. But that's like saying to an 8-year-old boy, "I know you didn't like the rabid rat you got for Christmas last year, but your present this year is better!" While visions of video games and Star Wars figures dance in his head, you hand him a shoe box containing another dirty ol' rat. "This one's not rabid, Timmy. Much better, huh?" As Jerry Slocum said to me one time when I tried to console him during a radio postgame interview, "This is Gannon University. We set high expectations. There are no moral victories."

Even though I've complained for 500 words now, I haven't given up on this year's team. John Reilly will make sure they play hard and fight for every rebound no matter what the standings say. Also, part of me thinks when freshman C.J. Byrd, who looked super in the exhibition games but has been sidelined by injury since, returns to the floor, the Knights will be much improved and more competitive. The other part of me thinks don't try to salvage a .500 season; Gannon should redshirt Byrd so we can see him lighting up the scoreboard four years from now. Byrd was out of his walking boot and wearing sneakers during this week's games, so the option of him returning this season appears realistic.

I don't quite know how to end this post because I feel like the Ebenezer Scrooge of the local sports scene. This month alone I've used the words loser, dark, low, and blue in my headlines. So let me conclude with this: Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good Knight!

51 comments:

  1. Congrats to Kerr on Freshman of the Week.

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  2. Asplund and Adersteg have been removed from roster. From talking to some people - Asplund is not at Gannon and did not finish the semester at Gannon.

    Adersteg is still at Gannon and is finishing at least the fall semester there. CONFIRMATION - For work I often walk through the Gannon campus to get various places and I stopped to grab lunch at the little place outside of Hammermill Ctr... Adersteg was with a group of students, so he is there.

    Cheick is still with team, but was not suited up vs. WJU due to concussion testing protocol. (Coach Reilly mentioned this on his radio show)

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  3. Well we found an offense now we need a defense.

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  4. I can't say I was disappointed with the game. Obviously it's frustrating to see any significant lead disappear in a minute's time (or less), but this still is not the Coach Reilly defense we're used to seeing. They are definitely improving as a team, but the "frustration fouls" are really what kills the team. Four of GU's TO's in the first half yesterday were immediately followed by fouls by the player that committed the TO. I can see if you are preventing an easy basket to give up the foul, however, that was not the case in any of these situations. It was just simply that the players were frustrated and committed a dumb foul.

    Kerr was highly impressive again. On the talk show, Coach Reilly said they wanted to redshirt Kerr because of his body size. Obviously, that would have been a nice redshirt season for him and allow him to bulk up a bit and develop his game to adjust to the collegiate level. However, I can't say I am sad to see him on the court! He had two absolutely beautiful assists. The one, as he was passing it, I said "noooooo" (as it appeared to be going straight to a Boro player), but Kerr put some king of English on it and it went straight to Eisendorf, as intended, for an easy lay in.

    Was glad to see Eisendorf return to the lineup. Kid has a beautiful jump shot and is a force inside.

    Toupane looked more like the player we saw last year. I really believe if Kutyei can keep up his production and just be consistent (doesn't need 25 points a game... a consistent 15+) - Toupane will stay higher in production. It's tough when you go from essentially the 5th scoring option (last year Toupane was just a complement to Smith, Blazek, AP and RT-E) to the "leader" of the pack (until someone else establishes themselves as a "leader" consistently).

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  5. Oh boy...

    Positives: Eisenforf emerged in his best all-around game. Aggressively.
    Toupane: Showed more aggression as well.
    Gardener: Improves with each game.

    Guard combinations: Scoring improving. Kerr adds motion and energy. Very smart, deft passer. (See above)

    ----
    Big problem area: Perimeter fouling. Seems like their guards alone had 20-25 points from foul line.

    Fantastic effort. The team could have been blown out, yet, nearly won the game. I see progress in what might be one of Gannon's youngest teams ever.

    God bless Matt Dogan. He appears very injured. I'm hoping all is OK.

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    1. Yes, Dogan definitely looks to be agonizing 90% of the time. Is it he that someone said had foot surgery over summer? If so, wonder if it's a flare up or recurrence?

      Injury would definitely explain how a player goes from chucking up nearly 30+ shots in a 2 game span to taking less than 10 shots in a 4 game span.

      Hoping the boys can knock off UPJ (I'm anti-Pittsburgh in general) and then use the mandatory time off to heal up and practice.

      Also, major kudos to the girls for their HUGE win!

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    2. #453, What is the source of your statement that this "might be one of Gannon's youngest teams ever?" Can you share your research? Toupane (senior), Boykins (senior), Kuteyi (junior), Dogan (junior) when healthy, and Matey (junior) get the most playing time. In addition there are three more seniors (Bailey, Thiero and Dogbo) on the roster, although they don't play much. That doesn't seem like a young team, let alone one of the youngest ever.

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    3. We may not have won on the scoreboard, but it certainly was a moral victory over Edinboro last night.

      To quote one of blogger Jim's prior posts ... How low can you go? We've reached the point that we're happy with moral victories over local rivals. That's how low.

      Maybe we can get a real, live victory on Saturday.

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    4. "GO"

      What I mean is by who is playing. Several periods had FR,FR,SOPH,JR,JR on the floor......When "Byrd" is healthy, there may be three Fr'S on the floor.

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    5. Im still trying to find the hype with Gardner. I think he has potential and will be good, but hasn't done really anything to show me anything thus far for this year. Usually leads or is 2nd in to's, looks lost on the court and his shot has been way off.

      Again I think he will be something, but for now I'd rather see other guards in there with him getting in sparingly.

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  6. Gannon's 2-8 record is worst start since the 1956-57 team started 1-9.

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    1. So not the worst start in history! Gotta take the positive haha

      I'll bet that team didn't lose majority of their games by a possession or two though.

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    2. Neither did this team ... only two of our eight losses (Millersville and Edinboro) went down to the final two minutes. The other six were a combination of routs and solid losses.

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    3. They still have a slew of close games (8 pts or less). They've been in all but 2 games.

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  7. This whole season is off the rails. It seems like Reilly continues to look for a combination that works on the floor. Still haven't found it. Would it be easier if the coaching staff just settled on an eight or nine-man rotation and stuck with it win or lose?

    Last night's game was a record-setter. It was the highest combined score in a game in school history since a 113-94 win over Eastern Montana in 1973. The Knights have LOST the last two games scoring when they've scored 100. Gannon had previously never lost a game that it topped the century mark. Last night's game was a school record for points in a loss (102).

    It's shocking and quite sad that the best record we can hope for going into the holidays is a sordid 3-8.

    Having said all that, at least we know one thing that no Gannon fan or coach will ever say ... Check out EU women's coach Stan Swank's quote in the last paragraph of the Times News game story on the GU women's win over Edinboro. He said that his players didn't play hard ... they had one player competing on a high level.

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    1. Albeit that may be true... I hate when coaches make it a "me" story in a humbling loss. "I didn't coach well enough. The team didn't play hard enough. They werent prepared well enough" etc. Have some class and just say "we were outplayed. They wanted it more" etc.

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  8. Our losses have not been that close...here they are...20,9,16,9,29,3,8,8,3...points

    Our wins have been close...2 and 3 points.

    So we had 2 close losses and 2 close wins.

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  9. 9 and 8 points are not big losses... so 4 close losses and 2 close wins.

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  10. ok, so your math is off in many ways (we don't have 9 losses.. yet... for one)

    games go: -21, -9, +3, +2, -16, -11, -8, -9, -29, -3

    so we have 2 close wins and 4 close losses.

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  11. A win is a win and a lose is a lose and close only counts in horseshoes and grenades.

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  12. You know you're in territory usually reserved for Browns fans when you're arguing about what constitutes a close loss. Eight points is not close. Nine points is even more not close. To call that close is like saying gee if we just could have had three more possessions in the last 10 seconds and hit three three pointers and the other team didn't score, we could have won.

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    1. "Go"

      The planets were aligned perfectly Wednesday for Edinboro to blow Gannon out by 20 points or more. (I think they scored 15 straight points near end of 1st half) They are indeed an explosive bunch.

      It didn't happen. Gannon nearly won the game against what might be the most talented team (that doesn't play too smart) in the PSAC.

      We lost a very close, hard fought contest. Hopefully, that carries forward to tomorrow night against a very good UPJ team.

      We'll see.

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    2. I believe Edinboro had something like a 21-2 run when all was said and done. I know Gannon was up by nearly, if not, 10 and a minute later Edinboro was up 10.

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  13. My thinking just goes back to a coach I had. We had an awful year and he finally realized it wasn't going to get better so he set realistic goals. 1 was that if we had a big loss (losing by 9 or more points to a team with a winning record or losing to any team with a losing record) next practice was laps and suicides... and then our 90 minute practice. That's only reason I go by thay - he kind of set the bar at that and burned it in our heads haha

    Something ive often thought about and want others opinions - Dogan came in with much hype and sadly has not lived up to his HS name. Ive always wondered if he wouldve played his frosh year to get a feel and then redshirted and had 3 years left with 2 years experience, would he have benefited from that? Like I said my opinion but would like others as well.

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    1. Fair point ... A red-shirt season may have helped.

      I've always thought that Dogan is a good player, but he's not going to thrive as a primary outside shooting options in a Division II offense.

      I use Tyler Stoczynski and Corey Knight as an example: In 2006-07, Tyler and Corey were the #1 and #3 options on offense. They are both fine players, but a Division II team isn't going to be successful with them as the go-to guys. In 2007-08 and 08-09, Tyler was the #3 option and Corey played 15-20 minutes per game off the bench and provided a spark every time he came into the game. Both were key contributors in a two-year run that culminated in a regional championship.

      I think that Dogan would be more effective in a different system. Give him tons of credit -- he plays very hard and doesn't complain, but this offense is not a good fit for his talent.

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    2. I don't think this offense fits any type of talents

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  14. Let's classify games into three categories: (1) Toss-ups: Within one possession in the final two minutes or overtime. These ones can go either way. (2) Solid wins / losses: One team is in control, but the result is in doubt much of the way and (3) Butt-kicking wins / losses.

    I would classify this year's games as:
    Butt-kicking wins: None
    Solid wins: None
    Tossups: 2-2 (Wins over Ship and Lemoyne and losses to Mville and Boro
    Solid losses: 0-3 (Lock Haven, Bloomsburg, IUP) I would not argue if IUP was classified as a butt-kicking.
    Butt-kicking losses: 0-3 (WJU, Ashland, Clarion)

    Current record: 2-8. Record if we win all toss-ups: 4-6. Record if we lose all toss-ups: 0-10. No wins beyond toss-ups this year. That is concerning.

    To give some context, let's look at last year's team:

    Butt-kicking wins: 6, Solid wins: 8, Toss-ups: 9-5 (yes, nearly half the games were in doubt in the final minutes). Solid losses: 4 (A-B, at UPJ, at IUP, SRU). Butt-kicking losses: 0. Overall record: 23-9. Record winning all toss-ups: 28-4, record losing all toss-ups: 14-18, record with even toss-ups: 21-11.

    Last year's team was NEVER blown out -- the Knights were in all 32 games. This year's team has been blown out 3 times to far (4 if you want to count IUP) and has zero wins beyond toss-ups. We're 2-2 in toss-ups, meaning that we can't just say that things haven't gone our way. We're a very solid 2-8. Unbelievably.

    It would be nice to beat UPJ. It would make the Gannon faithful feel a little better about our team (if it's possible to feel good about a 3-8 team) going into the holidays if the Knights can register a "solid" win tomorrow.

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    1. I like and agree with your breakdown of the schedule. IUP could go either way but I personally felt they battled for it and would say solid loss. But as you said I'd not make a strong case against classifying it as a butt kicking.

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  15. Gannon89 thanks for taking the time to define this. I agree with your logic entirely. Go knights!

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  16. Great analysis and discussion here.

    Boy, sign of the times department: The Autonation Cure Bowl receives a better preview in our Saturday paper than an evening Gannon Basketball game.

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    1. For several years now, The Times hasn't really been focusing on any of the local colleges - exception football. Even their HS coverage is starting dwindle.

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  17. 2-9. This team's .182 winning percentage is Gannon's lowest since the 1946-47 club's .111. This was Reilly's 300th game as Gannon head coach, the most in GU history. His winning percentage is .620. In the last 50 years only Dave Markey has a lower winning percentage (.602). Markey had just one losing season, his first. He was fired after delivering a 15-11 record in 1973-74, his fourth season. Reilly has had three losing seasons. So far.

    Mansfield also lost tonight, staying tied with Gannon for the worst record in the conference at 1-7 in the PSAC. Gannon, however, can claim true worst team status as its 2-9 overall record is a game behind Mansfield at 3-8.

    Pitt-Johnstown is an OK team, the kind that will slip into the sixth seed in the PSAC playoffs and bow out in the first round, the kind the formerly Golden Ones used to beat regularly, especially at home.

    Where was Kuteyi down the stretch? He took a seat with 7 minutes left and didn't return until there were 28 seconds left and the Knights in desperation mode. Kuteyi and Toupane were Gannon's only consistent offensive threats all night. Is Kuteyi who you want riding the pine with the game on the line? Apparently.

    The official attendance was reported as 524. Haha. There were 24 brave souls in the east side bleachers. 20 on the west side. Total bleacher creature count: 44. That means there were 480 in the half empty plush and chair seats. Maybe that includes the coaches and players.

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  18. To be fair to the Sports Information Department ... the official attendance for the men's games includes the total number of folks who came through the door for both games. Lots of people left before the men's game. Since tomorrow starts the dead period for Division II, many players' families were in attendance at the game to take their kid home for the holidays; they would not stay for the men's game.

    What else can you say about tonight? That was a very winnable game against a decent team that, as gogannongo says, will probably come in 5th or 6th in the PSAC West.

    Does Santa still come if your favorite basketball team is 2-9? Never been in this situation before. We now have 2 1/2 weeks to anticipate the January 6 Mansfield game. What a treat to start out 2016!

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    1. Likely one of perhaps 2-4 home wins remaining this season. I cannot see it beyond Seton Hill & Mansfield, personally.

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  19. Whew!....UPJ had a gigantic 5 point play mid 1st half. At the time, I knew it would figure big.

    Winnable game, for sure. I personally think UPJ is a bit better than the above opinions. In what is turning into a difficult season, we go from scoring 102 points to 56 points in 3 days, and lose both contests by the thin margins, playing two completely different paced games.

    Hopefully, the Christmas break can give some of our injured players, key ones at that, some time to heal.

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  20. How bad does GU have to be for them to get a new coach?

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    1. If not now, not til retirement an an empty gym. Remember when season tickets were a thing to come by in Erie.

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    2. Probably consistently bad. This is one season out of the past 3. Everyone is getting so bent out of shape because of one season. I know they've had bad seasons before, but I'd have to guess when thry evaluate they're going to also tske into consideration his total wins at Gannon, conference championships, NCAA appearances and his success when getting to the NCAA tourney.

      I really can't see this staff being let go even if they lost every game the rest of the season. In that event, I would say next season would be the critical season.

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    3. yes season tix used to be hard to come by.... back before Erie really had anything going on. No BayHawks, no Otters, Family First wasn't as big for kids years ago and Erie Premier is new within the past few years... lots of stuff going on in Erie now compared to what it used to be.

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    4. Bret Brown, coach of the 76ers, currently holds a coaching record (with this team) of 38-156, including a 1-29 season thus far. since 2013 76ers have been 19-63, 18-64 and now 1-29.

      The organization just signed Coach Brown to an extension.

      Least we're not in that bad of a situation....

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  21. #453 I think our only 2 injured players are Byrd...a freshman who is 0-9. And Dougan, probably a complimentary player.

    Not to pile on, but I do not understand the logic of recruiting seniors and I am assuming giving them a scholarship who don't fit what you are trying to do as a coach and hardly play.

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    1. Byrd may be 0-9, but he's a starter (well he was) and only played in 3 games. The 3rd game he played sparingly off the bench due to the injury. Hes also one of only 2 players to do much in the 2 exhibition games.

      Agreed that DOGAN (unless Gannon has picked up another player) is a role player, but he still has the potential to be an offensive threat if he can get back to where he was a few games into the season.

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    2. My point with Ascunsion-Byrd: He scored low double digits versus D-1 powers Pitt and George Washington, albeit in scrimmage games.

      I've seen him practice more than a few times. A starter. A 10 point minimum scorer in the PSAC, as a freshman. A 2-3 man who most definitely would be helping Gannon with his presence. I think he has played in 2 games this year, sparingly at that due to ankle problems. He just shed his walking boot this week, and, has missed close to a month of practice.

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  22. I think at this point everyone needs a pep talk from Aaron Rogers:

    R-E-L-A-X!

    is it bad? yes! is it concerning? yes! it's not even midway though.

    If we see no improvement from the young core (Matey, Kutyei, Gardener, Byrd *if he returns*, Jones, Kerr, Eisendorf) individually and as a team over the course of the season - it's still not panic time, but I would think next year would be do or die.

    Merry Christmas and may everyone have a Happy and Blessed New Year!

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    1. I see a major difference between the Knights at this point in the season and the Packers when Rodgers made his famous spelling of a five-letter word.

      The Packers were 1-2 at the time ... not even 20% through their season. Gannon is nearly halfway through their season. If the Packers were 1-6 or 2-6 at the time Rodgers spelled the word, the reaction would have been much different.

      I also don't see people losing their minds on this board. Nobody's typing in all caps. No real mass outrage. Many (myself included) are certainly, and justifiably, disappointed with this season and concerned about how the remainder of the season will unfold. Green Bay had been 1-2 plenty of times in their recent history; Gannon hasn't been 2-9 for roughly six decades -- it's a low that very few Gannon fans have experienced. If we were 4-7 or 5-6, I wouldn't feel this way.

      We'll have to go 8-7 the rest of the way to finish with 10 wins. It would be a small miracle (11-4) just to finish .500 at this point. I don't think that the team will finish with 20 losses -- Reilly teams do improve, but the starting point for the improvement is so low that 8-18 seems to be in play.

      I am just hoping for one or two "solid" wins to give me some confidence that this team can turn the corner. I agree with Jim and some on this board that it may not be worth it bring Byrd back for the season -- he's probably needed to salvage 10 wins, but what's the difference between 10-16 versus 7-19?

      I'm not going to R-E-L-A-X, but I am certainly not panicking ... and I don't see too many people doing that.

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    2. golden - i agree with your points. My statement was more to the people calling for Coach Reilly's head because of this and because of what they think the outcome of the season will be. Essentially, I was just saying - it's one season. Next season will more than likely be make or break season. Not that anyone is panicking, but moreso for those wanting Coach Reilly gone now - relax, it's one season.

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  23. Two weeks in a row, a Gannon freshman has been named PSAC Freshman of the Week: Congrats to both Max Kerr and, this weeks nominee, Ian Gardener for being named PSAC Freshman of the Week.

    My gut feeling is that if Byrd gets healthy, he has a chance to be named at some point this season as well.

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    1. Agreed. I don't picture Kerr being named again (as he plays more I think teams will figure him out and his size may become a slight issue), but if Gardener keeps progressing - he may see a few more.

      I also say that at least Kutyei or Toupane will be named Player of the Week at least once before season's end.

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  24. Thankfully, we all survived the Dead Period despite the fact that everyone's Life was In the Balance.

    Back at it on Sunday ... Any word on whether Byrd will return? I agree with the points on the blog that it may make more sense for Byrd to sit out the rest of the year.

    Happy New Year, everyone!

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