Minnesota Coach P.J. Fleck: “Find A Way To Win!”

Minnesota Coach PJ Fleck
Minnesota Head Coach P.J. Fleck after defeating Penn State 31 – 26: “We’ve got to change at some point. I think this team’s proven that, as we continue to go into the future, we don’t have to keep saying (negative) things. . . ”

Minnesota Head Coach P.J. Fleck is a giant killer. Minnesota defeated Penn State, 31 -26 in a Big Ten, November thriller they weren’t supposed to win. And his post-game, locker room speech to his players was a Sermon on the Mount type of message that will preach for years to come.

Coach Fleck’s speech is why I am an instant Minnesota Gopher fan. I don’t know much about him but I do know that if I played college football, I’d want to play for someone like him, if not play for HIM. We all need motivation and affirmation and maturation. And this coach and this team provided all of that and some for all of us who believe that things will, and must and just have to get better.

Here’s some of what Coach Fleck said after the big win:

This is what we can become. I’m sure there was (sic) some people on the final drive who said, ‘Oh, here we go again.’ Gotta let go of all of that. Fifty years ago, 40 years ago, 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, we’ve got to change at some point. This team’s proven that. Does that mean we’re going to win ’em all? No. But they’re doing a lot of special things that you can keep building on to make your culture stronger, and your program stronger, and make it more of a national brand.”

Amen Brother.

Note to file:as Coach Fleck taught us, “We’ve got to change at some point.” And if we change, things will change. That’s how it works. It might be bad and you might be sad, but things have got to change at some point. They’ve got to. Trouble don’t last always. Success is failure turned inside out. Weeping may endure for a night, but God promised us that joy will come in the morning. Amen and amen.

“Now, Minnesota is 9-0 for the first time since 1904, and Fleck has won six consecutive games as an underdog. And Coach Fleck has a big-game quarterback in Tanner Morgan, who went 18-for-20 for 339 yards and three touchdowns against Penn State. Morgan planned to play for Fleck at Western Michigan but switched to Minnesota when Fleck took over the Gophers. He believes in Fleck. You probably should, too.” https://herald-review.com/sports/college/illini/things-we-learned-about-big-ten-football-after-week-including/article_9c6e3821-b794-59f7-8821-296b124f77f4.html

The third-year head coach did not mince words about what the victory meant for his Gophers team.

“This team’s been through so much — on the field, off the field — through the last three years,” he said. “This team has heart. It has courage. It has character. It’s got an unbelievable culture. They found a way. The whole season’s been highs, lows, but we found a way to win and that was the biggest thing. We’ve been telling people, it’s like — we just find a way to win. They love each other. It’s a special group of young men.”

With the triumph, Minnesota’s resume is padded as the home stretch of the regular season continues Nov. 16 at Iowa, Nov. 23 at Northwestern and Nov. 30 against Wisconsin in the chase for the Big Ten West — and perhaps, now officially, the College Football Playoff. https://247sports.com/Article/PJ-Fleck-Minnesota-Golden-Gophers-football-coach-Penn-State-Nittany-Lions-postgame-interview-James-Franklin-138277618/

The 31-26 victory over No. 4 Penn State marked No. 17 Minnesota’s first at home victory against a top-five opponent since 1977, when the Gophers knocked off top-ranked Michigan three years before Fleck was born. Minnesota is 9-0 for the first time since 1904, and 6-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1961. The Gophers validated a start that many questioned and showed they belong in the College Football Playoff conversation.

“We’ve done a lot of things we haven’t done in a while,” senior defensive end Carter Coughlin said. Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck had envisioned a scene like the one that took place Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium, as Minnesota students and fans filled the field to celebrate another set of milestones

The win set off a raucous celebration from the sellout crowd. Minnesota players ran to the Penn State sideline to collect the Governor’s Victory Bell trophy, which the Nittany Lions had held since 2016. Students streamed onto the field as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” played. Wide receiver Rashod Bateman, who set a stadium record with 203 receiving yards — the second-highest total in team history — couldn’t remember a thing afterward, saying only, “A bunch of people. That’s it.”

When Fleck entered the locker room, he jumped into his players’ arms and crowd surfed — a tradition he started while coaching Western Michigan, which went 13-1 with a Cotton Bowl appearance in 2016. He then awarded the game ball to the entire state, giving the ball to university president Joan Gabel, with hope that it eventually reaches Gov. Tim Walz.

“That’s why you take a job,” Fleck said. “That was the whole vision, to be able to have that field swarmed on a top-five team in the country, and to put us undefeated. And when everybody told me, ‘Don’t take the job, don’t take the job.’ My life is usually about, ‘Don’t do that, don’t do that. OK, I’ll do that. That sounds like a good job for me.’

“That was the vision.”

Fleck, 38, began the week by agreeing to a new seven-year, $33.25 million contract with Minnesota. He had been mentioned as a candidate for the coaching vacancy at Florida State, and likely would have been a candidate for other openings in the coming weeks.

But Fleck now appears committed to Minnesota, where he’s 21-13 in three seasons. Fleck’s record through his first 34 games with the Golden Gophers mirrors that of Murray Warmath (20-12-2), who led Minnesota to its most recent national championship in 1960.

“To see in the locker room the former players brought a tear to my eye,” Fleck said. “We’ve had seven head coaches in around 14 years. It’s hard to gain traction with former players. Everybody’s connected to someone else, and we feel like, ‘I played for that guy.’ You played for our Minnesota. That’s who you played for, and I just get to represent that.

“Part of the reason why we signed the contract was we want to bring everybody back. We want everybody to be like tonight every single game. We can create some type of dynasty, you can create some type of cultural sustainability, because your alums are the most important part of what we do.”

Coughlin didn’t know if fans would rush the field. He sought out fellow senior Kamal Martin, a starting linebacker who couldn’t play because of injury, and his roommates.

“It was just amazing to see the excitement on everybody’s face, how together Minnesota is right now,” said Coughlin, a native of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, who was already in the program when Fleck arrived in 2017. “It’s really special.”

The Gophers have never appeared in the Big Ten championship game and most recently won the conference in 1967.

Go Gophers!

Wear Heaven’s Helmet!

Antonio-Brown-Helmet

I’m not going to complain about my helmet.  It keeps me from injury, it is issued by the “League” of Heaven, the Holy Trinity – a.k.a., the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and I really can’t do any better. So why is Antonio Brown aggrieved that he can’t wear his own, personal, ten year old helmet?

According to ESPN, “Brown prefers to wear his older helmet, believed to be a 10-year-old Schutt Air Advantage model, which is no longer made by the company and, thus, no longer certified by the National Operating Committee for Standards and Athletic Equipment. He has tried the new certified helmet out and believes it protrudes out and interferes with his vision as he tries to catch the football.” Really?

We need to wear our “League” issued and “League” approved helmets. The Bible speaks of the “Helmet of Salvation.” Without salvation, we are doomed to death and destruction, because sin is real and hell is hot. We need to be saved from our sins and delivered from our debauchery. Without deliverance from bondage and the dismissal of all charges against us, we are all doomed to a devil’s hell. And our only Savior is Jesus. We can’t invent our own “personal” helmets of salvation. That won’t work with the “League.”

The reference to a helmet is an apropos analogy for what we need to protect our heads and our minds from getting rattled and shaken and banged up and beat down. The Greek word for helmet means to “encircle the head.” In other words,  in this spiritual battle we wage everyday, we must employ the weapons of our warfare. And the helmet is the armor we must use to protect our heads, the seat of our intellect and intelligence, at all cost. If our minds are not right, usually we are not right. So we must protect our heads with the equipment God gave us; salvation.

Without the helmet of salvation, we would get our bells rung. This is a football term which refers to when a player undergoes such a huge blow to his head that he can hear a ringing noise between his ears. In life, we suffer anxiety and stress and strain and trauma when we don’t rely on God for everything. Salvation is not just a ticket to Heaven; it’s a permit for abundant life right here and right now. Salvation is our assurance that a healthy and wholesome life can be lived here on earth.

Your life need not be a living hell; it only is because you haven’t put on the helmet of salvation. Don’t take God’s provision for granted. Don’t take your salvation for granted. Put on the helmet of salvation today, and keep it on.

It will save your life.

Thomas Edward Patrick Brady

brady ea sports

Guest Blog from Wesley T. Cherry, Jr.

“We have to really marvel and appreciate what we are witnessing. It has been an absolute honor to be able to watch Thomas Edward Patrick Brady. We have to really marvel and appreciate what we are witnessing. 

It has been an absolute honor to be able to watch Thomas Edward Patrick Brady play the Quarterback position. Converting not one, but three straight 3rd and 10’s in overtime!!! 13/19 on third downs for the game in that building?! It’s impossible! Not for “Tommy” though. I will never put Aaron Rodgers in the same breath with him again. I can see a team getting to 9 Super Bowls in 19 seasons, but not one player….It’s unheard of.

When greatness is needed, Brady summons it and gets the job done every single time. Did I mention he is 41! I’m done…Tom Brady you stand alone.rd and 10’s in overtime!!! 13/19 on third downs for the game in that building?! It’s impossible! Not for “Tommy” though. I will never put Aaron Rodgers in the same breath with him again. I can see a team getting to 9 Super Bowls in 19 seasons, but not one player….It’s unheard of. When greatness is needed, he summons it and gets the job done every single time. Did I mention he is 41! I’m done…Tom Brady you stand  alone . . . ” in the world of sports.

But lest we get too carried away with Brady, the spiritual corrolation is this; there is only one God, the great I AM, and beside HIm there is none other.  Amen.

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.

Psalm 48:1-2, KJV

 

Tom Brady: The G.O.A.T. Does It Again

brady afc championship game 2019

Is Tom Brady the G.O.A.T.. a.k.a., the Greatest Of All Time? Apparently yes.

Case in point, Tom Brady just did it again. Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, Jr. did it AGAIN!  The New England Patriots just defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, in overtime, and Brady won it with a time consuming, game winning touchdown drive in OT to win the AFC Championship Game on the road. So “He” is headed to yet another Super Bowl. Even after losing to my Eagles last year, the point is that “He’s” headed to his third straight Super Bowl appearance in a row.  If that’s not dominance, I don’t know what is.

As much as we root against him and love to hate him and talk bad about him, he just keeps on winning.  It wasn’t his most stellar game. But “He” delivered in the fourth quarter and in overtime. He’s heading to the ninth Super Bowl of his career. Ninth. Who else can say that? He finished the game completing 65 percent of his passes for 348 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He committed mistakes, but recovered for the win. It was just another magical performance by Brady.

I’m not a Tom Brady fan. I’m not. And I don’t like the New England Patriots. I don’t. But something tells me to tell you not to bet against Brady and the Pats in Super Bowl LIII. Don’t do it. As much as I don’t want them to win, I think they just might pull off and turn in another super, Super Bowl.

Sports science stipulates consistency and cohesion and comrade on any and every team are prerequisites for success. And Brady checks every box. Players come and go on every team, but with the Patriots, with all of the shuffling and shifting, the one constant with the Brady Bunch is, you guessed it, Brady. The Patriot Way is the Brady Way. Brady has won more than most. So it’s difficult, nay pert near impossible, to bet against Brady. So don’t do it. Don’t bet against Brady. Just don’t do it. You’ll thank me later.

So is Brady qualified to be the G.O.A.T.?  Let’s see. 

Brady, the University of Michigan stud, was drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round (THE SIXTH ROUND!) of the 2000 NFL draft. In Brady’s 16 full seasons as a starter (he missed nearly all of 2008 with a torn ACL), the Patriots have earned nine trips to the Super Bowl, winning five. Brady has won four Super Bowl MVP awards, two league MVP awards (2007, 2010), has been selected to fourteen Pro Bowls, and has led the Patriots to more division titles than any other quarterback in NFL history, with fifteen. Brady is fifth on the all-time list for career passing yards and third for career touchdown passes. His career postseason record is 27–10, winning more playoff games than any other quarterback, and he has appeared in more playoff games than any player at any position. Brady has never had a losing season as a starting quarterback in the NFL. His combined regular-season and postseason wins are also the most of any quarterback in NFL history. Unbelievable.

Some players aren’t pegged or don’t seem to have the potential to pan out and prosper. Yet someway somehow, they seemingly, consistently and continuously find a way to win. We might not like them but we sure do respect them. They give us patterns and paradigms to follow. Whatever happens, and in spite of who comes and despite who goes, there stand players like Tom Brady, like a stone wall. He’s endured derision and disdain from everyone everywhere: from Roger Goodell to me in this blog.

But like the Bible says, Brady is steadfast and unmovable and always abounding. And that’s how believers should be too.

 

So, like him or lump him, just don’t bet against him.

Thou Shalt Console Thy Brother

alshon jeffrey drop

Alshon Jeffrey did not lose the game. His dropped pass near the 20 yard line in the waning moments of the Divisional Playoff game against New Orleans in the Super Dome certainly would have put the defending Super Bowl champions in position to score the winning touchdown, but it just didn’t happen this time.  Primed for another miraculous comeback victory, Nick Foles drove the Philadelphia Eagles into scoring range down just six points to the No. 1 seed Saints ahead of the two-minute warning.

Then, zap. The magic was gone. We all hoped that Saint Nick had one more trick up his sleeve and we all believed that he could pull just one more rabbit out of his hat, but his pass, which was right on target, was dropped by the Eagles best receiver.  “Foles zipped a pass to his top receiver, Alshon Jeffery. The ball slipped through the wideout’s hands and landed in the gut of Saints corner Marshon Lattimore. Drop. INT. Comeback bid evaporated.

The interception epitomized the Eagles’ offensive struggles the final 45 minutes of the 20-14 loss to the Saints. And Jeffrey felt like he had blown the game all by himself.

“I let my teammates down. I let the city of Philadelphia down. That’s on me. We’ll be back next year for sure,” Jeffery said in the locker room. “One play don’t define me. I mean, all of the greats, they have missed game-winning shots. … So it happens. It’s part of football. I just hated the way it happened in the playoffs and it was the final moment.”

It’s hard. I mean, it’s really hard because he’s so down,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson told reporters of his message to Jeffery. “But for me, it’s about staying positive. Listen, he’s made many, many big catches for us this season and he will continue to do that. He’s just got to keep his head up. Don’t let one play define you. It’s not who he is. He’s too good of a player. He’ll embrace it obviously and he’ll be better for it, but I told him to keep his head up and keep playing.”

The Eagles started the game scorching hot scoring back-to-back 75-plus-yard touchdown drives to open the game with a 14-0 lead to stun the Superdome fans. The Eagles gobbled up 151 yards and eight first downs in the opening quarter.

But then the momentum shifted and Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints scored 20 unanswered points to overcome their biggest deficit ever in post season play. There were a lot of plays between the first quarter and the fourth quarter that got away from Eagles, and that’s why Alshon shouldn’t shoulder the weight of this loss on his own.

But back to the play that said it all for the Eagles. Nick didn’t play all that well, and the defense, while holding Brees to 20 points, gave up too many big plays.  And Alshon Jeffrey did not lose the game. No he did not. The moral of the story is this: “one play and one day does not define you.” No it does not. And those of us who understand life and living know that a legacy is not built or destroyed in a day. Your legacy is built on the test of your character over time.

Keep your chin up. Hold you head high, and be an encouragement to someone who may have failed today but has the promise of destiny tomorrow.  Because failures are not final, and God has a plan for you, and he plans on using the good and the bad, the happy and the sad of your life to make you better.

So always remember, after a tough loss, the first commandment with promise is “thou shalt encourage thy brother.”

You Just Gotta Believe!

The Philadelphia Eagles just came back from the dead and made the playoffs, and in so doing they showed us how to participate in our own resurrection (And by the way, Saint Nick lives!)

At one point in this post-Super Bowl, celebration season, the Philadelphia Eagles were a woeful 4-6. They had just lost to the New Orleans Saints 48 -7 and with that loss all expectation for the playoffs was taken away; the season was essentially and technically over. To add insult to injury, our star QB, Carson Wentz, bruised his back and a slew of other injuries ensued; painfully, the Eagles likelihood of making the playoffs went from bad to worse. Faithful Philly fans everywhere thought that the Eagles chances of getting into the Playoffs and defending their crown were slim to none. Or so it seemed.  Then it all turned around.

After losing to the Cowboys 29 – 23 in overtime, the Eagles played their best football of the season and finished on a three game winning streak. After being dead in the water, the Eagles blanked the Redskins 24-0 on the last day of the season and won this must win game on the road to finish 9 -7, earning a Wild Card entry into the playoffs. The Eagles survived mistakes and heartbrakes, and are a living testimony of how to overcome all kinds of adversity.

But to actually get into the playoffs, Philly needed help. And help (from Heaven?) came in the form of the Chicago Bears’ No. 1 Defense.  For the Eagles to make the playoffs this season the Minnesota Vikings had to lose and the Bears had to win. So what happened? The Vikings lost at home to those same Bears 24 – 10. Whew! 

Christianity teaches that death is not final. Not physically or spiritually. The central and cardinal doctrine of Christianity affirms that God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day. Without the resurrection, the apostle Paul declared, Christian preaching and belief are pointless and meaningless. Because of the resurrection of Christ, we too can experience resurrections. We too can get help from Heaven to turn death into life.

Your situation may seem dead, your marriage may stink the stench of death, your children may have disappeared and departed from you, your finances may have suffered a fatal blow, and even your future may seem listless and lifeless.  But there is always hope. Always.

The Eagles making the playoffs this season just goes to show that sports teach the hope of resurrection. Resurrection is help from above descending live a dove to bring life and love. And even though we may feel or even be dead, we must participate in our own resurrection, because help only comes when we have hope. In games and seasons when it seems as if all hope is lost, teams can speak life and determine they are not facing a dead end, and we can too. It’s not just about being positive; it’s a firm faith and a battleax belief that our lot in life is to overcome every dip and every drop that we may descend into.

The Eagles making the playoffs just goes to prove that it’s not over until it’s over. The Eagles just proved to us once again that all things are possible to those who believe. So be encouraged. It’s not over. On this New Year’s Eve, it’s just beginning.   

The Mystery of Momentum

Carson Wentz After Loss
Carson Wentz after the Eagles blew a 17 point Fourth Quarter lead at home to the Carolina Panthers on October 21, 2018

What’s wrong with Wentz? (And the rest of the Eagles, for that matter)  The Eagles lost momentum, and they lost the game because of it. Wentz played adequately and respectively for three-quarters, and then the bottom fell out.  With less than a minute left in regulation AT HOME, on the potentially game willing drive, Wentz forced a pass into double coverage to Alshon Jeffrey, a pass that should have been intercepted in the end zone, when a WIDE OPEN Wendell Smallwood was clearly within reach.  If you could see me right now, as I write this blog, I’m just shaking my head. I spoke to a dear friend Sunday night after the game, and he was still heated; we were HOLLERLING at each other about how bad the Eagles played compared to how good we were last year. 

The sportsman’s Bible says this: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for wins, for they shall be rewarded with victories.”

Ok, ok, ok, no that’s not exactly what the actual Bible says, but it’s close.  Hunger and thirst are perquisites for accomplishing and achieving our goals.  Last year, my Eagles were flying high; they had all of the right ingredients to win, and they won big. They had coaching, running, receiving and a defense that could actually stop the other team when necessary. And they had momentum, right up through the Super Bowl; through injuries and replacement players and a backup QB leading us to front and center in the football world. But that was then. And this is now.

Now, my Eagles couldn’t stop granny from robbing a bank with a Beebe gun. They can’t seem to stop the bleeding because they can’t even afford to pay attention. This Eagles team couldn’t stop payment on a check for $0 if their life depended on it. The Eagles had a 17 point lead over the Carolina Panthers in the FOURTH QUARTER and still lost! They allowed Cam Newton to drive downfield for touchdowns on three consecutive possessions, AND allowed a two point conversion. They allowed the Panthers to come back. When it mattered most, the Birds couldn’t hold onto the ball to sustain a drive to save their lives.  Yeash. 

So, here’s the question: will Wentz wither away or will he WILL himself and his teammates back to respectability and out of this abysmal mess?  It’s like my parents used to tell me when my sisters and I wanted something that we probably weren’t going to get; we’ll see. The Eagles were celebrating prematurely, and the Panthers saw it and seized “it” right from under their noses. 

So . . . , let’s learn the lesson. Don’t lose momentum. DON’T give your opponent the ball when they have the momentum. Don’t do it. Do whatever it takes to hold onto the ball and maintain possession, especially when they have the hot hand. Note to file, NEVER EVER give the ball back to the other team when they have the hot hand.

Momentum is energy and force and motion. It means to push and to drive forward no matter what. But momentum is a funny, tricky thing. Momentum is electric and elusive.  Momentum will spark your battery and spur your inner horses. You can’t really quantify it, but it’s tangible nonetheless.  Either you have it or you don’t. And when you have it, you protect it with your soul and you hang onto it for dear life; because you never want to lose it, or worse yet, give it away.  The irony is, you know when you have it, and you can barely fathom when you lose it. Because momentum is “it”, and you’ve got to have “it” to win.

Spiritually speaking, momentum lies in your heart.  The Bible says to “keep your heart with all diligence, for out it flow the issues of life.”

The Carolina Panthers couldn’t spell touchdown for three-quarters of football, and yet all of a sudden they seized the momentum from the Eagles. All of a sudden, they flipped the script. All of a sudden, they could drive down the field like it’s a walk in the park and punch it in. Seriously?  C’mon Man!  How’d they do it? They realized the mystery of momentum.