On Sports

Former Providence Journal sports writer Mike Szostak blogs regularly with news and analysis about sports in Rhode Island.

Deflategate is a migraine for the National Football League and an embarrassment for the New England Patriots, but for the nation’s sports media, it’s a gift. A Big,Beautiful, Wrapped Present.  Think Christmas morning, and the largest box under the tree is labeled: To Reporters, From The Patriots.

That’s Deflategate, the ball controversy swirling about the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots. Did the Patriots deflate game balls last Sunday, possibly making it easier for quarterback Tom Brady to throw and tight end Rob Gronkowski to catch in the rain? If they didn’t, who did?

The U.S. Olympic Committee has selected Boston as its official bid city for the 2024 Olympics. Good for Boston, I say, and the rest of New England.

When Oregon and Florida State kick off the Rose Bowl at 5 p.m. today, I want you to think of Brown University football.

Yes, Brown football, because 99 years ago today Brown played in the first official Rose Bowl against Washington State College of Pullman, Wash.  Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true.

The real college football bowl season begins today, New Year’s Eve, with the Orange Bowl, followed on New Year’s Day by the Cotton Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl. Please do not try to convince me that the bowl season began on Dec. 20. Many of the 24 games played through Tuesday night were little more than ESPN programming vehicles.

With less than a week to go before we welcome 2015, it’s time to reflect upon the stories that informed, entertained and intrigued us most during 2014. These are the sports stories that grabbed my attention.

Let’s hear it for the University of Rhode Island basketball team.

The WOMEN’S team.

Heading home for Christmas, the rampaging Rams are 8-3, already one victory better than their 2014 final record.  After losing three of their first four games, they have won seven in a row for the first time since 1984. They have defeated Brown, Bryant and Providence College for the mythical Division I state championship.

December’s chill has not slowed the facelift of the historic Newport Casino.  Workers bundled in overalls and jackets, and hoodies and hard hats, have wrapped the steel skeleton of the new indoor tennis facility at the corner of Memorial Drive and Freebody Street and have begun installing the metal roof. The structure replaces a three-court building that opened in 1974.

Aaron Read RIPR

Providence College’s soccer season of firsts and mosts continues Friday night when the Friars play UCLA in the semifinals of the NCAA men’s tournament, known as the College Cup.

Providence (16-4-2) and UCLA (13-4-5) will meet for the first time. This is PC’s first trip to college soccer’s Final Four; UCLA is making its 14th College Cup appearance. The Bruins have won four national championships. UCLA is the No. 2 seed, Providence No. 11.

When I read of the achievements of young people like Sarah Andrews and Matt Salit, I shake my head and wonder how they do all that they do. Athletes, scholars, community volunteers, they approach every ask with laser focus. They are amazing.

When I read of their achievements, I also feel confident about the future of our nation.

Befitting a rivalry that spans 127 games over 94 years, Providence College and the University of Rhode Island put on a show for a packed house of 12,246 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center Wednesday night. Providence withstood a furious URI rally in the last two minutes of the game, escaped with a 68-60 victory, snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 7-3 on the season. 

URI suffered its fifth consecutive loss to Providence and slipped to 5-3 this season. The Rams made only 12 of 22 free throws, and those misses may have cost them the game.

RIPR FILE

Yellow caution flags fly over Friartown today in the wake of Brown’s stunning 77-67 victory over Providence College Monday night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. The loss was the third in a row for the Friars after a 6-0 start to the season and left them fewer than 48 hours to figure out what’s wrong before they return to The Dunk Wednesday night or their annual battle with the University of Rhode Island.

The Providence College men's soccer team is heading to East Lansing, Mich., for an NCAA Division I Soccer Championship quarterfinal match on Friday against No. 3 Michigan State. The Friars earned their first trip to the Elite Eight with a 1-0 victory over the University of California Irvine on Sunday night at the Ray Treacy Track and Field Complex. PC improved to 15-4-2, a school record for victories in a season. The 1984 team won 14.

Providence College’s record-breaking soccer team will return to the pitch Sunday night for the third round of the NCAA Men’s Division I Soccer Championship. The Friars will play the University of California Irvine at 7 at the Ray Treacy Track and Field Complex on the PC campus.

Providence (14-4-2) is enjoying its best season and a season of firsts. Big East championship. NCAA Tournament first-round bye. Third-round appearance. Simultaneous Big East Tournament offensive and defensive MVPs. The 14 victories tie the program’s best finish 30 years ago.

URI upsets No. 21 Nebraska and receives votes in the national polls.

PC beats Florida State and Notre Dame in the same tournament and earns a No. 25 ranking in the USA Today national coaches’ poll.

What in the name of James Naismith is going on here?

URI’s long-suffering basketball fans were ecstatic after their Rams edged the Cornhuskers, 66-62, in overtime Saturday before a packed house at the Ryan Center. Sophomore E.C. Matthews led the way with a 26-point, 10-rebound effort that garnered him the Atlantic 10 Conference player of the week honor for the first time.

The University of Rhode Island football team finally celebrated victory Saturday with its 13-7 season-ending victory over Towson at Meade Stadium.  URI also snapped its 15-game losing streak, avoided its second winless season in the last three and gave Jim Fleming his first triumph as head coach in Kingston. The Rams finished their 12th consecutive losing season with a 1-11 record, 1-7 in the Colonial Athletic Association.

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