NFL Week 8 picks

Where is Beck's pass going?

Ryan Fitzpatrick and his new contract extension will take on the Washington Redskins this Sunday in Toronto. Washington has lost two straight and three of its last four amid a QB switch from Rex Grossman to Jon Beck while the Bills are fresh off a bye week.

The Bills won both preseason contests at the Rogers Centre but are 0-3 in regular season games up north, and that’s almost something I’ve proud of. I always want the Bills to be successful, but I also don’t want Toronto to get any ideas about poaching our team.

Regardless of how long Fitzpatrick and Beck have known each other, I’m still going to believe that Beck is not an NFL quarterback until he proves otherwise. Give me the Bills.

BILLS (-6) over Washington

TENNESSEE (-8.5) over Indianapolis

Jacksonville (+9 1/2) over HOUSTON

Minnesota (+3 1/2) over CAROLINA

New Orleans (-13) over ST. LOUIS

Arizona (+13) over BALTIMORE

GIANTS (-10) over Miami

Detroit (-3) over DENVER

New England (-3) over PITTSBURGH

SAN FRANCISCO (-8.5) over Cleveland

Cincinnati (-3) over SEATTLE*

Dallas (+3.5) over PHILADELPHIA

KANSAS CITY (+3.5) over San Diego

Overall (best bets)

Northrop: 56-42-4 (3-3-1)
Skurski: 52-46-4 (2-5)
DiCesare: 51-47-4 (4-2-1)
Game Seven 50-48-4 (2-3-1)
Gaughan: 49-49-4 (2-4-1)
McKissic: 48-50-4 (5-2)
Sullivan: 40-58-4 (2-4-1)

Last week
TAMPA BAY (+1) over Chicago
Bears 24-18. Loss
CAROLINA (-2 1/2) over Washington
Panthers 33-20. Win
San Diego (-2.5) over JETS
Jets 27-21. Loss
Cleveland (-3) over SEATTLE
Browns 6-3. Push
TENNESSEE (-3) over Houston
Texans 41-7. Loss
Denver (+2) over MIAMI*
Broncos 18-15 (OT). Win
Atlanta (+3 1/2) over DETROIT
Facons 23-16. Win
OAKLAND (-4) over Kansas City
Chiefs 28-0. Loss
Pittsburgh (-3.5) over ARIZONA
Steelers 32-20. Win
DALLAS (-12) over St. Louis
Cowboys 34-7. Win
Green Bay (-9) over MINNESOTA
Packers 33-27. Loss
Indianapolis (+14) over NEW ORLEANS
Saints 62-7. Loss
Baltimore (-7.5) over JACKSONVILLE
Jags 12-7. Loss
5-7-1

Canisius athletes to try out for U.S. Olympic team

Three members of the Canisius synchronized swimming team will try out for the U.S. Olympic team in early November. From left to right: senior Jessica Grogan, junior Missy Andrews and sophomore Jessica Mancini.

It’s a weekday afternoon in mid October when an ambulance turns down Hughes Avenue and pulls up at the not-so off-campus residence of a Canisius athlete. The faint wee-ooh of a siren must belong to some other ambulance on the streets around campus. This one remains silent, with its lights on but not flashing.

This isn’t a real emergency. The paramedic behind the wheel is a friend of the roommate of the athlete who’s just having a little bit of difficulty.

Synchronized swimmer Jessica Grogan was rushing to an interview yesterday when she put her national finalist ring on the wrong hand. It’s stuck, and today her finger is swollen and turning purple. She’s tried everything from soap to butter to oil to get it off but hasn’t had any luck. When hot water didn’t work, she tried cold water. Nothing. Now it’s time for the paramedics to give it a shot.

Teammates Missy Andrews and Jessica Mancini haven’t heard every detail of this story yet, only pieces, but none of it surprises them. That’s just Grogan being Grogan, they say. She laughs at this because she knows it’s true; she’s the first to admit it. Grogan’s better in the water than she is on land, they tease.

But they’re only half kidding. It’s partially true because she can be a bit clumsy at times, but mostly because she’s so incredibly good in the water. They all are.

The paramedics end up having to cut the ring and then pry it off her finger. It’s slightly embarrassing, yes, but aside from a little blood loss and the mark Grogan will have on her left hand for the next few days, this incident won’t cramp her style too much. The Canisius senior can always put on her other national finalist ring.

Canisius synchronized swimmers are good, perhaps better than any other Canisius athletes relative to the talent that’s out there. Swimming for the Griffs means they were good enough to make one of the four Division I synchro teams in the country. Wearing those rings means they were good enough to place at nationals, and for Grogan, Andrews and Mancini, placing as high as they did means they are good enough to earn an invitation to United States Olympic tryouts.

“When I was little, when I first started, I was like, ‘I’m going to be an Olympian. I’m going to be the Olympic soloist,’ ” Mancini said. “Everyone thinks that when you’re little and you first start out – ‘I’m going to be the best of the best.’ Then you get a little older and you go to more elite competitions and reality starts to set in. There’s these girls who move to California, get homeschooled and train eight hours a day. I don’t. I go to a normal school, I live on the east coast, I don’t have that kind of pool time or money to train or [that kind of] coaching staff, so you think it’s not possible. So this is never something I thought would actually happen.”

“I didn’t think it was even a possibility,” Andrews added. “It was kind of mentioned last year – if you get a certain score, you can qualify for Olympic trials – but I didn’t think we were going to qualify… When I started synchro, I didn’t think that would ever happen.”

Synchronized swimming isn’t the easiest sport to get in to. For starters, you have to be a strong swimmer, something most children are not. After that, it takes a little bit of luck. None of the three girls had mothers or sisters who pushed them into the water.

Andrews’ story is the simplest: bored with being miles ahead of all the other swimmers, she jumped at the chance to try something new. After attending a meet with her sister, she was sold.

Jess Mancini’s babysitter was one of the top swimmers on her club team back home. When your babysitter is your neighbor and her mom is the coach, things have a way of falling into place.

Then, of course, there’s Grogan, who remembers every detail: “I was in Old Navy and I remember standing on the big – remember how they used to have the big world? I was standing on that and I saw one of my friends at that mall and she was telling me about how she did it and I told my mom I wanted to try it. She quit maybe two weeks later, but here I am.”

Twelve years and two rings later, here she is, qualifying for Olympic trials by way of her performance in the solo competition. While collegiate synchronized swimming has four events – team (eight members), solo, duet and trio – the only way to qualify for the Olympic tryouts is through a solo performance or duet, like Andrews (a junior) and Mancini (a sophomore) teamed up to do. There is no Olympic trio.

Approximately 50 women will compete for nine roster spots when the tryout commences Nov. 10 in Greensboro, N.C. At 1 p.m. on Nov. 12, cuts will be made and only the top 30 will advance. By 10 p.m. that night, more cuts will be made and only the top 14 swimmers will remain. The third tryout phase will last until Nov. 15, when the final roster will be announced at 7 p.m.

How much has Canisius helped the girls get where they are now? They answer almost in unison.

“A ton.”

“A ton.”

“So much.”

“I’ve gotten so much better in the past three years than I ever imagined I could,” Andrews said. “Going to any other school would have been four more years of the same stuff and this has really taken it to another level… Going to Olympic trials is more than I could have ever expected from myself. I don’t think I could have done it through another school.”

When Mancini was in middle school and high school, her coaches suggested she check out collegiate nationals if they were anywhere around where she lived. They wanted her to see this level of competition and how incredible it was.

“My coach and my entire team would go together and we’d watch Canisius swim and that’s what really made me come here. [My coach] made me come to a meet and I watched them swim and I was in complete awe of how amazing they were. And I ended up thinking to myself, ‘Well I have to come here now. I have to be a part of that.’ ”

Wild success stories or not, the team still isn’t sure it fits in on campus, but this opportunity will help.

“Synchro’s obviously not the most popular sport here… we’re kind of used to hearing it’s not a sport, it’s like cheerleading in the pool,” Andrews said. “It’s really nice to know even though people say what they want about synchro, you’re not going to Olympic trials.”

All three girls say they’re long shots at making the team, but then again, none of them thought getting invited to try out was possible, either. This experience is something they will keep with them forever. Mrs. Andrews passed on the story of her time at U.S. Olympic gymnastics tryouts to Missy, and Missy is sure she’ll pass this story on to her children when that time comes.

The synchronized swimming team’s unofficial motto this year is to get rings. But with the Olympic event kicking off Aug. 5 in London, here’s one better: get medals.

Former ESPN reporter to teach at Canisius

You won’t see his name on your computer as registration for spring classes opens this weekend – the instructor spot still reads “TBA” – but you may be familiar with one of Canisius’ newest adjunct professors: it’s former ESPN reporter and current Buffalo News employee Tim Graham.

Graham's Twitter picture.

Most famous in these parts for his work covering the Buffalo Bills and the rest of the AFC East for ESPN, Graham will be instructing students in his area of expertise, sports reporting.

He has given lectures and spoken to students before, but the JRN 336 “Sports Journalism” class (MWF 11 a.m. to 11:50) will be first one Professor Graham has ever officially taught.

The class will be structured to prepare students for what it’s like to be a sports reporter; it won’t be a sports class where you can just show up and get an A.

“Every time I go in to speak at the classes I’ve spoken to,” Graham said over the phone, “there always seems to be a handful of students who just signed up for the class because they thought it’d be easy and they don’t pay attention and they’re not really into it. They don’t want to do it as a profession, they just saw it as a sports class that sounded fun or easy. So I hope I don’t get too many of those types of students, because if we get people who are really into it and want to do it, I think the discussions will be a lot better and the time will fly.

“If this (sports journalism) is what you want to do, I think you’ll find it interesting and we’ll be able to talk about things that really matter. If you want to make a career of it or if you think you might want to make a career out of it but aren’t sure, it’ll be a good place to let you know.”

With two decades of sports reporting under his belt, Graham is currently in his second go-around with the Buffalo News. The Baldwin-Wallace grad worked at papers in Ohio, Boston and Las Vegas before coming to the Buffalo News in 2000. In 2007, he left for a job at the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, and in 2008 he was hired by ESPN.

Graham moved back to Buffalo in 2009 and became an enterprise reporter for the News this summer, doing more magazine-style pieces instead of pumping out hard news stories.

“This is a chance to go from doing what was a grind to being a writer again,” he said. “It’s like the difference between fast food and a nice restaurant: you enjoy the meal as opposed to just consuming calories.”

Rob Kaiser, director of the journalism program, has had Graham speak to a number of his classes. When the department decided to offer a sports journalism elective, Kaiser said Graham was the first person who came to mind.

The class will take place in Lyons 312, a computer lab that seats 25 students. Demand is expected to heavily surpass the number of spaces in the room given Graham’s following — he has nearly 9,000 followers on Twitter — but a certain number of seats will be reserved solely for journalism majors, Kaiser said.

“If you don’t catch [the class] this time around, if you’re just starting in the journalism program, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to catch it again,” Kaiser said. “But for a junior or senior, I’d say not good odds… I’m guessing it’s going to fill up pretty fast.”

Graham is most looking forward to the interaction with his pupils. “Hopefully we get to a situation where [students] are contributing as much to the conversation as I am. Because I have a lot of real-world career experience to share, I don’t want it to be me standing in front of the class telling you what I think you might need to know. You’re going to be able to ask me the questions in a way that gives you what you need. I’m looking forward to it being a good back and forth with the students and not just me dictating.”

Registration opens at 9 a.m. this Saturday for students with at least 84.0 credit hours. Registration for students with 54-83 credits begins Saturday, Nov. 5; 24-53 credits starts Nov. 12 and 0-23 credits starts Nov. 19. Students can see how many credits they have completed by running a GriffAudit.

NFL Week 7 picks

The bye week comes at a good time for the Bills. They need some time to think about their performance last week against the Giants and I’m out of town so I wouldn’t be able to watch the game anyway. Works out great for all of us.

The Bills play Washington next week in Toronto. Here’s this week’s picks:

TAMPA BAY (+1) over Chicago

CAROLINA (-2 1/2) over Washington

San Diego (-2.5) over at JETS

Cleveland (-3) over SEATTLE

TENNESSEE (-3) over Houston

Denver (+2) over MIAMI*

Atlanta (+3 1/2) over DETROIT

OAKLAND (-4) over Kansas City

Pittsburgh (-3.5) over ARIZONA

DALLAS (-12) over St. Louis

Green Bay (-9) over MINNESOTA

Indianapolis (+14) over NEW ORLEANS

Baltimore (-7.5) over JACKSONVILLE

Overall (best bets)

Northrop: 48-38-3 (3-2-1)
Skurski: 46-40-3 (2-4)
DiCesare: 45-41-3 (3-2-1)
Always Game Seven 45-41-3 (1-3-1)
Gaughan: 44-42-3 (2-3-1)
McKissic: 43-43-3 (4-2)
Sullivan: 36-50-3 (1-4-1)

Last week:
Bills (+3.5) over GIANTS
Giants 27-24. Win
St. Louis (+15) over GREEN BAY
Packers 24-3. Loss
Jacksonville (+12) over PITTSBURGH
Steelers 17-13. Win
WASHINGTON (+1) over Philadelphia
Eagles 20-13. Loss
San Francisco (+4.5) over DETROIT
49ers 25-19. Win
Carolina (+4) over ATLANTA
Falcons 31-17. Loss
CINCINNATI (-7) over Indianapolis
Bengals 27-17. Win
BALTIMORE (-7.5) over Houston
Ravens 29-14. Win
OAKLAND (-6.5) over Cleveland
Raiders 24-17. Win
NEW ENGLAND (-7) over Dallas
Pats 20-16. Loss
New Orleans (-4.5) over TAMPA BAY
Bucs 26-20. Loss
CHICAGO (-3) over Minnesota*
Bears 39-10. Win
Miami (+7) over JETS
Jets 24-6. Loss

7-6

Canisius seniors beat rival RIT for first time

Canisius captain Scott Moser had never beaten the RIT Tigers in his first three seasons at Canisius. No wins, eight losses and no ties, outscored 39-10 and shut out three of the last four games.

And that was when Cory Conacher and Vinny Scarsella were in the lineup. What would it be like without the program’s top two career scorers? Who would step up? The senior captain had never scored in eight career games against RIT.

Ninth time’s the charm, right?

Moser and Taylor Law broke down the ice on a 2-on-1 with just over five minutes remaining in the game, the score tied at one. Law fed a pass over to Moser, whose one-timer beat RIT goalie Josh Watson for the game-winning goal. Kyle Gibbons added an empty-netter with 45 seconds left to seal Canisius’ first win over RIT since Feb. 10, 2008.

“When we got that empty-net goal, it really set in,” said senior goalie Dan Morrison, who made 33 saves and picked up his first career win against RIT. “I went over and hit the ‘Easy’ button that the lax team brought and that’s when it really set in. We played so well and it finally paid off.”

RIT senior goalie Shane Madolora, who led the nation with a .935 save percentage last season, did not play for the Tigers. Coach Wayne Wilson said he wanted to give Madolara rest with a game against Union this Saturday, which is ranked No. 12 in the country.

RIT opened the scoring early in the first period with a power-play goal from Nolan Descoteaux with freshman Logan Roe in the penalty box for hooking. The RIT defenseman moved in with the man advantage and hit a one-timer from Chris Haltigin that found its way past Morrison.

Canisius answered with a power-play goal of its own just over a minute into the second period as Preston Shupe beat Watson with a one-timer to his stick side. Kyle Gibbons made a nice play in the corner to feed Shupe, with Ryan Bohrer also assisting on the goal.

The game was deadlocked at one until Moser’s goal broke the tie.

“It felt great; I was kind of shocked when it went in,” Moser said. “You know I’m not a real big goal scorer, but it was a great play by Taylor Law and I’m glad I was able to finish.”

RIT had its would-be go-ahead goal waved off with 7:48 left because of a high stick.

One of the biggest things Canisius did better than last weekend’s games against Quinnipiac was shoot the puck. RIT outshot Canisius 34-24, but the 24 shots were one more than the Griffs had in both games combined last weekend. Canisius took a pounding in Hamden, Conn., losing games to QU on Oct. 15 and 16 by a combined score of 11-1.

The Bobcats opened the scoring less than two minutes into the first game and would go on to beat Morrison six more times on the night, four of which coming on the power play. Down 4-0 in the second period, Gibbons scored the only goal of the weekend for the Griffs with assists from Bohrer and Mitch McCrank.

The Griffs had 18 penalty minutes in the game and were outshot miserably, 37-9.

The team gave a slightly stronger performance in Sunday’s contest but was shutout 4-0 and outshot 40-14. Sophomore Tony Capobianco played all 60 minutes in net and made 20 saves in the second period alone. The Canisius power play, which was stopped on its only opportunity Saturday, went 0 for 4 Sunday.

Quinnipiac freshman Matthew Peca, a seventh round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, had two points on the weekend but has no relation to former Sabre Mike Peca.

Mustard out for season

Defenseman Jordan Mustard is recovering from an injury will not play this season. Head coach Dave Smith said the sophomore is still dealing with effects of the concussion he had last year.

Mustard, a 20-year-old from Markham, Ontario, looked good in his first 12 games last season before missing the last 26 due to injury. He is listed as a Student Coach on the team’s website.