Clansmen’s Best Beaten by Birmingham
Following a perfect 8-0 season which saw them crowned Saltire Conference Champions, Stirling’s Clansmen faced their toughest challenge yet, taking on Birmingham Lions in the quarter finals of the National UK Championships.
Considered the “perennial power house of American Football” by Clansmen head coach Robert Orr, Birmingham Lions lived up to their billing, beating Scotland's best 27-20 on their way to the semi-finals.
Only one converted touch down seperated the teams, in a the match which was fiercely contested throughout. Constant snow did not stop Stirling’s number 8 Grant Isdale, who breached the Lions defense multiple times with his electric pace and excellent handling skills. Running back Isdale was Stirling’s best player, scoring 3 touchdowns in total.
The Clansmen will be disappointed to have lost out on what would have been their best run in the UK Championships. However Striling’s finest should not be disheartened as mumblings from within the crowd were that this Clansmen team was “the best there has ever been”.
The climax to the NFL season is the most watched single sporting event in the world, with over 167 million people worldwide tuning in to watch last year's game. We all know about the Superbowl half-time show, an event which has become internationally famous, not always for the right reasons, though. This year, international superstar Beyonce will be performing at half-time.
Extraneous things, like the half-time show, pale into significance, because the reason we're all watching is to witness the on-field action. This year, the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens have battled through sixteen regular season games, and survived the play-offs to make it to the Superdome in New Orleans.
Of course, there is always drama at each and every Superbowl, but this year's fare promises to be the stuff of legends, regardless of who wins. San Francisco are led by the incredibly talented young quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, however, did not start the season for the 49ers. Veteran Alex Smith was the starter for the first ten games of the season, before succumbing to injury. Kaepernick so impressed as Smith's replacement, that Head Coach Jim Harbaugh made him the permanent starter, even when Smith returned to action. Kaepernick has been a revelation to the 49ers in the seven regular season, and two play-off games that he has started in. His mobility and running ability compliment his passing accuracy to create a dangerous mixture.
Kaepernick is supported in the offense by running-back Frank Gore, tight-end Vernon Davis, and wide-receiver Michael Crabtree, all of which have had great seasons. The 49ers are solid on defence, too. With the Smith 'brothers', Aldon and Justin, middle linebackers NeVarro Bowman and Patrick Willis, and defensive backs Carlos Rogers, Dashon Goldson and Tarell Brown, San Francisco have consistently been one of the top defences over the past two seasons.
The Ravens offense, which will attempt to break down such stiff defensive talent, is led by quarterback Joe Flacco and supported by running-back Ray Rice, tight-end Dennis Pitta and wide-receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin. Flacco is best know for his production and accuracy when throwing deep down-field to his physical receivers. Back Ray Rice is one of, if not the best, in the league. He can destroy defences with his blistering pace and acceleration, whilst his low centre of gravity and stocky build make him very difficult to bring down. Rice goes into the match as the leading rusher in the post-season.
Baltimore have, in recent years, been renowned for their excellent defence, with it often winning matches for the Ravens. The defence is unquestionably led by future Hall-of-Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who is due to retire following Superbowl XLVII. He is considered probably to be the greatest defensive player in NFL history, and will be sorely missed by the Ravens organisation. Lewis will have to step up on Sunday night, as the Baltimore defence has been hit by injuries to some key players. Star corner Lardarius Webb misses out, as does Lewis' inside linebacker partner Jameel McClain. However, outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Paul Kruger are fit, and have had great seasons, and they will look to pressurise Kaepernick at every given opportunity.
Safety Ed Reed is another star of the Ravens defence, and can usually be relied upon to make big plays when it really matters, whilst up front, defensive end Haloti Ngata and nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu are some of the best in the league at forcing sacks and errors by destroying offensive lines.
The final match-up and point of much drama is that the two opposing Head Coaches are, in fact, brothers. Jim Harbaugh coaches the 49ers, and John Harbaugh holds the reigns at the Ravens. Cue several awkward family dinners to come.
Superbowl XLVII kicks off at 11.30pm GMT, and promises to offer up one of the best games in recent history.
The new National Football League season begins this week over in the United States, and I thought I would tell you why I think you should go watch one of the greatest sports leagues in the world.
American Football (just football for you American types) is one of the biggest sports in the world. Played primarily in North America, the sport is simply huge in the USA, but American football has an enormous international fan-base, too.
The UK is probably the largest 'market' for American Football outside of North America, and the NFL has recognised this in recent years by hosting several regular season games at Wembley Stadium (and has guaranteed that this will continue until, at least, 2016). There has even been talk of expanding into the UK further by creating a London NFL team, but this is unlikely to happen any time soon.
The NFL is responsible for the greatest annual sports event, the SuperBowl. If the only thing you know about the SuperBowl is that the Black Eyed Peas were terrible when they performed in the half-time show a few years back, or even the Janet Jackson 'incident', then let me fill you in. The SuperBowl is the end-of-season final match between the two teams who have battled it through the 16-game regular season, and then proceeded to win the two or three knockout play-off matches which lead to the SuperBowl. The team who comes out on top in the SuperBowl is crowned as not only the NFL Champions, but the 'World Champions'. I have no idea why they are given the title 'World Champions', seeing as only teams based in the USA participate in the NFL but, hey, it sounds cool, right?
The sport itself is simply fantastic. Admittedly, if you're a first-time viewer, then I suggest reading up a bit about some of the basic rules, but you will gradually pick up the more obscure rules and regulations. All you really need to know is that the team with the ball has four attempts (downs) to move the ball ten yards from where they started. If they do this, then they get four fresh attempts to move it tens yards, and so on, until they fail to move it ten yards or score. Basically, if you already know what a Quarterback is, then you are well on your way.
Games are often fast and physical. Tackling in American football isn't subject to anywhere near the same kind of restrictions that exist in rugby, resulting in tackles which can only be described as a legal form of assault. Just have a quick search on Youtube if you don't believe me. It's great to watch, in the most sadistic sense.
I suggest that you watch a few matches and find yourself a team to support. As with all sports, it's much more exciting if you have a favourite team which you can root for throughout the season. The selection process for choosing a team is entirely down to personal taste, but I first picked my team (San Diego Chargers) because I really liked their jerseys. Not much of a reason, I know, but I've been supporting them for the past seven or eight years, and I'm happy with my choice. You might pick a team because you like a particular star player, the state or city that they play in, or even just the team's name. I mean, how could you not like the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Cincinnati Bengals?
One thing you should watch out for is the signs that supporters make, and take with them to the games. If the camera pans onto the crowd, which it inevitably will, look out for the 'D-Fence' signs which literally consist of a 'D' and a fence. Yup. If you watch American Football for nothing else, watch it for this reason alone.
The NFL regular season begins on Wednesday 5th September when the Dallas Cowboys travel to play reigning NFL Champions, the New York Giants at Giants' Stadium. The other 30 teams get started on Sunday 9th and Monday 10th September.
Clansmen prepare for post season football with another blowout.
Stirling Clansmen got their fifth shut-out of the season with a 68-0 win against the Durham Saints on Sunday, and set the tone for their upcoming play-off game against the Loughborough Aces.
Going 3-and-out on their first drive the Clansmen were forced to punt, Andrew Bardsley got his team great field position to defend from with a punt to the Saints’ 1-yard line. With the first defensive play of the game, Captain Zake Muluzi forced a fumble, and Linebacker Ahmed El-Hag scooped and scored to give Stirling the lead. Quarterback Cam McDonald ran in for the 2 point conversion. From there the Clansmen were in control, forcing turnovers and moving the chains against a Durham side that were starting to drop their heads.
At halftime the score was 48-0 to the Clansmen, with 3 Touchdowns from Running Back Tony McDowall, one a punt return and 1 rushing touchdown from QB Cam McDonald adding to the score. An excellent catch by Receiver Chris McCrum was also scored, the throw coming from 2nd year Quarterback Kenny Mackay in his second appearance for the Clansmen.
The second half was much the same as the first, the Clansmen were refusing to drop the pace, starting the second half with an onside kick after Durham requested a running clock in the second half. Kenny Mackay added to his solid first half performance with 2 more touchdowns in the 3rd and 4th quarters, one rushing and one passing, with Grant Fraser receiving the ball and running it in.
It was also another great performance for the defence, who consistently caused fumbles and made interceptions. Senior Joe Macari getting 2, and DB Duncan Adams getting 1.
The match finished 62-0 to the Clansmen, and they are now looking forward to this weekends play-off game against Loughborough Aces. Coach Rob Orr said:
Sunday’s game will be played at Airthrey pitches and will kick off at mid-day.
Stirling Clansmen are the Champions of Scotland
With a determined 42-8 away win over the Northumbria University Mustangs, the University of Stirling Clansmen American Football team secured their berth in the top tier of the British Universities American Football League (BUAFL) post-season, becoming Scottish Champions in the process.
The victory, in a game which had been labelled a 'must-win' by both camps, solidified the Clansmen's position ahead of Northumbria and, following Glasgow's 12-0 defeat to Newcastle, also secured a determined Stirling team their sixth Scottish title since 2000.
Early indiscipline hurt the Clansmen as the Mustangs, eager to put their 31-0 loss to the Clansmen two years ago firmly behind them, opened the scoring with a close-range rushing touchdown.
But, on the kick-off that followed, Stirling launched a fight-back of their own, with the Clansmen scoring their first special teams touchdown since the opening fixture of the season against the UWS Pyros.
Defensive-back Grant Isdale caught the ball deep inside his own half and, with the help of his teammates and linebacker Ahmed El-Hag, who tracked back to produce a bone-crushing block to open up a huge hole, returned the kick 85 yards to the end zone. The Clansmen, with Head Coach Robert Orr at the helm, opted to go for two points and duly converted.
After a series of short yardage gains, the Clansmen reverted to the passing game, with second year quarterback Cam McDonald completing a 24-yard pass to wide-receiver Grant Fraser who turned up field and scored to put his team into the lead.
On the following drive, McDonald put his own name on the score sheet with an 18-yard rushing touchdown - the offensive line appeared to have found their groove.
Then just prior to half-time, with the Clansmen defence repeatedly stopping the Mustangs attacks, second year running-back Matthew Barrington added to what was becoming an impressive display from the away team when he glided through an opening in Northumbria's defensive line to rush 50 yards for another Clansmen touchdown.
The Clansmen entered the second half with a 28-8 lead and unfortunately for the English outfit, continued to add to the scoreboard, with McDonald and running-back Tony McDowall rushing to the end zone from 7 and 5 yards out respectively, to seal out the game with an impressive 42 - 8 victory.
Coach Orr said "Everyone knew that today was a must win for both teams', so I was particularly delighted with today's result and the performance of everyone involved. Northumbria were a big physical team but we still managed to control the game, with only the opening drive penalty letting us down" Orr continued "The lads have worked hard though to put themselves in this position and thoroughly deserved their victory".
The Clansmen are now 6-1 for the season.
Despite a number of Stirling players missing the game after being struck down mid week with a bug, the Clansmen edged closer to the play-offs after their hardest fought win of the current season.
With two touchdown runs called back on penalties, the Clansmen were in danger of throwing away the game but the team pulled through for a deserved win to move to 5-1 and within touching distance of the play-offs.
The match started well for Stirling with their defence continually shutting down the Predators potent air attack, while the Clansmen offence repeatedly moved the chains with relative ease. The pressure eventually took its toll on the Predators, with running-back Matthew Barrington opening the scoring on a breakaway run early in the 1st quarter. With the defence again stopping the Edinburgh air attack, the Clan immediately responded with another six points, this time courtesy of a touchdown pass from sophomore Cam McDonald - enjoying his second start of the regular season - to wide-receiver Ant Burt, to close out the quarter 14 - 0.
The second quarter went awry for the Clan, when with a touchdown called back on a holding penalty, Edinburgh were spurred into action, scoring first with a deep pass and then, with Stirling on the ropes inside their own 20, a high snap on their subsequent punt was chased down by the Predators defence to even the score at 14 a piece.
The second half began with the Clansmen again having a touchdown chalked off on a holding penalty, before coming up just short on their next drive too, after running-back Tony McDowall was brought down with a tap tackle 1 yard shy of the end-zone on 4th down.
As both teams looked for a way to break the deadlock, Clansmen team Captain and game MVP Zake Muluzi intercepted the Predators quarterback inside Stirling's half and broke tackle after tackle to return it all the way for a vital score. The Clansmen's 2 point attempt was unsuccessful and the quarter ended 20-14.
Moving into the 4th quarter, the Clansmen defence continually thwarted and increasingly desperate Edinburgh side, which again came up short following a heroic red zone stand by the Clan D. With time running out, Stirling's offensive unit elected to keep the ball on the ground, which had the desired effect on an increasingly tired Edinburgh, as running-back Barrington again broke through to score with only a few minutes remaining to seal the win for the Clansmen.
Despite the vital victory, Head Coach Rob Orr lamented the repeated unforced mistakes made by his side. Orr said "Unforced errors are costing us vital points, which we must stop if we are to have any chance of progressing in the play-offs." "We did though have a lot of starters missing today, so I am proud of the guys that stepped up to help us seal the win but we simply must stop gifting our opponents' opportunities to stay with us, especially in tight games."
This Sunday, the Clansmen travel to the Northumbria Mustangs in a game many are billing as the tie of the season, with both sides needing the win to cement their top tier play-off ambitions.
Putting their 20-0 loss to the Glasgow Tigers in 2011 firmly behind them, the University of Stirling Clansmen bounced back to record a 58-0 victory over the UWS Pyros.
Early in the first quarter, with third year RB Tony McDowall running across on a sweep, sophomore quarterback Cam McDonald - enjoying his first start for the Clansmen - faked the hand-off, cut back inside and opened the scoring with a 24-yard rushing touchdown. The Clansmen, on a wet and muddy pitch that occasionally gave way under foot, failed to convert.
The Pyros fought back but quickly found themselves under pressure with Clansmen linebacker Ahmed El-Hag forcing a fumble.
On the following drive the Clansmen's offensive running game looked efficient and well-oiled with the offensive line opening wide gaps for running-back Tony McDowall and quarterback Cam McDonald to glide through. Second year player McDonald, in his first start for the Clansmen, scored another rushing touchdown from 15 yards out, with the two point conversion thereafter duly converted.
After a series of short-yardage gains, occasionally losing yardage to a Pyros defence keen to put their 90-0 defeat behind them, the Clansmen opened up the passing game with McDonald, having already rushed for 57 yards and 2 touchdowns, threading a pass over the top to slot receiver Grant Fraser who cut up field for a 27-yard passing touchdown.
Just before half time, after an effective display from the Clansmen defense with third-year defensive-back Duncan Adams intercepting a pass from the Pyros' quarterback, the Clansmen once again forced their way into the Pyros' red-zone, which allowed second-year running-back Matthew Barrington to put his name on the score sheet with a 5-yard rushing touchdown.
Entering the second half, with a 30-0 lead, the Clansmen's spirits were high and unfortunately for the Pyros that meant that the scoreboard continued to tick over with another passing touchdown coming from QB Cam McDonald, this time to wide-out Chris McCrum and McDonald capped off his first start for the men in green with another rushing touchdown, before giving way to normal starting quarterback QB Luis Stephenson, who also rushed for a score.
Head Coach Rob Orr said " I am pleased with the result today, especially as we only just returned from the winter break." Orr continued "The game-plan worked well and after the disappointing loss to Glasgow just before the winter break, it was good to see everyone keeping their discipline and playing smart"
The Clansmen are now 4-1 for the season and lie tied for second in the Border Conference of the British Universities American Football League (BUAFL) behind the Newcastle Raiders, who remain 5-0.
Stirling Clansmen 55 – 0 Napier Knights
The Clansmen kept the ball rolling from their win over UWS Pyros, with a convincing victory over the Napier University Knights. The match started slowly for the home team but a stout defensive display by the Clansmen, including several consecutive red-zone stops, kept the score tied at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter started better for the Clansmen and on their second drive of the match they found the end-zone through a 7-yard rush by running-back, Grant Isdale. It turned out to be the half-back’s day and with the defence putting the knights 3-and-out, he got another on the second play of the Clansmen’s next drive, this time a 14-yard pass from quarter-back, Louis Stephenson, which saw the Clansmen ending the half leading 14 – 0.
After what was a shaky first half, the Stirling Clansmen stepped up a gear and soon found their footing. A 33-yard pass from Quarter-Back Louis Stephenson to receiver Dion Feather, plus another successful PAT from Ian Henry, made the score 21-0. The Stephenson / Feather combination teamed up again, after the Clansmen defence once again got the ball back on a 3-and-out, as Stephenson threw a great ball downfield with Feather receiving for a 52-yard touchdown.
The Clansmen weren’t just relying on their air game. The ground game was also working well, even with starting running-back Tony McDowall missing the game through injury. Rookie Grant Isdale and sophomore Matt Barrington carried the load without missing a beat and early in the third quarter, Isdale got his third touchdown of the match, this time breaking free on a sweep and running the ball in for a 64-yard score. The team was now in full swing, Team Captain Zake Muluzi recovering his own forced fumble on the next Napier play, Stirling scored again courtesy of Stephenson, as the Quarter-Back found receiver Grant Fraser open in the middle of the field for a breakaway 19-yard touchdown reception. Once again, on the next play, Muluzi got his team the ball back, forcing a fumble from Napier which was recovered by lineman Stewart Keenan. Sophomore Quarter-Back Cam McDonald ran the ball in for the score, and with another successful kick by Ian Henry, the score was 49-0. With McDonald injured on the next play, Stephenson back in at cube threw for his fifth touchdown of the game. Receiver Tristan Kitchen split the seam perfectly and made a fantastic overhead catch for the touchdown in the end-zone. Time-expired on the ensuing Knights drive, with the full-time score at 55-0 to the home side.
Head Coach Rob Orr commented on his teams win by saying: “Napier were a far tougher challenge for us today, so I was delighted that our guys stepped up both sides of the ball. We are still making too many silly mistakes though, which we will need to rectify this week at practice but overall, it was another impressive win.”
Quarter-back Louis Stephenson was named MVP with 14/17 completions, 222 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT, and 1 rush for 6 yards.
On Sunday 6th November, which turned out to be a foggy day, at the Stirling University Rugby Pitches was the day the Clansmen began their 2011-2012 American Football campaign.
Despite the weather, a large crowd turned up to witness the Clansmen take on a young Pyros team from the University West of Scotland, resulting in an impressive 90-0 win.
The match started near-perfectly for the Clansmen, forcing the Pyros 3-and-out on their first drive, which lead to the ensuing punt being returned for 60 yards and a touchdown by defensive back, Ian Henry.
This set the tone for the rest of the match, as the Stirling defence dominated each quarter, giving up only three first downs all match. Linebacker Ross Eaglesfield forced a safety early in the second quarter, defensive back Ian Henry made an interception that was returned to the 1-yard line and team Captain Zake Muluzi returned another for a score, which unfortunately was brought back because of a personal foul penalty. The Defence also forced a safety early in the 3rd to complete their performance.
The Stirling offence was also doing well and soon after Henry’s punt return the Clansmen ran in their second touchdown. The offence looked balanced and hit the ground in stride, scoring a total of 7 touchdowns on the ground via their three rotating running backs. 3rd year veteran Tony McDowall and rookie Grant Isdale scored two each and 2nd year man Matt Barrington scored the other three. Quarterback Luis “Dutch” Stephenson also had a terrific match, throwing touchdowns to receivers Dion Feather and Grant Fraser and another to running back Matt Barrington. Rookie QB Cam McDonald also ran for a score and threw for another to Dion Feathers.
Although the Clansmen dominated and the score-line 90-0 meant the team achieved a team record, Head Coach Rob Orr was quick to dismiss it, reminding the team that the Pyros were filled with rookie players. He also made a point of praising the Pyros for their character, admiring the fact that they never let their heads drop and kept fighting until the final whistle.
Defensive back Ian Henry was named the games' MVP.
The Clansmen’s next match takes place this Sunday 13th November again, at the rugby pitches. This time the team welcome the Napier Knights, who narrowly lost to Glasgow Tigers in their last game. Make sure to go up and support the Clansmen from 1pm, as home support definitely goes a long way in any match!
Thanks to the Clansmen for providing the report