An Energy Boost for Your Finals Week

By: Hayley Hasberger 

Online Section Writer 

Finals week is here and students are focused on studying, writing papers and completing projects. We’re all so ready to finish out the semester on a high note or graduate and move on to greater things.

Many students look to caffeine as their savior during this time, but there are many other options that can help boost your energy and keep you focused. It’s important to keep in mind that food high in calories and fat make the body more tired because they’re harder to digest and contain less nutrients that aid in energy production. Here is a list of healthy options that will keep you full of energy and ready to “crush it.”

Whole-grains

Foods such as oatmeal and whole-grain cereals offer long-lasting energy. Whole-grains contain beta-glucan, which provides a more sustained energy release by delaying stomach emptying and the absorption of glucose in the blood. Also, as an added bonus, the vitamins and minerals in whole-grains such as B vitamins, iron and manganese work together to help the body metabolize and produce energy.

Yogurt

Yogurt, a simple and quick snack, includes the simple sugars lactose and glucose, which can provide ready-to-use energy. Similar to whole-grains, yogurt contains B vitamins that assist in energy production to fuel the body. The high amount of protein in yogurt slows down the absorption of lactose and glucose which makes it a perfect combination to provide a quick boost of energy that is long-lasting.

Tea

            To get their daily dosage of caffeine, many people prefer coffee over tea, however some teas like green tea contain the compound L-theanine. When this compound is combined with caffeine, it can lessen the negative effects of caffeine such as anxiety or the jitters that comes with drinking coffee. This will help increase your focus and be ready to tackle whatever finals week throws at you.

Bananas

Not only are bananas an easy snack to carry around, they also contain B-vitamins, carbohydrates, potassium and fiber that assist in the creation of longer-lasting energy in the body.

Eggs

Like yogurt, eggs contain protein which gives you a steady source of energy. Eggs also contain the amino acid leucine that stimulates energy production by helping cells absorb blood sugar and breakdown fat to use for energy

Hummus

Hummus is made from chickpeas, sesame seed paste, olive oil and lemon juice, making it a food packed with carbohydrates, protein and fat. The carbohydrates give you a nice boost of energy while the protein and fat work to stabilize blood sugar levels by slowing down the carbohydrate intake for steady energy.

Nuts

Nuts like almonds, walnuts and cashews are high in protein and healthy fats as well as carbohydrates and fiber that offer a sustained energy boost. Nuts also have vitamins and minerals that assist in converting food to energy and helping decrease tiredness.

Keeping in mind these healthy, energy boosting options, here are a few on-campus locations that offer snacks and beverages to fuel your body and mind:

  • MLC
    • Jittery Joes
  • Tate
    • Starbucks
    • The Market
  • Science Learning Center
    • Coffee and Bagels
  • Law School
    • Jittery Joes
  • Joe Frank Harris
    • Red Clay Cafe
  • Main Library
    • Tween the Pages
  • Amos Hall
    • Au Bon Pain
  • Veterinary Teaching Hospital
    • The Station

 

 

Sources:

https://dining.uga.edu/locations-hours/retail/coffee

https://www.mensjournal.com/food-drink/10-healthy-foods-give-you-energy/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/energy-boosting-foods#section10

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Need an Excuse to Enjoy Chocolate this Valentine’s Day?

By: Hayley Hasberger 

Online Section Writer 

Chocolate…there are hundreds of combinations and ways to eat it. There are the basic varieties of dark, milk or white chocolate. The basics can be enhanced with nuts, toffee, extracts or spices. You can even consume it as a beverage or melted to create a fondue. Chocolate is also commonly found in baked goods such cookies, brownies and cake. There are just too many forms and possibilities of chocolate combinations to list them all. Yet, no matter what way you prefer your chocolate, it will always leave you feeling satisfied. If you needed another reason to love chocolate, cocoa has multiple ingredients that can be healthy for the body; as long you’re eating chocolate in moderation and not that entire 1 pound chocolate bar in one day.

It’s Valentine’s Day, and many people will be buying and gifting chocolates to their friends, loved ones or even themselves. Even though you may love to eat chocolate for its decadence, do you know its nutritious background?

The cocoa bean, and therefore cocoa, is a main component in the production of chocolate. Cocoa contains a large quantity of compounds called flavonoids, which are antioxidants. Flavonoids assist in reducing blood’s ability to clot by lowering cholesterol and reducing inflammation, in turn helping reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks. The cocoa bean contains high quantities of soluble and insoluble dietary fibers. Cocoa also contains many essential minerals including magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese, which positively contribute to our daily health.

Not only does cocoa contribute to physical health, but also mental health. Cocoa contains an antidepressant and stimulant called phenylethylamine that acts similarly to dopamine and adrenaline. If you really like chocolate, even tasting it can release dopamine in the brain that can boost your mood.

Because the cocoa bean itself contains all these nutrient compounds, the chocolate that is most beneficial for you to eat is dark chocolate. This is because dark chocolate contains the largest quantity of cocoa, and the more cocoa the better. On average dark chocolate contains about 70 percent cocoa, though there are some varieties out there that contain over 80 percent. On the other end of the spectrum, milk chocolate normally contains 50 percent cocoa, yet some milk chocolate candies can contain as little as 7 percent cocoa. Sadly, white chocolate only contains cocoa butter, which provides none of the nutrients held in the cocoa bean.

A drawback worth mentioning about the cocoa bean is that it is 50 percent fat, mainly composed of saturated fats. Therefore, chocolate itself is fattening because it also contains milk and large amounts of sugar. Milk adds to the fat content, which can affect cholesterol level, and large quantities of sugar are known to have negative effects on health such as weight gain. Also, you must take into account anything you are pairing with your chocolate such as nuts, toffee or fillings, all of which can dramatically increase the fat and sugar content. So, always be mindful of how much chocolate you are consuming and the quantity of cocoa in the product, since that is the healthy component.

Even though there are some negatives to chocolate, it has its positives too. So, continue to savor your chocolate fix, no matter how you choose to enjoy it. Valentine’s Day is a just another good excuse to treat yourself to a delicious cocoa product.

 

Sources:

http://www.cacaoweb.net/nutrition.html

 

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Getting Through the Stress of Finals Season

By: Hayley Hasberger

Online Section Writer

Finals is a time of studying, procrastinating and cramming. Whether you have essays and projects or exams to study for, it is important to focus not only on your school work, but yourself. Everyone has a different way of studying, but you shouldn’t let your studies negatively impact your mental and physical health during this stressful time. Below are just a few tips according to the UGA Health Center to help get you through finals season.

Take Breaks: Whether you study better in short or long increments, it doesn’t matter. Breaks help your mind absorb the information, and make you feel physically better while studying. Taking a break does not have to be a long, extravagant event. Do something simple to give your mind a break, such as venturing out to get a small snack or sweet treat, watch a show, listen to some music or go for a walk, the list and combinations are endless. Another option is more involved activities like exercise (running, biking, yoga, weights, climbing, etc.), which helps increase your ability concentrate and improves sleep quality.

Sleep: Get a good night’s rest not only the night before your final but all the days leading up to the big exam. Sleep deprivation can affect both your mental and physical health, so make sure to get enough rest for the best results.

Eat and drink water: Even though you are spending valuable time studying, it is still crucial for your body to have its necessary nutrients to help function properly. Stress can weaken your immune system, and one step to help combat this is to focus on your nutrition. By not taking the time to eat complete meals or drink water, you are hindering your brain function and capability. Water helps provide oxygen to your brain, therefore if you find yourself yawning during studying time and can’t remember when you last had a glass of water, your body may be dehydrated and unable to function at its best.

Remember to be nice to your body and mind during this intense time, you deserve to be healthy. Finals can seem daunting, but taking care of your body will help you feel prepared to ace your tests!

Remedies to Help You Survive Flu Season

By: Hayley Hasberger 

Online Section Writer

It’s that time of year when everyone is getting sick around campus and you’re trying to avoid catching anything yourself. Whether you’re getting over a cold, battling a sinus infection or fighting off germs with hand sanitizer, here are a few helpful tips and tricks according to Healthline that will get you through the flu season.

The most obvious and easiest thing to do is to wash your hands with soap and warm water as frequently as possible. Just think about how many door handles, hand railings, desks and other objects you touch throughout the day. This equates to a variety of germs covering your palms and fingertips that can be spread easily into your body if you touch your face or eat food without washing your hands first.

Your diet is important too. If you have ever wondered the reason behind eating soup when you are feeling sick, here it is: it’s purpose it to help boost your immune system. By eating light foods such as soups, fruits and veggies, your body is able to conserve energy for your immune system instead of using up energy on digesting food. Be wary though when choosing your foods. Avoid sugary foods, especially desserts, pastries, candy and sugar-filled drinks as best you can. Sugar weakens the immune system and will only make you feel more ill.

Warm beverages, such as tea, have multiple benefits for getting you through an illness. Warm beverages help soothe your throat and aid in reducing inflammation. Ginger teas are helpful for bringing down inflammation, clearing congestion and supporting the immune system. Lemon teas are also a good choice to increase your Vitamin C. In your teas, feel free to put a spoonful of honey, local and raw, or just have a spoonful by itself. Honey is full of antioxidants, has antiviral and antibacterial properties and is just another way to boost your immune system, which you cannot get enough of. Make note though that you should only have a heaping spoonful, since honey is so sweet and as expressed above, sugar is not good for your immune system when it’s trying to work hard to make you feel your best.

Another simple thing that can have an immense positive impact on your body is rest. Now you may have tests, club meetings, sport related activities or the thousands of other things that go on in a college student’s life, but it is extremely important to get rest. Rest means not running around all day doing things across campus. Rest means being good to your body, and taking time to sit or lay down. You can drink some tea or take a shower during this relaxation time to help soothe your body, or by all means do some homework, watch a movie or open a book. In addition to rest, you need to get adequate amounts of sleep. Sleep and rest provide your body with the energy to combat germs, which helps in decreasing the amount of time you are sick. If you don’t take time to rest and focus on getting eight hours of sleep, then your illness will only last that much longer.

These are just a few suggestions to help ward off a cold or flu and prevent you from getting sick. You can do it, all you have to do is focus on your health, be kind to your body and set aside time to rest.

5 Hiking Spots in Georgia to Visit This Fall

By: Hayley Hasberger 

Online Section Writer

It’s that time of year again where summer blends into fall, the leaves begin to change color and there is a hint of autumn floating in the breeze. Whether you’re hiding out in the MLC hitting the books or baking up a frenzy of pumpkin pastries, it is always a good idea to get outside. Hiking among the fallen leaves and taking in the fresh air does wonders for the soul and mind.

There are plenty of walking trails near Athens and a multitude of beautiful hikes across Georgia displaying gorgeous fall colors and the beauties of nature.

In Athens: If you want to stay close to campus, there are a few options to immerse yourself in the great outdoors.

Head on over to Lake Herrick and enjoy a short walk on one of the many paths leading around the lake or adventure into the area nestled behind the Intramural Fields at the back of the complex known as the Oconee Forest Park. There are miles of trails perfect for jogging, hiking or mountain biking. The best part of this outdoor scene: it’s dog friendly, so bring your dog along with you.

Not too far from campus is The State Botanical Gardens of Georgia. You can wander around the garden grounds or take the paths less traveled on the forest trails. Some of the trails run alongside the Middle Oconee River, where you can relax on the boulders caressing the water’s edge.

North Georgia: These hikes are less than two hours from Athens, and offer a fantastic day trip to Georgia’s forests and stunning waterfalls.

Tallulah Gorge State Park has 20 miles of trails with several overlooks. The most popular hike in the state park is the 3.4 mile Tallulah Gorge Sliding Rock Trail that takes hikers across a suspension bridge that overlooks the river and gorge. The trail catches elevated views from the gorge’s rim before leading you down to the gorge’s floor to view waterfalls or even go for a swim.

If you are looking for hikes that capture the dramatic fall colors, Cloudland Canyon is the place to be. It offers soaring views from the canyon’s rim and picturesque scenes of plunging waters deep in the canyon. A short 2-mile hike will lead you to waterfalls, and for the energetic hiker there is up to 6 miles of trails along the canyon’s east and west rims that overlook breathtaking landscapes.

Amicalola Falls State Park lives up to its name with a variety of cascading waterfalls; it is home to Georgia’s tallest waterfall. The waterfalls nestled in Georgia’s forest become even more spectacular with the changing of the seasons. The hikes at this location range from just over 2 miles to over 15 miles in length, and all are well worth it to capture the gorgeous scenery.

This fall take a break from your studies, find a buddy and go enjoy all that Georgia’s great outdoors has to offer.

 

Photos in article by: Hayley Hasberger 

Atlanta United off to a record-breaking start

by Jeffrey Farek

In front of a sell-out crowd for their inaugural match in Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field, the newly created Atlanta United FC lost to New York Red Bulls 2-1, blowing a 1-0 lead in the last 15 min of the contest. Red Bulls, the winner of the Eastern Conference last season, had stolen a win on opening night.

There was still plenty to be excited about. Brenner Hess, a second year pre-pharmacy student, was at the opening match. “The atmosphere was amazing. What I liked a lot was how they responded.”

The next week in the snow, Atlanta United won over Minnesota United 6-1, the most goals scored in a game by an expansion team in their inaugural season. The fans also responded. The Five Stripes returned home to another sell-out crowd for the third game, a 4-0 victory over the Chicago Fire, not deterred by the loss opening night.

With that result Atlanta United has already tied two MLS records. They have tied the record for most goals by a team in their first three games to start the season. Five of those belong to Venezuelan striker Josef Martinez, a record for a player in his first three league games.

Led by Argentinian head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino, the Five Stripes deploy an exciting, attacking style of play, putting players out wide to open up space in the inside. Martino, formerly the head coach of Barcelona FC, has put his imprint on the team. Atlanta’s three designated players (DPs) are all South Americans in their early 20s who have not reached their prime, but are already showing massive potential. Each team gets three DPs, players whose salaries are not included into the team’s salary cap. This how superstars like David Beckham and Kaka are able to come to the MLS, while keeping the league competitive.

Instead of splashing for an established superstar, Atlanta United went the opposite direction, grabbing three young players. The idea is to be better in the future, instead of spending money on a player who will retire in two to three seasons.

Having the talent is just one aspect of a franchise, but Atlanta United FC has come at the perfect time for Atlanta sports. With the recent success of the Hawks and then Falcons just last year, the Atlanta fan base has been more involved and excited now than in past years.

Nathan Bryant, a second year accounting major, sees this Atlanta United team in a slightly different way than other Atlanta franchises. “There are a lot of transplants living in Atlanta who have attachments to the teams from where they’re from. But because the MLS is a newer league, those passions aren’t as strong to those teams.”

According to this chart, 37 percent of metro Atlanta residents are not originally from the state of Georgia. Those people have allegiances to their teams from back home, giving Atlanta sports a bad reputation, as many local residents root for certain away teams when they come to town. However, unlike other leagues, the MLS was founded in 1993 and has grown tremendously in popularity in the last decade. Those non-native Georgians living in the metro area may support their hometown team, but the percentage is most likely lower, as there are fewer attachments to that specific franchise. 

Hess agrees, but is hesitant to say the fans will continue to be as passionate in future seasons. “Right now Atlanta United is riding a hype train. We just don’t know how big it is and how long it’ll last.”

The Five Stripes will begin play in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium on July 30 against Orlando City. 

The Ongoing Struggles Facing Devon Gales

by Jeffrey Farek

On September 26, 2015, like many other Bulldog fans and students, I left at halftime. I only heard about it later. Georgia was up 20-6 to start the second half. A player got hurt on the opening kickoff. They said he was hurt. They said it was really bad.

Now virtually everyone on campus knows the story. Georgia Southern walk-on Devon Gales suffered a serious spinal injury and was paralyzed after a collision with Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan. The University of Georgia helped assist Devon by allowing him to sell merchandise with the Georgia “G” logo in order to help raise money. The Macon-based charity Triumph Over Tragedy set a goal to raise $500,000 in an attempt to build Gales and his family a new home. They raised $35,000 in their first week.

A strong connection between Gales and the university formed. He was honored at basketball and football games. He established relationships with Georgia players. He was at Marshall Morgan’s wedding. He seemed to be getting all the support he needed.

So just like that the stories went away. The chatter died down and so did the awareness.

On May 18, 2016 a video was shared online of Gales moving his legs. More progress towards his dream to walk again. He said he was chosen as part of God’s plan. He continued to remain positive.

That summer, another setback. Floods in Baton Rouge damaged the Gales’ home. Triumph Over Tragedy continued to fundraise and build Gales a new home.

In late January of this year Triumph Over Tragedy cut ties with the Gales family due to financial problems and unfulfilled guarantees. The $47,000 they raised fell far short of the $500,000 goal they set out to reach.

Now, the University of Georgia announced that it has started a campaign to raise the $500,000 necessary to build Gales a new handicapped-accessible home. The announcement was made Saturday. Gales was awarded the NCAA Sportsmanship Award from the university at halftime of the LSU-Georgia basketball game. The fundraising drive will be promoted at the G-Day football game this spring. Former Bulldog tight end Benjamin Watson donated $10,000 to Gales and posted on Twitter to insist others to help as well.

Gales continues to overcome adversity until he no longer faces it. This fundraiser is his and the university’s latest effort in realizing it. Gales has continued to make progress in rehabilitation. He has gained some mobility in his knee and hip.
According to OnlineAthens, donations can be made “by texting ‘Devon’ to 706-204-1707 for the campaign and to use the hashtag #DawgHouseForDevonDriv3ForFiv3 to support the drive. The slogan signifies both the $5 donation and $500,000 goal; the 3s rather than Es signify his playing number 33 at Southern.”


Featured Image “UGA Upside Down” by John Trainor, license

Frazier, Bulldogs Need Miracle Run After Bad Day

by Jeffrey Farek

Sitting at a 13-11 record, the Georgia men’s basketball team had dropped 5 of their last 6 games and looked all but out of the NCAA tournament. The selection committee for the tournament not only looks at overall record, but for wins against tough opponents, especially on the road. They also look for consistency, which is determined by noting any bad losses, games in which the clearly better team failed to win. Head coach Mark Fox was facing criticism and rumors that he may be fired at the end of the season.

Owning a mediocre record, the Bulldogs failed to close out games all season long, blowing chances to improve their résumé. They lost four close games, including a bad loss at Texas A&M in which the Bulldogs blew a 9 point lead with under two minutes to play. The others, losses at Florida and at Kentucky in overtime, as well as a loss at South Carolina by two, all were tremendous opportunities to get a quality win on the road against a team who will make the tournament. Instead, with those opportunities squandered, Georgia had to finish the season strong.

The Bulldogs went on to win 5 of their next 6, despite losing star forward Yante Maten for the season to a sprained MCL in loss at home to Kentucky, another close game that didn’t go Georgia’s way. The success of late can be attributed to great defense and J.J. Frazier, who picked up his offensive play since Maten went down, scoring an average of 31 points per game in the four games without him.

Prior to the game at Arkansas to close the regular season, Georgia was labeled one of the “next 4 out” of the NCAA tournament, according to “bracketology” experts who study what teams the committee will choose to invite into the 68 team field, putting them on the bubble to make it in. A win at Arkansas would be the best win for the Bulldogs all season, the last opportunity to get a quality win.

Down only one at halftime, Georgia fell apart in the second half, shooting an abysmal 25 percent from the floor. This was compounded by a stellar 65 percent shooting from the Razorbacks, resulting in a 17 point defeat. The loss brought Georgia’s record against the top 50 RPI, a metric used to measure the strength of a team, to 1-9 for the season. Not good enough as the experts have dropped Georgia from the bubble, for now.

The regular season will conclude with the SEC tournament in Nashville next week. Georgia has plenty of work to do to make the tournament, as 3 wins are likely needed to place themselves back on the bubble. It starts with a matchup against Tennessee. A win gives the Bulldogs another shot against Kentucky. Assuming they win that, Georgia would need one more win, putting them in the finals of the tournament. Without Yante Maten this seems unlikely, but possible if Frazier can maintain his electric form of late.

Even so, postseason play is still a likelihood for Georgia even if they miss out on the NCAA tournament. They can be invited to the NIT, which they competed in last year, losing in the second round to Saint Mary’s.

Failing to make the tournament will increase the pressure to fire Mark Fox, as it will be his 8th season with the team, only making the NCAA tournament twice. Not good enough for his despisers. Personally, firing Fox will do the program little good, as the biggest issue Georgia faces is keeping in-state recruits from going to other programs, something Fox can certainly do.


Jeffrey Farek is a second-year UGA student and a sports writer for Infusion Magazine.

Falcons Only Have Themselves to Blame

by Jeffrey Farek

More than halfway through the fourth quarter I thought my prediction was still looking pretty good. The Atlanta Falcons, up 28-20, were driving deep into New England Patriots territory after a tremendous catch by Julio Jones. With just under 5 minutes left in the game on the New England 22-yard line, a field goal would all but end the Patriots ferocious comeback from 25 points down, stretching the lead to 11 points and, more importantly, two possessions. It didn’t happen.

The end result was not unexpected. Both teams played to their strengths. The Falcons offense was, as advertised, the best in the league. The Patriots defense looked mundane in the first half, but rallied tremendously, allowing only 7 points after halftime. Atlanta’s defense, which had been in better form than during the regular season, held the New England offense to only 3 points in the first half, a fantastic performance against a top 5 offense this year. However, they gave up 25 unanswered points, and 19 in the fourth quarter alone, to lose their chance at the first title in franchise history.

Losing 21-3 at halftime, the Patriots offense somehow had run twice more plays than Atlanta had and was on the field for just over 19 minutes. Part of the success New England had in the second half came from tiring the Atlanta defense. Despite doing a great job at preventing big plays, the Falcons defense could not get the New England offense off the field, including one drive extended by three separate defensive holding calls on Atlanta – each resulting in an automatic first down. Further compounding this problem, Atlanta was scoring, but very quickly, not giving their defense enough of a rest. The Patriots offense did a great job in the second half not only scoring, but doing it methodically, wearing out the opposing defense as the game wore on. This, in turn, rested their own defense, which helped them limit MVP Matt Ryan and the rest of the Falcons offense to just 7 points in the second half.

While all of this explains how the Patriots were able to control the second half, it still should not have been enough. Three crucial mistakes by the Falcons assisted the comeback, each stemming from poor clock management.

After a New England touchdown cut the deficit to 28-9, they attempted a surprise onside kick. The Falcons recovered, gaining possession on the Patriots 41-yard line with just over 2 minutes left in the third quarter. Matt Ryan completed a pass for 9 yards on first down, putting Atlanta on the 32. While still in the third quarter, it is too early to claim that the Falcons should run the ball to kill clock. However, with a tiring defense just on the field for another 6 minutes, Atlanta needed to maintain possession as long as possible, even if running the ball more meant settling for a field goal. On second down, a holding call on Jake Matthews pushed Atlanta back to the Patriots 42. A field goal from there would be about 59 yards.  The career long for Falcons kicker Matt Bryant is 62 yards, so facing 2nd and 11, the Falcons were not out of field goal range, but a few more yards would be a big help. The next couple of plays started an unfortunate pattern. Abandoning the run, an incomplete pass followed by a sack put the Falcons 9 yards further back and effectively out of field goal range. They punted. Still running their normal offense, this is more a missed opportunity and great defensive stand by New England than an egregious error, but an error nonetheless.

A Patriots field goal brought the score to 28-12 and took 5 more minutes off the clock. After a touchback, Atlanta took over on their own 25-yard line. Up by 2 possessions with just under 10 minutes left in regulation, a field goal on this drive would all but end the game, especially if they could take time off the clock. Atlanta ran the ball twice for 9 yards to the start the drive. A good start to the drive. At the very least the Falcons want to wind down the clock and take care of the football. No turnovers. On 3rd down Matt Ryan is sacked and fumbles. The Patriots recover on the Falcons 25. A great play defensively, but a questionable play call. Even if the fumble had not occurred an incomplete pass stops the clock and the Falcons punt. A failed running play at least keeps the clock moving.

28-20 after another New England score. Just under 6 minutes left to play. Everything questionable the Falcons have done so far has been just that – questionable. A case could be made for each decision. Matt Ryan is the MVP and leader of the Atlanta offense. Putting the ball in his hands makes sense and those mistakes may only be errors in hindsight. On this drive, Ryan proves why. He drives Atlanta down the field to the Patriots 22-yard line with just under 5 minutes to play.

With all three timeouts and only down a possession, the Patriots were still in this game. Deep in field goal range, Atlanta needed to take away both. Running the ball three straight times and kicking a field goal would either force New England to burn their timeouts or let 40 seconds run off the clock after each play. Even without gaining any yards the Falcons were looking at a 39-yard field goal. Matt Bryant converted 27 of his 28 attempts inside 49 yards this season, so a made field goal was all but certain. They ran the ball for a 1 yard loss on first down. Good start. Then, astoundingly, Matt Ryan drops back to pass and is sacked for a 12 yard loss. The clock is still running, so New England calls timeout, all but telling the Falcons they will do it again after third down and save one timeout for their offense. At the 35-yard line, Bryant would face a 52-yard field goal. He is 6 for 8 from 50 or more yards this season. They are not out of field goal range yet. What came next was inexcusable. If you run the ball on more time, you force a timeout and count on your kicker to go up by two possessions. Instead, another pass play. Holding penalty on Atlanta stops the clock and puts the Falcons out of field goal range again. They are forced to pass to try and get back into field goal range on 3rd and 33. It falls incomplete. Atlanta punts the ball away. Not only did Atlanta fail to go up by two scores, but they spent less than 20 seconds and forced only one timeout to allow the Patriots to tie the game and ultimately win in overtime.

The Patriots played a tremendous second half. They forced mistakes, whether they caused panic or not in Atlanta’s offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan. Either way, they should not have won this game. He made a crucial error in a pressure situation and it cost Atlanta the game. With everything that went wrong, it would not have mattered had Shanahan ran out some clock, instead of greedily looking for more passing yards for Matt Ryan and company. Tom Brady will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He deserves that recognition. But even one of the greatest quarterbacks ever could not have won this game without a little help.


Featured image by Sam Benson Smith of WEBN-TV is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Falcons Might Just Soar Above Patriots in Super Bowl LI

by Jeffrey Farek

The Atlanta Falcons have, well, flown under the radar all season to make it to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. They are still looking for their first championship. The New England Patriots are perhaps America’s most hated team, as their consistent success is often undercut with references of their scandalous past. The most recent of which, dubbed Deflategate, occurred in 2015 and resulted in Tom Brady’s four game suspension to begin this season. (The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl that same year). Now, they face a formidable opponent who has scored more points than anyone else in the league in the Falcons, creating a good versus evil matchup that has transformed Atlanta into America’s favorite team overnight, as they are the only ones who stand in New England’s way. Will the Patriots capture their fifth title since 2001? Or will they fall to a fresh face on the nation’s biggest stage?

Falcons’ Offense vs. Patriots’ Defense

This matchup will be the seventh time in Super Bowl history that the offense that has scored the most points in the regular season will meet the defense who has given up the fewest. The defense has won five of those six games.

Points can be a deceiving metric when measuring success. Offenses and defenses are typically evaluated on points scored or total yards gained, the fewer the better for the defense, of course. Points are more important, as having more of them than your opponent wins you the game, which is not a guarantee if you have more yards at the end of regulation.

However, yards provide a better indication of success, as yards are impacted by fewer variables. Points, for example, cannot distinguish defensive scores or account for timely turnovers by a defense about to give up points. Yards, on the other hand, are more focused on the specific units on the field, so all team rankings will be in this category.

The best offense the Patriots have faced this season is the Arizona Cardinals in week 1, the ninth best offense in the league. That’s about 50 yards and eight points fewer per game than the Falcons. While still a formidable defense, the Patriots look better on paper than they are in reality.

The Falcons offense has had experience against top defenses during the regular season. Against three of the top 5 defenses, the Falcons have scored just over 28 points per game, winning two of the three contests.

The New England defense has been exceptional against the run, allowing the third fewest yards per game. Statistically, they have been worse when facing the pass, because they force their opponents to throw the ball more and abandon the run in order to extend the game and potentially mount a comeback.

Led by MVP front-runner Matt Ryan, the Atlanta offense is a pass-based offense, but well-rounded, making it difficult to defend. Ryan threw touchdown passes to 13 different teammates this season, an NFL record. The combined efforts of running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman gained more yards and scored more touchdowns than any other duo. Posing so many threats, most notably star wide receiver Julio Jones, the New England defense cannot overlook any player lined up on the other side of the ball, which they have not had to worry about before. Look for Atlanta’s offense to do more of the same against this New England unit.

Patriots’ Offense vs. Falcons’ Defense

The Patriots offense has faced elite defenses, too. Against four of the top 5 defenses they scored about 25 points on average over five games (they played the Texans twice) and were 4-1 in those contests.

Atlanta’s defense has seen a top 10 offense six times this year, allowing just over 27 points on average in those meetings, but only 24 per game in the three most recent matchups. They have won all six of those games, including holding a red-hot Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to 21 points in the NFC Championship game.

New England boasts an incredible offense of their own. They scored the third most points this year and were fourth in total yards. Even though they only ranked 25th in yards per rush, running back LeGarrette Blount led the league in rushing touchdowns, with 18.  Like Atlanta, the Patriots’ offense does most of their damage through the passing game, particularly the long ball to receivers Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman. When throwing the ball 11 or more yards down the field, Brady is more accurate than any other quarterback in the league. Only 6 defenses are better than the Falcons at defending such passes. Still, New England has the edge here, but the Atlanta defense has been in better form than New England’s in recent weeks.

Coaching

Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick does not only have experience coaching in a Super Bowl, but succeeding in them. This will be his 10th Super Bowl appearance. He’s 2-1 as a defensive coordinator and 4-2 as a head coach. His counterpart, Dan Quinn, has been to two Super Bowls as Seattle’s defensive coordinator. He won one of them, the loss coming against the Patriots in 2015. The Patriots roster has seen more time in Super Bowls, too. 21 Patriots have been in a Super Bowl before, compared to just three Falcons, a clear advantage for New England.

Dan Quinn has also been criticized at times this season for poor game management, possibly contributing to losses against the Chargers and Eagles. Others have criticized his usage of timeouts, even in games the Falcons would go on to win.

Prediction

Tom Brady is motivated to win this game and stick it to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after serving his suspension to start the year. I’m not convinced his teammates have the same motivation. Boston area sports writers have stated that the matchup against the Falcons is not exciting enough, citing the Atlanta franchise’s lack of success historically in comparison to New England.

But it’s just that. History. Its impact is limited to the players and coaches that still remain from those past championships. This is an advantage that should not be overlooked. However, with recent defensive form complementing their consistent offensive powerhouse, the Falcons will continue to prove elite offensively and the Patriots won’t be able to keep up.

Final Score: Falcons – 31, Patriots – 24


Jeffrey Farek is a second-year student and a sports writer for Infusion Magazine.

Featured image by urban.houstonian is licensed under (CC BY 2.0)