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    USF's Woodie may be headed back to sideline

    Raymond Woodie [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]

    By Joey Knight, Times Staff Writer

    TAMPA -- The forthcoming defensive changes to which Bulls coach Willie Taggart has vaguely alluded could involve the game-night vantage point of Raymond Woodie.

    The beleaguered Bulls first-year coordinator, who has spent the first eight games in the coaches box, said Wednesday it remains a "game-time decision" as to where he'll spend Friday night's contest against No. 22 Navy. 

    "Right now I think we've got a good plan, but if I need to come down (on the sideline) I'll come down," said Woodie, whose team will try to rally from last Friday's woeful effort in a 46-30 loss at Temple.

    "But I think the kids so far, they're excited for this challenge, so we're gonna make some adjustments where needed and whatever it takes. We're gonna do whatever it takes to go out here and perform well."

    Immediately after that loss, in which Temple totaled 528 yards and possessed the ball more than 39 minutes, Taggart harped on the failure of his staff to "put guys in the position to make the plays." He later pointed to the Bulls' collective lack of energy, failure to fill gaps and improper tackling angles.

    On Wednesday, Woodie said those shortcomings fall on him.

    "I'm the DC and we've got to have guys make plays, and once we put 'em in position, we've got to have everybody running and...making plays to fit what we do," he said.

    "And that's what we're gonna do. We've been excited all week just challenging those guys, when you put 'em in position, to make the big play. And we tell 'em all the time, 'That's your play. If you're in position, you do your job, you make the play.'"

    MACK MOVING UP: Junior TB Marlon Mack has a chance to climb two spots -- to 12th place -- on the state's career rushing yardage chart, and the Bulls will need every rung he can scale against Navy.

    The Midshipmen, who run a 3-4 alignment, generally play their defensive backs well off the ball -- in read-and-react mode -- to prevent the deep pass.

    "They like to play back and see what you're gonna do and then react and make plays off of that," Bulls co-offensive coordinator T.J. Weist said. "The bottom line is, you have to run the football. If we don't run hard and run successful, then those safeties aren't gonna come up."

    Mack (3,081 career rushing yards) needs 51 yards to unseat UCF's Willie English for 13th place on Florida's all-time list, and 138 to move past FSU's Travis Minor for 12th place.

    GETTING CREATIVE: Bulls fans might have noticed some formations bordering on the exotic lately, especially at Temple. In a addition to the occasional stack formations (one receiver behind another), USF employed a diamond look in which four receivers were bunched together on one side.

    "Part of our playing fast is not just playing fast, it's the ability to play fast with a different look," Weist said. "Now they have to adjust it, now they have to practice it. It's kind of similar to us on defense practicing the double- and triple-option -- you don't see it much."

    AUDIBLE: "The bottom line is, we just didn't execute our offense from an alignment standpoint, from an assignment standpoint. We missed some plays. We left at least three touchdowns on the field just by execution, so that's what we have to get corrected this week." -- Weist on the offensive performance last week at Temple, where USF ran only 53 plays and had two first-quarter possessions

    Lightning's Bishop loses teeth, keeps sense of humor

    Ben Bishop [You Tube/Sportsnet Canada]

    By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer

    MONTREAL - Lightning goalie Ben Bishop may have lost a couple teeth, but not his sense of humor.

    Bishop, 29, flashed his gap-toothed grin often during and after Wednesday's practice at the Bell Centre. Sure it was a little painful to get his front two permanently fake crowns knocked out from a shot in Tuesday's 7-3 win over the Maple Leafs. His immediate reaction was natural shock, "Are you kidding me?"

    But Bishop didn't mind taking playful jabs from friends through text message about his new look, or from teammates on his lisp. Heck, Bishop thought a Twitter meme revising his t-shirt catch phrase "Bish Please" to "Bith Pleathe," was hilarious.

    "You kind of enjoy it, embrace it," Bishop said.

    Bishop has no choice, as he's not planning on visiting the dentist until next week when the Lightning returns to Tampa from it's six-game, 11-day road trip. At least Bishop got a head start for Halloween on Monday.

    "I'll walk around like a goof for a couple of days," he quipped.

    Bishop said he's never had this happen to him before, other than chipping a bottom tooth as a kid while also playing goal. But Bishop saw this one coming, a partially-screened slap shot from Toronto's Peter Holland caroming off his mask. "Normally when you see it like that, you kind of duck and cover and try to brace yourself," Bishop said. "It's never fun getting hit like that in the face."

    After a whistle stopped play, Bishop took off his bent mask, shaking out his two teeth. One fell into his hands, the other picked up by veteran Brian Boyle. Boyle said he's collected teeth from the ice before, only they were  his own. "It was weird," he said.

    Bishop never thought about leaving the game, and continued a 40-save performance that was his best of the young season. Associate coach Rick Bowness, who has coached more than 1,000 NHL games, said it was rare to see a goalie lose teeth. But he was impressed how Bishop bounced back.

    "It shows what a competitor he is," Bowness said. "Sometimes you get knocked like that, the easy way out is to take a break. He wasn't leaving the net. Get the teeth out of the mask, get it back together and let's go. That speaks a lot about his character."

    Said captain Steven Stamkos: "He showed why he's one of the best."

    Physical appearance aside, this was the best Bishop has looked in net this season, an encouraging sign as the Lightning sets to face the first-place Canadiens tonight. While Bishop (3-1) gave up at least three goals for his fourth straight start, it could have been eight or nine had it not been for some spectacular saves. Bowness said Bishop looked more comfortable, and could tell he was locked in by the zip on his trademark stretch passes. 

    "It was the best I've felt for sure," Bishop said. "It's been kind of a work in progress. The previous games we watched, I was doing everything right, staying with the process. And I kind of got some unfortunate bounces. The stats aren't where you'd like them. But the wins are there, and that's the important thing."

    Bishop admits it's been an adjustment sharing more starts with backup goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, which resulted in a four-day gap between his last two games.

    "You want, especially in the beginning of the season, to get on a roll and feel well," Bishop said. "So it's a little bit different. At the same time, I've played enough games to where you can find a groove." 

    Bishop is likely to start again Thursday against the Canadiens, boasting significant career success against them (10-3-3, 1.80 goals against average in 17 games). The likely several hour dentist appointment can wait. But not for too long, especially with Bishop and his fiance, Andrea, scheduled to get married next summer. Bishop's new look hasn't scared her off.

    Bishop smiled, "The wedding is still on."

    Joe Smith can be reached at Follow @TBTimes_JSmith. 

    Joe Maddon: Wishing the ex-Rays manager well, but not this well

    Joe Maddon [Getty Images]

    By Martin Fennelly, Times Sports Columnist
    Most of us wished Joe Maddon well when he left the Rays for Chicago. Great guy.

    But did he have to do this well?

    Curse Busting Joe is at the World Series with the Chicago Cubs. He’s the king of baseball, the miracle worker, always with a quote. Animals visits. Pajama road trips. One big blast. Same old Joe. Only now he belongs to Chicago. People there claim him as such, too. They think they invented him.


    We had him first!

    All those Maddon-isms — he used them here first! We had the cockatoos in the clubhouse first! What about our miracle, that 2008 Series trip! Joe was here! This was his first working laboratory.

    Now this is the place where he used to be, though Maddon still owns a home and co-owns a restaurant here. But will anyone remember his Rays managing artistry here now that he made a masterpiece in Chicago?

    They stole our Joe.

    I asked readers what they thought of dear, departed Joe and got back about what I expected.

    Basically: How can you hate Joe? Yes, there was some anti-Maddon sentiment. But it’s Joe, and it’s not as if he ran off after a couple of good seasons. He helped give us baseball history that might have to last us a while. He was smart, he was fun, he was our Joe.

    Now he’s their Joe.

    That’s the hard part.

    “Ever since Maddon left, I have been actively rooting for him to fail,” reader Matt Hewitt wrote. “I’ve been hoping the Cubs lose 100 games and the entire Chicago media gets fed up with his ‘antics.’ He doesn’t deserve to win somewhere else when he was so close to winning in Tampa. ...”

    But reader Marilyn Thomas wrote, “How do I like him now? Still love him. He was, and is, one of the most innovative managers in baseball. ... Sure, I wish he was here with our Rays, but can you blame him? What an opportunity to get involved with a franchise as storied as the Cubs! And he still keeps the home fires burning by staying involved with the Tampa Bay area. I wish nothing but the best for him. Go Cubs!”

    Then there’s Tampa attorney Ken Turkel. He hit on the problem.

    Turkel grew up in Tampa and adores its teams. But this Maddon thing has his stomach in knots. He didn’t want Joe to go. And now Joe is the toast of Chicagoland. It’s even more complicated. Turkel’s wife, Jennifer, after she worked through Joe leaving, is all about Joe again. Their daughter, Rebecca, works in Chicago and lives close to Wrigley Field. She has adopted Joe Ma’s Cubs.

    “How can you not like Joe? But I’m a little ambivalent,” Ken Turkel said. “I don’t know what it is. He’s kind of our guy and now he isn’t. But my daughter is up there having so much fun. She texts me all the time, all caps ... CUBBIES! No, I don’t want Joe to lose. After all, it’s Joe. But there’s still hurt. Not hate. Maybe not anger. It’s more what could have been, what was.

    “And now you read the articles ... ‘Maddon stops at the same coffee shop every day to see Sid the coffee guy’ ... and he’s like Mr. Chicago guy. He can’t be part of their neighborhoods already, can he?

    But how can you get upset? Joe still lives here. He serves homeless people food. But I’m sitting here in emotional turmoil ...”

    I hear you, Ken.

    Can’t you see the ticker-tape parade if the Cubs somehow beat the Indians? Can’t you see Maddon in the lead car, holding a black cat, sitting between a Billy goat and a Bartman?

    Chicago Joe.

    I remember meeting with Maddon last offseason at Ava, the Italian restaurant he co-owns on South Howard Avenue, not far from his home on Bayshore Boulevard. Maddon stood behind a pride and joy — his restored 1972 Chevelle. He had made a few changes. He opened the trunk. Maroon carpet. And there in the middle of the carpet was the emblem: a ‘C’ with a bear.

    “That’s the emblem for the 1908 Cubs, their last Series winner,” Maddon said. “This is the Cubmobile. Look at that emblem. Is that cool or what?”

    But did he have to go and be this cool?

    Did he have to do the coolest thing a baseball manager could do?

    Love the guy. He’s Joe. Love what he did down here.

    Wonder when the restaurant opens up there.

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